Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Japanese Idiom: Something's Wrong with My Ki...

Get it?

Look at the kanji.

What's wrong with it? Other than having been drawn by a 外国人.


き が ながい is an idiom for having a lot of patience. You can use it when your friend buys a Bonzai tree kit, or in the negative when you go to a Japanese post office.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Japanese Diary: Susumu


11月17日、僕はHelp the Homeless Walkathonに参加して歩きます。




(Checked by a real Nihonjin.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Japanese Diary: Samu


(This Japanese has been verified by a certified Japanese person.)

Strange English: Crispy English

You can use "crisp" to describe many things. Food, weather, paper, people's personalities...

  • I like to eat my cereal quickly, while it's still crisp. If it sits in milk too long, it gets soggy.
  • It's finally fall! The air is crisp and cold.
  • You can tell this book has been well-loved. Its pages are soft and curled, no longer crisp.
  • Her attitude was crisp when I told her I was coming in late.
But you can only use "crispy" for foods--maybe only a few foods.
  • Potato chips, lettuce, deep-fried foods, and maybe apples can be crispy.
Why? I have no idea. But if you call anything else other than food "crispy," it sounds totally weird.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Blog for Japanese Learners?

I'm always looking around for good study materials. When I got my Google Reader account, I searched and searched for good, daily Japanese-oriented blogs. Blogs that were in elementary Japanese, or that dealt with little pieces of grammar that I hadn't read yet, or that would teach me a word or two each day in a way that would stick with me.

I know too much for a basic level, and I don't know enough to easily read real Japanese blogs. So I decided to make this site, since there was obviously a need for something like a bridge between beginner Japanese and advanced.

Are you beginning to see the problem? If I'm so lazy that I want a daily blog to teach me Japanese, I'm probably too lazy to keep up my own version.

Of course, I blame my work, but if I really felt strongly enough about it, I could set aside an hour or so each day to study. I'll try to do that from now on.

I'll try to record something every day in Japanese. I can't guarantee the grammar will be good. If I have time later, I'll edit my entries for grammatical exactness.

If anyone has any suggestions for how to keep up this blog and my studies, I'm listening.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Japanese I'm Learning from My DS

I recently bought a Nintendo DS Lite. It's awesome. I've got a kanji dictionary for it, and also a kanji game.

Things I'm learning:

right-handed = みぎきき
left-handed = ひだりきき
screen = 画面(がめん)
assignment = 課題(かだい)
stroke order? = 書き順(かきじゅん)
learning = 学習(がくしゅう)
drill = ドリル (this katakana is really confusing for us English speakers!)
to check = 確認する(かくにんする)

And that was just in the opening explanation!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Daily Japanese Phrase: 注意


Look for the (once again familiar) translation and the hiragana in the comments.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Daily Japanese Phrase: 発明


For the surprisingly-familiar English translation, please see the comments below. Also below is the hiragana.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Correct My Japanese If You Please #1

I left this message on my roommate's voicemail. Can you figure out what's wrong with it? If so, please leave a comment with the correction.




I will follow this post up with the correct Japanese later, so check back in 12 or so hours for the correction (and the English translation) in the comments.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Daily Japanese Phrase: について


Hiragana and translation are in the comments below.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daily Japanese Phrase: 期限


(Hiragana and translation are in the comments below.)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Japanese Grammar: Tokoro vs. Bakari

I am taking two* Japanese courses at the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC (JASWDC). In both classes, we use the Genki II textbook. Last week, we were doing an exercise with pictures and making sentences with みたい, a word that you append to the end of a plain-form verb to add the meaning of "seems like." I saw a picture of a woman with a big smile and rays shining off of her ring, kind of like this picture from mfshadow's Flickr stream on the left.

When I saw this kind of a picture, I thought, it looks like she just got engaged. But then I realized that, in the textbook, the ring looked more like a wedding ring than an engagement ring. So I said:

She seems like she's just gotten married.

So, first, let's look at ところ. ところ doesn't mean place, here, but it sets the action of the verb in a limited location. In other words, adding tokoro means either "just about to do something" or "just did something."

食べるところ - just about to eat (in a few minutes)
食べたところ - just ate (finished eating a few seconds/minutes ago)

With the progressive form, ところ emphasizes the action being incomplete.

食べているところ - I'm still eating just now (I can't talk, go out, etc., because I'm in the middle of eating).

The teacher explained that 結婚したところみたい is incorrect. In the picture, she didn't have a wedding dress on, so she didn't just literally get married a few minutes ago. Therefore, I should use ばかり if I want a looser interpretation of "just."

