Put it into words. 言葉にして。


It’s been a long time since I wrote about studying Japanese last, hasn’t it?  I’ve been pretty busy with school, and so that’s taken up quite a bit of my time, but now that I am finding points where I can take breaks, I want to keep working hard learning Japanese.  I have heard that one of the pitfalls about learning foreign languages at my particular school is that students end up being pretty good at grammar but don’t necessarily have the kind of vocabulary that suits one in expressing themselves fully.  I really want to succeed at learning, so hopefully I can pull everything together and then write about it so other people can avoid the same problems.

I’m going to attempt to practice things here and there whenever I have a free moment–mind you, not every free moment, but a large portion.  I will have an opportunity after the new year to study intensely, so I intend to use that in self-study.

I guess this stuff is kind of boring for me to write about, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody looked at it, so that’s okay.  I just hope in the end I’ll have figured out something that works for me.



I’m really excited because I just ordered a book about a Western woman who has lived in Japan for 30+ years and married into a Japanese family.  Since a lot of time was spent for me going 「日本に住んだらいいなあ~」I think it’s going to be a book I really like.  I have definitely started to notice the difference between individual and group-centered societies as I study more group-centered ones, and I am really hoping for a chance to finally experience Japan like I’ve yearned to all these years.  I’m kind of surprised at myself for being this passionate about the same thing for such a long time; I think that’s enough for me to believe that this is truly passion.  I’m planning to apply to study abroad next year, and I really hope that somehow I can put that kind of passion on paper in a way that it will be clear to other people.  When I was younger, everybody thought that I was going to be a writer, but I really feel quite limited in what I am able to express.


And then I look at my lack of communicative competence in Japanese and it doesn’t seem like my English is so bad.

It’s not like my Japanese is terrible, but it needs work.

Which is why I have to get into this program!  I’m always yearning for a chance like that…I’m not sure what my life is going to look like yet.  I want to be fulfilled, but I don’t know what’s going to be fulfilling.  So I want to find that thing that will be fulfilling…I’m happy now but I don’t want to do the same thing forever.  College is a short experience though, so for better or worse I really don’t even have that much time before things will change.


Cultural Appropriation


I just read an article about cultural appropriation, and I’d like to share my thoughts on it.  Unfortunately I can’t at the moment but a post should be forthcoming about this.

It’s good to have your views challenged, right?  Because then you have a chance to make things better.


mmmkay, so I read this post awhile back, and it kind of went to the back of my mind for a bit because I got caught up in other things, but I did and still do want to post about it so I am gonna do so.

“The Oriental mystique has always existed as the predominate fascination of the Western world. Americans look to Asian culture as a way to make themselves ethnic by appropriating symbols that represent a sense of exoticism and intrigue. Chinese tattoos, for example, often prompt onlookers to ask the tattoo wearer the significance of their meaning, giving the tattooed a chance to seem cultured and otherworldly. It is the best of both worlds: not having to truly educate oneself about another culture and being able to wear the pretense of mystique and wisdom on one’s sleeve (or arm). It is the superficial possession of a cultural trinket without having an understanding, or even willingness to understand, its true significance.”

TBH, after seeing sites like hanzismatter it seems to me that a lot of the people who get kanji/hanzi tattoos don’t know what they mean.  Just walking downtown by my college I see tattoo flash art that shows unconjugated Japanese (I know it’s Japanese because it ends in する, る, etc.).  I feel like if you’re gonna put something on your body, at least conjugate it right, y’know?  Like, if you want to put something like “Live”, maybe conjugate it in the imperative?  (Kinda reminds me of Hayden Panettiere’s tattoo that begins with the unconjugated form of “to live”, vivere, in Italian.)  The more I’ve found out about Japanese culture, the less and less I want to get any tattoo because I don’t like the association with the Yakuza, however old that is, and I want to be able to go to any onsen or waterpark without issue.

So for someone who actually cares about understanding foreign culture and is white, like me, this is heartbreaking.  I don’t get it!  Why would someone do something that they don’t really understand…?

