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East Asian Languages Fun stuff :)

Response to Backhaus’ Multilingualism in Tokyo: A Look into the Linguistic Landscape


The article focuses on the multilingual signs in Tokyo and goes into a more in-depth investigation of the differences between the official and unofficial signs. Official signs are those written by the authority (the names of roads, for instance, or traffic rules signs) and unofficial signs are those written by the citizens (the names of shops, graffiti, commercials, etc.). The article starts by laying out the methodology and logistics of the research that was conducted, including specifics on what counted as a sign or not. English was the most used foreign language on signs, with a large portion of 97.6% followed by Chinese and Korean. There were differences between official and unofficial signs in terms of arrangement of languages and prominence of languages contained.

The article also discusses power and solidarity issues that are represented in the signs, which refers to which is the main language and the translating language in the sign. An interesting point here is that while there is a hierarchy in official signs, intermingling of different codes for different purposes occurs in unofficial signs. My personal thought on this is that because official signs are issued by the government, whose main focus is the Japanese citizens, Japanese would be most prominent.

One interesting point was that determining whether a sign is multilingual or not wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Before reading the article, I thought that if a sign just had another language written on it, it would count as multilingual. However, the article distinguished what counts as because the usage of English has high prestige value in Japan and the usage of English is not always in an English-speaking context (for example, mere transliterations of Japanese terms, measure units, and abbreviations). The fact that there was that much English on the signs in Japan shows how prominent English is in Japanese everyday life.

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Trip to Temescal


2 weeks ago, our class went on a field trip to Temescal. I’d been there before to eat out, but it was my first time to have my “linguistic landscape” goggles on. It was interesting to see how much Korean there was and also to see a clever Chinese-English sign.

I never expected to see a CPA office sign in Korean, but it definitely caught my attention. I think that’s what the CPA office was aiming for: to catch the eyes of Koreans and make business.

This notice was posted under the CPA office sign. Note how both signs have Korean on the top and English on the bottom. An excerpt that our class read a few weeks ago talked about the implications of how arrangements of languages have meaning. Here, it seems that the main audience is Korean.


We had an interview with Theresa, the owner of Sura, a Korean Cuisine restaurant. In Korean, Sura means the cuisine of the king, and Theresa told us that she used recipes from the royal family as well as temple recipes.

Another representation of how the arrangement of languages inform us of the main audience: the Korean above seems to tell us that the sign is directed mostly towards Koreans.

This sign had interesting usage of Chinese. It’s a mixture of a direct translation of Chinese into English with a slight twist. In Chinese, the  sign means (word by word) “new good good restaurant (the last two characters mean restaurant)”. The second and third character mean “good” and are pronounced “hao”. The sign slightly modified the pronunciation “hao hao” to “ho ho”, which makes sense because “ho ho” is a sound of laughing and jolliness which conveys the original meaning of the character, good.

The trip to Temescal was meaningful not only because we had some great Korean food (seafood Korean pancakes,  japchae, Korean nooodles, and 18 banchan, side dishes) but also because we saw a lot of representations of what we had been discussing and reading about in class for the semester.



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Questions raised in class: Post Solano Avenue, What is fusion?


The week after we paid a field trip to Solano Avenue, our class had mini-presentations about what we saw and the questions that rose while we were there. Among them, one interesting question was the question of fusion food. This was a question that was briefly mentioned, but it got me thinking.

The original question was brought up when Julian and Frank talked about a restaurant named Bangkok Jam. According to their interview with a person who worked there (not the manager thought), Bangkok Jam means fusion Thai food. I think Julian and Frank said, however, that it didn’t really seem like it was “fusion” food. If I recall correctly, Dave then raised the interesting question of fusion as the new authentic. This seemed to add a new branch to our ongoing conversation and debate of “What is authentic?”.

I’m not quite sure how fusion is the new authentic, but it definitely seems like there seems to be a trend with fusion foods. In Berkeley, there is a Korean American fusion food restaurant named Crunch. I blogged about this place in my previous postings as well, but I’m not entirely sure if we can call this place a “fusion food” restaurant. Yes, there are certain menus that are indeed “fusion” such as the kimchi burrito, but other than that, over half of the menu just seems like Korean food.

So I’m left wondering, looking at both Bangkok Jam and Crunch, what really is being “fusion”?


Oh, and I found the Chinatown T-shirt that Dave mentioned at the end of class 😛

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I couldn’t make it to the field trip, so I went by my own and had some questions that I addressed during last week’s presentations. I covered from Cosula Avenue to Peralta Avenue.

The sign reads as “Liu’s Kitchen” in English. The first Chinese character reads as “liu” and the last two characters mean kitchen, but I couldn’t fit the second character into context. It reads as “tian” and means sky in Chinese. This may have something to do with what we had discussed the week before–when translating one language into another, there are parts that can’t be translated and it is difficult to do an exact translation. I was still curious as to what role the “tian” character plays.


This restaurant was interesting in that there are four representations on the signs. The English says “Japanese Restaurant”, the Romanized Hiragana says “Miyuki” which means snow, the Hiragana characters also read as “Miyuki”, and according to my classmates in last week’s seminar, the Kanji means sushi. It was interesting to see how the signs all mean different things when they are being used for the same restaurant.

After reading several blog posts from the field trip, it seems that King Tsin was a hot-topic place. The thing that I recognized about the signs was that the Chinese characters do not in any way seem to read as King Tsin–not the meaning nor the characters themselves. So I  was curious as to what the Chinese characters actually mean and why there is a discrepancy in the two representations. I think someone answered my question last time, but I can’t really remember, so it would be highly appreciated if that person could post a reply!

