Improving my Broken Japanese! 頑張ります!

japaneseI came to Japan two years and eight months ago, and my Japanese is still broken. What the…OK, it’s not a big deal. I just live in Japan is all. Ever since I stopped doing the self-study Japanese courses (provided through the JET Programme), I haven’t been diligent in studying Japanese. I’ve tried to make up for the slack by entering a Japanese speech contest. My problem: I don’t practice every day. I do speak Japanese every day, but I don’t practice Japanese enough.

I’ve decided to learn a new Japanese word every day. I’ve decided this since Friday. The words I’ve learned since then are kangei (歓迎, “welcome”), ooku no (多くの, “many”), koma (駒, “piece”), and kaikai  (開会, “opening of a meeting”). I suppose these choice of words alone show what’s going on in my life now.

At this time, Japanese schools are welcoming new teachers and students–and there are many this year at my school–while opening ceremonies and introduction games are taking place. Can you guess what word goes with what statement? Bet you can.

On top of that, I’ve discovered, a website designed for self-study (and competition, whatever way you look at it). Every time I pass a vocabulary question, I get points which up my ranking score out of everyone on the website. It’s a bit addicting, so I guess is doing its job.

Calligraphy and Art (書道と美術)


In black is the old way of writing. In red is what each kanji means.

In today’s class, everyone went to the calligraphy and art classrooms. There were many beautiful calligraphy and art pieces. Some of the art pieces were impressive, so I decided to take a picture of them. Later on, I’d like to try to make a bag calligraphy.




If my Japanese is wrong, please correct me! I’m still learning!



スタジオジブリレイアウト展: Studio Ghibli’s Layout Exhibition

ImageToday, my husband and I went to the Studio Ghibli Layout Exhibition at the Okinawa Prefectural Art Museum. It was so interesting! Hayao Miyazaki made beautiful layouts.


All of the works featured were from Studio Ghibli’s last fifty years. Works as early as Lupin the Third (1971) and Sherlock Hound (1984) stood among more modern works like Ponyo (2010) and Spirited Away (2001). Though exhibition showed many of Miyazaki’s works, other directors under Studio Ghibli also shared the spotlight. Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, showcased layouts from My Neighbors the Yamadas (ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん, 1999), Heidi Girl of the Alps (アルプスの少女ハイジ, 1974), and Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, 1988).


At the end of the exhibition, everyone could make a black-and-white drawing on a sticker and put it on a wall. There were hundreds of stickers on the wall! Image

The next Studio Ghibli animations set to come out this year are The Wind is Rising (風立ちぬ) and The Tale of Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫の物語).


My husband’s Blubber Island face and me hugging the kodama from Princess Mononoke

日本語の練習 Diary

今日、夫さんと沖縄県立美術館のスタジオジブリレイアウト展へ行きました。面白かったです!宮﨑 駿さんは美しレイアウトを作りました。私達はスタジオじブリのルーピンやシャーロックハウンドやポニョや千と千尋の神隠しのレイアウトを見えました。去年、スタジオジブリのアニメはかぐや姫の物語や風立ちぬがあります。


Picture of the new anime coming out this year (from Gigazine).

日本人のヘンな英語:Japanese People’s Strange English

Available in Japan for 1,050 yen.

Coming to Japan, I thought English education would be more advanced. What I found was a little disappointing: people who have studied English for ten years couldn’t form an English sentence. Even as more English speakers in Japan come forward as English teachers or translation experts, it’s easy to hear some really strange (and straightforward) English phrases in Japan.

David Sein’s 日本人のヘンな英語 illustrates in manga form the differences between Japanese people’s English and native English.

I think one reason why it’s hard for Japanese people to speak English is that it’s so direct. For instance, if someone says, “本を見ました,” the meaning could be, “I looked at the book” or “I saw the movie” (or if there are legs coming out of the book, “I watched the book”). 見る, or miru, has several meanings: look, see, or watch. Just picking which meaning to use is hard for Japanese speakers.

