Monthly review: July 2018

I haven’t been productive this month, I was mainly fighting the heat, sleeping badly because the temperature would hardly go down during the night. That’s okay, because I know I will be filled with new energy in September!


I haven’t done much apart from reading, studying Anki and making one type of exercise per day. I like my new schedule, it allows me to regularly write, listen, read the news, study grammar… without feeling overwhelmed.

This being said, I miss studying Japanese like I was doing last year to prepare for the JLPT. I long for a new textbook that I could follow blindly, but I am not ready to start preparing for N1 yet, and I don’t know any advanced textbook that is not JLPT oriented.

Stationery and Fountain pens

My passion for stationery has led me to the dangerous territory of the fountain pens. I say dangerous because it seems endless and each step can cost you much more than notebooks, colour pencils and stickers together. I didn’t know that the world of fountain pens is such a complex alchemy to get the right feeling. The same pen with different inks and on different paper will give different results. As a consequence, it makes you want to try all the pens available on the market, with all ink colours and brands on each type of paper, including some Japanese supplies hard to get outside of Japan, haha.

But this passion for stationery does go together with a renewed fascination for Japan. If you look at the major brands of stationery, a good part of it is Japanese, a fact that I was not aware of before. I think that I didn’t even know Pilot was a Japanese brand. When it comes to notebooks, I find with surprise that, here again, a good part of the best products is Japanese and I try to buy Japanese supplies if I can. Not that I think they are better than other brands, but it feeds my passion for Japanese and gives fuel to my motivation. I found a new and unexpected interest in what Japan has to offer!

And if anyone is interested, I got a Faber-Castell Loom EF, which is a fantastic pen and I love it! The EF nib is really thin and perfect to write kanji!

My journey into English Literature goes on

The revelation of this month is to me, Jane Austen. I must admit that I am a little ashamed to “discover” Jane Austen now while the whole world is acquainted with her work for two centuries… To my defence, I should say that I have spent my years of literary ambition reading French literature only, and this is the reason why I am now making this journey into English literature.

When I start a novel labelled “French classics”, I brace myself for interminable description (Balzac), endless introspection (Flaubert), historical, or rather political, references a contemporary reader can hardly understand (Hugo), and explicative footnotes longer than the text itself (Proust). Haha, so much that I have loved French 19th-century literature, I would not feel like reading it now.

My surprise was great to find none of these in Pride and Prejudice. I was amazed at its being so entertaining! To be honest, I started it with a sense of duty (I must have read Jane Austen if I have any pretention to say “I am reading English literature”) but I was not expecting much enjoyment out of it. Then I was delighted in Jane Austen’s writing, her English, the dialogues and even the sense of humour that is so present in this novel. I have not expected a novel by Jane Austen to actually be so full of humour; I had a smile hung on my face every time M. Collins said something. I had reached a point when I thought I was reading Pride and Prejudice for the sake of its style and language but believed the romantic plot could not really interest me. It was not long before I found myself holding my breath with expectations and doubts as the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy evolved! Haha.

Then my question was: what do you do when you have finished Pride and Prejudice? What do you read? Do you re-read immediately? What do you do with your life when you have turned the last page? This story fascinated me so much, I felt so entirely committed to it that I felt a little depressed when I finished it.

I then decided to go farther in the classics and read Robinson Crusoe. I know the story of course, through countless adaptations for children but I never read Daniel Defoe’s work. The closest I got to Robinson’s story is certainly through French author Michel Tournier’s Friday, or, the other island, but even that was a long time ago.

I thought Robinson Crusoe would be a story of surviving in a hostile and solitary environment, fighting against depression and madness, hardly finding ways to feed and so on. But I was surprised to read something completely different. Robinson is not as much adapting himself to the island as adapting the island to his needs. He imposes on his new environment the living standards of a European and reproduces the lifestyle he knew. He is not as much striving to survive as working to colonise the island and bring it as close as possible to his European ideals. It reads like a manual which title could be: “how to colonise a new land with limited tools”. I mean, he is producing bread, butter and cheese! Even I in Korea can’t eat good cheese every day!

I have reached the half of the book, and I will certainly take it back later, but for now, I would like to take a break and read something else. I think I will go back to contemporary literature with Ian McEwan’s Atonement.


I spent the first half of the month watching the World Cup and the second half on YouTube, watching videos on fountain pens and stationery supplies.

