Neuromancer – Japanese words…

This is a reblog/translation of a post by Héctor García…

During the 80s in the United States, Japan was started to be seen as the inevitable first economic power of the world. It went from being considered as the source of cheap imitation gadgets during the 60s and 70s to the country at the forefront of high quality technology. The neon lights and the small alleyways of Japan became the images used to depict the future in a number of science fiction films and books.

neuromancer-neones

 

 

neuromancer-neones2

A case in point is Neuromancer by William Gibson, a novel published in 1984 (the same year that Blade Runner came out) and whose atmosphere is based in a distopian Japan where technology has taken control over society.

 

neuromancer-matrixReading Neuromancer can be rather dense and there is a large number of “invented” words; not too dissimilar to other scifi works. For instance, the word “cyberspace” was first introduced by William Gibson in his novel entitled “Burning Chrome”. The word is also used in Neuromancer and it has actually become a common word used by all of us. Cyberspace, as a word, is rather easy to understand but as you keep reading the book on you end up finding paragraphs such as this one, full of words with Japanese origin:

“He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited sarariman, by spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattoed across the back of the man’s right hand … The sarariman had been Japanese, but the Ninsei crowd was a gaijin crowd.”

If you are not familiar with the meaning of these words, you actually can miss some of the nuances and details, mainly in the first few chapters. Here I have put together a vocabulary of Japanese words that appear in the novel.

Chiba City/ Ninsei: Chiba is a prefecture and city to the East of Tokyo where Narita airport is located and there are a pair of Disneyland parks. Case, the main character in the novel, lives in Chiba City and at the beginning of the book he hangs around “Night City” which is a zone between Chiba and Tokyo where there are criminals and drogadicts. Ninsei is the name of the high street in Night City. According to Gibson’s imagination, in the future, Chiba is full of arcades and artificial limb markets such as Alita, as well as hospitals specialised in neurosurgery.

“The Japanese had already forgotten more neurosurgery than the Chinese had ever known. The black clinics of Chiba were the cutting edge, whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly”

Chatsubo (茶壷): is the name of Case’s local. Chatsubo 茶壷 in Japanese is the name of the clay pots used to keep matcha tea leaves before they get ground.

neuromancer chatsubo

“The Chatsubo was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear two words in Japanese.”

Zaibatsu: is a group of large Japanese corporations usually under the control of the members of a single family. The term “zaibatsu” was widely used before World War Two. After the war, with the efforts to reconstruct the economy from scratch, “keiretsu” started appearing; they worked in a similar way to “zaibatsu” but they were not centralised or controlled by a single family. William Gibson uses the term “zaibatsu” in order to express the power of a large “monopoly” under the control of Japanese transnationals in the future he imagines.

Kirin: a well-know Japanese beer brand.

neuromancer-kirin

“Ratz was tending bar, his prosthetic arm jerking monotonously as he filled a tray of glasses with draft Kirin.”

Fuji electric Company: is a Japanese company founded in 1923 as a spin-off of the Furukawa zaibatsu.

“Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company, and the Tokyo Bay”

Shinjuku: one of the best known areas in Tokyo. It has a secondary roll in Neuromancer.

neuromancer-shinjuku

“He punched a Tokyo number in Shinjuku. A woman answered, something in Japanese.

Ono-Sendai: in the book this is a Japanese corporation that manufactures cyberdecks. In Japanese “Ono” means ax and “Sendai” is the name of a prefecture in Japan.

Pachinko パチンコ: is a kind of popular playing machine in Japan

Yakitori 焼き鳥: chicken skewers

neuromancer-yakitori

“He bought yakitori on skewers and two tall waxy cartons of beer. Glancing up at the holograms,.. “

Sarariman サラリーマン: businessman or woman employed by a corporation.

neuromancer-salaryman

“The Finn, in a new Shinjuku suit, sarariman black, was waiting sourly”

Mitsubishi-Genentech: William Gibson imagines a futre where the multinational Mitsubishi has been absorbed by the American Genetech.

Gaijin 外人: Japanese word that means “foreigner”, literaly it can be translated as “external person”.

Yakuza ヤクザ: is the largest criminal organisation in Japan, similar to the mafia.

`You’re Yak, aren’t you, Lupus? Gaijin soldierman for the Yakuza.’

Bosozoku 暴走族: Japanese urban tribe associated with motorbikes.

