F#ck yeah, more Engrish

For more photos from my Japan trip, check out my tumblr!

I know I posted Engrish earlier— but those were only from what I found in Tokyo. I hadn’t even been to Kyoto and Sapporo. So, now that my trip is over, and my Engrish collection is complete, here goes! 

The best of the poorly translated English I found:

Please multiply the voice by a near staff when it is tried on:

Getting in an adult mood:

There were actually a bunch of various shirts containing the phrase “getting in an adult mood.” Is it, like, a thing?

No scribbling here:

Let’s quench insensibility and indifference to fire!

Do not use fire:

Just to reemphasize. No fire!

Love horse:

Love bear:

Because one wasn’t enough.

Mow: Back Style:

Two wasn’t enough either.

I will enjoy a leg fashion:

(Flash up your cool leg style!)

On Broadway:

Sit down with your legs spread out wide:

Along those lines, here’s another friendly PSA from Japan:

If it were anything but a cigarette, it would surely be crying:

There’s no shame in having a thing on your body, even though you may dream of excising it:

No need to dress like a bunny.

 Hully Potter’s Prorogue:

And my personal favorite:


Just what I wanted!

Just because y’all are so nice, I’m going to throw in a bonus image. There’s no Engrish on it, mind you– nor is there even English— but I thought it was worth a shout-out.

How to use a Western toilet:

Just for those who didn’t know.

Breathing is irrelevant in a Japanese kimono

More photos from my Japan trip can be viewed at my tumblr!

While we were in Sapporo, our sensei took us to an event where we were allowed to try on the traditional Japanese dress, the kimono. We could get also our hair styled, our makeup done—the whole nine yards, so to speak.

Now, I had always wanted to try on a Japanese kimono. I was even considering buying one in Japan. I had always admired how elegant and pretty they are.

This event changed my mind.

It’s not that the kimono weren’t gorgeous. It’s just that wearing them is complicated. First, I got my hair done—not by one of the younger stylists, but one who looked as though she was in her 50’s or so. And man, did she go at it.

It was all pins, clips, and a giant clump of something that she stuck in my hair. To give it volume, apparently. Basically I had no idea what she was doing.

After getting my hair twisted around for a half hour or so, I was ready to get dressed. Kimono, as we discovered, are very difficult to put on by yourself if you don’t know how. Instead, we all stood around and had ladies dress us. Some kids had two people dressing them at the same time. I, however, had only one:

There’s more to a kimono than just the pretty outer dress. There’s the additional hadajuban and koshimaki worn underneath. There’s the accessories. There’s the flip-flop friendly tabi socks with the geta sandals to match. The most complicated part, however, is the sash known as the obi. The obi can be tied in a variety of styles, varying in complexity and design.

The lady helping me happened to like me—I had managed to strike up a conversation in Japanese. She was obviously trying hard to make it look good.

In addition to the main belt, the obi, there’s about ten million smaller ties meant to help support the main one.

So after much effort and consternation, I was finally dressed. I approached my classmates…

Again indeed.

Apparently I was dressed very traditionally, though, evidenced by the fact that our 60-something sensei jumped me after I was done:

I was only able to wear the kimono for about 20 minutes, though—there were other gaijin waiting for their turn. Still, I managed to snap some photos!

Wearing the kimono was a ton of fun—but it was definitely more complicated than, say, a Vietnamese ao dai. Buying a kimono can also run you hundreds and hundreds of dollars, especially when you’re looking for a full set. Wedding kimonos can easily hit $10,000 or more. It’s possible to save money by buying used, but with the kimono, undergarments, geta, tabi… hell, I don’t have the luggage space for that.

Though as one who also brought home a ton of Engrish t-shirts, I have no room to talk.

Fight on, Ham-Fighters! (Japanese baseball games)

For more photos from my Japan trip, check out my tumblr!

While my group was in Sapporo, several of us decided that we wanted to go to a baseball game.

I had been to baseball games in the US before, but I heard Japanese baseball games were a little different. I asked one of our conversation partners what baseball was like in Japan:

It was one of those things I had to see for myself. So I purchased a ticket to see Hokkaido’s baseball team, the Nippon Ham Fighters.

