Kabuki Diplomacy

This is pretty cool! American diplomat in Fukuoka participating in Kabuki.


I tried to catch the lines here, but this is tough as it’s old Japanese. Someone give me a hand and help fix my mistakes! This is way over my head.

Attempted transcription and translation:

umare kokyou wo ato ni shite
Leaving the country I was born.

taihei you no hatoko e
Over the big waves of the Pacific Ocean
(Thanks to Yuko for the translation help!)

yakkoshimada no narifurimo
Wearing my hair in a yakkoshimada

ita ni tsuitaru adesugata
I’m quite at home with this beautiful figure.
(Thanks to @yami_translator for the translation help!)

ryoujikan no ookagami
The large mirror in the Consulate…

utsuseba ima ha yamato nadeshiko
If I’m reflected in it, now I’m a Japanese Beauty (Yamato Nadeshiko)

tateba syakuyaku
Standing as lovely as a Chinese peony
(This is a reference to a famous line, 立てば芍薬、すわれば牡丹、歩く姿はユリの花。)

arukeba sayuri
I’m as beautiful as a lily when walking
(Thanks to @yami_translator for the translation help!)

hanamo hajiro, merikan omaru
Making even the flowers ashamed, “American Omaru”
(The 花も恥じろ is another famous line that is a description of a young and beautiful lady.)

Post with good information on Diplopundit.
U.S. Embassy in Tokyo “Z-Blog”
Bio of the star herself on the Consulate website.

Japanese Flash for iPhone

More study tool time!

The creators of Japanese Flash for iPhone gave me a free copy in exchange for a review. So here we go!

My first impression of Japanese Flash was that it is very colorful. Blue, yellow, red. Looks sort of like a super hero iPhone App – perhaps appropriate, as being able to speak Japanese seems to appear super-power-like to some people… Anyway, the visuals are not the main point of this app, the Japanese content is!

Japanese Flash has a lot of content. The current version has something like 145,000 words, in more than 180 different sets. Some (or all?) of the vocabulary is from the EDICT dictionary files, so you can be sure it’s accurate.

The set organization is interesting as well. The sets include the usual stuff like JLPT sets and Greetings, but they even have off-the-wall stuff like Kansai and Ryuukyuu dialect, Edo period words, and a section for “Fantasy” with stuff like 妖精 yousei for “fairy.” It’s enough content and random categories to help you to kill even the most boring bus ride to work. Great conversation starter I imagine too… if you’re around a bunch of Japanese language geeks that is.

Fantasy Vocab!

The quiz/study mode is pretty smart, it keeps tracks of what you know and what you don’t, and there is a happy character in the corner making sure you know how many you have missed. It doesn’t seem to be a full-fledged SRS system, but it gets the job done. You can also chose to keep lame cards out of your study session by pressing “go away.”

From the "political language" category.

Finally, this app also has a Search Feature that allows you to use it like a dictionary to find any of the items included in the app. Since the amount of vocab included in the app is so extensive, this could work as a simple English-Japanese dictionary for those who don’t have one on their phone yet. (Then again, if you don’t have a dictionary on your phone you should go download Kotoba! It’s free. And good.)

Dictionary search Example

As of writing Japanese Flash costs $6.99 in the App Store, so it’s not cheap, but considering the massive amount of content it contains I think it’s worth it.

I’m not sure what future updates have in store for Japanese Flash, but I know for a fact that they’re working on a significant update as I write this. Keep your eye on this one.


The Good:
A huge database of vocabulary – like 145,000 words.
It has a section for Kansai-dialect!!!
Fun categories for the vocabulary.
The search feature is pretty slick.

The Bad:
No audio.
No example sentences, so you get zero context with the words.

The Ugly:
A bit tough to read black text on a deep red background in the “fire” theme, but you can switch the theme in the app settings to alleviate this problem.

To summarize, you can’t go wrong by having quality Japanese study content on your iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s really valuable to be able to kill 5 minutes of downtime by pulling out your iPhone and learning a new word or two. Even if you already have a ton of Japanese learning apps on your device I doubt if they all contain -all- of the vocab in this one. I mean, come on, this thing has a category for “Constellations.” Did you know that 山猫座 yamaneko za is… “lynx”? Huh? Why?? Me either. But now I do.

– Harvey

Related Links:

www.longweekendmobile.com – the company behind Japanese Flash!


Some fresh music on HearJapan.

I like Kuzoboshi’s sound. Lots of piano. A mix of male and female vocals. The kind of music that will calm you down after a hard day of writing Kanji over and over again…

Kuzuboshi - Kankou

The description from HearJapan.

Kankou is a piano infused indies album from Hiroshima. Each song has it’s own unique strengths and sensations. Their style has each not jumping out at your ear so you can really hear every single note clearly. They have a gift to appeal to both core music fans and to the masses with this approach. This is a HearJapan Hot Pick.

I couldn’t find any of their stuff on YouTube, so head to HearJapan and listen to the previews to get a taste. Good stuff.

– Harvey

Love in Translation

I just finished Wendy Tokunaga’s book Love in Translation, and it was great!

I normally stay away from “love” stories, because you know – I’m manly… but Wendy’s book has such a direct connection to Japan and Japanese culture that I thought I would give it a try, and I’m glad I did!

Wendy has extensive Japan experience, and it shows in her writing. Reading through the main character’s travels as she moves to Tokyo and then travels the country looking for lost family connections really took me back to Japan. Love in Translation could even serve as a light introduction to Japanese culture for people who are considering moving to Japan – it’s really that accurate. The main character makes some of the typical cultural gaffs that are a bit obvious, the bathroom slipper incident comes to mind, but Wendy incorporates these cultural tidbits into the story in such a way that they’re are not distracting for people who have spent a lot of time in Japan and have “been there, done that.”

Given that the main character in Love in Translation is an American girl who ends up becoming romantically involved with a Japanese guy in the book… and that Wendy Tokunaga is married to a Japanese guy in real life… I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the episodes in the book were based on things that actually happened to Wendy. I asked her on Twitter, and she said that they’re mostly from her imagination. Perhaps!

I’m no literary critic, but I know what I like. Love in Translation was easy to get into because the chapters are short and sweet, and the writing is light and fun. Wendy is a very descriptive writer so I could really see the Japanese foods, hear the awkward Engrish, see the gaijin game shows…

I even felt that I could hear the book’s theme song, Nozomi no Hoshi…

Wait. Actually I guess I could hear Nozomi no Hoshi because Wendy actually cooperated with her Japanese husband to create the song, and I heard it on YouTube. Hardcore!

Here’s a clip from Wendy’s blog post which introduces the video.

Now this fictional song is brought to life. My husband, Manabu Tokunaga, wrote and performed the music (and also produced this video!). I co-wrote the lyrics with Hiro Akashi. Hope you enjoy the music video of the theme song for Love in Translation.

Good stuff. Be sure to check out Love in Translation if you’re looking for a light summer read to transport you to Japan.

Hey, has anyone out there ever read Wendy’s other book? Midori by Moonlight? Just curious.

Happy Reading!

– Harvey

Related Links:
Love in Translation on Kindle
Follow Wendy Tokunaga on Twitter!

Manga Newspaper

If you’re looking for another free source of hardcore Japanese language to stuff on your iPhone or iPod Touch, be sure to check out 漫画の新聞 (Manga Newspaper).

I think I’m way late to the party, but it seems like Manga Newspaper has been delivering the daily news in Manga format for ages now.

Now you can read it on your iPhone! Some pics below.

漫画の新聞 for iPhone!

Props to @blacktokyo from blacktokyo.com for bringing this to my attention!

Numbers App Updated

Released a big update to the Numbers App!

Now, by popular request, you can do a fill-in-the-blank type quiz!

New Fill in the Blank Quiz. So mysterious...

In this quiz format you will hear the number spoken by a native Japanese speaker, and then you have to use the keypad to enter the number that you heard. Sounds easy, but give it a try. You might be surprised! This is a much greater challenge than the multiple choice option.

More updates to expand the total number of numbers are coming soon! Currently Japanese 101: Numbers covers a spread of 340+ numbers between 0 and 16,000. I’m working on another update now to add even more content.


– Harvey

Alternative Japanese iPhone Input Method in the Wild

A friend showing me how fast she can use the alternative Japanese input method on the iPhone.

… don’t mind what she says.

Most other people I know use the straight romaji qwerty keyboard method. She prefers this one.

Here is another video from the YouTube wild ™ more clearly showing how this “flick” method works.

Do any readers out there -not- use the regular romaji method?

– Harvey

Sushi Catalogue iPhone App Review

Reading menus has always been my Japanese weak point, or 弱点 if you will. I usually blame it on the fact that I can’t cook so i have trouble remembering ingredients and stuff like that. That excuse is lame.

I also eat a ton of sushi. Tons. We had the neighborhood sushi guy (from when we lived in Japan) come to our wedding ceremony and squeeze some sushi for the guests. However! I still don’t know the names of all the sushi I see. Shameful.

So I took a peak at this Sushi Catalogue iPhone App by Shogakukan again, and noticed it was on sale! $4.99! Normally it’s $9.99, so hey – They got me. I picked it up. The app is a mini sushi encyclopedia with information in both Japanese and English. Looks like it’ll be worth the 5 bucks.

Anyway, let’s take a look at this app’s sushi power.

This app introduces about 80 types of sushi. Not bad!

I already see stuff on the list I don’t know. Seriously, if you tell me you knew what this アイナメ was before looking at the image, I have much respect for your sushi-otaku powers. If you could write the Kanji for it… wow.

アイナメ. I can't even henkan it right.

It also has the explanations in Japanese, so I can get a Japanese workout while reading and learning about the sushi… and the generous fish that they come from too.

Oh. And I wish you could hear the voice… it speaks the name of every sushi neta (the fish, or whatever the main event is on sushi, is called ネタ). The voice actor sounds like some really angry old Tokyo man. He is literally shouting the names of the sushi in a grumpy voice. Nice touch.

And – the question you’re all wondering… yes it does English too. If you turn your iPod Touch system language setting to English… the app content switches too! They should have simply put an option to switch the language inside the app though.

Switch your OS to English and the App matches

That’s all. This app has a lot of good info. I hope it’s updated with even more sushi in the future!

Next time I go to sushi I’ll be ready.

Oh! YouTube vid of the Sushi app here!

– Harvey

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