正: 結婚したばかりみたいです。
   She seems like she just (recently) got married.

ばかり can have many meanings. It can mean "only," as in limiting to one kind of thing, but a lot of it:

If you only eat sweets, you'll get sick.

But when you put ばかり on the end of a plain-past verb, the meaning is totally different.

I only just arrived in Japan three months ago

Though three months have passed, it still feels like a short time. ばかり connotes this feeling of recentness, along with an emotional perception of that short time. ところ would not make sense. My teacher contrasted this with this sentence:

I'm at the airport now... I just arrived, so could you pick me up?

ところ is objective and measurable; the speaker really just arrived within the past few minutes. Note that you could use ばかり with the airport example, too, I think.

My teacher showed me another case where both are technically and grammatically acceptable, but one is preferable due to politeness. Imagine that you've been offered some coffee, but you don't want any because you just had some. Which do you use?


The answer is ところ. As explained above, you can use ばかり with a 3-month time period because it feels short to you. Therefore, ばかり emphasizes your personal feeling. In coffee refusal, it's more polite to be objective and say ところ.

A common word associated with ところ is たった今 (just now).
ばかり gets used with まだ a lot:


Both words are often used with さっき and さいきん.

For a JapanesePod101.com lesson on ところ and ばかり, go to this early Intermediate lesson.
*I'm taking Intermediate 3 and Intermediate 4. Yes, this is crazy. It's also why I haven't been keeping up with my mainichi posts.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

JLPT 2 Kanji: 失

onyomi: シツ
kunyomi: うしな(う)、う(せる)

LOSE (something), (something is) LOST,
error, fault, disadvantage, loss, disappear

Mnemonic: It kind of looks like the 先 in 先生, so I'll remember:
The absentminded sensei is always losing シツ.

  • 失せる
  • 失う
Regarding 失せる:

A Google search turns up many variations of (plain form verb) + 気 + 失せる
  • 読む気が失せる
  • 買う気が失せる
  • やる気失せる
There seem to be two ways to say that you lost your appetite:
  • 食欲が失せる
  • 食べる気失せる (See this post for a discussion of losing one's appetite in the summer. The post also contains 敗, a compound meaning "failure".)
Regarding 失う:

失う is for when a person or thing loses something else. It can be a quality, an item, etc. Example sentence comes from ALC:


See that page for many more examples.


敗 しっぱい failure.


プロジェクトは失敗するのが当たり前!? - @IT情報マネジメント

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Daily Bunshou: Fad Fire



流行り はやり fad, trend, popular thing

だす  literally: to get out. In this instance: to appear suddenly
  • When trying to exit a building in Japan, look for 出口. The same kanji, 出, goes along with だす. The feeling is that, all of a sudden, something happens. 思い出す, to remember all at once, is just one example of where だす is employed.
火をつける to ignite a fire

皆 みな everyone/everybody. (Why's it sometimes みな and sometimes みんな?)

同じ おなじ the same (opposite of 違う)

したがる  (he/she/they) want to do
  • We all know したい, right? Well, したい is for your own desire to do something. When you talk about other people's desires (third person), use 〜たがる.
  • したい ー> したがる
  • たべたい ー> たべたがる
  • さむい ー> さむがる
  • Ah, what's that last one? An adjective? That's because the 〜たい form of verbs is quite like an い-adj. Form the がる form by knocking off the い of い-adj and attaching がる.
食べ物 たべもの stuff you can eat (as opposed to 食品, which is more like ingredients)

持ち物 もちもの stuff you have, possessions

あっという間に A phrase, idiomatically meaning "quite quickly"
  • あっ - the shortest pronunciation of あ (as if cut off in the middle of vocalizing the sound)
  • と言う - say, plus the quoting particle と
  • 間に まに during, in the time when
  • あっという間に - in the time it takes to say あっ
求める もとめる to seek


In Japan, whenever something popular comes out, it seems like everyone wants to do the same thing, as quickly as a fire starts to flame. Clothing, food, possessions. When a new fad starts, everyone goes after it before you can say "Tickle-Me Elmo."

"Before you can say ___" can have anything inserted into the blank. Usually it should be appropriate to the situation. "Tickle-Me Elmo" was a very, very popular toy a few years ago, and I still remember how many people ran to the stores to get one for their children. Fads can be very dangerous things; 気をつけてね.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Daily Bunshou: Backwoods Bloodshed

昨日、畑にカラスが死んでいたから たぶん、ハトがカラスに勝ったのだと思う。

畑(はたけ)- field

死ぬ(しぬ)- to die

昨日(きのう)- yesterday

勝つ(かつ)- to win

思う(おもう)- to think

母の愛(ははのあい)maternal love



  • The っ shows a more intense degree. Like when we, in English, elongate "very" into "verrrrrry".
ローカル - Japanese English for rural, country, etc.


