Daily Japanese Study: JLPT N2, third month recap

October is almost over, and I have hoped that I would be left with only revisions to do (no new words or grammar) for the last month of preparation for JLPT N2. Well, I am more or less where I wanted to be. Let’s turn back on what happened in October.

Note: I started working in August to try myself at JLPT N2 in December. I have already written a post about how I have been doing in August and September.


I am working with the Shin Kanzen Master series. The vocabulary book is very smartly designed. The first lessons that I have completed at the end of September introduced a lot of vocabulary. The following part that I am still studying right now comes back on known words to deepen our understanding of their usage. Some of these lessons have been a lightning of comprehension in the midst of confusion. Especially concerning synonyms. I struggled a lot to differentiate similar words and adverbs. The Shin Kanzen book offers exactly what I needed.

Moreover, I realised how helpful it can be to work with a Japanese-Japanese dictionary. The Shin Kanzen books offer nothing more than Japanese (no English translations), and this has been very powerful to help me understand synonyms.


I totally gave up learning the list of kanji needed for N2. The reason is that I already know all of these kanji from Chinese (that I studied years ago) and even though I sincerely wanted to explore them again, I felt no sense of progression at all.

I finally gave up the list and focused entirely on the exercises of the book (here again, Shin Kanzen series). I already said it in a previous post, but I love these exercises. They force me to actually write kanji and check how well I remember them.


Same as vocabulary, I reached the second half of the book, where already learned grammar points are being reviewed again. The last part of the book, which I am studying now, focuses on how to better analyse a sentence or a text (for example: has the action already happened or is about to happen? Should the verb be transitive or intransitive? etc.)

Even though I felt totally overwhelmed by all the grammar points to learn, reaching the last chapters of the book allows me to revise, and put some order in all this.

One other thing that helps me with the grammar lately is the novel The Temple of the Golden Pavillon by Yukio Mishima. I started reading this book in Japanese some days ago, and I have reached a third of the novel now. I find a lot of N2 grammar in the novel, which helps me memorise it.

Stay organised

As I said in a previous post, I recently started a bullet journal. One of the “collections” of my journal is a “JLPT log” where I simply note the remaining lessons for each book vs the remaining day. I use a double page to do it. On the left, a column with the remaining days. On the top, a line with each of the five books from the series. Every time I study a lesson on a given day, I write the number of remaining lessons for this book. For example, let’s say I still have 6 lessons of vocabulary to study before finishing the book. If I study one lesson today, I will write “5” in front of today’s date, in the “vocabulary” column.

I find it very useful because I more or less lost track of my initial study plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I am behind schedule, though. The most important thing to me is to finish the books before December 3rd (date of the JLPT), and keeping this kind of table is a simple way to make sure that I will be able to complete the books in time.

Practice test

And of course, November will be the month to exercise. I have several practice tests to do in exams conditions, I will have to plan real sessions when I know I won’t be interrupted. Maybe going to a coffee shop where I know I can stay long is the best option.

Of course, I will upload more information about the practice test I use.


I feel that studying for the JLPT with the Shin Kanzen series was a little like this:

JlPT scheme

First, you have to remember a lot of new things, and this is the most difficult and discouraging part. However, as you just started at the time, you are less likely to give up, being full of energy and motivation. When the motivation begins to fade away, the lessons become more gentle, I felt like the book is taking me by the hand and telling me that it’s okay, we will go through the whole thing again because it was difficult. After a moment of calm to recover both motivation and self-confidence, you are ready to the last part, exercising with mock tests, where you have to be at the top again and give the best of yourself.

Japanese News: Animal Crossing coming to mobile phone

This Friday, I will study a different kind of “Japanese news”. When I watched Nintendo’s announcement for the future launch of the game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for smartphones, I found the video to be a very good opportunity to listen to some clear and easy Japanese.

Animal Crossing is a Nintendo’s game series. The last main title of the series is Animal Crossing New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS. In the game, you impersonate the mayor of a village populated by anthropomorphic animals. You can decorate the village and your house, speak to animal villagers and befriend them, fish and catch bugs to make some money called “bells”, buy new clothes, new furniture, give presents to the villagers, and a lot more other things.

Recently, Nintendo has started launching some of its game on smartphones. Animal Crossing for mobile is announced for the end of November, here is the presentation Nintendo gave of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp:

The woman speaks so clearly with such a calm voice… it looks like a recording for Japanese learners, haha. Let’s take on a challenge: I will try to understand absolutely everything the woman says.

From start to 1:00

気ままな means “carefree”, it conveys a similar meaning than the word のんびり used just before. I see that 気ままな can also have a negative meaning of “selfishness”.

管理人・かんりにん means “administrator”, “manager”, “supervisor”. I would not have had trouble recognizing the word if it had been written, but I had to take some time to recognize the spoken word.

From 1:00

がらん This is a new word to me. It is used in the expression “がらんとした” which means “empty”, “vacant”.

四季折々・しきおりおり each season. Used with の “四季折々のNOUN”, it means “seasonal”, “of each season”, like in the video: 四季折々のフルーツ

The verb used just after is 茂る・しげる, which means “be luxuriant”. It can designate a tree which “grew thick” or “leafy” or an area that is “thickly covered” with trees and grass.

わさわさ means “be restless”, “be busy”.

When she says that Caramel (the yellow dog) asks her for an apple, she doesn’t say “he asked for an apple” but “I was asked for an apple”. I know that when “I” is involved, Japanese prefer to use the passive voice where “I” is the subject. It’s hard, though, to remember using the passive when speaking. I would naturally say “He told me” rather than “I was told by him” when the latter would, on the contrary, be more natural in Japanese.

熟れる・なれる means “to mature, ripen”.


おれいの品・おれいのしな is also the kind of expression I understand when I see it written, especially if it is written as お礼の品, but don’t understand immediately when heard.

もと has a lot of meanings and different kanji. I think that in the expression ふわふわのもと, もと means “material”, “raw material” and comes from the kanji 素.

Soon after, the word 素材・そざい appears. This word means “material”, “resource”, and contains the same kanji 素!


