Apr 22

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Over a week has passed since the earthquakes down in Kyushu, and things have settled down somewhat but it is still a very scary situation. I spent my time on JET in Kumamoto, so this unexpected disaster was especially hard-hitting. I have a business trip to Tokyo next month, so I’m planning to go down to Kyushu during that time to help out with recovery efforts. It’s hard to be so far away and not be able to do much, but at this point due to the instability the best way to help seems to be donations.

In that vein, here are links to two organizations that are currently accepting contributions. The first is a fund created by the Japanese American Association of NY (JAA, hosting its Sakura Matsuri from 11 am-1 pm at Flushing Meadows Park tomorrow!) devoted exclusively to Kyushu Earthquake Relief (www.jaany.org), and the second is Japan Society’s general Earthquake Relief Fund (www.japansociety.org/page/earthquake).

Finally, here’s the song Kumamoto produced by NY-based jazz pianist Senri Oe and featuring Mamiko Taira on vocals. He wrote this haunting tune right after the disaster as a way to deal with his feelings of helplessness. He describes this music as his own way of providing relief goods, as unlike other supplies a song won’t spoil nor can there be too much or too little of it. It might be just what some people are looking for, and can be accessed by anyone via the Internet. In the spirit of the potential solace it offers, enjoy.


Mar 25

WIT Life #299: Portlandia’s Noodle Monster

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last night IFC’s Portlandia Season 6 finale featured a tsukemen ramen monster taking over the town, with potentially disastrous results.  This monster was brought to life when leftover tsukemen noodles, intended to be just dipped and not soaked, were dunked into their broth due to a lack of refrigerator space.

At a meeting deconstructing what happened, the Mayor (Kyle MacLachlan) recognizes that it’s as if the noodles were “baptized against their will.”  They then realize that the only solution is to dip the noodles again to restore them to their original form, and one proposal is filling a city pool with ramen broth for this purpose.  I found the episode’s overall handling humorous, though the Asian cliches felt a bit hackneyed.  In conjunction with the episode, IFC is offering the chance to win 10 years worth of ramen!


Mar 20

WIT Life #298: Sake production and dorayaki creation in film

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend I had the chance to see two fabulous Japanese films being screened here in the city, one documentary and one fiction.  The former is The Birth of Sake being shown at IFC, and the latter is Sweet Bean playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, both through this Thursday, March 24th.

The Birth of Sake, directed by Erik Shirai who was on hand for a post-screening Q&A, has already won awards at Tribeca and other notable film festivals.  I had heard of it in passing a few years back when the Kickstarter campaign raising money for the film took place, and the result is a sneak peek inside the normally cloistered world of sake creation.  The film takes an in-depth look at this process carried out by the hard working staff of the 144-year old Tedorigawa Brewery in Ishikawa Prefecture.  Their business is unique in that everything is done by hand, whereas the majority of modern Japanese breweries are automated.

Tedorigawa’s workers range in age from 20-70, and one requirement of their grueling job is that they must live at the brewery during the sake-producing six months from October until April (and according to Shirai, due to Tedorigawa’s new popularity thanks to his film, this season has been extended to May!).  They are willing to taking time away from their families and home lives to make this sacrifice, and many are veterans of their craft looking to cultivate the next generation of workers.  Not only will this film educate viewers about the sake-making process, but it offers a rare glimpse of the people behind it.  In particular, I loved the scenes humanizing the workers, like when they were splashing each other in the bath, teasing each other while shopping or breaking out into karaoke after a long day of work.

