Monthly Archives: June 2011

Maruzen: Japanese Learning Resource Jackpot

For those looking for Japanese resources beyond a few sub-par textbooks and books titled “how to curse in Japanese!” I would suggest looking at the White Rabbit Press, as they carry a large number of Japanese-related books that you won’t find in your average Barnes & Noble.

However, the other day in Japan I just found the Japanese-learning Jackpot. Behold: Maruzen near Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi OAZO shopping complex:

Four floors of Japanese bookstore -- mmmm!

I walked in casually, expecting the usual fair of books that could be found in any small mall bookstore, but soon found myself on the fourth floor, face-to-face with a rather drool-worthy site.

Yeah, there was a lot. Maruzen in Marunouchi OAZO building near Tokyo Station.

For some reason I’ve always had this obsession with collecting Japanese-learning resources and books without actually using those resources. Of course, I always have the intention of using said resources, but something about amassing a huge amount of books on learning Kanji or vocabulary simply makes feel like I’m actually learning, even if I’m not.

Perhaps one day I will be able to learn Japanese through osmosis simply by pressing my face into my Japanese textbooks. Until then!

Lots of grammar books. The fat red and orange one is the Dictionary of Misused Japanese

In any case, to cater to my book collecting habit, seeing multiple shelves of “no use this book to study for the JLPT” was quite a feast. And while there are a ton of books to look through, I unfortunately do not have the infinite time (and money) necessary to look through and consider all of them. Nonetheless, two books did catch my attention:

  1. A Dictionary of Misused Japanese.
  2. New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Japanese

The first, completely in Japanese, goes over common grammar errors and provides correct and incorrect examples of language usage. I liked the comprehensiveness of the book, but I admit I did get a little fatigued looking through it. Perhaps in a perfect world I would go through it, but it’s over 700 pages long — more a reference than anything else. Probably a great supplement for those wanting to cement a new grammar point into their heads.

The second looked especially excellent: it’s a bilingual book in both Japanese and English, with the Japanese text sufficiently furigana’d. Of the stories I quickly browsed through, they seemed sufficiently interesting, and because the English translation is provided, I avoid having input fatigue. Because while I like to think I could just immerse myself in a Japanese book and read, at this point it’s just not something I can do for very long, or very quickly. While English is a crutch, it also keeps me from giving up on reading after a few dragged-out pages, something that would likely happened were I to pick up any Japanese book off the shelf.

Next time I may go over books that Japanese people use to learn English — both how those books work and how they can be used to study Japanese as well (hint: you study the Japanese translations, not the English).

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Japan: One Piece Tie

I now own a One Piece tie I picked up from a department store in Yokohama station. This probably makes me classier than 99.9% of the world’s population that does not own one. Yeah, sorry.

I like that the pattern is conservative enough to wear in most situations, while still being awesome enough to impress anyone who might actually recognize the character.

More on Japan coming soon!

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Interviews with Foreigners Fluent in Japanese

I found a very cool series of interviews showcasing a large number of gaijin, or foreigners, who are fluent in Japanese. The Japanese television host asks the interviewee common questions, such as why they’re in Japan, their favorite Japanese food, and their favorite Japanese word. Some of the responses are pretty funny, and because it’s a 12-part video, there’s lots to see!

Some cool words I noted down and took away from the interviews include:

  • 時は金なり (ときはかねなり): “time is money”
  • ぼちぼち: “so-so; not bad”
  • 苦肉の策(くにくのさく): “last resort”

I encourage any Japanese learners to watch the videos and try to pick out some interesting words to keep for themselves as well. The great thing about Japanese television is that subtitles are commonplace, so it’s easy to look up words that are unfamiliar to you.

Furthermore, although not all the interviewees were amazing at Japanese, some really were great. I know I tend to be pretty competitive, so seeing some people who have gotten so good at Japanese motivates me to study harder and work my way towards fluency. Plus, I loved the fact that because the foreigners featured in the videos were so fluent, the hosts didn’t need to dumb down their language to interview them or dub over anyones voices as is common in other interviews.

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Dating Japanese Women: 5 Mistakes most guys make

Note: Satire.

