Let us honour our food and … hug?
Posted on April 24, 2017 | genkijacs
Like almost every language, Japanese has some funny and interesting word puzzles. Here are two examples for the more advanced Japanese language students. Can you find the solution?
What is closed when you pass through and open when you don’t?
What is the thing you hug before your meal?
If you want to know the answer, visit: http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2015/10/16/japanese-word-puzzles-nazo-nazo/
There are a lot of Japanese riddles. Just search for Nazo Nazo if you are interested.
As many of you are no doubt aware, late March-early April is the time for the cherry blossom. It is a wonderful time to be in Japan as parks and open spaces turn the most beautiful shade of pink. People from all over the world admire the transient beauty of the cherry blossom.
Sakura (桜) has a deeper meaning than just its beauty. Because of the fragility of these flowers, it presents itself as a perfect metaphor for life as life is just as fragile and beautiful as the flower of the cherry tree. In Japan it has historically been used to romanticize the idea of giving up one's life for the country.
To this day, Japanese people come out to admire the blooms and the blossoming is covered extensively by broadcasting companies all over Japan.
There is also an alternative view to it, which is very well encompassed by one phrase:
This saying has a more mundane meaning. It literally means “Instead of Flowers, give me Dango”: 団子 or だんご is a kind of sweet dumpling made out of rice flour. It has nothing to do with the transient side of life or the beauty of petals falling from the sky. It has everything to do, however, with having food and something tangible to hold on to instead of watching something beautiful that has no value.
Studying – The 気to Success
Posted on April 10, 2017 | genkijacs
Did you get it? “The 気 (KI) to Succes” as in… Ok. We know we're not funny. It is true, however. In order to master a language, studying is the major key to success. This is why we will follow this lead and study some more Japanese sayings. Today’s topic is (who would have guessed) the kanji 気.
This small very simple letter can be used in all kinds of different situations to express nearly everything one wants to say if put into the right context.
The Kanji 気 (ki; sometimes also pronounced ke) basically means feeling, mood or spirit (but also gas or air). One of the words it appears in is the very popular 元気 (genki), as in GenkiJACS. Yet, the number and variety of words 気 is commonly used with are enormous. Here are a few more examples:
気持ち (kimochi) = feeling
病気 (byouki) = sickness
景気 (keiki) = condition, state
空気 (kuuki) = air
雰囲気 (fun'iki) = atmosphere
天気 (tenki) = weather
湯気 (yuge) = steam
電気 (denki) = electricity
(By the way, do not mix up the words 空気 and 雰囲気. It might lead to the embarrassing and confusing moment when you tell your colleagues or teachers that you like your company because the “air is so nice”.)
When you've mastered some of the most important 気 vocabulary (hah), you've already got the easy part covered. However, one cannot survive a Japanese conversation without knowing at least the most important phrases that contain this word. This can be very difficult and complicated at times as they are all very similar and can therefore easily get you confused. Here are some examples:
気に入る (ki ni hairu) → “sth. gets into one’s spirit” = to like something.
気になる (ki ni naru) → “sth. becomes one’s mood” = to be on one’s mind, to be curious about something
気にする (ki ni suru) → “sth. is done to one’s spirit” = to be troubled or worried about something
気に触る (ki ni sawaru) → “sth. touches one’s mood” = to get on one’s nerves
気のせい (ki no sei) → “it’s one’s mind’s fault” = it is just imagination
気のない (ki no nai) → “without soul” = being indifferent or half-hearted
Posted on April 03, 2017 | genkijacs
What could possibly be more exciting than Japan or Literature? Exactly! The two of them combined together. This is why we would like to present to you five popular and interesting novels of Japanese origin. Each one of them gives great insight in Japanese culture and history. And, if you even want to undergo the challenge and read them in Japanese, your language skills will improve, too.
1. 源氏物語 (Genji Monogatari)
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is sometimes considered the world’s first novel or rather the world’s first classic novel. It tells the story of Hikaru Genji’s life who was born as son to the Emperor Kibitsubo. Following Genji’s family dramas, love affairs and political rise and falls, the reader learns a lot about high-society culture during the Heian period.
