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.

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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.


2016 December 16
by Stacy Smith

Last night I attended a screening of Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, based on the 1966 novel 沈黙 (Chinmoku) by Shusaku Endo, himself a Japanese Catholic.  It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who is played with great nuance by Andrew Garfield.  He and his followers endure horrible persecution during this period when 隠れキリシタン (Kakure Kirishitan or Hidden Christians) are targeted for their beliefs.  Having lived in Kyushu I had a vague sense of what had taken place in Nagasaki at that time, but not the extent of the barbaric ways Christians were killed and tortured.

Scorsese’s pursuit of making this film began when he first read the novel while riding the shinkansen in 1989.  His passion for the project was sure to have influenced the stellar performances from the cast, which includes Liam Neeson and Adam Driver as Garfield’s fellow missionaries, and Issey Ogata and Tadanobu Asano as the Inquisitor Inoue and his interpreter.  Asano is fantastic in all of his works, and Ogata successfully captures his character’s idiosyncrasies without being too campy.  The film’s pacing was a bit slow so its length likely could have been cut, but the educational aspects alone made it worth sticking with.  I missed the JETAA book club several years ago when we read Silence, but I look forward to comparing it to the movie. 

By the way, Silence was shown at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), one of our city’s hidden gems.  Along with a Scorsese retrospective the museum is currently featuring an exhibition on his career, something worth checking out.  It is also showing the epic five-hour Happy Hour from director Ryusuke Hamaguchi on December 31st at 1 pm, an intriguing film I previously wrote about here.

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.

Introducing Yourself In Korean

2016 December 13
by juyeon

Hello everyone!
This article shows Korean sentences you can use when introducing yourself in Korean. These sentences are simple but will help you succinctly state your name, age, nationality, occupation etc. Please note that the below sentences are a formal form, which is the most appropriate to use to strangers in Korea or elders. When pronounced correctly, you will sound polite and educated.


Press PLAY to practice your pronunciation.

○ Hello. 안녕하세요.

○ My name is Jaden. 제 이름은 제이든 입니다.

○ I am French. 저는 프랑스인입니다.

○ I am a 21-year-old-college student. 저는 21살 대학생 입니다.

○ I have studied Korean language for three years. 한국어를 3년 공부했습니다.

○ My goal is to speak Korean fluently. 제 목표는 한국어를 유창하게 말하는 것입니다.

○ I want to visit Korea next year. 내년에 한국을 방문하고 싶습니다.

○ I like Korean food and Korean drama. 한국 음식과 한국 드라마를 좋아합니다.

○ My favorite Korean food is Kimchi. 가장 좋아하는 한국 음식은 김치 입니다.

○ My favorite Korean drama is the Full moon embracing the Sun. 가장 좋아하는 한국 드라마는 해 품은 달 입니다.

○ I was told that this drama shows many old Korean. 이 드라마에서 고어가 많이 쓰인다고 들었습니다.

○ I want to make many Korean friends. 한국 친구를 많이 사귀고 싶습니다.

picture from MBC Drama



    • fluently: 유창하게
    • goal: 목표
    • to like: 좋아하다
    • college student: 대학생
    • old Korean: 고어


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.

Fashion Vocabulary – English to Korean to Chinese

2016 December 6
by Angie

Ever wonder when shopping how to translate certain fashion words? Maybe you’re traveling to China or Korea and would like to be able to request certain things, or maybe you’re a Korean or Chinese native and would like to travel to each other’s respective countries.

Since it is a couple weeks past Thanksgiving, and it has started off the holiday shopping season, we want to teach you today about fashion words in Chinese and Korean. Don’t be afraid to do international shopping, if you know these words it can help save you money and troubles! Let’s learn fashion in three languages together.

