Thursday, December 30, 2010


Just bought De Mente's book on Japanese customs, mindsets, and phrases and am enjoying very much. Read on the way home and am reading now. I think I'd be a little annoyed if anyone put out a book purporting to Explain me, but maybe I'm reacting really to the lack of seem. And maybe it's more reasonable to generalize about a more homogeneous population.

Wrote to a copyeditor friend of mine about capitalization in the title. I find I want to capitalize for; it's against the usual rules, but there's something in the sense or weight that seems to justify it, just as we might cap On in "Take On the Challenge". In that phrase, on carries weight; it's not just a little particle that no one cares about, but actually part of the verb, to take on. Maybe it's that have a word for is in itself a kind of extended verb. What do they do to the object? They have-a-word-for the object. I think that's it. Anyway, if we weaken for by not capping it, then it starts to seem (barring italics) that we mean that the Japanese have a word for "it", which is entirely different and in fact not true. It's not that the Japanese have a word for it, but that the Japanese have a word for it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

習字: Haiku!

習字の先生 says that pretty soon we can start working on haiku! I've already chosen mine, one by Issa with a winter theme...though probably I should choose something that also works for summer, since I'll be working on it for a veeery long time. And we may not actually get there until spring.

明日、日本語のレッスン。。。元気の第二十。 Focus on humble forms. 今晩は予習(しておこう)。お頑張り致しおます。。。。

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

日本語の映画の「May Love Be Restored」。

日本の「May Love Be Restored」と言う映画を見てる。 Apparently it's based on a novel by Tsutomu Minakami, though even with Wikipedia's help I can't figure out which. I'm watching mainly for the 聞く練習 and thought I'd note any scraps of interest....
- Yuuko (夕子) goes to work in a brothel in Kyouto. When she arrives, she addresses the "mother" as what sounds like 奥さん and is corrected to お母さん, as I guess would be the usage in an okiya

- When お母さん (or whatever) says that Yuko is 一番若い (the youngest), she pronounces the "k" in "wakai" almost as you'd expect a /kh/, phlegmmy. I wonder what kind of accent that is

- They all seem to say はん instead of さん or ちゃん—haven't figured out yet which is meant. お母さん refers to the young ladies as はん when introducing them, and a servant refers to a client as はん. Maybe it's はん for the ladies only because お母さん is introducing them as on an equal level with Yuko

- When Yuko meets her 同僚 at the brothel, she says よろしいお願いいたします, rather than よろしく。。。 I wonder why the -いい rather than -いく

- Yuko refers to herself as うち. Is this related to お宅?

- When Seijun asks a favor of the head priest, he begins with, お願いがございます. Makes sense, but interesting to me because I've never seen ござる used that way before, without で. So, I guess, 例えば、「その映画は、見たことがある?」「はい、見たことがございます。」

- Funny translation moment: when the textile-shop owner gives お母さん 二万円, he tells her the check is good; the subtitles have him saying that the check "won't be dishonored". Not quite the sense of "honoring" a check!

- When one of the girls is speaking with someone offscreen, she thanks the person with what sounds like おおきに, which I've heard is characteristic of 舞妓 (geiko apprentices) in Kyouto but which I've found online as typical of the Oosaka dialect and derived (it seems) from 多い or maybe 大きい. That site also transliterates Oosakan すみません as すまへん—another example of an /h/ sound instead of the expected /s/ (as in はん rather than さん). Someone in the film also says いけまへん...

- More dialect: おいでやす, some kind of welcoming, to an incoming customer. And something that sounds like おあがりやす, which presumably is like the thing I saw in 元気 about inviting someone to enter a house ("step up" into the house), おあがりください.... Wonder what all this やす is. Per googling, it seems interchangeable with 下さい; so what's おぐ? Googling also yields おいでになってください, which suggests that お is honorific, but still.... おいで seems to be an imperative form of 行く/来る.... Seems to belong somewhere in the realm of 参る and いらっしゃる

- They also seem to be ending some words unexpectedly with はる. きてくれはったわ。。。。

- I think one of the girls calls another やかましや (while slapping her). (Nice coincidence if so, because I'm writing 喧 in shuuji.) Would that be the same や as in はずかしがりや? (Searching for やかましや has led me to a book of slang on Google Books that definitely bears further examination. やかましや is in the chapter "Repugnant Personal Traits".)

- Someone puts on a record and says something like 病気になりましょう. Can she really be saying that? (Alcohol may be involved.) Google finds more than 3 million instances of 病気になりましょう or 病気になろう The subtitle says "Let's enjoy ourselves.

- The less said about the American character who appears about halfway in, the better

- There's an おう adverb form again—along with おあがりやす they tend to say はよう, which presumably is 早い, as おめでたい/おめでとう. Still don't get that. (Does that mean おめでとうございます is a form of おめでたくある?)
More notes to come.

面白い: Back when I was learning the lyrics to 「修羅の花」, there was a moment where I quoted to 先生 some lyrics as 梶芽衣子 (Meiko Kaji) sings them in the version I have:
hieta mizu mo ni, hotsuregami utsushi
in the frozen water, a reflection of [her] disheveled hair
先生 suggested [冷えた水面に。。。], 水面 (minamo) being the surface of the water, lit. water (水) and mask/face (面). (Apparently it can also be pronounced スイメン.) Well, the Wikipedia entry on Minakami says his name can also be said 水上 (Mizukami)—again, mina vs mizu. Rikaichan will accept for 水上 either mizukami or suijou, but not minakami. Hmm....

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's the "gari" in 恥ずかしがり屋?

Presumably it's some kind of かりる.... Per Jisho, there's a 恥ずかしがる; not seeing why that's necessary, since 恥ずかしい should act as a verb on its own.... What would be the difference between 恥ずかしいです and 恥ずかしがります?

Isn't there a descriptive suffix that's like that がる, for expressing how other people seem to feel? Maybe that's it.

Here's what someone online says about -がる:
It is a derivational morpheme that makes a verb when suffixed to the adnominal form of an adjective. Adjectives used with -garu express emotion (kowa-garu, sumana-garu) cognition (mezurashi-garu, abuna-garu) and desire (hoshi-garu).
Interesting: this thread says that がる has specific connotations of being [adjective] to such an extent that the effect is visible to others. So, maybe, 妹は車が欲しいだろう but 妹は車を欲しがっている—with を. 正しいかなぁ。 So, someone weeping and rending his/her garments might 悲しが(ってい)る, I guess, and the sort of person who does that a lot might be a 悲しがりや. I suppose that would be different from someone who is, 例えば, 強い or 厳しい.

Not at all clear on what the passage above means with cognition. どんなことが珍しがるかなぁ。

Off to read 元気 chapter 20!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Have come across this quotation and am trying to figure it out. The first part seems straightforward:
taisetsu na no ha
The important thing
The next two parts are more difficult for me. We end with a "da yo", so the basic structure seems to be the usual "A ha ... B desu". There's a parallel "to...(by) oneself / on one's own" (自分で). "自分で知っているって事" is throwing me: knowing on one's own, but then that's quoted (or "what's called / the thing spoken of as"—what's spoken of / referred to as knowing on one's own? "自分のしたいこと" should be "the things one wants to do", and the を means it's the direct object of...what? Must be 知る—but then why the いる form? And how much of the thought does って cover? Maybe I'm overinterpreting the 知っている. Maybe it boils down to "the important thing is for a person to know what s/he wants to do". But that's not satisfactory for ってこと. What's called knowing on one's own? The important thing is the thing called knowing on one's own what one wants to do? 難しいなぁ。

Maybe the って doesn't need to be so literal. There are about 22 million instances, per Google, of "って事だよ", and 44 million of "ってことだよ". Plenty in romaji, too, plus misc "tte" that don't make a lot of sense to me.