Summer is definitely too hot in Korea, I think I will continue doing nothing the next month and hope for a new start in September (even if I don’t live in France, I still feel the start of the school year and cultural season in September, somehow, it has become part of my body clock.)

Japanese immersion: July week 4

Introduction: a word on immersion

I will enlarge my Friday post’s definition (if it had any…) and call it “Japanese immersion”. In other words, I will write every Friday about the things I did to get immersed in Japanese. We all know that immersion is a key factor to language learning, but it is easy to let the weeks go by without actively immerse ourselves in our target language/culture. I can easily guess that immersion is not a problem for many fans of Japan. It is just something that happens because Japanese culture becomes a part of their life.

To me, it is a little different. Even though I love many aspects of the Japanese culture, I would naturally want to watch European/American films rather than Japanese, listen to occidental music rather than a Japanese one and so on. Only Japanese literature really fascinates me. This is why I have to consciously build up a Japanese environment around me because it will not happen naturally. I think that making a kind of report once a week will help me to keep in mind that I should watch or listen to Japanese productions. It is also a good way to share discoveries! I also hope it can encourage anyone who is lacking immersion context to find ideas to reinforce their Japanese environment.

Also, I thought that “Japanese immersion” can include reading the news. If I find interesting things, I will also talk about them here, but without really studying the articles.

So this week, we have:

  • Film 魔女の宅急便
  • Singer あいみょん
  • News: “we should not use public money for LGBT couples because they can’t have children” (!)


I am still watching 孤独のグルメ and I love it! I thought it could be a good idea to watch it while eating, but the protagonist eats so much that I felt full before finishing my own meal, haha. I am watching the first episode of the 7 seasons first because I can access it for free on our TV (the first episode is always free, as a teaser). In the first episode of season 3, he orders a ホロホロ鳥の合わせ盛り. The ホロホロ鳥 is a guinea fowl. When the dish appeared on the screen, I was surprised to see that it was sashimi of raw fowl meat! I didn’t know you could eat raw chicken meat or fowl for that matter. 😲 It totally ruined my own appetite that day.

To encourage myself, I decided to watch for the nth time a classic among the Ghibli films: 魔女の宅急便 or Kiki’s delivery service. I was very happy because I could understand almost everything they say in the film (I had the Japanese subtitles on, which helped me). I understood much more than I did the last time I watched it. It’s great to have some films you don’t mind watching several times to check your progress.

In any case, Kiki’s delivery service is perfect for Japanese learners like me who struggle with listening and need something easy to gain confidence.

Singer あいみょん

I was looking for singers to listen to and I found very quickly and easily a singer I like: あいみょん. Aimyon was born in 1995 and made her debut in 2015 but became famous in 2016 with her single 「生きていたんだよな」. She writes her texts and composes her songs.

Her last title is 「マリーゴールド」 but my favourite song is 「愛を伝えたいだとか」:

I’m very glad I found a singer I like! I listened to her songs a lot this week… If you have singers/groups to recommend, please leave me a comment! I am a newbie in Jpop and Japanese music in general.

News: Mio SUGITA’s shocking and discriminatory opinion

NOTE: I don’t want to study the article here, just share what struck me. Usually, I would copy-paste the interesting passages in Japanese and give vocabulary but not translate them. Here, I thought it best to translate some of them, but first, I may have made mistakes, and secondly,  it is hard to find a balance between a natural English and fidelity to the Japanese. Me, I am completely lost between the two.

After reading the news in Japanese for some months, I am used to reading shocking statements from politicians. But what Mio SUGITA said surpasses all I have read until now. (I’m sorry, I think that this article is not in free access)

Mio SUGITA (杉田水脈) is a member of the LDP and a member of the Chamber of the Representatives.

In the magazine 新潮45 (issue of August), she published an article called “LGBT 支援の度が過ぎる” in which she criticises newspapers like Asahi or Mainichi who openly stand for the rights of the LGBT community.

But what really created an uproar is that she said public money (she says “taxes”) should not be used for LGBT couples. And she gives her reason: “these people don’t produce children, in other words, they don’t have any “productivity” (生産性)”.

Of course, this statement was highly criticised. Not only is it discriminatory against the LGBT, but of course, it extends much farther and concerns every person who doesn’t or can’t have children.

First of all, what she says can be easily refuted by the simple argument that LGBT couples pay taxes too. And this is what a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party did.

Among the criticisms on the social media, we find someone saying:

“Are we to say “let’s not use tax money on singles, heterosexual couples without children and all the people who, for all kinds of reasons, can’t have children because these people don’t have any “productivity”?”

