Category Archives: culture

Japanese vocabulary list: Calligraphy terms

The characters used in the Japanese language––comprised of hiragana, katakana, and kanji––use a large variety of shapes and strokes, and in my opinion are very visually pleasing. Calligraphy, a traditional art that is still popular in Japan today, takes these same characters and elevates them to a true art form that can often be seen… Read More »

Japanese book review: “コミュニケーションの原点は「氣」にあり!” (“Communication begins with Ki!”) by Shin’ichi Tohei (藤平信一)

I reviewed the book “Communication begins with Ki!”, the latest book by Shin’ichi Tohei, the head of the Ki Society and son of the founder of Ki Aikido, Koichi Tohei. In this book he talks about a variety of topics with Professor Katsuhiro Nishinari, many related to Ki or Ki-Aikido.

Why is grass (草) used in Japanese to mean something is funny?

The interaction between languages over time can be interesting to follow. Words get imported from one language into another, and meaning often changes, from subtle to drastic ways. New words can even be formed using a composite of words from two languages. For various historical reasons, in the last few decades the Japanese language has… Read More »

Japanese novel review: “The Woman in the Purple Skirt” (“むらさきのスカートの女”) by Natsuko Imamura (今村夏子)

The other day I stopped by the Kinokuniya bookstore in Beaverton, Oregon, and stood before the bookshelf of hardcover Japanese fiction as I tried to figure out what to read next. I ended up choosing “The Woman in the Purple Skirt” (むらさきのスカートの女) by “Natsuko Imamura” for two reasons: it had won the prestigious Akutagawa prize… Read More »

Interesting Japanese loanword “マウンティング” (mauntingu, a.k.a. “mounting”)

Anyone who studies Japanese for even a short time knows there is a huge number of loanwords, and there seems to be more being coined every day. While they come from a bunch of world languages, yappari many are from English. This is both a blessing and a curse. If the word sounds like its… Read More »

Classical Japanese poetry translation: “The Forgotten Garden” (廃園) by Yoshinobu Morikawa (森川義信)

Despite the many prose translations I’ve done, I’ve never attempted to translate an entire poem from Japanese to English before. That’s partially because I generally don’t read poetry that often (in either Japanese or English), and hence am even less comfortable trying to translate it. Another reason is that generally I’m pretty picky about what… Read More »