Archive | Language and Culture

Look Who’s Teaching Smartphone

July 4, 2013 By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — My 77-year-old mother taps out e-mails on her iPhone no sweat, but she still asks me, “Will my e-mail address work on that computer?” Instead of admiring her resolve to master the smartphone, I become snarly as I try to […]

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Changing Tongues

June 26, 2012 By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times NEW YORK — My son is on an English language high. After 10 months at a U.S. boarding school, it’s as if the Japanese words stored in his brain have been replaced with English ones that flow forth freely every time he […]

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Character Values

December 13, 2011   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times The letters on my nails have nearly grown out, but I can still read them. One is the Chinese character for the first syllable of my son’s name, and the other means perseverance. I had asked a manicurist in Tokyo to […]

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One Son, Four Characters

March 20, 2010   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times The postcard-sized paper my son brought home from school had four imposing Chinese characters written vertically down the middle. It was from a school assignment where the fifth graders each selected a yoji-jukugo, or four-character idiom, that best suited another classmate. […]

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Japan’s Year in Words

December 15, 2009   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — “Herbivorous men,” “fast fashion” and a “change of government.” Those were among the top 10 phrases that best captured the spirit of Japan in 2009 according to the publishing house Jiyu Kokuminsha, which produces the annual list. Not quite […]

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The only warmth in my life is the heated toilet seat

March 26, 2007   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — Pity the lonely Japanese salaryman, or white-collar worker, who wrote that ode to his electrically warmed commode. The poem was an entry to this year’s annual Salaryman Senryu Contest (senryu is a form of Japanese short poetry). I had […]

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English Speakers are from Mars

December 6, 2006   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — Despite some predictions that Chinese will become the next worldwide lingua franca, the acceptance of English as the global language, spurred by the spread of the Internet, is here to stay. Fluent English is increasingly expected, rather than respected, […]

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