Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#37 Essay Manga

I first heard the term Essay Manga (エッセイ漫画) in one of my favorite anime of all time, Paradise Kiss.

In one scene, a character (pictured above) named Miwako (which is an adorable name, by the way) mentions that her mother writes Essay Manga while traveling around the world with Miwako’s father, who is a photographer.  I had no idea what Essay Manga was at the time…but now I do!  So I want to share it with you all.

Essay Manga is basically non-fiction manga, where the writer/artist writes and draws about his/her own life.  As a personal fan of non-fiction over fiction books in the first place, I find essay manga generally to be a lot more interesting personally than regular manga.

So here I would like to introduce to you three Essay Manga series that I have read some and liked.  In this post I’ll talk about two series that I’ve really enjoyed (that have 3 and 2 volumes each, thus far), and in the next post I’ll talk about a much more prolific series that is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.

Series 1: Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo ・日本人の知らない日本語・Japanese the Japanese Don’t Know

This series has 3 volumes, one of which was just released very recently.  You can get the first two volumes (in Japanese only) on amazon.com


Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo (The Japanese the Japanese don’t know)


Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo II (The Japanese the Japanese don’t know II, Volume 2)

This is a series about a Japanese woman teaching Japanese as a foreign language to study abroad students who come to Japan.

As the title suggests, I think the original impetus behind this series is that sometimes students of Japanese learn various forms of the language that are either archaic, obscure, overpolite, out of context, or what-have-you, that the author thought it would be amusing to share her experience with the Japanese public.  Very fortunately, with an eye for her students as well, the books have furigana over the Kanji, making it easier for us learners of Japanese to read it.

As a previous study abroad student in Japan myself, I can relate to her students, and it is also interesting from an international perspective because she teaches a variety of students from all over the world.  She has students from Russia, France, China, Korea, the US, etc etc and draws each one of them showing off their personality and individuality.  They’re probably exaggerated charicatures, but compelling none the less.  She talks a lot about what they are interested in and why they came to Japan, and examples of their mistaken/strange/funny Japanese usage.

I’ve read volumes 1 and 2 a while back, and my boyfriend recently purchased volume 3 (pictured above), which is subtitled The Graduation Edition or 卒業編・そつぎょうへん.  I’m looking forward to reading it in the near future.

Series 2: Chuugoku Yome Nikki・中国嫁日記・A Chinese Wife and an Otaku Husband

This is a series I discovered just by browsing the Essay Manga section of a large bookstore.

It caught my eye in part because of the art style, which is exaggerated and chibi-like and adorable, but also because of what it’s about, which piqued my interest.

It’s about a 20 something Chinese woman who married a 40 something Japanese Otaku.  Apparently (I learned this through reading some of the first book) the woman’s older sister married a Japanese man first, then recommended it to her younger sister as well, and a somewhat arranged marriage was set up.  At first I thought this comic was written by the woman, but it’s actually written by her husband.  He originally started it as a blog, and later published it in book form.

The comic goes a bit into their personal life such as misunderstandings or tender moments, and also has a lot about the differences between China and Japan as the woman is constantly discovering new things as she navigates the Japanese language and life in a new country.  As someone who is interested in Chinese culture and the Chinese language, there’s a lot of juicy tidbits in here.

I highly recommend this manga to anyone who wants a slice of life on an international/intercultural relationship, or someone who is interested in the differences between Japan and China.  Of course, disclaimer!, one can’t make judgements on an entire country or an entire population from just getting to know a few people from it (the book also features the man’s Chinese conversation teacher, the woman’s sister, and a few others), but it’s still an interesting and eye-opening read, in my opinion.

There are 2 volumes; I bought them both, but have yet to read more than about 1/3 of the first one.  Am looking forward to getting back into it though!

It doesn’t look like this is available on amazon.com, but if you want to know more about this couple, there’s an English article/interview about them that was published in the Japan Times almost exactly a year ago.  There’s even a picture of the husband, which I’d never seen before!  Enjoy.

Top blogger illustrates Chinese wife’s struggles

Series 3…

Look forward to next week’s post for details on this one!

