Japanese News: June week 4

Politician criticises the press

Let’s start this post with a shocking statement by Taro ASO, who is both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Seeing that the LDP had received high support among people under 30 during previous elections, he used this result to criticise the press. He said: “一番新聞を読まない世代だ。読まない人は全部自民党(の支持)だ.”

To me, this is a strange way to attack the press. I guess that he wants to criticise the newspapers which, like Mainichi, make a lot of reports about political scandals and point out the problems of the government. Young people who don’t read newspapers are not “corrupted” by them, or at least, I think that this is the core of the message. But it is then easy to reply, as did a member of the communist party:

“新聞を読んで真実が伝われば自民党支持にならないというのは、ある意味でその通りだ” (source)

The most shocking part is that Aso says that people should not read newspapers:


  • 購読・こうどく: buying (a book or a magazine) and reading it
  • つくづく: really, keenly, deeply, profoundly, (think) from the bottom of one’s heart

IR Bill or Integrated Resorts Enabling Act

I would like to familiarise myself with the actual discussions around the casino reform. The problem is that it is hard to find clear and easy to read articles about it. I have tried to read this editorial, but I cannot understand everything in it.

Instead of just giving up understanding the IR Bill and move to another topic, I will use this article to learn at least some casino-related vocabulary. There will certainly be other articles on this topic when the bill is passed, and it will be useful then.

First of all, we are talking about “解禁” (かいきん) casinos. Gambling is banned in Japan, and the reform will “remove the ban” on casinos.

Another word that we need to know is 賭ける・かける which means “to bet”, “to gamble”. When talking about the stakes or the money bet, we find the word 賭け金・かけきん.

The point discussed in the editorial is about the “moneylending business” or 貸金業・貸金業. This is where I get confused because I didn’t even know that such a thing exists. I think that there are some kinds of “casino credits”, but I don’t know exactly how it works.

As we talk about moneylending, we also find words like:

  • 借入金・かりいれきん: a loan, borrowed money
  • 貸付・かしつけ, also written 貸し付け: a loan
  • 貸し付ける・かしつける: to lend, to loan

The problem with moneylending in casinos is of course that it encourages gambling dependence. The word for “dependence” is 依存症・いぞんしょう and it can be used with the verb 生み出す・うみだす (to produce, to bring forth): 依存症を生み出す. Another expression that can be used is ギャンブルにのめり込んでいる. The verb のめり込む・のめりこむ means “get absorbed in, give oneself up to.”

Moneylenders take advantage of the fact that people who lose money want to bet again, in the hope of recovering their loss: 負けを取り返すためさらに賭ける.

  • 取り返す・とりかえす: get back, regain, recover.

Labour reform and 高プロ

Discussions are still going on about the Labour Reform, but it will certainly be approved during this Diet session (that has been extended until the end of July).

The more I read about the 高プロ, the more confused I am. From what I understand (but of course, I may be mistaken), the 高プロ’s principle is to remunerate the employees concerned on the basis of their results instead of the time spent working. As a consequence, the overtime will not be paid, which is, in itself, a problem. But nothing states clearly in the text that the remuneration should be raised according to the results. At least, this is what I understand from two critics by members of the opposition:

“法案には、どこにも書いていない。頑張った人が2倍、3倍の成果を出しても処遇する制度になっていない.” (source)


“成果に基づいて給与が高くなるなんて委員会では確認されていない.” (same source)

Anyway, a new protest took place in front of the Diet against the 高プロ. This protest took place because:


I don’t understand what is exactly “厚生労働委員会”. I know that it is one of the committees at the Diet, but don’t ask me what it is exactly. Same for 強行採決・きょうこうさいけつ. It seems to be a possibility for the majority to stop the discussions and vote a bill even if they did not get the consent of the minority or something like that.

There were only between 100 and 200 hundred persons holding signs stating “過労死許すな” or “残業代ゼロ法案やめろ.”

Several persons spoke against the 高プロ, saying things like “高プロが導入されれば働かされ放題になる” or criticising the government:


  • 向き合う・むきあう: confront, meet face to face
  • 尊厳・そんげん: dignity

Update: the labour reform bill was enacted into law today (Friday 29th).

Politician criticises women who don’t want children

I found this on NHK and I hope that the links won’t break as it sometimes happens.

The statement was made by Toshihiro NIKAI (二階俊博) who is secretary general of the LDP.

  • 二階幹事長: にかいかんじちょう: secretary general Nikai

To combat the declining birthrate (少子化・しょうしか) and the decreasing population (人口減少・じんこうげんしょう), Toshihiro NIKAI criticised women who don’t want children and judged their attitude selfish. He said:


  • 食うや食わず・くうやくわず is an expression to say “at the edge of starvation”, “at the bare subsistence level”.

It is long but not difficult. Nikai said that, during and after the War, when people had barely enough to eat, nobody was thinking “having children is difficult, I won’t have any”. But now, people think selfishly “I could be happier without children”.

He also added:


  • 栄える・さかえる: to prosper

I think that the お互いに refers to the fact that you raise children and they will pay your pension later. He says that, as a citizen of the country, people all share the same boat. To be happy, women should have a lot of children and people should participate in the development and flourishment of the country.

Of course, this statement was criticised. A member of the opposition called it “おっさん政党という印象だ.” and someone else added:


  • 特定・とくてい: specification, designation, stipulation
  • 押し付ける・おしつける: force on
  • 時代遅れ・じだいおくれ: out of date, behind the times
  • 時代錯誤・じだいさくご: anachronism

A member of the Constitutional Democratic Party (立憲民主党・りっけんみんしゅとう) also criticised Nikai, saying “女性の人権を無視した発言だ.”

She also added:


She says that such a statement that disregards women’s rights, is not a simple inappropriate remark (失言・しつげん) but shows that Nikai does not understand some essential points.

Japan will go to the knock-out round!

On Thursday, Japan lost its last game of the group H against Poland. As a result, at the end of the group phase, both Senegal and Japan have the same number of points (4), the same difference of goals (0), the same total number of goals (4) and their direct match was a draw. To determine which of them will join Colombia to advance to the knock-out phase, we have to look at the number of yellow cards. Japan has fewer than Senegal, so they win!

この結果、日本はセネガルと勝ち点4、得失点差0、総得点4で並び、直接対決も引き分けだったが、警告数の少なさで2位となり、2010年南アフリカ大会以来、2大会ぶり3度目の1次リーグ突破が決まった. (source)

  • 勝ち点・かちてん: points given to each team according to the result of the game (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw). Both Senegal and Japan have 4.
  • 得失点差・とくしってんさ: a goal difference. Both Senegal and Japan have scored 4 goals and conceded 4 goals, so their goal difference is 0.
  • 総得点・そうとくてん: the total number of goals scored (it is confusing since they use 点 to say both “points” and “goals”). Both Japan and Senegal have scored 4 goals.
  • 直接対決・ちょくせつたいけつ: direct confrontation. In our context, this means the match Japan-Senegal. As both Japan and Senegal have similar results in terms of points and goals, we look at their direct confrontation to see who won… but this match was a draw.
  • 警告数・けいこくすう: number of warnings, that is, number of yellow cards, also called “fair play points”. Japan has 4 yellow cards and Senegal 6.

Japan goes to the knock-out phase for the first time since 2010 and the third time in their history.

That’s it! Have a nice weekend!

Book Review 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎

I have finished reading 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎 (よしの・げんざぶろう), and as I said in my monthly review on Monday, I did not enjoy reading this book. This being said, I do think that the novel has a lot of qualities and a unique format that makes it interesting, but it just wasn’t for me.

