mitcho Michael 芳貴 Erlewine

Postdoctoral fellow, McGill Linguistics.


Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

91 Hours in Japan

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I just spent 91 hours in Japan. This is what it looked like.

日本語サポートを含む Ubiquity 0.5 リリース

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Mozilla Japan ブログUbiquity を紹介する投稿を上げたので、ここでもクロスポストします。 Here’s a cross-post of a Ubiquity 0.5 announcement (in particular regarding the new Japanese support) I wrote for the Mozilla Japan blog.

Mozilla Labs の実験的プロジェクトのひとつ、 Ubiquity の最新版、バージョン 0.5 を昨日リリースしました。 (Mozilla Labs 正式発表 [英文])

Ubiquity はウェブをより有益に、より使いやすくするために自然言語で Firefox を操作するインターフェースを提供します。ウェブ上のオープン API と機能が増えて行く一方でどのようなインターフェースが必要であるのか。その答えを追求した結果、テキスト入力の正確さとスピードと自然言語の心地よさを合わせたインターフェースができあがりました。例えば「麹町を地図で表示」、「これを (誰々) へメール」などを自分の言葉で入力してブラウザを操作することができます。新しいコマンド (動詞) も簡単に JavaScript で書けるので、拡張性も非常に高いプラットフォームです。

ユーザにとって「自然な構文」 (“natural syntax” [英文]) という目標の下、数ヶ月の研究の結果、Ubiquity 0.5 では複数の言語の異なる構文に対応できるパーサを実装しました。Ubiquity 内蔵のコマンドもローカライズ可能になり、0.5 ではすべての内蔵コマンドの日本語、デンマーク語とポルトガル語版が搭載されています。

リリース直前に Ubiquity の日本語紹介ビデオを作成しましたので、どうぞご覧ください。日本語モードでの使用方法も説明されています。

Ubiquity 0.5 日本語紹介ビデオ from mitcho on Vimeo.

日本語サポートが入った Ubiquity 0.5 を是非ご使用ください。このインターフェースをより多くのユーザが「自然に」使えるよう、これからも開発を続けていきたいと思います。

Light of Firefox (tomoshibi 灯) from Mozilla Japan

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Here at Mozilla Japan Firefox 3.5 Headquarters,1 we just launched the new and improved Light of Firefox (in Japanese, tomoshibi (灯)) for Firefox 3.5. The Light of Firefox is a real-time, interactive website which shows sparks on a map of Japan for every manual download of the new Firefox from


The name tomoshibi means “torch” in Japanese. As a new Firefox brings new technologies and possibilities to all corners of the web, so too will the tomoshibi light up the night in Japan!

The site was designed and coded by Daisuke Akatsuka of the Keio Kakehi Lab (xlab), the same fine folks who brought you interFORest.

  1. thecountdown-thumb.jpg 

The (Shiretoko) Revolution Begins Now

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

As many of you know, the upcoming Firefox 3.5 was code-named Shiretoko after the [[Shiretoko National Park]] on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The Shiretoko Foundation and Mozilla Japan just launched a very cool open-web-powered promotional website, interFORest, together with a very powerful educational site, I just went to and registered for my own virtual tree to be planted on the virtual Shiretoko Park. This tree banner will keep track of traffic through my site to the interFORest site and will grow this tree accordingly over time. You can then go to and see all the trees growing on the park. With your help, we can grow it into a forest!

If you are reading this through a feed reader or planet, click on the permalink to view the banner embedded below:

Place one of these personalized canvas-powered virtual tree banners on your site to spread the word on Firefox 3.5, the Shiretoko Park and Foundation, and the power of open communities. All the cool kids are doing it. ^^

Ubiquity presentation at Tokyo 2.0

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009


This past Monday I presented at Tokyo 2.0, Japan’s largest bilingual web/tech community. I presented as part of a session on The Web and Language, which I also helped organize. Other presenters included Junji Tomita from goo Labs, Shinjyou Sunao of Knowledge Creation, developers of the Voice Delivery System API, and Chris Salzberg of Global Voices Online on community translation.

