Japanese

The many uses of かける in Japanese

かける is one of those verbs that seems to have an endless number of uses. I remember looking up this verb in the dictionary when I first started learning and just feeling utterly overwhelmed. 

This is a screenshot from Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC:

With verbs like this, you might read the dictionary definition and stress about having to learn all of the individual meanings. 

Fortunately, the best way to deal with verbs like this is to break down the various meanings into easier chunks, so let’s do the same here.

Breaking the verb down by kanji

Firstly, as you can see from the above, かける has different kanji indicating different meanings.

欠ける to lack, to be insufficient, be broken

駆ける to run, dash

賭ける to gamble, bet on

However, this post focuses on かける which has the general meaning of ‘to hang’. This is normally written in hiragana but can be written in kanji a few different ways, usually 掛ける.

シャツをハンガーにかける = to hang a shirt on a hanger

Common collocations with かける

It’s important with words like this not to assume that the only English meaning of かける is ‘to hang’ as you will see. The following are some of the most common set phrases that use かける, which I’ve split into different groups:

To put on, put on top of something else:

  • 眼鏡(めがね)をかける to wear glasses 
  • ネックレスをかける to wear a necklace
  • 腰(こし)をかける to sit down, take a seat (literally ‘to hang one’s hips [on a chair])

To engage something mechanical:

  • 電話(でんわ)をかける to make a phonecall
  • アイロンをかける to iron (something)
  • エンジンをかける to turn on an engine
  • ラジオをかける to put on the radio 

More figurative uses:

  • 声(こえ)をかけるto greet, call out to; get in touch with
  • 迷惑(めいわく)をかける to cause trouble/ inconvenience for someone else

Other closely related verbs

かかる is the intransitive version of かける and works in much the same way:

時間(じかん)がかかる

to take time

Finally, you might see かける as part of a compound verb such as 出かける (でかける/ to go out) and 話かける (はなしかける/ to start a conversation). This generally adds a nuance of ‘to be about to, to start doing something.

So that is a very brief overview of the common verb かける. I have far from covered the verb’s many meanings. The English meanings given here are only here to give you a rough idea of how the verb is used (although if anything is clearly incorrect please let me know!).

My tip for verbs like this is to learn the general meaning of the verb to start with (ie. that かける generally means ‘to hang’). Then focus on learning the specific meanings of certain phrases/ collocations as and when you see them in context. For example, learn アイロンをかける rather than アイロン and かける separately. I also prefer this method as you also learn what particle you should use.

If you know the general meaning, you might well be able to guess the correct meaning from context anyway.

Have you got any tips for tackling tricky verbs? Let me know in the comments!

Author Spotlight: Misuzu Kaneko

Misuzu Kaneko (金子みすゞ*・金子みすず) was an author I’d never heard of until recently. Unfortunately, it seems that I wasn’t the only one.

Born Kaneko Teru in 1903, Misuzu grew up in a book-loving family and continued her education until age 18, a rare achievement for women at that time. She began to write poetry for children when she was 20. She sadly committed suicide at age 27, the day before her ex-husband was due to gain custody of their young daughter.

Her works were forgotten until the original manuscripts were rediscovered in the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the March 2011 tsunami disaster that she gained popularity; her poem “Are you an echo?/こだまでしょうか“ was played in TV public service announcements.

Her works are not on Aozora Bunko, but a quick Google search will enable you to read some of her poems. In particular, this link has a lot of Misuzu’s most popular works. Having read quite a few of them, I think she is a good poet for Japanese learners to be aware of. In terms of language, I’d recommend her poems for JLPT N4 learners and above.

There is one caveat: you might find that her poems in their original form are in a style of Japanese that is sometimes different from the modern language. Fortunately, the above link has the poems in modern Japanese.

As I usually do, I have a few recommendations for you to read. I’ve posted the poems below with a brief vocabulary list:

こだまでしょうか (aka ‘Are You an Echo?’)

Obviously, this has to be the first on this list! The following is a reading of the poem as featured in a commercial from 2010.