Or even:

“Dividing the people according to whether or not they have a “productivity” and putting pressure on those who don’t, is it not similar to the eugenics thinking of the Nazis?”

Facing all this criticism, Mio SUGITA said that people should buy the magazine and read her article instead of criticising only a citation from it. But Mainichi said that if we read the whole article, all we find is contempt for the LGBT, who she qualified as “not happy”. She also said that if we are to allow same-sex marriage, some people might also want to allow marriage between brothers and sisters, parents and children, human and pet and human and machine.

japanese immersion1-a.jpg

Mainichi later devoted an editorial on the subject, openly condemning Mio SUGITA for encouraging discrimination and measuring people’s value using their ability to have children or not.

This is what shocked me in the news this week. Just when victims of the eugenics law start raising their voice, hearing such a statement is astonishing, imho.


I think I found the right format for my Friday post! I feel encouraged to absorb more Japanese culture and the more I do it, the more I love Japanese. I think I was too absorbed in JLPT things last year and books this year and narrowed in some way my contacts with Japanese. It is a shame because Japanese cultural production is so diverse,  that anyone can find his or her own path to the language/culture. And it is true that immersion helps a lot, not only to improve but to maintain the desire to improve.

Book Review: 「私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました。」by 日向奈くらら

The book 「私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました。」by 日向奈くらら (ひむかな・くらら) reminded me how much I like horror stories and thrillers. I have a taste for thrillers and psycho-thrillers with horror elements but I always find that half of the books I read in these areas are disappointing. It was not the case with Himukana’s book that I found very entertaining.

Strangely enough, I could point out some aspects of the books that may be considered as weaknesses, but while I was aware of them, they did not bother me, nor did they prevent me from enjoying the book. Maybe reading in Japanese makes me less demanding?

The story

Nahoko KITAHARA is a teacher in a select high school establishment. As the title plainly states, 24 students of her class mysteriously die overnight.

I liked that the novel does not lose time in endless settings and almost opens on this terrible event. However, I was afraid that the rest of the book would nourish itself from this one event, with characters keeping wondering how this is possible and so on. I was happily surprised to see that the story keeps its pace, that other macabre discoveries satisfy the reader’s dubious expectations for more blood and suffering and that a police investigation gives the novel a touch of a crime novel.

The story may lack red herrings or plot twists that would surprise the reader; on the other hand, I have also read novels that completely get lost in the deceptions they try to divert the reader with, so that in the end all plot elements are patched together without conviction. Himukana’s book may lack suspense, but the story is consistent.

The structure

The story is told from the point of view of Nahoko, our protagonist, and one of the detectives on the case. I like when stories switch between the point of view of the police and someone close to the case but without any special skill to track a murderer. It works well in this novel, with two investigations going on in parallel: the police with the means at their disposal, and the teacher who knows her students best.

School bullying

School bullying is the main theme of the story. I found that it gave the novel some depth by linking the horror story with a topic that is anchored in reality. I find that the mix between entirely fictional events and things that could actually have taken place in any high school was well done.

In one word: it was entertaining

Neither the ending of the story nor the whole explanations of these mysterious deaths fully convinced me. But the novel was entertaining enough so that it did not bother me. Let’s say that I am grateful for the enjoyable read and can forgive the somewhat exaggerated and unconvincing solution.

This book was published by Kadokawa (角川) in the horror collection called “Kadokawa Horror Bunko” (角川ホラー文庫). 「私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました。」makes me want to read other titles from this collection, I will check what they have and make a wish list!

Organising my studies

For some time now, I come up with things that I want to do every day. I want to write in Japanese every day, I want to do listening exercise every day, write lines of kanji, read the news and take notes, read my book on Japanese history, revise N3 grammar, study Anki, and so on… While all these things could be done every day taken separately, it is overwhelming and almost impossible to do them all on a daily basis. Not that it takes too much time though, some of these tasks only require 10 minutes.

I have reflected upon what makes it difficult to do several different tasks a day if it is not a problem of time. I think that I am the kind of person who needs a lot of willpower to get started. Once I am doing an activity, I can sit for a long time at my desk or wherever and go on studying. But starting is difficult. It is easier for me to work for one hour on one type of exercise than do 5 different sorts of things that would all last around 10 minutes. Typically, when I am done with one task, I need a rest. To be more precise, I feel a sense of achievement and I allow myself an unnecessary rest. And then, it’s hard to start again.

