This is a sign that is quite common especially in the busier areas of big cities like Tokyo. There are certain places where you are not allowed to cross, and the arrow indicates the next part of the street where you are allowed to cross the road safely. This is a good example of where just knowing one basic kanji eg 止 (stop) can come in very handy. Don’t be bothered about not knowing the other three kanji just yet as they are N2 and N3 level so you’ll get those later if you’re just starting off.
Often it’s hard to find really good reading and visual material for beginners through to intimidate Japanese for free. There’s so much on the internet that it can be difficult to get through all the search results to find the good stuff. A series that I have found useful is ふぁんた時間. The site provides free, high quality readings of Japanese stories that can be streamed online or downloaded as an mp3 and played anywhere.
A slice of life reflected in the mirror somewhere along the backstreets of the beautiful Tokyo suburb of Naka-Meguro.
With its theatrical release in 2011, it seems I’m a little behind on hearing about Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. If you have any interest in Japan or just the perfection of one’s chosen craft then I urge you to watch Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.
A great piece of graffiti on a wall in Harajuku. It seems to have survived for quite a few years but I’m not sure of the back story.
From Up On Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から) is the latest animated masterpiece produced by Japan’s Studio Ghibli. The film is based on the manga series of the same name by Tetsuo Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi. The film was released in Japan on July 16, 2011 and became the highest-grossing Japanese film of the year. It will hit theatres in the US in early 2013.
I spotted these two girls wearing two styles of Geta – apparently the tall ones are for wearing in snow or rain to keep whatever you are wearing from dragging on the ground – clever! Geta (木屐/下駄) are a form of traditional Japanese footwear that resemble both clogs and flip-flops.
I shot this in the late afternoon sunlight under the Komagata Bridge (こまがたはし), one of the many bridges that cross the Sumida River in Asakusa, Tokyo. Taken with a Sony NEX-5N and Voigtlander Ultron 28mm.
As we all know, the Japanese make the coolest stuff and the nanoblock building toys are no different. Imagine getting all your Lego and putting it in the dryer and turning on the heat. Boom, an hour later, your Lego is now the size of nanoblocks. These things are seriously small!
There are many different ways of learning Kanji and students of Japanese tend to naturally gravitate towards the way that makes sense to them and/or the one that gets the quickest results. It’s important to note that there is no perfect way – if you can learn and retain 2000 kanji, who cares how you did it!
You could easily get lost for a whole day in the labyrinth of tunnels that feed in and out of the subway area of Ginza, Tokyo. There are tunnels that stretch out for many street blocks and deliver commuters to the offices and shopping centres that litter one of Tokyo’s most glamourous and expensive suburbs.
Unfortunately we didn’t find much that qualified as exciting out at Chiba but I did get to visit Tower Records, which I hadn’t been to in a very long time, ever since iTunes came along. One CD stood out in particular with the phonetic Japanese spelling of the classic American rock band – Van Halen ^^
A tasty Japanese alternative to McDonald’s is Freshness Burger. The chain has been around since 1992 and has roughly 200 stores across Japan so it isn’t on every street corner but it’s worth looking when you find one. The food ranges from the Classic Burger through to the Vegetable Tofu Burger, Avocado Burger and Teriyaki Spam Burger. As the name suggests everything is cooked fresh in-store and is delicious.
I started to edit these and tried black and white but in the end I left them as is from the camera. Taken in the back streets of Nakameguro at about 11pm – got some strange looks lying in the middle of the road with a tripod ^^
I must admit I didn’t know alot about this festival until recently when I found a couple of YouTube videos and decided to find out more. The Jindaiji Temple Daruma Fair takes place annually on March 3rd and 4th at the Jindaiji Temple.
I am making an assumption here but this lady looked to be the Mother-In-Law at a weekend wedding I saw at Meiji Shrine. Otherwise it’s a nice black and white of a random well-dressed older lady in Tokyo – take your pick!
Vending machines don’t lead a very fulfilling life, just sitting around waiting for the next customer – whenever he or she may come along. This particular machine looked particularly lonely and unloved in the back streets of Nakameguro. Awwwww ^^
Pepsi Energy Cola (ペプシ エナジーコーラ) is marketed as a natural product with ingredients such as Royal Jelly extract, Caffeine, Arginine plus Ginseng (高麗人参) and Guarana extract. It had a great taste but it didn’t seem to have much kick to it afterwards so I guess it is back to the Red Bull for me!
One of the most popular dishes in Japan is beef bowl or gyūdon (牛丼). While there are many places that serve the dish, the two largest chains are – Yoshinoya (吉野家) and Sukiya (すき家).
It’s approaching 5pm at Futako-tamagawa station (二子玉川駅) and no sign yet of the normal eye-popping, lung-crushing railway commuter chaos associated with peak hour commuting in Tokyo. Perhaps that comes a little later – we didn’t wait around to find out! ^^
While Japan is known for its low level of crime, it is still common to see warning signs placed in high traffic areas such as train stations. I found this particular sign located at the top of the stairs leading up to Futako-tamagawa station (二子玉川駅) in Tokyo. Don’t you love those happy little “bag snatch warning” characters! ^^
Holger Mette has a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of enjoying. In 2007, Mette left his job as a lawyer in Australia and started traveling the world and also made good on his ambition to become a professional travel photographer. He funds his awesome lifestyle by licensing his images through sites such as istockphoto.com and Getty Images.
I wonder what the residents of 10-10 Kiyosumi-Dori (清澄通り) think of this wonderful view every morning? Construction of the Tokyo Sky Tree (the world’s tallest self-supporting communications tower) was officially finished this week, two months late because of supply shortages caused by the quake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, 2011. Can’t wait to get up to the top for what must be an amazing view!