Shuriken 手裏剣: sharp metal stars used by ninjas in Japan. Case, the main character, is fascinated by shrunken.

Case pulled the shirt over his head. He saw the shuriken on the bed, lifeless metal, his star.

Manriki o Kusari-fundo 鎖分銅: a metal chain used in feudal Japan as a combat weapon.

Street Samurai 侍: Samurai were medieval Japanese soldiers who usually worked for a “daimyo” (feudal lord). Those samurai that were left without a daimyo became “ronin”. William Gibson uses the term “Street Samurai” to refer to mercenary criminals with “improved bodies”.

Ninja 忍者: Ninja were medieval Japanese mercenaries specialised on spying, sabotage and murder.

neuromancer-ninja

“The ninja produced a credit chip and keyed Smith that amount out of a numbered Swiss account.”

Hosaka: a Japanse surname. In the book it is used to refer to a well-know computer manufacturer.

`Your boss wiped the bank on that other Hosaka, and damn near took ours with it. But your pal Wintermute put me on to something.

JAL: Japan Air Lines, it is one of the Japanese carriers. In the book the main characters travel from Paris to Freeside in a JAL shuttle.

Koto 琴: a Japanese string musical instrument.

neuromancer-koto

“He listened to the piped koto music and waited.”

Sanpaku 三白 literally means “three” 三 “white” 白. It is used to describe eyes positioned in such a way that the iris does not touch the bottom eyelid, showing how the sclera is all connected.

neuromancer-sanpaku

`Sure.’ A millimeter of white showed beneath each of her pupils. Sanpaku. `You watch your back, man.’

Origami 折り紙: it literally means “folding paper” (折り- fold; 紙 – paper). The famous Japanese paper cranes made with origami are considered a symbol associated with peace in antinuclear campaigns in Japan. Is that a coincidence with Blade Runner?

neuromancer-origami

“Case stooped and picked it up. An origami crane.”

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

Step-by-step demolition of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka, Tokyo

The Grand Prince Hotel in Akasaka, Tokyo was built in the 70s and it is one of the most notable buildings in that area of the Japanese capital. At the beginning of 2011 the hotel was closed for demolition. However, the plans had to be changed due to the Tohoku earthquake. The hotel was re-opened to host some of the homeless victims of the tsunami.

After almost a year, Taisei, a construction corporation, has been put in charge of the demolition using a new technique they have developed. The building is unmounted from the inside. For the method to work cleanly the higher floors are left until the very end. These floors are kept with temporary columns, as the lower floors are being eliminated. I know, it sounds a bit too cumbersome. It is easier if you see it in progress (in timelapse):

The method has the advantage of being safer than others and the noise level is kept low. Taisei is planning to use this technique to demolish buildings higher than 100m. Once the Grand Prince Hotel is gone, a new one will be built to replace it.

Japanese writing in iOS and Mac OS X

I have written Japanese (not as well as I would like though) for some time and  doing so with the computer is always a pleasure. I’m used to almost always use the same dictionary, the same method of writing, the same shortcuts, etc. Here are some of the things I use.

In iOS:
– I have always used the “qwerty” keyboard for both Japanese and the rest (UK English, Spanish), and I have occasionally used the 10-key swiping method with the Kana keyboard (see picture below). In order to use the kana keyboard you really need to know your syllabary (hiragana) as the keys are arranged by sound, and all you have to do is select the correct consonant sound and swipe in the direction of the vowel sound:

  • A – in the middle,
  • I – swipe to the left,
  • U – swipe upwards,
  • E – swipe to the right,
  • O – swipe downwards.

rp_kana_keyboard.png

 

It may take a while to get used to it, but I just love the simplicity of it all and it even has a key for emoticons!

The Japanese auto-completion seems much more advanced in mobiles than in computers, and I think better than editors in either English, Spanish or other languages because it automatically chooses for you. As for a dictionary I use Kotoba.It is free and works without a network connection.

For Mac:
I use “kotoeri” by default. I have also enabled the option to write kanji by hand with the trackpad to search the dictionary for kanji. Instruction on how to activate it and use it can be found here. In a nutshell:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu.
  2. Choose Language & Text from the View menu.
  3. Select the Input Sources tab.
  4. Enable the checkboxes for Pinyin, Wubi Xing, or Wubi Hua under Chinese – Simplified, or Cangjie, Dayi Pro, Jianyi, Pinyin, or Zhuyin under Chinese – Traditional.

