Tag Archives: Japan

The SPI Test & Job Searching in Japan — Learn Japanese Antonyms & Synonyms

If you’re like me, then you’re probably one or both of these two things:

  1. You’re thinking about working in Japan one day (but perhaps aren’t a computer science major…)
  2. You want to enhance your Japanese vocabulary

If you ever want to work for a Japanese company, especially as a fresh graduate right out of college, then you might find yourself having to take something called the SPI適性検査, which is one of the most popular “recruitment aptitude tests” in Japan. While many learners aiming for Japanese company employment might assume that having JLPT skills at Level 1 would be sufficient for general job searching in Japan, this is in fact not the case in the beginning of the process. Let me explain.

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Welcome to your worst Japanese nightmare

When you apply to a typical Japanese company, assuming you have no direct connections that would boost you straight through to the interview process, after listening to a general info session (can be online but quite often in person) you first submit an エントリーシート (entry sheet), which is a one-page form that includes your name, university, and perhaps a small box for your 志望動機 (reason for applying). When you submit this form in person—such as at a career fair with Japanese companies, including CFN, Mynavi, Works Global Japan, Top Career, etc—you will hand write it in Japanese, so be sure to practice writing Kanji just enough to answer the questions that are typically asked. Memorizing your 志望動機 down to the letter is probably not a bad strategy.

If the company is interested in talking to you further, you will likely receive instructions to take a WEB検査, or online test. If you’re lucky you’ll skip right to the interview where you can show off your Japanese and interviewing skills, but there are plenty of large corporations in Japan (Softbank, for example), that require the test first. And while some companies, such as Rakuten and most foreign investment banks have their own English version, most companies have it in Japanese only. In this blog post, Ms. Melfi sums up the test quite well:

Imagine having to take the JLPT1 in 30 minutes, with two more 30 minute sections on logic and math. […]

Unequivocally, the JLPT1 does not qualify you as ready for the Job Hunting process.

In other words, if you just passed the JLPT level 1 and are feeling rather good about yourself for barely squeaking by, be prepared to be pummeled by the typical web test (SPI test) that job searchers are required to take. Sure, if you were able to skip the test and get right to the interview and show your employer that you’re perfectly competent at speaking, and could look up unknown job-specific vocabulary as it comes your way, the world would be a perfect place. But it’s not, and the SPI, in my opinion, is a big unspoken roadblock that prevents non-native Japanese from entering Japanese companies, despite their constant pleas for “more global talent.”

According to a friend of a friend, he was asked by a Japanese company to take the test, but he responded that as a non-native Japanese person the test had no meaning, and that he should not have to take it. In reply, the company agreed with him, moved him right along to the interview process, and then he got the job. I can’t say this is typical, or even if the story is true, but if you don’t feel ready for the test this might be a nice hail mary move to try out.

At any rate, just because the test is hard does not mean it’s impossible. It’s a Japanese test, which means, for the most part, it’s perfectly study-able. If you have come this far in your Japanese study to consider applying to a Japanese company, then you can get over this as well. It just requires you to change what you’ve been studying.

Enter the Antonyms (and Synonyms)

When studying Japanese, my vocabulary generally comes from sentences and vocabulary lists that correspond to something I’m reading. I believe this is a fairly practical way to go about learning new words, since I’m learning things that directly relate to what I want to understand. For the SPI test, however, a decent portion of the 国語 (Japanese language) section revolves around identifying antonyms (反対語) and synonyms (同意語), which is something I simply have never done before in Japanese. Thankfully, this is probably the part of the test that is easiest to study: rote memorize enough antonym/synonym pairs and that should mean a decent shot at doing well.

There are two sites online I have found (other than buying a test-prep book on Amazon.co.jp) that seem useful and are free:

  1. StudyPro ~SPI2 • SPI3対応
  2. SPI試験対策集会所 (site looks right out of the early 90s, but still good)

For instance, combining the lists of 同意語 (synonyms)  provided on both of these sites, I’m able to compile a list of 238 vocabulary words. Each word’s reading and definition is listed, along with its synonym provided in parenthesis. If for each word in Kanji you can quickly recall it’s reading, meaning, and corresponding synonym, you should be good to go.

