Both spoken and written forms of Japanese contain lots of onomatopoeia. Despite this, few textbooks spend much time explaining Japanese onomatopoeia in detail. I highly advise learners dedicate time to study this fascinating part of the language.
Using onomatopoeia helps to vividly describe an action or state. Take the verb 笑(わら)う warau for example; this can mean to smile or laugh depending on the context. By adding different onomatopoeia we can change the nuance of this verb:
ニヤニヤ笑う niyaniya warau to grin, smirk
クスクス笑うkusukusu warau to giggle, chuckle
ゲラゲラ笑う geragera warau to burst into laughter, crack up
We Japanese learners can often guess the meaning of some words in context. However Japanese people tend to use onomatopoeia in a much broader sense.
Types of Onomatopoeia in Japanese
There are three Japanese terms that fall under the umbrella of onomatopoeia (オノマトペ):
Giongo mimics a sound – think of ‘bang’ or ‘crash’ in English
ざあざあ (zaazaa) = sound of pouring rain/ rushing water
雨がざあざあ降っている ame ga zaazaa futteiru
The rain is pouring down
がちゃん (gachan) = slamming or clanging sound
花瓶が床に落ちてがちゃんと割った kabin ga yuka ni ochite gachan to watta
The vase crashed to the floor
Giseigo mimics a voice (usually of an animal) – think of ‘woof’ or ‘meow’ in English
わんわん (wanwan) = a dog’s bark
犬がわんわん吠えている inu ga wanwan hoeteiru
The dog is barking
おぎゃー(ogya) = a baby’s cry
赤ちゃんがおぎゃーおぎゃーと泣く akachan ga ogyaa ogyaa to naku
The baby is crying
Japanese uses gitaigo to mimic a state. This is pretty uncommon in English; there are terms like higgledy-piggledy (meaning ‘in a messy state’) which have a similar feel.
We can break gitaigo into three categories:
Firstly, words that indicate a state or condition, e.g.
きらきら (kirakira) = sparkling, glittering
星が空にきらきらと輝いている hoshi ga sora ni kirakira to kagayaiteiru
The stars are sparkling in the sky
つるつる (tsurutsuru) = smooth
ラーメンをつるつるとすする raamen wo tsurutsuru to susuru
I slurp the noodles
Secondly, words that describe how an action is being performed, e.g.
My older sister is fluent in Spanish because she lived in Spain for 5 years
のろのろ (noronoro) = slow, sluggish
彼は亀のようにのろのろ歩いた kare wa kame no you ni noronoro aruita
He walked as slow as a snail
Lastly, words that indicate feelings or emotions, e.g.
イライラする (iraira suru) = to be irritated
私は食事をしないとイライラする人だ watashi wa shokuji wo shinai to iraira suru hito da
I’m a person who gets annoyed when I haven’t eaten
びっくりする (bikkuri suru) = to be surprised
そのニュースを聞いてびっくりした sono nyuusu wo kiite bikkuri shita
I was shocked to hear the news
Slightly changing the sound of the onomatopoeia can also add further nuance, for example:
ドアをトントン叩(たた)くdoa wo tonton tataku to knock/ tap on the door
ドアをドンドン叩(たた)く doa wo dondon tataku to bang on the door
How I study Japanese onomatopoeia
If I come across a new onomatopoeia, I look it up in a dictionary or ask a friend to confirm the meaning. Then I make a note of it in my vocabulary notebook. When I do this, I always write it down as a phrase or in the context of a sentence rather than the word on its own.
Since these words are often hard to translate into English, having example sentences or phrases are essential. Studying them in the context of sentences will be helpful for not only memorising onomatopoeia but also using them naturally in conversation. This is especially true for gitaigo which is less intuitive to English speakers.
Onomatopoeia is very frequently used with specific verbs. Others are formed into verbs by adding する, so remembering the onomatopoeia as a verb means you will know the meaning of it even when it appears without する.
