Bite-Sized Japanter · Hamamatsu

Bite-Sized Japanter #4: Shrimp Town

My neighborhood Ebitsuka literally translates as Shrimp (エビ ebi) Burial Mound (塚 tsuka).

A local told me it got the name because in ye olden days, people used to catch shrimp in the Shinkawa river that runs through the area, remove the intestinal tract then throw the faeces into a giant heap. How nice.

He was very drunk at the time though, so take that story with a pinch of salt.

~ Carla

Bite-Sized Japanter

Bite-Sized Japanter #3: Torikizoku.

I mentioned to my friend Haruna I was going for yakitori at the weekend.

HARUNA: You should go to Torikizoku.
ME: OK! I know ‘tori’ is chicken, but what is ‘kizoku?’
HARUNA: This means “royal family.” So Torikizoku is “Chicken Royal Family.”

A full-circle moment. Back when I worked in Sunderland I was a frequent visitor to the highly classy establishment “King’s Chicken.”

Ahh I am but a humble peasant blessed to be in the presence of monarchical poultry.

~ Carla

Bite-Sized Japanter · Coronavirus

Bite-Sized Japanter #2 : “Mitsu desu!”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has become somewhat of a meme in Japan and her phrase 密です! (Mitsu desu!”) is frequently used during her COVID-19 updates.

“Mitsu desu” (“It’s mitsu!”) is in reference to the “three mitsu” ( 三密) to avoid:

密閉 (mippei)= Unventilated rooms
密集 (misshu)= Crowded areas/clusters of people
密接 (missetsu)= Proximity to other people

This apparently began when Koike said it to news reporters back in April when they crowded around her.
密です! means you are violating one of the rules.

The state of emergency was recently lifted in all prefectures on June 1st – one week early from the projected date of June 1st and most schools and businesses are open again.
However everyone is still (in theory) practicing social distancing.

While my junior high school has this pretty much down, it’s more troublesome at my elementary school – ever tried telling little kids to sit still and not chat to their mates?
Nee chance.

However the kids are well aware of the phrase and enjoy screaming “MITSU DESSSSSSSUUUUU!!!” at the top of their lungs to their pals if they stand too close to me during a demonstration.

Finally, a video game featuring Koike separating people who aren’t practicing social distancing made the rounds on Twitter. Because of course it did.

~ Carla

Bite-Sized Japanter · Language

Bite-Sized Japanter #1: Swearing In Japan

This is a new series I’ll be starting here, stolen inspired by my friend Grahame’s blog Japanter from when he lived in Japan in 2011/2012, and was a huge inspiration for me starting my own blog in Japan in the first place.
I’m even stealing borrowing the ‘Bite-Sized Japanter’ series name directly from him – with permission, thank you Grahame-chama!

Japan + banter = Japanter!
(Grahame pre-dated PPAP before any of you start.)

These will be short posts in the style of my Japan Keeping Me Humble series of funny, banterous and Japanterous things to happen. In Japan. Unsurprisingly.

Let’s start with one of my favourite things in the the world to do: swearing.

Swearing and profanity doesn’t exist per se in Japan. At least as far as swear words go.
As with so many things here, it’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Tone and intent is everything.

For example you could say “sumimasen” with a smile and a bow and it means a polite “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me.”
However snap it or shout it at someone and you’re basically telling them where to go.

There are also some common insults – as in English, these are often in reference to someone’s appearance, background/personality or skill level:

くたばれ kutabare – drop dead
しんじまえ shinjimae – go to hell
このやろう kono yarou – you piece of shit
馬鹿 (ばか) baka – idiot/fool
でぶ debu – fatso/fatty
ちび chibi – runt/short-arse
意地悪 (いじわる) ijiwaru – malicious/spiteful/bitchy

However due to their exposure to American TV and films, many Japanese people are aware of swear words but are mostly oblivious as to what they actually mean. Even the teachers don’t so much as flinch when some good ol’ cursing is casually heard in the classroom.

