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Japanese-influenced Chinese

When I met my girlfriend a while ago, she noted that my Chinese had been steadily deteriorating. On top of that, she also mentioned that the vocabulary I used was influenced by Japanese’s kanji. Baffled by this, I recollected the words that I used when I attempted to communicate with the locals (and her).

The use of wasei-kango (Japanese-made Chinese characters) in Taiwan is prominent in some ways, as Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan is influenced by Japanese in some way.

I have only been in Taiwan (specifically Taipei) for a short period of time, however I have observed the use and influence of Japanese’s kanji in the daily use of Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. Take some of the examples below:

Trad. ChineseMeaning
歐吉桑uncle (Japanese: ojiisan)
歐巴桑auntie (Japanese: obaasan)
通勤commute (Japanese: tsuukin)

Learners of Chinese and/or had knowledge of Japanese might notice that the Chinese words are identical to its Japanese counterpart (except for uncle and auntie).

Not only that, some place names in Taiwan had also pronunciation in Japanese! (Taiwan was ruled by Japan previously.)

Place Name Chinese Japanese
板橋 Banqiao*1 Itabashi
高雄 Kaohsiung Takao*2

*1 A district located in New Taipei City

*2 I was made known of this pronunciation by my girlfriend’s great teacher, Mr. Young (楊), in his history class.

On top of it, certain stations in the Taipei MRT have their own Japanese pronunciation too, presumably to make the Japanese tourists feel comfortable, in my opinion. Oh, I love too much about these aspects.

With regards to the observation made by her, I also noticed the steady decline of proficiency in Chinese myself. It’s time to polish it for the upcoming Taipei trip!

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Parallel Tokyo: a devastated metropolitan

I grew up watching disaster movies, like The Day After Tomorrow and Sinking of Japan. Watching Sinking of Japan, I wondered how life is like in a disaster prone country like Japan. Having being living in it for quite some time, I feel that no one can always be adequately prepared should a disaster strikes, like the recently happened Typhoon Hagibis (commonly known in Japan as Typhoon No. 19).

NHK General TV is currently showing a drama series depicting a devastated Tokyo after a huge earthquake struck the metropolitan. The first episode of the series showed hours after the earthquake hit metropolitan at a few minutes after 4 p.m. at December 2, a fictitious television station and its reporters trying their best to report what was going on in Tokyo.

I was lucky to reach home early to watch the premiere episode at 7:30 pm. My first impression was its realistic depiction of a television station should a disaster happened. It instantly reminded me of Sinking of Japan.

A tweet promoting the drama series.

Titled “Parallel Tokyo”, this series depicted a disaster stricken Tokyo where it suffered a large magnitude of earthquake that rivaled 2011’s Great East Japan earthquake and its coming aftermath.

Trailer for the drama series “Parallel Tokyo” showed in the morning show Asaichi.

There is a 70 percent chance that a major earthquake will hit densely populated central Tokyo in the next 30 years. Millions of lives could be affected by collapsed buildings, power outages and other major damage.  … Official estimates show that about 23,000 people could be killed, and nearly 2 million homes destroyed, if a magnitude 7.3 earthquake strikes central Tokyo.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/614/

Echoed by the statement above, various Japanese agencies are doubling their efforts to prepare for the disaster, including conducting drills, educating the public and raising awareness in general. 30 years might sound like a long time, but it might happen at anytime. For the Japanese, they may have no where to escape should a disaster with this scale happened. I can’t help but wonder, will the scene where the Japanese people seek refuge at other countries in the movie Sinking of Japan happen in the event a large scale disaster occurred? I sincerely hope not.

The drama series “Parallel Tokyo” premiered today at 7:30 pm and shows a new episode everyday throughout the week at 10:00 pm until Thursday (December 5). After episode 1 finished broadcasting, the announcer made remarks that I strongly agreed upon:

We’ve decided to broadcast this drama during this hour (7:30 pm time frame). Many people will find shocking scenes in this drama, including children who might be scared while seeing these scenes. Shocking as it may be, we felt that it is better to expose these now, and to facilitate in creating an atmosphere where family members can begin discussing how to take cautionary measures and making preparations in the event this disaster strikes.