This book was first published in 1937. It is a novel for children or at least, young readers, and it has gained considerable popularity with the publication of a manga adaptation last year. It seems now that this story is very popular among adults. (learn more)

Why I did not enjoy reading this book

I have no intention to criticise the novel in itself, but I cannot start to understand why it is so popular among adults now… Though I usually appreciate reading books for younger readers (sometimes I even wonder if I am not learning languages only to have a good excuse to read books for children), I read this one without real enthusiasm.

Children book?

I am confused concerning who should read this book. We learn in the prologue that the young protagonist Coper is 15-year-old. I also see on the wrapping band that professors recommend this book to middle and high-school students. I think that there may be a problem of period and culture, but to me, this novel would be better read by much younger readers (children and not teenagers). But I am not a specialist, and it is just a personal impression…

A little too moralistic

I started this book with the idea that it would teach the reader the importance of thinking by oneself. This is true in some respects, but I also found that some parts are telling the reader how they should think instead of teaching them how to develop and trust their own judgement.

I think that, as an adult, you don’t really want people to tell you how you should think but are looking for more subtle messages.

A little too encyclopedic

The novel contains several parts that are very encyclopedic-like. I was regularly under the impression that I was reading some kind of “Encyclopedia for the 10-12”, you know the kind of books for children that go through general cultural knowledge.

It is certainly very interesting to learn all these scientific and historical facts when you are a child, but as an adult, it was rather a boring experience.

A little too obvious

Once again, the story is a great story for children that teaches them how to get back on their feet when they fail, how to learn from one’s experience and how to see one’s failure as a way to build oneself. But I don’t see why an adult would want to read such a story because its unfolding is pretty obvious. There is no surprise about what will happen next.

A book that makes you reflect on your life

This is certainly true, and this is why I think that this story is a great story for children. It points out the importance of reflecting on one’s own life and choices. But once again, there are a lot of other works that bring the same kind of results and are more interesting for adults… I don’t feel that reading this book changed anything about the way I reflect on my life and so on.

My reading experience

When I reached the half of the novel, I really wanted to stop reading it. I forced myself because I wanted to write this review. I did well because I found that the story got more and more interesting with what is called 雪の日の出来事 and its consequences, though, as I said earlier, it follows a well-known pattern and was a little obvious.

I think that we can roughly divide this book into three parts:

  • The story of Coper. This is where the novel looks like a novel, with a story, several protagonists, a setting, a climax and a resolution.
  • The Encyclopedia-like parts. The pace of the story is often broken to develop on scientific or historical facts (nothing difficult though).
  • The uncle’s notes. At the end of some chapters, we find the notes of Coper’s uncle. This is where the novel takes a more philosophical or moralistic tone.

The problem is that enjoyed reading neither of these parts. The story was by far the most interesting, but I found it not appealing to adults. I was bored to death by what I call the encyclopedia-like parts. As for the uncle’s notes, I found some interesting and some less. I found the uncle to be moralising the reader and while Coper might absorb all this with gratitude, I was a little impatient while reading these parts. In any case, I did not feel like I was learning something or that this book changed me. I should also add that I felt no sympathy for Coper. Again, this may be a problem of period or culture but I found it hard to believe that he should be 14 or 15. To me, his “discoveries”, his experiences and the games he plays with his friends would be more appropriate for a much younger child. But maybe it is just me.

Two possible explanations

This novel, with the manga adaptation that came out last year, is a best-seller in Japan. I have tried to understand why there was such a craze around this book and I came out with two possible explanations:

First of all, the manga might be more adapted to a broad public than the novel. I haven’t read the manga adaptation so I cannot tell, but the popularity of the story started with the manga and then people decided to read the novel too, so…

I don’t know to which extend the manga stay close to the novel, but if it cut some of the lengthy passages, I can well imagine that it would be easier and more enjoyable to read.

The second explanation is that the novel contains some kind of magic that simply did not work on me.

I am now waiting for Hayao MIYAZAKI’s next film. As I mentioned in the book presentation, Miyazaki said that the title of his upcoming film would be 「君たちはどう生きるか」but I don’t know if it will be a close adaptation of the novel. In any case, I am sure that the magic will work then. I love the Ghibli films, and one of my favourites is Whisper of the Heart, written by Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi KONDO, which shares some similar features with 「君たちはどう生きるか」, like the protagonist’s age and the reflections on one’s life it encourages.


「君たちはどう生きるか」is a great book that conveys a positive message and I understand why people would like their children to read it. However, I am much more perplex when it comes to the popularity of this story among adult readers. I really should have bought the manga instead of the novel, and I am almost tempted to buy it know to see if it is more enjoyable to read… but as you can guess, I will not do it, and simply move on to the next book!

Monthly Review: June

We are entering the last week of June and almost reached the half of the year! 😮

If I had to sum up the month of June, I would call it: “going back into my comfort zone.”

Though I am still drawing and journaling with as much enthusiasm as last month, the focus of this month is reading, so let’s talk about books!

I have been reading several books at the same time this month, but I was not convinced or as enthusiastic as I thought I would be by most of them. Though I have been quite diligent during the first half of June, I finally gave up the battle and returned to the safety of my comfort zone by reading easier and more familiar authors.

Japanese books: disappointment and frustration

I will post about all these books on my Wednesday section, but this is an overview:

  • 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎: I finally finished it and will post my review the day after tomorrow, but I can already say that I did not enjoy reading this book. It is a novel for children written in 1937 that, for some reasons, is very popular now in Japan. But, even if I can see all the qualities of this novel, it just wasn’t for me… To say it plainly, this book was the most boring reading experience of the year. I am not at all blaming the novel in itself but it addresses young readers, and I really cannot fathom why it is so popular among adults now…
  • 「在日」by 姜尚中(カン・サンジュン): I absolutely loved the first third of this book, and I don’t regret a second having bought it even if I am abandoning it now. The truth is, now that I am reaching the half of the book, I am losing interest in it. I was interested in the first generation of Korean who decided to go to Japan during Japanese rule. I was also interested in knowing how they lived in Japan and 「在日」was describing exactly that. But then, the book is not as much an essay on this part of history as an autobiography, and as the author goes on with his life (his student life, his experience in Germany, his married life…), I feel that I am not that interested anymore. The book is also hard to read, with a lot of political references so… I gave up!
  • 「光」by 三浦しをん: I like this book, I like the story, but I am not that enthusiastic about it… It is almost impossible to tell why exactly. I really think that it is a good novel, but somehow, I have to force myself a little to open it and read it. There is nothing that I could possibly criticise about the book though… well I guess this kind of things happens!

So you see, I was not happy with my readings, and last week I decided to go back to familiar places and started a book by Keigo HIGASHINO. I am convinced that achieving a good balance between challenging books and easier ones is vital to keep going. Challenging books are there to make us progress and have a sense of achievement, but regularly going back to easier books is also essential to not feel overwhelmed and regain confidence. Higashino’s novel gave me exactly what I was looking for: a book that I want to open as soon as I have some time to read and that I can read without any effort.

So now, I am happily enjoying my comfort zone again!

English book: I thought I could read in English, but maybe I can’t…

I finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and this is one of my favourite books ever. I was so obsessed with this story that I bought the audiobook read by Dominic West and keep listening to it.

After that, there was a novel that I absolutely wanted to read: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I saw this title on almost every list of recommended contemporary British novels. I was very excited to read it, but the author’s writing style really took me by surprise. I am sure that her writing style is full of liveliness and vibrancy, but it is also hard to read for English learners. I mean, I can read and understand it, but I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

I just began it and judged that it was not the right time to read this book. I really think it was a problem of timing. When I first opened White Teeth, I was struggling with my three Japanese books, and I didn’t want to also struggle with the book I read in English. Also, I was at a point when I doubted my Japanese abilities because 「在日」was hard to read and 「光」is a little challenging. But then, realising that I could not even read properly in English really gave me the final knock-out blow.

