The Departure

2017 May 2
by Stacy Smith

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last month’s Tribeca Film Festival featured the world premiere of the documentary The Departure directed by Lana Wilson.  It profiles Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest whose lifework is suicide prevention.  In the group sessions he holds at his temple, he introduces exercises that attempt to show attendees what ending their lives would really mean in terms of loss and even simulates the experience of dying.  Many participants come away with a renewed lease on life, and for those who don’t Nemoto makes himself available to them day and night whenever they need someone to talk to.

However, Nemoto’s devoted around-the-clock counseling takes its toll on him, both emotionally in his shouldering these countless stories of grief, and physically as he is suffering from heart disease and trying to stay healthy for his wife and young son.  The film reveals how Nemoto’s own life was touched by suicide in the past, as both his uncle and two high school friends took their own lives.  Nemoto and his family were on hand for the final screening of the film, after which I interpreted for him during the Q&A.  Although Wilson doesn’t speak Japanese, both she and Nemoto said this contributed to a more relaxed shooting atmosphere, as participants felt comfortable sharing more than they would have if they were being completely understood.


Premium Friday

2017 March 31
by Stacy Smith

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

A little over a month ago Japan began a new public-private initiative called Premium Friday (aka プレミアムフライデー or プレ金) as part of ongoing labor reform efforts from the government.  This monthly event will take place on the last Friday of each month, and its official launch was on February 24th.  The idea for Premium Friday was conceived by the Japan Business Federation, and the concept is that employers let their employees leave at 3 p.m. on the final Friday of the month.  This is not just an altruistic move the Federation is making on behalf of workers; the goal is to have shorter hours boost productivity and encourage consumer spending.  It is also a response to the suicide of a 24-year old employee at Japan’s largest advertisement agency Dentsu in December of 2015, which authorities ruled was a result of overwork.

At the start there were 130 companies that implemented Premium Friday, and 4000 have applied for the official logo (pictured above).  Of those already on board the majority are larger companies, and only 3.7 percent of Tokyo area employees took part in the inaugural event.  Statistics for the second Premium Friday which took place today have not been released yet, but considering that March 31 is the end of Japan’s fiscal year and one of its busiest days overall, it it likely that participation was not stellar.  For those who took part last month, some of the activities people engaged in were spa visits, gym workouts (with some clubs offering Premium Friday half-price services), time with family and early happy hours with friends and colleagues.  However, employees who didn’t take part gave reasons like the fact that they would just have to make up the work over the weekend, or that they had unavoidable meetings with clients during that time.

Going forward, the hope is that people will use the early work end to not only shop and enjoy leisure activities locally, but to also take trips.  The Federation is anticipating more 1.5 night stays in places like Hokkaido and Okinawa, and 2.5 night stays in nearby overseas locations such as Taiwan and Korea (in case you’re wondering how one can stay half a night, this refers to arriving around 2 a.m. and then starting the day at an early hour like 7 a.m).  If this kind of travel takes off, the expected economic effect is travel consumption increasing by 500-600 billion yen (about 4.5-5.4 billion dollars).  If it doesn’t go as well as expected, the extent of growth would likely be closer to 220-260 billion yen (about 1.8-2.3 billion dollars).

Scheduling time off is something Japan is very good at, which is revealed by its large number of three-day weekends (with the new national holiday of Mountain Day added in August of last year).  Earlier this year there was even a move to a four-day workweek in some Japanese corporations, including big names like Uniqlo and KFC.  It remains to be seen how successful these programs will be in terms of stimulating the economy, as well as improving employees’ overall well-being and companies’ bottom lines.

KPOP Star Hyuna Launching Her First North American Tour In New York City!

2017 March 1

Korean Pop Star, Hyuna (Hyun A Kim), is launching her very first North American Tour starting in New York City! She was a lead member of a group 4MINUTE and featured in the Gangnam Style music video, sung by Psy. Her hit songs are Red, Bubble Pop, Roll Deep, etc. Don’t miss out on her performance!






Korean Fine Dining NYC – Gaonnuri

2017 February 17
by juyeon

The upscale Korean restaurant, Gaonnuri, is getting loyal New Yorkers with good quality ingredients and a stylish interior layout. Gaonnuri is located on the 39th floor penthouse of an office building at the entrance of Korean town on 32nd Street and 6th Avenue. For first time visitors, it can be confusing to find the place because ongoing construction in the area is currently blocking not only street signs, but also store banners with barricades. However, once you manage to walk into the lobby of the building, a restaurant host will guide you to take an elevator up to the restaurant.

