Tag Archives: Japan

So…Katakana and The Black Eyed Peas were at a Karaoke Bar…

…and mocked all Japanese students trying to learn English.

A while back I used to teach a 2nd year junior high student. She was vivacious and confident as well as outspoken – that’s super rare for Japanese girls her age. On  random Saturday, she comes to me flashing a printed copy of Boom Boom Pow and bursts out into song. As a fellow Black Eyed Peas fan, I couldn’t help but notice all those f-bombs she was sporting in the lyrics. Yes, encouraging my kid student to sing an explicit song in a foreign language was morally questionable, but that’s for another day. My main ire was her style of singing the song: Stereotypical Japanese. I cringed when she turned Will.I.Am’s ‘Beats so big I’m steppin’ on leprechauns’ line into a comedy bit for closed minded *cough* American *cough cough* English speakers. All you ‘Flied Lice’ jokers are closed-minded English speakers in my book. *Shrug*

Anyway, she knew the words way too well to have learned them from simply paying attention to a dutiful teacher like me.  The the answer to this suspicion was…


Well, that just brought about more questions. At the time of this surprise concert, I had taught this student English for a good year and some change, so I was pretty sure of her English reading level…definitely not at Boom Boom Pow speed on the Accelerated Reader scale. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would have been a better assumption. So…how’d she do it?


For a country collectively eager to learn English, Katakana has to be the worse crutch for Japanese English students. It’s one of the three styles of Japanese writing (Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji) used to for non-Japanese phonetic purposes. For example, This is the word ‘katakana’ written down:


カ(ka) タ (ta) カ (ka) ナ(na).

Here are some other examples of Katakana:

Ice cream:


ア(a) イ(i) ス(su) ク(ku) リ(ri) ー(i) ム(mu)

Tia Haygood:


ティ(ti) ア(a)・ヘ(he) イ(i) グ(gu)ッド (ddo)

If you sound out the letters in parenthesis they sound pretty close to the original version. Katakana sounds are basically what many native English speakers hear when listening to a Japanese person speaking with a heavy Japanese accent.

Now here is the English version of Boom Boom Pow and while you’re at it here’s the video if you were living under a rock throughout 2008-2009.

This is what Japanese Karaoke Bar singers read when they sing Boom Boom Pow. *Might as well just scroll through it all, then laugh for understanding ‘3008,’ then move on. 
























































































ZOMFG! How can anyone learn proper English with that? There aren’t even ABC’s in that sucker (Ok, an ‘H’ and a ‘D,’ and done).

Katakana is basically a Japanese interpretation of English which unfortunately makes my beloved student sing like Breakfast at Tiffany’s stereotypical sounding Mr. Yunioshi instead of something more natural. Japanese American music enthusiasts may get high kicks for singing foreign songs but they aren’t necessarily improving their English skills in the long run. Picking a tremendously difficult Black-Eyed Peas song, isn’t very beneficial either.

On the not so flip-side, I try to improve my Japanese understanding through pop music. I’ll be the first one to stand up and break out a Mr. Children song or Zankoku na Tenshi no Tese in a heart beat. But I do solely read the romaji, AKA the English interpretation of Japanese language? Sometimes, if the song is difficult I’ll use it to get comfortable with the song first. However, it’s almost always better to print out the hiragana and/or kanji to research the meaning and pronunciations of the unknown words to sound more natural.

My confidence in pronunciation, speed, and voice improve when I actually understand what I’m singing. I can’t possibly imagine how Japanese karaoke singers manage to sing any foreign songs decently without understanding a word they’re saying or the general meaning of the song. It’s especially embarrassing for Japanese hip hop fans at a club singing a rap song when the song is clearly giving a ‘black’s only’ message or making reference to cultures, people, or places they’ve never heard of. You’ll never see me singing Lynyrd Skynyrd songs or anything related to the deep south or rednecks.

So my advice to anyone trying to sing a foreign song with ease and fluidity without sounding awkward and looking silly: LOOK THAT KANJI UP! Usually if the song is popular enough there is already a translation posted with. Oh? Need to know how to read that Kanji? No problem. (FURIGANIZER and Hirahira have always helped with reading kanji.

One thing I commend my former student for is taking initiative and being gun-ho about singing in English. Though Black Eyed Peas wouldn’t be the first song I’d pick for learning English at the Junior High level, it’s a start.

じゃあね! Oh and Happy Fourth!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To You People Who Did/Are Doing Summer Weddings

This has to be one of the major downfalls of being in Japan (Aside from not getting my phone records viewed by the NSA). A missed wedding -assuming if I was even considered an invitation in the first place- is the most agonizing feeling for someone who enjoys celebrating a sacred certain celebration. This time is especially excruciating from May to September (Those wedding ceremony-prone months). Friends whom I’ve seen in all sorts of emotions, all sorts of bad fashions, drunk, angry, stressed, goofy and here they are jumping the broom into the real adulthood. Let’s just be honest, marriage is official crossover into adulthood. You essentially married someone who’s going to hold you accountable for chores, finances, and real responsibilities…for Life.  And I missed it (Again, assuming I was considered an invite)!!

