Japanese Music: STUTS

Today, I would like to write about STUTS, an artist that I have discovered recently! 


I already mentioned STUTS in a previous post, when I was talking about another Japanese artist: Alfred Beach Sandal. STUTS and Alfred Beach Sandal have made an EP together called “ABS+STUTS”. To be honest, I am completely obsessed with this work and I have listened to nothing else for the past days! 

I was thinking of working on the lyrics, but I always stumble across parts I cannot translate or understand so I got discouraged…


STUTS is described as a “track maker”. To be honest, I don’t know what it means exactly, but guess it is something like making the instrumental backing track for other artists? He has been working with various artists and attracted attention with his first album “Pushin'” in 2016. STUTS says that he sees this album as a collection of his best works until then (source). 

In 2017, he released two EP:

  • “ABS+STUTS” featuring Alfred Beach Sandal, which is my favourite album so far. 
  • “ALLSEASON” featuring SIKK-O and Mamiko SUZUKI (鈴木真海子). This is a song from this EP:

In September this year (2018), he released his second album “Eutopia”. STUTS explains that, contrary to “Pushin'”, the album “Eutopia” is born from a real intention to create an album. The theme of “eutopia” (a place of ideal well-being) serves as axis for this work. 

In this interview for MIKKI, STUTS explains why he chose the theme “eutopia” (存在し得る完璧な場所) and not “utopia” (存在しない場所):

「そちら (eutopia)のほうが自分の思い描いてるマインドに近いと思ったんです。〈存在しない場所〉を夢見る行為の魅力もわかるのですが、自分はこの作品を作りはじめたとき、どちらかと言うと理想とする場所や状態に行きたいというモードだったので、それを〈存在しない場所〉と言ってしまうのは希望がない感じがすると思ったんですね。

I personally like this album very much, particularly the instrumental tracks! There are 8 instrumental tracks, and 8 tracks featuring other artists. List of the tracks and where to buy on STUTS’ official website.

That’s it! Two days before the JLPT, why not chill out with some good music? 😄

Film review: 『犬に名前をつける日』by Akane YAMADA

『犬に名前をつける日』(official website) is a “documentary drama” by director Akane YAMADA (山田あかね) that was released in Japan in 2015. It features Satomi KOBAYASHI (小林聡美) and Takaya KAMIKAWA (上川隆也).

Akane YAMADA is a film director for the television. When her dog dies in 2010, her friend and mentor Nobuko SHIBUYA (渋谷昶子) suggests that Akane YAMADA should make a film about dogs. This is what triggered the project, and 4 years of shooting and more than 200 hours of film later, the documentary drama 『犬に名前をつける日』was born.

『犬に名前をつける日』is mainly a documentary on people who work to rescue dogs and cats, but it is also more than that. We follow a television director, Kanami KUNO (久野かなみ) who lost her dog and starts a documentary on stray dogs and the people who help them. But while the protagonist’s story is based on Akane YAMADA’s own life and work, her role is played by the actress Satomi KOBAYASHI.

When I saw the film, I thought it was a traditional documentary, and I was convinced that the person I saw on the screen was also the film director. Satomi KOBAYASHI’s performance was so good I completely fell for it, haha. I was dumbfounded when I found out that she is actually just an actress playing the role of a film director. 

This gives an interesting dimension to the film, with pure documentary scenes (the persons who work in shelters are really themselves, they are not played by actors), and drama elements. 

The film tells the story of a woman who lost her dog and thousands of dogs and cats who lost their home. It explores different places where people do what they can to save as many lives as possible. From a shelter where stray dogs only have a limited amount of time to be found by their owner or to be adopted before they are killed, to an elderly care home where residents are allowed to come with their pet, the film brings us to completely different places. But a common factor is always here: the people who work to bring dogs and human together.

