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高校受験

23 Jan

Today my oldest daughter will take her 高校受験 (High School Entrance Examination).

She’s a 中学校三年生 (Ninth grader (last year of Junior High in Japan)).

In Japan, the school year is 四月から三月まで (from April til March).
小学校 (Elementary School) is grades 1-6, 中学校 (Junior High) is three years (grades 中1~中3…(equivalent to grades 7-9 in the U.S.)),  and 高等学校 (High School) in Japan is also three years (the equivalent to grades 10-12 in the U.S.).

Both 高等学校 (High School) and 大学 (College) have Entrance Exams.

My two younger daughters made a card for my oldest to wish her Good Luck on her test today.
I bought her a box of special Kit-Kat chocolates for students taking School Entrance Exams.

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Kit-Kat is one of the popular snacks parents give their kids when they’re taking an Entrance Exam. Kit-Kat is popular because it’s name sounds like “I’ll surely pass!” in Japanese.
(Click here to read another post that I mention another flavor of Kit-Kat for High School kids taking the College Entrance Exam.)

The packaging of the Kit-Kat that I bought is like a postcard…and it can actually be mailed.

Well, to my oldest daughter:
ガンバッテね! (Good luck!)

成人の日

12 Jan

今日は成人の日 (Today is Adult’s Day).

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Some girls dressed in kimono for their 成人式 (Adults Day ceremony).

I wrote about this holiday here and here.

All around Japan on this day, there are many twenty year old young people dressed up (girls in 振袖 (formal kimono for single women) and young men in suits usually (some men wear (kimono for men))).

After their 成人式 (Adults Day ceremony), many of them will go to a photo studio with their family to have their portrait taken…and then they usually go somewhere to celebrate with friends.
In Tokyo*, you can see many young people in their kimono at 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland).

(*Well, actually near Tokyo. Tokyo Disneyland is actually in 千葉県 (Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo). 成田空港 (Tokyo Int’l Airport) is, too.)

Alot of the twenty-year-olds will go drinking with their friends, too. Twenty is the legal drinking age in Japan.

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Today, my wife and two youngest daughters went shopping. My oldest daughter and I are staying home…she needs to study for her upcoming high-school entrance exam.

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Yesterday was 鏡開き (Kagami-biraki).

Click here to read a post I wrote about it.

So for breakfast yesterday, my wife made 汁粉 (Shiruko).

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My wife made this 汁粉. It was very good.

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Yesterday was also my second daughter’s fourteenth birthday.
She got an I-pod® and some clothes for her birthday presents. We also went to a restaurant for her birthday dinner yesterday evening.

I can’t hardly believe that she’s already 14!

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As I mentioned above, my oldest daughter has two high-school entrance exams coming up.
She studies hard…and, as many Japanese kids her age do, she attends 学習塾 (Special cram school) after school twice a week for extra study.

All three of my kids do quite well in school. Much better than their father did when he was a student (more like their mother). 🙂

After breakfast yesterday, we went to 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) for wish for my daughter’s good luck in her upcoming entrance exams.

亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) is one of the shrines in Japan dedicated to a deity of knowledge and study.
Most Japanese people don’t actually believe in deities…it’s just a tradition.

The 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) is fairly famous. The well-known 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) artist 広重 (Hiroshige) painted it (as did a few other artists):

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Hiroshige's ukiyoe of Kameido-Tenjin

Here’s a recent photo of the same scene (still looks the same centuries later):

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Another thing that this temple is famous for is a festival in January called 「鷽替え」 (Uso-kae).
Uso is the Japanese name for the “Bullfinch” bird. And 替え kae means “change”.
But it’s a play on words because 嘘 (uso (written with a different kanji character)) means “a lie”.

At this festival, people bring in the wooden Bullfinch statue that they bought last year and have it burned…and then they buy a new one. It represents a clean slate for any lies you’ve told the previous years and a eagerness to do better this year. (Actually, in Japan all New Years ornaments from the previous year are meant to be burnt at a shrine before new ones are bought for a new year.)

Near the 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine), I saw this large Bullfinch as a post on the road-railing that looks like the smaller wooden ones that people can buy:

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On the way to the temple, we passed a store that was selling the American potato-chips “Pringles” in different flavors.
I didn’t buy any, but I wonder: Do they sell these flavors in others countries?