But no hard feelings to the numerous brides and grooms. Who I really blame is…Facebook. Yeah I’m looking at you Facebook. You and your gorgeous photos and live wedding feeds between 12 and 10 PM on Saturday. Where a long phone call from a friend who went would have sufficed my imagination, I had to look at the real deal…in HD. Most of which professional quality. As I ride the Odakyu Line flipping through photos I wonder to myself, ‘I could have worn that blue dress I haven’t worn yet to the wedding,’ ‘What?! So n’ So was there? I could have caught up with them,’ ‘They had Bojangles at the wedding?! Genius!’ All of my woulda-coulda-shouldas dashed and I suddenly miss the home and friends whom I’ve left.

It’s true Facebook during wedding season causes nostalgia and depression. Not lying, I’ve got German evidence and Utahn.

via Huffington Post-Donna Newman

I would have hated to be in Japan if Mellody wore a Princess Leia gown to her own wedding. Don’t blame Hobson, blame Facebook…and HuffPo.

Longish story condensed and sweetened, I am truly happy to be able to at least see old friends move on to new milestones. Congratulations to the newly married –or soon to be married–couples of summer 2013.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is There a Reason Why Caucasian Foreigners in Japan Flaunt Brutally Cold Shoulders to Other Foreigners in Japan?

Now that’s a pretty loaded question but it’s one worth asking since I’ve been here almost two years utilizing my southern hospitality on passersby. In compliance with a pretty happy face, the Southern Manners in the Street Manual states clearly one must walk, smile, greet the person who makes eye contact, and walk on. You may think it strange but it’s mandatory in the South.

Boy did I get a rude awakening when I came to Japan: walk, smile, awkward nod, walk on, mentally say ‘da faq?’ What’s even more mind boggling is it’s not the Japanese pedestrians who I have this exchange with (Japanese pedestrians would make great Southerners) it’s many Caucasian westerners.

No matter if I am in Saitama, Kanagawa, or any part in Tokyo, spotting another foreigner prompts two actions, 1) the is-that-a-foreigner double take, 2) a burning urge to say ‘hello.’ Remember I’m the happy-go-lucky person in the street, I need my ‘Hello’ fix.

The first foreign American woman I came across,  I said my ‘hello’ and well whaddaya know, she blew right past me. This happened many many times. I chalked her up to being an ‘Ugly American’ and went on.

On the flip side, I used to have this annoyance with certain Africans, Indians, and Brazilians. These bombastic guys were dying to know if I was married, if I was seeing anyone, and if I was from Cameroon. For the record, if I ever decide to go the way of Alex Haley and find my roots, I may just start in Cameroon. But hey, at least they were waving.

I’ve especially received warm greetings from foreigners from other Asia Pacific nations: walk, smile, wave, get a little chat in, and move on on a higher note than before I met the person–the whole point of why we greet people in the street in the South anyway.

I realized two things after my recent move from Oyama to Kawasaki. 1) There were more ethnic foreigners in Oyama than Caucasian ones. 2) Caucasian westerners handle other foreigners differently than many ethnic ones do. After being blown past in the street for the umpteenth time and being talking to for the umpteenth time I, it got a bit more clear. From experience, foreigners from non-western countries really tried make an effort to get to know others and meet new (non-Japanese) strangers in the street.

Now I’ve never held the white man’s Yellow Fever in much consideration –it sounds a bit too controversial and bigoted. However, there might be some meat to it. I’m not limiting this to a fetish or an obsession as film director, Debbie Lum, does in Seeking Asian Female, but it does highlight a sense of tunnel-vision priorities for westerners living in Japan and eager to reenact Dance with Wolves amongst the Japanese.

The Japanese attitude doesn’t help quell any sense of western privilege entitlement either. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed people are deities in Japan and having porcelain white skin has been all the rave for centuries. I remember seeing a train poster of Beyonce when she did that controversial L’oreal skin-lightening ad. Let’s just say she out did Snow White in the Japanese version.

In the end to each Japan-visiting foreigner to his/her own. As for me, you can take the girl out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the girl…maybe I’ll just greet Smurfs.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s the Big Election Day

Even my students are in on all the excitement and anticipation of tonight’s US Presidential election results. Many Japanese citizens who I’ve talked to despised their former Prime Minister Noda who faced numerous critiques over the handling of a US military base in Okinawa as well as the handling of nuclear plants after the March 11 earthquake for someone similar to an Obama-like leader. A few of my Japanese friends have even gone as far to say their love for Obama’s charisma and drive makes them love our American president more so than Noda himself!

