Currently reading: 「世界は終わらない」 by 益田ミリ

I am still reading the novel 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」but I allow myself some breaks with Miri MASUDA’s manga 「世界は終わらない」.

I already knew Miri MASUDA through her yonkoma manga series 「すーちゃん」, a total of 4 books that follow the daily life of a 30-year-old woman, working in a café and reflecting on her future while dealing with everyday’s ups and downs.

「世界は終わらない」is very similar to the 「すーちゃん」series but its protagonist is a man of 32, single, working in the bookshop just near すう’s café. He, too, goes through life with a mixture of positiveness and doubts, anxious about the future but willing to do things well no matter what. There are some hints at the 「すーちゃん」series, but nothing that one needs to know to understand the story.

I love this manga because it deals with life as it is, with the joys and disappointments it gives us. I always feel very close to Miri MASUDA’s characters, and I have no difficulty imagining myself in their situation.

Another thing that I enjoy is the setting in a bookshop. I love reading stories that take place in a book-related place. This is why I read, some time ago, the first book of the manga series 「図書館の主」(Master in Library) by 篠原ウミハル (Umiharu SHINOHARA). But even if I could appreciate many aspects of this manga, it was not for me.

I like the simple structure of Miri MASUDA’s yonkoma manga. The stories are all very short, which makes this book a perfect companion for short reading sessions, in the metro or while queuing up for instance. In my case, it allows me to take some breaks from the main (and difficult) novel I am reading, without letting myself be too engrossed in another story (as I would be if I started another novel now).

As for the Japanese level, I would say that it is very accessible. Some dialogues may be more difficult than others, but overall, it has the advantages of a manga (mainly dialogues, no description or long narrative passages, spoken language with vocabulary that is often used) without the disadvantages (all characters are very polite and have conversations that could actually take place, no slang). When I say advantages and disadvantages, I only talk from the Japanese-level point of view. I should also add that there is no furigana like you find in many mangas.

I already have been through half of the stories, and it makes me want to reread the whole 「すーちゃん」series.

I will end with a citation that reflects the author’s mind (if you read it, you will know why) and puts into words my own feelings concerning bookshops (and karaoke, too, as a matter of fact).



Motivation: clean your desk!

I have always had a romantic vision of the perfect workspace: piled up on a dick wooden table, dozens of books bought in used secondhand bookshops, a notebook lighted up by the dim and dusty glow of an old-fashioned lamp that isolates you from the rest of the world and let the rest of the room vanish into obscurity.

I studied in Paris, where some ancient libraries exactly give this sort of atmosphere that makes you feel unique, superior and inspired. If you have watched the film 「舟を編む」, I can say that Majime’s home is the perfect incarnation of what I try to describe. This is certainly one of the reasons why I loved this film (and the novel) so much.

But now, I just couldn’t work in a confined and dark space anymore… today it triggers anxiety more than the desire to study. I now like a clean desk with a simple, organised layout and a bright room. Space and light help me stay positive. But I may have cultivated a tendency to let the stationery occupy as much space as it pleases, and every time my desk gets messy, my motivation also tends to sink. This is why cleaning, not only my desk but the whole apartment too, though not an occupation that I enjoy, has proved to be necessary to help me stay motivated to self-study.

State of mind and environment

There are times when I don’t feel at all like learning Japanese or studying vocabulary. This loss of motivation has nothing to do with my target language: I still love Japanese, and I still want to read fluently in this language. It has to do with my own mental state, and I know that it is significantly influenced by my environment. For example, I always feel uneasy when the sun shines because I feel like I should go out instead of staying at home, but when the rain is pouring down, I feel serene because reading a book at home really is the best option for the day.

The weather is not the only element that influences my mental state: my desk, the whole room and even the whole apartment.

This is why I always clean my desk when I don’t feel the motivation to work. First, having a cleaned workspace makes me want to use it. Second, if I don’t feel like studying, it is best to do something useful like cleaning the house than just staring at my computer or lose time on the Internet. And finally, tidying up and cleaning bring a feeling of accomplishment that also helps feeling better.

To start the week with a fresh and positive state of mind, I try to clean my desk on Sunday evening. I put on the shelves the books and pens that I am not using at the moment, get rid of old memos and random notes that are not useful anymore, clean the numerous coffee stains and so on. The only things that are allowed to lie around are the ones I use on a daily basis. I have two small storage bags on my desk where I put the books and pens I use from time to time.