There are a lot of guides and information available on how to pick up Japanese women, such as through ナンパ (nanpa) or 合コン (gokon), but today we focus on how not to pick up Japanese women. In other words, what pitfalls should we avoid while trying to woo the Japanese ladies?

Luckily for us, Lovesick Japan, which I continue to happily read, offers a good case example from which we can draw common mistakes. Let us carefully read through and take note of what went wrong. To begin:

The defendant broke into a twenty-seven-year-old woman’s apartment at 1:30 in the morning.

Mistake 1: Meeting for the first time in an improper place

Although it is admirable that the defendant tried a direct approach to meeting his future mate, we see here the common pitfall of being too direct. One’s home is typically considered a private place, and therefore women will be less open to being approached by strangers while at home compared to say a club or dating-centered social gathering—where they expect to be approached. Instead, the defendant should have considered a more public area to approach the women and exercised his day game, perhaps by meeting her in a public park or at a Starbucks.

Furthermore, 1:30 in the morning is often a time when people are asleep; perhaps when the woman was eating lunch—such as in the early or mid-afternoon—would have been a better time for a meeting.

Let us continue:

He put her hand his hand over her mouth and pinned her down. He told her to be quiet and began touching her breasts as he tried to remove her clothes. She resisted strongly, flailing her arms and legs. He continued to threaten her, and she saw no escape.

Mistake 2: Moving too quickly

Japanese women like to know if a potential boyfriend or husband will be able to take care of them—as society in Japan is still very much patriarchal—and as a result, moving a bit slower compared to western women may be necessary as a general rule of thumb.

Here we see that the defendant moved much too quickly, by initiating kino (touching) almost immediately in sensitive areas such as the mouth and breasts. Putting aside the fact the defendant should have talked to the woman before meeting her, he should have also moved slower with regards to touch, such as starting with casual touches on the arms on back, and moving on from there. In other words, the man’s physical progression skills were rather weak.

Continuing:

The defendant told the victim, “Take off your clothes” and attempted to pull them off. The victim thought that she should do everything possible to avoid rape and that he would leave her alone if she could satisfy his sexual hunger by causing him to ejaculate. She removed her pajama top only, keeping her t-shirt on. She then manually stimulated the defendant’s penis and performed oral sex on him.

Mistake 3: Failing to establish comfort before moving to seduction

By comfort, I mean actually getting to know the person you are trying to get with. This includes things such as her job, her hobbies, or her name. The comfort phase, as it is called, should not last long, but should allow the man and woman to get to know each other in some respect, perhaps with flirty teasing mixed in.

Instead, the only things the man appears to have said to the woman are “be quiet” and “take off your clothes,” both of which are not particularly revealing about oneself, nor are they especially flirtatious. Furthermore, by using them the man fails to demonstrate higher value, or qualities about himself that a woman might actually find attractive.

After performing oral sex:

The defendant became tired, lost his erection without ejaculating, and he lay on the fouton next to the victim. he talked about himself to the victim, and in order to prevent him from harming her, she pretended to empathize with him and talked to and listened to him. During that time, the defendant touched the victim’s nipple through her t-shirt and said things like “I’m really into making nipples erect.”

Mistake 4: Talking too much

Here we have a classic example of the guy going on and on about himself, not giving the girl any chance to respond or feel like she’s part of a conversation. Men have a tendency to talk too much, and to make things worse, after going on and on about all his problems to the victim, the defendant moved right back into demanding sex.

Although “being a good listener” is perhaps somewhat corny advice to give males who want to pick up Japanese women, the man should try to show interest in the woman he is trying to pick up too! After all, attraction should be a two-way street. The defendant’s failure to qualify the victim, or listen to and find out about her interests and problems, clearly indicates a mistake on his part.

And finally we come to the end of the encounter:

The victim wanted to do anything she could to get the defendant to leave. She said, “If you see it, will you go home?” He agreed, and she once again removed her shorts and put her genitals in his face. The defendant licked her genitals and looked at them using the light of his cell phone. After that, the defendant received the victim’s cell phone number and left around 4:30 in the morning.

Three hours had passed. A few days later, he called to ask her out on a date to see a fireworks show. She agreed, he kept the date, and police arrested him.

