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White Rabbit Press Kanji Poster and Kanji Flash Cards

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from White Rabbit Press, the maker of the Kanji Poster, Kanji Flash Cards, and other Japanese learning products, asking if I would be interested in in promoting their products on Japanese Words. They offered to send a poster and some cards for review and also sent some for giveaways (more on that later).

So let’s start with the Kanji poster first.

Kanji Poster Review

To start with, it is very well packed. The poster came packaged in a tube with stuffing at each end to keep it from getting damaged.

After pulling the poster out of the tube and unrolling it, my first impression was that it was huge. It is nearly 4 feet across and almost 3 feet tall (I guess it needs to be to hold all the kanji). The poster is made of thick glossy paper so it should last. While it isn’t particularly beautiful (my wife didn’t want me to hang it in the living room), it is very functional. The kanji are easy to read and are ordered and colored according to the JLPT. The bottom of the poster contains the readings for each kanji.

Two things that I would like to see added is a sample word and the base meaning of each kanji. Though doing so would probably make the poster a bit too large. And if I had to choose a third, I would say corresponding “Remember the Kanji” numbers. I think the ideal way to use the kanji poster is to put it in a location where you will see it everyday. Then just slowly work your way down the list. I would also recommend putting a white board next to it where you can practice writing. Going through the motions of writing will help you remember.

Kanji Flash Cards

Like the poster, the cards where also well packed. No surprise there.

The cards themselves are also made of high quality material with a glossy finish. The card contains all of the information you would want to know about a kanji, the reading, the stroke order, the meaning, and the base elements. It also contains a number allowing you to match it to the kanji poster. Once again, I would prefer a “Remember the Kanji” number as well.

Now to be perfectly honest I haven’t really used flash cards much since I found out about Anki. Anki keeps track of what I am learning and shows me the right cards at the right time. However, I am in front of the computer quite often. If you are not, then flash cards are still a great option. They can be taken anywhere (I used to use flash cards everyday on the train when I was studying at Waseda University. They were a huge help.

The Conclusion

Both Products are well made and will make a strong and helpful addition to your Japanese study materials. I have been impressed enough with them that I have added them as an affiliate to Japanese Words. So, if you are thinking about purchasing, please use the link below and help support this site.

The Giveaway

I am still working on the details of the competition, but White Rabbit Press has donated some a few items (2 decks of kanji cards and 1 deck of kana cards) as the prizes. The next post will contain all the details.

Japanese Learning Products

PS3 YLOD- Is Sony the next Toyota?

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The last post I wrote about making a phone call in Japanese to a business. Quite recently I have had to make a couple phone calls to a business, and they weren’t pleasant ones. My Sony PS3 broke! Now before I go into all of that I want to talk about the good times.

I was a child of the 80s and 90s and Sony was an iconic brand in electronics. I could never afford anything from the Sony brand, but I wanted a Sony Walkman  bad! And it wasn’t just Sony, it was most Japanese brands.

In college I finally saved up and bought a ps2. Since I didn’t have money to do much else I played it a lot. And while I heard horror stories, and mine occasionally wouldn’t read disks, I didn’t really have any problem with it.

Fast Forward to 2007.

I’m in Tokyo, working a job, and for the first time I have money to spare. The PS3 had recently come out and played blue rays, games, and can even be used as a Linux computer. The price is horrendous, the size and wight are ridiculous, and there are very few games. Seriously, at the time there may have only been about 10 or so games. 60,000yen (about $600) is a lot to put down, but it’s Sony. I’m  sure it will last for a long time. Over the next two years games slowly, and I mean very slowly, trickled out (they came out much faster in the US).

To be honest I had a blast and was impressed with what the PS3 could do. However, there were also problems. For instance, I was forced to download updates that sometimes broke features, menus would randomly pop up while watching movies, and after only a year, the controllers started to not feel so well.

But, the games were slowly getting better and some of the stores here in Japan were finally starting to carry Bluerays.

The Sony Timer

In the US Sony is viewed as a higher end brand and generally costs more. Here in Japan however, there is a phrase that is associated with Sony, “the Sony timer”. Here in Japan, Sony products are so well known for breaking just outside of their warranty that many people actually believe they have been designed by Sony to do so. Do to the high number of failing products, Sony is one of the cheapest brands in Japan.

The deterioration

Fast Forward again to January of 2010.

I have had the PS3 for just over 2 years. My two Sony PS3 controllers (the one that came with the system and the one I bought shortly after) are both starting to not work properly. Though I don’t actually play games that often ( I am more of the casual gamer), the analog sticks do not retract well and are tending to stick in the forward direction.

The system itself occasionally shuts down in the middle of game play and must be started again. This has happened occasionally throughout the life of the PS3, so I don’t pay too much attention to it. However, it has also become more frequent. At the beginning of February, in the middle of a game the PS3 shuts down once again. I am annoyed, but not surprised.  I am surprised when I hit the power button, and it beeps three times, but doesn’t turn back on.  I try again and get the same result. My PS3 is dead!