わんわん –> わんわん吠(ほ)える wanwan hoeru = to bark
にこにこ –> にこにこ笑( わら)う nikoniko warau = to smile
You’ll notice in some of the examples in this post that some onomatopoeia can take the particle と, often when with a verb. There isn’t a specific rule on when to use と. My recoomendation is to make a note of which words use it in your example sentences or phrases.
Resources for learning Japanese onomatopoeia
Referring to a decent Japanese-English dictionary is fine for giving an idea of a rough meaning, although you may find that there is not a direct English translation.
I’ve listed a few sites below that might help your studies:
There is a great website called the Onomato Project which lets you practice onomatopoeia in the form of online quizzes. Each word is accompanied by illustrations and example sentences. If you use Anki, you might find the shared Onomatoproject Anki deck a better choice for studying on the go.
However, if you are an intermediate learner, then I fully recommend going straight to a Japanese resource called Sura Sura, which is an online Japanese onomatopoeia dictionary. It may not have every word you are looking for, but for the onomatopoeia that is on the site, you will find a simple explanation in Japanese, accompanied by a photo which helps illuminate the meaning.
Each onomatopoeia also has example sentences and notes on things like the etymology of the word and how it differs to others with a similar meaning. Best of all, each page has a link to Twitter showing tweets from native speakers using the word you are looking up.
I also recommend the マンガを読もう section of the NINJAL website above which has some extremely helpful comic illustrations.
The above websites show just how useful it is to have visual context for learning how onomatopoeia is actually used. Therefore pictures, manga, and TV are especially good places to see these words in context. Sometimes I will draw a picture (despite being terrible at drawing!) alongside new onomatopoeia in my notebook.
PS. Think you’re pretty good with onomatopoeia in Japanese? Check out this video below and see if you can spot them all!
Do you have any special tricks for learning onomatopoeia? Let me know in the comments!
Youtube is an amazing resource for language learning, especially Japanese. So amazing, in fact, that it can be a bit difficult to know where to start.
Whether you are looking for another resource to help explain a tricky grammar point, or are looking for short clips of people speaking real Japanese, there should be something to help you learn you on Youtube. I’ve introduced four Youtube channels below that are great for Japanese language learners:
Chika is a Japanese-American who produces Japanese and English language learning videos. Her main channel is aimed at Japanese speakers learning English, but I have found it to be a really good resource for picking up differences in language usage between English and Japanese. Chika is really engaging and I always find that I can learn something new from her videos.
She also has a separate channel for her Japanese language lessons and vlogs called Japanagos which is also a fun and educational channel. I recommend checking out Japanagos if you are new to Japanese, and moving on to her main Bilingirl channel if you are at intermediate level. She is often travelling so both channels are good if you would like to follow her vlogs.
The Easy Languages Youtube channel covers a lot of different languages with a series of videos interviewing speakers of each language about different aspects of that language and the cultures connected to it. The Japanese series has 19 videos which are all about 5-6 minutes long.
I like this series as each video is fairly short, contains natural language and each video has Japanese (both kana and romaji) and English subtitles.
The Basic Japanese series is really helpful for clear and informative explanations of key grammar points for beginners.
If you are looking to take the JLPT N3 or above, this channel is full of great videos for you as well. There are videos aimed at the JLPT levels N3, N2 and N1 with each focusing on a different aspect of the JLPT test (reading, listening, grammar and vocabulary). A lot of the lessons cover differences between similar looking grammar points, which is particularly useful for those pesky multiple choice questions.
Today’s manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Usagi Drop (うさぎドロップ), a manga series created by Yumi Unita.
Author: Yumi Unita (宇仁田ゆみ)
Genre: Slice of life
No. of volumes: 10
Recommended for: JLPT N3/ intermediate
Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations
The main character is Daikichi Kawachi who, despite not knowing anything about raising a child, becomes the guardian of a 6-year-old girl called Rin. Rin is the illegitimate child of Daikichi’s late grandfather, who he meets for the first time at his grandfather’s funeral. Seeing that his other relatives want nothing to do with Rin, he takes it upon himself to look after her rather than have her adopted.
Why do I recommend Usagi drop for Japanese learners?