And so we entered Sapporo Dome, where I immediately started to see differences.

First of all, my friends and I received these long, narrow balloons known as “thundersticks.” When hit together, they make a loud banging noise.

Then, cheerleaders came out and performed a dance before the game started. It was… it was very Asian.

The game began. The girl I talked to was right—Japanese fans sing. There was a band playing, which was to be expected. What we didn’t expect was all of the chants that the fans knew by heart. There must have been dozens! And they would sing together, in unison, for extremely long times. Seriously—check it out below:

Hokkaido’s opponent that night—the Hiroshima Toyo Carps—had an even crazier fan base, though. Not only had these fans traveled across the country to follow their favorite baseball team, but they had coordinated clothing and cheers as well. My group couldn’t figure out how they set up this one:

And the Japanese fans had gear up the wazoo. When the Ham Fighters were up to bat, I swear everyone had a different banner for every player:

The coolest part of the game, though, was the rocket balloons. Part way through the game, we noticed that people started blowing up these long balloons…

And then, after a countdown, everyone fired them off. It was awesome.

But some things change, some stay the same. The baseball game was probably the most American thing I went to in Japan. The sport, of course, we all knew. Staff walked the aisles selling hot dogs and beer. Even the music was eerily familiar:

It was an interesting blend of Japanese and American culture. Baseball is known for being an American sport, after all. American baseball is even aired on Japanese television. Still, I was surprised when I found Phillies memorabilia in the Sapporo Dome souvenir shop:

It was a good time.


Bridging languages can be problematic. We’ve all seen Engrish. Things get lost in translation. And as a college student learning Japanese, I find communicating somewhat difficult.

As a result, I’ve been resorting to something my group has coined “Nihonglish,” a portmanteau of nihongo (日本語、meaning Japanese) and, obviously, English. It looks kind of like this:

And I’ve had to communicate quite a lot. I mentioned it before: here in Sapporo, we’re doing a short-term program with a local university. On most weekdays we meet up with various Japanese college students to hang out and speak Japanese with them. It’s a great experience and really good for practice—but definitely hit the language barrier.

Luckily for us, most Japanese kids start learning English in middle school, so most of our college kids are able to understand a bit of English. I also have a habit of gesturing wildly, which usually helps me get my point across. However, my vocabulary is extremely limited. Heck, I don’t even know the word for “to open:”

(As an explanation to those who don’t know Japanese: “Janai” is a common suffix used to make adjectives negative. For example, kirei (clean) turns into kireijanai (not clean))

I’ve even starting doing it while talking to my fellow Americans.

My group has taken it to the point of coming up with our own nihongo slang. For example, a common phrase in Japanese is daijoubu (大丈夫, meaning are you okay? Or, I’m okay.) Except we decided to shorten it to

Or even worse,

Which is all a bit incomprehensible to our conversation partners. But, hey. At least we’re trying. Anyway, even our sensei fell victim to the Nihonglish trap:

 But I feel as though I’ve improved, though only a bit. I’ll keep trying my best!


F#ck yeah Engrish

For those who are interested, there are more photos from my trip on my tumblr! I haven’t been able to blog about everything I’ve done, so it shows several places I visited but haven’t mentioned.

This country is the best, especially at English. I’d just like to take a moment to share these wonderful gems I happened to encounter during my time here…

Extra Dope Wear Select Shop:

RIDE YOUR SEXY BODY: the night surfers


Actually, that’s probably exactly what it sounds like.

Plane-flavored ice cream:

No drunk:

The Real American Underwear:


Baby Shoop:

It’s kind of hard to see here, but here’s just an example of the ridiculous fashions we saw in the 109 Building, Shibuya. The entire mannequin was dressed with bling reading “BABY SHOOP.” Pardon?

Titty & Co:


Limited Express Romancecar:

This is an actual… thing on the Odakyu line in Tokyo.

Candy Stripper:

Why wouldn’t you name your company that?

