Latest Posts

Reading Progress: 「在日」chapter 1

I thought it would be a good idea to post my reading progress for challenging books. It encourages me to go on reading!

I finished reading the first chapter of 「在日」by 姜尚中(カン・サンジュン). The first chapter was only 25 pages long, but it took me some time to go through it. I think that I understood most of it, but there are still two or three passages where I am not sure of what is implied.

I could not look up each and every unknown word (too many of them), so I dismissed some of them and did not always made a good choice in deciding whether to look up for a word or not. What would sometimes happen is that I go on reading a whole paragraph without really understanding it, just because I missed a keyword. This means that I had to go back to the beginning of the passage and look up more words.

What also happened a lot is a lack of understanding due to bad concentration. I would read a whole page and have a very blurred image of what was described. But if I re-read the same page with more attention and intention to understand, I was often surprised to see that I understood more than I thought I could.

Reading Notes

In this first chapter, Kang talks about how his parents came to immigrate to Japan. The story starts when his father immigrates at the age of 15, in 1931. Kang is born during the Korean War. He recalls his childhood first in a Korean settlement (集落) and then in the little propriety that his family was finally able to buy.

This chapter was absolutely captivating. The anecdotes that Kang relates allow us to grasp, in only a few pages, the bitter situation of the 在日, the discrimination and injustice they had to face.

I have also learned a lot of things through this chapter… Among the things that struck me, I would like to go through two of them: 北朝鮮への帰還運動 and らい予防法.

北朝鮮への帰還運動

  • 帰還・きかん: return home, rapatriation

Among the Koreans who immigrated to Japan during Japanese rule in Korea, many saw their dream of return broken by the Korean War. In 1959, North Korea launched a repatriation movement to which Japan actively participated. The first boat to North Korea left Japan the same year. Overall, around 90,000 在日 (including their family) “returned home” to North Korea. The movement went on until 1984, though it lost a lot of its draining force when the situation of the North started to be known among the Koreans in Japan.

I was shocked to learn it, but as Kang explains, it was not surprising. The situation in North Korea was little known at the time and for many Koreans in Japan, even if the majority of them was coming from the South, “North Korea” was still 祖国・そこく the home country.

I found some bitterness in Kang’s narrative. Particularly because Japan government encouraged the “return” to North Korea by giving a positive image of Pyeongyang in the news. He cites an article by Asahi that appeals to the homesickness of Koreans with cheap reference to kimchi.

At the same time, the South was ruled by Syngman Rhee (李承晩, イ・スンマン) who established the Syngman Rhee Line 李ライン, a geographical line that defines maritime sovereignty and includes Dokdo or, in Japanese, Takeshima. Korea seized any Japanese fishing ship that crossed the line, thus contributing to the degrading image of South Korea in Japan.

It is certainly hard to imagine today, but in the 1950’s South Korea was seen negatively in Japan, while North Korea had a positive image.

Kang’s family did not “return” to North Korea, but they saw others departing like the teeth of a broken comb falling one after the other: “一九五九年から、北へ北へと、くしの歯が抜けるように人がいなくなり” (p.34)

Further reading: I found an interesting and thorough article on the subject on Los Angeles Times.

らい予防法

  • らい or ハンセン病: leprosy, Hansen’s disease
  • 予防法・よぼうほう: a preventive measure, a method of prevention

Japan had a leprosy prevention law that required segregation of patients in sanitariums and lasted until 1996 (!).

Persons with leprosy were segregated in sanitariums which included forced hospitalisation. This resulted in a strong social stigma towards persons with leprosy as well as their family. Kang evokes the 恵楓園・けいふうえん which is one of the 13 public sanitoriums of the country. It was founded in 1909, two years after the promulgation of the first leprosy prevention law.

Even after the repeal of this law, social stigma is still a reality, as Kang regrets in his book: “らい予防法は廃止され、国も謝罪をした。しかし人々の心に巣食う偏見と先入観は今もしぶとく生き続けている”. (p.47)

  • 巣食う・すくう: build a nest, lurk in one’s heart

Further Reading: Leprosy segregation is only evoked in Kang’s book, so I have searched for more articles on the subject. Many came out in 2016, to mark the anniversary of the end of the leprosy prevention law. This one by the Guardian reveals a reality much more dreadful than what is in Kang’s book.

Conclusion

This was just a small insight into the first chapter of 「在日」and there are a lot more themes, memories and anecdotes in it. In only 25 pages, Kang Sang-jung shows us various aspects of the time. It goes from the poor and miserable settlements of Koreans in Japan to the common and typical fate of many immigrants of the first generation. Through these stories, however, we are allowed to glimpse at the Japanese society of the time and the political relationships in Asia. All of these is punctuated with some striking memories that marked Kang as a child.

Japanese News: May week 3

This week, I had the feeling that everything I tried to read was too difficult… It happens I guess… 😐

Some survey

Last week, I wrote about Yanase’s answers to the Diet concerning the Kake Gakuen scandal. He kept saying that he did not report his activities to Abe and that the Prime Minister did not know that arrangements were being made to favour his friend ‘s institution.

On Monday, Abe echoed Yanase’s assertion by saying “報告は受けていない” (source). In other words, he confirmed that Yanase did not report (報告・ほうこく) to him concerning the meeting he had with Kake’s people.

Abe added: “国家の重大事でない限り、(秘書官から)途中段階で説明を受けることはほとんどない” (source). As long as it is not an important case, it is rare that he receives explanations from his secretary while the work is still in progress.

To go on with the repercussions of Yanase’s hearing at the Diet, let’s take a look at the results of a survey of public opinion 世論調査 (よろんちょうさ).

Mainichi made public the result of a survey that took place over two days (on the 12th and 13th of May). First of all, Yanase said during his hearing that Abe was not involved in the Kake Gakuen scandal. The poll-takers were asked whether they believe it or not. The results are, I modestly think, not surprising: “「納得できない」が75.5%に達した。納得できるは14.7%だった” (source).

  • 納得する・なっとくする: be convinced, be persuaded, satisfy oneself…

People are not supporting Abe’s major reform: the labour reform. 68,4% of the people surveyed think that there is no need for the Diet to approve the bill.

安倍政権が今国会の最重要法案と位置付ける働き方改革関連法案に関し、今国会で成立させるべきかを尋ねたところ「必要はない」が68.4%で、「成立させるべき」が20.3%だった.