封建  ほうけん    feudalistic(独裁)
独裁  どくさい    dictatorship(封建)
宿命  しゅくめい   fate(運命)
運命  うんめい    fate(宿命)
冷静  れいせい    calm(沈着)
沈着  ちんちゃく   calm(冷静)
没頭  ぼっとう    absorption in(専念、熱中)
専念  せんねん    absorption in(没頭、熱中)
熱中  ねっちゅう   absorption in(没頭、専念)
不平  ふへい     discontent(不服)
不服  ふふく     discontent(不平)
傑作  けっさく    masterpiece(名作)
名作  めいさく    masterpiece(傑作)
秀才  しゅうさい   prodigy(俊秀)
俊秀  しゅんしゅう  prodigy(秀才)
損益  そんえき    profit and loss(損失)
損失  そんしつ    loss(損益)
欠点  けってん    defect(短所)
短所  たんしょ    defect(欠点)
欠乏  けつぼう    shortage(不足)
不足  ふそく     shortage(欠乏)
著名  ちょめい    famous(有名)
有名  ゆうめい    famous(著名)
規定  きてい     regulation(規則)
規則  きそく     regulation(規定)
形見  かたみ     memento(遺品)
遺品  いひん     memento(形見)
意外  いがい     unexpected(案外)
案外  あんがい    unexpected(意外)
尽力  じんりょく   endeavor(献身)
献身  けんしん    endeavor(尽力)
断続  だんぞく    intermittent(中断)
中断  ちゅうだん   interruption(断続)
不意  ふい      sudden(突然)
突然  とつぜん    sudden(不意)
必然  ひつぜん    inevitable(当然)
当然  とうぜん    natural(必然)
転居  てんきょ    moving(移転)
移転  いてん     moving(転居)
疑問  ぎもん     doubt(疑念)
疑念  ぎねん     doubt(疑問)
了承  りょうしょう  consent(許諾)
許諾  きょだく    consent(了承)
滋養  じよう     nourishment(栄養)
栄養  えいよう    nourishment(滋養)
準備  じゅんび    preparation(用意、支度)
用意  ようい     preparation(準備、支度)
支度  したく     preparation(準備、用意)
落胆  らくたん    disappointment(失望)
失望  しつぼう    disappointment(落胆)
自然  しぜん     natural(天然)
天然  てんねん    natural(自然)
督促  とくそく    demand, urge(催促)
催促  さいそく    demand, urge(督促)
順序  じゅんじょ   order(次第)
次第  しだい     order(順序)
永遠  えいえん    eternity(永久)
永久  えいきゅう   eternity(永遠)
対等  たいとう    equivalent(互角)
互角  ごかく     equality(対等)
願望  がんぼう    wish(希望)
希望  きぼう     wish(願望)
筆記  ひっき     written(記述)
記述  きじゅつ    written(筆記)
不偏  ふへん     universal(一般)
一般  いっぱん    universal(不偏)
負債  ふさい     debt(借金)
借金  しゃっきん   debt(負債)
知己  ちき      friend(友人)
友人  ゆうじん    friend(知己)
発達  はったつ    development(進歩)
進歩  しんぽ     development(発達)
親切  しんせつ    kindness(厚意)
厚意  こうい     kindness(親切)
質素  しっそ     thirfty(倹約)
倹約  けんやく    thrifty(質素)
原料  げんりょう   materials(材料)
材料  ざいりょう   materials(原料)
承認  しょうにん   approval(承諾)
承諾  しょうだく   approval(承認)
同意  どうい     agreement(賛成)
賛成  さんせい    agreement(同意)
瞬間  しゅんかん   moment(瞬時)
瞬時  しゅんじ    moment(瞬間)
模範  もはん     model(手本)
手本  てほん     model(模範)
関与  かんよ     participate(介入)
介入  かいにゅう   intervene(関与)
待望  たいぼう    long desired(念願)
念願  ねんがん    long desired(待望)
根底  こんてい    foundation(基本、基礎)
基礎  きそ      foundation(根底、基本)
基本  きほん     foundation(根底、基礎)
責任  せきにん    duty(責務)
責務  せきむ     duty(責任)
冷淡  れいたん    cold-hearted(薄情)
薄情  はくじょう   cold-hearted(冷淡)
実践  じっせん    put into practice(実行)
実行  じっこう    put into practice(実践)
活用  かつよう    use(利用)
利用  りよう     use(活用)
手腕  しゅわん    ability(技量)
技量  ぎりょう    ability(手腕)
便利  べんり     useful(重宝)
重宝  ちょうほう   useful(便利)
綿密  めんみつ    careful, detailed(細心)
細心  さいしん    careful, detailed(綿密)
正確  せいかく    accurate(的確)
的確  てきかく    accurate(正確)
帰省  きせい     return home(帰郷)
帰郷  ききょう    return home(帰省)
生涯  しょうがい   (one’s) lifetime(一生)
一生  いっしょう   (one’s) lifetime(生涯)
起源  きげん     origin(発祥)
発祥  はっしょう   origin(起源)
揶揄  やゆ      tease(愚弄)
愚弄  ぐろう     tease(揶揄)
我慢  がまん     endure(忍耐、辛抱)
忍耐  にんたい    endure(我慢、辛抱)
辛抱  しんぼう    endure(忍耐、我慢)
高尚  こうしょう   refined(典雅、上品)
典雅  てんが     refined(高尚、上品)
上品  じょうひん   refined(高尚、典雅)
貢献  こうけん    contribution(寄与)
寄与  きよ      contribution(貢献)
出色  しゅっしょく  excellence(抜群)
抜群  ばつぐん    excellence(出色)
疎外  そがい     (to be) cast out(排斥)
排斥  はいせき    (to be) cast out(疎外)
漂泊  ひょうはく   wandering(放浪)
放浪  ほうろう    wandering(漂泊)
腐心  ふしん     take pains to(苦心)
苦心  くしん     take pains to(腐心)
歴然  れきぜん    evident(明白)
明白  めいはく    evident(歴然)
廉価  れんか     low price(安価)
安価  あんか     low price(廉価)
頑丈  がんじょう   healthy, solid(壮健)
壮健  そうけん    healthy, solid(頑丈)
横柄  おうへい    arrogance(尊大)
尊大  そんだい    arrogance(横柄)
堅持  けんじ     adhere to(墨守)
墨守  ぼくしゅ    adhere to(堅持)
邂逅  かいこう    chance meeting(遭遇)
遭遇  そうぐう    chance meeting(邂逅)
格言  かくげん    proverb(金言)
金言  きんげん    proverb(格言)
確執  かくしつ    fued(反目)
反目  はんもく    fued(確執)
敢行  かんこう    decisive action(断行)
断行  だんこう    decisive action(敢行)
簡単  かんたん    simple(容易)
容易  ようい     simple(簡単)
機転  きてん     quick wit(機知)
機知  きち      quick wit(機転)
工面  くめん     raise money(算段)
算段  さんだん    raise money(工面)
啓蒙  けいもう    enlightenment(啓発)
啓発  けいはつ    enlightenment(啓蒙)
激励  げきれい    encouragement(鼓舞)
鼓舞  こぶ      encouragement(激励)
回顧  かいこ     recollection(追憶)
追憶  ついおく    recollection(回顧)
険悪  けんあく    threatening(不穏)
不穏  ふおん     threatening(険悪)
原因  げんいん    reason(理由)
理由  りゆう     reason(原因)
合格  ごうかく    pass an exam(及第)
及第  きゅうだい   pass an exam(合格)
安泰  あんたい    tranquil(静穏)
静穏  せいおん    tranquil(安泰)
婚礼  こんれい    wedding(婚儀)
婚儀  こんぎ     wedding(婚礼)
妨害  ぼうがい    hindrance(阻止)
そし  そし      hindrance(妨害)
蹉跌  さてつ     setback(挫折)
挫折  ざせつ     setback(蹉跌)
残念  ざんねん    unfortunate(遺憾)
遺憾  いかん     unfortunate(残念)
賛美  さんび     praise(称揚)
称揚  しょうよう   praise(賛美)
示唆  しさ      hint, suggestion(暗示)
暗示  あんじ     hint, suggestion(示唆)
交渉  こうしょう   negotiation(折衝)
折衝  せっしょう   negotiation(交渉)
多弁  たべん     talkativeness(饒舌)
饒舌  じょうぜつ   talkativeness(多弁)
知悉  ちしつ     deep knowledge(精通)
精通  せいつう    deep knowledge(知悉)
執着  しゅうちゃく  be a stickler(拘泥)
拘泥  こうでい    be a stickler(執着)
大衆  たいしゅう   the masses(庶民)
庶民  しょみん    the masses(大衆)
賢明  けんめい    wisdom(利発)
利発  りはつ     wisdom(賢明)
詳細  しょうさい   details(委細)
委細  いさい     details(詳細)
長所  ちょうしょ   strong point(美点)
美点  びてん     strong point(長所)
崇拝  すうはい    admire(敬慕、傾倒)
敬慕  けいぼ     admire(崇拝、傾倒)
傾倒  けいとう    admire(崇拝、敬慕)
心配  しんぱい    worry(懸念)
懸念  けねん     worry(心配)
辛酸  しんさん    hardships(困窮)
困窮  こんきゅう   hardships(辛酸)
頑健  がんけん    robust, brawny(屈強)
屈強  くっきょう   robust, brawny(頑健)
精読  せいどく    careful reading(熟読)
熟読  じゅくどく   careful reading(精読)
切望  せつぼう    longing for(熱望)
熱望  ねつぼう    longing for(切望)
束縛  そくばく    restraint(拘束)
拘束  こうそく    restraint(束縛)
粗相  そそう     blunder(失敗)
失敗  しっぱい    blunder(粗相)
完遂  かんすい    to accomplish(成就)
成就  じょうじゅ   to accomplish(完遂)
抜粋  ばっすい    selection from text(抄録)
抄録  しょうろく   selection from text(抜粋)
核心  かくしん    kernel, core(枢要)
枢要  すうよう    kernel, core(核心)
奪取  だっしゅ    capture by force(攻略)
攻略  こうりゃく   capture by force(奪取)
敗走  はいそう    retreat(退却)
退却  たいきゃく   retreat(敗走)
功名  こうみょう   great feat(殊勲)
殊勲  しゅくん    great feat(功名)
繁忙  はんぼう    busy(多忙)
多忙  たぼう     busy(繁忙)
卑近  ひきん     familiar(身近)
身近  みぢか     familiar(卑近)
緩慢  かんまん    slow (worker)(遅鈍)
遅鈍  ちどん     slow (worker)(緩慢)
歳月  さいげつ    time, years(星霜)
星霜  せいそう    time, years(歳月)
変遷  へんせん    (historical) change(沿革)
沿革  えんかく    (historical) change(変遷)

