This time your number's up!
A juicy one, indeed...
As usual, please email me with your answers. Winners will get a free website plug.
This time your number's up!
A juicy one, indeed...
As usual, please email me with your answers. Winners will get a free website plug.
My inspiration for this post came from reading Daniel's entry about his self-study reading list. This isn't the first time I've written about reading and how important an element of study it is, but I just can't emphasize it enough. While I'm not (yet?) able to read as much or as well as Daniel, and I have been slacking with the second volume of Harry Potter, I do continue to read in Japanese, be it even just a little, just about every day.
If you can find the good ones, blogs are an excellent way to study a language. Depending on the theme of the blog and the author, they can provide opportunities to learn a wide variety of vocabulary and expressions, many of which you probably would never see in a textbook. The casual voice and format that have become the norm for blogs make them valuable resources for study.
The only caveat is that the freedom of the blog format can be a double-edged sword. You may experience words and phrases that are difficult to understand or may not be able to find in a dictionary. You also may come across a fair amount of blatantly incorrect words or grammar patterns. If you regularly read blogs in English, you know that even the best online writers make mistakes from time to time. Blogs in Japanese (or any other language) are no different. So while you don't have to be skeptical of everything you read, it may behoove you to proceed with caution.
Every now and then I'll do a search and find some interesting J-blogs, but here are three that I read either regularly or at least every now and then:
いちごいちえ - Yoshie's blog, from which I've learned (or at least been exposed to) a wide variety of words that I had never seen or heard before. I think this is partly due to the fact that her tone fluctuates between casual and polite, so there's a good bit of keigo in the mix.
なぞなぞKING - NazoNazo King. I occasionally borrow riddles from this website, as it has quite a bit. Sometimes I'll come across a joke I don't understand, but most of them are simple enough and at least a little amusing.
アメリカの猫ママ一家のﾌﾞﾛｸﾞ - 猫ママ's blog. This one belongs to a Japanese woman who is currently living in America and raising a family. Interesting to see the flip side - a Japanese expat living in America.
As you read and begin to comprehend more and more over time (without the use of Rikaichan), you'll become more and more comfortable with Japanese, and navigating Japanese websites will also become easier. I find this a quite rewarding and tangible way of getting a basic feel for one's progress.
Do you know of or follow any Japanese blogs? If so, please share them in the comments!
I plan to be making entries again soon, but for now I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things.
My trip back to the States was nice - it was good to see friends and family again and pick up some much-needed supplies (like shoes). However, my sleeping pattern has been erratic since last week. I'm not exactly sure how much I've been getting, as my nightly sleep has been restless, and my flights and car trips were punctuated with an hour or two of slumber here and there. I'm skeptical that such sleep can accurately be classified as "rest." Regardless, I have one class today (the JTE, Japanese Teacher of English, my partner, mercifully took over my preparation this time), but three tomorrow...hopefully I'll be able to perform.
This weekend I'll be visiting Yoshie in Saga, but I think we'll be taking it easy. I'll need the rest.
Well, it's been a long time, but while the brainchild of "Just Another Day in Japan," Mr. Blue Shoe, is taking time off in the motherland, ol' Shadow thought he'd slip in and put up a post. To those of you who have successfully torn my blog entries from your memories -- one year ago, in May, I was able to visit Japan for the first time, after spending my entire life living in the urban jungle of New York City. The "Half the Fun" segments focus on my pseudo-adventures, and overall culture shock, during my short stay.
Today's topic? Being a white guy. Or, more appropriately, being the white guy.
Since I'm from NYC, the world's melting pot, perhaps I assumed there'd be a healthy mix of races wherever I went. However, in the suburbs of Itami (at least, I'm pretty sure that's where I was), the only white dudes were the Blue Shoe and Tiembi, too. Venturing out to various tourist locations, our whiteness was still a rarity. During a tour of Himeji castle, I happened to cross paths with a white gal, and at that moment, I knew how a dog must feel when it sees another dog.
"Another white person! Hey, look, another white person! Hey! Hey white person! Arf, arf!"
While in reality, I did not bark nor wag my tail, I did smile and give a polite hello. Then we sniffed each others crotches and went our seperate ways.
Days later, I stumbled across an odd phenomenon in Japan. While walking the streets of Osaka, I saw another white person, a male, coming from the opposite direction. But this was no dog-to-dog encounter. Nay, this was more like a dog-to-saxophone encounter. I gave the same friendly "I am acknowledging you are white like me" greeting, but I was completely ignored (in my experiences, dogs tend to ignore saxophones). I was confused. Did I do something wrong?