As a consequence, I am changing my study plan. Instead of thinking “I will do this task every day”, I simply think that I will be studying Japanese every day and allocate a task to each day.

For example:

  • Monday: do grammar exercises (revise N3)
  • Tuesday: do a listening exercise
  • Wednesday: read the news and take notes
  • Thursday: add new words in Anki (every time I look up a word in my electronic dictionary, I save it in a deck. Once a week, I add all these words in Anki.) This is not a heavy task, so I can also add: read my history book
  • Friday: write my journal in Japanese and try to use the things I learnt or revised during the week
  • Weekend: watch Japanese dramas or films

If I skip one day, I know what activity I have skipped and can do it during the weekend.

The only task that remains a daily is studying Anki. Reading is also a daily activity for me, but I don’t consider it as a “task”. For example, I will try to open the news, if not every day, more often than once a week. However, I will only try to understand as much as I can without using the dictionary and really study one article in depth only once a week.

The only thing that I am not happy with is writing in Japanese. I really wanted to go on writing in Japanese every day, but with the multiplication of tasks, I often end up writing only one or two sentences with basic grammar, and I limit myself to kanji I know I can write. I don’t know if I can really make progress like that. Maybe it is best to only write once a week but take time to do it well and challenge myself with writing a long text, using different kinds of grammar point and systematically checking the kanji…

I think this kind of study plan can solve two problems we often come across as self-learners:

  • Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with tasks, as was my case. We are ultra-motivated, we want to improve in all areas and design a lot of things we want to do. The problem is that we might feel demotivated when it comes to actually do the tasks and not just design them. Or, some great ideas might get lost and be forgotten because it is impossible to do everything in a single day.
  • Sometimes, it is the opposite: we have one hour free to “study Japanese” or any other language, but it is not concrete enough. What do you do when you think “now I have some time to study Japanese” and sit at your desk? Me, I would spend half of these precious time wondering what to do, start something and then decide I should have done something else, or even spend time on the internet looking for new resources when I already have so many things at my disposal.

I usually don’t like having a rigid study plan… what will happen if I don’t want to do the Monday task on Monday? But to be honest, if I don’t want to do a certain exercise on Monday, there is little chance that I will want to do it on Tuesday. Either the task is ineffective, boring, not fitting your goals and you should drop it, or it is just a motivation problem and you should force yourself a little because self-learning does require self-discipline. 😉

I am watching 孤独のグルメ!

As I announced last week, I won’t be posting any more about Japanese news on Friday. I want to diversify the way I learn Japanese and find other materials (that is, not books) to improve my listening and get to know more different aspects of Japanese culture. I find that my Japanese learning has become too static. I have reached a good level of reading, but I am not flexible enough. There are a lot of areas where I feel like a complete beginner and my listening level is far too low. I will use my Friday post to report on my progress in these areas!

Dramas and me

To improve my listening, I have decided to watch Japanese dramas. This might seem an obvious and easy thing to do, but it is not for me. My relation with dramas (which was until now almost exclusively Korean dramas) is made of deceptions, frustrations and a lot of time lost. I have been disappointed in several Korean dramas that I have tried to watch, and I came to the conclusion that dramas were not for me and never really bothered to look for Japanese dramas. If I cannot even stand the first episode of broadly acclaimed dramas that are highly successful in Korea and abroad… it might just mean that the genre is not for me.

The only dramas that I have started and liked in Japanese are マザー (Mother) and 深夜食堂.

I only watched the first episode of マザー with the purpose of comparing it with the Korean remake 마더 (Mother). I liked the Japanese version much better than the Korean one, especially because of the child actress. But somehow, this drama was too “not relaxing”, and I haven’t watched more than the first episode. As for 深夜食堂, it was a little difficult to understand, but it is definitely a drama I want to continue.


But this week, I looked for another drama that I could use to train my listening, and I found 孤独のグルメ. I know the manga of course, but I never watched the drama, though it started in 2012! As there are 7 seasons, this drama must have been extremely popular, and I feel a little ashamed to watch it only now… 😳

Anyway, I am not that interested in food in general, so I thought I would maybe not enjoy it, but the first episode completely captivated me. It really kindled my interest in Japanese cuisine. I even cooked a personal interpretation of やきめし after watching the first episode, haha.

To me this drama is perfect because:

  • the episodes are very short,
  • there are not many dialogues in it. Of course, to train one’s listening, it is best to choose a drama with a lot of talking. But it can also be discouraging. My listening level is very low, and I have tried several other dramas this week to end up depressed because I understood almost nothing. To me, the short dialogues and thoughts that we hear in 孤独のグルメ are perfect regarding quantity and difficulty.

