Tadoku Tuesday (2): What I’m reading (in Japanese) in February 2018

whatimreadingFeb2018

It’s been a few months since I last did one of these posts (the last one I wrote was back in October). I’m trying to increase the number of books and manga I read in Japanese this year, and so far I’ve managed to stick to my target of reading at least 10 pages of a novel or manga every day (hopefully I can keep it going!). Here’s a couple of books that I’ve started or finished recently:

「きみにしか聞こえない」 by 乙一 (2001, light novel)

Note: this book is available in English and has the title “Calling You”

This light novel is a collection of 3 short stories (it is also available in manga format). I’m about halfway through it at the moment so will only mention the first two stories.

The first story is the story from the book’s title. Ryo is a high school girl that finds it difficult to connect with people. She imagines that she has an imaginary mobile phone and is shocked when her phone rings and she is able to have a conversation with another person in the real world. Through the imaginary phone, she gets to know two people: a boy called Shinya and a university student called Yumi. Shinya, in particular, becomes a good friend to Ryo, encouraging her to come out of her shell. However, tragedy strikes when they finally decide to meet. The second story is called 「傷」and is about a boy who discovers that his classmate Asato has the ability to transfer wounds and scars from one person to another.

There is a film adaptation of the first two stories: I have watched the adaptation of きみにしか聞こえない and enjoyed it, so reading the story gave further nuance to the plot and characters.

This is probably the easiest story to read on the list but is still probably around JLPT N3 level. I find Otsuichi’s writing style quite easy to read and the vocabulary used hasn’t been too tricky so far despite the supernatural elements.

 

「どんぐり姉妹」 by 吉本ばなな (2010, novel)

This is a novel by famous author Banana Yoshimoto, although not translated into English as far as I am aware. Two sisters called Donko and Guriko live together and run an online advice page called ‘The Acorn Sisters’, the same as the title of this book. The website is called that because when you put the names together their names spell out the Japanese for acorn.

The book is written from younger sister Guriko’s perspective. The sisters had an unsettled childhood; having lost both parents in an accident, they spent several years moving between different caregivers. A large part of the book focuses on how this has influenced both sisters into adulthood and how it affects their approach to advice giving.

I bought this book on a bit of a whim, but I soon found myself getting into the story. Yoshimoto does a great job of fleshing out the sisters’ personalities and their motivations. Having sisters myself, it made me think about my relationships with them and how they have developed as we have all gotten older.

Banana Yoshimoto’s works tend to be easy to read, but in terms of vocabulary used I would probably recommend this for JLPT N2 level learners.

 

神様が嘘をつく by 尾崎かおり (2016, manga)

Note: This manga has also been translated into English and is known as “The Gods Lie”

This is a manga that I read about on someone else’s blog a few months ago – unfortunately, I can’t remember who wrote about it otherwise I would link to them here.

Natsuru Nanao is a young student who is passionate about football. One day, he happens to run into his classmate Rio Suzumura and finds out that she has been looking after her younger brother without a parent or guardian for some time. She begs him to keep this a secret as she is afraid of being separated from her brother. Natsuru does so but also does his best to spend time with the Suzumura siblings, helping out whenever he can. As his feelings grow for Rio, Natsuru’s emotions towards the whole situation become more complex.

I won’t spoil any other plot details, as it is better to read it without knowing too much. It is a very sad story but does end on a hopeful note. I have to say that I love the art style of this manga too – there is something about the way that the characters are portrayed that seems very realistic.

In terms of language level, I’d say that this is an appropriate read for JLPT N3 level learners. The main characters are young so there is slang, but aside from that, intermediate learners should be able to read it. I found that once I started I managed to read the majority of it in one sitting because I got engrossed in the story (it is a single volume manga but has 5 chapters).

You can read a sample of the manga here (click on the green “立ち読み” box under the picture of the book cover).