My Workspace

Things that lie on my desk vary depending on what or how I am studying. At the moment, there is:

  • My laptop. I use it, among other things, to study Anki, write this blog and draw things to illustrate my posts. I started drawing when I got my Surface Pro 4 two years ago. I know that my drawing abilities are limited, but I enjoy drawing very much, I find it relaxing, I can do it while listening to a Japanese or English audiobook and it is a new way of expressing oneself.
  • The book I am reading at the moment. I often read several books at the same time, but there is always one main novel. This is the one that lies on my desk, the others are neatly lined up in one storage bag. The main novel also has a book cover. Japanese book covers are an item that I like more than I can say, they are beautiful, protect your book from damage (and additionally, prevent other people to see what you read, in case), and usually comes with a ribbon bookmark.
  • My Lamy fountain pen. I only use my fountain pen to write, so having just it on my desk is enough. I occasionally need colours or markers, for example, when I study the Asahi keywords book. That’s why they are all together in one of my storage bags.
  • マイブック, an empty book published by 新潮文庫 where I write in Japanese. Sometimes, I am not motivated to write so I just head to some book reviews in Japanese and write down useful sentences or expressions that I could use myself one day, maybe.
  • A new notebook that I use to collect Japanese names. I don’t use it every day, but as it is new, I want to make sure I go on with it. If I put it on a shelf, I might forget that I made this good resolution and stop it all together. If I see my notebook every time I sit at my desk, I remember that I have to write down the Japanese names I come across.
  • My bullet journal. To be honest, I am slowly migrating to another system: using a simple agenda that shows the whole week on a double page, with enough space to write down my bullet list for each day. This agenda lies open on my desk the whole day. I still need to settle myself into one system.
  • If I am studying textbooks, they are generally on my desk. Right now, I am with the Cambridge series for English learners (Idioms, Collocations and Phrasal Verbs).
  • My Casio electronic dictionary, that I use to read novels in Japanese and write this blog in English. I bought it for the Japanese dictionaries, but I am using the whole Oxford series that is in it maybe even more than the Japanese ones. (I just want to mention it again, but if you are learning both Japanese and English, an electronic dictionary can become your best friend).
  • My cat.


I don’t like spending time cleaning the room because I could spend this time learning Japanese or doing other things for self-improvement. But I can’t deny that I work better in an organised, clean workspace. This being said, everyone is different, and I can well imagine that some of us are working better on a busy desk, as I once did. But, if you feel that you are not particularly motivated to study today, why not try to give your desk a minimalist touch?

motivation - clean your desk.jpg

My English notebook

The rain pours down or the rain comes down in sheets or sheets of rain come pouring down or it pours down with rain…?  😮 Maybe I should just write “when it rains”…

Still mixing those two, but somehow, Japanese is helping:

  • Lie (lies, lying), lay, lain: 横になる
  • Lay, laid, laid: 横にする


Japanese News: About this amazing women’s speed skating team pursuit!

Context: On Wednesday, Japan won Olympic gold in women’s speed skating team pursuit. The trio Miho Takagi, Ayano Sato and Nana Takagi claimed Japan’s third gold medal and set a new world and Olympic record. They defeated the Dutch, who had won gold at Sochi and who themselves set their own new record during this race. What is more, this new medal (the 11th for Japan) makes Pyeongchang the most successful Winter Olympics for Japan.

I found several articles on NHK about how people reacted to this victory.

The team

Source: スピードスケート女子団体パシュート 日本金メダル 4人の談話

4 women stepped on the podium: the sisters Miho and Nana Takagi and Ayano Sato who raced in the final race and Ayaka Kikuchi who raced in the semi-finals.

And as I have decided to make some efforts to remember Japanese names:

高木美帆 (たかぎ・みほ) Miho TAKAGI
高木菜那 (たかぎ・なな) Nana TAKAGI
佐藤綾乃 (さとう・あやの) Ayano SATO
菊池彩花 (きくち・あやか) Ayaka KIKUCHI

Miho Takagi underlined the fact that this victory is a team achievement:


  • 成し遂げる・なしとげる: accomplish, achieve. The object can be “目的” or “計画”.
  • 感無量・かんむりょう: deep emotion. You can say 感無量になる (be overwhelmed by emotion) or, as Miho TAKAGI says “感無量です” (to be delighted beyond words).

Nana Takagi also said that they could set a world and Olympic record because they put their strength together “みんなの力が1つになって”. She is glad that they could share the joy of the gold medal (with their fans and Japanese):


  • 分かち合う・わかちあう means “share something with…”, I think that it is used with emotions like in this interesting example sentence: “喜びも悲しみも分かち合える仲間.”

