A Huge Thank You! Japanese Learner Trends!

450 pages

I want to thank all of you for your help. By filling out my questionnaire I (might) be able to finish my thesis on time! I will be getting to all of your thank you cards eventually, though I wouldn’t expect them right away. I still have to finish my thesis first, and then I’ll get cracking on them, I promise. I’ve read through all of them and I’m incredibly impressed. They were full of things I never expected. For example, who knew that almost everybody hates pair work? I certainly didn’t. Also, did you know that people who are self taught have the tendency to be more comfortable with speaking, whereas those who are taught in a formal setting (like school) tend to be more comfortable with reading and writing?

Anyways, the best part about the survey was when famous bloggers who blog on Japan helped me out. I have to say I was startled when I got submissions from some of the big names. Although they are really just normal people like you and I, I thought you might want to see what they had to say, since they are “professionals” on the subject, and all. [Read more…]

koichi has a sad face on

Help Me Help You (Plus Extended Nara Mascot Contest Deadline!)

koichi has a sad face onHey Everyone. I need your help in a big way. I’m doing my senior thesis on Japanese Pedagogy (basically I’m researching how people learned Japanese, how they are learning it now, and how it should change in the future). I need to interview a lot of people who are learning Japanese to get a better feel of things. Below is a form with a bunch of questions regarding this topic. I would appreciate it so much if you filled it out (if you are learning Japanese). I don’t have much I can offer in return, but I will write you a thank you card (with my bare hands) and send it to you, if you provide me your address. I won’t use it for anything else but this, I promise. So if you could fill out the form after the break, I would appreciate it so much.

In somewhat not related news, I am extending the deadline for the Nara Mascot and Story contest by 2 weeks. Get your submissions in by April 9th. Right now there are around 6 or 7 in, so I hope to get a few more by the time the time is up. It will be voted on after the deadline and the winner will get a Japanese textbook of my choosing (depending on the winner’s level and what they already have). If you finish the story, you have a chance of winning some Japanese goods (also of my choosing). So now that you have two more weeks, don’t wait anymore! I really enjoy seeing your submissions, so please try it out if you’re interested!

The form of questions for Japanese learners is below, all you have to do is [Read more…]

Excuse me, has you a flavor??

Obake Series: Tanuki

Before we get started with this long overdue article, let’s take a small quiz. No cheating!

Tanuki are: A) Badgers, B) Raccoons, C) Wolverines, D) Raccoon dogs

Here’s a tanuki macro to help you out:
Excuse me, has you a flavor??

The word tanuki is often mistranslated as “raccoon” or “badger”. By looking at them, though, you can tell that’s clearly not what they are. I’ve wondered what the actual translation was for years now but have been too lazy to look it up until just recently. So, for those of you who knew enough to choose D, congratulations! Raccoon dogs, or tanuki (狸), show up all the time in Japanese folklore and fairy tales, and are fairly unique in that they’re one of the only “real” yōkai. I mean, you’ll probably never see a kappa or a bake-zōri, but a tanuki sighting isn’t quite so far-fetched. To begin with, let’s start with stereotypical tanuki image: [Read more…]

new nara mascot

Nara’s Super-Creepy New Mascot wants you to Win a Japanese Textbook!

This Contest has been extended to April 9, 2008!

Nara-City, the capitol city of Nara prefecture, is known for it’s beautiful temples and overly aggressive biting deer monsters. This year, Nara Heijo-Kyo Capitol is celebrating its 1300th year anniversary, and will be holding a big a event. Usually when this kind of thing happens, whoever is running the event comes up with an over the top mascot that cutes you into coming. This year, the Association for Commemorative Events seems to be taking the opposite approach.

Nara’s new creepy mascot

Perhaps the event is expecting too many people, and Nara is too small to support them, so they are trying to scare visitors away? What’s he doing with his hand? Trying to touch you in inappropriate places? He kind of looks like Buddha…except for the fact that he has antlers coming out of his head. I would never spend any time alone with this guy. In fact, I wonder how he eats, because no restaurant I know of would let someone with no shoes and no shirt in, even if summers do get warm. Also, I know what the thing on his forehead is supposed to be, but honestly, it just looks like a third nipple (actually, his only nipple from the looks of things) smack dab between his eyes. Nara Association of Commemorative Events, what were you thinking? [Read more…]

genki textbook

Japanese Textbook Review: Genki I

genki textbookOver the next month, I will be reviewing some of the mainstream Japanese text books that are currently being used by Japanese language learners; from there I will move on to reviewing programs that use technology to teach Japanese (such as Japanesepod and Rosetta). Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, it’s pretty big chunk of my senior thesis (which is on Japanese pedagogy). I’ll fill you in on the details later, but for now, let’s get started with this review.

