Play Hanafuda on your iPhone!

The popular amine Summer Wars has brought the traditional Japanese card game Hanafuda to the attention of more Japan-heads than ever before. Seriously. I’m not gonna lie. I wanted to learn how to play hanafuda simply because I saw it played on Summer Wars and thought it was a cool aspect of Japanese culture that I wanted to learn… Is there any shame in that?

Even though I don’t watch much Anime beyond Miyazaki Hayao stuff these days, I loved Summer Wars. Summer Wars is available on Amazon on DVD and Blue-ray, and I’m sure you can find clips on YouTube, so there’s no excuse not to check it out. Highly recommended.

As for Hanafuda, I looked around, and it turns out there’s an App for that! If you want to learn Hanafuda you can download the Free Hanafuda Lite, or purchase the full Hanafuda App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Hanafuda is a classic Japanese game played with special cards that depict nature, the seasons, and the months of the year. Literally 花札 (hanafuda) means “flower cards.” The individual plants on the cards represent the different seasons, for example the cards with Sakura represent March.

I’m not going to try to explain how to play hanafuda in detail here, I’m still figuring it out myself actually, but basically you match month cards from your hand to the pile or from the deck in order to attempt to put together special groups of cards to earn points. The app has a full explanation of how to play so you can study the rules right on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

The Free Version of Hanafuda for iPhone is still very complete and you can have a lot of fun with it. Get it!

Play 1 or 2 players over Bluetooth!
This is all animated beautifully.
Includes a manual explaining the game and its history.

Here’s the famous HANAFUDA scene from Summer Wars.

Links to the Apps:
HANAFUDA Japan Free – Japanese Traditional Card Game – Hidetoshi Hayakawa
HANAFUDA Japan – Japanese Traditional Card Game – Hidetoshi Hayakawa

And… as a special treat… the creator of HANAFUDA Japan, Mr. Hayakawa has given me eight promotion codes so that you JapanNewbie readers can download the FULL version of the App for free! Quick get downloading! To use the codes go to the iTunes Store, click REDEEM on the right-hand side in the quick links section. Each code can only be used once, so first come first served!

Download Codes!!!

ENJOY! and KOI KOI!!!!

Had any of you out there ever played Hanafuda before???


UPDATE: BTW, version 2.0 of this app is in the works, and it’s going to include multiplayer over the Internet!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate

The coolest thing about Japan is that on Valentine’s Day the girls give chocolate to the guys.

The second coolest thing about Japan is onsen. But that’s for another blog post…

Even though we’re back in the U.S. my wife went all out and made me Valentine’s Day chocolate’s! Photos ensue.

Green Tea (抹茶) in the house!

Secret ingredient

Don’t forget though, March 14th is White Day, and the guys have to return chocolate to the girls.

Sorta Related Posts:
Valentine’s Day Chocolate for me!

Yumomi at Kusatsu Onsen
Sunamushi Onsen
Asaba Ryokan

How to use Aozora Bunko to get free Japanese books

Aozora Bunko is an excellent resource for free and legal Japanese reading material. Once you have downloaded Aozora texts you can read them on your computer, print them out, or even load them onto your Kindle.

If you like studying Japanese and have an interest in Japanese literature, then I’m sure you will find Aozora Bunko to be invaluable.

The interface for Aozora Bunko is completely in Japanese, so it can be a little intimidating if you’re not yet completely comfortable with the language. So, in this post I’m going to teach you how to use Aozora Bunko to get what you need.

The title of this blog post says Japanese books, but actually Aozora Bunko contains mostly short stories and, well, not so short stories. The famous Botchan 坊ちゃん by Natsume Soseki is an example of a book-length piece that you can find on Aozora Bunko. I once bought Botchan in a used Japanese book store for 50 yen, but now I can read it again on my Kindle for free! Yippie!

Ougai Mori, October 22, 1911

Okay, so let’s get into how to use Aozora Bunko.