Since the author is a woman and also addresses a female audience, the book is mostly written in kana as was custom for women during that period. Still, because of its complex and old grammar and vocabulary, it is extremely difficult to read even for native speakers. (It may be comparable to reading ‘original-language Shakespeare’.) Luckily, there are translations into “modern” Japanese. (And English of course.)
2. 枕草子 (Makura Soshi)
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon was written around the same time as The Tale of Genji and reflects observations made in the Imperial court during the Heian period. It is basically a collection of thoughts and descriptions represented in poetry. While it is mostly a personal work and therefore does not address a specific audience, it is an important and interesting work of literature due to the author’s poetic writing skills. Yet again, it might be extremely difficult to read in Japanese considering its ancient language. If you want to try so nevertheless, we recommend you have an English version to side-read.
3. 吾輩は猫である (Wahagai wa neko de aru)
I Am a Cat was written Natsume Soseki in the early 20th century during the Meiji period.
It is common knowledge that Japanese people like cats. They adore them. This work even tops this impression as its narrator is… a cat; a supercilious, arrogant pet, who throughout various short stories or “chapters” describes the lives of middle-class Japanese people. These are basically its owner, Kushami Sensei (eng.: Mr. Sneeze) and his family friends.
The novel became known for its hilarious satiric humor and is still considered a classic.
4. 雪国 (Yukiguni)
Snow Country by Kawabata Yasunari follows the love affair between Shimamura, a wealthy loner from Tokyo, and Komako, a hot-spring geisha living in the province. As pointed out throughout the novel, the geishas in provincial hot springs did not enjoy the same high-regarded status as their artistically well-trained colleagues in Kyoto or Tokyo.
Published between 1935 and 1937, the novel focuses not only on the love story itself but also on the exterior factors that led to its outcome. It thereby gives great insight into Japanese culture and provincial society during that time.
1Q84 by Murakami Haruki is a series of books with the first one being published in 2009. The title references to George Orwell’s 1984, as the letter Q plays with the Japanese pronunciation of the digit 9.
In the book, the two protagonists Aomame and Tengo find themselves in an alternative reality called “1Q84”. The two enter this mysterious reality separately but are gradually drawn towards each other during their journey towards this “other” 1984; a world that is terrorized and about to be taken over by an evil supernatural force.
The novel is said to be both surreal and exciting just as well as shocking, while some consider it Murakami’s magnum opus. It may be fiction but yet analyzes and depicts Japanese contemporary culture.
Did we get you interested? Go ahead and let these fantastic books transport you to a completely different time or culture.
However, should you decide to read any of these in Japanese, don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand everything at once. Always keep in mind that reading is considered the most difficult skill when it comes to Japanese.
Onomatopoeia – How to “Sound” More Japanese
Posted on March 27, 2017 | genkijacs
“Onomatopoeia” is the beautiful art of describing things or actions by imitating or creating sounds. While in English and other European languages, they are mostly used to describe actual sounds, Japanese utilizes a wide variety of Onomatopoeia for all kinds of situationa. It is therefore very important to at least understand their meaning during conversation and if you want to go even further than that, using them yourself will make you sound more natural and less like a Japanese schoolbook. Just go ahead and try while we give you a short introduction to the world of Onomatopoeia.
Basically, Japanese Onomatopoeia can be divided into five categories:
1. 擬声語 (Giseigo)
2. 擬音語 (Giongo)
3. 擬態語 (Gitaigo)
4. 擬容語 (Giyougo)
5. 擬情語 (Gijougo)
The first two groups contain expressions that are used to describe actual sounds. However, as the kanji (for those of you who can read them) indicate, the Giseigo are only used for voice-related sounds (of animals or humans) such as ぶ―ん (buun = buzz), にゃん (nyan = meow) or うわーん！(uwaan = a child crying loudly).
Giongo on the other hand basically cover all the other sounds like ザーザー (zaa zaa = heavy rain) or めらめら (mera mera = suddenly bursting into flames).