Some of these words are not especially difficult, such as 有名 and 当然, but being able to point out from a list of words which has the closest meaning in about 15 seconds is likely something that requires a bit of studying, hence the hefty list above. Using the links above you could compile a similar (but perhaps even longer) list for antonyms as well.

After antonyms and synonyms, the next part of the Japanese language section of the SPI test involves reading short passages and answering 1-3 questions about them, often in less than a minute or 90 seconds. I wish I could say I had an ultimate trick or study method for this portion of the test for us non-native speakers (as reading speed is not exactly an easily upgraded skill), but purchasing an SPI test-prep book and going through questions is likely your best chance. Something else you may want to try is to estimate how fast you read English, and then give yourself that amount of time to answer a JLPT level 1 reading passage. Obviously you’ll be hampered by the time limit, but you may discover what works for you when trying to rush through a Japanese passage.

Finally, there is also a math section in the SPI test, which isn’t terribly difficult (think back to the SAT or ACT if you’re from the United States), but is made difficult because, again, it’s in Japanese. What that means, then, is that additional practice is  required. In a future blog I hope to go over some math vocabulary in Japanese (which I have been meaning to study myself), something is not covered in typical Japanese language classes as far as I know.

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Filed under Japan, Japanese, Language

Amaze your Japanese friends: Ace the 漢字テスト

While aimlessly searching the Internets as I so often do, I came across a Japanese Kanji test aimed at Japanese natives. The quiz purports to test “difficult readings” of certain Kanji, and it doesn’t disappoint. Click here to check it out.

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The game is simple enough: a word will appear on screen and you have to enter the correct reading within ten seconds, in Hiragana, to play. There are a grand total of five levels, with five questions each. In other words, get 25 questions correct in a row and you win. Answer a question wrong and the game ends.

Let’s begin:

Image

 Quick, you’ve only got 5 seconds left! What’s the answer?

It’s おかみ, of course, meaning a female proprietress of some kind, such as a restaurant or inn owner. But you knew that, right? Perhaps not. Let’s try again.

スクリーンショット(2014-01-24 18.18.34)

Haha, why that’s しにせ (although ろうほ is also acceptable), meaning a trustworthy or long-established store that has been passed down for generations. I learned that in my freshman year Japanese 101 class, didn’t you?

I hope my deep sarcasm by now has penetrated through the Internet and into your brain, as these are not “everyday” words, or even words that an average Japanese person would be likely to know without a little effort. And remember that these are level 1 words, with the words getting (supposedly) harder with each level.

The great thing about this particular Kanji test is that it is popular among Japanese internet folks, with quite a few videos appearing online (check out a YouTube search for 漢字テスト) where Japanese people attempt the test in real time, recording their thought process and reactions. I find these fun to watch. For example, the following video is titled “A student preparing for (college) examinations attempts the ogre-level Kanji Test (so hard you’ll laugh)”

He gets fairly far and knows quite a few words without much thinking, but there are still more than a few words in the test that are simply not common knowledge.

The next video (link below) is from Niconico, a popular video sharing site in Japan. In this case the female test-taker in question is, let’s just say, a bit “dumber” than average. You may need a free account to view the video, but I promise you it will be worth it. Be sure to enable Japanese language comments so you can watch her get a Japanese verbal smack-down in real time.

【ニコニコ動画】^o^)<漢字テストやるよ!(実況プレイ)

The screen shot below explains what I mean by “verbal smack-down:”

スクリーンショット(2014-01-24 18.37.31)

At about 3 and a half minutes into the video the girl taking the test proudly exclaims that the answer is かいせき, only to be completely wrong. The comments that follow include things like「ドヤ顔で間違えんなwww」and 「せめてかいせつじゃないかw」, which mean “don’t act all confident and then get it wrong lmao” and “at the very least you could have guessed kaisetsu lol” respectively (my usage of “lol” and “lmao” here is pretty loose, I’m just translating based on the number of w’s, which indicate laughter in text form).

Of course, if you’re like me, meaning you’re not native in Japanese and not some insane Kanji master dude named Bret Mayer who was the first non-Chinese/Korean person  to pass the Kanji Kentei Level 1, then you probably won’t do much better than the girl in the Niconico video. If you attempt the test in front of your Japanese friends or teachers, chances are you’ll only hear things like  漢字が難しいね (Kanji sure is hard) to soothe your pain, which of course it will not.

So how do you beat this test? Well, the obvious answer is “study Kanji,” but getting to the level necessary to answer the kind of questions on a test like this would take years. Unless, of course, you studied all the questions and just all the questions on the test instead.

In which case, Behold! See the following list (warning, it’s 504 vocabulary words):

