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May 31, 2004

Sneeze & Gossip

Do you have the experience of sneezing continuously several times in a row and cannot make it stop? It happens to me a lot lately and my nose has been so itchy, yikes!!!

In American culture, people would say "God Bless You!" to the person who sneezes, and I guess the origin is because of the superstitious belief that your spirit will get "sneezed" out at the same time and hopefully God would come to your rescue!

In Japanese culture, the superstitious belief is that there must be somebody talking behind your back or gossiping "うわさ" (uwasa) about you. Chinese happen to have the same belief too about sneezing.


Who is talking behind my back?

May 30, 2004



We were invited to a friend's birthday party yesterday and got to try different "日本酒" (nihonshu), Japanese sake, from different regions of Japan. One of them was a big bottle of sake with tiny gold flakes inside. Sounds expensive, doesn't it? The taste was quite mild but I couldn't really tell if there is any gold flavor. I guess it is more like for visual appeal than adding flavor to the sake itself. The other bottles were from "島根" (shimane) and "徳島" (tokushima) regions which had much stronger taste than the gold-flakes one. I like them all though.

Of course, the classic Japanese plum wine was also available - "梅酒" (umeshu). It is quite sweet if taken straight but adding a lot of ice or water makes it a very refreshing drink and is no doubt one of my favorite Japanese drinks. Incidentally, Kristen made a step-by-step video of preparing home-made umeshu. Great! I am sure I will try it at home myself one day too!

There is a tradition of pouring alcohol for the other person called "お酌" (oshaku). This little ritual shows respect and affection for the receiver of the drink and happens everywhere in Japan especially in business situations. So we were doing "お酌" (oshaku) with each other during the party and I felt pampered for being served and at the same time it was an honor for me to serve my friends too!

May 28, 2004

Ping Pong

Check this out. Just amazed by how they could perform the whole thing so seamlessly. Well, another form of creativeness by the Japanese!

What they did on this TV show reminded me of the traditional Japanese performing arts called "文楽" (bunraku) in which three puppeteers dress all in black to control one puppet. I would like to see a live Bunraku show when I go to Japan next time!

May 27, 2004


Japanese are definitely a creative breed of people. You can pretty much tell from the products that they design to the animations that they produce, everything is full of imagination and innovation. Another area that the Japanese are good at, I think, are making Flash movies. From time to time, I'll bump into some Flash files on the web created by Japanese which are quite eye-opening. I took two classes in Flash before but that didn't make me a Flash artist. However, after going through the training myself, I do come to realize the laborious process involved in making the movies and I can appreciate a lot more when I see others' works.

The content of many Japanese Flash movies out there are language dependent - meaning you have to have a certain level of Japanese language comprehension in order to fully enjoy the movies. But I was able to find some that are quite language independent or with English version so non-speakers can enjoy also. I do recommend that you have broadband internet connection and Flash plug-in for your browser to play the following files:

Japanese type of sophistication
Japanese sense of humor
Japanese form of cuteness
An open source project with famous ASCII characters
Another version of the project with the same music

May 26, 2004

"Japlish Engrish"

BigCameraFor those who have been to Japan before, you probably have come across some funny Japanese English that doesn't make sense. When I visited Japan in 2003, I purchased some things from the famous "Big Camera" store, which is a big chain in Japan selling consumer electronics, and the shopping bag that I received says "MAKE UP ENJOYING YOUR CITY LIFE... PRODUCED BY BIC CAMERA". Who knows what the heck this means??? The thing is you can find these "Engrish" phrases everywhere from T-shirts, signs, logos, slogans, stationery, user manuals, vending machines and what not... English speakers are always puzzled if not amused by all these English phrases made up by Japanese people. So next time when you go to Japan, pay attention and I am sure you will find some hilarious "Japlish Engrish" too!

Sites that have a collection of "Japlish Engrish"

May 25, 2004


Maguro"ねぎとろ丼" (negitorodon) means green onion and raw tuna fish over a bowl of rice. Like a lot of other Japanese cuisines, this is an extremely easy recipe with no cooking required except for boiling the rice. The Mitsuwa close to where we live is having a sale on minced raw tuna today so we rushed there to grab a couple of packages. Minced raw tuna is usually cheaper than the nicely cut sashimi because it is made from the odd-shaped bits of meat that cannot be sold as sashimi. However, the quality is just as good I think.

Serving for one person:
1 package of minced raw tuna from Japanese grocery store (Wasabi included)
All-you-can-eat green onion, diced
All-you-can-eat "Nori" seaweed, diced
All-you-can-eat warm rice

Mix minced raw tuna with green onion and nori seaweed. Pour over rice. Top with wasabi and sprinkle with soy souce.

Japanese cooking is indeed a simple art!

May 24, 2004


"食べ放題" (tabehoudai) is all-you-can-eat buffet. This is one of my favorite style restaurants. For a reasonable price, I can have a great selection of different varieties of food and fulfill my tummy as much as I want. Perhaps this is the reason why Las Vegas is one of my favorite travel destinations.

By the same token, "読み放題" (yomihoudai) means all-you-can-read and is the name of my weblog as you can see. My love of buffet inspires me to come up with this not quite standard Japanese term. Now, you can guess the purpose of my blog - to present numerous variety of topics related to Japan through my perception. Language, people, culture, history, politics, economics, strange things, cute things, good things, bad things, big things, little things, you name it... This site is dedicated to people who have a passion about Japan as a country, which has both positive and negative sides.

For the Japanophiles, I have to warn you that once in a while, you will come across my two cents on some disturbing facts of Japan that are either unaware of or people avoid talking about. However, I am no Japan-basher either (otherwise I won't be doing what I am doing right now). While I am still learning things about Japan myself, I hope my blog provides a conducive environment for other people to come into contact with this unique and fascinating country - may it be sweet, sour, bitter, spicy or salty! So enjoy and read as much as you want!