Japanese News: March week 4

I feel more and more at ease with the new format of my “Japanese news” posts. I only focused on internal affairs:

Anti-tobacco actions

The city of Ikoma (Nara prefecture) has adopted a new regulation against tobacco: 喫煙後45分間 エレベーターの利用禁止 奈良 生駒

I think that the title is quite easy to understand if you know the word 喫煙・きつえん (smoking). The last two words are:

  • 奈良・なら: Nara Prefecture
  • 生駒・いこま: city of Ikoma.

According to this new regulations, people will have to wait 45 minutes after smoking if they want to ride the elevator: 「たばこを吸った職員は45分間、エレベーターの利用を禁止」. This regulation concerns all the officials of the city: “市の全職員”. The reason given is that toxic substances keep going out of the body during the 45 minutes after smoking (i feel that my English is horrible, sorry 🙁):


  • 有害物質・ゆうがいぶっしつ: toxic substance. I learnt this word in my JLPT N2 vocabulary book, haha.

Japanese News March week 4 -2

The burger chain モスバーガー (Mos Burger) will make all its 1300 restaurants across the country “全国1300余りのすべての店舗” non-smoking before the Olympics. As the title suggests, Mos Burger is not the first one to adopt such a position: モスバーガーも全面禁煙へ 外食業界で禁煙化広がる

  • the particle も implies that others have already taken this step
  • the “non-smokisation” spread among the “industry of eating out”.

The point is to fight against 受動喫煙・じゅどうきつえん or passive smoking and prepare for Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Tragic deaths in the mountains

On Sunday (25th), 7 persons had an accident in Yatsugatake Mountains (Nagano). They “slipped down the mountainside” 滑落・かつらく. 3 persons are dead:  八ヶ岳連峰で3人死亡4人けが斜面を約300m滑落か

A climbing rope (ザイル) was securing the 7 persons when they fell. The first person slid and fell:


On Thursday (29th), a 4th-grade elementary school girl died during a ski competition競技スキーの合宿に参加 小学4年生女児死亡 北海道 倶知安町

  • 合宿・がっしゅく: go on a training camp
  • 倶知安町・くっちゃんちょう: Kutchan, a town in Hokkaido

Ethics and patriotism at school

Something is going on with Japanese school textbooks, but sadly, I can’t understand the article well… The title is obscure if we don’t know what it is about: 中学の「道徳」教科書 初検定 各社の「評価」対応分かれる.

I feel that this is an issue going on for some time, and knowing its genesis would be helpful, if not necessary, to understand what this is all about. I am not sure that understand the title, but I would translate it like this: “First inspection of the middle school “ethics” textbooks: the response of each publisher concerning the “evaluation” is different.”

What I understand is this (but I may be mistaken):

I don’t know if it is new, but “ethics”, “morals” 道徳・どうとく will become (or is) a course in middle school and high school. Among the topics that form the core of this course are the love of the country 国の愛 and the love of the family 家族愛. Among the eight publishers that made the textbooks of morals, five have integrated an auto-evaluation test 自己評価・じこkひょうか. The student is asked, for example, how he positions himself concerning the love of the country and family. He can choose between a range of answers like in a psychological test (apply to me or not, feel this or not).

Specialists have called to prudence when it comes to such auto-evaluation test.

Japanese News March week 4 -1.jpg

Emperor and Empress’ visit to Okinawa

The Emperor and Empress visited Okinawa. They arrived on Tuesday. It is their 11th visit to Okinawa and will probably be the last, given that the Emperor will abdicate next year.

The Emperor and Empress visited the 「国立沖縄戦没者墓苑」 to pay their respects to the victims of World War II: 両陛下が沖縄訪問 「戦没者墓苑」で慰霊

  • 国立沖縄戦没者墓苑
    • 国立・こくりつ: national
    • 沖縄・おきなわ: Okinawa (around one-third of the population died during the battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War)
    • 戦没者・せんぼつしゃ: a fallen soldier, the war dead
    • 墓苑・ぼえん: a cemetery, a graveyard


  • 天皇・てんのう is Emperor and 皇后・こうごう is Empress.
  • 陛下・へいか means “His or Her Majesty” and his used to talk about the Emperor or the Empress. When we want to mention both of them, however, we use the term “両陛下・りょうへいか”. The group of word “天皇皇后両陛下” can be learned as such, as it often appears in the news.
  • 沖縄戦・おきなわせん: the Battle of Okinawa (April 1 – June 22, 1945)
  • 激戦・げきせん: a fierce battle, a heavy fighting
  • 糸満市・いとまんし: city of Itoman, the final front of the Battle of Okinawa
  • 霊・れい: the soul
  • 慰める・なぐさめる means “to comfort”, “to console”, but in our context, it means “honour (the memory of the victims)”. Our sentence uses the honorific form of the verb that looks like a passive voice.

Emergency landing

A helicopter of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) had to proceed to an emergency landing at Yonago airport. Nobody is injured.

The title of the article is the kind of title that usually puts me off: “自衛隊ヘリが緊急着陸 滑走路閉鎖 鳥取 米子空港”.

However, if I look at it carefully, I can guess the meaning of most of the words:

I know that 自衛隊・じえいたい is the name of the SDF and I could easily guess that a ヘリ is a helicopter because of the video in the article. I also know that 緊急・きんきゅう means “emergency” and  I can deduce the meaning of 着陸・ちゃくりく (landing) because I know the word 離陸・りりく (takeoff).

I was first puzzled with 滑走路・かっそうろ but a road to go and slide in the context of an airport (空港・くうこう)… Yes, it is the runway. I didn’t know the word 閉鎖・へいさ but could guess its meaning (closing) from the first kanji.

And finally, I had no clue what 鳥取・とっとり was because I still haven’t got around to learning Japan prefectures yet: 鳥取県・とっとりけん is Tottori prefecture. It was obvious, however, that 米子・よなご was the name of the airport, I just had to look for the pronunciation in Google.

Moralité: Always look at a difficult sentence or title twice because we know more than we think we do.

The falsified documents

Tuesday (27th), Sagawa testified before the Diet. Sagawa was a high official inside the Ministry of Finance at the time the documents were falsified. Everybody wants to know who ordered the falsification and why. Additionally, we want to know if Abe and his wife are involved. Let’s see if Sagawa’s testimony brought some light on the matter.

How did Sagawa testify? The article “佐川氏 どう証言した? 午前の喚問のポイント” summarizes the major points of the morning.

And this article summarizes the major points of the afternoon: 佐川氏 どう証言した? 午後の喚問のポイントbut I don’t see much additional information in it so I will focus on what happened in the morning.

Also, this article gives a clear overview of the day: 改ざんは誰が?なぜ? 佐川氏どこまで語った.

Let’s call a spade a spade

japanese news - march week 4To begin with, a note about the word 改ざん・かいざん. It means “falsification” and has thus a strong meaning, implying the intention to deceive. At the end of this article, NHK reporter says that, although they used the word 書き換え・かきかえ until now to talk about the documents being “re-written” (決裁文書の書き換え), after Sagawa’s testimony, we can now talk of 改ざん.

