Why is the skater Kim Yona in Japanese?

… being キムヨナ in katakana.

It’s a deliberate attempt to piss off a great sporting foe by misspelling her name.

Only joking!

As is often the case with foreign pronunciations, the Japanese are ahead of English speakers on this one. According to modern romanization of hangeul (Korean script), her name would be spelt Kim Yeona, being the same sound as Seoul and somewhere between the O of hope and the ER of computer. Given its indeterminate pronunciation in English, that vowel sound is fairly often spelt with a U in Korean names, e.g. in the famous company Samsung, which should actually be Samseong. Confusingly, there are two other vowel sounds in Korean that are also often romanized as U, but that’s a whole other story…

With names, Koreans choose and stick to one particular romanization, which I think might even be something official nowadays. At least this one is fairly close to the real pronunciation, unlike Lee, which is also sometimes spelt Yi, but is actually somewhere between the vowel sounds in sEE and lIck.

Why ToyoTa cars but Mr ToyoDa?

Thoroughly (and amusingly) dealt with by Language Log here. More company names of JapanExplained here.

Why do the Japanese keep their medicines in the kitchen?

… along with plasters and such-like. “Is a Band Aid food??” is the question I keep asking my wife and asked my students when we had this discussion, which in fact started with their question “Why do the British and Americans keep medicines in the bathroom?”

My wife’s explanation is that bathrooms in Japan (and here in Korea) tend to get very steamy and mouldy. Most bathrooms I’ve had in both countries have also not had a conveniently sized cabinet to put them in, maybe for the same reason. The only explanation I could come up with for us Brits putting it in the bathroom is that taking medicine is a private thing that you want to do with the door locked. Anyone know what less privacy obsessed Westerners like the Spanish and Italians do?

There could also be more of a connection between food and medicine in East Asia, most clearly seen in China with its medicinal wines, soups for different disorders etc. Think the practical factors above are probably more important though.

JapanExplained’s first ever review!

“All of those curious little things about Japan – from the size of fruit to the sight of men carrying handbags – investigated, mulled over, and explained. The explanations are often dubious or incomplete, but hey, at least the author’s daring to give it a shot!”

Not only is that a very fair review, that is, believe it or not, the effect I am aiming for!

From the ever fabulous Japanzine’s Top-Ten Japan Related Blogs.

Why do the Japanese treat their cows so well

… famously giving them beers and massages? According to a Discovery Channel documentary I have just seen, it could be related to Buddhism, maybe even a way of making up for eating them in the new , non-vegetarian age. Seems very unlikely to me, as I hardly think cows are treated better in the more Buddhist countries like Thailand, but all explanations are welcome on Japan explained…

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