To be honest, I don’t quite understand this sentence. 今国会・こんこっかい means the “current Diet session”, but I have difficulty seeing what it refers to exactly. After some research on the Internet, I reached the conclusion that a “Diet session” begins every year in January and last for 5 months. We are actually in the 196th Diet session, it opened on January 22th and will be closed on June 20th.

What do people mean when they say that there is “no need” for the current Diet session to approve the labour reform bill? I don’t know. The only thing that I can do is guess, and I would guess that people don’t want to rush things because they hope for political change. In any case, it is probable that Abe will not win a third mandate as head of the LPD (elections are in September). I don’t know to which extent it will affect the labour reform, though.

Sometimes, understanding the Japanese is not enough to understand the meaning or the implications of what is written. But I also find it very difficult to get into another’s country political system. I find it both utterly interesting (because it helps to understand how a country’s politics work) and utterly uninteresting (because it is somehow boresome to go through all this).

To go on with numbers, we also learnt through the survey that 49,1% of the poll-takers would like to see Finance Minister Taro ASO step down: 49.1%が「麻生氏は辞任すべきだ」と回答した (source).

World Cup month-1!

I am not at all familiar with Japanese football but I know at least one name: 香川真司・かがわしんじ.

Kagawa returned to Japan on Monday (he plays in Dortmund) and will soon start his training for the World Cup. At his arrival at the airport, he reassured journalists about the injury he had in February this year. Because of this injury, Kagawa didn’t play for three months and was back on the field only on Saturday for a Bundesliga’s match (source).

This is what Kagawa said about his injury: “皆さんが思っている以上にケガの方は問題ない”. (source). To be honest, I don’t understand the 以上 in his sentence. It is frustrating to sometimes come against puzzling things, even after all this time spent reading in Japanese! I would understand 以上 if he had said that his injury was more serious than what people think. But he says the opposite, that his injury is not a problem. 以上 also has the meaning of “since”, “now that” (for example: since I did this, I must also do that) but I don’t see how it could make sense here. What would make sense would be that his injury is not as severe as what people think. But then why use 以上? 🤨

japanese news - may week 3-1

メディアで働く女性ネットワーク

Following the statement of Finance Minister Aso saying “セクハラ罪という罪はない” in reference to the Fukuda case, a network of women working in media requests apologies in a written document (source). The document is published on their facebook and I thought it would be a good exercise to study it but it is longer than I thought… 😯 I read it though, and it is both interesting and relatively easy to understand in Japanese. The Women in Media Network (WiMN) ask for three things:

  1. “財務相の調査は適切かどうか、内閣府による調査をお願いします”
    • They ask for a proper investigation. Fukuda’s conduct was recognised as sexual harassment and he had to resign with a slight reduction of his pension but no proper investigation had taken place.
  2. “麻生太郎財務相に、差別発言を止めるよう働きかけをお願いします”
    • In reference to Aso making statements to minimalise sexual harassment, the WiMN ask for measures to prevent such discriminatory statements in the future. They add that this kind of thing is a 二次被害 for the victim.
      • 差別発言・さべつはつげん
      • 働きかけ・はたらきかけ
  3. “セクシュアル・ハラスメントをなくすため法整備をお願いします”
    • The WiMN ask for a law to prevent sexual harassment, citing other countries where it is punished according to law 刑事罰・けいじばつ like France or Taiwan.

(source)

Falsified documents in loan screening

While going through articles, I could see that something was going on involving a bank, a real estate agency and documents because I saw several articles on the subject and photos of people bowing in apology. But I could not make head nor tail of it because it was difficult to read in Japanese and even when I headed to sites in English, I found it hard to understand too (I am maybe reaching the limits of my brain 😦)

I was about to give up when I decided to make my way through it.

What I understood is this (but I may be mistaken):

japanese news - may week 3-2

The vocabulary and citation come from the Mainichi editorial: シェアハウス巡る不正融資 スルガ銀行の責任は重い.

There is a bank called スルガ銀行 who has granted loans to individuals willing to invest in real estate.

  • 融資する・ゆうしする: accommodate somebody with a loan

The problem is that there is a high pressure of rising profits put on the employees of Suruga bank. As a result, the employees tried to facilitate loan contracts by either falsifying documents or accepting documents that they knew were falsified (I am not sure on this point).

  • 増収増益・ぞうしゅうぞうえき: rising income and rising profits
  • 改ざんする・かいざんする: falsify, tamper with

To be more concrete, the loan takers have to provide documents to justify their income and overall financial situation. The bank has to check this information (it is called “screening”) and decide whether the applicant is qualified for the loan or not. It is during this screening phase that the bank was “careless” with documents in order to finalise more loan contracts. As a result, the bank granted a loan to individuals who might have not qualified for it.

“年収や預金残高、土地の売買価格を水増しする改ざん”

  • 預金残高・よきんざんだか: a bank account balance
  • 売買・ばいばい: purchase and sale, transaction
  • 水増し・みずまし: to pad out, to water (?), to increase

“審査がずさんだった”

  • 審査・しんさ: screening (examination, inspection)
  • ずさんな: careless, inaccurate, faulty

With their loan, these individuals bought real estate through an agency called “Smart Days” スマートデイズ社. The property bought are share-houses rented to women. Smart Days agency rents the houses and gives the owners their share of the rent.

Problem is, the rental rate decreased to such a point that Smart Days could no longer give the owners their share and eventually went bankrupt.

  • 倒産・とうさん: bankruptcy

So now, these individuals who took a loan at Suruga Bank can no longer pay back a loan that was above their financial potential anyway.

What I still don’t understand is:

  • who exactly falsified the documents?
  • to which extend the real estate agency is involved?
  • is this the doing of some employees put under pressure or is it a more organised system that involves both the bank and the real estate agency?

I must admit that I am not that interested in the subject… this means that I will let these questions unanswered because I don’t feel like reading more articles about it. But it was a personal challenge to understand at least the key features of the problem.

Hideki Saijo

To conclude this post, a song by Hideki Saijo 西城 秀樹(さいじょう・ひでき) who died on Thursday at the age of 63. Idol of the 70’s he never stopped singing and gave memorable songs like “傷だらけのローラ” and covered foreign songs like YMCA (ヤングマン ) or Careless Whispers (抱きしめてジルバ).