Did Sagawa know about the falsification

One of the questions that have been asked to Sagawa is whether Sagawa knew about the falsification and if yes, who ordered it and why:


  • It is easier to say that Sagawa was a high official of the Finance Ministry, but to be precise, he was the head of the Financial Bureau of the Ministry of Finance: 理財局長・りざいきょくちょう
  • 証人・しょうにん: a witness. In this sentence, Sagawa.
  • 仮に・かりに: if…

But, Sagawa did not answer the question because he is subject to prosecution: 「私が捜査対象であり、刑事訴追を受けるおそれがあるので、答弁差し控える

  • 訴追・そつい: prosecution
  • 答弁を差し控える is an expression that means “refrain from answering”
  • 答弁・とうべん: a reply, an answer
  • 差し控える・さしひかえる: abstain from doing

Why the falsification?

When the scandal burst out, Abe said that if he or his wife had a connection with the discounted sale, he would resign. Therefore, it seems natural to ask if the documents have been falsified to cover the Prime Minister or his wife.

However, Sagawa said, for the same reason of prosecution, that he refused to answer any question relative to the motive.

Are Abe and his wife involved?

Someone asked if「安倍総理大臣や昭恵氏らからの指示はあったのか。総理大臣秘書官らの総理大臣官邸や麻生副総理兼財務大臣の指示はあったのか」.

The question implies five persons or groups of persons:

  • 安倍総理大臣: Prime Minister Abe
  • 昭恵氏: Akie, Abe’s wife
  • 総理大臣秘書官: Abe’s private secretary
    • 秘書官・ひしょかん: private secretary
  • 総理大臣官邸: Abe’s relatives (?)
    • 官邸・かんてい: Residence of the Prime Minister
  • 麻生副総理兼財務大臣: Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
    • 麻生・あそう: Aso (I am glad I noted his name last time)
    • 副総理・ふくそうり Deputy Prime Minister
    • 兼・けん: “and”, “in addition”, “at the same time”. It took me a while to understand that his two positions were linked with this character. I thought that the suite of 8 characters was a new grad I never heard about before.
    • 財務大臣・ざいむだいじん: Minister of Finance

To this question, Sagawa replied 「ございませんでした」.

Sagawa said that the documents were handled inside the Financial Bureau exclusively: “理財局の中で、資料要求の対応をする”. There was no communication with actors outside of the Bureau, like a consultation with the Minister of Finance or report to the Prime Minister. In short, neither the Minister of Finance Aso nor Abe nor his wife is involved in this business.

Sagawa kept repeating that there was no “instructions” 指示・しじ coming from the Prime Minister or others. Just to be sure that Sagawa was not beating around the bush by using strategic words, someone asked if, apart from not having been any 『指示』 from Abe, there were:

  • 『協議』: ぎろん: discussion
  • 『連絡』: れんらく: communication
  • 『打ち合わせ』: うちあわせ: preliminary meeting

To which Sagawa answered that there was not.

If you watch the video provided with this article, you will see that Sagawa spent a good deal of time answering “ございませんでした”.


It seems that Sagawa didn’t give any essential piece of information concerning who ordered the falsification and why. He repeated several times that neither Abe, nor his wife, nor the Minister of Finance was involved.

What’s next?

The opposition insists on two points: that the light should be made on this matter and that Abe’s wife should testify. Abe, however, wants to move on to the next chapter, which is the labour reform: 「働き方改革」「改ざん問題」後半国会も攻防続く. I do not relish the prospect of reading articles on the labour reform… seems to be such a complex subject! 😩


I have been very thorough this week and opened NHK News website every day to copy links for later use. What is funny is that I often do it on my phone, because checking the news is something easily done on the go. But copying the links and put them in WordPress was not as easy as it sounds. And what happened this week? WordPress added a new “save as draft” function on ios! I felt greatly encouraged!

Also, the more I read the news, the easier and the more interesting it becomes. I feel more implied and curious concerning Japan politics and society.

My English notebook:

To call a spade a spade vs to beat around the bush: appeler un chat un chat vs noyer le poisson.

I don’t relish the prospect of doing sth: je ne me réjouis pas à l’idée de

to get around to sth or to doing sth: to do sth that you have intended to do for a long time: “I haven’t got around to it yet” (the kind of sentence I can use often…).

Currently reading:「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真

Time again to choose a book from my reading challenge list! I hesitated a long time before picking 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真(はやみ・かずまさ)

I would like to say a word about why I bought this book when I was in Kyoto last December. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I saw something like this:

Of course, it was not the same bookshop, but I haven’t taken my own photos at the time so… Apparently, it is the third edition of a conquest organised by the publisher 新潮文庫 to promote mystery novels. The event is called 紅白本合戦 and as you can see here:

winners are classified into two categories: 女性に売れた本 et 男性に売れた本. I can’t find official information about how the selection was made. So I have to guess that readers could vote for their favourite book while saying if they are female or male? (I have no idea). The final ranking is divided into:

  • The top 10 books that “were sold to women.”
  • The top 10 books that “were sold to men.”

Even someone like me, who knows nothing of Japanese TV shows and entertainment, has heard of the song contest 紅白歌合戦 that takes place at the end of the year. I link to the Wikipedia page of the festival, but to point out what interests us here, the contest opposes female singers (the red team) and male singers (the white team).

Obviously, our literary contest takes after the song contest:

  • the name is very similar: “本” replaces “歌”
  • red for women, white for men
  • it is a “year-end” event

The difference is that it does not rank books from male and female authors, but books that were read (bought) by female and male readers.

I found it strange.

As an act of defiance, I bought a book from each top 3 ranking, haha.


But now that I am looking at the ranking again, I am telling myself that I should have bought the 6 books (top 3 of each ranking)! Seriously, what was I thinking of? 😩

I picked the first book of the “women” pile and the second book of the “men” pile. As you may know, if you follow this blog, I already read and much enjoyed 「豆の上で眠る」by 湊かなえ.

I have great expectations for「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真 and what I have read so far is fantastic!

I feared that this book might be too hard for me to read and when I opened it, I thought that I would give it a try and read the first 10 pages to see if it was not too challenging. Before I realised it, I was swept along by its captivating narrative.

A word about the story

To tell a word about the story, Yukino is facing the death penalty for the murder of her former lover’s wife and children. At the beginning of the novel, we learn the fact of the case and assist in the final part of her trial. The rest of the novel seems to give voice to different characters who knew the Yukino. Each of them will tell his or her story through whom the reader can build his or her own image of Yukino.


Motivation: ups and downs

I was not very productive this weekend concerning both Japanese and English. I haven’t even read much. This made me reflect on the reasons why I sometimes feel demotivated, and I tried to find ways to snap out of it.

Japanese is hard

I start with this because I think that it is a red herring. It is easy to blame Japanese to justify our quitting learning it. But me, for example, I learned Japanese more efficiently and with a lot more fun than Spanish, although I am French. Our lack of motivation should not be put on Japanese being hard but should be found within ourselves.