We had purchased a pink Care Bear from Kiddy Land in Harajuku for our young daughter and had gone out for the day and left it in our hotel room. When we got back from the Care Bear was missing and we had a very sad girl on our hands.
After seeing an article on Danny Choo’s excellent website, we decided to pay a visit to the new Rise shopping centre located beside the Futako-tamagawa (二子玉川) station in Tokyo on a trip to Japan late last year. For those of us who live outside of Japan, I thought it would be interesting to see inside a Japanese supermarket and some of the food and beverages for sale.
I was recently inter-state on holidays for Christmas and dropped in to a local bookstore – something I rarely do now with Kindle books being my dead-tree-replacement of choice. In amongst the Lonely Planet and Frommer guides I found an awesome illustrated book called “Tokyo On Foot”. The style of drawing immediately caught my eye and 5 minutes later I was at the register handing over AUD$24.99 to the cashier.
Towards the end of our recent trip to Tokyo, I realised I hadn’t done much night shooting around the streets of Naka-Meguro, where we stayed for 10 days. As I was wandering the streets towards the Expressway to get a few timelapses when I saw this old Chinese restaurant. It had a great feel to it – hope you like it too ^^
Having just arrived back from a 10 day trip to Tokyo, we of course had our bags full of all sorts of great stuff including several different varieties of Meiji Chocolate bars. I was meaning to put this up last week and I noticed over the past 7 days that the pile had mysteriously disappeared (eg my wife had eaten them).
I’ve been to the Harajuku-Shibuya area many times but for some reason had never visited Yoyogi Park. I was really surprised at its size and also the sheer number of Tokyoites squeezed in to this place on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
There’s always plenty going on along the famous Takeshita-dori in Harajuku, Tokyo. An endless sea of people flood the narrow streets with everyone from lost 70-year-old American tourists to Nigerian salesmen through to the most eclectically dressed Japanese twenty-somethings. Everyone is there for the same reason – it is a truly unique experience. Make sure you drop by on your next trip to Tokyo ^^
Use the image of a spoon (ヒ) to create your stories. Here we see two spoons and if we “compare” the two, the one on the right looks like the normal kanji for spoon (ヒ) but the one on the left looks a little squashed.
One of the best ways to improve your Japanese is to immerse yourself in as much native language material as possible. While it’s easy enough to click around YouTube all day long but having an app right on your desktop that lets you set and forget your daily immersion playlists is pure gold – and recently I found such a beast – Minitube.
Pachinko (パチンコ) parlours are everywhere in Tokyo and I do mean everywhere. Even in the small back streets with just a konbini (コンビニ) and a chemist you hear the dull roar of a hundred Pachinko machines doing their thing. Then the automatic sliding doors on the front open up and for a few seconds it sounds like Metallica concert until they close again.
Use the images of “cow (牛)” and “Buddhist Temple (寺)” to create your stories. The most popular mnemonic for this kanji is the use of “Cow” as a sacred or “special” animal in countries like India where, in some places, a person can be jailed for killing or injuring a cow!
Learning one hundred kanji is difficult enough but learning the stroke orders, readings and meanings of over 2000 Joyo kanji is an onerous task. It can seem insurmountable at times but with time and effort it’s eminently achievable – 125 million Japanese say so. What can be really disheartening is the realisation that after studying kanji for months or even years (depending on your daily kanji diet), you still cannot understand your favourite Japanese tweeter or read the subtitles on your favourite anime.
A big sticking point for beginners of the Japanese language is the progression from hiragana and katakana (or even possibly rōmaji for the ill-informed!) to kanji-based sentences. Not only are kanji difficult to read, write and remember in the first instance, when you gradually start to acquire more and more kanji, you’ll start to notice that there are many kanji which look similar to those that you have already learned!
I love the contrast in this shot with the bright blue in the background and her pink and ginger hair and costume. The little figurine hanging from her nail helps too – what a great look.
Learning to read Japanese can sometimes be a great big hairy goal with no clear path to success. In this article I’ll discuss how I got started learning kanji using the Remembering the Kanji system by James Heisig, and my results after a year of study.
Probably the main goal that most students of Japanese have with their study is to one day spend time living and working in Japan. I’ve worked in Japanese companies for a total of 11 years, and learned a lot about thriving and surviving working in a culturally Japanese workplace.
The Hiragana Times and J-Clue has teamed up to launch a new test aimed at assessing Japanese language and cultural understanding. J-Clue doesn’t replace the JLPT, it is simply testing a different subset of your language skills. Do you know what konkatsu means? Could you name the traditional Japanese art in which a person sits on a stage and tells a funny story? What does the phrase, “Shiranu ga hotoke,” mean?
I live in Japan, but barely speak Japanese. I can’t help you with verb conjugation or passing the JLPT. But I have managed to eat! Restaurants in Japan are a culinary and cultural adventure. Knowing how to act is crucial to speaking the language. They’re also great places to practice many facets of conversational Japanese!
I’m always looking for different kanji practice paper online and while there’s several pdf downloads available, they’re often hard to find. So I thought why not make some myself ^^ Kanji practice paper is for anyone wanting to get started or improve their kanji writing skills. Each practice square is divided in to quarters to help with alignment.
I’m flat out folding a letter in three to stuff in to an envelope so it’s always amazing to me to see this type of manual dexterity. Make sure you check out the rest of Mizu Kami’s origami handywork and other interesting images on his blog.