If you are in Japan, and are interested in things related to disaster and disaster mitigation, I recommend this drama and its related documentary, scheduled to be broadcast in this Saturday (December 7). Be sure to turn on your television’s closed captions (CC) for the subtitles.

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Plan for the next journey

My girlfriend struck me with a huge topic – plan for the next few years when we were casually chatting a while ago. She talked about getting married at a certain year, then she asked if I wanted to draft a mid-term plan for 5 years.

I responded, why not 10 years?

Indeed, a person’s definition of long time is subjective. Depending on the context and situation, it could be 1 hour. 3 days. 1 week. Or even longer. In the context of being able to meet only a handful of times a year, a few months consecutively is a long time.

We didn’t set an arbitrary year to get married, but we picked a concrete year where it served as a potential milestone for both of us. Just the sweet spot to mark a new beginning, I guess. However, I think of more than just the time where we mark a new beginning, but the road ahead when the new journey begins.

That is why I set a 10 year, long term period.

Instead of fooling around, I planned to set serious targets and devise ways to achieve them. Some people thought it was “too early”, as in “you should enjoy this and that before fully committing in!”. However, being targets that were designed to achieve together, achieving them alone will be a hard one, hence, only the efforts of two people combined will make the journey a worthwhile one.

Setting a new plan isn’t hard — open a new Word window, or your favorite word processing software/platform (Google Docs, Microsoft Word Online, Apple Pages, etc), create a table consisting of two columns — year on the left, target(s) on the right, and plan away!

One of my plans for 2020 looks something like below:

Year Targets
Summer 2020 Explore western Japan

What are your short/mid/long term plans for the next decade?

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Autumn, cool (weather) Japan

Embed from Getty Images

It is getting colder here as the autumn season fully sets in. Despite the disasters recorded this and last month, people are generally anticipating the red autumn season.

I heard a conversation between colleagues of the same department earlier this week regarding the forecast of autumn foliage (fall leaves) being visible in different parts of Japan. The prefecture I currently stay in is expected to observe the autumn foliage between the end of November and early of December. Due to its vicinity to Tokyo (which don’t have correlation, by the way), people here observe the autumn foliage at a later period of time.

One of the colleague, feeling dissatisfied, said, “Why do we (people in Chiba prefecture) always became the last ones to observe these things?”. Chiba prefecture and Tokyo metropolitan observed the autumn foliage at a later stage, as well as snowfall. However, western parts of Tokyo which are near to the mountains do observe earlier autumn foliage, such as Mount Takao in Tokyo, which is expected to be observable at mid-November.

I am definitely looking forward (and delighted!) to see the colorful red season… and its accompanying chilly weather.

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“Emergency sign”

Found this song from the ending part of the NHK documentary “Human Crossroads” (事件の涙; Jiken no namida), and had it stuck in my head ever since. Its melancholic, as if a thirst never gets quenched, clenches the heart as the tune progresses.

“Human Crossroads” tells the melancholic stories, mostly the sad happenings in the contemporary Japanese society. One episode I remember vividly of, is the mass massacre incident happened in Akihabara, Tokyo. Although many people and its victim will go on remembering that day as a dark one, many people may not attempt to seek what was going on in the perpetrator’s head — his motivations, his background, etc.

This song somewhat fits the narrative of the documentary, and hence, left a deep impression in me. The documentary particularly focused on the human aspect, something we might have inconspicuously neglected over time…

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Hotchkiss and stapler

One morning, I overheard a colleague’s conversation over the phone about someone wanting a “hotchkiss” being delivered to an event’s venue.

“Hotchkiss”, I paused and gave a brief thought about its meaning.

Stapler.

A quick search on the Internet revealed that “Hotchkiss” not only is common to the Japanese, it is also attributed to Benjamin B. Hotchkiss for machine gun, a weapon that was widely used during the First World War. It was also popularized, thanks to the company name “E.H Hotchkiss”.