So here again, I decided to go back straight to my comfort zone. I closed White Teeth and made the solemn promise that I will come back to it and read it this year, and headed to something more familiar and easier to read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My “English reading challenge” was to familiarise myself with contemporary British authors and it is true that Jane Austen is not exactly “contemporary”, but I will incorporate classics to my list and just name it “journey into British literature” or something like that.

I read Jane Austen at school but in French translation and at a time when reading classics was more of an annoying duty than anything. So it’s time to read her major works in English!

The same kind of magic that happened with Higashino worked with Jane Austen too. I felt reassured in my abilities to read in English, I was drawn into the story right from the first page, and I can read it without efforts in English. So everything is fine.


I really enjoy being in my comfort zone, why do people always want you to go out of it 🤨? It is so delightful to stop making efforts for a while and just enjoy what our present level allows us to have. I retreated so far in my comfort zone that I even started a new village in Animal Crossing New Leaf, haha. I was maybe a little tired of my old one and even though parting with it was heartbreaking, starting a new one was very exciting! I sometimes wish that life would be as easy as fishing, catching bugs and trading pieces of furniture with talking animals.

My June hobby-life consisted in trying to draw my cat, reading detective novels, English classics, watching the World Cup and playing Animal Crossing New Leaf. I’m sure July will not be much different! 🙂


Japanese News: June week 3

Only two main topics this week! The Diet session and M. Kake’s press conference:

Japanese supporters clean up the stadium after winning against Colombia

On Tuesday, Japan won its first match (2-1) of this year’s World Cup against Colombia. What struck observers, however, is how Japanese supporters took the time to clean up after themselves in the stadium. Colombian press talks of “sportsmanship”. Even though they won, Japanese supporters stayed respectful and willing to give a good image of themselves. This is what the Colombian press said:


  • 溢れる・あふれる: overflow

Current Diet session to be extended

If I understand this article correctly, this current Diet session was to end on June 20th, but Abe wants to extend it for a month to pass important bills:


  • 調整に入る・ちょうせいにはいる: I am not sure, but I think we can translate it literally by “enter (a phase) of adjustment or regulation.” This adjustment being here an extension, a prolongation.

According to the article, the main reason for this prolongation is that Abe wants to pass a bill relative to casinos. They initially wanted to extend the Diet session until July 8th, but given that Abe will go to Europe in July, it might be too short to approve the bill. It seems indeed that the opposition is strongly against it. Therefore, they decided to extend the Diet session until July 20th. The ruling party said:


  • IR法案・ほうあん: IR (Integrated Resorts) Bill. If I understood correctly, this bill wants to develop casino resorts to attract tourists on the one hand, and prevent gambling dependance of locals on the other hand.
  • 採決・さいけつ: vote (a bill)
  • 抵抗・ていこう: resistance, opposition

Left-wing criticism

The decision to expand the current Diet session is criticised by Mainichi. First of all, reforms such as the IR bill and, most of all, the labour reform, cannot be rushed. Both reforms are:


  • 数の力で押し切る・かずのちからでおしきる: override, overcome by the weight of numbers. I think that, in our context, it refers to the ruling party being able to push through any reform because they have such a clear majority at the Diet. The LDP together with the Komeito forms a coalition that has a large majority at both houses of the Diet. But just because the ruling coalition can force reforms through does not mean they should do it.

This is particularly true for the labour reform because it contains a controversial part which is the 高度プロフェッショナル制度(高プロ). To test the necessity of this 高プロ, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare conducted an interview with a sample of 12 persons…


I also remember having read a survey some weeks ago about whether or not the labour reform should be passed during the current Diet session. 50% were against this decision, and 27% supported it.

Our article continues with the Mori-Kake scandals. Although they are still not settled, Abe seems to be avoiding dealing directly with the problem by expanding the Diet session. The article points out:


  • 乗り切る・のりきる: survive, get through safely

Taro ASO’s strange comparison

Taro ASO, Minister of Finance, made a strange comparison between the stoppage time in football (soccer) and the extension of the Diet session. He said:

“2対1で終わるかと思ったら、ロスタイムが5分。長く感じた。国会の延長も同じだ。ロスタイムの間に下手な失点が起きないようによろしくお願いします” (source)

  • 失点・しってん: points one allows one’s opponent in a game

It took me some time to understand what he means. Japan was winning 2-1 against Colombia at the end of the regular playing time of 90 minutes. Aso thought it would be the final score, but there was still 5 minutes of stoppage time to play. During those 5 minutes, Colombia tried to equalise to end up with a draw, this is why they seemed “long”.

If I understand correctly, Aso is comparing the one month Diet extension to the 5 minutes stoppage time. The ruling party would be Japan and the opposition Colombia. In the same manner that he hoped Japan would not concede a goal to Colombia during the stoppage time, he hopes that the opposition will not raise its voice during the month to come and let the ruling party pass their bills without interfering. (I don’t know if so many things are implied in Aso’s comparison, but this is how I read it)

The opposition said it was a “サッカーへの冒とく.”

  • 冒とく・ぼうとく: blasphemy, sacrilege

M. Kake’s press conference

Following the Kake Gakuen scandal, the head of Kake Gakuen and friend of Abe, M. Kotaro KAKE (加計孝太郎・かけこうたろう) gave a press conference on Tuesday (19th). The press conference’s main point was to deny having met Abe in 2015. To add some context, let’s recall that a document sent by Kake Gakuen to Ehime prefecture stated that Abe and Kake had met in 2015 and that Abe knew and encouraged the project. Later, Kake Gakuen said that this document was forged and that the meeting did not take place. It is the first time, however, that Kotaro KAKE explains himself directly on this matter.

Kotaro KAKE said, about the meeting: “記憶にも記録にもない” (source). Haha, M. Kake should be asked to write sample sentences for kanji textbooks!

But to be honest, I don’t really see what is the point of all this. Even if the meeting did take place, I could hardly see Kotaro KAKE admitting it now, it would place his friend Abe in an awkward position, to say the least!

Some officials at Ehime prefecture criticise this press conference, saying that it comes to late and that Kake did it only to make himself an “alibi”: 獣医学部新設問題理事長会見「遅い」「アリバイ作り」愛媛県職員ら不信感. I am not sure how we should understand “アリバイ作り”, but I think that the idea is that Kake made a press conference to somehow clean himself and be done with it. He can now say that he made a press conference about the issue and does not need to explain himself further.

The governor of Ehime Prefecture even asked for a document that could prove that the meeting did not take place: 首相面会否定できる記録示せ愛媛知事が注文.

And finally, Mainichi sums up the issue in an editorial, saying that M. Kake’s explanation was not enough:


He just said “記憶にも記録にもない”, without showing any clear proof that the meeting did not take place.

Moreover, the editorial points out that even if what they say is right and the meeting did not take place, Kake faces another problem: “首相は架空の面会話で名前を悪用されたことになる.” In other words, they misused Abe’s name to serve their purpose. Indeed, writing in an official document that Abe said something he never said to push one’s project forward is not a small issue. However, M. Kake does not seem to have dealt with the problem properly:


  • わきまえる: to understand, to discern, to know, to bear in mind

He thinks he can resolve the issue by taking some intern steps, this shows that he does not grasp the importance of the issue.

That’s it for this week! I am following with interest Japan’s team performance at the World Cup!

Currently reading: 「虚ろな十字架」by 東野圭吾

I am a little frustrated with some of the books I am reading at the moment, and I sometimes avoid reading at all because the books I have are either too difficult or not that interesting to me.

This is why I thought that I could always have a novel by Keigo HIGASHINO as back up for the times when I just want to relax and read something easy. As I don’t mind reading several books at the same time, why not always have one that I know I will appreciate and read without problems?

I picked 「虚ろな十字架」randomly, I was just careful to avoid a novel that would be part of a series. Now that I have already read some chapters, I can tell that the main topic of this book is the capital punishment.