 

So that’s it for today’s post! What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

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Manga Recommendation: ふらいんぐうぃっち/ Flying Witch

Author: Chihiro Ishizuka

Genre: Comedy, shounen

No. of volumes: 6

Recommended for: JLPT N3

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime (12 episodes)

Flying_Witch_volume_1_cover

This manga is about a young girl called Makoto. She moves from Yokohama to Aomori prefecture to live with her relatives. Her move is to achieve a specific goal: to complete her training to become a fully fledged witch! The manga follows Makoto’s progress as she learns about her new environment and finds out what it really takes to become a witch.

Although the plot reminds me of Kiki’s Delivery Service (‘girl leaves home and settles in a new place in order to become a real witch’), the manga has its own charm which makes it an enjoyable read. Makoto’s character is very easy to like despite her ditziness. The manga is very often funny but also does a good job of also delivering on some heartwarming moments.

In terms of language, I would recommend this to JLPT N3 learners (people close to N3 might find it difficult although not impossible to read). Most of the vocabulary is commonly used and the use of furigana makes it even easier to look up unknown words. Similarly, the grammar used is not too difficult. On the other hand, the main characters who are mostly teens do use quite a bit of casual language which may take some getting used to. Another thing to watch out for is the use of Tsugaru ben, the dialect used in Aomori which can be quite different to standard Tokyo Japanese!

Like Shibata Bakery, this is a great manga to read when you want something more lighthearted to read. If you like Kiki’s Delivery Service/ 魔女の宅急便・まじょのたっきゅうびん, I recommend giving this a try. The anime adaptation is available on Crunchyroll and is a good place to start and see if you like the plot and characters.

As always, you can read a sample of the manga on the EbookJapan website.

Happy Reading! 読書を楽しんでね!

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on in the comments.

Image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47408696

Author Spotlight: 小川未明 Mimei Ogawa

AuthorSpotlightMimeiOgawa

Mimei Ogawa (real name Kensaku Ogawa) was born in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture in 1885. He attended Waseda University in Tokyo and had a couple of his works published before he graduated. It was around this time that he began to champion the development of children’s literature, later becoming the first chairman of Japan Children’s Literature Association in 1946.

Like Niimi Nankichi, Ogawa was famous for writing a great number of children’s stories and is considered the founder of modern children’s literature in Japan. He was well known for having his stories in realistic settings and often highlighted the plight of the vulnerable in society.

Fortunately, his stories are available for free on Aozora Bunko, and some are available with furigana. Most of these stories are appropriate for upper beginners/ lower intermediate and above (JLPT N4-N3).

As I normally do in these posts, here are a few of his short stories I recommend to get you started.

牛女(うしおんな) / The Ox Woman

Perhaps one of Ogawa’s most famous stories, this is about a woman who is known as ‘The Ox Woman’ for being large but also extremely kind hearted. However because of her and her son’s disabilities, she is sometimes the subject of mean jokes. Even after she dies she makes sure to watch over her son and the villagers who showed kindness. JLPT N4 learners should be able to give this a go – the Aozora version has furigana which makes things a bit easier.

しろくまの子

This is a very short story about a little polar bear who doesn’t listen to what his mother tells him and ends up in trouble. If you are a JLPT N5 level learner, I would try reading this story!

The vocabulary may not be words you have learnt yet, but the grammar is very straightforward (with the exception of the classic negative verb ending ぬ (きかぬ = 聞かない・聞きません) and a couple of relative clauses). This story is also almost entirely written in hiragana, with spaces between the words to help you out.

ねことおしるこ

A short story about a boy called Sho who is often scolded by his sister. After he goes missing one day, his sister realises that she may have been the one in the wrong after all. This is a quick read which reflects Ogawa’s style of short, simple stories that give you something to think about. I’d say this is about JLPT N4 level – a mix of casual and polite registers might be a bit confusing, but aside from that the grammar and vocabulary is not too difficult.

Please let me know if this post encourages you to read one of Ogawa’s works, or if there is an author you would like me to cover in this series!

