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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.

Conclusion

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)

Introduction

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!)

豪雨

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:

死者が100人を超したのは短期間の豪雨としては平成に入って初めてだ。安否が不明な人も多く、各自治体が出した避難勧告・指示の対象は最大で約863万人にのぼった。(source)

  • 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:

“命を奪われた被害者、ご遺族らの恐怖、苦しみ、悲しみは想像を絶する。慎重にも慎重な検討を重ねて執行を命令した.”

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:

“松本死刑囚と他の死刑囚には責任に大きな差があるのに、同時に執行するのは間違いだ”

and

“執行された7人と残された6人の境界線もあいまいで理解しがたい”

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:

“皇室会議以降、時計の針は動き始めた。平成に起きた最大の事件は平成のうちに区切りを付けるというのが命題となった.”

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 audiobook.jp. 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!

Conclusion

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!

 

Japanese News: July week 1

The topics I studied this week are:

  • The labour reform: a recap
  • Post-Abe: a list of the 5 candidates who could succeed Abe
  • Football: Politicians’ reactions to the last match and a Korean digression
  • The execution of Aum Leader Matsumoto.

Labour reform

On Friday 29th, the Diet enacted the Labour Reform bill. Despite many criticisms, the 高プロ was not removed from the text. As it stands, the reform contains three major topics:

  • The system “同一労働同一賃金” will ensure that regular and non-regular employees get the same salary if they do the same work. I think that nobody criticises this point.
  • A maximum cap for extra time “残業時間の規制”. Even if the opposition welcomes this instauration, they criticise that it is only fixed at 100 hours per month, which is higher than the 過労死ライン.
  • The so-called 高プロ or 高度プロフェッショナル制度. This is the most controversial part of the reform. According to this system, some skilled professional workers with high salary will no longer be concerned by the working-hour regulation system: 高収入の一部専門職を労働時間規制から外す.

According to the opposition, the 高プロ will only increase the number of deaths by overwork: “長時間労働を助長し、過労死を増やす.”

Other strong opponents to the 高プロ are the people who lost a member of their family by overwork or suicide. Some of them attended the Diet session with portraits of their departed one. After that, they gave a press conference to express their dissatisfaction with the result.

A mother, whose daughter killed herself because of her work, says:

“きょう初めて国会で傍聴をしたが、多数決の力で法律が通ってしまったことにとても残念な気持ちだ。成立したとき、心の中で娘に『これがあなたを追い詰めた日本の姿だよ』と話しかけていた。高度プロフェッショナル制度は長時間労働を法律で認め、過労死を助長するもので、成立は遺族として納得できない.”

  • 傍聴・ぼうちょう: passive attendance
  • 追い詰める・おいつめる: drive into a corner, drive to the wall (here, figurative)
  • 助長する・じょちょうする: to encourage, to promote, to contribute
  • 遺族・いぞく: the family of a decease

ポスト安倍

I have discovered that to find information on potential candidates to succeed Abe, the keyword is ポスト安倍.

With this, I have been able to list the 5 candidates for the head of the LPD easily. I am making this memo for my sake as reading Japanese names is still a real struggle to me. There is no particular order:

  • 岸田文雄 ~ きしだ・ふみお ~ Fumio KISHIDA
    • He is 政調会長 which is an abbreviation for 政務調査会長・せいむちょうさかいちょう. I found the translation “chairman of Policy Research Council” or “chairman of Political Affairs Research Committee”… I don’t know what exactly is this committee, but I will satisfy myself by being able to recognise and read the kanji as well as associate it with an English equivalent.
  • 野田聖子 ~ のだ・せいこ ~ Seiko NODA
    • She is 総務省・そうむしょう, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications.
  • 小泉進次郎 ~ こいずみ・しんじろう ~ Shinjiro KOIZUMI
    • He is 筆頭副幹事長・ひっとうふくかんじちょう, here again, I am at a loss to say what this is. I only gathered from my inquiries on the Web, that it can be translated by “Chief Deputy Secretary-General”.
  • 石破茂 ~ いしば・しげる ~ Shigeru ISHIBA
    • He is always described as 元幹事長・もとかんじちょう or former Secretary-General. I guess that, Secretary-General being a high position, it is more relevant to describe him as having occupied this function as by naming his current position, whatever it may be…
  • 河野太郎 ~ こうの・たろう ~ Taro KONO
    • He is 外相・がいしょう, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Having to struggle with these names considerably hinders my understanding of articles relative to the subject of politics or the upcoming elections. I hope that making this list will help me in my future readings.