Sometimes, English idioms are taken quite literally. In English, “I cut the cheese,” isn’t used literally—someone cuts a piece of cheese with a knife—but it’s usually the image in Japanese people’s heads when this phrase is said. English speakers, however, see it as someone busting a stinky, dark cloud from their butts.  In the Lang-8 blog, the blogger also noted how Japanese people are taught some strange English from Japanese words. Several words in Japanese aren’t translated very easily into English because its particular to Japanese culture. いただきます, or itadakimasu (literally “I humbly receive”), is a word said before anyone eats a meal in Japan. The meaning of it is lost in translation, especially in English when a person usually says, “Thanks for the food,” or “Let’s eat!”

David Sein’s 日本人のヘンな英語 is available for 1,050 yen on

CLAMP: The Known-Unknown Manga-ka


“You know, CLAMP,” I said excitedly before repeating the name with Japanese pronunciation: “Ku-la-n-pu”. My Japanese co-worker scrunched up his face in the same way my students looked at me whenever I spoke English.


Oh, how I wanted to die. Apparently, he was another Japanese person–who liked manga–who didn’t know the four-member manga group, CLAMP. How could CLAMP, the CLAMP who created Chobits and a dozen other manga titles, the CLAMP who have been awesome guests at Anime Expo, the CLAMP who influenced great artists around the world like Kriss Sison (SevenSeas’ Last Hope), be so unknown among my Japanese co-workers?

I thought that when I came to Japan, CLAMP’s name would be well-known, but sadly, even some of the most ardent manga readers weren’t in the know. The only way I can get recognizing eyebrows to go up is by saying, “They made Card Captor Sakura.” I look on that series with affection; the first volume of CCS was the first manga volume I ever owned, so the CLAMP who got me interested in possessing volumes, and thus, an expensive (outside of Japan) hobby was born.

Come to think of it, CLAMP was the first for a lot of things for me. CLAMP’s Chobits was the first manga series I completely collected and the Magic Knight Rayearth series was the first manga I followed religiously when it was in the throw-back issues of Tokyopop Magazine (before its papery demise). Many of my early drawings were based from studying CLAMP’s work.

What I love about CLAMP is the art style between the three artists, Tsubaki Nekoi, Satsuki Igarashi, and Mokona, and the refreshing writing from the leader, Nanase Ohkawa. The characters are drawn very beautifully and their expressions are spot-on in regards to the writing. Most of the stories have romance in it, but there are more parts of their stories than love (unless you’re reading The One I Love). The consistent elements inside of CLAMP’s stories are magic, endearing characters, relationships, and the child-like adventurous quality from the 1980’s.

From all of their manga I’ve read so far, I think that Clover and Legal Drug (Drug and Drop) are experiments for the artists. In Clover, the expansive negative space in the panels and the minimal dialogue gave a usual story–magical kids are taken into the military to be used as weapons–a completely eerie, sad feeling, one that has resonated in my mind like a heart break. Legal Drug, though typical in story and art style, has only male leads in the entire manga and seems to lead readers towards a close BL style like The Descendants of Darkness and Brother x Brother.

Whenever someone asks me, “What’s your favorite manga?” I always think of a title by CLAMP first. But now that I’ve met another person who’s not familiar with their work, I think I’ll just carry around a picture of Sakura from Card Captor Sakura.

As an English teacher in Japan…

As an English teacher in Japan, you realize:

1. How horrible your penmanship is.

2.  How difficult it is to explain English grammar

3. That English can be fun in class

4. How hard English is to learn as a second language

5. How hard English is to teach as a second language

6. That the Japanese teachers write on the blackboards way straighter and better than you

7. That English is a strange language

8. That you’re no speech therapist, but you sure as hell have to try to teach kids how to say “R” and “L” words

9. That your whining about your classes or students will probably go unheard

10. That stickers and candy can get the laziest student to do the activities