Googling tells me it's a saying from the Mu-Min Valley. The source seems to be something called Snufkin (スナフキン). It all seems to be from a book and Finnish. So I've been looking around for likely quotations from Snufkin and the Moomin Valley, which is a pretty good sign that I've done as much thinking about this as I'm going to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I'm reconsidering my approach. I've been going at 日本語 through the written word—media sources, kanji, etc.—but I've found it maddening how unreliable kanji can be, with so many meanings and readings, connected in ways that are sometimes (though not necessarily obvious) sensical and sometimes situational, or completely unconnected or coincidental. (例えば、享ける、請ける、受ける、浮ける) Given the history of the writing system, and kanji in particular, and the problematic relationship between kanji and spoken language, maybe it makes more sense to approach Japanese the other way, through speech rather than through writing. I've looked for easy-to-read books in the past, but maybe now I'll try for manga or whatever else would help. Of course, the best would be immersion, to help me move from Japanese-as-object-of-study to Japanese-as-means-of-communicating-with-people. Right now, it seems like an endless road of which I'm barely at the start!


うけなかった。* After reviewing some practice tests, I realized that I really am not ready for N3 and there's no point in faking my way through an exam for a certificate to say I am. I knew when I signed up that it would take a ton of studying (漢字や文法や単語など), and I've been so busy with work that I haven't put in the time. 勉強時間が足らなかったほど、忙しかったんだ。 だから昨日、試験をうける代わりに、アパートを掃除したり、会社の仕事をしたりした。 The listening section (聴解—懲戒!) alone probably would have sunk me. 残念だけど、しょうがいね。 Next time.


Saturday, December 4, 2010


難しかった! Three two-character sets for 連綿, then five or six variants of り in 変体仮名, then 楷書 (for me, 寒鳥喧). My renmen and hentaigana weren't nearly as good as they've been in practice during the week, but that may well be because I've been less critical on my own. ;-) Kaisho can be exhausting, much more tiring than gyousho 行書 or sousho 草書, because every stroke has to be just so—entrance, movement, ending, etc. Even doing just three or four characters at a time, as we are now, can be a real commitment. My 寒 and 鳥 are OK (though just barely) and coming along; I had no corners whatsoever today and will have to work on that, among other things. (May have been the brush I was using, 翔雲, but I need to be able to make it work regardless.)

The real problem for me in this set is 喧; tough to align the character well when the first thing you have to write is the hen (口, kuchi), in the middle of blank space, and that commits you to the spacing of the more complex tsukuri (宣, sen). So, as is often the case, you can ruin the character almost before you begin, by beginning your 口 in such a way that no possible adjustment of the 宣 alignment/spacing will make the end product look decent. And, of course, it has to align horizontally with the other characters and vertically with its space on the page....ムズカシイ。 沢山練習したほうね。

A real difficulty with writing kaisho, for me, is that sometimes I get so intense with the individual strokes that I lose sight of the overall spacing, alignment, and feel of the character—ie, I end up with some good strokes and some strokes that need work, but no unified kanji or set of kanji. I guess it's a good thing that I can usually recognize when my writing looks really amateurish; part of the process is learning to distinguish good work from bad, even when it's my own.

JLPT tomorrow. N3. I have practically no hope of passing it, so I'll study as much as I can tonight and then just have the experience of taking it. 聴解 alone will probably sink me. But しょうがない。

Monday, November 29, 2010


Today's shuuji lesson was tripartite: 連綿 (renmen), then 変体仮名 (hentaigana), then 漢字 (kanji). I had an unusually good feel with my kofude today; I needed quite a few iterations of each task, but I felt more in control than I usually do. As last time, I needed more time on renmen than on hentaigana; I have trouble moving my hand down the paper fluidly enough to connect the characters seamlessly and with correct alignment and appropriate width and curve of lines. Today's sets were わけ, あめ, and のし. Had the usual tough time with kaisho; in 寒鳥喧, I had surprisingly little trouble with 右払い but had some line-length issues with 鳥 and was totally at a loss on the spacing of 喧. In 喧 I'm lost from the placement of the first 口. I've been practiving the renmen and hentaigana a bit before bed; maybe I'll take a little suzuri and a kofude to work tomorrow and practice surreptitiously....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


今晩日本語のレッスンがあった。いつものように面白くて楽しかった。来週末は、日本語能力試験の新しい三級だ。心配してるよ。出来るだけ練習するつもりだけど、時間があまりないから、知らない単語と漢字が沢山あり、試験は成功じゃないだろうと思う。Oh, well. At least taking the test will be a good experience.

習字は。。。。 今「寒鳥喧」(カン・チョウ・ケン)だ。 さむい、とり、やかましい。

習字の先生に「秋物感人」の読み方について聞いた。中国語の読み方(音読み)と日本語の読み方(訓読み)は同じじゃ無いんだ。先生によると、読み方はこれだ: 「シュウ・ブツ・ひとを感じせむ」。秋になったら、ひとは秋のものを見て、人生などを考える。書道は、日本語の読み方と中国語の読み方が違うとき、小さいカタカナの字が書いてある、例えば、レ、一、二。この字の意味が僕はまだ分かっていない。「感じせむ」の言葉も。

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A while ago 先生 taught me あいかわらず, "as always". Just realized that this is the -らず form of 変わる, to change -- ie, "without changing". Still don't get the 相; seems to mean "inter-" or something, as in 相手 (N3 単語), but still ちょっと分からない.

Friday, October 8, 2010

More on N3 prep (vocab and kanji).

Another run through the vocab quizzer today. These are the ones that tripped me up this time:
ukagau (forgot -- i think this space in my head is occupied by ugokazu, because when the definition comes up i think of movement)

tsukamaru (i said tsumareru, but i got it the next time)

namakemono (i said nakamemono; got it right the next time because i remembered the kana ke)

suisenjou (i had a brain moment and said rirekisho—very silly, especially because just today i handed off a suisenjou)

hikkosu (am getting better with this one because hiku suggests being pulled from somewhere)

sashiageru (i said sashiagaru, like meshiagaru, but i won't do that again)

jirojiromiru (i wrote jirojiro in katakana, like perapera)

jugyouryou (i forgot "ju" and said just kyouryou, probably conflating it with kyuuryou. will think of jugyou in the future)

sawaru (i said samaru)

anzen suru (i said ansen)

perapera (jirojiro had scolded me for katakana, so i did this one in hiragana)

yakusoku (sometimes i unthinkingly say yoyaku when i mean yakusoku)

shiten (i said tenshi, but i'll remember the ten in the future)

kankyou (i said kankyuu)

shingou (i said dengou. maybe i have electrons on my mind)

shousetsu (i had setsu immediately but couldn't remember shou until i pictured the kanji)

zutto (couldn't remember at all; briefly thought of nandomo)

mudadzukai (i had to sound this one out by syllable but said ta instead of dzu)

koukan suru (it'll help to remember kou, criss-crossing)

sansei suru

kokusai kankei

shufu (i always think kanai)

sugu, mousugu, and imasugu (and massugu) (maybe it'll help to remember that it has the same temporospatial duality as in English: "directly", meaning "go straight through this intersection" or "do this before anything else")

keizai (had to think about it, probably because economics occupies a money space in my memory) first i was thinking sai-kin (okane)

atsumeru (i thought ayamaru, though of course i rejected that immediately)

kankou (got it but had to think because the syllables were rearranging themselves in my head)

I also tend to say yoroshikereba instead of yoroshikattara, because asking whether something is convenient for someone (for me) doesn't carry the same sense of "pastness".

とにかく、the list is a lot shorter than it was yesterday, so that's good. And there were only one or two that I really couldn't think of at all; most of the mistakes were in on'yomi. One aspect of this quizzer that's both an advantage and (sometimes) a limitation is that the user's kana entry has to match the database entry exactly. So it's a stickler for long vs short vowels and voiced vs unvoiced consonants (good), but then sometimes when the database entry is off there's no way to get the item right (bad).

Also gathering flashcards per the N5–N3 kanji lists. Studying kanji is definitely a priority.