Yesterday, there was a dead crow in a nearby field, and so I think the pigeon might have won. A mother's love is strong, I guess... Anyway, this is a terribly backwoods story!

日本人のために:In English, we have several words to describe places outside the cities which lack sophistication. It's sad that Japanese chose to import "local." Local usually means "from this place," so if you use it when talking about Tokyo, it means city-like, not country-like. Here are some other words for 田舎:
  1. backwoods (a backwoods town)
  2. the sticks (I live in the sticks)
  3. the boonies (I live way out in the boonies)
  4. the boondocks (see above)
  5. the country (see above)  ...probably the most useful. Instead of saying "It's so local" or "It's so countryside," please say this: "It's really country." Americans will understand you perfectly.

Cool Scrabble Word: ASEA

I would have thought this was obvious. I've known ASEA for as far back as I can remember the concept. But, in a recent Scrabble game, ASEA was nearly challenged. So I'm going to set the record straight: ASEA is a word, and totally cool.

being at sea;
on the ocean;
on a boat on the ocean;
in the direction of the ocean

Why it's useful: This is a "vowel dump." When you have too many vowels, look for vowel dumps, to get rid of as many useless vowels as you can.

Why it's cool: Not only is it good to use when speaking of nautical friends, ASEA can be a metaphor for intense feelings. How many times have you been asea on an ocean of doubt and dismay? If I had a nickel...

Check this sentence out, pulled from a search in Google Books:
Both in politics and economics he is "asea"; he shows the political acumen of a
Yahoo when it comes to grasping where conservatives stand on New Deal issues...

So there is a sense of helplessness with this word. Asea, you are tossed from one wave to the next. You are not altogether in control. This sense, I assume, comes from the time when sailors were gone for long periods of time, and their wives had no idea, really, where they were.

"Where is your husband?"
"He is asea, sir."

Use ASEA whenever you are adrift, and don't quite know which way to go or what to do. Your listener will hopefully throw you a line.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

JLPT 2 Kanji: 似

onyomi: ジ
kunyomi: に(る), ひ(る), にた

RESEMBLE, becoming, imitate, look like

it looks near-ly the same as the other

Joshi (particle):
___に似る = is similar to ___

マイフィギュア「My Figure」 どれくらい似るの?

飼い主に似る - resemble the owner
Funny how we think dog/pet owners begin to resemble their pets, yet in Japanese it seems opposite.

Common compounds:
  • [ぎじ]
    (n,pref) suspected; pseudo; sham; quasi; false; mock
  • [こくじ]
    (n,vs) resemblance; resemble
  • [にがお]
    (n) portrait; likeness
  • [にがおえ]
    (n) portrait; likeness
  • う [にあう]
    (v5u) to suit; to match; to become; to be like
  • う [にかよう]
    (v5u) to resemble closely
  • [まね]
    (n) mimicry; imitation; behavior; pretense
  • る [まねる]
    (v1) to mimic; to imitate
  • [そうじ]
    (n) resemblance; similarity; analogy
  • [るいじ]
    (n) analogous

真似しないで is like "Stop copying me!" Say it when somebody repeats what you say. I've heard it many times (I'm a born copycat?), but Google says 真似ないで is more popular. Hmmm...

Daily Bunshou: Birdfight


うち - home

庭(にわ)- garden

一本 (いっぽん)one (long, thin, cylindrical thing). Refers to the tree here.

ハト(鳩)- pigeon

  • Note: this is in katakana instead of kanji. Why? A common excuse I hear is that the kanji for certain animals is hard to remember. Then, why not hiragana, since these are native Japanese words? It's just a mystery we shall have to accept. Same goes for ネコ and other animal names.
巣(す)- nest
  • You can almost see this one in the kanji. Above the tree (木) is a box of sticks with a few sticking out.
近所(きんじょ)- neighborhood.
  • Made of 近い (near, nearby) and 所 (ところ, place).
いわく - say, report
  • This is different from 言う. It's a little older, a little more formal, and it indicates a statement from an authority. It's a little humorous in this situation to use this word. It's practically archaic, like "Confucius say, weather today is nice."
先日(せんじつ)- the other day (vague)

卵(たまご)- egg

食べようとして - tried to eat, seemed to be trying to eat

親(おや)- parent(s)


In my garden there is a tree, and in that tree is a nest of pigeons. An old man who lives nearby imparted to me that, the other day, he saw a crow trying to eat the eggs inside the pigeons' nest, but then it seemed that the mommy and daddy pigeon fought with the crow.