すっかり… This word belongs to the “leeches” (words I can’t remember that keep coming back) of my Anki deck. I can’t remember its meaning because there are so many similar words! Well, すっかり means “completely”, “entirely”,”fully”… It means here that we have “completely” befriended Caramel: すっかり仲良し. Associating difficult words with a context always helps to remember them! すっかりis now associated with a yellow puppy waving his head.


I don’t understand why き in “キーのもと” is a long vowel. Maybe writing “きのもと” would be strange or refer to something else, such as 木の本, which has a different meaning…? 🤔

ぶたい… I think it is 舞台, a “stage” (theatre). The stage is the “area map”, composed by different locations.

The name of one of the location is ポッカリ島. ぽっかり means “lightly floating”… the lightly floating island?

生息する・せいそくする is a new word to me. It means “inhabit”, “live”.

蝶々・ちょうちょう, butterfly, is a word I learnt with Animal Crossing New Leaf.

寄り道・よりみち “got out of one’s way”, “make a detour”, “stopping here and there along the way”.

アゲハチョウ is a “swallowtail butterfly”. One peculiar thing with Animal Crossing in Japanese is that you will find yourself knowing more name of fishes and bugs in Japanese than in your mother tongue.


目当て・めあて means “aim”, “object”, “end”, “view”. Here, it is used with the polite form お: お目当て. Together with の, we can form the expression お目当てのNOUN which means “the NOUN I was looking for, I wanted to see/have…”.

The second location mentioned is しおかぜビーチ. 潮風・しおかぜ means “a salt sea breeze”.

珊瑚・さんご is “coral”.

ゆくゆく means “in the future”, “someday”.

ひらめ is a “flatfish”, アジ is a “horse mackerel”. When fishing an アジ in New Leaf, your character will wonder how is the 味 of the アジ.


投網・とあみ is a casting net. Typically the kind of word which meaning can be guessed thanks to the kanji!

When she throws the net in the water, she says something like “本格的な業容”. I am not sure for the second word 業容・ぎょうよう, but I can’t see what she could say else. 業容 means “the scale of a business” and together with 本格的, which means “full-scale”, it could mean that, with the net, she can do some big-scale fishing.

Then comes the word たいりょう, which I think is “大漁” which means “a large catch”, “a good catch”. When our character says “アジの大漁とかじゃありませんように”, she wishes that she didn’t catch just horse mackerel.

乗り心地・のりごこち. I knew the expressions 寝心地 and 座り心地 and even 履き心地 for shoes, but I never saw 心地 with 乗る before.

The name of the third location is こもれび広場. 木漏れ日・こもれび is a word I often see in novels but that I haven’t put in my Anki deck yet. It means “a ray of sunshine filtering through the branches of trees”. (I have checked the English version of the same presentation, and our plaza gently stroked by the filtering sunlight is just the “marketplace”…)

お馴染み・おなじみ means “something or a person you know well”, “familiar”. The character appearing in the “marketplace” are well-known characters to Animal Crossing players, as they appear in the other titles of the series.


まめに means “diligently”, “assiduously”, “with assiduity”.

I had to listen several times to understand: 異動で大活躍, I could not figure out what the たい was because I didn’t think of associating it with 活躍・かつやく. We are talking here about the camping car that does a remarkable service 大活躍・たいかつやく when it comes to moving 異動で・いどうで.

~好み・ごのみ is something that someone likes. This expression is used with a noun: NOUN + 好み, the noun representing a person. For example “a street that young people like” would be “若者好みの街”. Here we have “自分好みに・じぶんごのみに” which can be translated as “as you like”, “following your taste”.


I am not certain about アウトドアの達人感, especially for the 感・かん. I think she says that the camping car with the second floor gives a feeling, impression that this person is an expert in outdoors activities.

ぐっと is to me the same kind of words as すっかり that we met earlier. How many little words are there to say “very much”, “considerably”… 😫

どうぶつの森好き, we have here the suffix “~好き・ずき”. People who love Animal Crossing are used to 慣れっこ paying back loans to the tanuki you see appearing on the screen.

貝殻・かいがら a seashell

採掘する・さいくつする mine, work a mine.

バザー is a bazaar. I didn’t recognize this word!


構成・こうせい making, composition, configuration.


The Japanese word used to say “amenity” is オブジェ which comes from the French word “objet”.


最優先・さいゆうせん means “top priority”

When talking about fishing a lot of fishes with the net, she uses the word 一気に which means “in one breath”, “in on gulp”.

蜜・みつ means honey! I didn’t even know this word! 😳

鉱山・こうざん a mine… To me, she is saying something like “鉱山を採掘する” (digging a mine) but what I see on the screen looks more like “岩をスコップで叩く”


Building the pool was not made in vain, it was “worth it”, it has “brought its reward”. The expression here is Verbかいがある: つくったかいがありましたね.


I think I did it! With some words looked up here and there, I can say that I understand everything the announcer says. To me, it was really entertaining to work on this video. As I love Animal Crossing’s universe, it didn’t feel boredom at all to look up unknown words. Associating study with something one’s like really has remarkable benefits.

The game looks fantastic, too!


Currently reading: 金閣寺 by 三島由紀夫

Autumn reading challenge!

This Winter, I will travel for the first time to Kyoto. It is my second trip to Japan, and it means a lot to me! To prepare this trip, I have decided to challenge myself with two masterpieces of Japanese literature. The first is The Temple of the Golden Pavillon by Yukio Mishima and the second is The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata.

I don’t know if I can read both novels before the end of December (we will make our trip the week preceding Christmas), nor if I can read them at all…, but I will try!

I will maybe set myself seasonal reading challenges, I like the idea to link a theme or a mood to a season. This Autumn will be associated with the traditional Kyoto of modern authors.


As expected, the novel 「金閣寺」(translated as The Temple of the Golden Pavillon), is a very challenging one. I read it in French years ago when I was entering university, but I can’t remember it well.