Low self-esteem

motivation - ups and downs 1

The times when I am not productive are these days when I have a bad image of myself or am not happy with what I am. Of course, low self-esteem is not intrinsically linked to Japanese, but it affects my desire to study or to do things in general. I don’t have a magic solution to feel more confident, but I found that these things have helped me a lot:

  • Blogging: writing a blog has two significant effects:
    • first, it gives structure to my learning Japanese,
    • and it makes me feel that I have created something and helps me have a positive image of myself,
  • Writing: I am writing more and more lately, and it helps considerably. In the beginning, it was more a practical activity: writing in Japanese, taking notes about what happened in the news, taking notes about the novels I read, note citations and so on. All this helped me develop a kind of personal system of note taking which has an undeniable value to me.
  • Drawing: I started playing around with a drawing software because I had not a clue how I should illustrate my posts. But it became a relaxing and gratifying activity.

Too many resources

An abundance of resources can lead to very strange feelings.

  • I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start
  • I feel committed to give each resource a little of my time, and I feel guilty if I haven’t touched one resource for a long time
  • Even if I study well on a given day, there are so many materials that I haven’t touched that I feel like I have not been productive, although I have been.

Of course, one solution is to unclutter my study and get rid of resources I don’t use or are not that useful. Honestly, I can’t do that, because I think that I have a hoarding disorder when it comes to learning resources: books, podcasts, audiobooks, textbooks, websites, magazines and so on pile up around me, but thankfully some do not take physical space.

To stay organised and serene, I have some strategies:

  • Keep track of what I study and when. A “resource tracker” has proven very useful to me (it is like a habit tracker, but I note learning materials instead of habits). I can see what resources I tend to forget and decide whether to devote more time to them or stop using them. Also, I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, I have control over my study. Somehow, it seems okay to not touch something for 2 weeks or more, as long as I am aware of it. I know that I can set things right later.
  • Make targeted challenges. Sometimes, I make myself small challenges that are targeted on a particular resource. For example, I am challenging myself with NHK radio news at the moment. To help me write my Friday post on Japanese news, I decided to listen to at least the 7 o’clock bulletin every day. I had this resource in my podcast app for a long time but was not using it. Thanks to my mini-challenge, I am listening to it every morning now.

motivation - ups and downs 5

Why do I learn Japanese?

motivation - ups and downs 3

Sometimes, I am demotivated because I don’t live in Japan and probably never will. I have no connection with Japan at all. I know that we don’t need to justify why we do what we do, but I am sometimes ill at ease to say that I learn Japanese mainly to read in Japanese, not to speak it, meet Japanese, make Japanese friends and so on because I am not at all a social person.

In these moments, I remember that a lot of people out there are learning languages for the fun of it. We don’t need to have concrete reasons to learn a language, not even practical goals. I like messing around with Anki, do grammar exercises, work a textbook and take notes, do translations exercises and so on. I like the process of learning a language for itself.

But I do have concrete goals too:

  • read all the novels by Keigo HIGASHINO,
  • be able to read any novel in Japanese,
  • read great authors, beginning with Nobel Prize winners,
  • read the news in Japanese and understand political scandals and social trends,
  • read history books in Japanese to see how Japanese historians write about things that happened in the 20th Century,
  • more generally, read books about Japan History and
  • read historical novels.

Somehow, writing this down greatly motivated me!


And there are times when I just don’t feel like studying at all. It was especially true when I was preparing for the JLPT.

To motivate me, I like making a study plan and set small goals with numbers. For example, in how many days will I finish this textbook if I study one chapter every other day. I don’t always stick to numbered plans, but making them motivates me to get started.

motivation - ups and downs 2

But to me, the best way to get motivated to studying is to read other learners’ blogs. In fact, it does not have to be people who learn Japanese. Seeing that others go on with their studies and make progress is highly motivating. I like reading about what other learners do, how they study, what resources they use, what would be a typical studying session and so on. If you are blogging about learning Japanese or anything else, don’t hesitate to link to your blog in the comments, I’ll be happy to follow!


I wrote this post a little on the spur of the moment, so it certainly is incomplete. But to summarise what I found out this far, the main four things that help me get motivated when I am not are:

  • To combat low self-esteem: engage in a creative process: blogging, writing, drawing or any DIY activity or any activity in general.
  • Make a study plan,
    • set small weekly challenges or monthly challenges,
    • also, encourage yourself with concrete goals (like reading 2 pages a day of a book, or listening to a 20 minutes podcast once a week and so on).
  • Write down why I learn Japanese and re-read or edit it from time to time,
    • don’t forget that there are no good or bad reasons, find your own way and go for it!
  • follow other learners blog or people who are engaged in a creative/learning activity

motivation - ups and downs 6


Japanese News: March week 3

Usually, I study a news article every Friday. But last week, I decided to change my routine and try to keep an eye on the NHK News website every day. I hope I managed to extract the news of importance, but I certainly missed a lot of information. Anyway, this is an attempt at giving an overview of the week in Japan (internal affairs only).

Moritomo Gakuen

The Moritomo Gakuen scandal is still in the headlines. On Monday, an NHK article said that popular protest still spread before the Diet building: “森友問題 国会前では抗議活動続く“.

  • 抗議・こうぎ: protest, protestation

The people assembled in the protest were yelling in chorus: 「文書の改ざん徹底糾弾」, asking for a thorough investigation to find who gave the order to falsify the documents.

  • 改ざん・かいざん, as I learned last week, means “falsification”.
  • 徹底・てってい: thoroughness
  • 糾弾・きゅうだん: censure, denunciation, condemnation.

On Tuesday, the ruling party finally accepted the request of the opposition: Sagawa will testify in the Diet on March 27th. Sagawa was a high official in the Ministry of Finance at the time of the sale. One article’s title on the subject is “佐川氏の証人喚問 来週27日に衆・参両院の予算委で“.

  • 佐川・さがわ: Sagawa.
  • 証人喚問・しょうにんかんもん: a summons to a witness
  • 衆・参両院 This seemingly difficult word simply refers to the two Houses of the Diet:
    • 議院・しゅうぎいん: the House of Representatives
    • 議院・さんぎいん: the House of Councillors
  • 予算委・よさんい: the budget committee.

Also, chief secretary of the Finance Ministry said on Thursday that no intermediate report would be made during the investigation:「森友」書き換え問題 財務省「調査の中間報告しない」. The article cites the chief secretary of Finance Ministry: 「これまでの調査で理財局の一部の職員によって書き換えが行われたことがわかっているが、さらに掘り下げて、どの職員がどの程度、なぜ関与したのか、調査をし尽くす必要がある。ただ、確たる終わりの時期を申し上げることはできかねる」

  • The department of the Finance Ministry involved in the falsification is the “Financial Bureau”, or in Japanese 理財局・りざいきょく
  • 掘り下げる・ほりさげる: investigate, dig deeply
  • ます形+尽くす・つくす: do something completely
  • 確たる・かくたる: certain, definite, sure. It looks like a verb but acts like an adjective (?)

Some obscure problem with pension data

Meanwhile, another scandal is very present in the media but also quite tricky to understand. I had to read English sources to understand it… A Japanese firm who processes the data relative to pensions entrusted a part of the job to a Chinese firm: “500万人分の個人情報が中国業者に 年金情報入力を再委託“.