Manga Recommendation: 夢色パティシエール/ Yumeiro Patissiere

Author: Natsumi Matsumoto

Genre: Shojo

No. of volumes: 12

Recommended for: JLPT N4

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime (50 episodes)

 

YumePati-manga1

 

I have briefly covered this manga before in my What I’m Reading post from October but thought it deserved its own recommendation!

The protagonist Ichigo Amano is a 14-year-old who, on merit of her extraordinary sense of taste, is admitted to the prestigious Saint Marie Academy. Unfortunately, she has no experience of actually cooking the delicacies she enjoys so much, unlike her highly gifted classmates. The manga follows Ichigo on her journey to becoming a pastry chef, making friends and learning a lot of important lessons along the way.

As you might expect from the shoujo genre, this manga is strong on the themes of never giving up, following your dreams and the power of friendships. This makes for a wholesome and enjoyable read, with a nice moral behind it. I recommend reading it when you are having a bit of a tough time with something and need some motivation.

In terms of language, I would put this at around JLPT N4 level. Aside from some French culinary terms, this manga is full of everyday vocabulary and expressions. I have not found Yumeiro Patissiere to be too heavy on slang or casual language in general. Together with the fact that furigana is provided, this shouldn’t be too difficult for upper beginners to try reading.

There is also an anime adaptation which can be found on Crunchyroll or YouTube – if you can follow the Japanese used in this, you will have no problem with the manga it is based on.

As always, you can read a sample of the manga on the EbookJapan website.

If you like this manga, you may want to check out my other food-related manga recommendations:

Happy Reading! 読書を楽しんでね!

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on in the comments.

 

Image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24925343

Tadoku Tuesday: What I’m reading in October 2017

I have quite a lot of novels and manga to read, but remembering where I am with each one is tricky. I’m going to write a post every month about what I’m reading, as I always have several books on the go at the same time and read little bits as and when I can – hopefully, this will encourage me to actually get to the end of the books I’m reading! You might find something to try reading yourself.

There are 3 things (2 novels, 1 manga) that I am currently reading:

「フリーター、 家を買う。」 by 有川浩

This novel is about a young man called Seiji who has been flitting from job to job since he graduated from uni and left his first job after 3 months. When his mother is diagnosed with depression, he decides to try and turn his life around with the aim of buying a house that his mother can live in away from the stressors contributing to his mother’s condition. I’m not even halfway through this so far but I’m really enjoying it. There are quite a lot of words that I could look up (I am taking the tadoku approach) but for the most part, I can make sense of the text, helped by the fact that there is a fair amount of dialogue. I enjoy reading coming of age stories and this sort of falls into this category. It also covers a lot of interesting topics such as depression, Japanese company culture and ‘freeters’ (people who make a living from a series of part-time jobs).

If I had to guess the language level of this, I would put this as JLPT N2 level in terms of grammar and maybe a bit higher in terms of kanji used. I am aware there is a drama adaptation starring one of the members of Arashi, but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

「1リットルの涙」 by 木藤亜也

This is the true story of Aya Kito, who was diagnosed with a degenerative disease at the age of 15. She kept a diary and used this to document her personal experiences as long as she could and later died at age 25. Her diary was then published as a book, which also was adapted into a film as well as a drama starring Erika Sawajiri.

This is not the easiest read because of the subject matter, but it is a very compelling story. Aya goes through a variety of emotions as she realises the growing impact of her condition. I am about a third of the way through the book so far, but what I am struck by is how she shows a great deal of emotional strength despite what is happening to her at such a young age (where I am currently she is still only 15/16 years old).

In terms of language level, I guess this book is probably JLPT N3 level. There is a film as well as a drama version starring Erika Sawajiri.

「夢色パティシエール」 by 松本夏実

With the other 2 books above on the go, I needed something a bit more lighthearted to read. 14-year-old Ichigo Amano gains a place at the prestigious St Marie Academy on the merit of her extraordinary palette but has no experience in baking. Will she manage to catch up with her classmates and realise her dream of becoming a patisserie chef?