While watching the first episode, I also realised how fascinating and frustrating a Japanese menu can be. I only went to Japan twice, but I think we always ended up ordering food that we knew, because the menu was always so intimidating, with kanji you can not even pronounce and dishes you don’t know.

Thanks to 孤独のグルメ, I am now motivated to get familiar with Japanese cuisine, either by cooking or making a list of all the dishes I want to taste the next time I go to Japan. I will use the drama to learn the names of dishes and ingredients that are presented. I am using a notebook to take notes relative to each episode. It helps considerably that the name of each dishes appears on the screen, and it is easy to find information on the web. The drama website is also full of information, with the possibility to search for dishes over the 7 seasons and have a little description of the characteristics of this particular recipe.


My search for dramas started rather badly, I tried several dramas that I did not enjoy or could not understand. I should say that I watched them on Korean TV with only Korean subtitles, which go much too fast for me to understand them all. But I am more than happy with 孤独のグルメ. I like the drama enough to want to watch the whole 7 seasons, the episodes are short, so I don’t feel overwhelmed and can watch one from time to time. There are not too many dialogues, so it is not intimidating for a beginner like me. Last but not least, it provides me with interesting contents on Japanese cuisine. I feel that this drama helps not only to improve my Japanese but to get familiar with a part of Japanese culture.

My first week of looking for non-bookish ways to learn Japanese is a success!

Have you watched 孤独のグルメ? Are all the seasons similar or is one season better than the others? Please let me know!

Currently Reading: 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」by 加藤陽子

I have finally given up reading 「朝鮮開国と日清戦争」by Soki WATANABE because the more I read, the more difficult the book becomes. I was unlucky in my choice when I picked a History book, I should have bought a popular book written for a large public. Watanabe’s book was maybe too specialised for me.

As I don’t renounce reading History books in Japanese, I picked another one: 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」by 加藤陽子 (かとう・ようこ).

Yoko KATO is a professor at Tokyo University. Her field is the period spanning from the Russo-Japanese War to the Pacific War, but her speciality is centred on Japan’s diplomatic relations and military actions of the 30’s.

Her book is divided into 5 chapters:

  • Prologue: Let’s reflect upon Japan Modern History
  • Chapter 1: First Sino-Japanese War
  • Chapter 2: Russo-Japanese War
  • Chapter 3: World War I
  • Chapter 4: The Mukden Incident and the Second Sino-Japanese War
  • Chapter 5: Pacific war

The point of this book is to reflect upon Japan Modern History through the wars of this period.

Why this book is easy to read?

This book seems much easier to read than Watanabe’s book. I am still in the prologue and haven’t got into the heart of the discussion yet, but the beginning is so easy that I cannot imagine the level will change dramatically after.

First of all, this book is not a book written by Yoko KATO. It is the transcription of a class she gave for 5 days to around 20 middle and high-school students. Yoko KATO teaches at the university, but she gave this special lecture to younger students in 2007. The 5 chapters correspond to the 5 days of the lecture (each chapter begins with Kato greeting the students).

This has two consequences:

  • First, the book is originally not a written work, and the style is, consequently, much easier. I must add that this lecture sometimes takes the form of the workshop, with Kato asking for the students’ participation by asking them questions. This kind of interaction makes the book easier to read for me.
  • Kato’s public is heterogeneous, spanning from the first year of middle school to the second year of high-school. As a result, Kato does not expect all the students to share the same knowledge or have studied the same things.

You can feel that Kato is a professor and not just a historian. She has a very pedagogic approach, and I think that her addressing younger students than usual makes her careful to stay clear and explain everything in a simple way.

I will give three examples characteristic of Kato’s pedagogic approach:

