Bu Sokuten: The Empress of China From the Perspective of a Learner of Japanese

Bu Sokuten

One of the surprising things you’ll find yourself able to do when you study a new language is be able to watch movies and TV shows of a third language through that language. On Japanese TV, you’ll frequently find Chinese and Korean dramas in addition to popular American TV shows airing with Japanese subtitles. I’ve only watched a couple of Korean dramas in my life, but I’ve never watched any Chinese ones. I think it was June of last year that I first stumbled upon 武則天-The Empress- (read as Bu Sokuten), also known as The Empress of China, airing on TV. I love stories with historical settings, so I was immediately hooked by the story of a young concubine named Wu Ru Yi/Wu Mei Niang (known as Bu Nyo I, and later as Bu Bi Jou in Japanese) who eventually becomes the female emperor of China and even establishes her own dynasty. I was looking forward to tuning in every week.

Much to my dismay, it turned out that they were only airing the first two episodes as an incentive to get you to sign up for their premium channel that airs Korean and Chinese dramas. I wasn’t about to do that, so I wound up waiting until it was available for rent from Tsutaya in September. I realize that you can easily find The Empress of China on Youtube in English subtitles (and quality that’s better than DVD quality), but I wanted to use the show as reading practice for Japanese. Also, I read that there’s a censored version and I was hoping the Japanese version was uncut. I believe though that they used the Hong Kong version since cleavage was covered up but you could still see all of the beautiful costumes and hairstyles. So, I stuck with renting the DVDs. Unfortunately the cheapest way to rent the DVDs was to rent 5 for 1,000 yen a week. Each disc had only two episodes, so I was very near to burning out most weeks, though I also rented movies to space out the show a bit more.

Anyway, compared to Japanese, Chinese speakers are very fast, and as a result there isn’t as much time as there is in, say, a Korean drama to read the Japanese subtitles. As a result, this show wound up being very good speed reading practice for me. However, near the end I did stop the show more frequently to save words that I didn’t know into a Japanese dictionary app on my phone. I wound up with a list of over 150 words from the last 20 episodes or so. I would not recommend watching this kind drama full of vocabulary related to Chinese court politics and life unless you’re at an fairly high level of Japanese.

To tell the truth though, I’m not sure I can really recommend this drama to someone unless they’re someone I think potentially could wade through 82 episodes of what feels like one long movie that gets paused every hour. It’s much different from other TV shows with hour long episodes that I’ve watched, where there’s a beginning, middle, and an end to each episode. You never really get a sense that an episode is almost about to be over when watching The Empress of China because every episode ends in a cliffhanger instead of neatly wrapping up a subplot and then ending. I found myself frequently checking at some points in the story how many minutes were left in an episode while watching.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy watching the show. I doubt I would’ve made it through all 82 episodes otherwise. I really enjoyed Fan Bing Bing’s performance as the titular character and the details of the costumes and sets were gorgeous. It has a memorable soundtrack and the story was interesting enough to keep me going despite being afraid that I would burn out because I had to watch so many episodes every week to be able to watch it as cheaply as possible.

Caution: Spoilers beyond this point!

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Pork Shogayaki Recipe

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I feel like I’ve been in a bit of slump when it comes to trying new recipes, but recently I’ve been inspired to try out new ones. For the meat roll-ups recipe, I frequently buy thinly sliced pork loin strips that are meant for pork shogayaki. So recently I decided to use them for their original purpose, and we were not disappointed! This is pork fried in ginger, and it goes great with rice and vegetables, though I think shredded cabbage is a pretty common side. This recipe is very simple and easy to make. I think this would go great in bento too.

This recipe is simple, easy to make, and most importantly, delicious! It’s the number one recipe for shogayaki on Cookpad, and it quickly became a staple in my meal planning.

Original recipe on Cookpad

Ingredients: (Makes 2-3 servings)

  • 300 g of pork loin strips
  • 4 cm of ginger from a ginger paste tube
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking sake
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin (sweet cooking sake)

Directions:

  1. Mix the ginger paste, sugar, cooking sake, soy sauce, and mirin together in a bowl.
  2. Lightly cook the meat on medium heat.
  3. Pour in the sauce and continue cooking the meat until most of the sauce has boiled away.

Spring is Here!

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There’s still a few chilly and rainy days here and there, but in general the warmer weather is finally here and the cherry blossoms have finally bloomed. April marks the beginning of the new school year as well as the time when new hires start at their new jobs. Last week marked Baby J’s first full week at daycare, and this week is my official return to work. I’ve been working on small projects here and there the past six months, but from this month forward I’ll be available again for taking on big translation projects again.

Happily, I’m starting out strong. I’ve already doubled the minimum amount of money I was hoping to make this month while I build up my freelance clients again, and I’ve already got some more work lined up for the month. I’m grateful that I’ve been getting a steady amount of flexible work from this one agency over the past six months, so I hope this trend will continue in the following months as well.