Sony PS3 Ylod (Yellow Light of Death)

After a bit of searching, I found out that I had the Yellow Light of Death, which was caused by overheating. With the amount of posts and pages I found related to this topic, I was certainly not the only one. Apparently, it is very common on the earlier 40gb and 60gb models.

But I was an early adopter, and I paid over double the cost of the current PS3 slim on the market. I am sure Sony will take care of me.

So, I called Sony and received a very apologetic, but very insincere apology and was told that I could send back the PS3 for them to look at it. When I asked about this being common on my model, I was told this certainly was not the case. However, I was also told my model might cost an additional 7,800yen (about $78) over other models to fix. Wait, what?

In the case they had to replace or fix the motherboard, which I knew they would after reading through the internet, the total cost would come to 16,800 yen ($168). Not to mention I would only get a 90 day warranty. One which would only cover the same problem. After sending the PS3 back to Sony, I was notified a few days later that the system had indeed overheated and I needed a new motherboard. My options were to either pay the money or it stayed broken. I had them return it.

Is Sony the Next Toyota?

To be honest, living here in Japan, I don’t know a lot of what is going on with the whole Toyota thing in the US. However, I do believe that Toyota’s biggest problem isn’t the quality issue as much as the way they handled the problem. They tried to cover it up.

The Xbox is known to have a pretty high rate of failure with the early models. Basically caused by the same thing as the PS3, overheating. However, as far as I can tell from reading on the internet, Microsoft fixed the problem, through repairs, recalls, and by extending the warranty.

Sony is stating that this is not their fault and that the product is not faulty. They are claiming that the failure rate is very low, and while it does seem to be lower than the Xbox, info on the web seems to hint it is much higher than Sony’s data. Even the BBC did an episode where they fixed YLOD PS3 in front of Sony’s building as a protest.

So in the end, Sony has lost me as a customer. They also lost me as a supporter. Not only did I buy a PS3, I convinced 3 others to also purchase. Will I buy another PS3? In all honesty, possibly. After convincing some of my friends and family to purchase, it was a lot of fun to play with them online. I have also gained a small game and Blueray collection. But, these can be sold. Anyone know if the next Xbox release will be able to read Bluerays?

How to Fix PS3 YLOD

In most cases, and with the right tools, the PS3 YLOD can be fixed. Though I do have to admit the fix only lasted a few weeks before I had to do it again. After a bit of searching, I came across this guide to fix the PS3 YLOD. It says it takes about an hour, but it took me  about an hour and a half.

You will also need a few simple tools, a heat guns and some cpu grease. You can also find videos on Youtube. Since this was a bit scary for me I used both. If you follow the instructions in the guide this isn’t too hard, I have now done it twice. It does take some time and patience though. Once again I will mention that this seems to be temporary, but it does work.

Calling a Business in Japanese

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If you are just learning Japanese or maybe even are an intermediate speaker, making a professional phone call (a call to a business or company) can be a little bit intimidating. This article contains a few tips you can use, as well as some Japanese words and phrases that should help you out.

The difficulties

Speaking on the phone adds additional communication barriers. First of all you can’t see the persons face and gestures. This means you have to have a greater understanding of the language. It is also possible that you could get a bad connection or have  times when the phone cuts out. That is difficult enough in your own language, but more so in a second language.

But probably the biggest difficulty to speaking on the phone in Japanese has to do with the use of Keigo. For those who don’t know, keigo is an honorific form of Japanese and actually has a completely different set of words. It is the common method used in any kind of professional setting.

Lastly, you will be dealing with your own nervousness. Worrying that you might misunderstand or not be able to speak adds additional stress that can make your mind go blank. I have experienced this many times.

Make Japanese phone calls with ease

1. Don’t be afraid

If you are nervous you will have difficulty speaking. Just remember it is okay to make mistakes. If they don’t understand what you mean, then just explain it a different way (even more practice). It can be scary, but the more you do it the easier it gets.

Each phone call you make is a chance to practice. Don’t pass it up. It can be easy to ask a friend to make the phone call for you, but it will be much more helpful for you if you try and do it yourself. Once you realize you can do it, you will gain a lot of confidence.

2. Getting past keigo

There are actually two ways around this. The first is to practice and become familiar with using keigo. If you plan to live in Japan for a an extended time this is a good idea.

The second is much more simple. Just ask them kindly to not use keigo. Also, don’t feel bad about asking them to repeat or slow down. It is very common for support to speak very fast because they are basically saying the same things to each customer. Just keep asking them to slow down.

3. Speak slow and clear

When speaking on the phone silence can be a bit scary, and you may feel that you need to reply immediately. Take your time and think about exactly what you want to say. It is better to speak slowly and concise with good pronunciation and make sure they can easily understand.

It is also very helpful to plan out exactly what you need to accomplish before you make the phone call. Even to the point of planning out the phrases you want say. The more your prepare the better things will go.

Give it a try

If the opportunity presents itself, give it a try. The more you do it the easier it gets.

When I was working in Tokyo as an admissions counselor, I occasionally had to speak to parents who only spoke Japanese.  At first I was a bit intimidated and asked my co-workers to make the calls for me. Eventually though, I decided that I would only get better if I did it myself. What I found, was that it was not nearly as difficult as I thought.

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