Tag Archives: study Japanese

Review & Giveaway 19: Mastering Japanese Kanji

11 Aug

Yet another review of a book I’ve received from Tuttle Books!
As always, they have agreed to give (gave) one free copy of this book to a random visitor to my blog!

The book I’m reviewing today is titled “Mastering Japanese Kanji: The Innovative Visual Method for Learning Japanese Characters (CD-ROM Included)” by Glen Nolan Grant.

Mastering Japanese Kanji: The Innovative Visual Method for Learning Japanese Characters (CD-ROM Included)

Mastering Japanese Kanji: The Innovative Visual Method for Learning Japanese Characters (CD-ROM Included)

I will put the details of the free drawing for this book at the end of this post.

The written Japanese language has three scripts: hiragana and katakana (collectively known as “kana“) and thousands of kanji.

The script that is taught in this book is kanji. These are the characters that make up most of the Japanese written language. They were introduced to Japan from China. The Chinese written language uses these characters (albeit often a bit different from Japanese ones), but because Japanese grammar is quite different from Chinese, kana characters are needed in addition to kanji to write Japanese.

These characters are the most difficult to learn because there are so many of them, they are often complicated to write, and almost all have more than one possible pronunciation.

But, if you can read kanji, it helps a lot if you live in, or even visit, Japan!

If you’re serious about learning Japanese, you should begin studying kanji after you learn hiragana and katakana.

Mastering Japanese Kanji: The Innovative Visual Method for Learning Japanese Characters” is an excellent tool for studying Japanese kanji.
It tells the most common pronunciation for 200 common kanji characters, the English meaning, gives examples of compound words with that character, and example sentences.
It also tells how to write each character properly and has spaces to practice. There are quizzes throughout the book to test you comprehension (with the answers at the back of the book).
In addition, there is a free CD-ROM included that demonstrates how to write the characters and how to pronounce words using the characters.

Mastering Japanese Kanji: The Innovative Visual Method for Learning Japanese Characters (CD-ROM Included)” can be purchased through Amazon here.

But, as I said above, Tuttle Books has agreed to give (gave) one random visitor to my blog a free copy of this book.

To enter the drawing for the free book, submit this form by 2015 August 31st:

***** Updated August 31st, 2015 *****

This special promo ended on 2015 August 31st. One random winner was selected and contacted directly by Tuttle Publishers (via email) with the details about the free book.

Thank you to all who entered, but only the winner was contacted.

Study Japanese with Japan Times

18 Mar

The Japan Times newspaper has a regular feature that teaches grammar and/or phrases of the Japanese language.

This is from their site (here) the day before yesterday:

Learn ‘nantoka’ any way you can

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Chikatetsu-de ikeba, nantoka maniai-sō-desu. (If I take the subway, I’ll only just make it in time.)
Situation 1: Ms. Shiba is speaking on the phone with her colleague, Mr. Tian, who is on his way to a client’s office.

芝: 今、JRがかなり遅れているみたいですから、他のルートで行ったほうがいいですよ。時間、大丈夫ですか。

ティエン: かなり大回りになるけど、地下鉄で行けば、何とか間に合いそうです。

Shiba: Ima, JR-ga kanari okurete-iru-mitai-desu-kara, hoka-no rūto-de itta hō-ga ii-desu-yo. Jikan, daijōbu-deshō-ka.

Tian: Kanari ōmawari-ni naru-kedo, chikatetsu-de ikeba, nantoka maniai-sō-desu.

Shiba: The JR-line train seems to be late. So, it’s better for you to use another line. Is there enough time?

Tian: If I take the subway, I’ll only just make it in time — even though it takes a long way around.

Today, we will introduce the adverb 何(なん)とか (in any way) and some related expressions. The adverb 何とか is used with a verb (X) and expresses that X has happened or is going to happen, barely, as in Mr. Tian’s sentence in Situation 1 or as in: 少(すく)ない年金(ねんきん)で、何とか暮(く)らしています( I only just get by on a small public pension).

Situation 2: Mr. Mita talks to his colleague Mr. Sere.

三田: セレくん、今夜、帰りにちょっと飲まない?新しい居酒屋ができたんだ。

セレ: いいけど、三田くんは明日までに報告書を書かなくちゃいけないんじゃない?