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#6 “Made-in-Japan” English

If you heard “paper knife,” what would you think of?  A knife made out of paper?  A knife used for cutting paper?  Something else?

Actually, in Japanese, paper knife (ペーパーナイフ)means letter opener.

Were you surprised?  Actually, there are a TON of words like this out there in Japanese.

Another one of my all-time favorites is baby car (ベビーカー).

What do you think of when you think of baby car?

Do you think of a baby in a baby sized car?

Or perhaps a baby in a toy car?

Or maybe a baby driving a real car?

How about a baby driving its own stroller?

That last one was close.  Actually, baby car means stroller, carriage, or pram.  The kind pushed by someone and not actually controlled by the baby itself.

What did you think?

I find that the types of English words used in Japanese tend to fall into two types:

1) They use words that you don’t quite understand the meaning for, or that you misinterpret the meaning for, such as paper knife or baby car.

2) They use words they use means something entirely different in English than what they intended it for in Japanese.  For example, veteran.  In English, we usually use it as someone who has been through a war or perhaps through some ordeal, but in Japanese, it means someone who is an expert in their field.

Running across words like these are terribly interesting for us native English speakers (or at least I happen to think so).

The flip side though, is that many Japanese people believe these to be legit English words, in that if only they speak them with a more English accent they will be understood.  Actually, even that statement was a bit overambitious.  Many Japanese people believe that saying these words that have been conformed to the Japanese pronunciation system (as in paper knife being pei-pa-nai-fu), that THAT will be understood.

The technical term for these words is wasei eigo (和製英語)or English made-in-Japan.

Here’s a list of wasei eigo I particularly like or think is interesting, in alphabetical order.  The English translation/meaning of the item is in parenthesis next to it.  Enjoy!

1.    after service (customer support)
2.    bike (motorcycle)
3.    camping car (camper)
4.    cash card (ATM card)
5.    cider (soda)
6.    consent (electrical outlet)
7.    cooler (air conditioner)
8.    cunning (cheating)
9.    dubbing (copy – ie cd/dvd)
10.    free size (one size fits all)
11.    fried potato (french fries)
12.    fry pan (frying pan)
13.    handle (steering wheel)
14.    high socks (knee high socks)
15.    hot carpet (electric carpet)
16.    ice (ice cream)
17.    jet coaster (roller coaster)
18.    key holder (key chain)
19.    kitchen paper (paper towels)
20.    make (make-up)
21.    mansion (apartment, condo)
22.    my bag (eco bag)
23.    my pace (someone who is laid back, goes at their own pace) – but they say things like “he is so my pace!”
24.    nighter (night game, as in baseball)
25.    note (notebook)
26.    old boy (former member of an organization, alum)
27.    one piece (dress)
28.    post (mailbox)
29.    print (worksheet, handout)
30.    rinse (conditioner)
31.    roll cake (cake roll)
32.    salary man (someone who works in an office, white collar)
33.    season off (off season)
34.    sharp pencil (mechanical pencil)
35.    sign (autograph, signature)
36.    strap (cell phone charm)
37.    talent (tv celebrity)
38.    touch (high five)
39.    trump (playing cards)
40.    video deck (vcr)
41.    viking (buffet)
42.    virgin road (aisle – as in to walk down the aisle at a wedding)
43.    Yshirt (collared shirt)

There’s a ton more out there – many more that I’m aware of, and some I’m not.  I didn’t post the katakana version of all these words; if you’re interested in knowing them, I suggest looking them up on some online dictionary.

Also of note, I only included items that sounded English in the first place, but meant something different.  There are a TON more katakana words in the Japanese language that have been taken from other languages (such as Dutch, Portugese, French, etc).  Plus there are abbreviations like pasocon, which is short for personal computer: paso(naru) con(pyuta).  Or Comiket, which is short for comic market (a popular dojinshi event that happens twice a year in Tokyo and that I went to recently for the first time).  Even the uber popular pokemon is actually short for pocket monsters: poke(tto) mon(sta).

Anyone else have any particular made-in-Japan English they enjoy or want to share?

Alternatively, if anyone else has experiences with hearing English (or other foreign words) words in another language and wants to share about that, please do!

See you next time!

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