Japanese Flavor: Edamame

Only recently available in Italy, these green soy beans are already a fixture of every Asian cuisine lover's menu, thanks to their delicate taste and their nutritional value. Rich in protein (11g out of 100) and vitamin E and C, they are an excellent snack for every occasion.


Halloween Explosion!

A gaijin holiday until a few years ago, lately Halloween has gained a foothold in Japan too.


"L'arte del sushi" a cura di Stefania Viti. Pop & posh sushi

Gribaudo ha dato alle stampe all’inizio dell’estate un delizioso libretto a cura di Stefania Viti, L'arte del sushi. Un viaggio gastroculturale alla scoperta del piatto simbolo della cucina giapponese e del suo mondo. Il titolo non poteva essere più esaustivo nel descriverne i contenuti: si tratta infatti di un'antologia di brevi saggi sul fenomeno sushi, giacché di fenomeno globale si può parlare, nonostante i differenti significati che il boccone di riso e il petalo di mare acquisiscono alle diverse latitudini.


Attack on Tokyo subway – Twenty years later.

It happened on March 20, 1995. On an early spring morning, a few adepts of Shoko Asahara's sect, the Aum Shinrikyō, took a few of Tokyo's busiest subways and dropped a few concealed bags, lancing them with the tip of their umbrellas.


Japan Calling Italy, Design Style

In a globalized world in which it gets easier and easier to chase the vestiges of a nationalism and traditions in spite of a complex reality, it's not always easy to see the beauty of the Other; even less letting oneself be influenced by it.


The discovery of Moe- The Work of Patrick Galbraith

We have previously discussed Patrick Galbraith and his Moe Manifesto, defining moe as attraction toward characters from games, anime or manga. An interesting interview for Otaku USA Magazine reveals more on the topic, starting from the book title: Why a Moe Manifesto?


Japan Porn Boom. Hentai in the Times of the Internet

The spark for this article came from a collaboration with the Museo delle Culture in Lugano for the exhibition L'art de l'amour au temps des geishas, opening November 5 at the Pinacothèque de Paris. An extended version appear in the show's catalogue.

It's impossible to discuss pornography today without considering the impact of the Internet in its mechanisms of production, distribution and fruition; but also how, as critics and spectators, we witness a progressive 'pornification' of the real. Furthermore, thanks to the Web, cinema, video clips, manga and video games, pornography made in Japan has become a transnational phenomenon, and the country's export is among the most active in the sector.


Japan and Takeaway Christmas

Christmas in Japan is not a stay-at-home holiday: from refined cake design to KFC chicken buckets, consumerism gives its best on Japan's Christmas menus. 


Giuseppe T. Gervasio: Interpreter Today, Tomorrow – Who Knows?

Translating the Untranslatable – part 2: What underwear (doesn't) say.

(Translating the Untranslatable – part 1)

Ah, underwear, daily life's sweet sorrow. As you wake up, after the shower: the rite of opening the wardrobe and explore in search of underwear, as if exploring an interdimensional portal to another galaxy – a parallel universe of unlikely hues, stretch or things, impossibly elaborate ornaments and unbearably tacky patterns. No one can escape this daily rite... unless you work in the porn industry, where underwear is banned as not to leave marks on the skin... or so I'm told! Now, getting back to the article's headline: do you think underwear speaks? And if so, what does it say? Do they need an interpreter? My answer is: absolutely yes! Consider how they call to you when you're getting ready for work: you'll be immediately drawn to the most comfortable pair; when you go to the gym, you gravitate toward simpler designs just in case you end up under the eye of your peers; and what about underwear for a romantic date? The underwear you choose will immediately tell you how the evening will turn out! (...though often it will lie!)

Regardless, the underwear I want to tell you about is literally of intercontinental proportions! It was November 2012 and I was in Rome to coordinate the Japanese – Italian translating for the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema, when a professor from the University of Venice contacted me by phone. We didn't know each other too well, but we had collaborated previously in various events around Venice and I had appreciated both her mastery of the language, and the many ways in which she knew how to make learning Japanese accessible – no small feat. She told me that around mid-December one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs, hailing from Japan, would be giving a lecture at Ca'Foscari University. The institution was looking for a professional translator who had studied in the University itself... and I fit the bill! The businessman's company produced all kinds of products, from pins to clothes, from games to luggage, all the way to... underwear! They had also opened a retail point in Venice as well.