  • 委託・いたく: trust, charge, commission.

An extract of the article is enough to summarise the problem. Though I know every word in it, I didn’t understand what it was about until I read on the subject in English. 😕 Frustrating.


  • The Tokyo firm who had been commissioned by the organism of Japanese pension to process their data,
  • in violation of their contract, handed around 5 millions of personal data to a Chinese firm.
  • The fact that the (Japanese firm) entrusted the processing operation (to the Chinese firm) has come to light through the research of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and others. (I am not sure of my translation of this part).

I find this affair very complex and I don’t have much interest in it, so I don’t feel motivated to read more on the subject… 🙄

Snow on the first day of Spring

spring at lastWednesday was the first day of Spring, but some parts of the country were covered with snow: “関東甲信の山沿いと東北 あすにかけ大雪のおそれ“.

I have been telling myself for a long time that I should learn Japan’s geography. At least the name of the regions, some prefectures and main cities. I am not very motivated to do it though…

甲信・こうしん is the name of a region, situated near the Kanto region. If I understood correctly, the Koshin region is only a part of the bigger Chubu region. It covers both Yamanashi prefecture (山梨県・やまなしけん) and Nagano prefecture (長野県・ながのけん). I found that the couple 関東甲信 is often used in a meteorologic context. No wonder, then, that we should find it in our title.

The title says that there is a risk of heavy snow in the North-East and mountainous parts of the Kanto-Koushin regions.

The snow fell so heavily that a group of 13 hikers were caught in the mountains and could not descend due to the snow. They had to be evacuated by helicopter and transferred to hospital: “東京・奥多摩 登山者13人全員を病院に搬送“.

  • 奥多摩・おくたま, near Tokyo, Okutama offers a wide range of outdoor activities and has several hiking spots.

The lives of the 13 rescued are not threatened: 命に別状はない. This is an expression that means “one’s life is not threatened”.

  • 別状・べつじょう: something wrong. This word seems to be mainly used in the negative form “別状ない”, to say that something is safe, not threatened, not in danger or not damaged.

Virtual currencies, a new target

Finally, let’s have a look at this article: 仮想通貨狙った新サイバー犯罪 被害は1年で6億円超. It says that a new form of cybercrime aims at cryptocurrencies. Last year, the equivalent of more than 600 million Yen (or less than 6 million Dollars) have been stolen. But in January of this year, the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck has been hacked, resulting in the loss of around 58 billion Yen or around 550 million Dollars in NEM crypto-currency.  😲

  • 仮想通貨・かそうつうか: virtual money
  • 狙う・ねらう: aim at (a target).

How can there be such a gap between the total amount of stolen money last year and the loss of Coincheck in January? Maybe I made a mistake while calculating? I’m not at ease with numbers:



Book Review: 「ぶたぶたラジオ」by 矢崎存美

When I was doing my book haul in Kyoto last December, I took this book only because the cover design was cute:


矢崎存美, 「ぶたぶたラジオ」、光文社文庫


I also fancied that it would be easy to read, and I was right. It took me a week to read it, and I haven’t even had time to post about it in my “currently reading” category. It definitely was the recreational title of my 2018 reading challenge! Let’s have a closer look!

The series

The author 矢崎存美 (やざき・ありみ) has written a whole series of stories around ぶたぶたさん. As far as I can tell, there are 21 books and 「ぶたぶたラジオ」is the newest one. There are titles like 「ぶたぶたカフェ」、「ぶたぶた図書館」、「学校のぶたぶた」or 「居酒屋ぶたぶた」. As the author tells the reader in her afterword, our book 「ぶたぶたラジオ」follows a previous one called 「ぶたぶたの本屋さん」, something easily guessed given that ぶたぶた works in a bookshop when our story opens. However, you don’t need to have read the bookshop title to understand the radio one.

The book

A brief word about the story

The cover design and the fact that the main character of our story is someone (?) called ぶたぶたさん made me think that this was a book for children that adults enjoy reading too, but nothing on the cover or the summary pointed in that direction.

ぶたぶたさん is invited to take part in a radio program where people can ask for advice in what is called a 相談コーナー. There are several protagonists in this novel, each in need of help about his or her family life, about love or how to perceive oneself. These adult-relative themes made me think that I am not reading a children book after all.

The book is composed of three parts, each following a different protagonist. There is no real main plot going through the entire novel, and these three parts could almost be read as independent stories.

Reading this novel felt like listening to a radio program whose purpose is to help people to go over their problems. With funny scenes relatives to the true nature of ぶたぶたさん, this book was a real “feel-good” read.

The Japanese level

More than the story itself the Japanese level of this book makes it interesting for Japanese learners. Independently from my own reading level, I found several features in this book that make it (objectively) an easy book.

First, it is short (200 pages) and mainly composed of dialogues. There are few descriptions or introspective parts.

The writing style borrows from children books characteristics. For example, every time a character is surprised or shocked, his or her emotions would be delivered through an exclamation instead of long narrative. For example, someone would say something or something would happen, and the reaction of our protagonist would be “すごい!”, “やっぱりおいしい!” or “やっぱ完璧!” or even “すごいすごい。てじなみたい!”. This gives the whole novel a casual, conversational tone that makes it easier to understand.

The author does not use many difficult kanji or long sentences. Moreover, several kanji words that are usually written in kanji (at least, in the other novels I have read so far) were written in hiragana instead.

What really stroke me, however, is a relatively large number of words with furigana (for a novel, I mean). With my N2 reading level, I constantly was under the impression that the book had been written for me. The kanji that I knew (meaning and pronunciation) were without furigana and all the kanji words that I didn’t know (including those whose meaning I could guess but could not pronounce) were with furigana. It was as though the publisher had scanned my brain and allowed all the kanji words not stocked in it to appear with furigana. 🤩

This had two consequences: first, it was almost a pleasure to look up words and I have done it extensively. This allowed me to add a lot of new words to my Anki deck. Usually, there are so many words that I don’t know in a novel (even if I can guess the meaning) that I don’t bother to add them all, it would be impossible. But in 「ぶたぶたラジオ」, the number of unknown words to me was decently low, so that I could almost look them all up without feeling overwhelmed.

The second consequence is that I could read out loud long passages. I love reading out loud when I can and I am sure that it does a lot of good when it comes to language learning. But of course, with unknown kanji words I cannot always pronounce, it is very frustrating to do so in Japanese. 「ぶたぶたラジオ」allowed me to read smoothly long passages because there were few kanji I didn’t know and if there were, they would appear with furigana.

In short, it was possible to use this novel to do some light study. I plan to read other titles of the series and study them too by looking up the unknown words and read out loud.

One other point is the huge number of onomatopoeia in this book. For someone who decided to learn them seriously, this novel is a treasure. To me, it could as well have called itself “learn onomatopoeia with ぶたぶた!”.


I didn’t read this book because of it had a thrilling story (it hardly has a main plot), but because it was so simple and vivid at the time. I kept smiling while reading because the author creates evocative and funny scenes with a few words. The pleasure I had reading this book considerably helps me to remember all the words and onomatopoeia I learned through it. This book is cute, funny, easy to read and the stories encompassed in it, though simple, easily echoes with the reader.

