Have you got 'gogatsubyo'? I might...

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like another nice day out there. Tomorrow may be cloudy, but they're no longer saying it'll rain. Things may cool down a bit for the next couple of days, but highs will be back up in the high 20s by the weekend.

If April is the month of change and renewal in Japan, May is the month where Murphy's Law seems to kick in, and things go a bit haywire in all departments. Be prepared, ladies!

With all of the possible upheaval and changes that take place in April, you would think that a month that starts with a week of holidays like May would be a kinder, gentler time. But there is something sinister that may strike at any moment in May: the so-called Gogatsu-byo.

Back to work and post-vacation can make you feel a bit off — to say the least.

What Is It?

Gogatsu-byo (五月病) or “May Sickness” is the term for a Seasonal Affective Disorder-like psychological condition that affects many Japanese people (and directly or indirectly, us foreigners living here) once the flurry of activity in April and the relaxing Golden Week vacation has passed.

Many believe that the number of changes that take place in April, followed shortly by the long holiday in Golden Week and then the stress of returning to a still-new work or school environment, causes Gogatsu-byo in the first place. Sufferers report experiencing insomnia, decreased or increased appetite, restlessness, nervousness or anxiety, mood swings, depression, or a host of other “not quite feeling right” physical symptoms that many doctors will struggle to diagnose. While this may seem like an unusual condition to those new to Japan, after being here for a few years, you will definitely start to notice that there is a difference between how people behave in April and June compared to May.

And this uniquely Japanese condition also can also cause intense turmoil in personal relationships.

Do people around you feel somehow different lately? Could be the season.

1. People seem standoff-ish or overly sensitive

In general, many people are by nature afraid of change and dislike having to adjust to a new schedule. If you come from a country with Daylight Savings Time, you probably remember how drowsy and confused you felt in those first couple of days after changing the clocks. Add that to potential home, career, and lifestyle changes that may have taken place in less than a month — plus the haze that everyone feels after a long vacation — and you have a recipe for disaster in any group of people. Friends may be less likely to come out for a drink after work; co-workers might be feeling disinclined to work or less helpful than usual, and a host of communication problems and other issues can crop up.

Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, so expect some bad days where normally friendly co-workers suddenly seem aloof, or for things to not be ready on time, or for deadlines to appear out of nowhere. One time, I had a co-worker burst into tears because they bought the wrong kind of tea for the office.

Even long-term couples may go through a series of issues in May.

2. No relationship is safe from Gogatsu-byo

With all this weirdness in the air, people may find that their romantic relationships are changing too. If you have survived the upheaval from last month, you may find that there is a sudden chill in the relationship — whether that be last minute cancellations, fewer text messages, or an overall blasé approach to the relationship. Some people even use the month as an excuse to end relationships that are heading nowhere. 

A friend of mine (Japanese male) reported that 40% of his relationships had ended before May 31st. In his words: “May seems like the best time to break off relationships — if you just don’t want to date someone anymore for any reason, May gives you plenty of excuses as to why you don’t have time for them.”

Turn off the computer and spend some time for yourself. May, too, will pass.

My Advice?

 The best thing you can do to get around any Gogatsu-byo is to invest in yourself. Take time out for self-care, talk to people if you need to talk, and don’t let change scare you or get you down. If you are finding that your relationship is going through some unwanted changes or coldness, give it a little time, let things settle back into normalcy, and, if the relationship isn’t giving you what you need anymore, reconsider your options. If it is, then wait patiently until you successfully make it past May and its dreaded Gogatsu-byo, and you can likely weather whatever else is coming your way together. And that includes the coming up rainy season in June, which can be a great chance time for cuddling and stay-at-home fun together!

Have a great day!

Guys-wanna' get married? Move to Tokyo; Ladies-move to the countryside

Good morning everyone,

If you want to know about the weather, read yesterday's blog...or the day before...or the day before...they all say the same thing...ha ha! If you're too lazy to do that, it'll be nice and sunny the beginning of the week, but midweek is looking cloudy and a chance of rain on Thursday. After that...it's anybody's guess.

A recent government report showing a record percentage of people in Japan remain unmarried at age 50 has also revealed major regional disparities, indicating local factors are influencing marriage rates.

Generally higher rates of unmarried men in eastern prefectures and among women in prefectures home to major cities have led some analysts to conclude the trend may be the result of women moving to cities and men staying in rural areas to carry on family businesses in agriculture and other industries.

A National Institute of Population and Social Security Research report released last month showed a record 23.37 percent of men aged 50 in 2015 had never married, compared with a record 14.06 percent of women the same age. Among the nation’s 47 prefectures, the highest for men was Okinawa, at 26.20 percent, and the lowest Nara, at 18.24 percent, while the highest for women was Tokyo, at 19.20 percent, and the lowest Fukui, at 8.66 percent.

Also included in the list of 10 prefectures with the highest rates of unmarried women were such major cities as Osaka, Fukuoka and Kyoto. An official of Fukuoka Prefecture involved in child-rearing support said the fact that there are more women than men in the prefecture may be leading to its high figures, noting that many women from nearby prefectures such as Yamaguchi were flowing in for the many schools and a big service industry in the city of Fukuoka.

