Monthly review: April

I started writing a monthly review last month, and I find it very beneficial. This month, too, I will look into what I have done and not done.


I guess that we all experience ups and downs with our SRS, Anki or other… I have been experiencing a total breakdown during the whole month of April. I have been busy at the beginning of the month and spent some days without studying Anki, with the result that I found myself with a huge deck. What happens in this case, is that I stop learning new cards and try to bring my deck to zero during the following days.

After that, I was not in the mood to learn new words, and I had no fun at all studying my deck (not that it is very funny at all). I try to get Anki over with as quickly as I can, and I got into the bad habit to dismiss cards I don’t know with the “difficult” button even though I should have tagged them “again”. I know I should not do that but…

I have already given up one of my goals for 2018: reaching 10,000 words at the end of the year. However, I think that this is something I can achieve for 2019 and I am thinking of trying JLPT N1 next year in July or more likely in December. When my anti-Anki phase is over, I will maybe consider buying an N1 vocabulary textbook to start adding new words from now on. I want to avoid having a lot of words to learn in a few months like I did when I prepared N2. If I start now for next year, it would not be a problem.

English books

I finished reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, certainly the longest novel I ever read in English. To me, the narrative structure was the most interesting part of the book. I love novels that are about novels, but The Golden Notebook is about writing a novel in its own structure.  I mean, writing is a theme of the story, but it goes far beyond it. It is a real dissection of the relation narrator-character, of the difference between a first-person narrative and third-person one. This is, I think, the reason why I loved it so much.

Currently reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

I bought this book some days ago when I had the occasion. I am working my way through English literature by simply following what I find on Google by searching for “contemporary British novels one must absolutely read” and similar things. Among the many titles I find, I go first for the ones I can buy here in Korea. This is how I found and bought The Paying Guests.

The funny thing is that I finally saw The Handmaiden by Park Chan-wook, and I didn’t like it at all. Despite the many praising reviews I read about the film, I still can’t understand why it had so much success. Anyway, there are things that I loved about the film and things I hated. But I didn’t know that it was adapted from one of Sarah Waters’ novels when I saw it. Now that I am reading The Paying Guests and learnt about the novel Fingersmith, I know what I liked and disliked in the film: I loved Sarah Waters’ novel that I haven’t even read, and I hated the gloss Park Chan-wook covered it with.

Anyway, I love the Paying Guests, I love Sarah Waters’ writing. I feel that the English language has incredibly many words, it seems that there is a precise word for everything and that Sarah Waters know them all! Reading her is good for my English.

Japanese newspapers

A question that accompanied me the whole month was: shall I try a paying subscription for either 朝日新聞 or 毎日新聞 to access paying articles?

The reason I would like to try a subscription is that I would like to read more opinion-like articles. I find that the articles I am currently reading do not convey any judgement, they simply report the facts. Even when they talk about political scandals, I don’t feel any criticism behind them.

I came to the conclusion that most of the articles available for free are there to inform and only report what happened and who said what. And maybe, to read articles that convey criticism, judgement, opinions and analysis, one has to read the paying articles. It would make sense, I think.

What prevented me from taking a paying subscription is the idea that these articles will be much more difficult to read and that I won’t be able to do much with them anyway. However, I could try just one month and see… Mainichi has a 1000 yen subscription plan which gives access to all the paying articles for one month. They even have a one-day subscription: 100 yen for 24 hours access. This is not bad when one wants to read a particular article.

I think that I will try a one-month subscription with Mainichi in May!


It is hard to look back at the month and judge whether it was satisfactory or not. I have the feeling that I didn’t do enough in April, that the weather was disappointing (either cloudy and cold or warm and dirty) and that I somehow missed the Spring impulse and energy I thought I would feel when the weather gets warmer. But it is a natural tendency of me to focus on the “not enough” part and ignore what I did achieve.

Even though I gave up on the 10,000 words goal and am struggling with Anki, I am satisfied with other things like reading the news in Japanese or finishing The Golden Notebook. More than everything, I am doing well with my 2018 reading challenge (a Japanese book per month), and this was my main goal for the year.

It was not a bad month after all!

Japanese News: April week 4

I must admit that I haven’t read a lot of the news this week…

japanese news April week 4.jpg

I also wanted to read articles from Asahi website to compare them with Mainichi. It is hard to admit it, but I stuck to Mainichi out of laziness. I am used to using their app and their website, and it created a kind of cosy area and routine that makes up for the discomfort of reading in Japanese. Even if I were told that another newspaper is better, I would not want to change now. I wonder how many other things I keep doing just because I am too lazy to change…? 😳

Opposition asks for Aso’s resignation

Both the Moritomo Gakuen scandal and Fukuda’s accusation of sexual harassment took place in the Ministry of Finance. The opposition is asking for Finance Minister Aso to resign: 麻生氏「進退考えぬ」 財務省、次官再聴取へ.

The first sentence of this article is tricky (I had to re-read it several times before understanding it):


When I first read it, I was wondering why anything relative to Fukuda should take place in Washington, haha. Things become much easier if we isolate the important information: The Finance Minister Taro ASO said: “I am not thinking of resigning”. (blue bold)

To add context, we know that he said that on the 20th (Japan time) [19th at Washington], he said it while he was at Washington, and he said it to a group of journalists. (blue)

Why should he talk about resigning or not resigning? He said it because voices asking for his resignation are growing louder (pink bold). Why are they growing louder? Because of the scandal relative to Fukuda, accused of sexual harassment (pink).

It also seems that 6 political parties from the opposition refuse to take part in the deliberation in the Diet as long as Aso hasn’t resigned: 野党6党は審議復帰の条件として、麻生太郎副総理兼財務相の辞任などを要求. (source) (this kind of article is a little difficult to me…) I am glad I remembered that 兼・けん is here to link Aso’s functions. He is both Deputy Prime Minister (副総理・ふくそうり) and Minister of Finance (財務相・ざいむしょう).

On Friday afternoon the bill for the Labour reform entered the House of Representatives for deliberation with the major opposition parties still absent (see the picture in this article with the caption: 主な野党が欠席したまま働き方改革関連法案が審議入りした衆院本会議)

  • 審議・しんぎ: deliberation
  • 衆院・しゅういん or 衆議院・しゅうぎいん: The House of Representatives, the Lower House
  • 本会議・ほんかいぎ: Deliberative Assembly, a plenary session of the Diet


We learnt on Monday that Fukuda’s retirement allowance will be around 5300万円 and on Tuesday, Fukuda’s resignation was approved by the government: 福田財務次官の辞任を閣議了承 セクハラ疑惑. This article is interesting because it underlines the fact that Nobuhisa SAGAWA, also a high official of the Ministry of Finance, had to resign from his post in March (in relation to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal). Two high officials of the Ministry resigning this year…

On Friday, The Ministry of Finance announced that Fukuda’s retirement allowance would be reduced by 20%: 福田氏のセクハラ認定、懲戒処分相当 退職金減額.

  • 懲戒処分・ちょうかいしょぶん: disciplinary action.

Yasukuni shrine

On the 21th began Yasukuni Shrine Spring Festival. Abe didn’t attend the ceremony, but he sent a ritual offering.

  • 靖国神社・やすくにじんじゃ: Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Japan war dead, but it also lists 14 war criminals of class A from World War II. As a result, every visit from officials to the Yasukuni Shrine rises protests in Korea and China.
  • 春季例大祭: I think it reads “はるのれいたいさい”. A shrine spring Festival, particularly Yasukuni Shrine Spring Festival.

This article from Mainichi says that the last time Abe visited the shrine was in 2013.

  • 参拝する・さんぱいする: to pay a visit to a shrine

To say that Abe didn’t visit the Yasukuni shrine this year, it uses the verb 見送る・みおくる: “首相は23日までの例大祭期間中の参拝は見送る” or “参拝見送り“. I knew the verb 見送る in the sense of “see somebody off (at the airport for example)”. But it also means “doing nothing”, “have a wait and see attitude”, “fail to act”, like you just see something and let it pass by, without taking action.

