Word of the Day: Denwa (でんわ – 電話)

Word of the Day: Denwa (でんわ – 電話) Meaning: Telephone. Use ‘suru/shimasu’ to make into the verb “to call on the phone.”

Example 1: あなたの でんわばんごうを おしえて ください。 / あなたの 電話番号を 教えて 下さい。 / Anata no denwa bangou wo oshiete kudasai. = Please tell me (“teach me”) your telephone number.

Example 2: わたしは でんわが にがてです。 / 私は 電話が 苦手です。 / Watashi wa denwa ga nigate desu. = I’m not good at phones. (E.g., I have a hard time speaking on the phone.)

Example 3: でんわしても いいですか? / 電話しても いいですか? / Denwa shite mo ii desu ka? = May I telephone (you)?

Example 4: ごご くじに でんわ して ください。 / 午後 九時に 電話して 下さい。 / Gogo kuji ni denwa shite kudasai. = Please call me at 9PM.

* Please click the play button in the bamboo logo to listen to the recording.


Ki wo kubaru / きをくばる

We’re always impressed by the little ways Japanese businesses show that they’re really thinking about the customer in Japan. At this outdoor cafe in Daikan-yama, Tokyo, on a sunny but brisk morning, there was a blanket on each and every chair for patrons to put on their laps.

The expression for thinking carefully about the experience and comfort of other people is 気を配る / きをくばる / ‘ki wo kubaru,’ and seeing it in action is always a delight.

Hanami @ Meguro River, Tokyo

Fickle weather couldn’t scare away the throngs of cherry blossom lovers in the Meguro area of Tokyo this past weekend. Happy people walked up and down the Meguro river, which forms the center of this charming neighborhood, sipping themed pink champagne and eating all manner of street food. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Hanami @ Ueno Park, Tokyo

It’s hanami (はなみ・花見) season here in Tokyo, and people were out in droves yesterday to see the cherry blossoms. This was the view at Ueno Park, where thousands of people laid out tarps and blankets and enjoyed a leisurely lunch, dinner, or both. Couples, friends, groups of salarymen, and families could be seen talking and laughing, and, aided by large bottles of beer and sake at virtually every table, a merry time was had by all. There was a particular sense of urgency since the weather was forecast to go rainy later, which it did that evening. It’s gray in Tokyo today, but here’s hoping we still have some blossoms left to enjoy when the sun comes out again this weekend.

Reporting live from Tokyo, your friendly Human Japanese team.

Su (す – 巣)

(す – 巣) Meaning: Nest (for birds, bees, and even animals such as foxes, which might require a specialized word like “den” in English).

Example 1: あれは とりの す です。/ あれは 鳥の 巣 です。/ Are wa tori no su desu. = That’s a bird nest.

Example 2: はちの す に ちかよらないように!/ 蜂の 巣に 近寄らないように!/ Hachi no su ni chikayoranai you ni! = Be careful not to get too close to the bees’  nest!

Photo: Rika Nakajima

Valentine’s Day

Barentain Dee (バレンタインデー)
Meaning: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and you know what that means, guys: Time to sit back and let the chocolate roll in! That’s right–in Japan, it’s the girls who give gifts to the guys, including friends and co-workers. When women buy chocolates  for people like their bosses at work, such gifts are known as ‘giri-choko,’ or “duty chocolate.” If this sounds one-sided, don’t worry. The score is settled one month later, on March 14, when Japan celebrates White Day, which works in reverse. But regardless of which version of Valentine’s Day you’ll be celebrating (if any), one thing everyone can agree on is the beauty of chocolate mousse.

Check out the Cooking With Dog video below for a delicious recipe. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!


Setsubun (せつぶん- 節分)
Meaning: Feburary 3rd is Setsubun-no-hi, “The day of Setsubun.” Setsubun is a festival in Japan held to herald the coming of spring.

Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the festival is a tradition in which children get to pelt their dads with beans. Mame-maki, as this is called, is about chasing out evil spirits from one’s house, and it works like this. A male member of each family, either someone whose zodiac sign is the same as the sign for the current year, or the father, puts on a demon (oni) mask and visits each room in the house while making scary poses. The children, armed with dried beans, bombard the oni while shouting ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ = “Demons out! Luck in!” Afterward, the beans that were not used as projectiles are eaten to wish for good luck in the coming year. These days, not everyone actually performs this tradition at home, but many families head to the local shrine to take part in other festivities.

Photo: Keiji Koizumi