The film also shows a reality that I was not really aware of before: the thousands of pets (and livestock) left behind after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Apparently, people who fled their home in the area around Fukushima were not allowed to bring their pets with them in the shelters. Yuri NAKATANI (中谷百里) visited the devastated areas around Fukushima after the catastrophe and saved as many dogs and cats she could. She and her team take care of them all in the big-scaled shelter 犬猫みなしご救援隊.

From people who abandon their pet without second thought to people whose happiness depends on the presence of their loving companion, the film explores every corner of the dog-human relationship. But contrary to an animal abandonment ad campaign, the film does not try to pull the emotional strings by showing poignant images of dogs with tears in their eyes. I find that it remains decent all the time, showing the reality as it is, with its good and bad (though this does not mean it won’t make you cry). If this topic interests you, you really must watch this film!

This is the trailer with English subtitles. The English title is “Dogs Without Names” and it was screened in the UK, but I don’t know if it was released in other countries outside Japan. 

Film review: 『すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん』by Osamu MINORIKAWA

Note: I am giving up the “Japanese immersion” format of my previous Friday post. Last Friday, I wrote about Japanese music only and I liked how the post turned out. From now on, the Friday post will be devoted to only one topic like music, films, drama and other cultural things. Let’s start with a film review!

『すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん』(official site) is a film directed by Osamu MINORIKAWA (御法川 修), featuring Ko SHIBASAKI (柴咲 コウ), Yoko MAKI
真木 よう子) and Shinobu TERAJIMA (寺島 しのぶ). While it has an English title (Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship), I don’t know if it came out in many countries outside Japan. In Korea, it was released under the title 
결혼하지 않아도 괜찮을까, which means something like: “would it be okay not to marry?”.

Here is the trailer:

I don’t think that I would have had wanted to watch this film if it weren’t an adaptation from the series of 4-koma manga 『すーちゃん』by Miri MASUDA. As far as I know, there are 4 books in this series. I love Miri MASUDA’s work and 『すーちゃん』is not only one of my favourite books, but also one of the very first books/manga I was able to read in Japanese.

The 『すーちゃん』series by Miri MASUDA

Sue, Mai and Sawa are in their thirties and none of them is married. Sue lives alone and works in a café, Mai is working in an office, she also lives alone and is in a relationship with a married man. Finally, Sawa lives with her mother and her old grandmother who needs constant care. As we follow them in their daily life, we see them struggle with self-doubt and anxiety concerning the future, but they are always willing to give the best of themselves in their work, their family and relationships. This story is about life, choice and regrets, a little about love, a lot about friendship. In this respect, it is very close to the book.

However, I found that Miri MASUDA’s work had a much broader impact. Even if you are not a woman in her mid-thirties, working and wondering if she should get married, it is easy to identify with Sue. Everything she says and thinks can resonate with a lot of people. I could easily identify myself with her. The drawing style of Miri MASUDA also helps to connect. She leaves a lot of room for the reader’s projection and imagination to complete. 

We often see the protagonist coming home from work thinking how tired they are. Who cannot relate to that?

A film adaptation was bound to give its own interpretation of the blank space left by Miri MASUDA, and it didn’t quite fit my own vision of Sue and her friends. I felt that I could not possibly identify myself with any of the characters, and felt like an outsider. This is why I didn’t like the beginning of the film.

However, I soon stopped comparing the film with the books and started to enjoy the film for itself. It is a very good film if you like this kind of lighthearted sentimental comedy-drama that makes you smile and cry and smile again. I am not a fan of the genre myself but I loved all the aspects of Japanese society you get to see in this film. Some attitudes and decisions are truly beyond understanding for a Western mind (or maybe it was just me.) 

I also liked how the film reflects on happiness, showing that it depends less on the path we choose than our attitude towards it. When facing a major choice for our life, it would be easy if one were labelled “happiness and fulfillment” and the other one “regrets and melancholy”. But it is not as easy and every step we take certainly brings a little of all of these with it. This is why change is both exciting and frightening and the film makes you eager to see how the three friends will deal with it.

