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!