These new sauces might blow my diet...

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be another nice day out there, in fact-up until Wednesday, we can expect mostly sunny skies and daytime highs in the low 20s. Wednesday is looking like it might rain and then it'll turn nice again for Thursday.

McDonald’s has been catering to the local market in Japan with a number of exclusive menu items over the years, with customers lining up for limited-edition delights like Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burgers and sakura cherry blossom-flavoured McFlurries.

Last year, McDonald’s even offered up an 18-karat gold nugget prize to Chicken McNugget customers and introduced a yellow-suited character called the “Phantom Nugget Thief” as part of the campaign. This year. the Nugget Thief is back again, and now he’s brought his son along for the festivities, with the two joining forces to promote a new “parent-and-child” sauce set featuring the traditional Japanese flavours of wasabi and teriyaki.

Check out the “Phantom Nugget Thief” and his son, “Tiny Phantom Nugget Thief” promoting the new sauce set:

The Otona Wasabi Mayo (Adult Wasabi Mayo) sauce is said to contain the invigorating taste of Japanese horseradish, mellowed out with a slight sweetness thanks to the addition of mayonnaise. While there’s a slight kick to the sauce that adults will love, it’s mild enough to be enjoyed by children too.

The Wanpaku Teriyaki Mayo (Naughty Teriyaki Mayo) sauce is a combination of creamy mayonnaise and rich, sweet teriyaki flavours. It’s said to be a familiar taste for local customers, as Japanese dishes like shogayaki (grilled pork and ginger) are often served with a mix of soy sauce and mayonnaise toppings.

The new sauce set will be available with any Chicken McNugget purchase during the campaign period, but as an extra special treat, McDonald’s will be selling 15-piece boxes with the two sauces for 390 yen, which is 30 percent cheaper than the usual retail price.

The two new sauces will only be available for a short time, from 26 April to 16 May, which also covers the Golden Week holiday period in Japan; a prime time for parents and children to be enjoying meals together while out and about on short trips around the country. Or for bored English teachers to kill time...between these nuggets and the Cherry Pie Frappuccino at Starbucks, I might weigh 90kgs by the time Golden Week is finished...ha ha!

Have a great day!

Now, that's a mouthful...

Good morning everyone,

There's no real change in the forecast-we're going to continue to see daytime highs hover in the low 20s and a mix of sun and clouds over the next few days.

What exactly is a kanji reading anyway? If you’ve studied Japanese then you know that most kanji have at least two readings: the Chinese reading and the Japanese reading. Take the kanji for “to eat” for instance (食). Its Chinese reading is shoku (which comes from shi in Chinese), and its Japanese reading is taberu (which is how you say “to eat” in Japanese).

But would something like, say, kuchi ni ireru (“to put in your mouth”) be a reading for that kanji? Probably not; that’s just a definition of the kanji, not a reading for it. That’d be like reading the abbreviation “etc.” as “there are other similar things but I’d rather not list them” instead of just “et cetera.”

The reason I’m going into all of this linguistic babble is because separating readings of kanji from definitions of kanji can sometimes be kind of hard. In fact, considering the tens of thousands of kanji in existence, it’s too hard a job for me, and I’ve decided to defer the responsibility to one of the most trusted sources for all things kanji: the Morohashi Daikanwa Jiten, a twelve-plus volume behemoth of a dictionary that contains over 50,000 kanji.

So with all that out of the way, today we’re counting down the top five kanji with the longest readings. If the Morohashi dictionary says it’s a reading, then we’re going to take their word for it, because they have a heck of a lot more experience working with weird and obscure kanji than we ever will.

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

Honorable Mention: The urban myths

The way that the Morohashi dictionary “confirms” a reading for a kanji is via the index volume (yes, the index is an entire volume… sometimes more, depending on the edition). If the kanji’s reading is in the “Japanese reading” index, then I say it’s fair game to label it a “reading.”

My library’s 15-volume Morohashi. The third and second volumes from the
right are indexes, and the last one is a supplementary volume for MOAR KANJI!

We would be remiss not to at least mention some of the kanji with absurdly long readings that come up in these online conversations, despite them not technically being “readings” by most accounts.

One such mythological kanji is this 17-syllable one: tora ga hito wo
kamou to suru unarigoe (“the growl of a tiger about to bite a person”).

But unfortunately that reading isn’t in the “reading index.” The index’s reading
for this kanji is tora no unarigoe (“growl of a tiger”), only eight syllables.

The mythological reading does show up in the kanji’s definition proper though,
so we classify it as a “definition” instead of a “reading.”

Another kanji discussed in whispers, the 15-syllable: kyuu ni tobidashite hito wo
odorokaseru koe
(“the voice of jumping out suddenly and surprising someone”).

Again, that’s a definition and not a “reading,” but I love how this kanji’s two halves
(“gate” on the left, “person” hiding on the right) come together for its meaning.