I just put together a video of my Ubiquity presentation, mixing the audio recorded live at the presentation together with a screencast of my slides for better visibility. The presentation is 10 minutes long and is bilingual, English and Japanese.

Ubiquity: Command the Web with Language 言葉で操作する Web from mitcho on Vimeo.


Friday, April 10th, 2009

桜 (sakura) is Japanese for cherry blossom, an important symbol of spring time in Japan and, with it, a symbol of renewal. The cherry blossom is a beautiful fluffy and light flower which falls quickly off the tree with wind and rain, making it also an important representation of [[mono no aware|物の哀れ (mono no aware)]].

Last weekend my family (including my aunt Mikako and Bailey) took a short trip to Yugawara (湯河原) at the base of the [[Izu peninsula]]. Last weekend was possibly the peak of the cherry blossoms this year, making it a very picturesque trip. It’s quite rare for the four of us to all be in the same place at the same time, so these photos are definite keepers:

One of my personal highlights was going down a slide at Azumayama Park in [[Ninomiya]] right through a grove of cherry trees in full bloom—it was so beautiful that I had to go back down it again and take a video! Unfortunately the Flash video encoding (or my camera) doesn’t do it justice, but I hope you can fill in the gaps with your imagination.

Cherry blossom slide - 桜のすべりだい(二宮吾妻山公園) from mitcho on Vimeo.

Talking Ubiquity in Japan: 拡張機能勉強会にて発表

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Yesterday I presented on Ubiquity internationalization and the new parser design at the Mozilla Extension Development Meeting (Japanese), a community event organized by some extension developers in Japan. There were a couple other Ubiquity-related “lightning talks” as well, so I’ll summarize some of the interesting ideas from those talks below.

昨日第11回Mozilla拡張機能勉強会で Ubiquity の国際化と次世代パーサについて発表してきました。色々鋭いコメントをいただき、僕も良い勉強になりました。^^ スライドの方をslideshareに載せたので、是非参考にまた見てみてください。ライトニングトークでも Ubiquity の話で盛り上がったので、そのLTの内容で特に面白いと僕が思ったものを下に英語でちょっとまとめてみます。


Gaba, Shame On You

Monday, January 12th, 2009

A Gaba ad on a train

Here’s a picture of an ad for [[Gaba]], a big English conversation school in Japan, I snapped on a train recently. I felt the English sentence about Gaba’s satisfaction was extremely awkward, so I put it up on twitter to check with some other native speakers. My friends concurred. What do you think?

I personally think the sentence would be improved by removing the “the” in “the satisfaction.” Others offered “continues to rise” as possibly preferable to “continually rise.” English articles, especially the definiteness of abstract nouns, is very difficult for many non-native speakers. That being said, it’s sad for a sentence of such questionable acceptability to come from a company which, in theory, prides itself in its English ability and surely hires many native speakers. Gaba, shame on you.

Weekend in Osaka

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

A few weekends ago, I went out west to visit Bailey. While I normally visit her in Kyoto, it was a three-day weekend, and we decided to explore another city near her: Osaka (大阪). If Kyoto is the historical capitol, Tokyo is the modern and imperial capitol, Osaka has traditionally been the merchant capitol of Japan. It’s known for its food, comedy, and business.

My trip began with the three-hour bullet train (新幹線 shinkansen) ride out to Osaka. I hadn’t purchased a ticket in advance, so that meant standing in a non-reserved seating car for most of the way there, the sole consolation being the great view of Mt. Fuji. Lesson learned: buy reserved tickets for holiday weekends.


Our first stop was the [[Osaka castle]] (大阪城 ōsaka jyō). Located at the center of the city, the castle is surrounded by a moat and a pretty big park. Many of the paths are lined with cherry trees, making it a popular [[hanami|cherry blossom viewing]] venue in the spring.


The Future of Driving

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Not sure how I missed this revolutionary new auto industry startup before,1 but last week’s news that the State of Hawaii has signed up definitely caught my attention. Better Place’s ambitions plan involves a combination of smart invisible technology, quickly replaceable (not just rechargeable) batteries, and a business plan that makes drivers “subscribers.” I dug up a profile of the company, its plan, and its visionary, [[Shai Agassi]], who definitely gets it:

When I ask Shai if he’s worried about a competitor stealing his idea, he stares at me like I’m an idiot. “The mission is to end oil,” he says, “not create a company.”