Cool Scrabble Word: VUG

I'm combing the list of Three-Letter Words, but it's hard to say that many are cool. They are either commonplace or obscure. This word is obscure, but it suits a purpose I didn't even know existed, but now that I know the word, I plan on using it.

A small cavity in a rock or vein,
often with a mineral lining of different composition
from that of the surrounding rock.

"The word vug was introduced to the English language
by Cornish miners, from the days when Cornwall
was a major supplier of tin.

Why it's useful: V, U, and G are unhelpful letters that don't go with other letters very well. Best to get rid of them quickly.

Why it's cool: Whenever you see a rock that has an opening with crystals inside, you are looking into a vug. Here are many examples of what I'm talking about. But you can use the word to describe any opening in a rock. Verdict: cool.

Cool Scrabble Word: PAWKY

I've been thinking of doing some posts for cool Scrabble words. There are certain words that Scrabble players find immensely useful. ZAX, for instance (a tool for cutting roof tiles). ZAX has the Z, which is 10 points, and the X, which is 8. Plus, it's made of at least two two-letter words, ZA (pizza) and AX (alt. spelling of AXE). Highly useful in Scrabble, but not very useful in everyday life. Unless you're a roofer?

But Scrabble is a great game which can teach you many English words. To this end, I will post words that are useful in Scrabble and useful in life. And, hopefully, cool.

First word.

sly, shrewd; dryly humerous
(from Scottish pawk, a trick)

Why it's useful: P(3)+A(1)+W(4)+K(5)+Y(4)=way more than just WAY. Also, PAWKIER, PAWKIEST, and PAWKILY are all bingos.

Why it's cool: You can now call someone who tricks you a "pawky bastard." Or you can tell the jokester to stop being so "pawky." It's a great synonym for clever with the added connotation of deceitfulness or tricks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

JLPT 2 Kanji: 歯

onyomi: シ
kunyomi: は、よわ(い)、よわい、よわい(する)

TOOTH, teeth, cog

common use: 歯を磨く、to brush one's teeth

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
-How nice that we can translate that sentiment...


スーパースマイル 」のサンプルが届きました♪
"A sample of the American-made whitening paste 'Supersmile' has found its way into my hands♪"


Some of these are really interesting. A cavity is a bug in the teeth (虫歯). The feel of biting into something (歯切れ) must be one of those senses that the Japanese passionately enjoy about eating.

I need more detail on some of these.

向かう means face, go towards. So, facing with teeth is a strike back? A blogsearch got me here:
"It's not really that I'm striking back, but I am ceasing to be obedient." [TN: This blog looks really personal...]

歯切れ looks like a good vocab word for speaking about your 発音 (pronunciation). From ALC:

歯切れが悪い - being unclear, slurring one's words [what we do]

歯切れの良い話し方 - articulate way of speaking [what we aspire to do]

Okay, that'll do it for a first JLPT 2 post.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Daily Bunshou: A Different Time


時差ぼけ(じさぼけ)jet lag. Break down the kanji, and you get "time difference." I'm not sure about the ぼけ part.


隣り(となり)next to, next door, neighboring

住む(すむ)to live (at/in a place, house, city, country)

弟(おとうと)younger brother

一家(いっか)a family, one family

弟一家 - the brother and his family

遊びに来る(あそびにくる)to come to play/hang out

  • 遊ぶ does not mean literally "to play" in the context of two adult friends getting together. Then, it means to spend time pleasantly with.
一緒(いっしょ)に - together (with)

食べに行く(たべにいく)to go to eat
  • an elegant and effective way to join two actions together: __に行く or __に来る mean to go to __ or to come to ___. Use the -masu stem of the first verb; the -masu stem is the way the verb is conjugated for polite speech (遊ぶー>遊びます) minus the ます.

Because I was jet-lagged, I slept until 9:30. My brother and his family, who live next door, came over, and we went to get lunch.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Daily Bunshou: See, You Have To Be Careful You Set the Alarm for AM, not PM...


昨夜 さくや - last night. Much more elegant than 昨日の夜.

徹夜 てつや - all night. Note the same kanji as above, but different reading.

仕事 しごと - work

朝起きたら あさおきたら - たら indicates supposition, 朝, morning, and 起き, waking up.