And one last thing before we go into the real list, it should go without saying that all of these are extremely rare kanji, and probably no Japanese person you show them to would be able to read them, unless they were some sort of historical kanji otaku.

#5. Walking funny

All right, so we’re out of the land of kanji tall-tales and back into the super-serious world of the Morohashi readings index.

Although there is one problem: there was a four-way tie between the next kanji on the list, as all of them have 12 syllables. So to divvy them up, I had to do apply a bit of kanji-science.

Let’s take a look at that word for “to eat” again: 食べる. It’s pronounced taberu, but the second and third characters are just phonetic hiragana. The kanji itself at the very beginning is only pronounced ta. So technically this kanji would not be a 3-syllable kanji (taberu), it would only be a 1-styllable kanji (ta),

I applied that same reasoning to the four-way tie. If these kanji were to actually be written out, based on conventions from other kanji, some of them would technically be fewer syllables. So let’s take a look at this first one, which is listed as 12 syllables but if actually written out would probably be only 8 syllables.

This character’s reading is arukikata ga tadashikunai (“the way of walking is not correct”). Seems like an accurate representation of that meaning to me.

Going on convention, that tadashikunai part of the reading is usually written like this: 正しくない. The last four characters are just phonetic hiragana, so if this kanji were ever actually written (not that that would probably ever happen, but if it did!), then we’d have to imagine the same thing would happen here, marking it down by four syllables.

So while Morohashi says that this kanji’s reading is 12 syllables long, and we will accept that without question, we will mark it down as the “shortest” of the 12-syllable kanji.

#4. Rocks and fire

While the last kanji on our list got docked by four syllables, these next two only get a small one-syllable loss. They’re still 12-syllables each, but we’ll mark them as just beneath the “pure” 12-syllable ones.

Say hello to ishi wo funde mizu wo wataru
(“step on stones and cross over water”).

The wataru part of that reading is usually written like this: 渡る. The last character there is just phonetic hiragana, so if one were to for some reason have an inkling to actually write this kanji, we’d imagine the same would happen here, technically docking the kanji’s reading by one syllable.

Again, I love this kanji’s composition: “rock” on the left, “water” on the right.
If you’re ever writing about stepping stones in Japanese, please use this!

Next us up is shiba wo taite ten wo matsuru
(“burn firewood and worship heaven/the sky”).

Same reasoning here, the final ru in matsuru would probably be hiragana.
Don’t really get why the top part is “this” and bottom is “indicate” though.

#3. Eternal illness

And now we finally get to the “pure” 12-syllable kanji, the one where – even if you were a crazy person and actually wrote it out – the entire reading would probably be contained in the single kanji.

Ironically enough the “pure” one is this sickly fellow: hisashiku naoranai
(“illness that hasn’t gotten better for a long time”).

Yamai (“illness”), the last part of that kanji’s long reading, is typically just written by itself (病) with no hiragana after it. So we’d have to imagine the same reasoning would be applied here as well, making this one super-dense kanji.

Yet again, these kanji with long readings have some really elegant components
to them: the outer part here means “sickness” and the inner means “hard.”

#2. A satisfyingly disgusting sound

The final two items on our list are also a tie at 13 syllables each. And since both of them would probably have their full readings contained within the single kanji if they were written out, we had to go with a different tie-breaker: alternative readings.

And for one of the 13-syllable kanji, if it were actually read aloud, it might have one syallable dropped, bringing it down to 12 syllables. Let’s take a look at it:

Hone to kawa to ga hanareru oto (“the sound of bone separating from skin”).
That second to isn’t 100-percent necessary, and neither is imagining that sound.

The top half likely means “abundant/plenty” and the bottom means “stone.”
Well, we were bound to run into one that didn’t make sense sooner or later!

And the kanji with the longest reading is…

1. An offering to the kanji gods

Here we are, the kanji with the longest reading according to the Morohashi dictionary. This is the other 13-syllable kanji, but unlike other tie-breakers where we’ve had to dock syllables from kanji, this one could potentially get an extra syllable depending on how it’s read, potentially bringing it up to a whopping 14 syllables.

The king of long kanji: matsuri no sonaemono no kazari
(“decoration on an offering at a festival”).

Here is the kanji’s entry in the reading index, but…

…the definition is a bit different than the reading: matsuri no sonaemono no
(“an offering of food at a festival”). The last word is one syllable longer!

So while we’re still marking this one down as 13 syllables, the extra syllable in the definition gives it the number-one spot as a tie-breaker. In fact, we’ll go ahead and say that if you were ever to actually encounter this kanji, being able to recall either reading would be more than impressive enough.

And not only that, but there’s the fact that the right-side half of this kanji means “bean,” so the reading that refers more specifically to a “food offering” does make sense!