In OS X you can type accents and other characters with “option key” combinations without changing the keyboard layout. Also, you can press each letter for a few seconds and this will open up a menu box similar to the iOS version. Try it up!

As a native dictionary I use JEDict (free), plus a few that I consult on web such as Denshi Jisho.

To use Katakana you can hit Ctr+K, which converts things directly to the script. Finally, I recommend writing Japanese text in a Japanese font, because most Western sources do not have the characters ans this can always be an issue.


Furigana (ふりがな) in Mac

Furigana example
Image via Wikipedia

First of all, I guess I must explain what ふりがな (furigana) are. Japanese uses characters of Chinese origin called Kanji. Because of the way they have been adopted into Japanese, a single character is more often than not used to write a variety of words and this means that the kanji acquires different ways to be read depending on the word.  Deciding which reading is meant depends on context, intended meaning, the use in conjunction to other kanji, etc. The readings are usually categorised as either onyomiー音読み (literally, sound reading) or kunyomiー訓読み (literally, meaning reading).

So, what about these furigana? Well, since the reading of kanji can get a bit tricky when you are learning to read them, sometimes small hiragana are used to indicate the phonetic reading intended (see the picture above).

Furigana are commonly used for children, who might not recognise kanji, but are able to read the word when written in hiragana. It is also common to see them used in textbooks for learners of Japanese as a second language. Japanese adults make use of them on words written in uncommon or difficult-to-read kanji.

About a month ago I had to prepare a speech to be given in my Japanese lesson and I had the idea that it would be great to add furigana to my script. But how do you place furigana along your sentences? Well, here are some instructions to  add furigana to kanji in Word 2011 for Mac (I also managed to do it in LaTeX, but I will create a separate entry to explain that – if you need this info, please contact me and I will be happy to help):

Under the Microsoft Office folder in you Applications directory, there must be a folder called “Additional Tools“. Inside this folder there is a directory called “Microsoft Language Register“, open the “Microsoft Language Register” application that lives there and select “Japanese” from the dropdown menu and click OK. What this does is to enable some advanced features such as furigana writing, vertical text and character combination when using Japanese.

Open Word and start typing something in hiragana. You can convert the text into kanji by hitting the spacebar. Here is where the magic comes: highlight the kanji that needs a furigana entry, click “Format” in the menu bar (at the top) and select “Phonetic Guide” and there you go!

ちょっといいですね!

UPDATE: I finally created a post about using furigana in LaTeX. Find the post here.

原発くん – Nuclear Boy

Kazuhiko Yatani created a cartoon character called 原発くん(げんぱつくん)aka Nuclear Boy to explain to his kid the Fukushima nuclear power plant situation. This has quickly turned into an animation that has been doing the rounds in some reports to try to explain the situation.  The explanation is not technical, but it tries to put the situation in a context that young kids can understand…

It stars Genpatsu-kun (Genpatsu is slang for a nuclear power plant, and -kun is a suffix used to address young boys), who has a bad stomach ache. Other characters inlcude  Three Mile Island in America, and Chernobyl-chan (-chan is a suffix used for kids of both genders).

What do you think? Is this helpful information? Or not?

Here is the original:

OS-tan

You surely must be familiar with the concept of an operating system (OS) for your computer. How has not heard of Windows and its different incarnations? Windows 95, Windows 98, Vista or Windows 7? What about Mac OS X – Panther, Snow Leopard or Lion? And what about Linux and its different distros?

If you are a long term user of Microsoft products you are thus well aware of the moodiness of the operating system, blue-screen-of-death and the endless restarts after a seemingly infinite number of updates. Well, you would not be alone if you were to start antropomorphising your favourite OS, and if you are a Japanese user it doesn’t take long for you to start creating manga characters for them, i.e. OS-tans.

Why OS-tan? Well, you probably have heard the Japanese suffix -san (ーさん) used at the end of someone’s name. It is an honorific suffix and roughly translates as Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Ms. If you want to be more familiar with someone and what to show that the person is close to you, you might use the diminutive honorific suffix “-chan” (-ちゃん). A common childish mispronunciation of this suffix is “-tan” (-たん) and thus the meaning of OS-tan becomes clear.