Director Naomi Kawase’s 2015 Sweet Bean (あん or an, sweet red bean paste) is a surprisingly tender film about the creation of an equally treasured aspect of Japanese food/drink culture, dorayaki (どら焼き or red bean pancake).  This dessert is ubiquitous in Japan, from pre-packaged types found in convenience stores to freshly made dorayaki at food stalls.  The film centers on a dorayaki proprietor whose Read More


Mar 14

WIT Life #297: 人魚に会える日 (Girl of the Sea)

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week I returned from a short business trip in Japan when Tokyo was enjoying unseasonably warm weather.  People were in t-shirts over the weekend, and with 梅 (ume, or plum blossoms) already in bloom an early 桜 (sakura, or cherry blossom) season is predicted for this year (if only I could have stuck around for a few more weeks…).  However, this morning’s Japan news reported the weather dipping back down to chillier temps, so who knows when actual blooming will take place.  Stay tuned to the 桜前線 (sakura zenzen, or cherry blossom front)!girlofthesea

While in Tokyo I had the chance to check out the film 人魚に会える日 (Ningyo ni aeru hi or Girl of the Sea),  made by 20-year old Okinawan director and Keio University student Ryugo Nakamura.  He made his debut at age 13 with the film やぎの冒険 (Yagi no bouken or The Catcher on the Shore), and has produced over 30 movies, amazingly prolific for his young age!  After debuting in Okinawa, Girl of the Sea had a limited four-day run at the cool venue Eurolive in Shibuya (which also houses the Tokyo Film Academy).  Nakamura created the film in collaboration with his classmates over two weeks of their summer vacation.

In the Q&A after the movie he detailed how in addition to the efforts of these classmate volunteers, the actors were kind enough to drive themselves from Naha (Okinawa’s capital city) to the northern city of Nago when they realized how limited the film’s resources were.  I was particularly starstruck by the participation of one of my favorite Japanese singers/songwriters, the Okinawan artist Cocco.  Nakamura recounted how during an intense scene Cocco has with two high schoolers who were overwhelmed to be acting with her, she put them right at ease.

Girl of the Sea deals with the theme of the proposed Futenma Marine Corps Base relocation and how the base issue affects Okinawans, especially young people.  This topic is of extreme interest to me since I  Read More


Feb 25

WIT Life #296: Kauai’s Japanese lantern

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

I just returned from my 3-week State Department interpreting trip and subsequent mini vacation in Hawaii!

While enjoying some R&R on my favorite island of Kauai, I discovered something that I hadn’t noticed in previous visits.  I was staying in Kapa’a, a centrally located area boasting a beautiful bike path that I love using for morning runs overlooking the ocean.  During a run, I happened to turn my gaze away from the ocean and a Japanese-seeming lantern in the distance caught my eye.  I was curious about its location on what looked like the edge of a playing field.

Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that what I saw was a 15-foot cast concrete lantern built in 1915 by Kauai’s Japanese community to commemorate the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and Emperor Taisho’s 1912 ascension to the throne.  Here’s a bit more of its story courtesy of the Historic Hawaii Foundation website (lightly edited by me): “By World War II, pro-imperial sentiments were a problem for a later generation of Japanese-Americans who literally buried the lantern in 1943, both to protect it from Read More


Jan 31

WIT Life #295: Wonder 500 Exhibition

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

I arrived in DC yesterday to begin my first State Department interpreting assignment in a while.  I’m looking forward to working with my Okinawan group as we travel across the country learning about base-hosting communities in the U.S. I hope that knowing our second half will be in San Diego/Hawaii will make surviving the brutal cold awaiting us in our next stop of Omaha, Nebraska a bit easier…

Getting to spend time in such lovely warm weather while New York is in the middle of winter is a great incentive to be on the road, but the hard part is missing out on cool stuff back home.  One such event is the currently running Wonder 500, a collection of Japan’s finest goods, foods and travel experiences.  This free exhibit Read More


Jan 16

WIT Life #294: 明けましておめでとうございます!

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Happy New Year to all readers!  Hope the year of the monkey has been treating you well so far.  I am enjoying some time at home before my interpreting travel schedule begins at the end of this month.  My first State Department trip of the year will start in DC and finish in Hawaii, so I am very much looking forward to that!  After that I will be heading further east to Tokyo to work with a client over there, so many adventures on the road surely await…

Here are two Japan articles I recently read that I thought would be worth sharing.  The first from the Wall Street Journal talks about the aging of the Japanese population (高齢化 or koureika) and how companies are targeting this older generation.  The article highlights the business buzzword “end of life activities” (終活 or shuukatsu) being used to pitch products to the elderly.

