Category Archives: Japanese

my everyday Japanese language experiences.

Japanese Sake: Nihonshu vs Shōchū

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This is a deeper dive, based on the previous article  Alcohol in Japan: A Public Service Announcement. Read the rest of this entry

Alcohol in Japan: A Public Service Announcement

I was at an izakaya with a few friends in Tokyo when a guy (non-Japanese) a few tables down started yelling in Japanese about wanting some sake. He was pretty upset since he was speaking in Japanese, yet the waiter still didn’t know what he wanted and kept asking him what he wanted… Read the rest of this entry

Japanese and me, so far [part 3] (IS 5)

Once in Japan I was hit by culture shock in varying degrees depending on the situation.  I was also horribly nervous and could hardly say a few words to figure out where I was supposed to go to pick up my luggage, let alone have a conversation.  Within a week I was able to hold a shaky conversation and after a month, I was talking to everyone and anyone I could.  I had always been Read the rest of this entry

“Why do we go to Japan?” [Study Abroad]


As I continue to plan my study abroad in Japan I am frequently asked a series of questions by both close friends and family, as well as by complete strangers.  The main questions tend to be  ” why do you study Japanese?”, “what interests you in Japan?” and of course the  “why did you/ why will you be going to Japan?”  One of my close friends that are also planning to go abroad to Japan found an article in The Japan Timesonline called “Why we came to Japan — a different realm” that  really blew me away with a way to explain our decisions.  If you know me and were wondering this, you are thinking about why you yourself would consider going to Japan, or if this is just something you would like to know, I recommend you read this.

In case the link does not work, I will paste a copy of this article by  AMY CHAVEZ


“Why did you come to Japan?” We’ve all been asked this question. I still can’t give a good answer.

I certainly know why I came here, but such a point-blank question, usually from someone you hardy know, calls for an equal and reticent answer. Thus, we tend to say what we think our questioner wants to hear: “I came to work,” or “I came to teach English,” etc. But our reasons for coming to Japan are likely more profound. After all, most of us could have stayed in our own countries to work. Some of our predecessors came to fight wars, occupy and help rebuild. Others came seeking a better life. But my generation came to study, to teach, to experience or sometimes just to understand their own ancestors.

Some of us are running away from something at home: love, family, or responsibility. Some of us are the first in our family to ever go abroad. Others are living the life their parents only dreamed of. And some of us are doing nothing of the sort. But one thing is for sure: We came to Japan because we wanted to step into a different realm.

We were bright, we were young, we were full of wonder. We wanted to know: What’s out there? We wanted to step off the airplane and feel the first moonstones beneath our feet. And even now, when we go home, people ask us: What’s it like over there?

We came to Japan because we wanted to know what it’s like to walk down her streets, to feel the history of the samurai, or the sexiness of a geisha sashaying in geta. We came to have our photos taken in front of torii gates and temples and to seek the meaning of dragons, giant Buddhas and ancient Shinto ways.

And this we share with others who have been doing for centuries, just like my great grandfather did when he came to Japan. He purchased Japanese kimono for his two young daughters and when he returned to the U.S., he dressed them and took their photos. This brief, unlikely moment — of my grandmother and her sister as young girls, wearing kimono and holding a parasol between them — is indelible in my mind now because of this photo that hung on the wall in the house I grew up in.

And when we arrive in Japan, depending on our expectations, we either reach for the life jacket or we jump into the rescue boat. We either choose assisted swimming, or a complete return to safety. Some of us will be wowed by the country while others will be disappointed. Some of us will be fascinated and intrigued to the point of wanting to prolong the adventure, while others will prefer to retrace their steps, returning to security of home and family.

Those of us who are frustrated because we can’t find the right shampoo, that we can’t do even the simplest transaction at the bank, or who don’t like sucking up to their bosses, will go home soon. Those of us who are fascinated by all the different kinds of shampoo, and will buy even the last odd bottle on the shelf of the old ladies’ decrepit corner shop, will stay.

Those of us who have a taste for seafood appendages will stay while those repulsed by the same will leave. Those who see the language as a challenge to embrace will stay while those who fear the language barrier, unless they find an assistant, may leave. Those who fall in love will stay while those who don’t may leave.

But we all enjoy our stint living in Japan, a cradle of politeness. Politeness, so often a case of mistaken identity, is not the Please-Thank you kind of politeness, but culturally defined by roles, manuals and rigorous training. Walk into any restaurant and the Way of Politeness orchestra begins. Yet some of us will condemn this politeness for its lack of sincerity. Some will insist that a smile should be genuine. So some of us will go back to where we came from, where the people may be more rude, but they are sincere in their rudeness.

Others of us will understand that the fake politeness is exactly the point. We aren’t always polite because we want to be polite, but because we should be polite. If someone says something we disagree with, is it our duty to disagree? Or can we just quietly, politely, accept their views even though they are not our own?

When we learn Japanese, one of the first things we are told is not to use the word hate. It is too strong. And so it is, in any language. Yet in English it so freely rolls off the tongue: I hate fish! I hate school! I hate that guy! Can we be proud of hating something? Isn’t hate, rather, a sign of weakness?

Japan teaches us that there are many ways to act and react. And that we are not limited to our own. We are presented with a plethora of discernments we never thought we had before, notions of ganbaru (doing our best), shoganai (leaving some things to fate) and kawaii (cuteness). We are challenged by concepts long forgotten such as shyness, stoicism, and modesty. Some peculiarities we may never understand such as shrill female voices, obsession with character goods and the next TV tarento. Yet these are the moonstones we’ve stepped onto as we stepped into this other realm. You don’t have to choose them. But then again, you can.