Anyway, I am very excited to read this book in Japanese, even if I struggle a lot. The difficulty of the novel lays mainly in the profusion of literary or specialised words which, if I judge by the number of kanji provided with furigana, may be confusing to Japanese too. Some words are written in different kanji than the ones used today, some words are written in kanji when the hiragana is mostly used nowadays. There are also some terms related to Buddhism. I am not sure whether online dictionaries are good enough to navigate through such deep waters. A solid dictionary and I would even say, a Japanese-Japanese dictionary is more than welcome to read Mishima’s novel.

I read the first chapter with difficulty, I had to look up a lot of words and get used to Mishima’s writing. Things got easier with the second chapter. Maybe I simply got used to the writing style, the long introspections of the narrator, the recurring words…

Still, the descriptive parts remain hard to understand without a laborious immersion in the dictionary. I find the long descriptive parts of natural landscapes to be particularly difficult. When the protagonists are climbing a mountain, surrounded by trees, and I can get an approximative image of the scene, I sometimes let the words flow away without having the courage to try and grab their meaning.

I put more conscious efforts to understand the numerous introspective parts of the protagonist and narrator Mizoguchi. I can hardly believe that I am reading Mishima’s novel in Japanese, that I am discovering the original version of famous passages, like the dark aspiration of Mizoguchi on the hill that overlooks Kyoto (p.90). It motivates me a lot to continue!


This is my first attempt at reading a novel that belongs to the best works of Japanese literature. I take what I can take from the novel today, and I am content with it, but there is still so much that I can’t reach yet, that I will return to it one day, with a higher Japanese level. I will end this post on a beautiful and terrible citation from Mizoguchi, p.17:


Variations in level of difficulty

It is not uncommon to hear that something is too hard or, on the contrary, too easy for a student who has reached a particular level. We often want to find materials that fit our level perfectly, which means, difficult enough to learn new things but not to the point where we would feel overwhelmed.

I have the impression that every language course that I have taken at school has followed this progression requisite, where every new material was a little more challenging than the previous one. I rarely saw my teacher coming out with a far too easy material to cheer us up, or with a far too difficult one to give us a shock.

Of course, following a progression line is very sensible, but I wonder if it suits me. When I learnt languages at school (or any other institution), I was left with a loose motivation and a feeling that I was making no progress when there were still so much to be done.

One of the reasons why I prefer learning languages on my own is that I can fully play with the difficulty level of the materials I choose.

Varying the difficulty level of the novels I read

To give an example with novels, I often choose to read books that are either too difficult or too easy to me, because:

  • Reading easier novels allows me to:
    • Feel that I made progress
    • Regain self-confidence by seeing that I can read something in Japanese
    • Feel empowered to take the next step and read more difficult novels
    • Have a break in my studies while still doing Japanese
  • Reading difficult novels allows me to:
    • Get out of my comfort zone and force me to truly pay attention to what I read
    • Find that the difficult words or grammar I struggled to memorize are useful after all, as they probably turn up in a difficult novel
    • Improve my capacity to understand something even with a vocabulary deficiency and make the missing connections by myself
    • Set concrete goals where I would not learn new words just to increase my vocabulary, but to be able to read such difficult novels

Of course, picking a far too difficult novel can result in giving up reading it. But I never felt discouraged because I gave up a challenging book. From the beginning, I knew that this novel was too difficult to me, there is no shame in acknowledging that I still can’t read it. What would demoralize me would be to read a book that suits my level and not be able to read it comfortably. If someone tells me “this novel is perfect for learners of your level” and if I can’t read it or give it up, I would really feel downcast.

Other benefits

Getting better at reading challenging novels

One of the other benefits of a difficult novel is that it allows me to improve my reading competence. To read a novel in a foreign language, we need two things:

  • What the JLPT would call “Language knowledge”, vocabulary and grammar.
  • The ability to fill the gaps when our “language knowledge” falls short, the ability to understand a text despite a vocabulary shortage.

To acquire a decent language knowledge, all you have to do is to learn new words and new grammar points. However, our reading ability can only be acquired by reading a lot. This is a distinct skill that won’t improve just because our vocabulary increased. It has to be trained independently. People who read a lot, first in their language, then in any other foreign language, won’t be much distracted by unknown words because they make connections more easily. To train this ability, I see no other way than to read a lot, especially texts that contains words we don’t know. What you have to do is:

  • The dictionary should only be used as a last resort, so don’t use it immediately
  • Determine whether an unknown word is crucial or not to understand the general meaning of the sentence.
  • Try to guess the meaning of unknown words. There are three ways of doing so:
    • Look at the kanji. For example, I come across a word that I never learned and think: “I don’t know this word”… but more than once, I know at least one kanji, when not the two, and I can guess the meaning of the new word from the kanji.
    • Look at the context. If the author is describing a house, the difficult nouns that keep appearing may well be different parts of the house, the adjectives might describe the texture, the colour…
    • Try to imagine the scene and think of what is happening or what will happen. What would you have written if you were the author? We have to keep in mind that a novel has a story that makes sense, the reader can generally guess what is going to happen, we are not supposed to be confused by what the characters do or say.

Easy materials and the two sorts of demotivation

For me, there are two sorts of demotivation, one that is purely “intellectual” and one that is more emotional. What I call an “intellectual” loss of motivation is when you are facing difficult words, challenging grammar that you don’t immediately understand. Your brain is put to trial and feels overwhelmed. At this point, I feel that Japanese (or any other language) is too difficult.

The other form of demotivation, that I find to be more emotional, is when you lose your confidence. To me, it happens when I experience an embarrassing moment, that I feel ashamed of myself, that I make mistakes in front of others… These bad experiences may have no relation whatsoever with learning Japanese, but it will affect my general mood and eventually, draw down my motivation to learn Japanese as well. At this point, I feel that I am too stupid to learn Japanese.

Dealing with the first form of demotivation should not be a big deal. Just slow down a bit, ask for explanations if you can, reduce the number of new words you learn per week, revise instead of learning new things.