Think of a story or author that you want to read.

This might be easier said than done if you are not familiar with Japanese literature. Not only do you need to know the title of the piece or name of the author, but you also need to know how to find it in Japanese. Moreover, Aozora Bunko only has works for which the copyright has expired, so you’re going to be looking at older Japanese literature here. Luckily there is a lot of really interesting older Japanese literature!

Some famous authors, their notable works, and the corresponding Japanese to get you started are…

我が輩は猫である (I am a cat), another famous Natsume Soseki piece, is not available on Aozora Bunko as of posting.

  • 与謝野晶子 (よさのあきこ Yosano Akiko)
    • Yosano Akiko’s modern (at the time) Japanese translation of The Tale of Genji is there.

    That ought to be enough to hold you for a while.

    Now, if you want something else and you know the name of the author or name of the story you’re trying to find, proceed to the next step.


    Access Aozora Bunko at
    (Duh, but I want to be complete.)

    Search by Author or Title

    First, let’s see how to search by author.

    Say you want to search for Natsume Souseki. You have to search by last name on Aozora Bunko, so know that his last name is Natsume. Last name’s are usually listed first in Japanese.

    Then, you need to understand the order of Hiragana. If you want to find any name that starts with NA NI NU NE or NO, you need to click on what is labeled as the 「な行」under the 「公開中 作家別:」section.「な行」means, “the NA row.” Similarly, a name like Miyazaki would be listed under the MA line, so you would want to look at ま行。公開中 作家別 on the left there means “items that are currently available, arranged by author.”

    Click the NA-line link in the author section to find Natsume Souseki.

    Searching by Title

    To side track for a minute, if you want to search by the title of the story you are looking for, you’ll click the character that is the first character in the title of the work. For example, if you want to find 鼻 (はな) by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke, you would click on 「は」 in the 公開中 作品別 section.

    公開中 作品別 on the left there means “items that are currently available, arranged by title.”

    Use this area to search for a story by title

    Then, you have to flip through the result pages until you find what you are looking for.

    Having said that, it’s really easier just to use the Google-powered search box at the top of the main page if you know the exact title of what you’re looking for.

    Search by author or title directly if you know what you need

    Now, back to the author search.

    If you clicked on the な行 in the 公開中 作家別 section, you will arrive at a listing of all the authors that have a last name that start with な (NA). Find 夏目漱石 (Natsume Souseki) here, and click on his name.

    All available authors with last name ending in NA

    This will bring you to a listing of all the works by Natsume Souseki that are available on Aozora Bunko.

    Works by Natsume Souseki

    Let’s click the first title listed, イズムの功過.

    This will bring you to another page called the 図書カード (Library card) for that item. The download links for the text are at the bottom of this page.

    Scroll down to get the files

    If you scroll down to the bottom of that page you will see links to the story in various formats. The formats usually include a ZIPed Ruby thing, an eBook (ebk), and plain ol’ HTML. If you want to read it immediately on your computer just click the HTML link. Here’s the HTML link for イズムの功過 for example.

    The HTML link for the story

    That’s basically it. I hope that helps you find what you need on Aozora Bunko!

    Happy reading!

    Let me know in the comments if you have any questions and I’ll get right back to ya.


Shing02 Video – Muchi no Chi

Here’s a Japanese rap video called Muchi no Chi 無知の知 that I stumbled upon recently. The video is certainly not new, it was done in 2006! I’m late to the party – that doesn’t mean it isn’t still cool though!

This video was directed by Shing02, and includes lyrics from him and five other Japanese MCs, including Kakumakushaka, Hisomi-TNP, Mouthpeace, Eleven, and Meiso. Shing02 is by far my favorite Japanese rapper. Mainly because his lyrics push my Japanese comprehension skills to their limits, and his beats are quality.

I’m not going to pretend to know everything about this video as I literally just discovered it, but here are a few tidbits.