We all had that curiosity — what’s out there?

So when we do go home, if we do go home, we are changed. That’s why we came to Japan.

OK, on to the next question, “How long stay Japan?”




I had hoped to receive a few major scholarships but I have actually lost one that I have had for the last 3 years.  Thankfully I have my 2 part-time jobs and I’m getting decent hours.

I have decided against a home-stay since I will only be in Japan for one semester and the time spent commuting back and forth to campus would be draining and I think I would miss out on a lot of opportunities.  I look forward to meeting and getting to know the people from around the world in the Seminar houses of KGU.  I still have so many unknown factors that will play into this but I am a cup half full kind of guy and I like to think that everything will work out in the end, especially if you have put everything you could into making it work.

As a Martial Artist I have been considering joining a martial arts club or circle at Kansai Gaidai.  A club is very different at KGU than it is at UMass.  I have heard that clubs in Japan are more like the USA university varsity teams as they have 3 hour practices, 6 days a week.  While “circles” in Japan are more like our clubs, meeting up several times a week but not as often or as intensely as the clubs do.

I am also concerned with my Japanese levels as I think that my listening and comprehension skills are the most lacking, I will likely need that the most.  Who know’s, one step at a time.

Study Abroad: Japan

I just received my Official Certificate of Eligibility for study abroad in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University (関西外国語大学).  This is the third time I am trying to study abroad in college and so far something has come up or changed to make it so I was unable to go.  At the moment I have several challenges in front of me before I can call this definite but I have put everything on the line for this to work. I have purchased round trip plane tickets through United Airlines, I have withdrawn from my UMass dorm, been removed from UMass courses, and there is no turning back now.  I am so happy that I am actually following through with this, but it is not without it’s risks.

Studying abroad in college is a hassle …

When I first started the study abroad applications at my university i thought that it would be pretty straight forward.  I would fill out a college application, similar to what i did for my current university in the USA, get a few letters of recommendation, print out an official transcript, and I would be on my merry way.

I was completely wrong.  The application process is full of interviews, tons of different applications, checking every last penny making sure you can afford to pay for every last thing, getting signatures from every other office on campus, and too much more.

Although I think it will be completely worth it in the end, once I am actually IN Japan, yet as of now it is taking a serious mental strain to keep up with everything.

I think keeping up to date about the process when I have time can be an interesting project, especially if everything goes according to plan.


The Japanese That Japanese People Don’t Know (日本人の知らないの日本語) Review

series picture

Alright everyone, I started watching “The Japanese That Japanese People Don’t Know” (「日本人の知らないの日本語」)my expectations were not too high to begin with, and I thought that I would become bored pretty fast from the title… But was I ever WRONG!

This Japanese Drama blew me out of the water with the great mix of personalities, playful attitude, seriousness when needed, tons of interesting aspects of Japan and daily life, and not to mention actual Japanese Language pointers!  If you are looking for something to get into where you can watch it more than once, this is a definite 5 out of 5 on my list.  What I really enjoyed the most out of this series was how it showed a group of people of all ages working for their dreams and all the struggles that were part of their journeys.

I can get more in-depth if anyone is interested on specifics, or talking about favorite parts, but only if you ask! 😉

So far we are off to a great start, and there are still about 30 different titles left for me to check out.  If there is anything in particular that you feel is worth checking out, or avoiding, let me know!

(New Idea) Japanese TV Dramas(not soap operas!!!)

In case I haven’t mentioned it before I am studying Japanese in College as one of my Majors and I have decided that I am going to watch some Japanese TV Dramas to improve my listening skills (at least) for Japanese.  I’m not sure what I’m going to write here yet, but I think i might post things that i find interesting about each episode, or series, that others might find useful, agree with, or not care about.  whatever happens I think that, at the very least, some English speakers interested in learning different methods to study or enjoy the Japanese language will get some new ideas for things to watch that are not faaaaaar too difficult for beginners to intermediate level learners to understand.

I recommend watching the shows in Japanese every time with English Subtitles.  Then once you finish an episode, re-watch it without the subtitles, or watch it again with them, but try hard not to look!!! 😉  I know it is hard but I have found that it really does help.  I have found a good 30 plus series that caught my eye.

There is no way I  will watch all of them, so I have decided to at least watch the first episode and post an opinion on them, as well as why I think what I do.  That way you don’t have to waste your time if you were thinking about checking it out.  For the ones that I like I will continue to watch them and post some random stuff on them.

The first one I have started watching that I like is called “The Japanese That Japanese People Don’t Know” also know as 「日本人の知らないの日本語」(nihonjin no shiranai no nihongo).  I think I will have my first posts up about it tomorrow if I have time.


Shotokan Karate official#1

shotokan emblem

It has begun!  I have officially started taking my Shotokan Karate classes as of January 26th, 2011  at a University close to my campus.  Sadly it isn’t offered at my own University so i have to travel a bit by car to get there, but I think it is worth it.

Since this is a beginning Shotokan course i feel that it is going a good speed for the people that have never done a martial art before, but for myself and a few others it is rather slow…  I feel kind of bad being experienced in another martial art and participating as a beginner, but those are the rules and i also enjoy learning things from the beginning.  The idea of hoping ranks is a tough subject, but i like knowing in my heart that i have everything down and being confident in every style i know.

The new terminology is alot of fun seeing as one of my majors is Japanese, so there is new vocabulary and such.

i am hoping more people show up for the next class, since the bad weather seemed to cut the class size in half of what was registered to attend.