The article also says that Abe not visiting the shrine is a way to preserve the relations with South Korea and China: “中韓両国との関係維持を優先したとみられる。”

Yuzuru HANYU’s parade in hometown

I often see articles relative to Yuzuru HANYU on news websites, but I rarely read them. I did this time, and I was stupefied by the number of fans he has in his hometown: 羽生結弦、五輪連覇でパレード「ただいま」 地元仙台で.

On Sunday (22th), a parade was organised for Hanyu, at his hometown, Sendai City (仙台市・せんだいし), in the prefecture of Miyagi (宮城県・みやぎけん).

I would like to say that this Asahi article does not mention the name of the prefecture. It just says: “出身地の仙台市”. As you know, maybe, I am learning Japan prefectures, and I feel confident now about reading the kanji of almost all the 47 prefectures. Naturally, I was excited to put my knowledge into practice and was waiting for the prefecture’s name to make an appearance in the article! You can imagine the face I made when I read “出身地の仙台市”, haha. I headed to the Mainichi article on the same subject, and I was relieved to read: “故郷の宮城県仙台市”.

japanese news April week 4-3

This last article also tells us that around 108,000 persons were there to congratulate him while Hanyu smiled at the crow and waved his hand during 40 minutes. Dedicated tee-shirts and rubber bands (is it how it’s called in English? ラバーバンド) were also sold.

japanese news April week 4-2

I found some interesting expressions in this article:

  • まだ興奮は冷めていない. Even almost two months after Pyeongchang Olympics, the excitement hasn’t “got cold”.
    • 興奮・こうふん: excitement, agitation, exhilaration, hysteria
  • 場所取りの徹夜組が出た. As is often the case in such events, groups have spent the night on the spot to be sure to grab themselves the best place.
    • 場所取り・ばしょとり: saving a place
    • 徹夜・てつや: stay up all night
  • 宮城の民放全4局が生中継した. All 4 commercial channels of Miyagi Prefecture live broadcasted the parade
    • 民放・みんぽう: from 民間放送局, a commercial broadcast station
    • 生中継・なまちゅうけい: a live broadcast

Yoga and massage?

By the end of the year, I will know the name and face of all ministers of Japan if it goes on like this! Minister of Education Yoshimasa HAYASHI made public excuses on Wednesday for going to his yoga course with the official vehicle during his working hours.

  • 林芳正・はやし よしまさ: Yoshimasa HAYASHI, minister of Education
  • 文部科学省・もんぶかがくしょう: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, often abbreviated “文科省・もんかしょう”.

According to this article (文科相、公用車でヨガ認める「混乱招いた」謝罪), the magazine Shukan Bunshun (週刊文春) reported that Hayashi uses the official car to go to yoga courses in a “sexy” private room, in broad daylight:

To come back to our article, the title says that Hayashi apologised for having given rise to confusion

  • 混乱を招く・こんらんをまねく: give rise to confusion

The article is relatively easy to understand:


週刊文春によると、林氏は4月16日午後2時半ごろ、公用車で店を訪れ、約2時間滞在。待たせていた公用車で立ち去った。” (source)

Hayashi said that he goes to this Yoga thing several times a month since a friend recommended it to him some years ago. He said that he goes during his working hours (平日の公務の間に) with the official car (公用車). Even though he receives massage and yoga class in a private class (1対1で) with a female instructor (女性インストラクター), the place is not a “キャバクラ” style, like the magazine suggested.

The word キャバクラ means a place where female hostesses take care of clients, it comes from the words “cabaret” and “club” (source: Wikipedia).

japanese news April week 4-1

According to the magazine, Hayashi went there on the 16th and stayed there for 2 hours. At the time, the Ministry of Education was being searched in relation to the Kake Gakuen scandal, which of course, makes the whole business even more scandalous.

Dokdo or Takeshima?

This week, South Korea published a picture of the dessert they will serve during the meeting with North Korea. The dessert is a kind of mousse but what matters is the decoration on the dessert: a little map of unification (unified Korea in blue) which depicts Dokdo.

  • 南北首脳会談・なんぼくしゅのうかいだん: Inter-Korean summit

Dokdo, or Takeshima in Japanese, is a subject of dispute between Japan and Korea. Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested: 「わが国の立場と相いれない。適切な対応を求める」(source).


A lot more happened but some articles are really too hard for me. I saw several articles about two political parties merging to form a new one (?) or something like that. This is the kind of things that I still cannot read. The problem is not as much the Japanese level as the prerequisite knowledge that I don’t have. I know nothing of political parties in Japan and don’t know who is who either. When an article says that “someone” will not join the new party or similar things, I really have no clue what people are talking about!

Of course, there were many articles today (Friday 27th) about the Korean summit, but I decided to study only internal affairs for the time being!


Currently reading: 「放送禁止」by 長江俊和

I am now reading one of the shortest books on my reading list: 「放送禁止」by 長江俊和. After 「イノセント・デイズ」 which was a long novel with deep implications, I didn’t want to dive just yet into another long novel. I chose 「放送禁止」 to serve as a recreation.

Why I chose this book

Among the best-sellers that I saw in Kyoto’s bookshops last December, was another book by 長江俊和 (ながえ・としかず) which title kindled my interest: 「出版禁止」. I was attracted both by the title and the cover, which seemed to be full of mysteries.

I finally bought 「放送禁止」instead because it was written previously and I thought it would be better to start with the first title of the “禁止” series, though I didn’t know, and still don’t know if the stories are linked.

About the drama, the film and the book

I wasn’t aware at the time that “放送禁止” is actually the name of a drama. I thought that the drama might be an adaptation of the book but in fact, it is the other way around. There is also a film.

What I understand is this:

The drama came first. It presents itself as a real reportage, but it is, in fact, a fiction. I saw some extracts, and you could swear that it is a documentary made for the television. I understand that there are several episodes and one of the most famous ones may be the second one: “ある呪われた大家族”, broadcasted in 2003.

Later, there have been several film adaptations, including “ニッポンの大家族 Saiko! The Large family” (2009), which is a sequel (続編・ぞくへん) to the drama episode “ある呪われた大家族”. According to the Wikipedia page, there are three films.

And then comes our book. It was first serialised in 2009 and published as a book in 2016. A look into the contents tells us that there are three episodes in it:

  • 呪われた大家族 (episode 2 of the drama)
  • ストーカー地獄編 (episode 3)
  • しじんの村 (episode 5)

I have started the first chapter and watched a little bit of the drama out of curiosity, and both are very similar. The book seems to stay very close to the drama. Each chapter is presented as a reportage made for the television and we follow the filming staff as they make the documentary. Therefore the book, as well as the drama, both make the stories look like real stories.


At first, I was a little disappointed to know that the book was not the original version, but it does not matter, really. I am enjoying it and I hope that I can finish it soon. It will tell more about it in my review!

Learning Japan Prefectures

Since I started reading the news in Japanese, I am telling myself that I must learn Japan prefectures. I have finally taken the first step by doing my own map with furigana and English.

Why learn Japan prefectures and region?

I suppose that Japanese learners who studied Japanese at school or university have gone through Geography classes and have a good overview of the country’s layout. The problem with self-learning is that nobody forces you to learn what you don’t like. And me, I don’t like Geography, so I have never taken the trouble to learn Japan’s regions, prefectures and main cities, though of course, I do know some of them.

But then, I was very limited when it comes to reading the news. Every time I saw a prefecture name in an article, I had to copy-paste it in Google to find its pronunciation and see where it was. With all the unknown words I have to struggle with in any political article, it just added an unnecessary difficulty. Worse, I sometimes wasn’t able to recognise a prefecture’s name as such, particularly in titles where the kanji 県 is often omitted.

In novels too, I hadn’t a clue when a prefecture was mentioned. Contrary to reading the news (where I have my browser opened so that googling something does not take much time) I would not interrupt my reading a novel to look up a prefecture name in Google, I could not even copy-paste it. So I would just ignore the information. I knew that a prefecture was mentioned, but I could not tell which one or where it was.

