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WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
Recently, Japanese children have been greeting one another in the morning using the word "oh-ha!" The Japanese phrase for "good morning" is "ohayo gozaimasu." Among friends, this is shortened to "ohayo." By shortening this still further to "oh-ha," even little kids can say their morning greetings clearly and energetically.
The person who made this shortened greeting popular is Shingo Mama, a character from a weekly variety TV show called Sata Suma. Each week Shingo Mama, dressed in an apron, appears unexpectedly at the home of a family selected from among the viewers and takes over morning duties for the household's mother, even making breakfast for the children with what ingredients she happens to find in the refrigerator. She always greets the family members with a cheerful "oh-ha!"
Shingo Mama is actually played by a man--23-year-old Shingo Katori. Katori is a member of the popular singing and variety group SMAP. At 182 centimeters (6 feet) and 77 kilograms (169 pounds), he is quite a bit bigger than the average Japanese male his age. So even after dressing up in a curly wig and frilly apron, he doesn't look womanly or motherly at all. The silliness of Shingo Mama's appearance is one reason for her popularity.
The CD of Shingo Mama's theme song, "Shingo Mama no Oha-Rock (Shingo Mama's Good Morning Rock)," went on sale in August 2000. With its fun, catchy rhythm and lively dance steps, the song instantly shot up to number one on the hit pop charts. When 1,000 tickets were offered for a live concert by Shingo Mama to promote the CD, every one of them was grabbed up in no time.
Taking note of Shingo Mama's popularity, in August Japan's Ministry of Education asked her to be the promotional leader of its nationwide "talk with our children" campaign. The Minister for Education commented that greeting each other with the word "oh-ha!" should be a good way to encourage communication in the family. Shingo Mama will be helping to promote the campaign for a year, until summer 2001.
A gesture accompanies the word "oh-ha!" When saying "oh," bring both hands beside the face and make a circle with each hand using the index finger and thumb. Next, open the hands and bring them forward for "ha." Pretty easy, isn't it! How about giving it a try yourself?
For the autumn sports festival season, many schools and kindergartens sang out "oh-ha!" and danced along to Shingo Mama's song. The word was awarded a grand prize for trendy word of 2000. In the twenty-first century, "oh-ha!" just might become a standard morning greeting among the Japanese.
Photos: (Top) Shingo Mama gets ready to say "oh-ha!"; (above) Shingo Mama and her friends cheerfully greet a family. (Fuji Television Network)