Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Words for Time, Time for Words:

There are no words for the passage of time. None of any effect, at any rate.

So yes, my life here has picked up greatly. That's a part of the reason why you haven't heard from me. I've gone back to writing fiction, at least to some small degree, and started Japanese lessons, as well as continued the process of meeting people, making new friends, etc, which has steady filled up a lot of my spare time. There's also there's the issue of once you get behind, that makes getting caught up again far more difficult. So now the task has reached a stage of daunting, and I know there's no way I'm going to be able to catch up in regards to summarizing so much of my life. What can I say? In getting a life, I've become less scrupulous in documenting it. Such is life.

But with that said, I will randomly type for a bit about things which cross my mind in regards to the last week or so. First, of course, was the well publicized, much anticipated Undokai which all of my schools were ishoukenmei preparing for with vigor and enthusiasm (and no small degree of stress). The Undokai was basically a combination picnic, relay race with variety of games and talent show, all put on for the parents and families (who were basically picnicking on school grounds to watch as their kids performed.) It was a lot of fun, and I took a lot of video that I still have to get put up. That will go up in a separate entry, but alas not today.

After the Undokai, I met up with Mie and Haruka in Sakae, where we had a delicious Kebob dinner and then did Karaoke and clubbing. It was ridiculously fun. The Karaoke place had disco lights embedded into the ceiling and the club had six floors, each of which played a different kind of music. One interesting thing about clubbing in Japan is that the music isn't much different from what you would find in the same club in the States. R&B, Hip-Hop, some Raggae (and Raggaeton, which is Brazillian Reggae) as well as the obligatory Trance and House room (which we assiduously avoided). Supposedly there was a J-pop room also, but we weren't really looking for it so it went its own way. I also ran into some folks from the neighboring picnic from two weeks prior. One of the ladies recognized me and shouted towards me, giving me a big hug. We hung out with their group for a while. I felt for a bit that I was back in Philly because practically everyday I run into someone I know in Philly, but here I haven't really known enough people to have a similar experience. So this was very exciting!

The next two days I had off, so of course it decided to rain for both days. Then it was back to work, or back to school as the case is. I had a solidly good week and an excellent weekend. The start was going back to the Izakaya, where I got to see my fellow Jyouren and hang out/chat. For the entire previous week, I'd been feeling really stagnated in regards to my Japanese. I hadn't felt like I was making any progress at all, but at Kogame (my Izakaya) I felt like I'd taken a huge leap in conversational facility. Today (Monday) some of that easy feeling of conversation has receded again. It's a wheel, sometimes you're at the top, sometimes not.

But on Friday is also where I learned, much to my delight, that here in the Western part of Aichi (West of Nagoya) we speak Mikawaben! That's the dialect of the Mikawa area (near the Mikawa river). We here in Aichi are located between the Kanto region (standard Japanese, Tokyo and the like) and the Kansai region (Western Japan, near Osaka and the like). The Mikawa area is on the Western side (west of Nagoya) which gives us some more pronounced Kansai influences. Granted, the Mikawa dialect is not that removed from Standard Japanese. But there are some differences that are worth noting and since information on Mikawaben on the internet is sparse and sometimes inaccurate (at least for my area), it's worth talking about a little now.
Here are some common shifts from Standard Japanese that you will find here (that I've heard or been told about by locals):

Wakaranai → Wakaran or Wakarahen or Wakanai
I use “Wakanai” all the time, though this may not be an Aichi area dialect thing but instead a general use shortening/abbreviation of the word. I'm not sure. I love the way you say Wakanai here. It's like Waka (emphasis on the K sound, then a short pause) nai. Think “I have no idea” as you're saying it and you'll have exactly the right tone. “Wakahen” is common in the Kansai region. I have heard it around me though at random points when teachers are talking to each other and occasionally amongst students. “Wakaran” is used a fair amount (more than wakahen, but I've also only recently started listening for “wakahen” so that may be skewing my impression). Wakaran may also be something that is more common to all of Japan as opposed to just the around here (and Kansai). It's a very logical abbreviation, considering Japanse verb conjugation: with an U verb, the negative is always “a” followed by nai. And nothing else follows that “a” except some form of a negative, so just seeing the A + N makes it absolutely clear that you are dealing with the negative form of a standard verb.

takusan/ippai, etc (words that mean “very!”) → Dora, Dera. In Nagoya, they use Dera, in our area, we use Dora. Mie told me this one. It translates loosely to “super” so if you want to say “super cute” you say “dora kawaii.” A woman in a neighboring building, as I discovered yesterday, has two adorable cats who I spent a great deal of time petting after my late afternoon run. I said her cats were “dora kawaii” and she laughed with me, so this is definitely an understood term here, though it may not be in Tokyo. Another common word from Kansai that I hear a lot here is “mecha” which also means “very”. That's solidly Kansai-ben, but we use it here.

Iru → Oru. This is the start of my Izakaya conversation about Mikawa-ben. The iru I'm talking about is the standard “I exist” iru. So using my favorite expression “where am I?” (an essential phrase when you are always lost) Doko ni imasuka? The plain, dictionary form of Imasu is Iru (the ka is only there to let you know it's a polite question). So as a casual question, you'd ask “doko ni iru?” with a questioning tone. Well in Mikawaben, as a casual question, you'd ask “doko ni oru?” or as a noncasual question (though I'm not sure if this is really how people use it) doko ni orimasuka?

Kara/node → Monde: I'm referring to the Kara here that you use to mean “because”. Eg: Because I wanted ice cream, I went to the store: Ice cream wo hoshikattakara, omise ni ikimashita/itta. (I don't feel like romanizing Ice Cream, apologies. Also apologies if the word choice for this is off. I'm sure it is). Instead of Kara (or Node, which can be used here in an identical way), in Mikawaben, we can use Monde: Icecream wo hoshikattamonde, omise ni ikimashita/itta. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm going out drinking tonight with coworkers, so we'll see how that works out.

Anata → Oman (Oh + Mahn). So instead of using “anata” for you, we use “oman”.The guys at the Izakaya gave me this one. When I asked Mie about it, she said, sure, if I was really old. Truthfully, I've never heard Oman for Anata here except for that one instance. That said, you hardly ever hear Anata here either, because in Japan that's kind of rude anyway. So the jury is still out on Oman as a worrd of regular use.

Mushi-atsui: This may not be Mikawa-ben, but it's an accurate description of super humid, hot weather, which is the norm for our Mikawa summers. I'm sure the kanji are different, but I think of this as "bug hot" ie: so hot you get waterbugs. Mushi = bug and Atsui = hot.

I'm sure there's more Mikawaben going on around me that I don't understand. If anyone wants to offer more phrases or grammatical constructions that I'm likely to meet here as a part of Mikawaben, please let me know!