Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

The following text was written by another penpal for me introducing her hometown; Chiba. A small(er) town near Japan’s capital Tokyo.  The writer her name is Kaori and I wish to thank her for allowing me to share this text with everyone. This text is once more filled with kanji I have yet to learn, but Kaori was so friendly to add their hiragana readings in her mail for me. I still cannot read it fluently, but it does make me feel as if I’m getting better at reading Japanese. We must keep doing our best!








I live in Chiba at Kashiwa near capital Tokyo. Chiba is rural compared to Tokyo, but Disney Land is there. It’s said that Kashiwa resembles Shibuya in Tokyo. Personally, I don’t think Chiba resembles Shibuya at all. There are a lot of clothing shops, restaurants, izakaya, delicious ramen shops at the back alley in Kashiwa. It’s interesting to go strolling in there.

This translation was offered by Kaori herself, with only a minor spelling check by myself.



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The following text was written by my penpal Yoshi to introduce his hometown Osaka. He has given me permission to share this simple text for which I wish to thank him. Please enjoy this small mesage.


This is a simple translation that took a lot of liberties. The Japanese and English express the same ideas, but may express them a bit differently, please forgive these liberties.

My hometown is Osaka in Osaka prefecture. Osaka castle is nearby, a place of historical importance and so is downtown. I often go there to shop and sometimes I have a drink as well. There are many public facilities here such as hospitals and nature. I love this town.


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Japanese StudentThe first thing I ever used in my quest to learn Japanese was the website YesJapan offers visitors an online, interactive way to learn Japanese backed up by a vibrant community eager to welcome new students and help those in need along the way. The website owner is George Trombley; and along with his wife Yukari Takenaka, he created the website and wrote the book series, Japanese from Zero!, based on their experiences as Japanese language teachers in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What does offer? First they offer 6 online course teaching students Japanese at a very reasonable pace. The lessons are given in a progressive way. This means that in course 1 during the span of 12 lessons the Hiragana alphabet gradually is taught, 5 to 10; in course 2 the same is done for Katakana and from course 3 onwards Kanji is taught. During course 1 and 2, sounds which are represented by hiragana/katakana that was not yet taught will be written using romaji until the hiragana/katakana is learned. The lessons teach grammar, writing and the various language skills to the student, accompanied by enough examples, all accompanied by audio examples.

However, that is not everything YesJapan has to offer. YesJapan also streams various shows of which YesJapan Daily, EigoEgg and Ask-A-Teacher are the most actively promoted shows. George Trombley, himself is the host in these shows.  He actively tries to teach students Japanese in a funny, yet highly educational manner. Both shows are highly interactive, for they are always held in cooperation with the chatrooms where students constantly stream there thoughts and George actively picks up topics from these suggestions. Unfortunately due to time differences, I have only been able to attend once these shows live. Though for those who wish to watch a show, do not despair for YesJapan also has a Youtube channel on which all shows are uploaded. I certainly recommend checking these out since some of them ccontain wonderful information about the language country and its people. ( YouTube channel)

However, what really is the main selling point for this website is its community, a feature of YesJapan George actively encourages. The three main communty tools are: Ask-A-Student; the forums and its chatroom. Its Ask-A-Student tool allows students to ask their fellow students. Believe me when I tell you that this is actively used and there enough students more than willing to share a word of wisdom with you. Of course, not everything can be put on Ask-A-Student, but do not fear for forums are there. On these forums, students, enthusiasts and George actively discuss not only the language, but also the Japanese current events, culture, the books, shows and website. In all this madness I can honestly say I have yet to read unpleasant or spiteful posts. Truly, something I recommend. But, my main love is its chatroom where all enthusiast gather to share a few words. Here often students type Japanese to practice the skills they have honed, but also to get feedback to correct mistakes if they are made. Even some Japanese frequent these forums and help correct our mistakes in return we aid their English. (Wanted: YesJapan chatroom needs more Japanese; go here).

Now do I use all features that offer? No, I do not. The teaching style of is not a style I personally like. However, some students do enjoy this. It is purely a matter of personal preferences and I suggest that you try it out and decide for yourself. However, I do actively frequent the forums and its chatroom, which I not only find helpful, but a wonderful place to spend some time.

I give 4 stars out of 5!

All images and materials are owned by

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Bento. Everyone who has ever read some mangas or watched some anime series will no doubt have seen them. What is a bento? In simple wordings, a bento is a single portion home-made or takeout meal that is most often associated with Japan. Traditionally, a bento meal consists of rice, fish or meat and one or more cooked or pickled vegetables put together in a box-shaped container. These bento boxes sometimes can have elaborate designs and are made from a wide range of materials. although bentos are home-made, they also can be bought as takeout meals at in a large variety of place such as train stations, convenience stores and department stores. There even are bento shops (弁当屋).

As many things, the creation of bento has become a form of art for some.  The food in bentos can be arranged in complex, yet beautiful designs. A particular branch of these bento are often called “kyaraben” or character bento. Most often the design matches popular manga or video games. Though another popular style is “oekakiben” or picture bento. These bento are designed in such a way to represent famous monuments, animals, scenery and many other things. For these types of bento contests are even organized.

I personally bought a bento box. However, whenever I try to make one I always utterly fail. Perhaps I just can’t cook. However, if you want to get into the bento culture, a culture that is steadily gaining popularity across the globe, I can give you some places that you might want to visit.

