100 Japanese Things

In Which 100 Japanese Things Shall Be Revealed, So That You May Learn Much Japanese From Them

Thing #12: What is Playing at Your Town Festival (Begin’s “Nada Sousou”) June 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 4:30 am
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Somewhere near you, there is a festival and a stage and a young boy and girl are doing their first ever live performance of this song:

Um, that is, if you live in Japan. This is a fairly recent track (lyrics by Ryouko Moriyama, music by BEGIN) that now turns up at matsuris and school festivals everywhere.

「涙そうそう」 (Okinawan reading “なだそうそう”, note the difference from the standard 涙 reading of ”なみだ”) is Okinawa-dialect for 「涙がぽろぽろこぼれ落ちる」. Which is Japanese for (roughly)  “Stream of Tears”

Here’s a translation of the song to English (Natsukawa Rimi version), and here’s  a few Japanese commentators talking about the story behind the lyrics .


BONUS: If you like the Okinawan stuff, here’s one you’ll definitely hear being covered: 島唄 (”Shima Uta”). Here’s a super-subbed (English, romaaji, kanji) version:

AND FOR FELLOW SANSHIN STUDENTS: A Japanese-American who studied at Ryukyu university set Simple Sanshin Source, a site that teaches the basics of Okinawan Sanshin. (On hiatus, but lots of good stuff there.)


(Video) Thing #11: A Kindly Rap Man’s Effect-O-Magic Kanji Lesson February 4, 2009

Filed under: advanced,beginner,intermediate — Saleem @ 4:06 pm

Aw, Kreva. You what? Made some kind of pimped out 3-D kanji speed reading drill?  With a beat? And put on a blue jumpsuit? Really, you shouldn’t have. (Kanji 3-D Magic Land opens for business around the 1:00 mark)

YouTube – 成功. And make sure you push HQ.

Elsewhere on the internet, other friend come together to provide us with the lyrics. The people, they are so good to us.



Signs: “Infrequent Sign Roundups” Lives! December 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 1:57 am

Fresh Japanese signs, ripe for the SRSing. Go!

(As always, the English is just approximate)

Hey Signs, whatchyou got to say about my dog?

No Producing Freakish Cross Breeds of Dog-Cats and Then Giving Them Retro-70's Haircuts, Please


いぬ を つれて けいだい に たちいる こと きんじます。 だいほんざんしょうこくじ。

Note:  大本山相国寺 is the name of the temple. The rest of the sign says, pretty much what you’d guess it would: You can’t bring your dog into the grounds.


And what of men who have spectacular hair? What do they have to say?

It's Navitime in Pompadour Land


ろせんず を みてる キミ!

You (there), looking at the train line map!

のりかえ いがい にも、しんぱい すべき こと が あるんじゃないか?

Aren’t there some things other than (just) train transfers that you should be worried about?

電車 飛行機 クルマ 徒歩
でんしゃ ひこうき クルマ とほ

Train , Plane, Car, By foot
けーたい そうごう ナビゲーション

Comprehensive cell-phone navigation (system)


And, sadly, a sign with Japanese that lacks the charm of its English:

Train Station, Kyoto, Japan

嵯峨野 観光 鉄道
さがの かんこう てつどう


That last one just reads, roughly, “Sagano Sight-seeing Rail”

Apologies if that isn’t romantic enough for you. But that’s all the love I have to give.

Worry not, the new years will bring some fresh signs and projects. Til then, we’ll stay irregular as your grandpa. (Might we suggest plopping the feed into Google Reader?)


Sign Roundup: Swimming in Subways, Blood Tests, The Impact of Smoking September 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 1:36 am
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Booyah! A rush of signs! Hiragana and English explanations follow:


Not On the Subway


Detail of bottom:
detail of subway sign


aids sign

“Deleted” text reads: 献血いってエイズ検査してみよっか!

Red text reads:

感染病 (肝炎・エイズ等 )



Explanations (note: English translations are rough as always, we’re mainly here to get you signs)

First up, one of my favorite signs of all time, as it links cramming into subways to swimming:


海   で  やろう。

うみ  で  やろう

(beach) (at) (do)

Do it at the beach!

駆け込み 乗車 は 危険 です。

かけこみ じょうしゃ は  きけん です。

(cramming in) (train riding) (topic marker) (is dangerous)


(Please stop)

Please do not rush into the train as it is dangerous.


“Deleted” text:

献血 いって エイズ 検査 してみよっか!

けんけつ      いって エイズ けんさ  してみよっか!

(blood donation) (go) (aids) (check) (try it out, shall we?)

How about going in to donate blood to check if you have AIDs?

Red text:

感染病  (肝炎  エイズ )
かんせんびょう   かんえん  えいず

(infectious disease) (hepatitis) (AIDS)

検査  目的    の  献血    は

けんさ  もくてき  の  けんけつ   は

(check up) ( goal) (の) (blood donaion) (as for)


ぜったい  やめましょう!