English Korean Chinese
Cloth 衣服 [yīfu]
T-Shirt 반팔티 短上衣 [duǎnshàngyī]
T-Shirt 티셔츠 T恤 [txù]
Hoodie 후드 连帽卫衣[lián mào wèiyī]
Hoodie zip up 후드집업 开衫卫衣kāishān wèiyī
T-Shirt 티셔츠 T恤 [txù]
Vest 조끼 马夹 [mǎjiǎ]
Cardigan 카디건 开衫 [kāishān]
Denim shirt 데님셔츠 牛仔衬衫[niúzǎichènshān]
Denim jacket 청자켓 牛仔夹克[niúzǎijiākè]
Jeans 청바지 牛仔裤 [niúzǎikù]
Blouse/shirt/Dress shirt 블라우스/셔츠/와이셔츠 衬衫 [chènshān]
Chiffon blouse 쉬폰/시스루 블라우스 雪纺衬衫 xuě fǎng chènshān
Frill blouse 프릴/셔링 블라우스 泡泡袖衬衫 [pàopao xiù chènshān]
Outer 겉옷 外套 [wàitào]
jacket 자켓 夹克jiākè
Down jacket 다운재킷/패딩 羽绒服 yǔróngfú
coat 코트 大衣 [dàyī]
Trench Coat 트렌치코트 风衣 fēngyī
cashmere coat 캐시미어코트 羊绒外套 yángróng wàitào
Fur coat 무스탕 翻毛皮fānmáopí
Onepiece 원피스 连衣裙 [liányīqún]
Pants 바지 裤子 [kùzi]
Skirt 치마 裙子 [qúnzi]
Twopieces 투피스 两件套 [liǎngjiàntào]
Sport-wear 운동복 运动服 [yùndòngfú]
Retro fashion 복고풍패션 复古风格的 [fùgǔfēnggéde]
See-through fashion 시스루패션 透视装 [tòushìzhuāng]
High-waist 하이웨스트 高腰风格 [gāoyāofēnggé]
Lapskirt 랩스커트 裹身裙 [guǒshēnqún]
Over fit 오버핏 肥版 [féibǎn]
Suspenders 멜빵 背带 [beidai]
Accessary 악세사리 饰品 [shìpǐn]
Hat 모자 帽子 [màozi]
Socks 양말 袜子 [wàzi]
Gloves 장갑 手套 [shǒutào]
Glasses 안경 眼镜 [yǎnjìng]
Sun-glasses 선글라스 墨镜 [mòjìng]
Muffler 목도리 围巾 [wéijīn]
Hair-Band 머리띠 헤어밴드 发带[fàdài]
Earring 귀걸이 耳环[ěrhuán]
Necklace 목걸이 项链 [xiàngliàn]
Bracelet 팔찌 手镯 [shǒuzhuó]
Watch 손목시계 手表[shǒubiǎo]
Ring 반지 戒指[jièzhi]
Belts 벨트 腰带[yāodài]
Wallet 지갑 钱包[qiánbāo]

The Wonderful World of Shochu

2016 November 18
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.

Along with ramen and sushi, sake is a part of Japanese food and drink culture that is ubiquitous here in New York.  But as someone who spent the majority of my time in Japan in Kyushu, I sometimes wonder why shochu doesn’t get its fair share of the acclaim.  Down there shochu is the go-to drink, and since 90% of domestic production takes place at distilleries in Kyushu it is known as Shochu Island.

So I was thrilled when Japan Society asked me to interpret at its first ever event showcasing shochu, Distilled, Not Brewed: Discovering Shochu.  The main speaker was Shinichiro Watanabe, CEO of Kyoya Shuzo and Chairman of the Committee on Shochu Planning at the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.  His presentation on shochu was for the uninitiated, and highlighted aspects of this distilled liquor such as its history, cultural significance and health benefits.

To breakdown the basics of Watanabe’s presentation, the main way that shochu differs from sake is that it is distilled as opposed to brewed.  Sake is made from rice whereas shochu can be made from ingredients such as sweet potato, barley and rice.  The ingredient is determined by what region of Kyushu the shochu is produced in, and Kumamoto where I lived is rice-based whereas Kagoshima is known for sweet potato-based shochu.  Finally, shochu is usually stronger than sake, with 25-30% alcohol vs. 15-18% alcohol on average.  Shochu’s alcohol percentage is about half that of similarly distilled vodka and whiskey, giving it a clean taste that doesn’t lead to hangovers.  It is not only able to prevent blood clots as red wine is said to do, but can dissolve them should they form.  Shochu also contributes to smooth blood flow, and with no additives it is a sugar-free alcohol.

Following Watanabe’s engaging talk was an interpretative musical performance that featured the ethereal sound of shochu fermentation.  But of course the main event was the tasting portion of the evening, where eight Kyushu distilleries were on hand to share samples of their products.  I was happy to see producers of Kumamoto’s famous Hakutake Shiro, but I have to say my favorite drink was the Ginza Susume Kohaku from Yatsushika Sake Brewery, a well-balanced, high-class barley shochu aged in oak bourbon whiskey barrels for three years.  I am not usually a bourbon fan, but this shochu was so mellow and easy to drink that I could have stayed at that table all night.

Despite being in the center of Shochu Island for three years, there is still so much more for me to learn about this intriguing distilled liquor.  In talking to a JET friend who lived in Shizuoka, I learned that over there it is common to cut shochu with green tea as opposed to hot water, the usual standard for お湯割り (oyuwari).   Here’s hoping that going forward shochu becomes as familiar to New Yorkers as ramen, sushi and sake!


2016 October 7
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.

I was in Japan on business for most of September, and while there I caught up on dramas, variety shows and news programs.  One special feature I saw talked about recent trends in 打ち言葉 (uchi kotoba) or Internet slang that was born from cell phone communication.  For example, perhaps the most well known uchi kotoba is あけおめ (ake ome), taking the place of the more formal 明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu) or Happy New Year.  Such language is said to be 内輪 (uchiwa) or inner circle, and knowing how to use it indicates you are part of a group.

Some new incarnations that I found interesting were よきよき (yoki yoki) for いいよ (ii yo), or “Sure/That’s fine.”  It actually reminded me of the Kumamoto-ben よかよか (yoka yoka) with the same meaning, which I would hear often while living there on JET.  One abbreviation I liked was り or りょ (ri or ryo), both short for 了解 (Ryokai) or “Understood/Gotcha.”  Another way of conveying a similar sentiment is おけ (Oke) for “Ok,” though this doesn’t seem to make it easier to write.  These uchi kotoba are constantly evolving, and who knows how far they will go…