Currently Reading: 「在日」by 姜尚中(カン・サンジュン)

I am deviating a little from my “reading challenge list for 2018” with 「在日」by Kang Sang-jung. As I am currently living in Korea, I took an interest in the relationship between Korea and Japan. So when I saw this book in a bookshop of Seoul the other day, I just had to buy it.

在日

「在日」by 姜尚中

This title caught my eye because of another book that I still haven’t read but which covers, I think, the same subject: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

I have been telling myself that I should read Pachinko since I read Akylina saying so many good things about it on the literary sisters’ blog. I still haven’t got around to it yet, because I have a huge list of books I want to read in English… But when I saw 「在日」, I thought it could be a way to dig into the subject while waiting for the good time to read Pachinko.

What immediately drew my attention is the name of the author: 姜尚中 (Kang Sang-jung). This means that the author is using his Korean name and the back cover confirms that he abandoned his Japanese name for his Korea one. I didn’t know it when I bought his book, but Kang is a political scientist and seems to be well known in Japan (at least in his field).

About the book

The book is an autobiographic narrative that includes a reflexion on the 在日 or  在日韓国・朝鮮人(ざいにちかんこく・ちょうせんじん). This term refers to Koreans who immigrated to Japan before World War II when Korea was under Japanese rule, and their descendants.

Kang Sang-jung tells the story of his parents, filling it with historical facts and his own memories. He writes a beautiful homage to his deceased mother in the prologue and says that this book is the story his mother would surely have wanted to write, had she been able to “「オモニが字ば知っとったら、いろんなもんば書いて残しとくとばってんね」”. (オモニ is the Korean word for “mother” and “mom”, and ば means を in 熊本弁・くまもとべん. The ending ばってん is also from Kumamoto dialect). Kang concludes his prologue with:

“遺言通り、遠い記憶を呼び寄せ、そして私の今をその記憶の中に書き込んでおきたい” (p.21).

I have just started the book yet, but I can already say that Kang’s narrative is gripping right from the beginning. If it were not so difficult to read in Japanese, I would have finished it already.

As far as I can say, three aspects are intertwined, at least in the first pages that I have read: Kang’s memories as a child; the story of his parents; and finally, the more general story of the 在日.

I like how the book is filled with anecdotes that Kang recalls from his past and that anchors his story in the realm of directly felt and lived experience. But it also contains historical explanations that give the book a more academic interest. In other words, the book links together historical facts and political decisions to how the people concerned received them and had they dealt with them. In such, it is a priceless testimony.

As for the Japanese level, it is too high for me to read comfortably but not so high that it is discouraging. It is not something I can read when I am tired or not fully concentrated. But if I really commit to the text and use the dictionary, I can make my way through it, slowly but without the temptation to give up.

Conclusion

pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I am glad that I am reading a book that is both engrossing and informative. I am learning a lot of things through Kang’s narrative that I didn’t know of (for example, how a lot of Koreans in Japan who originated from the South ended up “returning home” to North Korea after the Korean War).

 

I think that I will read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee as soon as I finish 「在日」. It will certainly be interesting to make the autobiographic narrative and the novel echo with each other.

Further readings: an interesting interview with Kang Sang-jung on Japan Times (in English).

Read in Japanese: self-improvement books

I am mainly talking about novels on my blog, but I am also reading some non-fiction books. I realised some time ago that self-improvement books were surprisingly easy to read in Japanese and can be a good start for anyone looking for easy reads.

Of course, I haven’t read enough books of personal development to state it as a general rule, but I would be prepared to bet that most writings in this domain are relatively non-challenging. Based on the books that I have read or am reading and the ones I have flipped through in bookshops, I found some characteristics that make these books easy to read in Japanese:

Easy to read for Japanese too

I think that these books want to reach a wide public, including people who don’t particularly like reading novels or complicated writings. Many of these books are designed for people who work a lot and don’t generally have the time or the energy to engross themselves in long reading sessions. As a consequence, the interior layout of the books are generally following these rules:

  • The book is well structured with short chapters and a lot of subchapters.
  • The writer uses short sentences and short paragraphs
  • The style is casual, it looks like the author is talking to us directly.

Clarity is the key

These books want to convey a message and, if possible, convince the reader. Usually, when you want people to understand and adhere to your message, the best thing is to state it as simply and clearly as possible. This results in:

  • The author does not use complicated style, sentences or kanji. It is not a novel, so the author does not try to “write well” but keeps it simple.
  • The same things are often repeated several times, to be sure that the reader understood them.
  • There are no unclear implications or underlying messages. The author does not imply things, he just states them clearly.
  • At the end of the chapter, we often find a short recap.
  • There are often concrete examples and anecdotes.

Publishers also participate

To make the book even more agreeable to read, publishers usually adopt a certain design:

  • These books are often sold in a rather big format, not like novels.
  • Contrary to novels, there is a lot of space on each page. It is perfect to take notes and write down vocabulary (if you don’t mind writing in your books)
  • The chapters are often divided into small subchapters (sometimes only 2 or 3 pages), which is perfect to make small reading sessions.
  • Some sentences that convey the main message are often written in bold or colour. This means that even if you did not quite understand what the author said before, understanding these sentences is enough to understand the main point. It is somehow comforting when one reads in a foreign language.
  • Some books have colour, graphics and drawings that help the comprehension.

It is not a story

The problem with reading novels in a foreign language is that the miscomprehension is cumulative. What I mean is, if you don’t understand a passage and move on, you may miss a key element for the story. Chances are that you won’t understand the next passage neither because you missed something previously. And so on. As a result, reading becomes more and more difficult until we finally give up.

Even though self-improvement books also convey a message, I never felt that one has to have read the first chapter to understand the second one. It seems that each chapter focuses on a different point. Inside each chapter, I also feel that there is a lot of small points that can be understood separately. As a result, not understanding a passage does not prevent you from understanding what follows. And anyway, the main points are often repeated several times or written in bold. Understanding only that is enough to move on.

Gratifying reads

Finally, self-improvement books are written for Japanese adults so that reading them is more gratifying than reading books for children or books designed for Japanese learners.