JUST-BENTO_bookcover160.jpgThe first place I really recommend is JustBento, a food blog owned by Makikoh Itoh (also own JustHungry). This website is filled, not only with wonderful recipes and how-tos to make your own delicious bento. This website also comes with a vibrant bento community with gorgeous pictures of prepared bento that will bring water to your mouth! JustBento even has its own cook book known as “The JustBento Cookbook”. If you are interested what this about, why don’t pay a visit to Makikoh’s introduction post, by just clicking on the picture!

Where do you buy your bento equipment? There are various places on the intenet where you can buy some bento boxes, but I bought my own bento box at CasaBento. This lovely website, is easy to use and clear on prices and additional costs for shipment. Experience learned me this shop takes its customers serious responding to every mail you sent to them and informing you if any problem arises, giving proper recompensations when needed. A webshop to be trusted and if I were to buy other bento boxes I will certainly do it with CasaBento!

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Japanese-Language Proficiency TestGreetings,

Before I started this blog, I already had a first goal in mind: passing this years JLPT N5 in december. For those who are unfamiliar with the JLPT, it stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. The test is held twice every year across the world, organised by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, better known as the JEES. Today, it is held in over 60 countries and over 600 000 examines participate every year. The JLPT has become one of the best known standardized exam that measures the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers.

Now what does N5 mean? The JLPT is divided in 5 levels, every level corresponds with a certain degree of proficiency. The N5 level is at the bottom of the difficulty spectrum and, logically, N1 is the most difficult level. N5 is the proficiency to be expected of one who has learned the elementary aspects of the Japanese language, a small amount of vocabulary and knows around over a 100 kanji. The JLPT organizers describe it this way:

  • One is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiraganakatakana, and basic kanji.
  • One is able to listen and comprehend conversations about topics regularly encountered in daily life and classroom situations, and is able to pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly.

This immediately brings us to the one weakness of the JLPT. The exam limits itself to only testing the reading and listening skills of students, ignoring writing and speaking. It is really a shame, but I can understand that organising oral exams for speaking, and correcting writing might be a logistical nightmare. This weakness by no means diminishes the importance of this exam! This exam is accepted by many universities and employers, both Japanese and otherwise, as proof of Japanese proficiency. Besides, don’t we all love to get a certificate proving that all our hard work amounted to something?

I really have a lot to do still, before I can even hope to pass that exam, but I still have 5 months to go before the exam is held!

Wish me luck!


Countries/areas where JLPT is administered(2011 test figures)

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Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese” is an internationally highly acclaimed series of study materials for learning Japanese. The first part consists of a textbook and a workbook, which can be complemented by the answer key; excellent for those who study on their own. The books focus on the four main skills: writing, reading, speaking and listening and its structured around this focus.

Grammar is explained in well written texts with plenty of examples to illustrate what is meant, followed by enough exercises to give you enough practice so that in the end of the lesson you will have the feeling that you really know what you have been doing.

However, the structure is probably one of the most annoying aspects of the entire series. The textbook and workbook are divided into 2 major segments; each dedicated to 2 of the 4 skills. This makes using the books sometimes a rather inconvenient and difficult for first time users. The answer key is structured even worse and my greatest annoyance.

One of its greatest assets must be the CDs that accompanies the books. It consists of over 6 hours of audio material. Not only does this include readings of the dialogues and listening exercises, but also most of the exercises in the textbook and the vocabulary lists.

Another great feature of this series is its abundance in exercises. Nearly each lesson has over 10 exercises in the textbook and another 10 in the workbook. You will have enough practice to learn all grammar points, words and kanji you have learned in one lesson.

Some peolpe wonder whether “Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese” is a study material suited to their needs. To be honest, for some the Genki series will be frightening because only in the first two lessons romanji is found and after those lessons all dialogues are written completely in Kana with Kanji (accompanied by furigana for Kanji you have yet to learn). Besides that point, you will clearly notice that the targeted audience for the series are college students. The amount of things each lesson discuss is more than some casual learners can cope with. However, this style suits me and this is why Genki are the books I mainly use myself.

If you are looking for a great book to teach you elementary Japanese; Genki is the way to go. However, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that will be taught in just one lesson.

For people who do not enjoy this kind of method, other materials are out there that will suit your needs!

I give “Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese” 4.5 stars out of 5.

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Sometimes it is rather hard to get the materials you want to learn Japanese. However, thanks to the internet everything has become a lot easier. Though, while easier to find materials, there are some things you will have to watch out for. That is why I decided to make this little post handing out some hints I thought up myself.

Reminder: Downloading content illegally is…illegal, so do not do it.

  • A lot of the larger bookstores will import on demand. Check if the price for a textbook is lower there, than the total cost would be were you to buy it from an online shop (price + shipping costs + import taxes).
  • Remember if it comes from outside your country you may have to pay taxes. This is not included in the shipping costs.
  • Try to find a seller who is close to your own country if you need to import it via the internet. The closer the shop, the faster and less expensive the shipment will be.
  • Inform yourself well before purchasing an item. On a lot Japanese learner communities there are ample reviews for a lot of materials out there. Use this information, before buying things.

These are the tips I could think off. If you have any other tips, do share it with us.


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