My junior high school boys in particular love flipping each other off. One of my third graders during a nice, friendly game of karata handed a card to his pal saying “for you, motherfucker.”

A fellow ALT recently shared that one of their classes has words they shouldn’t say written on a poster at the front of the class and at the top of the list is “fuck you” written in katakana. (ファック ユー)

However if you really feel like helping your Japanese friends out in learning the subtle art of swearing, you can always give them this:

I bought a copy for my friends Imada and Haruna for Christmas with clear instructions that they can learn the words and phrases, but it’s perhaps not wise to use them around someone they don’t know.

~ Carla

Food · Friends · Party · Personal

My Birthday in Quarantine

Hello, I’m back!

I took a little break from this blog pretty much because living in self isolation and social distancing since early March I haven’t had much to blog about.

My time has also been spent this month following the fallout of George Floyd’s murder and the protests around the world. It’s important that we all keep learning and listening.

I’ve been in two minds whether to begin posting here again right at this moment in light of the current situation – however this blog is more than anything a personal diary for me to look back on when the time comes for me to leave Japan.
(And if I can give any advice or words of wisdom in the process, well that’s just a bonus.)

I want to be the girl with the most cake.

On May 12th I celebrated 31 years since I emerged from the birth canal. Sadly the ‘rona scuppered my chances of having a birthday party in an American themed bar on the coast as was the original plan.

However the weekend before – social distancing rules starting to relax, so my friends Felipe, Matt and Ashley threw me a little birthday party. It was pretty close to what I had planned tbh – I mean there was a party. And a super-girly purple and pink drinks bar. And Americans.

We ordered pizza, Ashley made brownies and they surprised me with a beautiful strawberries and cream cake.

However due to it being mid-week I spent my actual birthday completely on my tod.

It actually wasn’t too bad at all – I made sure I filled the day so I wasn’t just a SAD GORL moping around.
Although I did have a little photoshoot in my tiny apartment where I at least pretended to be a SAD GORL.

I think Gen Z would describe the top right as “a mood”.
Did I decorate my tiny apartment with cheap birthday tat I bought from Daiso? You knows it!

It was a very food-centric day, which is only ever a good thing right?

In the morning I ordered a McDonalds breakfast (they now deliver to my area!) and in the evening I ordered the hugest pizza Dominos had on the menu. It was sensational.

I had a few birthday beers with my pizza and Skyped my family and my best-friend Sam at home.
Sam even put her pet budgie to the camera to say hello.

Happy BIRDday imma right?
The right honourable Mr A. Berd esq.

The following weekend I broke into my gift for myself (a bottle of Aperol – I’ve been pretending I’m on holiday somewhere) and went to my friend Marcel’s online RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party.

Since the Zoom party we’ve started a group chat where we talk about drag and just stuff in general. There are worse ways to spend an evening than in the company of gorgeous boys with accents. I can’t wait to meet everyone IRL when it’s safe to travel to Tokyo again.

My parents were kind enough to send me some money and told me to spend it on a nice present.

So although I know they’re a bit 2016 I treated myself to a Kånken backpack. They really are worth it – so comfortable, even when it’s full of textbooks.

However possibly the greatest gift I recieved was from Lauren who sent me this video.
The internet has peaked, it’s all downhill from here.

It’s going to go down as one of the strangest birthdays I’ll ever have, but it was definitely memorable.

I’ve been back to work for two weeks now.
Japan is slowly getting back to normal (as normal as can be) with schools, offices, shops, cafes and restaurants opening but still enforcing social distancing rules. (For example we went for yakitori last week and every other table was left empty.)

Most eateries are still offering takeout options, and UberEats is coming to Hamamatsu from June 16th which I hope will help local businesses. I personally can’t wait to start ordering a bunch of delicious food at the weekend and report back to you!

Stay safe, everyone!

~ Carla