I really like this manga as it is packed with both funny and touching moments, and it is particularly heartwarming to watch the relationship between Daikichi and Rin develop. It is also interesting to see how Daikichi copes as a single parent, having to learn (with a bit of help from his friends) what it takes to be responsible for another person.
Not only has the manga has also been serialised in English but there is also an anime and a live action film that was released in 2011, so if you enjoy the story it may be worth checking these out as well.
Recommended Japanese language level
Whilst there is no furigana, the manga is not too difficult in terms of vocabulary used. Being a slice of life manga, the vocabulary is mostly related to everyday activities. It does, however, require knowledge of more casual speech, for example:
そっスカ? = そうですか?
終わんの早エなー = 終わるのが早いな
Aside from the above, I think it is an accessible manga for intermediate or JLPT N3 level learners.
You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.
If you do try Usagi Drop (or any of my other manga recommendations), please let me know how you get on the comments.
I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!
What if you could make your Netflix sessions more effective by learning Japanese at the same time? I’ve recently joined Netflix and it is turning out to be a pretty good resource for studying Japanese, even though I am not in Japan currently.
It turns out that there are quite a few Japanese TV dramas, anime series and films available internationally, with the list of Japanese language content increasing every week – great news for language learners!
How can Netflix be used for Japanese study?
The Japanese content on Netflix is a good way of working on your Japanese comprehension, as you can choose whether to have the English language subtitles on or off.
Changing the subtitles for shows on Netflix is simple: just look for the speech bubble icon in the bottom right corner of the play menu which will allow you to change the language of the subtitles displayed, or change the language of the show if there is more than one available.
As you can see from the above, my Netflix is in Japanese, so the list of languages under 音声 (おんせい) refers to the audio language and 字幕(じまく) shows the language subtitle options.
Setting your home country to Japan changes the language of the interface to Japanese, but also gives you access to a greater number of Western shows with Japanese subtitles too.
The best ones to watch in terms of Japanese study are the Netflix originals (known as Netflixオリジナル作品) as you more often than not have the option to choose Japanese subtitles or Japanese closed caption (CC).
Here are a couple of ideas on how you can incorporate watching Netflix into your study routine (depending on your language level of course!):
You could watch a series that you already have watched inEnglish and then rewatch with the Japanese subtitles. This helps you focus on how much of the language you can understand without looking anything up, as you are already familiar with the characters and story. The main advantage of using Japanese subtitles is that it will be much easier to pause and look up new words or phrases in the dictionary as and when you encounter them.
Watch using Japanese subtitles only, or try watching without any subtitles to really test your listening comprehension skills. Whilst this seems the most difficult and scary to do, the nature of TV will help fill in a lot of the important context of what is happening. It is also the best way to get used to the language being spoken at a natural speed (rather than at a slow speed as it tends to be in most language study materials).
Watch with dual subtitles. Chrome Extensions such as LLN: Language Learning with Netflixallow you to watch Netflix with two lots of subtitles. This gives you the opportunity to compare the two languages as you watch – the best of both worlds!
Whilst I don’t always watch things more than once, I find that rewatching a series allows you to more accurately identify what aspects of the language you need to focus on (ie. is it vocabulary that is hindering your comprehension or is it grammar?) as you do not need to pay attention to the storyline as much. If it is not vocabulary or grammar, then it is often your listening comprehension letting you down.
What I find most useful about Netflix is that some videos can now be downloaded for offline viewing on the app which now makes it much easier to study on the go. The main downside with Netflix at the moment, however, is that there is not much in the way of variety: rom-com and food lovers, in particular, are likely to find something to enjoy here, but others may struggle.
I hope that more Japanese language content is to be added in the future; fortunately, there has been a steady stream of new content over the last few months. Netflix will notify you when content that relates to your interests is added.
One thing I’ve noticed which I hope will get fixed is that the subtitles are in white, which can be a bit tricky to see depending on the scene.