「遊ぼう」っていうと
「遊ぼう」っていう。

「馬鹿」っていうと
「馬鹿」っていう。

「もう遊ばない」っていうと
「遊ばない」っていう。

そうして、あとで
さみしくなって、

「ごめんね」っていうと
「ごめんね」っていう。

こだまでしょうか
いいえ、誰でも。

Her most famous poem is typical of her style; expressing important messages in a really simple way. It reaffirms the importance of treating others as we would like to be treated – no wonder it was chosen as a poem to support Japan in the wake of the tsunami disaster. In terms of the language, this poem is pretty easy to understand, even if grammar such as 〜っていう isn’t too familiar (it is another way of quoting something, like 〜という).

Vocab list

  • 遊ぶ/ あそぶ = to play, hang out with
  • 馬鹿/ ばか = idiot, silly
  • さみしい = a misspelling of さびしい, ie. sad
  • 誰/ だれ = who
  • こだま = echo

雲 (Kumo – ‘Cloud’)

私は雲に
なりたいな。

ふわりとふわりと
青空の果から果を
みんなみて、

夜はお月さんと
鬼ごっこ。

それも飽きたら
雨になり
雷さんを
共につれ、
おうちの池へ
とびおりる。

A lot of Kaneko’s poems reference the natural world, usually animals. I guess this would be a good poem for remembering how the water cycle works?

Vocab list

  • ふわり(と) = softly, gently, lightly 
  • 青空/ あおぞら = blue sky
  • 果/ はて = extremity, end, limit
  • お月さん/ おつきさん = the moon
  • 鬼ごっこ/ おにごっこ = children’s game known as ‘tag’ in English
  • 飽きる/ あきる = to get sick, bored of something
  • 雨/ あめ = rain
  • 雷/ かみなり = lightning 
  • 供/ とも = companion
  • つれる = to take someone with you, to go along with, to be accompanied by
  • (お)うち = home
  • 池 いけ = pond
  • とびおりる = to jump down, to jump off

私と小鳥と鈴と (Watashi to kotori to suzu to – ‘Me, the little Bird and the Bell’)

私が両手を広げても、
お空はちっとも飛べないが、
飛べる小鳥は私のように、
地面を速くは走れない。

私がからだをゆすっても、
きれいな音は出ないけど、
あのなる鈴は私のように
たくさんな唄は知らないよ。

鈴と、小鳥と、それから私、
みんながちがって、みんないい。

This is another of my personal favourites. The poem very simply illustrates how we all have our own strengths, particularly the last line. 

Vocab list

  • 両手/ りょうて = both hands
  • 広げる/ ひろげる = to spread, expand, broaden
  • 飛ぶ/ とぶ = to fly
  • 小鳥 / ことり = little bird, small bird
  • 地面/ じめん = ground, earth’s surface
  • 速い/ はやい = fast, quick
  • 走る/ はしる = to run
  • ゆする = to shake, jolt, swing
  • 音/ おと = sound
  • 鈴/ すず = bell
  • 唄/ うた = song (another form of 歌)
  • 知る/ しる = to know 

A bilingual book of Kaneko’s works was published in 2016, which has some beautiful illustrations to go with it. It is also available in ebook format on Kindle. I’m glad that poets like Misuzu have had their works gain popularity a long time after they were written. 

Who is your favourite poet? Let me know in the comments!

*PS. You might be wondering (as I did) what theゞ symbol means. It turns out that ゞ is just a symbol used to repeat the previous syllable. As the dakuten is also used to change the sound, we know that the name should be read as misuzu rather than misusu.

Decluttering and The Path of Least Resistance

The idea of having fewer ‘things’ has been on my mind a lot lately. This is mostly to do with the fact that I have moved house recently. However, this has also coincided with me finally watching Marie Kondo’s TV series on Netflix.

I thought that Marie Kondo was already fairly popular, but this show seems to have got a lot of people talking about decluttering. I believe that the Japanese word for decluttering is 断捨離:

断捨離 (だんしゃり/danshari)

Decluttering

Marie Kondo and her method might have a lot of critics, but it is obvious from watching her show that having fewer things makes her clients so much happier.

I’ve been on my own personal mission to declutter, which was very difficult at first but has gradually been getting easier. The vast majority of my Japanese books have survived my latest round of decluttering. Nevertheless, going through this process has got me thinking about why decluttering is a good idea both in general and when it comes to language learning.