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マスタード・マヨネーズ・ポテト (Mustard Mayo Potato)

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フェタ・チーズ (Feta Cheese)

As with all shrines in Japan, 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) sells 絵馬 (wooden plates) on which you write a wish and hang near the shrine.

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Here’s the 絵馬 (wooden plate) that I bought for my daughter:

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She wrote:

高校合格できますように。

Which means “I hope to pass into high school.”

Then she hung it here:

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As we were leaving the shrine, we passed by this フグ (blowfish) restaurant.
They serve フグ刺 (blowfish sashimi (raw blowfish)).

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フグ (blowfish)

Chefs that prepare フグ刺 (blowfish sashimi) need a special license because フグ (blowfish) has a deadly poison gland and if it’s pierced, it poisons the food.

Anyways, after that we went to a shopping mall (because girls love shopping) and then to a restaurant for my second daughter’s birthday dinner.

Japanese Books, Snacks, CDs…

4 Jan

I just added a page on my main website called “Japanese Stuff”.

It has links to buy Japan-themed books, snacks and DVDs that I recommend.

On this blog, I’ve recommend books like Jerry Yellin’s book “The Blackened Canteen“, and CDs by Japanese bands like Monkey Majik, and Japanese movies like Quill.

Now, I’ve decided to make it easier for visitors to my site to buy the books, snacks, CDs and DVDs, etc that I recommend by providing a link to buy them from Amazon.com.

Click here to visit my new “Japanese Stuff page.

巣鴨

3 Jan

Today we went to 巣鴨 (Sugamo).

Do you know 巣鴨 (Sugamo)?
It’s a part of Tokyo often referred to as 「おばあちゃんの原宿」 (“The Old Ladies’ Harajuku“). This is because 原宿 (Harajuku) is an area popular with young people because that area is full of clothes stores, restaurants, etc that young people like…and 巣鴨 (Sugamo) is popular with the older generation because it’s full of clothes stores, restaurants, traditional Japanese snack shops, etc that they like.

My oldest daughter didn’t join us because she and her friend, ironically, went to 原宿 (Harajuku) together today.

This is the entrance to the popular 地蔵通り (Jizou-doori), the shopping street in 巣鴨 (Sugamo) that has many shops and restaurants that old people like. (You don’t have to be old to appreciate them, though…I like traditional Japanese snacks, food, and souvenirs, too 🙂 ).

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Here’s a video I took of this area:

This street can be compared to the popular 竹下通り (Takeshita-doori) in 原宿 (Harajuku)…except for the age difference between the shoppers on these two streets.

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The 地蔵通り (Jizou-doori) shopping street in 巣鴨 (Sugamo) was especially crowded today and there were many vendors because many people were going to the 高岩寺 (Kouganji Temple) for 初詣 (first Shrine visit of the year)…usually people go to a 神社 (Shinto Shrine) for 初詣 (first Shrine visit of the year), but going to a 御寺 (Buddhist Temple) is fine.

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This is the entrance to 高岩寺 (Kouganji Temple)…the sign with the temple’s name is written right to left (寺岩高), which is the way Japanese used to be written (now it’s either written horizontally, left to right (→) and top of the page to bottom (↓) (like English)…or vertically, top to bottom (↓) and right of the page to left (←)).

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So we went to 巣鴨 (Sugamo) for 初詣 (first Shrine (Temple) visit of the year) and we bought some 大福 (a traditional Japanese snack).

Speaking of snacks, soon Japanese kids will be taking entrance exams for high school or college. My oldest will be taking her high school entrance exam.
When we went into a convenience store, I saw a shelf of snacks that are supposed to be lucky for kids taking exams. One of the more popular ones is the American chocolate bar 「キット・カッツ」 (“Kit-Kat“). The reason that Kit-Kat has become popular for kids taking exams is because the chocolate’s name sounds like 「きっと勝つ!」 (Kitto-katsu!)…which means “I’ll definitely pass!”.