Admittedly, I have been in the camp of doing that.  I didn’t know about the significance of Buddhist prayer beads when they appeared in America as “Power Beads” (I was an elementary schooler at the time) and now that I look back at that trend I recoil from what I didn’t know I was doing.

I was surely ignorant, but not due to any willful ignorance.  It says a lot about the appropriation of culture that people will just take something that looks like it could be a trend and make sure that other people don’t realize its original significance.

I’ll admit it.  I have a kimono (which I’m crazy proud to own because it is vintage silk from about 1969) and a qi pao.  The kimono was given to me as a gift, and I had a hand in choosing the qi pao, but I bought that because I think it is beautiful. I don’t think the fact that I own those is a bad thing in and of itself, despite my ethnic background.

I am confused about my place in the world, you know?  Despite not being Asian by blood, I’m still really interested in Asian culture.  But I try not to make it a kind of suit that I can put on and take off whenever I feel like it.  I’ve been wondering for months what it’s like to be an ethnic minority in the US and see people like me who are interested in Asian culture with no blood connection…sometimes I feel weird for being white.  I am trying to educate myself so I am aware of what kind of privileges are afforded to me for being in the ethnic majority.

I spoke to a friend of mine yesterday whose mother is Korean.  I was telling him about living in the Asian House at my school next year. I didn’t get a chance to explain that it’s generally for people who are learning Chinese or Japanese in order to provide a more immersive environment, but he asked me if I was the only non-Asian in the house.  I feel weird about being asked that.  It’s true that most of the people in the house are of Asian descent, but they’re American just like me…

And then there’s the sticky stuff, like that time I was craving seaweed hardcore and an acquaintance of mine said something about me being “more Asian than [she is]” (She’s Asian American).

So what is it that makes me who I am?  It’s worth noting that I am even capable of choosing to learn more about a foreign culture.

Today I came across this post called “Open Letter to Non-Asian People“.  Both the Korean American guy who wrote the post and the commenters had interesting and valid things to say.  I guess there are people out there who would pull the kind of stuff that he wrote about, but I’m not one of them, even though I’m white…it’s a little weird to be called “you people” too.  Later on when a commenter wrote about his experience as a non-Korean who made the effort to learn the language the original poster wrote back “While the Korean admires your familiarity with Korean language and culture, your kind is few and far between.”

Am I kind of an exception to the rule (“rule” is debatable) that “non-Asians [or insert alternate group here] don’t care about culture to the point that they want to study it and actually know what’s going on instead of just appropriating culture bits that they like or pretending that the foreign culture is something to be blindly worshipped and all other cultures should be shunned”?

If those kinds of posts that I mentioned today aren’t about people like me, I would feel at ease.  I think they’re not, but even so, it’s unfortunate that people who do what I mentioned in the above section seem to be numerous.

Ahhhh, am I doing things correctly?  I like what I like because I really like it and I think it’s cool…I’m not the kind of person who thinks that American culture should be shunned, either…  I’m just trying to live and learn despite having no blood connection to a place.  I’m vaguely reminded of a presentation given at my school’s New Student Orientation last year in which a woman with a German American mother and African American father didn’t think of herself as African American, although people labeled her that because that was what she looked like.  It was more like she was just herself.  I kind of feel like that; I’m just me and I’m white I guess but that’s not as important as what kind of person I am in terms of my personality and stuff like that.

I think that it really isn’t just DNA that makes us who we are, it’s who we associate with and what we choose to engage in.  I think the best thing for me would be to be okay with my own interests and just go about life looking at other people for who they are, which is what I strive to do already.

I feel a little uneasy still, but I wanted to say all this.  I don’t think I said anything offensive, but if I did I absolutely wasn’t trying to.

Food for Thought


This is a link to an excerpt from a book called Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma, which is apparently put out by the University of Hawai’i Press.  (Hmm, I wonder why that publisher has suddenly become one of my favorites?  It surely couldn’t be all the Asia related books they put out 😉 )

It’s sorta long, but well worth reading.  It definitely surpasses the explanations of Chinese given in my elementary Linguistic Anthropology class–we did indeed speak about Chinese as a grapholect, but that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.

