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Bullet Journal, 5 months later

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

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

The daily log: the greatest improvement of all times

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

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

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

What is different?

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

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

Everything in one place: why it is not for me

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

3.11 earthquake commemoration

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

  • 震災・しんさい: earthquake disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moritomo Gakuen scandal: the documents had been falsified

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • 改ざん・かいざん means “falsification”.

What has been altered?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The note left by an employee of the Kinki Financial Bureau

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

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

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

The video in the article was surprisingly understandable to me.

Hayao Miyazaki’s「毛虫のボロ」

This is an article I found on NHK news.

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Kitty Shinkansen

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Trying to remember Japanese Onomatopoeia

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

The problem

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

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

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

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

The solution

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

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

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

anki onomatopoeia

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

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

the Challenge

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

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

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


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

My English notebook

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

Japanese News: Moritomo Gakuen scandal

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

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

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

Context and Vocabulary

Moritomo Gakuen

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

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

The scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Involvement of Abe’s wife.

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

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

Why is it resurfacing now?

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

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

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

  • 売却・ばいきゃく: sale.

The “falsified” document is 書き換えられた.

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

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

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


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

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

Reading Notes on the novel「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかる

I am reading the novel 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」by 沼田まほかるand the two main characters of the story use the Kansai dialect when they talk to each other. This particularity certainly confers a touch of authenticity to the novel, but it also adds difficulty for non-native readers.

I will go through some of the features of the Kansai dialect, mainly thanks to the Wikipedia page on the subject and other Japanese forums or blogs I found when looking for a particular expression. I have consulted so many sites that it is hard to tell which of them were really useful. If I were to cite just one site, I would say that this one gives a useful list of some Kansai particularities.

These are just personal notes that help me understand the novel I am reading. It is by no means a complete or structured presentation of the Kansai dialect.

Some features of the Kansai dialect

Thi first important thing to know is that the negation ない becomes へん in Kansai dialect. Thus, 寝られへん means 寝られない. With the verb する, I often see “せえへん” (しない), for example, “もう、せえへん”.

I also noted the usage of ほんま instead of 本当.

あかん means だめ, and even if I could guess the meaning of “行ったらあかん” from the context, it is always better to know the words’ exact meaning.

Another thing that stroke me is the massive use of わ at the end of the Jinji’s sentences. Jinji is a male character, and わ in standard Japanese gives a feminine touch to the sentence and is used by women. This is why it puzzled me so much to “hear” Jinji end half his sentences with わ. But now I know that this is one of Kansai dialect’s particularities: the sentence-ending particle わ is heavily used by men.

や will also often come at the end of sentences. In some cases, it is used instead of “だ”. For example, the exclamation “…だな” or “…だね” will become やな or やね. I found sentences like: “どこにいてるんや。何してるんや.”

どない means どう or どっち. I often come across “どないしたらええんや” or “どないしたんや”.

Similarly, the ending じゃない becomes やんか or やん.

I have also often seen せや which means そうだ.

Another transformation is the grammar てしまう which becomes てしもた in the past tense. For example, “忘れてしまった” in standard Japanese becomes 忘れてしもた in Kansai dialect. I found the expression “欲しなってしもたんや” in the novel.

Another thing that I often see is しゃあない which means 仕方ない. For example, I found the sentence: “言うてもしゃあない”. According to Wikipedia, saying 言うて instead of 言って is something that speakers of the Kansai dialect frequently do.

As for the pronunciation, the novel also transcribes how words are generally pronounced in Kansai dialect. For example, while speakers often lengthen some short vowels, long ones are sometimes shortened. Both characters also transformいい into ええ systematically. But these transformations do not hinder much our understanding. For example, the vowel え appears long in the sentence: 電話は出えへん.


That’s it for my first contact with the Kansai dialect! It is of course just a glimpse into it, and there are many other rules. Understanding dialects is not my priority right now so I will not dig further into this subject for the time being. Nevertheless, I am glad to have spent some time working on this because, even if it was merely for the sake of the novel, I still feel that I know a little more about Japanese now.

I hope that I will be able to post my review of the 「彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち」next Wednesday!

Some thoughts on language learning and emotions

Emotions can influence the way we learn a language. Positive emotions and motivation go together, but it took me a long time to realise it. Being aware of how we attach particular emotions to our target language is the first step to building a better long-term motivation.

I consider that learning a language is an activity closely linked to emotions. I am sure that there are studies out there that have covered this subject, but I am not familiar with them. I will use my own experience to see how these emotions can be used to maintain our motivation.