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Supposedly, Japan has the most flavors of Kit-Kat in the world. I’ve have seen many flavors including some like “Green Tea Kit-Kat”, “Exotic Tokyo Kit-Kat”, and “Banana Kit-Kat”. (Although I’ve never tried any of them. I don’t eat much candy or chocolate.)
But this one was obviously made especially for kids taking college entrance exams in Japan since the package is decorated with Sakura Cherry-Blossom flowers (and symbol of Springtime in Japan (when the school-year begins)) and a school uniform hat. The flavor is 「大学いも味」 (“College Potato Taste“). Sounds odd for a chocolate bar! Could be good, though…I don’t know—I didn’t buy it.

Counter Suffixes

30 Dec

In about four hours (from when I wrote this), it’ll be New Years Eve (in JST (Japan Standard Time)).
Soon it’ll be 2009! Time flies!

I was just reviewing one of my Japanese language books and decided to add another lesson here (click here for another one I wrote last month).

If you study Japanese, please leave a comment and let me know if this is helpful, too easy, or too difficult. (As with all of the 漢字 (kanji) on my blog, if you hold you mouse over it…you’ll see the ふりがな pop-up.)

The examples written in red are exceptions to the rule.

物の数え方 (Counter Suffixes)

  • People: ~ (一人, 二人, 三人)
  • Small item: ~ (一個, 二個, 十個)
  • Books, magazines: ~ (一冊, 二冊, 八冊)
  • Paper money (bills): ~ (千円札, 一ドル札)
  • Pairs of shoes or socks: ~ (一足, 三足, 四足, 何足)
  • Glass, cup, spoonful: ~ (一杯, 二杯, 何杯)
  • Dog, cat, insect: ~ (一匹, 二匹, 十匹)
  • Cylindrical items: ~ (一本, 二本, 八本)
  • Birds: ~ (一羽, 三羽, 十羽)
    (ie: 千羽鶴 (1000 origami Cranes))
  • Cars, phones, TVs: ~ (一台, 何台)
  • Flat items (sheets of papers, etc): ~ (一枚, 何枚)
  • Age: ~ (二歳, 二十歳, 何歳)
  • Place, Rank: ~ (三位)
  • Number of times: ~ (一回)
  • Pieces of mail: ~ (三通)

iKnow!

6 Dec

Do you study 日本語 (Japanese)?
Have you ever seen the website called ” iKnow! “?

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It’s a excellent site for language study drills. English speakers can study Japanese, and Japanese people can use it to study English.

You can customize it to your level of ability and it drills new words different ways: 漢字 (kanji) → English, ひらがな → English, and English → Japanese (both 漢字 (kanji) and ひらがな), and also shows the 漢字 (kanji characters) and has you type in the reading for them.

(I believe you can also study Japanese using only alphabet characters instead of 漢字 (kanji) or ひらがな if you can’t read Japanese characters…but I haven’t tried it that way, so I’m not positive)

It’s a quite good program. And the best part is…the beta version is free! (Click here to visit the iKnow! page.)

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Yesterday, the weather wasn’t so cold in Tokyo…but it rained hard. So, although today’s a nice clear day,  it’s colder. In fact, the 天気予報 (weather forecast) for today says it will snow on the other coast of Japan!

Here’s today’s 天気予報 (weather forecast) for all of Japan (東京 (Tokyo) is sunny):

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And this week’s 天気予報 (weather forecast) for Tokyo:

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It’s forecast to rain again on 火曜日 (Tuesday) and 水曜日 (Wednesday)! 😦

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All of last week, my second daughter had 職場体験 (work experience). Most Japanese junior-high school students work at a local business for a week to an idea of what it’s like to have a job (and maybe help them decide on a future career).

Last year, my oldest did her 職場体験 (work experience) at a local 幼稚園 (kindergarten). And last week, my second daughter just finished her’s at a nearby 動物園 (zoo).

Both of them really enjoyed the experience.

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Speaking of the 動物園 (zoo)…yesterday, my youngest daughter’s class at school took a field trip to 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) and the 博物館 (museums) near the zoo.

Luckily it didn’t rain until later in the day, so they were able to enjoy the 動物園 (zoo).

She took all of these photographs (she took alot more photos…but I’m not posting any of them that show her or her classmates):

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And tomorrow, we’re going to watch my youngest daughter’s Koto concert. (Koto is a traditional Japanese musical instrument that my daughter plays).