Wondering about パンクする, having a flat tire. It must be a borrowed word, but whence? (Addendum: it's from puncture.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tango (and not the Argentine variety).

So I've finally made it through Usagi-chan's 23-chapter vocab
quizzer. I made a list as I was going through of any word
that took some work to remember. Most of the words below I
now have no problem with, but I want to keep them in mind
as a vocab list:



chikoko suru vs okureru vs osoku naru

chuumon suru

gakkari suru



hitorigurashi—helps to learn that kurashi means "to live / get by"

houtteoku—weird word structurally! Kotoba says it can be written with 放 and 置

ijimeru (ijiwarui?)

jirojiro miru




keikaku o tateru




kinchou suru


kokusaikankei—same kokusai as in the phone call, so that helps

konnafuu—i kept saying konna *ni* ("in this way")


koukan suru

kyoujuu ni


makoto ni

ma ni au—i've seen a lot of 間 as ma recently. hmm


mezamashidokei—fine with the tokei part


mudadzukai—the quiz doesn't give parts of speech, so this threw me for a while as just "waste"




netsu ga aru

nodo ga kawaku



rirekisho—this will be easier now that i'm associating reki with history, but the ri still throws me

ryoushin—"both parents", but i still have a hard time remembering it. it's one of those that send a bunch of syllables rolling through my head, trying to match up


sansei suru





shiai—didn't know it, but it makes sense. i think this entry may have been one of the few bugs in the program (ie, the code wouldn't recognize しあい however i typed or pasted it)




shokudou—another one that i learned long ago but don't often use shoukai vs shoutai—it's helping me to think of the "coming together" sense of kai


shucchou—the little tsu is what threw me in this one

shufu—confusing because in fuufu the wife has a long vowel


shuushoku suru


tameru—helps me to think of the "for the sake of" sense of tame—i am saving money *for* something else

tebukuro—te, of course

tokoya—toko?—any relation to tokasu?

tonikaku—this one is super-strange. the quiz says it means "anyway", but what can its origin be? Kotoba gives kanji for it but says they're ateji

tonkatsu—the infamous pork loin or whatever

tsugou ga warui—warui makes sense; need to find out what "tsugou" is

tsukamaru—hopefully i'll never have empirical knowledge of this one (or of chikan)

uchuujin—this makes sense as a spaceman, but it's tough to remember




yoshuu—i know both the kanji but keep forgetting

zeikin—kin is fine, but strange to start a kanji with a "z" reading

Most of them I can define right now, just looking at them, but in the quiz they're still not coming to me as quickly as they should. I'll do some thinking about them; that'll help.

Genki vocab.

A thing I don't love about Genki is its apparently scattershot approach to vocabulary. Sometimes it seems to include words just so it can use them in dialogues. A prime example that keeps coming up in Usagi-chan's quizzer (which I like to play with at work when I can) is とんかつ, a pork cutlet. Why do I need that at this stage in my life? I don't think I know the word for sink or chicken or socialism, but I need to know pork cutlet? Why not beef shank? Why not balsamic reduction?

I'm quizzing on all chapters at once, but you can tell which chapters some of the words come from—eg, どろぼ (burglar) and ちかん (sex offender).

More mnemonics.

It's not so much that I use mnemonics intentionally; it just that I get an image in my head and then I don't miss the word anymore in Usagi-chan's pan-Genki vocab quiz. An example just came up: へんぴんする, henpin suru, to return something to a store. へん means weird/strange, of course, so I got this image of a woman returning a pin to the store because it was weird.

Another mnemonic that happened that isn't really a mnemonic at all: もんくをいう (文句を言う), monku o iu, to complain. The meaning has nothing to do with a monk, but when that term comes up in the quiz a monk appears in my head and reminds me.

And then there's the strange case of びんぼう, poor. The first time I saw that, I associated it with a beanpole, so I got that wrong in Usagi-chan. Now sometimes I have to remind myself that it's binbou, not binpou.

This is a favorite: もてる, "to be popular in terms of romantic interest". S/he will meet you at the "moteru" down the street.

ゆうしょうする (yuu shou suru): to win a championship. You show 'em! (Of course, they may in turn shou yu with soy sauce.)

And an ironic one: せいふ, seifu, government. The government makes one feel so safe!

A while ago I got 犯人 wrong, so I wrote it down, and then when it came up again I remembered the written-down version. I must be a pretty visual learner.

I really need to learn more kanji. That'll make it easier to remember tough ones like 推薦状 (suisenjou, a letter of recommendation) or 割引券 (waribikiken, a coupon). Out of the six kanji, only the third, fifth, and sixth are familiar, and I can only positively identify the fifth as hiku (because it's so pictographic).

What's really tripping me up at the moment is 中 at the end of a phrase, -ちゅう vs -じゅう. "In the middle of" something, "for the duration of" something. 授業中に (ちゅう) but 一日中 (じゅう). Maybe with practice I'll get better at feeling the sound.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oshieru, oboeru, manabu, omoidasu, etc.

For a while I've been vaguely trying to tease our distinctions among these verbs of putting things into, or taking them out of, the memory.
oshieru (教える): it's a standard "to teach", but it also applies to imparting info, such as a phone number (電話番号を教えてください.)

manabu (学ぶ): feels studious, like a person at school (gaku 学)

oboeru (覚える): usually carries a sense of memorizing, but then in "Chijou no Hoshi" Nakajima sings, "地上の星を / だれも覚えていない", which wouldn't carry that sense at all

omoidasu (思い出す): to remember (from the omoide, combining kanji for thinking and leaving/extracting)

I'm sure there are more. Manabu uses the same kanji as all the gaku variants, so there's a definite sense of study and studenting. Oboeru (to me) suggests effort and intention; the 勉 in 勉強, study, has a tsukuri of 力 (strength) and carries a reading of tsutomeru, to work, a verb that's usually written 勤める, again with 力. Exertion, effort. Manabu 学ぶ might suggest the longer-term process of being in a school environment and learning gradually, as opposed to applying oneself acutely. 今日学校に行ったけど、あまり勉強しなかったから、何も学ばなかった。

So maybe Nakajima isn't saying just that no one knows/remembers, but also that no one makes an effort to remember.

Jisho offers a bunch of neat variants on remembering and keeping in mind. The first entry is 思い出す, of course. The second is the enchanting 思い起こす, omoiokosu, combining thinking/memory and awakening—the active form, rather than 思い起きる. Jisho also offers 偲ぶ, which adds ninben, which may carry that reading of "shi" (but does it carry meaning?). It also offers another kanji for oboeru, 憶える: apparently, 憶 can also be omou, like 思う, and the kanji is the 意 in "meaning" (いみ) plus an additional kokoro (mind/heart) for flavor. 注意 (warning) is particularly interesting because it seems to carry a specific sense of attention—eg, you can use 逸らす, actively diverting/digressing, on it to distract someone from something. (注意を逸らしていただきませんか。) Of course, with sorasu (divert) there's also soreru, to wander or digress (on your own—牛が逸れちゃった?).

There must be nuances among all these verbs; so frustrating to see them all listed as "to remember"! Why can't dictionaries say anything useful?

Addendum: And where does 習う fit into all this? Feathers? It's used in 見習い, young women practicing their dancing &c. Is 習う more physical than, say, 学ぶ?

Another kanji moment.

Another happy kanji discovery (though this is probably obvious to everyone else):
汚す yogosu, to soil

汚れる yogoreru, to become soiled

汚い kitanai, dirty.

I like those connections; they're energizing, and they suggest that there may be some logic here. (It definitely helps that 先生 and I have been working on active and passive verb forms.)