Miracle Battle CArddAss:

Let’s quench insensibility and indifference to fire!

BOSS COFFEE is the boss of them all:

Boss Coffee is actually a huge brand over here.

for Female, Fetus, Family & Future:

No scribbling here:

While I’m at it, I’d also like to share this series of signs explaining the rules of the Tsukiji fish market. While the English isn’t that bad, it’s amusing nonetheless.

That’s all for now. Until next time!

Makudonarudo (McDonald’s, Japan-style)

For those who are interested, there are more photos from my trip on my tumblr! I haven’t been able to blog about everything I’ve done, so it shows several places I visited but haven’t mentioned.

After going to a McDonald’s in Germany, and being shocked at how good it was, I was super determined to go to a McDonald’s in Japan.

Call me weird for wanting to eat American fast food while in Japan, but I wanted to know! One day, on my own, then, I visited a マクドナルド (McDonald’s, pronounced Makudonarudo—or Makudo for short) and ordered some food.

The first thing I noticed was the familiar plastic chairs and tables. It lacked the class of German McDonald’s.

But I ordered food anyway. First was a teriyaki burger…

And then I got, of course, some fries.

It was saddening. But, 大丈夫だよ!Here in Japan, there are plenty of other foods to keep me occupied. During this trip, we get a 1500 yen allowance (about $12) a day to buy food. Mostly (as cheap college students) we’ve been going to cheap restaurants and convenience stores in order to keep within budget (though I’ve definitely been overspending, as I am perpetually hungry.) It may sound bad to you—but to me, I find it delicious:

Chankonabe, a hotpot dish traditionally eaten after watching a sumo match. (Which we did!)

Ramen shops were abundant and cheap in Tokyo.

Fresh sushi at a restaurant near the Tsukiji fish market.

A 280 yen beef bowl at Yoshinoya, a very cheap restaurant.

A bento purchased at a 7-11, which happens to be a very common convenience store around here.

So, yeah. Many exchange students who go to Japan report losing weight during the trip—probably because of the healthier Asian diet and all the walking—but me? Not gonna happen. Not when I have all this food to consume!

On being Asian-American in Japan

Now that I have internet, there’s going to be more photos coming up on my tumblr! Feel free to check it out. 

Japan is a very homogeneous place. It’s historically been isolated. It’s very difficult for foreigners to obtain Japanese citizenship. As a result, the large majority of people here are, naturally, Japanese.

As a result, Japanese people have an odd fascination with non-Japanese people, known as 外人(gaijin, literally “foreign person.”) We’re rare, after all. Groups like mine—with 18 college gaijin—get lots of attention. Little kids and middle schoolers in particular enjoy staring at us.

People have even taken photos of us.

Japanese people, as I’ve experienced, don’t expect gaijin to know any Japanese. Like, at all. So, unlike America, where we expect everyone to know English, saying any Japanese to a Japanese person them induces shock.

If you’re white in Japan, then, any effort is appreciated. But what if you’re not white? What if you’re Asian, like me, who at first glance could pass as a Japanese girl? I’ve been told that Asians that are in Asian countries, but cannot speak the native language, are totally rejected. I expressed my worries to a friend of mine:

Which, for the most part, has proven to be true. Except I mentioned before that I had a really bad cold, the worst I’ve had in years. I was coughing and sneezing and hacking and sniffing, hoping to god I wouldn’t get any of my fellow students sick. And in fact, there was a way I could prevent it. A very common thing in Japan, when one is sick, is to wear a hospital mask:

This way, the afflicted does not spread their germs. So I decided: Why not? When in Rome…

I wore the mask for a couple days, throwing the people around me into confusion.

Cashiers assumed I was Japanese, and didn’t hesitate to speak their language rapid-fire at me:

The best was when my group went to watch a sumo wrestling tournament, however. The guy at the ticket booth was handing out programs in both Japanese and English. To the rest of the kids, he automatically handed them an English flyer. But when I came up, he paused:

Otherwise, though, I haven’t experienced much trouble. Thank goodness! And now I’m better, so the mask is off. Besides, as soon as I open my mouth, people can pretty much tell I’m a foreigner.