Have you ever wondered what those lion-like statues standing in front of a Japanese shrine are? They are called Komainu (狛犬). Komainu is a half-lion, half-dog (犬 = dog) statue guarding the entrance to the shrine and are supposed to ward off the evil spirits.
If you’ve been through my photo gallery here at zonjineko.com before, then you’ll know this area of Tokyo is one of my favourite spots to photograph. There is no area quite like this in the world and you never know what you’re going to see from one weekend to the next. This girl was wandering around the area outside of Harajuku Station – the hair and makeup plus the amazing piercings really made for a great image.
Although their first single debuted over a decade ago, I only stumbled across the Japanese duo – Capsule (カプセル) – last week on a Japanese radio station. I’m normally in to heavier music with plenty of guitar but when I heard “Electric light Moon light”, I was hooked.
The daily grind of learning new kanji, stroke orders, readings plus going over the old ones to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything is mostly exciting but occasionally just plain old boring. When that feeling starts to hit you again, try a few of the following quick fixes that should help keep kanji reps from being – well – repetitive. ^^
One of the things ex-pats complain about when first moving out to Japan is the quality of TV. Being British, my only prior exposure to Japanese TV, apart from Pokémon, was Takeshi’s Castle. So upon arriving in Japan I expected TV to be chock-full of cheerful Japanese willing to be injured for my enjoyment. What I actually saw was a collection of “Gourmet travel” shows, ropey dramas, game shows and variety shows.
If you’re in to finding out more about Japan before the neon lights, anime and robots then this is for you. In 1908, the French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn launched one of the most ambitious projects in the history of photography. A pacifist, internationalist and utopian idealist, Kahn decided to use his private fortune to improve understanding between the nations of the world. To this end, he created what he called his Archive of the Planet.
I think it’s time to get a few new voices around here so I’m putting out the call for guest posters to write for www.zonjineko.com. I’m looking for fresh articles that have a strong leaning towards Japan itself and/or learning Japanese preferably from people living in Japan.
The top-10 most popular tweets of the week – June 3-9 2011. This week we covered everything from a tribal Hello Kitty to How to Take a Crap in Japan. Never say that we don’t capture the heart and soul of Japan ^_^
Maximum The Hormone (マキシマムザホルモン) are not the sort of band you’re going to give your Mum for Christmas but that’s probably why you’re going to like them. Their sound ranges from hard core death metal punk thrash teenage angst to soft puppy love pop.
Jimi’s Book Of Japanese is not for everyone. Some may find it waaaay too basic or dismiss it because it looks childish and un-textbook-like (is that even a word?!). I am mentioning here as I think it is a superb beginner’s book for anyone starting to get their head around Japanese and the concepts of hiragana for the first time.
I thought this was a great image as it says so much about the Japanese people and their attention to detail in all facets of life. The owner of the stroller was clearly homeless but he took pride it the little that he had in his life.
Kanji come in all shapes and sizes and if you’re going to be fully literate in Japanese then you need to be able to identify them in all situations. Kanji is obviously used everywhere in Japan from shopfront windows to neon signs, menus, books and magazines, TV and much more.
Another shot from my Harajuku gallery but this time a little darker than most. The overcast day also helped to add an eerie atmosphere to this image – one of my favourites. Enjoy ^_^
One of the (many) mistakes I made when I began learning Japanese was not to listen to anyone actually speaking the language. If your current Japanese study plan doesn’t include any listening comprehension, then it’s time to make the change and stop being deaf to Japanese.
I recently heard about MOS Burger finally arriving in Australia and luckily the first restaurant opened in the suburb of Sunnybank, which is only about 30 minutes drive from my house in Brisbane. We arrived at around 6pm on Sunday and the place was buzzing with people so there was a slight wait in line before we got to order.
Sometimes I hit the wall and learning Japanese becomes a chore. It doesn’t happen every week or even every month but lack of motivation hits us all at some point. However, it’s the people who push through that wall and continue their studies that will eventually become a Japanese ninja. ^_^
Okay so maybe you won’t learn them all but perhaps a few kanji will sink in subliminally watching this amazing video. It features every unicode character from 0 – 65536 but fast-forward to 5:30 for the kanji to start. Each kanji is grouped by radical, which somehow makes them all a little easier to view.
This image was taken of a temporary stall setup along the middle of the street. They were selling mainly seaweed and other dried seafood goods stacked on foam plates including these spectacularly coloured dried shrimp.
Tenses are an important part of your Japanese arsenal. They give you the ability to describe the past, present and future. It is sunny today, it was sunny yesterday and it will be sunny tomorrow.
This was the amazing view that greeted me when I walked outside after coming down the Tokyo Tower elevators. It’s hard to capture on camera just how big this sucker is – both from close up and miles away. I can only imagine what Tokyo Sky Tree is going to look like! ^_^
With the recent devastating floods and cyclones we have had here in Australia followed by the earthquake in New Zealand a few weeks ago, it is was sad to hear the news of yet another tragedy in this part of the world – this time in Japan.
This video has been around a while but it floors me every time I watch it – it is so beautifully done by Kenichi Tanaka. I wish I had a 100th of his design talent. ^_^
While the words “like” and “dislike” don’t rate up there with yes and no as the first words you’ll learn in a new language, they’re obviously important to have in your beginner’s vocabulary.
Notice the space bar is smaller and has been partially replaced by a kana (かな) and English (ASCII) (英数) switch on either side. I almost bought an external keyboard that had a similar layout just so I could have a Japanese keyboard for back home in Australia. Yes mac and Japanese nerd!