And of course, the same goes for films, culinary specialities, festivals, famous places, people and so on. In fact, knowing a country’s geography is important…

japan prefectures - kanji only

My goal

I want to be able to:

  • know approximately where a prefecture is on a map. At least, I would like to be able to associate a prefecture to a region
  • read without frowning and sighing any prefecture names in kanji when I see one.

How I will proceed

I have decided to not use Anki and try a more natural learning system.

To remember where a prefecture is and associate images with it:

First, what I will systematically do is look up a prefecture on my map whenever I hear or read about one. I think that this is the best way to remembering, the problem is that it will take ages before I learn the 47 prefectures. But then, why not? I am not in a hurry.

What I will also do is to write down somewhere any information relative to one prefecture. The idea is not to look for information relative to a prefecture on Google but to collect information that I am coming across during my other activities. For example, if I read a magazine with an interesting article about a festival or any other particularity linked to a region, I could write it down. When I read the news, I will associate events to prefectures. For example, 愛媛県・えひめけん is strongly associated with the Kake Gakuen scandal in my head because I see the prefecture’s name in almost every article I read on the subject.

japan prefectures - kanji and furigana

To be able to read the kanji of the prefectures:

While doing the maps, I realised that reading prefectures’ name is not as daunting as it looks like. A lot of pronunciation can be deduced like 秋田・あきた, 愛知・あいち or 徳島・とくしま.

To remember the pronunciation of the kanji, I will use the maps that I have printed. I made my own maps using other maps I found on the Internet and crossing information to have both English and kanji on the same map.

I will use the map “kanji only” to try to read the prefectures out loud and check with the English or furigana map. I also made a “map only” version in case I am able one day to place every prefecture on the map.

japan prefectures - kanji and English

PDF link to the maps, please feel free to use them!


I am glad that I have taken some time, at last, to start studying the prefectures. I think that I can learn relatively quickly how to read the names when I only have the kanji, and this will be an immense improvement. It will take me a lot more time to be able to place all the prefectures on the map and start associating them with images of their own, but maybe this could become a new 2018 goal.

Japanese News: April Week 3

I have decided to stop using the site NHK to write my post because the links get broken very soon. So this time, all the sources come from I focused more on politics this week.

Demonstration against Abe

On Saturday (14th), 30,000 demonstrators were protesting before the Diet building: 安倍政権退陣迫る 森友・加計問題で3万人. On the video, we can hear them chanting “安倍やめろ”.

The demonstration was before the National Diet Building in Nagatacho in Tokyo: “東京・永田町の国会議事堂前”.

  • 永田町・ながたちょう: Nagatacho
  • 国会議事堂・こっかいぎじどう: The National Diet Building

The article says that the number of 30,000 demonstrators was provided by the organisers: “主催者発表”, but they don’t give the police’s estimation.

  • 主催者・しゅさいしゃ means “sponsor”, “promoter”.

japanese news April week 3.jpg

The Kake Gakuen scandal

The demonstration is a response to the falsification of the documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal and the recent developments concerning the Kake Gakuen scandal.


The underlined part summarises the issue: among the documents found recently, there is a citation from the Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister of the time who said that the opening of the veterinary department inside the Kake Gakuen was “Abe’s item”.

  • 案件・あんけん means “matter for discussion”.

There is a contradiction between what Abe said and what has been found in the document. Abe said that he didn’t know of the affair at the time. He also reiterated that nobody received instruction from him (to favour his friend’s school): “私から指示受けた人いない.”

But the document suggests overwise. To be more precise, the document mentions a visit paid by persons relative to the prefecture Ehime (愛媛県・えひめけん) and Kake Gakuen (加計学園・かけがくえん) to the Prime Minister’s residence (官邸・かんてい). During this visit, Tadao YANASE, who was at the time an executive secretary to the Prime Minister (内閣総理大臣秘書官), used the words “安倍の案件” to talk about the opening of the veterinary department. Later, a similar document has been found in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (農水省・のうすいしょう).

When asked about it, YANASE said that “as far as he can remember, there has not been such meeting”: “記憶の限りお会いしていない”, while ABE refused to comment “コメントを控えたい”.

There has been a new discovery this week. It is a little complicated but what I understand is that: as stated above, two similar documents have been found. However, someone said that a similar document should be kept in the 文部科学省・もんぶかがくしょう or Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

This is why a search was made inside the Ministry, at least I think so. The document could not be found but, instead, a mail has been unearthed. NHK reported that the mail was sent from the Cabinet Office to the Ministry of Education to communicate the schedule of the visit.

“また、愛媛県の職員らが官邸を訪問した2015年4月2日に、内閣府から文科省の担当者に訪問予定を伝えるメールが省内で見つかったとするNHKの報道があり” (source)

Later, on Thursday, it has been proved that the contents of this mail (the visit’s arrangements) had been shared with all the ministries and offices concerned. Therefore, it seems more and more perilous to deny that such a visit took place:

“同省関係者が明らかにした。訪問予定が関係府省の間で共有されていたことを裏付けるもので、県作成の「首相案件」と書かれた文書の信ぴょう性が高まる。” (source)

  • 府省 is not a word I found in my dictionary. I think it means all the institutions that end with 府・ふ like 内閣府・ないかくふ the Cabinet Office, and all the institutions that end with 省・しょう, which means all the ministries.
  • 裏付ける・うらづける: back up, provide evidence, prove
  • 信憑性・しんぴょうせい: credibility, reliability. Is 憑 a rare kanji? Why is it written in hiragana?

Despite Yanase’s efforts to not remember this visit, it seems more and more evident that the visit took place. There are also fewer and fewer reasons to doubt that the words 首相の案件 were indeed uttered.

Abe supports the attack against Syrie

Abe said that he supports the strikes launched by the US, the UK and France against Syria: 「米英仏の決意を支持する」安倍首相.

  • 仏・ふつ is the kanji for France

Abe said: 「化学兵器の使用は非人道的で断じて許せない。拡散と使用を許さないとの米英仏の決意を支持する」

  • 化学兵器・かがくへいき: chemical weapon
  • 非人道的・ひじんどうてき: inhumane
  • 断じて・だんじて: (+negation) by no means, on no account, never, at all
  • 拡散・かくさん: spreading, dissemination, proliferation, diffusion

Fukuda on the accusation of sexual harassment

Recently, I read this excellent post by Kotobites on loanwords which reminded me how tricky these katakana words can be. And even so, it took me some painful minutes to understand that セクハラ was the contraction of セクシャルハラスメント. Now I seem to see this word everywhere… in any case, I would say that this topic has been the main story of the week.

Junichi FUKUDA (福田淳一・ふくだじゅんいち) who is an administrative vice-minister (事務次官・じむじかん) of the Finance Ministry (財務省・ざいむしょう) has been accused by a female journalist of sexual harassment (source). The accusation has been published by the weekly magazine 週刊新潮・しゅうかんしんちょう (issue 2018年4月19日号 which was sold on the 12th).

This is what the magazine says:

As you can see on the right, the magazine links these accusations with the Moritomo Gakuen issue to insist on the accumulation of scandals in the Finance Ministry:

  • 折も折・おりもおり: just then, at precisely that time…, at the very moment when…
  • ろくでもない: useless, good-for-nothing, worthless, dishonest

I am glad that I can name the faces on the cover: from right to left we have: Nobuhisa SAGAWA who was a high official at the Ministry of Finance at the time when the documents have been falsified; Junichi FUKUDA, a top official of the Finance Ministry, now accused of sexual harassment; Taro ASO, Minister of Finance; and of course Shinzo ABE.

Fukuda is accused of repetitive 繰り返して・くりかえして verbal harassment of sexual nature: セクハラ発言・はつげん. On the site of the magazine, we can read “「キスしたい」「不倫しよう」「おっぱい触っていい?」”.

