How to: Learn Japanese Fast

Yes, I know how much in a rush you are. I was as well!

But I have good news. It's simple to learn Japanese fast.

I must warn you that it is not instant, and it will mostly depend on your effort, but if you put that effort on the right direction, then you are going to save a lot of time.

I'm not a Japanese language master or some kind of expert in communicating in this language, but my study of it has allowed me to, among other things:

- Have Japanese friends and speak 100% in Japanese;
- Watch anime and drama without subtitles;
- Study in a Japanese College;
- Play in a Japanese orchestra;
- Work in a Japanese company;
- Be involved in a variety of situations where Japanese was needed;
- Reply by accident in Japanese when spoken to in English or Portuguese;

While not being a pro at all, this has its own value, so I thought I might share my experience with you.

Here's how I did it:

If you're a follower of my blog, you should have an idea that I'm Portuguese and that I also studied in Japan. To be precise, I started my study of the Japanese language in Portugal, in a short beginner course with a Japanese teacher that took place in my university. This is an important point. With a Japanese teacher. Because Japanese teachers not only know the language by instinct, they can always share the culture with you and teach you a lot of things foreigners can't.

During the course itself, which was 30 hours long, I was able to completely memorize hiragana, katakana, understand the basic aspects of grammar and have a glimpse at a few kanji.

I quickly decided I wanted to continue, so I enrolled in another course, also with a Japanese teacher. This time, it was a private course, which I attended for about two years. It may seem too long, and well, it is. But I had class only once a week and it was really at my own pace which also has its advantages though. I was in a quite tough time in my university course so I couldn't use as much time as I wanted in the Japanese course.

At this point, I had the grammar more or less consolidated and I was able to have an easy conversation.

The point here is conversation. You need to talk. Make Japanese friends, be it in your country, in Japan, or online. If you study the grammar and don't talk, it is not and will never be enough. Or rather, you might even learn more by talking that by looking at books. You get vocabulary naturally, you force yourself to speak in Japanese to face some kind of situation, and that makes it the best study.

And another point. If you like anime or Japanese drama, watch it as much as you can and get used to the accent. It's vital. First things first, you need to learn how to speak simple words in a simple way, and make sure what you want to say is understood by who you are talking to. So nothing better than getting the accent right and memorizing a few lines.

Returning to the Japanese friends topic, before going to japan, I already had a few Japanese friends. It's good not only to practice your Japanese, but also to learn about Japan and you can even hang out with them should you go to Japan.

In my case, as I didn't have Japanese people in my surroundings, I decided to search for friends online. There are various websites where you can do it, some better than others, so it's up to you to choose.

And here comes the most important part. If you are learning Japanese, you should be interested in going to Japan, I guess. If you can, just go. Japan is, by far, the best place to learn Japanese. If you can't go as soon as you'd wish, make preparations. Study in advance. Buy a dictionary, a grammar book. Download an app. Search the internet. Don't wait for things to happen. Be it for a short or for a long period of time, you can make the most of that time.

When in Japan, speak with Japanese people. Many foreigners tend to hang out among foreigners, which is their choice, but won't help their Japanese at all. Why not enroll in a Japanese school and stay with a Japanes host family? It's a great experience, I can guarantee that to you ;-)

This is my method. Of course there are others. If you were looking for an "instant-noodle" Japanese learning recipe, too bad. It doesn't exist. However, if you start studying today, you'll be one day closer to achieving your goal ;-)

Any questions, comments, etc., just send me an email or leave a comment below!


Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女, Toki o Kakeru Shōjo, lit. The Girl you controls time) is a 2006 Japanese-animated science fiction romance film directed by Hosoda Mamoru (細田 守) and written by Okudera Satoko (奥寺 佐渡子).



The film shares the basic premise of a young girl, Konno Makoto, who gains the power of time travel, fact that she learns from her aunt Yoshiyama Kazuko. Makoto begins using the time-leaps frivolously to fix problems, but things don't do so smooth as she predicts...

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was released on July 15, 2006 and won numerous awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.


I'm going to have to write a personal note on this one.

Recently I've been longing for summer, for the big clouds, the cicadas, the heat, that time of the year when you feel you can do a lot of things.

After asking for advice on an "anime where you can feel summer", I was suggested to watch this one. (As a personal suggestion, you can watch Summer Wars as well.) And after watching it, it instantly became one of my favorite anime works ever.