Words contained in the third group, Gitaigo, are used to describe states or conditions. These are expressions such as がたがた (gata gata = rattling/clattering), むしむし (mushi mushi = hot and humid) or びしょびしょ (bisho bisho = soaked).
Giyougo, however, are usually used for motions or movements (often related to travelling from one place to another). Among these, you will find expressions like うろうろ (uro uro = wandering aimlessly) and グータラ (guutara = not having enough will power to do anything), which is probably the way many of us feel when having to leave our beds on Monday mornings.
The last group, Gijougo, contains words that describe certain feelings and emotions like i.e. ウキウキ (uki uki = cheerful) or うっとり (uttori = being fascinated by something beautiful).
Just in case you have been wondering, some onomatopoeia do in fact have kanji. Here are some examples:
燦々 (sansan = brilliant, shining)
齷齪 (akuseku = anxious feeling when under time pressure)
煌々 (koukou = bright and shining light)
However, these kanji will most seldom be seen in daily life as onomatopoeia are usually written in either Hiragana or Katakana.
Of course, these are just some examples. There are thousands of onomatopoeia in the Japanese language used in countless situations. Using them, you can talk about the weather, temperature, food, sickness, character traits, shapes and figures, accidents or even sports. They are therefore extremely convenient in daily life and not to be underestimated. Besides, they are very fun to learn.
Just go ahead and try!
数字世界へようこそ – Welcome to the World of Numbers
Posted on March 20, 2017 | genkijacs
For those of you who already had the pleasure of entering the Japanese “counting-system” during their studies, it probably goes without saying that learning all the different ways of counting various things can get you more than frustrated. And having to remember whether to use the original Japanese or the Sino-Japanese numbers (derived from China) does not make this any easier.
However, the Japanese “World of Numbers” can be quite fun in the context of Japanese sayings. Counting from 一 to 十, we would like to introduce one interesting phrase for each number. We hope you will find them just as amazing as we do.
“You need only open one page of a book to understand everything.”
This phrase describes a person that understands all the content after learning only small pieces of the whole. It is thus, a wise and clever person.
“To kill two birds with one stone”
The meaning of this saying is exactly the same as in English: Achieving two things at once.
“First power, second money, third manly appearance”
This phrase describes the three most important things that it takes for a man to gain a woman’s heart. According to this saying, the most important thing about a man is his authority, followed by his wealth. However, these two are not sufficient. The man should also be handsome.
“the four knowledges”
In ancient China, some people valued a “four step path” to approach one another. These were known as 「天知る」, “knowing about the heavens” ( equivalent to “talking about the weather”), 「神知る」, “knowing about the gods”, 「我知る」, the “knowing about oneself” and 「子（相手）知る」, “knowing about your partner”.
The phrase 四知 refers to a person that does not understand this path and would reveal deep secrets even to people he barely knows.
“wind on the fifth and rain on the tenth”
This saying is a metaphor for peace and security in the world as the fifth (were there would usually be wind) and tenth (where there would be rain) of a month were believed to be good days for the crops on the fields.
“eight faces, six arms”
This simply means that one can achieve great things when working together with others. Another interpretation is that work gets easier when you share it.
“the parents’ influence is sevenfold”
This saying tries to evaluate a parent’s influence on their child. It thereby reflects on two different points of view: behavior and status.
With this phrase one can express that a child is most likely to assume his parents’ behavior in both good and bad ways. However, it also often used to describe that children hugely benefit from their parents’ fame or position in society.
“The one looking from the outside has many eyes.”
Whenever you find yourself in a serious fight with a good friend and searching for someone with an objective opinion to help you out, this phrase might come in handy.
It simply means that the one who is not involved is able to see the matter in a different, neutral light.
“gain a whole life after nine deaths”
The phrase 「九死」(=nine deaths) refers to situation that you are unlikely to survive. On the contrary, 「九死に一生を得る」is often used after escaping a life threatening situation.
“ten men, ten colors”
This wonderful, very wise saying describes a fact that is known all over the world: everyone is different. Not only by the looks, but also by opinions, tastes etc. no man is 100 % equal to another.
Are you a carrot?