The Power of Decluttering

I was watching a TV show about a Japanese minimalist called Fumio Sasaki (佐々木文雄). He realised that he needed to make a change in his life and decided to drastically remove the number of items he had. Through this process, he discovered that having fewer things improved his life in many ways. He’s since written a book about his experiences called ぼくたちに、もうモノは必要ない (the English title is Goodbye, Things).

His example is rather extreme but it did get me thinking about how decluttering can be beneficial.

Decluttering helps you create room for the most important things in your life. When you have fewer things, making decisions becomes much easier. It also means you have fewer things to worry about – for example, having fewer clothes means less laundry to do.

The Path of Least Resistance

I recently read about a theory called the Path of Least Resistance. In short, the path of least resistance means us humans will always do the things that it is easiest to do.

Let’s say I have some chocolates near my sofa and some fruit in the next room. I am more likely to eat the chocolate as it is physically closer to me, even though I know that eating the fruit is better for me. This concept applies to all areas of our lives.

It sounds like a very negative thing, but it is possible to use this aspect of human nature to our advantage. Going back to the food example, if I place the fruit near my sofa and lock the chocolates away in the next room, I am more likely to eat the fruit instead of the chocolates.

Ultimately, decluttering helps you to take advantage of the Path of Least Resistance. Fewer things to distract you means you can program yourself to make better decisions more easily. If I don’t buy any chocolate at all, then I no longer have to make the choice between chocolate or fruit – I can only eat the fruit.

How does this apply to language learning?

There are so many different resources out there for Japanese. Truthfully though, I think a lot of people (myself included) would make more progress if we restricted the number of resources we used. Choice is a wonderful thing, but just like when we have too many things it reduces our ability to focus on what we really want.

If you have this many Japanese books, then you should definitely be decluttering!

Most of the time our progress is not dependent on what resources we use, but how we use them. What habits do we have in place that help us learn the language? I’ve explored this idea before when I wrote about ways to simplify your language learning routine. I now challenge you to declutter your language learning resources!

Decluttering for Language Learners

  1. Take stock of the resources you use. Marie Kondo likes to get her clients to put all of their clothes in a huge pile before sorting through them. It’s a bit harder to do this with language learning resources (especially digital ones), so I write a list of all of the websites/ subscriptions/ apps that I am using.
  2. Ask yourself a few questions about each one. Do you use it? Do you like using it? Is it helping to move you towards your language goals? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need it anymore.
  3. If you find it hard to identify which resources are holding you back, stop using one or more of them for a couple of weeks. If you didn’t really miss using the resource during this period, then it might not be as useful or helpful as you think.
  4. Sell/ give away/ unsubscribe from the resource.

The resources you have left should be the most effective in helping you make progress. What’s more, it should be easier to jump into a study session without having to spend time deciding what to use!

I write a lot about various resources on the blog, but in reality, I only use 3-4 at one time. If there is a resource that no longer serves a purpose, I stop using it. You should use the resources that are best suited to your goals. However, our goals and priorities can change, so our language learning should adapt to these changes too.

Sometimes I stop using something, only to go back to it later – I think this is perfectly fine to do. Whilst I believe that consistency is important, I focus on consistency in my habits rather than consistency in the resource I use.

Have you decluttered recently? Do you think it has had a positive impact in your life? Let me know in the comments!

My Mid-year Language Review

The end of June is near, which means we are nearly halfway through 2019 already. I honestly feel like it has flown by! Now feels like a good time to review how much progress you have made so far.

My birthday happens to be in June so this is the time I naturally think to myself “what is it that I want to achieve by my next birthday?”. A mid-year review is probably familiar if you work in a corporate environment, but over the last couple of years I’ve tried to do a personal review. It’s really easy to think that you can only set and revise your goals at the start of the year, but of course you can do this whenever you want!

In my case, I don’t really need to do a long review to know that I need to make changes. I have fallen behind with my goals for learning Japanese and the blog, but I am making steps to get back on track. I wanted to share how I have conducted my own language audit this year. If you’re not sure how you are doing with your languages, this post might give you some ideas.