“夢をありがとう”

So that’s it, Japan has lost against Belgium and is now out of the tournament. However, no one really expected them to go to the knock-out stage, and they offered a great performance against Belgium (3-2) in what was, in my opinion, one of the best games of the tournament so far. I saw several articles thanking the team for having made people dream (I don’t know if this is colloquial in English… it is in French, and I spent several minutes trying to find a colloquial equivalent in English without success.).

The team was welcomed at the airport by enthusiastic and grateful fans (photo gallery).

Let’s have a look at politicians’ reactions after the match.

Abe stated was is certainly the general feeling among Japanese football’s fans:

“惜しかった。日本代表の皆さんに感動をありがとうと言いたい” and “2週間、本当にいい夢を見させてもらった.”

Taro ASO, deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, used football to draw, once again, a comparison with politics:

“2対0になったところで多くの人が『勝った』と思っただろうが、政治と同じで甘くない.”

To understand this statement, we must know that Japan was winning 2-0 until Belgium equalised and even scored a winning third goal at the very end of the match. He also said that the level of the team was much better than before.

Fumio KISHIDA (one of the 5 candidates cited above) took the opportunity to make some philosophical comments on the unpredictability of life. He says that he too thought Japan would win when they were leading the score. Seeing that Belgium did not only equalised but also win, he concludes:

“人生ってのは何が起こるか分からないなと、こんなことを教えてくれたんではないかと思う.”

Similarly, he says that no one was excepting much from this year’s World Cup because the team was not convincing during the games preceding the World Cup. Moreover, they changed their coach only two months before the start of the tournament. Now, however, everybody is praising the team and the coach. Kishida comments:

“やっぱり人生ってのはやってみないと分からないもんだなと、こういう教訓も与えてくれたのではないか.”

I wonder if he is simply being philosophical or if he is hinting at the September’s elections.

The strangest statement was made by Katsunobu KATO, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare:

“けさ5時ごろまで起きていた方も大勢いると思うので、きょうはしっかり働き方改革に努め、できるだけ早く帰って疲れをとってほしい.”

He speaks of being awake until 5 a.m because the match started at 3 in the morning at Japan time. I just find it strange to acknowledge that the people who work on the Labour Reform went to bed at 5 to watch football and are hoping to go back home early.

(In Korea too, this match was well discussed because one of the commentators on KBS ended up saying “thank you” to Belgium when they scored their winning goal. I don’t like watching a game involving Japan on Korean TV because I find the commentators to be partial. They would end up (from my experience) supporting the team opposing Japan and get very excited whenever it scores, to the point where you could swear that it is Korea who is playing. Their delight in the other’s team success hardly conceals their satisfaction of seeing Japan lose. Of course, this might be a fancy of my part, but the “thank you” incident tend to support my feeling. When Belgium scored its 3rd goal at the very end of the match, the two commentators on KBS jubilated so much that anyone turning his TV on at this moment could have sworn that Korea had just scored the winning goal at the final game! One of the commentators even went as far as to say “thank you” to Belgium for having defeated Japan and prevented them from going to the quarterfinals. I don’t know if he forgot that he was broadcasting a live program or if he thought that it would be well received by the Korean audience, but he only attracted outraged criticism for his partial position. He tried to explain himself afterwards, saying that he meant “thank you” for not having to go through the extra-time. Though we must acknowledge that the match took place during the night in Korea, his explanation is not convincing and I think he even dropped it soon after.)

Aum leader has been executed

Source: 教団元代表の松本智津夫死刑囚の刑を執行

The leader of the Aum cult Chizuo MATSUMOTO has been executed. The Aum cult is principally known for the Sarin gas attack in the subway in Tokyo in 1995, but I just learnt that Aum members are involved in two other attacks: a first Sarin gas attack in 1994 and the murder of a lawyer and his family in 1989. Some other actions are hinted at but not mentioned. In total 29 persons died because of the cult, and more than 6500 were harmed.

Let’s first have a look at some vocabulary:

  • 松本智津夫・まつもと ちづお: Chizuo MATSUMOTO. This is the real name of the Aum cult leader. I find that Japanese articles prefer to use his real name whilst English and French sources use his cult name Shoko ASAHARA
  • 麻原彰晃・あさはら しょうこう: Shoko ASAHARA, the name Matsumoto chose for himself.
  • オウム真理教・しんりきょう: Aum cult, also Aum Shinrikyo in English.
  • 地下鉄サリン事件: ちかてつさりんじけん: this is the name of the Sarin gas attack in the subway.
  • 坂本堤弁護士一家殺害事件・さかもとつつみべんごしいっかさつがいじけん: The case of the Sakamoto family murder
    • 坂本堤・さかもと つつみ: Tsutsumi SAKAMOTO. He was a lawyer working on a class action lawsuit against the Aum cult. He was killed with his wife and child in 1989 by members of the cult.
  • 松本サリン事件・まつもとさりんじけん: Matsumoto sarin attack. This attack is not called “Matsumoto” because of the Aum leader’s real name, but because it took place in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. 8 persons died, and hundreds were harmed.

