Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 8) - O-settai, or, "I'll treasure this tissue case"

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 8) - O-settai, or, "I'll treasure this tissue case"

Near Kumadani-ji, temple number 8, we had stopped in front of some glorious cherry blossom, and I got chatting to two older gentlemen who were walking the trail. One told me he had never spoken to a gaijin-san, foreigner, before.

(The cynic in me wonders if that’s really true, or if by “foreigner” he meant “white person”…)

We took some pictures in front of the cherry blossom, and walked up the hill together.

Further up the road, a lady came out of her house and gave us some hard-boiled sweets ...

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Japanese guys don’t want your Valentine’s Day chocolate anyway

ハッピーバレンタインデー! Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day in Japan is pretty different from the U.K.  There's honmei choko (chocolate for someone you're into),  giri choko (obligation chocolate), and even tomo choko (chocolate for friends)...

And a month later there's White Day to contend with.

One survey revealed that 90% of Japanese men said they didn't care about getting Valentine's Day chocolate, and wished women wouldn't bother. Click here to read an article I wrote for SoraNews24 on the subject.

(It's from a couple of years ago, but I think it's still super relevant... especially on Valentine's Day).

P.S. are you looking for the next instalment in the Calligraphers of Instagram series? It'll be back in March :)
Why not read Part 1, Part 1-and-a-half, and Part 2 while you wait?

Calligraphers of Instagram (bonus pun!) - @yogai888emi again

I can't believe I wrote an entire blog post about calligrapher @yogai888emi and forgot to include this amazing pun.


tai ryouri ga tabe-tai

"I want to eat Thai food."

What's the Japanese word for "Thai?" it's タイ tai.

And how do you say "want to eat" in Japanese? You stick -tai on the end of the verb.

It's funny, right?

Cute, too ♡

Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 1) - @yogai888emi

I absolutely love kanji - Chinese characters that are also used in Japanese writing.

But calligraphy is not my strong point. My writing is good, but not particularly beautiful.

I have, however, recently become slightly obsessed with instagrammers who post Japanese calligraphy photos.

So I thought it might be fun to share some with you!

I first discovered @yogai888emi via this adorable story about falling asleep on the train.

↓ Look at those lovely clean lines. I immediately had serious handwriting envy.

A post shared by 恵美・曄涯 (@yogai888emi) on

Can you read this one?
↓ 掃除 (souji) "cleaning"

If kanji's not your thing, you can find beautiful hiragana and katakana on her page too.

↓ ハナゲ (hanage) "nose hair"

There are videos, too, if you like watching calligraphy. I do - I find it strangely relaxing.

↓ 煮える (nieru) to boil, to be cooked. This one's from the height of summer!

You can find heaps more of her work at @yogai888emi's instagram page. I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I do.

Just looking at calligraphy won't make your handwriting more beautiful though - unfortunately!

Six Ways To Say "Happy Birthday" In Japanese

Whether you're sending a birthday card, or writing on a friend's Facebook wall, it's good to share.

And you'll want to wish your Japanese-speaking friends "happy birthday" in Japanese, right?

Here are six different ways to share the love.

First of all, let's say Happy Birthday:

1) お誕生日おめでとう! o-tanjoubi omedetou

Simple and classic, this one means "happy birthday", or literally "congratulations on your birthday".

2) お誕生日おめでとうございます。 o-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu

Stick a "gozaimasu" on the end to make it more polite.

Good for people older than you, people you know less well, and definitely good for your boss.

3) ハッピーバースデー!happii baasudee!

This one is actually one of my favourites - a Japan-ified version of the English phrase.

If you're writing a message, it's good to follow up after the birthday greeting by also wishing the person well:

1)  楽しんでください tanoshinde kudasai

"Have fun!"

e.g. お誕生日おめでとう!楽しんでください ^ ^
"Happy birthday! Have fun :)"

2) 素敵な一日を sutekina ichinichi o

"Have a great day."

e.g. お誕生日おめでとう!素敵な一日を〜
"Happy birthday! Have a great day."

3) 素晴らしい1年になりますように subarashii ichinen ni narimasu you ni

"I hope it's a wonderful year for you."

e.g. お誕生日おめでとうございます。素晴らしい1年になりますように。
"Happy birthday. I hope you have a wonderful year."

As you may have noticed, birthday messages wishing someone well for the year are kind of similar to a New Years' Greeting in Japanese.

それじゃ、ステキな一日を!And with that, I hope you have a wonderful day!

落語を見に行ってきた! We Went to See Rakugo at the Brighton Fringe And It Was All Kinds of Awesome


The first time I heard of rakugo I was at the weekly Japanese conversation club at MER Cafe in Nagoya in 2011, and the teacher / awesome boss lady Akiko-sensei was telling me about an event they were holding the following week.

"This man Sunshine-san is very famous," she told me. "He does traditional Japanese comic storytelling in English."

"Pfft," I thought to myself. "I don't want to see a show in English. I didn't come to Japan to watch stuff in English!"

Well, six years later I saw that same show right here in Brighton, and boy was I wrong.

Akiko wasn't lying when she told me that Katsura Sunshine is famous. He's the first ever western storyteller in the history of the “Kamigata” Rakugo tradition, and the second western Rakugo performer ever in the history of Japan.

A post shared by Sunshine Rakugo (@katsurasunshine) on

Rakugo means "falling words", which makes little sense in English but a bit more sense in Japanese.

Raku (落) means fall, and the same kanji as ochi 落ち which is the Japanese word for "punchline". Each comic story ends with an abrupt turnaround - a punchline.

The storyteller sits on stage in seiza (that kneeling position people in Japan do in formal situations) and tells stories using only a fan and a little cloth as props.

So I thought this might be an ideal spring trip for my students - accessible and fun! Plus, I really wanted to go and see what all the fuss was about.

A post shared by Sunshine Rakugo (@katsurasunshine) on
We went last Sunday, the last night Sunshine was playing at the Brighton Fringe. There were thirteen of us and the theatre was super tiny, so we took up about half the seats. 

I needn't have worried about the show being in English - the subject matter is basically all Japan! And there were plenty of jokes about the complexity of the Japanese language, and the entertaining perils of being abroad in Japan. That got a lot of laughs from our group...

A lot of the stories (dialogue etc.) is actually left untranslated from Japanese, which is great I think. You can pick up some Japanese words from context, but the show makes sense even if you don't speak Japanese.

The first half of the show was kind of like stand up (except of course he's sitting down) and the second half is storytelling. It was way more fast-paced than I expected.

↓ Post-rakugo pint

I should probably have gone and seen him in Nagoya six years ago...but I'm glad I got a second chance!

I won't spoil the show for you - you should go and see it if you get the chance - but you can check him out on YouTube if you'd like to hear what rakugo in English might be like.

Happy Friday! 素敵な1日を過ごしてください〜

Top picture and bottom pictures are mine; the others are Sunshine's, but you probably guessed that ^_^