Contrary to children books, they talk about what adults know well: studies, work, relationships, self-esteem and so on. Moreover, the message they convey is never hard to grasp. They generally tell you how to improve yourself, trust your own choice, gain self-esteem or things like that. This means that it is never hard to guess what the author wants to say.

Last but not least, these books’ contents are generally very motivating!

My personal experience

I never read self-improvement books before reading in Japanese, it is not my favourite genre. The reason why I started reading such writings was to read something relaxing in Japanese. It is very gratifying to me to be able to turn the pages so quickly (because it is easy to read and because there is not so much text written on each page!). Especially when I am reading a difficult novel that gives me the impression to have made no progress at all, having such a book as a second read is very comforting.

There are usually very few unknown kanji to me so that I can do two things:

  • looking up words in the dictionary (something I don’t do when there are too many unknown words or while reading novels)
  • read out loud without stumbling much across words I can’t pronounce.

And now, I start appreciating self-improvement books for themselves (not just for studying Japanese), they are a source of motivation and positiveness.

3 books that I can recommend

The first book I read was 「自分を操る超集中力」by メンタリストDaiGo, published by かんき出版. Compared with the other books, this one is the most challenging regarding vocabulary. But it also has a lot of illustrations (I am not good at taking pictures, I know):

img_1204

pages 95 and 71

As you can see, the main argument is marked in blue, and even if you don’t understand everything that is written, the drawing makes it clear!

As the title says, this books is all about concentration and willpower. I found some interesting ideas in it.

The second book is 「無意識はいつも正しい」by クスドフトシ, published by ワニブックス.

img_1206

pages 67 and 68

Here again, you can see that some sentences are in colour, others are in bold. (the page on the left precedes the one on the right).

I find this book very easy to read. The subchapters are very short, the author does not use any difficult words, he gives a lot of concrete situation and examples to illustrate his point. I feel that the author always wants to be sure that the reader is following him. He takes special care in repeating the important things and dividing his speech into small bites.

As for the contents, there were things that convinced me, and others less, but it is overall an interesting and motivating read.

Finally, 「好きなことだけして生きていく」by 心屋仁之助(こころや・じんのすけ), published by PHP:

img_1205

page 91

Here again, colour and bold to mark the important thing. As you can see, the sentences are very short and the author just start a new line with every new sentence!

As I said before, you can start reading this passage and understand what the author wants to say, even if you haven’t read what was before.

This book is maybe the easier of the three. The author talks about his own experience too, which makes it interesting. I was not convinced by everything he said, but there are also things that I adhere to. I would not say that I learned much, but I am always grateful when I can read something in Japanese without much effort!

Conclusion

I can’t say for sure that all self-improvement books are easy to read, but the two last titles I gave as examples are really easy. It looks like the authors had written their book following the rule “write your book using less than (number) kanji”.

All three books are published by different publishers, but all share the same layout characteristics.

There are a lot of books in this genre with the most attractive titles in Japanese!

Japanese News: May week 2

Here are some articles that caught my eye in the news this week!

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2018

Around 7000 persons participated in Tokyo Rainbow Parade 2018 on Sunday (6th): 「愛に平等を」 7000人行進. The Tokyo Rainbow Pride took place for the first time in 2012, so it was the seventh edition this year. At first, I didn’t understand the number given by Mainichi, it seemed underestimated. But I guess that only 7000 persons took part in the Parade itself, while the event as a whole drew much more participants. It is at least what suggests the Wikipedia page.

The slogans were:

  • 「すべての愛に平等を」
  • 「同性婚法制化」
  • 「誰も排除しない社会を」

The parade was only a part of the whole Tokyo Rainbow Pride that included concerts, discussions and seminars.

Members of the Diet also participated, both from the party in power and from the opposition: パレードには与野党の国会議員や自治体の議員も多数参加した.

  • 国会議員・こっかいぎいん: member of the Diet
  • 自治体・じちたい: local government

One politician said that in 2000 when he participated for the first time to the parade, which took place, I guess, unofficially, they marched in a “撮影禁止ゾーン”:

「2000年に初めてパレードに参加した時は撮影禁止ゾーンで歩いたのに、今日はたくさんの仲間と歩けてうれしい。お祭りの盛り上がりに、法整備も追い付かなければ」

  • 法整備・ほうせいび: I think that this is just another word for “law”.
  • 追い付く・おいつく: catch up with

japanese news - may week 2-1

Sexual harassment and politics

Once again, a very interesting editorial by Mainichi: 「セクハラ罪はない」発言 麻生氏の非常識いつまで.

While referring to the Fukuda case, Minister of Finance Aso said: 「セクハラ罪という罪はない」「殺人とか強制わいせつとは違う」. As the editorial says, Aso is still protecting Fukuda: 依然として福田氏を擁護する姿勢を見せた.

  • 擁護・ようご: protection, defence, support

Aso’s position is hard to grasp. On the one hand, he is responsible for Fukuda’s resignation and on the other hand, he goes on supporting Fukuda by such statements:

“遅きに失したとはいえ、財務省は福田氏の行為をセクハラと認定して処分した。ところが処分の最高責任者である麻生氏が、なぜこうした発言を続けるのだろうか。”

First, the ministry acknowledged that Fukuda’s behaviour was sexual harassment and took punishment actions (Fukuda resigned and his pension was lightly cut off). Afterwards, however, the minister minimises the whole thing, saying that harassment is not a crime.

As the editorial points out, the problem here is not to define in which category “sexual harassment” should fall, regarding the law, but to chose how the society positions itself concerning it. The article draws a parallel with いじめ, saying: “セクハラは重大な人権問題だ。いじめと同様、セクハラをなくそうとするのが政治家の務めのはずだ”.

Instead of which, some politicians stand up for harasser by making insensitive statements: “常識外れの発言”.

  • 常識外れ・じょうしきはずれ: a lack of common sense, insensitivity

And we cannot overlook the fact that Abe didn’t criticise Aso:

こうした持論を繰り返す麻生氏に安倍晋三首相が何ら注意をしない点も見逃せない

  • 見逃す・みのがす: overlook, miss, pass over

The article suggests that Abe does not want to lose Aso’s support for the election of the LPD:

“3選を目指す秋の自民党総裁選を控え、麻生氏の支持が得られなくなる事態を避けたいと考えているのか。政局的な思惑ばかりが優先している。”

  • 総裁選・そうさいせん: presidential election (here, inside the party).
  • 控える・ひかえる: be imminent
  • 政局・せいきょく: politics

Politics concerns seem to be the priority for Abe…

No lift in the future new castle of Nagoya?