  1. When citing what a commandant of the time said, Kato explains it afterwards with simple words. I find citations to be very hard to understand for they often use a very formal or even outdated style. Kato first cites what the army was saying about the second Sino-Japanese War: “今次事変は戦争に非ずして報償なり。” and explains it just after saying “今、日本が行っていることは戦争ではなくて、報償なのだ。” which is much easier to understand.
  2. The word “報償・ほうしょう” means “compensation”, “remuneration”, but I was guessing that in our context, it meant something like “punitive action” or “punitive expedition”. Just when I was formulating these thoughts, a student asked Kato what 報償 means! She explains it in very simple terms: “相手国が条約に違反したなど、悪いことをした場合、その不法行為をやめさせるため、今度は自らの側が実力行使していいですよ、との考え方です。”.
  3. When the student asked what 報償 means, he said that he never heard of it before. Kato replies: “無理もないです。今生きている人間でこの言葉を聞いたことのある人はほとんどいないはず”. Similarly, she later talks of “討匪戦・とうひせん” and asks the students if they can guess the kanji. She then adds that the people who can are people who lived before the war: “討匪戦という字はすぐに浮かびますか。これもすぐに浮かぶ人は、戦前に生きていた人間だけでしょうね。” It makes one comfortable with not knowing certain things.


I hope, I really hope, that the book will be accessible to me and will not become difficult all of a sudden. I enjoy it very much for now. It covers the part of Japan History that interests me the most, and I like the author’s style.

While I was claiming victory every time I finished a paragraph (or even sometimes, a sentence!) of Soki WATANABE’s book, I have read the first pages of 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」without problem. I hope I can finish it, even if it will certainly take me some time to read the 484 pages of the book!

New Anki deck, old goals

I have started a new Anki deck… and I am not using anymore the one I started on the very first day of my learning Japanese. I have realised that my Anki deck was not fitting my goals anymore.

When I created my deck, I had in mind a strategy to learn vocabulary as thoroughly as possible. As a result, each note was attached to three types of cards which were supposed to reflect all the way you handle vocabulary in real life:

(in Anki, a note is where you enter the information you want to learn, a card is how you want Anki to test you using this information)

  • Either you want to use this word yourself: Show English, Answer Japanese
  • Or you read this word: Show Japanese, Answer pronunciation and English
  • Or you hear this word: Play audio through the plugin “Awesome TTS”, answer English.

I thought that this was the best way to learn vocabulary through Anki. In any case, it is a very thorough way, and I don’t regret having used this method for so long. The problem is that it was time-consuming and as soon as I got synonyms and homonyms, it became most distressful and discouraging. I never had problems with recognising Kanji and say both the meaning and the pronunciation. But the two other directions became more and more difficult as I was adding more and more words to my deck. I used hints to help me and studying my Anki deck did become a little easier, but my efforts did not prevent me from skipping days and days of study.

And then, I realised that my Anki deck, in its original form, did not fit my goals. My main goal is to be able to read novels in Japanese. Additionally, I would like to watch films without subtitles, have a basic communication level, write my journal in Japanese and so on. But my main goal is to read, and if I use Anki to reach my goal, I only need to study Anki in one direction: show me the word written in Japanese, I will tell its pronunciation and its meaning.

As for improving the listening and writing skills, I think that these goals should be achieved outside of Anki, through constant practice. I usually know the words used in daily conversation (in films or drama), I just don’t recognise them when I hear them, or the person speaks too fast. I also know the words I want to use when writing, I just forgot the kanji. These two problems are more likely to be resolved through a lot of listening and writing than through Anki.

I don’t know if I could have changed my old deck easily to keep only one direction (one type of cards), but I wanted to start a new deck anyway. I lose the possibility to say how many words I know and I will certainly have to create notes that already existed in my previous deck… but this is nothing compared to the motivation, energy and hope for the future a new deck brings me!

Creating notes does not take me much time because I don’t need to add any hints or things like that. The words I add are mostly the ones I found while reading the news or a novel. They are of course words that I didn’t know but also words whose meaning I knew but I could not pronounce them. I know that knowing the meaning is enough to read, but I am mortified whenever I come across a word that I cannot pronounce, so…

The greatest benefit of this new method is that I am saving an incredible amount of time and energy that I can use to learn more words. Before, I feel that I was stagnating, using my energy to recognise words in the three directions mentioned above, struggling and not willing to add new words to an already daunting deck. Now the only direction I am studying is by far the easiest one for me. I feel confident in adding a lot of words and studying new words every day. If I go on like this, I will be reading Soseki in no time!!! 😄

Last but not least, it also makes Anki more fun. I am happy to study my deck because it is rewarding and does not take me too much time.