How negative emotions can influence language learning

I am not an expert, but I feel that there is a difference between learning a language and learning something else. If I learn cooking, for example, and someone tells me that what I made tastes funny, it won’t prevent me from going on studying recipes. There are things that we learn and stay, somehow, distinct from us. If what I cook tastes awful, I would feel annoyed but not depressed or sad. What is unsatisfactory is my cooking, not me. But when we learn languages, we can’t say “I learn Japanese, but I won’t let it become a part of me.” Languages become closely attached to us because we use them to speak and even to think. If I experience shameful or embarrassing moments while speaking my target language, it is hard not to feel discouraged. I would even feel a mistrust of the language: “when I try to express myself in this language, I experience bad feelings.” This, in my case, tends to lead to a dislike of the language itself.

The most obvious example I can give is English. We spend years reading texts and doing translations at school to finally wake up in a world where most people expect us to speak English fluently. With my absence of active vocabulary, my strong French accent and a general lack of self-confidence, I have soon associated speaking English with embarrassment, low-esteem and shame. English and I tacitly agreed to avoid each other as much as possible. My desire to believe that I could do without English pretty well may have triggered my passion for learning other languages.

Another example is Spanish. I learnt it at school, as second foreign language. As far as I can remember, the different teachers I had during the five years of my learning Spanish were all very focused on speaking. Of course, this is a good thing, but at that time I was shy and dreaded more than anything to open my mouth in front of the class. As a result, the Spanish class was a stressful time, but that was not unbearable.

The problem was one of our teachers’ system. At the end of the month (or was it a trimester?), we had to auto-evaluate ourselves on our attitude in class. We had several categories like “Did I actively participated in class?”, “Did I help to correct my classmates when they made errors?”, “Was I prompt to answer the teacher’s questions?” and so on. For each category, we had to give ourselves a mark. I can tell you that those minutes I spent evaluating myself were so distressful that I still remember it clearly now. It was a time when I was forced to look at myself and admit that no, I hadn’t been active in the class in spite of my good resolutions. I was afraid to give myself more value than I deserved and always ended up equating myself with a bad mark. This system may have had positive repercussions for others, who were active and loved Spanish, but to me, it was only a painful moment of self-depreciation. As a result, I took a real dislike in Spanish and stopped learning it as soon as I could. I hope that one day, I will be able to go back to learning Spanish.

These two examples are not the only ones. But instead of staying focused on what did not work, I now realise that I can use the couple “language-emotion” to cultivate positive feelings while learning a language.

Positive emotions and language learning

As I have no clue how our emotions affect the learning process, I can only start with what I have experienced myself.

Let’s start with English! For a long time, English has been a language that made me feel “not good enough,” and if I sometimes thought that I should do something to improve my English, it was more to avoid embarrassing situations than because I wanted to study English. Now, it has become the language I like and want to master the most with Japanese.

So, what has happened?

Well, it is all thanks to this blog. When I started it last year, I thought that it would be a good idea to write it in English, since more people would be able to read it. It was a practical decision. But then, I began to spend more and more time on my blog, and it soon became a cosy personal space where I like to be. Naturally, the pleasant feelings associated with my blog began to attach themselves to English with the result that I now feel the desire to read novels in English and work to improve my writing style.

Another example is German. When I started learning German, I was very unhappy with my job. It was stressful, I would bring a lot of work home every day, and my stomach hurt all the way to my working place. I don’t know why exactly I started to learn German at the time. I didn’t have a lot of free time, so I decided to wake up earlier to secure at least one hour of study time every day. Learning German soon became some secret place where I felt good, a shelter from depression, something that I owned that protected me from the rest of the world. I quit my job, and things got much better, but even now, every time that I hear German, I immediately feel good.

Cultivate positive emotions

When I was facing my auto-evaluation in the Spanish classroom, I don’t think that I could have fought my negative feelings, because I was not aware of all these mechanisms. This does not mean that we cannot do something to encourage positive emotions and try to ignore the negative ones.

It is hard to give tips because this process will be different for each person. The important thing is to find something that works for you. Nonetheless, having a personal space associated with your target language can be a good start. Seeing how well it worked for me, I now think that writing a blog in your target language is one of the best ways to do it. Not only because it makes you practice writing but because it will create a place that is yours, that you can customise as you wish and that will reflect who you are.