I am very happy with this book because death penalty in Japan is a topic that interests me. Since I read 「赤い指」 I do not see Highashino’s books as pure detective stories anymore but as the reflection of societal issues. In 「赤い指」it was the burden that weighs on families when they have to take care of their ageing parents. In 「虚ろな十字架」it is the death penalty and how families of victims react to it. The book does not seem to be focused as much on the police investigation as on what follows: the court, the sentence, and what the families of the victims can do.

I have done some further readings on the topic and found that Higishino’s book echoes some real cases.

To me, the most shocking aspect of capital punishment in Japan is certainly that death-sentenced inmates are kept in solitary confinement and are informed of their execution only a few hours before it actually takes place (source). Death row inmates can stay in this anxious state for years or even decades, as was the case for Iwao HAKAMADA (Japanese News: June week 2.)

I have also read another novel recently on this topic 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真, but both books are very different.

As for 「虚ろな十字架」, I really enjoy reading it, both for the story and the things I learn through it as well as the various thoughts it leads to. As usual, I find Higashino’s writing style easy and though the book contains some vocabulary relative to court sentences and capital punishment, it is not a challenging read.


Writing in Japanese every day: how I built a new habit with マイブック

I am not doing much to actively study Japanese lately, but there is something that I do every day since February: writing a page in Japanese in マイブック.

マイブック is a sort of agenda that looks exactly like a book. It is published by 新潮文庫 every year. It uses the same format, paper and characteristics than any other book by this publisher. But of course, the inside is blank. The only things you get on each page is the date. The book is also divided into 12 “chapters,” from January to December.

Before I bought マイブック (a minor investment of 370 Yen), I was struggling to get into the habit of writing in Japanese every day and kept failing in my attempts. But when I got マイブック, I started writing at least a sentence or two every day and ended up filling the whole page every single day after a month or two. So what changed? I have tried to sum up how I got into the habit of writing every day:

Get an agenda

This really changed my life. All the attempts I made to forge a writing habit had been done with a simple notebook. The problem with a plain notebook is that no one is here to remind you that you skipped one day, then two, then a whole week. You can even leave your notebook untouched for one month, and no one will notice it, not even yourself.

With any kind of agenda with the date on each page, you cannot skip one day and pretend not to notice it. The unfilled days will be there, as a good reminder that you haven’t written during a certain period. To avoid finding yourself with an agenda full of reproachful blank pages you should write at least one sentence a day. Fill it with something. Even writing a single word in Japanese is better than nothing.

One thing that I have sometimes done during the first month is to write in English. There were days when I didn’t feel like writing in Japanese, and so I wrote something in English instead. It is not the best option, but knowing that I have skipped one day is worse. I won’t be happy about it and even feel a little guilty, with the result that I will not want to open my notebook the next day.

Start small

It seems obvious to say this, but when I mean small, I really do mean it. For example, writing a single sentence is okay. This is how I started, my first month has more blank space than written space and some days are filled with just one sentence or two.

Following this, I recommend buying a small notebook. マイブック is an A6 format, and I find it perfect:

  • If you only write a sentence or two, they don’t look as isolated, depressed and lonely as they would do on an A4 format.
  • If you feel like writing a lot, you are bound to reach the end of the page quickly and get an immensely gratifying reward by doing so. There are even times when I feel “Oh, I would have liked to write more, but I don’t have space anymore.” This is the best that can happen because I have a good feeling associated with my notebook and the activity of writing. When this happens, I am always looking forward to writing the following day.

From not fancy to fancy

(I wanted to write “shabby” to say “in poor condition through lack of care”, but then I googled “shabby notebook” just to be sure… and I found notebooks “dressed in old clothes”… haha, I didn’t know “shabby” had these two meanings!)

I think that we are all different in our relationship with the things we use. Some people can build a new habit with any material they find lying around, and others need ar elegant or cute companion to get started. There are also people who get paralysed when they have a pricey or beautiful item in hands.

I am a little of the last two. That is, I will want to have a fancy notebook to start a new project, but when I see the beautiful notebook in front of me, I just can’t get started because writing in it would spoil it.

Now, I have found a way to overcome this problem. I realised that there are two phases of getting into a new habit. First, of course, you have to build the habit. But then, you have to keep the motivation to maintain it.

  1. Build a habit with a simple material
  2. Keep motivated with a beautiful and fancy notebook

To build a new habit, the most important thing is not to produce fantastic results, but to do the chosen activity regularly. We know that this is hard in itself, but it becomes even harder if superfluous considerations hinder us. For example, if I start building a habit with a beautiful and expensive notebook, I will want to make sure that I write well, with the right tools, that I take time to decorate and even draw in it. If I don’t have time for it one day, I will rather postpone it to the following day that writing quickly and spoil the whole appearance of my agenda. And then, of course, I don’t have time either the following day and so on.

Similarly, if I make errors and have to correct myself, I will be annoyed because the result will not be pretty enough. But in the beginning, we are bound to making a lot of errors. Wrong kanji, wrong word, wrong grammar…

This is where マイブック helped me to drop my artistic ambitions and to focus on the activity in itself. I would not say that マイブック is the best piece of stationery I ever come across and in any case, it is very cheap. Originally, the paper is made for printing and reading, not to write in it. As a consequence, even the invincible ballpoint pen sometimes had a hard time in it (it just wouldn’t write, I don’t know why). This resulting in my scribbling furiously to get some ink out of my pen, crossing out here and there, writing disfigured kanji, crossing them out, rewriting them and so on. In the end, my pages look very slovenly.

And this is where I really started writing on a daily basis. Even if I had only 5 minutes, I would take my agenda and scribble some Japanese in it. I didn’t feel under pressure to write well. This made the whole thing much more relaxing and easier. No pressure, no stress, no expectations. I was freed from the thought “I have to write well”.

One piece of advice generally given to build a new habit, is to make the access to the activity as simple as possible, for example, always keep your notebook with you or within easy reach. But “within easy reach” to me was not as much a physical problem than a psychological one.

Once I am sure that I have built a new habit and that writing in Japanese has become an essential daily activity, I will certainly raise my expectations a little and find new ways to stay motivated. I will go on with マイブック this year, and if I write every page of it until December 31th, I will reward myself with a more beautiful and high-quality agenda for 2019 (namely, a Hobonichi Original, which is the same A6 format). This simple thought motivates me more than I can say!

Writing is free

One other stumbling block when writing in Japanese every day is the question “what shall I write about; I have nothing to say…”

For a long time, I associated keeping a journal with “writing what happened to me.” Of course, I knew that there are no rules, that one can write about anything one likes. But I understood this more completely when I read this article on the Hobonichi Techo Magazine. The team has summed up how 100 people use their Hobonichi 5 years agenda. I read it with great interest because it inspired me and it was very easy to read in Japanese. Anyway, on page 2, they make the difference between できごと派 and 感情派, in other words, people who write about what happened to them, and people who write about how they feel. This has been some kind of revelation to me. I am definitely a 感情派 and putting a name on it justified and officialized it.

Even if I stay the whole day at home and nothing happens to me on this particular day, I still have tons of things to write about. For example, I like writing about the books I am reading, sum up the story and explain why I like them or not.

Another positive thing that directly follows this revelation is that I don’t write in the evenings anymore, but early in the morning or at any time of the day. I don’t need to wait until something happens to write, I don’t even have to wait to have properly started the day to write. I find that writing about the things I want to do this day is more motivating than writing about the things that I actually did. But the most important point is that I have more willpower in the morning, and I will be more likely to open my notebook. In the evening, on the contrary, I am often too tired or too lazy, and it is easy to just forget writing or postpone it.

Be your own teacher

I don’t have a Japanese friend or a teacher who could correct me, and I don’t think that I would like it. To me, knowing that someone will read and correct my writings would have the same effect than writing on a 30 euros agenda. I will want it to be perfect, I will try to be smart, write interesting things, use ten grammars in a single paragraph and so on. In the end, writing in Japanese might be more of a duty than something that I do for pleasure.

