Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

Apple Vinegar flavoured KitKat

August 11, 2009

Apple Vinegar flavoured KitKat

Fortunately it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds. Just a tangy apple flavour, with no vinegary taste at all. Quite nice, actually.

Learning Japanese with Manga

February 9, 2009

When I was learning German, the quickest way I found to pick up new vocabulary was to read everything I could get my hands on. I’d write down all the words I didn’t know, and then go and look them up in a dictionary. It worked quite well – after a few months I was able to get by.

That approach doesn’t work with Japanese, because it’s impossible to look up the words unless you already know how to pronounce the kanji, or you’re prepared to spend a long time looking them up based on stroke count or radicals.

But then the other day while I was on the train I happened to look over the shoulder of some guy and saw that he was reading a manga that was written with furigana – smaller kana printed next to a kanji to indicate its pronunciation.

So off to the bookshop I went, trying to find some furigana’d manga. No luck – they were all sealed in cellophane (to stop people just standing there and reading them) so I couldn’t check them out.

I found success at the local library though. They didn’t have much choice, but as luck would have it they did have a series based on the Nausicaä movie.


I’ve already seen the movie, so know the story already, and hopefully that’ll make it easier to follow.

Tough going so far. I haven’t even made it through the character introduction page yet…

“University Potato” flavoured KitKat

January 22, 2009

Another unusually flavoured KitKat appeared in the convenience store earlier this week. This time “University Potato” flavour.

University Potato KitKat

I have no idea what a university potato tastes like, but I would hazard a guess that it’s nothing like sickly sweet white chocolate.

The grape flavoured one was exactly the same. Well, apart from being a pale green colour instead of white. Someone on the Japanese KitKat Flickr group suggested that the different flavours that they bring out are nothing more than a marketing gimmick. If it is, it appears to be working, because there are plenty of people (including me) buying them and putting them on teh intarwebs.

These citrus flavoured ones were very nice. Unfortunately the bag I got was the last one on the shelf and I haven’t seen them again.

How to write Japanese kanji – free instructional videos for the iPhone

January 20, 2009

If you have an iPhone (or video-capable iPod), and you want to learn how to write Japanese kanji characters, have a look at this series of free videos from Emory University that are available in the iTunes store. Just search for “kanji” and you’ll find them.

Emory University's Kanji Videos in iTunes

I’ve downloaded them all to my iPhone and they’re very good. My only gripe is that I can’t watch them at the same time as listening to music.

Side rant: in iTunes why isn’t it possible to 1) select a batch of videos and download them all at once, or 2) select a batch of videos at once to synch to the iPhone? For 100-odd videos it was a pretty tedious procedure. Grrr.

Learning Japanese kanji

January 20, 2009

Here are a few links that I found to help me learn Japanese kanji:

Denshi Jisho is the best Japanese-English dictionary I’ve found on the internet. Actually, it’s the only one. Once I found it I didn’t need to look for another. Particularly useful is the “find kanji by radicals” search, where you can select the various components that make up the kanji you’re looking for, and it gradually narrows down a list of potential candidates. Which is much easier than trying to draw the kanji with the IME Pad, specially for the more complicated ones where you have no idea what the correct stroke order is.

Wiktionary is good for looking up Kanji characters or phrases. It doesn’t give as much information as Denshi Jisho but the kanji pages often have a nice animated GIF showing how to draw them.

Read The Kanji and Kanji Box are both good for kanji training. At the moment I’m finding Read The Kanji more useful for building up vocabulary rather than actually remembering the kanji characters. Both allow you to select your skill level, and keep track of your progress so you can see how well (or badly) you’re doing.

Read The Kanji

For the iPhone and iPod Touch there are a couple of pretty good free dictionary applications: Kotoba! and WA. Both include built-in dictionary data, so they work even when there’s no internet connection. I tend to use Kotoba! more often, and only revert to WA when I want to look up a kanji using the SKIP method. It’s also worth mentioning that Denshi Jisho has a fully featured iPhone optimised version (which requires internet connectivity, obviously).

The iPhone and iPod Touch don’t (as yet) support Japanese handwriting recognition, but you can get around that by enabling the Chinese Traditional handwriting in the keyboard options. It’s not a perfect solution because there are differences between the Chinese & Japanese, but it’s recognised nearly everything I’ve tried to write.