Warm and Chic Ambiance Pic from


When you get out of the elevator on the penthouse floor, Gaonnuri bar and lounge plays out before you, and bright yet dim lights set the chic mood for the entire restaurant. Traditional Korean pots are displayed extensively. On your right turn, host staff is waiting to escort you to the table.

Korean bbq grill Pic from


When it comes to Korean food, many New Yorkers can only think of kimchi (salt and hot pepper marinated cabbage) or grilled barbeque. In Gaonnuri, you can broaden your horizons by trying out the Lunch course at $45 or 3 course pre-fixe menu at $55. Both options include desserts and a variety of Korean side dishes that Korean people eat on special occasions such as holidays.

The best dining experience Gaonnuri offers is overlooking beautiful New York City views while eating. Due to its high demand for a limited number of tables nearby windows, reservations are strongly recommended. Also, if you prefer to sit at a table away from barbeque tables, you can inform the restaurant in advance and the staff will accommodate your request.

Table overlooking Midtown NYC Pic from


Address: 1250 Broadway, Koreatown
Phone: 212-971-9045
*Sign Picture from gaonnurinyc gallery




Kim Bum Soo Comes To NYC to Madison Square Garden

2017 February 8
by juyeon

Korean R&B singer, Kim Bum Soo, is singing at Madison Square Garden this week. His song I Miss You (bogo shipda: 보고싶다) is the No.1 song Korean men sing in Korean Karaoke, Noraebang. The singer is eager to share his music with fans in New York City.





The Beauty of Washi

2017 February 6
by Stacy Smith
 WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.
This weekend I had a chance to sit in on a culture class at the Nippon Club in order to write an article in Chopsticks.  We were studying calligraphy, but specifically practicing this art on 和紙 (washi or Japanese paper).  Sensei Mori Suzuki was visiting from Japan just for this class, and in addition to guest teaching we got to enjoy an exhibition of his work and other washi delights in the 7th floor gallery.  Entitled 「和紙・伝統と創造」 (Washi: Dentou and Souzou or “Washi Paper: Cultural Heritage and Artistic Creativity”), this exhibit introduces the history of traditional handmade washi, the aesthetic beauty of 切金(kirikane or metallic foil cut into strips or other shapes to form decorative motifs) through the subtle light reflected from foil, origami artwork, modern washi sculptures, and Suzuki Sensei’s calligraphy creations on handmade washi. It runs through February 24 with free admission and the gallery is open every day but Sunday, so make sure to check it out before it closes!

One of Suzuki Sensei’s amazing works: 以花為師 (“Life lessons from flowers”). It reads from right to left, but is slightly cut off at start.

Zara Buys Luxurious Building on Myung Dong St – Seoul

2017 February 3
by juyeon

Myung Dong is a mecca for shoppers surrounded by luxury department stores, artists’ boutique shops, trendy restaurants, etc. where young Koreans meet up and foreigners from around the world visit to feel the dynamics of the capital city, Seoul. Due to its proximity to major subway lines and convenience to access the country’s trendsetting entertainment facilities, real estate prices in Myung Dong are kept high at all times.

Myung Dong Street in Korea

It was astounding news to the Korean real estate market that the founder of global fashion brand Zara, Amancio Ortega, purchased a 22-story building called Myung Dong M Plaza (27,000 square meters and 22 stories high) at 430 billion won. According to a person who is familiar with the deal, several local and foreign investment banks competed against each other aggressively, and in the end Mr. Ortega was chosen due to his solid financing status, although his bid was not the highest.

Considering that this is Mr. Ortega’s first deal in Asia, local and foreign real estate experts are paying attention to his next move. M Plaza, built in 1971, is located in the center of the commercial zone and was renovated in 2008. At present, popular fast fashion brands Zara, Forever 21 flagship stores, etc., run from basement Level 1 to ground floor 5, and a Japanese hotel, the Solaria Nishitetsu, operates from floor 7 to floor 22.

M Plaza Building in Myung Dong

The experts predict that M Plaza will produce not only stable income from renters, but also extra profits from stores’ operations in the future. Mr. Ortega said to the press after the deal went through that he saw the potential value growth of commercial buildings in Korea. Amancio Ortega is a self-made billionaire from Spain and Forbes Magazine ranked him as the No. 2 richest business man in the world.

