Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 12. 2017

Japanese system: Beauty and the Beast by Olga Kaneda

Japan has a system for everything; a set of rules to make life easier and simpler, like stroke order for Chinese characters. If there is no unified system, there are usually two or three systems for almost everything. For example, people in Kanto and Kansai have different rice ball shapes for different occasions.

System is a pillar stone of any society, but the Japanese system is superior to any others. Even German people, known for their strict rules and logic, realize how lenient the system at their home country was after coming to Japan.

If there is no general rule how to do something, Japanese people invent instructions for themselves and others. Have you ever given a thought to all that 《Tadashii tsukaikata / tsukurikata》 (the correct way of using / making something)? Life that has more uniform actions is easier to live. You don’t even need to do much. The system may be elaborate or simple, but anyway the experience of other people can be rather helpful. Think a recipe of your grandmother’s apple pie, treasured in the family for decades. Well, Japanese instructions are nation-wide, but the concept is similar. You can try doing things your own way, but why bother if there is a foolproof recipe for success?

We foreigners may be shocked at first but we learn to obey or at least adapt. Sometimes a familiar routine is the only thing that keeps you going every day. But occasionally it is the thing that makes you desperately bang your head on the wall at the immigration office / city hall / bank / add your 《favorite》 place.

But no matter how beautiful or efficient a system can be, sometimes it does not work. It just doesn’t. Want an example? Here it is: years of learning English don’t give the expected results. I feel sorry for some Japanese people who keep apologizing for their poor spoken English and blame themselves for that. But if almost everyone fails to master the language in the system, maybe it is not their fault?

日本はすべてがシステム化されている。まるで漢字のとめ・はねのような一連のルールがあって、生活は単純化され暮らしやすい。統一化されていないと、たいていやり方に2、3の違いがでる。例をあげれば、関東と関西では、おにぎりの握り方にちがいがある。

システムはどんな社会においても支柱を成すが、日本の場合はとても優れている。厳しいルールとロジックをもつドイツ人でさえ、来日後は、母国のシステムはゆるいと認識する。

何かする際、一般的なルールがないと、日本人は自分や他人のためにやり方を編み出す。「ただしい・つかいかた/つくりかた」について注目した事があるだろうか。一定のルールが多くある生活は住みやすい。無駄がなくなる。きめ細やかものであれ、簡単なものであれ、他人にはとても役立つ。家に代々伝わるおばあちゃんのアップルパイのレシピがあると想像してみるといいだろう。日本人のと取扱説明/指導要綱は国全体に広く行き渡っているが、概念は同じだ。自分独自のやり方を押し通してもいいが、確実に成功するやり方があればそれに従うのが得策だ。

来日した外国人は最初はとまどうが、従い、少なくともそのシステムに慣れる。毎日続けられるのは違和感のないものだけの場合もある。たまに、入国管理事務所、市役所、銀行等では、途方にくれることもある。

しかしどんなにすばらしく効果的なシステムであっても、うまくいかない事もある。単に役立たないだけだ。どういった場合か思い当たるだろうか。英語を何年も学んでいるのに思うようにうまくならないのはいい例だろう。うまく話せない英語について詫び、恥じる日本人に出会うとかわいそうになる。しかしシステム化することで、語学は上達するのではないのだろう。おそらく、日本人のせいではない。


Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 12. 2017

Last Minute Sleepiness by Dean Mejia


I read online recently that about 40% of Japanese people get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. I am not Japanese. I value my sleep more. I can’t even function properly unless I get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night. Still, on a recent short trip from Osaka to Tokyo I vowed that I would not sleep at all. I didn’t even set up a hotel or any place for me to lay my head at night. The plan was that I was going to do the “tourist thing” around Akihabara for many hours, stay up all night, and then catch a train back to Osaka in the morning. I ate very little throughout the day to prevent getting sluggish from food comas, and I also drank a good amount of konbini energy drinks throughout the day to stay genki and alert.