嗚呼   ああ     Ah! Oh!
生憎   あいにく   unfortunately, Sorry, but ….
阿吽   あうん    Aun (chanting)
紫陽花  あじさい   hydrangea
渾名   あだな    nickname
斡旋   あっせん   mediation
天晴   あっぱれ   Well Done! Admirable
海女   あま     woman diver
殺める  あやめる   to wound, to murder
行脚   あんぎゃ   pilgrimage, walking tour
杏    あんず    (food) apricot
塩梅   あんばい   seasoning, condition
許嫁   いいなずけ  fiance, fiancee
意気地  いくじ    self-respect, self-confidence
生け贄  いけにえ   sacrifice, scapegoat
意固地  いこじ    obstinate, stubborn
漁火   いさりび   fire for luring fish at night
悪戯   いたずら   tease, prank
稲荷   いなり    Inari (god of harvests)
息吹   いぶき    breath
苛々   いらいら   getting nervous, irritation
刺青   いれずみ   tattoo
曰く   いわく    according to …,
所謂   いわゆる   so-called
自惚れ  うぬぼれ   hubris
云々   うんぬん   and so on
餌食   えじき    prey, victim
冤罪   えんざい   false charge
花魁   おいらん   prostitute-entertainer during Edo period
押捺   おうなつ   sealing (document)
嗚咽   おえつ    sobbing, weeping
女将   おかみ    landlady, proprietress
奢る   おごる    to treat (someone)
驕る   おごる    be proud and arrogant
雄叫び  おたけび   a war cry
億劫   おっくう   a bother, hassle
仰る   おっしゃる  to talk
囮    おとり    lure, decoy
介錯   かいしゃく  assist (someone) in doing hara-kiri
凱旋   がいせん   triumphant return
却って  かえって   on the countrary, rather
案山子  かかし    scarecrow
鑑    かがみ    a paragon, model
匿う   かくまう   to shelter, hide (a criminal)
陽炎   かげろう   heat, haze
呵責   かしゃく   blame, tortue
且つ   かつ     yet, moreover
恰幅   かっぷく   physique, bodily build
割烹   かっぽう   cooking (Japanese style)
黴    かび     mold
南瓜   かぼちゃ   pumpkin
瓦礫   がれき    rubble
鑑みる  かんがみる  to take into account
諫言   かんげん   to warn, admonish
癇癪   かんしゃく  temper
干瓢   かんぴょう  dried gourd used in Japanese cooking
帰依   きえ     to embrace Buddhisim
義捐金  ぎえんきん  donation money, contribution
祇園   ぎおん    entertainment district in Kyoto
毀損   きそん    damage, injury
忌憚   きたん    reserve, modesty
奇譚   きたん    mysterious story
牛車   ぎっしゃ   ox carriage (for Heian era nobles)
生粋   きっすい   pure, native
気っ風  きっぷ    character, disposition
奇天烈  きてれつ   very strange
華奢   きゃしゃ   delicate, slender
脚立   きゃたつ   stepladder
教唆   きょうさ   instigation
均衡   きんこう   equilibrium, balance
銀杏   ぎんなん   ginko tree
曲者   くせもの   ruffian, suspicious (thing, person)
口説く  くどく    to hit on, seduce
倶楽部  くらぶ    club, fraternity
胡桃   くるみ    walnut
玄人   くろうと   expert (professional)
繋留   けいりゅう  mooring (ship)
稀有   けう     rare, uncommon
逆鱗   げきりん   imperial wrath
袈裟   けさ     Kasaya, robes worn by Buddhist preist
解脱   げだつ    liberation from ignorance to enlightenment
健気   けなげ    brave, gallant
研鑽   けんさん   devoting oneself to study
語彙   ごい     vocabulary
好悪   こうお    likes and dislikes
好々爺  こうこうや  good-natured old man
恍惚   こうこつ   ecstasy, trane
膠着   こうちゃく  adhesion (stick), deadlock
更迭   こうてつ   reshuffle (cabinet, staff)
蝙蝠   こうもり   bat (animal)
此処   ここ     here (location)
忽然   こつぜん   sudden, unexpected
権化   ごんげ    incarnation
困憊   こんぱい   exhaustion, fatigue
幸先   さいさき   good omen
些細   ささい    trivial, slight
流石   さすが    as one would expect…
颯爽   さっそう   gallant, dashing
五月雨  さみだれ   early-summer rain
白湯   さゆ     plain hot water
晒す   さらす    to bleach, expose to (weather, danger)
秋刀魚  さんま    pike (fish)
潮騒   しおさい   roar of the sea
栞    しおり    bookmark, guidebook
時雨   しぐれ    drizzle, shower in late autumn
四股   しこ     sumo-style leg stomp
嗜好   しこう    taste, liking
雫    しずく    drop (of water)
叱咤   しった    scolding, rebuke
老舗   しにせ    shop passed down through generations
鯱    しゃち    killer whale
洒落   しゃれ    joke, pun
終焉   しゅうえん  demise
呪詛   じゅそ    curse, hex
憔悴   しょうすい  to be worn out, exhausted
贖罪   しょくざい  to atone (for sins)
不知火  しらぬい   will-o’-the-wisp (lights)
師走   しわす    December
西瓜   すいか    watermelon
推敲   すいこう   polish, revise (written work)
素性   すじょう   birth, lineage
統べる  すべる    to control, supervise
殺生   せっしょう  destruction of life (Buddhism)
刹那   せつな    smallest unit of time in Buddhism
台詞   せりふ    one’s lines (script)
羨望   せんぼう   envy
殲滅   せんめつ   extermination, annihilate
巣窟   そうくつ   den (of robbers, etc), hangout
造詣   ぞうけい   deep knowledge
相殺   そうさい   offset (something)
草鞋   わらじ    straw sandals
遡行   そこう    going upstream
咀嚼   そしゃく   chew, comprehend
醍醐味  だいごみ   (something’s) true charm, meaning
長ける  たける    to excel at
山車   だし     Japanese festival float
嗜む   たしなむ   have an interest in
殺陣   たて     sword battle
辿る   たどる    to follow (a road, course)
足袋   たび     tabi, Japanese socks
拿捕   だほ     capture, seize
団欒   だんらん   sitting together in a circle
知己   ちき     acquaintance
因む   ちなむ    be associated/connected with
鋳造   ちゅうぞう  cast (statue), mint (coin)
躊躇   ちゅうちょ  hesitate
弔意   ちょうい   condolence, sympathy
釣果   ちょうか   a catch (fishing)
椿事   ちんじ    strange occurrence
美人局  つつもたせ  extortion scheme involving adultery
丁稚   でっち    an apprentice
天婦羅  てんぷら   tempura
慟哭   どうこく   wail, lament
淘汰   とうた    select, weed out
陶冶   とうや    training, education
咎める  とがめる   to blame for an error
朱鷺   とき     Crested Ibis (bird)
常夏   とこなつ   everlasting summer (tale of Genji)
土壇場  どたんば   last minute
兎に角  とにかく   anyhow, at any rate
銅鑼   どら     gong
乃至   ないし    or, from … to (cost, numbers)
生業   なりわい   occupation, livelihood
捏造   ねつぞう   fabrication, forgery
暖簾   のれん    curtain hung at shop entrance
呑気   のんき    carefree
育む   はぐくむ   to raise, rear
博打   ばくち    gambling
梯子   はしご    ladder
範疇   はんちゅう  category
般若   はんにゃ   Buddhist wisdom
頒布   はんぷ    distribution
凡例   はんれい   explanatory notes, legend
贔屓   ひいき    to favor, support
