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  • mono 6:11 am on January 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ecology, Forests, , Japanese, More Trees, MoreTrees, , Sakamoto,   


    Last weekend, I found the website to the Japan-based organization, MoreTrees. Here is my amateur translation (Japanese-English) of the “introduction” section of their website. If you are interested, hopefully this will give you an understanding of where they are coming from (despite my potentially garbled translation):

    MoreTrees: Introduction

    ‘The name “MoreTrees,” is a call to have more trees. On a global scale, there is a continuing depredation of forests. What we call “human civilization” is now on the brink of extinction. We think that the simple message of “MoreTrees” is to get reality in motion with a desire for concrete action.
    The “More Trees” movement is a community-based advancement in the increase of trees, the increase of healthy forests, and an increase in CO2 absorbing forests. In addition, (we are interested in) restoring the cultivating power of the fundamental point of forests: water-retaining capacity and life’s diversity while recognizing the grace of the sun, the water and the forests, derived from nature’s energy. “MoreTrees” is for anyone with the realization that forests regenerate, will share in this joy, and want to continue this universal platform.’

    If you wish to get involved and make a donation or spread the word, please see their official website: MoreTrees

  • mono 7:11 am on October 31, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Japanese, kanji, , , music video, , , ,   

    Study Japanese with Ken Tanaka: The Power of Music and Coffee 

    coffee shop japan

    When I was a university student, a band that I was in (and am still “in,” even though I’m an ocean away) – Special Dental Team, wrote several songs with Japanese titles and even one with Japanese lyrics. In retrospect, I do recommend this as a study tactic to be stressed in my 50 Study Tips for Improving your Japanese.

    That is, if you are prone to create your own art, whether via music, poetry, film, and so on, incorporate some Japanese into your art and develop your art through the frame of a different language. This will give you a more personalized approach to learning the language and will hopefully expand your art in a refreshing way.

    Ken Tanaka recently uploaded a video, in which he teaches viewers the kanji for “coffee shop,” through an original song that he wrote. The combination of melody, real-world images and text is helpful and humorous, at least to me. Here is the video:

    Keep studying!

  • mono 2:58 pm on October 21, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 50, ability, easy, , increase, Japanese, , , , , , , ,   

    50 Ways to Increase Your Japanese Language Ability (Study Techniques) 

    I have been studying Japanese for eight years. The first three years I studied at a university in the United States (studying and working for the university as a Japanese tutor). One year was spent working in South Korea and studying Japanese every morning with Korean adults (I was the only non-Korean student in the class). The latter four years have been me living and working in Japan, using Japanese on a daily basis and, for the most part, getting by quite well with the skills I have developed. I have experience in academic translation work, language consultation, education and interpretation.

    I’m not sure how relevant this will be to those learning a language other than Japanese, but if they are of use, then great, I’m happy to have helped contribute to your gain in competency.

    The following list is in no particular order. You decide which of these is more useful than the other and above all, use them. Thank you.

