Entries by James Hanlon


Notes on Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

Rashomon, the hallmark 1950 Kurosawa film, relates the same incident from 4 different perspectives. These perspectives are inconsistent with one another. Underground is perhaps a non-fiction edition of this genre. In the wake of the media fallout of the 1995 gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system, which left 12 dead and thousands in need of […]


Japanese False Cognates as Mnemonics

When two words in different languages coincidentally have similar sound and meaning, they are called false cognates. They’re ‘false’ because they don’t actually share a common etymology (at least within traceable linguistic history). True cognates, conversely, do share a common etymological origin. There aren’t really any true cognates in Japanese-English until recent history with actual […]


Some Engrish Poetry

After a certain amount of 時間, one desensitizes to the stylized rando-engrish t-shatsus, and googuru translated signs (let alone the perplexity of wasei-eigo). But there’s poetry here. Refreshing perspective on our cliche ridden tongue, which occasionally makes a bit of sense. Here’s just a personal collection.                     […]

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Tama Genryu Matsuri: A Water, Fire, and Taste Festival

多摩源流まつり Welcome to Kosuge Village, Yamanashi Prefecture, my home for the past nine months. The nearest convenience store and train station are 35 minutes away by car via a winding mountain road. Its land area is about that of Manhattan Island. It borders the western tip of the largest metropolitan area in the world. On a normal […]

The Car-Bow

The Car-Bow: When Etiquette Becomes Reckless

“Cut off my head,” kōchō sensei said as he made a chopping motion against the back of his neck with his hand, “if you want to.” Huh? He repeated the motion, this time bending his neck farther down in front of me. Oh. I understood. I raised my open hand and said, “I have no weapon.” […]


Foreigners Improving the Image of Japan’s Countryside

By Kentaro Nakamura Translated by James Hanlon In Japan, foreigners model many things on everyday ads, and fashions intended for Japanese people are somehow modeled by foreigners. The fashion savvy say, “If people see the foreign model’s good style, they are more likely to purchase the products the model uses.” Certainly it seems foreigners in Japan’s […]


How Much Experience Do You Need For JET?

[I’m not on the hiring or interview committee for JET. The following is just conjecture from my experience and what I’ve observed and the people I’ve met on the JET Program.]   You don’t need much experience for JET.  Many hires are right out of college and have no more experience than their degree. Many have […]

Amazon Memoirs of a Geisha cover

Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

“As a historian, I have always regarded memoirs as source material. A memoir provides a record not so much of the memoirist as of the memoirist’s world. It must differ from biography in that a memoirist can never achieve the perspective that a biographer possesses as a matter of course. Autobiography, if there really is […]


Settling In

Tokyo was a blur of networking, ‘cool biz,’ drinks with some fellow bloggers, and karaoke with a street-view of Shinjuku. – A long detour through Kofu, then finally to Kosuge-mura! Finally met my predecessor (wasn’t even sure if I had one before that); we went to the onsen on my request, and spent the evening drinking […]