  • 不倫する・ふりんする: have an illicit love affair, commit adultery, fornicate
  • おっぱい: breast

On Friday (13th), Taro ASO, Minister of Finance said「事実とすればセクハラという意味ではこれはアウト」but added that he had no intention to take a concrete step (?) yet: “現段階では処分しない意向を示した。” (I don’t know how to translate 処分・しょぶん here…)

On Monday, Fukuda finally commented on the accusation (source). He denied the accusation, saying: “「週刊誌報道で記載されているようなやりとりをしたことはなく、心当たりを問われても答えようがない」”. He added that he will initiate proceedings against the magazine for defamation: “新潮社に対し、名誉毀損(きそん)で提訴を準備している”.

  • 名誉毀損・めいよきそん: defamation
  • 提訴・ていそ: the institution of a case, taking somebody to court, bringing a case before a court.

On Tuesday Aso said that as long as the woman in question doesn’t come in the open, the veracity of the fact could not be proven: 女性が名乗り出ない限りセクハラを事実と認定できない. His words were: “状況が分かるように(被害者の女性が)出てこないといけない”. (source)

  • 名乗り出る・なのりでる: announce oneself as, identify oneself.

This request has been criticised by the opposition. Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda (野田聖子・のだせいこ) insists on the difficulty for the victim to even talk to her family: “「家族にも言いづらい話で、相手方に話をするのは、私個人でも難しい」” She uses the expression “second rape” and says: “「女性が名乗り出たことで、セカンドレイプという形で被害に遭うことがあることを踏まえて、慎重に取り組みたい」” (source).

The opposition asks for Fukuda’s dismissal and hopes that he won’t get away with it: “「逃げ切れない」”. In the article 「逃げ切れず」福田次官更迭論、与党で拡大, we learn that, though Fukuda denied all the accusations, the magazine has published a record where Fukuda’s voice can be heard:


  • 断片的な・だんぺんてきな: fragmentary

And finally, on Wednesday (18th), Finance Minister Sato announced that Fukuda was resigning: 福田次官が辞意表明 セクハラ発言疑惑:


Despite this, Fukuda still denies the facts, as you can see in this press conference: 次官「潔白」強弁 発言「記憶ない」 (video in the article). As the title of the article suggests, Fukuda said that he “does not remember”. Asked about the recording of his voice, he said that he doesn’t know if it is his own voice: he says something like “録音された声が自分のものかどうかはよくわからないんで” at 1:10.

japanese news April week 3 2

About the daily log of the GSDF in Iraq

On Monday (16th), some parts of the daily log concerning the activities of the Ground Self-Defence Force in Iraq have been made public. To summarise the context, this daily log contains all the activities of Japan GSDF when it operated in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. When asked for it last year, the ministry said that the log did no longer exist, but it has been “discovered” this year.

People guess that the log had been concealed because its contents will prove that the GSDF was exposed to combat and danger, which would also account for the many suicides of Japanese soldiers after they returned home. The GSDF was sent to Iraq to take part in peacemaking operations and its role was to provide humanitarian relief and help in reconstruction works. Soldiers were not supposed to fight.

We learn in this article (イラク日報「戦闘拡大」 防衛省、435日分を公開) that the log mentions “戦闘・せんとう” or “combat”, “fighting”:


  • サマワ: the GSDF was operating in Samawah, in the South of Iraq.
  • 武装勢力・ぶそうせいりょく: an armed group
  • 武力衝突・ぶりょくしょうとつ: an armed conflict
  • 整合性・せいごうせい: consistency, compatibility, coherence

We learn that, in reference to the armed conflict between UK forces and local armed group, it was said that the “fightings expand”, and this, near Samawah, where the Japan Force was dispatched.

We also learn that the government has always said that the GSDF was operating in a “noncombat zone” or 非戦闘地域・ひせんとうちいき. We can question again the compatibility of what the government said and the situation in Iraq at the time. I understand the use of 改めて・あらためて which means “again” as a reference to the scandal around the GSDF in South Sudan. Similar denying had led to the resignation of the Minister of Defence of the time.

Asked about it, the Minister of Defense Itsunori ONODERA (小野寺 五典・おのでら いつのり) said that the region where the GSDF meets the requirements to be defined as “non-combat zone”:

「自衛隊が活動した地域は非戦闘地域の要件を満たしていた」 (source:「活動は非戦闘地域」 防衛相「要件を満たす」)

This article published on Thursday shows, however, that the area was not as safe as Onodera wants to think. The article says: “「非戦闘地域」 膨らむ疑念”. I learnt 膨らむ・ふくらむ to say that “a flower bud swell” (it must have been one of those N2 words…). But 膨らむ can mean simply “to expand”, “to rise”, “to grow”. So, suspicions are growing concerning the validity of the term “non-combat zone”.

At the end of the article, there is a list of attacks directed at or happening near the base of the GSDF: “陸上自衛隊宿営地などへの主な攻撃状況”. We can see that the base was repeatedly confronted with roquet attacks.

  • 宿営・しゅくえい: billeting, quartering, cantonment.

カビ on the back?

Nothing to do with politics, but since I read this article I simply can’t get out of my mind: 背中にカビで菌増殖…「知らなかった」 加齢臭の原因にも. Mangaka Yoshikazu EBISU (蛭子 能収・えびす よしかず) said on a TV show that he had mould on the back because he does not like taking a bath. Is it okay to come with that in the open? 😲

Anyway, what caught my attention was the word 加齢臭・かれいしゅう that I saw for the first time some days ago, posted on Twitter by Japanese is Fun:

I was baffled that such a word should exist. It even has a Wikipedia entry. Now we know that mould growing on the back can be a cause of 加齢臭…

I swear I feel the itch to go scrub my back!

japanese news April week 3 1

To stay on the subject, I also learnt the word スメハラ=スメルハラスメント this week. There is an interesting article on NHK about it: あなたのニオイは大丈夫?


It is much easier to stay in the 政治欄・せいじらん and follow some threads than trying to absorb all that happens in the 社会・しゃかい section. If Japan politics are always so hectic, I will never be bored! Is it always so full of scandals?

I used Mainichi this time, but I would like to know if there is a difference between Mainichi and Asahi, like an editorial line or a tone and which one is more left. Next time, I will certainly read Asahi, though I doubt that I have the knowledge required (both Japanese and politics) to spot the difference. But it will be fun trying to.

Book review: 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真

I have finished reading 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真(はやみ・かずまさ) and loved this novel very much. I found the story interesting, I like the themes encompassed in it, and I appreciated the structure of the novel very much.

Some themes of the novel

The novel starts with what we call in French a “fait divers” (tragic events like criminal cases that don’t concern politics or international matters). Right from the beginning, the reader is given a position: we belong to the public, we read the news, we nod at what reporters and judges have to say, we attend the trial discretely and rejoice ourselves to be reading such an exciting novel.

Or at least, this is how I felt that the novel positioned me. A feeling even more strongly felt because I often read similar events in the news on NHK, whereas the French news portal I usually read rarely reports these “faits divers”. On NHK News, on the contrary, there are a lot of criminal cases that echo our novel, and I started reading the novel and the news on NHK almost at the same time.

At some point in the story, the criminal event that kindles people’s morbid curiosity becomes a tragedy involving characters who feel real. The reader gets involved too, though I had the feeling that we never get very close to the characters, that we are to stay in our position of the external observer as if I had never left the court gallery where it placed me at the beginning. It is seldom, I think, to read a novel that brings you to question yourself: am I thinking wrong? Or am I even entitled to make my opinion and judge?

The other theme that crosses the whole novel is the death penalty. It strikes me because I have come across an article by the Guardian saying that Japan would maybe execute 13 people. This article took me off-guard because I had forgotten (or just didn’t think of it) that death penalty exists and is still widely supported in Japan. Strange coincidence, some days ago, Amnesty International accused Japan of breaching international rules concerning the application of death penalty. In this article by Mainichi, we learn that 80% of the population favours the death penalty.

Even if the capital punishment is a theme of our novel, I don’t think that we can describe it as a plaidoyer against it. The novel has its own story to tell, and the reader is left alone to decide how he or she will deal with the ending.

