Tiny Pangs of Sadness

With only about a month until I’m out of this town, and out of Japan, I’ve been feeling more extremely about the small things. None of them really matter much, but they compound. Like encountering a small enemy in Dark Souls, not threatening by itself, but with two or three coming at you from behind, and nowhere to run, you can quickly take a beating.

Hanging up my clothes yesterday, I got a little teary-eyed thinking about how I’ll just use a dryer in the states and laundry will be over in an hour. Weird.

Whenever I encounter my girlfriend’s 10 month old niece, the niece starts to cry. What am I doing wrong? If it were any other baby, I wouldn’t mind, but my girlfriend really loves her.

On the other hand, kids at the preschool that were once scared of me now come up and hug me. How do I tell them that I’m about to disappear from their lives?

I thought I would be the first one to leave, but then the school nurse announces she’ll be taking a break from school in two weeks and probably won’t see me after that. Why is this so hard?

Tomorrow morning, I’m heading with some friends up north to Kesennuma in Northeast Miyagi where we’ll go to an island and camp and have a party for all the people leaving. I’m excited to see people again. I’m sad that it might be the last time I’ll see them. But with all these people, there’s still a chance we’ll meet up again.

In general, I’m happy. Life is pretty good. But, these feelings! Where are they coming from? I feel like a teenager again.

とんとん! Let’s Try Entering the Staff Room!

Another mini-post today. This one about entering the staff room at the elementary school.

Unlike America, the staff room (職員室) is very accessible. Countless times throughout the day, students knock on the door, ask to see a teacher or do something, and then leave. And, like many Japanese things, there’s a process to it.


The fabled door to the staff room. You can see the 職員室 sign to the top left.

On the door are two different papers, each letting people know how to use the door. They’re actually both the same message, but the one on the right is newer. Last year, because of the setup of the staff room, using the left door was more common. This year, with desks in slightly different places, the right door has gotten more use.

Let’s look at the left door.


A translation:

*knock knock* “Excuse me.” (Bow)
“Grade __ , {your name}.”
“I’ve come looking for Mr./Mrs. {teacher’s name}.”
“Excuse me.” (Bow)

The new and updated poster says much the same, but…


It comes with a few more clarifications at the top. Specifically:

  • Put your backpack down.
  • Take off your hat, jacket*, scarf, and gloves.
  • Only the person looking for a teacher comes in.

It’s not too complicated. Most students understand within the first month of being a first grader. The most common mistake is actually saying the wrong grade when a new year starts.

And that’s it. I hope you’ve found this tiny look into Japanese school life valuable. 🙂


* = The word used for jacket here is ジャンバー, which is technically incorrect. The correct word is ジャンパー. It’s basically the Japanese equivalent of saying “nip it in the butt” instead of “nip it in the bud”, or “peak one’s interest” instead of “pique one’s interest”. It’s wrong, but so many people say it that you’re kind of a pompous dick for pointing it out.

N1 on the Horizon

On July 3rd, a little over two weeks away, I’ll be taking the JLPT with my compatriots.

準備できましたか? まあ、ね

I’ve been studying for the past week or so in depth, focusing on my weakest areas. Some sections, like selecting the pronunciation for a kanji, or reading comprehension, I haven’t had much in the way of problems. Admittedly, I am a bit slow with reading. Not sure how much I can improve that in the weeks to come.

My weakest section: choosing what grammar is correct. Example (from my practice book):

30) その日、私はホームに入ってきた電車に飛び乗った。ところが、電車は反対方面に走り始めた(   )。私は電車の行き先を確かめなかったことを後悔した。

1 ではない 2 ではないか 3 のではない 4 のではないか

The answer is 2. Actually, I’m not sure I got that one wrong. It seems so obvious. But, well, I’ve already written it. Might as well leave it there. Okay, what about this one?