After nearly 10 hours of walking up and down staircases and entering different stores, I started to get tired. I expended a lot of energy. My legs were tired. My brain was tired from attempting to read the hiragana and katakana characters on the covers of all of the comics that I laid my eyes upon. The sky started to get darker. I was telling myself that I wasn’t going to go to sleep, but deep down I knew that the sleep fairies were calling me.

I didn’t want to pay money for a regular hotel (because I was being cheap). I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pay for a shorter stay at a Love Hotel, because I have never done that, and it was a little too awkward for my tired brain to process. I researched on my phone and found a capsule hotel nearby. The plan was that I would just slide into a little narrow pod and hopefully not get stuck in there forever. Despite my imagining the worst, I was on my way to the capsule hotel, but I got lost and ended up stumbling upon a manga kissa (internet cafe´) instead.

When the clerk at the Manga Kissa asked me if I preferred a comfortable leather chair so that I can surf the internet all night, or if I wanted a more flat surface where I could actually lie down, I fought my internet addiction and went with the flat surface option. It was actually really convenient because I purchased a night pack (how many hours I would stay), ignored the computer that was in my little cubicle anyway, and fell asleep as soon as I lay down and closed my eyes. I awoke hours later and made it just in time to catch my train back to Osaka. A day later, I learned that I could’ve taken a night bus back to Osaka and probably fell asleep during the long ride. I had already purchased my return ticket in advance, but it’s good to know for the next adventure.

What’s App With You?

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 12. 2017

Paper Keyboard:

Are you tired of typing long emails to your colleagues? Use this app and a keyboard! Use the paper keyboard and paste your text in any text editor to format. Forget bluetooth, use paper! The front camera is used to detect your fingers. Just print a PDF file on a piece of paper and use it as a keyboard. How? Put your phone where marked on the paper and see the magic happen: the phone’s camera detects your fingers with state of the art algorithms. You can play games, chat with friends, send emails, write anything with the keyboard. With this version you can play some games and use the typing test, additional features may be available with in-app purchase.

My Beat.:

Get the most out of your workouts with a new weekly heart beat challenge! How does it work? It access your heart rate data from the Health App, to compose a simple 5-bar chart that tells you how hard your heart has been working every week. To stay healthy, try to fill each bar to full each week. It works out to 30min of activity each day. What are the benefits? It simply means that you will be able to better deal with whatever stress may come your way, including symptoms such as high blood pressure (hypertension), low energy, and anxiety.

 

Tokyo Voice Column

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 12. 2017

Eating bread hurts one’s teeth?! by Anne Corinne

I have recently experienced an interesting episode about our teeth sensitivity, which seems to be different, depending on our cultures.

A Japanese young mother once asked me what my toddler likes eating. She seemed very surprised that the answer was bread, especially after I mentioned I always toast it for 3 minutes in order to be crunchy, thus tasty (the way we like it in France). “I cannot eat bread, it is too hard and hurts my teeth” she replied to me. I had already heard many Japanese people telling me the same thing, and must admit it always made me feel quite perplexed. I am sometimes myself under the impression that I chipped a tooth on hard nougat or nougatine shards (after all, this is so hard to cut that even a knife would be in danger). But has anyone ever broken their teeth while eating a slice of bread?!

So, I asked her to tell me more about her pain, in order to understand what was a complete “mistery” to me. “It hurts here” she said, pointing at her jaw, near the ears, and explained that chewing was hard there.

Ah!!! I understood her point now! She meant that chewing was an unpleasant effort rather than being painful to her teeth!

After a deeper conversation, we realized that in Japanese culture, tasty food has to be soft and easily swallowed. “Yawarakai” (柔らかい, soft) is indeed the main purchasing criterion when it comes to food and some people are not used to chewing hard anymore.

The opposite seems to happen in France, as we are not used to swallowing food quickly. We sometimes choke and get hiccups when we try to swallow soft food such as sandwich bread or rice. It might also explain why we are physically unable to slurp ramen, even after several years of practice!