Last year, the city of Nagoya announced a reconstruction project for the castle 名古屋城・なごやじょう. The idea is to rebuild the castle in wood and gives it the appearance it had during Edo period. There are concerns that the actual castle would not resist a strong earthquake and the mayor decided to restore historical authenticity by adopting a wood structure.

The problem is that the project did not include a lift. Of course, disabled citizen groups protested, and discussions were to take place.

This week, local officials made public the result of these discussions: 天守閣は「エレベーターなし」に 市が方針.

“名古屋城天守閣の木造復元で、名古屋市は復元後の新天守閣にエレベーターを設置しない方針を固めた”.

  • 天守閣・てんしゅかく: a castle tower
  • 復元・ふくげん: restoration (to the original state), reconstruction

This means that when choosing between access for everyone (バリアフリー) and historical authenticity, they chose the last one: “市は「史実に忠実な復元」を優先するとの結論を選んだ”.

  • 史実・しじつ: historical fact, historical authenticity
  • 忠実・ちゅうじつ: faithfulness

The final decision will be given at the end of May, but the city is not likely to change the project, they say:

「戦時中に空襲で燃える前の、江戸時代の姿に戻すという本来の目的に向けて進めたい」

  • 空襲・くうしゅう: air raid

Disabled citizen groups and other organisations that ask for barrier-free access have the feeling that no real discussion took place and that the city had decided against lifts from the beginning:

「形式的に話を聞いただけで、もともと決まっていたと思う。もっと話を聞いてほしかった」

japanese news - may week 2-2

Kake Gakuen scandal

To summarise the issue briefly, let’s say that Abe always said that he has nothing to do with the Kake Gakuen scandal and that he didn’t give any instruction to favour his friend’s institution. However, a document was found which stated that Yanase, Abe’s executive secretary at the time, said that the Kake Gakuen problem was Abe’s business. He said that during a meeting with the main actors, including people from the Kake Gakuen.

Asked about this, Yanase said that he could not remember that such a meeting took place.

Later, however, other documents were found that strongly suggest that the meeting did take place.

Yakase was heard again on Thursday (10th) and admitted that the meeting took place. Everything is in the title: 柳瀬氏「加計学園関係者と面会した」.

  • 柳瀬 唯夫・やなせ ただお: Tadao YANASE, at the time, executive secretary to the Prime Minister

It becomes more and more difficult to believe that Abe didn’t know about the Kake Gakuen problem:

“また県文書は、柳瀬氏が面会時に獣医学部新設計画を「首相案件」と語ったとしている。安倍晋三首相は計画を知った時期に関し、学園が学部新設の事業者に決定した17年1月20日だったと答弁。首相秘書官だった柳瀬氏が知っていて首相は知らなかった、という説明も疑問視されそうだ。” (source)

First, the documents found in the prefecture state that during the meeting in question that took place in 2015, Yanase said that the project to open a department of veterinary medicine is 「首相案件」. This in itself tends to show that Abe knew about the project, even though Yanase still denies having said such a thing.

  • 獣医学部・じゅういがくぶ: department of veterinary science
  • 新設・しんせつ: founding, establishment

When asked about the date when the project was brought to Abe’s knowledge, Yanase answered that it was in 2017, when all was already settled.

  • 答弁・とうべん: reply, answer

At the time Yanase was Executive Secretary for the Prime Minister (首相秘書官). As the article says (underlined part), it is strange that the Prime Minister didn’t know something that his Executive Secretary knew.

  • 首相秘書官・しゅしょうひしょかん: Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • 疑問視する・ぎもんしする: look on with suspicion

Friday’s editorial by Mainichi reiterates this doubt:

ところが柳瀬氏は「加計」に限らず業者とは積極的に会っていたと強調し、面会について首相にいっさい報告もしなかったという。にわかに信じがたい説明である

  • いっさい: not at all, not a bit, absolutely not
  • にわかに信じがたい: it is hard to believe it right away

When Yanase said, during his questioning at the Diet, that he does not report everything to Abe, sarcasm flew from the opposition seats.

「面会内容をいちいち、総理に報告しない」と述べて安倍首相の不関与を強調する姿に、野党席から「秘書官失格だ」とヤジが飛んだ。(source)

  • 失格・しっかく: incapacity, disqualification
  • やじ or 野次: heckling, catcalling, jeering, hooting. (I didn’t know any of those words 🙄, it seems that catcall is used street harassment and hoot is for owls)

japanese news - may week 2-4

Conclusion

That’s it for this week, just 4 themes but I think that Yanase’s coming out was of significance because it can further damage Abe’s popularity and, as I understood last week, push away the referendum for changing the Constitution. I realise that my post does not really reflect what was important in the news in Japan (it would be the summit Korea-Japan-China, along with Yanase’s hearing), but what struck me or interests me.

 

Currently Reading: 「赤い指」by 東野圭吾

I am a big fan of Keigo HIGASHINO. I first read his books in French (some of the Galileo series) and found it very new and original. I would never have dreamed, at the time, that I would be able to read his novels in Japanese one day.

Since I started Japanese and reached a sufficient level to read novels, I have read 9 novels by Higashino, including the 6 first books of the Kaga series. Also, the very first novel I read (without given up) in Japanese was 「卒業」, the first novel of the series.

I reached the point when I was exclusively reading Higashino, and this year, I have decided to read other authors to get used to different writing styles and taste some more difficult writings. But, I could not resist the temptation to add two titles by Higashino to my 2018 Reading challenge, and it is now time for me to read 「赤い指」, the seventh novel of the Kaga series.

Opening a novel by Higashino is immensely enjoyable. First, I know for sure that I will like it (I loved each of the 9 books I have read so far), and most of all, I know that I will be able to read it in Japanese without problems.

I don’t know what makes Higashino’s books so easy to read to me. Maybe it is simply because I am used to his style. It could also be because I began reading in Japanese with his novels and stuck to it for a long time. Similarly, when you have the same and only interlocutor in a foreign language for a long time, particularly if you started speaking with this person, you get used to his elocution and will always understand him perfectly why you could be puzzled by other persons’ way of speaking.