Of course, having someone who can correct you from time to time would be ideal. But even if you don’t, this does not mean that you should not write.

But then, how do I know that I am not making the same errors again and again?

A good method is to imitate what you know is right. You can take anything you find written by a native speaker or a person of reference and exercise writing in the same style. To begin with, just change a word or two. Then you can change more words and just keep the grammar or the structure of the sentence. Depending on your level, chose a good source to find your sentences. Grammar books are a good choice too. Write down a sample sentence in your notebook and challenge yourself with things like “write three sentences on the same pattern or using the same grammar.” This will have two benefits:

  1. Obviously, you work on your grammar and study Japanese
  2. If you don’t know what to write about in your journal, this can be a good starting point. It often happens to me that I would write a sentence using a given grammar and I will go on writing about the topic I chose. This helps a lot when I don’t feel inspired.

What I personally do is that I mix two kinds of writings. There are free writings where I don’t try to use a particular pattern. And there are these grammar exercises (which generally trigger some more free writing). As I don’t want to lose time looking for sample sentences when it is time to write, I do two things:

  1. I have my N3 grammar book within reach. My passive level is N2, but when it comes to writing or speaking, I go for N3 materials.
  2. Whenever I find interesting expressions and patterns that I would like to use myself, I write them down on non-sticky post-its and slip them in マイブック. When it’s time to write, I always have some patterns to study if I want to.

Writing by imitation is a good way to start writing with confidence. If you copy a sentence that is right, there are good chances that what you write is right too. Of course, it might not be colloquial, but this is not a big deal. If you can write in Japanese, even with errors, it is in itself a great achievement. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but don’t forget to come back to the basics regularly. There is no shame in coming back to N4 grammar if you passed N2, for example. I did it the other day because I wanted to check something I had forgotten. This is the best way to avoid making basic errors.

About the kanji

I don’t see that there is any problem with writing in hiragana only as a start. After all, it is your journal, and you can do whatever you want with it. In the process of building the habit, looking up every single word to write the kanji may be too laborious to be done for a period long enough to call it a habit. This is why I would recommend starting by writing in hiragana only if you don’t feel at ease with writing kanji. The first goal is to write every day, not to write well.

After that, why not look up the words that you often use and write them in kanji? By slowly adding new kanji to your writing, you will soon end up with all the basic vocabulary written in kanji.

Writing is one of the best ways to remember the kanji, but they should not hinder your writing. Sometimes I check every single kanji that I want to write but have forgotten and sometimes, I just cannot be bothered and end up writing some words in hiragana.


It is hard to tell what exactly made me cross the bridge between a state where I kept trying to forge a habit without any success, and a state where writing in Japanese had become a daily activity. Of course, マイブック is not a magical book, and though it seems that acquiring it was the trigger, it is the combination of all the things mentioned above that truly helped me to build my habit.

If I failed before, it is not because I wasn’t good enough but because I hadn’t the right tools and the right approach. As we are all different, I think that finding one’s own approach based on one’s personal tastes is important.


Japanese News: June week 2

These are the topics that I found interesting this week! As usual, I have skipped all international matters.

  • Fukushima (imperial visit and dismantling)
  • The attack in the Shinkansen
  • Wedding anniversary
  • Hakamada case (paragraph break down and some reflexions on Japanese grammar)
  • Majority at 18


Imperial visit

It is the sixth time that the Emperor and Empress visit Fukushima since the disaster. It would also certainly be the last time before the Emperor’s abdication next year.

Among other activities, they met four representants of the victims from 富岡、大熊、双葉、浪江 and gave words of comfort and encouragement for the future like: “ご苦労も多かったと思いますが、それを乗り越えて良い生活を築いていかれるよう願っています。お元気で.” (source)

From the various articles I read on the subject, it seems that the words uttered by the Emperor and Empress really mean a lot to those who receive them.


Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc announced that it will dismantle four reactors at the Fukushima’s second nuclear power plant.

The Japanese name for Tepco or Tokyo Electronic Power Company Holdings is 東京電力ホールディングス(HD)and is abbreviated into 東電HD. The Japanese word for ”second nuclear plant” is 福島第2原発.

The word used to say “the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant” is 廃炉・はいろ (to me, sometimes, English is more difficult than Japanese 😳.)

As the article says, it is the first time that Tepco evokes clearly its intention to dismantle reactors at Fukushima: 東電が廃炉方針を明言したのは初めて.


On Saturday (9th) a man wounded three persons with a knife in the Shinkansen Tokyo-Shin Osaka. One of the victims deceased and two others have heavy wounds.

A man of 22 has been arrested. He admitted to having committed the attack and explained: “むしゃくしゃしていた。誰でもよかった.”, thus acknowledging that he stroke without reason.

Is it what is called 通り魔・とおりま in Japanese? 😒I am not familiar with this term, but I saw it appear in relation with this case. From what I read in Wikipedia, 通り悪魔 is a demon from the Japanese folklore that would inhabit people it finds being absentminded or lost in reverie and would then disturb their heart. Today, it is used to describe random acts of violence perpetrated without reason.

The article also evokes another attack in the Shinkansen in 2015. At the time, a man of 71 had set himself on fire, which resulted in the death of one other person and 28 persons wounded.

Wedding Anniversary

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako are to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. In this article, they talk about 努力賞 and 感謝賞 which seems to be prizes given by the Crown Prince to his wife during the 10-years anniversary. To be honest, I don’t really understand what it is, and I find it even a little awkward.

The Crown Prince said:


Hakamada’s case

This is a case that I never heard of before, but several articles came out about the “袴田事件.” This is the topic that interested me the most this week. As it was challenging to read it in Japanese, I took it as an opportunity to do some sentence analysis.

To summarise the issue:

In 1968, Iwao HAKAMADA was sentenced to death for the murder of 4 people committed in 1966.

In 2014, Hakamada was freed by a district court that asked for a retrial and suspended his death sentence. What triggered this decision is a new DNA analysis brought by the defence that seriously undermines the evidence that was used to convict Hakamada at the time. One year after the murder, police have found bloodstained clothes and have said that Hakamada had worn them when he committed the crime. Today, further DNA analysis proves that neither Hakamada’s nor the victims’ DNA could be found on the clothes. Some suspect that the evidence was forged by the police.

We learnt this week that the Tokyo high court rejected the decision to reopen the case and start a new trial. However, they did not cancel the district court’s decision concerning the release of Hakamada because his health is deteriorating.

(If you want to read a more detailed account of it in English, I recommend this article by Mainichi)

Articles I have read on this topic in Japanese all started with the similar paragraph that summarises the problem in a concise way but proved very discouraging for me. Namely:

“1966年に起きた「袴田事件」で死刑が確定し、2014年の静岡地裁の再審開始決定で釈放された袴田巌元被告(82)の即時抗告審で、東京高裁(大島隆明裁判長)は11日、地裁決定を取り消し、再審請求を棄却する決定を出した。地裁が再審開始の根拠とした弁護側のDNA型鑑定について「信用性は乏しい」と判断した。一方で、袴田さんの健康状態などを考慮し、死刑と拘置の執行停止については維持した。弁護側は再審請求の棄却を不服とし、最高裁に特別抗告する方針。” (source).

Now that I know what it is all about, this kind of paragraph is easier to read, but at first, it was very downcasting. When I first read this, I had never heard of the Hakamada case so the whole paragraph was very opaque. Even if I could understand more by only concentrating on the kanji I know, sometimes there is just too many of them, if you know what I mean.

What follows is just a break down of this paragraph with some reflexions on Japanese grammar.