So I'm trying to prepare for JLPTN3. Here's a resource I'm using a lot: Usagi-chan's Genki Resource Page at Sacramento State. Lots of helpful resources for kana, kanji, and vocab, but I've been focusing on the vocab quizzer. The app can quiz on vocab from all 23 chapters of Genki, more than 1,000 words in all, and it removes items from the list once you've gotten them right. I'm in Genki chapter 19, but I've been running the whole program, and I've learned a lot. Trying to gain some familiarity with the kanji, too. These two-kanji する combinations are killing me. Maybe it's just that I grew up with English, but I find on'yomi tough to distinguish sometimes -- しゅ vs しょ vs しゅう vs しょう vs じゅう vs じょう. So as I've been going through and speaking everything very carefully.

It's encouraging to know that I'm improving, though. I can go through hundreds at a time without making mistakes other than typos. And it feels pretty good to look at something, think I don't know it, and then have the correct reading or meaning just float up from somewhere deep in my head. Truly, 思い出す.

Fun to tell myself stories to keep the kanji straight. Like, in semai 狭い, the wild dog (けものへん) is in an alley with that bulky つくり and is being squished -- because the alley is narrow (semai). 絵 is literally threads-together, which Henshall says refers to old paintings on silk. 類 is one I'll have to look into when Henshall is handy. Funny that 輪 means rings/circles/wheels; it's one of the most right-angled kanji out there. (But I guess I can see that the hen is 車, a vehicle, and 冊 in the tsukuri may suggest binding together, as with books. I'm tickled that shoko 職, employment, has 耳, 音, and 戈—ear, sound, and halberd—because, of course, employment (shoku) is a state in which you listen to a lot of noise or get chopped. 働, working, has similar charm: a person, heaviness, and strength/force. Sisyphus.

Of course, I'll have to do a lot more for N3; I have some vocab and kanji lists and am making kanji flash cards. Long row to hoe. But I'm encouraged with the progress I've made so far. 頑張ろうね。

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

覚えにくい単語 / 「たからくじ」の漢字。

So here's a word that I just can't keep in my head: lottery. I'd give the Japanese version, but I'm determined to fish it out of my tired brain. I know the verb for "to hit the lottery" is 当たる, which makes perfect sense, but the word for the lotto itself is a meaningless jumble of syllables.... like five syllables.... たからくじ! Is that right? 意味はなんでしょうか。 takarakuji. Let's see what Kotoba says.

(If Genki doesn't teach you a certain kanji, it won't use it, so sometimes it's difficult to tell what's habitually written with kanji and what's not.)

So there are two kanji in takarakuji:

宝 takara
籤 kuji

Apparently 宝 means treasure, and 籤 in both forms means lottery or raffle. Interesting: although the two forms of kuji both carry the meaning of "lottery", they have some differences in readings: the common-use one is SEN, kuji, and kazutori, and the old one is KYOU and kuji. All the kanji compounds that Kotoba lists for both have something to do with lotteries, drawing lots, luck, etc. Interesting stuff. ヘンシャー先生に相談しよう。。。



takara 宝 is a gimme: 玉 under a roof. Pretty literal.

籤の漢字は。。。。 見つけられないですよ。 Henshall has nothing to say about kuji or its origins. それでは、部首を調べましょう。。。 おほぅ! Jisho lists three that I can see that are about lotteries: 籖, 觽, and 鬮.

籖: kun: kazutori, kuji; on: SEN. Lottery or raffle. Not jouyou. Looks like we have 竹 as tsukuri, with tsuchi 土, hoko 戈, and this crazy 韭, which Jisho says means a leek (but which has no kun'yomi whatsoever). I guess leeks aren't big in Japan.

觽: kun: kujiri, tsunogiri; on: E, KI, KEI, SUI. Judging by its variants, this one has a sense of ivory or horn (角, which is its hen). (Why is tsuno 角 the same kanji as kado 角, corner?—ahh, なるほど, Henshall says kado came from a pictograph of a horn.) The tsukuri includes yama 山 and the weird 隹, which I've seen interpreted as "feathers", "bird in tree", and "old bird". (Henshall says it's a pictograph.) Also not jouyou. "Giri" is interesting; is it related to this sense of obligation, 義理? Some kind of obligation/debt brought on by a horn that resulted in (perhaps) a chance or death or something. Obscure!

But this one is the real prize:

鬮: This one is a bona fide pictograph! You can see an animal in it. Blow it up if you don't believe me. The outer structure is 門ish, but it doesn't connect; just a vertical on the left and a vertical with kick on the right, and inside two 王. Beneath those there's what can only be a literal interpretation of some kind of animal—perhaps a tortoise? Ah, yes—Jisho says that the 鬥 part ("broken gate") is no longer in use (and lists 0 readings for it) but the 亀 part is jouyou and jinmeiyou and means turtle. (You can see the shell and tail.) Exciting!

There are some other sources that follow up on the on'yomi kazutori (which may have something to do with drawing numbers—kazu 数 and toru 取る?), but probably that reading was assigned way after the fact. Still have no idea what the origins of "kuji" might be.

Bet on the turtle.

日本語能力試験 N3.

So I've committed to N3級—my registration is confirmed. It's in December. I have a lot of work to do.

So I'm making new kanji flashcards, and at the moment I'm running through a fantastic app (hat-tip to Usagi-chan) that quizzes on all vocab from both Genki books, about 1100 words in all. I figure it's a good starting point, even though right now we're only on ch. 19 (book 2). It's helping me learn the vocab I don't already know (or have forgotten), and it's exposing me to kanji that I'll need to make friends with at some point. 私とこの漢字はいま知り合ってみてる。

But here's something wonderful: the kanji combo for "resume" (りれきしょ). 履歴書. Sho is obvious; the 履歴書 is a 書類. Reki, too, is pretty clear; a history. 歴史. But the first one—履?! Kutsu?! The written history of my shoes? Is this ateji, or what?

Also: I love that you can sing the praises of something/someone with Homeru. Perfect! 理想だね!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

日本語能力試験 3級

ところで、I've registered for the JLPT again this year, 日本語能力試験, level N3. Work has been pretty exhausting for a long while, so it'll take a lot of work to be ready, but 頑張りましょうね。 Already making flashcards. Whether it works out or not, I'm looking forward to trying.


(Apologies—this needs editing, but I haven't had time.)

日本語の授業 on Thursday. Much fun. We discussed honorific forms, 遠慮, etc. What I'm finding most fascinating about these honorifics is how they can combine: meshiagatteiru, meshiagatteirasshaimasu, meshiagatteirassharu. Tabeteirasshaimasu? Tabeteirasshatta koto ga arimasu ka? Tabeteirasshatta koto, aru? They create interesting possibilities, like おなおしになっていらっしゃったら onaoshininatteirasshattara, something like "if/when you have so kindly been correcting". Such a combination seems possible grammatically, but what would it mean to an actual person? And what about onaoshininatteirasshareba?

This is one of many reasons why I'm glad to have my 日本語の先生 as a guide—he's very, very good at explaining the nuances of meaning. I wish I were as good at understanding them!

すみません sumimasen: presumably from すむ sumu, to feel at ease. 遅くなってどうもすみませんでした (osoku natte doumo sumimasen deshita)—very sorry I was late; I didn't feel at ease about it—or, more literally, i became late and was very uneasy (about it). Interesting question, then, of apologies for things you didn't realize at the time were wrong:
Xさんのりんごをたべてすみませんでした. だれのだったか分からなかったんです。
X-san no ringo o tabete, sumimasen deshita. dare no datta ka wakaranakatta n desu.
Sorry I ate your apple, X-san. I just didn't know whose it was.
That (or something like that) is how we'd probably translate it and how it's probably understood, but funny that from a strict semantic perspective the (-te...verb) construction doesn't work: it's not that I ate the apple and felt bad about it at the time, but that I felt bad only when I discovered that the apple had belonged to X-san. Then again, maybe it does work, as a sequence: I ate the apple and later felt bad about it. ringo o tabete, sumimasen deshita. And presumably the speaker is still in that state (and thus is apologizing for it). So, then, could you apologize for a past action with a present-tense sumimasen? ringo o tabemashita kara, ima sumimasen. Or has that specificity of sumimasen been lost? Is it now a stock phrase of obscure origin? 面白いですね。

There's a kanji that I need to follow up on: it had the same first two strokes as 有る, and sensei said (I believe) that it's pronounced ある, but the tsukuri was 子. I think. I haven't been able to find it anywhere.