The novel’s structure and Japanese level

I appreciated the structure of the novel very much. Each chapter is told by a different character. One after another, they will tell us more about the protagonist Yukino, recall episodes that marked their lives and hers. In the beginning, I felt like a journalist collecting data to try to know more about Yukino, the accused, but I soon felt involved in the life of all the characters we get to know. This is where the book really shows its quality. Even though we are to listen to several different narratives, the main story is never far, and we always get closer to the truth. However, the different stories we hear are not just a pretext to work towards an upper goal, they are gripping in themselves.

Concerning the Japanese level, I would say that the second half of the novel was very challenging for me. I think that it comes from the vocabulary. Whereas the beginning focuses on daily life aspects of Yukino, the end is filled with court relative words. The novel is divided into two parts: 事件前夜 and 判決以後. Maybe it is just me, but I felt a distinct difference between the two, the second one being much more difficult than the first one.

In a word…

This book has all the qualities of a page-turner, but while I was engrossed in the story, I also felt that I was walking a path of sadness and unbearable nostalgia.

An extract

An extract from the beginning. I don’t need to give context, because it is the very beggining of the prologue (p11-12)



Reference: 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真(はやみ・かずまさ), published by 新潮文庫・しんちょうぶんこ.

One year blogging anniversary!

It is hard to believe, but on Wednesday (April 18th) this blog will be one-year-old! 😄

To celebrate, I want to write a post about how blogging helped me to learn Japanese.

Positive energy

First of all, I love my blog because it is mine, and I am sure that we all feel the same. Having your own personal virtual space somewhere is exciting!

I have just finished reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, and I was struck by how the protagonist Anna felt after buying her new notebook: “It gives me pleasure to touch it and look at it, but I don’t know what I want it for” and “I have been sitting looking at the new pretty notebook, handling it and admiring it”*. Somehow, I have always thought that my getting excited about a new “productivity tool” was a little childish. That’s why I was struck to see the same kind of feeling described in a novel that I deeply admire. So yes, even if you don’t have a clue what you want to do with your blog, creating it and knowing that it exists is exciting and, in a way, both rewarding in itself and full of promises too.

Of course, the excitation of the first days tends to fade away with time. Whenever I felt that my blog had become too familiar for me to feel excited about it, I have changed the design. It goes from experimenting a new theme to just modify the widgets or the header (logo in my case).

I don’t know how to put it otherwise than saying that my blog gives me positive energy. Not only for studying but in life in general.

Regularity and accountability

When I created my WordPress account, I had no concrete plan about what I wanted to do with a blog. I guess I created it on an impulse, during one of those phases when I feel stuck and demotivated and when anything new is welcome. I posted a new article whenever I felt inspired, which was very irregular, and I had fun like that.

I don’t know why but one day, I decided to post regularly. Maybe I just wanted to give it a try, and I thought that nobody would notice if I failed to follow my schedule so that I could discreetly go back to a more spontaneous way of blogging. So I set my schedule, and it is still the same today:

  • Monday: general post about studying Japanese or productivity and organisation.
  • Wednesday: a post about books.
  • Friday: me reading the news in Japanese. (I used to study songs lyrics too, but I haven’t done it for a while!)

Since then, the way I worked on my blog completely changed. It was not writing when I have something to say, but writing anyway.

As this blog is closely linked to my learning Japanese, something else happened. Whereas I used to write at times when I was making progress in my studies (with the consequence that I could stay weeks without uploading anything), I now have to do at least something in Japanese regularly because I will have to write about it anyway. In a way, the blog fills the role of a classroom with homework and deadlines!

Of course, there is the risk to forget the main purpose and end up learning Japanese to write the blog instead of writing the blog to learn Japanese. But I don’t recognise myself here, and I would even go as far as to say that, if it is for a short period of time, it does not matter which comes first. Sometimes I am demotivated, and I don’t want to learn vocabulary or even read in Japanese. But then I have my blog to write. So I do some Japanese to have something to write about, and somehow, by doing it, the desire to study for the sake of improving my Japanese comes back. It also allows me to keep doing something until the motivation flows again, instead of spending weeks of inaction like I did before.

Having a blog can help you go through phases of demotivation by providing a temporary replacement engine when your proper energy is low.

Go beyond yourself

At first, I thought that I could not possibly find something to write about on such a regular basis, but it almost never has been a problem. This proves that we are capable of achieving much more than we think and that, by just forcing ourselves a little, we can produce much more than what we usually do, when we just let ourselves drift along.

Be a part of the community

I knew nothing of the WordPress community before. I chose because I had heard of it before, but I thought that you created your blog and waited for people to stumble on it through Google. But the fact is that your first readers are the fantastic WordPress bloggers! 😊

And even though I started a blog to write, I soon became a blog reader myself. I have discovered and learned a lot of things, mainly, but not only, about learning Japanese. Sometimes, when I want to have information about something, I look for it in the WordPress reader instead of googling it.

I also got great ideas from other bloggers’ comments on my blog or others’ blog. For example, I remember someone suggesting in a comment, ages ago, that I could use Grammarly to correct my English. I have been using it ever since, and it rescued me from a lot of embarrassing mistakes (though some still remain, I’m sure)!

New ideas

As long as you follow a textbook, it is easy to know how to study, but it can be tough to go on alone, once we reach an intermediate level.

I have had a lot of ideas to learn Japanese and follow paths that were meaningful to me, and it all was thanks to this blog. I got this or that idea while writing about other subjects. Somehow, writing about your own studying practice makes you reflect on it.

I am not saying that all these ideas are revolutionary ideas, but even if I end up dropping them at the end, they served as a great booster that makes me sit at my desk with a refilled energy, thinking that I will be fluent in no time! 🤣

My blog made me love English

Last but not least, I would not be re-learning English if I hadn’t chosen to write in English in the first place. More than that, using English to do an activity that I love made me love English as well.

This has nothing to do with learning Japanese, but it goes in the same direction and both desires – improving my reading in Japanese and my writing in English – encourage each other.


I feel that I could go on forever about the benefice of writing a blog, especially as a companion to another activity like learning a foreign language. Of course, I cannot say for sure, but I am almost convinced that I wouldn’t be doing half of what I am doing now for Japanese if I were not writing about it here.

Thank you!

One year of blogging!! 1

*The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, pp. 578-579

Japanese News: April week 2

A lot of things happened this week in Japan, and it is hard to catch up with everything! 🤯 In any case, these are the subjects that caught my attention, with a special part devoted to the labour reform at the end. I have also realised that the articles on NHK News web do not stay on their website for more than a week or so 😱… as a consequence, the links are bound to be broken soon 😲.

Animals mistreat: 68 cases reported last year

In this article 動物虐待で警察が摘発 過去最多の68件, we learn that the Japanese police 警察庁 is keeping statistics concerning the mistreatment 虐待 towards pets since Heisei 22 year, or 2010. Last year, the number of cases reported 摘発された事件 to the police was 68, the most significant number since they started keeping statistics 統計を取り始めてから. This does not mean that cruelty towards animals is increasing, but the number of reported cases is. Notably, people are reporting cases of uploaded video showing mistreatments to the police: 虐待している動画をインターネット上で見つけた人が警察に通報するケースが増えている.

  • 警察庁・けいさつちょう: the National Police Agency
  • 虐待・ぎゃくたい: cruel-treatment, mistreatment, abuse, cruelty.
  • 摘発する・てきはつする: to expose, to disclose
  • 統計・とうけい: statistics, figures
    • 統計を取る: to collect statistics on… to gather statistics about…
  • 通報する・つうほうする: to report, notify.

Among the mistreatment cases, we find 捨てたケースが35件と最も多く、次いで、殺傷が20件、餌を与えなかったり不衛生な状況で飼育したりしたのが13件でした。

  • 殺傷・さっしょう: killing and wounding.
  • 与える・あたえる: a more formal way to say “to give”. The phrase “Please don’t feed the animals” that we can see in parks, for example, would be in Japanese: “動物に餌を与えないでください”.
  • 不衛生・ふえいせい: lack of hygienic care
  • 飼育・しいく: to breed, raise. I remember learning this word for JLPT N2.