So there you have it, the top five kanji with the longest readings. Are there any kanji with long readings that you struggle to remember?

Have a great day!

Copyright infringement? Or good business?

Good morning everyone,

This nice weather will continue for a while yet-we can expect mostly sunny skies and highs between 18C and 23C for the next few days. Too bad cherry blossoms didn't come out now...ha ha!

Nintendo is suing a go-kart and costume rental business for infringing on their Mario Kart copyright.

On 18 April, opening arguments were held in Tokyo District Court for the long awaited lawsuit of Mari Car by Nintendo. The Kyoto-based game-maker is seeking 10 million yen for what they claim is infringement of their copyright regarding the hit series of racing games Mario Kart.

Mari Car is a service that allows people to rent go-karts and costumes at the same time and lets them take a joyride around downtown Tokyo. Costumes include: Mario, Bowser, Luigi, and Yoshi.

In addition to allowing its customers to emulate the game in real life using the likenesses of Nintendo’s most famous characters, Mari Car’s name when written in Japanese katakana characters is exactly like the nickname to Mario Kart. In fact, if you type in “マリカー” into Google you’ll get the video game as a featured result. However, awkwardly, all of the preview images next to it are for the Mari Car rental service.

However, Mari Car denies responsibility, saying they are “working with another company to provide both costumes and go-karts. Our company only provides and maintains the go-karts, so cannot be a part of the lawsuit.” In other words, since Mari Car aren’t technically the ones selling the likenesses of Mario and the others, they cannot be sued for violating their copyrights.

The case has attracted a lot of interest in the media in the weeks leading up to the trial. The opening statement has triggered a lot of comments as well, such as:

“It’s time to start this fierce item battle!”
“I saw some of those people driving around today. I guess it’s okay as long as they drive safe.”
“If they get away with this you can expect a flood of other copyrights getting stepped on.”
“I’m more concerned with people driving around the streets in go-karts.”
“This company seems kind of scummy. Good luck Nintendo!”
“Sounds like a pachinko parlor.”

That last comment was referring to the system that allows the pinball-like game of pachinko to operate legally as a pseudo-gambling business.

For example, at a pachinko parlor people can win tiny balls which are then traded for prizes like, say, a mustache comb. Then, as luck would have it, there is a business just outside of the pachinko parlor that specializes in buying mustache combs from people for exorbitant amounts of money.

Since these are two separate entities, no actual gambling is technically taking place. Mari Car appears to be using the same logic. Since their company is simply renting the karts, they can’t be held responsible if their customers want to dress up like Mario using costumes from another company.

In fact, this may be the first recorded case of what could be described as “copyright laundering” in Japanese legal history. As some commenters pointed out, if Mari Car successfully evades the lawsuit, it could open the flood gates of shady businesses working in tandem to circumvent intellectual property rights.

While I'm all for entrepreneurs trying to start up new businesses, I'm  going to side with Sony on this one. Legally though, because of the way pachinko parlors are allowed to work in Japan, the go-kart business might get away with using the Mario Kart images...what do you think? 

Have a great day!

Are you a fan of 'Your Name'?

Good morning everyone,

The weather isn't looking too bad for the rest of the week-we can expect a mix of sunny days and cloudy days and highs in the low 20s all week and the best part is that they are no longer calling for rain anytime in the near future.

Critically acclaimed anime film Your Name made waves in Japan’s film industry and beyond when it was released in the summer of 2016. While the story itself tugged heartstrings and received positive reviews, a large part of the movie’s appeal was its beautiful imagery – in particular, the moving scene when protagonists Taki and Mitsuha meet for the first time.

Those who loved the movie, and that scene in particular, can now relive the beautiful moment at home, thanks to a collaboration between the Your Name franchise and HOMESTAR planetarium projector brand. Have you ever heard of the HOMESTAR projector? It was created in part by Japanese engineer Takayuki Ohira. Ohira is quite famous in the world of astronomy as the creator of the record-setting Megastar projector, which was named as the planetarium projector that can project the highest number of stars in the world.

With the special edition Your Name HOMESTAR projector, you can see the night sky as it would actually appear on October 4, the day Taki and Mitsuha met, from the Chubu area of Japan. The projected scene gradually changes, from the moment they met at sunset, until the appearance of the Tiamet comet.

The projector also plays three of the hit Radwimps songs from the film, including a music box version of “Zenzenzense”, and piano versions of “Sparkle” and “Nandemonaiya”.

The Your Name home planetarium projector goes on sale this July, and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon Japan for 9,200 yen plus tax and shipping.

Seeing as I haven't seen the movie yet, I'll pass. But for those of you who are fans...what do you think? Is it worth it?

Have a great day!