While I don’t usually like this kind of film, I watched this one with interest and commitment. It is easy to sympathise with the characters, and the film shows interesting aspects of the Japanese conception of marriage. All in all, I enjoyed watching it very much, but I do prefer Miri MASUDA’s comics!

Japanese Immersion: November week 1

This post will be short because I have done nothing interesting this week to study or get immersed in Japanese. I have only studied Anki and I have written a short text in Japanese every day (a little more than the half of an A6 page).

I would like to say that I have been busy, but I haven’t. I just didn’t want to study Japanese this week, I was more into journaling, writing and drawing. The good thing is that I listened to some Japanse music while doing these activities, and here are some songs that I particularly like:

First of all, my favourite singer on this list: Alfred Beach Sandal. I like his album Unknown Moments, but my favourite song is “Horizon” from the EP ABS+STUTS:

I find that this is a song perfect to listen to while drawing, I can’t stop hitting the “repeat” button 🙂 If you like this style, you can check STUTS too (who worked with Alfred Beach Sandal on this song), but his work will be either instrumental or a collaboration with other artists that won’t all sing in Japanese. I personally like his album Eutopia.

I have also discovered Paris Match that I like a lot. This is a song from 2005, it’s called “Desert Moon” and is from the album PM2:

In spite of the desert theme, I found this song perfect to listen to on a rainy day like we had yesterday.

Let’s move to some more recent productions with Asako TOKI (土岐 麻子). I don’t like all her songs, but I do like her interpretation of jazz classics and I particularly enjoyed “Black Savanna” from the album Safari (released this year):

If you want to chill out with some good Japanese background, you can check Ohashi Trio (大橋トリオ). I think that in spite of the name, Ohashi Trio is not a band but a guy alone, Yoshinori OHASHI (大橋 好規). He made some interesting interpretations of American pop/rock songs. This is “Honey”, which I think appears in several albums. I chose this one because I like the video clip, but if you like it, you will certainly like his other songs as well:

Last but not least, one of my best discoveries this week: VIDEOTAPEMUSIC (except for collaborations, his work will be mostly instrumental). This is the song “Hong Kong Night View” from the album Souvenir. I think that this album was released in 2015 in Japan under the title “世界各国の夜” and this year outside Japan under the title “Souvenir” (but I may be mistaken). This song is featuring Sansuke YAMADA (山田参助):

This song reminds me of the film In the Mood for Love, that’s why I like it so much I guess!

(all these songs are available on iTunes)

And that’s it for today’s post. I spent the whole week unwilling to study Japanese. I haven’t read the news, I haven’t continued the drama I started, and I have barely opened my books (I haven’t read a lot and I am far behind my schedule for my reading goals of November). I guess it happens sometimes, and there are always some ways to stay in touch with the language that won’t feel like studying, music is a great example! Let’s hope I will be back to study next week!

Japanese Immersion: October week 5

As I mentioned on Monday, I have finished watching the 10 episodes drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』and I have started a new one this week! I also continued reading the political magazine Sapio.

Japanese drama

シグナル: final thoughts

I have watched maybe 4 or 5 Korean drama entirely in my life and started dozens of them without being able to make it through the first episode. Korean dramas are not for me, even though the story of most of them appeals to me, I just don’t like watching them.

The same happened for the drama “Signal” when I tried watching the Korean original version when it came out. I have watched I think 3 episodes, but I found most of the scenes too long and the main character irritating. These and other little things made me give up this highly acclaimed, suspenseful and remarkably well-written drama.


Written by Kim Eun-hee. Starring Kentaro SAKAGUCHI, Michiko KICHISE and Kazuki KITAMURA

The Japanese remake is a condensed version of the Korean one. While the Korean version has 16 episodes of 1 hour (more or less), the Japanese remake has only 10 episodes of 45 minutes. I felt that the remake had kept the best of the drama (the story) and compressed everything else, especially the action scenes or the sentimental ones. I can understand that some people like the Korean version better because they like having such scenes in a drama. But to me, the Japanese remake was perfect. The main character, the profiler Saegusa, was also more modest or less arrogant than his Korean counterpart, another point that I appreciated.