Mistake 5: Getting a girl’s phone number at the end of a date

Getting a girl’s phone number at the end of the date generally indicates weakness or lack of self-confidence, similar to how making kissing at the end of a date is also a weak move. Instead, the defendant should have successfully time bridged, or casually mentioned interesting things he has going on in his life, and then asked for the number. After which he should casually continued the conversation as if getting the number were just one mere part of the interaction, rather than its goal.

By failing to establish proper emotional progression, the defendant failed to portray himself in the most positive light possible, and therefore failed to come up with a second date.

I hope these quick tips help you the next time you decide to try to pick up women in Japan. In fact, I’ll even throw in one more bonus tip!

Mistake 6: Breaking into a girl’s home and raping her does not generally lead to a second date.

This should be self-explanatory. Unfortunately, the defendant did not seem to know this—perhaps he should have read this guide first!

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Japan Dating Statistic II: Sex Life

Part 1: Japanese Dating Statistic I

When I talk about yellow fever, I’m sure most people know I’m not talking about mosquitoes. And for those with a special attraction to Asian women, Japan certainly seems like a mecca of awesome. Not only is its population homogenous and therefore sufficiently Asian-girl-filled (98.4% Japanese), but Japanese women tend to be perceived as petite, demure, and having higher-than-normal voices. Even Wikipedia has an article on cuteness in Japan, placing Japan in a category of it’s own when it comes to those 可愛い少女.

So many love hotels...but so little time?

Not only that, but Japan is also one of the world’s biggest pornography producers, coming in third place behind South Korea and China in terms of revenue. I’m not sure if those statistics include animated pornography, which Japan seems to have monopolized in terms of production (although I could find no hard statistics about this specifically).

HOWEVER, as I continue to read through Lovesick Japan, I came across some interesting numbers:

In a 2005 survey…Japan ranked dead last—forty-first out of forty-one countries—in frequency of sex, with a self-reported frequency of 45 times per year (up from 36 times per year in 2001). The second lowest country, Singapore, was far ahead (73 times per year), and the global average was 103. (source)

[…]

The first sexual experience for more than half of men over 30 is a prostitute. (source)

Ouch, Japan!  I’m trying to think of a unique reason for why Japan ranks so low compared to all other countries, but I can only come up with a bundle of reasons that don’t seem to be adequate reasons:

  • Japanese students spend most of their time studying for entrance exams and don’t become interested in sex until later and not as often.
  • As adults, Japanese people work very long hours, so the time in the day to have sex simply does not exist. And when wives or husbands come home, they’re too tired to have sex.
  • “It’s too bothersome” — this is actually one of the most common reasons given by couples for why they don’t have sex, although it doesn’t explain anything.
  • Japanese people, wanting to avoid confrontation, simply put up with not having sex rather than directly talking to their partner about the problem.

I’ve been able to find a lot of articles describing sexual activity patterns in Japan and how this affects day-to-day, but little on any strong reason why any of this is actually taking place. Perhaps it’s just a combination of all these things that can be found in Japan but not elsewhere that is causing the problem.

Perhaps it’s because Japan has a rather masturbation rate—after all, it has all that porn to go around—with 38% percent of Japanese masturbating weekly (source — but couldn’t find original cited article), compared to 28% in the US (source). Of course, this 10% difference doesn’t seem significantly higher, so again it seems like an insufficient reason.

It’s likely being caused by all of the reasons I’ve listed and more, since I doubt it’s a singular issue that’s causing the problem. It’s more a problem of culture that seems to be the issue, which is derived from a bundle of hard-to-distinguish factors, rather than one significant reason.

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One Piece show at Universal Studios Japan this summer

http://www.usj.co.jp/event/OPPS2011/

One Piece is one of my favorite manga, so I’m thrilled that I’ll be in Japan in order to see this! I’ve seen only one other show at Universal Studios Japan, but it was 10 years ago, I didn’t know what the show was about (nor do I remember) and I didn’t understand a word of Japanese at the time. So this is pretty exciting; I’ll be sure to write an account when I see it.

Furthermore, at the top of the website it reads:

ジョーだけじゃない!パーク史上最大のワンピース・イベント!

That’s right; it isn’t just a show, but the greatest One Piece event in history. For example, according to the the Universal Studios Japan blog (in Japanese), One Piece related merchandise and food will be available, such as this:

Chopper Popcorn = Chopcorn?