Ayano SATO says that she felt a tension she never experienced before “きょうは今までに感じたのことない緊張を味わって”. Like in English “味わう” that means “taste” can also mean “to experience”.

Finally, Ayaka Kikuchi, who didn’t race the final but helped to the victory by racing in the semi-finals, summarizes what the whole team must be feeling: “スケート人生で最高の大会になった.”

Local supporters

Source: 地元も興奮 女子団体パシュート金メダル

In each player’s native place, a big screen had been installed for public viewing. Reactions were the same in the sisters Takagi and Ayano Sato’s respective hometown. Supporters burst into cries of joy when the team won the gold medal. Here are some interesting expressions found in the article.

All the supporters “watched the race”. The verb used is always “見守る” that means “watch” or “watch intently”, “stare at”.

When the team qualified for the final, the supported applauded. I was surprised by the collocation “拍手を送る”. The verb 送る can also be used with 声援・せいえん (shout of encouragement), the expression “声援を送る” appears at least third time in the article.

Both cries of joy and cries of encouragement “go up” あがる. We find expressions like “歓声を上げる”, “頑張れと声を上げる”.

And of course, they all rose together when the team reached the finish line: “一斉に立ち上がる”.

In Foreign media

Source: 女子団体パシュート金メダル 海外メディアも称賛

The foreign press also praised 称賛する・しょうさんする the girls’ exploit.

Reuters praised the perfect cohesion of the team “日本チームは完璧に息があっていた” and titled “Japan dethrone Dutch” which is translated as “オリンピックの座にあったオランダを退けた”.

  • 退ける・しりぞける: oust somebody from (a position).

The BBC also praised the “superb final push from Japan” that allowed them to win and set a new record: “すばらしいラストスパート”.

  • spurt: a sudden increase in speed, effort, activity or emotion for a short period of time.

It also recalled that this new medal brings the actual total number of medals hold by Japan to 11 medals, making Pyeongchang the most successful Winter Olympics until now.

On the IOC website, Japanese women’s performance was qualified as “perfect” “完璧なパフォーマンス”.

The Dutch press showed surprise and disappointment “驚きと落胆” but praised “たたえる” the Japan team performance. Even if the Dutch women set their best record during the race, they were still defeated by the Japanese: “オランダの国内最高記録を出しても銀メダルに終わってしまった”.

People in the street

Source: パシュート金から一夜明け 新聞号外に「興奮冷めない」

Finally, some reactions from fans who bought a special edition at Shibuya the morning following the race.

A woman said “本当に興奮が冷めない感じでした”.

  • 興奮・こうふん means “excitement” and 興奮が冷める is indeed a collocation (found it in my dictionary).

A man said that he watched the race and uses the verb 観戦する・かんせん which means “watch a match”. I didn’t know that there is a special verb to use in a sports context. He also said that he was “deeply moved” and “greatly impressed”: 感激する・かんげき.

My English notebook

Spurt: to work in spurts, a spurt of activity, put on a spurt (hurry up).

  • win (Olympic) gold in women’s team pursuit skating
  • women’s speed skating team pursuit
  • claim gold
  • secure a …th gold
  • win a surprise women’s speed skating team pursuit gold
  • capture the team pursuit gold medal

Book review: Asahi Keywords 2019

At the beginning of every year, Asahi publishes「Asahi Keywords 朝日キーワード」, a book that introduces key notions that help to understand the news in all usual domains, from politics to social matters, economics or culture.

Published in January 2018, this year’s edition is entitled 「朝日キーワード2019」and summarizes the year 2017 (this is a little confusing…).

This book aims at Japanese, not Japanese learners, and is designed for people who don’t necessarily read the news on a daily basis but need to show a certain knowledge of what happened in Japan and in the world these last months. Typically, people who prepare for an entrance exam or a job interview. There is even a special edition called 「朝日キーワード就職2019 最新時事用語&一般常識」, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t tell the difference between the two.

Inside the book

「朝日キーワード」 covers all the main topical issues of last year in the following fields: 政治、国際、経済、社会、医療・福祉、環境・国士、科学・技術・情報・通信、労働、教育、文化・マスコミ、くらし、スポーツ.

The section “politics”, “international” and “economics” all begin with an introductory double page that introduces the essential points one has to grasp to have a good global understanding of the political and economic situation of last year.

Every topic occupies either a double page or a single page. It starts with an introductory paragraph and ends with one or two related words (see below). A photograph or a graph illustrates the article.