The second form of demotivation, however, is much more vicious. It is hard to get over it because we cannot control our feelings. We never know when it will happen, it can be something someone said or even something you imagine the others think of you. Particularly for people who lack self-confidence or let themselves be affected by what others say, this sort of demotivation can strike at any moment.

Reading easy novels is, for me, a way of overcoming these moments. Feeling that I can read something, even a children book, in the language that I decided to learn, rebuilds my faith in myself and my positiveness. Those easy materials comfort me and give me the strength to go back to the battlefield.


These reflections are all based on my own experience and my relation with learning. It certainly does not apply to everybody but I thought it worth to share my thoughts. If you feel like you are studying every day like crazy but still have this feeling that you are not getting anywhere and are not making any progress, maybe try to vary the difficulty level of what you study, read or listen to.

Japanese news: 岩合光昭の世界ネコ歩きin theatres

Today, like I do on most Fridays, I opened Asahi website in search of an interesting article to study. My attention was caught by the picture of two kittens accompanying the article: 岩合光昭さん「猫が興味を持ってくれるときがチャンス」. This article is about the film adaptation of the TV program 岩合光昭の世界ネコ歩き.

Link to the article

岩合光昭・いわごうみつあきIwago Mitsuaki is an animal photographer 動物の写真家. His popular program 人気番組 intitled “岩合光昭の世界ネコ歩き” (broadcasted on NHKBSプレミアム) has been adapted to the cinema, and the adaptation will be released 公開・こうかい in Japan tomorrow.

This movie version 劇場版・げきじょうばん will feature cutscenes 未公開シーン・みこうかい from the previous TV program as well as newly 新たに・あらたに filmed 撮影した・さつえいした scenes 映像・えいぞう.

The article says that, when filming the cats, Iwago Mitsuaki tries to get closer to them 距離を縮めていく while speaking to them と対話しながら.

  • 距離・きょり distance
  • 縮める・ちぢめる to shorten

In the movie, the family Kotora 「コトラ」一家 who lives in an apple farm リンゴ農家 will appear 登場・とうじょう. From what I gather, the Kotora family is a family of cats and kitten who appeared in the TV program and will be shown again in the movie. (see the clip below).

The Kotora cats seem to be one of the main attraction of the movie. The article goes on saying that the day M. Iwago and his team started filming on location, the cat Kotora, who frequently appeared on the TV program, gave birth to kittens. They continue shooting for a year and could see two of the kitten growing up.

One day, when Iwago Mitsuaki came to visit the cats, he found that one of Kotora’s kitten, who had grown up, was expecting babies. Iwago Mitsuaki says that he could feel the 命のつながり.

つながり means “connection”, “tie”, “relation”. I honestly don’t know how to translate 命のつながり… I guess it means that M. Iwago could directly feel the beauty of life, that he felt connected with it? Anyway, this feeling of 命のつながり will be the on of the highlights of the film 映画の見どころ (a good scene).

At first, M. Iwago had to hide 隠れる・かくれる the camera behind something 物陰・ものかげ, but the kittens soon became accustomed to his presence, and they would come close すり寄ってくれる・すりよってくれる whenever M. Iwago said おいでよ.

The first meaning of すり寄る・すりよる is “come close to” but it bears the nuance of “nestle”. When used to describe a cat’s movement, it can be translated by “nestle up”.

On the last day of the shooting, one of the cats even licked 舐める・なめる M. Iwago’s face. The article uses the onomatopeia ぺろぺろ, together with the verb 舐める.

M. Iwago said that it was the first time that he spent such a long time with the same cats. In spite of himself 思わず・おもわず, he was moved to tears. He is glad not to have been seen (caught) ばれる by his cameraman.

The expression “be moved to tears” is 目頭が熱くなる. Literally, the inner corner of the eyes becomes hot. 目頭・めがしら means the corner of the eye.

The article ends on M. Iwago’s words:


  • 重み・おもみ weight, importance, significance

They weigh themselves not more than 4 or 5 kilos, but they possess the importance of life and the fascinating capacity to move our hearts. 


舟を編む・ふねをあむ Part 2

My reading notes for the second part of the novel 舟を編む by 三浦しをん. From page 37 to 121.

I make this notes to help me understand the novel, but I think that it could also help any Japanese learner trying to read this novel in Japanese.


Part 1 was focused on Araki but part 2 follows Majime.


I will note only the characters appearing for the first time in part II. For the other characters, see part I.


Majime’s cat.


Majime’s landlady. She owns the lodge called 早雲荘・そううんそう and Majime is her only tenant at the time. Even if she used to live on the first floor, she eventually came to use the second floor, leaving the first floor to Majime’s book collection.


Kaguya is the grand-daughter of Mrs Take. She left Kyoto to come to Tokyo and move in 早雲荘 to stay with her grandmother. She works as a cook in the restaurant 梅の実.



This is the name of the lodge where Majime lives and where Kaguya moves. It belongs to Mrs Take.


This is the name of the restaurant where Kaguya works. It will become the new place where our compilers team go for dinner on the days where they hold the hebdomadary reunion.

Tips to understand the story

p. 37: 神田川・かんだがわ

Majime sings 「まどの~したには~」 while opening his window. These are the lyrics of the song 神田川 by かぐや姫. The song was released in 1973. The lyrics go: “窓の下には神田川”. Under my window, the Kanda river. That’s why the novel says that, under Majime’s window, instead of the Kanda river, there was only a thin irrigation channel.

I can’t get the refrain out of my head, 若かったあの頃…

p. 45-46: ツーカー

Mrs Take says to Majime that they have a “ツーカーの仲”. ツーカー, also written つうかあ means that two persons know each other’s mind well. Majime reflects upon this expression and wonders where it comes from. つうかあ is a contraction for “つうと言えばかあ”. Majime has read an etymology of this expression, but it was not an established one.

Instead of つう and かあ, Majime asks himself why it couldn’t be “おーいと言えばお茶” or “ねえと言えばムーミン”. These associations puzzled me because I find strange that Majime should think of it. This is how I understand them, and I hope that I am not mistaken:

“おーいと言えばお茶” refers to a famous green tea drink called おーいお茶. The drink was first sold in 1985 but only got its name おーいお茶 in 1989. This drink must have been very popular at the time since it changed the image Japanese had of “tea”. It was not only a warm beverage that was taken at home, but it was also a cold drink in a plastic bottle that one could drink anywhere (see Wikipedia).