Pic 1:

Pic 2 :



An Evening of Umami and Shokuiku

2017 January 31
by Stacy Smith

Last night I had the opportunity to interpret for Chef Kiyomi Mikuni at an event at Japan Society entitled “Umami and Other Japanese Culinary Secrets.” Mikuni is an entertaining speaker whose wide-ranging presentation covered everything from how important it is to develop taste buds at a young age to working with Japanese children on 食育 (shokuiku, or dietary education). Mikuni runs the gourmet French restaurant Hotel de Mikuni in Tokyo, but his culinary journey started in a fishing village in Hokkaido. Growing up he would go out with his fisherman father, and enjoy the fruits of the sea bestowed upon them. At 15 he went to Sapporo to work as a chef at a hotel there before moving to Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. At 20 he was sent to Geneva to be the chef at the Japanese Embassy, where he was able to train and learn the basics of French cuisine. Upon his return to Tokyo, he worked at a French bistro before opening Hôtel de Mikuni in 1985.

Following his presentation, Mikuni took part in a Q&A with food and culture journalist Nancy Matsumoto. Her probing questions touched on chefs Mikuni admires (Alice Water and Thomas Keller), as well as the importance of shokuiku in the U.S. Mikuni’s overarching point was that umami (often referred to as “the fifth taste”) is not something exclusive to Japan, and it has been found all over the world since ancient times.  Although recent innovations such as “umami bombs” seek to increase the amount of umami found in a dish, Mikuni’s opinion was that there is no need to overdue it and that one umami element per dish is sufficient. His presentation concluded with a demonstration preparing two kinds of 出汁 (dashi or soup stock), one made from dried bonito from Hokkaido that was worth $400 dollars!   The other featured chicken and tomatoes, onions and other vegetables rich in umami.

It was interesting to hear Mikuni’s insights, but even better was getting to sample his creations at the tasting that closed the night.  Aside from the two dashis, other dishes offered were Sauteed Mushrooms in Mayonnaise Sauce with Sesame Dressing (my favorite), Rice Omelette with Ketchup Sauce, Curry Rice with Soy Cheese Topping and Miso Cappuccino.  There was also Matsuno Midori sake on hand to wash everything down.  I’ll be in Tokyo on business in both February and March, and I look forward to paying a visit to Hotel de Mikuni during one of those trips!

How To Say Happy New Year in Korean

2017 January 18
by juyeon

Hello everyone!

New Year has arrived. January is an important month for Koreans to say Happy New Year to each other. Some may visit their parents or relatives’ houses to say in person. Others would do so by sending out New Year Cards or texting messages. Today I will list various sentences that convey Happy New Year in Korean. The below sentences are adequate to use to those who are older than you are or to those you maintain formal relationships with.

Girls’ Generation in Korean Traditional Attire Hanbok


새해 복 많이 받으세요.

Have a prosperous New Year.

올해도 건강하시기 바랍니다.

Please stay healthy this year.

행복한 새해 되세요.

Have a happy new year.

새해에 좋은 일만 가득하시길 바랍니다.

I hope you have a wonderful year.



Press Play



새해 (sae hae) – New Year

복 (bok) – blessings

많이(manhi) – many

받으세요 (padeuseyo) – to receive

I hope this article helps your studies. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any further questions and follow our Twitter for the latest news on Korea.
Picture from

Korea Has An End of the Year Celebration? Yes!

2016 December 29
by juyeon

Hello everyone.

As 2016 is approaching its end, every corner of New York City is filled with holiday spirit. Korea is not an exception! Around this time of the year, many Koreans are eager to get together to celebrate the year-end and to welcome a new year with fresh energy and new resolutions. Streets are busier, restaurants and bars are packed with crowds who wish to enjoy the holiday season. In this article, I would like to introduce two words: 망년회 & 송년회 that indicate a Korean year-end party. Please pay attention to a subtle difference between the words.

망년회 (pronounced as mang-yeon-hae): is a a-year-end party held among Koreans to let things go. If anyone around you or an organization you belong to underwent hardship during the year, 망년회 is a more suitable word to indicate a year-end party. The meaning of the word is to forgo all the sufferings and bad memories that took place as the year approaches its end. You can expect that attendees of 망년 회 will talk out their bad experiences over endless alcohol.


송년회 (pronounced as song-yeon-hae): is a year-end party held among Koreans to celebrate an ending of the current year and to enjoy a festive season. 송년회 can take place anytime in December with anyone you desire to spend time with, but the most meaningful day is New Year’s Eve. At this time of the year, many work places are busy preparing year-end parties and attendees are excited to be a part of the celebratory gathering over festive food, alcohol and Karaoke hopping.


I hope this article helps your studies. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any further questions and follow our Twitter for the latest news on Korea.