At the end of the book, you will find 40 pages of “basic words” that give a short and concise definition of important words for each field.

Follow an overview of 2017 with the important events month by month (from 2016 dec. to 2017 nov.).

To give you an idea of the layout:

Monthly overview, related vocabulary and introductory paragraph

the introductory chapter (politics, international, economics only) and basic words.

Why I am using this book

As you know if you follow my blog, reading the news in Japanese is one of my long-term goals. Reading the news is certainly one of the most difficult things we can do in our target language. Even if I am globally very motivated to achieve this goal, I also experience phases of discouragement and, more than once, I have stared blankly at a group of kanji without wanting to switch on my brain.

What makes reading the news difficult is the specialised vocabulary and, in case of Japanese, the many kanji. In fact, getting used to a certain field’s jargon makes it much easier to read any written work on this subject. This is why I use 「朝日キーワード」, to get familiar with important words relative to a certain field. Of course, I could work my way through specialised vocabulary by simply reading news articles on a certain subject, but I find that news articles present other difficulties, like the grammar and the long sentences. I also lose a lot of time looking for articles that bring enough new vocabulary without being too difficult to read. For all these reasons, I appreciate having an extra keywords book.

Another thing that I really like is that「朝日キーワード」 aims at people who need to catch up with news and do not necessarily know everything about the given subjects. I find that there are often things that are only hinted at by news articles because the reader is supposed to know about them, which makes something already difficult to read even more difficult.

Moreover, this book sections are short (max. one double page) which make it easy to study without feeling overwhelmed, and the writing style is closer to a textbook that explains than a news article that informs.

This is how the book presents itself: “朝日新聞の一線記者がわかりやすく解説”.

A book to study

This being said, this book may be an easy read for Japanese, but it is certainly not for non-native readers.

With my N2 level, I can’t just pick up the book, read fluently any double-page and have a good understanding of the contents. I need to sit at my desk, take a pen in one hand and my head in the other. What I do is this:

  • First I read the article with a marker pen and highlight every word I don’t know.
  • Then, I go through these words and decide 1- whether to look them up in the dictionary or not and 2- whether to add them to my Anki deck. I underline the words that I look up and add a star to the ones I want to learn.
  • I read the article a second time.

book review - asahi keywords 2019-3

Why read about last year?

As my goal is to read news articles, reading about last year’s events is useful for two reasons at least:

  • First, a lot of vocabulary is atemporal and many words that were in articles from last year will probably come up again this year.
  • To understand today’s issues, it is important to know what happened before, and I am still very ignorant of Japan internal matters 🙄

I don’t have the intention to study all the articles of this book though, so I will just skip the ones that seem useless for my purpose.

To whom?

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read the news in Japanese but feels that some preparatory work is necessary. With an N2 level, I need to concentrate, use a pen and have my dictionary within reach to read this book so I would say that an N2 or N1 level is necessary to take advantage it.

My English Notebook

(just some personal notes about things I learnt when writing this article)

I finally found a way to translate “les sujets qui ont fait l’actualité” = Topical issues or topical events.

Grammarly tells me that we say “political situation” (and not politic) but “economic situation” (and not economical) … strange…  🤨 (made a research: economical means “not spending more than necessary”, I see…)

Daily study: let’s remember Japanese names!

This week’s good resolution is to stop procrastinating and finally start learning Japanese names!

In fact, this is something I should have done much earlier. Last week, when I studied an article about ice hockey, I was both pleasantly surprised to see that I could understand it well and frustrated to not be able to read out loud the several names that were in it: 久保英恵、大澤ちほ、小野粧子、小池詩織、浮田留衣、山中武司 😵

To be honest, I have always tried to avoid remembering names. Even when I read a novel, I sometimes satisfy myself with being able to associate 2 or more kanji with a character, even if I have forgotten how they are pronounced. I think that I have a good visual memory of kanji, if you tell me at the beginning of a book that “正木藤次郎” is this character, I will remember it until the end. But it will be arduous to me to remember the pronunciation (まさき・とうじろう) of these kanji, and I will have to go back several times to their first occurrence (the only time they appear with furigana) before I remember it for good.

But at least, they appear with furigana once in novels… In most articles I read online, names are given without furigana (exception is made for キラキラネーム, names which pronunciation even Japanese cannot guess). Not being able to read a name is frustrating and finding the pronunciation can sometimes be a hassle.

I often ask myself how Japanese can know how to pronounce family names and first names when they see them. I think that they simply came across so many names in their life that they are used to them and can recognise them easily. Unless there is a secret method that I don’t know, I guess that the only thing we can do is pay attention every time we see a name and try to remember its pronunciation.

