Friday, September 30, 2011

The Bane of My Life - Kanji

You know, I really admire those bloggers who churn out posts everyday or every other day. I am struggling as it is to even post three pathetic write-ups in a month. Say what? Oh I forgot. These are FULL TIME bloggers and they get PAID for it. I have been blogging for 15 months and haven't seen or smelled a CENT. Thankfully, the Samurai is well and able to feed me. Also thankfully, I can find self-gratification writing posts that only a handful of people will ever read. I guess that is enough for me to spend the next 1 hour typing another insipid post on something Japan related.

So I am finally down to the last two lessons of Intermediate 1, before embarking on a boot camp to sharpen up my skills and knowledge before my FIRST Japanese exam, the JLPT 5. Failure is not an option, dude, no sir, not for the brilliant-minded Fat Geisha, who was an A-grade nerd in school. Of course, good grades then were a matter of sheer will and brain power, but 20 years later, my brain cells have been dying off bit by bit despite my best efforts to ignore this fact. 

Which brings me to my hated subject - Chinese. I speak Chinese well enough - actually pretty good to win story-telling competitions (yes, in Mandarin). But I so hate writing Chinese characters. Unlike most other languages of the world, each freaking word is a unique character and there are up to 8,000 (or more?) Chinese characters in the Chinese dictionary and a normal adult should know about 3,000 characters (I doubt I am under the "normal" category though). You need to have the MEMORY of a computer to remember all those Chinese characters! I still remember vividly that it was such a pain writing compositions in Chinese. After 18, once I was done with my A-Levels, I swore I wouldn't touch written Chinese again, and didn't....until NOW.

The Japanese Kanji is like my greatest recurring nightmare. Some of them ARE Chinese characters, some of them are VARIATIONS of Chinese Characters, some LOOK like Chinese characters but are actually NOT Chinese characters. Since my Chinese vocabulary is quite weak to begin with (in terms of word recognition, not speech), after learning Japanese Kanji, I no longer know if a particular word is Chinese or Japanese. Is that a REAL Chinese character? Or just a Japanese variation?? I cannot tell. It is screwing up what little Chinese knowledge I have.

To rub salt in the ever enlarging wound, a single Kanji character has up to three!!! or four!!!! pronunciations! And three!!! or four!!!! different meanings! How in the world am I ever going to remember them with my diminishing brain capacity!? Are they crazy? Insane? What is wrong with Hiragana?! Or Katakana? Seriously dudes! Aren't you enemies with the Chinese or something? Can't you not just drop Kanji?

The only thing positive (if one can call it that) is that I enjoy doing Kanji homework (as compared to the others). It is the brainless writing of characters (like when you are back in nursery practicing your alphabets) and you can do it while drooling over Kimura-san on TV.

Doing my Kanji homework!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cat Adventures: Maru Desu (まるです)

Ever since my beloved pooch, Waggie, passed into eternity more than a year ago (14 months to be exact), I have been without a dog, and I had dogs since I was 11 years old. As an adult, it is infinitely more difficult to commit your time and love to the little canine, what with all the various distractions and responsibilities one has to face each day. But the death of my dear friend of 15 years (!!!) left a huge gaping hole in my life that even the Samurai cannot quite fill (I mean, he is not cute and furry after all. HAIRY, but not furry. Heh.)

Thankfully, in our neighbourhood we have a number of the cutest stray cats in Singapore, all lovingly cared for by a group of "cat ladies" who fed them with the best food, and brought them to the vet when they got injured or sick. Both the Samurai and I have made friends with these cats. (Samurai, for some reason, LOVES CATS, but cannot keep one as he is allergic to fur.) We feed the strange motley of cats with treats frequently, and play with them almost everyday. Although they are not as passionate as dogs, they have come to recognize us, and will come to us to be stroked (or fed).

Just this weekend, we found a new kitten meowing pathetically under a car. Since all the cats in our neighbourhood have been neutered, this newbie must have been abandoned! It turned out to be the MOST GORGEOUS Siamese kitten I have ever seen, with the most magnetic blue eyes EVER. We brought it up to our house (very dangerous for new kitty to be outside), and I fed and played with it for a good three hours.

Young Blue Eyes.

I totally fell in love. For the first time since Waggie's passing, I was tempted to keep a pet that is NOT a hamster. The Siamese kitten was playful and extremely intelligent. It was also very expressive in its adoration, being a motherless kitten and all. When it got tired of exploring our house, it promptly jumped onto my lap and fell asleep!! Such a dear. But one look at the Samurai sent my hopes crashing down to earth again. Unless I want to murder my husband, using the "Death by Fur" method, i.e. flood his windpipes with fur and make him gag to death, we cannot keep the cat. In the end, VERY reluctantly, I had to let the little kitty go to Samurai's colleague, who has experience in rehabilitating and re-homing cats. :(

The little dear falling asleep on my lap. Isn't he the sweetest feline?!!??!!?