The word “stapler” might be foreign to the locals, so mentioning its name might draw confusion. I was reminded of the last trip with my friend few years ago when I wanted to buy a medicine to overcome a mild fever at a local drug store in Tokyo station. I asked the salesperson if they sell Panadol. Unsurprisingly, the salesperson didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I then followed up by asking if they sell paracetamol.

Disappointingly, they said they didn’t sell the product that I mentioned. Armed with Google search, I finally found what I want.

It turned out that the Japanese are more comfortable and familiar with the term ibuprofen. Hence, brands like Bufferin and Tylenol are more prominent in the local drugstores (and they work like Panadol too). However, I am a bit puzzled to Panadol’s unavailability here, while it is widely available in Taiwan (very helpful whenever I visit there!). I also noted that Watsons is not available in Japan, but it has branches everywhere in the neighboring Taiwan. Hmm.

In the end, I learned something new — something that is common back in the home country isn’t always that common in another country.

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He Who Can’t Marry

Recently, I watched “He Who Can’t Marry” (結婚できない男; Kekkon dekinai otoko; translated in Chinese as “结不了婚的男人”) on Netflix, a drama produced in 2006, which tells the story of a rich, lonely architect bachelor who is in his 40s named Shinsuke Kuwano, and the characters surrounding him, including a doctor, a car’s salesperson, the main protagonist’s subordinate, a pug (!), and more.

This is a comedy/romance drama, which is lighthearted to watch. I chuckled and at times, laughed at almost every episode of this show. From moments where Shinsuke enjoyed his private time in his apartment listening to the classics while pretending to be a conductor to the chit chats and happenings between the characters and topics surrounding Shinsuke , as well as events surrounding Kaneda, Shinsuke’s rival architect (including moments where Shinsuke periodically checks Kaneda’s website for updated happenings surrounding him), I enjoyed every moments of the show.

“Oh! Kaneda updated his site.” while browsing through the contents

After a tiring day, or just feeling stressed and needing a hearty laugh, or just searching for a classic Japanese drama, I can wholeheartedly recommend this show. Being a new fan of this show, I also found a site dedicated to showing the places and set in the drama, which are mainly based in Tokyo. Bookmarked to visit the places someday.

Its sequel, “The Man Who Still Can’t Get Married“, which aired in October 2019, doesn’t look too promising. Airing new episode at Tuesday every night at Fuji TV, I watched episode 3 of the show and found it somewhat disappointing (Japanese TV drama nowadays are a bit of lackluster, in my opinion).

With that, I wrap up this post with Shinsuke who’s very particular with his living style — enjoying his steak alone.

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Typhoon Bualoi (No. 21) hits

This morning, Typhoon Bualoi (typhoon no. 21) swept through Chiba Prefecture (located east of Tokyo) and its neighboring areas. It brought strong wind and torrential rains along the area, including where I stay. I commute to work by bus, hence I was partly drenched while waiting for the delayed bus due to the unavoidable traffic congestion at the bus stop.

The plum rain season in autumn is quite chilling, especially when one only wore thin clothing. However, the typhoon was the main cause of today’s weather, with areas recording almost one month’s worth of rainfall in half a day!

Near noon, I received multiple warning alerts from the local municipal government regarding advisories to perform evacuation at affected places. However, I wasn’t alone in this regard. iOS devices (notably iPhones), when received the said warning alerts, sounded an alert tone with the warning messages appearing on screen. The alert tone amplified with the presence of many iOS devices at the same floor.

Many colleagues looked at each other amusingly as they confirmed the message they received — a landslide confirmation information, advisories regarding water level at nearby riverbanks hitting dangerous level (which can overflow), evacuation advisories and listing places to evacuate to in case of danger.

[Level 4 alert] Evacuation advisory

I received an evacuation advisory alert (issued at 2019/10/25 13:00) sent by the local municipal government to residents of high risk areas (where I was at) to evacuate to the designated evacuation area(s)/shelter(s) if necessary, including community centers and schools.