As I have a feeling that doing this will not be enough, I have decided to write down the names I come across, no matter if it is a real person’s name or a fictive one. I won’t really try to remember them or study them like standard vocabulary. But writing helps me to remember, and whenever I come across a new name, I will go through my list to see if I have already “collected” it or not.

I know that it will take a long time before I can start recognising names. I have been so lazy with that until now, that you could say that I start from scratch (I mean, I know how to pronounce 田中 and 山本, 😅but that’s about it…). I certainly should have started sooner, but better late than never!

I don’t know if it will work or not, but this is how I plan to work: I will note the name (family name and first name) and the pronunciation on a notebook. I will also write things concerning this person or fictional character because context helps to remember!  For example:

if it is a real person,

平野歩夢:ひらの・あゆむ: HIRANO Ayumu: wins the silver medal at the men’s snowboarding halfpipe (Winter Olympics 2018). He was ranked first until Shaun White made his incredible run!

if it is a fictional character,

北原十和子:きたはら・とわこ: KITAHARA Towako: the female protagonist of 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」. Haunted by the ghostly presence of her former lover, she takes her frustrations out on her disgusting, simple-minded boyfriend.

Even if I know exactly who are these persons (or characters) now, I may have forgotten next year, and these names will be lost in a (hopefully) substantial list. This is why adding as much context as possible will help me to print these names in my memory. Months later, if I see the first names 歩夢 or 十和子 again, I may be able to pronounce them!

To conclude, I really think it would be cool to be able to read out loud Japanese names and avoid a situation when I don’t understand who we are talking about just because I didn’t know that this person’s kanji. I don’t know if there is another way to get better at reading names (maybe I am missing something obvious to other Japanese learners…), so if you have some tips or secret method, please tell me! 😊

My English notebook

(Some personal notes about English expressions, collocations, idioms and phrasal verbs I have learned to write this post)

better late than never: mieux vaut tard que jamais

take sth out on sb: “you shouldn’t take your frustrations out on the kids.”

Japanese News: Japan women’s ice hockey: first Olympic win!

Today, I will study an article about Wednesday women ice hockey game where Japan beat the unified Korean team 4-1.

The context

South Korea and North Korea have created a unified team in women’s ice hockey for Pyeongchang Olympics. The unified Korean team was defeated 8-0 by both Switzerland and Sweden and Wednesday’s game against Japan was a highly anticipated match. To Koreans, defeating Japan in sport is a big achievement in itself.

With Japan winning 4-1, both teams had their moment of glory: Japan women’s ice hockey won its first Olympic game and the unified Korean team scored its first goal. As strange as it may sound, the arena exploded with cheers and flag-waving when Korea finally scored, as though the girls were winning a gold medal…

Anyway, I was eager to read about the “historical victory” of Japan women’s ice hockey team in Japanese.

I found a long article on NHK News Web: アイスホッケー女子日本が南北合同チームに勝ち初勝利

Every time I start reading a long article in Japanese, I feel discouraged and have difficulty focusing on what I am reading. I decided to print out this article and work on it with a pen in hand. What I can say is this: reading on paper instead of reading on a computer screen doubled my comprehension of the text!

First part

The first part of the article summarizes the game and insists on the fact that it was the first time that Japan women’s ice hockey team won in Olympics. The expression used is 「初勝利をあげました」. I was surprised to see the verb あげる used here.  In fact, あげる has the meaning “to produce a favourable result” (profit, sales result, work or school-related results…). It is therefore used to say “to notch up victory”.

Before Wednesday’s game, both Japan and unified Korean team had lost their first two games. The article uses the word “連敗・れんぱい” which means “successive defeats”. Wednesday’s game was the last match of the preliminary round “予選リーグ最終戦”.

Japan is the first to score soon after the begin of the match. To score first is “先制点を決める”. We can also say 先取点をあげる. Japan scored two points in the first period, but in the second period they were under the pressure of the Korean team “合同チームに押し込まれる” and finally conceded one goal “一点を返されました”. During the third and last period, Japan scored two more goals and outdistanced Korea again “二点を奪って再び引き離し”.

Japan participated in two Olympics (Nagano and Sochi) but never won a match. This time, Japan women’s ice hockey team is third of its group and a last game on the 18th will decide Japan’s final rank (5th to 8th).

Second part

The second part of the article has the title: “初勝利つかんだ選手たちは”.