How to carry out a mid-year language review/ audit

1. Look at your goals for the year. Do you need to make any changes?

  • Are your goals still relevant?
  • Have you added new goals since the start of the year? Try to be as specific and realistic as possible

I briefly wrote about a couple of goals in a blog post last December. My two goals were to read 1 book a month and work towards sitting the JLPT N1 in December. I was doing pretty well until March, which is when I moved house and my priorities had to change a bit. Not having the internet for a while had a bigger impact on my study than I initially thought!

2. Evaluate your progress

  • How much progress do you think you’ve made?
  • What do you think has contributed the most to your success or lack of progress?

The benefit of setting clear, measurable goals is a lot more obvious when you have to review them. You can use quizzes and tests from textbooks or online resources to judge your progress.

Having said that, even if you have set smart goals it can be difficult to assess yourself, so you might need to take a different approach. Have a look back at the types of things you were studying at the start of the year. Have you developed a better understanding of grammar points? You can also ask the people that you practice your target language with if they have noticed a difference in your ability.

Work backward from your end goals. What steps do you need to take to get there?

  • Are you studying regularly enough?
  • Are you covering the right amount of material in each study session?

Knowing what your priorities should be is important to making progress. It is always tempting to focus on your strengths, but this isn’t necessarily going to get you closer to your goals. Being uncomfortable is part of the process!

Are your habits aligned with the steps you need to take to make progress with your goals? Are there any particular areas that you need to focus on?

  • Is your routine focusing on your weak areas?
  • Do you need to introduce some variety into your routine?

Sometimes it isn’t what we are doing but how we are doing it that needs improvement. If you were taking a proficiency test, then you might realise at this point that you need to accelerate your learning. You always want to schedule time to revise what you have learned too.

If you haven’t progressed as much as you hoped, It’s important not to beat yourself up too much and try to think of some positives to keep things balanced. You can’t change what you did in the past, so focus on what you can do now and in the future to improve.

On the other hand, burnout is a very real thing and you should take care not to push yourself too hard. Making time in your schedule to relax is essential.

What I’ve learned from my review

My mid-year review has made me aware of a few things:

  • I’ve covered a fair bit of my grammar textbook, but when I tried a mock test recently I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I have realised that I need to spend more learning the difference in nuances between similar sounding grammar points. I am going to drill grammar every 1-2 weeks so that I can review gaps in my knowledge more regularly.
  • As I read a lot of fiction, I need to start reading more non-fiction as I feel that my reading skills are slower outside of novels (this could be due to a lack of vocabulary too)
  • Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with how much I still need to learn, which hinders my progress. My aim is to focus more on what is directly in front of me, whether that be my Anki reviews or grammar note taking.

One positive I can say is that I’ve managed to finish 4 books that have been on my to be read like for months (even years!). I’ve also started reading a book that I bought years ago – the last time I tried to read I couldn’t make any sense of it (lots of relative clauses).

I’m not sure whether I will be able to take the JLPT in December, but I will keep working on my grammar and vocab and see where I am in September. My listening skills have stayed fairly consistent as I listen to podcasts in Japanese pretty much every day.

I found this a really useful exercise and it has definitely boosted my motivation. If you have any tips or resources for me then I’d really appreciate it!

4 Podcast Recommendations for Japanese Learners

This is a follow up to a previous post, where I wrote about some Japanese language podcasts. I wanted to find some podcasts that were a little bit easier for those who might find some of the podcasts mentioned in my previous recommendation a bit too difficult to study with intensely.

These recommendations are almost entirely in Japanese, but have been produced by people who want to help others learn the language:

Nihongo con Teppei

Teppei speaks English and Spanish fluently and is a Japanese tutor on italki. His podcast is a conversational one in which he talks about aspects of his daily life and Japanese culture.  Teppei almost always speaks in Japanese with the occasional English word. He speaks casually but will explain any certain words and phrases in simple Japanese.

Each episode is about 20 minutes long which I think is a good length – he releases about 2-3 episodes a week. I recommend the podcast for beginner learners who want something of a listening challenge or intermediate learners.

You can download the episodes from his website, or find the podcast on platforms like Spotify and iTunes.