ごめんなさい gomennasai: We talked about なさる with the other honorific verbs, so now I'm into that. I've wondered before about the -sai endings in ごめんなさい、ください, おやすみなさい, etc. Now it seems that the -nasai endings may derive from nasaru なさる, the honorific form of suru する, to do. So that got me thinking that in gomen the go may also be honorific, and now I see (from that the men in ご免 go-men does have a meaning of "pardon". So that makes sense. But I'm still wondering about ending all these things with -sai, especially as that's complicated by the more formal -saimase, which I assume must come from the -masu form. I've heard before that ごめんなさい can sound childish; would saying ごめんなさいませ make it more formal/appropriate? Google turns up only six results for ごめんなさいませ in romaji but almost 24,000 in kana. お休みなさいませ。 Now I'm suspecting -sai is an imperative form; that would make sense. Ringo o kudasai = kindly bestow upon me the/an apple. Gomen nasai = perform your honorable pardon [on me]. Could there be an irrashai, "honorably come on in"?

Aha: the Internet tells me that -sai and -mase are indeed, respectively, informal and formal imperative forms. (まだimperativeを学んでいないんです。) One page says that you can use いらっしゃい to a friend arriving at your house, and of course いらっしゃいませ is for shop clerks to greet customers. "Come on in" vs. a much more polite way. (So where would 食べませ leave us?)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Going to 茶の湯 tomorrow at the Japanese House in Fairmount Park!

Friday, August 27, 2010


ところで、吉本ばななの「キッチン」を読んでみて続けているけど、非常に難しいよ。知らない漢字がたくさんあり、部首で調べることは時間がたくさんかかるんだ。それに、文字は小さくてスパースがあまりないので、調べた漢字は振り仮名を書くことができない。だから、漢字の意味を早く忘れ、もう一回調べなくちゃ。大変だね! コンピュータで読めば「理解ちゃん」と言うソフトが使えるから、そのほうが易いと思う。実は、「理解ちゃん」を使いたいし、振り仮名を書きたいし、今本のテキストを全部タイプしている!ばかだね。

Article on executions in Japan.


Interesting article in 毎日新聞 Mainichi Shinbun on the criminal execution process in Japan, apparently long shrouded (笑) in mystery.


Interesting, the ritual of it—purification with salt, and so on. I think this part would infuriate me:
Killing me would be bad enough, but do they have to moralize, too?!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

今日の習字。 Shuuji!

ただいま! Great to be back in shuuji today after several weeks' absence. First we did some more renmen (連綿), writing characters in continuous lines; we're working with two hiragana at a time, so we did よふ, then はま, then なつ. Then hentaigana: several forms of ni (に), which funnily enough look a lot like fu (ふ); the similarity presumably comes from their kanji origins, as two strokes of fu 不 look a lot like the 人べん radical in ni 仁. After に, back to my current summer kanji combo, 「昼院靜」, hiru in sei. Gyousho. A bit of practice on newspaper, and then some attempts at お清書 on various better kinds of paper: the thirsty yellow one, two other (less thirsty) yellow ones, a white one that seemed not to care for me at all. I did a few things that worked well, but nothing really good. Still spacing issues, even though I tried to demarcate the paper with two 小筆. I could happily write in 行書 all day, but eventually my arm stiffened up and my 行書 started looking more like bad 楷書. Sharp corners. Yuck. And I still tend to write everything too heavily, as if instead of writing it with good technique I were just demanding it look right. 靜 ends with a beautiful vertical stroke that veers left at the end and that you can pull practically off the page:

Next time I think we're moving on to 草書 for 「昼院靜」, and 先生 has asked us to practice our 書 names. Writing my sho name and 書 (kaku) always worries me, because it's your last chance to ruin your work—you've finally managed to write something that's worth putting your name on, but then you ruin it by writing your name or 「書」 badly. As if, as I said to my friend and fellow student as we left, in signing a painting Rembrandt forgot to write the "d". (Perhaps his patrons would have find that charming, but.)

A few months ago I stamped a piece with my chop but had the angle wrong—ie, the inked chop facing the wrong way. Rookie mistake!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

吉本ばなな/キッチン (YOSHIMOTO Banana / *Kitchen*)


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I'm always looking things up in Henshall's excellent book, so I was pleased to find on Amazon another book exploring the wonders of kanji, Eve Kushner's Crazy for Kanji. I've only glanced through so far, but I'm loving it. Her approach is fresh and irreverent, and she emphasizes the connections among kanji and their sounds, parts, and meanings, as I sometimes have tried (with less success) to do here. She's also saying a lot about the importation of 漢字, the effects that had, and the relationship with earlier 和語 (wago, indigenous Japanese language), an area I've wanted to read much more about.* She also explores more subtle topics, such as what the use of kanji may suggest about Japanese culture and how the Japanese themselves feel about kanji. To boot, she includes a variety of quizzes and games that challenge the perception of kanji as one big, dark room.

I find it all no less daunting, but I'm stoked.

*For Japanese script reform, 国語国事問題, see eg here and here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

On not being able to comment through Y! Japan....

I've tried a few times to sign up for Google Japan to comment on 主婦さん's post on nutrition, but 出来なかった, so here's what I wanted to say:
実は。。。There are parents here in アメリカ who were raised to leave nothing on the plate—the influence of the Depression of the 1930s, when you couldn't be sure there would be food at all. "Waste not, want not" ですね. (「もったいない」の表現は大体同じだと思います。)But here our nutrition problem is probably about not only education but supply—in some areas, fresh fruits and vegetables are available but not affordable.

ところで, I believe the palate does change as we grow older; 子供 may be more sensitive to some substances (like onion) and reject them as too strong. でも、食べ物は子供の時食べたくなくて大人の時食べたいのがありますね。(?) There are many foods that as children we dislike but as adults we like. 例えば Brussels sprouts—they're the classic child-hated food, but here in フィラデルフィアのレストラン they're served as a delicacy. 美味しいですよねー。



I find 下さる (kudasaru) really interesting. It's polite but informal. I've heard it once or twice in アニメ, and now here it is again in クリストチャン・ラジオ. I suppose it reflects an intimate but respectful relationship.

クリスチャン・ラジオ?! (Christian radio?!)


I really need to practice listening, so I'm always looking for Japanese-language streaming radio. No luck with music today, but I did find a working link to a Christian station. It's definitely a little weird to hear Christian radio in Japanese, but when they read the Bible they pause enough that I can pick up a good bit of it, so works. それはいいことだろう。

例えば: Hearing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" in 日本語. Must must must find those lyrics. 歌詞を見つけなくちゃ成らないよ。


歌詞:「おもちゃのチャチャチャ」 ("The Toys' Cha-cha"!)

