Monthly Favourites: November 2019

After a 3 month break from blogging (oops), I wanted to switch things up a little bit and talk about resources or Japanese media that I enjoyed last month. You might find them useful!

A Podcast: 4989 American Life

This podcast had been recommended to me a couple of times, but I finally got around to listening to it.

The podcast is hosted by Utaco, a Japanese woman who now lives in the USA. She talks a lot about her experiences moving countries and seeing American life and culture from a Japanese perspective.

It’s a good choice for Japanese learners since she speaks very clearly and at a comfortable pace (not too fast, not too slow). I feel that the podcast’s casual conversational vibe is a nice way to relax, or listen to whilst doing chores.

Note: the name of the podcast is interesting – the ‘4989’ could be read in Japanese as shiku hakku (4 = shi, 9 = ku, 8 = ha(small tsu), 9 = ku), or 四苦八苦 which is a 4 character compound (yojijukugo) meaning ‘to be in a lot of distress’.

An Anime: ハイキュー!!/ Haikyuu!!

A couple of weeks ago, I realised that Haikyuu!! (taken from the Japanese word for volleyball, usually written in kanji as 排球) had been added to Netflix’s growing collection of anime shows. Haikyuu follows junior high student Shoyo Hinata who dreams of becoming a volleyball player despite his short height. His first official match goes horribly, but he is still determined to take his team to the top.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of volleyball at all, but I found myself hooked after watching the first episode. This is very typical of the shonen genre but that is not intended as an insult. Haikyuu’s message of friendship and hard work is helping to keep me motivated with my Japanese studies!

Although there are obviously some sporting and volleyball specific terms, the language used in Haikyuu is pretty straightforward. 

A Novel: ぼくたちは神様の名前を知らない by 五十嵐貴久

Takahisa Igarashi writes across a variety of genres, from romcom to horror and suspense. Some of his works have been adapted into dramas, including a Freaky Friday style drama called パパとムスメの7日間 which I watched over 10 years ago! Even so, this novel seems to be quite a departure from his other works but I am still finding the novel an engaging read (I am almost finished reading it).

A group of friends meet up in Hokkaido upon hearing that a member of their group has died in strange circumstances. It turns out that the friends were all connected to the March 2011 earthquake disaster, and all ended up being separated from each other as a result. The novel explores how the disaster affected each character but also how we change in our teenage years. The plot reminds me of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Japanese title あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない), which I have also been reading recently in manga form.

Language-wise, it is fairly easy to read, given that the characters are all middle schoolers. You can find the novel in eBook format in the Amazon Kindle Store (at least in the UK) if you want to read a sample.

PS. I’ve always thought Igarashi (五十嵐) was a super cool family name – literally ‘50 storms’! 

What resources or media have you enjoyed recently? Let me know in the comments!

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