Post RTK Volume 1


I’m getting back to my reviews in Anki after about a 2 day break.  (Thank goodness I didn’t wait any longer, as I now have ~1000 reviews to do!)  I’m kind of wondering where to go from here.  Luckily I will be able to get my hands on RTK 2 in a few days.  (but it’s not soon enough~~~~~)

Although!  If I continue to use Khatzumoto’s method and start on my sentences, I will be able to use the way-too-many back issues of Shonen Sunday that I possess to harvest sentences.  (lol I’m sorry, but harvesting sentences sounds mildly sinister!) >:D

That, and then of course I can use the music I have.  I’m hoping that one of my friends will be able to get her hands on a certain manga for me.  Oh, if only the shipping at Amazon Japan wasn’t so expensive :<  I’m not really into messing with proxy services at the moment.

But I’ve digressed a bit.  I am wondering if RTK 3 would be useful or not.  I mean, outside of the 常用 and 人名用 kanji, what should I do?  I do absolutely want to be able to read like a proficient adult in Japanese.  There aren’t that many reviews of RTK 3 at amazon, so I’m not sure.

RTK: TL;DR Version

I bought the book Remembering the Kanji (Volume 1) from amazon.com for about 30% off MSRP for a brand new copy about 21 days ago.  I got it on 2 August, and over the course of 18 days studied the entirety of it.  Now, you might be asking yourself, what does this book contain?  The short answer is that it’s an approach to learning Kanji unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  Basically, the idea is that if you can see the kanji and assign an English meaning to them, you are then in a much better position to learn to pronounce them.  You end up being at the same level of someone whose native language uses kanji, so the only thing you don’t know is the voiced pronunciation.

Eighteen days.  It once took me about six weeks to learn 150 kanji, so let me tell you, this blows everything I’ve tried out of the water.  My reading comprehension has improved an incredible amount.  Had I known that things would be this easy, I would have tried Heisig’s method a lot sooner.  Thanks to this blog, All Japanese All the Time, I was interested enough to get started with the book instead of doubting it could work and my confidence as a Japanese language learner was bolstered immensely.

Here’s a little bullet list of things I learned while studying:

  • Read everything Heisig says.  He doesn’t ever waste space.
  • Do write out the kanji while you are studying it.  Once you come to the point where you are making your own stories, it helps to write them down.
  • Do use an SRS (Spaced Repetition System) to study.  I used a free program called Anki.
  • Write your stories in the “Story” space on the flash cards as soon as you have begun to review them in Anki.
  • Go at a pace which you find personally suitable.  If you need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a day or two of not studying, that is infinitely preferable to quitting (Also from AJATT).

I recommend Remembering the Kanji and All Japanese All the Time wholeheartedly.  If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask.  Good luck in your Japanese learning ventures!

RTK Day 18 出来上がり!

I finished~!


…I don’t know what to say.  I did it 😀

We’ll talk later when I have had more sleep, hmm?  I still have to review today’s new cards in Anki but I think this warrants a break.  🙂

RTK Day 17.5: The Penultimate Day?!?

I started really late today but still got through another 6 lessons.  I’m so close to the end!  Things are looking pretty good.  I decided to pick up some new kanji today because I got tired of trying to fix stuff (i.e., add stories) in Anki.  Of course I’ll have to go back and finish doing that, but I’ll do it later.  For now, a little break is in order. 🙂  In terms of adding new material, I expect that this will be the penultimate day.  So I’m feeling super awesome about that.  I think I’m gonna go get some nachos and watch Ghost in the Shell.

So close~

RTK Day 16-point-something-or-other

Delicious, delicious, salmon/wakame/sesame seed furikake covered Victory Rice.

I am gonna keep going until I can eat that rice. I made myself a promise that I would not until I have finished RTK.  I’m reasonably close.  Timeboxing has helped me to continue writing the stories for my kanji in Anki.

I wanted to say that recently my eye has really been drawn to kanji.  Whenever I see it in public, I latch onto and try to decipher it.  Certain words spark pictures of kanji in my brain.  Tomorrow I will absolutely start new kanji again but I’m so backed up in reviews that I am nervous about it.  I’ll try anyway.