I spent a couple of hours going through Genki I. I would summarize the book for you, but I think they do a much better job: “Aim and Purpose: Genki, An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese is a textbook for beginners in the study of the Japanese language. Students can complete the elementary-level study of Japanese in the 23 lessons of this text, which is divided into two volumes. The book is designed maily for use in university and college courses, but it is also effective for high school students and adults who are beginning to learn Japanese either at school or on their own.”

Overall, I was very impressed with this textbook. I don’t remember what text I used when I first started learning Japanese, but it certainly wasn’t as swanky as this one (swanky is a good thing). I can see why so many Japanese classrooms use this as their only textbook. It has good flow, it does well building lessons on top of each other, and it always gives you just enough information to get you thinking a little bit (good for weeding out the people who only think they want to learn Japanese, but are actually just lazy).

Still, there were a few pitfalls. To find out what they are, and to find out if this Japanese textbook is right for you, click on, my friend, click on. [Read more…]


How to Talk Like a Samurai

talk like a samurai

It seems as though bushido, i.e. “the way of the warrior,” is getting pretty popular amongst several (mostly otaku) groups in Japan. Not only are people speaking like Samurai – using Samurai grammar, vocabulary, etc., but people are starting to “act like them” as well.

Here’s a quote from Japan’s Weekly Playboy (2/18):

“Samurai are supposed to be strong, quiet types, right? So they sit there with their arms folded, saying nothing. After about an hour, they’ll come over and pay, handing out their cash without showing their wallets. A modern wallet wouldn’t match their image. The otaku girls in (the Tokyo shopping district of) Akihabara really like these guys.”

Supposedly, a lot of Japanese are trying to return to their roots; trying to regain that “Japanese uniqueness.” Samurai movies, video games, and comics are currently very popular. More people are wearing kimonos out in public. Even a new magazine devoted solely to the concept of bushido came out at the beginning of this year. Although I’m not sure if this fad is to last, or make any impression on normal Japanese language, I thought that it would be fun to learn a little bit of Samurai lingo just in case. So, if you want to impress your Japanese friends (or give them something to laugh about), click on, friend, click on. [Read more…]

twitter in japanese

Using Twitter to Practice Japanese

twitter in japaneseA couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Mixi to practice your Japanese. This week I will be talking about another valuable (but fun) online tool that is a little easier on the busy learner. I started getting into Twitter because I thought it would be a cool addition to this site. Every day (or so) I am publishing little tidbits about Japan in 140 characters or less. These are things that don’t necessarily deserve their own article, but are important to know. If you’re interested, you should follow my Twitter channel.

I’ve only started twittering recently, but I’ve noticed that there is a huge population of Japanese Twitterers using the site. If you go to the public timeline, you will be surprised to see that 25% or so of the “Tweets” are in Japanese, depending on what time you’re looking. What makes it so perfect for us Japanese learners is that they are short. Very short. Anyone can easily translate one of them a day (or more if you are fairly proficient at reading). But first thing’s first. What the heck is this Twitter thing, anyways? [Read more…]

Tofugu’s Japan Week in Review 2: Origami in Space, Expensive Fish, (To)Fugu Death

January 5 – January 25 (that’s like…3 weeks in review!)
Here’s to another attempt at keeping up with all that silly Japanese news. I feel like not making a video to go along with it is the best way to go. Only the really special topics deserve that moving picture frame. And now, without further ado:

No more smoking in Tokyo Taxis [road rage triples]
no more smoking in taxisToo bad for all you smokers out there who happen to enjoy taxi rides. Tokyo taxis no longer allow you to smoke whilst riding, which shows that Japan is getting less smoker friendly (except for Pachinko Parlors, which seem to be getting even more smoky). This trend doesn’t only exist in Tokyo, though. Right now, over half of Japanese taxis are smoke free. With Japan’s smoking population continually dropping (now at around 30%), I think we can expect to see more and more places banning smoking. It’s about time, now Japan can jack their life expectancy up into the hundreds. [source]

Researchers to launch origami from space [dumb Japanese science]
origamispaceplane.jpgResearchers from the University of Tokyo have been drinking a lot of saké lately. Teaming up with the Japan Origami Airplane Association (wtf??), University of Tokyo researchers are planning on creating a paper aircraft that is “capable of surviving the flight from the International Space Station to the Earth’s surface.” It will be a 3.1 inch long origami plane made of heat resistant paper. Because it moves at much slower speeds compared to a real space shuttle, it’s expected to receive less friction from the atmosphere, thus less heat. A launch date has not been set. [source] [Read more…]

kanji memorization worksheet

Try our (Free) Tofugu Kanji Memorization Worksheet

I know this was in our news post, but I think this sort of thing deserves its own article as well.

The other day I put together a new kanji memorization worksheet. I think it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever seen or used before. Most kanji worksheets make you write the same bloody kanji over and over again and expect you to remember it for a long time afterwards. I personally don’t do too well with this. Although I will know the kanji for a little while, after the second or third repetition my brain goes into autopilot, and 3/4 or my practice goes to waste. That’s why I thought there must be a better way (at least for myself, personally).