I recommend the Japanese remake of “Signal”, most of all because it has a fantastic story. While a team is working on unsolved cases in 2018, a mysterious walkie talkie allows one of the team, the profiler Saegusa, to communicate with a police officer living at the time the murders occurred. Of course, changing anything in the past has repercussions in the present. I found that the intrications between past and present were extremely well thought, resulting in a suspenseful and original investigation drama.

Currently watching: 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』


One of my November goals, which was to find a new drama to watch, is already achieved thanks to v0x (from polyphonic v0x) who recommended 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』to me.

『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』is originally a series of light mystery novels by En MIKAMI (三上延). The drama is an adaptation of the first 4 volumes of this series, starring Ayame GORIKI (剛力 彩芽) as the owner of an impressive antiquarian bookshop.

When I heard that the drama was about solving mysteries resolving around literature and books, I immediately felt that this was a drama for me. I watched the first episode and loved it!

I liked the characters, the actors, the story, the mystery in it and the humour. But what really surprised me is how easy it was to understand. I am not saying that I understand everything the first time I hear it, but I can understand almost everything if I listen to it several times. That is because the characters speak so clearly. Particularly, Ayame GORIKI has a way of speaking that is a real pleasure to listen to. She speaks slowly enough, pronounces all the sounds clearly and has an agreeable voice too. I felt greatly encouraged when I watched the first episode and realised that I could understand most of it without subtitles.

I think that I will use this drama to study like I did with シグナル because I feel that doing it improved my listening a lot.

I am also curious about the light novels, maybe I will get one of them! Anyway, I am very grateful to v0x for the recommendation!

About Emperor Hirohito

I am still reading the issue 9.10 2018 of the magazine Sapio about the Emperor of Japan.

The article I read this week was written by historian Ikuhiko HATA and was about Emperor Hirohito. Ikuhito HATA is a renowned historian, but also a polemic one.  I don’t know much about him though, except that he minimises the extent of the massacre of Nanking and the comfort women issue by giving numbers of victims that are far below the ones usually cited. For example, he states that 30,000 persons were killed in Nanking, while Iris Chang, the author of The Rape of Nanking, gives the figure of 300,000. As for the comfort women issue, he protested with other historians against an American publisher who stated that there were 200,000 comfort women. Ikuhito HATA gives the figure of only 20,000. He also said incredible things like, “Prostitutes have existed at every time in human history, so I do not believe that comfort women are a special category“.

With this in mind, I read his article on Emperor Hirohito. If I understood it correctly, this article tends to show that Hirohito was powerless in front of the military and the cabinet. As a consequence, his attempts to favour diplomacy over military action were not taken into account, what the Emperor said was regarded as mere “感想” but didn’t have any political repercussion.

On September 6th, 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the cabinet held a meeting in the presence of Hirohito to discuss the attitude to adopt against the American. During this meeting, Hirohito tried to seek a resolution via diplomacy (instead of military attack), but “明らかに天皇の意向が無視されている”:

Hata says, “しかしこの発言 (the Emperor’s) は政策決定にまったく影響を与えず単なる天皇の「ご感想」に終わってしまう” and two lines further, repeats “立憲君主制の主旨からすれば、たとえ天皇の発言があっても、決定に影響を与えない「感想」として扱われたのである。”

The whole article then shows that what the Emperor said was not always taken into account. One picture has the caption “軍部は天皇の意向にしたがわないことも多かった”. So even the army was not always following the intention of the Emperor.