List of Japanese language content currently streaming on Netflix UK
I’ve compiled a list of Japanese language TV shows, films and anime that I’ve found on Netflix UK below (those that have options for Japanese/English or no language subtitles are given in brackets). I try to update this on a weekly basis!
NB: this does not include content that has been dubbed into English (eg. Pokemon X & Y, Yugi-oh!).
Dramas & TV
Ainori (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Atelier (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Blazing Transfer Students (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Erased (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Good Morning Call [Seasons 1 & 2] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Hibana: Spark (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Japanese Style Originator (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Kakegurui [Live Action] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Love and Fortune (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Love and Hong Kong (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
My Little Lover (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Million Yen Women (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Mob Psycho 100 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Playful Kiss Season 1 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Playful Kiss Season 2 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
REA(L) OVE (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Re:Mind (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Samurai Gourmet (Japanese/ Japanese audio description/ English/ no subs)
Saboriman Kantarou (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Smoking [Season 1] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Spiritual House (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Switched (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Terrace House: Aloha State (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
The Could’ve-Gone-All-the-Way Committee (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
The Many Faces of Ito (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
009 RE: Cyborg (English/ no subs)
A.I.C.O Incarnation (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Aggretsuko Season 1 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Aggrestsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Ajin: Demi Human (English/ no subs)
Aldnoah Zero (English/ no subs)
Angel Beats (English/ no subs)
Attack on Titan (English/ no subs)
Back Street Girls Gokudols (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Baki (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Batman Ninja (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Black Butler [Season 3] (English/ no subs)
Black Lagoon (English/ no subs)
Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail (English/ no subs)
Bleach [Seasons 1-3] (English/ no subs)
Blood Lad (English/ no subs)
Blue Exorcist (English/ no subs)
B: The Beginning (Japanese / English/ no subs)
Case Closed (English/ no subs)
Children of the Whales (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Code Geass : Lelouch of the Rebellion (English/ no subs)
Cowboy Bebop (English/ no subs)
Cyborg 009: Call of Justice (Japanese audio description/ English/ no subs)
Cyborg 009 vs Devil Man (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Death Note (English/ no subs)
Devilman Crybaby [Season 1] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Dragon Pilot (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Durarara!! (English/ no subs)
Elfen Lied (English/ no subs)
Erased (English/ no subs)
Eureka Seven Seasons 1 & 2 (English/ no subs)
Fate/ Apocrypha (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Fate/ EXTRA Last Encore Season 1 (Japanese CC/ English /no subs)
Fate/ Stay Night (English/ no subs)
Fate/ Stay Night unlimited Blade Works (English/ no subs)
Forest of Piano (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Fullmetal Alchemist (English/ no subs)
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (English/ no subs)
Gunslinger Girl (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Gunslinger Girl –Il teatrino- (English/ no subs)
Gurren Lagann (English/ no subs)
Hero Mask (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Hi Score Girl (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Hunter X Hunter (English/ no subs)
ID-0 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Kakegurui (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Kill la Kill (English/no subs)
Knights of Sidonia (English/ no subs)
Kuromukuro (Japanese/English/ no subs)
Last Hope [Parts 1 & 2] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Little Witch Academia (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Lost Song (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Magi Adventure of Sinbad (Japanese/English/ no subs)
Mobile Suit Gundam UC (English/ no subs)
Mushi-shi (English/ no subs)
One Punch Man (English/ no subs)
Rurouni Kenshin (English/no subs)
Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Samurai Champloo (English/ no subs)
Samurai Flamenco (English/ no subs)
Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (English/ no subs)
Sirius the Jaeger (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Space Dandy [Seasons 1 & 2] (English/ no subs)
Steins Gate [Season 1] (English/ no subs)
Sword Art Online (English/ no subs)
Sword Art Online II (English/ no subs)
Sword Gai (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Terror in Resonance (English/ no subs)
The Asterisk War Season 1 (English/ no subs)