We all know that we need to adjust our learning methods to fit our goals, but it is easy to forget it in the course of our journey and to end up accumulate learning methods that may be great in themselves but are not fit for our purpose. So, from time to time, it is vital to compare our goals with the methods we are using to see if they fit. If they don’t, we might go on studying and studying without getting nearer to our goals…

New Anki deck, old goals 1

Japanese News: July week 2 (終)


This week’s post is very short, only two topics, and it will be the last post in the section “Japanese News”… The reason why I stop is that I think this exercise already bore its fruits. I started it to help me read the news, and it worked better than I could say:

  • Studying articles on my blog improved my reading comprehension (when I started doing this exercise, reading a political article was really scary and I usually understood nothing unless I studied it sentence by sentence).
  • Posting every Friday forced me to be regular and read the news, if not every day, several times a week. More than the study part, I think that the regularity the blog forced me into is what helped me the most.
  • I learnt a lot of English words too (to be honest, the real challenge of the Friday post was often more English than Japanese! It is not easy to write about politics in English…)

But now, I have reached a point where writing this post takes me more time than actually reading the news articles and trying to understand them. I am far from reading the news fluently of course, and I will continue reading Mainichi every day. However, not writing this post will allow me to save time for other activities, like watching films or dramas. I would like to diversify the ways I learn Japanese, and my Friday post will certainly be devoted to that (I still have a week to think of the shape it will take!)


This week was marked by the torrential rain (豪雨・ごうう) that stroke Japan last weekend. The first articles on this topic were tagged 大雨, but it was soon replaced by 豪雨 and the number of victims dramatically increased every day. The casualties caused by the rain were accompanied by landslides (土砂崩れ・どしゃくずれ) and inundation (氾濫・はんらん).

It is the first time in Heisei that torrential rain causes so many casualties in such a short period:


  • 安否・あんぴ: safety
  • 避難・ひなん: evacuation, taking refuge
  • 勧告・かんこく: advice, counsel, recommendation
    • 避難勧告・ひなんかんこく: official advice to evacuate

Abe cancelled his official trip to Europe that was to take place from July 11th to 18th and underlined the priority of rescuing people. He said on Saturday:

“人命第一の方針の下、救助部隊を遅滞なく投入し被災者の救命救助に全力を尽くしていただきたい.” (source)

  • 救助部隊・きゅうじょぶたい: a rescue squad
  • 遅滞なく・ちたいなく: without delay, immediately
  • 投入・とうにゅう: here: to send (a unit)
  • 被災者・ひさいしゃ: the victims
  • 救命・きゅうめい: lifesaving
  • 救助・きゅうじょ: rescue
  • 全力を尽くす・ぜんりょくをつくす: make an all-out effort

The last report I saw (today, Friday) announced 189 dead, while around 7000 persons are still unable to return to their house.

Execution of Aum members: why now?

Concerning the execution of 7 members of Aum cult, Minister of Justice, Yoko KAMIKAWA, said:


However, she did not give explanations concerning the date (why now?) and the choice of inmates to be executed (13 members of the cult were sentenced to death, 7 were executed).

During the press conference she gave to announce the execution of the 7 members, she was asked questions like “なぜ今の時期なのか?”, “対象はどうやって選んだのか?” or “執行されなかった6人の精神的な不安をどう考えるのか?” but she remained silent on these points. (source)

Concerning the choice made by the Ministry of Justice about who will be and who will not be executed, the lawyer of two of the members who were executed points out:




Given that the degree of responsibility between Matsumoto and the others was different, it was an error to execute them at the same time. It is hard to understand what separates the 7 that have been executed to the 6 that have not.

Concerning the date of the execution, this article points out that the case happened during the Heisei Era and therefore, was to be finalised during Heisei. The title of the article is explicit: 死刑執行、平成のうちに 改元契機「オウム総括」.

At the time when discussions were going on concerning the Emperor’s abdication and the new Era establishment, someone from the government had said:


Though not acknowledged by the government, it seems that the desire to settle this before the new Era explains the date.

A woman, whose husband died during the subway attack, said that she was surprised when she learnt that the execution took place “突然だったので、びっくりしました.” (source).

The persons executed, however, anticipated their execution since they were transferred to other detention places earlier this year. One of them said “いつ執行されるか分からず、精神的に不安になっている.” (source)

That’s it!

I am looking forward to next Friday, and I am excited to look for other materials to learn Japanese in different ways!

Thank you for having read the “Japanese News” posts for so long!

Currently reading: 「私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました。」by 日向奈くらら

Even if I still haven’t finished the novel 「光」, I started a new book of my reading challenge: 「私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました。」by 日向奈くらら (ひむかな くらら). It has an English title, which is “24 students in my class died overnight”. To be frank, when I returned from my haul in Kyoto and listed up all the 13 books I had bought for the year, I regretted a little having bought this one. I can’t say exactly why, but I felt that this book was maybe not for me.

