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What Kids Can Teach You About Learning A Foreign Language


As kids we knew how to learn anything. We learned to talk, to walk, to play games, to ride bikes, and all without anyone really teaching us how to do it. So why do we forget this as adults? After years of book learning and “being taught” we seem to lose our natural ability to learn. Books can be a big help in learning, but many things require that you actually “do” the activity. Of course the more time you put in studying, the faster you will learn Japanese.  However, that doesn’t mean that spending endless hours with your head in a book will make you a fluent Japanese speaker.  It’s true that you need to study to learn lots of Japanese words and phrases, but you also need to practice using them again and again.

I just finished volunteer teaching a kids English class here in Miyakojima with about 25 kids. The class met a total of 10 times and by the by last class there was a pretty big gap between the kids English level.  Some of the kids could remember and repeat almost everything in a conversation, while others were still struggling. The kids who really improved only had a few differences.

First, they weren’t afraid to try. If you want to learn a language then you need to make mistakes. If you aren’t willing to make mistakes then you will not learn as fast or become as good of a Japanese speaker. There are many ways to apply this attitude to your Japanese studies. It can be anything from speaking up more if you are taking a class, to finding a Japanese speaking partner, or even trying new study methods. There is a chance that things won’t go perfect the first time, but they (and you) will get better the second time!

Second, they would keep trying again and again until they got it right. The students would try again and again ultimately spent a lot more time in than the kids who gave up the first time.

Lastly, they had fun. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you are struggling with kanji, pronunciation, or listening, but learning Japanese should be fun. Try not to take yourself to seriously. Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them, and of course, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you make mistakes.

How to Use Trains in Tokyo


Riding a train or subway in a city like Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming a little confusing. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it quickly. This article contains information and Japanese words and phrases that should help you get around Tokyo easier.

If you are planning to use a train in Japan, you should definitely get a copy of train map. You can download one here. Tokyo train lines basically consist of two groups. The Tokyo Metro which consists of the subway lines (地下鉄, Chikatetsu) and JR lines which usually run above the ground. If you are staying in Tokyo for a while, I highly recommend that you get a returnable prepaid fare card (SUICA or PASMO) which is available at most of stations with 500yen deposit. This makes traveling using the train much easier because you don’t need to figure out the right ticket to purchase. Wherever you go, the fare will be automatically withdrawn from your card at the entrance gate and exit gate(改札、Kaisatu) of each station.

If you have a IPhone or any other mobile devices, you can also download an application for transfer (乗り換え、Norikae).  It will usually tell you a couple of the fastest and cheapest options to get to where you want to go. All you have to do is enter the starting and ending stations. Even Japanese people use their cellphones on daily basis to check train times and find the best routes.

When you transfer from one train to another there will be a number of signs with colors.  Each line has its own color, so find your line’s color and follow the signs.

For those who never used train or subway, these are the things you need to do. 😉

1. Buy a ticket to the station you want to go to, or charge your PASMO or SUICA. 切符を買うか、カードをチャージする。

2. Find where the entrance to the line you want to use is. 改札を見つける。

3. Put your ticket in the electronic gate or scan your charged PASMO or SUICA on it, then go through the gate. 改札を通る。

4. Go to the platform. Make sure you are at the right one because there are usually trains go different directions. 何番線かを確かめる。

5. Get on the train.電車に乗る。

6. Get off the train at your station. If you need to transfer, go to the different platform.  電車を降り、乗り換える。

7. Go through the gate to get out of the line. 改札を出る。

8. Once you are there, find the exit that’s desirably close to where you want to go to. 出口を見つける。

There are usually several exits for each station, especially for a big one like 東京駅(Tokyo eki)、新宿駅(Shinjyuku eki)、or 池袋駅(Ikebukuro eki). If you are meeting someone at a station, make sure which exit or gate you going. If you are lost, find a station attendant(駅員さん、ekiinsan)and ask for help.

Here are some useful Japanese phrases you can use at a station.

  • ○○駅に行きたいのですが、行き方を教えて下さい。(○○eki ni ikitainodesuga, ikikata wo oshietekudasai.) I would like to go to ○○station. Will you tell me how to get there?
  • どこで乗り換えたらいいですか?(Doko de norikaetara iidesuka?) Where should I transfer?
  • 何線に乗ればいいですか?(Nanisen ni noreba iidesuka?) Which line should I take?
  • 何番線に行けばいいですか?(Nanbansen ni ikeba iidesuka?) Which platform should I go to?
  • ○○に行きたいのですが、一番近い出口はどこですか?(○○ni ikitainodesuga, ichiban chikai deguchi wa dokodesuka?) I would like to go to ○○. Please tell me the closest exit.
  • ○○はどこですか?(○○ha dokodesuka?) Where is ○○?

