Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Say What? (Gray)

For this blog post I was asked to learn a bit of the local dialect and then talk about it, so I went about trying to learn at least a little bit of Akita-ben, the accent native to the prefecture. I don’t have friends who are from Akita, so I had to go outside native speakers to learn. This led me to the internet and our school’s library. There is not a comprehensive dictionary of Akita dialect, as even within the region it can vary, but there are plenty of examples and even a small flashcard booklet I saw in a souvenir shop at the Akita Airport that compares “standard” Japanese phrases and their Akita-ben counterparts.
The first buttons I saw in the airport. 
The dialect is notoriously impenetrable, though through the use of one to one comparisons to phrases I already knew, it became easier to simply switch words out. Some of the nuances of the specific vowel pronunciations that are different from the Japanese I was taught are still unfamiliar to me, but I think that listening to native accent speakers could help me become more accustomed to it.

Another interesting thing I found at the airport’s souvenir shop was a variety of buttons with Akita-ben phrases and their English equivalent with a cute Akita dog character on them. What I found most interesting is that the translations were in English, not in “standard” Japanese. I asked myself if this was an attempt to appeal to the relatively few international tourists who make their way through this further northern region, or just an aesthetic choice as the phrases are common enough in English that ESL speakers would be familiar with them.

Some more buttons featuring Akita-ben
In conclusion, the dialect of Akita is a little harder to seek out than perhaps in regions like Kansai where the accent is more well known. Even with the difficulties in finding resources to learn, I found that I enjoyed learning about how it is similar and different from the Japanese I’d learned before and the ways that it is used both in the region and out.

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Look into Tokyo’s Past (Rylee)

Over fall break I have decided to use my free time to visit one of Tokyo’s many museums. I eventually decided to go to the Edo-Tokyo museum as I wanted to see how they presented Tokyo’s past, and because I have not been to any of the other major museums around Tokyo other than the Miraikan - therefore making it an excellent opportunity to explore more museums.

The Edo-Tokyo museum

Upon my arrival I was greeted by a large modern building standing on 4 pillars. The contrast between the sleek building and the historical nature of the exhibits of Edo was quite surprising. As you enter up the long escalators to the 6th floor you are greeted with a recreation of Nihonbashi – a large wooden bridge in the center of Edo. It served as the symbolic point of entry for travelers to Edo and now it is your entry to the museum. This is where you begin to realize that this museum is highly focused on replicating physical Edo on all scales. The miniatures, interactive exhibits, recreations of housing and objects from Edo to modern Tokyo, and the displays of historical objects all help you immerse yourself into Tokyo from 1603 to the 1960s.

In general, the museum is laid out in a chronological order from the foundation of the Shogunate in Edo to the end of the 20th century. The exhibits are straightforward, and the explanations are strongly based upon empirical evidence. The museum accommodates foreign language speakers quite well by offering audio tours and digital displays in over 12 languages. However, as the content of the displays themselves are straight to the point, most of them contain endless amounts of graphs and charts of Edo statistics which forms form my main gripe with this museum - its overwhelming amount of graphs. For starters they are the only things that do not feature full translations that aren’t historical articles. Second, they serve as the main source of evidence behind the reasoning in the English explanations making me feel like I was left out on more of what the museum had to offer. This leaned me toward the feeling that the museum tended to be more cut and dry than your typical museum. Even if I were fully fluent in Japanese, I would still think the museum relies a bit too heavily on solely presenting statistics to allow less written explanations. There was still plenty to read, but the downside that I saw was in the lack of historical narrative leaving the patrons to be the ones to decide what really went on during the Edo period. Little to no explanation seemed to be available on the rise and fall of the Tokugawa regime and emperor Meiji from the view of a common person in that era, but more on the general conditions people went through during these times and less about what was seen in written sources and accounts.

More pie charts than my AP stats class
The Edo-Tokyo museum in general was more of an experience the past type of museum rather than containing any major theme or message type of museum therefore giving it a strongly neutral impression if you don’t interpret it as being some kind of monument to the hardships Japan has endured. You can deduct a lot of the history by understanding why they chose these exhibits and the facts that you are given. However, I assume that the museum expects you to have an all-around knowledge of the Edo period and therefore what the museum offers compliments your knowledge while still offering the bare basics for foreigners and schoolchildren.