三田: まあ、何とかなるよ。ちょっとだけ、飲んでいこうよ。

Mita: Sere-kun, kon’ya, kaeri-ni chotto nomanai? Atarashii izakaya-ga dekita-n-da.

Sere: Ii-kedo, Mita-kun-wa ashita-made-ni hōkokusho-o kakanakucha-ikenai-n-ja-nai?

Mita: Mā, nantoka naru-yo. Chotto-dake nonde-ikō-yo.

Mita: Hi Sere, why don’t we go and have a drink on the way home? A new Japanese pub has opened.

Sere: OK, but don’t you have to write a report by tomorrow?

Mita: Well, I can manage it somehow — let’s go for a quick drink.

何とかする is a suru-verb that means to solve a problem by any means necessary, as in: お客(きゃく)さんが来(く)るんだから何とかしてよ (Tidy up in any way you can, because a guest is coming soon). The te-form of this verb 何とかして, when used with a verb, functions as adverb and can replace 何とか, as in 何とかして彼(かれ)を助(たす)けたい (I want to help him in any way I can). 何とかなる is an intransitive verb used to indicate that something is happening, or is expected to happen, naturally and without effort, as Mr. Mita uses it in Situation 2.

Bonus Dialogue: Mrs. Okubo and her son Mitsuo are talking at home.

母: あしたは三者(さんしゃ)面談(めんだん)ね。憂鬱(ゆううつ)だな。

光男: 心配(しんぱい)することないよ。ぼくは、ちゃんと単位(たんい)が取(と)れて、3年生(さんねんせい)になれるから。

母: 3年生になれても、来年(らいねん)、大学(だいがく)に入(はい)れるかどうか、心配。

光男: そんなことより、ぼくが3年生になれることを喜(よろこ)んでよ。悠太(ゆうた)は、音楽(おんがく)を一科目(いちかもく)落(お)として、進級(しんきゅう)できないかもしれないんだから。

母: 音楽1科目だけなら、何(なん)とかならないの?

光男: 担任(たんにん)の先生が、音楽の先生に追試(ついし)をたのんでいるんだけど、音楽の先生は、なかなかオーケーしてくれないんだって。

母: 芸術家(げいじゅつか)は、気難(きむずか)しいからね…。でも、きっと担任の先生が何とかして下さるわよ。ああ、光男が何とか進級できてよかった。

光男: 母さん、ぼくは、「何とか」じゃなくて、ちゃんと進級できたの。まちがえないで。

Mother: Tomorrow we’ll have a school meeting with the teacher — I don’t like it.

Mitsuo: You don’t have to worry, Mom. I got the credits and will be able to be in the third grade.

Mother: Even if you are allowed in the third grade, I wonder if you can enter a university next year.

Mitsuo: Don’t worry about that, just be pleased that I’m allowed into the third grade. Yuta failed one subject, music, and may not progress.

Mother: If it’s only music, can’t he manage?

Mitsuo: The class teacher asked the music teacher to give a make-up exam to Yuta, but she seems unwilling.

Mother: Artists are difficult people . . . Perhaps the class teacher will do something for Yuta. Well, I’m relieved that you just made it to the third grade.

Mitsuo: Not “just” — I was allowed into the third grade with no problem. Get it right, Mom.


20 Jun

Here’s a story that I saw on the TV news and the newspaper recently about this turtle:

Someone painted 「カメデス」 ("I'm a turtle") on his back.

I added the original Japanese article here and below it is my translation of it to English.


「カメデス」と甲羅に落書きされた甲府市の舞鶴城公園のカメが16日、岸に上がっているところを捕獲された。落書きを消そうと、公園を管理する山 梨県が捕獲作戦を展開中だった。

仕事で外出していた山梨県警の男性警察官がカメを発見。近づくと手足を引っ込めたため、簡単に捕まえられたという。“逃走”を続けていたカメだ が、本職の警察官には手も足も出なかったようだ。

県は落書きされた文字を溶剤などで消すことも検討したが、カメはちょうど脱皮の時期。脱皮によって落書きが消える可能性もあるといい、結局、県の 施設で保護して様子を見守ることになった。

In English:

Journal:The “I’m A Turtle” turtle captured at Kofu Maizurujyou Park

A turtle that someone wrote “I’m A Turtle” on the shell was captured on June 16th at Maizurujyou Park in Kofu (Japan).

Government employees who manage the park had been trying unsuccessfully to capture the turtle to clean off the writing on it’s back.