Out of curiosity, I have checked what is called in our article “動物愛護法”, the animal welfare legislation. (I think the complete name is 動物愛護管理法).

  • 愛護・あいご: protection, preservation
    • 動物愛護・どうぶつあいご: animal welfare

In case of violation of the animal welfare legislation 動物愛護法違反, the court can demand up to two years of jail and 200万円 in case of killing or wounding and up to 100万円 in case of abandon or lack of care (source).

Japanese News - April week 2 2

A man kills 5 people

Only some months after a man killed 9 people mostly contacted through Twitter, a new case of murder made the headlines: 死亡した5人はいずれも窒息死 鹿児島 日置

  • いずれも means どちらも, meaning here that all the 5 victims died from suffocation
  • 窒息・ちっそく suffocation, asphyxiation.
  • 鹿児島県・かごしまけん: Prefecture of Kagoshima
  • 日置市・ひおきし: City of Hioki

It was almost impossible to understand who was who, who had killed whom and whose house it was from reading articles in Japanese. I found this graph by Mainichi, and it is so much easier to understand than tortuous sentences:

On Friday (6th), the bodies of three victims (on the right in the graph) were discovered at the house in question 現場民家. This house belongs to Hisako IWAKURA 岩倉久子 (いわくら・ひさこ)who is 89-year-old. She lives there with her younger son, who is the father of the suspect. The suspect Tomohiro IWAKURA 岩倉知広(いわくら・ともひろ)has been arrested on Saturday and admitted having killed the three victims, who were members of the family and a neighbour. I guess from the graph, that they were visiting Hisako IWAKURA and his son when they were killed. At the time, both Hisako IWAKURA and her younger son were missing, but the police found their bodies buried in a forest on Sunday (8th).

Tomohiro IWAKURA is accused of killing 5 people, including 4 members of his family. The police are working to find out his motive.

A murder in the police station

On Wednesday (11th) evening, a young police officer 巡査・じゅんさ of 19-year-old shot a 41-year-old police sergeant 巡査部長・じゅんさぶちょう to death in a local police station, a 交番・こうばん. He escaped in a police car, a パトカー: 警察官撃たれて死亡 19歳巡査が撃ち逃走か 滋賀 彦根

The title can be divided into three parts (somehow, it took me a long time to figure out that a space in the title was more or less equivalent to a point).

First, we have “警察官撃たれて死亡”, which means “a police officer has been shot and died”. We find the verb 撃つ・うつ (to shoot) in the passive voice.

Then we have “19歳巡査が撃ち逃走か” or “Possibility that a 19-year-old police officer shot him and escaped”. 逃走・とうそう means “a flight”, “an escape”.

And finally, the place where it occurred “滋賀(県)彦根(市)”. In the city of Hikone (彦根・ひこね), Shiga Prefecture (滋賀・しが).

We learn from this article that the sergeant was found bleeding (apparently shot from behind) in the police station, he died at the hospital. His young colleague, who was working with him in the station on that day, had disappeared. He took with him his gun. The police said that it was his gun which had been used to kill the sergeant and that 3 bullets should remain in it. Soon after, the police car was found in a field. The police were looking for the suspect while the inhabitants were told to stay at home.

The police finally arrested the suspect on Thursday, early in the morning: 警察官撃たれて死亡 19歳巡査を殺人容疑で逮捕 滋賀 彦根.

The title is very similar to the previous one, only the second part has changed: 19歳巡査を殺人容疑で逮捕. We know that the 19-year-old police officer has been arrested 逮捕・たいほbecause he is suspected 容疑・ようぎ of the murder 殺人・さつじん.

Later on Thursday, we learnt that the suspect admitted the crime and said: 「罵倒されたので拳銃で撃った」(source: 警察官撃たれて死亡 逮捕の19歳巡査「罵倒され撃った」 滋賀)

  • 罵倒・ばとう: hurling insults, using abusive language toward…
  • 拳銃・けんじゅう: a pistol, a gun.

So, he shot his colleague because he had been insulted by him?

A man escaped from prison

On Sunday (8th) night, a prisoner 受刑者・じゅけいしゃ escaped from his prison 刑務所・けいむしょ in the city of Imabari (今治市・いまばりし), Ehime Prefecture (愛媛県・えひめけん).

A lot of articles have been published on the subject. In this one 受刑者逃走 広島 尾道を中心に捜索続く, we learn that the police have made public the prisoner’s photo and focus their research in the city of Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture), where the car that the fugitive had stolen to escape has been found:


On Tuesday (10th), we learnt that the fugitive had taken cash from houses or cars, which allowed the police to trace him: 受刑者逃走 住宅や車から現金などが盗まれる被害相次ぐ.

  • 逃走・とうそう: same as above, “a flight”, “an escape”.
  • 相次ぐ・あいつぐ: this word belongs to the first words I learned in Japanese and never liked… I don’t know why… It means “to happen one after another”.

And finally, on Thursday (12th), the police dispatched more than 900 men to track down the fugitive after his location had been narrowed down: 逃走の受刑者 食料盗みながら潜伏か 警察官900人余で捜索.

  • 潜伏・せんぷく: concealment, hiding.

The police found the fingerprints of the fugitive on a car, and packages of food nearby. The police think that he might be hiding in an empty house or in the forest. The police are searching the area.


  • 動員する・どういんする: to mobilise, set in motion

A man arrested for a murder committed 14 years ago

This is the breaking news of the day (Friday 13th): 14年前の女子高校生殺害事件 逮捕状取り30代男を任意同行. 14 years ago, a high school girl of 17-year-old had been murdered in the city of Hatsukaichi 廿日市・はつかいち, Prefecture of Hiroshima. By comparing the DNA traces DNA型 and fingerprints 指紋 found on this spot and the ones found in another case, the police were able to arrest (?) a man in his thirties. I don’t understand the expression “任意同行・にんいどうこう” in the title. According to my dictionary, the word means “accompany voluntarily (to the police station)”. But the title and the article say that the police have an arrest warrant 逮捕状・たいほじょう. So… did they arrest him or did the suspect accept to go with them to the police station?

Documents related to the Kake Gakuen scandal

It seems that all the scandals that have shaken Japan politics last year are bound to resurface this year!

Last year, along with the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, there has been another scandal linked to the Kake Gakuen. Without going into details, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has accorded preferential treatment to the school operator Kake. The ministry has allowed a veterinary medicine department to open in the city of Imabari, Ehime prefecture. The problem is that the Ministry had been refusing the opening of veterinary departments for years and the chairman of the one school granted the authorisation to open one… is one of Abe’s friends.

Of course, the story is more complicated than that, but I don’t understand all its aspects myself because I wasn’t reading the news concerning Japan last year. But one of the significant questions was to know if Abe himself put pressure to favour his friend’s institution.

Anyway, as we learn in this article 加計学園問題「ないと説明の文書 残されていた」愛媛県調査, documents relative to the scandal, which “didn’t exist” at the time, have been found.

  • 加計学園・かけがくえん: Kake Gakuen. 学園 means “educational institution”.
  • 愛媛県・えひめけん: Ehime Prefecture

The first paragraph summarises the issue:


The subject of the sentence is 文書が and what is said about them is that we know that they still exist: 残されていることがわかった.

The part before provides more information about the documents. They are documents relative to 関連 to the new establishment 新設 of a veterinary medicine department 獣医学部 of the school corporation 学校法人 Kake Gakuen 「加計学園」. Concerning these documents, the prefecture 愛媛県 had explained until now that they do not exist, that there is no such document.

This revelation comes on top of two other document-related issues: the falsification of documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen problem and the discovery of the daily log of the GSDF in Iraq even though it had been said before that it hadn’t been saved.