According to the blog, the flavor of the popcorn is 「甘くて何か懐かしい感じがします。かなり小さい頃食べたような」: sweet, with a sort of nostalgic flavor reminiscent of childhood. Interesting!

At the very least, I’m psyched about being about to get in on fun this summer. Furthermore, as a result of finding the website I’ve gone ahead and added 「史上最大」to my list of vocab words, not only because it sounds awesome, but because any word meaning greatest in history is just too badass to pass up.

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Procrastinate on your Studying by Studying

Inspired by a recent AJATT blog post, I have been trying to think of a good way of keeping myself from the inevitable decline into sweet, sweet, procrastination. I think I may have a decent solution, but it goes beyond simply studying Japanese—instead, let’s treat it as an ADD-approach to studying in general.

Keep yourself busy: multi-task like a mother fucker.

I know a lot of people who like to be busy. They’re the kind of people who don’t like sleeping, who need to constantly be on the go, who have full schedules filled with appointments, and who feel guilty whenever they aren’t being productive. I am not one of those people. I like to take things one task at a time, giving myself as much time as necessary for each task. Thinking about tackling multiple assignments at once is not my style. Simply put, I’m not a multitasker.

But I should be. And so should you.

You can cram for tests, but you can’t cram languages.

The reason multitasking is important in language learning is because languages—especially when it comes to speaking and listening—take a long time to learn and acquire. You can’t cram speaking fluency in Japanese, or the ability to quickly reading through a Japanese document the night before a Japanese test the same way you can cram a hundred or so vocabulary words into your head before a PSY 101 test. Being able to actually use a language requires time; even if you try to cram vocab words or kanji into your head quickly, it won’t mean much if you can’t actually do anything that information.

That’s why you should multitask.

How to multi-task: You now have ADD

Studying with ADD means you jump from one task to the next without too much regard for whether you’ve actually finished the specific task you were just working on. The perfectionist in my is always calling out, telling me I need to be done with my English essay before I can move on to my Japanese studying. However, this only leads to inefficiency. I need to simply force myself to stop if I simply am not making progress, or have made sufficient progress in the last few minutes. That way, I never stop being productive.

Step 1: Make a specific list of things you have to do.

This isn’t groundbreaking advice, but it’s extremely important. It keeps you organized, so make the list. Not only that, make the list specific. That means that if you plan on studying Japanese, don’t just write down “study Japanese.” Instead write down exactly what you plan on doing. Your list might look like this:

Japanese: Study 10 vocab words, listen to and repeat 5 shadowing sentences for speaking fluency, write paragraph in Japanese for Lang-8.

English: Find 3 sources for essay, summarize each source’s main points in document, outline introduction of essay

History: Read first 40 pages of the week’s reading, summarize in 3 sentences what you read in notebook

Misc: lift weights for 30 minutes, jog for 30 minutes, sort dirty clothes for laundry, do laundry

And so on. The point is to have specific goals that are not unreasonably difficult or time consuming. If something on your list looks like it may take hours and hours, break it down into smaller chunks.

Heck, you may even list leisure activities on your list—like watching a single episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. You keep the tasks on your list short—so you don’t end up watching 10 episodes—and it’s something easy to jump to if you need a break from being efficient, while still being efficient. Win-win.

Step 2: Do the tasks in any order, and jump around as much as necessary

I might be working on my English essay, but I know I’ll get bored rather quickly. Thus, as soon as I finish one of my small tasks that I’ve outlined on my list, I’ll jump to something else less likely to give me a headache, like sorting clothes or laundry.

The point is to stay actively involved in completing goals. When I try to do one painstaking task at a time without stopping I lose interest and end up falling asleep. The next time I crack open that 200-page history reading, I won’t try to do all of it before moving to the next assignment; I’ll stop after 20 pages and study a kanji or two. And then maybe go jogging. And then read another 20 pages. But in the end, I’ll have still gotten everything done.

Why this works for language learning

As I’ve said before, it’s much too difficult to cram using a language into your head—that requires consistant and long-term practice. By returning to Japanese throughout the day—instead of doing it in one multi-hour burst— it’s actually better for retention and studying efficiency.

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