I’m back in (freezing cold) Japan after spending a pleasant week doing Australia stuff including hanging out with local wildlife, zooming through more roundabouts than exist in the entire U.S. and wondering at the country’s high per capita number of liquor stores. My wife had fun too, though predictably it was a challenge for her to understand the ‘Stralian accents she encountered. While Japanese often learn a blend of British and American English in school, their affinity for Hawaii and California means they’re usually more comfortable with North American English. Naturally certain kinds of spoken Japanese are easier for foreigners to pick up than others, with standard (Tokyo) speech being easier than, say, colorful dialects like Akita-ben from northern Japan. For me, the easiest-to-understand character in anime is Koizumi from the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, with his precise, formal style of speaking.
Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S., a day for spending time with family and friends and giving thanks for all the good things we have. While I love the holiday as an American, the reality is that it can be difficult to get into the proper Thanksgiving spirit while living in a foreign country. Not only do the Japanese have almost zero awareness of turkey as a food category (though you can find small frozen turkeys at some import supermarkets), Japanese kitchens almost never have ovens suitable for doing proper baking in, with most families making do with microwaves or small toaster ovens. While I’ve got it better than most poor expats in Japan — there’s a Costco just down the freeway from J-List with pumpkin pies and pre-cooked chickens — I’ll probably take the path of least resistance and get a bucket of KFC, which has become a tradition for foreigners in Japan over the last decade or so.