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Season 1 & 2 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
The Seven Deadly Sins (English/ no subs)
Tokyo Ghoul (English/ no subs)
Trigun (English/ no subs)
Vampire Knight Season 1 & 2 (English/ no subs)
Violet Evergarden (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Your Lie in April (English/ no subs)
Yuki Yuna is a Hero (English/ no subs)
A Silent Voice (English/ no subs)
Battle Royale (English/ no subs)
BLAME! (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Bleach [Live Action] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Blue Exorcist: The Movie (English/ no subs)
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (English/ no subs)
Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F (English/ no subs)
Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry (English/ no subs)
Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess (English/ no subs)
Fate/ Grand Order (English/ no subs)
Flavors of Youth: International Version (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Full Metal Alchemist [live action] (English/ no subs)
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (English/ no subs)
Garden of Words (English/ no subs)
Gantz: 0 (Japanese/English/ no subs)
Ghost Pain (English/ no subs)
Godzilla (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Godzilla The Planet Eater (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Halo Legends (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Harlock Space Pirate (English/ no subs)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (English/ no subs)
Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Lupin III: The Castle of Caligostro (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Magi: The Labrinth of Magic (English/ no subs)
Manhunt (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)
Persona 3 the Movie: #2 Midsummer Knights Dream (English/ no subs)
Steamboy (English/ no subs)
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (English/ no subs)
The Birth of Sake (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
The Eternal Zero (English/ no subs)
The Many Faces of Ito [Live Action Movie] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
The Seven Deadly Sins the Movie (Japanese/ English/ no subs)
Tokyo Ghoul: Jack (English/ no subs)
Tokyo Ghoul: Pinto (English/ no subs)
So is Netflix worth it for Japanese learners?
At this stage, there is not quite enough content for me to recommend subscribing purely for learning Japanese (there appears to be a good selection of Korean and Taiwanese dramas compared to Japanese content), but if you already have a subscription I definitely recommend checking the Japanese language stuff out.
Of the content I’ve watched, some of my favourites from the above list are Midnight Diner, My Little Lover and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you are interested in reading more about Japanese content on Netflix, check out this post where I write in greater depth about my top 8 TV shows, anime and films.
However, my absolute favourite TV show on Netflix, especially in terms of learning about Japanese language and culture is ‘Japanese Style Originator’ as each episode focuses on different aspects of traditional Japanese culture. There are 54 episodes, some of which are up to 2 hours long so there is plenty to get your teeth stuck into!
What would be your recommendation for something to watch on Netflix? Have I missed anything from the above list? Let me know in the comments!
This news reading comprehension app issues 3-4 articles each day covering current affairs, in the vein of NHK Easy Japanese, having been written using simpler language than standard newspaper articles but still use a lot of the vocabulary that does crop up.
Furigana can also be toggled on or off. Each article comes with sound clips where the article is clearly read and spoken at a steady speed facilitating easier reading comprehension. The items highlighted in green can be clicked on, and give simple definitions of the item in Japanese. I really like the Japanese-Japanese dictionary as it gives you the opportunity to understand new vocab using words you (hopefully) already know, and is especially useful for distinguishing between words which have appear to have similar English meanings.
As you can see above, the app also has articles on various weather phenomena you may likely come across living in Japan (typhoons, tornadoes, heavy snow, heavy rain, tsunamis and earthquakes). This is useful for picking up relevant vocabulary relating to weather warnings which you may come across on TV. Being from the UK, earthquakes are not something I am used to, so having the opportunity to brush up on dealing with earthquakes is always helpful.
The only real downside of this app is that it does not have any offline functionality. Apart from that, I can definitely recommend this app to JLPT N3/ intermediate level learners looking to practice their newspaper reading comprehension, especially if you are looking to move away from Japanese-English dictionaries.
Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2017 will be a great year for all 🙂
Today’s post is the first of a new series called ‘Appy Mondays, where I will be reviewing some of the many Japanese language learning apps to see if they are worth using. This series will focus on apps available on Android as I do not own any Apple devices at present. I am also all about free or low cost apps whenever possible, and the cost will be factored into these reviews.
This app provides access to the latest NHK articles, with additional functions suited for Japanese language learners. Articles are split by topic, but the main landing page will always show the main headlines.
