How to Bow Like a Japanese

What could be more typically Japanese than bowing?  Every other book about Japan has something to say on the subject, so it must be important, right?  Certainly a lot of foreigners come to Japan and start bowing like crazy, so maybe they all read the same book.

It’s common knowledge, if not entirely correct, that bowing is a sign of respect, gratitude, or apology in Japanese society.  And there’s no shortage of information on how to do it properly, how deeply one should bow, or what to do with your hands.  There’s just one missing piece . . . Continue reading “How to Bow Like a Japanese”

Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready.  It’s pretty easy, really.  “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same:  “ko-hee.”  Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.”  So it’s not rocket science.  Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out.  Anyway, that’s what I thought. Continue reading “Navigating a Japanese Starbucks”

The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji

So you’ve set out to master Japanese and decided to learn kanji.  Well, before you march further into the ranks of people who have devoted their lives to learning this arcane form of communication, it might help to step back and take an overview of the entire process.

Phase 1:  Learn the Individual Kanji

Well, there’s only 2,136 joyo kanji, so how hard could it be?  Riiiight.  Over the years, people have proposed lots of different ways of learning them.  Learn only the meanings and forget the readings (Heisig Method).  Learn them in context of words, write them, don’t write them, create mnemonics, make them into funny pictures, dissect them into their component parts.  Somehow you’ll need to find a way to sandwich them into your brain.

Continue reading “The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji”