Learning Japanese through booze

As much alcohol as I’ve been putting away recently, it seems only fitting that this most recent post revolve around the ol’ fire water. And Japanese, of course.

The alcohol in this particular case is chuhai, and while many people know what chuhai is, not many seem to know the origin of the word. Luckily, TAKARA brand Shochu Highball — a drier, less sweet cousin of the run-of-the-mill chuhai — has provided a mini history lesson right there on the side of the can. Enjoy.



The Origin of Chuhai.

It’s said that chuhai originated in the 1940s shortly after the war, in Tokyo’s Shitamachi area, as the “shochu highball.” “Highball” referred to alcohol mixed with carbonated water. Because the carbonated water had been mixed with shochu, the drink was known as a “shochu highball.” This was shortened to “chuhai,” which would seem to be the origin of the word. To this day, the drink remains popular in Tokyo’s Shitamachi watering holes.

Good stuff, huh? Good. Now get drankin’.

The Japanese script for the Matrix – Updated!

After a long absence, I’ve posted another scene from the Japanese script for the Matrix. See here to relive Neo and Trinity at the club talking all kinds of stuff. In Japanese.


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a language nut, and am constantly reading material to pick up new vocabulary words. Learned 掻い潜る (kaikuguru) earlier, which means to quickly and expertly make one’s way under cover or between objects (as in, weave one’s way through a crowd). I thought that was a pretty cool word.

bladeBut then I came across 刎ね飛ばす.

This is a compound word that combines two verbs; the first, the stem form of 刎ねる (haneru) means to cut someone’s head off. Pretty neat to think that Japanese has a verb that specifically means to cut someone’s head off. But the giggle factor gets upped when it’s paired with 飛ばす (tobasu). Combined, this word means, “to cut off someone’s head and send it flying.”


That’s really friggin’ awesome.

I will find a way to work this word into a conversation somehow.


Language fluency is a weird thing.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, my Japanese is good — damn good. It better be, after all the time and effort I’ve put into it. I can deal with tech support, harrass the cable guy and converse with short-tempered doctors, all in Japanese.

I have an insatiable appetite for learning. I read everything from dictionaries to food labels to internet gossip sites. I went through a period where I was obsessed with kanji etymology, triggered by the realization that 空 (sky) is 穴 (hole) with a carpenter’s square, which struck me as rather bizarre. Another phase found me fascinated with onomatopoeia (for which I recommend 現代擬音語擬態語用法辞典). I once read nothing but porn magazines for two months, till I’d learned all the requisite terminology and was really sick of porn.

Thanks to CSI, I can rattle off terms like “bullet casings” and “gunpowder residue.” I learned the word for “night-vision goggles” after watching Silence of the Lambs, and still remember that the dictionary entry was on the left page toward the bottom. And just because I’m weird like that, I know not one but two terms for “rift in the space-time continuum” (時空の割れ目 and 時空断層). A friend of mine shakes his head and calls me “the walking dictionary.”

And yet.

I’ve had a conversation break down because I didn’t know the word for “sieve.” Up until last year, I didn’t know what the Chinese zodiac was called. Just last week, a lovely coworker introduced me to both 温野菜 (“steamed vegetables”) and 連呼 (renko), a pretty lulzy word that means to repeatedly say the same thing in a loud voice. And let’s not forget that time 10 years ago when, for whatever insane reason, it took me a full two months to finally memorize 石けん, or “soap.”

Which brings us to today. When I had to do a double-take because I didn’t know the word appearing in the title of this post — 結露 (ketsuro), meaning “condensation.”


Will there ever be a day when I don’t get my ass handed to me by this language?

Kewpie weighs in

I’ll admit it — I gave myself a bit of a chuckle with my silly Japan-style blog entry the other day (which for some strange reason has gotten the most single-day views of any of my posts to date).

Yes, I chuckled. And as I noticed a few of you fellow foreign devils chuckling as well, I got curious how it would go over with a native Japanese person.

So I popped it into an e-mail and sent it to Kewpie.

For those of you just tuning in, Kewpie is one of the characters in the ongoing saga that is The Office category there to your left. The condensed version: In stark contrast to most of my coworkers, she has a functioning brain, is cute as a friggin’ button, and likes heavy metal so much that she’s prone to random headbanging. Yes, all three of those apply when drawing a comparison.


How did my gaikokujin attempt at humor go over?


There you have it.

(Note to non-Japanese speakers: it went over well.)

Incidentally, as proof that Kewpie is made of pure win, she then suddenly began recommending zombie movies, specifically Brain Dead (aka Dead-Alive).



In conclusion, I would like to state that this entry was typed up on the job while receiving e-mails regarding another job and performing a sample translation for yet another.

Oh, yes. Multi-tasking.

The Japan-style blog (part 2)






The Japan-style blog