Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Nihongo Jouzu!

Very true. At least in my own personal experience from my 4 1/2 years in Japan.

That is: in France and Japan, the deep-down assumption is that the language is pure and difficult, that foreigners can’t really learn it, and that one’s attitude toward their attempts is either French hauteur or the elaborately over-polite and therefore inevitably patronizing Japanese response to even a word or two in their language. "Nihongo jouzu! Your Japanese is so good!"


The American attitude towards English is: everyone should get with the program, there are a million variants and accents of the language, all that really matters is whether you can somehow get your meaning across. Because there are so many versions of Chinese in use within China, my impression is that the everyday attitude of Chinese people toward language is similar: You’re expected to try to learn it, no one will spend that much time mocking your mistakes, mainly they are trying to figure out what you’re trying to say.

Ivory Coast = France = Japan, in language habits at least – James Fallows

No Comments »

Sunday Salon: The Amazon Kindle Electronic Reader

kindleMy reading life is about to change.* I will soon be the owner of an Amazon Kindle electronic reader!

They came back in stock last week after having sold out in less than six hours after being released last December. When I learned that my sister would be coming to London on a business trip, I immediately ordered one for her to bring for me. Woohoo!!

I will be missing out on the wireless connectivity that’s available only in the U.S. but it’s much more important to me that I have access to books in a timely fashion. When we started our expat life in 1998, books in English weren’t always easy to find.

  • In Taiwan, there was a decent selection at Eslite even though I was at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.
  • In Japan, Maruzen was ok but it was very expensive. A couple of years after we’d moved there, launched and it was wonderful!!! (Yes, that deserved three exclamation points.)
  • In Vietnam, very few English books could be found in the shops except for classics. Relatively new releases with Vietnam as the main subject were available but only as pirated versions on the street corner. Otherwise, the International Ladies in Vietnam library was actually pretty well stocked but in disarray. So once again at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.

    I’m not trying to make it sound like I was very deprived, though. We made frequent trips to Singapore where the selection of English books between Borders and Kinokuniya is quite good. My personal stash of not-yet-read books is also consistently worth several months if not a year of reading.

  • Right now, we’re in London, UK which is, of course, fabulous for books but can still be quite pricey esp. compared to the U.S.

In contrast, Amazon Kindle books are $9.99 or less and available immediately for download.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available. The Kindle Store offers more than 100 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list and we’re adding more all the time. New York Times Best Sellers are $9.99, and you’ll find many books for less.

You spoiled lot in the U.S. will get to download sample chapters as well not to mention doing it all wirelessly (assuming you’re in the wireless coverage area). I, on the other hand, will be very satisfied with downloading my content via USB. Three features I’m really looking forward to are the built-in dictionary, search of all materials downloaded onto your Kindle, and clippings and notes which can be uploaded to the computer for other uses.

The first set of books I intend to download includes:

  • Escape by Carolyn Jessop
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (If you’re wondering why she has a number for her middle name, she added it herself when she was a teenager because “Jennifer” is too common.)
  • Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello
  • Pretty is What Changes by Jessica Queller

My books wishlist (started using delishlist in March) is, of course, much longer than this. Unfortunately, not all books are available for the Kindle. So while you may still find me at home with traditional paper books in hand, when out and about, I’ll most likely bring my Kindle.

What do you think of the Kindle and of eReaders in general? If you already have a Kindle, what books have you downloaded?

*Although hopefully not in the way of what’s been assumed about pregnant and post-partum women and their reading habits.

Join The Sunday Salon of readers!


The Chinese Way

From my personal experiences with both the Japanese and Chinese ways of doing things, I think James Fallow has it exactly right:

With usual caveats against sweeping generalization, what this made me think was: Japan is all about the way of doing things. Practice, ritual, perfectionism, as much fanatical attention to the process as to the result. China is all about finding a way to do things. Improvisation, little interest in rules, putting up with whatever is necessary to attain the result.

Now go check out his pictures of plane refueling in Japan vs. China. I couldn’t stop shaking my head in amuseument and dismay. *sigh*


Photo Project 365: Week 15

IMG 4653

One of the ugliest good luck charms ever. A gift from our time in Taiwan. It hangs in our dining room. (January 28, 2007)

IMG 4669

Star Wars droids group picture. (January 27, 2007)

IMG 4658IMG 4661

Stephen created these robots out of cardboard. Background story at Play Library. (January 26, 2007)

IMG 4651

A gift from our time in Japan (yes, I’m feeling rather uncreative this week when it comes to photo taking). It sits on a shelf in the kitchen. Stephen’s scared of it. (January 25, 2007)

IMG 4606

Woke up to snow! It was all melted by late afternoon. (January 24, 2007)

IMG 4582

Treasure chest filled with Zoob pieces. (January 23, 2007)

IMG 4586

My favorite pair of socks. Navy blue with pink toes and heel and a silver trim at the toe seam and ankle.

Participating in Project 365? Let me know so I can add you to my list.


Cottontimer’s Favorites

When Amazon Japan opened in 2000, Marv and I were its first and most loyal customers. Most important for me was being able to get almost any English language book at reasonable prices. It became especially handy when I got pregnant in late 2001 and I could get all the pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting books I needed. And, of course, I needed many. From November 2000 to April 2004, we must have placed about 50 orders from Amazon Japan.

My fondness for and have only grown over the years. Even if I see books I want at a brick and mortar bookstore like Waterstone’s, I will usually wait to get home and order them from Amazon because the prices are almost always cheaper. It’s good training for delayed gratification.

To share what I’ve been buying from Amazon, I’ve created a store that has some of our current favorite items available through Amazon. You can find the link in the sidebar to your right called “Go shopping with Cottontimer.” If you ever need to scratch that shopping itch, join me at Amazon!

1 Comment »

Watercolor Portrait

Image hosted by

Several people have asked me about my new user pic.
It’s a watercolor portrait of me painted in 2000 by Yabuno, an artist friend in Nagoya, Japan.
I had the honor of modeling for a couple of his watercolor classes and this was one of the paintings that resulted.
My mother says it looks like Hillary Rodham Clinton.

No Comments »

Take a Seat

London Underground is to give special badges to pregnant women
in a drive to encourage people to give up their seats for mums-to-be.
BBC News, March 7, 2005

When I got pregnant with Stephen, we were living in Japan and I took the subway at least three times a week. Most of the time, I would be able to avoid rush hour so there were plenty of seats, but sometimes all the seats were taken and nobody ever offered me a seat. Marv rode the subway with me once when I was about seven months pregnant and was outraged that I couldn’t sit down. He threatened to beat somebody up just to get a seat.

Even after Stephen was born and I used a sling to bring him out with me everywhere, I was offered a seat less than five times. And each time, the person who offered me the seat was an elderly woman who needed the seat almost as much as me (although older Japanese women are generally full of vim and vigor).

These “baby on board” buttons are obviously meant for women who aren’t showing yet when, as one rider put it,

In the early stages of pregnancy when no-one can tell you’re pregnant a lot of women feel sick and faint and it can be dangerous if they have to stand up in a crowded carriage.

Fortunately, I am big and strong and have never been considered fragile. Even during pregnancy, I experienced very few discomforts. But does that make me less deserving of a seat?

Personally, I would avoid announcing my pregnancy before it became obvious. There are psychos out there who target pregnant women. And, even though I am generally not superstitious, I’d also be a little afraid of jinxing myself.

In any case, if people pay as much attention to the badges as they do to the “baby on board” signs suctioned to car windows, pregnant women won’t be able to sit down anytime soon.

First seen at Blogging Baby.

No Comments »