Posted on March 13, 2017 | genkijacs
Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of. They are part of being human. That is to say, everybody makes them and no one can totally escape them. Especially when learning Japanese, it is absolutely natural to mix up grammar or vocabulary since it is full of expressions that sound terribly similar.
However, there are some mistakes that you should rather avoid unless you are eager to find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Here are some of the most dangerous mistakes that Gaikokujin often get confused with.
1. Imagine yourself in a restaurant ordering a 痴漢バーガー(chikan ba-ga-) instead of a チキンバーガー(chikin ba-ga-). If that has ever happened to you and you have been wondering what that weird smile on the waiter’s face was about, let us enlighten you:
痴漢 (chikan) = pervert; チキン (chikin) = chicken.
2. A lot of foreigners might have accidentally asked a rather corpulent woman whether she was a carrot, ニンジン (ninjin), simply because they understood that she might be pregnant, 妊娠 (ninshin). However, we strongly advise to ask neither of the two unless you are 100% sure that she really is a carrot, ehhh… pregnant.
3. At least once in your life, you might come to a point when you see fit to go to your superior and ask for a big 恐竜 (kyoryu). In that case, you will most probably be highly disappointed as asking for a dinosaur rarely meets with success. Yet, had you actually been referring to a higher 給料 (kyuryo), salary, you might actually be able to achieve your aim. (But let us be honest: Who would wish for a raise when they can have their own dinosaur?)
4. Have you ever tried to compliment a young mother by saying to her child 「怖い赤ちゃんですね。」(“Kowai akachan desu ne.”)? We suggest you don’t start doing so now. No woman appreciates her child being called a “scary” or “creepy baby”. Instead you should rather smile at the little boy or girl saying 「可愛い赤ちゃんですね。」(“Kawaii akachan desu ne.”) referring to it as “cute”. (Even though it might really not be as cute as its parents think.)
5. Another awkward situation will arise should you mix up 座る (suwaru), to sit down, and 触る (sawaru), to touch. Just imagine a poor foreigner pointing at the nearest chair asking 「触ってもいいですか。」(“May I touch this?”).
Have we made you nervous about talking Japanese now? In that case, there are plenty, plenty more expressions to worry about, so you better study hard, or else!
Just kidding. It is okay to make mistakes, so don't be too hard on yourself. The only way to memorize all these is to remember all the funny and awkward situations your errors have let you to and learn from your mistakes. Your Japanese friends will totally understand. :)
Jorean...? or rather Karanese...?
Posted on March 06, 2017 | genkijacs
Anyone who has taken the effort of studying both Japanese and Korean might have recognized some undeniable similarities between the two. Not only is the sentence structure identical in many ways, but their pronunciation of words is also incredibly similar.
Actually, there is a lot of discussion among linguists about whether these languages are related or whether it is simply due to Chinese influence in Asian languages that make them sound as though they belong together. (However, the Chinese sentence structure differs a lot from the Japanese and Korean one).
Here are some words that Japanese and Korean seem to share:
Let’s Chat – the Japanese Way ^^
Posted on February 27, 2017 | genkijacs
Have you ever caught yourself boasting that you are fluent in a language and then suddenly feeling ashamed when your friends ask you to help them translate what their foreign exchange partner had texted them online? – You are not the only one.
Among all the possible grammar, expressions and vocabulary, internet slang is often the most difficult to understand for non-native speakers as it develops and changes incredibly fast. To some it may seem as though there are new words and expressions every day. Japanese is no exception to that.
Like in many European languages, abbreviations are often used on chatrooms, blogs etc. These abbreviations may be short for English words as well as Japanese ones. Here are a few examples:
→ コピペ – "kopipe" → copy and paste
→ GJ → Good Job
→ うｐ – uppu → upload
→ おｋ → OK
→ wwww – equivalent to LOL
Inventing new words on the internet is also just as popular among Japanese people as it is nearly everywhere else. Just have a look at the following examples:
→ ググる – "guguru" → to research something on Google
→ ゆうつべ – "yuutsube" → Youtube
→ カワユス – "kawayusu" → (derived from kawaii) to be cute
However, there is one aspect about Japanese internet slang that will never appear in European languages: Using different kanji to abbreviate the writing progress. This part might be the most troublesome for foreigners since we have a tendency of trying to make out the meaning first before thinking of the bigger picture. Yet, in order to understand these slang words, knowing the reading comes in handy. Would you recognize the following expressions?
→ 今北 (now north???) – "ima kita" → 今来た。 (I just got here.)
→ 裏山Ｃ (backside mountain C???) – "urayamashii" → 羨ましい (to envy)
Of course, there is a lot more to learn about internet slang words in Japanese as e.g. the kaomoji that you might have read about in one of our previous entries.
If you really want to master your Japanese friends’ online messages, tweets etc. the best way to learn all of it is to ask either them or another native speaker. (Though even Japanese people might not understand all of the expressions used online.)
Posted on February 13, 2017 | genkijacs
As much as this country, its amazing culture and wonderful people always warm our hearts, it can still get very cold in winter. That means illness is likely to spread and we might get sick. (… Please don’t !…) In that case, even as a complete beginner, some “medical phrases” might be helpful to describe your condition. Here are some words/phrases that will get you through 救急 (kyuukyuu = emergency) situations or a visit at the 病院 (byouin = hospital, doctor’s practice):
医者 (isha) Doctor
救急車 (kyuukyuusha) Ambulance
救急車を呼んでください！ (kyuukyuusha wo yonde kundesai!) Please call an ambulance!
けが (kega) Injury
気分が悪いです。 (kibun ga warui desu.) I don’t feel well.
頭 (atama) Head
のど (nodo) Throat
おなか (onaka) Stomach
腕 (ude) Arm
足, 脚 (ashi) Foot, leg
肩 (kata) Shoulder
痛い (itai) To be in pain.
頭 / のど/ おなか / 腕 / 足 / 肩 が痛いです。(atama/nodo / onaka/ude/ashi/kata ga itai desu.) My head/ throat/ stomach/ arm/ foot/ shoulder hurts.
ここが痛いです。(koko ga itai desu.) It hurts here.
風邪 (kaze) Cold
インフルエンザ (infuruenza) Flu
風邪 / インフルエンザをひいたようです。(kaze / infuruenza wo hiita you desu.) I think I have a cold/ flu.
熱 (netsu) Fever
熱があります。(netsu ga arimasu.) I have a fever.
咳 (seki) Cough
鼻水 (hanamizu) Mucus
咳 / 鼻水が出ます。(seki / hanamizu ga demasu.) I have a cough. / My nose is running.
下痢をしています。(geri wo shite imasu.) I have diarrhea.
吐く (haku) To vomit
吐きそうです。(hakisou desu.) I feel like vomiting.
食欲 (shokuyoku) Appetite
食欲がありません。 I have no appetite.
アレルギー (arerugi-) Allergy
花粉症 (kafunshou) Hay fever
花粉症です。( kafunshou desu.) I have hay fever.
生理 (seiri) Period
生理です。(seiri desu.) I have my period.
薬 (kusuri) Medicine
風邪薬 (kazegusuri) Cold medicine
胃腸薬 (ichouyaku) Digestive medicine
解熱剤 (genetsuzai) Antipyretic (fever-reducing medicine)
抗菌剤 (koukinzai) Antibiotics
注射 (chuusha) Injection
薬局 (yakkyoku) Pharmacy
Should you ever need an ambulance, call #119. The fire brigade will answer the phone and ask you whether your calling about a 火事 (kaji = fire) or a 救急 (kyuukyuu = emergency). Stay calm and answer 救急 before than describing the your location and the nature of your emergency as detailed as possible. (Maybe ask for help from surrounding native speakers if you feel insecure about your Japanese.) An ambulance will be on its way.
健康保険 (kenkou hoken) Health Insurance
Furthermore, please make sure, you are health insured while you’re staying in Japan! You can either join an international health insurance in your own country, get travel insurance through GenkiJACS
, or (highly required for long-term stays) enter the National Health Insurance system. If you are uninsured many illnesses and wounds will not be treated.