Worse, the Emperor’s words are used by politicians as they please, following it when it goes in their direction and ignoring it when it does not. Hata says, “戦前のエリートたちは、天皇の言葉を都合よく使い分けていたのである。” and “石も左も、自分に都合のよい天皇の発言は利用し、気に入らない発言はなかったことにする。その点については、戦前も戦後もあまり変わっていない”

All citations are from Sapio magazine, issue of 9.10 2018, “武器は言葉のみ―昭和天皇は戦い続けた” by Ikuhiko HATA (秦郁彦)

This image of an Emperor preaching for diplomacy in vain, ignored by the cabinet and the army, is far from the Emperor Herbert P. Bix describes in his biography Hirohito, and the Making of Modern Japan, that I am currently reading. I haven’t reached WWII, not even the Sino-Japanese war, but Bix says in the introduction, “From late 1937 onward Hirohito gradually became a real war leader, influencing the planning, strategy, and conduct of operations in China and participating in the appointment and promotion of the highest generals and admirals. From late 1940, when more efficient decision-making machinery was in place, he made important contributions during each stage of policy review, culminating in the opening of hostilities against the United States and Great Britain in December 1941. (…) Slowly but surely he became caught up in the fever of territorial expansion and war.” (p. 12).

Hata follows what Hirohito himself said after the war, namely that he tried in vain to prevent war but could not succeed for constitutional reasons. Bix cites the Emperor’s words, “As a constitutional monarch under a constitutional government, I could not avoid approving the decision of the Tojo cabinet at the time of the opening of hostilities” (p.3). This echoes Hata’s statement cited above “立憲君主制の主旨からすれば、たとえ天皇の発言があっても、決定に影響を与えない「感想」として扱われたのである”. But Bix continues by saying “They (Hirohito and his aides) skillfully crafted a text designed to lead to the conclusion that he had always been a British-style constitutional monarch and a pacifist. Hirohito omitted mention of how he and his aides had helped the military to become an enormously powerful political force pushing for arms expansion (…). He was silent too about how he had encouraged the belligerency of his people by serving as an active ideological focus of a new emperor-centred nationalism that had grown up around him”(p.4)

I find it absolutely stimulating to compare what historians like Hata and Bix say about the emperor. I am glad to be able to read such articles in Japanese because I was curious to see how conservative historians in Japan presents the history of their country. I still have a lot of work to do to be able to read History books in Japanese, but I felt that this article was the first step!

This part ended up being much longer than planned 😅.

Thank you for reading, have a nice weekend!

Japanese Immersion: October week 4

The more I write these Friday posts, the more I doubt whether “immersion” is the good term for them. Initially, I wanted to create a Japanese environment around me to be sure that I was absorbing as much Japanese as possible.

I find this harder to achieve than I had imagined. The problem is not the lack of things to listen to or read in Japanese (on the contrary!), but my own disposition. I am more keen on absorbing cultural/entertaining contents in English than in Japanese. Furthermore, I have realised that a passive immersion in the language does not help me that much. Letting a Japanese audio run the whole day long won’t make me progress in my listening abilities if I don’t consciously listen to it. As a result, I found that working on an audio for 1 hour is more useful than hearing Japanese all day long without making an effort to understand it.

Anyway, this is what I did this week!

シグナル: reached episode 8!

The drama『シグナル』will certainly be the first Japanese drama that I watch entirely! Only 2 episodes to go. I am very happy about it because my attempts to watch Japanese drama have seen me going from frustration to frustration. 『シグナル』is a drama that I like watching for its story, I also like the actors, and I can understand most of what is said. Towards the end, however, we have to bear with good ones that are ridiculously good and bad ones that are ridiculously bad, but… I still enjoy the drama.

I have transcribed the episode 7 and 8 and with the exception of some scenes (always involving the same characters), I could write down a good amount of what was said. The length of 45 minutes is perfect to me. Writing down also made me more confident with a lot of kanji. When I started this exercise, I had to check the writing of a lot of kanji, but now I can write most of them without looking them up first.

Sapio magazine

I talked last week about a political magazine I bought because it has a dossier on the Emperor.

I have read the second article of the dossier, which was on the Empress. As I mentioned last week, every article is written by a different historian/academician, so the writing style is different. I found this second article to be very easy to read, more than the first one. I did have to look up several words and check some references on Wikipedia, but except for one or two passages, I can say that I understood it very well.