やっちゃった! - Done! や reminds me of やる"to do" and ちゃった is the progressive stative casual form (or something)

  • The connotation here is "Oh no! I did it!" "It's done and can't be undone!"
国際便 こくさいびん - international flights

出発 しゅっぱつ - departure

搭乗口 とうじょうぐち - point of departure

間に合わない まにあわない - negative form of the verb "to make it" (on time)

最悪だ! さいあく - the worst evar


I stayed up all night working last night. When I was supposed to wake up early, it was 5 minutes to 11. I can't believe it! For international flights, you must always arrive at the terminal two hours before takeoff, and I can't even make that. This is the worst!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Daily Bunshou: Get Down to Business


お客様 - customer

  • In Japan, traditionally, the customer is God. Seriously. This doesn't mean you can walk out of their store with whatever you want for hyakuen, but it means you leave feeling like you own the place.
お知らせ - notice

平素 - ordinarily, in the past

大変 - serious, diffficult
  • What a useful word. Use it whenever you want to comiserate with someone:
お世話 - aid, assistance

お世話になっております - Thank you for your help.
  • Incredibly common business phrase, found at the top of almost every formal letter, email, conversation, etc.
さて - This acts as a marker for when the real content of the letter begins.

急 - sudden, urgent, steep
  • Note: same kanji as in 急ぐ
弊社 - this company
  • This is a lowering of the company, because the notice is directed to the almighty Customer. Rikaichan-users: if you hover your mouse over the word, then hit shift, you can see the meaning of the first kanji is quite low.
提供する - to offer, to tender

に関して - like について, it means regarding

7月1日 - ひちがつ いっぴ

付で - "as of"

変更 - change, alteration


A Notice for Our Most Highly-Valued Customers:
Thank you for your generous support in the past...
Now, to get down to business. I know this is sudden, but, as of July 1, there will be a change in our company's service.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Daily Bunshou: A Hard Guard




君 - male suffix, casual, diminutive

山本君は - (so, who do you think Yamamoto is? A? B? C? See below for the answer.)

気になる - be on one's mind

存在 - existence

気になる存在 - irresistible, inevitable, you cannot just pass (this person) by

一度 - if there's a chance/opportunity

誘う - invite, court, woo, call on, ask someone out, lure, seduce

と - you use と here to mark what you are thinking, like a quotation mark or thought bubble

思っているところ - thinking right now.

  • ところ doesn't mean place here, or not in a literal sense. With verbs, tokoro indicates the closeness of the action to the present time. It refers to the state of the action, whether it is just past, current, or just about to happen, and it emphasizes this. Here, used with the present progressive, it means he is in the middle of thinking (something). Depending on context and the tense of the verb, ところ also means having just done something or being just about to do something. More on this at JapanesePod101.
ふーん - hmmm...

一見 - at first blush

遊び人 - a person who is not serious

割と - relatively

ガードが固い - to be well-defended, so as to let nothing in, to have one's guard up at all times


甲: Say, what do you think about Toshiko?

Yamamoto: I can't stop thinking we should date. Right now I'm thinking, just once, I want to ask her out.

甲: Ohhh. You know, at first she looks so carefree and easygoing, but actually, she's a tough nut to crack, relatively speaking.

Daily Bunshou: Don't Go to Phoenix





砂漠 - desert

にて - Another shortening; it stands for に於いて, which means at or in (a place).

どうやら...ようだ - it seems like, looks like, appears to be...

  • You might know the よう formation from your textbooks, but did you know that Japanese often put どうやら at the front of the sentence, too? They also join どうやら to sentences with みたい (in the sense of "looks like").
道に迷った - to be lost, to have lost one's way.

このまま - as is.
  • This is an example of one way to use まま. The verb form is slightly more difficult.
救助 - relief, aid, rescue

〜ても - however much one _(verb)_s, ____. An expression of helplessness.

共倒れ - mutual destruction, neither one reaching the goal, failing together

どちらか - whichever of us
  • Note this does not refer to a place or direction but to the speakers themselves.
助けを呼ぶ - to cry/call for help

〜に行く - to go to ___
  • 映画を見に行く - to go to see a movie

(In the desert of Phoenix:)

A: Looks like we're lost.

B: Already, our water's gone. At this rate, no matter how long we wait for help, we're both goners.

A: Whoever's the stronger of us should walk through the desert and go get some help.

Rikaichan for Firefox - The Key To Reading Kanji

When I get my daily assignments, and I don't know a certain kanji, I type it in here, toggle rikaichan, and mouse over the kanji I don't know. The hiragana and English meaning pops up under the word. Amazing!

Rikaichan is a free extension for Firefox and it is available at polarcloud.com.