First of all, the animation and design quality is great, and the concept of the anime is fantastic.

It made me think about time, about the things that are precious for me, and how I must cherish the time I spend (and the time I don't spend) with them.

Just go ahead and watch it. It's a very nice, fun, and unique work of art.


Deep Kyoto: Walks - An Anthology by Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor

Today I'm talking to you about a very special e-book!


Deep Kyoto: Walks is an anthology of 18 meditative walks about Japan's ancient capital by renowned Kyoto experts. More than a guide book, it is a rich and varied account of life lived in Kyoto by those who call it home.

To those coming to Japan, Kyoto is definitely a must-go place, as it is maybe one of the places more "Japan-like". I've been there myself twice and will definitely go back again. On my second trip, last year, I rented a bicycle next to my hotel, and just rode all around the city. It was great! Great weather (it was late summer) and great places to visit. Everything in great company :)

So when I read this book, I remembered those times. It's almost a year since I've been there, and I already feel so nostalgic about it. It's a city with a great atmosphere, as if it had it's own invisible-aura-power-thing. You just have to go there to understand it.

Anyway, I loved this book. Each chapter's author has a quite unique way of expressing their feelings, and, every time, in their own way, I felt I was transported into the city, and could almost separate myself from the real place where I was reading the book.

As most of the Japanese people do, I read it on my way to work, everyday, in the train (and on my way back home, if I'm not too tired). I must confess I'm not like most Tokyo inhabitants, who read their books and use their smartphones even in a hell-like packed train. I like to read it with space, with time, with silence. That's why it takes me a lot of time to finish xD

Reading this book just made my wish to live in the Japanese countryside a lot stronger. I've had enough of the noise of the city.

But back to the book.

I've read it in Kindle app, which has an amazing feature of highlighting text, so I've compiled some of my favorite parts of the book to introduce to you! Hope you like it!

~~~

"This book then is part tribute to Japan’s ancient capital, but also a call to revive that lost art of strolling, of walking for its own sake. It’s only natural. We are after all walking beasts and have been so since we stepped out of the trees. What better exercise than to stretch your legs? And when you feel burdened by life’s concerns, get outside and walk them off. Let the air on your face refresh you. Feel your legs moving, your blood pumping and know you are alive. See the faces and lives of those who walk around you with their own myriad worries, hopes and dreams. You are not alone. Yes, walking is good therapy. It won’t cure you, but it will help. So whether in Kyoto or any other city, always take the time for a stroll around the block. Walking will expand your limited horizons of here and there, to the living breathing streets around you — until they too become your home. Walking will expand your limited ideas of self to embrace your wider community. Walking will help you to slow down and enjoy this moment now, wherever you happen to be."

"A walk in Kyoto will inevitably bring new discoveries. It is always a delight to come across a new café tucked into some quiet neighborhood."

"When I stepped outside again around midnight, hundreds of unguarded stalls, all filled to the brim with precious pottery, bordered the expanse of Gojō. The sense of trust that people can have for each other here can be so uplifting."

"One can never be satisfied by cherry blossom. Legendary haiku poet Matsuo Bashō famously wrote “Even in Kyoto… I yearn for Kyoto”. I might add, even when I see the cherry blossom, I yearn for cherry blossom."

"I love this shrine and feel that sitting here, in the quiet of this forest, the soul of ancient Japan whispers to me."

"Now the rain has set in and I’m getting wet, so I say goodbye. No response. As I am walking away, to my back, he shouts in English, loud and clear, “Goodbye!”"

"My eyes take in the green. My ears fill with birdsong. The mountain’s humidity wraps me gently. Just a few minutes before, I was dashing up the slope of Ginkaku-ji on my bicycle, but now I feel like I’m in a different world completely. It’s as if the rustle of my jacket and the sound of my footfalls have generated my presence here. An odd reverberation."

"Hōnen-in is not a tourist place to see things per se, but a space to feel, to sense the magic of shadows and light, man entwined with nature, the ‘now’ connected to all time. My brother visited once and was amazed at the ‘quality of the silence’ and noted that silence is not simply the absence of noise. There’s a vibration to silence that one can sense. Maybe it’s the spirit of Hōnen himself."

"One of the greatest summer joys is to climb the gate, find a comfy spot to sit down on the east side facing the mountains and watch the billowing summer clouds slowly drift by as in a dream."

"So, intending to stay a year, I stayed 18. I came with a suitcase and I left with a wife, two children, and more stuff than you can cram into a shipping container."

"We like to think of ourselves as in control of our lives, but there are moments when you realise you’re just an indistinguishable droplet in the great stream of existence. There’s a certain inevitability about it all, and perhaps the best we can do is help others to enjoy or endure the ride."

"As Donald Richie noted, you can never tire of living in Japan for, no matter how long you have lived there, each day brings the unexpected. And invariably the unexpected proves enriching."

"A subtle irony dawns on me: how the introduction of certain man-made elements such as a building, veranda and garden (as well as impeccable siting) can heighten one’s awareness of nature in some ways even more than if one were sitting alone in a forest, removed from any kind of man-made form. Why is that?"

"Max laments the loss of the vibe the street had when he and Ryotaro first busked there twenty years ago. “Back then it was friendly. There weren’t any chains, no convenience stores, none of the big karaoke places, or the people out on the street trying to pull you in. You know the sleazy places. They were sleazy but they weren’t organized sleazy. It was a really different atmosphere. And you never saw fights. Now there’s a police box on Kiyamachi. That’s not good either."

"It seems that people staring at their smart phones while walking the streets of Kyoto deny themselves something precious and real."

"As posters on city buses note: “Nihon ni Kyoto ga atte yokkata. Thank goodness Japan has Kyoto.”   I agree."