“ねえと言えばムーミン” refers to the famous character of Tove Jansson, Moomin. There is a well-known anime adaptation of the book that came out in 1990, but before that, a first anime adaptation was released in Japan in 1969. The opening and ending song of the series was “ねえ!ムーミン”. It must have been popular enough if the author of our book decided that even Majime knew at least the title of the anime’s song…

p. 53: そういうひと

Majime is reading the definition of “love” 恋愛・れんあい and all dictionaries of the time describe it as a feeling between a man and a woman. Nishioka wonders if:


before adding:


Majime does not understand right away what Nishioka is hinting at. In fact, to understand Nishioka’s remark, we have to remember that Majime said, p.31, that he never thought of whether he would like to have a girlfriend or not. To be honest, I didn’t understand straight away that Nishioka thinks Majime may be homosexual. It’s hard to get allusions and suggested things in a foreign language…

p. 57: リアルに

Majime is struck by Nishioka’s use of リアルに to say 本当に or 実に. I have checked the dictionary myself, and リアルに is translated as “realistically”.

Majime says that he is not familiar with the adverb リアルに and plan to see whether it should be added to the dictionary. I guess the meaning of this word evolved with time?

p. 62: 女性の板前

To understand this passage, I had to search for Japanese explanations… Well, I feel reassured to see that even Japanese didn’t understand this passage! 😄

Talking about Kaguya, the young woman he fell in love with, Majime says that she is a cook and uses the word 板前・いたまえ. I knew the word まな板・まないた which means “chopping board”, and I knew from the film that Kaguya works in a restaurant, so I didn’t check the word 板前 because I guessed it meant “cook”.

What puzzled me is Nishioka’s remark: “まじめ、おまえやっぱり…!”. The book then says that this time, Majime knew what Nishioka was hinting at and added: “香具矢さんは、女性の板前さんです”.

To understand Nishioka’s やっぱり!, we have to remember that page 53, Nishioka thought that Majime was gay. We also have to know that 板前・いたまえ is more frequently used for men, which I didn’t know. When he hears that Kaguya is a “cook”, Nishioka assumes that she is a man, which confirms the image he has of Majime, hence the やっぱり!.

p. 68~70: こころ by 夏目漱石

Again, a difficult part…

Having seen that Nishioka thinks that Kaguya is interested in him, professor Matsumoto suggest that Nishioka should settle himself in 早雲荘, the lodge where both Majime and Kaguya live.

Of course, Nishioka asks why professor Matsumoto comes to such a strange idea. His reply is:


  • 漱石の「こころ」 is the novel Kokoro by Soseki (漱石・そうせき).
  • よみがえる means “be brought back to life”, “rise from the dead”, “be restored to life”, “revive”. We have here the causative form: よみがえらせる.

I thought that it would be an opportunity to revive Soseki’s novel Kokoro in the modern times.

I haven’t read Kokoro, so it was harder to understand the dialogue that follows. Nishioka says that he remembers this book from his school manual “ああ、国語の教科書に載ってましたね” and can only remember that the testament contained in the novel was terribly long, which was funny “遺書が異様に長くて、まじウケた”. Of course, Araki is shocked by Nishioka’s remark: “「こころ」に対する感想が、それなのか!(…) おまえ本当に、なぜ出版社にいるんだ.”

A little further, professor Matsumoto explains that if Nishioka were to move to 早雲荘, a three-way relationship would be bound to start between Majime, Nishioka and Kaguya. Professor Matsumoto refers to Sensei and K both loving the same woman in Kokoro. Professor Matsumoto thinks that one has to experience things to truly grasp their meaning and being able to define them.

(After having done some research and re-read this part carefully, it does not seem difficult after all…)

p. 79~83 のぼる and あがる

Majime reflects upon the difference between あがる and のぼる. When Kaguya proposes to go to the park together, Majime thinks that what he feels is exactly what you would call “天にものぼる気持ち”.

天にものぼる気持ち is an expression which means “feel as if one is going up to Heaven”, “be in seventh heaven”.

This expression allows him to grasp the difference between あがる and のぼる. Whereas あがる focuses on the destination following the rise, のぼる focuses on the rise itself, the process of ascending. For example, climbing a mountain 山に登る is more about the ascension itself than reaching the peak.

In the same way, the expression 天にものぼる気持ち describes how a great emotion or a strong joy makes your soul become lighter and raise to the sky. With のぼる, the ascension is more important than the state of “having ascended”.

p.113 料理人

Majime looks up the word 料理人 in the 言海, a dictionary compiled at the end of the 19th century and considered to be the first Japanese dictionary of the modern times. The 言海 gives the definition of 料理人 as such: 料理ヲ業トスル者、厨人.

  • ヲ is another graphic for を, which I didn’t know.
  • 業・ごう
  • 厨人・ちゅうじん is an outdated word which isn’t used anymore. As Majime sadly remarks, it shows that a dictionary, even a remarkable one, cannot escape its fate to fall behind times (my English is not good enough to translate the beautiful Japanese sentence: “どんなにすぐれた辞書でも、時代遅れになる宿命は避けられない” p.113).

p.94, p.108, p.118-119 馬締の恋文

The love letter Majime writes to Kaguya is sometimes referred to as 恋文・こいぶん, especially when Majime himself talks or thinks about it, sometimes as ラブレター, a word used by Kaguya and Nishioka.

lettre de majimeI was surprised to find the complete letter at the end of the novel. It’s called 「馬締の恋文、全文公開」. The letter of Majime contains 漢文・かんぶん, Classical Chinese. To be more precise, Majime inserted Classical Chinese poems (by Chinese and Japanese authors like Soseki) in his letter. Understanding the meaning of the poems is important to understand the meaning of the letter.

