A little lost in translation – i-Fukkin for iPhone

Here is a great Japanese iPhone app that encourages you to do sit-ups. i-Fukkin!


They should have done some research before settling on their application name though.

FUKKIN is 腹筋 (ふっきん) in Japanese, which means “abdominal muscles,” and isn’t funny at all. You can use 腹筋 as a verb too and say, 「腹筋をする」to mean “to do sit-ups.”

The app is pretty fun.

It counts your sit ups for you.

It gives you encouragement as you proceed.

When you stop, it says 「こらー!休むなぁ!!!」(koraa! yasumuna!) which means, “Hey!!! don’t rest!”

You also get to watch a nice cheer-girl urge you on.

Fun stuff! Really too bad about the name though. Hahah.

Check out i-Fukkin’s official website.


Japanese Phrases & Lessons 2.0 Video

Judging by its popularity many of you have probably have probably already downloaded this app, but Japanese Phrases 2.0 has a new preview video on YouTube. Lots of improvements and additions!

Japanese Phrases

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth the money, check out the Free Version of Japanese Phrases first. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I recommend it to learners for the sheer amount of audio alone. Listen listen listen and give those ears a work out!

Anyone out there using this? What do you think?

Happy mobile learning!

– Harvey

Big Man Japan – Dainihonjin

I watched Big Man Japan tonight. The Japanese title is 大日本人 (dainihonjin or dainipponjin).

Unfortunately, this trailer really doesn’t capture the essence of the film. These fight scenes are almost short interludes to the main part of the movie. Most of the movie depicts a faceless and nameless reporter following the Big Man around interviewing him about his daily life. It’s got a documentary feel to it that works pretty well.

Big Man Japan
Big Man Japan

My wife warned me that the Japanese reviews didn’t give Big Man Japan any love, and that it wasn’t popular among the masses in Japan… but she watched it with me anyway. (She didn’t like it though.)

This is the first movie done by Downtown’s Matsumoto-san. Downtown is one of the most famous comedy duos in Japan. I think the issue giving the movie a bad reputation is that the humor used throughout this flick is just so different than Downtown’s usual style.

Here is Matsumoto-san in some Downtown comedy appearance. He’s talking about his new married life. It’s not exactly a comedy routine per say, but you can see how animated he is and what Downtown’s interactions are usually like.

His usual style is just so much more big and loud and slapstick. Much of the humor in Big Man Japan is in the scenes where he is not big, and just talking to the reporter about what life as a Big Man is like. It’s a low key kind of humor that you can miss if you’re not looking out for it. There’s no laugh track throughout the movie, and Matsumoto-san hardly even smiles. It’s just straight dry humor.

The final battle is a bit more slapstick than the rest of the movie… Actually… it’s a LOT more slapstick than the rest of the movie. You can watch the final battle on YouTube. If you plan to see the movie someday don’t click this link and spoil it for yourself.

The “fight” with the stink monster「匂うの獣」was one of my favorites. Maybe I just liked it because of the stink monster’s Kansai-ben. The following “kid monster” fight and the aftermath were pretty funny as well.

Anyway. Check Big Man Japan out if you can! It’s going to be one of those cult classics.

Because it’s weird.

Anyone else seen it? What did you think?

– Harvey

How to write a review for an iPhone App from your Computer

Hello JapanNewbies!

We’ve been making iPhone Apps to teach Japanese for a while now, and it’s really fun. There is one challenge though – it’s really hard to get feedback on the apps.

It’s not a problem of people not downloading them, we have sold more apps than I have friends. It’s incredible. There are a surprising amount of people out there who search the iTunes App Store for “Kansai Dialect” and decide to download the Japanese 101: Kansai-ben application for example. I have no idea how people are finding Giongo and Gitaigo… but they do.

The problem is, few people who buy the apps take the time to write a review and tell us how they like them. Reviews are important so that we know what works and what doesn’t. This in turn will lead to better apps and more Japanese for you! Otherwise it’s hard to find bugs and know what would make the next versions of the apps even better.

It’s not a problem of people not wanting to write reviews, it’s actually a problem with the App Store. It’s only easy to write a review when you delete an app from your phone. If you want to write a review without deleting it you have to navigate the App Store and it’s not so simple. A bit laborious really…

So, here I teach you how to write a review from the App Store, and encourage you to review Japanese 101 Apps if you own any!

How to Review an App from your Computer

1. Launch iTunes on your computer.

2. Select the iTunes Store from the menu on the left.

3. Search for “Japanese 101 Kansai Dialect” (or whatever app you own and want to review)

4. Click on the app from the search results.

5. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘WRITE A REVIEW’.

(You may have to login into iTunes to submit the review, but you don’t have to use your username. You can use a fake name if you want.)

Click Here to Write an App Review
Click Here to Write an App Review

That’s it!


– Harvey

Source material:
How to write a review from your computer.

The New JLPT for 2010

I got into a twitter discussion with some tweeps about the new 2010 JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Exam) exam details.

There is a PDF document linked from the JLPT page that explains the new exam. It is in Japanese only so far it seems.

NEW JLPT Guidebook

From what I have understood from quickly skimming the document, there is one major change that will be of interest to us Japanese learners.

There Are Now 5 Levels Of Difficulty On The JLPT

The previous JLPT had JLPT level 1, 2, 3, and 4. JLPT1 was the most difficult level, and there was a significant jump between levels 2 and 3.

The new exam levels are organized as follows. N3 is the most “exciting” and new level.

N1: Will be able to measure the test takers ability at a level a bit higher than the current JLPT1, but the pass/fail cutoff will be about the same as the current JLPT1 exam.

N2: Will be about the same difficulty as the current JLPT2.

N3: Will be a level between the current JLPT2 and JLPT3 levels. (This is a newly created level.)

N4: Will be about the same difficulty as the current JLPT3.

N5: Will be about the same difficulty as the current JLPT4.

New JLPT Levels
New JLPT Levels

This is interesting. I’m curious to know how the new N1 scoring will reflect a “higher level” than the existing JLPT1. Will it be worth taking again for people who have already passed JLPT1? Probably not…

It’s good that they created N3. I heard a lot of complaints from people that the jump from JLPT3 to JLPT2 was too great. N3 should be a nice middle ground that people can shoot for!

Change! Gotta love it.


Hiragana HU or FU?

I came across this video by Michichan in my Twitter feed this morning.

Great to find another Japanese enthusiast!

One correction for Japanese learners though, the ふ, though it is often romanized as either “fu” or “hu,” is not necessarily pronounced more like FU than it is HU.

Mount Fuji is always written with a FU and it likely sounds like FUji to Westerners.

Mount Fuji is a fabulous mountain and all, but I think it’s the source of ふ confusion for foreigners everywhere. Fuji sounds like FU-ji to me to this day! Really though, it is pronounce more like Huji. It’s a sound sort of between F and H.

Take a listen to this audio file from our Hiragana and Katakana apps spoken by a native speaker.

See how it is different than FU?

You can really get a handle on whether it’s FU or HU by thinking about other words that start with ふ. Most of them would sound strange if pronounced “FU.”

Think about these:
不思議 “hushigi” mysterious
風呂 “huro” bath
降る “huru” to fall (like rain)

Here’s one more example sentence from the Kansai-ben application pronounced slowly and at normal speed.

“Futsuuga ichiban ya de!”
(Sort of like, ‘normal’ is best!, as in, I don’t need anything fancy.)

Here it is slower.

Got it?

The best way to get a feel for this is to listen to lots of Japanese! Eventually you’ll see that ふ isn’t quite FU, and similarly the ら、り、る、れ、ろ lines is not really RA RI RU RE RO, but it’s closer to an “L” – perhaps somewhere in between.

Once you get these things straight Japanese pronunciation isn’t so tough!

The ふ thing is really border line though – sometimes I feel that when Japanese get really excited and scream things like ふざけるな!They are really saying something closer to FU and not HU.

Anyone else have a take on this FU-HU dilemma?

– Harvey

Japanese 101: Hiragana App 1.01 Released!

Our Hiragana App just hit the iTunes Store!

Japanese 101 Hiragana
Japanese 101 Hiragana

Admittedly, there are a lot of Hiragana Apps out there.

The thing that sets our app apart from the rest, I believe, is that this app allows you to test your listening comprehension.

We used to play a game in high school where the teacher would spread kana cards out on the floor and the students would all crowd around.

Then the teacher would call out a kana, for example, “YO!” And the students had to be quick to find YO and grab it. Whoever got the card first would win the point.

I remember being traumatized trying to pick out the difference between ね and れ back in those days…

The Quiz Mode simulates that to an extent, but with a max of four different hiragana on the screen. You can pick between 2 or 4 to slightly adjust the difficulty. The app will call out a kana, and then you have to touch the right card. At the end of the quiz you can see the total time used so you can race for time if you want.

This “hearing and finding” exercise works a different part of the brain than matching the Romaji with the hiragana, so I think this is a worthwhile app.

Plus, it costs less than a McDonald’s Value Meal!

Hope you enjoy it!

– Harvey

When to use Hiragana and Katakana?

Kirin from Tokyo Kawaii Etc wants to help you learn about Japan and Japanese. In this video she explains how Katakana is used differently than Hiragana.

Neat that she has speech bubbles with the Japanese when she is speaking. Self subtitles, gotta love em.

She explains that Katakana is used for imported words like “t-shirt” and “computer” as they are said in Japanese. This is a simple, but straightforward introductory explanation of the difference between Hiragana and Katakana.

She doesn’t go on to explain how Katakana is also used for emphasis, and also often for sound words that are native Japanese and not imported at all. Sound words like what you saw on the Economist Cover with ドッカーン! And also in the Giongo Gitaigo App.

Economist Giongo

It’s always good to hear something explained from a variety of people! I hope Kirin makes more videos explaining Japan and Japanese. This is a great service.

Check out more of her blog entries on http://tokyokawaiietc.com. You can also follow Kirin on Twitter. She’ll even teach you how to cook Japanese food.

– Harvey

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