Chizuo MATSUMOTO was arrested in 1995, after the Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. His public trial (公判・こうはん) began in 1996 at the district court (地裁・ちさい) of Tokyo. He pleaded not guilty (無罪・むざい) but received the death sentence (死刑判決・しけいはんけつ).

I think that what would normally take place is an appeal (控訴・こうそ) from the defence to the High Court of Tokyo (東京高裁・とうきょうこうさい). However, the defence did not apply for an appeal because:

“(松本死刑囚と)意思疎通ができない.”

  • 死刑囚・しけいしゅう: a death row convict. “松本死刑囚” is how Matsumoto is referred to in articles in Japanese.
  • 意思疎通・いしそつう: mutual understanding, reciprocal communication

In 2006, having received no appeal, the High Court of Tokyo, supported by the Supreme Court (最高裁・さいこうさい), confirmed the death penalty sentence. Between the confirmation (確定・かくてい) and the execution (執行・しっこう) of the death sentence, 11 years and 10 months have elapsed.

As you can see at the end of the article, several members were trialled and received diverse sanctions:

  • 死刑・しけい: death penalty: 13 persons
  • 無期懲役・むきちょうえき: penal servitude for an indefinite term: 6 persons
  • 有期懲役・ゆうきちょうえき: penal servitude for a fixed term: 81 persons
  • 執行猶予・しっこうゆうよ: suspended sentence (fr: sursis): 87 persons
  • 罰金・ばっきん: fine: 3 persons
  • 無罪・むざい: found not guilty: 2 persons.

In total, 13 members of the cult were sentenced to death. On Friday morning, I read in the Guardian that Matsumoto was hanged with 6 other members, but the Mainichi article did not mention it (unless they update it afterwards). French newspaper Le Monde said that this information was transmitted by several Japanese media but was not confirmed by the Ministry of Justice.

What the Mainichi does say, however, is that apart from Matsumoto, the death sentence of several other death row inmates should be executed within 6 days. In March of this year, the 13 members and 7 other death row inmates were moved to different detention centres.

Update: The Ministry of Justice (法務省・ほうむしょう) confirmed that 6 other members were executed with Matsumoto.

Conclusion

I cannot help but think of Higashino’s novel 「虚ろな十字架」that I have just finished. The reflexions on the death penalty encompassed in it could not be more topical.

Book review: 「虚ろな十字架」by æ±é‡Žåœ­å¾

「虚ろな十字架」is both a typical Keigo HIGASHINO and a surprising one. Typical in its setting, its characters and the way the story unfolds. From the very beginning, I felt that I was on familiar grounds, reading an author that I appreciate and whose writing style seems to be unchanging throughout the years. The novelty of this novel was in the topic it chooses to handle: the capital punishment. The whole story, though absorbing in itself, can also be read as a debate over the death penalty. In this respect, the novel has a social dimension and an interest that reaches much farther than the pleasure of reading a mystery novel.

As for the story in itself, it reminded me of some other novels by Higashino that I have read. It is not a traditional detective story with an investigation made by the police. Murder is to be solved, but instead of tracking down a murderer, the reader will start a journey into the characters’ past. Also, Higashino forces his characters to face difficult moral choices, a feature that I also liked in the novel 「パラドックス13」.

「虚ろな十字架」is not a classic crime-investigation novel, and even though I found the novel absorbing from beginning to end, someone looking for a traditional detective novel might find the pace of 「虚ろな十字架」a bit slow. But if you are interested in debating over the death penalty, this novel has the advantage of displaying diverse reflexions in favour of and against it without being boring or artificial. It also places the reader in a position where we have to take a side and make our own judgement.

Sometimes, I find that authors build a rapid story just to incorporate a message in the novel. As a consequence, the characters and the plot are not convincing and the novel hardly disguises the essay it should have been. Let me just say that thss not the case in 「虚ろな十字架」where the characters, their story and the choice they made or have to make are the chores of the novel.

I enjoyed reading this novel very much. I have read so far eleven books by Higashino, and I can say that none disappointed me. This one was as easy to read as the others, which is also certainly one of the reasons of Higashino’s success in Japan. For us Japanese learners, it means that Higashino’s novels do not have additional difficulties like long descriptions, refined vocabulary or implicit things.

In three words, this novel offered me a captivating story, an interesting social topic and the pleasure to read in Japanese without many struggles… it was a very satisfying reading experience!

Half-way through 2018! Time to check our yearly challenges.