The menches at JapanesePod101.com have created a video explaining how to download, install, and use rikaichan. Go directly to the post with video here, and then click on the Quicktime icon.

If you don't have Firefox already, download it here. It's free, safe, and supported nearly universally. Plus it's loads cooler than Internet Explorer, for the very simple reason that it allows you to add extensions like rikaichan and many more. Download it today if you haven't already.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Japanese Pod 101 - Free Podcasts, Pay for More

Since December of 2005, I've been listening to JapanesePod101.com's podcasts. They are free to all, and don't be fooled by the name, "podcasts" don't require iPods. JPod101 has the best material for beginners, intermediates, and even advanced learners of Japanese.

Before I explode with my admiration, I should tell you that, since I am a paying member of JapanesePod101.com, and since I have such faith in their product, I've signed on to be an affiliate. This means that, if you click here or on the JPod buttons to the left or on the bottom of my page, I get a commission from any service sale.

Why JapanesePod101 has the best Japanese-learning podcast:

1. The structure of each mp3. First, there's a short English intro. Then, the voice actors perform a Japanese dialogue, one time fast, one time slow, and one time with English inserted. (The actors, after the first month of the podcast, are all native Japanese speakers.) Then there's a little conversation about the dialogue, and after that they zoom in on the vocabulary and grammar points.

2. The friendliness of the hosts. The voices on this podcast are incredibly friendly. They love what they are doing, and they have fun with every topic. For over a year, I commuted every day to work with their voices in my ear. Recently, I've skipped a few lessons, and I really feel like I miss them.

3. It covers all bases. Listening, vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, idioms, culture, common phrases, survival phrases... Plus, if you pay them a pretty reasonable fee, you have access to the PDFs they create. The PDFs will increase your reading ability, both of hiragana and of kanji.

4. The forum is filled with tips of how to study Japanese. If you have a question, search the forum, and then ask it if it hasn't been answered already. There's such a lot of information on the forum pages that I haven't even looked into half of it.

5. The other Japanese podcasts are pretty bad. Others I've listened to have too much English, or are too low-level for me. Some are scant on details, preferring to teach just one sentence a week. What?! Why bother even opening that mp3? JPod gives you hundreds of times that kind of content.

So, dude, go. It's free to listen, more to read.

Daily Bunshou: A Geek Freaks Out


君 - くん - suffix for relatively young men (usually)

  • This kanji, when used not after a name, can mean "you." It's then pronounced きみ and is either a very casual or a demeaning way to refer to someone. You can hear it used all the time in anime, such as in one of my favorites, Hikaru no Go. Hikaru and others in the Go organization refer to their subordinates or rivals as "きみ". Hikaru himself, rude boy that he is, frequently uses オマエ, and very inappropriately, too.
って - quotation mark
  • In this case, って means "about." It's shorthand for について, which means "about."
コンピュータおたく - computer otaku, computer freak, nerd, etc.

短気 - quick temper

キレる - to cut well, to be cut, to snap
  • This word in kanji is 切れる. Why, then, did our 文章 writer choose to use katakana? "It's more casual."
  • What's being cut? Why, the string that Itou holds his patience with! See this bunshou for more on the 忍耐の緒 idiom.
意外 - unexpected

一見 - at first glance

おとなしそう - looks nice, looks docile, looks quiet
  • 大人しい is "obedient, docile, quiet." Adding そう (and dropping the extra い from this い-adjective) creates a sense of appearance. You'll hear this constantly in 「おいしそう!」, referring to the appearance of deliciousness, as opposed to おいしい, which is said after you've already tasted it and confirmed the appearance.
  • 大人 means "adult." 大人しい perhaps comes from the word for "adult." But perhaps not. True Japanese people do not speculate about the origins of their words, even if the sounds and the kanji are the same! I would love to do some heavy research on this, but I'm still somewhat too weak to read the material online. There is some discussion about it here.
  • A similar-sounding word: 音無し, "silence, wait and see". This combines the kanji for sound 音 with the word for without 無し, literally meaning "without a sound." However similar, 音無 is completely unrelated to 大人しい.
みえる - to seem. Also the spelling of the potential form of 見る.

のに - although, but yet, in spite of (this is beginning to intermediate grammar, and I'm not quite sure how to use it yet)


A: Do you know about Itou?

B: That computer geek? Sure.

A: About that guy... he's got a really short temper. He can just snap, like that!

B: Really? That's weird. And he looks so quiet and good-natured on the surface...

