season's greetings

Long time no see. While I am lazy about writing my English blog, time flys. It's already Christmas!
Japanese say メリークリスマス (Merry Christmas) with katakana pronuciation for Christmas.

In Japanese there are two expressions equivalent of “Happy new year”, which are "akemashite omedeto" and "yoi otoshi o".
You should not say “akemashite omedeto” before the 1st of January. You say “yoi otoshi o” instead of good bye when you see off your friends or colleagues at the end of the year.
I explained the reasons on my post in last December. Please have a look.

I am going to write one post every month next year. If you have questions about nihongo, please don't hesitate to ask me.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!  メリークリスマス、そして、よいお年を!!

2013年12月 岡本美奈子 (Minako Okamoto)


sou, rashii, you and mitai

ohisashiburi des. genki des ka? I am sorry that I didn't post for the last three months.
Today I will wirte about a common question, which is "How different are sou, rashii, you and mitai?" I hope many of you are interested in this topic. Here we go.

First of all, I will divide these four words into two groups,: hearing and seeing. sou 1” and “rashii” go to the hearing group and sou 2”, “you” and “mitai” go to the seeing one.

Let’s start with the hearing group, sou 1 and rashii. Use sou” when the information you heard is certain to be true. Use rashii” when it is not certain. This is the difference between these two.

This is a situation in which you tell your friend about the weather forecast after watching it: ashita wa ame ga furu sou da yo. (I heard it would rain tomorrow.)  (This is a common example in textbooks.)
This is a situation in which you tell your friend a rumor: Tanaka san wa kaisha wo yameru rashii yo. (I heard that Tanaka was going to quit his job, but I am not certain of it.)
Please remember to use “rashii” when you tell someone a gossipy type of story. It is not that difficult, then.

Now, I will write about the seeing group, “sou 2, you, and mitai. It is ok to think “you” and “mitai” are the same, so let’s compare “sou” and “you / mitai”.
While you are looking at the sky, the clouds got bigger and the sky got darker: mousugu ame ga furi sou da ne. (It is likely to rain.)
In this sentence, you predict that it will be raining soon. In other words, you form an opinion about a future possibility by seeing a current state. In this next sentence, you also predict the possibility of a store closing down while looking at it.
You are looking at a store that is in business, but never has any customers: kono mise wa tsubure sou da ne. (It is likely that this store will close down.)
On the other hand, use “you / mitai” when you judge something from what you are seeing and describe a current state. A possibility that a store is almost closing is not talked about in the next example. 
You are actually seeing the staff cleaning a shop or tiding up products: kono mise wa tsubureru you da ne. (It seems that this store is closing down.)
Let’s look at another pair of examples.
Here is a situation that you see your friend studying hard every day: kare wa test ni goukaku shi sou da ne. (He is likely to pass an exam.) (predicting future possibility)
Now you see your friend being happy after an examination: kare wa test ni goukaku shita mitai da ne. (It seems that he has passed an exam.) (judging what you are seeing and then making a conclusion)
Finally, I would like to introduce how Japanese actually differentiate these words. I realized that there are a lot of certainties, uncertainties and therefore a judgment based on what you see in history books. So, I will quote several sentences from one book of historical research. (*1) You know a Japanese company called Mitsubishi, don’t you? I am quoting from childhood stories of the founder of Mitsubishi, Yataro Iwasaki.

The house where Yataro was born still exists in Aki city, Kochi prefecture. This house is simple and has a straw-thatched roof. His family was once samurai status, but has since lost this social status. (This is true.)
Iwasaki ke no seikatsu wa kurushikatta you da. (It seems that the Iwasaki family had at tough life.) The author made a judgment about their situation mentioned above.
Yataro wa chuya no betsu naku, hageshiku nakiwameku kan no tsuyoi akanbo de, haha no Miwa mo komarihateta rashii. (It is said that Yataro was such an irritable baby and cried so intensely all day and all night that  his mother Miwa was completely at a loss. But, I am not sure if it is true.) This could be true, but it probably spread by word of mouth. 
The Iwasaki house has a small garden and garden stones were placed in strange positions. (This is true.)

Kore wa nihon retto o katadotta mono da sou da. (I heard that they were made in the shape of Japan.)

Even though the fact that he made the shape of Japan is not 100% certain, it may be okay to think it is true to some extent because the garden stones are still there.

Inagara ni shite nihon zendo o hukan shiyou to, Yataro ga mizukara tsukutta to iu. (It is said that he tried to overlook the whole country from his own room and made them on his own.)
I think “to iu” is considered to be between “sou” and “rashii”. It can be either certain or uncertain. 
We all know that Yataro studied very hard in his poor childhood and accomplished a great achievement later. Therefore, we want to believe that he had dreamed of being successful in this country not only in his hometown since he was young. So, the last sentence is still repeated nowadays even though we don’t know if it is true or not.

*sou 1: any short form + sou, sou 2: masu form + sou
*1) 『岩崎弥太郎と三菱四代』、河合敦、幻冬舎新書、2010


Japanese announcements at the station

People who live in Japan have many chances to ride trains during their daily commutes or for some other reason. Each time you hear a lot of announcements at the station or in a train, don’t you? My students often ask me, “What are they saying?” So, I am solving this mystery today.