I will most likely do a separate post on this manga as I have found it a pretty easy read so far and has furigana over the kanji, which I think makes it readable for JLPT N4 learners. There is an anime version that can be found on Youtube which will give you an idea of what to expect, but I would say it is pretty typical of shoujo manga.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Manga Recommendation: しばたベーカリー Shibata Bakery

Author: Rin Ukai

Genre: Slice of Life

No. of volumes: 5

Recommended for: JLPT N3

9784063872507_w.jpg (640×918)

This manga is about a father and son who have recently started up their own bakery shop. There’s one small difference, both father and son are Shiba Inu dogs!

32-year-old Taro Shibata quit the salaryman life to pursue his childhood dream of running his own bakery. His son Kotaro is just 4 years old but helps out a lot at the bakery. As with all new businesses, getting the word out about the business is not easy and the manga focuses on the pair doing their best to make the bakery a success. Taro soon finds himself taking on a bigger role in his local area as he has an uncanny resemblance to a 神 ‘kami’ calledしめなわ五郎 who is meant to bring prosperity.

This is a slice of life manga with a lot of the humour coming from the characters who visit the bakery, as well as the fact that the shop is run by a dog. It also has its heartwarming moments, particularly between Taro and Kotaro. Taro’s wife does also appear in the manga, but the circumstances in which she left are not immediately clear.

In terms of language, I would recommend this to JLPT N3 learners (people close to N3 might find it difficult although not impossible to read). I think that whilst most of the vocabulary is everyday language, the manga is more suited to those who have a solid foundation in grammar and are familiar with a bit of casual language.

There is also furigana provided for some words (eg. 偉い・えらい) but not for others (eg. 謙虚・けんきょ) which adds a bit of extra difficulty. I suggest trying the manga out through the link below to see how easy you find it.

Each chapter is pretty short which makes it a fun, light manga to read – this is highly recommended. The only downside is wanting to eat copious amounts of bread while reading this!

You can read a sample of the manga on the EbookJapan website – at the time of writing, the whole of Volume 1 is available to read for free!

 

Image source: http://kc.kodansha.co.jp/product?isbn=9784063872507

‘Appy Mondays : TangoRisto App Review

I haven’t gotten round to doing one of these posts in a while (believe me, it’s not down to lack of apps to review!) but I was inspired to write one after coming across the app TangoRisto.

This app is a reading app but is tailored towards the needs of Japanese learners. Some reading apps are better suited to intermediate or advanced learners, but this has a lot of features which enable beginners to get reading in Japanese as soon as possible.

TangoRisto takes its articles from NHK News Web Easy (for beginner-intermediate learners), Top NHK News (for intermediate-advanced learners) and Hukumusume (fairy tales in Japanese).

Screenshot 2017-09-12 at 20.09.14

When you select one of these from the main menu you can choose an article to read. Once selected, you can view the article with a few extra features including:

  • Toggle furigana on or off, or toggle furigana on for kanji split by JLPT level
  • Option to bookmark articles for offline viewing
  • Tap on any word for an English definition
    • If a verb has been conjugated it will indicate how it has been conjugated/ the politeness level as well as the verb in its dictionary form.
    • When you tap on the vocabulary again you get further information on the word: it can then be bookmarked and added to a vocabulary list to review later offline.
    • There is an option to search the word on websites such as jisho.org, Tangorin, Google as well as the Japanese Stack Exchange where you can ask questions on usage.
  • Toggle the glasses on or off to see different vocabulary highlighted in different colours according to their JLPT level (eg. N5 words and grammar are underlined in orange)
  • Full vocabulary list for each article

The ‘glasses’ feature on this app I think is especially useful for learners because it helps learners identify what kind of vocabulary or grammar they tend to get stuck on, which you can then use to adapt your learning – particularly useful if you are working towards the JLPT. Being able to view articles and vocabulary lists online is also a really useful feature to have (I wish more apps had this to be honest!)

All in all, a great app that I am sure will get even better over time 🙂

The app is available for free on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store, so there really is no reason not to check this out! Find out more on the app’s official website.