Ryōgoku Bridge

More Miniatures

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Akita Dialect (Zowie)

This is at the Namahage Museum. During the performance, they used heavy Akita Dialect. 
Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to learn Akita dialect from classmates, online, and from first-hand experiences. Akita Dialect is known for its relaxed pronunciation being compared to a “lazy” way of speaking. There can be subtle differences, for example, instead of “taberu” (to eat) they would say “daberu” sounding less clear. There are also a lot of words and phrases that are completely different from standard Japanese. One explanation, I read, about why Akita dialect takes on a relaxed pronunciation is because it is so cold in Northern Japan which makes it difficult therefore leading to an unclear pronunciation. While I don’t know how accurate this is I thought it was an interesting explanation for the variation in the language compared to standard Japanese.
“Damagonabe” also known as “tamagonabe” is a soup dish that contains rice balls, various vegetables such as burdock root and spinach, and meats such as beef or chicken. 
While visiting Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture with one of my classes, I got to experience native women speaking with heavy Akita dialect. During a cooking session where local women taught us how to cook a local dish called “Damagonabe” a type of soup, one of my classmates, from Tokyo, (where they speak standard Japanese) expressed how she could barely understand what the women were saying. Personally, I could only notice a few instances when the dialect was prominent because my Japanese is not at a level where I can tell the difference yet.

Akita dialect also has several sounds such as ne and ke that can be used for several different meanings. Here is a list of ne examples which is one of my favorite things I learned!

ない=ね(ne) = no

ないじゃん=ねね(nene) = isn’t it?

寝ないじゃん=ねねね(nenene) = I will not sleep

寝れないじゃん=ねれねね(nerenene) = I cannot sleep

寝なきゃ=ねねば(neneba) = I have to sleep

寝なきゃいけないじゃん=ねねばねね(nenebanene) = I have to go to bed

Friday, November 16, 2018

Kansai-ben (Shelby)

I’d heard from many people before I came to Kansai Gaidai that if I went there, I would have to deal with Kansai-ben. I didn’t think much of it, it’s just more Japanese that I would have to learn, or at least get used to, right? So far, that’s mostly how it’s been-- I’ve listened to how people speak, and while some things took longer to figure out, and sometimes an explanation, I figured out the common expressions they use here. I also learned that many students here, or at least many of the ones that I’ve talked to, aren’t from the area and don’t know Kansai-ben.
Kansai Region
A couple of the first words/phrases I heard and noticed were うち (uchi) and ~へん (hen). For the longest time, I could not figure out why people were saying うち. The only thing I could think of when they said it was “house,” and that made no sense at all, making it hard for me to follow the rest of what they said. It wasn’t until a day in Japanese class, several weeks in, that I learned うち is used in the same way as 私 (watashi). After that, things made so much sense since I wasn’t focused on the thought, “What does any of this have to do with a house?”

I had a much easier figuring out when people used へん at the end of their verbs. This was mainly thanks to a lot of context-heavy situations when people didn’t understand either what I was trying to say or they just didn’t know an answer to a question. Then they would use 分からへん (wakarahen) instead of 分からない (wakaranai). It still took a long time to puzzle it out, but I was able to do it myself.
Kansai-ben examples
Since I’ve been here, I haven’t really heard anyone talk about Kansai-ben, other than to say that they don’t know it. The people who do know it, as I mentioned in another post (I think), don’t seem to know which words are Kansai-ben and which are “standard” Japanese. In a way, as Furukawa-sensei mentioned during a recent class, this is kind of a way in which they take pride in their dialect-- they don’t have the same kind of boundaries that those with other dialects in Japan do. They don’t try to speak “standard” Japanese to people because they either don’t feel a need to or don’t know the difference in what they’re saying to what is considered “standard.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Osaka History Museum (Keaton)

When I started school at Kansai Gaidai, everyone received a booklet which allows free admission to many museums in the Osaka area. With one of the selected prompts being a trip to a museum, I thought this is the perfect chance to try it out. I chose to go to the Osaka history museum.

The museum was divided into four levels of exhibits. The first level focuses a lot about artifacts from around the Jomon period through the Yayoi period. This includes tools, dioramas of settlement layouts, and religious practices. The theming gave off a very mysterious vibe. There was mostly dark lighting with music played with very “traditional” sounding instruments of flutes and strings.
One of the displays in the first exhibit.
The second exhibit took place in the Edo period and explained daily life and major event during this time. This part felt most like a story where a Bunraku puppet, named Naniwaya, explained every part of the exhibit in an upbeat tone. The last exhibit was about the “Great Osaka Era.” This part is advertised as a look at modern and contemporary Osaka. This floor has large replicas of trains and markets from an early 1900 time frame.
The large set for "The Age of Greater Osaka"
I felt like the story that was being told in this museum is a very positive one. First off, the names for exhibits are grand titles like “The Age of Great Distribution” or “The Age of Greater Osaka”. This also shows in the presentation. Every picture, statue, and cut out has a smile on their face. I had a hard time finding a part of the museum that talked about any negative events or tragedy. This seemed to paint a very nice picture of Osaka, but does not seem to tell both sides of the story. There are also big gaps in eras covered. The museum went from their “ancient” exhibit, to the Edo period, and then to the 1900’s. It feels like there were a lot of events not covered and the museum was very selective in what they presented. Despite my criticisms, I understand that a lot of the presentation is for kids, and it was nice to see the kids engaged in the colorful and extravagant sets they had. And in the end, I am glad that the kids were excited to learn about history.