For men, eight of the 10 prefectures with the highest percentages of unmarried people at age 50 were in eastern Japan, including the Tohoku region and the Kanto region. Among them was Iwate Prefecture, which marked the second-highest rate, at 26.16 percent. The prefecture founded a matchmaking support center in 2015. While the ratio of men and women registered with the center was about equal for those living in the prefectural capital of Morioka, men exceed women for those living in mountainous and coastal regions, where agriculture and fisheries are the main industries. “It is an indication that men in primary industries have fewer chances to meet a potential marital partner,” said an Iwate prefectural official.

“Young women tend to gather in convenient urban areas, where there is a lot of entertainment, and men are more likely to stay in their hometowns as inheritors of primary-sector and self-owned businesses, leading to the regional disparities in the percentages of the unmarried,” said Kanako Amano, a researcher at NLI Research Institute with expertise in the issue of the nation’s falling birthrate.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the experts? Is it because women are moving to the cities and men are staying home to take over the family business? I can see how that might be part of the reason, but for me the main reason is probably instability-the number of people with irregular work (part-time, one-year contracts) is at an all-time high in Japan and those conditions make it harder to feel confident enough about your future to want to get married...kind of like being an English teacher...ha ha!

Have a great day!

Another new Haagen-Dazs flavour for summer

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be another warm, sunny day today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Then clouds will roll in and we may see some rain on Thursday. Highs all week will be in the mid to high 20s...doesn't it feel like I've been writing the same thing about the weather for weeks now?
As we move toward the end of May, we’re quickly running out of time in which to enjoy Japan’s traditional springtime delicacies. But even as we quietly shed a bittersweet tear over having to part with our beloved sakura sweets until next year, we take heart in looking forward to the tart, tangy treats that make use of the wide variety of Japanese citrus fruits that come into season in summer.

The Japanese arm of premium American ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs, as always, is ready to help us fill the blank spaces in our dessert-planning calendar. This week sees the release of Hyuganatsu Panna Cotta Pie, Häagen-Dazs’ newest temptation. While hyuganatsu may make anime fans think of a similarly named character in ninja franchise Naruto, in this case its referring to the hyuganatsu citrus fruit.

Like many of Japan’s citrus varieties, the southwestern island of Kyushu and the west end of the country’s main island of Honshu are the primary hyuganatsu-growing regions. Tarter than an orange but far sweeter than a lemon, hyuganatsu reach their peak deliciousness shortly after the end of spring.

Häagen-Dazs’ Hyuganatsu Panna Cotta Pie mixes buttery bits of pie crust into rich panna cotta ice cream, then drizzles hyuganatsu sauce over the top for an elegant combination of flavors that the company says is “perfect for early summer.” Despite the elegant-sounding ingredients, it’s priced at an affordable 294 yen, and you won’t have to venture into the heartland of hyuganatsu farming to get it either, as the new flavor will be available (for a limited time) at Lawson and Natural Lawson convenience store branches nationwide starting May 23.

You'll definitely find me there on Tuesday picking up one or two of these if this hot weather continues...

Have a great day!

What the heck does that mean?

Good morning everyone,

Well, this gorgeous weather is going to continue till around mid-week. We can expect mostly sunny weather and highs in the mid to high 20s until clouds roll in on Wednesday and it's looking like we may get some rain on Thursday.

The internet has a language of its own. Words like LOL and WTF are common enough that even our grandparents know them, but others like TL;DR (“too long; didn’t read”) and SMH (“shake my head”) can still mystify people until they look them up in Urban Dictionary.

And the same thing goes for Japanese. The Japanese internet has developed a bit of a dialect of its own, and even if you can read and write regular Japanese no problem, you’re still bound to run into a few words, phrases, and symbols that leave you feeling stumped.

That’s why today we’re counting down the top five indecipherable Japanese internet slang words.

So let’s get to it! Starting off with…

Honorable Mention: “www” and ワロタ (“warota”)

Ah yes, the Japanese versions of LOL. How could we not start with these? They’re only an honorable mention because they’re relatively well known across the internet, but just in case you’ve never seen them before, here’s the breakdown:

The first one, “www,” is any number of w’s after each other. The “w” stands for warau (笑う) meaning “to laugh.”

The other one, warota, comes from the same word warau (笑う) to laugh, conjugated into its past-tense form waratta. Waratta gets changed to warata, then warota.

You can also see warosu and warotasu as alternative spellings sometimes, though they all mean roughly the same thing. And since warota and its many alternative forms are a little longer than just “www,” I’d say it’s okay to translate it as ROFL in a lot of circumstances.

#5. orz

The first official item on the list of indecipherable internet slang words is also one of the strangest: orz. What makes it so odd? Well, it’s the fact that you don’t actually pronounce it at all.

That’s right, you don’t read this one out loud as “oars” or “oh ar zee” or anything like that. Instead “orz” is essentially just ASCII art representing a person bowing down in apology/respect. The “o” is the head, the “r” is the hand on the ground, and the “z” is the bent legs.