The event's setup was handled by the professor above with absolute professionalism. A week before the event I received all slides both in the Japanese original and translated by her and a team of students. The slides tell the story of a business that moved past traditional branding, taking instead its social responsibilities seriously. The day of the conference comes, and I get excited in interacting with a Japanese savvy public. I show up early and end up chatting with the professor and her colleagues while waiting for the special guest. He finally arrives aboard a motorboat, wearing a heavy coat and accompanied by a cohort of smartly dressed Japanese.

Along with the assistants we got the formalities out of the way – mostly getting over my guests' surprise at having to deal with a non-native Japanese translator – yet a look at the glossary under my arm was enough for our honor guest to understand I'm not going to skimp on the translating.

We were first led to a conference room, where a briefing took place. We then finally get some face-to-face time alone with the honor guest, who details us on the speech he's going to give to the Ca'Foscari crowd.

The time for the conference comes, and the usual 'interpreter's crisis' strikes at full force. Maybe the three coffees and the liter of water I drunk during the briefing weren't the smartest idea ever... at east I'm wearing comfy underwear!

I'm not a superstitious person, but I have my own rituals. One of them is the habit of wearing underwear made in the country the speaker hails from. Yes, if I am translating from English or Italian to Japanese, I'll be wearing 'made in Japan' underwear; or Bloomingdale briefs if I'm translating into English. Once NASA called me, telling me my white, blue and green underwear could be seen from space along with the Great Chinese Wall.

I know, some will wonder what I wear for multilingual translations! In such cases I mix and match the underwear with white shirts, ties, pens from various countries... or 'stolen' from colleagues.

As I imagined, the Main Hall was packed with students and professors. The introductions are taken care of by the professors doubling as moderators, including the vice-president and other lauding the special guest's presence to the event. Ten minutes later, it was our turn – me and the guest, alone on stage.

As I translated I basked in every word said by this man, who embodied the spirit and determination of a real entrepreneur. According to him, our urban way of life led us to purchasing according to perceived needs rather than actual usefulness. Originality is prized over practicality and function in all aspects of life.

His speech was, of course, far more articulated; still, how many times we buy a more expensive option just because it's flashier? This is not a judgment, but an encouragement to live more at peace with oneself and others.

Don't worry, I didn't forget! The dark side of the underwear is about to show up any minute! Right then, during Q&A!

One of the professors asked the public to interact, and we were inundated by all kinds of questions – more or less technical and businessy. The guests skillfully manages to address all with humility and accuracy, an example for all present. Then he arrives: the little know-it-all student! The one you see and you know he wants everyone to know he has the most (metaphorical) junk in the trunks. I recognized him immediately, as I was the same in school! The question, more or less, was: “So, you want everyone to address your business as if it was Steve Jobs'? Everything one could need with your brand on it?” The deceptively simple answer was: “Surely not. In life variety is good. I am wearing Donald Duck pants today.” As of these words, a veritable opera resounded in my mind:

Prelude: Ring of the Nibelung.

First Act: Rustican Shit Act (if I get this wrong I'll be stoned with green tea).

Second act and grand finale: Madamn Butterfly (if I get this right maybe I might get a chance at some thong action someday).

The difficulty was given by 'pants' meaning underwear in Japanese and British English but trousers in American English. Quite a difference (only one contains what the Japanese call 'the golden spheres', which I'm not going to explain further).

So, I grab courage by the horns and enunciate in a tone halfway between Ungaretti and Littizzetto pretending to be a Lolita:


Hilarity ensued. I was afraid I'd be having an accident on stage, but those who p***ed themselves probably were the students. I think they, however, saw the very serious meaning underlying the guest's funny answer.

So, wrapping up...

Are you curious to find out whether the guest stood up and really wore Donald Duck pants, or I was de-eared with a katana, the spoil sent to my family by mail?

Relax, I wasn't wrong: it was the underwear... a good interpreter does not rely only on their ears.


Still, a question: better a thong today or a bloomer tomorrow?


A Cat Named Toto: Kakuta Mitsuyo's World Beyond Words

Mitsuyo Kakuta is the author of many novels, including Taigan no Kanojo (The Woman On the Other Side), winner of the prestigious Naoki Prize in 2005. She debuted in 1990 with Kofukuna Yugi (A Merry pastime), winning the Kaen Prize, and many other works of hers have been turned into successful films. She currently lives with her cat Toto, a gift from mangaka Rieko Naibara. As it suffers from a heart condition, Toto needs constant care and attention – something that changed the author's life around.


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