Valentine's Day is coming

And Google News Japan is abuzz! ... with articles about 50 Cent's latest single, "Valentine's Day Massacre".

But also!

  • ICHIKAWA Yui launches trading card line, bends over birthday cake! (Standard practice for idols, this.) But what about Valentine's Day, Miz Ichikawa?

    Up until now I've given hand-made chocolate to the guys I like, but I'll be busy with work this year so I don't think I'll do anything.

    Too busy? Has she already forgotten the MSN-sponsored date in the park we enjoyed?

  • YOSHINAGA Sayuri gives chocolate to 1000 random folks in a movie theatre, to thank the public for seeing her new movie, 『北の零年』 (Year One in the North* -- it's a historical drama about the settling of Hokkaido [although the Ainu were already there]). Any fond memories of Valentine's Day, Miz Yoshinaga?

    When I was a little girl there was no Valentine's Day, so.... If there had been, I might have given chocolate to that boy I had a crush on, I suppose.

    59 and still holding her own with the ISHIHARA Satomis of this world.

  • Valentine's Day Survey from Yahoo! Japan! Since love and mushy stuff like that is for girly-girls, 78% of their respondents were women. 50% of folks surveyed said that what they wanted most on Valentine's Day was chocolate -- but only 13% of all respondents said they wanted it to be hand-made! That is cold, ladies.

* Although the Japanese title is pronounced Kita no Zero-nen, so why the English version is "one" instead of "zero", I do not know.

Popularity factor: 5


That reminds me of a custom I've heard about but never verified: do the Japanese start counting a person's age at 1? That is, are you 一歳 when you're born?

After all, isn't that how the reign-based calendar works?

Oops, I answered my own question. I wonder when they stopped using that crazy system.


Wow, that comment was a roller-coaster ride. Yeah, I guess the olden-days 歳 didn't so much mean "I am X years old" as "I am in the Xth year (as measured by the calendar, and starting at "1st") since being born".

I have no idea when they stopped, but I'm guessing it was after the period in which that movie was set.. "during the US occupation" is usually a safe bet for when big Westernising changes like that happened.

The kanji in that title, though, is 零 which specifically means "zero". The reigns start at year 1, but they call it 元年 (gannen, something like "beginning year" or "base year"). 元年、二年、三年...


Clearly, the Japanese are more programming savvy than us Americans.


Would "Year Zero" carry connotations of the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge for most English speakers, or is that just me?

Does the old-style age counting system have anything to do with reckoning age from conception rather than birth? I'm sure I've read something to that effect (possibly with reference to China) but I've no idea whether it was a reliable source.

-- Tim May


Oh, right! The bloody reign of terror thing. Maybe it's a generation gap; by the time I was conscious of my surroundings the Vietnam War was SO last decade. But I can see how folks a little older (or better-informed) than me might make the wrong assumptions if they heard about a movie from Asia called "Year Zero in the North".

To be honest "Year Zero" and "Year One" both make me think of comic book reboots.

As for the conception thing -- now that you mention it, I think I've heard something like that too. I'll ask around. That could be the reason they have no zero, although it wouldn't explain why everyone ages a year on New Year's Day. (Unless there were some freaky beliefs about conception.)

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