Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Life Management Tips

So I’m back in school, entering the second semester of my junior year of college, and I’ve started experimenting with different “life management” habits, for lack of a better term. Not only am I trying to manage my time better with everything I need and want to do, but I’m trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and not burn out. I’m not taking an actual Japanese class this semester, and while I’m not really worried about this, I’m no longer required to spend time with the language like I used to be. So now I need to make my own time for it, apart from school, and this can be quite a challenge, although it definitely does not have to be unpleasant. I thought I might list some of these personal tips in case anyone was interested.

Mind you, this is all very experimental, and I’m just trying to work them out myself, so they may not work for you (heck, they may even not end up working for me!). This is just to maybe give you some ideas to pick and choose from. Hope it can help you and your Japanese studies! :)

Start off strong
Every semester, I always tell myself to stay on top of my schoolwork, to start working out more, to spend time studying Japanese everyday, etc etc. Honestly, these habits rarely make it all the way through the semester, but I do feel that setting a few goals and making a clear effort at the beginning makes a difference. Better than starting off “weak”, right?

Have fun with Japanese
Hopefully your classes are interesting, but in all cases they’re bound to take up much of your time. This is why you have to make your Japanese time precious. Even if you can’t find the time or effort to actively study anything, make sure to have fun with it no matter what. Love the Japanese shows you’re watching, the music you’re listening to, the manga you’re reading – love it. Then whenever you have a break from your schoolwork you’ll want to spend it having fun in Japanese. If you’re doing a menial task, maybe try adding some Japanese to that. You can still listen to Japanese or maybe even watch it while doing things like cleaning your room, doing the dishes, showering, etc. Even as I write this blog post, I have a Japanese show playing in the background. Just make sure you enjoy it!

Change your environment
Last semester, I finally switched from being in a dorm to an apartment, and as I had a living room area in which to study, I tended to stay at home a lot. I rarely left the apartment for the sole reason of going to study somewhere. And, honestly, while relaxing at home is nice, I started feeling closed up and rather sluggish after a while. Now I try to go to different study areas, and especially go outside if the weather is nice. You’d be surprised how much fresh air helps your brain. Try going to a nearby park, a coffee shop, a library, etc. to study every once in a while. Walking there is even better – again, taking a moment to get some fresh air and light exercise will do wonders. I’ve found that simply changing my environment has helped me to keep up my focus and motivation. I do still spend time studying at home, just not as much as before. I now find it extremely relaxing to sit at a table outside, listening to Japanese radio while practicing kanji.

Write things down (use checklists)
When it comes to my schoolwork, I love making checklists. I often hear that goals are much more likely to come true if you write them down, so why not try that out? I also try to keep a constant list of tasks on a whiteboard and in planners. This is mainly homework assignments and whatnot, along with things that I have to do but don’t necessarily want to (such as phone calls, meetings, errands, etc.) I find that writing checklists of things that may be unpleasant help in making those things a little easier – it just feels so good to cross those tasks off! I also try to split things up into the smallest possible task. For example, if I have to read Chapters 6-8 of something, I would separately write out 6, 7, 8, and cross them out individually. The more you cross out, the more you get that satisfied feeling, the more motivated you feel.

I don't personally do this so much with Japanese studying, actually, as I’m honestly not sure how I would structure that. Aside from maybe SRS items, I don’t really have anything I try to “complete” per say, I’m just always trying to “do things” in Japanese every moment that I can. This is just a personal thing (always subject to change), and if you want to make checklists for your Japanese studies, I don’t really see why you shouldn’t.

[An awesome suggestion by my good friend @CarisEll:
My dad has an even spiffier system, wherein he'll mark an item with something different depending upon whether it's been started or totally finished. I tried it (with empty, half-full, and filled-in circles), and it does help to know what you're also in the middle of doing.]

Be efficient and feel efficient
We all have so much that we need to get done on a daily basis; as a college student, I can definitely say that for myself at least. Homework, studying, internship research, study abroad applications… it can get a little overwhelming. It’d be nice if every time you sat down to work, you’d accomplish something no matter how small. Being efficient is great, but I think it’s even better to really feel efficient – if you feel like you’re accomplishing something it can keep the motivation way up. This is where the checklists can come in. Keep checking things off, crossing things out, and even if you haven’t gotten very much done in actuality, you can keep going with high spirits. I realize this might not work for everyone, but I feel really great when I “buckle down” and take care of a ton of little things – and the little things really do add up. I hope this part makes sense… I really feel like people underestimate the power of keeping yourself motivated.