JLPT Stories

JLPT stories is designed to improve your listening skills, with bitesize stories written and performed by native Japanese speakers. Each episode is targeted at a different level of the JLPT and is usually about 3 minutes long. There are a few different narrators and there is a good mix of male and female speakers (Japanese listening material tends to be female dominated in my experience).

The content varies but is usually about everyday topics. The speaking is at a natural speed, but for the lower levels of the JLPT there are more pauses in speech to allow learners to follow it more easily. It might still take you a couple of listens to catch everything though!

Download the episodes from the JLPT Stories website, or find the podcast on Stitcher, iTunes and Spotify. The website has a transcript with an English translation and explanation of some grammar points for all episodes. This gives you quite a few options in how you can use this resource to study, which I really like.

Let’s Learn Japanese from Small Talk

This is another conversational podcast run by two Japanese girls who are currently living in the UK. The aim of the podcast is to provide casual listening practice for Japanese learners. Each episode has a main theme (normally an aspect of Japanese culture) although sometimes they go off topic!

Like Teppei’s podcast, they speak as Japanese people actually speak but will clarify any tricky words and phrases, usually in Japanese and English. As a British person, it is interesting to hear about UK-Japan cultural differences from a Japanese perspective!

Again this is best suited to learners who are learning how to speak more casually in Japanese. There are lots of useful little phrases which I have picked up from this podcast and their twitter account.

I’ve linked to the podcast on Stitcher, but it is also available on iTunes and Spotify. There are vocabulary lists for the episodes on the podcast’s blog page, but from what I can see this is something they’ve started doing recently.

Nあ Casual Nihongo

If casual forms of Japanese are something you find difficult, then this is the podcast for you!

Nあ Casual Nihongo is hosted by Dai, who decided to create the podcast after working as an assistant Japanese language teacher in Australia. This podcast is in Japanese but is aimed at teaching learners a more natural way of speaking compared to what you get in textbooks. Each episode follows the same structure:

  • Answer a listening comprehension question
  • 5 new Japanese phrases to learn (with explanations and examples)
  • Casual conversation (this gets repeated)

The conversations are a natural speed, which might take some getting used to. To make things easier, the podcast’s website also has a script for the conversation part of the episode, with the new phrases that are introduced highlighted for you. Clearly, a lot of hard work has gone into making the podcast accessible for learners who already have a bit of a foundation in grammar and vocabulary.

One thing – Dai is based in the Kansai area, so people interested in the Kansai dialect will find this useful!


I really like podcasts for listening practice – if you want to know how I use them in my studies check out this post.

Have you got any great podcast recommendations or tips on improving your listening? Please tell me in the comments.

Cultural Kotoba: Tsuyu (梅雨) – the rainy season

Japan’s rainy season, or tsuyu (梅雨/つゆ) is nearly upon us, which means spring is over and summer is around the corner!

梅雨入り(つゆいり; tsuyu iri)

The start of the rainy season; usually early June

梅雨明け(つゆあけ; tsuyu ake)

The end of the rainy season; usually mid-July

The kanji compound for tsuyu is literally 梅 (うめ;ume) meaning ‘plum’ and 雨 (あめ; ame) meaning ‘rain’. There are a few different ideas regarding how these two kanji came to represent the rainy season. One popular reason is that the rainy season coincides with the time when plums become ripe. 梅雨 can also be read as ばいう (baiu) originating from Chinese, which is thought to refer to the humidity which allows mould to flourish.

Why does Japan have a rainy season?

Japan experiences this because winds from the Sea of Okhotsk north of Hokkaido comes into contact with warm winds coming up from the Pacific Ocean. This leads to the humid and often rainy period before summer begins. Despite the name, the probability of rain during this time is only about 50%.

長靴 (ながぐつ; nagagutsu) = rainboots and 傘(かさ; kasa) = umbrella

Having said that, an umbrella or 傘 (かさ: kasa) is definitely a must – you can choose to buy a cheap clear umbrella from the convenience store, or invest in something more hardwearing. There is a wide range of clothes and accessories sold in shops that are both stylish and practical.

Tsuyu can be a troublesome time since the humidity makes it difficult to dry clothes. A dehumidifier/ 除湿機(じょしつき; joshitsuki) is necessary to stop mould (カビ; kabi) growing everywhere. This is also the time when food poisoning is a particular danger, so extra care has to be taken when storing and preparing food.