I really appreciate working on paper rather than reading on my phone. I can write down vocabulary and notes, and this is what the article looks like once I have studied it:

Sapio 9.10 2018 (pp 16-17)

I think that this amount of vocabulary and references search is okay. I don’t have so many things to look up that I would feel discouraged, but I still have the feeling that I am studying, making progress in reading and learning new words or facts. For example, the article mentions the Japanese colonists settled in Manchuria and their difficult journey back to Japan after the capitulation. This is an episode that I didn’t know well and I have read more about it since then.

That’s it for this week! It is not as much a continuous immersion than targeted study sessions, but no matter the form it takes, the most important thing is to devote some time every day to the language we learn!

Japanese Immersion: October week 3

This week, I mostly read magazines! I bought the autumn edition of the 趣味の文具箱 and a magazine called Sapio.


This magazine is all about fountain pens and ink. The issue 47 is called 『万年筆インクの知りたいこと』and is all about ink. You will find in it interesting charts and analysis, as well as the new colours available in Japan. I particularly liked the “user’s ink life” section where are displayed how people use their ink to write, draw and keep ink journals.

It is not the best magazine to practice reading because it is often enough to look at the many pictures, charts or writing samples. I try to force myself to always read the captions and additional explanations. But even without a heavy reading practice, I think that there is nothing better than associating one’s hobby with the language you are learning. You will naturally feel motivated to read and understand something if it is about your hobby, and the language will be associated with positive feelings as well.

The site ei-publishing has a lot of magazines that cover all sorts of hobbies. You can buy the digital version if you can access one of the e-book platform mentioned here. I haven’t tried it myself, so I don’t know if it works well.


I bought this magazine because it was about the Emperor and the end of Heisei, a topic that interests me. However, I didn’t know if Sapio was a right or left-wing magazine, a progressist or conservative one. On Wikipedia, I read that the magazine is mainly about international issues, but will occasionally talk about internal politics or affairs. They say that the tone is conservative and that the editorial line adopts a critical position against China and Korea when it comes to human rights, freedom of the press or the anti-Japanese movements. They also often write about North Korea. Indeed, looking at the past issues shows a focus on China and North and South Korea.

Yemeni refugees in Jeju Island

The issue I have confirms what I read on Wikipedia. The first article is about the Yemeni refugees who have landed on Jeju island in South Korea at a time when Yemeni could enter the island without a visa. Since then, the government has removed Yemen from the list of countries whose nationals could enter Jeju island freely, and the population is demonstrating in Jeju and in Seoul against the presence of some hundreds of refugees on the island.

The magazine gives voice to the ones who support and help the refugees and the ones who are against them. The latter call them “fake refugees” and display mistrust against Islam. Someone said that accepting refugees is a duty if they are real refugees, but the Yemeni are “fake” ones and the government should think of the citizens’ “safety”. A woman says that she is afraid for her 9-year-old daughter because she knows that it is common to marry early in Yemen… (seriously?)

Among the ones who help the Yemeni, someone mentions that inhabitants of Jeju island themselves have sought asylum after the Jeju uprising in 1948. At the time, 10% of the island’s population died, and around 40,000 inhabitants sought asylum in Japan.

Further reading: an interesting article on this topic in The Guardian.

Dossier on the Emperor

But of course, the main topic of the magazine is the Emperor. I have just started the dossier so I cannot say a lot about its contents. The dossier contains several articles each written by a different academician. This makes it a little difficult to read because you have to get used to a different writing style for each article.

The first article is about Emperor Akihito (other articles are more historical) and shows how important each of the Emperor’s words is for the people. If I understood correctly, the article says that Emperor Akihito addressed the nation on a television broadcast after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It was the first time since the capitulation of 1945 that the nation heard the Emperor’s voice on a broadcasting system. The author of the article says that Emperor Akihito’s voice embodied the description of Japan as “the land where the mysterious workings of language bring bliss” as found in an ancient poem.