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Japan Town Signs


A weekend ago, I paid a trip to Japan Town in San Francisco. I was really surprised to see how even the street signs were written in Japanese. Although it’s a shame that I don’t have a picture, I was also surprised to see how many Romanized-Korean signs there were.

just a little bonus… adorable crepe sold inside Japan Town! It tastes good too.

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More “authentic”?


There are a few Korean restaurants in Berkeley that I’ve been to. Since the topic for this week’s blog posting was authenticity, how people determine whether a certain location is authentic or not, I thought it would be interesting to compare several Korean restaurants that my friends and I have been to, and judging from the criteria of

  • frequency of going to eat
  • comments on the food
  • comments on the interior
  • observations

give a shot at determining which places people think to be more “legit” and from that, derive what factors people think are important when talking about authenticity.

In my post, I’ll talk about three restaurants: Kimchi Garden, Toast, and Crunch.

First up is Kimchi Garden. Located next to Asian Ghetto (the controversial name yes haha), Kimchi Garden seems to serve as a pretty decent Korean restaurant to go to as Steve’s BBQ is scorned by the majority population for various reasons and Bear Ramen, although acknowledged by many for having great taste, doesn’t have enough space to sit down and eat your meal.

When my Korean friends and I want to go out for Korean food, we often go to Kimchi Garden. The comments on the food served are pretty good: edible and everyone has generous things to say about the Kimchi fried rice. Nobody who went to eat with me ever commented that this place had “illegitimate” food or anything of that sort. So for the food, everyone seemed satisfied with it’s “Koreanness”.

As for the interior, there are some elements that try to convey a Korean feeling while others that are just random.

What stood out the most were the Korean dolls like such that were displayed in the entrance.

Some random things were an old typewriter next to these dolls and a huge TV in the main dining area.

Frequency: high

Food: average

Interior: Korean aspects with some random throw-ins


Next is Toast. First of all, the location is kind of obscure, so that might add to why people don’t go here that often. It’s located within Sather Lane, so it’s not visible if you’re on the street.

In terms of the food itself, the same applies for here as for Kimchi Garden: nothing extraordinary, in either a good or a bad way. Just your average Korean food.

As for the interior, there are no ornaments whatsoever. It is very bland: plainly painted walls and maybe the menu on the wall might serve as the only decoration (which is also just plain).

To be honest though, it’s been a while since I’ve been to Toast, so the next I do go, I’ll try to get a few photos and maybe add some analysis to this post.

Frequency: low

Food: average

Interior: no display of anything Korean


Lastly is Crunch. It’s described as a Korean-American fusion restaurant, but everyone around me recognizes it as a Korean restaurant.

People I know come here very frequently for a variety of dishes that are “lighter” than your average Korean dish so to speak: part of the Korean-American fusion seems to come from this. The spices aren’t as strong as would normally be, which attracts a lot of non-Korean customers as well.

When people first visit Crunch, almost all the time they point out the TV screen that shows Korean music videos. My friend who paid a visit from Stanford said that she felt like she was back in Korea. A review on yelp also said that the music videos made the place seem very “Korean”: “The environment is really nice, modern, and very Korean. The TV played Korean pop music videos the entire time we were there”. (

Frequency: high

Food: average

Interior: closer to a modern representation of Korea rather than a traditional one: a possible explanation might be the “Korean-American fusion” theme of the restaurant.


When people (including myself) think of the authenticity of a place, it seems that the food and the interior together create a notion of legitimacy and that legitimacy causes people to go there more frequently, which can be interpreted in two ways. The first is that the owners of these restaurants would want to present their stores as more authentic because it brings more customers. Secondly, the frequency could be used as a criteria to see whether people think of the place as “legit” or not.

It really is a shame that I don’t have a lot of photos that show what I’m talking about in this post, but I will try to update this post after going back to these places to eat.

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Asian Ghetto: the history and the name


Berkeley’s Asian Ghetto was not always called “Asian Ghetto”. According to reviews on, there was a time when it was simply called “Durant Square”. Currently, people who wish to be politically correct will point out that it should be Durant Square. Personally, I feel that regardless of what is politically correct (and I wonder who gets to define what is politically correct and incorrect, especially in this case in which I’m Asian and I don’t feel offended with the term “Asian Ghetto” at all), what people call it on an average day to day basis is what represents the essence.

                  The reason Durant Square is more frequently called Asian Ghetto is that there are a lot of Asian restaurants and the square’s atmosphere seems to be “ghetto” in that there are always a few homeless people in front of the square asking to “spare a quarter”, the trashcans always seem to be overflowing, and the square just never seems clean. Almost all the reviews on yelp agreed with why this place is called “Asian Ghetto”.

                  According to a review, which explained that there was a time when this place was not called “Asian Ghetto” but was called as simply “Durant Square”, there used to be an ice cream place in which ice cream was made daily, “fresh, rich and creamy”. Why this “ice cream place” went out of business is not specified.

There was also a Japanese restaurant called Yokohama Station; the reason for closing is also unspecified. Except for the sushi house, I don’t think there is a Japanese restaurant in Asian Ghetto currently.

Coming back to the name, Asian Ghetto seems to have an appropriate name—most of the restaurants sell Asian food and the surroundings are indisputably ghetto. My personal thought on Asian Ghetto is that it seems to assimilate well with or represent Berkeley’s culture: There are lots of Asians (more than I had ever expected), and the surroundings of the campus all seem a bit “ghetto”. For me, Asian Ghetto seems just right for Berkeley.


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