What to look out for during tsuyu

All of the rain and high humidity is annoying, but there are some interesting things to look out for during tsuyu:

Hydrangeas

Hydrangea flowers are known in Japanese as 紫陽花 (あじさい; ajisai). Hydrangeas grow in abundance during the rainy season and are therefore strongly associated with it. Places such as Meigetsuin Temple in Kamakura are particularly famous for their hydrangeas.

Fewer tourists

The rain generally puts people off travelling, so outdoor tourist spots tend to be quieter. Instead, indoor attractions like cafes, onsen, aquariums and museums are more popular. However, if you are happy to brave the weather, some places are just as charming to visit in the rain. Hokkaido is the best destination for those that hate tsuyu as the prefecture is lucky enough to avoid the rainy season!

Teru teru bouzu てるてる坊主

Making teru teru bouzu is a cute way to wish for clear weather. These handmade dolls are often made from tissue paper or cloth – it is best to hang them outside the day before. The verb てる (照る; teru) means “shining” and 坊主 (ぼうず; bouzu) is the name for a Buddhist monk. Young children usually learn to make them at school, and there is even a (rather sinister) nursery rhyme!

Looks like the teru teru bouzu didn’t work this time…

Rainbows

With all the rainy weather, rainbows 虹 (にじ; niji) are much more common during this time. I think this is one of the many reasons why tsuyu provides an opportunity to take some fantastic pictures!


This post was inspired by me watching an episode of Rilakkuma and Kaoru that was set during the rainy season. Although not explicitly stated, you can tell the time of year from things such as Kaoru wearing rainboots and making teru teru bouzu, as well as the appearance of mushrooms and a frog in her apartment. These things would be very familiar to Japanese people but less so to international audiences.

Have you got any tips for surviving wet weather? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Japanese Manga Recommendation: Assassination Classroom/ Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

Today’s easy manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Assassination Classroom/ Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (暗殺教室), a manga series created by Yusei Matsui.

Quick Facts

Author: Yusei Matsui (松井優征)

Genre: Comedy, sci-fi

No. of volumes: 21

Recommended for: JLPT N3/ intermediate

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations

Plot Overview

Class 3E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School is a group of misfits who have been given a rather important task. They must kill their teacher, who has already destroyed part of the moon, in order to save Earth. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary teacher; he is actually an octopus-like monster who can move at super speed and regenerate his body parts. Worst of all, he is actually a good teacher who helps them with all sorts of life lessons. He is given the nickname Korosensei (a play on the Japanese: Korosensei is a contraction of 殺せない先生/ korosenai sensei = unkillable teacher). Will the class be able to kill Korosensei and stop the world from being destroyed?

Why do I recommend the manga?

The premise might be off-putting to some, but after I started to read I felt like the manga was more about the pupils’ growth more than anything. Class 3E are the underdogs; they have the worst grades in the year and are widely expected to not achieve much in their lives. This task, however, begins to give them more confidence, even though regularly fail.

The class contains a variety of characters and from the outset are pretty creative in their attempts to kill their teacher. Korosensei is interesting too; rather than the menacing villain you might expect, he actively helps his students improve themselves both in and out of the classroom. It’s a lot of fun to read and has plenty of comic moments.

Recommended Japanese language level

In terms of language, I think that this manga is suitable for someone around JLPT N3 or intermediate level (JLPT N4 learners should certainly be able to follow quite a lot of the plot). As there is a high school setting, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. However, there isn’t as much of this as you might expect, which makes it a bit more accessible compared to other manga in the genre.

Not only that, there aren’t many lots of long sentences to read which makes it easier to understand even when there is a lot of action happening. Furthermore, as with other Shonen Jump manga, this has furigana to help you look up words faster.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the ‘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!

Happy Reading!

PS. There is an anime and live-action film adaptation of the manga.

Tadoku Tuesdays (5) What I’m reading in May 2019

Tadoku Tuesdays are back! As I did in the last post (which was something like 8 months ago!), I am going to write about a couple of books I have been reading, as well as any new additions to my book collection.

