Monday, September 28, 2015


Walking in Japan is great exercise.  A little fresh air and sunshine does a body good.  It can be perilous, however, when the bikes come to play.

Bikers (the peddling kind, not the motor kind), almost immediately enraged me when we arrived in Japan - they zoom around with no concern for the pedestrians with which they share the sidewalk, frequently ignore the traffic lights, and have no regard for the LAWS OF BIKES.  This says nothing of the number of times where I'll be walking with Mac and bikes will zoom past him with less than inches between bike and puppy - I wish I knew how to scream "You're lucky he didn't bite you, jerk!"  in Japanese.  We've figured out a system now where Mac will sit at a cross walk, but he'll sit 2 feet directly in front of me, so I can protect his tail from bike tires.  

Long story short, my reaction to all this was to get SUPER bitter about bikes real quick.

Yeah.  So then a few weeks ago KP2 invited me out to a painting class and when I agreed to join her she gleefully replied "Great!  You can borrow my extra bike and we'll just zip over there!"

I was... less than excited about my first Japanese bike ride.
Except then, I LOVED it.

We flew through the streets and made great time, got a good workout, and I immediately realized just how much MORE exploring I could do with a set of wheels.  I heavily suspect this was all part of KP2's devious plan, because as you may note from above, she had an extra bike.  An extra bike, which is now my bike.

in case you wondered, crow tastes just like chicken, but a little gamey.
And so I present to you, Ms. Pippolotta Delicatessa Windowshade Ephram's Daughter Longspoking.  Or Pippi Longspoking*, for short.  She is my noble bicycle, and I am jazzed to feel the wind in my hair on a daily basis as she and I (and of course KP2) cycle to the far corners of this city and back.

Note to self though, make sure if you're using a train track as a navigation beacon on your ride, that you're following the CORRECT train track.  Check out today's "quick" ride out to a larger mall:

Blue: where I should have gone.  Red:  Where I did go.  My thighs are... less than pleased.

What are your feelings on bikes?  
How would you pimp your ride?  
(you may notice I already purchased a cute bike seat cover for Pippi, but I have yet more plans.)  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson:
あなたはラッキーです 彼はあなたを噛みませんでした![馬鹿!**]
Anata wa rakkīdesu kare wa anata o kamimasendeshita! Baka!
You are lucky he did not bite you!  Jerk!

*if you do not understand that name reference or why I would use that name for an orange bike, get thee to a youth literature section of a library post-haste!

**seriously though?  don't call anyone that.  It's considered a swear, and it's more or less the only swear word Japanese has... and I've never heard it uttered.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Basic B*tches

Hey, so there's a little bit of sweary-ness in this blog post (see title for example).  I'm a grown-a$$-lady though, so sometimes a little sweary-ness is okay.  Unless you're my family.  Sorry, family.  Time to bust out the earmuffs.

You may have come here and said to yourself (if you're from my generation or older) - what, exactly, is a "basic bitch?"  I give you this video starring Patrick Warburton for reference:

For the record, I am 100% a basic bitch, and if that's wrong then I don't want to be right.  I heart yoga pants and leggings.  I make use of unnecessary hashtags in social media.  I wear scarves with every outfit from September 1 through March 31 without fail.  Whaeva, I'll do what I want.

In the fall, B.B.'s are famous for their scent/beverage/food of choice; Pumpkin Spice (fun fact, while writing this post I discovered that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte has it's own *VERIFIED* twitter and instagram account... and I find that very amusing).  Normally, I would be no exception to this rule.  But we're in Japan now, and a new competitor has entered the ring:

I would equate them more with yams actually.  Dark purple skins, yellow inside.  Very sweet.  And usually the Japanese top them with a thin maple syrup.  They're super delicious.  And they are the kings of fall here. Two weeks ago the advertisements in the mall switch over to signal "autumn is here!" and it's been nothing but celebrating this tuber's existence ever since.

As I write this post and look up supplementary information about satsumaimo (the Japanese name for them), there's a bunch of articles about how they're great for helping you loose weight.  And yet, after a week of eating almost nothing except the wonderful array of autumn-themed, satsumaimo-flavored products...

Of course, my problem is probably that I'm not eating *just* the satsumaimo. 

sold in every corner convenience store from the same type of heaters in which
Americans might expect to see hot dogs rolling.

I'm eating the satsumaimo chips.  (of which Bubba is also a fan)

and the sweet breads, stuffed with mashed sweet potato.

and the mini-breads.

and the kit-kats.

And just to be fair, I also sampled the Maple and Hazlenut flavored sweets, because I wanted to be able to tell you with confidence that the sweet potato is the best fall flavor here.  
(featuring me in a tiny clip in witch hat I bought from the ¥100 store because it's hilarious, and also fake eyelashes, which I am trying out before I wear them with my halloween* costume.)

the hazlenut bread was shaped like a hazlenut but stuffed with sweet potato!  the cake is a lie! 
and the maple bread was stuffed with sweet red beans.  because Japan. (still yummy)
Not only is Satsumaimo hands down the best fall flavor, but the hazlenut sweet bread cheated and was STUFFED WITH SWEET POTATO.
So now in theory, because I have shared my findings with you all, I can go back to eating a normal diet that is not 90% sweet potato themed foods.  Sure, we'll say that.  

In conclusion - if you can find Satsumaimo in a store near you, give 'em a try.  And then light a pumpkin spice candle for me, because they don't sell those here and I miss them.