In view of Samurai's physical weaknesses, we normally admire cats from afar, including on YouTube. Unless you are a cat hater or from Mars, you should have heard of the most famous Internet cat from Japan, known as "Maru". He is a tubby Scottish Fold cat and his adventures (he gets into the most laughable scrapes with boxes) are faithfully recorded by his mysterious female owner, mugumogu. He even has his own blog ( and a book out now too! (For those practicing Japanese, the blog is in both English and Japanese.) Amazing.

Some of his funny videos I have posted below. Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Drama Review: JIN Seasons 1 and 2 (Spoilers)

So, you thought this blog was dead? I did warn you admirers out there that due to a myriad of responsibilities, I would not be able to post as frequently as I would like to. Of course, much of last week I was busy falling sick, and since I was stranded at home half dead (together with the Samurai who received the flu bug from me), we had nothing better to entertain us but watching Season 2 of my favourite historical-cum-medical drama series, JIN.

Those who have been following this blog, or those who know me personally will know that despite my overt Nippon-phile status, I have shown a marked preference for Korean dramas over Japanese dramas. For one, I think the Korean actors are infinitely better looking, with the exception of my dear Kimura-san, and Fukuyama-san.The Japanese dramas also conclude too speedily for my liking, usually within 10 episodes. Although this makes for speedy viewing and less endless plot dragging, it is difficult to get invested in the show and the lives of the characters. This is not too say that the Japanese drama scene is not without its gems, and JIN is one.

Oh JIN! How much I love thee! Even though the main lead is played by someone totally unfamiliar to me - Osawa Takao), we brought the first season last year based on the STRONG recommendations of the Evil One, and became engrossed hook, line, sinker. This drama series has all the elements that I love: time travel, period setting, political intrigue based on actual historical events, tight medical plots, realistic gore, unexplained mysteries and an unfulfilled love story (did not really like this part but more on that later)

In a nutshell, the main story arc was about a modern day surgeon named Minakata Jin (hence the title of the show), who was roped in to operate on the brain of a nameless injured man found in a park, and found a tumor which was shaped like a fetus (gross). Jin himself was depressed because he had just lost his beloved girlfriend, Miki to brain cancer and blamed himself for his inability to save her. The nameless man was then caught by Jin trying to steal medical supplies, and in a struggle, he fell down a flight of stairs and found himself transported back to the end of the Tokugawa period of Edo (Old Tokyo), in late 19th century, a few years before the Meiji restoration, where the samurai still roamed. The mystery of how and why he travelled back in time was not unravelled until the last episode of Season 2! (Imagine my frustration as we waited for Season 2 to be shown!)

In Edo, Jin found himself rescuing a young samurai named Tachibana Kyotaro and was taken in by his family, which included his beautiful and brainy younger sister, Saki (played by the gorgeous Ayase Haruka), who later fell in love with Jin and decided to follow him in learning medicine (a strict no-no for women in olden times). This was followed by a series of mini stories in which Jin used his modern medical skills to assist the Edo folks, which included scenes of bloody operations, and also his "invention" of penicillin to treat  injuries and diseases, making himself a phenomena and garnering a number of followers who together set up a medical hall "Jin Yu Do", to help the poor. Along the way, Jin got entangled with historical characters like Sakamoto Ryoma which resulted in a comical bromance of sorts, and met a dead-ringer of his dead girlfriend Miki, who was a famed geisha in Edo. Whoa!!! Many things going on indeed, yet they came together oh so beautifully.

Jin and Ryoma - An Edo Bromance

The individual stories were beyond moving, and the actors convincing in their happiness and grief. How many times did I find myself teary throughout the 22 episodes of Season 1 and 2??! Totally lost count. Jin himself was not the typical drama hero - besides his superb medical skills and soft heartedness, he was actually a bit of a weakling and a total waffling character, compared to the quiet determination and sureness of Saki. Their love was a love not meant to be, although many times I wished I could smack them out of their doldrums, and tell them to "go to bed already!" and stop their self-sacrificial nonsense. It just doesn't cut it with me that divided through time and space as they were, they were contented in their knowledge for their love for one another. Total and utter BS! Gah!

RIP Jin and Saki

But all things considered, Jin is one show with a lot of heart, and a totally superb script. Both the Samurai and I are concurrently watching the Ryoma series, acted by the delectable Fukuyama-san, but it bores us both to tears with all the slow moving action. So even a good looking actor cannot keep me awake if the script sucks.

So what else is there to do now? Go watch the damn bloody drama. You, the readers, I mean.