でも、よく僕はその単語(言葉?)が思い出せない。その時、思い出させるために、先生は「おもちゃのチャチャチャ!」って歌う。子供の歌の歌詞だって。僕は知らない歌なので、調べ訳してみよう。。。。 何分が分かるだろうかなぁ。子供のなので、よく分かるといいよね。

OK, ビデオを見つけて見た:

そらに きらきら おほしさま (チャチャチャ)
  みんな すやすや ねむる ころ
sora ni kirakira ohoshisama
  minna suyasuya nemuru koro
when the Stars are twinkling in the sky
  and everyone is sleeping soundly

おもちゃは はこを とびだして (チャチャチャ)
  おどる おもちゃの チャチャチャ
omocha ha hako o tobidashite
  odoru omocha no chachacha
the toys jump out of the box
  and dance the toy cha-cha


なまりの へいたい トテチテタ
  らっぱ ならして こんばんは
namari no heitai to-te-chi-te-ta
  rappa narashite konban ha
with a "to-te-chi-te-ta", the lead soldier
  plays "good evening" on his trumpet

フランスにんぎょう すてきでしょ
  はなの ドレスで チャチャチャ
furansu ningyou suteki desho
  hana no doresu de cha-cha-cha
the pretty French doll
  dances in her flowery dress


きょうは おもちゃの まつりだ
  みんな たのしく うたいましょ
kyou ha omocha no matsuri da
  minna tanoshiku utaimasho
today is the toys' holiday/festival
  everyone's having fun singing

こひつじ メエメエ こねこは ニヤー
  こぶた ブースカ チャチャチャ
kohitsuji meemee koneko ha nyaa
  kobuta buusuka cha-cha-cha
the lamb goes, "baa!" the kitten goes, "Meow!"
  the piglets in boots (?!) (dance the) cha-cha
(「ブースカ」って何だろう? イメージ検索からも分からない)


そらに さよなら おほしさま (チャチャチャ)
  まどに おひさま こんにちは
sora ni sayonara ohoshisama
  mado ni ohisama konnichi ha
goodbye, Stars in the sky!
  hello, Sun through the window!

おもちゃは かえる おもちゃばこ
  そして ねむるよ チャチャチャ
omocha ha kaeru omochabako
  soshite nemuru yo cha-cha-cha
the toys return to the toybox
  and go to sleep.



I love that they're dancing to a gramophone (グラモフォーン?). And 鉛の兵隊 dances like this kid from Charlie Brown:

Of course, as Cさん says, it's no トマトちゃん.

Whatever ブースカ may be, この可愛い犬はブースカが欲しいと思う:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


練習のために、ちょっと訳そう。 例えば、これは今日の「朝日新聞」のテキスト。 エンタメの「BOOK」の何かを読んでみよう。 選んだテキストはこれ:

Time to try translating something small, so here'a bit from the BOOK section of Asahi newspaper online:
dai go-juu-rokkai seishounen tokusho kansoubun konkuuru no kadai tosho
the book for the 56th Young People's Book Report Contest

shougakkou teigakunen kara koukousei made zen juu-hassatsu o ichidou ni atsumemashita.
18 books have been chosen, for kids from grade school through high school.

kotoshi mo ki ni naru sakuhin ha seizoroi!
once again an army of books have lined up!

are mo kore mo yondemitaku naru sakuhin bakari desu.
(this and that work people increasingly want to try to read?! How does ばかり fit in?)

uri kireru mae ni, ohayame ni go kounyuu kudasai!
buy early, while the sales last!
Je me demande ce que lisent les enfants au Japon. Ça se peut que moi aussi je pourrais le lire, à l'aide du dictionnaire bien entendu. 僕は日本語の小学生の本が読めるかなぁ。

ところで、「朝日新聞」のサイトは日本のサッカー・チームの色に染まったみたいだね。 「本日はサッカー日本代表の健闘に敬意を表し、トップページをブルーにしました。」って書いてある。

The Asahi site has turned blue for Japan vs Paraguay!

Monday, June 28, 2010

漢字: 「翻訳」の「翻」。 (What's the "hon" in "hon'yaku"?)

It's bothering me that I don't know what the hon in hon'yaku (translation) means; I always just use 訳 yaku (訳す、訳する). So let's find out. ちょっと調べてみよう。。。。

Well, that's ランドム. Kotoba gives two kanji, 翻 and 飜, and grays out the former, though apparently only the former is 常用 (Jouyou, common-use: school grade 8, JLPT level 1). Both mean "to flip over", and they share a hen of topped-rice and rice-field; in 翻 the tsukuri is 羽 (hane, feathers/wings), and in 飜 it's our old friend 飛 (tobu, to fly).

Not clear to me how either of these relates to translation, but maybe it's phonetic. I'll check Henshall先生 later.


今年の日本語能力試験は、フィラデルフィアでも受けられる!素晴らしい。僕は新しい4級を受けるといい。沢山勉強すると、3級もできるかも知れない。 JLPT in Philadelphia this year! I may be able to shoot for new-4 or even, with a ton of study, new-3. My bad luck that they changed the numbering on me after last year (when I achieved 4). But しょがない. 「いい天気ですから、散歩しましょう。」

Uh-oh. The guide to the new test says it features コミュニケーション能力をより重視した試験になります—increased emphasis on communication skill. I don't like the sound of that! 壊い。

  • One is able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics.
  • One is also able to grasp summary information such as newspaper headlines.
  • In addition, one is also able to read slightly difficult writings encountered in everyday situations and understand the main points of the content if some alternative phrases are available to aid one’s understanding.
  • One is able to listen and comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations, spoken at near - natural speed, and is generally able to follow their contents as well as grasp the relationships among the people involved.
That sounds not completely infeasible, 沢山漢字と文法を学んだり、会話を練習したりしておけば. だけど無理かもしれない。 I'll try to read more 朝日.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New favorite verb: 飛び出す.

飛び出す tobidasu combines 飛ぶ tobu, to fly, with 出す dasu, to get out. Roughly translated, "to get the hell out". 飛び出そうね。

The thing I can't understand (分からない事) is why it's not 出る deru, the intransitive form. It's not like I'm getting someone else the hell out.

Interesting: Kotoba によると, 飛び出る is indeed a verb, but it's more about protruding/obtruding, things that come out of other things, than about extraction. Can 飛び出す tobidasu apply to oneself?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

今日の習字. (today's calligraphy!)

Today we "finished" the iroha—that is, we began studying the last six hiragana characters. 先生 gave us hentaigana to look at for next time, and some examples of 連綿 renmen, connecting kana into continuous lines. Just two characters at a time so far, more as we gain in skill. 今度ね。

We took a break from my new 晝陰靜 hiru in sei to do two characters from the last set, 雲 kumo and 飛 to(bu), in new sousho styles on white paper. 先生 and I picked out some favorites from the Masters; I wrote 雲 in the style of 吳昌碩 and 飛 in the amazingly tight and blotchy style of someone whose name I can't make out at all. I also tried this really daunting 飛 by (I think) 楊維—

It can be tough to sound out the name of a Chinese calligrapher. In 吳昌碩, 昌碩 may be shouseki; 吳 seems not to live in Japanese, beyond the name of a harbor near Hiroshima, but may be.... Scratch that. I'm going to go full-on Chinese with it and say his PinYin name is WU Chang-Shi or WU Chiang-Shuo or something else along those lines. And...やった! *rah* It is. So now I'm savvy enough to figure out that 楊維楨 is YANG Wei-Chen—not this one, but this one—from the Yuan Dynasty, 14th century. Funny, because apparently Wu lived 1844–1927. But I guess variety helps. 先生 says it's good to practice from calligraphers who wrote during the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries) because their work tends to be the least idiosyncratic / the most standardized.

(Ha—this site of the National Palace Museum refers to Yang's "wild cursive script" that "mirrors in many ways the troubled times of the late Yuan dynasty". I guess his 飛 does, too. 先生 wasn't into that 飛 but said I could try if I wanted to, so in some down-time I did. I think I see the logic of the movement, but I couldn't make it look coherent as Yang's does. The thing is, he connects everything and keeps all the lines thin, so his 飛 comes out looking like a Picasso. This history of Chinese calligraphy actually quotes Yang.)

The Unknown Master's 飛 is certainly strong. It enters very lightly but coils the first hook-and-dots into a tight little ball and then condenses the vertical and the swipes into a seriously thick descending line. The second hook also is heavy, but at the end of the low stroke it suddenly lightens and trails up to a powerful ending 点. For me, the last hook stroke in this sousho is difficult because I enjoy it so much: often I drew it out along the bottom and pulled in on the upstroke, as I like to do, and I ended up with something more like 龍 ryuu, dragon. And then one time, somehow, it read as 兎 usagi, a bunny rabbit. 不思議なものだね。

As for 雲: after 先生 corrects, I usually rewrite the page a few times, so of course the 漢字 get darker and darker. Seeing a 雲 on the trash pile, 先生 had the inspired idea to "darken" my 雲—why shouldn't we do it as a storm cloud, with a really bold entrance? So I started doing it that way, with a ton of ink in the opening strokes (雨) and then a subtle trailing-off afterward. Cool effect—total 滲み at the top and then neat 掠れ at the end. 楽し過ぎてやばい!