31) (インタビューで)
A) 「お店で一番気を付けていることは何ですか。」
B) 「衛生管理です。お客さんに食事を(   )、衛生面の管理には、何よりも注意しております。」

1 お出しになり以上 2 お出しになるうえ 3 お出しする以上 4 お出しするうえ

I think the answer is… 3? Could be 4? Or 2? And the answer is… 3!! But I think I remember doing this problem in the past, so maybe that’s why I thought of the answer? I don’t know. The brain is mysterious. I just hope that this exact problem gets on the test, so I’ll know exactly how to answer it. 😛

I’ve read so much Japanese at this point that, even if I don’t know the word or grammar exactly, if I read it aloud, a certain answer seems more correct. I suppose that’s a good thing? But there are a lot of grammar bits that I didn’t know. につけ after a verb, とあって meaning something like だから, たとえ as a way to emphasize a future ても・でも. All those いかに and いかにもs are starting to make sense. Lots of little things that are coming to light through study.

I’m not sure that I’m ready. Can’t really be sure until the test is in front of you. But studying this grammar has been very useful. Even just a little bit has made me realize it in normal documents sitting on my desk. I used to just glance over it, infer from meaning. Now, even with the sentence obscured, I have some inkling of what it’s doing. That’s definitely an improvement.

On practice tests, depending on what I’m testing, I’ll get somewhere between a 30% and a 80%. I still have a ways to go, but as long as I do a little bit every day, keep my Memrise streak going (currently 26 day streak), ask another teacher about a weird grammar point, and don’t lose myself to stress, I think I’ll be good.

If you’re also taking the JLPT this July, 一緒に頑張りましょう! If you’re not, but you’ll take it in December, and I fail this one and decide to retake it in December, then… そのとき、頑張りましょう!Never give up! Never surrender!

Just a little something

There’s a lot that I see everyday that I don’t even think deserves mention. But, that’s totally wrong. There’s a lot out there we take for granted that other people would appreciate if only it were disseminated properly. Might as well post a little of what I see, bit-by-bit.


On the wall in the 9th graders’ classroom.

It reads something like:

If you change your heart/mind, your attitude changes.

If you change your attitude, your actions change.

If you change your actions, your habits change.

If you change your habits, your personality changes.

If you change your personality, your fate changes.

If you change your fate, your life changes.

Dreams come true!

Good motivational poster. Guessing my kids made it?

A Thought On Localization and Censorship


Funny how my last post was about inaction. And here I am, a week late. But at last some action came together, for this collection of words is now a thing!

Regardless of what circles you happen to be in, most people agree that censorship is a bad thing. The idea that conversation can be halted because some party doesn’t like what the other is saying. And for those involved in video games, the topic of censorship seems to come up every day.

But I’m going to make a simple point that is worth thinking about:

All localization is censorship.

It can’t be helped. This isn’t just about how some words and phrases can’t be translated directly. It’s about how the act of localization is entirely about making sure something from a different culture and cultural biases fits into your culture and cultural biases.

People say things like, “but they’re removing something from the original,” even when the original creator approved the change. And yet, that statement will always be true. Once you take out all of the original language, the game is no longer going to bring the exact same message.

Ironically, for those who don’t speak Japanese and don’t deeply understand Japanese culture, playing a game in Japanese without some of these understandings can lead to a experience the developer didn’t intend. The developer wants you to play and understand the game. By going through with a localization, you’re getting closer to the heart of the experience than by playing the original. Even if you don’t pick up all the references and allusions in Okami or Persona.

You might say: I’m fine with the localization if they’re just changing the words. I don’t want them to change the images. I don’t want them to remove features and activities and scenes altogether. And that’s fair, in a sense. I would love to have the option to buy the game legitimately outside Japan with as few changes as possible. But in most cases, it doesn’t make business sense.

So, my recommendation: come to Japan, learn Japanese, delve into Japanese culture, and play the game as it was intended to be played. It’s a little legwork, but if you really care about experiencing the original, that’s what it takes. Otherwise, are you really respecting the original?