Snow and thoughts. And sumo!

Hi all,

It’s cold. I remember back a few months ago writing on this blog and wondering if it would get cold. It’s cold. It’s not just that it’s cold outside; it’s cold inside too. There’s hardly any central heating in Japan, so everyone has personal heaters in their rooms instead. But boy, it’s sure hard to get out of bed in the morning when you can see your breath from under the covers. Luckily, because it’s on everybody’s minds, its easy material for idle chitchat.


It even snowed! Photo credit to Doshisha University.

It snowed on Friday and everyone in the school freaked out. This is the best video I ended up saving, not knowing that it would stop snowing and start to melt by the time I was out of class again.

As I walked out of of class to go to lunch, I noticed lots of students making snowmen out of the leftover snow. Snowmen in Japan are actually called ‘yuki daruma,’ which means ‘snow daruma‘ (like Yukiko/snow child).

The plum blossoms are strangely in bloom, though.

I still went to kyudo and practiced at my sensei’s house, even though he usually practices with the back door open. I have to say I’m getting pretty good at understanding him these days, and other people from Kyoto for that matter.

People in the Kansai area in Japan have a very strong and distinct dialect and it’s taken me some time to get used to it. I knew something was up when I went to see sumo in Tokyo (see below) and had trouble understanding people, even though the Tokyo dialect is what they teach in schools as standard Japanese. It’s definitely got thinking about how language works through personas more than most people might let on.

A persona of course is commonly understood as a ‘personality’ or a  ‘person’ that people take on in certain circumstances. Depending on the circumstance, there are many different personas that people can take on. It’s kind of like choosing a character from a gallery. Perhaps ‘take on’ might not be the best way to describe it, since more often than not you’re interpreted as a character rather than merely choosing it.

For instance, if you’re an old man living in the West in America, people can assume certain things about you. Maybe you speak with a slight accent, or wear boots, and maybe you’re a little more gruff and blunt that your old-guy pals over in the East. Of course people are human and not a single person is the perfect “Old Western Guy,” but there’s plenty of qualities that are open to you if you want to be seen as that persona. Inversely, there are plenty of well-known clues people can notice if they want to identify you as that persona.

What I’ve been learning in my language classes so far has mostly been focused on language bringing about certain situations. For example, if you want to buy something, say a certain phrase. If you say it correctly you’ll have bought something by the end of your interaction. Sometimes we also learn what to say in certain situations, like what language is acceptable at a fancy dinner party or unexpected with friends.

But I feel like we haven’t spent too much time on how personas fit into this. What person are you becoming when you say these words? How are you seen? What effect does that have on the situation? Think about if you used some rough language at a dinner party. By doing that, you’re projecting yourself as a ruffian (always wanted to use that word). This changes the whole situation because of what you’ve brought in from the outside. In this way, your language usage created a persona that belongs to a situation very far from a dinner party.

This seems a bit linear (language->persona->situation), but I think you can see how they interact and change each other as well. It’s really more of a web–or a dance–than a strict progression.

I’ve had a pretty good education in Japanese language and situations, but not a lot about how personas might work into the mix. I can tell you, after finding a website that teaches Japanese through 8 different, common Japanese characters (found in popular culture). It’s free and I just stumbled on it one day, but it’s a great idea. It’s changed the way I look at communication for sure. For those of you interested, the website is here.

At the end of the day, isn’t that the fun part of interacting with other people? Remembering situations and the people that inhabited them, and then becoming one of those people through language and the way you use your body? That seems like the meat of interaction to me. Maybe it’s just because it seems like it’s the one thing I knew least about, though…



Sumo! A huge week for sumo! Yesterday, the first Japanese wrestler in 10 years won a sumo tournament! Tears and joy. For quite a while now the sport has been dominated by foreigners. Mostly Mongolians, but there are also quite a few Europeans and Eurasians. Having thrown all three Mongolian yokozuna, wrestler Kotoshogiku became (again) the first Japanese wrestler in 10 years to win a sumo tournament! He also might be on his way to yokozuna promotion if people don’t watch out… Fans would go insane.

Sumo tournaments are two weeks long and are held 5 times a year. I actually ended up going to the second day of this past sumo tournament with my girlfriend about 2 weeks ago.

During that tournament, one of the yokozuna (1-4 of the top wrestlers who are chosen as the face of sumo) was thrown and lost the bout. This meant that everyone threw their cushions into the sumo ring. I had heard about this, but I was still surprised when it happened.

Even on the second day of that match, it was packed. Here’s what it looked like coming out:


I ended up missing Kyoto quite a bit, though.

It’s good to be back. And especially good to be back on my writing schedule again! If you want to see what my girlfriend and I did over the month she visited, here’s her blog. She did a much better job of updating. Almost every day. Which was a good thing, since each day was so full.

From here on out, I should be writing about every week or so again.

I  hope you’re all happy and healthy,


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