Baby J has been doing great at daycare. She’s now very impatient to go in the mornings, although she still cries when I leave and when she sees me there to pick her up. Or at least, she has been. This morning was the first time she hasn’t cried! I wonder how she will be at pickup, or if she cried after I left. In addition to getting used to drop off and pickup, she eats all of her food and snacks; in fact, I feel like her appetite and how much she eats has only increased since she started going. Also, her naps at daycare have been gradually lengthening from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. They even said that she doesn’t need her pacifier and bear for her naps anymore! Hopefully she’ll be able to take 2-2.5 hour naps there soon. Speaking of naps, she’s definitely dropped her morning nap and is now down to one nap a day. It’s been a bit of an adjustment though, since she’s needed some quiet downtime in her crib even though she doesn’t sleep. It’s been a bit of an adjustment for us as well since we’re used to her only being up for 2 hours in the morning, and now suddenly she’s up for 4 hours or so! Good thing I’ve rediscovered my love for milk tea.

In addition to this nap transition, she’s been gaining a lot of new skills recently. I don’t know if it’s something she’s just started doing on her own, or if she’s learning by watching the other kids at daycare. Now she pushes cars, is close to figuring out how her puzzle toys work, and according to hubby she can now stack the stacking rings toy (whereas up until now she was more interested in eating the rings). She’s also started to drag things with her. This morning she even helped put her shoes on by pressing down the velcro part for me.

In general, I’ve found that following her daycare schedule has been working out for us: Lunch at 11/11:30 depending on how late breakfast was, nap at noon, snack at 3, dinner at 6, bedtime around 8. She’s been consistently waking up at 7:30-8:30 now, though I’ve noticed that she sleeps in until 9 on the occasional night when she wakes up in the middle of the night. Like I mentioned before, it’s been a bit of an adjustment having her up for more hours in the day, but it offers more flexibility on what we can do in the afternoon. Before we never had much time to do much because as soon as she was fed, dressed, and ready to go we’d only have an hour or so until her second nap.

While I don’t quite know what’s up with the one year checkup (I think it might be the “cattle call” kind where they all have to go to the ward office to get checked?), she did have to have an individual checkup for our application to daycare. Baby J is now 28.1 inches and weighs 16 pounds and 7 ounces. She’s still our little peanut, but it’s been amazing being her guide and watching her grow and learn every day.

The Sailor Moon meets GU Collaboration

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The Sailor Moon x GU merchandise went on sale on March 24th, which was a Friday. Considering how Sailor Moon teams up with luxury department store brand Isetan every year, I was pretty surprised when they originally announced this collaboration. Finally, some cheap Sailor Moon merchandise! I didn’t realize just how many other people would be thinking the same thing though.

GU is kind of similar to Old Navy in terms of prices and in that it has a sister brand that’s a bit more pricier (Uniqlo). I’ve never actually shopped at GU since I never actually saw one to go shopping at anyway until one was built in the Ebina Lalaport, but the image I’ve had of it as a brand over the years has not been very good due to how I’ve heard people talk about it. As a result, I mistakenly thought that not many people would go for the Sailor Moon products when they came out. Boy was I wrong!

I was originally planning to go to GU on Saturday so that I could go shopping without the baby. During lunch though, I was browsing Twitter and I saw how crazy the lines were for getting into GU in Ginza and I found out that the items were already selling out online. Since I didn’t get anything from the Isetan collaboration for my birthday this year, I definitely didn’t want to miss out on the GU one since it was so cheap. So, I wound up taking the baby with me to go shopping. She did fine, thankfully. I gave her one of the bag charms to hold and that amused her for a bit, and so did a couple of books I brought with us.

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Wish I had realized that I had taken such a blurry photo… 

Since the GU store in Ebina is considered one of their big stores I was hoping they would have the large cardboard displays like I’ve seen in pictures of the Ginza store. I was a bit disappointed in their display though, as seen above.

When I got there, I was also disappointed to find that they were already sold out of the dresses, blouses, and bottoms. They were sold out of most sizes for T-shirts as well, but I managed to snag quite a few for myself.

Their inventory for two right-most shirts on the bottom row were completely gone by the time I had checked out. This was the first time I actually felt like I’ve ever witnessed the phrase “flying off the shelves” in action. It’s a good thing I had gone shopping the day they went on sale because when I went shopping in Ebina on Saturday they had already taken down the Sailor Moon displays and only had a few Artemis bags and some bag accessories left. I think I got all 11 things for around 10,000 yen? Not bad!

It turns out though that they somehow found more stock for the jeans by the time I came back from Akachan Honpo. I had asked a store clerk about them when I was originally shopping, and she flagged me down when she saw me walking by again to tell me they got the jeans back in. I really appreciated that she took the time to call out to me. I guess standing out helps sometimes in cases where it makes shop staff remember you easier. Unfortunately the few sizes they found of the jeans didn’t fit, so I didn’t buy them.

It looks like they still have some items in stock online still, but it sounds like they were sold out of most things nationwide by the end of the day. I’m glad I managed to get what I got!