The Three Kubari’s: Expressing Consideration for Others

I recently started studying for N2. Today, my Japanese coworker explained the three くばり’s to me. They’re all related to taking care of something or someone, and they sound similar, so let’s look at their differences. We can understand and remember them by recognizing the meaning of the first kanji in the word. And, because I just got a WACOM tablet, as a bonus you receive crude, crappy drawings! Please enjoy~.

 

配り (めくばり)

This one is pretty straight forward. (め) means “eye”. This means to keep watch of something or someone. For example, this is used to talk about how a parent watches over a child.

The next two are really similar in meaning. They roughly translate to “to be considerate” or “to be thoughtful” of others. What’s the difference?

配り (きくばり)

The first kanji, (き) has several meanings, but here the most appropriate meaning is “atmosphere” or “mood”. The connotation of this word is that you see a situation now and you are considerate in the moment. For example, if you see your coworker is struggling with a situation, you might step in and help them. In essence, you are reading the atmosphere of a situation and being considerate of it.

配り (こころくばり)

The first kanji in this one, (こころ) means “heart” or “mind”. [CULTURE NOTE: In Japan, the heart and mind are the same. Whereas in Western culture we often feel with our heart and think with our head, in Japanese culture thoughts and feelings both come from the heart.] The connotation of 心配りis that you are always considerate of a certain person. For example, you might have a very close friend, lover, or family member who you are always thinking about and being considerate of no matter what. That person is always in your heart.

卍 : Trending Japanese Slang

 

This symbol has been popular with JK  (Joshi Kosei, or female high school students)  in the recent weeks. Let’s find out what it means to them.

 

High School Girls Love Swastikas????

 

A lot of Westerners might be upset seeing this symbol. They identify it as the Nazi swastika, which you can see on the left below this eagle. But please take a closer look. Compare it with the symbol below.

Notice anything different?

That’s right! The angle is different, and the image is flipped. The reason is that the Nazis appropriated this symbol for their own use, so they changed it a bit to differentiate it from its previous usage.

This symbol is called a manji in Japanese. The symbol “comes from Sanskrit, and is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism…[and] has to do with well-being, good luck and good health. It has a very long history in Japanese Buddhism, and even if it’s off tourist maps, it’s still found all over the country.

(A Japanese Temple)

 

Maji Manji: What do you mean???

In a similar way, JK are appropriating this Buddhist symbol for their own communication needs. “Maji” means “serious”, and is usually used in the same way that we say “Seriously????” (imagine the intonation of a teenage girl when you read this word).

I first heard about this slang from my high school first year (U.S. sophomore) students. Students are using the phrase “Maji Manji” or sometimes just the Manji symbol itself, but they can’t really explain it well. They said, “It doesn’t translate. It’s a feeling.” What they told me corresponds with the information found in this article. My students told me they use it because it’s quick, convenient, and flexible, so they can easily respond with 卍 when they are in a hurry. It is often used to express the feeling of “Seriously???”, likely because of its similarity to “Maji”. However, it can have other meanings depending on the context. It still seems to be mysterious even among its users, and it’s all up to the situation and relationship between the users to determine how it is interpreted.

 

 

 

 

Who Are You?: Determining Where Someone is from Using the Naked Eye

 

 

 

I was once walking down the street with my Japanese friend when a blonde, blue eyed woman passed by. He immediately turned to me and asked, “Where is she from?” I was instantly confused. How was I supposed to know that? He was adamant that he could tell the difference between Japanese and other Asians. Being from the U.S., the famed “melting pot” where birthplace is more usually more important than bloodline, this idea was strange and somewhat ridiculous to me.

 

It turns out that it’s a relatively common belief in Japan (and other Asian cultures, too, as shown in the video above) that you can look at someone’s face and know where they’re from based on genetic appearance. I’ve had other friends and past boyfriends express this to me as well, pointing to other people in Shinjuku and telling me, “Oh, that person is Korean. I know because [insert random facial feature information here]”

I wanted to find out if there was any truth to this.

The Answer

Continue reading “Who Are You?: Determining Where Someone is from Using the Naked Eye” >

Kaze wo hikanai de kudasai ne. (Don’t catch a cold!): Why do doctors treat a cold with antibiotics?

In Tokyo, the temperature is falling and the leaves are slowly dying. Everyone on the train is wearing a mask to protect themselves from getting a cold. “A cold” is translated as “風邪” (kaze) in Japanese. This word also means “wind”. It’s actually quite similar to our idea of the coldness around us making us sick, so our cultural ideologies about illness are comparable. But once you catch one, what should you do? That’s where we disagree.

 

 

One cultural misunderstanding that’s common between Japanese people and foreigners is how to deal with a cold. When Westerners have a cold, we usually don’t see a doctor because we believe there’s nothing the doctor can do; we just need to rest and get better. Whenever I have a cold, my Japanese co-workers urge me to go to see the doctor. They insist that any medicine I get from a pharmacy isn’t strong enough and that I need something stronger.
The few times I have seen a doctor, he prescribed antibiotics for a cold—a common practice in Japan. Westerners learn that antibiotics don’t work for colds. Are doctors trying to make patients happy by prescribing medicine? Are they just trying to make money off of you? Are they uneducated? Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading “Kaze wo hikanai de kudasai ne. (Don’t catch a cold!): Why do doctors treat a cold with antibiotics?” >