Well, the first word you remember and can guess its meaning on your own is “mamonaku”, isn’t it? The sentence starting with “mamonaku” is usually as follows:

1. Mamonaku san-ban-sen ni Shibuya-yuki ga mairimas.
mamonaku: soon
san-ban-sen ni: to platform number 3
Shibuya-yuki: (a train) going to Shibuya
mairimas: to come
Because it is dangerous when a train is approaching, the next announcement will be like this.
2. Hakusen/ kiiroi sen no uchigawa ni sagatte, o-machi kudasai.
hakusen: the white line
kiiroi sen: the yellow line
uchigawa ni: on the inside
sagarimas: to move back sagatte: the imperative form
kudasai: please o-machi kudasai: please wait. (“O” is an honorific prefix.)
Many warnings are starting from now.
3. Teniomtsu o door ni hasamarenai you go-chui kudasai.
tenimotsu: handbag
door ni: by the door
hasamu: to put something between hasamareru (a passive form): to be put  between, to get caught in hasamarenai (a negative passive form): not to get caught in
you: do something in a such way that… hasamarenai you go-chui kudasai.: Be careful so that you don’t get your handbags caught.
chui: care, attention go-chui kudasai: Please be careful, Please watch out, Please take caution (“go” is an honorific prefix.)
The warnings continue...
4. Door ga shimarimas. Go-chui kudasai.
shimarimas: to close
When the doors close, you should not do the following.
5. Kakekomi josha wa o-yame kudasai.
kakekomi: a dash/dart/rush
josha: boarding
yamemasu: to stop/quit
The next warning is very common at the London Tube, too. It is imprinted in my mind because I always heard it.
6. Ashimoto ni go-chui kudasai.
ashimoto: at your feet
You have to mind your step because of the following reason.
7. Densha to homu no aida ga hiroku aiteorimas.
densha: a train
homu: a platform
aida: between
hiroku: widely
aiteimas: to be open aiteorimas: a humble form
And, there is of course information about the station or train transfer.
8. Tsugi wa Shinjuku. Norikae no go-annai des.
tsugi: the next one/stop
norikae: a train transfer
annai: guidance, information (“go” is an honorific prefix.)
I hope this helps you. From tomorrow, please try listening to the announcements carefully at the station or in a train. I really think you will understand the meaning now.

Trains during rush hour in Tokyo are so packed that I can’t stand it, but Japanese trains are punctual and some have TV screens on the wall. I think there are many impressive points.
Also, there are funny trains in the countryside to attract customers. I took a shamisen train in Aomori in which you can enjoy a shamisen live performance. A kotatsu train makes you warm inside of the train during winter. An omocha (toy) train looks like a little toy museum. Sleeping trains are now very popular among girls because they have girls’ parties on them.

*Watch the video, too!


"wa" or "ga" 「は」と「が」

Two days ago it snowed in Tokyo. (It was a lot for Tokyo people.) I was out on that day, so I was afraid that I would get stuck in the snow. I waited for the bus for half an hour in vain and finally took a taxi back home. But, a road going up to my house was blocked by police, so I had to get out of  the taxi at the bottom of the hill and walk up in the snow after all. This was a tiring journey.

My first post in 2013 is about two confusing particles. I am sure there are many people wondering what the difference is between “wa”and “ga”. Today I will explain it simply to you. Before that, I have a question for all of you.
Watashi wa sushi ga suki desu. (I like sushi.)
There are two nouns in this sentence: watashi, and sushi. Which word do you think is more important, “watashi” or “sushi”?
The answer is sushi because it is usually obvious that you are talking about yourself, so the fact that you like “sushi” is the information you would like to relay. Keep this while we look at the previous example again.
Watashi wa sushi ga suki desu.
A noun preceding “wa” (in this case, “watashi”) is not so important. A noun following “wa” and preceding “ga” (in this case, “sushi”) is the most important. Make sure to remember this rule.
Yamada san wa eigo ga jozu desu. (Yamada is good at speaking English.)
Here “eigo” is more important information than “Yamada”.
Yamada san wa kami ga nagai desu. (Yamada's hair is long.)
Also here, “kami” is the important information.

Then what is the difference between “watashi wa Minako desu” and “watashi ga Minako desu” ?

Watashi wa Minako desu. 
 According to the rule of “wa” and “ga”, “Minako” following “wa” is more important than “watashi” in front of “wa”. Therefore, this sentence is used when you want to tell the name “Minako”. When the other party hasn’t heard my name before, I say it like this.
Watashi ga Minako desu. 
On the other hand, this example is used in the following situation. For instance, there are ten women in a room. Mr. A has a list of the ten women’s names, but he doesn’t know who has which name. Then, Mr. A asks “Dono hito ga Minako san desu ka?” (Which person is Minako?) I would raise my hand and say, “Watashi ga Minako desu” (I am Minako).
It is more important to emphasize “watashi” here than to say the name “Minako”, so “watashi” takes “ga”. Saying “Minako wa watashi des” is also all right because it follows the rule.

So, here is some homework for you. Please consider “wa” and “ga” in the following model sentences and also think about which situation they are used in. Those who can’t figure out the answers, please post your comment here.
1) Disneyland wa doko ni arimasu ka?
2) nani ga table no ue ni arimasu ka?

*Watch the video, too!