Apple Widget For Those Who Can’t Write Kanji

Here’s a Japanese Apple dashboard widget for people who forget how to write Kanji from time to time (everyone). The name of the widget is simply, 「漢字が書けな〜い!」, and means “I can’t write Kanji!” You can download Kanji ga Kakenai right from Apple Japan.

The widget is ridiculously simple. It’s just a text field with huge font. You type in the Kanji you were trying to remember how to write, and there it is in huge font so you can identify every stroke.

Deceptively simple… no… it really is simple… But it’s useful! I honestly use it a lot.

If you’ve got a Mac, and do Japanese input from time to time, check it out!

– Harvey

John Wayne It

Look what gem I found on ALC the other day when looking up 精力的 (seiryokuteki)…

That’s classic.

john wayne

My Casio EX-Word gives… “energetic, vigorous, driving” by the way. For example, 精力的に仕事をする。To work energetically.

Or maybe… To work like John Wayne?

I wonder how you say “Chuck Norris it” in Japanese…

– Harvey

A Trip Up North To Aomori

I’ve been sitting on some pictures from Aomori that I never posted.

Aomori is the northern-most prefecture on Honshu. It is the site of neputa matsuri (festival), which I have never seen, and beautiful natural sights. The Aomori Prefectural Government has a English language websight that highlights the sightseeing locations in Aomori. We didn’t have much time so spent our time in hot springs and around Hirosaki city.

Here are some pictures I have to share.

This picture was taken in one of the museums in Aomori, I forgot the name of the museum, but it was close to Hirosaki castle! The museum showcased the various cultural interests of Aomori including the Tsugaru Syamisen (In Japanese it’s pronounced tsugaru-jyamisen) shown above. It is like the traditional Japanese syamisen, but larger, and the playing style involves a strong striking of the strings that continues on to then strike the base of the instrument, giving a sharp percussion sound. It’s really intense.

Check this out. YouTube video of Jongara Nakabushi played by Kevin Kmetz. Go man go! Also be sure to check out the Yoshida brothers on Youtube as well.

I blogged before about a Tsugaru Shamisen player in Hyogo-ken, and it turns out his picture was posted in this museum as one fo the great Tsugaru Shamisen players of Aomori. It’s a mall Tsugaru-world.

I would have to say that next to Taiko drumming, Tsugaru Shamisen music is my favorite type of Japanese traditional music. What say you to that?

Of course, what is a trip in Japan without food right? I don’t remember what fish this was…

But it was tasty.

This one is very famous in… Akita… (which is very close to Aomori mind you), and is called kiritanpo (きりたんぽ). There is a wikipedia entry on kiritanpo available in Japanese.

One more thing about Aomori that I must mention. They say people in Aomori speak ZuuZuu-dilect (ずうずう弁). This dialect is fast, muffled, and uses words quite different than the “standard” Japanese spoken in Tokyo.

Being the language lover that I am, I made it a point to spend some time talking to locals so that I could hear this dialect. I remember being amazed when I asked a older man working on clean up outside of a convenience store on the highway how to get somewhere. I think I literally could only catch about 30% of what he was saying. It was great.

People say that the reason they speak in that manner up in Aomori is because it’s so cold, that they don’t want to open their mouths very far, which forces them to speak in a muffled tone. I think that explaination is total malarky, but hey, it’s a theory.

– Harvey

Register for the JLPT

Time to register for the JLPT folks. The test is December 7th, all around the world.

I passed JLPT level 1 back in 2003, but I’m going to take it again as incentive to keep studying Japanese even while back here in the states. I am a slacker by nature, so I need something like a looming exam – that I paid for no less – to keep me going sometimes.

The JLPT [wiki link] is an intense, and very particular test. One of the best ways to prepare for it is to actually attempt it. And to help us out with just that, our friends over at the have added new JLPT study books to their store inventory.

JLPT 3 Text

These study books each include three different past JLPT exams for their corresponding JLPT level. That means that if you buy the JLPT 3 book, you get 3 actual past JLPT level 3 exams. The books include CDs for the audio portion of the test, and the answers are all in the back.

Separate books for JLPT 1, JLPT 2, JLPT 3, and JLPT 4 are available.

With access to three practice tests you can take one test just to see if you’re considering tackling the appropriate level exam, and still have two more samples remainng to attempt throughout your preparation.

When I first took the test I had a book that included 2 sample tests (in fact it was published by the same company, this years version has simply been beefed up to include 3 rather than only 2 samples). It was a little inconvenient, because I had taken both the JLPT 2 and JLPT 1 sample exams in order to determine which level I should sign up for, and then I only had one exam to practice with. I used that exam about 3/4ths of the way through my preparation, but then I had no exams to use at the end of my study.

Three is a good number.

Note that these books give you the questions and answers, but they don’t go in depth explaining things. You’ll want to be sure that you have supplementary books that you can use to look up things that you don’t understand. In the case of Kanji, vocabulary, and idioms, a good dictionary will be all you need, but especially for grammar points you might want a JLPT grammar specific book. I recommend this “Complete Master” series book for JLPT grammar.

So who’s planning to take the test this year?

– Harvey

Blogger Friends in Japan, and Marimokkori

Some of my American blogger friends in New Zealand recently took their first trip to Japan and blogged about it – as any blogger should. Read about their adventures in Tokyo and Kyoto and more over on their bod, island in the pacific.

In other “news”, narin has been collecting marimokkori from all over Japan. Steal a peek at his well-endowed collection.

I’ll be getting back to unpacking boxes…

– Harvey

Unlucky Ferris Wheel

There is a ferris wheel attached to the HEP Five building near Umeda station in Osaka.

HEP Five Ferris Wheel

(click image for bigger ferris wheel)

In the area, Japanese say that if you ride this ferris wheel with your significant other, you’ll break up.

Be careful.

Vocab: Ferris Wheel – 観覧車 (kanransha)

– Harvey

Put On Your Metal Sandals

My translation: Put on your metal sandals when searching for an older wife.

(toshi ue no nyoubou ha(wa) kane no waraji wo haite demo sagase)

Japanese wedding

An older wife was said to be very valuable treasure. I don’t know why this is… So in order succeed in your long journey to find that older lady, you need metal sandals that won’t wear down like regular straw ones.

You can “put on your metal sandals” 「金の草鞋」when searching for anything of great value, even if it’s not necessarily an older woman to marry.




– Harvey



Nothing like a hot oden in the winter.

JapanNewbie – digging up old photos that were deemed too poor to post when they were originally taken.

– Harvey

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