~~~

Once again, I really recommend you to read this book!
My deep thanks to Mr. Michael Lambe for the opportunity to read it and share my review!

You can find out more about it here:


Echoes of Dream - Piece for Shamisen and String Quartet by Imanishi Taichi


The spotlight of the concert went to the piece for shamisen and string quartet composed by Mr. Imanishi Taichi, and which got the collaboration of shamisen player Mr. Ishikawa Hibiki.


While it could be at first glance a difficult piece to understand, I felt it was there that was its point.
Honestly, I'm not the best person to write a musical piece review, and I feel many details won't be enough. However, I guess telling what you feel when you listen to it makes a review just as fine as any other. And after exchanging some comments with Mr. Imanishi Taichi, I was sure of that.

"Echoes of Dream" is divided in three movements. On the first, "Wandering", we are taken into the middle of a dream. That's it. It's honestly the best way to describe it. A dream which you can't see clearly, and takes you to already walked roads, and suddenly in a twist something new gets before your eyes, and you don't know what to do except keep dreaming and walking, and walking, and walking,... and when you realize it, the first movement is over.

This was honestly my favorite movement. To describe the inside of a dream, outside of a dream, might be one of the most challenging things for human beings to do, and even if they achieve it, there's a high chance few people will understand, because dreams are just that, dreams. And everyone's dreams are different.

With the goal of integrating the west and the east music styles without offending their aesthetics, Mr. Imanishi Taichi put 2 years of hard work to complete this piece after numerous revisions.

And that's where the second movement takes the stage. Entitled "Sunlight", you can feel and imagine a hot ray of light coming from the sun in a clear day right from the first note. Here, after having the shamisen "adapting" to the western style, you can later listen to a face-off between the two styles, always under a hot and bright sunlight.

In the third movement, entitled "Returning Home", every being is taken to their "home", or whatever every one of them might value as "home", which in my opinion kind of "explains" the whole piece.

When comparing it to many other classical pieces, there is a great difference. While pieces from long ago are quite "perfect" and "utopian", "Echoes of Dream" is an incomplete piece. And it is deliberately written that way. If you listen to it and feel something is missing, then you got it right.

It is, above everything, a human piece. Because human is not a perfect being. Human is an incomplete being, who grows as he lives, just like this piece. It amazes in a different way from listening to other pieces, because it focuses on THE human being. And human beings are all different. They think a lot of things. Live in a lot of places. But they are all together in the same world, living their own dreams, and dreaming their own lives.

That's what you will be able to find in this piece.
My congratulations to Mr. Imanishi Taichi for his brave work, and my best wishes to his composing career.

Below you can listen to an excerpt of each movement. Enjoy!


...

Hum...?

Found this poster in a metro station in Tokyo.


While I think it is a great initiative, I wonder if Japanese people can't access...?

One more year, one more sakura

And it's over again.

The cherry blossom season is so beautiful, but yet so short...! Maybe that's why it is so special.

With my new life already happening, my free time has dropped quite a lot, so I wasn't able to take pictures in many places, but still, here's what I got this year! Enjoy!

To see the full gallery click here!