Paragraph break down

The first sentence contains the main information: the High Court of Tokyo rejected the decision to re-open the case:


In blue, the main information:

The High Court of Tokyo (the judge is Takaaki OSHIMA), on the 11th, came out with the decision to cancel the decision of the district court and reject the request for a re-trial.

  • 高裁・こうさい is the abbreviation for 高等裁判所・こうとうさいばんしょ, the high court.
  • 裁判長・さいばんちょう: the presiding judge.
  • 大島隆明・おおしまたかあき: Takaaki OSHIMA is the name of the presiding judge. To say the least, this is not vital information to understand our sentence, but it somehow adds to the profusion of kanji.
  • 地裁・ちさい is the abbreviation for 地方裁判所・ちほうさいばんしょ, a district court.
  • 再審・さいしん: a new trial, a retrial
    • 再審請求・さいしんせいきゅう: a request for a new trial
  • 棄却する・ききゃくする: to turn down, to reject

In purple, we are given context:

In the context of the immediate appeal trial of the former accused Iwao HAKAMADA who had been sentenced to death for the “Hakamada case” which happened in 1966 and was released in 2014 when the court of Shizuoka decided to re-open his trial, …

  • 袴田事件・はかまだじけん: the case Hakamada
  • 死刑・しけい: capital punishment
  • 静岡地裁・しずおかちさい: the court of Shizuoka
  • 釈放する・しゃくほうする: release, discharge, set free
  • 袴田巌・はかまだいわお: Iwao HAKAMADA
  • 被告・ひこく: the accused, the defendant
  • 即時抗告・そくじこうこく: immediate appeal. With the addition of 審, I guess that we can translate it by “immediate appeal court”.

The next sentence brings more precision about the high court’s decision:


In blue, the main argument. There is no subject clearly stated for the verb “判断した” in this sentence so we will go on with the same actor as the previous sentence, namely: “東京高裁は”.

(The high court of Tokyo) formed the judgement “lack of credibility”…

  • 乏しい・とぼしい: scanty, meagre, sparse

In purple, information about the object of this judgement:

… concerning the DNA analysis (provided by) the defence and that the district court considered as evidence to launch the retrial.

  • 弁護側・げんごがわ: the defence, the ones who speak for the defence.
  • DNA型鑑定・ディーエヌエーがたかんてい: DNA analysis, DNA testing

Next, we have the reassurance that the high court will not send Hakamada back to prison:


In blue:

Here again, the subject is still the high court of Tokyo.

However, (The high court) will maintain (the status of) suspension of both the death sentence and the detention

  • 拘置・こうち: detention, imprisonment
  • 執行停止・しっこうていし:  suspension of execution

In purple, the reason for this decision:

… considering things like the M. Hakamada’s health condition.

  • 考慮・こうりょ: consider, take account of

In the last sentence, finally, a new focus is introduced. We are not talking about the high court of Tokyo anymore, but about what the defence will do.


The defence is not satisfied with the (decision to) reject the request for re-trial and will make a special appeal to the Supreme Court,

  • 不服・ふふく: dissatisfaction, objection, protest, disagreement, complaint…
  • 特別抗告・とくべつこうこく: a special appeal
  • 最高裁・さいこうさい is the abbreviation of 最高裁判所・さいこうさいばんしょ, the Supreme Court.

Some reflexions about Japanese grammar

After all this time learning Japanese, I still feel very insecure when it comes to telling the difference between は and が. I mean, I have a general idea of course, but I am far for mastering it. The paragraph that I have just broken down proved tricky to me because of these particles.

The paragraph is about two main actors, each introduced with は: the high court and the defence. But as long as a new は is not introduced, we are to understand that the paragraph is still talking about the previous thing introduced by は, namely the high court of Tokyo.

This also means that the things introduced by が are not the subject of the main verb. They are the subjects of the verb in the subordinate clause. To know the subject of the main verbs, we need to look at the last thing that was introduced with は.

I am saying this because at first, I didn’t understand the sentence:


“The high court of Tokyo judged that the DNA analysis made by the defence and that the district court regarded as evidence for launching a new trial was lacking credibility”.

I thought that the district court was the subject of the verb “to judge”. Thus, I thought that the DNA analysis was referring to the analysis that was made at the time of the arrest, in 1967/1968. I ended up with something like: “the district court judged the credibility of the DNA analysis (of 1967/1968) to be questionable, thus giving ground to a new trial.”

But if we understand that the district court is the subject of “consider the DNA analysis as sufficient evidence for a retrial” and that the subject of “to judge” is still the high court of Tokyo introduced with は in the previous sentence… we have a completely different meaning.

It also helps to know that the district court re-open the case in 2014 because a new DNA analysis of bloodstained clothes found at the time proved that no connection could be established between Hakamada and the victims. And anyway, the main argument of the paragraph is to tell us that high court rejected the request for a new trial. As a consequence, it is more probable that this sentence explains why the high court rejected the request than tells why there had been a request in the first place.

I am always a little terrified when I see that I had completely misunderstood a sentence and ended up with a completely different meaning… but that it somehow made sense, preventing me from seeing that something was wrong! 😱

To conclude on this, I would say that, even though some grammar point may seem basic, and even though we can understand them in simple sentences, it is easy to overlook their significance in more complex sentences. Personally, I tend to focus too much on the unknown words and the unknown kanji and overlook the grammar. As a result, instead of translating what is really written, I put all the words together and try to guess the meaning. I find this to be particularly true in the news, where articles adopt such a concise style. Misunderstanding a particle can hinder the comprehension of a whole paragraph. I don’t really come across such problem in novels… I really think that this is something linked to the news.

Majority at 18

It’s done, the age of majority will be 18 (instead of 20) from April the 1st, 2022. In the meantime, several laws will have to be changed to adjust to the new age of majority.

In total, 22 laws will be revised. It concerns things like acquiring a passport, signing a contract without the parents’ permission or gender identity.

What I found really surprising concerns the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and gambling. While I thought that this would be allowed for people of 18, I am surprised to read that it won’t be the case:


  • 依存症・いぞんしょう: dependence
  • 懸念・けねん: fear, anxiety, concern
  • 規定・きてい: stipulations, prescriptions, provisions, regulations.

Honestly, I find this surprising. I mean, what is the point of reducing the majority from 20 to 18 if it is to change the word “minor” to “under 20” in the law! (just to be sure, I am not saying this to encourage alcohol and tobacco consumption or gambling dependence!🙂)

Another interesting point is the possibility to sign contracts without the parents’ permission. As there are concerns that unscrupulous companies will manipulate young consumers with methods such as 不安商法 or デート商法, it will be possible to cancel a contract in such cases.

不安商法 refers to deceptive marketing that emphasises people’s anxiety to sell their products or services at a high price. For example, using people’s fear of earthquake to sell infrastructures.

デート商法 is also a kind of misleading marketing that uses people’s sentiments to sell their products.

There are concerns that young consumers will become a privileged target for these unscrupulous marketing campaigns and the opposition asked for more regulations to protect the 18-20.


The Hakamada case was the most shocking news to me this week. After reading different articles on this topic, I cannot help but thinking that he was convicted on dubious evidence…

Currently reading: 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎


Cover of the novel

If you live in Japan or stay in touch with recent Japanese publications, you certainly have come across the title 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎(よしの・げんざぶろう). Though not living in Japan, I happened to see several times the cover of the manga version of this book but never really paid attention to it. The other day, however, I saw the same title again in a bookshop but with a different cover. Curiosity got the better of me and, before I could tell myself that buying a new book when I already have so many to read at home is not reasonable, I found myself queuing at the register with the book in hand.

About 「君たちはどう生きるか」

The book is a novel written in 1937 by Genzaburo YOSHINO. The novel was originally written for children or young readers, but it is now seen as a book that adults can enjoy too.