Among the poems, there were several verses from the Chinese poet Li Shangyin of the Tang dynasty. I remember having loved his poems when I studied them years ago. I understand why Majime’s letter is so puzzling. Being able to read and understand Chinese classical poetry is in itself challenging. But to truly understand the implicit meaning of some verse, one has to have a really good literary knowledge.

The 「馬締の恋文、全文公開」at the end of our book reproduces Majime’s letter with explanations from Nishioka (and another character). Nishioka translates the poems in modern Japanese, which is strange because I thought Nishioka was not that keen on literary things…

I have read the letter. It is written in a literary but contemporary Japanese. I can’t understand the poems without Nishioka’s translation. But still… even if I hadn’t Nishioka’s translation of the poems, and even though I also have difficulties understanding the rest of the letter because Japanese is not my mother tongue… still I think that I would have understood that this is a love letter.

Why does Kaguya say that she didn’t know whether the letter was a love letter or not?

In the film, we can see that the letter was written in calligraphy. In this case, it is easy to understand why Kaguya couldn’t read it. But in the novel, unless I missed the information, it is not said that the letter was written in calligraphy. They only refer to the Classical Chinese insertions….

Have I missed something in the novel? Or did the film add the calligraphy part to explain why Kaguya could not read the letter? I made some research on the internet, and I found this blog where the author asks the same questions that I am asking myself: 1- how come that Nishioka and the other character can translate Classical Chinese poems? Is it something anyone working in a publishing house can do? 2- why Kaguya doesn’t know that this is a love letter? Even if the letter is hard to read and the meaning not always clear, the message of love contained in it appeared plainly to the author of the blog.

… 🤔


It took me a lot of time to finish this long second part, mainly because I stopped reading the novel for a long time. In the meanwhile, I focused on my JLPT program and even read another novel. But eventually, I came back to 舟を編む. I can’t say that I am reading it comfortably, I have to be extremely concentrated, I always have my dictionary nearby and I sometimes have to look for explanations on the internet. In other words, I would have abandoned this novel if it were not a really good one, with both funny and melancholic tones and interesting contents about Japanese language, literature and the publishing world. This confirms that motivation has to be found in the contents. I am not struggling with this novel to improve my Japanese, but because I want to understand a  novel that interests me.

Making reading notes takes a lot of time, but it helps considerably. Without them, I would certainly just skip the difficult parts and continue reading. In the end, I would have missed a lot of the novel’s depth.

Motivation: starting a bullet journal

Last week, I experienced several days of complete discouragement, and I ended up doing almost nothing concerning Japanese, I even skipped studying Anki for several consecutive days (which I rarely allow myself to do).

To get back in the saddle, I decided to start a bullet journal for Japanese. When I first heard of bullet journaling some time ago, I was very interested in it but soon became very doubtful concerning whether it was for me or not. At the time, I just watched the introductory video without really reflect on the pros of the bullet journal.

To me, it looked like another way of creating a to-do list. I have tried numerous systems to organise my study and be more productive, but I never stick to any to-do list, task manager, time tracker, or other productivity tools that exist out there. The to-do lists that I created myself invariably turned into an unpleasant reflection of my procrastination, and I ended up feeling guilty and even more disheartened than before.

On the other hand, having no system made me feel like I have great ideas but never put them into practice. For example, I would like to make intonation exercises and even promised myself that I would transcript dialogues to see how many kanji I can write and so on. But these things are not a priority right now and weeks go by without seeing any of these resolutions fulfilled.

The bullet journal

After days of complete apathy, I needed a way to organise myself and looked more deeply into bullet journaling. After reading most of the site and blog of the bullet journal, I thought that starting a bullet journal devoted to anything related to Japanese (included this blog) might be a solution.

As it is my first bullet journal, I followed step by step Ryder Carroll’s instructions on bulletjournal.com. I soon realised that I would have to add a “weekly log” to my journal, as suggested. I am only a beginner in bullet journaling, and I still don’t know if it will work for me. However, I can already say that I like some features, which I think, combine well with  studying Japanese and writing a blog:

Actionable item

Of course, the bullet journal is here to help you compile all your monthly and daily tasks, but Ryder Carroll also speaks of “actionable item”. Tasks marked with a dot are just items that require an action from you, contrary to notes or events. I like the term “actionable item” because it does not bear the (to me) negative connotations of “things to do”, “deadline”, “assignment”, etc.

Migrate without guilt

In most systems that I have tried, tasks had to be done, and undone tasks were pointing at me disapprovingly. “Migration”, or transferring your task to another day, was not supposed to happen, it was an accident. In the bullet journal system, however, “migration” is a “cornerstone” of the whole system.

More than simply listing tasks, I see it as a way to write down any inspirations, ideas, resolutions to not forget them. You then see when would be the best time to do them (scheduled tasks) or if they are worth your time at all. You complete what you can achieve on a given day, week or month and migrate the tasks you could not complete to the next month.

This is a great way to reflect on procrastination. I often blame myself because I end up postponing, again and again, the same task. In fact, it may be that this task is not so meaningful to me, I am not procrastinating, I am just not interested in it. In this case, I should just get rid of this task to concentrate on the things that are really worth it.


The ability to incorporate “collections” inside the bullet journal is a fantastic feature. I like having all my ideas concerning Japanese in one place. For example, I already created a page devoted to this blog and post ideas. Every time I think of a new subject to my blog, I write it in the “blog ideas” collection of my bullet journal. I also plan to create a collection for “books to read”. Whenever I come across reading recommendations (mainly on WordPress’ blogs) or a book in a bookshop that interests me, I will write it there. Finally, I will also create a collection for my JLPT study plan (i.e. how many lessons I have to study in each of my books vs the remaining days).

Don’t lose track of the bigger picture

Having both a daily log and a monthly log allows me to keep track of time. When self-studying, it is easy to let the days fly away without even realising it. In the end, we get nowhere, not because Japanese is difficult, but because managing one’s time is difficult.

Bullet journal vs agenda

Why not just use an agenda? This is the question that I am asking myself, even after I started my bullet journal… Most agendas have what you would call a monthly and daily logs and some of them even incorporate blank pages to add “collections”.