Instead of focusing so much on repetition (though I must admit this kanji worksheet is guilty of that pleasure as well), I focused on making you learn the kanji from several different angles. I have you write it neatly, then write it normally, then write it in hiragana and katakana, then write smaller version of the kanji, then write sentences, then write…you get the picture. I think if you make your mind think about the same thing in different ways, you will do a better job remembering it in the long run. Here’s the kanji sheet, why don’t you check it out? Click on the image below to download and print. [Read more…]

site news

The Best Site News Post Ever: January 22

site news

Wow. We actually have a lot of interesting/exciting site news for you all today. Normally it’s pretty uninteresting, I think, but today we will be revealing a whole bunch of neat stuff I’ve been getting ready for a long time now. All of it should help you with your Japanese studies in some way, at least. That is the goal, anyways. Please go through our new features and give us your opinions on it using our brand new fancy comment system (gasp! Spoiler!).

New Comment System:

I already ruined it, so here it is. Starting with this post, we’re using this nifty website called Disqus that makes our comments more like a forum. You can upload an avatar (sorry to people who already did a Gravatar, but you’ll have to do it again), rate people’s comments, and even reply to comments! Now we can actually have some sort of discussion without saying @Erin or @Viet or @Koichi. It’ll be so much more convenient and fairly nice looking too, I think. Good for asking questions, anyways.

Store is Up! We’re Only Selling Free stuff:

“What?” you ask? “You’re only selling free stuff?” That’s right, we don’t have anything worth actually selling, so we thought we’d give it away free for now. The store button up in the header goes somewhere now, though the only available option once you get there is the “free” section (best section though, right?). The only thing in the Free Store is a kanji worksheet made up by yours truly. Although it might take a while to complete one worksheet, by the time you’re done you’ll definitely know whatever kanji you were studying really well. There are a ton of different exercises that force your brain into learning a particular word several times, several different ways. I think it’s a cool system, but why don’t you check it out and tell me what you think before listening to me?

But wait, there’s so much more! [Read more…]

Translator Hedgehog

Japanese Online Translators: They Laugh at You

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up! Today I am going share with you the secret to producing perfect Japanese emails, comments, and even blog entries all without a drop of effort on your part! Sounds to good to be true, you say? Well of course, that’s because it is.


Believe me when I say that I understand the inclination towards using online Japanese-English translators, but trust me, you’re much better off just doing your best on your own. Why? I’m glad you asked (if you didn’t, humor me, please). There are three main reasons: [Read more…]

mixi left column translation

Use Mixi.jp to improve your Japanese (and make some friends, too!)

mixi.jpMixi.jp is Japan’s number one social networking site, much like America’s Myspace or Facebook. To get in, you have to be invited by someone who is already a member, which thankfully helps to make Mixi a lot less sketchy than Myspace (though I guess that doesn’t take much effort). I’ll be giving out invitations for people to join Mixi, but not yet! Just because you are American (or European), doesn’t mean you can get in, raise your profile flag and name the site as your own. Before you get an invitation to mixi, you have to learn Mixi’s culture. It is surprisingly different from Facebook, Myspace, or any other social networking site, and in order to be accepted into the community, you’ll have to know a few things before getting your digital feet wet.

What is different about Mixi?

  • Everyone is Paranoid: The most important thing to know about Mixi is that nobody wants to be your friend. That is, the folks who use Mixi listened to their parents, and will often refuse to talk to strangers. I feel like this is quite different from Myspace, and even Facebook. When I first got Mixi, I joined a community (which you will learn about later) for everyone who went to the high school I went to in Japan. I thought I would add some people I didn’t know (but who went to the same school as me). I thought this was reasonable. I have a decent amount of “friends” on Facebook from high school or college that I’d never formally met, but still added because we shared a common educational experience. Although most people were nice about it and added me, I got a handful of people who refused my Mixi friend offer saying they didn’t know me personally, so I should stop pestering them, or something to that extent. I suppose the best way to learn is to make mistakes.
  • Centered around Journal Writing: In a sense, Mixi is somewhat similar to Livejournal in that a lot of it is centered around journal writing. When you write a journal entry, all of your added friends see it on their front profile pages. Many of them read it and comment on it too. I know several people who are absolutely addicted to this feature and will get a little bit restless if they can’t read their Mixi journal articles on a regular basis.
  • Communities are Big Big Big: Another big part of Mixi is their communities. Unlike Facebook groups, people are often active members. Communities don’t usually have silly names, and anything written in the community is relayed to your front page, which keeps you on top of things (as long as you don’t join too many big communities). Joining a communities might be a good way to make friends as well.

What you should know before joining Mixi:

  • Everything is in Japanese: If you are just starting to learn Japanese, it won’t be easy stumbling around the controls and setting up a profile (not to mention meeting people and making friends). You should probably have a pretty good grasp on [Read more…]