    1. Start with reading and writing as this will help you in the long run.
    2. Learn the hiragana syllabry perfectly and be able to write and recall it from memory.
    3. Learn the katakana syllabry perfectly and be able to write and recall it from memory.
    4. Learn a set number of kanji per day by writing them over and over and over again.
    5. Memorize at least 10 particles. If possible, buy a book specifically dealing with particles and learn as many as possible. You will thank yourself later.
    6. Increase and review your vocabulary on a daily basis.
    7. Practice pronunciation with native Japanese speakers.
    8. Have conversations with native Japanese speakers as much as possible.
    9. Learn how to say: “How do you say _______ in Japanese?” in Japanese.
    10. Watch Japanese movies with English subtitles and take notes.
    11. Watch English movies with Japanese subtitles and take notes.
    12. Watch Japanese movies with Japanese subtitles and take notes.
    13. Listen to Japanese music and pay attention to pronunciation.
    14. If possible, go to karaoke with Japanese friends and sing Japanese songs.
    15. Find articles written in Japanese about things that you are interested in. Read them even if you don’t understand every single kanji. Try to grasp the subject matter and explain it to someone else in Japanese.
    16. Buy a reliable paper dictionary. Spend an afternoon exploring it.
    17. Go to Japan by yourself for two weeks and interact as much as you can.
    18. When in Japan, ask random people for directions and listen carefully.
    19. Write your own paragraphs in Japanese and have a native speaker check them for you.
    20. Learn the difference between casual and formal Japanese.
    21. Learn “keigo” and learn how and when to use it.
    22. Listen to podcasts or radio broadcasts in Japanese.
    23. Listen to a Japanese speaker or celebrity whom you admire and mimic the way they talk. I recommend Ryuichi Sakamoto’s podcast.
    24. Learn about Japanese dialects and how they differ from each other.
    25. Learn how to read and write. I say this again as it will set you apart from other foreigners who can only speak. Plus, you will understand much more of what is happening around you.
    26. Learn about “aimai” and observe how people around you talk to one another.
    27. Write messages on your cellphone in Japanese. Learn the Japanese emoticon system.
    28. Study more kanji. Buy kanji flashcards and study the hell out of them.
    29. Take the JLPT tests or buy the study books and simply learn from them.
    30. Participate in a speech contest and practice your speech AT LEAST 500 times.
    31. Videotape yourself speaking Japanese and observe your pronunciation.
    32. Record your Japanese teacher’s lecture and listen closely.
    33. Record your own voice speaking Japanese and observe your own pronunciation.
    34. Speak to your Japanese friends on the telephone and observe how challenging it is when you cannot see the other person’s mouth.
    35. Pay attention to body language and mimic those around you (do this respectfully and subtly).
    36. Learn how to bow properly.
    37. Learn how to count things properly.
    38. If you come across a word that you don’t understand, ask someone.
    39. Organize a study group and meet weekly. Don’t just complain or watch anime, but STUDY together. Challenge each other.
    40. If you want to excel in a certain kind of career, learn as many words about that career as you can.
    41. Start a translation project of a book or article that you like.
    42. Once a month, go back and review ALL of the basics (grammar patterns, vocabulary, kanji, etc.).
    43. Become a master at asking questions.
    44. Enlist the help of a tutor or mentor, someone who can help you develop your skills.
    45. Re-read articles that you have read and note how your understanding has changed or how you have forgotten kanji that you were certain you already knew.
    46. Study Japanese “reiho,” or manners.
    47. Start teaching Japanese to others who are just beginning. Explaining the concepts will help give you a better grasp on them.
    48. Practice your reading and writing as much as possible.
    49. Listen to Japanese audio and speak along with it (again, imitation).
    50. Put yourself in reasonable situations where you MUST speak Japanese.

    • Justin 10:10 pm on October 21, 2008 Permalink

      This is excellent.

      I would only add one more: date a Japanese person, if possible. It makes available a whole world of opportunity separate from the experiences of a Japanese office or everyday living!

    • jgrefe 6:05 am on October 22, 2008 Permalink


      Thank you for your great insight.

      Dating is a key point that I seemed to have left out. My dear lady has transformed and edified my perception of this country in countless ways and I thank her for that.

    • claytonian 8:30 am on October 22, 2008 Permalink

      got podcast links for us?

    • jgrefe 1:32 pm on October 22, 2008 Permalink

      Claytonian, I subscribe to the Ryuichi Sakamoto podcast via iTunes, but here is a relevant URL. At the time of posting this, the page is loading very slowly for some reason: Sakamoto Podcast. I like the way he speaks Japanese. I also like Deep Osakan.

    • mikew 2:11 am on October 27, 2008 Permalink

      If possible & affordable, visit a
      Japanese restaurant at least once
      a week. Here in Cincinnati, we have
      2 Japanese buffets, one price & all you can eat! You’ll hear Japanese spoken by both the employees & patrons. It’s also a great cultural & culinary experience.

    • jgrefe 8:23 am on October 27, 2008 Permalink

      Mikew, thank you. Yes, I agree with you. Restaurants and, if you are of legal drinking age, bars are great places to learn, listen and experience.

      When in Cincinnati, I’ll have to keep an eye out for those restaurants.

    • Nikou 12:26 am on April 13, 2009 Permalink


      Great post for learning Japanese.

      Japanese is so hard for me. I’ve lived in Japan for 2 years but failed to speak fluently. Now, I’m in China, I’m having an easier time with Mandarin. I wrote a blog post about the difficulties I had learning Japanese over Chinese. TheShanghaiExpat. Please feel free to visit and let me know if you are interested with link exchange.


  • mono 8:59 pm on September 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Comic-Con, david mack, , , James Jean, Japanese, , Mandy Amano, post-modern,   

    Ken Tanaka: Jacob the Happy Rabbit 2 

    Here at The Eyeslit-Crypt, we appreciate the work of the ever-busy, Ken Tanaka.