The Novel I’m Reading: 君の膵臓を食べたい/ I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by 住野よる/ Yoru Sumino

I’ve heard a lot about this novel, not least because of its unusual title. I bought the book last year but I only started reading it about a month ago.

The main character (who I only know as boku) finds out that his classmate Sakura is suffering from a terminal pancreatic disease. This secret brings together two characters who are very different; whereas Sakura is sociable and cheerful, the boy prefers solitude. As they spend more time together the boy learns Sakura’s approach to life brings its own rewards.

I am only about a quarter of the way through the book, but unfortunately I haven’t been captivated by it just yet. I want to like this novel more but the idea that boku is an anti-social high school boy feels like a very familiar trope. I will finish the novel as I want to see if the story develops into something a bit more interesting.

The book has been pretty straightforward to read so far, especially as there has been lot of dialogue between the two main characters. Based on what I have seen, it seems pretty accessible for JLPT N3 learners.

There are also manga, live action film and anime film adaptations of the novel which I would like to watch when I have finished with the novel. The anime film seems to have a lot of positive reviews so I will probably watch this first.

The Novel I Recently Finished: 三毛猫ホームズのクリスマス by 赤川次郎/ Jiro Akagawa

This is a collection of short stories by famous author Jiro Akagawa. Every so often I find myself wanting to read a mystery, but I am not always interested in tackling a whole novel (especially if I am focused on reading another novel). Jiro Akagawa has written a huge amount of books, with the Calico Holmes series being the biggest and most well known. I happened to buy the book before Christmas and chose this one based on the title (only the last story is related to Christmas though).

Despite the title, we read the story from Yoshitaro Katayama’s perspective. Yoshitaro Katayama is a detective who probably isn’t a natural fit for the job – he isn’t good with dead bodies or talking to women.

Together with his sister Harumi, they often find themselves involved in some strange situations which call upon their investigative skills. Whenever the Katayama siblings are stuck, their cat Holmes usually helps point them in the right direction. There are also a few other returning side characters who also provide support as well as comic relief.

I enjoyed the variety of stories and the relationship between the Katayama siblings. Yoshitaro and Harumi often make up for each others’ shortcomings, even if they do bicker a lot. I was surprised that Holmes wasn’t really the main character but I think his role in the stories works really well. From a language perspective, the writing style is easy to follow too. I’d recommend this for JLPT N3 level learners who like mystery stories that aren’t too demanding.

I found out this week that there is a live action drama adaptation which I am interested in watching, although reviews seem to be mixed.

Books added to my To Be Read pile:

Again I am staying focused on my goal of buying fewer books, but I did pick up one eBook a couple of months ago as it was on sale – ペンギン・ハイウェイ/ Penguin Highway by 森見登美彦/ Tomohiko Morimi.

This novel was released back in 2010, however a manga and film adaptation was released last year. I know that the novel is about a boy who wants to find out why penguins have suddenly started appearing in his town. Since the main story is about a young boy, the language used seems to be pretty simple with short sentences.

I’m looking forward to reading it as it seems like an odd but charming story. I’ll probably follow it up by watching the anime film adaptation at some point too.

So that’s it for today’s post – you can take a look at these books on the ebookJapan website and read the previews (look out for the “試し読み” button) if you are interested in checking them out.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Where to find and buy Japanese music online

Following my post on 15 Easy Japanese Songs, I realised that finding Japanese songs from outside the country can be pretty difficult.

Unlike music from other parts of the world, the Japanese music industry is a little bit more old fashioned, and so it can be difficult to find some music online due to copyright issues. This is less of a problem with contemporary artists, which have generally been embracing more modern platforms.

I hope this post will help give you some ideas on where to find your next favourite Japanese song.

Places to discover Japanese music

The Oricon Music chart will give you an idea of what is popular in Japan right now. Although all in Japanese, the website is pretty easy to navigate. If you are into pop/rock or idol music, you will most likely find a couple of artists to listen to just from the charts alone.

YouTube

No matter what genre of music you prefer, YouTube is a pretty great place to start looking. The YouTube channels for major Japanese record labels include:

Spotify

Spotify helps to fill in some of the gaps left by YouTube. The playlist feature is a great way to be exposed to different types of music based on what you already like.