Ulterior developments have shown that the documents hint at Abe being involved in the scandal, though he denied it. Later, another document with similar contents was found in the Ministry of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (農水省・のうすいしょう), but I must admit that I need more time to digest all this because the articles relative to this issue are too difficult for me. It interests me though, I might print out the main articles and study them this weekend! In any case, I am sure that we will continue to hear about it next week!


I remember learning the word 土砂崩れ・どしゃくずれ in my JLPT N2 vocabulary textbook and thought that it would not be a very useful word to know. But sadly it is. On Wednesday (11th) a colossal landslide has occurred in Yabakei (name of a gorge famous for its beauty), and 6 persons may be buried under it.

大分 中津 耶馬溪町で山崩れ 6人の安否不明

  • 安否・あんぴ: personal safety.
  • 大分県・おおいたけん: Oita Prefecture
  • 中津市・なかつし: City of Nakatsu
  • 耶馬渓’町・やばけいまち: the neighbourhood of Yabakei (?) (I never know how to translate 町).

Houses that were at the foot of the mountain has been buried under the landslide: “山が崩れて住宅が土砂に埋まったと警察に通報がありました。”.

The search 捜索活動・そうさくかつどう has been going on during the whole night. The search is conducted by the police警察, the firemen 消防 and the Ground Self-Defence Force 陸上自衛隊 requested in case of disaster.

On Thursday, the corpse of one of the missing persons has been found: 大分 土砂崩れ 行方不明5人の捜索続くand later in the day, the corpse or another one 大分 土砂崩れ 新たに1人の遺体見つかる.

Understanding the labour reform

Japanese News - April week 2 1

or trying to…

I have tried to understand the labour reform, but I still can’t figure out how it is supposed to help reduce 過労死・かろうし or death due to overwork.

Also, I am not familiar with the working conditions as they are now, so it is difficult to judge to which extend the new reform is or not an improvement.

(My main source was this article 働き方改革関連法案 閣議決定, but the link is broken. And now, I just realise that articles on NHK News stay for a week or so but older ones disappear. I wasn’t aware of it before… all the links will be broken in a couple of days then… I should find another source.)

What I understand is that there were 4 main features in the labour reform:

  • 裁量労働制の適用業務の拡大: The expansion of the discretionary system
  • 時間外労働の上限規制: a legal maximum cap of overtime work
  • 高度プロフェッショナル制度: a system for highly skilled professionals
  • 同一労働同一賃金: an “equal work – equal pay” system


  • 裁量・さいりょう: discretion, judgment

The first feature had to be dropped because the data that Abe provided in the Diet to support it were flawed. According to the “discretionary labour system”, the employee is not paid according to the number of hours he actually worked but according to a fixed number of working hours decided together and beforehand with the employer. The system already applies to some professions, and Abe’s goal was to expand it. Sincerely, I don’t understand this system at all, how can it be beneficial to the employee? But anyway, this part of the reform has been dropped so let’s move on to the next one.


  • 時間外労働・じかんがいろうどう: overtime work
  • 上限・じょうげん: the upper limit, a cap
  • 規制・きせい: regulation control

The article says:



Japanese News - April week 2 4

What I understand is this: As a general rule, the cap of overtime work is 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year. However, in special circumstances 特別な事情, more overtime can be requested during a maximum period of 6 months in the year. To be more precise, the cap for special circumstances is 100 hours per month, this means that the overtime work cannot exceed 100 hours in a month. However, no matter if these special circumstances are lasting only two months or 6 months (the maximum time authorised), the average cap should be 80 hours, and it should not exceed 720 hours per year.

There are specifications according to professions, but maybe we don’t need to go through it.

The opposition agrees that a legal cap must be fixed but says that the cap of 100 hours is not enough and should be reduced. An interesting but frightening word appears in the article: 過労死ライン・かろうしライン (Wikipedia). The karoshi line is the limit of overtime work that, if crossed, can lead to health troubles.


This is the system that I can’t make out. It concerns people who earn more than 1075万円 per year. Let’s work on the article:


  • In the actual legislation,
    • 法律・ほうりつ: law, legislation
  • if the employee is forced to work more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day
  • a fixed overtime wage must be paid to him.
    • 割増賃金・わりましちんぎん: I understand this word as “overtime pay”.
  • but
  • with the consent of the employee
  • if this system is applied (the “system” is the new 高度プロフェッショナル制度)
  • even if the employee works overtime or on day-off, he will not be paid extra-wages.

Japanese News - April week 2 5So far, so good. I don’t think that I am mistaken here: with the new system, overtime work and work on days off will not be paid. However, there are some rules that the employer must abide by:


  • On the other hand,
  • to ensure the health of the worker
  • (the employer) has the duty to guarantee over 104 days-off per year, over 4 days-off in 4 weeks (to the employee).

Japanese News - April week 2 6.jpgThis is the part where I start to doubt my Japanese abilities. It is okay to let your highly skilled professional employee work overtime and on days off without paying him or her for that, provided that the employee can have at least 4 days off per month and 104 days off per year? I mean, it is not much…

It goes on, and I can’t be sure whether I understand this or not:


  • Furthermore,
  • (underline section) the employer and the employee have to choose one of the 4 sorts of measures (I don’t know how to translate 取り組み) and apply it.

What are the 4 sorts of measures? I had to re-read the sentence several times to understand it, but I think that 3 comes before the “それに” and one after.

  • (The employer) guarantee (確保すること):
    • two weeks in a row of break
    • health diagnosis (?)
    • a fixed number of non-working hours between the moment when the employee leaves the office and the moment he goes to work on the following day
  • (the employer) sets a cap of “presence in the office” per month or 3 months.

Japanese News - April week 2 7Do they really have to choose one among them? Why can’t they have the 4?

My feeling is that the compensation for not paying overtime work is nothing but basic principles to ensure that people don’t work 24 hours a day the whole year. I must say that I agree with the opposition which calls this system a bill for zero overtime pay『残業代ゼロ法案』.


This is much easier to understand: “「同一労働同一賃金」は、同じ内容の仕事に対しては同じ水準の賃金を支払うという考え方です。”

In other words, “non-regular employees” 非正規労働者・ひせいきろうどうしゃ such as part-time workers パート or contract employees 契約社員 must receive the same wages as regular employees 正社員・せいしゃいん if they do the same work.

Apart from the last point, I don’t see how this reform can do any good to the employees. I feel really uneasy after reading all this…


A lot of things have happened, and it was very hard to follow this week!

I am more than ever motivated to learn the name of Japan regions and prefectures. I still don’t know how I will do it. Maybe just download a map and learn it? I don’t want to add places names to my Anki, and I don’t feel like creating a new deck. My goal is to be able to pronounce a Prefecture’s name when I see the kanji and to know (approximately) where it is on the map. I will have to think about it!

Korean resources: monthly listening magazine for Japanese

I always have doubts when I present Korean resources to learn Japanese because I don’t know if they can be ordered overseas. I have no experience with it myself, but I think that buying Korean books is more complicated than buying Japanese books. But I hope that it will change someday and that it will become easier to receive books shipped from Korea.

Anyway, the magazine I want to talk about is NHK 일어. (pronounce: NHK ilo)

I can’t really make out much about the publisher because their website does not seem to have been updated for a while. Anyway, they publish two monthly magazines, one to learn English and one to learn Japanese.

How the magazine is structured

The magazine has a glossy cover but the 100 pages inside are all in black and white. The only exception is the first two pages with the table of contents (you can see them on the Aladin page). If you just look at the printing quality and the interior design, the magazine does not seem very attractive but the quality of the contents and the CD made up for it.

This magazine is for advanced learners and contains topics related to social trends, politics, business or economy. There are 5 different topics, a drama extract, and a section “news highlight”. In the news highlight section, 8 topical issues of the past month are summarised on a page/double-page.

The magazine comes with a CD. The first topic is the only one to be “reading only” but all the other ones are on the CD. As the English subtitle of the magazine suggests, it is “a monthly listening magazine”.