▼ Here’s a horribly-drawn picture to help illustrate “orz.”

Just like most internet abbreviations, there are alternatives to just the plain “orz” for those who have grown tired of it. Here’s just a small sampling; see if you can visualize them in the letters:

● STO (person bowing to the right)
● OLS (person lying on the ground with hands in air)
● prz (person bowing to the left with a pompadour)

#4. 鯖 (“saba”)

Unlike the last items on the list, which an outsider would simply have no idea what they mean, this one has a normal meaning all by itself, which could result in some hilarious misunderstandings.

Saba (鯖) is the Japanese word for “mackerel.” At least, that’s what it means at the fish market, but when you see it online, there’s a chance that instead it’s referring to something else: a server, as in, an internet server.

The reason why is very simple. The Japanese word for “server” is sābā (borrowed from English), and the word for “mackerel” is saba. The two are very similar, and the fish one is two less keyboard-presses to type, so it taking over as an abbreviation was almost inevitable..

#3. DQN

If there’s one thing Japanese is rich with, it’s ways of calling someone “stupid.” As we’ve seen before in the most offensive swear words and insults, Japanese is an ice cream buffet of distinct flavors of the word “idiot.”

So now let’s add another to the list, an internet favorite: DQN.

“DQN” isn’t an acronym for anything. Instead it’s an abbreviation of the word dokyun (D = do, Q = kyu, N = n), which means something like “idiot/stupid,” especially if they do something rash or reckless without thinking, such as running red lights while driving, being corrupt in business/government, or engaging in yankii (“hoodlum”) behavior.

The word has its origin in the late nineties/earlier 2000s Japanese TV show Mokugeki! Dokyun! (“Caught on Camera! Idiots!”). It got picked up by the internet and has never left its grasp ever since, remaining as a refreshing way to call someone an idiot instead of the usual baka.

#2. 草生える (“kusa haeru”)

If using “www” or warota as the Japanese version of LOL is too commonplace for you, then here’s another addition you can make to your linguistic arsenal: kusa haeru.

At first glance the word kusa haeru has a meaning that has nothing to do with laughing. Kusa means grass, and haeru means “to grow/sprout,” so it just means “growing grass.”

The word has its origin from “www,” which if you use a little bit of imagination, looks like blades of grass sprouting out of the ground. This is especially noticeable when watching videos on the Japanese website NicoNico Douga, where viewers’ comments fly across the video.

And NicoNico Douga is where the phrase kusa haeru got its origin. It’s now used all over the internet and can sometimes be seen abbreviated just as kusa. Similar to the “server/mackerel” slang, it’s kind of funny to imagine someone reading it who doesn’t know the double meaning.

And the #1 most indecipherable Japanese internet slang word is…

1. △

Yup, that’s right. The final item on the list isn’t an abbreviation, heck it’s barely even a word. It’s just a symbol, a triangle: △

The word for “triangle-shape” in Japanese is sankakukei, and again if you use a little imagination, it can progress into a different phrase completely:

1. sankakukei (“triangle-shape”) turns into…
2. san ka kukei which turns into…
3. san ga kakkee (“___-san is cool/handsome”)

San is of course the suffix added to people’s names in Japanese, and kakkee is the masculine/tough way of saying the word kakkoii (“cool/handsome”).

So if you want to say that your favorite anime character (Luffy from One Piece, of course) is cool, there’s no need to spell out the whole phrase, you can just slam a triangle at the end of his name. Luffy

So there you have it, the top five indecipherable Japanese internet slang words. Did you know them all?

Have a great day!

Aka-kara is gone...

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like yet another gorgeous day is in store for us...well, those of us who are off anyway. The good news is that the weekend is looking nice too-we can expect highs in the mid to high 20s and mostly sunny weather all the way through the weekend and into the middle of next week. Clouds will roll in on Tuesday and we may see some rain on Wednesday...
Image result for akakara
So, how observant are you? There is was an Aka-kara on the second floor of the same building of my school. and now it's gone...

When my school first opened I went there a fair bit. I thought it was great-I love the idea of having spicy nabe. To be honest, when I have nabe in the winter, I have kimchi nabe about 90% of the time. But I also love the red miso paste base that Aka-kara uses-and the best part is that you can opt for whatever level of spiciness that suits you...starting from 0 (which is basically tomato sauce) and all the way up to 10. I can't tell you how spicy 10 is because the hottest I ever had was 6 and it was too hot for me.

But if you want to try it, you'll have to go to the other one (now, the only one) in Hiroshima, because the one in my building closed at the end of March. I didn't really think about it, but now that I realized it's closed, I have to say that the trips down the elevator on the way are way, way quieter than the used to be.

If I were a bit younger, I'd probably be disappointed about it leaving this building, but now that I only go out about 2-3 times a month, I'll hardly notice that it's gone...ha ha!

But I will miss that red miso soup that I always had about once or twice a winter...any ideas where I can get it? (other than Aka-kara, I mean).

Have a great day!