I still don’t know if bullet journaling will prove more efficient than just keeping an agenda. I have a little personal agenda for the end of 2017 and next year, but as I am experimenting the bullet journal, I plan to use it for any personal data except Japanese study.


As suggested on bulletjournal.com, I will try the system for at least two months and see if it helps me in my studies. As I am sticking to the original and simple version of the bullet journal (no drawings, no design, no colours), it takes me only a couple of minutes each day, so I know that I am not spending more time organising my studies than actually study. I will certainly come with an update in two or three months on this subject!

Japanese news: on natto, vitamin K and femur fractures

I found an intriguing article today on the Asahi website. The title of the article is :

中高年の骨折は「西高東低」 原因は不明、納豆が関係か.

  • 骨折・こっせつ fracture of a bone

The title says that concerning bone fractures of middle-aged and elderly persons, it is “high in the West and low in the East”. Even if the reason for this difference is unclear 不明, it may be related to the consumption of natto 納豆.

Link to the article

What is defined as “high” or “low” is the proportion 割合・わりあい of persons who broke their femur 大腿骨骨折・だいたいこつこっせつ.

  • 大腿骨・だいたいこつ is the femur or thighbone. Together with 骨折・こっせつ, which means “fracture of a bone”, it means “fracture of the femur”.

Research groups 研究グループ・けんきゅう say that the differences between West and East Japan could be related to eating habits 食生活・しょくせいかつ.

The survey 調査・ちょうさ carried out is based on data coming from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 厚生労働省・こうせいろうどうしょう. The survey concerned people above 40 who had a femur fracture 大腿骨骨折をした40歳以上の男女.

The goal of the survey was to examine the differences by prefecture: 都道府県別・つどうふけんべつ

  • 都道府県・とどうふけん is a Japanese prefecture. Adding the word 別・べつ, which means “difference”, gives the idea of “differences by prefectures”.

The results of this examination prove that there is a disparity 偏り・かたより (bias, lack of balance) between men and women.  If we compare the prefectures, the proportion of femur fractures is higher in West Japan and lower in East Japan, and this is true for women as well as for men. The article says:


  • 傾向・けいこう tendency, trend, inclination
  • 浮かび上がる・うかびあがる rise to the surface, appear, emerge, come to light

The tendency “West high, East low” emerged (from the results).

The reason 原因・げんいん for such an important regional disparity 地域間の偏り is indistinct, unclear はっきりしていない.

In the past, the (amount of) consumption 消費量・しょうひりょう of natto 納豆・なっとう by Japanese had been given as a reason to explain why Japanese had a high concentration 濃度・のうど of vitamin K in the blood 血中・けっちゅう. Natto contains 含む・ふくむ a lot of vitamin K, which helps to bring the calcium to the bones:


  • 取り込む・とりこむ means “to bring in”. Here, I think we can translate by “to enhance the absorption of calcium into the bones”.

To explain the results of the survey, researchers turn to eating habits.

A professor of Osaka Medical College explains that people should undergo a medical examination 受診・じゅしん, absorb 摂取・せっしゅ calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, make a habit 習慣づける・しゅうかんづける of doing sport, and be careful of underweighting やせ過ぎ・やせすぎ.

Even if the article does not comment on the professor’s statement, it tends to show that the mere absorption of natto, or vitamin K, is not enough to prevent femur fractures. It should be supplemented by sport and good eating habits.


The title caught my attention because I like natto and eat it often. I am not particularly interested in nutritional facts, though.

At first, I thought that the article would be very difficult to read. It contained three obstacles:

  1. medical terms (such as 大腿骨骨折)
  2. numbers and words related to surveys, like 割合 or 偏り
  3. name of prefectures

But after looking up a few words and isolating what was important and what was not, it was not that difficult. For example, I didn’t try to translate the results obtained in this or that prefecture. More than the survey itself, I found that the conclusion drawn from the results was interesting, and focused on it.

Japan travel guides

For this Wednesday, I have decided to compare some travel guides. I have been to Japan only once, it was a five days trip to Tokyo in March of this year. In December, I will make my second trip to Japan, to Kyoto this time.

French guide vs Korean guide

To prepare the Tokyo trip, I used both the French travel guide Le Guide du Routard and one Korean guide called 프렌즈 도쿄, published by 중앙books.

It is obvious that French and Korean do not travel in the same way. When the French guide contains a lot of information concerning places to visit, with historical contents and anecdotes, the Korean one makes sure you will miss any of the trendy boutiques of Tokyo.

In the Routard, travellers will find places to stay, places to eat or drink and of course, places to visit. The authors always select places of cultural and historical interest, as well as traditional architecture or on the contrary, modern and impressive buildings. They all come with interesting explanations about the place’s history and so on. The guide is perfect for travellers who really want to discover Japan, from the most traditional and authentic spots to the modern ones.

The Korean guide is full of places to go shopping and eat or drink. They give the address and a full description of all the boutiques where you can buy clothes and accessories, trendy cafés and a lot of restaurants too. As for places to visit, the guide does mention them but it really isn’t the core of the book.

As I am used to travelling with the Routard, I was very shocked by the Korean guide. When travelling abroad, buying clothes and drink a fancy coffee is not my priority. I want to discover the country’s cultural heritage, and learn more about historical places. Korean travel guides are not for me I guess…

But, I must admit that the Korean guide gave us the best restaurants we went to on our trip. I like the Routard, but when it comes to restaurants, it can be somewhat disappointing, at least concerning the Tokyo guide. They give only a few addresses and among them, I found several French restaurants. Now, why should I want to eat French in my first five days trip to Tokyo?

Even if the Korean guide did sound superficial to me, I would have missed a lot of foodies if I had taken just the Routard. So having the two was not bad at all.