I have started it, and I am pleasantly surprised. To say things plainly, I am totally engrossed in the story. It is a mix of horror, detective and mystery novel told from the point of view of the professor of the class in question or sometimes, the detective in charge of the case.

What interests me is that school bullying (いじめ) is at the centre of the plot, and this is a topic I am always keen on reading about. There is enough suspense to say this book is a page-turner. I had difficulties going through the very beginning, however, because I found it very dense, with a lot of information given at the same time and a lot of names to remember. But now that I got used to the writer’s style, I would say that this book is not particularly challenging.

I hope that the story will not lose its pace and suspense and that the solution will be worth the striking beginning and the intriguing title!

My listening exercise for the second half of 2018

In my checkpoint about how good I was doing in 2018, I had to admit that I hadn’t work much on listening. I regularly come up with a renewed motivation to listen to more Japanese, but as long as it does not find a concrete plan and schedule, it often remains at the stage of “I would like to…” or “it would be great if…”.

This is why I have designed, if I may say so, a listening exercise that I have been doing every day since last Monday and, hopefully, will be doing on a daily basis until the end of the year.

My exercise is very simple, I use the audiobook and the book version of the same novel. I first listen to the audiobook and transcribe what I hear. After that, I check myself with the book version and look up words I didn’t know. Finally, I write lines of kanji that I forgot or couldn’t write.

It may sound boring, but I actually enjoy doing this exercise very much.

The exercise and its benefits

These are the advantages the exercise offers:

  • First of all, it makes me listen to some Japanese every day. Of course, this could be achieved in different ways and without having to submit oneself to writing exercises, but the truth is that I simply do not do it. I am not listening to Japanese, and I could even say that half of 2018 has gone away without any Japanese entering my ears at all. I am the kind of person who needs a concrete schedule to get started and build new habits.
  • I won’t feel discouraged because I only make very short sessions. I usually limit myself to one minute of audio per session. This is the usual piece of advice we receive when setting new habits and goals: start small and don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of my one-minute session, I always feel like I could have done more and this makes me look forward to the next session on the next day.
  • Another advantage is that the whole exercise does not take much time, so it is easy to add it to my daily study routine.
  • Listening to only one minute of Japanese every day might seem risible, but it is one minute of active listening. As I have to transcribe the text, I try hard to understand everything that they say. In this respects, it might bring more benefits than when I let the audiobook run while I am busy with other tasks.
  • This exercise also helps me to improve my writing of kanji. If I feel confident in recognising and reading kanji, writing them is a more perilous activity for want of practice. Writing a line of kanji is not exciting, but it works for me. It has already happened that I was able to remember and write a kanji correctly because I had revised it in one of the previous sessions. It is greatly rewarding.

The material

The principal obstacle is certainly the resources. To make a writing transcription of audio, we need both the audio and the script for correction.

I use the audiobook of the novel 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 by 川村元気(かわむら・げんき). This book has the perfect level for me. It is not discouraging, but I am still learning new things in each session. I can only recommend it for Japanese learners because it is not difficult to read or to listen to.

I bought the audiobook on a site called FEBE months ago. In the meanwhile, they have changed their site which is now called You can read a more complete review of the site on Self Taught Japanese. As pointed out, they only have few titles of fiction, but we can only hope the field will develop.

Buying the audiobook and the book of 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 was a little investment, but it is worth it because I have listened to the audiobook several times already and I am now using it for this particular exercise. If you don’t mind having music in your audiobook, I can only vouch for the quality of this particular one. The narrator is excellent, different protagonists are voiced by different actors, and the overall quality is perfect. They made a choice, however, to sometimes add music in the background, but I personally don’t mind it and find that it is rather well done.

One advantage of working with an audiobook is that you can use an app for audiobooks rather than a music player. I am not familiar with other devices, but the app iBooks of an iPhone allows you to jump 10 seconds forwards and backwards in the audio, which is much more comfortable, when doing the kind of exercise described above, than using the scroll bar… especially when your audio is 5 hours long!


This exercise is the best idea I came up with since last Monday when I stated the necessity to make a concrete listening plan. I really want to reach a good level of listening comprehension in Japanese, and I am much mortified to see that I am doing nothing at all in this direction. I have told myself a hundred times to listen to a podcast every time possible, but I don’t do it.

I hope that I can go on with this exercise long enough to feel some improvements. We’ll see!