In a word, I warmly recommend 「ぶたぶたラジオ」to anyone looking for an easy novel in Japanese. Especially for people struggling with kanji. I think that, with a little study to go through less easy passages, this book can be read with an N3 level.

I would not be surprised if all the titles of the series were more or less of the same difficulty level. If I can buy it, I will read 「ぶたぶた本屋さん」.

Extract: At the beginning of the novel, radio host 久世遼太郎(くぜ・りょうたろう)and radio director 高根沢成夢(たかねざわ・なるむ)go to 山崎ぶたぶた’s(やまざき・ぶたぶた)bookshop to try to convince him to participate in one of their radio programs. We are page 15 (the underlined words have furigana):


– 矢崎存美, 「ぶたぶたラジオ」、光文社文庫、p.15

Bullet Journal, 5 months later

In October of last year, I started a bullet journal for the first time. It was dedicated to studying Japanese. I promised that I would come back some months after to see if this method worked for me or not.

Though I am not strictly bullet journalling anymore, it did immensely improve the way I organise myself.

The daily log: the greatest improvement of all times

The main feature of the bullet journal is to create daily lists of tasks with bullets. This is called the daily log, but if we get rid of fancy terms, it really is just a to-do list.

Although I never have been able to stick to any to-do list, going through the whole bullet journal system and create a “daily log” allowed me to plan my day and stick to my plan for the first time in my life.

I have started numerous systems to have my tasks done, mostly with apps, but would do it for a week or two at most before giving up. I would systematically end up associating my to-do list with negative emotions, going through my tasks would be annoying and not doing it would be reprehensible. Yet, it has been 5 months now that I write my daily log every day and achieve almost all that was listed in it.

What is different?

I don’t know what made all the difference. Maybe it comes from writing by hand and using a paper journal instead of an app. The problem with an app is that, while I always have my phone within reach, I try to reduce the times I pick it up. If I am to look at it everytime I want to check a task, I might end up losing time on YouTube or Twitter instead. A paper journal is inoffensive. Moreover, I feel more committed when I write by hand.

One other explanation would be the whole “bullet journal” system. Instead of starting a to-do list for the nth time, I devoted myself to my bullet journal for several months, trying to apply its features: monthly log, collections and so on. It was not a good resolution started on an impulse and forgotten the next day. I really had fun doing my bullet journal and watching videos or reading blogs about it. (even though I never decorated it, I feel much impressed and inspired by people who do).

Everything in one place: why it is not for me

When people enumerate the advantages of the bullet journal, they often say that you can keep everything in one single place. I can see that this is an advantage for many people, but to me, it just meant stop buying fancy notebooks!

I love having a lot of notebooks, each devoted to one thing. When I walked into a stationery shop (and in Korea, where I live, they have an undecent choice of cute stationery), I would think  “but I don’t need anything, I have my bullet journal” and feel a light resentment at having “everything in one place”.

At one point, the whole system scattered. It must have been when I decided to convert my agenda into a dedicated daily log journal. In this agenda, the whole week is spread on a double page, and each day is provided with enough space to write down a bullet list. In fact, the design of this agenda gets on with the daily log perfectly. I know that one advantage of the bullet journal is that there is no pre-determined space. You can adjust it to your daily needs. But I feel rewarded everytime my list reaches the bottom of the devoted space for the day. How much I filled the pre-determined space also allows me to see how many things I have achieved on a certain day. Having the whole week spread on a double-page is also an excellent way to glance back at my week and see how well I did. (I tried to reproduce how it looks like on this post’s featured image.)

Even though I could have used my bullet journal to do it, I started using other notebooks for dedicated tasks. For instance, I have a notebook to collect Japanese names, and I use “My Book” to write in Japanese, etc.

I still use what was my bullet journal as a plain notebook. I use it whenever I need to make drafts, for this blog for example. I also use it to keep track of all my resources and things that I want to do. This takes the form of a “habit tracker”, though I don’t want to make new habits, only be sure that I don’t forget something and study all my resources at least once a week. Anyway, it is now a brainstorming notebook and I don’t even index things in it anymore.


To conclude, I have adopted the daily log, and it totally improved the way I organise my day. This improvement alone was worth investing some time and money (I bought a Moleskine 😳) into bullet journaling. But apart from the daily log, I dropped everything else: I don’t do any monthly or future log, and the concept of “collections” does not make sense anymore because this is all there is in my journal now.

I am quite satisfied with my actual notebooks, I am not a “bujo-er” but I am glad that I made this bullet journal experience. Taking some time to think of a planner system, trying it for several months, watching videos and reading blogs about it helped me find my own system. We create productivity tools to be more efficient at work, but sometimes, we also need to devote some time thinking of the organisation itself!


Japanese News: an overview of the week (an attempt)

Today, instead of studying one article, I would like to have an overview of the topical issues of the week. I think that it would be more interesting to look at a wide range of topics and vocabulary, instead of going deeply into one subject.

The problem is that I don’t have a paying subscription to access a digital newspaper that would provide headlines. Instead, I use websites like NHK news or Asahi, but the continuous flow of articles makes it daunting to look for main information.

The only solution would be to check the news every day and bookmark articles that I want to review. I am far from reading the news every day in Japanese, but this is something I would like to do (instead of “reading”, I should say looking blankly at articles’ titles and having no idea what they are talking about).

Unfortunately, I have not been thorough in my reading the news resolution. I just isolated two main topics, but I don’t pretend to really do an overview of the week. But that’s the idea, and I hope I can improve in this domain. So, today’s topics are:

  • The 3.11 earthquake commemoration through the Arabaki rock festival
  • Latest developments in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal
  • Hayao MIYAZAKI’s last short film
  • Hello Kitty Shinkansen

3.11 earthquake commemoration

On March 11th, Japan commemorated the Aniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that stroke the East coast 7 years ago. It is also called the 3.11 earthquake in English and 3.11 震災 in Japanese

  • 震災・しんさい: earthquake disaster

Among the commemorative articles published by Asahi, one offers to look back on the 3.11 earthquake through the Arabaki rock festival アラバキロックフェスティバル.

The article is long but relatively easy to read and well illustrated. I will just go through some parts of it.

The festival (also called フェス, it took me a while to understand it!) usually takes place at the end of April. In 2011, however, the earthquake stroke while the staff was working on the preparation. After discussions on whether they should cancel or postpone the festival, they decided to hold it in August.

  • 開催する・かいさいする: to hold, open, host (a meeting, a festival, an exhibition, the Olympics…)
  • 主催者・しゅさいしゃ: a sponsor, a promoter
  • 出演者・しゅつえんしゃ: a performer, the cast

In 2011, the festival should have been held on April, 29th and 30th. The staff was hoping for a full bloom of the sakura at the time: “ばっちり満開になってほしい.”

  • ばっちり is an adverb which conveys the meaning of “perfect”, “beautiful”. This kind of adverb, along with onomatopoeia, is almost impossible for me to remember.
  • 満開・まんかい full bloom.

