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New Learning Japanese Project and Traveling in Japan

I have been traveling around Japan for the last 4 weeks. I still have another week left before going back to the states.

After living in Japan for 7-8 years, I come back about once a year so my kids can see their grandparents and to visit friends. We always have a great time and enjoy our trip, but this year was different. This year I found opportunity and remembered why I fell in love with Japan in the first place.

I found myself wanting to share these experiences again. Except, I couldn’t. After a long period of focusing on other things this site was broken. I had also deleted my twitter account in order to streamline my online presence.

After a little bit of work, this site is working again.

But I want to take it further.

I am starting a new Youtube channel all about Japan, the culture, and learning the language. I am bringing back several items from Japan to give away to subscribers, including figures, toys, and Japanese manga.

I am already planning my next trip back to Japan.

I need your help!

To make the best videos and offer the best giveaways, I need to know what you want to see?

In the comments section, please let me know:

  1. What you want to see- are you interested in traditional culture, do you want to see pop culture, anime, games?
  2. What are your favorite shows? Who are your favorite actors and musicians.
  3. Which places in Japan do you want to see?
  4. What help do you need with Japanese language or traveling in Japan?
  5. Are you interested in living or studying in Japan?
  6. What kind of items would you like to see as giveaways?

I’m really excited to get started on this project. With your help, I can produce the videos and content you really want to see.

Please comment and let me know what you would like to see. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kanjilish- Learn Japanese and Kanji While Reading English

In the last few years there have been quite a few tools coming out to help students learn Japanese. One of my favorites is Rikaichan. Rikaichan is an add-on for Firefox that will give you the readings and definitions for Japanese characters when you mouse over them. It is a great tool for anyone learning Japanese or for someone who wants to read a Japanese website.

But what about a way to learn Japanese when you are reading websites in English? That’s where Kanjilish comes in. It is another add-on for Firefox that, when active, changes the first letter of English words into the equivalent Japanese Kanji. For example, the word “new” will become “新ew”.

Now to be honest I wasn’t really thrilled with this idea. I felt it is better to learn Japanese by studying Japanese. However, after a recommendation from @zirchi  on twitter, I gave it a try. It turns out it is a great way to review the meanings of Kanji and a great companion to Remember the Kanji.

Kanjilish gives you options of which word meanings you would like to choose based on a few popular systems, Kanji in Context, Remembering the Kanji, KanjiDic, and remembering Traditional Hanzi.

The only bad thing I have to say about it, is that it does require slightly longer for pages to load. Not ridiculously long, but longer.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Combined with Remembering the Kanji and Rikaichan, I think it’s a pretty good tool for learning Japanese.


Rikaikun (Rikaichan for Chrome)

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I have written about Rikaichan before and how it is one of my favorite tools for reading and learning Japanese. It allows even a someone with a basic understanding of Japanese to read like a pro. Well, for all those who use Google’s chrome, a port has been made called Rikaikun.

Since the current release of Chrome doesn’t handle plugins you will need to install the beta. It will ask you to do this if you try and install the plugin.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. I’ve got it downloaded and it seems to work just fine. In fact it was easier than Rikaichan because all I needed to do was one click.

Rikaikun Plugin

The Danger of Pride When Learning Japanese

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When it comes to learning Japanese, pride is the enemy. The more pride you have the slower your progress learning Japanese will be. The main reason for this is that pride limits your ability to learn new Japanese material and ask lots of questions. It usually gets worse the higher your level of Japanese goes. The higher someone’s level gets the more expectations the student puts on their Japanese and become embarrassed if they don’t know something. There are two simple steps you can take to keep yourself asking lots of questions and constantly learning.

Think of yourself as a beginner

If you always think of yourself as a beginner then it is easy to ask lots of questions. You also won’t worry about making mistakes (something that is a natural part of learning Japanese). If people feel you are eager to learn they will also be more likely to correct your errors, helping you improve even quicker.

Don’t give yourself any expectations

The second step is to keep expectations out of your language learning, especially expectations that you should know certain words. I have been studying Japanese for quite a few years and still come across new “basic” words all the time. Realising it’s okay to not know these words makes it easy for me to ask what they mean and how to use them.

The Best Language Learners

The best Japanese speakers I know work really hard to learn Japanese, and they love to study and to practice speaking. However, they also consider themselves novices in the language. While they have the confidence to speak, they are not afraid to ask questions and learn something new. In fact, they love finding new words and phrases they didn’t know. Don’t let your pride slow down your progress.

Breaking Bad Study Habits


When it comes to studying it is easy to be lazy. It’s both easy to skip study sessions and to only study half-heatedly. Obviously both of these are counter-productive to learning Japanese. Since advanced Japanese grammar is based on the basics, you need to study often to keep them fresh in your mind. I have found that the best way to break bad habits is to create good ones.

Creating good study habits

To make sure that you continue with good habits make sure they are as easy to complete as possible. In the case of Japanese, it is important that you study often. If your Japanese study time is competing with TV time or going out with friends, you are a lot less likely to choose studying. Allotting time slots into your schedule for Japanese study will help make sure they don’t get passed up.

Since emergencies can always happen (and they always seem to), you should also create a backup plan. For instance, if you weren’t able to study in the afternoon during your regular study time because of an emergency business meeting, you can study the first thing when you get home. The back up plan makes sure that you don’t forget to study when you are the busiest.

Make Japanese Study Fun

I mentioned in yesterday’s article Learning To Hear Japanese that studying Japanese should be fun. Choose study materials that interests you and dig into topics in Japanese that you find fascinating. If you like tennis then find as many materials about tennis as possible. If you love the topics you are using to study Japanese, it stops feeling like studying. You are much more likely to get started each day if you are looking forward to it.

Give yourself Rewards

We are great at training our kids and pets using positive reinforcement. When a child does something we like we give them sweats or take them to play. For some reason though, we stop doing this once we become adults. Well, it’s time to pick it up again. You will be more likely to study hard if you know you will be rewarded for it. Your reward can be anything from buying something you wanted to a cup of coffee to going somewhere you want to go. The point is that you are getting something you enjoy for studying hard.

There are two keys to making rewards encourage better habits. The first is that you can’t cheat. If you don’t study then don’t give yourself a reward. This also goes if you didn’t complete your full study time. The second is that the rewards should be in proportion to your accomplishments. A reward for keeping your study schedule for a month should be bigger than the reward you give yourself after studying 30 minutes.

New Habits

In the beginning it may be difficult to stay on track. If you get thrown off your schedule then just keep getting back on. After you have managed to stay on track for a while, it will stop seeming difficult and just feel like part of your daily routine. And remember, the best time to start your new schedule is right now.

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