Life in Japan: Learning Kanji

After 10 years in Japan, you’d think I’d know the 2000 main kanji, right? Well, I only know about a quarter of that. But is it really important to know kanji in Japan? How has knowing only 500 kanji affected me? Here’s my answer.

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There are three writing systems in Japan: hiragana (ひらがな), which is the main phonetic set of characters; katakana (カタカナ), which is the phonetic characters used mainly for foreign words; kanji (漢字), which is used throughout Japanese, and is taken from Chinese. It’s this last one that gives a lot of people trouble. It’s extremely important to know how to at least read kanji to be able to read a newspaper or book in Japanese.  This week’s question comes from Ellen Hawley.

I had friends who lived in Japan, and even after years reading Japanese (not the phonetic alphabets but the characters) remained a problem. Have you been able to learn enough to manage well? If not, how does that affect you?

Chinese_characters_logoI’ll begin by saying that I love kanji. It’s fascinating to me, but the biggest problem with it is that I often forget how to write them. But that’s…

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Life in Japan: Surprising First Impressions

Here are a few things that surprised me when I arrived in Japan. It’s been ten years since then, so it’s sometimes hard to remember the feeling. I miss that feeling, though.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

When I first came to Japan, I had some expectations. I thought I knew what I was going to see. But I was pretty surprised in many ways. This week’s question comes from moldydaisy.

What were some of the things that really surprised you when you moved there? What things stood out in your mind that you would never have thought of before your arrival?

The very first thing that surprised me was before I even landed. From the airplane, I could see the rice fields near the airport. From the air, they weren’t a uniform shape. No grid, no squares, no rectangles. They were very organic in shape.

After landing, I was on the Narita Express to Yokohama, and I saw so many houses that were different than anything I’d seen in Canada. They were small, built close together, and everything was so dense.  Yet there were pockets of…

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Life in Japan: My Travels

I was asked where I’ve traveled to in Japan. Surprisingly little. I regret not doing more.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

I came to Japan to see it all. Did I? No, not at all.  But there are some things I am very happy to have seen.  This week’s question is from S. R. Carrillo. She asked many questions, didn’t she?

Where all have you traveled?

Odawara Castle in the rain with a couple cosplayers in front. Odawara Castle in the rain with a couple cosplayers in front.

Surprisingly, I haven’t traveled very much in Japan. I live in Kanagawa, which is just south of Tokyo. I’ve also been to Tokyo, of course. The other prefectures I’ve been to are Saitama, Chiba, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.

In Kanagawa, I’ve lived in Yokohama, Kamakura, and now Fujisawa. I’ve also visited Odawara, Yokosuka, Kawasaki, Sagamihara, Isehara, Chigasaki, Hiratsuka, Zushi, Hayama, Miura, Oiso, and Yamato. I think the highlights are Kamakura (many temples and shrines), Odawara (castle pictured above), Fujisawa (with Enoshima), and Yokohama (technically the largest city in Japan).

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Life in Japan: A Return to Japan

Another week, another question. This time, would I return to Japan with my family? Check out my answer.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Last week, we went to a festival and my daughter had the opportunity to meet Ultraman, who is a famous hero on TV.  We had no time, unfortunately, and ever since, she’s been asking when we can return to see Ultraman. That I have no answer to. But I do have an answer to my next question, which was asked by S. R. Carrillo.

Would you ever return? Or plan to – with your daughter?

20150511-000719-439675.jpg Posing in front of Ultraman…but he’s so far away!

A return to live or a return to visit? Well, the answer to the first is that we don’t have plans to return to live with our daughter, but I’d be open to it after she’s grown up, most likely. Even so, there’s still a possibility we could return sometime to live in Japan. It’s just too difficult to say for now.

As for visiting, absolutely…

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10 Things I Will Miss About Japan

Moving to Canada next year makes me think about what I’ll miss in Japan. Too many things for a list of 10, but here’s my list.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

320px-Flag_of_Japan.svg10 years in Japan means Japan feels like home.  But in a year, we’ll be living in Canada. Of course, I’m going to miss a lot about Japan. Maybe I won’t know what I’ll miss until we’ve been in Canada for a while, but I’ll make some predictions here.  This is what I think I’ll miss about Japan.

1. Sushi and Sashimi

It seems I talk a lot about food. I love sushi and sashimi.  Sure, I can get it in Canada, but it’s not nearly as good as the sushi and sashimi in Japan.

2. Temples and Shrines

I love the old architecture, and I really enjoy visiting temples and shrines.  Can’t do that in Canada.

3. The Weather

I prefer Japanese weather.  Winter is warmer than in Canada.  Summer is very hot and humid, but I’m so used to it, Canadian summer nights will feel cold.

4. Seasonal…

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Life in Japan: Raising a Kid

Here’s my weekly Life in Japan question. This time, what’s like raising a family in Japan as a foreigner? Especially with the fact that my daughter is mixed race (or haafu).

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It’s Monday again, and I’m in the middle of Golden Week, a major week-long holiday in Japan.  However, I have work only today, and a couple four day holidays. But Monday also means it’s time for another question about Japan.  It’s S. R.  Carrillo’s question again.

What’s it like to have raised a family there, as a foreigner?

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As you can see from the picture, it’s weird.  Or maybe that’s just my daughter.  There are certainly some challenges raising a kid in Japan while I’m a foreigner.  I can’t speak for families whose parents are both foreigners, though.  They’d have a totally different experience.  However, since my wife is Japanese, I get to experience the Japanese side of life, as well.

Basically, I get to spend some time with my wife’s family and see what it’s like in a Japanese family. We mostly go during the New Year period, so…

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Life in Japan: Least Favourite Thing

Last week, I posted about my favourite thing about Japan. This week, the question is about my least favourite thing about living in Japan. It’s actually not a controversial topic, but annoying nevertheless.

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Another week has passed. Time goes by too quickly. Well, it’s time for another question about living in Japan. This is kind of a part two question from the last week.  Again, it’s S. R. Carrillo asking.

What’s your least favorite part about living in Japan?

JPY_BanknotesUnlike the last question, I find this one easy to answer. There are some things I don’t like about living in Japan (cockroaches, very big spiders, drivers who run red lights), but there’s one really big thing that I don’t like.  Banks.

Japanese banks are pretty similar to those in other countries.  They have ATMs, they have bank tellers, they have many services. However, the ATMs tend to only be open during business hours or slightly longer than business hours. But that’s not the worst thing. The banking system is rather archaic.

In Canada, waiting in line to see a teller isn’t that long…

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