Sitting outside the school with the 5th grade elementary teacher:
Me: Great weather, isn’t it?
Hamaji-sensei: Ah yes. It is getting warmer.
Me: When will it be spring? (Knowing the rather rigid structure of dates/seasons here)
Hamaji-sensei: Ah yes. Soon the winds will blow across the water from
Me: I see. (Nodding in my own politeness to the ‘unique’ Japanese seasons)
Two days later the prophecy came true as I woke up to find the sky a dusty yellow. It has been noticeably warmer ever since. At the risk of sounding slightly pretentious… I have felt a bit more in touch with nature since I moved to
I’ve been using a new method to study kanji this week. It’s a rather strange system because I’m not actually learning the full meanings OR the Japanese for them. However, it’s all based on the concept that simply learning stroke orders is not the natural way to learn a language. Instead it introduces the basic kanji and a basic meaning that soon fit together with other basic ones… increasing in complexity. It then creates a story for each kanji to help you remember them and it actually works really well. Here is a basic example of a few:
This is one of the most well known/used/loved kanji. It is a pictograph of the sun. Kanji square of all round edges so that’s why it is that shape. It is also the kanji for day for obvious reasons.
This is the kanji for eye. Like the sun it is a pictograph of an eyeball and you can easily imagine it when you know the round frames have been removed.
If we add the two together then we get a new kanji. The basic meaning of this is risk. The story that goes along with this is fairly simple. The eyeball (below) is looking up at the sun (above) and as we all know… staring at the sun is a risk to your eyesight.
Not bad eh? It’s far from the most effective method but it’s fairly fun and it does actually work. For now I can glance at a random kanji and have a very vague idea what it might mean (they change depending on the context). Indeed, I was looking at the kanji on the office door today to see if I could see anything in them. I went back to my desk 2 minutes later and the next kanji was one of those on the door. It freaked me out slightly to be honest. The basic meaning associated with that one was ‘employee’:
The top square means mouth. The bottom one means shellfish. The shellfish is comprised of the kanji for eye plus two lines at the bottom. The two lines represent animal legs. So the shellfish is an eye with animal legs. An employee needs to work so that he can feed himself. Hence, the shellfish going into the mouth. Pretty cool huh? I’m going to stop pretending I know what I’m going on about before some proper Japanese speakers comment on my entry.
It is nice knowing that kanji can have some basic foundations like this and that at least a few are essentially pictographs. Excuse me whilst I go off on a tangent that is slightly related to the kanji. It’s no surprise that in a language like this the kanji for sun 日 and moon 月are important and influential players. I’ve recently become fascinated by how much the pair must have influenced the history of mankind. Think of all the different civilisations spanning over thousands of years. Pretty much all of them have placed significant emphasis on the sun and moon. From worshipping them, the idea of the constant battle between the two… the ideas of ying and yang… good versus evil… you know what I mean. It’s exceptionally easy to see how this was the case as well as they gazed upon the day and night skies. I sound terribly woeful but I know what I mean. I now worship the sun and the moon. I remember when I was a young child interested in astronomy I used to imagine that an eclipse would be planet Earth’s number one tourist attraction. It’s true though! If there are hundreds of inhabited planets out there then there is a whole universe of aliens waiting to travel. How many other planets have a moon that aligns itself perfectly with the planet’s sun? I’ll be the best 29th century entrepreneur in the whole of the galaxy. I’ve even made a new kanji in my head for my company’s symbol.
Enough of my pseudo Japanese studying for now.
So it was raining today. After having lunch at elementary I was walking about the school talking to the kids as it was too wet to go outside and play like we/they usually do. One of my favourite fourth graders saw me staring out the doorway at the rain and ran down the corridor to come and talk to me. She’s actually really bad at English but I don’t really care that much. Indeed, a few times in class I’ve noticed her get anxious and panic when it is her turn to do something. So one day I told her not to worry about it as English is meant to be fun and that I’m terrible at Japanese. She’s always trying to talk to me in English class when we have a group activity going on and the teacher is always trying to do me a favour by giving her into trouble for annoying me. Of course she never is and it’s pretty difficult to explain to the teacher it’s alright. Anyway I had a nice little conversation with her after the usual “Hello. How are you?” Also, this is about as good as my conversational Japanese gets.
As we both stared outside:
Me: Hmmm lots of rain.
Student: Do you like rain?
Me: (ponders) Sometimes
Me: Do you like rain?
Student: (ponders) Sometimes
Both: (more pondering)
Student: Bye bye!
*It feels slightly uncomfortable referring to myself as British even though I’m not that much of a nationalist. However, it is undoubtedly a British stereotype.
**This may seem like a generalisation (and it is) but a lot of conversations I have start with “We Japanese…” and “In
Both of these issues will hopefully be addressed when I talk about identity… one day.
I thought I would write a very short entry to show all those concerned people that I'm still here. The main reason I have been quiet is because there hasn't been a lot happening recently and I've actually been fairly busy at work. Well... as busy as it gets here.
I went to Tokushima at the weekend there with some friends (David, Nish, Sarah and Melissa: 3 Brits and an Aussie). It's the capital city of the prefecture in the north-east of the island of Shikoku. It was a bit of an average city but the Saturday was still quite fun. We went up a cable car, watched some ancient dancing thing and then stayed up drinking all night until the first bus back at 7:45am. I didn't did home until about 1pm that afternoon and tried to stay awake until about 8-9pm that night so I could sleep. I went for a nap at 4pm and set my alarm for 6pm so I could start making dinner. It turns out I set my alarm for 6am and slept the whole night. I was pretty confused for about half a minute when I woke up. Then I was upset I had to get ready for work.
I left work early today (well, I took my actual designated 1 hour break for once) and headed to the gym in the mountains. I was pretty unfit and couldn't really do much because my leg still hurts so I came home instead. I had a lovely drive down through the mountains and came out at Yasuda just in time to see the sunset. It was a very pleasant night as the temperature has started to get warmer now and the nights lighter. I then bought about £6 worth of beef and cooked it all for dinner whilst drinking some beer and listening to my music. Good times.
Cheerio for now.
- ► 2010 (42)
- ► 2009 (63)
- ▼ 2008 (74)