Vocabulary and phrases
let’s – contraction of let us.
Mochi – Japanese sticky rice cakes
equinox – the time or date (twice each year) at which the sun crosses the celestial equator when day and night are of equal length (about 22 September and 20 March).
Susuki すすき– Japanese pampas grass
LED’s – Light Emitting Diodes
Mark: Hey, hello, welcome to today’s podcast. In today’s episode, I’m talking to Satoko, about the differences in colours between Japan and the UK. We also talk a bit about vision and try to get to the bottom of one of the stereotypes that people in the UK have about people from East Asia. Ok, before I start rambling on let’s listen to the conversation, see you on the other side, bye.
Ok so starting with colours, er, yesterday we were driving around, and, er, there were a few traffic lights that we saw, and, er, what colour is green? The green light in Japan?
M: It’s Blue!
M: It’s blue, so we’ll try to put a picture of that, we’ll get a picture of the traffic light.
S: So what I’ve, we’ve found interesting is that in Japan, when at school you learn that traffic lights are combined, are a combination of three colours: red, yellow and blue, although how traffic lights look is exactly [the] same with western countries, so far as I know, but I notice that in England, at least, it’s not blue but green and I think it’s more, more universally recognised, as the light for traffic you know, lights, to go, here it’s blue.
M: Definitely blue, so with other… but is it isolated? Like I haven’t heard, like trees are green, leaves are green right?
S: Uh huh.
S: But somehow we see that blue is a colour to indicate that you can go, it’s safe.
M: Oh ok. Er…
M: No, go on.
S: Then we started to talk about different conceptualisation[s] of things by colours, like the sun in Japan it’s red.
M: Yeah, so that’s on the Japanese flag.
S: Yeah, yeah that’s right, yeah that’s right, yes, oh I didn’t, erm, associate it, with it, but yes that’s right it’s white and red and it’s the sun.
S: And we have expressions, or very common expressions 真っ赤な太陽 (makkana taiyou) which is very red… sun, so we, when, you know kids draw a picture of the sun and [the] house, you know the scenery usually the red colour, [a] red colour’s crayon is used for drawing the sun, but I think in, in England it’s different isn’t it?
M: Definitely, yellow, I think, the sun is usually yellow.
S: But here yellow is used more for the moon I think.
M: Oh ok, talking about the moon, just a bit of a diversion, do people here have the idea that the moon is made of cheese?
S: No (no). Is it made of cheese? Or is it, is it the…?
M: I think it’s something you can tell kids, you know, oh yeah the moon it’s like, it looks like, it’s made of cheese because it’s kind of yellow-ish, creamy-ish.
S: And there’re, how do you say? Craters?
M: Yeah the marks, on the…
S: Yeah the marks, and some you know hard cheese.
S: Has got holes.
M: 見たい (mitai – looks like) yeah kind of like that
S: Yeah, yeah kind of like that. No, here we don’t because cheese is imported food so it’s not historically associated with the moon but it’s more about, er, the moon as a place or planet, where rabbits…
S: Because when [there’s] a full moon if you see it very well, if you see the moon very well, you might recognise, yes there are some marks, some shado—shadows or shades on the moon and ancient Japanese people saw it as the emotion of a rabbit making Japanese mochi (pounded rice cake) or Japanese rice cake.
M: That’s quite complex, that’s quite a complex image, like a rabbit making mochi, so it’s…
S: Yeah, making mochi.
M: So it’s bringing its paws?
S: How do you say? Bringing its wooden hammer, or it’s not hammer, wooden thing,
M: Wooden hammer, over its head and then bringing it down and smashing the rice.
M: Wow. That’s a good legend.
S: And so, I’m not very familiar with that legend, but in autumn, 23rd of September when the time for the day and the night is the same?
M: Oh, the equinox.
S: Equinox, we celebrate the night, the day with, er, round mochis, putting it on the window side with autumn leaves or すすき (susuki – a type of leaf) um, and sake.
M: Oh yeah, a special type of sake?
S: I’m not sure, I believe that it’s sake but I’m not sure.
M: Mm, ok so yeah, that was um, so going back to the colours, so green, that might be isolated, kind of thing, that, that traffic light colour which we think, well I think that is definitely green.
S: But ah, well, you have to check, probably there may be some other countries which has [a] combination of red, yellow and blue.
M: Yeah, I mean we were looking at it yesterday and thinking it’s turquoise (oh yeah, yeah) a mix of green and blue, it’s not…
S: But the traffic lights are being developed.
S: And I’ve noticed that in the last ten and twenty years at least, the type of traffic lights have [has] changed from real lights to more, how do you say? Ah, more TV screen like lights?
M: To LED’s?
S: LED’s, so the colour might have changed slightly
M: So it might have been more blue?
S: It might have been more blue than green before.
M: Ok, did you have colour blind, er, classmates at school?