Once when we were all looking through a book of 書, 先生 pointed out a kanji written along the edge of some examples that meant "in the style of". She read it as リン rin. Wondering what that might be. Per Saiga, there are a few decent candidates, but the best so far is probably 随, which means "following". 僕の一番好きな「飛」は、知らないマスター随だよ。

ところで: I like it when kanji are their own radical. There's something impressive about it—like they're so unique that there's no comfortable way to categorize them with anything else. You go, 飛.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

「お大事に」。 ("o dai ji ni")

Just realized that 「お大事に」, a common "seeya"/"take care" expression, is probably an abbreviation for 体を/気をお大事にしてください [karada o / ki o] odaiji ni shite kudasai, "please treat your spirit/person/self as a very important thing". A form of 「に する」 ni suru. I'm not so familiar with those constructions and was reading about them earlier when I was trying to translate something from Genji. Hmm.

It's great to have Google to test out language constructions.
"お大事にしてください": ~269k hits
"お大事にして下さい": ~683k hits
"お大事にして": ~19.7 million hits, almost every one of them followed by 下さい or ください
So there may be something off with Google's counting.

川柳遊び。 (senryuu poems)

日本語の小中学生のセンリュウのサイトを見つけたー。すごい。 Found a neat site with senryuu poems by Japanese schoolkids. Should be more translatable than the pieces of Genji I've been failing on!

dokidoki kan ga
kimochi yoi

new school term
the heart pounds
it's a good feeling

sakkyou ha ne
aokute marui
ai na n da

the Earth
blue and round
love it

nagai rouka o
ippo zutsu

going through life
under? a long corridor
one step at a time

furosato ha
kirei na hoshi no

my hometown
is known for producing
beautiful stars

minami no shima
haibisukasu ga

southern island
hibiscus is laughing

hon yonde
ooki na yume ga
umareta yo

reading a book,
big dreams
were born

ushi kara no
shiroi suteki na

lovely white present
from the cow

oshiro kara
kyou mo genki o

today, once again,
drawing strength
from the castle

sawayaka na
shuuto ga haru o

shoots break though
the spring

Sunday, June 20, 2010

歌詞: 「人生が二度あれば」 (lyrics: "Jinsei ga Nido Areba")

Not sure how to go at the title, jinsei ga nido areba. "If There Were Second Chances"? "If You Had It to Do Over Again"? The topic could be Inoue, his parents, the listener.... 二度 is a two times, "if life had two times", or probably even "if life has two times", since there's nothing particularly past about that conditional と思うけど.

作詞:井上陽水 作曲:井上陽水
music and lyrics by INOUE Yousui

chichi ha konnen nigatsu de rokujuugo
Dad turned 65 this February
[in this video, Inoue sounds like he's saying し at the end of the line instead of 五. Does he mean 六十四? did he update these lyrics as birthdays passed?]

kao no shiwa ha fueteyuku bakari
face going all wrinkled
[what's the deal with しわ in katakana? emphasis?]

shigoto ni oware
looking for work

このごろやっと ゆとりができた
konogoro yatto yutori ga dekita
now he finally has a little breathing room

chichi no yunomi chawan ha kaketeiru
Dad's teacup is chipped

soreni ocha o irete nondeiru
but he still drinks tea from it

yunomi ni utsuru jibun no kao o jitto miteiru
gazing at his own face in his teacup
[this に is confusing me. 写真の写だね。]

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if life came twice

haha ha kotoshi kuugatsu de roku juu shi
this September Mom will turn 64

kodomo dake no tame ni toshi totta
grown old just for her kids' sake

haha no hosoi te tsukemono ishi wo mochiageteiru
her thin hand holding up tsukemono ishi (a pickled-vegetable stone?)
[インタネットさんによると、漬物石 tsukemonoishi are stones of various weights that you put on top of vegetables that you are pickling.   ]

sonna haha o mite(i)ru to jinsei ga
dare no tame ni aru no ka wakaranai

looking at that mother, I don't know what life's for.
[whom life's for? だれのたみに、but that doesn't seem to work.]

kodomo o sodate kazoku no tame ni toshioita haha
a mother grown old for her family, raising kids

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if life came twice

父と母がこたつでお茶を飲み 若い頃の事を話し合う
chichi to haha ga kotatsu de ocha o nomi
wakai goro no koto o hanashiau

Dad and Mom sit at the table, drinking tea,
chatting about their younger days

想い出してる夢見るように 夢見るように
omoidashite(i)ru yume miru you ni yume miru you ni
remembering, as if in a dream

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if this life came twice....


bikenglishさん asked about the pronunciation of Regina Carter's name. I found it in a video and sent the link, and I said このビデオによると、発音は「レジーナ」が正しいです。 Probably there are several errors in that, but right now I'm thinking that I should have ended with a みたい or a そう, "seeming": ビデオによると、「レジーナ」の発音が正しそうなんです。Probably みたい: ビデオによると、発音は「レジーナ」が正しいみたいです。 みたいんです? Hmm.

Also, originally I started with 「このビデオによるとも」, because other people had already suggested that pronunciation. But then I chickened out and dropped the も. I thought of 「このビデオもによると」, but putting も before によると didn't feel right.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

今日の習字. (today's calligraphy!)

晝陰静 ヒルインセイ hiru-in-sei

晝: 昔の「昼」, old form of hiru, afternoon
陰: kage, shade*
靜: 昔の「静」, old form of shizuka, quiet/still
先生 let me choose from quite a few options, and this one seemed a nice choice for summer and also contains kanji I'd like to be better acquainted with: hiru is basically 書 kaku, and you can never practice that enough; kage is the same kage as in my blog-name; shizuka is a kanji I don't know that's worth knowing and will be a lot of fun to write and hang up at work. 今日その楷書を学び始めた。角や太さやスピードやバランシングなどは難しいおで、今度の前にたくさん練習しておかなくちゃね。

*There's an old form with kusakanmuri (蔭) that I like because it feels greener, but funnily enough the book uses the new form.

Writing forenames in kanji vs kana.

Usually when I see Nakajima's name written in Japanese, her surname is in kanji (中島) and her forename in kana (みゆき). I supposed みゆき was 美雪, beauty + snow; the other day I saw that on a website somewhere and felt more confident about it. But bikenglishさん tells me it's better to write it in kana. そうしようけど。。。どうしてだろうかなぁ。

歌詞: 「傘が無い」 (lyrics: "Kasa ga nai")

井上陽水の歌です。 / Song by Yousui INOUE.

toukai de ha jisatsu suru wakamono ga fueteiru
in the city, more and more young people are killing themselves

kesa kita shinbun no katasumi ni kaiteita
it was written in a corner of today's paper

だけども問題は今日の雨 傘がない
dakedo mo mondai ha kyou no ame kasa ga nai
still, for that problem, for today's rain, i have no umbrella
[I missed the contrast here. "But the problem is today's rain" would be better.]

行かなくちゃ 君に逢いに行かなくちゃ
ikanakucha, kimi ni ai ni ikanakucha
i have to see you

君の町に行かなくちゃ 雨にぬれ
kimi no machi ni ikanakucha ame ni nure
i have to go to where you live, even if i'm soaked in the rain

冷たい雨が 僕の目の中に降る 今日は心にしみる
tsumetai ame ga kyou ha kokoro ni shimiru
today the cold rain soaks straight through to my heart

君の事以外は 何も見えなくなる 考えられなくなる
kimi no koto igai ha kangaerarenakunaru
i can no longer think of anything but you

sore ha ii koto darou
and that's probably a good thing /
(ironically) awesome.
[with no punctuation, that だろう is hard to parse.]