The first edition of Arabaki rock festival was in 2001. Since then, the festival changed location and became the musical event that launches the festival season: “日本のフェスシーズン到来を告げる音楽祭として定着し”.

  • 到来・とうらい: arrival
  • 告げる・つげる: tell, inform, announce
  • 定着する・ていちゃくする: to establish itself

After the earthquake, the question was whether to cancel or to postpone the event: 中止か延期か. They decided to postpone it until several weeks after the disaster: “被災から数週間で「延期開催」を決断した。”.

  • 被災・ひさい: disaster, suffering from a disaster.
  • 決断・けつだん: a firm decision.

Finally, the 春のフェス became 夏のアラバキ. The edition of 2011 was a way to pay respect to the victims. One of the staff said: “あの年のアラバキには、亡くなった方への鎮魂の意味合いが確かにあった”.

  • 鎮魂・ちんこん: the repose of the dead
  • 意味合い・いみあい: an implication, a connotation, a hidden meaning.

Note: I didn’t know this festival, but I have always been looking for alternative Japanese singers and groups. The festival website has a full list of artists!

Moritomo Gakuen scandal: the documents had been falsified

I cannot possibly work my way through the numerous articles relative to this case. There is so many of them that I don’t know which one I should read, and anyway, they are all above my level. Fortunately, I found this video on Asahi website: いちから解説!森友学園の決裁文書改ざん問題.

If they made a video called “いちから解説!”, this case must be complex even for Japanese. Anyway, it is perfect for me!

Tuesday (12th), the Minister of Finance confirmed that 14 documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal have been falsified:


  • 決裁文書・けっさいぶんしょ: this is how all the news articles refer to the documents that had been tampered with, but I don’t know how I am supposed to understand 決裁 and how to say it in English. I think, but I am not sure, that these documents had been approved by the Ministry of Finance, although they had been altered. I will just talk about “the documents”.
    • 決裁・けっさい means “sanction”, “approval”.

The video then goes through the whole case and sums up what we already know:

  1. Concerning the sale price 売却額, there had been a reduction of 800 million Yen: “本来の鑑定価格から約8億円の値引き”:
    • 鑑定・かんてい: an expert opinion, estimation.
    • 値引き・ねびき: a reduction in price, a discount.
  2. Abe’s wife, Akie ABE, was to be named “honorary principal” 名誉校長 of the new school.
  3. Abe said that he would resign if it could be proven that he or his wife had interfered in the sale.
  4. Nobihisa SAGAWA, who was then a high official in the Ministry of Finance at the time of the sale, said that the documents relative to the sale’s negotiations had been disposed of: “交渉記録を廃棄した”:
    • 交渉・こうしょう: negotiations
    • 廃棄する・はいきする: dispose of, throw away, get rid of
  5. At the end of 2017, the Board of Audit concluded that justifications 根拠・こんきょ for such a discount were insufficient.

In this context, the Minister of Finance admitted that documents submitted during the investigation had been falsified. We talk of 決裁文書改ざん.

  • 改ざん・かいざん means “falsification”.

What has been altered?

First, the sale was described as “exceptional”: 本件の特殊性. These words were deleted.

  • 特殊性・とくしゅせい: a special characteristic.

The name of Akie ABE had also been erased from a document: “昭恵氏の名前が削られていた”.

  • 昭恵・あきえ: Akie ABE
  • 削る・けずる: delete, erase

Before having been tampered with, the document referred to the visit of Akie ABE to the site and words of encouragement she gave at the time: “いい土地ですから、前に勧めてください。”

The original documents also mentioned contacts between officials, but I don’t understand to whom exactly these contacts have been made or why this could have been a sensitive piece of information.

A leading member of the Finance Ministry said that the “Official Residence of the Prime Minister” was not involved in the falsification.

  • 幹部・かんぶ means “a leading member”, a “key officer”, “a senior member”.
  • They say that there is no 関与 with the 官邸
    • 関与・かんよ involvement, participation
    • 官邸・かんてい: the Official Residence of the Prime Minister. I guess that it is a way to talk about Abe and include his wife too.

Of course, the opposition is asking for cross-examination of the Prime Minister Shinzo ABE and the  Minister of Finance Taro ASO

  • 追及・ついきゅう: questioning, interrogation, a cross-examination

In the meanwhile, Minister of Finance Taro ASO denied all conjecture concerning the government or politicians and said that we had to wait for the police to complete the investigation to get more detailed results.

  • 麻生太郎・あそうたろう: Taro ASO, Minister of Finance
  • 忖度・そんたく: conjecture.

Note: I wouldn’t be surprised if they updated the video later, to include future new developments. I studied it as it were on Friday morning (16th).

The note left by an employee of the Kinki Financial Bureau

On March 7th, a member of the Kinki Finance Bureau (an organisation under the Finance Ministry that was involved in the sale and, as it appears, in the falsification of the documents) committed suicide. The NHK article 「森友」自殺した職員がメモ「自分1人の責任にされてしまう」 gives an insight of the note he left before dying.

He clearly accuses his hierarchy, says that he acted upon directives from above and was treated as a scapegoat:

  • “上からの指示で文書を書き直させられた”
    • 書き直させられた: a good opportunity to revise the causative-passive form!
  • “決裁文書の調書の部分が詳しすぎると言われ上司に書き直させられた”
    • 調書・ちょうしょ: a protocol, a written evidence, a record
  • “勝手にやったのではなく財務省からの指示があった”
  • “このままでは自分1人の責任にされてしまう、冷たい”

The video in the article was surprisingly understandable to me.

Hayao Miyazaki’s「毛虫のボロ」

This is an article I found on NHK news.

5 years after The Wind rises 「風立ちぬ」, Hayao MIYAZAKI announced that he has completed his new short film 「毛虫のボロ」. The 14 minutes story follows a caterpillar as it opens his eyes to the world for the first time.

  • 宮崎駿・みやざきはやお: Hayao MIYAZAKI
  • 短編アニメーション・たんぺん: The word 短編 means “a short piece of fiction.”
  • 毛虫・けむし: a hairy caterpillar (chenille)

This short film is, as usual, drawn by hand but also uses computer-generated imagery: “これまでの手描きに加えて、初めて一部にCGを取り入れた”.

With The Wind Rises, Hayao MIYAZAKI took his retreat from directing long films and concentrated on this short animation. But he came back on his decision last year and is coming back to full-length animation: 宮崎監督は、5年前に長編アニメからの引退を表明してこの作品に専念してきましたが、去年、引退を撤回して長編アニメの製作を再開しています。

  • 長編・ちょうへん: a long work, opposed to 短編.
  • 専念する・せんねんする: concentrate on, devote oneself to. (sthに 専念する)
  • 撤回する・てっかいする: withdraw, revoke, recall

Hello Kitty Shinkansen

This Summer, it will be possible to travel on board of a “Hello Kitty Shinkansen“. The idea is to link people and region through Hello Kitty’s pink ribbon: “ハローキティのリボンがお客様と地域を、「つないで、結ぶ」新幹線。”

  • つなぐ: to link, to connect
  • 結ぶ・むすぶ: to tie up, to knot, to bind. Can also mean “join, link, tie” in our context. This verb is used to say that a train “links” two cities. For example “東京と大阪を3時間で結ぶ新幹線”.