I caught this guy on camera just seconds before he caught me trying to get him on camera. The next frame I shot was of a nice painting but no painter to be seen – guess he’s a bit shy ^_^
Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) is the name of the shopping street leading to the famous Sensoji temple in Asakusa. The giant red lantern in the distance is part of the Kaminarimon (雷門), which sit at each end of Nakamise-dōri.
In some circles the JLPT versus RTK argument can elicit the same level of fervent discussion as Mac vs PC or baseball vs football, however both methods have their place and it is up to you to decide what best suits your learning style.
Yokohama’s Hakkeijima Sea Paradise features heaps of rides and the standard theme park attractions but the most exciting part (for me) was the huge aquariums that house over 100,000 sea creatures of all shapes and sizes including sharks, stingrays, dolphins and several beautiful Beluga white whales.
I shot this a little while ago and thought it might interest anyone wanting to see the area around Takeshita-dori, JR Harajuku Station as well as Jingu Bridge where you’ll find the cosplay girls (and boys) every weekend. Unfortunately it was an average day weather-wise so there wasn’t a lot to see on Jingu Bridge but you still get a sense of the area and there will be some surprises left for you if you ever get to Tokyo ^_^
The banks of Meguro River come alive with the Cherry Blossoms early in the year and then the stunning orange, gold and red leaves of Autumn (秋 – あき) arrive later in the year (Sep – Oct). This image was taken where Meguro-dori (目黒通り) crosses Meguro River (目黒川).
In Japan, like the rest of the world, it’s not okay to run around asking every one about their age, however given the Japanese predilection for being respectful to their elders, you’ll find that they may ask your age so they can address you properly. I’ve collected a few sentences below that you can use in these situations plus a table of example ages.
I’ve always been a huge blues guitar fan and so it was fun to find Broomduster Kan playing blues on an old National Steel-type guitar in Inokashira Park, Kichijoji. While he is no Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, it was great to listen to on a lazy Sunday afternoon and he has quite an authentic sound.
Just a quick post to apologise for my lack of posting around here lately. I have been developing a new project for a Japanese travel site, which is something I had been meaning to do for a long time and so I finally took the jump. It has been taking up the bulk of my time and as my wife keeps reminding me, I am a man and therefore cannot multi-task ^_^
Just when you thought you knew the Japanese number system along comes the next wave of number-based words to throughly throw you out of whack. The Japanese language has different counters for everything ranging from animals to pencils. While not strictly a counter, the dates of the month are based on the same building blocks but come with their own unique patterns.
I was recently in the US on holiday and on my way to LA to fly home to Australia I decided to divert through San Francisco for a day and visit Japantown or Nihonmachi (日本町), as it is sometimes known. The beginnings of Japantown date back over 150 years and by the 1940’s it was one of the largest populations of Japanese outside of Japan.
I found these school children sitting in the grounds of Osaka Castle sketching the front wall of the castle on what seemed to be a school excursion. Being Japanese, they were all sitting perfectly still and behaving themselves – far different from what I would see at home.
This was shot outside of the Western entrance to the grounds of Osaka Castle. I was busy taking shots of the outside moats and surroundings and almost got run-over by this guy in his very quiet “I Can Run By Hydrogen” machine.
I’ve gathered a handful of common computer and internet terms with their Japanese equivalents. They’re a great way to learn new Japanese words plus get your head around the occasionally complicated Katakana involved. A good way to sharpen your skills in this area is to switch your whole computer over to the Japanese for a day.
I found this sign hanging on a fence around a small public park, which also doubles as a kindergarten playground, near Tokyo Tower. Perhaps they thought subtility wasn’t going to get the message across ^_^ For the Japanese beginners out there, “とびだし” means “something that leaps” and “注意” means “warning or caution”.
Dogs getting pampered at the DogMan dog-grooming salon below Hotel Claska in the trendy Tokyo suburb of Meguro. The quiet, tree-lined Meguro area with its designer furniture stores and restaurants is a real surprise for those expecting the Ginza-like experience of Tokyo.
The Japanese Graded Readers Series is aimed at providing a fun and informative way to practice basic Japanese vocabulary and reading/listening comprehension. With it’s colourful illustrations and easy to read text, the Japanese Graded Readers Series sure beats the heck out of wading through boring lists of vocabulary and grammar.
I shot this in the area around JR Harajuku station on a busy Sunday. These contact lenses still freak me out. I wonder what they look like from the inside out?
Our Japanese word for today is – Kaiwa (会話) meaning conversation. The first kanji (会) means meeting, meet, join or party and has the readings – カイ, エ, あう, あわせる and あつまる. We’ll be using the カイ (かい) reading for today’s word.
When you think of the super high-tech, neon saturated city of Tokyo, perhaps the word tram is not the first thing to enter your mind. Me neither but I stumbled across a post somewhere on the interwebs about Tokyo’s last remaining streetcar line, the 12km Toden Arakawa Line, which dates from 1913 and decided to check it out.
So you just started learning Japanese and you’re wondering what all these crazy new terms are that you’ve never heard of before? To get you started I’ll kick you off with a quick explanation of some of the more popular terms.
CLOSED! To celebrate the iOS4 update for Japanese 101: Particles, Harvey from japannewbie.com has kindly offered zonjineko.com readers the chance to win one of 5 free codes for his superb iPhone app. Don’t worry if you miss out on the free codes as the app is also on sale from Friday 9th July to Monday 12th July 2010 at US$3.99 – close to 40% off!
A touch of 19th century England fused with 21st century Harajuku coolness lights up Takeshita-dori (竹下通り) – one of my favourites.