But I also think that Higashino has a very straightforward way of telling his stories that allow the reader to guess a lot, thus making up for unknown words. I am never taken aback by a character’s action or behaviour, everything always seems to fall into places. I am not saying that his stories are predictable and that I know what will happen next. I am just saying that the behaviours and actions are always logical and seem real. In other words, the characters often do what I would do if I were them, so that I can always anticipate a little and guess the meaning of a lot of unknown words.

Furthermore, the vocabulary and grammar are not particularly challenging, exception made for some descriptive parts that are crucial for the case.

This long introduction to say that I feel very excited to start 「赤い指」and that the first pages already confirmed that this book will be easy to read and certainly unputdownable! If you have read some of my other reviews of the Kaga series, you know that I am often disappointed when the novel never let the reader getting close to detective Kaga Kyoichiro. But in the first pages of 「赤い指」appears Kaga’s father… This novel might be different from the others!

 

Unclutter Anki

I am struggling with Anki lately, and I have, therefore decided to do something to make Anki fun again (at least, if not fun, associated with positive feelings).

There are two reasons why I hate studying Anki now:

  • I have too many cards a day
  • There are a lot of cards I actually don’t like

From now on, I will try to improve Anki every time I study it. This means clean it a bit by removing some notes, make it more efficient by adding tips and changing the settings to find a studying pace that suits me.

Unclutter my deck

I think that I have been obsessed with numbers: how many words do I know, how many words do I have in Anki, can I reach 10,000 words at the end of the year, and so on… My deck has now a little less than 8000 words. I would never have thought of deleting notes because my goal was to see the number growing, not decreasing. When one is self-studying, numbers can be very rewarding and act as a source of motivation. But it is also important to study without numbered goals, just for the fun of Japanese.

unclutter anki 3

As a consequence, I don’t really care if the number of notes in my Anki deck decreases a little. These are the cards I am deleting:

  • All the onomatopeia because I have a separated deck for them now.
  • All the words that I don’t really understand or don’t know how to use. I may come across them later and add them again if I have gained a better understanding at the time.
  • The words I don’t like and never learned properly. It may sound strange, but there are words I never could remember. For example, I deleted the word 半ば・なかば because it was a real pain to see it coming over and over again. (but somehow, I remember it now, just because I wrote about it!)
  • All the sentences I added from my N2 textbook. I don’t know why I added sentences at the time, I thought it would help me to remember the words. I like adding sentences or expressions to Anki, but only when they are useful to understand how a word is used or when they are sentences I could use myself. But the example sentences from N2 are not at all things I would like to say or write. I am therefore deleting them all.
  • Adverbs. I am struggling to remember adverbs in Japanese… It never works to add them in Anki because a lot of them share the same meaning. Furthermore, the same adverb can have several nuances according to the context. In other words, I find that learning adverbs out of context is very difficult, I cannot associate them with one meaning or one translation. I really don’t know how I can do to learn them, but for the time being, I delete most of them in my deck.

That’s it! I think that how efficiently we learn is closely linked to how we feel about what we learn. There are maybe some words that I can’t remember now because I associate them with negative feelings: there are boring, and I feel bad because I can’t remember them. I am sure that one day, I will see these words in a context I like (for example in a novel). If I am able to associate words with a particular scene in a story, I usually remember them without much effort.

Add hints

I keep telling myself that I should add more hints on my cards but I haven’t done it enough. Now I try to do it every time I have difficulty answering a card because I have several synonyms in my deck.

There are two kinds of hints:

  • When English is shown, and I must find the Japanese word but have a lot of cards that could fit the English translation. In this case, I add a hint about the form of the word I am looking for, for example, whether it is a “na” or “i” adjective. I also specify if the word’s origin is Chinese or Japanese. Some synonyms are so similar that I end up writing down the meaning of their kanji.
  • When the Japanese word is read by the Awesome TTS plugin, and I have to find the English equivalent out of context. I find it very hard, and there are a lot of homonyms too. In this case, I add a word or two that tell me in which context this word is used.

Some of my hints make the card easy to find, and it looks like cheating, but I think I would prefer to cheat a little and have fun studying Anki rather than accumulating cards that I can’t remember.

I realised that if I keep forgetting a card, I end up hating it. It comes over and over again, and the more I see it, the more I hate it, the less I remember it! If this phenomenon happens too often, I end up hating studying Anki, and this is how I skip days and find myself with hundreds and hundreds of words to go through.

Change Anki settings

When I said last week that I had trouble with Anki, Choronghi suggested in the comments that I should change the settings. This is something that I never did before, partly because I didn’t understand very well how it all works. However, adapting Anki settings can really make a difference, and I am grateful to have received this tip.

I am still playing around with the settings now, and I think that it will take some time before I find the perfect intervals. One thing that I changed is that a forgotten card does not come back the next day anymore. This has been a real pain since I started doing Anki. I know that from a spaced-repetition point of view, it is best if a forgotten word comes back the very next day. But it had two negative consequences on me:

  • First, I didn’t make any effort to remember the forgotten word since it would come back tomorrow anyway. I didn’t feel the urge to remember it because I knew that I would see it again very soon. As a result, I tagged the card “again” and forgot about it. In other words, I relied exclusively on Anki to learn the words, as if seeing the word over and over again was enough to learn it, and I needn’t make any kind of effort to consciously remember it.
  • Secondly, I just stop tagging forgotten words with “again”. Why? Because they would come back the next day and I felt like I was setting a trap for myself. I hate having a lot of words in my study session, and of course, I was not willing to add even more work for the tomorrow-me.

By playing around with the settings, I managed to make sure that a forgotten card will come back soon but not on a fixed day. It depends on the card, some will come back in three days, some in ten days and so on. I am not sure that I know how it works exactly…

It helped me solve my two problems:

  • If I see that a forgotten card will only come back in 10 days, I make some conscious effort to remember it. I don’t only rely exclusively on Anki anymore, but I also use my brain!
  • All forgotten cards will not all come back on the same day, so it becomes easier to use the “again” button, without having the feeling that I will be overwhelmed the next day.

I do think now that my settings were wrong. I had far too many cards to review every day, and I knew well the majority of these cards, this means maybe that I didn’t need to see them yet. Anki is supposed to show you words just before you forget them, but in my case, it was showing me words much too often.