I am taken aback by the number of new articles published on Japanese information websites. I like the Asahi website and NHK news, but new articles are coming every 2 minutes, so it is very difficult to find the main topics in it. The best way I found until now is to listen to NHK Radio News every morning, but this does not mean I understand what they say…

Of course, I am sure that if I get better at reading Japanese, going through articles’ titles and selecting crucial information will be much easier!

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

I have finished reading 沼田まほかる’s novel 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」. Reading this book took me a long time, but even though I struggled to go through some parts of it, I enjoyed reading it. I know that some passages were above my level, and even if I could follow the story and most of the dialogues without problems, I may have had a partial understanding of some narrative parts. As a consequence, I don’t feel qualified to write a review of this book. I think I missed some of its subtilities. I will, instead, write about how I read this novel.

The story turns around Towako, a young woman, and her relationship with men. Three male characters shape her life: Jinji, with whom she lives, Kurosaki, her former lover, and Mizushima, a salesman she meets in the course of the story. Right from the beginning, though, we feel that something will happen, or maybe has happened, that we, and Towako, still don’t know.

To be honest, I read the first half of the novel more with a sense of duty than a real pleasure. I saw the protagonist with detachment, and I was not able to sympathise with her feelings, her actions or her words. On the contrary, I felt immediate empathy with Jinji, the man who shares Towako’s life when our novel opens.

At this time, I felt a lot of doubts about whether I was understanding the novel correctly or not. I read some reviews posted on Amazon and, at first, felt that I was not at all having the same understanding of the novel than most of the reviewers, that maybe I missed something because of my Japanese level. But then, I read this other review. Someone said that because he was a man in his forties, he read the novel from the point of view of Jinji. I am not a man in his forties, but I did read the novel from Jinji’s point of view. It may sound strange, but I felt that I received some kind of approval for my interpretation because a native reader had it too. I also felt that the novel offered different readings and had a quality that I could not perceive.

When I reached the half of the story, however, things began to change. I saw Towako differently. She appeared to me as an actress who only got a minor role and watches from the backstage how others, play after play, perform the leading role that should have belonged to her. I saw that perhaps, this novel was not about Towako and men, but Towako and women, the women she is not and longs to be.

This revelation made me want to read the novel from the start again, to see what I missed (but I didn’t). I began feeling sympathy and concern for the protagonist and at the same time, the mystery really started to unfold, the tension steadily growing until the end. This is why I enjoyed reading the second half of the novel very much, much more than the beginning.

As for the Japanese, it was challenging. As I said in a previous post, all the dialogues between Towako and Jinji are written in the Kansai dialect. This was puzzling to me, and it added difficulty to a novel which was already complex.

This is an example of what I would qualify as “a difficult passage” but also considers as a beautiful one (though I still can’t judge the writing quality of a novel in Japanese):

(十和子・とわこ our protagonist、陣治・じんじ the man she lives with、黒崎・くろさき her former lover)


– 沼田まほかる、「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」、幻冬舎文庫、p.49-50

I could not possibly translate such a passage. I looked up words, and I understand enough of it to know what message it conveys. Most of the narrative passages are much easier than this one, but the key to understanding the protagonist lies in this kind of description.

Now that I have finished it, I will pick a new book from my 2018 reading challenge list. I hope the next one will be easier!

Trying to remember Japanese Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is probably one of the fun and recreative aspects of the Japanese language, and I have always been assuming that most Japanese learners remember and use these cute words effortlessly.

The problem

Now, I don’t think that I have a childhood trauma relative to onomatopoeia (but who knows?), but the truth is that I can’t remember them. I know some of them, of course, but only the most commonly used.

Not being able to learn something that almost every text on the subject qualifies as “easy to remember” has been annoying me for a long time now, but I have done nothing to tackle this problem. The only way I dealt with onomatopoeia until now, was to add these words to my Anki deck as standard vocabulary. But I have come up against a few problems:

  • It is a real struggle to guess an onomatopoeia through its English translations. Some share a similar meaning, and translations hardly convey the differences between related onomatopoeias. As a result, when I see the “English” card, it is a hassle to guess the Japanese onomatopoeia, and anyway, being able to deduce an onomatopoeia from an English translation is not very useful. What would be helpful and practical would be to be able to associate an onomatopoeia to a situation, a feeling, or even an association of words.
  • Some words are used with “と” or “する”, “している” when others are used with “だ”, “の”, etc. If I were to learn Japanese onomatopoeia as standard vocabulary, I should also learn how to use each of them correctly. I have tried, mainly because I had to for JLPT N2, and it was more boring than I can say.
  • Even if I can remember them through Anki, it does not tell me in which context I can use them.

Generally speaking, onomatopoeias make sense in a context, a situation. Learning them through flashcards has not proven efficient to me.

The solution

But how am I supposed to learn Japanese onomatopoeia in context? I see a lot of them in novels, but I will not remember them if I don’t use a spaced repetition system. For a long time, I didn’t know how to go about it until I decided to try something out.

I have started a new Anki deck for onomatopoeia. I am using Anki’s function called “cloze deletion” to create my notes.

On the front, I have a complete sentence, sometimes several sentences, that contain an onomatopoeia. The idea is to give as much context as possible so that I can see how or why this onomatopoeia is used here. I also give a “hint”, which is the English “translation”  found in the dictionary. If I give an example with イライラ:

anki onomatopoeia

This is how the front card appears. The back will just display the onomatopoeia in blue. I also use the Awesome TTS plugin to read out loud the onomatopoeia when the answer is shown.  The idea is not to know what an onomatopoeia means but to know in what situation it can be used.

That’s it! Thanks to Anki’s cloze deletion system, this kind of card is easy to create.

the Challenge

Now that I came up with a solution, the challenge is to go on with this system and create new notes regularly. I will try to add notes to this deck every time I come across an onomatopoeia in a novel or any other source. I find it easy to remember words if I can tell in which book I saw them, which character used them, in which context and so on.

The problem is that I may be lazy and stop adding notes to this deck after a while. I will see an onomatopoeia in a book, find it great, think: “I must add it to my deck!”, then go on reading telling myself that I will come back to it later, and then forget. If this happens too often, my new deck will never grow. In the end, I will conclude that it didn’t work, but I would not know if it failed because the idea was bad or because I didn’t even give it a proper try.

What it takes is self-discipline. It will be annoying to do it at first, but if I can keep on with this system for some time, taking notes while reading will become an evident thing to do.


I am glad that I am finally doing something to remember onomatopoeia and not just complain about my lack of skill in this domain. I don’t know if it will work, but I want to give it a try. I will post again about my progress in some months.

