< class="pagetitle">Archive for the “Thing of the Day” Category

Unicycling is not an uncommon activity for elementary school children in Japan.

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Here’s what it looks like when they refuse to collect your garbage. It’s often because something is wrong with the way you’ve prepared your recycling, or you’ve put the wrong kind out for that day’s collection (as I believe this person has done); you get a nice little sticker explaining why they didn’t collect it.

This picture was taken before Matsuyama got stricter about plastic collection. You used to be able to put bags of mixed plastic like this out for collection, but now you have to take the labels and caps off PET bottles, and put just the bottles out on another day.

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I found this live goldfish “UFO Catcher” (“Crane game” / “Claw catcher” whatever you want to call it) in an arcade here in Matsuyama.

You catch the fish using slotted plastic scoops attached to what looks like a normal claw. If you get one, the fish drops into a lower collection pool where an attendant scoops it up and puts it in a plastic bag for you to take home.

“UFO Catcher”s (as they’re universally known here) are supremely popular, second only to purikura photo booths in number. In fact, there are businesses that simply contain large numbers of these machines, and seem to be doing fine.

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The Japanese on the box touts it as an “exercise belt,” but the only remotely plausible idea I’ve been able to come up with for this one is that your misshapen skin kind of looks like ripped abs if you wear this. That would be under your clothes of course, because if anyone actually saw you wearing this, they’d think you ran through a hammock so fast it got stuck in your skin, and your chances of looking cool would drop faster than if you’d showed up dressed as Urkel from Family Matters.

Seriously though, does anyone know what this thing is supposed to do? I’m flummoxed.

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You may or may not have heard about gift melons in Japan. These are unusually expensive melons given as gifts on special occasions, or as business gifts to special customers.

Here you can see eight “Emerald Melon” cantaloupes selling for about $20 (Â¥1980) each. These are actually on the lower end of the “gift melon” scale, some of which sell for hundreds of dollars apiece. Here’s a link to an online retailer selling what appear to be the same melons for 5000 yen apiece:


Incidentally, the lower sign is a display for Fuji apples at just over a dollar (Â¥105) each.

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  • It’s the McHotDog!
  • It’s a Mega Sausage!
  • It’s 200% tasty!

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This one will probably be a little obscure for those of you with no interest in etymology. Or the Japanese language. Or etymology of unusual terms in the Japanese language.

See I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Japanese is a really hard language to learn. F’r instance, there are different counters for all sorts of things. The words for counting bottles, books, large animals, small animals, appliances, cars, people, and pieces of paper are all different, (and there are many more) which brings me to today’s word.

The two kanji there are read “tsuitachi,” which is the word for the first day of the month, and up until now I’ve had a hard time remembering it because it bears no resemblance to any of the other counters I mentioned. In my Japanese lesson this evening, I was fumbling for the word when my Japanese teacher gave me a brief history lesson explaining the root of the word. (It gets a little geeky here…)

The word for “moon” is “tsuki,” and the verb “to stand” is “tachimasu.” (You may already see where I’m going with this.) It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from “tsuki” + “tachi” to “tsuitachi.” Knowing that Japan used to use a lunar calendar will help you draw the logical connection between a “standing moon” and a new month.

If you’re not quite there, it may help to know that the first kanji (朔) by itself means “new moon,” and the second kanji (æ—¥) by itself means “day.” Again, “new moon day.”

See, now doesn’t that help? 😛

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The reading for this kanji (勝負) is “shoubu.” It normally means “victory or defeat; match; contest; game; bout; challenge.”

I recently heard this word for the first time on a comedy TV show, and asked Yuko what kind of underwear everyone was laughing about when the male comedian said his wife never wears “shoubu” panties anymore.

I learned that when shoubu is used as an adjective to describe panties, as in “shoubu pantsu” / “勝負パンツ”, it describes “date night panties”- you know, sexy underwear used to catch a man.

I guess some jokes are the same no matter what language you speak. 😉

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I’m going to post something every day in the month of December until we leave for the states.

Tune in tomorrow to see what wonders I dredge up from the depths of my “not yet posted” folder uncover in this mystical and wondrously wonderful land!


This is a piece of music in Japanese. I went to a rehearsal with a local choral group a while back called the Seagulls (not a name I would’ve chosen for a singing group, but I digress), and this was a copy the director gave me to sing with them.

This was the first piece of music I’d ever seen written entirely in Japanese. Interestingly, as hiragana easily breaks down by syllables, the music was at least as easy to sightread as it would have been if written in English (if not more so, because Japanese vowels are unchangingly pure).

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Just in case you thought you ate a lot of rice, here’s a picture of the bag of rice we have in our apartment. It’s a 30 kg bag (66 lb).

Yuko’s parents buy a new one of these about every three months and split it with us. That means that Yuko and I eat about 11 kg (24 lb) of rice each month, and I eat far more of it than Yuko does (too many carbs…).

Good thing we both like genmai (unpolished brown rice).

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