“つかむ” means “to grab” and can be used in both the physical meaning and the figurative one.

This second part is mainly composed of interviews given by the players who scored and the coach. Six names appear in this part and I find it so frustrating to not be able to pronounce them. I can recognize some Family names like 小池・こいけ (because I saw it a lot lately in political articles!) but I am not even close to being able to pronounce the first names…

An interesting expression is about the first score “先制点” that “leads to” victory. The article says “オリンピックの初勝利につながる先制点”. “つながる” means “be related to” but can also mean “lead to”, “result in”.

The players are happy that they won thanks to “relentless efforts” “粘り勝ち” and hope to end 5th of the general ranking. The players and the coach expressed the same wish in different ways:





They all use similar expressions: “in order to…” “I want to…

The noun 星 does not mean “star” here, but “point”, “score”. It collocates with the verb 稼ぐ・かせぐ. The expression 星を稼ぐ means “score a point”. The player used the verb “積む・つむ” which means “pile up”.

Third part

The third part of the article focuses on Korean players and coach: 南北合同チームの監督・選手は

They seem satisfied by their performance. Even if they lost the game, they “did their best”: 最善を尽くす・さいぜんをつくす. The verb 尽くす・つくす means “do to the utmost of one’s power, do everything” and can be used in expressions such as “全力を尽くす”.

Last part

The last part names this victory a “historical first victory” and insists on the atmosphere of the arena that was not ideal for Japan: 圧倒的なアウェーでつかんだ歴史的初勝利

The article says that most of the arena was supporting the unified Korean team, waving the unification flag while the cheerleading delegation 応援団 sent by North Korea kept cheering the unified team. The arena was indeed very loud and got excited “会場がすごく盛り上がる” every time Korea had the puck, and it even grew louder when Korea scored its first and single goal. This resulted in an atmosphere “圧倒的なアウエーの雰囲気” that played against the Japan team.

The coach even talked of an extremely difficult match “会場の雰囲気もあって非常にやりづらい試合”.

But, despite it all, Japan women’s ice hockey team achieved a “historical first victory” 歴史的な初勝利.


Currently reading: 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかる

I am reading the third book of my 2018 reading challenge! My challenge was to read a book per month, and I am well ahead of schedule.

The book I chose is 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかる (ぬまたまほかる) There is a film adaption which trailer you can watch here:

To be honest, I may not have bought this book if I had watched the trailer before. I was expecting some kind of psychological thriller where we don’t know if the protagonist is persecuted or suffering from paranoïa… but this story seems to be mainly a love story.

This book is clearly above my level. The opening chapter was difficult, but opening chapters usually are, and I always need some time to get into a story. Therefore I persevered and reached the 1/4 of the book… and it is still challenging!🤯

There are passages that I understand well and others that leave me behind. To be more precise, I feel more or less comfortable with narrative passages, but some of the dialogues give me the impression I never learnt Japanese 😱 … I understood the reason for my confusion on page 56 when the sister of our protagonist Towako talks about using the 大阪弁, the dialect of Osaka.

So that’s why I don’t understand the dialogues… When the main protagonists, Towako and Jinji, talk to one another, they use the Kansai dialect… with which I am not at all familiar. I feel like I am facing two options: either I accept to miss things in the novel and just go through the dialogues without understanding everything or I work my way through this…

To be honest, I still don’t know how I will read this novel. I understand very well the other dialogues when Towako is speaking to other characters using standard Japanese, so I am tempting to just continue reading without bothering. On the other hand, missing the subtility of the “confrontations” between the two main characters would be a shame…

Anyway, to say a word about the setting, the main character is a young woman called Towako. She is living with a man, Jinji, she finds disgusting but depends on him for a living. Obsessed by the memories of her former lover, she leads an idle life, succumbing to depression.

To be honest, I am still not entirely convinced by this novel, but of course, this may be linked to the fact that I don’t understand everything and can’t read it comfortably. What I can say is that I feel no sympathy whatsoever for Towako but find the character of Jinji extremely interesting.

With these mixed feelings, I will go on reading this challenging book and post my review as soon as I/if I can finish it.

Motivation: got my first マイブック!

I got my first 「マイブック」, an empty book published by 新潮文庫 that offers you a page a day to write your own story, notes and thoughts.

「マイブック」has the exact same appearance than any other book published by 新潮文庫. I like the beautiful cover and the paper that may not be the best support to use a fountain pen but undeniably gives authenticity to “my book”. The inside is not totally empty, it comes with a table of contents, each new month being a new chapter. You will find the date on each page and a ribbon mark (that fascinates my cat) makes it easy to use.

