Why are you Still in Japan?

People routinely ask, “Why are you still in Japan?” and I guess the answer depends upon which phase of Japanese life we’re talking about. Because first there’s

1. Amazement

Living in Japan’s like being born again. Everything’s filled with wonder, nothing makes any sense, and you’re insanely pleased by the simplest stuff. Look!—-I’m riding the subway. It’s like a train, only underground! So many people! Man, I gotta take a picture of this!

You can’t understand a thing. Not a word, not an action, and it’s hilarious. You can’t even stroll down the sidewalk without knocking over office ladies and soba-delivery boys. Continue reading “Why are you Still in Japan?”

A Friend of Mine Learned Japanese in 1 Year

A reader recently posted an intriguing comment about foreign sumo wrestlers: “Within a year, they have a command of the language that would take most students years to develop.” Implying that with enough immersion and dedication, it’s possible to speak Japanese well in a short amount of time. Apparently, there’s a Japanese book that popularized this notion.

I’d heard this before. Not just with sumo wrestlers but with, well, everybody. A friend of mine learned the language in a year. Actually, less than a year. Well, actually, a friend of a friend.

The first time I heard it was from a random guy in Columbus, Ohio, who told me: “My daughter went to Japan for a year, and came back speaking fluent Japanese.”

That was all the proof I needed. I’m kind of gullible like that. If she could do it, then damn it, so could I. Nobody beats Ken Seeroi, and certainly nobody from Ohio. Continue reading “A Friend of Mine Learned Japanese in 1 Year”

Why Your Japanese Sucks

It’s not Romaji That’s Evil—-It’s Hiragana

I have a new co-worker, who just so happens to be white. It’s very exciting, finally speaking with a real foreigner. I really gotta practice the English more. I think she’s from some place like Kansas, probably because she reminds me of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit minus the little dog and red shoes. Maybe it’s the pigtails, and the fact that her aunt is named Em. Or is that M? Whatever. On Thursday, apropos of nothing, she turned to me and announced,

“I’m heading over to Japanese class tonight.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s great.” Foreigners are always heading over to Japanese class. “How’s that going anyway?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, “we’re learning hiragana.” Continue reading “Why Your Japanese Sucks”

How to Learn Kanji, in 10 Steps

I don’t go to a lot of cocktail parties. But somehow when I do, I always meet people studying Japanese. Maybe it’s just me. Or more precisely, people who’ll eventually stop studying, only they don’t know it yet. Here’s how the conversation goes:

“Ken! I’m studying Japanese! I’m stoked! And I’m completely serious about improving. Just tell me what to do—anything—and I’ll do it.

“Three words,” I reply. “Paint my house. Nah, just kidding. You should learn the kanji.

“Ah, you know,” they begin to trail off, “I just want to speak Japanese, not read it. Continue reading “How to Learn Kanji, in 10 Steps”