Cover of the manga

Last year, a manga adaptation by 羽賀翔一(はが・しょういち)put an eighty-year-old story back on the bookshops’ bestsellers shelves. At the same time, a new edition of the novel was published, and this is the book I bought. It contains some illustrations taken from the manga which, though sparse and few, help to find the atmosphere of the 30’s. This new edition also has a bigger size than usual pocket editions, and I would not be surprised if they added more furigana too.

While reading the news, I came across this Mainichi article some days ago about the best-selling books for the first half of 2018. Shoichi Haga’s manga adaptation ranked first, and the novel is ranked fourth.

Finally, Hayao MIYAZAKI announced last year that his next film will have the same title as Yoshino’s work.

Why are adults reading this book now?

This other article on NHK analyses why this story enjoys such a popularity among adults readers. For it seems that, even though the book was originally written for young readers, it has now gained the heart of adults. It features short interviews with Shigesato ITOI (Hobonichi’s creator, which was the topic of my previous post) and Genzaburo YOSHINO’s son.

The article says that despite the 80 years that have gone by since the first publication of 「君たちはどう生きるか」, the questions raised in this book are still very topical today.

Among the adults that read this novel or this manga today, many seem to be willing to reconsider their life, its meaning or its purpose. As the title of the story suggests, this book encourages its readers to ask themselves what kind of life they want to lead. As a book that invites us to think about the choices we make, this books is bound to be appealing to adults.

The general impression that I have after reading the article is that the book’s success lies in the message it prompts to its readers: learn to think by oneself and reflect on one’s life.

A word about the story

The book follows the story of コペル, a 15-year-old boy whose father died two years ago. He is a lively boy with good results at school. His uncle has taken him under his wings and sees to his moral education.

Sadly, I can’t say how the manga is structured or how close it remained from the novel. As for this last one, it is composed of ten chapters that more or less follow the same pattern: After having accompanied コペル through his daily adventures, we are able to read the notebook of his uncle. The uncle is addressing コペル in his note and comments on the recent events of コペル’s life.


I have great expectations with this novel. First, I am curious about the book itself, the story seems interesting enough, and I am eager to see what kind of message it conveys and in which way it makes the readers reflect on their own life. More than that, however, I am curious to see why this story has created such enthusiasm in Japan. Certainly, it tells us a lot about the society of the 30’s as well as today’s society. Why shall adults read today an eighty-year-old book for children? I will certainly find out by reading the novel!

My new daily reading exercise

I have been much into stationery lately, and while I was looking for information to sustain my newly born passion, I discovered a most interesting site: ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞, or ほぼ日 for short.

This online magazine was created by Shigesato ITOI on June 6th, 1998, and celebrated its 20th anniversary some days ago. As they say on the website, although the magazine is described as an “almost daily” publication, the site has been updated with new content every single day since its creation. The whole site is free to access without any ads (except for their own products of course).

In 2002, they published their first ほぼ日手帳 which is now very famous in Japan and is also well known among stationery lovers outside Japan.

But to come back to the online magazine, Shigesato ITOI writes every day the column called 今日のダーリン, and this has become my new daily reading exercise! The column is described as “糸井重里が毎日書くエッセイのようなもの” and though, it can cover a wide range of topics, I feel, from what I have read so far, that it mainly deals with life and lifestyle, Itoi’s thoughts about things that happened or persons he met and so on. In any case, I always find the contents of the rubric to be very interesting, either leading to deeper thoughts or simply entertaining.

Since I discovered it some days ago, I have been reading the column daily, which provided me with perfect reading practice.

Setting a daily reading routine

This new reading routine made me think about how to take the habit of reading in Japanese every day. This is what I found useful and why Hobonichi is the perfect source for me:

Don’t try to look smart, follow your passion

This seems an obvious thing to say, but I have difficulty doing so myself. I tend to want to read what I think would make me look cool or smart, rather than things that I truly appreciate. It is not even to boast in front of others, just to give to myself a positive image of my intellectual life or something like that. I have made some attempts to read things that did not correspond me just because I liked the idea of me reading these things. I am not talking about Japanese only here. In fact, I think that I have this attitude since I studied literature at university. This was a time when I stopped reading detective stories because it was not considered to be high literature and tried to tell myself that I was truly enjoying whatever medieval author we were reading at the time.

At the moment, I am very interested in stationery and how people use their notebooks, how writing can change your lifestyle and so on. This is why I enjoy reading the Hobonich magazine, which is deeply linked to topics I like.

Respond to someone else’s consistency

I find it much easier to read every day if the material I use also comes fresh and new on a daily basis.

Regularity is one of the most challenging parts when it comes to getting new habits. Of course, I can tell myself that I will read this book every day; alas it is easy to skip one or two days and give up altogether.

What I like with Hobonichi, is that Shigesato ITOI writes a column every single day.

First, I am impressed by people who can produce interesting contents on a daily basis. I tell myself “I find it hard to read on a daily basis, but what if I were to write original and worth to read contents every single day?”. This encourages me to at least make an effort to read every day.

Then I think that even though it is hard to be consistent, it is easier to respond to someone else’s consistency. I don’t know if it makes sense… What I mean is that I feel more encouraged to read a daily column because I know that its author has created new contents today for us to read. I don’t feel like I have to make the effort of finding something to read in Japanese every day, I just need to respond when I get the notification that new contents have been published.

Every day is a new day

The advantage of reading a daily tribune is that every new day starts afresh. If you had trouble reading the previous article, this does not mean that it will impact today’s reading session.

I think that the main reason why I sometimes end up leaving a book untouched for several days is the recollection I have of my previous reading session. If I know that I didn’t understand well or struggled a lot with the book the last time I read it, I will not want to open it again. I would reach for my book and then think “Ah yes, last time there was this scene that I did not understand,” and I would choose another book or another activity altogether.

This of course, never occurs with 今日のダーリン, and in fact, it is very motivating to be faced with a new reading challenge every day.

Be sure to get used to the author’s style before giving up

At first, I was puzzled by Itoi’s articles because, even though they look simple enough, I could not understand 100% of them. There were paragraphs that I just could not make out even though I could find no difficult words or grammar in them.

The effect it had on me at the beginning was discouraging. Now that I can read some novels in Japanese, I have gained some confidence in my reading abilities. However, I found myself confronted with a short text that looked obviously easier to read than any novel, and I was at a loss to grasp the meaning of this or that sentence. No need to say that I have felt much downcast and tempting to give up. Not as much because it was too hard but because it was vexing.

But all I needed was to get used to the author’s writing and the format of エッセイのようなもの as they put it. While novels can follow a somewhat codified pattern, these essays have a more casual and free format.

It would have been a shame to give up too early when all I needed was a little adaptation.


These are just some tips I found useful to build a habit of reading at least some Japanese on a daily basis. Finding short articles that are published daily on a subject that interests you is a good way to build a new habit. If you are interested in reading Itoi’s daily articles, or the other articles and interview published on Hobonichi, I would recommend using their app.

We tend to blame ourselves for not being able to go on with our good resolutions and not being able to build new habits and so on. But sometimes, it is just the material we used that is not appropriate. Finding one’s own perfect resource can take time and be frustrating, but it is also vital to build new habits smoothly. It would be unfair to blame oneself for not reading daily just because the materials we chose to tackle are not that interesting after all!

Japanese News: June week 1 (Moritomo only)

This week, Finance Minister Taro ASO communicated the results of the investigation conducted by the Ministry to clear up the Moritomo problem. There has been an avalanche of articles on the subject in Mainichi, and I was so deeply buried under it that I had no willpower left to examine other topics this week. (Now I know that I can’t draw avalanches)

Moritomo Gakuen scandal

There has been some development concerning the falsification of documents relative to the sale of public land with a huge discount to Moritomo Gakuen. (I feel that every article in the subject in Japanese starts with such a long sentence).

We know now that the Finance ministry acknowledged that Nobuhisa SAGAWA is implied in and even gave directions for the falsification of the documents. However, there will be no prosecution against the officials concerned.

