This is How to Japanese, a monthly newsletter with something about Japan/Japanese and a dash of いろいろ.
日本・日本語： Resetting for the New Year
I think we can file this month’s newsletter under the same category as the one from August 2021 - 稽古: the more words you know, the more likely you are to encounter those words out in the wild. I do have a new way of encountering those words that I can recommend, if you’ll pardon a brief introduction.
We had an end-of-term presentation, and one of my teachers recommended doing a mental 仕切り直す (shikirinaosu, to reset) if we found ourselves flustered during the presentation. The term comes from sumo; one of the meanings of 仕切る (shikiru) is to assume the crouching position immediately before a match begins, and if the two participants don’t touch the ground at the same time before charging at each other, they re-do the 仕切る action, which is represented linguistically by attaching 直す (naosu, to do over; to fix; to replace) to the verb.
So of course I encountered this word while watching 年末 (nenmatsu, end-of-year) television on TVer, my new favorite Japanese website. I don’t know whether we’re in a brief period of legal and technological good fortune or whether this situation will continue, but with a VPN, a huge range of Japanese is available for free. I use TunnelBear and seem to be able to access most (but not all) of the shows. I have it on good authority that Nord VPN also works. And if all else fails, dLibrary Japan is another site where most of these shows are available; it only costs $9.99/month, and I will absolutely be using this if/when the TVer option stops working.
I caught 仕切り直す during the broadcast of オールザーツ漫才 (Ōru zattsu manzai; Wikipedia entry) a five-plus hour manzai show featuring younger comedians competing in a tournament and veterans/mid-level comedians introducing new bits. It runs on December 29 from just before midnight until 5:00 a.m. live. When the MCs introduced the wrong comedian at one point, they “reset” by having them step off stage, reading out the correct name, and having them come out again. It feels like this is a useful word to capture a very specific need: If you find yourself needing to re-do something or make a fresh start, 仕切り直す will immediately identify what your objective is for the listener.
年末 television programming is my favorite in Japan, so it was really easy for me to binge all the variety stuff that I missed. Unfortunately there was no 笑ってはいけない罰ゲーム (Waratte wa ikenai batsu gēmu, No laughing punishment game; a remarkably detailed Wikipedia entry)—Downtown took the year off after 15 consecutive years of New Year’s Eve shows—but Ninety Nine hosted what was a semi-official replacement: six hours of the best manzai performers and some off-site physical comedy that took a cue from the past 罰ゲーム and even flew Okamura Takashi from the studio to the site by helicopter. (Okamura admitted that they’d planned to take him by shinkansen if the weather hadn’t been clear enough to fly, lol.)
All the New Year’s Eve programming has expired, unfortunately, but there are new shows being released every day, immediately after they air. I tried watching some dramas on Netflix last year but got bored with them pretty quickly. Some of the shows were just bad, but I think the anticipation of waiting for a new episode to be released, and then enjoying the episode along with the general public (and the J-drama conversation group I’m participating in at my program), has made me commit to the shows in a way I couldn’t previously. Here’s my current lineup:
A whodunnit about the disappearance of a man’s wife, daughter, and son. Everyone is a suspect, and there’s a massive ensemble cast. On the show’s website, viewers vote each week for who they think is the most suspicious (the “flag” in the title of the show refers to the flags on the website marking the viewers’ choices). I got into this show halfway through and managed to catch a summary episode that helped me get up to speed, although they reprise enough of the story each week to make it easy to follow. Ridiculous, but fun. Nishijima Hidetoshi is the main character and has also been getting a lot of attention for his performance in “Drive My Car.” Great social media presence for the show!
An administrative assistant at a startup conglomerate is selected to be the president of a new subsidiary company that will run a fast casual French restaurant. Takahata Mitsuki helped MC Ninety Nine’s New Year’s Eve show and promo’d this show, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
Apparently this is the live-action adaptation of a manga that has been translated into English as “Do not say mystery.” It seems to be about a Sherlock Holmes-level deduction genius college kid who gets framed for a murder in the first episode but is then brought in to help solve a serial killer case. We’ll see if I stick with this one. At the very least, I have to figure out his curry recipe.
A seemingly neuroatypical Sherlock Holmes-level deduction genius editor is brought into revive a flagging online gossip website. I started watching this show because it was the most viewed show at one point. Seems decent enough, and the vocabulary you get from the show—like 円満離婚 (enman rikon, mutually agreeable divorce) and 売名 (baimei, publicity stunt)—is more applicable to current social phenomena than some of the other shows.
The best part is that many of the shows have closed caption subtitles, which can make it easy to confirm vocabulary. Highly recommend checking out TVer. Let me know what you’re watching!
Good thread on Wordle. Yes, I’ve caught the Wordle bug. It’s fun.
How am I only just now discovering “Ship in a Bottle,” the Japanese bonus track to Beck’s “Sea Change” album? I listened to that album every night before bed during my junior year of college. I’m not as enamored with “Ship in a Bottle” as some folks are on the Beck Facebook group, but it’s a nice curiosity. Take a listen.
Editor and translator Jan Mitsuko Cash has a newsletter out about translation and editing that’s a good read. Sign up here.