UPDATE: This story just came much closer to home.

  1. that noun phrase is chock full of cognitive dissonance. 

ワンセグ TV coming to the iPhone

Friday, October 31st, 2008

From Asiajin:

Softbank Mobile announced today to release 1-seg digital TV tuner device for iPhone in the middle of December. The 80-gram device provides the feature of TV over WiFi (converting TV signal received to IP-based data for iPhone) and doubles as a battery extender. Three hours continuous TV viewing is available.

I’ve seen a number of these ワンセグ (wansegu, [[1seg]]) digital TV tuner-enabled phones around the office and in trains. I’m not a huge TV watcher, even in Japan,1 but I have to say these phones are pretty cool. In the land of one-hour train commutes, there’s definitely both appeal and demand. I’ve sat on trains next to everyone from hip high schoolers to grandparents watching TV on these phones.

Frankly, however, I think the fact that it’s a separate device (even if it can be unwired) will still limit its attractiveness. I’ll be curious to see what the interface is like.

  1. Growing up I watched much more Japanese TV than American TV. Heh. 

Ichifuku ramen—一福ラーメン

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

About two doors down from my new place is a restaurant serving [[ramen]] (ラーメン, derived from the Chinese 拉麵), a distinctive type of noodle. Ramen noodles are wheat-based but crucially use kansui (鹹水), a mineral-rich water.1 This water colors the noodles yellow and helps add a certain firmness to the noodles. The noodles can be served in a variety or different ways (with regional variations as well), but it is most often served in a [[miso]]-, soy sauce-, pork broth-, or salt-based soup.

The store down the street is called ichifuku (一福). Not only is it one of the closest restaurants to my house, it’s also been featured on a number of ramen restaurants and websites. The store is known for its delicious miso ramen but also for its more creative, Western-style arrangements. The female shopkeeper is often running everything by herself, gardening out front as well as cooking and playing great music.

Here are some pictures of the great food they serve:

If you ever come by the Hatsudai area, I highly recommend a visit. The address is: 東京都渋谷区本町6−6−4.

  1. NB: Kansui in Japanese refers to a specific type of solution, while the same word in Chinese simply means “salt water.” 

My Palace Mansion

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I’m certainly not the first one who’s noticed that Japanese apartment buildings often have weird English names (I can think of [[Tony László]] in one of the [[Is He Turning Japanese%3F|ダーリンは外国人]] books.) In fact, I moved into my very own “Palace Mansion” myself a couple weeks ago. No, really. That’s the name of the place.

A mansion? By Japanese standards, yes.1 A palace? Um… not quite. Take a look—here are some pictures from my move-in.


  1. マンション (“mansion”) in Japanese actually refers to an apartment complex of at least a certain size. It’s an instance of [[wasei-eigo|和製英語]]—English-sounding words in the Japanese lexicon which, for some reason or another, do not actually exist or mean the same thing in English. 

Exploring Nanao, part 3: sports day, hot springs, Sayun’s bell, and 高峰

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Sports day

Three Mondays ago, Nanao had their annual sports day.[^1] The sports day reminded me of the years of Japanese school sports days I used to go to, complete with the representative student’s pledge of sportsmanship, a three legged race, and concluding relay, though it was only half a day.[^2] It also was billed as the Nan’ao town and school joint sports day (村校聯合運動大會) and indeed many parents, families, and other miscellaneous townspeople were there to join in the festivities.


John Fleming Pushes Gas

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Possibly one of the positive results of ridiculous college entrance exams and a culture of cram schools: here’s a series of [[Tokyo Gas]] commercials. Various historical characters jump out of his armoire (the other end of a time portal) and learn about natural gas products, including [[John Ambrose Fleming]] (ad #4)! I swear, though, in the US, you couldn’t run an ad that makes fun of [[Fleming’s Left Hand Rule]]. You just couldn’t.