非道い  ひどい    cruel, awful
雲雀   ひばり    Japanese skylark
向日葵  ひまわり   sunflower
顰蹙   ひんしゅく  to frown upon
吹聴   ふいちょう  to make public, spread a rumor
風靡   ふうび    dominate, influence
福音   ふくいん   the Gospel
払拭   ふっしょく  wipe out
葡萄   ぶどう    grape
辟易   へきえき   to wince, be fed up by
布袋   ほてい    Laughing Buddha
不如帰  ほととぎす  Lesser Cuckoo (bird)
不味い  まずい    bad taste
瞬く   またたく   to twinkle (stars, etc)
神輿   みこし    portable shrine in festivals
未曽有  みぞう    unprecedented
禊ぎ   みそぎ    purification ceremony (standing under waterfall)
貪る   むさぼる   to devour, indulge
蝕む   むしばむ   to eat into, spoil
寧ろ   むしろ    rather, better
目眩   めまい    dizziness
猛者   もさ     man of valor
悶える  もだえる   to be in agony
尤も   もっとも   quite right, naturally
揶揄   やゆ     tease, make fun of
遊説   ゆうぜい   election tour, stumping
浴衣   ゆかた    Yukata
委ねる  ゆだねる   to entrust everything
寄席   よせ     variety theater, music hall
蘇る   よみがえる  to be resurrected
駱駝   らくだ    camel
掠奪   りゃくだつ  plunder, loot
林檎   りんご    apple
流布   るふ     circulate, disseminate
煉瓦   れんが    brick
蝋燭   ろうそく   candle
狼狽   ろうばい   panic, confusion
呂律   ろれつ    articulation
賄賂   わいろ    bribe
若人   わこうど   young person
和える  あえる    to dress vegetables (salad)
崇める  あがめる   to reverse, worship (the sun, Buddha)
欠伸   あくび    yawn
阿漕   あこぎ    ruthless, greedy
褪せる  あせる    to fade (color, skin, power)
軋轢   あつれき   friction, discord
数多   あまた    a large number of
予め   あらかじめ  beforehand
安穏   あんのん   (live in) peace and quiet (used mostly in writing)
烏賊   いか     squid
諍い   いさかい   quarrel, dispute
何れ   いずれ    anyway, which
勤しむ  いそしむ   to work hard, dilligently
徒に   いたずらに  in vain
悼む   いたむ    to grieve, lament
厭う   いとう    to dislike, mind (a job)
海豚   いるか    dolphin
穿つ   うがつ    to dig into, hit the mark,
蠢く   うごめく   to squirm
疼く   うずく    to ache
唸る   うなる    to growl (at), groan (stomach)
海栗   うに     sea urchin
倦む   うむ     get tired of (literary term)
憾み   うらみ    resentment, regret
閏年   うるうどし  leap year
蘊蓄   うんちく   great knowledge, draw from~ (〜を傾ける)
似非   えせ     false, sham
逢瀬   おうせ    secret meeting of lovers (old fashioned term)
概ね   おおむね   in general
大童   おおわらわ  strenuous effort
厳か   おごそか   solemnly
煽てる  おだてる   to flatter (into doing something)
嚇す   おどす    to threaten
諧謔   かいぎゃく  humor, joke (not used in daily conversation)
邂逅   かいこう   chance meeting (only used in written language)
灰燼   かいじん   ash, embers (used in written language)
乖離   かいり    divergence (between ideas, opinions)
牡蠣   かき     oyster
翳す   かざす    hold one’s hands out
下賜   かし     bestowal, imperial grant
河岸   かし     fish market by a river bank
姦しい  かしましい  noisy, boisterous
瓦斯   がす     gas
固唾   かたず    saliva in one’s mouth while nervous
蝸牛   かたつむり  snail
刮目   かつもく   careful observation
蝦蟇   がま     Japanese toad
硝子   がらす    glass
搦め手  からめて   rear gate
鰈    かれい    flounder
艱難   かんなん   hardships
麾下   きか     troop’s under one’s command
気障   きざ     pretentious, showy
僥倖   ぎょうこう  fortuitous
矜持   きょうじ   pride, honor
煌めく  きらめく   to glitter, sparkle
公達   きんだち   young noblemen
久遠   くおん    eternity
口伝   くでん    oral tradition
与する  くみする   to side with, support
海月   くらげ    jellyfish
薫陶   くんとう   discipline, education
啓蟄   けいちつ   day when dormant insects emerge (around March 6)
怪訝   けげん    perplexed, puzzled
貶す   けなす    to speak ill of
言質   げんち    commitment, pledge
剣呑   けんのん   risky, dangerous
嚆矢   こうし    whistling arrow used to signal the start of battle
好事家  こうずか   dilettante
叩頭   こうとう   a deep bow; a kowtow
虚仮   こけ     folly, fool
強面   こわもて   scary/tough-looking face
苛む   さいなむ   to torment
遡る   さかのぼる  to trace back
殺戮   さつりく   slaughter
仙人掌  さぼてん   cactus
彷徨う  さまよう   to loiter
作務衣  さむえ    work clothing of Japanese Zen Buddhist monks
残滓   ざんし    remains (of a kind of thinking), dregs
恣意   しい     arbitrariness
弑逆   しいぎゃく  regicide, killing of a king
弛緩   しかん    relaxation (of muscles)
時化   しけ     stormy weather
市井   しせい    the street, town (written language)
疾病   しっぺい   illness
東雲   しののめ   daybreak
飛沫   しぶき    a splash (of water)
娑婆   しゃば    corrupt world, outside world (Buddhist term)
蹂躙   じゅうりん  trampling down
収斂   しゅうれん  convergence
入内   じゅだい   imperial bridal party’s entry into the court
出奔   しゅっぽん  run away, elope
上梓   じょうし   wood-block printing
饒舌   じょうぜつ  talkative
招聘   しょうへい  invite (to a post, position)
進捗   しんちょく  progress
誰何   すいか    asking a person’s identity
趨勢   すうせい   tendency, trend (of society, an era, etc)
縋る   すがる    to rely on, cling to (sympathy, etc)
杜撰   ずさん    careless
煤    すす     soot
廃る   すたる    go out of use
拗ねる  すねる    to sulk
所為   せい     cause, fault
雪隠   せっちん   toilet
齟齬   そご     disagreement, discrepancy
算盤   そろばん   abacus
蛇蠍   だかつ    serpent and scorpion
逞しい  たくましい  burly, strong
筍    たけのこ   bamboo shoot
湛える  たたえる   to fill (to the brim)
質す   ただす    to question (about something)
忽ち   たちまち   at once, suddenly
荼毘   だび     cremation (original Buddhist term)
容易い  たやすい   easy, simple
耽溺   たんでき   indulgence (in alcohol, women) (written language)
蒲公英  たんぽぽ   dandelion
知悉   ちしつ    know throughly
凋落   ちょうらく  wither and fall (plant, fortune, etc)
猪口   ちょこ    sake cup
終ぞ   ついぞ    never, not at all
土筆   つくし    Horsetail (plant)
鶴嘴   つるはし   pickax
木偶   でく     wooden doll
手練   てだれ    skill, dexterity
読経   どきょう   sutra chanting
髑髏   どくろ    skull (weatherbeaten)
心太   ところてん  noodle shaped jelly made from seaweed (Japanese food)
団栗   どんぐり   acorn
蔑ろ   ないがしろ  to slight (someone), neglect
亡骸   なきがら   remains, corpse