There is even a costumed mascot known as Shu-Cat-su (シュウキャッツ), who has been attending trade fairs encouraging the elderly to purchase various services allowing them to better enjoy their golden years.  Pictured here, his headband reads “Be Alive!” and his profile explains that he is actually over 100 years old and also known as cat wizard (猫仙人 or neko-sennin). 

The second article is from the New York Times and takes a look at such Japanese mascots.  It profiles Read More


Dec 31

WIT Life #293: 良いお年を!

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

In a follow-up to the comfort women story in my last post, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof re-shared his 1995 story about Japanese comfort women who served US soldiers post-war.  They were encouraged by the Japanese government to perform this patriotic duty in order to save Japanese women from being raped by marauding American soldiers.  Initially they were primarily working prostitutes, but as time went on war widows and other women signed up as it was their only way to feed their families.  Of course, these little known Japanese comfort women were different from the overseas ones who were mostly Korean teenagers dragged away from their homes and forced into front-line brothels to serve Japanese troops.

On a nice note to close out 2015,  the recently aired Kennedy Center Honors honored composer Seiji Ozawa as one of the five recipients along with Carole King, Cicely Tyson, George Lucas and Rita Moreno.  The Honors are presented to performing artists who have made a lifetime contribution to American art and culture, and Ozawa was the first Japanese recipient.  Yoi otoshi wo and see you in the year of the monkey!

 


Dec 29

WIT Life #292: 今年の漢字

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Well, it’s the end of the year already, and if you’re like me you’re wondering where 2015 went.  The last time I checked in here was four months ago, which was pre-Paris attack and pre-Presidential candidate madness so a bit of a different world.  We’ve certainly had our share of recent turbulence, and there is a big question mark as to what 2016 will bring.  All of this uncertainty is part of why 安 (an or peaceful/cheap) was picked as 2015’s 今年の漢字 (kotoshi no kanji or kanji of the year) at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple earlier this month.

It could refer to the 安 in 安全保障 (anzen hoshou or security), since the controversial 安全保障関連法 (anzen hoshou kanren hou or Security Related Bill) was approved back in September.  It could also be reflecting the unstable environment in which we find ourselves experiencing information leaks and terrorist attacks, expressed by the word 不安 (fuan or anxiety/insecurity).  安’s selection could also be touching on Read More


Aug 31

WIT Life #291: Waku Waku +NYC event and Sebastian Masuda

Sebastian Masuda with protege Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend I had the chance to visit “Waku Waku +NYC,” a new Japanese pop culture festival which took place over two days across multiple venues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.  According to the event’s homepage, it brings together the worlds of anime, manga, music, food, film, and fashion via exhibits, panels, screenings, and interactive events.  This blend of pop culture from Japan and Brooklyn was envisioned as “Cool Japan meets New York’s Coolest Borough.”  The name Waku Waku (わくわく) Read More


Jul 28

WIT Life #290: Round Trip Heart/Our Little Sister

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

A business trip to Japan prevented me from viewing the majority of the films at this year’s Japan Cutround-trip-heart-mains at Japan Society, but I was able to catch Round Trip Heart (ロマンス) during the festival’s opening week.  Starring Yuko Oshima best known as a singer from the idol group AKB48, this film tells the story of an emotionally lost young woman whose job is to serve refreshments on board the train servicing the hot springs area of Hakone just outside Tokyo.  It is through a chance encounter with a seemingly sleazy customer that enables her to examine her past and be able to look toward the future.  This seemingly simple but touching movie made its North American premiere at Japan Cuts and was released in Japan the next week, so it was cool to be able to get a sneak peak ahead of the domestic market.