(definitely) (let’s stop!)

Let’s definitely stop donating blood as a way to figure out if you have an infectious disease like AIDS or hepatitis!

SIDENOTE: I was actually surprised to learn that this was an issue, but, now that I think about it, makes sense.



しょうげき 、 あらわる。

(impact) (appears)

Whoop, there it is.


Okay, Scott, who’s helping me with these, is a professional translator, but he admits that last little translation is a bit unprofessional. But he hopes you get the gist.

As always, take pictures of any signs you like and send them over.


Sign(s) #2: Your Mutant Family May (Not?) Bike Here July 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 5:19 pm
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Our own Jason Ho sent this from his commute to work today.

He would like you to know that he enjoys signs that depict mutant figures.

And they are cutest when in ambiguous spacial relation to a bike, aren’t they?



This one means: Bicycle passage permitted [i.e. walking or biking okay, no cars though]

Alas, they are sometimes on their own.







(a road for walkers [i.e. no cars], bicycles can’t drive here either)

NOTE: That も is kind of funny, right? But it’s just because it’s implied first that cars aren’t allowed.


Ah, young mutant family, how we love your delightful hand-holding ways. May you instruct us eternally!

AND: Keep them signs coming.

PLUS: Thanks to Scott as always for proofing this for me. He keeps me sharp on them long and short “Oh”s. (ほこうしゃよう, etc.)


Sign #1: Monthly Parking in the Land of Dang Tricky July 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 5:55 am

Ooh, our first sign submission:

Gah, it’s so wee and hard to make out! Do you hate it? *

From Scott, who works as a translator in a building a few hundred meters from my desk. He says:

the text reads: 月極有料駐車場
I think this is one of those signs that people see and understand, but might have a hard time reading because of the first two characters, which are read つきぎめ and mean monthly or by the month.

So, we have:

月極有料 ( つきぎめ  ゆうりょう)

駐車場 ( ちゅうしゃじょう )

(i.e. a parking lot that charges a monthly fee)

SIDENOTE: Dude in my office said (rough translation): “Yeah, that’s a mysterious bit of Japanese, right? Lots of kids would get that wrong, pronouncing it like “tsukigoku” or something.”

Then he handed me a kanji history of 極 (**), which apparently referred to a tree in a very high location in ancient Chinese. Yup.

* ‘Cause it’s pieces of you-ooh?

** We also see this kanji lots in words like 北極 (north pole), etc.


The Japanese Sign Project Begins, PLUS: Thing #11: The Rusty Crosswalk Buttons July 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Saleem @ 8:26 am
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Oh, we’ll still be bringing you THINGS. But we’re also going to be bringing you signs. Starting immediately.

Canes and Rust Mean Age and Flavor

If you’re in Japan, you can play along. See a Japanese sign that you don’t understand? Take a pic and e-mail (or keitai-mail) it over to e-mail address to mail signs to (type it just like that and you’ll save me the trouble of filtering it. Pop it on in your keitai now, you never know when you’ll need it.)

Better yet, just pop your sign up on flickr and mail me a link to it.

THEN: Me and/or the Japanese dudes in my office will post it here and write a quick explanation like so:


( 横断:おうだん

歩行者:ほこうしゃ )

( Crosswalkers: Please push the button. )

( 不自由な 方: ふじゆうな かた)

( 押ボタン: おし ボタン )

(Handicapped people’s button [this is])

NOTE: The translations will be quick and rough, just enough to get you able to understand the sign, and, more importantly, get you the kanji/ reading so you can look it up yourself if so inclined.

AND: As always, I make no claims to be some kind of kanji-supergod or anything like that. I’m far, far, far, from it.

BUT I work in an office full of Japanese folks, and they are all kanji-supergods and would find it fun to check and make sure that their handy foreign pal is reading the signs right/answer questions about obscure signs folks find.


WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? I’m in Japan, and I like putting things on the internet that aren’t already on the internet.

PLUS: It’ll help me with kanji/actual Japanese signage.

PLUS: It might help you with kanji/actual Japanese signage.

PLUS: If you don’t live in Japan, this is some real stuff that you can study before you get here.

PLUS: If you’re an SRSer (or use any computer based flash card program), you can just drop the images into your flash card program. More fun than typing sentences, right?

PLUS: It gives me an excuse to pay more attention to all the signsI usually just ignore while walking around my town.

Send me any suggestions that you have. And, of course, signs.

BONUS POINTS FOR: Funny/ weird ones.

…and last of all, a SHOUT OUT: To Learn Japanese Through Advertisements. They focus on print ads, and do a great job of transcribing/explaining. Harvey seems to have the project on hiatus, but lots of good stuff there.

I’m afraid we won’t be explaining all the grammar like they do (props to them for doing it, though). Our strategy is more throw some Japanese at you and run away as fast as we can.