Japanese Words

電車(でんしゃ, Densha) – train

駅(えき, Eki) – station

地下鉄(ちかてつ, Chikatetsu) – subway

JR線(ジェーアールせん, JR sen) – JR Line

改札(かいさつ, Kaisatsu) – an entrance or exit gate

出口(でぐち, Deguchi) – an exit

乗り換え(のりかえ, Norikae) – to transfer line

切符(きっぷ, Kippu) – fare ticket

駅員,駅員さん(えきいん, Ekiin/えきいんさん, Ekiin san) – a train station attendant

ホーム(ほーむ, Hoomu) – platform

快速(かいそく, Kaisoku) – rapid train

準急(じゅんきゅう, Jyunkyuu) – sub rapid train

各駅停車(かくえきていしゃ, Kakueki teisha) – train that stops every station

○○線(○○せん, ○○sen) – line of train

Japanese Words for Family

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It’s a quick review day for Japanese words for family! How many do you know already?? This list is contains the casual forms of the family words used when speaking to friends or family. I’m also creating a list for polite family words that I will be sending out in the Japanese Words newsletter. So if you aren’t already a Japanese Words member, be sure to sign up today. You can find the Japanese Words sign up page here.


If you enjoyed this post and found these Japanese words useful. You might also like the following posts:

Life of the サラリーマン?!

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Japanese salary man

I recently found this movie on YouTube, and thought I should share it with you. It’s only a 30 sec video, but I think you can see a lot of Japanese culture of  the so-called サラリーマン(salary man).

I found it very funny and true. This video shows how a lot of Japanese men live their life.

First, they are expected to graduate a decent school and get a job, get married and have a baby. But, did you realize that all he did after his marriage was commuting in a 満員電車(a completely packed train), working, and drinking? And many losing their hair… 🙁 Many business men go out to drink till they throw up on the street or even in subway to forget about the work and stress.

It is slowly changing but many Japanese companies are still strong on 終身雇用(しゅうしんこよう) which means to work in one company for your whole life. To get promoted to higher positions 出世(しゅっせ), it is very important to have good relationship with your superiors, 先輩(せんぱい), which often also means social obligations.  So, if you are asked to go out to drink after work by your superiors, you “have” to go.  We call this relationship building with your superiors 付き合い(つきあい).  Building a good relationship with your customers is often based on drinking as well, which is called 接待(せったい). Many corporate men have to be good at 付き合い and 接待 to financially support themselves and their family, which often makes them focus on their work much more than their family.

Japanese Words List

サラリーマン (sararii man) – men working for a corporate company.

満員電車(まんいんでんしゃ、manin densha) – a completely packed train

会社 (かいしゃ、kaisha) – a company

終身雇用(しゅうしんこよう、shuushin koyou) – To  work for one company until retirement

先輩 (せんぱい、senpai) – superiors in your school or company

付き合い (つきあい、tsukiai) – social/business acquaintance

接待 (せったい、settai) – business reception

飲みに行く (のみにいく、nominiiku) – To go out to drink

Firework Season in Japan!


Summer is the season of full of festivals and events in Japan. One of the most popular events is 花火大会 (fireworks display).  Each prefecture and city has their own local fireworks displays. Local people absolutely love the excitement of it!

I used to live in a city called Adachi-ku(足立区), a prefecture in Tokyo with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Kantou area! When I lived in Tokyo I attended this event every year with my family. My family would go by bike since there was no place to park due to the number of people, and brought お弁当 (food stuffed in boxes).  This year (sadly I wasn’t able to go because I live in Okinawa now) they shot off 12,000 fireworks in the sky of Adachi-ku within a single hour. The other great thing is that this is done at the river called Arakawa(荒川), so there is nothing to block your site. The fireworks also reflect off of the water to light up the area even more. Here is the video from this year’s Adachi-ku Fireworks Display.

If you are in Japan this month, it will be a great experience to go see a fireworks display. You can search for upcoming fireworks by region or city here (It is a Japanese site ) Literally tens of thousands of people gather to see one big fireworks display, so I’d recommend that you go there early to find good spot ;-). You can bring your own food or you can enjoy different food from 出店 (でみせ、 food stands). Have fun!

Also, wearing 浴衣(Yukata) for Summer festivals like this is very common. Yukata is a summer cotton kimono for men, women, and children, and it is much easier to put on and less expensive than regular Kimono.

Japanese Words List

花火 (はなび, Hanabi) – fireworks

花火大会 (はなびたいかい, Hanabi taikai) – fireworks display

夏 (なつ, Natsu) – Summer

浴衣 (ゆかた, Yukata) – Summer cotton Kimono (Kimono=Japanese traditional clothing)

出店 (でみせ, Demise) – Food stands, street stalls

お弁当 (おべんとう, Obentou) – Lunch or food stuffed in a box

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