Each article has the option to show furigana above kanji. Articles are accompanied by a video showing the corresponding item as read on Japanese TV, which is generally identical to the text (the text differs sometimes when people are interviewed and their speech has been paraphrased).
As these videos are from Japanese TV, the speed is at a natural speed (ie. fast), so it is good for testing your comprehension of real Japanese. Article lengths do vary but the articles are for the most part not too long, and are best suited for a 15-30 minute reading session.
My thoughts on NHK News Reader
The option for furigana is always helpful for learners, but there is no integrated dictionary within the app. This would not be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the app does tend to freeze. I found that this always happened when I tried to switch apps to look a word up in the dictionary whilst in the middle of reading an article, the app screen would go blank when I returned to the app.
This is a shame because unless you have a physical dictionary to hand, you would, of course, be switching apps frequently. I often use my journey to work for studying Japanese for example and so this app would not be easy to use on my commute. Your device has to be connected to the internet to use the app, which makes sense as there are integrated videos, but it would have been nice to have the option to view the articles themselves offline.
I should say that the app is free, but there is a paid version for £3.99. However looking at the reviews for the paid version, the extra cost does not add functionality that I would be expecting, namely the ability to view articles offline and an integrated dictionary.
Overall, I think that as a free app it may be worth trying out if you are around JLPT N2 level and looking for authentic news articles and video to work on your newspaper reading comprehension. It is a decent free app, but I could not recommend it or its paid upgrade app as an essential resource for intermediate/ advanced learners with the bugs it currently has.
Update: if you are interested in other reading apps, I recommend TangoRisto or Mondo – both are free and improve upon a lot of the issues I had with this app!
On the blog, I’m planning to introduce plenty of manga that Japanese learners may be interested in reading. The recommendations I make will usually be based on the difficulty of Japanese used, or the fact that it offers an interesting insight into Japanese culture. Generally, manga is best tackled when you reach about JLPT N3, although this can vary depending on the genre.
Today I would like to introduce Cooking Papa (クッキングパパ), a long-running manga series created by Tochi Ueyama.
Author: Tochi Ueyama (うえやまとち)
Genre: Shounen, food
No. of volumes: 144
Recommended for: JLPT N3
Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and drama adaptations
The main character is Kazumi Araiwa, a senior member of staff at a food business. At work he manages to strike a balance between getting work done and caring about the well-being of his colleagues, but what really catches his boss Higashiyama’s eye is his delicious homemade lunches, or bento (弁当)!
It turns out Kazumi’s wife is busy working as a journalist and is a terrible cook, so Kazumi is responsible for making his own bento. The manga spends a lot of time focusing on how Kazumi makes a series of amazing meals and lunches to treat his coworkers and family.
Why do I recommend the manga?
Each volume contains a number of real-life recipes with hints and tips on how to bring out the best flavors. For example, the recipe for おにぎらず (Onigirazu, a kind of rice sandwich), has recently become a lunchtime favorite and there are plenty of videos on how to make it for yourself. This dish was first popularised in Japan after being published in Cooking Papa.
If you want to learn more about cooking in Japanese, this manga is a good way to familiarise yourself with relevant vocabulary such as:
煮る (にる/ niru) to boil, simmer
揚げる (あげる/ ageru) to deep fry
Handy recipes aside, I like how the manga has Kazumi (and his wife) somewhat breaking traditional gender stereotypes, whilst keeping a fun and lighthearted tone. In addition, whilst there are over 130 volumes, each volume is episodic so you do not need to start from volume one. This also makes it a good choice for shorter reading sessions.
Recommended Japanese language level
I would probably recommend this to someone about JLPT N3 or intermediate level. Having a fair bit of dialogue, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. As the manga takes place both at Kazumi’s home and workplace, you get to learn more about the contrast in how Japanese is spoken in the office and when at home with family.
The best way to get a feel for the manga is to try reading a sample. Fortunately, a lot of manga including Cooking Papa is available digitally.
You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.
If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!
If you like Cooking Papa, you might also like my other food-related manga recommendations: