The CHI tenten

「縮む」 – 「ちぢむ」 – pronounced “chijimu”.

In modern Japanese, this ち with the “ten ten” is pronounced exactly like 「じ」。

Likewise, the world 「身近」- 「みぢか」pronounced “mijika”. Also uses this annoying rare 「ち」 with the quotes.

The thing that irks me about this, is that when looking words up in the dictionary, or even when inputing them into a PC you won’t find the Kanji you are looking for if you replace the 「ぢ」with a 「じ」。So even if you type in “” you won’t get 「縮む」。

Isn’t that annoying?

Also to input 「ぢ」you type “di”.


– Harvey

JLPT Level 1 Required

So you’ve got JLPT 1… But now what do you do?

How about a free 3 month cruise around the world?

Peace Boat is a Japan based NGO/NPO that organizes crusies visiting 15-20 countries over three months while conducting environmental and peace awareness activities.

Normally joining Peace Boat requires payment, but if you have Japanese, or Spanish language skills you can join the Peace Boat as a volunteer interpreter and Peace Boat will allow you to ride for free.

Of course, the interpretation is intense, as you will be interpreting lectures from guest educators of major universities and international organizations. The minimum requirement for an English/Japanese interpreter is JLPT Level 1.

You can also take interpretation and translation classes while you are on the cruise, which is an added bonus.

It’s like a free education, cruise, and chance to meet some footloose and friendly people at the same time!

I wonder if the boat has internet access…

– Harvey

Japanese Language School Recommendations

I get a lot of questions from people looking for language schools to study Japaense in Japan.

There are a few major options including…

  • Studying abroad while affiliated with a Univeristy
  • Getting into an academically focused institution, like IUC
  • Going to a “regular” language school

Most people who ask me about this are looking for the third option. I have never done this myself, so I asked some Japanese teachers close to me and got some information.

The below schools are recommended, and are said to have quality instruction that should prepare you for the JPLT exams, and get you conversational at the same time. Also, there is the Japanese Language School Database here with information on a lot of schools.

Personally, I would recommend instututions which have small class sizes, instruction entirely in Japanese (it’s good for you, trust me), and a fun location so you can have a social life as well. Also, try to check where the other students are coming from. I beleive that schools with mostly Chinese, and Korean students, will have a different study pace, and areas of focus than schools with mostly Western students.

Good luck! Hope the information below is useful.

East West Japanese Language Institute

This school is located in Tokyo, and boasts a high number of students who pass JLPT levels 2 and 1 exam.

At time of writting their official webpage was under construction, but you can get details of the school on the Japanese Language School Database at the East West entry here. The Global Daigaku website also has information avialable on East West.

From what I see, it seems this school has almost exclusively Korean and Chinese students. From what I have experienced, Koreans will pick up Japanese grammar and become conversationally fluent much faster than the average Westerner. The Chinese students will of course, excel in Kanji and thus build large vocabularies quickly. If you are a serious Western student and throw yourself in here, I’m sure your Japanese language ability will make leaps and bounds, though it won’t be easy.

East West will sponsor your visa, class instruction is all in Japanese, and they’re located right in Tokyo.

KAI – Japanese Language School

Kai will get your visa, seems to be very multicultural, and they have a policy of only Japanese spoken while at the school. They’re also located in Shin-Okubo, which is a great place near Shinjuku for some good eats!

I’m curious about the nationalities of their students. They say they have students from more than 50 countries, and their webage is in Japanese, English, and Spanish. Usually, these schools have a large Chinese and Korean presance so their pages are also listed in those languages… So maybe KAI is more of a “Westerner-Friendly” place?

Their Japanese website has a photo album published. Looking at the pics the place seems pretty mixed. Looks fun!

Inter-Cultural Institute of Japan

The Inter-Cultural Institue of Japan is in a good location in central Tokyo within 10 minutes of Shinjuku station. The teachers teach in Japanese only. The Institute also has dormitories available for the students at a reasonable price. You can see the nationality break down of students on their webage, a lot of Asians study here, so I imagine that the pace is pretty quick in regards to Kanji and grammar.

Kokusho Japanese Language School

Kokusho Japanese Language School was also recommended to me by a teacher. Interestingly, the webpage is only available in Japanese and Korean!

The front page has a breakdown of the students home countries.

Out of 740 students, 50% from mainland China, 35% from Korea, 10% from Mongolia and in the “others” category we have Taiwan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Srilanka, Vietnam, and Russia.

Not many Westerners here, but I’m sure they wouldn’t turn you away if you decided to be different and apply.

Hokkaido International Foundation

HIF is a unique orgnization way up north in Hakodate. HIF offers an intensive summer program, which is equivilent to an academic year at most University Japanese programs. The compulsory homestay program, and the fact that Hokkaido is far enough out that you will likely find few English speaking Japanese to hinder your own Japanese language acquisition, this is a very intense and effective study opportunity.

While it seems that most students are in the middle of completing an undergraduate degree when they chose to join, the program is also open to professionals who are not currently affiliated with a university or graduate school.

Naganuma School

Naganuma School has a long history of Japanese education and their processes are tested and proven. One of my Japanese teachers compared Kai and Naganuma by saying, they are both very good schools, however Naganuma is more traditional and set in their ways, while Kai is open to new ideas and teaching techniques. You can’t go wrong with either place!

That’s a wrap!

Alright, that’s all the information I have. If anyone has studied at a language school in Japan and has more information, let me know in the comments and I’ll integrate any relevant information back into the post!

Hope this was useful!

Kai looks like a good choice to me btw.

– Harvey

[Update 08/12/2010]
Here is a pretty comprehensive list of language schools in Japan. Thanks to @rich_pav for this link!

Mt. Tepouzan

I’m not even a professional mountain climber, but I climbed one of the most extreme mountains in Japan.

I didn’t even bring any equipment, and I was wearing my Adidas sneakers. It was raining.

This mountain, Mount Tempozan (天保山), at an astounding 4.53 meters, is the lowest mountain in Japan. The mountain is located in Tempozan Park in Osaka. You can read about the park and the fierce mountain on this bilingual information sign.

The perilous jagged snowy peak of Mt. Tempozan.

There is a great view of the “Big Wheel” from the mountain area.

Tempozan Park is located very close to the famous Osaka Acquarium down in the Osaka bay area, so if you’re in the area, drop by and pay Mount Tempozan a visit.

But be careful.

– Harvey

Kobe Chinatown – Chinese Burger

Back to Kobe Chinatown!

Though the Chinatown in Yokohama is much larger than Kobe’s Chinatown, Kobe has it’s own nice neat feel to it.

Of course, the reason anyone goes to Chinatown in Japan is to eat…

Below is what the Japanese call a “Chinese Burger”… What is the Chinese name for this? Does anyone know? I think it might be a “Baozi” but I’m not sure.

The shop below has great Chinese Burgers. If you’re in Kobe Chinatown try to hunt this place down! You won’t be disappointed.

– Harvey

Japanese Textbook Recommendations

I am often asked about textbook recommendations for learning Japanese. I finally got around to asking my most trusted Japanese teachers and friends about books they recommended for beginners… And narrowed it down to these.

The incredibly popular Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese.


Genki has been receiving rave reviews. Clear explainations, a great audio suppliment, and resonable price make this a favorite. If I were to recommend only one book for the person who wants to seriously learn Japanese from scratch, this book would be it. Many universities also use Genki as a textbook. My University however, used another book called JSL, which I will introduce next.

One note regarding Genki. The answers are not in the textbook, so you’ll need to pick up the Genki answer book as well if you don’t have a native speaker available to check your work.

Japanese: The Spoken Language


The JSL Series were used at my university when I was a student. The books have example sentences from serious societal situations, not just random conversations about people going for a walk in the park, or ordering things from a restaraunt. In this sense, this textbook is great start for those who want to eventually be able to use Japanese in their profession.

JSL is often critisized due to it’s heavy use of the Roomaji and notations to help readers with pronounciation. This shouldn’t be an issue however if you use the book properly by listening to the audio samples provided, and not rely on the Roomaji to get through the lessons.

The original version of JSL comes with audio cassettes, however there is now a CD version available.

Japanese: The Spoken Language CD-ROM for PC

In my second year Japanese class at Indiana Univeristy we used Japanese, The Spoken Language: Part 2. The roomaji was in fact annoying, however, if you’re a serious student you can write the stuff in Hiragana and Kanji in your notebook anyway. And also, as one reviewer on the Amazon site has noted, the roomanization is not the point of this book.

The strong point of JSL in the grammar explainations and example sentence quality. If you go through this book with the audio guides, and really drill the lessons, your Japanese will improve. There is a reason that many universities rely on this textbook to build the foundation for their early language students.

I would recommend the JSL series to students of Japanese who are ready to go a bit deeper, and are not necessarily looking for a quick Japanese crash course.

That’s it.

Now that I have said all that, if you can only get one book, get Genki.

Let me know in the comments what other opinions you have of the Japanese language textbooks out there!

– Harvey

Reverse Culture Shock – Greggman

I’m sure most of you remember Greggman, the successful game programmer who has been in Japan even longer than I have, and who has recently return to the US, for various reasons.

He has has been experiencing reverse culture shock after going home and posted about it on his blog.

Check it out, let me know what you think.

Personally, one thing stands out in my memory after reading this.

When I was in college in the US, before I had ever spent an extended amount in Japan, I noticed something about Japanese culture that surprised me.

Whenever I would attend a party on the university campus that included a lot of Japanese people, say a Japanese Student Organization meeting, or a Language Exchange meeting or something of that sort, after the party, the place would not be destroyed.

Normally, after a party things get to be quite a mess, and everyone feels kinda sorry for the host because they have to clean up the next day.

At the Japanese parties it was a different story. Even before the party was officially over, everyone would go out of their way to grab a trash bag, move the chairs and tables back to their original positions, wipe up any spills, and do whatever it took to get the place back to it’s original clean state.

Often the place would be cleaner after the party than it was before.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Of course, Japanese society is far from perfect, but things like that can really stand out for people who spend a lot of time on both sides of the fence.

I hope Greggman is able to readjust!

– Harvey

Kansai-ben Round-up

In case anyone has missed them, here is a quick wrap-up of all the Kansai-ben lessons so far.

Kansai-ben Lesson 9 – Moute

Kansai-ben Lesson 8 – I don’t mind

Kansai-ben Lesson 7 – Revival!

Kansai-ben Lesson 6 – with Bonus!

Kansai-ben Lesson 5 – Honma

Kansai-ben Lesson 4 – Toke

Kansai-ben Lesson 3 – Oru

Kansai-ben Lesson 2 – eeyarouka?

Kansai-ben Lesson 1 – Sora

There are plenty of other Kansai-ben topics I have to get to yet. I plan to cover them in the future! Don’t touch that dial!

[UPDATE] If you’re interested in Kansai-ben, check out our Kansai-ben iPhone Application! Japanese 101: Kansai Dialect

– Harvey

Japanese 101 Kansai-ben
Japanese 101 Kansai-ben
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