This led us to a surprising conclusion: our cultures are also influencing our eating habits, including the way we chew and swallow food!

歯から受ける感覚は、文化によって違いがあるようだと知る面白い体験をした。

日本人の若いお母さんに子供(乳児)の好物を尋ねられた事がある。私がパンだと答え、カリカリにするとおいしいので(フランスではみんなこうする)いつも3分間トーストすると言うとても驚いた顔をされた。「パンは食べられないわ。固いから歯が痛くなるから。」と彼女は言った。他の日本人からも同様の事を言われた経験があるが、正直私は何と答えればいいかいつもまごつく。ヌガーやヌーガティーンのお菓子を噛むと、歯が欠けるんじゃないかと思う時がある(ナイフで切る事ができないほど固いので、とても危ない)。でもパンを食べて歯を痛めたりするだろうか?

そこで、私にとって『ミステリー』なその痛みについて彼女に聞いてみた。「ここが痛むのよ。」と彼女は耳の付け根近くのあごを指差しながら言った。噛むとそこが痛くなると言った。

わかった!ようやくなぞが解けた。歯が痛くなるというより噛むことが辛いと言いたかったんだ。

さらにおしゃべりを続けて、日本の文化では、やわらかくて飲み込みやすい食べ物がおいしく感じられるのだと知った。「やわらかい」が食べ物を買う際の尺度であり、日本人の中には固いものを噛め事ができない人もいる。

フランスでは真逆の事が起きている。私たちは素早く食べ物を飲み込む事ができない。サンドウィッチやご飯のようなやわらかい食べ物を飲み込もむ際、喉につまらせたり、しゃっくりが起きる事がある。数年間練習しているのに、ラーメンをすすって食べる事ができないのは同様の要因だろう。

面白い結論が導きだされた。文化は食べ物を噛んだり、飲み込んだりする食習慣にも影響を与えると。



Strange but True

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 12. 2017

What the Frork?!

Let’s not get crazy. It’s called the Frork, presumably a portmanteau of “fry” and “fork,” and it’s coming to select McDonald’s stores on Friday. The utensil ― a fork with french fries for prongs ― is meant to scoop the gooey drippings from items on the fast-food chain’s new Signature Crafted Recipes menu, which features Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon and Maple Bacon Dijon sandwiches, which come with your choice of a quarter-pound beef patty or chicken ― of the grilled chicken or buttermilk “crispy” (the not-so-secret code name for “fried”) variety. Is McDonald’s attempting to win back the ’90s kids still upset about the chain’s decision to phase out Hi-C Orange Lavaburst? Social media users, of course, weighed in on the Frork. If you’re interested in getting your very own Frork, check out the list of where to find one at http://www.mcdfrork.com/#GetYourOwnFrork.

Saving them for rainy days?

Do you wish you'd kept a few of your favourite, long-gone chocolate bars in the house for a rainy day? We can no longer tuck into Cadbury Dreams, Aztecs or orange Drifters, should a craving hit us while we're watching Coronation Street. Well, most of us can't. But one man in Wales has been stashing limited edition choccie bars for decades - including some with special Westlife and Spice Girls wrappers (yes, that's how old they are). Lester Hughes, from Pwllheli, has bags and boxes full of the stuff and has even been offered £40 for his special Star Wars-themed bars. Some even went out of date in the early 1990s and he stopped collecting more than 15 years ago when he had a 'freezer disaster' - but he still has a cellar full of them. “What is amazing is that I can’t even find some of the bars of chocolate in my collection on google, so I’m wondering if even the chocolate companies themselves have kept a bar for reference.” Lester, currently studying for his PhD in Film at Bangor University, is hoping to incorporate his chocolate collection into his final exhibition, which has the theme of 'memory'.

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We go the extra mile for you. International air tickets and hotels.

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TMA

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