This is only one example of the interesting things I found in the article. It is a little hard to read, but reading on paper allows me to take notes and write down vocabulary. I don’t know why, but I always feel more confident when I have a pen in hand and can take notes.

There are seven articles in the dossier, I make it a challenge to read them all!

Japanese Immersion: October week 2

I have been a little sick this week and haven’t done much for my Japanese.

First of all, I was a little disappointed, when I watched the 5th episode of the drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』, to find it very difficult to understand. I thought I had made progress, and it is discouraging to realise that I still have to struggle as soon as the actors speak a little faster or use difficult words. Not feeling well certainly did not help me because I was not willing to put in the extra effort and look up words as I would have done otherwise.

I also watched the first episode of 『流星の絆』. I have finished the novel by Keigo HIGASHINO and wanted to have a look at the drama, but I didn’t like it. It is a good listening practice though, so I might continue to watch it, but I don’t like it enough to study it or listen to it several times. As they made 10 episodes out of a single novel, they had to add scenes, and I think that the result is very far from Higashino’s book. The drama may follow the main story, but the atmosphere is very different. They made what looks like a family drama out of a detective novel, and I was not convinced by the acting.

I had a headache all week long, so this is all that I have done for my Japanese this week…

Japanese Immersion - October week 2-1

Japanese Immersion: October week 1

Watching a drama, at last!

I finally found a drama I like: the Japanese remake of the Korean drama “Signal”: 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』. It is about a police investigation team specialised on old unsolved cases. A walkie-talkie allows one of the members of the team to communicate with one of the detectives from the past, who is living at the time when the murders they are working on were committed.

I have always tried to watch romance or daily life comedy because they are easier to understand than dramas with a criminal investigation that are set in a police environment. The problem is that I don’t usually like romance and comedy while I would buy anything even remotely connected with a police investigation.

While it can be wise to choose something at your level and force yourself a little bit to study it even if it does not interest you, this method does not work for me. If the drama does not interest me, even if I can feel that it helps me to improve my listening skills, I won’t be able to watch it. On the contrary, I will be motivated to provide the extra effort to study something above my level if it really speaks to me.

This is what I did with シグナル, and it was worth it!

I watched the first episode and understood very little of what was said. I watched the second episode and studied it afterwards:

  • I listen to each scene and try to write down what they say.
  • I try to look up words I don’t understand, either by listening (I look up what I think I hear) or by guessing (if I know from the context what word they must have used, I look up this word in English in my English-Japanese dictionary). This sometimes happens when I cannot make out what they say because they speak too fast or do not articulate enough.

Then I watched the third episode and understood it much better than I did the two preceding ones. I was glad to see that my listening had improved a little and that working on one episode hadn’t been in vain.

Note: I like the Japanese version much better than the Korean one. There is always something in Korean dramas that I don’t like, though it is hard to describe what it is exactly. The Japanese version also has shorter episodes, which suits me better.

Japanese News

Reading the news has become much easier since I have buried myself in the LDP election thing.

One of the major topics now is Abe’s new government (which is more or less the same as before, with the exception of 13 resignations) and Abe’s desire to speed up the discussions to amend the Constitution. If I understand correctly, Abe will have to present his amendment draft to the Diet and convince two-thirds of each house. If two-thirds of the members of both houses approve it, it can go to a referendum.

In Korea, media are watching this very attentively and are prompt to large interpretations: a Korean newspaper (and it is not the only one) describes the constitutional amendment as a step towards a Japan capable of doing war「戦争可能な国に」, even though Abe’s proposition is to keep the first (stating that Japan renounces war) and second paragraphs unchanged and only add a clear mention of the Self-Defense Forces who already exist anyway.