Piles of seaweed for sale at one of the outdoor markets along Ameyoko (アメ横) in Ueno, Tokyo. The markets were packed full of fresh produce including all types of seafood, vegetables and fruits. I saw everything from headless octupus to various parts of animals I care not to mention.
Everyone learns a different way. It’s an obvious statement but one that bears thinking about when you’re attempting to learn a language. For example, if you’re studying at school I guarantee that no-one bothered to ask you about how you wanted to learn Japanese?
Hattori-san is a well-known homeless man who has been in and around the Shibuya for more than 15 years apparently. Although some say he has recently moved to the Shinjuku area. Hopefully he is okay – seemed like a nice enough person and wouldn’t accept any help from anyone.
Let’s face it, if you’re reading this then you, like me, think that learning Japanese is great fun. However, there are certain aspects of the language such as particles that can test even the most ardent Japanophile. Surprisingly there are very few iPhone apps that cover this area of the market and even fewer that do it well. This is where Japanese 101: Particles steps in to fill the void.
Whether you’re a beginner, advanced or somewhere in between, at some point in your Japanese studies you’ve probably “hit the wall”. I’m sure you know the feeling – you’re over it, you don’t want to see another kanji or verb conjugation as long as you live.
I’m not sure what this lady was doing exactly but she walked along and then squatted down for about 10 minutes on the busy Jingu Bridge near Harajuku Station before moving on. Resting? Heart palpitations? Or old lady weirdness perhaps?
Although my life is dominated by the very latest electronics and my general distain for all things paper-based is infamous; Jack Halpern’s Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary stands out as my must-have kanji learning tool. I must admit I love this dictionary. I love the way it looks, feels and how it helps take away some of the pain along the path to memorising 2000+ kanji.
A typical Saturday morning along the insanely crowded Takeshita-dori (竹下通り) in Harajuku, Tokyo. While it’s has been done to death, I always enjoy this particular view as I remember the cameraman in the top left hand corner trying several times to climb on the back of his friend to get a photo, only to be knocked off by the endless crowd of shoppers.
This week’s Word Of The Week is – Choushoku (朝食) meaning breakfast (formal). There are two other versions of breakfast – 朝飯 (Asa-meshi) and the more polite 朝ご飯 (Asa-go-han). Why are there so many words for breakfast? If you think about it in English we have the same situation as breakfast can be known as “brekkie”.
Nestled in an area that is home to some of the most iconic brands in the world, you’ll find Condomania. In this small, triangular store you’ll find almost every imaginable type of condom for sale. There’s something there for everyone and a must-see store if you in the area and enjoy a bit of a laugh.
I stumbled on this juice bar at a train station in Tokyo and thought it would make a perfect image for my Japan Sign series. There’s a great mixture of hiragana, katakana and kanji although I’ll mainly be looking at the katakana in today’s example. First up on the left we have Banana Juice (バナナジュース), which is entirely in Katakana. Banana is written as バナナ (ba-na-na) and juice is ジュース (ju-u-su).
In terms of similar kanji, 氷 (icicle) and 永 (eternity) are very close. They’re clearly not indistinguishable but at normal reading size they can be difficult to tell apart especially for beginners. If we threw in 水 to the mix, which is the kanji for water, we could thoroughly confuse ourselves – so I think we’ll just stick with these two for today. ^_^
I found this store as I was heading back to the train station after spending a day in Nikko, which is about 2 hours north of Tokyo. It really stood out to me as it looked particularly Western amongst everything else along the street. I can’t tell you what I expected a second-hand store in Japan to look like but it wasn’t like this ^_^
After an uber-successful Winter Photo Contest, the folks over at Wide Island View have announced the 2010 Spring Photo Contest. The news gets better with the addition of prizes this year from the prize-worthy folks at White Rabbit Press, who sell the best Kanji Flashcards on the planet.
This week’s Word Of The Week is – Monogatari (物語) meaning story or tale. Monogatari is made up of two kanji – 物語 (ものがたり). The first kanji (物) means thing or object and has the readings – ブツ,モツ, もの – although we’re only interested in the もの reading for today’s example.
The iPhone app store is chock full of every imaginable application but quantity doesn’t always mean quality. While there is plenty of choice for Japanese students, many of the apps are of questionable quality and design. I have listed an overview of my top 5 Kanji learning apps, which is based solely on the trial and error of hundreds of applications since the iPhone debut in 2007.
I found this small ¥1,000 barber shop hidden somewhere in the back blocks of Ueno Station in Tokyo. The whole concept highlights the Japanese predilection for hyper-efficiency and I must admit that is exactly what I love about Japan. Although the love doesn’t extend far enough to get my haircut for ¥1,000. I’d assume you get one style here – salaryman standard.
I had spent several hours around Harajuku exploring the area and as I was heading back up Takeshita-dori (竹下通り) to Harajuku train station, this girl suddenly appeared from one of the side streets. She kindly let me take her photo and I think she looks amazing and also unique, which is harder to achieve.
This week’s Word Of The Week is – Densha (電車) meaning (Electric) Train – which in Japan is an integral part of everyday life, especially in the larger cities. A train station such as Shinjuku in Tokyo claims over 3.5 million commuters passing through its gates daily – an incredible figure.
In today’s J-Vocab series we take a look at some items that you’d expect to find around the house. The proliferation of more Western goods in Japan means that there are several loan words featured in our list including Computer (コンピュータ), TV (テレビ), Shower (シャワ) and Bed (ベッド).
This week’s Word Of The Week is – Gaikokujin (外国人) meaning Foreigner – a word that is historically well in-grained in the Japanese vernacular. Foreigner is made up of three kanji – 外国人 (がいこくじん).