均す   ならす    to level (ground)
睨む   にらむ    to glare at
窺く   のぞく    to peek
宣う   のたまう   to say, be pleased to say (with sarcasm)
罵る   ののしる   to speak ill of
狼煙   のろし    signal fire
莫迦   ばか     stupid (old kanji spelling)
憚る   はばかる   to hesitate, be afraid to do
嵌まる  はまる    be fit for
食む   はむ     to eat
柊    ひいらぎ   Hiiragi (Holly) tree
彼我   ひが     he and I, oneself and one’s opponent
僻む   ひがむ    feel one has been wronged, envy
罷業   ひぎょう   strike, walkout
鄙びた  ひなびた   become rustic, countryside-like
怯む   ひるむ    to falter
河豚   ふぐ     blow fish
梟    ふくろう   owl
耽る   ふける    indulge (in reading, study)
不躾   ぶしつけ   ill-bred, rude
不束   ふつつか   unrefined, impolite
反吐   へど     vomit (substance)
反故   ほご     scrap paper, scrap
蝮    まむし    pit viper
微塵子  みじんこ   water flea
看做す  みなす    to consider as
百足   むかで    centipede
虫酸   むしず    heartburn, ~be disgusted (〜が走る)
狢    むじな    badger
目処   めど     aim, goal
瑪瑙   めのう    agate, type of ornamental stone
耄碌   もうろく   (become) senile
土竜   もぐら    mole
百舌   もず     Bull-headed Shrike (bird)
八百万  やおよろず  countless things
所以   ゆえん    reason, cause
夢現   ゆめうつつ  half asleep state
漸く   ようやく   finally, at last
他所   よそ     another place
世迷言  よまいごと  grumbling, muttering
辣腕   らつわん   efficient, quick but effective
罹災   りさい    suffer from (a disaster) (written language)
栗鼠   りす     squirrel
坩堝   るつぼ    pot, crucible
山葵   わさび    wasabi
轍    わだち    wheel track
蕨    わらび    Bracken (fern)
隘路   あいろ    narrow path
贖う   あがなう   to compensate for (damages, etc)
灰汁   あく     scum (from boiling meat, food)
胡坐   あぐら    sitting cross-legged
嘲る   あざける   to deride, ridiculue (a person)
海豹   あざらし   seal (animal)
家鴨   あひる    duck (animal)
遍く   あまねく   widely, extensively (known, etc)
抗う   あらがう   fight against
些か   いささか   a little bit, somewhat
諫める  いさめる   protest against
労る   いたわる   to pity, sympathize with
嘶く   いななく   to neigh
訝る   いぶかる   to wonder, to puzzle oneself
燻す   いぶす    to smoke (out)
謂れ   いわれ    a reason; a cause
況や   いわんや   not to speak of, to say nothing of
慇懃   いんぎん   courtesy, intimacy
嗽    うがい    gargle
窺う   うかがう   to peep
泡沫   うたかた   bubble on the surface, transient
俯く   うつむく   to hang one’s head in shame,
首肯く  うなずく   to nod
呻く   うめく    to moan, groan
演繹   えんえき   deduction
大鋸屑  おがくず   sawdust
貶める  おとしめる  to look down on
澱    おり     sediment, dregs
膾炙   かいしゃ   be well-known to all
開闢   かいびゃく  beginning of the world
罹る   かかる    to fall ill, suffer from
馘首   かくしゅ   to be fired (written language)
瑕疵   かし     flaw, defect
齧る   かじる    to chew, bite
騙る   かたる    to swindle
嘗て   かつて    before, formerly
稀覯本  きこうぼん  a rare book
旗幟   きし     flag, (party) platform
煙管   きせる    khsier, Oriental pipe
侠客   きょうかく  gangs acting under the pretense of chivalry
炯眼   けいがん   penetrating eyes, insightful
頃日   けいじつ   recently, these days
蓋し   けだし    perhaps, probably
悉く   ことごとく  altogether, entirely
牛蒡   ごぼう    Burdock plant, used in Japanese dishes
蠱惑   こわく    to enchant, fascinate
賢しら  さかしら   knowingly, impertinent
山茶花  さざんか   Camellia plant, found in China/Japan
讒言   ざんげん   slander, false charge
顰める  しかめる   to grimace (face), frown
忸怩   じくじ    feel ashamed, blush
奢侈   しゃし    luxury, extravagance
浚渫   しゅんせつ  to dredge (a river, etc)
馴致   じゅんち   gradual habituation, get used to
瀟洒   しょうしゃ  simple but elegant
虱    しらみ    Lice
滲出   しんしゅつ  to ooze, exude (liquid, etc)
鼈    すっぽん   soft-shelled turtle
須く   すべからく  by all means, ought to do
寸毫   すんごう   very little, a bit
蠕動   ぜんどう   wriggle, crawl like a worm
嫉む   そねむ    be jealous, envious
躊躇う  ためらう   to hesitate
弛む   たるむ    to sag, slack
啄む   ついばむ   (bird) to peck at (corn, bread)
衒う   てらう    to show off, make a display
猫糞   ねこばば   play dumb (after stealing), pocketing (something)
謀    はかりごと  plot, strategy
跋扈   ばっこ    infested with, be rampant
餞    はなむけ   parting gift
蔓延る  はびこる   grow thickly, spread (weeds, something bad)
腹癒せ  はらいせ   retaliation, out of revenge
跪く   ひざまずく  to kneel
人熱れ  ひといきれ  stuffy air (from many people in a small space)
人集り  ひとだかり  crowd of people
為人   ひととなり  temperament, personality
睥睨   へいげい   to glare (at an audience, troops, etc) (written language)
匍匐   ほふく    to crawl flat on the ground (towards an enemy, etc)
小火   ぼや     small fire
襤褸   ぼろ     tattered, rag
微酔い  ほろよい   slightly drunk
澪標   みおつくし  sea course/route marker
身動ぎ  みじろぎ   slight movement
目眩く  めくるめく  to dazzle, blind
娶る   めとる    to marry, take a wife
悖る   もとる    be inhuman, to go against
吝か   やぶさか   reluctant, hesitant (often used in negative)
所縁   ゆかり    connection, relation (between people)
御伽噺   おとぎばなし   fairy-tale
蒐集    しゅうしゅう   gathering up, collection
有耶無耶  うやむや     hazy, unsettled
四方山話  よもやまばなし  talk about various topics
減り張り  めりはり     modulate, control (one’s voice)
猛々しい  たけだけしい   ferocious
禍々しい  まがまがしい   ominous, ill-omened
太々しい  ふてぶてしい   shameless, bold
跳梁    ちょうりょう   run wild, be rampant (something bad)
面映ゆい  おもはゆい    feel embarrassed, self-conscious
蝶番    ちょうつがい   a hinge
相応しい  ふさわしい    appropriate
狼狽える  うろたえる    to be flustered
唯々諾々  いいだくだく   obediently, willingly
十姉妹   じゅうしまつ   Society Finch (bird)
気色ばむ  けしきばむ    show one’s anger
緘口令   かんこうれい   impose a gag order
有象無象  うぞうむぞう   the (unimportant) masses, rabble
凛々しい  りりしい     gallant, brave
胡散臭い  うさんくさい   suspicious looking, shady
呆気ない  あっけない    disappointingly brief
小賢しい  こざかしい    clever, smart-aleck
忌々しい  いまいましい   annoying, provoking
五月蠅い  うるさい     noisy, loud