From what I’ve gathered from the news, cases of severe flooding, river water overflowing, and landslides had caused damage to properties, partial paralysis to transportation, and even death. Even though typhoon is not an uncommon phenomenon to the Japanese, the severity and strength of the typhoons these few months had left them in an undesirable state. As temperature gets cooler over the course of the autumn season, some people might find it hard to go through, especially those who needed to rebuild their homes.

Fortunately, in the area where I live, nothing destructive had happened — yet, the effects of the typhoon are still visible. People cramming in trains going home at reduced speed (due to possible flood and winds), cleaning up of garbage flew all over the place, and so on.

I sincerely hope the victims can recover soon from these disasters, and let this typhoon be the last one in this decade.

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Typhoon comes in threes… and more

Continuing from the devastating Typhoon Faxai last month, Typhoon Hagibis (No. 19) struck Japan at Saturday, October 12, that had created a new record in the Japanese history. Rivaled the Typhoon Kanogawa that wrecked the island nation and caused at least 1000 people dead, Typhoon Hagibis left some parts of Japan paralyzed and disruption for short to medium amount of time in various areas, notably transportation and residential areas. Although Japan is well prepared for natural disasters like these, Typhoon Hagibis’ wrath had definitely cause miserable amount of inconveniences in daily life.

At that Saturday, I was in a friend’s house in western Tokyo. My friends and I were caught off guard when we had a look at the typhoon’s projected path — we were extremely close to it! The typhoon landed Tokyo and continue upwards during the midnight, where it continued to cause havoc, including floods in areas near rivers, and landslides at hilly areas. Lucky for us, my friend’s house was left unharmed (so did mine, a property which was built in the 1970s!). We couldn’t go outside — the wind was so strong that it could take you down, or worse, causing an object to fly at high speed and possibly hit us.

The next Sunday morning, it was like a dream — the sun in western Tokyo shone so bright, and the temperature had quickly risen to the normal autumn temperature — chilly yet warm. However, it was nightmare to people who had evacuated and people who had their homes and properties destroyed. It was only less than a month apart from Faxai.

Yet, two more typhoons, No. 20 and No. 21, are headed to Japan this week. Luckily, typhoon No. 20 brought only strong winds and rains with no devastating consequences. Its arrival also coincided with the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito at Tuesday, October 22. Perhaps it was symbolic — when the emperor proclaimed his accession to the throne, it turned sunny that Tuesday afternoon.

As of now, Typhoon No. 21 (Bualoi) is looming on the horizon as weather alerts and warnings were issued for the weekend — strong winds accompanied by huge rainfalls.

Living here for less than 2 years, I can sense how volatile this nation is due to its geographical location — one would never expect what will happen next. Maybe due to this volatility, many things were put into perspective and priorities reshuffled, I think.

I sincerely hope and wish for the best for the victims — time to brace for another unsettling weekend.

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Messing with a public TV

One Friday night, I was waiting at a gate in Narita Airport where a plane was due to fly to Taipei in half an hour. In the waiting area, there was a public TV on display. It was secured to a wall, and its remote control was secured on a table in front of the TV, with only the channel buttons visible. Subtitles were turned on, yet no audio was audible from the TV, presumably set in such a way that no one will be disturbed by the loud audio.

At that time, a presumably live football match was broadcasting at NHK BS1. Feeling curious about what documentary programs were on air at NHK BS Premium, I attempted to change channel by pressing the [BS] + [2] key of the remote channel without any second thoughts.

Suddenly, I heard someone hissed at me. I quickly turned my back to find two men sitting and laid back on the passenger’s bench visibly frustrated at me, and started to cuss words at me.

The following conversation might have occurred between the two.

“What the…”

“C’mon!”

“The match!!!”

Hastily, I apologized, switched the channel back to BS1 and proceeded to a seat near the check in counter. From a distance, I still can hear them grumbling about the interruption they faced while enjoying their football match. (I wonder, how would they enjoy that match with Japanese subtitles constantly covering half the screen and without audio?)

Come to think of it, the TV that they were enjoying was a public property, and was meant to be used by the public. As a kid, if someone changed the channel of the airport TV when I was enjoying my cartoon show, I’d be pissed. But as an adult?

We’ve other things to do and care about.