The title of the song is 無知の知。Literally, this translates to “The knowledge of knowing nothing.” Or, something like “the knowledge of ignorance.” The point is that realizing that we are ignorant about some things, is in itself, wisdom.

The video was filmed in various locations, including: Okinawa, Los Angeles, Toyama, Kumamoto, Nagano, and Tokyo.

The rope in this video is apparently from a festival in Okinawa, and it symbolizes the bond between the people.

The overall theme of the song, which is made very clear at the end, is that we need to protect our natural environment against pollution. This song was part of a project headed by Shing02 and Sakamoto Ryuichi to try and stop construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant in Aomori prefecture in a village called Rokkasho.

You can get more information about this Stop Rokkasho project here. The project failed to stop the construction of the plant, but it did a good job of raising awareness.

You can legally download the MP3 for this song and get all the lyrics here. Click the Stop Rokkasho image above to download MP3s for other songs created for this project, including a track by Kraftwerk. (Yay!)

Good stuff!

– Harvey

Article about a documentary about hte controversial Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant

Break into Manga Translation with Manga Digital Guild

Lot’s of people who study Japanese hope to get into translation some day. And when it comes to translation, many people hope to do manga or game translation, why? Cause the content is freaking fun! But how to break into the field? A friend recently introduced me to Digital Manga Guild, and it seems to be a legit way to get some experience, and to get paid as well.

If you’re serious about giving this a shot your first step will be to take one of their tests.

You can test in many aspects of the translation process, including translation, editing, and lettering. You can even form a group and plan to work together on projects.

The workflow, click to enlarge

I have never tried Digital Manga Guild myself, but it does look like a legit opportunity. They even have a profit sharing scheme going, so if you stick with it you should eventually make some change.

Translation is always great because it forces you to figure out language that you may not be familiar with, and it’s a real skill that can serve you well in the future. I encourage peeps out there to give it a shot! And if you do, let us know how it goes!


– Harvey

Nishiki with Tatsumura Koho in Kyoto

I had the opportunity to visit Tatsumura Koho’s workshop in Kyoto during my August trip to Japan in 2009. This workshop makes Nishiki style Orimono, which is a type of Japanese weaving.

Tatsumura Koho explaining the Genji Nishiki piece

Nishiki orimono is extremely high quality, extremely beautiful, and therefore extremely expensive. If you can get a chance to visit their workshop I would highly recommend it. They seem to be open to giving tours, and they have a gift shop inside, so I bet they would be receptive if you just gave them a call and said you were interested. My visit was arranged as part of a study tour.

Tatsumura-san told us that creating the Genji piece was quite a challenge. The biggest issue wasn’t weaving the piece or creating the art itself, but it was doing the research to gather enough information so that the scene from Genji Monogatari could be created as accurately as possible.

Scene from Genji Monogatari (Click to Enlarge)

Not only was general accuracy an issue, the scene needed to be vague enough as to not attract complaints from the literary academic community. For example, special care was taken so that the kimono you see in the picture used colors that could have been worn during any season. There were special rules about the different styles and colors of kimono that would have historically been in which season, but the exact time that this scene in Genji Monogatari took place is not clearly known and apparently still debated in academic circles. Therefore, they chose a kimono color and style scene that arguably could have been used in a variety of situations and at any time of the year.

Nishiki Neckties I can't afford

This is a picture from the gift shop I mentioned. Even the neckties were way out of my price range (about $150 USD). Pretty awesome though. Someday… someday…

This is a piece depicting a bonsai tree. If you didn’t already, click the Genji Piece above so you can get a close up look at how intricate the weaving is on the orimono, it’s really amazing.

The gold color in this piece is literally gold.

This piece is more abstract, but actually uses gold in the piece itself, if I remember correctly it cost more than 10,000 USD. Fancy stuff!

You can see more of Tatsumura-san’s work on this official museum site. There is also an online gift shop where you can get those too-awesome neckties I mentioned!