A friend of Mr. Blue Shoe (and resident guest-poster Dylan) explained as simply as possible: "He's not a tourist. If you live here, it's more like, you avoid other white people."
Okay...perhaps that wasn't much of an explanation. I didn't understand. Not yet.
Then it happened. Towards the end of my trip, after spending a week touring Japan, Paul and I were visiting some temple grounds, and once again we were just two white fellas in a sea of Japanese. That's when I saw him. Oh, I have no idea who "him" was; all I knew was, "him" was white. And it angered me. How dare he be white! We're the token white guys in these here parts! Shoo! Go be white somewhere else!
Who knows? Maybe I misinterpreted Dylan's words. Maybe this entry isn't as insightful as I hoped. Yet, I like to feel that I gained a little insight at that moment. As a non-Asian living in Japan, considering how little race variation there is there, it must be pretty neat being unique. Perhaps there are feelings of alienation now and then. Perhaps it's tough finding people to relate to. Perhaps it gets a little depressing. But, perhaps there's a sense of pride in being able to strive in a place where you can't help but stand out from the crowd.
Or, perhaps I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to living in Japan. It's possible. Hey, I'm just some white dude from New York.
I'll be returning to the States for a few days from tomorrow to attend my sister's college graduation. If I have time, energy, and internet access, I'll try to post an update or two before I get back. If not, I'll be back with you in about a week.
Apparently I'm not the only one frustrated with the garbage collection (ゴミ収集）here. Just about a block away from my apartment:
When studying a foreign language, it is important to practice as much as possible. One of the best ways to practice, of course, is by speaking. Living in Japan, it's fairly easy to practice speaking Japanese - there are plenty of opportunities at work, with friends, with your native significant other, or just out and about. If you're living here, your excuse should never be a lack of opportunity. More often it's a lack of confidence, and I myself am guilty of this sometimes. For example, when buying shinkansen tickets I usually balk at going to the window when I can just buy them from an automatic vendor. If I went to the window I would be on the spot. What if I didn't understand some keigo (honorific language) or train vocabulary? I'd have to stop and figure it out with a line of people behind me. Last week I was forced to buy my tickets at the window, however, as the ticket machine wouldn't sell me round-trip for some reason. You know what? It was completely fine.
The question of whether or not Okinawa (or more broadly, Japan) should play host to a U.S. military presence is not a new one. In recent months, however, it has once again come to the forefront as Japan and the United States attempt to hammer out a solution to the Futemna base relocation issue. U.S. military bases are unpopular where they are currently situated in Okinawa, so Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama is having a great deal of difficulty resolving the matter. President Obama has said that in order for a plan to be accepted, Hatoyama must choose a new location with an acceptable degree of local support. But as no one seems to want a military base next door, Hatoyama has no such support for any of his prospective relocation sites.
I don't know how statistically representative the Japan Times surveys are, but Japanese citizens (on the mainland, anyway) seem split on the issue. Understandable, as it's not really an easy topic. I'm not sure how I'd feel about a foreign army occupying the U.S., even if it were for purely cooperative, defensive purposes.
That said, I do think the Japanese are better served by accepting a U.S. military presence. There are pro's and con's, of course, but it seems to me that the Japanese are getting the better deal here. The Japanese government must provide land and pay for some of the bases' expenses, but in exchange does not have to raise, train, or arm its own military. Japan does have a standing national guard of sorts - the Self Defense Force, but its functionality is limited by Japan's constitution. Although military bases do cause noise pollution and some soldiers have committed crimes (such cases should not be taken lightly), the bases also bolster the economies of their host communities. Not too long after Futenma is moved, the local community will become much more peaceful...and then the economy will sag and I'm sure some jobs will be lost when U.S. serviceman and woman are no longer patronizing local shops and restaurants.
Sure, the U.S. benefits from these bases by holding a strategic position in the Pacific. If we were to lose this one, though, we do have others. South Korea isn't too far.
If I were Japanese, I would probably want the world's most powerful military nearby, considering the proximity of the crazy Korea, which now has nukes and long-range rockets. Ultimately, though, the decision is Japan's.
What do you think? How do you feel about the U.S. military presence in Japan?