Another dispute is taking place between Korea and Japan concerning the Rising Sun flag, which was the flag of the Imperial Army and is now flown by the Maritime Self-Defense Force. For Korea, this flag is the symbol of Japan’s past militarism. This month, there will be an international fleet review taking place in Korea and the host does not want the Japanese ships to use the Rising Sun flag. Japan Defense Minister said they would, and so on.

There were two other topics that interested me recently. First, the magazine 新潮45 was forced to suspend its publication because of the many critics it received. This magazine published a politician in August who expressed discriminatory contents against the LGBT community. This had raised criticism. Instead of excuses, the magazine published a special issue (October) to defend this politician. One of the authors who contributed to this issue put the LGBT on the same level of sexual perverts! This issue raised even more criticism from readers. Some authors stopped their contribution to the magazine while some bookshops refused to sell books from the publisher 新潮社. The publishing house finally made public excuses, suspended the publication of the magazine and imposed a 10% reduction of salary to the magazine’s director and the editor in chief. The magazine made this unfortunate editorial choice in its attempt to increase its sales by targeting a certain audience. (several articles on this topic here)

The second topic is a trial that takes place in Sapporo. Kikuo KOJIMA, who had been sterilised by force when he was 19, is taking the State to court and asks for a financial reparation. He accuses the States of having violated the Constitution which guarantees each citizen’s right to seek happiness. What was noticeable is that efforts were made to allow persons with reduced mobility, persons with visual or hearing impairment and mentally challenged persons to access the trial. More than half of the seats in the tribunal’s room were adapted to allow an access to wheelchairs, a sign language interpreter was there, and two monitors transcribed what was being said. The participants were asked to speak slowly and in a way that would be easy to understand. The judge, who usually speaks fast, adopted a slower pace and added explanations to the legal terms he used. (several articles on this topic here)


I am very happy with the modest progress of my listening, I plan to work a little more on it this weekend!

Japanese immersion: September week 4

To be exact, this post should be entitled Japanese non-immersion because the week was a complete disaster. I have been busy with other things and could not even hold to my weekly challenge (it was listening and repeating lines of Isao TAKAHATA’s film Only Yesterday). As for immersion, there was almost none, apart from some usual things I do like listening to a video in Japanese while cooking, but then I don’t really listen with attention.

慰謝料弁護士~あなたの涙、お金に変えましょう~The only active step that I took was to watch the first episode of a Japanese drama. I chose 『慰謝料弁護士~あなたの涙、お金に変えましょう~』because it was on the list of the popular Japanese drama of our VOD’s catalogue. As almost every first episode of a drama is available for free on this VOD, I took the resolution, some months ago, to watch as many first episodes as possible until I find a drama worth watching and paying for.

So I watched the first episode of this drama but it was not a success. I can see the appeal of such dramas, but it is not for me. While I did find some scenes funny, I don’t think that I want to pay to watch the rest or even spend time watching it.

During the whole episode, I was annoyed and wanted to stop but at the same time, I thought it was a good listening practice and continued to watch it. But then I felt irritated because now that I had one hour free to do some Japanese I was watching a drama I didn’t like instead of doing something more productive or at least interesting. This frustration prevented me from actually listening to the drama and I could not even take advantage of my listening session. I ended up even more frustrated, with the feeling that I had lost my time.

Japanese immersion - september week 4-2

Oh well, I guess this kind of things happens, and it will soon be forgotten! I really felt depressed that day but upon the years of this learning Japanese adventure, a wasted week is hardly something worth writing about.

And I will finish this post on a positive note. When I ended the episode and returned to the catalogue, I saw the drama シグナル (2018) which is a remake of the Korean drama of the same name – 시그널 (2016). I tried to watch the Korean version when it came out, and while I found the story very interesting and wanted to watch the whole drama, for some reason, I didn’t.

I can’t wait to watch it in Japanese now, and I am excited to have found a drama that I really want to watch for itself and not just to practice Japanese.

I’ll start watching it this weekend!

Japanese drama trailer. The complete name of the Japanese remake is 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』:

Original Korean drama trailer (in Japanese):