Although I was sad海街diary to miss most of Japan Cuts, being in Tokyo allowed me to check out the newest work from my favorite Japanese director, Hirokazu Kore-eda, who I have written about numerous times here.  It is called Our Little Sister (海街diary, literally Seaside Town Diary) and is based on the eponymous manga by Akimi Yoshida.  It tells the story of Read More


Jul 9

WIT Life #289: NY Asian Film Festival

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This year’s NY Asian Film Festival is showcasing 11 films as part of its focus on new cinema from Japan.  I had the chance to catch two of them, Permanent Nobara (パーマネント野ばら) and Chasuke’s Journey (天のpermanentnobara茶助).

The former flick stars the drama and film fixture Miho Kanno and the seemingly non-aging Yosuki Eguchi in a story set in a small fishing village in Shikoku (with dialogue in the regional dialect).  Kanno’s character Naoko has returned to her hometown with her daughter, after divorcing her husband and leaving her life in Tokyo.  Her mom runs the only town’s beauty salon, whose signature service is perms.  The regulars gather there to snack and gab while getting their hair done, and this convivial and often raunchy atmosphere reminded me of the relationships between the women in Steel Magnolias.

Various aspects of Naoko’s life growing up in the village are revealed via flashback, including Read More


Jun 22

WIT Life #288: おわハラ and other Japanese harassment

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

I had the chance to go back to Japan on business this month and will be going again next month to interpret for the same project, so I’m excited to be able to visit on such a regular basis.  Being back in a Japanese workplace reminds me of the different styles our two cultures have when it comes to this environment, whether it is the uniforms worn by OLs or the wide open floor plan consisting of endless islands where people sit.  Another striking aspect is the specific categorization of various types of potential harassment in the workplace.  I’m sure most people have heard of セクハラ (sekuhara which is short for “sexual harassment”) and maybe パワハラ (pawahara which is short for “power harassment,” when a superior uses his/her power to influence a subordinate), but lately there are some new versions of harassment in Japan to take note of.

For example, マタハラ (matahara or “maternity harassment”) describes when a pregnant woman is bullied because of her physical state, and usually the perpetrator’s motivation is trying to get her to quit.  A newer term which was just coined this past March is おわハラ (owahara, coming from 就活終われハラスメント or “job search termination harassment”).  It refers to when potential employers pressure their university student recruits to stop considering offers from other companies by offering them a guaranteed position in their own.

This article, though a bit dated, offers a humorous take on the “hara” phenomenon.  I like his suggestion of adding “hara hara” at the end!

One other Japanese suffix that might rival “hara” in usage is “活”, or “katsu” which is used to refer to Read More


May 19

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I’ve written here, but two weeks of that time was my amazing trip to Japan!  I wasn’t sure how spending Golden Week in Tokyo would be, but it was actually quite nice as people tend to leave town to travel both domestically and abroad.  Most of my friends stuck around, so it was great to catch up with them without the usual work and other obligations cutting into our time together.  Thanks to them, I was able to explore some new neighborhoods and local parks I had never been to and to just enjoy taking it easy in Tokyo, a rarity when things are in normal operation.

During my second week I began to miss my cats at home, so I decided to go to a cat cafe.  For some reason I have never thought to visit one during my previous visits to Japan, but part of why I wanted to go this time is that we now have our very own cat cafe in NY so I wanted to check out the original version.  I picked one in Kichijouji as it was close to the station, but when my friend and I went upstairs we were told the wait would be a few hours.  We had plans later in the day, so I made a reservation for another day that week.

I returned to the cafe at the appointed time and was given a lanyard upon which my start time and other information was marked, and was asked to wash and disinfect my hands.  It cost Read More


Apr 26

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend I had the chance to check out the documentary Washoku at Cinema Village, where it will be playing through the end of the month.  It features interviews with sushi chefs and other Japanese food proprietors, and asks them about their philosophy, preparation and overall view of Japanese food.  Many of them in talk in detail about the sacrifices they make for their craft, and how much pride they have in their work.  This film is truly a must see for all washoku lovers.

One of the tidbits I found interesting was the discussion of “umami,” or the fifth taste.  In one part, they were talking about the “aku” or scum that appears on the top of soup when it is being cooked, and how in Japan Read More


Page Rank