These days I don't really play video games that much anymore, but recently I've been playing a little Civilization IV, a strategy game for the PC. It's a fun, involving game with a lot of detail. One thing that has been bothering me, though, is that Japan seems to have been neglected. With the expansions, there are 34 different civilizations you can play as, each with its own unique leader(s), unit, and building. Many civilizations have two or three leaders to choose from, each with characteristics, which confer different bonuses. Unfortunately, the Japanese have only one leader. Yup, Tokugawa. And his bonuses are quite disappointing (How can you be Aggressive and Protective at the same time? Then again, I guess Feudal Japan is a good answer to that question). Anyway, how is it that the creators of the game could muster up two leaders for the Celts and the Ottomans, yet left Japan with only one possible leader?
"Kanji muzukashii ne?" translates to: "Kanji is difficult, huh?" and is referring to Japan's Chinese Character based writing system. You will hear this phrase every time someone in Japan sees you studying Kanji. Even when you're not studying, someone will most likely say this out of the blue. They might just call you up to mention this. Japan's literacy rate is, like my homeland's, at 99%. So obviously Kanji can't be difficult, right? Unless this is an entire nation of geniuses, but I doubt that. That life sized Gundam they made couldn't even fly . To me, every time a Japanese person mentioned the difficulty of Kanji to me I assumed they meant "-difficult for foreigners." I was always quick to dismiss their statement as some sort of underhanded boast while thinking to myself, "Why would it be difficult for us foreigners? Are we not all the same inside regardless of where we come from? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you give us sake do we not drink?" But, I was wrong. I made a mistake. The Japanese have something on us when it comes to Kanji, and that is a decade of schooling and a lifetime of experience. Grade school for them consists of studying Kanji. Me being able to read and write English feels more like a byproduct of going to school. I never had to write a word a hundred times to make sure I knew how to spell it. But that's how it works with Kanji, with classes dedicated to just that. I had been consistently denying the difficulty of Kanji for about a year. It wasn't until I seriously started studying that things changed.
I had been sitting next to a new Japanese co-worker for about two weeks; both of us barely saying more than "Good morning" and "Goodbye". During my break I was studying some Kanji in despair. She noticed, leaned over, and obligatorily said in stuttering English, "Kanji is difficult… for foreigners… isn't it?" Never having heard this said so blatantly I stopped, looked at my paper covered in my chicken scratch hieroglyphs, and finally admitted that "Yes, it is." This acceptance was long in coming, but it set me on the right path. A journey of discovery to find the best way to study and actually remember these crazy runes.
The main problem stems from how the most common way to study (i.e. the Japanese way) doesn't work. Maybe it works when you're a young Japanese boy or girl in your tiny shorts with an empty brain that is happy to be filled with anything; even Kanji. As for my full to the brim half-middle-aged mind, memorizing anywhere from 10 - 20 random lines for every new word is impossible. That space is already taken by all the lyrics to Skee Lo's "I wish (I was a lil' bit taller)". Let's take a simple word like "hot" for example: 熱. Holy crap! It looks like you just hit a bunch of keys on a typewriter at once. I had given this way of studying a shot more than once; writing each new Kanji 20 times or so but I always ended up forgetting them the next day. This way is too time-expensive. I needed a way to save some time-money. If I invest everything that I have from my Time and Effort bank into Kanji, I'm going to go time-broke. Which I guess equals death or hypothermia or something.
But, boy, do I have an investment opportunity for you. One day you'll realize, like I did, that studying Kanji stroke by stroke is a bad deal. Have you wasted time-money and real-money on expensive Kanji textbooks and study cards? Well, do so no longer! I'll let you in on a little secret. Your job is just to share it with your friends. This will all go down like a Kanji pyramid scheme.
Go here for salvation. I talked in another article about how Japanese textbooks fail. Learning stroke after senseless stroke only brings tears, yet it is how every Kanji textbook I've seen has been set up. What you have to do is break every Kanji down into its simpler parts. Let's go back to "hot": 熱. Break that down and you get: 土, 儿, 九, 丶, 灬. There, not so bad now is it? Just put them together like you would put together letters in a word, but kind of mixed all around.
But wait! There's more!
These little symbols are called "radicals". There's over 200 of them, but they're fairly simple to learn and a lot of them are whole Kanji in themselves, almost like how "A" is a letter and a word. You get twice the usefulness for half the studying time. Now you're buying in bulk! It's like 2 gallons of Kanji mayonnaise for the price of one.
My Kanji reading and writing has shot up since I started studying this way. I gave each of those 200 my own name: "丶" is "The Touché". "屮" is "zombie hand". So when I write a Kanji like "逆" I'm just thinking, "double touché-line-zombie hand on a water slide." Simple!
That website I linked up there explains everything more in detail. I'm just letting you know that it does indeed work. So call today!