S: No, I didn’t, no I don’t think I did, but [you] never know because it’s kind of private information, and, and it’s not necessarily shared.
M: They didn’t test it?
S: Yes, we had test and I was fine, I think, I believe.
M: You would know, I think.
S: Yeah I would know, but alwa- my eye vision, my eyesight was very healthy, until, at least until university (mm) time and I have never been told that I had a problem with eyes.
M: The stereotype in the west in the UK is that Asian, East Asians have really bad eyesight because it seems like, in the UK anyway, lots of people from China or Japan or other East Asian countries always seem to have glasses.
S: Yeah, yeah, I know and… I have glasses! I wear glasses now.
M: I’ve got glasses!
S: All my family members, my siblings, my parents (mmm) have glasses, unfortunately, or, as a result of maybe using too much eyes, however, some people don’t, and I wasn’t [using my eyes too much] but I think that studying hard especially as [a] teenage[r] when still it’s growing you know developing period I think have had some effect on it and also [the] introduction of computers (yeah) internet, smartphones…
M: Has kind of made it worse?
S: Yeah, I think so, and TV games, you know we are very famous for it, and we are very addicted or can be addicted from like three or four years old.
M: Yeah it’s slightly different that word in Japanese isn’t it? It’s like ビデオゲーム (bideo geemu) and in the UK it’s like computer games.
S: Yeah, we don’t call it computer games, well when it’s computer games it’s computer games but when I was small when, it was the time of family computer – Famicom?
M: We called it NES or just Nintendo.
S: Nintendo, yeah, we called it, called it family, family computer therefore Famicom, abbreviated or shortened term Famicom and second generation super family computer – SuFami.
M: We just, yeah that was SuperNES.
S: Oh SuperNES, oh because of Nintendo
M: Or SNES
S: SNES and then, and then what came next? Umm, is it um, can’t remember, most of, my peak time it was SuFami Super family computer, so I’m very old! And small…
S: Gameboy, was it Gameboy?
M: Yeah, we called it Gameboy,
S: Yeah, Gameboy it was the same then, so and then, there have been loads of different, you know, hardware for it.
M: Yeah, I was reading the new review, there’s a new Mario game out. On the gosh, what’s the new Nintendo even called? I don’t know, Wii 2?
S: Oh yeah, Wii.
M: Is it Wii2? Or is it something else?
S: My brother should know it, so yes, TV game[s] I think has effected [it] a lot, today’s you know, people in modern time in Japan.
M: The eyesight.
S: Yes, in terms of eyesight, although it doesn’t explain why then my parents have got glasses, because they have never have played games but probably studying or just naturally.
M: Another feature of Japan, definitely is the amount of information that people put on like, an advert or printed material or a display, they’ll be so much information like people want to put, like I heard from some business people that, yeah, you don’t, you put everything on the dis-…
S: You mean?
M: PowerPoint display.
S: You mean generally speaking?
S: Um, I’m not sure, but maybe I, I as, as a person who uses PowerPoint slides or some you know who does presentation[s] regularly, I minimise, um, the information I put on one slide, (yeah) just a picture, or just three bullets points or, you know, not, not much.
M: I heard that is really unusual here, like there’s that American guy who does presentations about how to minimise your PowerPoint, and he’s like wildly popular I heard like he made a TED talk.
S: Do you know the name? (it’s Garr Reynolds see his website here)Well I have had that kind of idea since when I got, I took a presentation course at my masters level in Tokyo but the lecturer was an American, and he introduced, you know pioneering, you know, figures, and I, I saw he let me, let students watch TED talk, so maybe we are talking about the same person, very impor-er, famous.
M: Yeah, he’s really famous now isn’t he? And he made his whole career from, well he became famous for that I heard. But, yeah, I don’t know, if he’s fighting a losing battle because, you see all, well, like, newspapers it’s crammed full of information, every, every single bit has got so much information, I feel.
S: But if you think about [UK] newspapers it’s the same.
M: In the UK? No, there’s like sometimes, there’s, there’s space.
M: Yeah, definitely.
S: No, I don’t think, so when it comes to newspapers or printed material.
M: Well certainly adverts, if you talk about adverts in Japan you’ve got so much detail it’s ridiculous.
S: Oh maybe, never, yeah, compared from that point, from that angle, but probably lots of small characters
M: Small characters, illustrations, like in the UK, I was looking at the bank, after coming back from Japan, looking at a bank advert and it was just like the name of the bank, a logo, a picture…
S: That’s it. (Bursts into laughter)
M: Like the address and that’s it and like that would never happen I don’t think here.
S: Yeah, I think there must be some, catching, you know copy, um yeah so there are some difference…
Related podcast episodes:
- Satoko said “there’re” which is “there are” contracted but this is rarely written, it is mostly just used in speech. ↑
- The equinox happens twice a year. Around the 20th March and the 23rd September. ↑
- Should be “Using their eyes too much”. ↑