Tokyo Tales - Glossary
Japanese for "thank you". May be expanded to (the slightly more polite) arigato gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) or (the more polite again) domo arigato gozaimasu (どうもありがとうございます).
Short for "convenience store". Conbini in Japan are open 24hrs and sell nearly everything you would ever need for modern living, from newspapers to microwavable food to manga porn to nappies to lighter fluid to PlayStation games to concert tickets to whiskey to dog food to iPods to ski resort lift passes. Oh - and you can pay your utility bills too. All this at 4 in the morning, dressed in your pyjamas and Miffy slippers, and no-one will bat an eyelid.
Literally just means "very", but is used in casual Japanese for "thanks". A handy alternative to a full-blown domo arigato gozaimasu when thanking the conbini checkout clerk for bagging up your pocky sticks.
gaijin 外人 (がいじん)
Japanese word for "foreigner". Actually a contracted form of gaikokujin (外国人), literally "outside-country-person". Gaijin, on the other hand, drops the character for country and therefore more correctly means "outsider". Some therefore feel that the use of the word gaijin in place of gaikokujin is derogatory and serves to emphasize the de facto exclusion of foreigners from many aspects of Japanese society; see Wikipedia for more detail on this.
keitai 携帯 (ケイタイ)
A mobile phone, cellphone. Japanese keitai, while no longer light years ahead of their equivalents in the West, nearly all have built-in digital cameras, web browsers and e-mail clients. They are de rigeur as status symbols among Japanese teens, and are often highly customised with purikura stickers and multiple dangling strap accessories that may have a total combined weight of more than the keitai itself.
A mixture of the Japanese word for "child" (ko) and the english word "girl", it refers to a subset of teenage Japanese girls who sport all-year-round tans and dress in the latest fashions. Kogaru are the driving force behind most fashion and technology trends in Japan, forming as they do a massive, image-obsessed clique. No kogaru would be seen dead without her keitai, which will inevitably be plastered with purikura stickers.
Kyoto 京都 (きょうと)
Kyoto is a former capital of Japan; its name in fact means simply "capital city". Kyoto is famous for its temples and other buildings of historical importance. It is also home to the Gion district, traditional home of the geisha.
Arguably Japan's national pastime, pachinko is a kind of vertical pinball game played with hundreds of tiny steel balls, which are fed into the top of the machine and traditionally manipulated towards the bottom via a series of player-controlled knobs (although most modern machines are now electronic). The aim is to win more balls, which can then be exchanged for tokens, which can in turn be exchanged for cash. Although such gambling is technically illegal in Japan, a blind eye is turned as no cash prizes are awarded on the premises. Winners instead take their tokens out of the building and around the corner to separate kiosks where they can be redeemed for cash, which is apparently enough to satisfy Japan's lightning-smart police force that no actual gambling is taking place.
Japanese sweets are not known for being terribly tasty - or even edible - but Pocky are the exception. Your basic Pocky is a chocolate-covered biscuit stick, although new variations are released all the time. More addictive than crack, and almost certainly better for you.
Short for print club, a kind of instant photo booth that prints a number of small images directly onto stickers, which can then be peeled off, shared with friends and affixed to keitai, diaries, make-up cases and other common kogaru accoutrements. Print club machines have become more and more sophisticated in recent years, and many booths offer digital tools for post-production image manipulation (addition of stars, hearts, sparkly text and so on). It is an extremely popular social activity, and a large part of the fun is the squeezing of a large number of friends into the booth.
A staple of salariman dining options: noodles in soup. There are, however, literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of different varieties, mostly differentiated by the type of soup and toppings. Ramen is actually something of a national obsession, with the most popular restaurants drawing round-the-block queues, and marathon five-hour "ramen battle" shows on late-night TV pitting elite ramen crews from around the country against each other in a contest to feed a panel of hungry C-list tarento.
shinkansen 新幹線 (しんかんせん)
Known as "bullet trains" in the West, the literal translation of shinkansen is just "new trunk line". The fastest trains can reach speeds in excess of 300 kph. There are four shinkansen lines linking Tokyo with the rest of the country: the Tokaido Shinkansen, which goes to Osaka via Nagoya and Kyoto; the Nagano Shinkansen to, er, Nagano; the Joetsu Shinkansen to Niigata; and the Tohoku Shinkansen, which runs all the way to the northern tip of Honshu, with spurs off to Yamagata and Akita.
Tarento is derived from the English word "talent", and refers to any entertainment-industry celebrity in Japan. Many tarento's only noticable talent is an ability to get on TV a lot, but seeing as their appearances are all orchestrated by the talent agencies and TV networks, it is perhaps unfair to credit them even with that.
An exclamatory expression used to punctuate almost anything. You've just sunk a 15 yard putt? Yoosh! You've neatly parallel parked your car? Yoosh! You've just stood up? Yoosh!
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