A glimpse into the contents

I got the April issue and to give an idea of the contents, this is what I found in this month’s magazine:

The first trendy topic (without CD) is about the labour reform (12 pages). Then, there is an article about job searching (8 pages) and another one on the Tokyo Olympics mascots (9 pages). Then comes the drama (13 pages). As far as I can tell, it is always the same one: レガルハイ, Legal High. Then we go on with two “special reports”. The first one is about how you can use your phone to pay, receive e-receipt, do e-commerce and so on (12 pages). The second one is about the price augmentation and the increasing difficulty to move house (9 pages). The “news highlight” section covers a variety of subjects, with  Japan politics, Trump and North Korea as recurrent topics.

I am under the impression that the magazine tends to go for economic and business articles over politics and socials.

Each article comes with an introduction written in Korean. The whole article is also entirely translated in Korean. However, there is no vocabulary or grammar explanation.

Why I like it

First, I like the choice of topics. They are trendy subjects, but even if I read the news regularly in Japanese, there are numerous topics that I never heard of before. I guess that this is the difference between a topical issue (that you know by reading the news) and social or economic trends that you know by living in the country. I would not read this magazine if it were the same contents as an online news portal.

I also like very much the form of the articles. They are very different from news articles that you can read online. Apart from the first one, which is a reading exercise, all the others are more focused on the listening aspect. They take the form of a reportage, with a journalist interviewing people. It looks like something you could watch on TV or listen to on the radio. On the CD you can hear different people speaking, some are in the street with background noise, some do not articulate very well… Contrary to a studio recording, the audio records things that people said on the spot. It is a very efficient listening exercise.

I think that the CD more or less justifies the price (15,000 won or around 11 euros) and, in any case, the value of the magazine lies in the audio. You can feel that the audio reportage came first and that the magazine is just a transcript of what was said. To someone like me who need to work on listening comprehension, this format is much better than the other way around: a text written first and read by a professional narrator in a studio.

I don’t use the Korean translation, because I would understand it even less than the Japanese! I first listen to the audio several times and try to understand as much as I can. Then I work my way through the transcript with my dictionary, a marker and a pen, and then, listen to the audio once again. The paper quality is good enough and markers don’t bleed through.


As I wrote above, this magazine is more a collection of audio reports than a magazine in itself. I don’t think that it is particularly popular in Korea because I never saw it piled up on the “study Japanese” corner, but spotted it by chance, tucked away in the linguistic magazines’ shelf.

I have an interest in language learning resources and I am always curious to know what kind of textbooks or other material exist in different countries. Do you use materials to learn Japanese that are not in English? Don’t hesitate to let me know!

About the books I gave up on

Today, I would like to talk about the Japanese books I bought or received and couldn’t read because they were too difficult for me.

今日も怒ってしまいましたWhen I first wanted to read books in Japanese, I bought mangas. The problem is that with exception from One Piece and Case closed that I love, I don’t much enjoy reading mangas. I guess that I am simply not a manga reader. And then I discovered 益田ミリ(ますだ・みり)and her series of yonkoma manga すーちゃん. I read them all and love them. She has also written several books (not manga) that seem to be personal thoughts on everyday life. I bought one, which is 「今日も怒ってしまいました」. I chose this one because I understood the title, it was short (but they almost all are), and each portion of text inside the book was very short too, with dialogues. Also, the book alternates between text and yonkoma. But I bought it too early, it was still challenging to read a full page of Japanese at the time. So I put the book aside and went on studying. I don’t know why I never picked it up again, but now, I will definitely read it from time to time. I’ll put it in one of the storage bags on my desk to think of it.

蹴りたい背中Let’s continue with 「蹴りたい背中」by 綿矢りさ(わたや・りさ). This book is very famous because it won the Akutagawa prize, and its author was only 19 at the time. I have always wanted to read this book in its French translation but never did. When I was well into learning Japanese and reached a point when I could read some things in Japanese, I bought this book. It may be one of the first novels I bought in Japanese. Maybe because it was short (180 pages), I thought it would be easy to read. But to me at the time, it was not, and I gave up pretty soon. It was some time ago, and I think I might be able to read it now. I will maybe insert it in my reading challenge for the year!

火花During my first trip to Japan, last year in March, I bought 「火花」by 又吉直樹(またよし・なおき). At the time, this book was piled up everywhere because it had just been adapted into a drama. Once again, I was misguided by its length: 180 pages. It was much too difficult for me. If I remember correctly, there was this scene at the beginning when the two protagonists perform a manzai (a traditional style of stand-up comedy involving two performers). I was completely lost, haha, I vaguely recall that I could not understand at all what was going on. Even now, a year after, I am not sure if I can read this book. I will keep it for later!

I have been a little enthusiast some time ago and bought several books from different renown authors.

人間失格.jpgFirst, I bought a book by Dazai, which was completely crazy because it is obviously above my level. I got influenced by the manga Bungo Stray Dogs (文豪ストレイドッグス) who was pretty popular at the time. This manga has named its characters after great Japanese writers and given them some of the real authors’ characteristics. Along with the promotion of the manga, the publisher 角川文庫 had added a new manga-related cover to all the books by authors cited in the manga. If you were standing in front of these neatly piled up books, I swear that it was very tempting to buy them all. That day, I made the solemn resolution to read them all, bought 「人間失格」by 太宰治(だざい・おさむ), read 10 pages of it, and that was the end of my resolution! I don’t think that I will try this book again this year…

Last December I went to Kyoto for the first time. I thought that it would be great to read some Kyoto-related stories or novels that take place in Kyoto before the trip. I bought two of the most obvious titles that come to mind when talking about Kyoto:

kinkakujiFirst, a book I read in French a long time ago by an author that I would like to read more and know better: 「金閣寺」by 三島由紀夫(みしま・ゆきお). I read a third of it and gave up. It was very difficult to read, but some passages were okay and gave me the impression that I could go on. Even if I could not understand all the subtilities of the story, I promised myself to come back to this book years later when I reach a necessary level, and just enjoy what I could for the time being. If you know the story, you know that the protagonist meets Kashigawi at some point in the novel. The first time they met, Kashigawi starts a very long monologue about I had no idea what because I could not understand a word and was literally waiting for him to stop talking. After that, it became harder and harder because it seems that everytime Kashigawi talked or was involved, I didn’t understand. And so I gave up. Again, I am not willing to start again soon because this experience was not a long time ago. But I will read it one day, I want to!

古都The other title was 「古都」by 川端康成(かわばた・やすなり)and, after my disappointing results with the Temple of the Golden Pavillon, I didn’t even open it. First, I thought I could not possibly read Kawabata if I couldn’t read Mishima (I may be wrong, but that is how I was thinking), secondly, there was no time to read it before going to Kyoto and finally, I came back from my trip with a lot of books for my 2018 reading challenge and I more or less forgot about it… 😳

シャーロック・ホームズ対伊藤博文And finally, a book I already talked about on this blog: 「シャーロック・ホームズ対伊藤博文」by 松岡圭佑(まつおか・けいすけ). A novel that mixes fiction and historical events and where Sherlock Holmes meets Hirobumi ITO! This is the book (from this list) I mostly want to read, but it is still out of reach. I started it some time ago, and the opening scene was okay because it described something every fan of Conan Doyle knows: the Reichenbach falls. Somehow, I could follow the narrative and descriptive parts, but things got out of control when I reached the first dialogues. Surprisingly for me, the dialogues were more difficult to understand than the descriptions. Maybe it was just this first particular confrontation that was full of references and subtilities… Anyway, I was lost and judged that I should better wait a while before really starting this book.


We all tend to show the best of us to others, so I naturally post more about the books that I finished, than the ones I gave up on. The truth is that there are a lot of them, there are also the books I wanted to buy but didn’t because I couldn’t make out the summary (or sometimes even the title!). I think it is a good thing to position oneself in some kind of virtual cartography of books and to know what we can and still cannot read. Knowing this allows me to pick novels that fit my level, try things harder from time to time or on the contrary, retreat to comforting areas when I need to.

About the books I gave up on 2

About the books I gave up on 3