The problem is that going through all these cards was tiring and I had no energy left to work properly on the difficult ones. The idea would be to have fewer cards each day and only the ones I really need to revise. To do that, the cards answered “good” should come back less often, or I should use more often the button “easy”, to increase intervals.

I have a tendency to only use the buttons “hard” and “good” because, as I said, I didn’t like the way a card tagged “Again” would systematically come back the next day and I wasn’t confident enough to mark a card “Easy”. Now I am trying to really use the four possibilities that Anki provides us with:

unclutter anki 1

Conclusion

Before using Anki, I had no choice but to try to learn new words consciously and make real efforts to recall the words I had learned. But since I am using Anki, I have a tendency to stop making efforts and rely exclusively on the spaced repetition system. Seeing the same words again and again somehow makes them stick, but studying Anki is no fun if I only go through all my cards as rapidly as possible, without thinking or actively participate.

I think that the core of the problem lays in my attitude towards Anki. Anki is a tool that I should use to progress, this means that I have to be active when using it to make the best out of it.

Japanese News: May week 1

Order of the Rising Sun

On Sunday (29th), the government announced the recipients of the Order of the Rising Sun. Beat Takeshi ビートたけし (Takeshi KITANO) received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette: たけし“らしく”喜び「これを糧にノーベル賞目指す」(スポニチ).

I stumbled across a lot of unknown words in this article:

  • 叙勲・じょくん: bestowal of an order. The verb 叙勲する means “confer a decoration” and the passive form 叙勲される “be decorated”.
  • 春の叙勲・はるのじょくん: the Spring Conferment of Decorations
  • 旭日章・きょくじつしょう: Order of the Rising Sun
  • 瑞宝章・ずいほうしょう: Order of the Sacred Treasure
  • 旭日小綬章・きょくじつしょうじゅしょう: The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette (This is the one that Kitano received, don’t ask me what it is exactly). (I found a great source for English appellation of Japanese orders.)

I am not surprised that he should receive such a high distinction, I am surprised that he didn’t receive it earlier. In France, he was named a Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters in 2010 and was even rewarded the Legion of Honour in 2016 (named Officier). The article by Mainichi underlines this fact and says that even if he was granted the highest French order, it is the first time this year that he receives a national award:

“フランス政府からは16年に最高勲章であるレジオン・ドヌール勲章オフィシエを受章しているが、国内で勲章や褒章を受けるのは初。”

  • 勲章・くんしょう: a decoration, an order
  • 褒章・ほうしょう: a medal of honour

I don’t know the difference between an “order” and a “medal” and I am too lazy to look into it… What we know is that Takeshi received neither order nor medal in Japan until now. However, according to our article, his brother said that he refused a Medal in the past:

“同年、弟子の東国原英夫(60)が、たけしが過去に紫綬褒章を断っていたと明かしている。理由を聞くと「金くれねーから」と冗談めかして言っていたという。”

Here again, I don’t know the difference between the Medal awarded in Japan… The one mentioned here is the Medal with Purple Ribbon.

japanese news - may week 1-2.jpg

Media are there to break the country??!

I missed this information last week, but better late than never! Hakubun SHIMOMURA (下村 博文・しもむら はくぶん), former Minister of Education, said, about the various scandals revealed by the press lately:「日本のメディアは日本国家をつぶすために存在しているのかと、最近つくづく思う」(source).

japanese news - may week 1-1.jpgI couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this! And he was the Minister of Education and Culture? Of course, he was criticised by the opposition, but also by his own party (LPD), as the title of the article suggests: 下村氏「メディアは国家をつぶす」 与党内でも批判.

For example, a member of the LPD criticised Shimomura in a press conference:

自民党の竹下亘総務会長は24日の記者会見で「政治家の発言は気をつけないといけない。メディアの一番重要な仕事は権力に対するチェックだ」と指摘。

  • 竹下 亘・たけした わたる: Wataru Takeshita
  • 総務会長・そうむかいちょう: the Chairman of the Executive Council
  • 権力・けんりょく: power, authority
  • 指摘する・してきする: to point out

A little digression, but Japan is ranked only 67 in the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.

Sexual harassment

Mainichi’s editorial on Monday asks セクハラと日本社会 これが21世紀の先進国か.

I think that the Fukuda case had a lot of repercussions in the society, but I don’t live in Japan so it’s hard to tell. As the editorial said, this case revealed how hard it is for the victim to obtain justice.

Another interesting article says 麻生太郎、下村博文 セクハラ被害者を加害者扱いする呆れた発言録. Shimomura (the same Shimomura as above) even went as far as to turn the victim into the aggressor and Fukuda into the victim. He said: 「隠しテープでとっておいてね、そしてテレビ局の人がですね、週刊誌に売るっていうこと自体が、ハメられてますよね。ある意味で犯罪だと思うけど」and the article concludes “下村氏は明確に被害者を加害者扱いしている”.

The fugitive arrested

On Monday (30th), the police finally arrested a man suspected to be the fugitive who escaped from his prison in Ehime Prefecture (愛媛県) three weeks ago. He was arrested in Hiroshima city (広島市) by the local police: 平尾容疑者を逮捕 広島市内で.

  • 平尾龍磨・ひらおたつま: Tatsuma HIRAO, the name of the fugitive.

It was later confirmed that the suspect arrested was indeed Hirao. I am glad that I am learning prefectures because I knew that Ehime is on Shikoku island, facing Hiroshima. We learnt on Tuesday that he reached Hiroshima by swimming: 逃走容疑、広島で逮捕 22日ぶり 島から「泳いで渡った」.

The reason he gave for his escape is「刑務所での人間関係が嫌になって逃げた」.

May 1st: We’re entering the last year of HEISEI

This editorial by Mainichi reminds us that in exactly one year, the actual Emperor’s son will take the throne, thus ending the era Heisei 平成・へいせい and start a new one: 残り1年の平成時代 元号の持つ意味を考える. I find this article interesting, though I don’t understand all of it.

An imperial era name is called 元号・げんごう and it is opposed to the Common Era 西暦・せいれき. The two systems co-exist in Japan and even though the Common Era is widely used in the society, the official documents from the government use the Imperial Era system: “一般社会では西暦を使うことがむしろ多くなったが、官庁の公文書は元号の使用が原則になっている.”

