A Japanese Linguistic NINJA(L)

〜〜Konnichiwa mina san こんにちはみなさん〜〜

After my SEA roundtrip to Phuket and China where I visited some of my friends, I arrived back in Taiwan. I was running in Pudong airport in Shanghai to get my flight because I had to queue for two hours just to get through the security check, but it turned out to be no problem — apparently China occasionally bullies Taiwanese airlines, resulting in a delay of two, three hours. Maybe we should call this a case of sai weng zhi ma 塞翁之馬 “The old man at the border’s horse”. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this Chinese saying; it basically means that bad things can become good things and vice versa. Anyway, the main topic of this blogpost will be my participation in a conference in Japan, at the end of December 2016. So in order to get there, let me first quickly do an overview of the time between my arrival back in Taiwan and before going to Japan.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

November was a pretty normal month, filled with the mundane passage of time (read: whatever other philosophical paraphrase you are into that describes that the days went by). Only two notable things happened and I am only going to tell you one :-). The other is an event to celebrate Belgium’s King day (I did not know that was a thing), but I got to meet up with some Belgian friends of mine, as well as take a selfie with Tintin, a.k.a. Kuifje.

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Once upon a December…

So when December rolled in, and Taiwan stayed warm, there wasn’t any real Christmassy feeling. However, I was too busy to notice, because I was watching reruns of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Later I wrote a paper about it for Prof. Lu’s 呂 course on Linguistics in Animation. If you are interested or have comments or questions about the draft, please feel free to comment. You can find the paper here. Also, a funny anecdote: I mistyped this once as Aribender in a first draft of my paper, which prompted my Japanese speaking friend to burst out in laughter — ari 蟻 is Japanese for ‘ant’. Ha.

Next, let us talk about Japan.

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NINJAL

I flew to Japan to participate in a conference called ‘Mimetics in Japanese and Other Languages of the World’ (⽇日本語と世界諸⾔言語のオノマトペ). I was superexcited, not in the least because presenting my poster would give me the opportunity to meet many important people in my field. You can find the poster itself if you click here (also, let me know if these links don’t do what they are supposed to do please).

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The conference itself was held in the NINJAL. I know what you are thinking — NINJAs!!!!! Well, I must admit I also thought of NINJAs of Linguistics (that was what the L was doing, obviously). Turns out they had just had a good brainstorming session, because NINJAL is (of course!) short for National INstitute of JApanese Linguistics. _shinobi_style.

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The place where this event was held was Tachikawa 立川市, a nice little city next to Tokyo most people haven’t heard of. It was freezing cold (寒いですねー) and I was very glad I had packed my winter outfit. That being said, Japan was so nice. The weather was very clear, the 711s were even more convenient than in Taiwan, and the people were very friendly. I must say I did benefit from having studied a year of Japanese in Leuven before, and some of the most frequent expressions were really useful in daily life. Okay, so back to the conference: Team Taiwan — as I unofficially call Prof. Lu, me and our Korean buddy Ian — arrived in the early morning of the first day, having passed the Japanese Ikea, which reminded me of the Ikea in Breda (Netherlands). Or maybe all Ikeas are look-a-likes. I haven’t made my mind up yet.

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The most important part (and most nervous part) of the conference was of course the presentation of my poster. Here are some pictures of how that went down. I must say that the people who I talked to asked some really interesting questions, but they did seem to agree with my baseline. So I wrote a paper about it for our seminar class.

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The rest of the conference was organized very well and the presentations were generally very interesting. Of specialest interest to me were Janis Nuckolls and Mark Dingemanse. So go check them out if you have time and feel like doing that, or even better, when you have a burning hunger for knowledge about Quichua and Siwu. This group photo is the last I will write about this conference here, but I would like to go again.

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Tik Tok Tokyo

Congratulations, you survived the serious part of this blog update! Because I had a Christmas party and my TA job waiting for me back in Taipei on Wednesday, my time in Tokyo itself was quite limited — more precisely to 1 day. Fortunately, I was able to make most of it. Firstly, my dear friend Antonio, who I met in NTU during a summer school two summers ago lives in Tokyo, so I was ultra thrilled to be able to see him again and I would like to thank him for having me over! Gracias!

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The day I spent in Tokyo I did the following things (I must admit it was hard to fit it all in one streamlined trip, but I did manage):

Yasukuni Shrine

I went to this place because every time the prime minister Abe Shinzo visits it, China gets angry and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. In this shrine, founded by the Meiji Emperor in 1869 commemorates all those who have died for the Empire. It also houses some war criminals and has a history museum built next to it that tells a slightly twisted version of events. Here are pictures (also, notice the very cool metal torii gate in the first picture).

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During my visit I observed the locals and the way they performed their rituals (washing hands, throwing money, and clapping). It is very interesting to see religion still being kept alive. Also, I discovered the Japanese(?) custom of collection stamps in a dedicated stamp booklet. It looks cool.

Asakusa Shrine

This shrine is one of the oldest in Tokyo and one of the most frequented. It is located near Tokyo’s Skytree tower, which I unfortunately could not visit because of time constraints. The area is crowded with tourists and Japanese riksha boys.

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Shibuya

I really wanted to see Shibuya because of two reasons: the statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog that kept waiting day in day out for its master, even after its master passed away. Sad story. I met Antonio at this statue.

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The other reason for Shibuya was to cross the street. You must think I am crazy, but if I show you this clip of World Order in Shibuya, you will know why — hint: it’s the prototype of Japanese businessmen crossing in all directions. It’s cool.

Sushi

Antonio took me to a sushi place and it was sushi and sashimi I ate. I discovered I quite like real wasabi — we had to grind it ourselves —, but not that green fake factory flubber that you usually get. Because food was a big thing on this trip, I am just going to put some pictures here.

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Onsen

Later that night, Antonio took me to an onsen. No pictures of that though :-).

Back to Taipei

The next morning I had to say goodbye to Antonio and Antokyo. It was quite sad I thought, because I would have loved to stay longer. I know I will be back. Here is a fake picture of Antonio crying.

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As my plane flew from Haneda airport, I could see the Fuji mountain, one of Japan’s symbols and that occurs twice in pictures above. I watched the movie Kimi no Na wa 君の名は “Your Name”, Japan’s best selling animated movie, and for a reason. When I was back I couldn’t stop myself from relistening the soundtrack over and over. But alas, the warm December breeze of Taiwan was already spottable from my aircraft as I descended into Songshan airport, listening to whatever songs the plane had to offer. I longed for Japan, and not even books, nor drugs could help me.

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Luckily that night was the Christmas party of our department. We performed and had lots of fun. I think these kind of events are good for the spirit of a department and I wish it would happen in the summer semester as well. The real Christmas Eve I celebrated with some of my department mates and a nice visit by my Spanish friend Celia with whom I spent some days afterwards, going to restaurants she likes. Last pictures for today!

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Thank you for reading. Here is a pokemon store.

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And now a sad note, it has been a year since my dog Jack died (right on this day) and writing this long overdue update has enabled me to cope. So thank you to my readers, whoever you are. If you want to read more about that unfortunate event, you can find it here.

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