Clock is ticking for working women

Good morning everyone,

They are calling for sunny weather for the next couple of days and I hope they're right. I'm going to need those two days to dry out. Clouds will roll in on Thursday and we're looking at some rain on Friday before turning nice for the weekend. Highs all week will be between 20C and 23C.

As much as I hate to spoil the whole 春の陽気 (haru no yōki, springtime cheer) thing, I have some bad news about Japanese love relationships, specifically 社内恋愛 (shanai-renai, intra-company love affairs).

Despite our 超高齢化社会 (chō-kōreika-shakai, super-aging society), an increasing awareness of alternative lifestyles and the ever-growing number of women in the workforce, some things remain stubbornly the same. It’s hard for women over 30 to find a partner within the workplace circle, and the odds are stacked higher against her with each passing year. This means that if the fresh-faced 新卒 女子 (shinsotsu joshi, newly graduated young woman) in the ubiquitous black リクルートスーツ (rikurūto sūtsu, “recruit suit”) wishes to find a marriage partner in her 会社 (kaisha, company), she has less than eight years before her chances get drastically reduced.

Apparently, 30 is the cut-off point — 婚活 (konkatsu, partner hunting) agencies point out that only 23 percent of Japanese women get married between the ages of 30 and 34, and that rate gets whittled down to 11 percent between the ages of 35 and 40. No wonder a lot of the young women I talk to these days say more or less the same thing: 学生時代の彼氏をキープしとかないと後がつらい (Gakusei-jidai no kareshi o kiipu shi to kanai to ato ga tsurai, “It’s better to keep your college boyfriend close at hand, because hard times may be ahead”).

For the shinsotsu joshi, the clock has already started to tick, but as a 新入社員 (shinnyū-shain) up to her eyeballs in one 研修 (kenshū, training session) after another, combined with doing all the 雑用 (zatsuyō, odd jobs) expected of a first-year employee, it’s hard to shift her attention to her college 彼氏 (kareshi, boyfriend).

After hours, she must navigate the treacherous waters of 飲み会 (nomikai, drinking parties), obligatory 合コン (gōkon, match-making parties — which young women must attend whether they have boyfriends or not) and their variants, and still get home with her sanity and dignity intact. For these reasons and more, the first few months of leading the 会社員 (kaishain, company employee) existence almost always lead to a text message break-up. It’s rare for shinnyū-shain couples to actually meet up and discuss relationship termination — everyone is just too busy.

Three years later, the shinsotsu joshi will perhaps regret this decision. She is no longer a new graduate, nor a rookie. She’s a little older and a lot wiser, with a clear-eyed vision of the people around her in the office. And in these three years, she has probably clocked up more 残業 (zangyō, overtime) and attended more nomikai than she’d like to admit.

Her 20s are disappearing fast as she hurtles down the road toward her 三十路 (misoji, 30s) and she’s feeling in need of a break, either via 転職 (tenshoku, changing jobs) or 結婚 (kekkon, marriage). On the other hand, for many 女性社員 (joseishain, women employees), this is also a time when the work actually feels 楽しい (tanoshii, enjoyable). Mid- to late 20s is when many Japanese women feel comfortable in the company, having gained their footing, made friends and earned the right to wield some power over the younger 社員 (shain, employees).

Fifty years ago, the average Japanese woman had little experience of men outside her family circle. Marriage came between the ages of 20 and 24 and was effectively mandatory for all. The definition of 女の幸せ (onna no shiawase, a woman’s happiness) was a mortgaged house in the suburbs, two children and a salaryman husband who stuck with the same company until death or retirement, enabling her to be a 専業主婦 (sengyō shufu, stay-at-home wife), with no need to fend for herself or do anything as みっともない (mittomonai, unseemly) as 外で稼ぐ (soto de kasegu, earn money outside the home). And up until about two decades or so ago, it wasn’t uncommon for mothers of eldest sons to voice concerns about potential brides with work experience — they were thought to be too 生意気 (namaiki, cheeky) and ill-suited to a stable marriage.

Here’s the astonishing thing: Today, the term onna no shiawase is still in popular use, with the same old meaning. Japanese society and most Japanese women still equate happiness with marriage. They still hanker for a big wedding (preferably in Hawaii, or at least a faux church in Tokyo’s swanky Aoyama district) and a gorgeous white dress while in their 20s, since the younger the 花嫁 (hanayome, bride), the better the photos will come out.

And to a large degree, Japanese men and their parents still prefer younger women with less work experience to become their wives and daughters-in-law, respectively. The reasoning behind this hasn’t changed much either: The more 経験 (keiken, experience) a woman racks up, the less likely she is to settle down and make a good wife. She has fought too many battles in the workplace, and has had too much fun in her life.

One more thing to note, after hitting 40, the marriage rate for women crashes to 2 percent. So much for the Abe administration’s 女性が輝ける社会 (josei ga kagayakeru shakai, society where women can shine).

Have a great day!