My goal by the end of this trip is to be able to pass as a Japanese girl for 30 seconds. Think I can pull it off?



I was recently invited to write a post for Aha! Sensei, a blog that teaches the essentials of Japanese. It’s a great blog for beginning Japanese students– I highly recommend it!

And I was asked to write a post about my biggest “aha!” moment while learning Japanese, which would undoubtedly be when I learned about kanji radicals. You can read the post by clicking this link or the image below!

Also, everyone should go to his blog and read it and like it and comment on it. He’s doing an awesome thing for Japanese students, and it deserves as much love as it can get!

Do you have BOYFRIEND? And other conversations with Japanese girls

I’m a bit dumb, so I chose to get tutored in Japanese this semester instead of, say organic chemistry or calculus. No matter. I got a tutor kind enough to tell me about this event:

The event was at Showa Boston, a language and culture institute located about three miles away out in Jamaica Plain. Showa Boston is actually just a branch of Showa University, an all-women college located in metropolitan Tokyo. Students hoping to improve their English skills can ship up to Boston to study abroad. Showa Boston’s location is a little isolated from downtown Boston, though– it’s nestled out among trees and grassy hills and suburban neighborhoods. Thus, Showa Boston is trying to connect to the local community. They want their students to connect with Americans. To practice English.

Thus, they decided to invite freeloaders (like me) over for free food.

I’ll take it.

So I hopped on a bus, and an hour later, I found myself in a room packed with Japanese girls. I was with my tutor and two other guys, but we ended up splitting up– doing so would give more students the chance to practice English. I wandered over to the food table alone and tried to make myself a rice ball…

After clumsily slapping together some poorly made rice balls, I awkwardly asked to sit down at a table. Three girls sitting around me were brave enough to strike up a conversation. However, their English was a little shaky. Still, we all tried our best:

We chatted some more:

And then it somehow turned into this…

And then into this: 

I'm a cynic. It's true.

And since they were getting the chance to practice their English, I decided to take the chance to practice my Japanese.

I spent the rest of the evening speaking in half-Japanese, half-English. The girls were merciful to me, though, and used only English. (My listening skills suck.) We discussed celebrities, movies, music, Justin Bieber and the Backstreet Boys… typical girl talk. And at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice the culture gap. America and Japan are worlds apart in terms of politeness:

Overall? It was a bit awkward, a bit nerve-wracking, and totally awesome. The three girls I met were really nice. The food was tasty. I got to test out my substandard Japanese skills. And now I’m more excited than ever to go to Japan. Only 18 days until I leave! But who’s counting?

I have an Asian nightmare

I had a horrible nightmare the other night:

Oh wait. It doesn’t stop there. It gets better.

My sleepy subconscious was in legitimate agony. Yeesh. Dreams are weird.

Speaking of dreams, I forgot to mention here what is old news to my friends: one of my dreams is, indeed, coming true!

At the beginning of this semester, I applied for one of Northeastern’s Dialogue of Civilizations programs. These programs, exclusive to NU, are kind of like a summer study abroad, except with a much greater focus on cultural immersion and experience rather than just taking courses in a different country. For example, there are Dialogues where kids learn about healthcare in Australia, micro-financing in Cuba, or photography in Italy.

I applied for the Language Immersion Dialogue to Japan.

It was a bit of a long shot, actually. I’m just a freshman. My Japanese, when I applied, was… rusty. So when I went to interview for the program, I kind of freaked out:

But… I guess I did okay! Because, last month, I got an e-mail…

I was accepted! Oh my goodness gracious, I was accepted. I couldn’t believe it!

Especially because I’m the only freshman going on the trip. Everybody else is an upperclassman. I just… can’t… I don’t…

So this summer, from May 11th to June 19th, one of my longtime dreams is finally coming true. I’m going to Japan! 日本に行く!I’m still in shock, really. The best part is that my scholarship pays the tuition costs– so I’ll only have to pay about $700 instead of $10,000. Not a bad deal, for sure.

And this time, I’ll remember my camera!