Here are some of Spotify’s own Japanese music playlists to get you started:

There are plenty of user made playlists too – search ‘Japan’ or ‘Japanese’ to find them! If you are lucky to be based in Japan then you will be able to access a much larger library of music.

Deezer

I’ve also tried Deezer which has also some Japanese songs (although I feel they are a bit trickier to find compared to Spotify). The user created playlists are a great place to start looking, though there are a few official ones too.

I noticed that on Deezer it is possible to view the lyrics to some Japanese songs, although it seems to be a Premium feature.

Japan Top 10 Podcast

Another place to keep up with Japanese music is the Japan Top 10 podcast. Japan Top 10 iis a regular Japanese music podcast showcases a variety of music. Their artist spotlight posts are a good way to find out about popular artists both past and present.

Where can you buy Japanese music?

Once you have an idea of what music you like, the next step is actually purchasing it.

I live in the UK, but I have found that you can often find Japanese music on most digital music platforms. If you prefer physical music then you still have a range of options (though I suggest you buy a few CDs at a time to make shipping costs more economical).

Digital music

iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play Music

iTunes is undoubtedly your best bet if based outside of Japan – it definitely has the widest range of Japanese music.

If you don’t have iTunes, it is possible to find some Japanese songs on Amazon Music and Google Play Music. Compared to iTunes though, this is often limited to artists who are fairly well known and may only be part of their discography.

For most of the artists I looked at, songs that are available on Amazon Music are usually available on Google Play Music.

OTOTOY

There’s also a Japanese website called OTOTOY, which is Japanese music-focused but is also internationally oriented (you can view the OTOTOY website in English, Japanese, French or Traditional Chinese). There are interviews and news features on the website, although these are all in Japanese. Most importantly, you can download Japanese music digitally which can be paid for in a few ways including (international) credit cards and Paypal.

I’ve found the range of music includes a greater range of up and coming artists, although you can find music by popular artists such as Aimyon, Sekai no Owari, Greeeen and Shiina Ringo too.

The main downside to OTOTOY is that the costs of digital downloads is noticeably higher than what I pay for Western music. I normally pay 99p ($1.29) for one song, but OTOTOY charges 250 yen ($2.30/ £1.77).

Physical music

Physical CDs are still super popular in Japan, and whilst brand new CDs can be expensive, second-hand CDs can be bought fairly cheaply.

I also recommend checking out Amazon Japan, CD Japan, HMV Japan and YesAsia (all links take you to the English language versions of their website). Buying in bulk is a good idea not just for shipping costs, but the potential import fees you may have to pay.

It’s always worth checking out eBay – you never know what second hand bargains you might find!

I have a Japanese Music Mondays series on the blog’s Instagram and Facebook pages, with the aim of introducing Japanese music to a wider audience. I try to cover different genres – if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Back Online

ひさしぶり readers and apologies for the lack of posts/ responses to comments.

I’m still in the process of unpacking!

You might know from social media that I’ve had an impromptu break from the blog as I have been moving house. I was only planning on being away for a couple of weeks but I had some issues getting the internet set up. Thankfully these are resolved and I am mostly settled in my new place. I also took the opportunity to refresh the blog’s theme.

Being away from the internet for so long did give me a chance to reflect on my language learning. When I have had time to study I have been keeping things really simple.

I mostly listened to my favourite podcasts, read books and did my Anki reps (well, some of the time).

I was appreciative of the break from the internet for the most part, as I realised that I spend so much time relying on the internet for just about everything. I certainly want to make more time for offline language learning in the future.

Naturally, as my daily routine has changed, my language learning routine is in the process of changing too. I have a longer commute which is ideal for Anki reps and podcasts. On the other hand, I have less time in the morning which is when I used to get in a lot of reading practice. I’m planning to spend more time doing some reading just before I go to bed to make up for it!

The great thing about moving is that I have my own desk for my study sessions. I definitely plan on hitting my JLPT textbooks more consistently going forward.

When I didn’t have the internet, the one thing that I definitely missed the most was the language learning community. Logging into Twitter and Instagram everyday is a massive source of inspiration for me (as long as I don’t spend too much time on it!).

This is a short post today but I want to end by saying thank you for your patience and expect some new posts very soon 🙂

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