Say aaah: Japan elects cutest hiragana character

The characters above should look very familiar to any student of Japanese. Hiragana is the phonetic alphabet that is usually the first writing system you learn. Compared to the much more complex and difficult to remember Chinese characters and the angular katakana alphabet, the loopy hiragana characters have a pleasant round feel that’s often called “cute.”

But which character is the cutest of them all? Japan weighs in.

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13 surprising Japanese translations of American movie titles

Hollywood films are popular around the world and Japan gets its fair share of dubbed and subtitled blockbusters. But sometimes things get a little mixed up when changing words from English to Japanese. This gives rise to translated titles that come in a wide range of strange from unintended sexual innuendos to spoilertastic summaries.

Let’s take a look at 13 weird Japanese movie titles that make you wonder what the translators were thinking.

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Let’s learn a little Japanese with this dead squid in a parking lot

Unlike the creature it features, the above image has been floating around online for a few years, but recently has returned back to Japanese shores. However, here such a situation has led to a decidedly punnier outcome. Let’s read what Japanese people have to say about it and maybe learn a little unusual Japanese along the way.

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10 Japanese inventions that changed the world (according to Chinese media)

Japan has invented some pretty cool things; Mario, the Nissan Skyline, and PlayStation to name a few. Sure, sexy cars and even sexier game systems are great, but what would you choose as the truly exceptional Japanese inventions that influenced the world? Chinese media site, Xinhua Net News, weighed in on this question, giving us their top 10 list of most influential inventions from Japan.

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Cup Noodle commercial shows us a day in the life of a Japanese company

Although it’s been debated on this site before, life in a Japanese company can be tough. For some it can be downright war. And with more and more companies beginning to adopt English into their daily routines, it can be hard for an average salaryman (the term given to average full-time company employees) to get ahead or even survive.

Nissin’s Cup Noodle tries to sum it up how the feeling of a typical worker in their advert titled Globalization. Let’s take a look.

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How good is your Japanese accent? Maybe this video can help you improve

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve studied Japanese or how many kanji you can successfully identify, if you still sound like you’re speaking English when you are in fact speaking Japanese, you’re going to look like a dumb gaijin.

But it’s hard to identify your level of fluency when it comes to pronunciation and we’re hoping the following video can help. This is hands down the best side-by-side comparison of an excellent and…shall we say “authentic American” Japanese accent executed by “twin brothers” David Ury and Ken Tanaka.

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Japan reacts to champion motorcyclist’s “tribute” to Japanese people

Spanish grand prix motorcycle champ, Marc Marquez, showed up to the 2013 Moto GP held in Motegi City, Tochigi Prefecture wearing what he thought was an acceptable design giving a shout-out to his fans in Japan. He posted the picture above on his Twitter with the caption (written in Spanish), “Special helmet and shirt for a special GP in Japan, at home!!! ;) Do you like?” It turns out, many people around the world don’t like it. However, an overwhelming amount of Japanese netizens don’t seem to understand why so many people are getting upset about the design.

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Ninja language skills: Boost your Japanese with the power of onomatopoeia

It rarely appears in beginner or intermediate textbooks, but spend a day with any native Japanese speaker and you’ll soon realise that onomatopoeia is a vital part of the language. Utterances such as, “The rain fell like ‘pssshaaaa'” and, “My heart was going ‘boom boom boom’ the whole time!” may come across as a little ineloquent when said in English, but in Japanese these kinds of mimetic words are not only considered perfectly acceptable, but pop up absolutely everywhere.

So if you’ve ever wondered what sound a Japanese pig makes, how best to describe a rolling boulder as opposed to a tiny marble, or would be perplexed if a doctor asked whether the pain you’re feeling is more shikushiku than kirikiri, now’s your chance to hone your language skills and add a few new words to your Japanese vocabulary!

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Japanese Permanent Resident Status to be Awarded to Overseas Students? A New Appeal by the Mayor of Kyoto

On April 10, the mayor of Kyoto Keiji Yamada made public his intentions to appeal to the government to award overseas students who graduate from Kyoto University with the right to permanent residence. It is a proposal entitled ‘Kyoto University Special Ward’ and also incorporates other supportive measures for foreign students. With a decrease in student intake within Japan in recent years, it is hoped that by providing incentives for academically skilled overseas students, Kyoto will not only be able to compete with other cities like Tokyo but will also be able to add a new lease of life to its cultural city.

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Why do the Japanese Work Such Long Hours?

The Japanese word “karoushi”, meaning “death from overwork”, is a term that has gained recognition across the globe and is arguably testimony to the zeal with which many Japanese people carry out their work. Westerners observing Japan’s high standard of living and yet long labour hours often struggle to fully comprehend the Japanese mindset. The prevailing ideology for many in the west is that we “work to live”, in Japan, however, many appear to live to work.

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Order in English and Your Coffee is Free at Rosetta Stone’s Language Cafe

Japanese people often get a hard time for their lack of English language skills. But with so few Japanese ever setting foot outside their own country, it’s little wonder that one of the most frequently heard reasons given for struggling with the language is the lack of opportunity to use it.

Just last night, in fact, I was completely caught off guard when a teenage girl in my local convenience store seized the opportunity to break out her English and asked me whether I needed a plastic bag. Unfortunately, I was completely unprepared for the question and it was only after she had repeated herself three times that I realised that a) she was speaking English and b) I’d probably just ensured that she never dare to do so ever again.

But perhaps the prospect of a free cup of coffee would rekindle her enthusiasm for language?

As part of a promotional campaign for the launch of its new ReFLEX language learning software, Rosetta Stone is opening a special limited-time-only cafe in a Shinjuku book store, giving customers the chance to use their English, and doling out free cups of coffee to those who can.

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Is Your Face Pregnant? Ask Twitter

Tracking Twitter trends can teach us a lot about language, for instance that Japanese women are more likely than men to tweet about boobs. It can also introduce us to hitherto unknown expressions coined and trending in the Twitterverse. We at Rocket News have been looking into some very strange examples, and we’d like to enlighten you today. Get ready, because your eyes are about to get pregnant! Read More

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