Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Photos: Tera-Machi, Nagasaki

A little while back, Nana and I went to Nagasaki, which prompted this gargantuan post on the Dutch trading post at Dejima.

The Dutch weren't the only foreigners in Nagasaki, though: the city has long had a substantial Chinese population. Nowhere is this more apparent than Tera-Machi, or "Temple Row," a stretch of hillside temples on Nagasaki's southern flank. The temples represent a mixture of Buddhism and traditional Chinese polytheism, with most of the temples serving as a resting place for the portable shrines carried in Chinese ships.

I won't go into too much detail about the temples, largely because there wasn't a lot of information available in English. (What we do know, we picked up from the excellent audio guide at the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture.)

Instead, I'll try to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Very Japanese, to begin with.
Nana makes a new friend. We see a lot of stubby-tailed cats here in Japan.

A Buddhist-style hillside graveyard.
You can really see the Chinese influence in the red and gold,
as opposed to the usual Japanese white and brown.

One of two wooden fish drums representing desire.
This is the male fish, with his mouth open.

The female fish has her mouth closed,
supposedly because she has less desire.
We never did figure out what this thing was.
I'm really glad that, of all the signs around this place,
this was the one they decided to put in English.
A dragonfly on a wilted lotus.
I'm actually a little ashamed for having just typed that. 

This lotus blossom hasn't flowered yet.

The frog is fake.
If I were a frog, though, that's exactly where I'd be.

Today's Language Lesson:

寺町は きれいですね。
Tera-machi-wa kire-i desu ne.
Temple-town-(subject) pretty is no?
Temple Row is pretty, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Typing in Japanese!


(If my hearty "good evening" above just looks like a bunch of rectangles or question marks, then you need some help installing Japanese character sets.)

Nana and I finally caved in and got iPhones last week. Language learning was a huge part of the decision: there's no real substitute for carrying a huge dictionary, a big stack of customizable flashcards, and pretty much the whole Internet on a device that fits in your pocket. Plus, typing in Japanese on the thing is totally cool. You can even draw in kanji - provided you know the stroke order, and you don't have stupid fat fingers like mine.

Anyway, after futzing around with the Japanese on my iPhone for a while, I realized that there had to be some way to do the same thing with my laptop. Luckily, it turns out that adding input languages is a lot easier now than it was back in my days of trying to get Korean in Windows XP.

I won't go into detail - YesJapan has an excellent guide. All in all, it took less than ten minutes, and now I can write in Japanese!

Today's Japanese Lesson:

kon ban wa
"This evening [topic]"
Good evening!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nagasaki Electric Tramway

Streetcars used to be pretty popular in Japan: with its high population density, Japan has a massive appetite for public transportation, and trams are a lot cheaper than subway lines. But trams also take up precious street space, and they're a lot less flexible than buses.

They're a great fit for a town like Nagasaki, though: too small for a full-blown subway, a bit too big and hilly for walking, and with a geography that severely limits the number of major road routes.

Hence the Nagasaki Electric Tramway, which is something of a tourist attraction in its own right.

The tram system has been running since 1914 and prides itself on never having lost any of its original lines. It's still the cheapest, fastest way around the city, and some of the older vehicles have a lot of charm. They don't seem to run on any discernible schedule (unusual for Japan), but we never waited more than a couple minutes before another car came rattling in.

Plus, if you ride out to the end of the line, you get little treats like this.
By the way, this isn't the first time Nana and I have blogged about riding public transit in style: check out our old post at The Educated Burgher on the stunning public buses of Malta.

Today's Japanese Lesson (offered at the request of a loyal reader):

Nagasaki-eki-ni ikimasu ka?
"Nagasaki-station-to go [question]?"
(Does this tram/train/bus/dirigible) go to Nagasaki Station?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Toilets of Asia: Marina Town Mall

Today's featured toilet:

Gender: Female
Toilet type: Western seated
Special features: Toilet may be self-aware

We often refer to the Marina Town Mall as "the cheesy Southwestern mall" because of its unusual decor (the entrance is marked with a sign shaped like a saguaro cactus, and over the food court you have such oddities as a giant cowboy boot reading "Santa Fe"). What is most frightening about this mall, however, is the restroom. Innocuously clean and convenient... but then you enter the stall, and this happens:

(Note: I promise that the toilet in this video is not in use. There is nothing weird here except the toilet itself.)

So for those of you who didn't watch the video, or those of you who did, you get the point: Marina Town Mall has talking toilets. And if your level of Japanese is vaguely similar to mine, you will be able to figure out the first three words: "Kono toire wa," or "This toilet..." followed by ominous gibberish.

Here are some possible translations of the second half.

This toilet

... wants to know what you are doing, Dave.
... is hazy. Ask again later.
... says that the white zone is for immediate loading and unloading only. There is no parking in a white zone.
... shall fight on the beaches, shall fight on the landing grounds, shall fight in the fields and in the streets, shall fight in the hills; shall never surrender
... will self-destruct in ten seconds.

Please feel free to submit alternate translations.

PS. Video bonus: Yes, that is a midi version of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" playing in the restroom.