Japanese guide るるぶ

For this winter trip to Kyoto, however, I bought for the first time a Japanese guide. This was a new shock… At first, I hated it, the inside is just as the cover, full of information, colours, titles, all kind of fonts, photos and commercials. Just flipping through it gave me a headache and it took me a lot of determination to study it. I am glad that I made the effort because, under the overwhelming and colourful presentation, the guide is well structured and very useful.

guide japonais1

The るるぶ guide for Kyoto has very colourful and rich contents

How the book is structured

The first part contains general information about Kyoto, namely:

  1. Places to visit: 人気京スポット全部知り
  2. Kyoto’s cuisine: 絶品京グルメ全部食べ
  3. Souvenirs worth buying: お目立て京みやげ全部買い
  4. Cultural experiences you can make in Kyoto: 流行りの京体験全部見せ

The second part is a focus on the central parts of Kyoto with things to do, places to eat and souvenirs to buy.

The third part is the main guide. The guide focuses on 6 areas of Kyoto. At the beginning of the book, you will find a map with the 6 areas marked with different colours. As you can see on the picture above, each area is easily found in the book thanks to the bookmarks on the left page.

The last part gives indications concerning Kyoto’s neighbouring places.

Why I like this guide

Related to what I said concerning French and Korean guides, I find the Japanese one to be a good mix between the two. Temples and other places to visit are the main entry for each double page but the guide gives a lot of valuable information about what to eat, what typical dessert to taste and what to buy.

The pictures of food make me want to try absolutely everything, even what I don’t like or can’t eat.

What I particularly appreciate are the promenades proposed for each area. There is a clear little plan with things to do, see and eat on the way:

guide japonais 3

Example of a promenade proposed in the るるぶ guide

Talking of maps, the guide comes with a booklet entitled “京都まち歩きmap”. It contains a lot of detailed maps of all the areas of Kyoto. I like detailed maps and on this point, I must say that the Japanese guide wins over the Routard (though, some may prefer clear and simple maps):

comparaison cartes

The same area of Kyoto. On the left, Le Guide du Routard, on the right, るるぶ


If I were to take only one guide, it would still be the Routard. I like how they focus on cultural aspects of Japan. Even if I will make further researches concerning the places I plan to visit, the descriptions contained in the Routard are a good start. Furthermore, it focuses on places worth of interest for European, whilst the Japanese guide aims at Japanese…

This being said, the るるぶ guide is a great supplement and I am glad that I ignored my first distaste of the flashy cover and bought it. If you plan a trip to Japan and can read some Japanese, I really suggest that you take a look at one of these Japanese guides.

Learning strategies: working on intonation

When I hear non-Japanese talking in Japanese I sometimes think “wow, it sounds like Japanese!” and sometimes not. The difference is not the level of Japanese spoken, not the vocabulary, not the grammar employed, it is the intonation. Unfortunately, I feel that intonation is often neglected when learning Japanese. We have so much work to do to get familiar with a completely new sentence structure and way of expressing oneself…

Can it be that most of books and materials to self-study Japanese don’t encourage to work thoroughly on Japanese intonation? I don’t know every material of course, but I have the popular method “Genki”, and new words come without explanations about how to pronounce them, I mean by that, which syllabus should be higher.

I found indications on how to pronounce new words in several Korean resources to learn Japanese. Japanese grammar and Korean grammar are so similar that books aiming at Korean can go fast on basic grammar and focus on pronunciation instead. To give you one or two examples of how words are introduced:


일본어 무작정 따라하기 (The Cakewalk series: Japanese conversation)


This comes from a Korean series called “The cakewalk series”, which has great resources for beginners. This series is mainly focused on pronunciation, and the beginner’s books introduce very little vocabulary and grammar. Instead, it asks you to listen and repeat again and again to get the right Japanese pronunciation from the beginning.


초급 일본어, EBS FM and Donga publishers


This comes from a booklet accompanying a radio program in Korean to learn Japanese. Here again, they focus a lot on how words are supposed to be pronounced to sound Japanese. The Korean host actually insists a lot on which syllabus should be higher and which low.

But of course, even if being aware of these particularities is important, nobody actually learns a word like this. The best way to get the intonation right is to listen to a lot of Japanese. But here again, just listening is not enough. I know it because I hear English all the time and believe me, the results are not there… 😢

As I said in a previous post, immersion is not enough. Getting the right intonation requires a lot of conscious work. Just listening will improve your listening skills and your speaking skills too, but if your intonation is wrong, I don’t think that it can be fixed by just listening.

To me, the best way to work on intonation is as follows:

  • First, find a dialogue in Japanese slightly under your level, or something that is easy to you regarding vocabulary and grammar. You have to have both the audio and the script.
  • Listen to each phrase and repeat several times. Ideally, repeat without looking at the script.
  • Record both the dialogue and yourself repeating each sentence after the native speaker.
  • Listen to your recording and try to see the differences. I suggest that you mark on your script the parts that sound different when you pronounce them.
  • Work on these parts by repeating, recording and listening several times.
  • Save your recordings somewhere to listen to them again later and compare them with your future recordings. It is the best way to see if you have made progress and to become aware of where and why your intonation was not right.

It may sound laborious but recording oneself is vital. Sometimes we are simply not aware that our intonation is not right. Or we feel that it sounds strange but can’t say what exactly is wrong. Listening to one’s own voice is really the best way to correct oneself.


I think that intonation is too often neglected. We mainly focus on using the right word, using the grammar correctly and being able to finish our sentence. When it comes to pronunciation, the main focus is to get the sounds correctly. But we often stay unaware that some syllabus must be higher than others, and when we speak Japanese it does not quite sound Japanese, and we don’t know why.

I personally will try to make the above exercise from time to time, once a week would be a good start I think. When I speak English, I have such a sordid French accent that I want to dig a hole in the ground, hide in there and never go out again. Learning English has always been accompanied by a persistent feeling of shame. The reason was that I knew that my pronunciation was not even close to what it should be, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

As I learn Japanese for pleasure, I don’t want any bad feeling to be associated with it, and certainly not a feeling of shame because of my French accent. But one cannot control what one feels. The only way is to get to the source of the problem and work hard to reproduce the beautiful Japanese intonation that makes the language so sweet-sounding.