My English notebook

What really puzzles me among this whole onomatopoeia thing, is whether the word “onomatopoeia” is uncountable or not. I have seen text saying “Onomatopoeia is…” and others saying “Onomatopoeia are…”, some people say it’s uncountable, others say that it’s okay to write “onomatopoeias” if we need a plural. My Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary says that the word is uncountable, but Grammarly does not underline it if I write with a final “s”. 🤨

Japanese News: Moritomo Gakuen scandal

Although it was one of the major political issues of last year, I have not read much in Japanese about the Moritomo Gakuen scandal. It is a complex story with difficult vocabulary, and the titles of the related articles have always discouraged me.

I wanted to believe that this scandal was a last-year-thing and that I could skip studying it altogether. Alas for me, new developments have put the Moritome Gakuen in the headlines again and given the number of articles that have appeared on this subject, I am forced to admit that I can no longer avoid it.

I will not study a specific article but focus on key vocabulary. Of course, the first thing I did was to pick up my Asahi Keywords and study the double-page devoted to the Morimoto Gakuen scandal.

Context and Vocabulary

Moritomo Gakuen

Moritomo Gakuen” is the name of a private “school corporation“. It has a very conservative education line and would, for example, include the reading of the Imperial Rescript on Education to its program.

  • 森友学園・もりともがくえん: the school Moritomo.
    • 学園・がくえん means “school” or “educational institution”.
  • 法人・ほうじん: a corporation or a legal person.
  • 保守・ほしゅ conservatism
  • 教育勅語・きょういくちょくご: Imperial Rescript on Education, signed by Emperor Meiji in 1890. Maybe not the most useful word, I admit… 🙄

The scandal

In 2016, the director of Moritomo Gakuen obtained a 10-year lease to buy a state-owned land. Such a long-term lease is unprecedented. But the real problem lies elsewhere: the state has sold the land to 1/10 of its value (compared to other properties in the same area)

  • 10年分割払い・10ねんぶんわりはらい: 10-year lease.
  • This lease is described as “前例のない・ぜんれいのない”, without precedent.
  • 国有地・こくゆうち: it is easy to guess the meaning of this word thanks to its kanji: state-owned land.

To justify such a drastic reduction, the state argued that a large quantity of garbage was buried in the ground. Both the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Finance settled the clean-up costs. These costs were deducted from the sale price, and this is how the land was sold to 1/10 of its value.

  • 国土交通省・こくどこうつうしょう: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). To be precise, it is the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau of Osaka 大阪航空局 that is concerned here. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau is a division of the MLIT and to simplify, we can drop it and mention only the MLIT. The problem is that Japanese articles are likely to be accurate and talk of “国土交通大阪航空” which is a long series of kanji.
  • 財務省・ざいむしょう: Ministry of Finance
  • 撤去費・てっきょひ: the removal cost.

When all this has been made public, specialists have observed that the documents provided by the government were not able to corroborate the presence of garbage as stated at the time of the sale. There is a suspicion that the estimation made by the state was exaggerated. Finally, the Board of Audit concluded that there was not enough evidence concerning the quantity of garbage.

  • ゴミの位置や量が不明確
    • 不明確・ふめいかく: unclear, indistinct.
  • 見積もりが過大だった疑いがある
    • 見積もり・みつもり: estimation
    • 過大な・かだいな: excessive, exorbitant, exaggerated
    • 過大見積もり・かだいみつもり: overestimation
  • 会計検査院・かいけいけんさいん: the Board of Audit
  • 根拠・こんきょ: grounds, reason, support, evidence, justification

Furthermore, there were contradictions between what several actors said. While an official from the Kinki Local Finance Bureau said that they made efforts to get closer to Moritomo’s request, a high official from the Ministry of Finance, Nobuhisa SAGAWA, said the opposite.

  • 矛盾・むじゅん: contradiction
  • 近畿財務局・きんきざいむきょく: “Kinki” is the name of the region. We may recognise “財務” which means “financial affairs” because we saw it earlier in “Ministry of Finance”. In place of 省 for “ministry”, we have here 局・きょく for “Bureau”.
  • 佐川宣寿・さがわのぶひさ: Nobuhisa SAGAWA was at the time the head of the Financial Bureau of the Ministry of Finance
  • 財務理財・ざいむしょうりざいきょく: The Financial Bureau of the Ministry of Finance. Here again, I think we can simplify and keep simply “Ministry of Finance”.

After the scandal, the director of Moritomo Gakuen, Yasunori KAGOIKE, and his wife have been arrested on charges of fraud.

  • 籠池康典・かごいけやすのり: Yasunori KAGOIKE. I am definitively going to write this name in my “Japanese names notebook“, together with the others that appear in this post.
  • 国などの補助金をだまし取る
    • 補助金・ほじょきん: a subsidy, a subvention, a grant of money
    • だまし取る・だましとる: defraud, cheat.

Involvement of Abe’s wife.

What gave the scandal a further dimension is the involvement of Abe’s wife, Akie ABE. She was named honorary principal of the new school but resigned when the scandal broke. Her involvement in this affair raised the question of her status: is she a private citizen or a public official?

  • 安倍昭恵・あべあきえ: Akie ABE, another name I must add to my notebook!
  • 名誉校長・めいよこうちょう: honorary principal.
  • 私人・しじん: a private citizen
  • 公人・こうじん: a public official

Why is it resurfacing now?

There are suspicions that the Ministry of Finance falsified a document relative to the sale. To be honest, there are many articles on the subject, but I don’t see that there is much to say except that we wait for clarification from the Ministry.

Let’s have a quick look at this article from NHK News: 財務省が文書の写し提出し予算審議再開へ 森友文書問題.

The sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen is referred to as 「森友学園」への国有地売却.

  • 売却・ばいきゃく: sale.

The “falsified” document is 書き換えられた.

  • 書き換える・かきかえる means “rewrite” and “forge”, “alter a document”.

The Ministry of Finance submitted a copy of the documents to the Diet on the 8th. The House of Councillors (the Upper House of the Diet) is ready to open the budgetary discussions, but the opposition is asking for more transparency. They want to hurry the declaration of the persons concerned and determinate clearly if the documents have been altered or not.

  • 写し・うつし: a copy, a duplicate
  • 国会・こっかい: the National Diet
  • 参議院・さんぎいん: the House of Councillors, the Upper House of the Diet.
  • 予算審議・よさんしんぎ: budgetary discussion.
    • 審議・しんぎ means “discussion”, “deliberation” and often appears in this sort of articles.
  • 文書の作成に関わった関係者からの聴き取りを急がせる.
  • 文書の書き換えがあったのかどうかを明確


What makes articles on this subject so difficult to read is definitely the abundance of names. Names of persons that I cannot even pronounce (but this will change!) and names of institutions. This last point is the most challenging one. Whenever a paragraph gives me a headache, it certainly contains at least one or two names of political institutions or persons like 参議院財政金融委員会 or 衆議院議院運営委員会 or 参議院国会対策委員長 or even 麻生副総理兼財務大臣. If I look at them without panicking, I can see or guess what they are referring to, but I use all my willpower in this process and lose the energy to read the whole article.

Nevertheless, I feel a huge satisfaction to have been through the Moritomo Gakuen scandal in Japanese. I feel also rewarded to have bought and studied the Asahi Keywords book, it helped me greatly here! And finally, I am more than ever motivated to get on with my “Japanese names notebook“.