The Finance Ministry will take intern sanction against 20 officials, including Sagawa.

Sagawa’s sanction is three months of suspension from office. However, in March of this year, Sagawa had already received a punishment from the Ministry: 20% salary reduction for 3 months. He had resigned from his post at the time. As a consequence, the Ministry added another sanction (if he resigned, the original one could not apply). According to this new sanction, the payment of his pension had been postponed. As for now, as we can obviously not suspend someone who has already resigned, the sanction he received this week has been commuted into a reduction of his retirement pay. This reduction corresponds to (or is equivalent to) three months suspension. Now, I wonder what this means exactly and how they calculate it. Anyway, in Japanese, it is “今回は「停職処分相当」として、退職金を減額する”. (source).

Edit: I found in another article the exact amount of reduction: “退職金(4999万円)から513万円を減額する”. So it’s a 10% reduction then…

Let’s take this opportunity to study the disciplinary measures for officials in Japan.

Disciplinary measures system

Source: 国有地売却問題 文書改ざん、調査結果発表 停職、2番目の重さ

National measures

The National Public Service Law (国家公務員法・こっかこうむいんほう) provides for 4 types of sanctions or “disciplinary measures” (懲戒処分・ちょうかいしょぶん). In order of gravity:

  1. 免職・めんしょく: dismissal from office
  2. 停職・ていしょく: suspension from office
  3. 減給・げんきゅう: reduction of one’s salary
  4. 戒告・かいこく: an admonition

As you can see, Sagawa got the second sanction. Even if the sanction will not apply as such (as explained above), it is interesting to see that he did not get the heaviest sanction. The same article says that the dismissal from office is almost always given when there has been a prosecution, which is not the case here, as mentioned above.

All these sanctions also have repercussions upon:

  • 昇任・しょうにん: promotion
  • 退職金・たいしょくきん: retirement allowance
  • 昇給・しょうきゅう: a rise in salary

All these measures apply at a national level.

Local measures

In addition to the four disciplinary measures mentioned above, each local government has its own regulations or 内規・ないき (internal regulation). The sanctions provided are lighter than the disciplinary measures and consist of:

  • 訓告・くんこく: reprimand
  • 文書、口頭による厳重注意: a written or spoken warning
    • 口頭・こうとう: oral, verbal, spoken
    • 厳重注意・げんじゅうちゅうい: a warning. (I think that this word applies only in this context).

These reprimands have no repercussion on promotion, retirement pay or salary raise.

Finance Minister Taro ASO

Finance Minister Taro ASO gave a press conference this week to communicate the results of the investigation made by the Ministry. I can’t say how many articles came out about it, I was completely lost, and I didn’t know which ones I should read.

During the press conference, Aso communicated the different sanctions that will apply and added that he would hand back the equivalent of one year salary, if I understood correctly the sentence “麻生太郎財務相は閣僚給与1年分(約170万円)を自主返納すると表明。” (source) I don’t understand what 閣僚給与 means, but my guess is that Aso will renounce the salary as Finance Minister and not as Deputy Prime Minister (he has the two functions), but I can’t be sure because 閣僚・かくりょう simply means “a cabinet member”.

Anyway, what I found interesting, as usual, is the Mainichi editorial: 森友文書改ざんの調査結果 居座った財務相の不実さ.

This article insists several times on the fact that Finance Minister Taro ASO should resign:


  • 引責辞任・いんせきじにん: taking responsibility by resigning
  • 不可欠・ふかけつ: indispensable


  • 不祥事・ふしょうじ: scandal


  • 引き起こす・ひきおこす: cause, lead to, give rise to
  • 道徳・どうとく: morality
  • 堕落・だらく: depravity, degradation


I knew that Aso said “セクハラ罪という罪はない” about the recent sexual harassment case, but I didn’t know that he also said “いわゆる改ざんといった悪質なものではない”, talking about the falsification of documents in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal.

How it all started

I understood that this whole affair of concealed and falsified documents started because of a key statement from Abe. Last year in February, Abe said that, should it be proven that he or his wife were involved in the Moritomo Gakuen discount sale, he would resign.

As a consequence, officials have looked into the documents, looking for references made to Abe’s wife, who was named honorary principal of the school. With the result that the passages naming Abe’s wife have been falsified.

However, as we can learn in this article, Aso denied that Abe’s statement was the starting point of the falsification: “首相答弁が問題行為のきっかけになったわけではない.”

When asked about what he means by “悪質ではない” when talking about falsification, he answered “横領とか金を取ったとかいうことがないと、悪質とは言い難いとの見解を持っていた.”

  • 横領・おうりょう: misappropriation

Falsifying documents is “tolerable”??

In a report published by the Ministry of Finance, the way officials handled the documents is generously described as tolerable or even appropriate:


They say that falsifying the documents was still in the 許容範囲・きょようはんい, that is to say, inside a tolerable level. Getting rid of documents was “appropriate” given that the conversation period was over.

The report underlines the fact that the documents should not have gone out of the ministry and made public. As a consequence, falsifying them was acceptable. Saying this is already shocking, in my humble opinion, but the report goes further and justifies the falsification by finding reasons why doing it was the right thing to do:

  1. 決裁に必要のない情報が多く含まれる
    • the documents contained a lot of information that was not necessary
  2. 虚偽内容は追加しておらず、決裁の本質的な内容は変わらない
    • officials didn’t add any untruth contents and the essence of the document didn’t change
      • 虚偽・きょぎ: falsehood, untruth
      • 本質・ほんしつ: essence, real substance, true nature, essential qualities
  3. 連日の国会対応などで職員が疲弊しており、議論の材料を増やしたくない
    • Given that the officials were exhausted with continuously having to respond to the Diet, they didn’t want to increase the number of documents that would lead to controversy (discussion)
      • 疲弊・ひへい: exhausted
  4. 決裁権限を持つ職員による本質的な内容を変えない範囲での書き換え
    • It was just a “re-writing” made by officials that are entitled to make official records and the re-writing did not alter the true nature of the contents.

If I may add a personal comment, are they seriously saying that they messed up with official documents to avoid adding burden on exhausted officials? I must be mistaken… but I can’t see how to translate point 3 otherwise…

小泉進次郎: “おかしい.”

As a newcomer in Japan politics, I first heard the name Shinjiro KOIZUMI (小泉 進次郎・こいずみ しんじろう) last week. His name appeared in a survey. People were asked who they think would be suitable to be the next head of the LDP. Koizumi’s name was ranked second, behind Shigeru ISHIBA but before Shinzo ABE.

Source: 「モリカケやっぱりおかしい」 特別委設置求める

When asked about the Moritomo and Kake scandals, Koizumi replied: “やっぱりおかしいじゃないか。だったらやっぱり(国会に)特別委とかを立ち上げていただいて.”

Koizumi finds all this おかしい and asks for a 特別委・とくべつい. This is an abbreviation for 特別委員会・とくべついいんかい, which means something like “special committee”. This would make sense because I read on Wikipedia that, while a committee is a “body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly”, a special committee is “established to accomplish a particular task or to oversee a specific area in need of control or oversight.”

Koizumi wishes a special committee to be established to discuss the “morikake” problems.

Concerning the Kake Gakuen scandal, Ehime Prefecture came out with a document stating that Abe met the head of Kake Gakuen in 2015 and knew about the project. Later, Kake Gakuen said that they communicated false information to the Prefecture and that they made up a meeting that never took place. About this, Koizumi says: “どう考えたって愛媛県にうそをついているのはおかしい。むしろ与党から委員会を設置してくれということが真の行政監視だ.”

  • 監視・かんし: surveillance, monitoring

Last word

I may have missed other important information about the Moritomo developments because there were so many articles to read that I ended up picking some randomly…

I am glad it’s the weekend!