こんばんは！ That’s konbanwa or “good evening” to those of you who can’t read Japanese. Well, in Japan it’s the morning now, but here in California it’s the evening, so I’m going with it.
Today I’m starting a series that I hope to continue a long time. You’ve probably seen or heard about all kinds of monthly subscription boxes where you sign up to receive a box of products chosen for you to fit a particular theme. I’ve seen them for makeup, baby items, toys, various hobby items, and of course all kinds of niche foods.
I lived in Japan for 3 years total and I’ve always appreciated Japanese snacks and treats. Of course, Japan is famous for healthy food, but when the Japanese do something, they tend to go all out and produce a great product no matter what it is. Snacks are no exception! Japanese goodies are cute, creative, with lovely (and easy-to-open) packaging, and generally less sweet than their American counterparts.
One day I was wasting time on Facebook and came across an ad for a subscription box called TokyoTreat. Their website looked attractive and their products looked tasty, with a good mix of familiar and new-to-me cookies, candies and chips. I decided to order a six-month subscription of the regular size to try it out. I paid about $140 up front for six months’ worth, which includes a small discount compared to subscribing a month at a time.
A few weeks later, this is what I got in the mail:
A cute and distinctive orange box! I couldn’t wait to see what I’d find inside.
Everything was extremely well packed, with no damage to anything, and on top was an adorable little magazine with descriptions of all the products in the shipment. The magazine is Japanese-style, meant to be read from right to left. Well, the pages are to be read right to left — the writing on each individual page is normal left-to-right English! Still, it’s a pleasant touch of culture. And speaking of culture, the magazine includes fun and informative material about Japanese life in the month of January, which unsurprisingly focuses on celebrating the New Year’s holidays. In Japan, Oshougatsu (お正月） is a bigger holiday than in the US, and is usually celebrated by eating special foods and visiting the local Shinto shrine.
Here’s some more info about celebrating New Year in Japan: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2064.html.
Back to the treats! Here’s the treasure trove that was under the magazine:
Yes, I spread everything out on my bed! I’m not a professional photographer, though I suppose I’ll have to improve my skills for the blog. You can see that (aside from the magazine at the top left) there are 11 treats there. One of them was called a “bonus treat,” or otoshidama (お年玉), which follows the Japanese custom of kids receiving envelopes of money from relatives in celebration of the new year.
There’s a good mix of gummies, taffy, chips (which were incredibly intact in spite of crossing the ocean in a box full of stuff), crackers, chocolate biscuits, and a DIY candy where you use the included ingredients to make your own sweet treat!
And of course, as I do with everything, I use these materials as an opportunity to practice proofreading and also for language study. This post is already getting long, so in a future post I’ll describe how I use product packaging to study languages. For now I’ll focus on the English materials and how I would edit them.
Overall, I’d say the magazine is well done. The tone is casual and friendly in addition to being informative. There are several spacing typos throughout, and this is probably due to it being typed with a Japanese keyboard. I have a few years of experience typing on Japanese keyboards; when typing in English, it’s very easy to mess up punctuation such as apostrophes, quotation marks, and spacing in general.
Those are minor errors, so I haven’t included all of them. I’m posting some pictures of more significant errors that I would have fixed if I were working for the lovely TokyoTreat company. Hint, hint! I’d work for treats!
In the above picture, there’s a spacing error of an extra space in the word “It’s,” as well as (in my opinion) a missing hyphen connecting “panda” and “shaped.” That one is a bit subjective, I suppose, but in my view, both words are making a combined adjective describing “chocolate” and should be connected to make “panda-shaped chocolate.”
What’s not subjective is that “compliments” should be “complements.” This may well become a future post for Malapropism Monday because it’s a common error I see all the time. The chocolate is not saying kind words about the monaka; the chocolate goes well with the monaka. This, by the way, is monaka.
The error here is easy to miss for non-native English speakers, and even plenty of native speakers would gloss right over it. Do you see it? If you don’t see the error, read the last sentence out loud: “To add to the fun, an One Piece character sticker is included in each snack.”
I taught English in Japanese public schools for two years and I remember very well teaching the students when to use “a” versus when to use “an.” The entire topic of articles (the, a, an) is quite difficult for Japanese English learners to start with, since articles don’t exist in the Japanese language at all. However, deciding whether to use “a” or “an” is a very easy process: if the noun that follows starts with a vowel sound, you use “an.” If not, use “a.”
Notice I said “vowel sound” and not simply “vowel.” Here’s a case where, although “One Piece” starts with a vowel, the actual sound it starts with is a “w” sound. As an example of the opposite, we’d say “an hour” even though “hour” starts with “h.” We’d also say “a university” even though “university” starts with “u.” The initial sound there is the consonant “y” sound.
I’d probably also italicize One Piece as the title of an anime, but that’s a style decision.
Here we have another instance of “It’s” having an extra space between the apostrophe and the “s.” In addition, the first sentence needs a semicolon after “orange,” because what follows is a complete sentence which is being tagged onto the first complete sentence. I’d also add a comma after “powder,” since “and” is being used as a conjunction in the sentence.
In addition, the phrase “the combination of the different flavors taste like cola” should say “tastes” rather than “taste.” This is because the subject of the verb there is “combination,” a singular noun. The part that probably threw the writer off is the prepositional phrase “of the different flavors.” Sure, “flavors” is a plural noun, but that’s not the subject of the verb! When you’re trying to find the subject, you have to ignore all the prepositional phrases as if they weren’t there. Here’s more info about prepositional phrases: http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/a/prepphrases.htm.
Finally, this is an example of what I consider to be misuse of the word “literally.” You’re not literally testing a hypothesis and presenting your findings to other scientists; you’re literally eating candy. This use of the word is becoming more acceptable, but I’d just say something like, “It’s almost like a science experiment in your mouth!” It’s a style issue, so your sensibilities may vary.
Above is another example of getting tripped up by a prepositional phrase. Each bag contains a card. “Of chips” should be ignored so you can find the real subject, “bag.” I’d also probably change “the Japanese national baseball team design” to “a Japan national baseball team design” since more than one design is possible (“a” vs. “the”), and I looked up the official English name of the team, which is how I wrote it.
This is another case of subject-verb disagreement. The snacks have been supersized, not has. I’d probably also rewrite the sentence “These cute snacks come in all different shapes of sea creatures.” It’s perfectly understandable but sounds a bit clunky to me. I’d rephrase it to “They come in several cute sea creature shapes,” because we’ve already established that the snacks are the topic.
So there you have it! If you’re at all interested in Japanese snacks, I highly recommend this subscription. I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, but I’d like to be! At the moment I’m just a happy customer. Soon I’ll review some of the actual products and how I learn Japanese from the packaging. I also have the boxes for February and March already, so I’m behind! So much blogging to do, so little time.