I bought 「マイブック」too late to write anything in January and, therefore, just started the day I got it. Writing a little every day is something that I want to do since high school but never did. Our ancient Greek teacher made us see the importance of writing every day, our own thoughts and the ones of others. Although taking notes when we read literature can be used for further inspiration, the idea was not as much to record things that could be useful later than improve ourselves through writing. When I understood that, it was an inspiring moment, but I have never been able to write regularly.

When seeing that writing in my own language is difficult, no surprise that writing in Japanese looks like a far-away ideal.

Will 「マイブック」help me write in Japanese on a daily basis?

Every time I failed to keep a dairy or any other form of notebooks, I blamed the support or the method. But of course, if you don’t go jogging every morning like you promised yourself you would, it is rarely your shoes’ fault.

Therefore, using「マイブック」will does not transform me into an assiduous writer but it somehow makes it easier.

First, as any other Japanese novel published by 新潮文庫 or other Japanese publishers, it is small and light, which makes it very easy to carry. I always thought of a diary as something that would be placed on one’s desk and opened once a day, before going to bed, to record the events of the day. Because it is so light and easy to carry, 「マイブック」opened new possibilities to me. Instead of writing at a given time every day and wonder what I should write about when facing the blank page, I simply open my book every time I want to write something, no matter the time of the day. Sometimes, my page is already full and the day has not even really started yet. Having a small and light notebook is a good way to make the best of inspired moments.

It’s easier to open your notebook when you want to write than wanting to write when you open your notebook.

A small size also has the advantage that I don’t feel under the pressure to write a lot. The paper quality is the same as most novels, very thin and most of the pens that I use will create ghosting on the reverse. Also, being a book and not a specialised notebook, it won’t lie completely flat and is not lined, making it hard to write straight or near the binding. The result is that I have given up any attempt to make it look nice. I almost see it as a draft of my day, my blog or my Japanese study. The advantage is that I can write and draw more freely without thinking of the result.  It is not as much the contents that count that the act of writing, and, at the end, the physical object in itself will not have as much value as what it brought me.

Don’t try to make your notebook look pretty or clever, try to get better by using it.

Finally, Japanese books are one of the reasons why I learned Japanese. Of course, the main reason is that I wanted to read Japanese literature, but I have always liked the small size books that look so even and cute on a bookshelf and are so handy to carry about with you. I remember the first time I set foot in a Japanese bookshop (in Paris) and saw for the first time hundreds of these books piled or lined up. I think that this triggered my desire to learn Japanese, even though I concretised it only much later. It may sound strange, but those small books really fascinated me and I have always wanted to buy one. This is why I particularly appreciate that my notebook should be a “real” book!


I love 「マイブック」 because it is small, light, easy to carry and because it is an object that I have been eager to possess for a long time. For all these reasons, it does help me to write in Japanese every day, but of course, it will take some time before I can safely say that I got into the habit of writing on a daily basis. We will see, I will make updates of how I am doing on this blog or twitter!


Japanese News: North Korean in Pyeongchang

Some hours before the opening ceremony of Pyeongchang Olympics, I have chosen an article about North Korea’s delegation.

Link to the article: “米側と会わない” 北朝鮮 米副大統領と接触の可能性否定

This article mainly tells us that the delegation sent by North Korea to Pyeongchang will not take the Olympics as an opportunity to meet with Vice President Mike Pence or other U.S. officials who attend the opening ceremony.

Let’s have a look at some interesting words that can be used in other contexts:

We know that North Korea sends a delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics. The verb to say “send” or “dispatch” is 派遣する・はけんする. This word is formal and used to say things like “dispatch an army” or “send a delegate”. But, used before a noun, it can take the meaning of “temporary”, with the idea that someone is dispatched temporarily somewhere to perform a task. For example, we can say “派遣社員・はけんしゃいん” which is a temporary worker from an agency. If a professor comes from another university to give conferences, he is a 派遣教授・はけんきょうじゅ, a visiting professor.

North Korea doesn’t have the “intention” to meet with U.S. officials. The word “intention” is 意向・いこう. To say “intend to do something” in a rather formal way, you can say “…する意向がある”, literarily “to have the intention to do…”. But 意向 can also mean “one’s mind”, what somebody wants to say. For example, I found the sentence “こちらの意向がうまく伝わっていないようだった”, which means “it didn’t seem as though our message was getting through to them”.