Welcome to the fifth instalment of our hiragana lessons on zonjineko.com – the hiragana N line. The N line consists of na (な), ni (に), nu (ぬ), ne (ね) and no (の). There are a few important hiragana in this line that you’ll frequently see in any Japanese sentences.
One of the hundreds of signs directing people along the miles of underground walkways servicing the area around the Ginza subway system. The size and scale of it all is awe-inspiring especially coming from what we have in Australia.
Frenchman Yann Arthus-Bertrand has amassed a stunning set of aerial views of Japan. His website also allows you to download any of the images plus there are aerial photos from over 100 countries around the world.
This week’s Word Of The Week is probably still relevant for those of us constantly studying a language. I can’t say I spend alot of time in them anymore though since the interwebs came along. Library is made up of three characters – 図書館 (としょかん). The first two kanji (図書 – としょ) form a kanji compound, which is where two (or more) kanji are joined together to form a new word.
Hmmmmm おっぱいプリン – what more does a man need than a custard pudding lovingly shaped to resemble a woman’s breast?
Asakusa is full of contradictions – run down and filthy in places and yet home to the futuristic Philippe Starck-designed Asahi headquarters. It’s also home to the stunning Senso-ji temple and surrounding shrines but Tokyo’s oldest geisha district lurks just around the corner.
In a city the size of Tokyo, even moderately-sized subway stations in the larger underground systems can be like mini-cities with long walkways off in all directions so knowing a few points of the compass in kanji will mean that you don’t end up going around in circles. Believe me, it can happen ^_^
So the news this week that the iPad will debut in the US on April 3 was pretty exciting. What’s more exciting though, is that the iPad will also be available in Australia (where I live) and Japan (where I want to live) plus Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.
I came across these guys from a post on Twitter a little while ago and can’t believe how good they are. If you like your J-Rock hard and played by guys who can actually play (the bassist is amazing), make sure you check out – Nothing’s Carved In Stone.
It was a busy Sunday afternoon on Jingu Bridge in Harajuku, Tokyo. This girl kept herself fairly separate from the others and spent a countless amount of time carefully preening every inch of herself. She looked stunning with the ginger hair against her fair complexion.
I shot this image of one of the market stalls littering the Ameyoko; a busy street market that runs along the main railway line in Ueno, Tokyo. If you’re ever in Japan, you’ll see people wearing masks out in public places.
This sign is in the grounds of Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. We visited there when we last stayed in Ueno and apart from being the coldest and wettest day of our trip, it was definitely worth the visit. There’s a fair bit going on in this sign but don’t worry as we’ll go though the kanji and katakana one at a time.
I was taking photos around the Center-Gai area of Shibuya in Tokyo and this guy walked right in front of me.
I was momentarily cursing him before I realised it made for a great photo opportunity and then all was forgiven ^_^
YouTube offers an amazing array of free resources for anyone wanting to learn Japanese. From anime to cooking, sports and Japanese news broadcasts, anyone with an internet connection can get instant access to tens of thousands of videos on demand.
Here are three ways to harness the power of YouTube to improve your Japanese.
This was shot somewhere along the busy market streets of the famous Ameyoko in Ueno, Tokyo. There is all sorts of produce available including seafood, fruit and vegetables right through to shoes, t-shirts and jeans. The markets are always packed, which makes for an exciting place to visit when you’re next in Tokyo.
目 (eye) and 自 (oneself) are separated by just one small stroke and as such prove to be tricky for beginners to remember. Both kanji are part of the JLPT3 and are taught in grade one and two at Japanese schools respectively.
I took this shot of an ad hanging on a train somewhere on the Yamanote line in Tokyo. I think it’s a great real-life example of the use of Katakana for foreign city or country names.
To start you off I’ll go through the first line and then you can take it from there. We put all the first line together and get “Rondon” or London as it is known in English.
We spent a full day in Kichijoji after having it recommended and we weren’t disappointed. It has become one of our favourites places to visit while in Tokyo.
This was shot at a small shrine we stumbled upon near the main shopping area and just as we were leaving I saw the afternoon light hitting the solid stone gate and filtering through the leaves in the background.
When I first started Japanese, I struggled to memorise certain things – some I got straight away, others took time and slowed my progress.
Over a long period of trial and error, I came to the conclusion that mnemonics work very well for me. I seem to learn faster and retain information for longer as long as it is attached to some sort of story that makes sense to me.
I first caught a glimpse of this girl with the amazing white hair from a distance walking down Takeshita Dori (竹下通り) but I eventually lost her in the crowd.
When I when made my way around to Jingu Bridge just outside of JR Harajuku train station (原宿駅), she was there with a few friends and making a call on her mobile.
The ubiquity of Twitter means you can connect to the Twitterverse in so many different ways.
Having the ability to always connect to Twitter on the run means you essentially have a free Japanese resource available to you at any time and wherever you happen be.
人 (Person) and 入 (Enter) are both JLPT4/N5 and learnt in Grade 1 in Japanese schools, however for a beginner, they can be very easily mixed up.
The only visual difference between the two is the small stroke at the top of 入 (enter), which is what I use to create a story in my mind to remember the two.
When we were last in Tokyo we visited the sprawling Ueno Zoo located in Ueno Park (上野公園), about 15 minutes train ride north of Tokyo. There was plenty to see and do in the park (and also in Ueno itself) including the zoo, an amusement park, temples and much more.
Rows upon rows of laundry detergent all written in katakana – imagine the horror when your partner asks you to grab brand X and you come home with brand Y because you can’t read katakana – oh the shame!