Finally, this Bimoji (beautiful handwriting) training software (and others like it) could be a good reason to invest in a Nintendo DS (or the newer DSi). On the other hand they are all aimed at Japanese people, so they might be a little too advanced for my abilities and I’d probably only end up being able to write beautiful characters but not know what they mean.

Japanese beer, German style

January 19, 2009

My supply of beer from Munich is running dangerously low (only 1 crate left) so I was pleased to read about this German style beer that is available in a Japanese supermarket.

Eku Pils

One day way back in November last year I bought a can of it on the way home from work, stuck it in the fridge, and then forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago.

For a Pils (which is not usually my choice of beer because I’m not keen on the bitter taste) it wasn’t that bad, and maybe I’ll pop into the shop again one day and see if they’re still selling it (almost 3 months later). If not, there are plenty of other domestic beers to choose from.

This past weekend I found a stout beer from Kirin, which is much like a Bavarian Dunkelbier, and I can see myself stocking up on that when my last crate runs out.

Now if only they’d do a Weissbier…

Japanese homework

October 20, 2008

Japanese Homework

Nearly five months in Japan and I’ve just about managed to get my head around the the simple Hiragana and Katakana alphabets. Learning the Kanji seems quite daunting at this point. There are 80 of them in the first grade alone.

It’s quite frustrating to go about your everyday life being effectively illiterate.

Japanese keyboard

October 16, 2008

Japanese Keyboard

This is the keyboard that I got with my desktop PC at work. The space bar is the width of 2 normal keys, and has extra keys beside it that change the input mode when you accidentally hit them while typing.

The keyboard on my laptop is the same, but not quite as bad – the space bar is the width of 3 keys.

Fortunately I was able to swap the desktop keyboard for one with a US English layout. Unfortunately after 9 years in Germany I’m still used to using a German lazout layout and I still can’t tzpe properlz type properly.

More Japanese Food

April 16, 2007

Here are some more photos of the food that we had while we were in Fukuoka for the wedding.

Sushi at a small restaurant in Tenjin; Yakiniku at the Asahi brewery; Gyouza at the famous Tetsunabe restaurant; and finally a fish that was served whole, eyes and all.

I didn’t have my camera when we were taken to a restaurant where we had cow’s stomach, among other delicacies…

Translation of the Wedding Certificate

March 21, 2007

Before we can register our marriage in Germany, and therefore take advantage of the better tax rates, we need to get an official translation of our Kosekitouhon (family register) that was issued by the town hall in Japan.

Normally in Japan you don’t get a “wedding certificate”; instead they issue a new Kosekitouhon, removing the bride from the existing one for her family. We also got a separate certificate that we need to submit to the British consulate, but it’s the Kosekitouhon that we have to get translated for the German authorities.

The Japanese Consulate-General in Munich will do the translation within a week, for a fee of 9 Euros.

The Japanese house, or how being tall can be a problem in Japan

July 6, 2006

The first thing I noticed when going into my Japanese host’s house was the height of the doors. Or rather, the lack of height.

Even though I’m quite tall at 6′ 3″ (192cm) I’ve rarely come across doors before that are too low for me. However I was unable to go through any door in the Japanese house without ducking down, because all the doorframes were only slightly higher than my nose.

Of course I often forgot to duck and smacked my head off the frame. This happened at least 5 times per day, to the constant amusement of everyone else in the house.

Here are some other differences compared to western houses:

Almost all the inside walls were thin – not made of paper but a kind of thick cardboard that you would probably fall through if you put your weight on. Most of the doors were sliding, and also made out of the same thin material. Even the outside walls were quite thin – I expect it would be quite cold in winter because there didn’t seem to be much insulation.

The bath was smaller, but a lot deeper than western baths. It was only used for a relaxing soak after washing the body in the shower beforehand. The shower was fixed onto the wall near the floor, rather than at head-height and instead of standing to use the shower, you use it while sitting on a small stool.

The kitchen was almost the same as a western kitchen, the only difference being the lack of an oven. Most food is cooked on a gas hob, and meals that need to be cooked in an oven are not common.

The toilet was probably the most unusual part of the house. Most people have heard about the electronic toilets in Japan, but they really have to be seen to be believed. Aswell as the heated seat and various “cleaning sprays”, this one even had buttons to automatically move the lid and seat up and down. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of it…