Feb 152005

So, yes, being sick sucks. I’ve spent the last 2-3 entire days in my room just trying to sleep and drink as much water as possible. However, some good news does arise from this series of uneventful days: I managed to make my way over to Shijo and buy those kanji cards and book that comes along with them. Best $130 I’ve ever spent.

I mean, no matter which way you twist it the task of learning the meanings, readings, and writings of 2,000 abstract characters is not going to be easy. But this is without a doubt the best method I’ve seen so far. I’ve looked through soooooo many different books that claim “how to never forget kanji again” and it’s always been BS until now. It’s an interesting (and completely different) approach where the order of ALL of the characters are re-organized in a certain way, and instead of completely learning each character before moving onto the next, first you learn all 2,000 MEANINGS and WRITINGS, then on a second pass you learn the pronounciations and compounds. There’s more to it, but to sum it up I learned the meanings and writings (no readings) of 150 new kanji yesterday, and when I woke up this morning I could still perfectly write 140 of them. To put that in perspective, during my 15 months of formal Japanese study we covered a total of 270 kanji. I’ll have doubled that in two days.

And yes, those 270 kanji were learned along with their readings; but even without the readings it’s awesome to be walking around and know what stuff MEANS, even if I may not be able to say it out loud in Japanese. After all, knowing what something’s for can often be more important than knowing how to verbalize what it is. At least for a beginner.

Still, even with this technique I estimate that it would take 20 days of 5-6 hours of studying per day to learn ALL of the meanings. Not too shabby when compared to the 12 years it takes Japanese students, but still no easy task.

Aside from that, I actually did have one brief and interesting experience today. Sometime around 12:00 this afternoon the unimaginable happened: my food supply ran out, and I would be forced to leave my little healing chamber. But since I hadn’t been out in awhile (ok, that’s a lie, I did go out yesterday to buy the flashcards – OH! and I almost forgot to mention: Dave, I dropped in at Cafe Neutron on the way back, very nice place I have to say – but because it was a Monday morning it was virtually abandoned. I’m gonna have to go back there on a Sunday afternoon to see what it’s like as a social hangout 🙂 )

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, running out of food. Since I hadn’t been out in awhile, I decided that a LITTLE exploring wouldn’t hurt – so instead of heading to the usual suupaa (supermarket) I rode my bike in…..

….drum roll…..


What did I find?
1) About 10 independent coffee shops teeming with life. Sorry Starbuck’s, my business has been lost.
2) “College for Hot Girls,” as the Kanji puts it. Ok, not really…but I’m gonna suggest that they change the name! Really, I am!
3) A 5-story everything-store (like Vivre in Hirakata, but not as much of a ripoff). And I’m talkin everything – from medicine to a supermarket to clothing to CDs and DVDs to restaurants of every kind to Mc Donald’s to a guitar shop to a bike shop to….um…more stuff!
4) A nice little park with Japanese kids playing baseball

That brings me to the site of today’s story. On the way home from the market I decided to stop and eat my Obento (“box lunch” – a really popular form of fast food) on a park bench while watching some kids play Baseball (an incredibly popular sport here). After a few minutes, a nine-year-old boy RAN past me from behind to retrieve his ball, turned, noticed the big/scary gaijin on the park bench, and RAN back to his group of friends. I turned around to see 4 nine-year-olds huddling behind a tree pointing and giggling.

What they didn’t know is that I could understand what they were saying.

For about 10 minutes I sat there quietly listening to them dare each other to talk to me, mutter phrases in bad English like “my name is….” or “where are you from…” Eventually one of the boys came over, tapped me on the back, said “HELLO” and RAN back to the group, everyone holding their sides with laughter.

I let this go on until I finished my lunch, got on my bike, and as I passed them I said in Japanese “I bet you thought I couldn’t understand Japanese, huh?”

You should’ve seen their little faces!

O-Bento: 398 yen.
Pocky: 100 yen.
Look on a Japanese kid’s face when he finds out you understand Japanese after he’s been joking about you for 10 minutes: priceless.

  6 Responses to “The Other Direction”

  1. I love the story with the kids. i love interacting with the children when I go to Japan. I alway go loaded with a lot of American candy. Besides giving it to children, i give it to watresses and waiters as a tip.
    At Cafe Nuetron, the big bookshelf of binders are the works of local artists. look through them, you won’t believe some of the talent. A friend of mine took a date their and she found a binder full of art work from a friend of hers. Also, don’t forget the art gallery in the basement.
    If you want cheap drinks between 5-7PM, try HUB. I know it is not a great place but if you want to catch a little buzz before you hit the other bars, it is not a bad place to start. if you have never tried it, you can get Absynthe there. Be careful.
    Hope you get better soon.

  2. Oh he’s tried absinthe…..

    Great story about the kids. Next time you see a bunch of kids tell them “I come from Planet USA where cars eat people and the president is a dragon.”

    Ok, so I’m bored at work.


  3. That is an awesome story. I don’t know if I told you about when I was on the train with Julie and her cousin going from Civita Vecchia (Coast in Lazio (near Rome)) to a country house near Chiusi (Tuscany). Julie and her cousin couldn’t speak Italian so we were talking very loudly in English in a 6 person car with two teenage Italian girls. They knew english because every so often they would answer the phone in english (bad Italian English), but didn’t know that I was fluent in Italian. After about two hours on the train with them being usual teenage girls–talking about where they’d had sex, how many guys they’d had sex with, guy’s they’d had sex with whose names they couldn’t remember, etc. etc. etc.(those are the less vulgar things)–I said in Italian “potrei mettere il tuo casco qua…..vorrei sedermi in qulla sedia” (Can I put your motocycle helmet here….I want to sit in that chair). The last 10 minutes of the train raid, the girls sat in silence, and upon arrival at Chiusi, RUSHED out of the train.

    Anyway, glad you are having fun…..sorry you are sick….you must have given it to me over the phone cause I am deadly sick too.

    Ciao bello,


  4. Haha, that’s an awesome story, it’s always so fun when stuff like that happens. =P
    Hope you are feeling better and I’m glad to hear that you’ve found a more efficient way of studying Kanji. Unfortunately Japanese is getting more and more difficult for me (mainly because I don’t have as much time to study it anymore) but I will survive the 20 series!!
    Alright, Justin-san, take care! Ja mata.


  5. Great story about the kids, made me laugh out loud! Do you have any info on those kanji cards with book? I’m currently having a hell of a time studying kanji and would definitely appreciate any alternate ways of learning kanji!

    Thanks 🙂

  6. that’s exactly the type of trip I’d take

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