I am thinking of starting a new blog in Japanese. When the idea first came to me, I saw it as a way to practice writing. But now that I see how this blog changed my vision of English, I think that doing the same thing for Japanese may encourage me to study further. As I am not preparing for the JLPT anymore, I feel like I am not making much progress anymore. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I am still studying Japanese or if I just satisfy myself with my current level.


I have always tried to find the motivation to study in mainly two ways:

  • Looking for fields of interests and cultivate my hobbies or passion. For example, I would say: I am motivated to learn Japanese because I am interested in Japanese literature. I would feel that I will never stop learning Japanese because I love so many aspects of the Japanese culture.
  • By setting strategies to stay organised like making a study plan, measuring my progress, setting new goals and so on.

But we all know that having both a real passion for the Japanese culture and a set of learning strategies does not prevent us from feeling a lack of motivation from time to time. Maybe, working on our emotions can help us building a more reliable, long-term motivation to self-study.

My English Notebook

I am reading a book about how to improve writing, Barron’s Painless Writing by Jeffrey Strausser. I realised that I am doing everything that contributes to making your writing “dull” as the author says 😳. I am only at the beginning of the book, but I can say that I overuse prepositions and the passive voice. I did my best to get rid of unnecessary prepositions in this post, and I hope that there is no passive voice at all.

Japanese News: the discretionary labour system

The last two articles I have studied were about sports, so I thought that it was time to return to more political subjects. As a consequence, even if I was tempted to study an article about the Tokyo Olympic mascots that have just been unveiled, I focused myself on another topical issue: the discretionary labour system that should have been part of Abe’s labour reform.

The context:

An important element of Abe’s labour reform was to expand the “discretionary labour system”, or in Japanese 裁量労働制・さいりょうろうどうせい. If you are unfamiliar with this system, (as I was before starting this post), you can have a look at this Japan Times article in English. To summarise, according to this system, the employer and the employee agree to a certain amount of working hours per day, and the employee will be paid according to this agreement, no matter if he worked more or less than what had been decided.

To justify the necessity to expand this system, the government has used a survey provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The problem is that this survey proved to be full of mistakes, a fact that, of course, sparked criticism among the opposition and the public opinion. As a result, Abe expressed his intention to not include the expansion of the “discretionary labour system” in his labour reform. And this is what our article is about.

Article on NHK:「裁量労働制の拡大」法案に盛り込まない意向首相

I think that we come against three difficulties when we read such articles:

  1. The context.
  2. The vocabulary
  3. The grammar

We already have been through the context, so let’s have a look at the vocabulary:

  • 裁量労働制・さいりょうろうどうせい: Discretionary labour system
    • 裁量・さいりょう: discretion, judgment.
  • 法案・ほうあん: bill, measure.
  • 盛り込む・もりこむ: incorporate, include (seems very formal).
  • 働き方改革関連法案: lit. The bill concerning the reform for workers… or simply: a draft bill for labour reforms.
    • 改革・かいかく: reform
  • 厚生労働省・こうせいろうどうしょう: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. I am glad I added it to my Anki some days ago.
  • 審議・しんぎ: deliberation, consideration, discussion
  • 撤回・てっかい: withdrawal, retraction, revocation
  • ずさんな: careless, inaccurate, faulty.

There are other difficult words in the text, but these are the ones I want to remember passively because they might be useful to read other similar articles.

It is also essential to recognise groups of words that appear often. For example “裁量労働制” may first look like a group of difficult kanji but once we understand that it refers to the so-called “discretionary labour system”, things become more comfortable.

We can even go further and recognise that the group “裁量労働制の適用業務の拡大” often appear as such. If we can tell ourselves “ah, this refers to the expansion of the application of this system” when we see this group of kanji, then we can read the sentence or the paragraph smoothly.

Instead of just processing the meaning of each word we see, one after the other, trying to isolate groups of words helps to read the news.

And finally, the grammar… Strangely, it is not as much the N2 grammar points that I find difficult than the supposedly easy grammar like は and の. There is sometimes a confusing succession of these particles in very long sentences where the verb can be very far from its subject.

To conclude, I would say that isolating groups of words has helped me to read this article and is the most important lesson to be remembered from this “read the news in Japanese” study session. If I had to be completely honest, I would add that I also learnt some English words through today’s post:

Japanese News - the discretionary labour system2

My English notebook

Réforme du travail: labour reform

Bill: “a written suggestion for a new law that is presented to a country’s parliament so that its members can discuss it” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

to spark: “spark criticism”, “spark a storm of protest.”

A document that contains error can be described as “flawed survey”, “flawed data”.