Our article says that “for the time being”, “at this point in time”, North Korea has denied any intention to meet with U.S representatives. The word 現時点・げんじてん means “present point in time” and is often used with the particle で like in 現時点では.

To North Korea, this visit to Pyeongchang is “purely and genuinely” 純粋に to participate in the games, not to discuss political matters. I knew the adjective 純粋な・じゅんすいな which means “pure”, “genuine”, but I didn’t know that it can be used adverbially like in English to say that you do something only for something. To give a similar example, I found the expression “純粋に趣味で…する” to say that you do something for pure enjoyment, without caring for the results.

To say the North Korean delegation will not “meet” U.S officials, the word used is “接触・せっしょく”. This is one of the first words I learnt in Japanese, it certainly was in some “2000 words” list book for beginners. However, I still feel very unfamiliar with it and I am sure that I never used it. 接触 has two meanings. The first is a physical contact but I don’t think that you would use 接触する in a casual situation. The second meaning, the one that interests us here, is “to come in contact with”. You can come into contact with someone 接触する, get a chance to meet someone …に接触する機会を探す, keep in touch with someone 接触を保つ or, on the contrary, lose contact 接触を断つ (たつ) or even avoid contact 接触を避ける.

That’s it for today, I will be watching the opening ceremony tonight!

Book review: 「豆の上で眠る」by 湊かなえ

In 湊かなえ’s novel, the reader is invited to blink into a family’s untold secrets, but before we know it, we find ourselves sharing the protagonist’s emotions and feeling unexpectedly involved in her story. While personal tragedy and family drama give the novel its deepness, the mystery and quest for the truth make it a real page-turner.

I finished reading 「豆の上で眠る」 by 湊かなえ and I loved it! The story is much more complex and gripping than I expected it to be by just reading the summary.

The summary tells us that we are to expect a “sisters mystery” but I personally thought that the relationship between the little sister and the mother was much more fascinating than the mystery surrounding the two sisters.

The narrator and protagonist Yuiko is returning home to visit her mother who had been admitted to hospital. This trip will be filled with memories of the past, focusing on the disappearance of Yuiko’s big sister, Mayuko, when they were kids. Contrary to what the summary suggests, the story is not as much centred on what happened when Mayuko finally returned, as depicting the days following her disappearance.

I would say that this novel is the exact opposite of 「噓を愛する女」by 岡部えつ that I have read just before. As I wrote in my review of 「噓を愛する女」, the desire to unveil the mystery was the true motivation that kept me reading, and the relationships that bound the characters were dim. In 「豆の上で眠る」, even if we quickly feel that something is wrong and come to share the feeling of uneasiness of Yuiko, the mystery does not play the central role in this story. The relationship between the members of the family and the way Yuiko experienced the loss of her beloved sister and treasured child of the family is what makes this novel addictive.

While the novel is progressing toward the solving of the mystery, we go through bitter memories and distressful episodes that reveal, little by little, the unspoken cruelty that can lie beneath casual events. I found no pathos or lamentation as Yuiko recalls the painful episodes of her childhood, but the reserved and self-contained way Yuiko unfolds her story was balanced by my own emotions, that flowed over me as I made my way through the novel.

As the truth begins to reveal itself, it becomes impossible to stop reading. This book was a “reading in Japanese challenge” but it soon became my bedside reading!

As for the Japanese level, I would say that it was unexpectedly easy to read. When I read the opening chapter, I didn’t feel confident at all, which is normal given that I have to get used to the author’s style while dealing with new characters and a new setting. Once I became familiar with the characters and their relationships, I also felt more confident with the Japanese. One difficulty of the novel is that it intertwines two narratives: the present with Yuiko returning home during the Summer and the past with the events preceding and following the disappearance of Mayuko. The story keeps shuttling between past and present and, at the beginning, it always took me some time to realise that the novel had changed its focus. But then I learnt to pay attention to hints that told the reader what we are talking about. For example, when the present Yuiko talks about home, she uses the word “実家”, but when the past Yuiko evokes home, the term “家” is used.

This is an extract, to give you an idea of the novel’s difficulty and, hopefully, kindle your interest in it!

We are at the beginning of the novel, in the first evocation of Yuiko’s childhood. Yuiko’s sister Mayuko was good at reading and used to read Yuiko fairy tales from children books.

真佑子・まゆこ the big sister
結衣子・ゆいこ the little sister



– 湊かなえ、「豆の上で眠る」、新潮文庫、2017 (p. 11-12)

To conclude, I wholeheartedly recommend this book!

Ref .湊かなえ、「豆の上で眠る」、新潮文庫、2017