テレビでは我が国の将来の問題を 誰かが深刻な顔をしてしゃべってる
terebi de wagakuni no shourai no mondai o
dareka ga shinkoku na kao o shite shabette(i)ru

on TV, someone is talking with a serious face
about our country's future

だけども問題は今日の雨 傘がない
dakedomo mondai ha kyou no ame kasa ga nai
but, still, the problem is this rain. i have no umbrella.

行かなくちゃ 君に逢いに行かなくちゃ
ikanakucha kimi ni ai ni ikanakucha
i have to, have to see you

君の家に行かなくちゃ 雨にぬれ
kimi no uchi ni ikanakucha ame ni nure
i have to go to your house, soaked in the rain,

tsumetai ame ga boku no me no naka ni furu
the cold rain falling in my eyes

kimi no koto igai ha nanimo mienakunaru
i can no longer see see anything but you.


The excellent blog Foreign Language Music has some really helpful grammatical notes. Among: turns out 心に染みる carries a connotation of stinging, not just soaking.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

歌詞:Miyuki Nakajima: "Chijou no Hoshi"

A thing that's great about living now is that you can discover a Nakajima song on your phone, listen to it, and look up all the words you don't know by the time you get home. This one, "Chijou no Hoshi", is much more dramatic than the others I've heard. The title is lit. "Stars Above the Ground", but—because where else would they be?—it may be a colloquial expression. Apparently it's translated as "Unsung Heroes"; the video certainly supports that, essentially a string of images of ordinary folk, with Nakajima先生 interspersed in bubble-world. Wikipedia says it was composed for a TV program, was released in July 2000, hit #1 in Japan, and became the longest-running Oricon Japanese single (since 1968).

nakajima miyuki: chijou no hoshi
Miyuki NAKAJIMA: ?"Unsung Heroes"

kaze no naka no subaru
Pleiades among the winds
[Funny that the Subaru corporate logo has six stars rather than seven.]

suna no naka no ginga
Milky Way amid the dust
[All these の constructions are bothering me because I'm seeing them translated as, eg, "In the dust of the Milky Way"—but I don't see why "suna の naka の ginga", sand's center's Milky Way, should read as "ginga の naka の suna", Milky Way's center's sand. I see that I'll probably have to switch them all around, but right now I don't get why.]

みんな何処へ行った 見送られることもなく
minna doko e itta miokurareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no one saying goodbye?
[見送る is "to see someone off", or to say farewell. I'm not getting the られる construction with 送る.]

sougen no pegasasu
Pegasus of the grassland/plain

machikado no vi-nasu
Venus of the street corner

みんな何処へ行った 見守られることもなく
minna doko e itta mimamorareru koto mo naku
where has everyone gone, with no one to look out for them?

chijou ni aru hoshi o daremo oboeteinai
the stars that are above the ground, no one remembers them.

hito ha sora bakari mite(i)ru
people see only the sky.

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
sparrow, high in the sky, tell me where they are.

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
sparrow, those stars, where can they be?

gake no ue no jupita-
Jupiter above the cliffs

unasoko no shiriusu
Sirius on the sea-floor

みんな何処へ行った 見守られることもなく
minna doko e itta mimamorareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no one to look after them?

名立たるものを追って 輝くものを追って
nadataru mono o otte kagayaku mono o otte
chasing famous things, chasing glittery things,

hito ha koori bakari tsukamu
people catch only ice.

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
swallow, high in the sky, show me those stars

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo, chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
swallow, where can those stars be now?

名立たるものを追って 輝くものを追って
nadataru mono o otte kagayaku mono o otte
chasing famous things, chasing glittery things,

hito ha koori bakari tsukamu
people catch only ice.

kaze no naka no subaru
Pleiades in the winds,

suna no naka no ginga
Milky Way in the sand—

みんな何処へ行った 見送られることもなく
minna doko e itta miokurareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no goodbyes?

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
swallow, high in the sky, point me to them

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
swallow, where can these stars have gone?
It is a real kick to be able to watch this video and understand her. I'm loving this song.

Note that Nakajima seems to actually sing を as wo. Is this a common idiosyncrasy of pronunciation in singing, like singing ん as ng?

BONUS: The word for "refrain" seems to be 繰り返し kurikaeshi, the same word Nakajima uses in "Jidai" to say that time is cyclical. 「喜び悲しみ繰り返し」


Another "click" happened this morning—a lame one, probably, but all progress is progress ね.

Polite formula 申し訳ありません moushiwake arimasen: used as an apology to superiors.

申す mousu: humble form of "to speak". 木の陰と申します = kinokage to moushimasu = (humbly) They call me Kinokage. (They don't, but it's just an example.)

訳 is one I usually use as ヤク YAKU, translating/translation:
kono muzukashii nihongo no tekisuto o yaku shite kurenai?
won't you translate this difficult Japanese text for me?
But 訳 is also わけ wake, a reason or explanation:
sou iu wake de shukudai wo dekinakuchatta n desu.
That's why I couldn't do my homework. Sorry.
(I've never used わけで before, so I'm picking up that usage from Kotonba, though with a slightly changed example. I'm definitely not sure of できなくちゃった, but that shouldn't affect.)

So 申し訳ありません/ございません ≈ there is no call/reason to speak? I have nothing to say for myself?

Now I need to think about そう言う訳 and whether that links to 申し訳. It may be just a coincidence of usage that in both instances 訳 is preceded by a speech verb; そう言う may be there for other reasons, as in そう言うこと.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

書道ガールス! (New film "Shodo Girls")



Particles in song lyrics.

I'm liking working with songs, because as I gain understanding of the lyrics I can run around singing them and get a sense of flow and usage. What's baffling me, though, is the use of particles at the ends of lines—I can't yet see the rationale for some of it.  例えば
dekoboko michi ya, magarikunetta michi
[it's] an uneven road, winding road
Ya や used that way reminds me of the setting-particle や in poetry, a particle that tends to end the first line of a 俳句 haiku and establishes the setting: 木の陰や ki no kage ya, "[in] a tree's shade". Maybe it's the same idea. The Akiyama grammar book is usually good about laying things out succinctly but includes only the nonspecific-list function of や.

Or this:
sonna jidai mo atta ne to
itsuka hanaseru hi ga kuru wa
the day will come when you'll be able to say,
"that's happened to me, too."
At first I misread the quotation-marking function of と to, probably because I'm not used to seeing it with 話す hanasu, to speak [with].  I might have been more aware with an 言う or a 伝う, which are more about saying and therefore call a specific quotation.

Or this:
tabi o tsuzukeru hitobito ha
itsuka furosato ni deau hi o
tatoe konya ha taorete mo
kitto, shinjite doa o deru.
tatoe kyou ha hateshi mo naku
tsumetai ame ga futteite mo

folks who keep on the journey
someday will see home again
even if tonight [you're] struck down,
if you believe, sure enough you'll find a way out.
even if today you can't see the end of it,
even if cold rain is falling....
Some of the particles make sense there; it's possible that たとえ tatoe, "even if", requires a も mo, which generally means "even [that much, or to such a degree]".  And all the も do work if you think of them as leading up to the next verbs, めぐる めぐる meguru meguru, "it [time] turns and turns".  So the も give a sense of...despite all trials, a better day will come.

What gets me is that を that ends the second line.  It wants a verb.  But now I'm thinking it may just precede the たとえ。。。も structures, and that the verb it's calling may be めぐる—the day when they see home again will return, even if...even if....  But now I'm thinking that's not possible, because that 出る seems to complete thought, not to lead to anything further.  難しいねー。

「でこぼこ」の漢字。 ("Dekoboko")

Some kanji are pretty easily understood, and some really obscure, but very rarely do we see kanji as on-the-nose as the kanji for でこぼこ (dekoboko), meaning a rough/uneven surface. Check this out:

凸 deko convex.
  boko concave.

凸凹: it sticks up in some places and is rutted in others.