We are halfway through 2018, it is time to check our New Year’s resolutions! How are your challenges doing? It is now the perfect time to adjust them if it didn’t work or even drop it all and make a new start with mid-year goals.

As for me, I had a lot of ideas and things I wanted to do for 2018. As I passed the JLPT in December last year, I felt free from learning vocabulary and grammar and thought I could just enjoy myself, so ideas were flowing. The problem is that all these great ideas never made it to the organisational phase. I cannot even say that I have given them up, it is just that I never made concrete plan, goals and schedule for them (for example: listening to more Japanese, watching more Japanese films or drama, even cooking Japanese dishes…).

I guess that the formula “I want to do more…, watch more…, read more…” is not concrete enough. I should have made a list of the 10 films I want to watch this year, for example. Setting a habit tracker for listening to at least 10 minutes of Japanese every day would also have helped.

However, something did work well: my 2018 reading challenge. I am sure that it worked because I made a very concrete plan for it:

  • It was a numbered challenge: I wanted to read a book per month. Setting a challenge with concrete numbers makes it easier to keep in mind. “Reading a book a month” is more concrete than saying “I want to read more”.
  • I knew exactly what I wanted to read: I bought all the 13 books in advance! (I know that there are only 12 months in a year, though). I did not make a haul for the purpose of my challenge, but because I took the opportunity of a trip to Japan to buy a lot of books. I know that it is not always possible to buy a lot of things in advance, but having the books lined up on my bookshelf helped me beyond doubt. If I had purchased the films I wanted to see at the beginning of the year, I would surely have watched them now! But of course, this is easier said than done… what is easy, however, is to make a list.
  • Making a list is similar to having the books on my bookshelf. In a way, it is even more concrete because I also wrote a little presentation for each book when I made my list. This means that I had to spend some time with each book and try to figure out what kind of story it would tell. Just listing items is maybe not enough, identifying each with its particularities is the first step. If I were to make a list of the films that I want to watch, for example, I think that I should also write what the film is about and why I want to watch it.
  • Finally, I posted my challenge on my blog. Accountability is really your best friend when it comes to achieving goals and being regular!

I think that all these steps helped me to go through this challenge safely, while my “I want to listen to more Japanese” stayed somewhere in January. I have finished exactly seven books of my challenge, and I am reading the eighth, so I kept up with my schedule. I also read some other books that were not on my original list.

The most important thing is that reading in Japanese has become a habit. So it worked! For most challenges, what we really want is to create new habits, I guess. In my case, reading a book per month was not as much a goal in itself as a way to change myself and create a new habit.

I will go on with my reading challenge, but now I feel very confident about it.

As for mid-year resolutions, I will focus on turning “I want to listen to more Japanese” into a more concrete plan. I will start by making a list of things that I want to watch or listen to. It will be a good starting point!

I hope you are all doing well with your yearly challenges if you had any. Though I never make New-Year resolutions like doing sport or quitting chocolate, I find that it helps a lot when self-studying a language or anything else. So why not clean up a bit our Winter’s resolutions and even make new ones for the second half of the year?

Japanese News: June week 4

Politician criticises the press

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

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

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

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

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

“新聞(の購読者増)に協力なんかしない方がいいよ。新聞販売店の人には悪いけど、つくづくそう思った.”

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

IR Bill or Integrated Resorts Enabling Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour reform and 高プロ

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

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

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

and

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

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

“働き方改革関連法案が参院厚生労働委員会で強行採決される可能性がある.”

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

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

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

“政府は相変わらず過労死の問題に向き合わない。この法案は働く人の権利と尊厳に思いをいたせない人たちが作った法案です”

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

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

Politician criticises women who don’t want children

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

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

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

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

“食うや食わずで、戦中戦後、そういう時代に、じゃあ『子どもを産んだら大変だから、子どもを産まないようにしようか』と、そんなことを言った人はない。このごろね、『子どもを産まない方が、幸せに送れるんじゃないか』というふうに、勝手なことを自分で考えてね.”

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

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

He also added:

“この国の一員として、この船に乗っているのだから、お互いに。だからやっぱり、みんなが幸せになるためには、子どももたくさん産んで、そして国も栄えていくと、発展していくという方向へ行くように、みんながしようじゃないか.”

  • 栄える・さかえる: to prosper

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

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

特定の家族観や考え方を押しつけるというのは、時代遅れというか、時代錯誤、自民党が非常に古いなということをあらわした発言ではないか.

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

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

She also added:

『産めよ、増やせよ』の時代に戻りたいのか。多様性や個人の選択、女性の人権などを無視した発言で、単なる失言ではなく、本質的なところを理解していない.

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

Japan will go to the knock-out round!

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

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

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

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

That’s it! Have a nice weekend!