On a recent trip to Tokyo we headed down to Yokohama’s Sea Paradise, which was about an hour’s train ride with a few changes in between.
Towards the end of a long day of piscatorial viewing, we headed over to the ice-cream shop and found 100 flavours from which to choose including some crazy Japan classics like Black Sesame, Wasabi and Pumpkin.
The T line consists of ta (た), chi (ち), tsu (つ), te (て), to (と) and the changes to the aiueo rule happen in two places. The first difference comes with chi (ち), which replaces the expected “ti” and is a mirror image of さ (sa) so don’t get confused there.
The other change is tsu (つ), which comes in place of what you may have assumed would be “tu”.
As I was leaving Shibuya train station in Tokyo I couldn’t help but notice this long pair of legs, I mean girl ^_^, sitting beneath the mural that adorns the side of the Tokyu shopping centre above the railway.
My advice to separate the two in your mind is to imagine that the line at the top of 牛 (cow) is the horn of a bull, which is similar enough to a cow to trigger the memory.
As soon as I used that idea it was very easy to separate the two in my head and I moved on to the next 1943 kanji to memorise!
After a cloudy morning it turned out to be a beautiful clear day for our visit to Osaka Castle (大坂城).
I shot this closeup view of the roof on the south side of the castle, which is what you first see as you enter the main gate. The crystal blue sky really set off the gold and white roof.
So you’ve mastered hiragana and katakana and now you’re ready to move on to kanji. Kanji is where things really start to get interesting. You’re about to begin the final piece of the puzzle as there is nothing more, in terms of written language, after kanji – except for more kanji. (^_^)
I have two Kanji Starter Kit Worksheet downloads available – one with the meanings and one without the meanings so you can test yourself by writing the correct meaning below each kanji on the printed worksheet.
It was a hot, sticky Sunday afternoon in Tokyo and the Jingu Bridge area just outside of JR Harajuku train station was crowded with bemused onlookers, mostly tourists, as it is every Sunday of the year.
Out of the almost fifty or so Harajuku girls and guys meeting that afternoon was this girl who caught my attention and this image was the result.
Lima Sky, the two man iPhone development team responsible for the imaginatively titled Kanji (one of the first kanji iPhone learning apps), has unleashed yet another gem with the wonderfully addictive KanjiPop.
This kanji sign caught my eye at Shinjuku station in Tokyo as it was quite a cool November morning and the glass waiting room (待合室) attached to the sign turned out to be a whole lot warmer than standing on the platform waiting for my train up to Nikko.
We were on our way back to the train station after a morning wandering (read: clothes shopping and visiting Loft for the 35th time) around Shibuya.
As we approached the main square outside the station there were about 10 girls/guys giving out free hugs and generally running around being very happy.
While these kanji (味 – Flavour, taste and 知 – Know, wisdom) are less alike than some of my previous examples in this series, they still can provide some confusion at the JLPT 3rd and 4th levels with the same basic box on the side and a similar looking object on the side.
The JLPT is over for another year. Some of you attended, some may have missed it, others didn’t know it was on and the rest. Well, care factor = 0.
If you spend any time reading around the interwebs this time of year, you’ll notice the great unwashed coming out of their caves and denouncing the JLPT as a waste of money and/or time.
I stumbled across a local park in Meguro, Tokyo on an afternoon photo walk and in the middle of it was a large concrete pond with one side lined by mostly old guys fishing for carp. It appeared to be a user-pay system but I can’t confirm the cost or bag limits.
I had decided before arriving in Japan on a recent visit to Tokyo that I would make the two hour trip north to Nikko at some point during our stay.
We got the usual Tokyo clouds and/or light drizzle on most days but thankfully on the morning that it counted I woke up to a spectacular winter’s day, which helped make the visit to Nikko an unforgettable experience.
So it’s only days away from the 2009 JLPT test and if you don’t know a good number of these i-adjectives by now, you’ll either need a case of RedBull to pull a few all-nighters or just resign yourself to guessing your way through the multiple choice questions.
Visiting Japan and want to discuss the weather? Or maybe you’re just looking for a few lame hook up lines for a new Japanese girlfriend.
These weather-based words will make sure you’re good to go at any time.
I shot this image in the grounds of Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) in Shibuya, Tokyo.
As a keen photographer and Japanophile, it’s days like this, when you come across such a stunning ceremony in another country, that puts a big smile on your face.
When you’re just starting to learn Japanese and in particular hiragana and katakana, the small tsu (っ/ッ) is one of those tricky little buggers that may get you a little confused. Every time I saw something like がっこう (gakkou), I thought it was reading as が (ga) っ (tsu) こ (ko) う (u).
We came across these white grapes for sale at a large department store in Kashiwa, a northern suburb of Tokyo.
While they look very tasty, I’m not quite sure they’re worth the approx. AUD$70 they worked out to be against the Aussie dollar at the time.
Featured below are the Top 100 verbs that you need to know to avoid breaking in to a cold sweat when you first flip over your test paper. If you nail these you are well on your way to a Grammar pass. Then you only have to worry about listening, reading and vocabulary (^_^)
Visually 日 (day) and 白 (white) are differentiated by just a small stroke at the top of 白. Both kanji are part of JLPT 4 and are learnt in grade one in Japan.
This week Google introduced a new look and feel for it’s online translation service, Google Translate.
For a free service it’s great but let’s just say that I wouldn’t use it to do up a resume for that job at Microsoft in Tokyo you really wanted to nail.
I took this photo in the back streets of Meguro near Gakugei-daigaku train station on a recent trip to Japan. Besides thinking it was a great image for the Japan Signs section of zonjineko, I also have a laugh every time I see a happy little character for almost any situation in Japan – even sewerage!