OS-tans are personifications of various operating systems, which started with the  common perception of Windows Me as unstable and prone to frequent crashes. Discussions on Futaba Channel likened this to the stereotype of a fickle, troublesome girl and so Me-tan was born. The characters are usually represented by girls, although some male OS-tans exist. In particular the OS-tans for the different  Windows versions are represented by sisters of various ages.

For instance, XP-tan is a dark-haired girl with ribbons in her hair and an “XP” hair ornament typically worn on the left side. Windows XP is criticised for bloating a system and being very pretty without being as useful. Additionally, as a reference to the memory usage of Windows XP, she is often seen eating or holding an empty rice bowl labeled “Memory”.  Windows 7 is represented by a character called Nanami Madobe (窓辺ななみ Madobe Nanami). The premium set of the OS  includes a Windows 7 theme featuring 3 Nanami wallpapers, 19 event sound sets, CD with 5 extra Nanami sounds. This makes it the first OS-tan marketed by the company producing the operating system. In addition, the character also got its own Twitter account and Facebook page.

The Mac OS X girl is often portrayed as a catgirl, following with the Apple “wild cat” naming tradition, she wears a platinum white coat and a wireless AirPort device fashioned as a hat. In the Linux case, sometimes a penguin is used as a reference to Tux, but there is also the image of a girl with helmet and flippers. Her helmet usually has horns on it, likely a reference to the GNU software which comprises the common system programs present in nearly all Linux distributions.

There are many more OS-tans and there are even mangas and animations featuring the characters, including supporting ones such as Dr Norton, Firefox-tan and Opera-tan. A list of OS-tans can be found here. So next time your system crashes or you need an extra driver, you can always think of the OS-tan behind the machine.

A group of OS-tan. Background, left (clockwise...
Image via Wikipedia

Japanese chiisai characters in Katakana

Ki (kana)
Image via Wikipedia

Writting the  “chiisai” Japanese characters when using Hiragana(ひらがな)is quite straight forward. Chiisai (小さい) means small, and it helps to make a different sound by combining a character with a chiisai one.

For instance to write ちょっと, you have to type the following keys: “chotto”, which produces the “chiisai yo” and “chiisai tsu” needed to write this Japanese word.

However, it seems that when using Katakana (カタカナ) things become a bit complicated, so here is how to produce the chiisai characters:

ッ (Katakana)

xtu (key sequence)

キャ キュ キョ (Katakana)
kya kyu kyo (key sequence)

シャ シュ ショ (Katakana)
sha shu sho (key sequence)

チャ チュ チョ (Katakana)
cha chu cho (key sequence)

ニャ ニュ ニョ (Katakana)
nya nyu nyo (key sequence)

ヒャ ヒュ ヒョ (Katakana)
hya hyu hyo (key sequence)

ミャ ミュ ミョ (Katakana)
mya myu myo (key sequence)

リャ リュ リョ (Katakana)
rya ryu ryo (key sequence)

ギャ ギュ ギョ (Katakana)
gya gyu gyo (key sequence)

ジャ ジュ ジョ (Katakana)
ja ju jo (key sequence)

ビャ ビュ ビョ (Katakana)
bya byu byo (key sequence)

ピャ ピュ ピョ (Katakana)
pya pyu pyo (key sequence)

Exceptional character.
These are basically used only for technical words.
[Katakana – (key sequence)]
ウィ (uxi)
クァ (kuxa)
クィ (kuxi)
クェ (kuxe)
クォ (kuxo)
ティ (texi)
フュ (fyu)
ディ (dexu)
デュ(dexi)
ヴァ (va)
ヴィ (vi)
ヴェ (ve)
ヴォ (vo)

I came across this trick in Yahoo answers.

Quick switching for Kana syllabaries in OS X

If you type things in Japanese, you have quite likely come across the problem of switching between Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ).
Japanese syllabary, Hiragana あ (A) .
Image via Wikipedia
You can switch between Hiragana and Katakana by holding down Shift while typing.

As an example, typing in  わたしはヘススです。requires Hiragana, Katakana, and Hiragana again. The quickest way to write this sentence starting from the US English Keyboard would be as follows (assuming you enabled the Command-Space Bar switching method:

  1. Press Command-Space Bar.
  2. Type the following keys: “watashiha “.
  3. Hold down the Shift key to switch to Katakana, then type “HESUSU “.
  4. Let go of Shift to switch back to Hiragana, and type “desu.”