Wednesday, June 2, 2010


This is a blog about accents, but first, I want to show you the photos I forgot to show a few months ago. I went to Nezu Museum in Tokyo. The museum is famous for their collection of tea utensils and garden. The main building was remodelled recently. I prefer the way it was before, and the way they used to display. But like accents, even architecture and displays are changing. The new design leans more to western-style, I think. The above photo shows a tea house on top right.

The photo above is a tea boat for two in the pond.

Anyway, this is a blog about accents. The other day I happened to find a blog written by Susan Brown of Red Room. Here is the site:,
and my comment follows.


I enjoyed reading this post. It’s hilarious. But it’s true that we are all masters of our own language.

This afternoon, I was at the “Sakuragicho” station in Yokohama. When the tape ran for announcements in the car, I heard the same native Japanese speaker pronounced “Sakuragicho.” The speaker has a weird accent. This drives me nuts. A funny thing was that I noticed today that on the same tape, “Sakuragicho” in the English version was closer to the standard Japanese accent. It was ironic that the English speaker had an American accent.

From ministers to announcers on television, most of them, even though they were born in Tokyo or Yokohama, have accents. The other day, I went to listen to an amateur French-songs concert. All performers and audience were Japanese. And one woman was singing about “Wasi (Japanese rice paper).” I didn’t know why she was singing about Japanese rice paper. I thought it odd. Later, I read a pamphlet and found out that she was singing about eagle. They are both wasi with different accent. I told a friend of mine about it who went with me, but she was quiet about it. I think she didn’t notice. Japanese ears are trained not to notice differences in accents. That was a big issue a few years ago when I gathered a reading group for my play.

Anyway, the day after the concert, I talked with the organizer who is a friend of mine. She invited me to the event. I told her about the French song and pronunciation of wasi. She said she was busy, so she didn’t notice it, but that singer used to be a principal of a school.

After 35 years away from Japan, the language has changed so much. And whether I like it or not, if the majority sings “rice paper” to mean eagle, that’s the way it will be.


Rebb said...


The pictures are wonderfully green and soothing. I would love to enjoy tea in the Japanese tradition one day. I don't know if there is anywhere around here to do that.

It's really fascinating how accents can change meaning like that. When I was walking yesterday, I was thinking about the way I sound when I try to speak Spanish and how I don’t feel like a real Mexican--I've felt this way forever--but it became clear to me that besides not being able to always speak grammatically correct Spanish, I'm insecure to roll the r's and pronounce my accents properly and with gusto, so I was walking and saying r words out loud to really feel that rolling and get into my Mexican-ness. My grandmother used to always correct how I said bird (pajaro—accent on the first a. When I was little I think I would say the r like a d. She was funny when she would correct me.) I wish my mother had made me bilingual, but I understand more than I realize, so it's ok.

keiko amano said...


I wanted to show a photo of a low growing varigated bamboo, but I couldn't upload more. Maybe, next time, I can show that photo.

About different meanings for a word, Tachibana Tadakane listed 94 for "toru." From 1144 to 1180, he gathered many meanings and created a Japanese dictionary called "Irohaji-ruishow." I checked "toru" in my digital dictionary and found about 40 different "toru." Toru means take, pick, steal, and so on. We use it often, but I'm surprised about the number.

We depend on context, situation, education, and confirmation to understand others' speech more than we realize.

Yes, you know Spanish more than you think you know. I have a Japanese friend who was in China for a year when she was small. From the beginning of our class, she can pronouce all the difficult Chinese pronunciations even though she has difficulty in learning Chinese word order.

So, you have an advantage if you are going to learn Spanish. Spanish is old. Even in Gaelic, Spanish words are in it. And Gaelic is very old.

Dorraine said...

Oh, I want to have tea for two in that little tea boat! The tea house is enchanting as well, tucked into trees, and right next to the water. Thanks for posting those delicious pictures, Keiko!

Yes, things always change and I suppose that goes for language as well. :-)

Vincent said...

I can empathise with what you are saying, about traditions, accents and everything else, from my own experience of England; regretting some of the changes, or rather not so much the new things but the way they have been, as it were, painted on top of the old things, obliterating them.

I feel that it's a natural self-assertion of the young to do this; and it can only be controlled by teachers who are well-enough grounded in the traditions. Unfortunately here many of the traditions themselves are no longer respected and the teachers in particular are amongst the ones who lead the way in not respecting them. Yet I don't think they will die. Sometimes I want to devote my life to maintaining those traditions, simply through writing.

keiko amano said...


Thank you for stopping by. About the tea boat, I think it’s there to entertain tourists. The pond is small. I just can’t imagine that any ocha practitioner wants to wear a gorgeous kimono and sits on that boat!

keiko amano said...


I read your words and nodded in mid sentences and at periods. Our languages are different. But when I learn some difference, I discover also a similarity elsewhere such as this through our exchanges. I think this must be a part of my muse.

About Muse, I looked for it in the dictionary. There was some translation, but I couldn’t find the comparable word. Traditions are embedded in words, and don’t show up in the dictionary. So, I feel delighted when I come closer to the meaning of a word.