If you haven’t yet read Tom Doyle’s short story, “The Floating Otherworld,” then take twenty minutes and do so now.
This is a macabre story, but it doesn’t really cross the line into outright horror. The story is set in Japan during the O-Bon holiday. The main character is a thirtysomething expatriate professional who has an office job in Tokyo. Many of you should be able to relate. This is not the sort of thing I usually feature on this site, but I think you’ll like it.
Robots and Shinto
I have to admit that I am a bit fascinated by the whole robot thing, and robots are really taking off in Japan, as this article suggests. Apparently the idea of a robot is more palatable to the Japanese mindset, largely because of the country’s animist religion, Shinto:
Japanese are also more accepting of robots because the native Shinto religion often blurs boundaries between the animate and inanimate, experts say. To the Japanese psyche, the idea of a humanoid robot with feelings doesn't feel as creepy _ or as threatening _ as it might do in other cultures.
Young (and not-so-young) New Zealanders are taking to the study of Chinese language with growing enthusiasm. They are discovering that the language is not difficult to learn and that it opens up a whole new world of knowledge and insight.
Schools in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, and throughout the country are offering Chinese language instruction. Primary school children in Kristin School in Auckland begin their study of Chinese at about the same time as their formal English lessons start.
We do have a precedent for this interest in Chinese. In the late 1960s, in what we could call the first flurry of interest in our Near North, first Indonesian and then Japanese took off in New Zealand high schools.
New Zealanders who have been exposed to Japanese language at high school may be surprised to discover that Chinese is an easier language for English speakers to learn.
I’m not sure I can agree with that last line. Chinese does have easier grammar than Japanese. But Chinese pronunciation and aural comprehension skills take a lot of work.
By the way, I think that both languages are worth learning. (I still plan to start a Mandarin tutorials section on this site.) However, students who switch from Japanese to Mandarin with the expectation that “Chinese is an easier language” are sure to be disappointed.
February 26, 2008
Tips for Learning Kanji
And here your faithful host addresses the age-old question: how to I learn kanji?
February 24, 2008
Word of the Day
肥満（ひまん）= fat; obesity
The headline below indicates that middle-aged women in the U.S. are suffering more strokes, perhaps as a result of increased bodyweight.
脳卒中 （のう そっちゅう） stroke
急増 （きゅうぞう）sharp increase
米女性 （べい じょせい）American women
February 23, 2008
Word of the day
It seems that the weather in Japan got a little out of hand recently:
Japanese123.com is generally a politics-free zone; but this article about the Japanese version of Obama-mania will be of interest to language students:
OBAMA, Japan — Just before the results of the big Feb. 5 round of primaries and caucuses reached this snow-covered fishing town hard by the Sea of Japan, a few of its most enterprising residents realized that a man who shared their town’s name could be America’s next president.(continue reading here…)
I think its safe to say that if the whole presidency thing doesn’t work out for Barack Obama, he will be more than welcome as a commercial spokesperson in Japan.
Word of the Day
図星を指す（ずぼし を さす）= to hit the bulls-eye; to hit the nail on the head
I wonder if this inspired the kids to learn Japanese, or made them swear to avoid Japanese language classes at all costs? I’m going to be an optimist and bet on the former.
February 16, 2008
More Japanese by Example video....
February 14, 2008
For Valentines Day.....
A brief video from my YouTube collection: A few Japanese proverbs....
February 12, 2008
The History of San'yo Shinkansen
Here is a video that should be reasonable accessible for those of you have intermediate-advanced listening skills. Listen for the phrase:
大きな影響を与えました（おおきな えいきょう を あたえました）= it exerted a big influence
February 10, 2008
Studying Japanese in junior high...
Anime never really floated my boat, but a lot of young people around the world are really into it these days. Many of them are content to consume anime in translation; but others have been inspired to learn Japanese.
Inconsequential interests and events often prompt people to jump into foreign language study. In my book Why You Need a Foreign Language & How to Learn One, I describe my own journey towards Japanese studies about 20 years ago. My reasons for learning Japanese at the time were somewhat frivolous in retrospect. But Japanese turned out to be a great resume builder and career tool.
So, my feeling is: whatever motivates young people to study foreign languages, I'm for it. Here is an article about two Missouri teens whose love of anime led to an interest in Nihongo....
Students' trip offers chance to study Japanese language and culture
By BRIAN D. PELLOT
February 10, 2008 | 4:58 p.m. CST
Before they began taking Japanese in school, Brent Head and Jacob Abbott tried to write the language themselves. Fans of anime, a type of Japanese cartoon, the boys copied the hiragana characters as best they could — not knowing what they meant but utterly captivated by their mystery. (continue reading...)
February 09, 2008
Japanologist Donald Keene
You may have read some of my earlier postings about the books of Jack Seward (Japanese in Action, etc.). Seward, you may recall, originally learned Japanese for military purposes during World War II,
Donald Keene is another Japan specialist from the WWII generation. He has written about thirty books, including a book about Shinto that served as the English-language standard on the topic for many years.
His next book Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan will be available in stores soon.