Just to be clear, I didn’t play the quiz a million times to compile this list. Rather, using a simple .swf (Flash file) decompiler I extracted the list of words used in the quiz and added English definitions for each of them. While it’s easy to look up the definition of a word on your own, I used a combination of not only EDICT, but also 英和/英和辞典, 国語辞典, 類語辞典, and Wikipedia to come to a “more accurate” English definition, or at least one I understood based on the dictionary-provided example sentences and explanations. Your millage may vary, and looking up example sentences or Wikipedia articles is probably your best bet in order to come to your own understanding of an unknown word.

If you were to actually memorize all the words in the list (all 504 of them), you would then be able to totally ace the Kanji test, thereby freaking the shit out of any Japanese person you know as you casually blast through a list of extremely difficult words without breaking a sweat. I know I would spend the hours necessary just for that reaction.

Finally, while the two videos above featured Japanese people struggling with the test, I did find one person who  breezed through the test (multiple times) with extreme ease. Some people are scary…

I ended up finding this guy’s blog where he mentions filming himself taking the test—see this link. It turns out he likes to blog about studying Kanji specifically for the Kanji Kentei, and keeps detailed notes about his progress. Not only that, he’s also rather good at Rubik’s cubes, which should clue you in that the guy enjoys memorizing stuff and is good at it too. In short: he’s a bit better than the average Japanese guy when it comes to Kanji. Fear not.

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How Japanese People Learn English…And Why it Isn’t Working

The golden rule of English teaching pedagogy in Japan: The more blond your hair and pointy your nose, the better you are at teaching English. Also, and saying "OH" in English is hilarious.

As the Asia Times has previously reported, Japanese people aren’t so hot at learning English compared to their East Asian peers:

Indeed, the average score of Japanese candidates sitting for the Test of English as a Foreign language (TOEFL) ranks lowest among all Asian nations except North Korea. In fact, Japan ranks just below Myanmar.

Now that’s pretty bad, but perhaps just using the TOEFL isn’t a good measure of English ability? What about using the results form another test by Education First where Japan scores fairly high (ranked 14 out of 44) rather than bottom of the pack? But at the same time, the Education First test apparently does little to test speaking and listening skills.

Obviously, then, what the people of Japan need to work on is English communication. Talking with Westerners. Speaking both with and like other native English speakers. Learning about western culture. Making that Western culture a real part of their lives. You get the picture. If they want to speak like us, they need to be like us.

Clearly.

So I decided to do some research of English learning resources targeted at Japanese speakers. And while I had originally planned on doing some real, serious research that would uncover the dark conspiracy that is keeping Japanese people from learning English, that quickly ended when I found a certain DVD on “Dangerous English” by American-born gaijin talent Dave Spector:

DVD cover to "Dave Spector's Dangerous English" 「デーブ・スペクターの使うとヤバ~イ英会話」

You might be wondering what in the world the Japanese would consider “Dangerous English.” Luckily, there’s a wonderful trailer available on Youtube. Enjoy.

If you don’t know Japanese, the premise of the entire DVD is pretty simple: it’s nothing but a bunch of puns from either Japanese words that sound like dirty English words (or occasionally, from terrible mispronunciations of English words that the Japanese speaker can’t say correctly). For example, all the men in the restaurant in the video around 3:30 start dropping their pants after the girl makes a certain, unfortunate pronunciation error on the word “cook.”

And putting aside the issue of a large number of men dropping their pants in a public restaurant around a Japanese girl, the over-the-top stereotypes of American are also pretty hilarious. Suffice to say, I wanted to find the whole video—I couldn’t let my research on English learning material for Japanese people end with a infomercial! Since Amazon doesn’t ship the DVD outside of Japan, I managed to find a great solution—online video rentals.

Enter, Videx.

Unlike some other video rental sites online, Videx doesn’t seem to be super-restrictive on what country you’re from—at the very least, non-Japanese IPs are able to access and purchase content—which is better that most Japanese-targeted sites. So making one of the strangest rental purchases of my life, I downloaded and watched the full “Dangerous English” video.

It was… interesting. Basically, the same stuff as on the trailer, but more of it. I didn’t feel totally satisfied in my purchase until the end of the video, though, when we the viewers are treated to “Top 5” lists of curse words in English for both men and women. Here’s the list for women:

Top 5 curse words for women. The bubble reads, "Say it out loud!"

Gotta love that flawless proofreading that only those suns of bitches down in Japan can so consistently provide.

And, the list for men:

Top 5 for men. Which one of these words is not like the other...?

I can’t say I use “cock titty balls sucker” as much as the other words on the list, but perhaps I’ll have to make an effort lest I be labeled as un-American.

The takeaway from the video was a dual message, one about American culture, and one about the English language in America. First, that all Americans carry guns, and therefore talking with an American is dangerous, as you’ll be at a high risk for murder should you choose to do so. The gun stereotype sounds pretty over-the-top, but you’d be surprised. I once had a conversation with a Japanese girl:

GIRL: So do you have a gun?

ME: Uh, no?

GIRL: Really?? I thought everyone in America had one…

ME: Um, I think you’re mistaken.

GIRL: Is your gun locked up somewhere?

ME: I don’t own one at all.

GIRL: But your parents own guns, right?

ME: No! In fact, I don’t know anyone who owns a gun at all.

GIRL: Wow, no way! *Insert stereotypical Japanese-sounding OOOOooh sound here*

In the end, she seemed pretty disappointed. I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe I was actually American after that. I didn’t have an American flag hanging up in my room either after all!

The second message in the vide about language was that adding the word “fuck” every 2-3 words is a proper, American tradition. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, I can’t exactly disagree with that, though.

Although I have gotten offtrack after writing this post, one possible conclusion is: I would hesitate to recommend Dave Spector’s DVD for the serious learning of English.

Hope that helps!

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Picking up Japanese Girls: Learning from the Best

Charisma man comic

Japan: Living the dream

As yesterday was Valentine’s day, I’ve decided to share some advice on how to woo the Japanese ladies. Because I obviously have lots of experience in this field, right? And because if you follow my rigorously-tested PUA-style tips, you’ll suddenly become a Charisma Man yourself, capable of attracting J-girls like flies are attracted to syrupy, sugary mounds of goodness, right?

Well, no, not really.

But, one thing to recognize here is that the Charisma Man in the comic above has pretty poor Japanese. All he does is use the 私・・は・・です formation, which is pretty much the first thing you pick up in Japanese 101. Don’t you want to be just a bit more awesome than that? Don’t you want to be ready to bust out some really syrupy, sugary, chocolate-filled nuggets of Japanese in order to impress the ladies?

Of course!

So the best places I’d recommend searching to go find such lines would be anything that isn’t a “How to Pick Up Japanese Girls” or “How to speak Dirty Japanese” book. Because while those sorts of books may have some value, the only way they also have any sizable amount of content is because most of the content is terrible. Filler. No longer used by anyone in Japan…ever. And besides, if you’re buying books like that, let’s be honest: your Japanese probably isn’t exactly up to snuff either.