What is interesting is that, when documents plan ahead, they still use the Imperial Era name, even if we know it would have changed in the meantime: 政策目標を示す場合も元号を使うことが多く、「平成40年」「平成50年」などと記載されている。Even if the actual Emperor had not chosen to abdicate, he would be 104-year-old in “平成50年” or 2038.

The article also mentions a survey made in 1979. At the time the era was still Showa (昭和・しょうわ). We can see that people massively wished that the era name should be maintained and that 78% of the people surveyed were using it.

“それに先立つ79年3月の毎日新聞の世論調査によると「昭和」は国民生活に定着し、9割近くが元号の存続を望んでいた。元号と西暦の使用状況については「主に元号」が78%に達し、「主に西暦」の4%を圧倒した。「元号と西暦と半々」は16%だった。”

  • 世論調査・よろんちょうさ: a survey of public opinion
  • 存続する・そんぞくする: continue to exist
  • 圧倒する・あっとうする: overwhelm, overpower

Today, it seems that people are still attached to the era name system and that there is a growing interest in the new era name: “新たな元号への国民の関心も高まりつつある。”. To be honest, I am also looking forward to knowing what will be the kanji of the new era. But we will have to wait, as some officials from the ruling party suggest to postpone the publication of the new name until February 2019:

政府は当初、切り替えの準備のために夏ごろに公表する方向だったが、来年2月以降にすることを検討している。早い時期に公表すれば、陛下の在位中に関心が新天皇へ移るのではないかと懸念する自民党保守派に配慮したためだ。

  • 当初・とうしょ: at first
  • 切り替え・きりかえ: change, conversion
  • 検討する・けんとうする: consider
  • 陛下・へいか: His Majesty
  • 在位中・ざいいちゅう: during the reign
  • 懸念する・けねんする: fear, be anxious, feel concern
  • 自民党・じみんとう: Liberal Democratic Party
  • 保守派・ほしゅは: the conservatives, the old guard
  • 配慮する・はいりょする: consider, take something into account

I personally like the era name and everything related to the Emperor. But I must admit that I find it bothersome when they use the era name for the year in newspapers because I am very bad at calculating!

japanese news - may week 1-3

Kyoto, Nanzen-ji

On Wednesday, 24 persons visiting 南禅寺・なんぜんじ in Kyoto, suffered from throat pain due to an irritating substance: 南禅寺で「刺激臭」 拝観者ら、のどの痛みなど訴え. Both the police and the firemen were dispatched and 4 persons had to be evacuated.

  • 刺激臭・しげきしゅう: an irritating smell
  • 拝観者・はいかんしゃ: a visitor

I visited the temple in December, I remember the big waterway that passes through the complex of Nanzen-ji and the impressive main gate of the temple.

Mainichi survey: 31% against revision of article 9 of the Constitution

As we can see in this article 自民改憲案 自衛隊明記、賛否割れる 反対31%、賛成27%, Abe is not receiving public support concerning the revision of article 9 of the Constitution.

  • 改憲案・かいけんあん: draft of constitutional amendment
  • 明記・めいき: writing expressly, clearly mention
  • 賛否・さんぴ: approval and disapproval, for and against

To summarise briefly, article 9 of the Constitution states that Japan renounces war and does not maintain war potential. However, Japan does have armed forces called the Self-Defense Force (SDF). Abe would like to mention them clearly in the Constitution by adding a clause to article 9.

The survey results are:

  • 賛成 27%
  • 反対 31%
  • わからない 29%
  • 無回答13%

The Constitution was enacted on May, 3rd 1947. I wasn’t aware of the fact that the Constitution Memorial Day (this year on Thursday 3rd) was a part of the Golden Week!

  • 憲法記念日・けんぽうきねんび: Constitution Memorial Day, on May, 3rd.

Despite the lack of national consensus, Abe reiterated his wish to add the SDF to the Constitution on a video message filmed on Thursday (3rd):

I am going through this article by Mainichi (安倍首相「自衛隊明記を」4野党、阻止で結束):

The core of the message is 「憲法に我が国の独立と平和を守る自衛隊をしっかりと明記し、違憲論争に終止符を打たなければならない」

  • 違憲・いけん: unconstitutionality
  • 論争・ろんそう: dispute, controversy
  • 終止符を打つ・しゅうしふをうつ: put an and to…

The controversy about the unconstitutionality of the SDF has its roots in the Constitution itself because nowhere is the SDF mentioned: 「自衛隊違憲論が存在する最大の原因は、憲法に、我が国の防衛に関する規定が全く存在しないことにある」.

The article says that Abe had recorded a similar video last year (again, for the Constitution Memorial Day). Last year, he said that he was hoping to amend the Constitution by 2020: “2020年の改正憲法施行を目指す考えを表明した”. He received so much protest that he had to drop his schedule.

In this message, Abe does not give a date, but says that things are getting more concrete: 「この1年間で憲法改正の議論は大いに活性化し、そして具体化した」

Different opposition parties held a meeting at the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park

  • 東京臨海広域防災公園・とうきょうりんかいこういきぼうさいこうえん:  Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park

The leaders of the following 4 parties were there:

  • 立憲民主党・りっけんみんしゅとう: Constitutional Democratic Party
  • 民進党・みんしんとう: Democratic Party
  • 共産党・きょうさんとう: Communist Party
  • 社民党・しゃかいみんしゅとう: Social Democratic Party

Yukio EDANO, member of the Constitutional Democratic Party and leader of the opposition said that the amendment will have more implication than what the government wants people to believe, leading to the SDF able to make war:「従来とは全く質の違う、地球の裏側で戦争ができる自衛隊になるのは明確だ。うそをつき続けるのはいいかげんにしてほしい」.

  • 枝野 幸男・えだの ゆきお: Yukio EDANO, leader of the opposition.

Conclusion

This is what I read in the news this week!

But to be honest, the piece of news that shocked me the most is related to 育児ノイローゼ. A mother killed her 2-year-old daughter by throwing her down from their balcony, on the 5th floor. I think that I first read about 育児ノイローゼ in a magazine. Later, I read a novel that was partly about it, but I didn’t think that the contents of the novel really depicted the reality. I was shocked to see that 育児ノイローゼ can indeed lead to such tragic ends…