It’s cold! A day for カイロ (hand warmers). The first time I came to Japan was the first time I encountered these portable packets. The brand my homestay family had was ホッカイロ (Hokkairo), which totally confused me because I thought they were talking about going to Hokkaido. And then I thought that was the name of the product until I saw other brands like ホカロン (Hokaron).
Do you know the kanji? (See the bottom of this post for the answer.)
Do you know how they work?
It’s a simple chemical reaction. Basically, the packets are rusting, and the heat is just a by-product of that reaction.
Read about it in English here: “How Do Hand Warmers Work, Anyway?” (from Adventure Journal)
At the end of the article, there are several recommendations/links to purchase them. The prices in dollars on Amazon seem a little steep to me, compared to Japanese prices. Anyway, there’s also an electric hand warmer made by Eneloop, which may be better for the environment. It’s available on the Japan Trend Shop, which I’m not recommending you use to actually buy anything, but it’s a pretty funny place to browse many novelty products you’d “only find in Japan”.
The kanji for カイロ is:
Yes poop. 💩
Here are two ways poop came in handy this year:
In Japan: “Professor Poo bestseller brings scatology-based study to Japan” (from the Guardian). This book is helping kids learn to write kanji characters, and the term うんこ漢字ドリル(Poop Kanji Drills is the name of the book) was one of this year’s Words of the Year in Japan. (“The Japanese words that perfectly sum up how the country felt this year” from Quartz)
Read more about the workbook at Spoon and Tamago.
In the US: turning cow poop into electricity
Read more about this “methane digester” at the Strauss Family Creamery in California.
Train geeks and birdwatchers will like this story. It’s about how the newer shinkansen are modeled after kingfisher birds’ beaks because the guy who helped design them was a birdwatcher and noticed that nature’s designs can be pretty perfect. He also got hints from owls and penguins. The video goes on to explain biomimicry and how we can learn a lot from biology and nature.
Watch with the CC subtitles turned on to help you improve listening skills and learn some language. Like this phrase: “to make a splash” — which can be literal (a bird makes a splash when it dives into the water) or an idiom (to become noticed/gain a lot of attention because of something you’ve done).
My students will probably not get the title reference. It’s from this scene of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz”:
This “news” made me laugh:
Japanese ramen-maker Nissin wants to end “noodle harassment” with a slurp-canceling fork
And it made me think about the spaghetti eating scene in one of my favorite movies, “Tampopo”:
A third video, minus the subtitles, if you want to try to translate it yourself