The 4 Skills and Learning Japanese

The 4 Skills and Learning Japanese

When people think about the Japanese language–assuming they ever think about it at all–they often assume that speaking and listening are easiest, while reading and writing are hardest.  While that may seem obvious–since the Japanese writing system is clearly the work of insane monks like two thousand years ago–it’s actually not the case. The easiest…

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New Years in Japan

New Years in Japan

I hate the cold, so don’t ask me why I went to the snowiest possible place for New Years. New Years in Japan is like Christmas in the U.S., only without all the presents and with better food. So I went to Hokkaido, where there was a ton of snow and we mostly stayed inside…

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The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji

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,…

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I am a Japanese Farmer

I am a Japanese Farmer

Did you know that when you get a coffee from a convenience store in Japan, it comes in a can, not a styrofoam cup? For real, it does. My favorite brand is Black Boss, just because it sounds hilarious. For some odd reason, Tommy Lee Jones is the spokes-model for the coffee. They have his…

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The Great Tohoku Earthquake

The Great Tohoku Earthquake

When the Tohoku earthquake happened, I was sitting at my tiny Japanese desk, in the middle of a giant Japanese office, in the middle of Tokyo, just hating life.  I was working elbow to elbow with about a hundred people, facing a row of unsmiling coworkers across from me, crouched in front of my pc,…

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Back on the Chrome Horse

Back on the Chrome Horse

Thanks to the Swine Flu, I now own a bicycle. If that Pig Influenza hadn’t sidelined me in bed for a week, I would have surely blown another paycheck on yet one more all-you-can-drink karaoke session. But as it happened, once my fever broke, my wallet contained a spare hundred bucks worth of yen, so…

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One Really Long Year in Japan

One Really Long Year in Japan

Fellow citizens, our long national nightmare is finally over. Let us now embark upon that shining road to recovery. Of course, by “national” I mean Japan, and “long nightmare” as in my teaching English here while everyone else listens to my grumbling about it. In retrospect, I guess I should have read my one-year school…

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Japanese Winter, Mighty Frosty

Japanese Winter, Mighty Frosty

It’s been a cold winter, but spring is coming.  I haven’t yet burned my apartment building to the ground.  I cherish the simple things in life. I recently bought a space heater to help save some yen on my electric bill. Before moving to Japan, I somehow pictured living in a high-rise apartment with a…

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Growing Old in Japan

Growing Old in Japan

When I finally looked in the mirror after a month of eikaiwa teaching, my first thought was—who the hell’s that? My signature dark and flowing locks, which had once glowed with the radiance of a dozen hair-care products, had gone white almost overnight. While it’s true that I might have had one or two gray…

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The Dangers of Recycling

The Dangers of Recycling

Thus far, I’ve succeeded in taking out two of my four types of garbage. Trash is so fascinating to the Japanese that they’ve seen fit to divide it into four types and given each its own special day of the week for pick-up. There’s Plastic Bottle Day, Can Day, Unburnable Trash Day, and Burnable Trash…

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