Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Shrimp Moustache?!?

There are many people, including Japanese, who don't like seafood. It might be the smell or taste or even appearance of some fish and animals that turn people off (嫌悪する). 

In Toyama, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of fresh seafood, like yellowtail (ぶり), trout sushi (ますずし), firefly squid (ホタルイカ) and white shrimp (白エビ). 

As far as I know, white shrimp can only be found in Toyama making it one of our most famous specialties.

However, one of my English impact students had a unique reason for not liking white shrimp - it is dangerous. She went on to explain that the shrimp's "moustache" can be sharp and do damage inside of the eater's mouth.

Wait a minute, I thought... Shrimp don't have moustaches, not like we humans. Then it hit me that she was translating ひげ or antenna as "moustache. 

Yes, some men - ok, some women, too - have moustaches. But what about cats? Do they have moustaches? No, we call theirs "whiskers." 

And for shrimp, they might have sharp antennas that can cut the insides of the mouth.  

So there's another reason not to like seafood. It can be dangerous. Or possibly the image of a shrimp with a moustache will remain with you all of your life.  

In any case, I understand why you might not like seafood. That's cool (いいよ). More for me!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Top 5 Things I Never Imagined I'd Be Doing Now

Happy Obon, everyone! Are you enjoying some time off from work? Are you planning to spend time with your relatives (親戚)? Return to your hometown (里)? Visit and clean your family grave (お墓参り)?

Every time Obon comes around in Toyama, it reminds me that my family moved here from Osaka so we could spend more time with my wife's family. And it reminds me how much my life has changed since we came here 2 1/2 years ago. Here are 5 things I never imagined I would be doing now:

1.) Being a cat person. Growing up, I was always a dog person. I used to have an adorable Shih Tzu named Muffy. He lived to the ripe old age of 17 and was like a family member to all of us. Then, living in apartments in Japan all of my life, there was never a chance to have a pet. So when we moved to a house in Toyama and were finally able to have a pet, we decided first to get a kitten from a shelter and then the runt of the litter (末っ子) from a local breeder. Now Tamaちゃん and Mashuくん are like family members to us here.

2.) Attending a stranger's (知らない人) funeral (葬式). Within a year of living in Toyama, one of our neighbors passed away (亡くなる). A notice was put into our mailbox and the neighborhood leader came by asking us if we planned to attend the funeral. Thinking that it was the polite, neighborly thing to do - despite not having any idea who the deceased (死者) was - my wife and I got all dressed up in the black, prepared a monetary present and boarded the bus to take us to the funeral. Imagine our surprise when we saw the bus was less than half full and none of our next-door neighbors were there. When another neighbor we didn't know passed away earlier this year, we offered our condolences (哀悼). But wisely stayed home.

3.) Growing everything from peanuts to watermelons. Most people who live in apartments in Japan not only can't have pets. They also can't enjoy the pleasure of gardening and/or growing their own food. Nothing tastes better than organic, homegrown vegetables.

4.) Driving a car again. For 13 years in Japan I got around by walking, riding a bicycle or taking public transportation (公共交通機関). I never thought I would be driving again. That's why my Kansas driver's license expired. And why I had to spend 2 months going to a Japanese driving school because there in no way to live in Toyama without a car.

5.) Seeing my abs (腹筋) again. My life has definitely become healthier since moving to Toyama: eating organic vegetables, not drinking alcohol, training for the November 1st Toyama Marathon; and exercising - swimming, weight lifting, cycling and so on - has helped me discover something I hadn't seen since high school - my abs.

Obon is a time for reflection. We pray for our ancestors' spirits and mourn their absences in our lives. It is also a time for you to reflect on your own life. Are you living the life you want? Are you happy? If not, what would you rather be doing? I'm praying for your happiness, too.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How INSIDE OUT Is Different in Japan

Sure, Inside Out has a different title in Japan. Here it is called Inside Head.

And, annoyingly (ムカつくに), too, the movie is only being shown in most theaters dubbed in Japanese because Japanese kids - the main audience in summer vacation - can't read Japanese subtitles or understand spoken English. 

But the big difference I want to write about is the vegetable that the little girl hates. In the US version, it is broccoli. 

And in the Japanese version, it is green pepper (ピーマン). So why the change? Why did Pixar go all out to change every broccoli scene to green peppers?

The simple answer is, because Japanese kids don't hate broccoli. What's to hate about it?  Well, some American kids think it looks weird - like eating a little tree - and tastes bad (まずい).

It is the bitter (苦い) green pepper that freaks out most Japanese children. 

If it were up to me, the vegetable I would have used in the movie would be beets. Or brussel sprouts. Or lima beans. There were so many gross vegetables I had to eat when I was growing up in the USA! My American friends and family members are understandably surprised that I am now so interested in vegetable gardening.

Now, as an adult, I can look back and laugh at what used to be going on inside out or inside my head when I had to eat beets or brussel sprouts or lima beans. And that's the same joy that Pixar wants all audience members to feel when they watch the movie.

Now if it were only in English... !&#%&*%&&#$&!(#%&#

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