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The power of kawaii in Japanese food culture has set the bar high for parents here who have to prepare both nutritious and aesthetically pleasing lunches for their picky offspring. And when getting up at 3 a.m. to craft hyperreal キャラ弁 (charaben, as in “character bento”) no longer cuts the proverbial mustard, preparing dishes to emulate a certain award-winning Japanese anime creator is the obvious next step.

Context is king

We cannot stress enough how much the Japanese language relies on context. There’s a saying いちえばじゅうる that means “hear one, understand ten,” ’cause, you know, who needs words when you have the silent pressure to implicitly understand the motivations of others without them actually telling you what they want.

This was a lesson duly learned by @fabian0318’s children when they asked their dad to make their next meal “like Ghibli.”

Eager to please his children, @fabian0318 draw his inspiration from Ghibli’s 1984 movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and cooked an オムライス (omurice, omelet with rice) version of the movie’s monsters. If you look at the picture, you can see he has created a true masterpiece (well, actually four of them).

However, the result didn’t quite generate the excited joy and gratitude from his kids that he had been expecting.

子供達 こどもたち「パパー!ジブリ めし つくって!」

ぼく「がってん承知 しょうち!」

(完成 かんせい)

子供達「パパ ちがうよ、こううのじゃなくてカリオストロのスパゲッティとか…、ラピュタのトーストとか…」

Kids: Daddy! Prepare a Ghibli meal for us!
Me: Roger that!
(Ta-da!)
Kids: Daddy, this is wrong. Not this, but like the spaghetti of Cagliostro… or the toast of Laputa…

Whether @fabian0318 couldn’t read the air (空気 くうきむ) thinking his monster-like omelets would be a hit or purposely wanted to tease his kids, we can’t say. But next time, they will probably be a lot more exacting with their request!

How to be specific in Japanese

One way to make your point clear in Japanese is to use examples. For example (lol), when you are making a request or explaining something in Japanese, it’s a good idea to list up similar examples so the other person catches your drift.

The little word とか which translates to “among other things,” and “such things as” is invaluable when listing examples. Use it like this:

  • Noun とか Noun とか
  • Verb (dictionary form) とか

In this context, とか is a colloquial version of and など which also serve to list examples. Note that if とか can be repeated twice, that isn’t the case with and など.

When used one time only in a sentence, とか has a slightly different meaning. Said this way, it implies some uncertainty regarding what you’re expressing:

家族 かぞく病気 びょうきとかで こまっているらしい。 = Seems like her family is in some kind of trouble, like with illness and other stuff.

Vocabulary

Japanese Romaji English
オムライス omuraisu omelet filled with rice
子供達 こどもたち kodomotachi children
パパ papa dad, daddy
ジブリ jiburi Ghibli
めし meshi meal, food
はん gohan meal, rice
がってん承知 しょうち gattenshouchi Roger that!
完成 かんせい kansei complete, completion
ちが chigau to be different, wrong
こう
kouiu this sort of, this kind of
スパゲッティ supagetee spaghetti
トースト tosto toast
家族 かぞく kazoku family
病気 びょうき biyoki sick, illness
こま komaru to be in trouble
らしい rashi it seems, looks like
いち ichi one
じゅう jyu ten
shiru to know
空気 くうき kuki air, vibe
yomu to read

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