    In a recent (or relatively recent) video, Tanaka seems to have put the finishing touches on his new self-published comic book, “Jacob the Happy Rabbit 2.” It’s cute and has a very “happy” story, too. Here is a brief summary of the work:

    The artwork was done by David Mack (Kabuki) with cover art by Eisner Award winner, James Jean. The images that we see on the video are rife with innocence and budding with a bright “kawaii” color scheme. The story seems to be an introspective post-modern interpretation on love as consumption (neo-cannibalism), with masochistic undertones of fear and isolation. However, a glimmer of hope lies within – the regurgitation of happiness.

    The video featuring an explanation on the creative process of “Jacob the Happy Rabbit 2” can be found here:
    James Jean and David Mack draw Jacob the Happy Rabbit 2

    Also, Ken Tanaka has uploaded reports from his recent trip to Comic-Con in San Diego, California. You can see the Comic-Con series here:
    Ken Tanaka goes to Comic-con and meets a Suicide Girl アメリカのコスプレイ
    Comic-con pt 2 James Jean at the Eisner Awards & cosplay
    Comic-con pt 3 David Mack, Mandy Amano, Triumph the insult dog

    And remember: “Ken Tanaka loves you.”

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
  • mono 5:22 am on August 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , gothic, Japanese, , , , , sf, ,   

    The Open Wound (2 Tankas) 

    Here are two more original poems in the style of the Japanese “tanka.”
    I dedicate these particular two works to the brilliance of poet/author Denis Johnson whose work I am devouring as carefully as I can.

    The Open Wound (in 2 parts)

    the gruesome portal
    hints of eyes and torn hair-strands
    stare black from the void
    of a time of a wasteland
    awake under fire-mist trees

    his eyes blown back in
    recovering slints and cracks
    confuse the landscape
    while forests provide entry
    from lost birds torn from their kin

  • mono 7:39 pm on June 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Hawaii, , , Japanese, , Shimane, Shinjuku, ,   

    Oden with Tanaka, Ken 

    It was a rainy and slightly muggy Tuesday evening as I caught up with Ken Tanaka in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Amidst the neon blur of Shinjuku, we found ourselves enjoying Japanese “oden” and sharing some wonderful conversation. Thank you Ken for taking the time to meet up and converse.

    I hope you will find the time to watch Ken’s videos. And just in case you are wondering, yes, he is a very nice man.

    Here are some links to Ken’s recent adventures in Hawaii:

    Ken Tanaka goes to Hawaii
    Ken Tanaka learns to speak Mo Bettah
    Ken Tanaka’s Tour Guide in Hawaii
    Ken Tanaka Eats Hawaii and Breaks His Mouth
    Ken Tanaka Meets a Taro Farmer
    Ken Tanaka Gets LOST in Hawaii


  • mono 7:37 pm on May 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , friendship, , , Japanese, shiritori, social, , Word game   

    Shiritori and Connection 

    Today I observed two people playing the game known as “Shiritori.” I was not involved in the game, only an observer. Basically, the game known as “shiritori,” involves connecting words by their last letter. In this way, “snake” can connect to “elephant” and so on creating a chain of connected words. The two people drew little pictures above each word they passed to each other and this served as a mode of communication between them. That is to say, they were not randomly choosing the words as I just did (“snake”/”elephant”) but carefully choosing each word as something relevant to their daily life. So, words and pictures were drawn of their favorite animation characters, food they liked, objects they owned, etc. This was a representation of their selves.

    At the end of their playing, they studied the piece of paper commenting on the overall choices of words/images and their faces shined with delight at the completed project as identity was blossoming and the list of images/pictures served to bring them together, opened up a new space between them and their friendship. I think that this kind of play is healthy for us and can perhaps bring things out of us that we didn’t know were there while at the same time it can conjure up things from our lives that we have perhaps forgotten about. Moreover, we can connect.

    How we connect to each other through shared interests under the rule-umbrella of this game can also be seen as a metaphor for how we talk to each other in our daily lives. That is, how we relate to the other and how we can inspire each other and grow together.

    What exists between you and I, even though it may seem far apart, can be brought together through our interaction and gestures. Moreover, what can be created in the space between us can be realized; something can come into existence through us. Also, in this way, by carefully choosing the words that we say, we can learn to have better control over our speech and perhaps participate in more fruitful conversations, more enriching conversations, more aesthetically pleasing conversations and more humanizing conversations with each other.

    Photo by Dan Strange (CC)

    • claytonian 8:46 pm on May 1, 2008 Permalink

      You may be able to find a very funny shiritori video by doing a search on my blog or looking through my youtube favorites.

    • jgrefe 9:17 pm on May 2, 2008 Permalink

      Thank you Claytonian. I will definitely search for the video. Have a great Golden Week.

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