So where do you find good “pick up lines” in Japanese? Well, I’ll take the AJATT approach on this one: straight out of genuine Japanese media. Anime, Manga (especially Shojou, I bet), Jdramas—take your pick.

Nisemonogatari Episode 6

Here’s an example courtesy of Araragi from Nisemonogatari:

「お前は知らないのかもしらないけどさ、僕はお前は愛しているんだよ・・・いつでも一緒にいたい。」

“You may not know this, but I love you…I want to be with you all the time.”

「うっかりするとどうしてお前と付き合ってるのかわからなくなってしまうけれど…理由なんか必要無いくらいお前が好きだ。」

“Sometimes I don’t know why I’m dating you. But I love you so much, I don’t need a reason.”

The first line may have a bit too much cheese for the average person, but the second one—the one about not needing a reason—really just straight up owns. The girl’s (Senjogahara’s) reaction is therefore appropriate: 「ヤバすぎ。超絶かっこいい」”Oh no…so incredibly cool.”

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode 8

But perhaps you’re too cool to spin off a line like that. Maybe you need a more Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann-type response. If so, Kamina has you covered. After going in for a kiss, his response to Yoko is:

「おまえ・・・. 10倍返しだ。 戻ったら、10倍返しだ。 」

You… I’ll repay that… I’ll repay that ten times over

Yoko laughs at Kamina after he answers, but come on, you’re at least as cool as Kamina, right? You should be able to handle the delivery no problem.

Moteki episode 4

Or maybe you’re just looking for some good confession Japanese to help you settle the deal? Girl been giving you a hard time, but you want to show just how romantic you can be once and for all? Then perhaps a typical line from Moteki might be what you’re looking for:

「好きだよ。俺の人生の中で一番好きだったよ。今でも・・今でも好きだよ。」
I love you. You’re the one I loved the most in my life. Even now… even now I still love you.

I have to admit that all of the lines here aren’t delivered without a nice helping of romantic cheese. Perhaps J-Girls are into that—the straightforward confession of love, or perhaps the simple raw emotional power of saying “I love you” itself (cue a slow procession of ha ha ha’s here). At the same time, though, I can’t say I’m unhappy during these scenes either—after all, watching awkward characters have awkward encounters with one another without either one being able to actually say what they’re feeling (I’m looking at you, Freeter, Ie o Kau) is just painful after the first time. I get it, you’re awkward but you like each other—get to the good stuff already!

That’s all for now—but any love-related Japanese media should have plenty of lines for the grabbing. Not to mention I do have a copy of Love Plus sitting around my house somewhere

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A concerned 63-year-old housewife writes in:

I came across a funny article while browsing through the archives of the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers. My translation follows after each paragraph of text.

January 16, 2008

流行のKYより、美しい日本語を

Rather than trendy words like KY; how about proper Japanese?

主婦 63歳(大阪府東大阪市)

By a housewife, age 63 (From East Osaka)

最近、KY「空気読めない」という言葉をラジオやテレビでよく耳にするようになったが、若者から流行したということを本紙(5日)で初めて知った。

Although I’ve been hearing terms like “KY” (kuuki yomenai) on the radio and television more often, I recently discovered some new words made popular by young people from reading this newspaper.

ATMが「アホな父ちゃんもういらへん」とは驚きだ。父親を大切にしない風潮だと思うと情けなくなる。ATMとは現金自動預け払い機だと、我々中高年は誰でも思うだろう。

For example when I learned the meaning of “ATM,” which stands for “I’m fed up with my stupid dad,” I was very shocked. I’m deplored at this growing tendency not to honor one’s father! After all, anyone else reading “ATM” would simply think it means “Automated Teller Machine.”

MK5が「マジキレる5秒前」、MMが「マジムカつく」とか、今の若者の辛抱のなさを表している略語だ。ローマ字式略語約400語を収集したミニ辞典「KY式日本語」が出版されたというが、これ以上、日本語を乱してほしくない。

Not to mention other abbreviations that have appeared like “MK5” (I’ve five seconds away from blowing my top), MM (seriously pissed off), etc, which reveal just how little patience today’s youth seems to have. With over 400 abbreviations that use English characters, we now have published mini-dictionary’s like “KY Japanese” that compile these phrases. I hope nothing happens to destroy the Japanese language.

今の日本は美しい日本語をあまりにも大事にしていないのではないだろうか。若者に迎合するのではなく、まず大人がきれいな日本語で話してみてはどうだろう。

It seems as if proper, well-written Japanese is no longer important in Japan today. Instead of pandering to what the youth are doing, how about adults lead by trying to speak with correct Japanese?

Honestly, reading this kind of article is kind of cute—especially since you’ve got the same kind of old biddies here in America trying to crack down on the decay of the English language too. While I don’t think I’d be too happy to see “lol” and “omg” used in actual essays in English, it seems as if the old fart that wrote the article above is against the use of abbreviations in all forms of communication, with a desire to bring back “correct” (literally: beautiful) Japanese.

Good luck with that.

The only people who use “correct” Japanese anymore are old housewives in Japanese dramas and the entire cast of Winter Sonata (which, not so surprisingly, drew its massive fan base in Japan from women ages 50-70. Go figure). And they sound weird too. Seriously, don’t try to emulate them, unless you’re trying to impress 63 year old women from Osaka. And something tells me that’s the last group on your mind.

The book she mentions in the article “KY Japanese” appears to be this one (KY式日本語―ローマ字略語がなぜ流行るのか 0r “KY Japanese: Why have English Character Abbreviations become popular?). I haven’t read it, but it looks fairly interesting—I may try to pick it up in the future at some point.After all, searching for a good, serious treatment of Japanese abbreviations (especially in English) brought up only this article (Linguistic Innovations and Interactional Features of Casual Online Communication in Japanese), which has a nice, long academic title, but honestly doesn’t dive too deeply into anything one couldn’t gleam from simply reading 2ch for a few minutes. Big deal.

Also, KY Japanese has a funny 1-star review posted for it on Amazon:

雑学として気楽に読むなら問題ない。でも、間違った日本語を使っている人が読むと、もっと馬鹿になるよ。時間があったら、国語辞典を開いてほしい。

This is fine for miscellaneous information. But, if someone who already uses incorrect Japanese reads this, he’s just going to become stupider. If you have the time to read this, try opening up a real dictionary instead.

Gotta love it. Seriously, I can’t be the only one who goes through 1-star reviews of products (often of products I’ve already purchased and enjoyed) just to see what people can come up with to slam it. Must be some kind of sick masochism, perhaps.

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The Real Reason Why I Came to Japan

For this, obviously. Available at an Akihabara gift shop near you!

The bottom reads: "USB meets LOVE"

However, it’s the “how-to-use” description on the back that’s my favorite part:

"It will start humping right away."

Excellent.

Shame it’s not a USB drive, but perhaps the fact it’s a humping dog and only a humping dog adds to its charm.

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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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