Are you a basic bitch?  
What's is the thing that makes you the most basic?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's tiny language lesson

zenbu satsumaimo o, tabetai desu.
I want to eat all the sweet potatoes.

*halloween.  another basic bitch thing to be excited about.  
I freaking love halloween.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Thinking in Katakana

Oh hey there neighbors.  How’s it going?  I’d pretend something awe-inspiring happened which prevented me from remembering to blog last week, but if I’m honest, I started playing Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD for the Wii U and… well you know me.  I must save the Triforce from Gannon's evil grips! (…I told myself I could play for an hour tonight if I blog first.)
any game with an Elvis impersonator is right up my alley.
Let’s talk a bit about language today.  When you learn a secondary language, many people will say that you know you have reached a milestone in your proficiency when you begin to THINK in that language, instead of thinking in your native tongue and then translating it as you speak (which always sounds a little clunky).  Don’t get ahead of me here, readers, I’m not anywhere near that point (it took me about 6 months to get there when we were in Mexico, and that’s after I’d already taken years of college-credit Spanish!)  

The Japanese language is written using three different “alphabets” if you will.
  1. Hiragana.  A set of 46 letters which represent all the possible sounds in the language.  Used for native Japanese words.  (eg- big:おおき  Sunday: にちようび cat: ねこ  )  Used to teach kids how to read, and written next to Kanji to clarify pronunciation.
  2. Katakana.  A set of 46 letters which represent all the possible sounds in the language.  Used only for words borrowed from other languages. (eg- t-shirt: tーシヤツ pronounced “Tee-shya-tsu” doberman:ドベルマン pronounced “do-be-ru-man" )
  3. Kanji.  What most Enlish-speaking people think of when they think of Japanese writing.  Symbols which represent entire words.  They can be combined in an infinite amount of ways to create different words and phrases.   Most frustratingly, pairing different kanji together can completely change the pronunciation of said kanji.  (eg- big: pronounced “ooki” 大き Sunday: pronounced “nichiyoobi” even though ni and bi are the same kanji, 日曜日  Cat: pronounced “neko” 猫).  

Okay, you have some context now.
Last week, The Mister took some time off from civilian work so we could go out to the base for Navy work.  The Friday before we left, we WENT TO A MOVIE.
let's all go to the moviesss
You can mock my excitement if you want, but first I want you to think about the last time you went to the theater.  Talking to the people at the ticket counter to indicate what movie you want to see, which showing you’re interested in, and if you’re going to a fancy theatre, which seats you want.  Good thing you know ALL those words in the language you share with the ticket clerk, eh?  

Mad props to The Mister, who had asked in one of his Japanese lessons about how to properly set up a movie date-night.  So not only did he navigate the ordering process, he got us into an English movie that’s been subtitles in Japanese*.  We saw the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in all it’s glory.
SO gooooood.  except this part which legit gave me nightmaresssss.
*the only three options for getting out to see a popular American movie in Japan:
  1.  See it with Japanese subtitles where the Actors are all still speaking English.
  2. See it with English subtitles but the actors have all been dubbed over in Japanese.  The quality of this experience is on par with every cheesy kung-fu movie you saw when you were a kid, where the actors would talk for like three minutes and then the dubbing and subtitle translation would say “...yes."
  3. Go to the base and hope it’s playing there.

(cue the soundtrack!)

Then we move onto the concessions - the point of this post.  When we walked in, I smelled the popcorn, and having not eaten popcorn for… well when was the last time I went to a movie?  Couple months?  I got a big ole case of the drools is what I’m saying here folks.  Even better, as we approached the counter, I smelled not just any popcorn, but CARMEL CORN, the holy grail of all popcorns.  It wasn’t listed on the menu, but I knew what I smelled (I’m like a popcorn bloodhound), and I wanted it.  What’s the word for caramel corn in Japanese.  DO YOU KNOW IT?

I do.

What I realized a little over a week ago, that I’m not thinking in actual Japanese.  Yet.  I am, however, thinking in Katakana - meaning that if I can’t think of the word I need in Japanese during conversation, that I’m able to spell the English word for whatever it is, in Katakana, in my head, which helps me pronounce it in a way that a Japanese person might know what I’m talking about.  Because if there’s any God-send in how difficult Japanese is to learn, it’s that they borrow a LOT of words from English, some because they don’t have an equivalent, and some because they find it trendy and hip.  

Thus, instead of just smelling heaven and weeping that I did not know the Japanese words for how to get that delightfullness into my grubby little hands, I marched up to the concessions counter and proudly proclaimed:

“Sumimasen, KA-RA-ME-RU PO-PU-KON ga, arimasuka?”
(go ahead, read it out loud.  good job, now you know how to say caramel popcorn in Japanese, and sound like you're mocking Japanese language if you're around anyone who isn't Japanese!)

And then concessions lady got super pumped that she didn’t have to help this foreigner wade through the whole menu as she exclaimed that they did, in fact, have caramel popcorn, and what size would I like?

Um, The biggest you have.  Obi.  (‘Murica.)

Does your movie theater sell caramel popcorn?  
Is this also a thing in the states now that 
I‘ve just missed out on somehow? 
Tell me in the comments!  Because it’s amazing.  

today’s little language lesson:

すみません、カルメル ポプコン が、ありますか?  大き サイズ、おながいします!
Sumimasen, KA-RA-ME-RU PO-PU-KON, arimasuka? Ooki sai-zu, onegaishimasu!
Excuse me, do you have caramel popcorn?  BIG size please!