As for me, this year was my first time filling out an international absentee ballot. the process for an absentee American civilian was very simple. I sent a request for an Absentee Ballot Request form to my county’s election board office. Got an email attachment of the form. In turn I printed the forms filled out the necessary information and returned them via email. A few days later my absentee ballot was in the mail and my party’s recommendation letter came the following day. Again my ballot was scanned and emailed.

The only difficult thing was finding a scanner big enough to scan the ballot. However, they don’t call a Japanese convenient store convenient for nothing. There was a scanner that doubled as a copier, printer, and fax machine. My difficulty was a minor one compared to other Americans living abroad who also wanted to vote. Many of these citizens had been voting for years and SUDDENLY face issues with requesting ballot request forms or mailing addresses. After reading some of the heinous articles about wrongly calibrated voting machines, confusing polling information, poll volunteers asking for ID, hypocritical new outlets **cough** Fox News **cough cough** protecting one watch dog group while condemning another essentially doing the same thing, it’s deplorable.

I’m very curious as to how these perpetrators thought they were going to get away with some of these acts but under the same breath they kind of are. Media awareness used to be a very powerful weapon. Mass audiences would learn the truth consequences are issued. I’ve been following this election very closely and found phrases such as ‘walking back,’ ‘doubling down,’ ‘taken out of context,’ ‘liberal media,’ ‘cover up’ etc. are used to side step the punishment for biased journalism, or writing off 47% of an entire country, or withholding information about an attack against an embassy.

I’m not a Republican but I have always admired about subtly aggressive conservative leaders. Unlike the liberal approach of promoting the truth and transparency, conservative leaders used a subtle approach to combat issues unsupported by their platform and promote issues true to their own values. The Voter ID push is the most relevant and polarizing example of the subtle aggression. Hindering the poor and youth voters who spoke so loudly in 2008. Event he Citizens United case that has opened a deluge of conservative intimidation via super PAC political spots and CEOs scaring their employees into voting for Romney. One thing I have to question, is this high tenacity to win against those who differ in party, those who differ in race or social economic status?

What ever the answer and what ever outcome of tonight will be, the Democratic party and it’s liberal supporters need a more aggressive game changer to combat the many inaccuracies and unfairness that exists across the aisle AS WELL as in their own seats.

And with that, I wait patently.

UPDATE: I found this hilarious and hopefully useful to some:

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 7, 2012 in misoPOW!, Real Happenings


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not in America? Love Halloween? No problem.

As a UNC Chapel Hill student, Halloween meant going to a street called Franklin street pre-gamed and dressed in a costume. What’s awesome is that the whole purpose is to just look at other people’s costumes and maybe stop off at a bar. No special events required.  Walking up and down the heavily crowded street was enough fun for us.

And this guy

Last year was my first time missing out on the Franklin Shenanigans. Halloween in Oyama was modest at best. Last year’s costume was hasty and uninspiring: A generic hippie with a 99% sign in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests. But lets face it Japanese adult students don’t even know about the 99% let alone the children the Halloween week was aimed for. So by the end of Halloween week my kids decided I was Captain Jack Sparrow or some fortune teller from Tortuga on the Pirates of the Caribbean with a my mismatched jewelry and gypsie wrap…Shoganai. (-_-)

Fake scared cause my fortune saw it coming. FAIL.

Ok so when it comes to preparing a Halloween costume, I’m a bit めんろくさい AKA lazy about it. In the end, it wasn’t all bad. I got to wear jeans to work so it was a nice win. But I knew the next year was going to be better. This year, my new めんろくさい approach to finding a costume was googling characters who have articles of clothing I already own.

Occupy Strawberry Shortcake. もっともえ

So this year was the black version of Strawberry Shortcake. No one who saw me knew Strawberry Shortcake the character but love the actual strawberry shortcake so I lucked out and had more fun. I was very upstaged by some of my friends who dressed as One Piece characters. When in Japan, don’t mess with One Piece. You get cut.

One thing I will say is Roppongi is a major spot to enjoy Halloween. Some friends of mine went there and posted pictures. They were very similar to what Halloween was like in NC but on a larger and less regulated scale. Any large city is also good. I was in Omiya Halloween weekend and enjoyed the bars and clubs without a hitch.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Looking Back, misoPOW!, Real Happenings


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Enough is Enough!…(Welcome) (^_^)/

I have been absent of the blogsphere for quite sometime even well after my anticipated date of debut for misoPOW! due to several technical, aesthetical, and uncritical reasons. I thank my friend Stephen and his crew for trying their best to give misoPOW! the grand opening I wanted to give it. Due to many changes WordPress has implemented, custom sites have become less customizable. For all who know me, when I want something done right, and I want it right the first time. However at almost six months, the site would simply be grand to an experience 1/4 experienced. So placing my benefits ever my costs and my content over my appearance, I declare my unofficial debut!! (‘_^)/


Cid Highwind approves this message

Cid Highwind approves this message


1 Comment

Posted by on February 18, 2012 in misoPOW!, Real Happenings


Tags: , ,