Perhaps it’s just me but in my past experiences with hotels, it is very rare to arrive in your room for the first time and find that it is actually better than what you expected, however that is certainly true of Room 502 at Claska.
Located on the fashionable Meguro-dori, Hotel Claska is a hip boutique hotel in the sprawling western suburbs of Tokyo. To the typical “sightseeing 3 days package tour traveller” it might be considered out of the way but with the ubiquitous Tokyo public transport system we were never more than a short bus, taxi or train ride to most major destinations across Tokyo.
I’ve read alot about the inconvenient location of Hotel Claska and most of it is unjustified. Sure, it isn’t one block away from the blazing lights of Shinjuku or Ginza but that’s the great thing about it.
These images were taken in and around JR Ueno train station and along Ameyako in Ueno, Tokyo. It was my first night shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II, which I had picked up a few days earlier at Yodobashi in Akihabara.
In 1907 the Brazilian and Japanese governments signed a treaty to grant the Japanese the right to live and work in Brazil.
The initial immigrants were lured by the promise of employment, with most Japanese-Brazilians (日系ブラジル人) settling in São Paulo, where most of the coffee plantations were located.
Many decades later, Brazil is now home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan with the most recent official figure nudging just over 1.4 million.
Today is Culture Day (文化の日 Bunka no hi) in Japan.
Culture Day was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946.
In this installment of Japan Signs we look at a photo I took in Tokyo a while back when a new Krispy Kreme store was opened in the Yūrakuchō district of Tokyo near Ginza.
The graphic shows the top 20 nations by internet costs and speeds around the world as ordered by the ITIF Broadband Rankings. Taking the number one spot is Japan, however, the global superpower USA languished in 15th place.
The S line signals the first of what will be many rule-breaker moments that you’ll experience as you learn Japanese, or any language really.
It consists of sa (さ), shi (し), su (す), se (せ), so (そ). The changes to our aiueo rule happens with shi (し), which takes the place of what would be “si”, however the rest of the line remains as is.
Japan’s official kanji list, known as joyo (general-use) kanji, is set to be updated for the first time in over three decades.
The current list consists of 1,945 kanji that are officially allowed to be used in newspapers and government publications as well as being required learning for all Japanese school children.
This is probably not exciting news to anyone outside of Australia but today we finally crawled back up to just shy of 84 against the Japanese Yen for the first time in twelve months.
Hopefully we can see it nudge up over 90 and then suddenly all those shiny new toys in Akihabara and Yodobashi are going to be back on my list.
Wired.com’s Daniel Feit discovers a culinary delight in the back streets of Den Den Town in Osaka – Curry Rice in a Can (カルーライス缶).
The verdict: Not so much.
When Google Japan debuted its new Street View service in August 2008, there was such an uproar that by May 2009, Google announced that it would re-shoot all of Street View data it had captured in Japan and also lower the height of the Street View car’s camera pole.
Typhoon Melor (台風１８号) has left a trail of destruction across Japan, killing two people and injuring about 30 people. Melor moved through Tokyo yesterday, leaving more than two million commuters stranded for several hours as train services were suspended following torrential rains and up to 200 kph winds.
Join me in dissecting the Japanese label of a ¥7000 bottle of 15-year-old Virgin Kentucky Bourbon.
We’ll go through and breakdown the katakana and kanji from the label and then it’s over to you to practice transcribing the rest.
I missed the news over the weekend but it seems Tokyo has lost out to Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro in it’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
It’s a shame as Tokyo, who last hosted the Olympics in 1964, would have done a great job (okay I’m biased) but after hearing that Rio is first South American city to ever hold an Olympics it is probably a fair call. The other cities in the finals race were Chicago and Madrid.
As is always the case in the land of gadgets, a new model is always just around the corner and so it was with some sense of inevitability that the much-rumoured Canon 7D was announced recently and what an announcement it was.
The 7D has a simply amazing list of features for this price range and will bring the whole DSLR Full HD video thing to a whole new market, which is going to be great for everybody.
In the leadup to the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda has introduced the U3-X, it’s own sit-down take on Dean Kamen’s famous two-wheeled Segway.
The one-wheeled U3-X, dubbed by Honda as the “world’s smallest existing transport device”, can move in any direction by the rider simply shifting their weight in the direction they wish to go.
The cyber homeless are becoming more and more prevalent in Japanese society.
For about $500 a month, out-of-work Japanese geeks can now make their home in a cyber-cafe cubicle.
The creators of the rather eerie-looking CB2 (Child-robot with Biomimetic Body), which was first introduced to the world back in 2007, say that the 130cm silicone-enveloped android is making excellent progress towards their goal of simulating a real-life 1-2 year old.
Welcome to the exciting (?) second installment of our hiragana lessons. Today I’ll be taking you through the second line of the hiragana table, which adds a “k” to the front of the vowel (a-i-u-e-o) pattern that we’ve already learnt.
Don’t stick your hand in a star shaped hole? Don’t shake hands with a star? Maybe not. It’s actually a warning sticker found on the door of trains in Tokyo and no doubt elsewhere in Japan.
Okay so maybe that’s a little bit over the top but one of the things I have learnt the hard way is to avoid romaji when you are learning Japanese. When you get to Japan you will realise there is nothing (or very little) written in romaji except for the usual train station names, some street names, store names and a few other things that are there to make life easier for foreigners.
Welcome to our very first hiragana lesson. I’ll be taking you through the first five hiragana characters, which are equivalent, in terms of letters, to the vowels in English eg a, e, i, o, u.