A policeman was passing the park on his way to work and noticed the turtle. When he approached the turtle, it pulled it’s head and legs into it’s shell and the policeman was able to catch it easily.

The park employees were planning to remove the writing from the turtle’s back, but decided there was a risk of injuring the animal with the paint remover. So they decided to care for the turtle and hope the writing eventually wears off.

I wonder how someone could be mean to an animal. We have a pet turtle and I couldn’t imagine harming it (I have a photo of our turtle at the end of this post).


27 Mar

Do you study Japanese?

Japanese なぞなぞ (riddles) are a helpful study tool. The play on words in children’s riddles help expand your vocabulary.

If you don’t understand Japanese, these riddles will probably be difficult to understand because riddles in any language aren’t easy to translate to another language (since riddles usually incorporate a play on words, and different languages don’t often have similar wordplay).

Anyways, probably the most common Japanese riddle:


Do you understand it? Have you heard it before? It’s an old joke that everyone in Japan has heard countless times.

Literally, in English it would be:
“Bread is bread but what bread is inedible?”
Answer: “A frying pan.”

See? It doesn’t make sense in English.
But in Japanese, the word for “bread” is “pan”.

Now does it make more sense?

If you write it in English, but use the Japanese word “pan” instead of “bread”:
Pan is pan but what pan is inedible?”
Answer: “A frying pan.”

Here’s another one:

答え: 「トラック」 (とら食う)

“What kind of vehicle eats tigers?”
Answer: “A truck”

Meaningless in English.
But “tiger” is “tora” in Japanese. And “eat” is “taberu“…or sometimes “kuu“.
“Truck” in Japanese is “torakku”, which sounds similar to “Tora Kuu” (Tiger Eat).

If you want to see more Japanese riddles (and you can read Japanese), go to http://なぞなぞ.jp/.

Do you know any Japanese なぞなぞ (riddles)? Write them in this post’s comments section.
Feel free to write English riddles there too.

Japanese Kids Games

22 Aug

When my daughters were younger, there were a couple of Japanese games that I used to play with them that help improve my Japanese language ability.

「しりとり」 (“Shiritori“) and 「カルタ」 (“Karuta“).

Do you know these games? Have you ever played them?

▲ 「しりとり」 (Shiritori):

This is a word game that two or more people can play.
The first person says any Japanese noun. It can be any word as long as it doesn’t end with the 「ん」 (“n“) character.
– The next person says any Japanese word that begins with the same character that the previous word ended with.
– And the next player does likewise.
– The game ends when a player loses by either saying a word that has already been used or saying a word that ends with the 「ん」 (“n“) character (because no word in the Japanese language begins with 「ん」).
– When a word end with a character with 濁点 (「゛」) or 半濁点 (「゜」), the next player can use the character with or without it (ie: If a player’s word ends with 「ば」 or 「ぱ」, the next player’s word can start with either that character or simply 「は」).

An example of how the game would go:
「ネ」(“Neko“)→「」(“Koala)→「イオ」(Laion (lion)) (The  player who said 「ライオン」 (lion) would lose because you can’t choose a word that ends with 「ん」(「ン」).)

▲ 「カルタ」 (Karuta):

This is a Japanese card game that can be played by three or more players. It’s often played at New Years time in Japan (I still play this game every New Years with my daughters).

Karuta has two decks of cards. One deck is called 読み札 (Reading deck), and the other is 取り札 (Taking deck).

Each card in the 取り札 (Taking deck) has a picture illustrating a phrase and the first character from that phrase…the 読み札 (Reading deck) have the phrases.

– The 取り札 (Taking deck) is spread out on the floor and all players, except the one player who will be the “reader”, sit around the cards.
– The reader shuffles the 読み札 (Reading deck) and reads the top card.
– The other players have to find and hit the card on the floor that corresponds with the one just read before another player gets it.
– Whoever has the most cards at the end wins.

A couple of cards from a Karuta game

A couple of cards from a Karuta game

Wanna play 「しりとり」 (Shiritori) against me in the comments section?
I’ll write a word here and you can write the next one in the comments section of this post and we can go back and forth until someone loses.

My word is:
「ゴリラ」 (Gorira (gorilla))…(you have to write a word that starts with 「ら」 (“ra“).

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)


6 Dec

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


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.)


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):


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


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


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.


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).