  1. 甲 and 乙 are traditional ways the Japanese can indicate Speaker A and Speaker B. I've seen it done in my Japanese class as ア and イ, but maybe that's because a lot of the students are uncomfortable with kanji.
  2. You might have noticed that my translations are not word-for-word. That's because I hope to have as many Japanese natives as English-speakers reading these Daily Bunshous. A word-for-word translation is not useful to people learning English. For example, let's look at a word-for-word translation of the last line of dialogue: "Oh, (that's) unexpected. Although, upon first glance, (he) seems quiet..." That's terrible English. I hope that Japanese speakers can get a lot out of my translations, even if they are hard to understand. Plus, I try to carry the connotation of the original into the English, so Japanese learners can understand the general feeling.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Daily Bunshou: Small Talk with a Visitor

:えー まあまあ。

ごぶさたしています - ご無沙汰しています - neglecting to stay in contact

  • a little more formal than ひさしぶり, but you can use it in business, between friends, anytime except very formal occasions
だいぶ(ん) - 大分 - considerably, comparatively more (when something has gone up a level, like the heat)

暑い - hot (weather, NOT FOOD)
暑さ - heat (noun, used for weather, NOT FOOD)

なってくる - to become
  • kuru is used here not in the sense of coming but in the sense of becoming, thus emphasizing the change in state
夏 - summer

夏先取り - early summer
  • 先取り means "取りtaking" + "先first," or receiving in advance. Therefore, this word means taking in summer in advance)
ところで - by the way (an easy way to change the subject)

はやる - 流行る - to flourish, to thrive, to be popular/in fashion


A: Hi! It's been a while, hasn't it? How've you been?
B: Well, pretty good, I guess.
A: It's getting really hot recently, isn't it. I heard that in Japan summer's coming early. Sooo, what's new in Japan these days?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Daily Bunshou: The Way of Yogurt, Part 2: The Wait for Fermentation


温度 - おんど - temperature

下がる - さがる - to decline, to go down

大さじ - おおさじ - tablespoon

杯 - はい - counting unit for cups, glasses, small dishes. Comes from the kanji for "sake cup"

混ぜます - まぜます - to stir, trans. (see the E. coli bunshou for the intransitive version)

一定 - いってい - consistent, firm

保ち - たもつ - to keep, to preserve

発酵 - はっこう - fermentation

冷蔵庫 - れいぞうこ - refrigerator (see the above E. coli link)

冷やす - ひやす - to cool, to refrigerate (see yesterday's bunshou, and also see above; 冷蔵庫 uses the same kanji.)

できあがり - 出来上がり - completion


When the milk's temperature has dropped to 37 degrees, stir in 2-3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Be sure to keep the temperature of the mixture at a consistent 37 degrees for 8-12 hours while you wait for it to ferment. After that, if you chill it in the refrigerator, you will have a delicious homemade yogurt.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Daily Bunshou: The Way of Yogurt


方 - way. Used with verbs: 読み方: the way to read

まず - first, at first

お鍋 - pot (another example of selective honorifics: it's o-nabe, gohan, etc., because they are so highly valued in Japanese lives?)

牛乳 - milk

トロ火 - low flame, low heat

温める - to heat up ___, transitive verb. (this is the word that the コンビ二 clerks use when you try to buy the convenience-store gyoza from them: 「温めますか」. Don't be frightened, they just want to know if you'll let them heat it up for you. Say yes, unless you like yourr gyoza cold.)

さます - to cool (can also be used for spirits, in the sense of "put a damper on")

つづく - to continue. I couldn't make the kanji for this one because my keyboard wouldn't let me make a "zu" out of a "tsu." but here's the kanji, copied from JEDict: 続. Note the left-hand radical 糸, which, on its own, means "thread." When you continue something, you follow a thread... こんな感じ?


Yogurt recipe:
First, pour one liter of milk into a pot. Then, over low heat, warm it up to 65 degrees Celsius. Cut the heat when the milk reaches 65 degrees, and let it cool down to 37 degrees. (Continued May 9th...)

Daily Bunshou: Rocks and Ropes


何事 - what, everything, nothing

我慢 - patience

大切 - important

とは言っても - however; that's so, but

時々 - sometimes (this little turn of phrase revolutionized my conversations in Japan, early on. 「寿司を食べる?」“うん、時々。”)

忍耐 - endurance

緒 - thread, cord, thong

忍耐の緒 - the string by which you hold your patience

切れる - to cut, potential form


"After three years, even a cold rock can be comfortable."
Patience is important in everything.
However, there is a certain point when people can come to the end of their rope.


