Japan Women's Rugby: Nagoya Ladies 日本代表!

I heard from my friend はまさん that several of the Nagoya Ladies are once again elected as National players! I found a list with a readout of the 2010年日本代表候補選手 on it. Look at all those Nagoya Ladies!

あぁぁ、I'm so excited to get back to some Sledgehammer Rugby at school!


Japanese Games: Issesse いっせっせ

If you asked ten people what you call this game you'd probably get ten different answers, but the name I was taught for it was Issesse ( いっせっせ ). Maybe that's the Nagoya area's preferred name. It's basically a number guessing game, which gets harder the more the participants.

The break down is...

Number of Players: As many as you want. Our example will be with two players.

Objective: To correctly guess the number of thumbs which participants will raise.

Hand Position: Ball your fists with your thumb laid flat over the side of your index finger (as if you were preparing to give someone a thumbs up). Place your fists together, inner wrist to inner wrist.

Procedure: In your head, guess the number of thumbs that will be raised between yourself and your opponent. Unless there are some extenuating circumstances, you will have four thumbs between you. This means you can guess anywhere from 0 (thumbs raised) to 4 (thumbs raised).

When you have a number in mind, say carefully "いっせっせのX", where X is the number which you have chosen. At the same moment you say the number, both you and your opponent would have chosen to raise/not raise one/both/none of your thumbs. Count the number of thumbs raised between you.

Winning: You win if you guess the correct number of raised thumbs. You may drop one of your hands behind your back. When both of your hands drop out of the game (when you are correct for two turns), you are the champion.

Note: When someone successfully drops their hand from the game, re-evaluate the number of thumbs. If you have two people playing and one has correctly guessed once, then you only have three thumbs between you.

When playing with more than two people, there's not really a winner. It's more that whoever is left at the end of the game with a hand or two in is the ultimate loser.

You can play this even with people who don't speak Japanese. I taught my little brothers. We still say いっせっせ but instead of いち!etc we say the numbers in English.

Here is a random video I found showing a game in progress...


Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium 沖縄美ら海水族館

The week before my last in Japan, I and six friends visited Okinawa. In our few days there we took a bus tour, which allowed us to see quite a bit. Here I am, beginning to write about it months after the fact. To add to your readerly frustration, I say to my non-existent audience, I will tell my tale of Okinawa out of order.

I begin the tale at a stop on our bus tour: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, Okinawa. It is the second largest aquarium in the WORLD. And I did not enter it.
This is not a great picture...
This dolphin is pretty sweet though.
No, I found myself suddenly fretting about the costs of omiyage and the like, and having pulled out a sum of money which I told myself would last until the day I left Japan, I decided to relinquish my ticket (which was only 2000 yen, but you know how crushing sudden money panic can be). While my friends slipped through the automatic doors and into to a land of marine wonders, I decided to explore the periphery. Luckily for me, and the other cheap-o's of the world, there is more than enough to explore in the time constraints leveled by a bus tour. There is much besides the Aquarium, which is just one part of the Ocean Expo Commemorative National Government Park in which it is located.

For one, the awesome topiary displays will keep you occupied for a good while...


Beautiful Words 美しい言葉

The other day I was looking around Language Hat (an interesting language blog that I recommend you check out) and happened onto one of its linked pages, Jeff Miller's Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia. There's a small collection of "Beautiful Words" there. Looking at the many words which, through one individual's preference or various surveys, had the honour of being called the English language's "Most Beautiful Word", I began to think about my own opinion. I wrote a bit about in at Lang-8 yesterday.

It was difficult to chose. There are so many words in the English language, and although I know only a fraction of them I still have quite a large selection to choose from. Add the unfortunate fact that one can't even call to mind half of that extensive vocabulary when one tries. Besides the problem of the English language's breadth, I started thinking about the problem of categorizing a word into the 'beautiful' category. Of course the definitive quality when considering a word's beauty would be the sound of that word, wouldn't it? To determine whether a word is beautiful could simply be deciding whether or not you find it euphonious. But I'm sure words are disqualified from being considered 'beautiful' by the connotations which they have. A word with an ugly meaning has a much smaller chance of being called 'beautiful,' even if the sounds of that word in isolation are pleasing to the ear. For native speakers, at least, I think meaning is what comes to mind before sound. I have to admit that I think "putrescence" is a lot of fun to say, and maybe even that it has an almost elegant sound, but unfortunately its meaning ruins the package.

After a lot of hemming and hawing I thought I would chose "evanescence" (it's obvious I like "-scence" sounds, isn't it). I think the open vowels and the soothing, hum-like quality of its consonants contributes to an overall beautiful sound; it's easy on the tongue. It isn't quite melodious, though. I don't know if I always find individual words melodious, but I do often find various sentences, combinations, or phrases to be melodious. Perhaps it has something to do with length.

Today I found an article about 'beautiful words' in the New York Times which is an interesting read. Reading about the Italian who agreed that "cellar-door" is the "the most beautiful combination of English sounds" in the language, I recalled my own thoughts about what I found to be the most "beautiful combination" of Japanese sounds:

「ドアが閉まります」 or in hiragana - どあ が しまります; or in romaji - doa ga shimarimasu.

This means "The door is closing", and is usually followed by 「ご注意ください」, "please be careful", or "caution". You hear it about every day... Anywhere there is a closing door. Naturally to native Japanese speakers this is entertaining, because the the meaning is so ordinary I doubt anyone gives this combination of words a second thought. But I find it melodious.

I asked some Japanese readers what they thought (their answers - and many corrections to my post - are on Lang-8 of course). I found all of their answers to be euphonious in my own opinion too. One phrase which I hadn't thought about, but which I do think sounds quiet melodious, was tomochanさん‘s suggestion: "without saying goodbye". The words seem to flow into one another. (Perhaps the 'wistfulness' of the phrase also contributes to its euphony, though...?)

As a foreign speaker of a language, which words of that language do you think sound beautiful? Elegant? Funny?  What about in your own language? I think this is the kind of opinion that will change often. There are so many words to think of!

Today, for example, I have decided I quite enjoy the word "lament" or "licorice". And a very melodious Japanese word would be マックドナルド (McDonald's).