First Annual Step Up Japanese Christmas Party

 First Annual Step Up Japanese Christmas Party

We went to Goemon  arguably the home of Brighton's best ramen - at the end of term for a celebratory bowl of noodles. The inaugural Step Up Japanese Christmas party!

I wanted to introduce my students in different classes to each other, and to celebrate what you've all achieved in 2016.

Oh, and to eat ramen. I love ramen.

I didn't take many photos (oops - too busy having a nice time!) but here they are:

↓ (I know it's blurry but I think it catches the mood! Do you know how to say "blurry" in Japanese?)

Not one to miss a "teachable moment", I also wanted to encourage everybody to order in Japanese.

So we practiced in class the week before. Ordering in restaurants is probably one of the most useful things you can learn how to do in another language.

Everyone ordered confidently, the staff were super helpful, and I was (am!) a very proud teacher.

Thanks SO MUCH for all your support over the last year! メリークリスマス! 

Sarada at the Resutoran...Part 2: The Answers

Remember, some loanwords look and sound a bit like English - but they're not!

Last week I gave you some Japanese loanwords to guess the origins of. Did you guess what languages (not English!) these words come from?

Koohii コーヒー coffee -  Portuguese

Zero ゼロ zero - French

Pompu ポンプ pump - Dutch; Flemish

Botan ボタン button - Portuguese

Koppu コップ cup - Dutch; Flemish

Sarada サラダ salad - Portuguese

Kokku コック cook - Dutch; Flemish 
There have actually been Dutch and Portuguese loanwords in Japanese since the 16th and 17th centuries, when both countries established trade with Japan.

So, next time you see a katakana word you don't recognise, don't despair - it might not have originated from a language you speak! ;-)

Hey Say What Now? A Brief Introduction to the Japanese Calendar

"Japanese Calendar? Oh, I think I got one of those free with my sushi delivery..."

Did you know that Japan has its own numbering system for the years? As well as the Gregorian calendar (the same calendar used in the west, the one that says it's 2016 now), Japan uses another system which names years after the reign of the emperor.

(The western calendar is commonly used too - and the two systems can be used interchangeably.)

So, what's the date?

2016 is the 28th year of the current emperor, whose posthumous name will be Heisei. So 2016 is the Japanese year Heisei 28.

January 15th 2016 can be written in Japanese as:

Heisei 28nen 1gatsu 15nichi

(Japanese dates go from big to small: year → month → day)

Or even:
Cool, huh?

A year in seven days

The only confusing part comes in the year of the death of an emperor (and the ascension of their successor).

Because there are two reigning emperors in the same year, the two parts of the year get different names.

Emperor Hirohito died in the 64th year of his reign, on 7th January 1989. So the "year" Showa 64 was only seven days long. The rest of 1989 (from January 8th onwards) got the name Heisei 1.

Date-spotting in Japan

The Japanese system is commonly used in New Year’s greetings. You might see the year written in kanji too:

Heisei nijuuhachi nen
(Heisei 28, aka 2016)
You can also see it on coins in Japan.

↓ What year is this from?
Image: Wikipedia
You don't need to memorise the dates of all the emperors, though (unless you want to). There are apps and online converters that will tell you any year in the Japanese equivalent.

Elizabeth 64

If this all seems strange, remember that we do this in other languages, too. When we talk about "the Victorian era" (the years of Queen Victoria’s rule) or “the Victorians” (people who lived during that time), that's basically the same thing.

We just don’t name the individual years after the current ruler. We could if we wanted, though, I guess...?