緒 is also used for umbilical cord: へその緒。

Monday, May 7, 2007

Daily Bunshou: Sneaky Devil

彼はずるい。ひきょう者だ。鈴木君が彼女を愛しているのを知っているのに 彼女を盗った。

狡い/ずるい - sneaky, dishonest

ひきょう者 - mean, unfair, or craven person

愛している - to love. Unlike English, which counts "to love" as an action-verb, ai shite iru is, to the Japanese, a state. The proper form is always "I am loving you," not "I love you." (Of course, the Japanese almost never say this to each other. This subject requires a future post or two....)

知っている - to know, again a state rather than an action

盗る - to take, to snatch


That guy is sneaky. He's totally underhanded. He knows that Suzuki is in love with that girl, but he stole her anyway.



ひき肉 - ground meat

通常 - general, common

大腸菌 - E. coli

冷凍肉 - frozen meat

解凍する - to thaw

冷蔵庫 - refrigerator

電子レンジ - microwave

使い - use, in a "connective" form, used to connect two congruent ideas. Do not use this to replace "and," because there are sometimes better ways to go, like using て-form. Think of this sort of between そして and a semicolon.

常温 - room temperature

放置する - to leave


In ground meat, there is generally a lot of E. coli bacteria mixed in. When thawing frozen meat, use the fridge or the microwave; don't just leave it at room temperature.



家賃 - rent

期限 - due date, end of the term

厳守 - strict observance

期限厳守 - common phrase for talking about an important deadline

遅れる - to be late, to become late

場合 - case, situation

電話 - phone


The first day of every month is the day to pay rent. Be sure to remember the due date. If it's late, please call Mr. Halinton.

(We were just a day late this time...)



歩く - to walk

元気 - genki, energized, healthy, feeling good, etc. (very important word)

疲れる - to exhaust/be exhausted (tired from work/activity)

腰 - lower back

痛い - hurt, in pain, painful

かもしれません - unsure, can't hazard a guess, probably, probably not...


When you walk, you recharge your batteries. But, when you walk too much, you get exhausted. (Plus,) your lower back might start to hurt.


腰 is only the lower back.
背 is the whole back.
背 is used only for height: 背が高い means "tall", not "your back is high."
Also, don't forget 肩, shoulder, and 背骨, backbone.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Eating Words, part 2

クチャクチャ: chewing, mouth open, like a teenager with gum

ズルズル: the sound off slurping noodles (ラメン、そば...)

パクパク: childlike eating, mouth open, very fast (this is how Pac-Man got his name!)

カリカリ: sound of eating pickled veggies (or something hard like pickles)

ポリポリ: sound of eating potato chips, other snacks

While on the subject of 擬音, here are 2 more, unrelated to eating.

ゴシゴシ: rubbing (from 擦る, to rub or scrub... or perhaps 擦る is from ゴシゴシ?)
ペタペタ: sticking (sound of sticking something onto something else, as your hands tap the surfaces together)

Today's Sentence

Every day, my Japanese roommate is writing me a sentence, which I have to decode, memorize, and perform until my pronunciation is less "gaijin-poi."


人間関係 - human relations

思いやり - sympathy, compassion

善意 - good faith, good will,

押し売り - high-pressure salesmanship

善意の押し売り - unwanted kindness, perceived as showing-off

受け止められる - to be taken, to be caught, to be received (i.e., a ball is received, someone's kindness is received...)

場合 - case, situation


Human relations are difficult. Sometimes, someone's compassion can be taken as self-righteous condescension.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Eating Words, part 1

モグモグ: mogu-mogu: The sound of chewing (general)
バリバリ: bari-bari: The sound of chewing crisp/crunchy things (lettuce, crackers...)
ゴクゴク: goku-goku: The sound of gulping liquid

This is just the tip of the 氷山.

I find these onomatopoetic Japanese words so intriguing. Whenever I learn new ones, it's like middle school all over again, when the teacher showed us that dogs go ouah ouah in French (JP: ワンワン) and bees go summ summ in German (JP: ブンブン).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So Ka

One of my favorite students in Japan was fairly good at English. He'd spent some time in America, hiking and climbing around California. I interviewed him and got him into a group class, which turned out to be just me and him most of the time. Much of our class time was spent like this:

Him: "I was being in Tokyo for 4 years..."
Me: "You should say just 'was,' here. 'Was --I-N-G' is usually for actions, like 'I was working.'"
Him: "Ahhh, so ka, so ka."

So ka roughly means "I see" or "of course," or even "is that so?" It's said at that flash of insight when you understand the rationale behind something that has puzzled you, or when it just clicks into place. I want to be able to say this phrase every day, but I'm still quite puzzled over many things. Hopefully, with the aid of this blog, either you or I will start saying "so ka" a little more.