Here’s hoping someone can make use of my floating thoughts! I’ve only been in school for a little over a week at this point, but so far so good. I might make a similar post later on down the line… Good luck with your Japanese studies along with all the work you need to do! がんばれ!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Drama Review: Ryuusei no Kizuna

This one sort of took me by surprise! I was pretty excited when I first heard of it since I love Nino, but couldn’t find subs for a while and didn’t end up watching it until much later. I have to say, while it’s a bit of a sad drama I liked it a lot! Nino is indeed an amazing actor. :) I also gained newfound respect for Nishikido Ryo (this is the first time I’ve seen him in a drama) and Erika Toda. I thought the three of them had pretty good chemistry on camera. I’ll make sure not to reveal any plot details or anything that could ruin the ending, but I would like to give my general opinion of the show including its ending… so do be careful just in case (^^;)

The plot is about three kids by the name of Ariake, two older brothers, Koichi and Taisuke, and their younger sister Shizuna, whose parents get murdered (a cheerful story, this one…). They vow to one day find the murderer and kill him, and fourteen years later their thoughts are still on solving this case. They spend their time as con artists, swindling money out of their targets in a series of fairly comical episodes, although the plot takes a more serious turn as the focus becomes the long sought-after murderer. There are several surprising plot twists towards the end, and while I won’t spoil anything, I will say I found the climax pretty intense.

I was thrown off by the story a bit at first, as while the premise was revealed to be as morbid as I expected, many of what I guess you would call “filler” episodes were actually pretty lighthearted. While accepting the fact that the main characters were comically swindling people took some getting used to, I found the episodes easy to watch and I felt pretty hooked. I was always amused by Koichi’s intricate scripts that he wrote and how engrossed he got in them (Nino’s acting makes me happeh XD). Taisuke’s fiery personality was entertaining (Ryo is quiiiite charming), and his and Shizuka’s aliases were pretty funny too. Also, I have to say, after watching this drama I finally ended up finding Erika Toda really pretty O.o;. Then again, the first time I’d seen her in anything was the Death Note movie, and while I don’t hate Misa’s character as much as some, she’s still pretty annoying, so that was my initial vision of Erika. But I didn’t think Shizuka’s character was really annoying… she was realistically girly, but not too girly, strong, but with understandably weak moments. So yeah, I really liked the characters. The three of them worked really well together and had downright heartwarming, adooorable moments, as well as serious, intense times of discordance. I just felt like they pulled the sibling thing off really well, despitetheplottwistsIwon’treveal. Their kid versions were sooo cute too!

Anyway, there were some really fun scenes, but then, of course, some very serious ones as well. I won’t say very much as I don’t want to ruin any of the plot twists, but do be aware that this is not a super-happy drama. The last episode was pretty hard to watch (although I was virtually glued to the screen), and I actually felt a little bitter about how certain things turned out. However, I have to mention that I really appreciated the way the drama put aside quite a bit of time at the end to wrap the story up nicely. I feel like a lot of times plotlines tend to either end pretty abruptly or have long, drawn-out conclusions where you wonder if the episode will ever end (*cough*HanaKimi*cough*). Some people might find this ending to be kind of drawn out too, but I found it pretty refreshing myself. There were just several loose ends that were tied up that really needed to be tied up, and it gave me some time to breathe after the dramatic climax haha. The only thing that didn’t really rest with me was the (semi-spoiler alert)… I guess, “final outcome” when it comes to the parents’ murderer. Again, won’t mention details, but if you’ve seen it you might know what I mean…

Ultimately, I thought this was a great drama: nice visuals, quality acting, engrossing plotline with both lighthearted and depressing moments; overall a bittersweet story that was well worth the watch!

…yay Nino!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tweet Log (December)

I'm sure most people don't read all of my Tweets as I post them to Twitter, and as Twitter is essentially micro-blogging, I thought posting them as blog entries might interest some people - in case you missed anything and are curious ;) So expect chunks of about thirty tweets or so every once in a while as some extra content!

Go forward to part 2.


Welcome to CultureQuirk, everyone! While my focus is Japanese language and culture, I’ll be sharing tidbits about many other countries too~

I’m from Belgium. It’s a tiny European country between France and the Netherlands. Famous for beer and waffles!

Did you know there are two main languages in Belgium? French and Flemish (like Dutch). I speak French, but I love both sides of my country!~

I took five years of Spanish in high school. I don’t get much practice and have been losing it, so feel free to send me messages in Spanish!

I’ve been to Mexico before, and the place I’ve been to several times is Cozumel. Very touristy but so fun and beautiful.

I’ve been studying Japanese for over three years now. I can help anyone with the basics and I’d love help to further my learning. Yoroshiku~


I have traveled to Japan before and had an amazing time. Can't wait to study there in the future.

I love how clean Japan is. Not a piece of trash on the ground. And every time I saw a trash can, there would be recycling bins too.

From my experience, the Japanese people are so friendly and helpful. I really had a great time on my trip there.

I love Japanese food. I mostly ate cheaper things when I was there – udon, curry rice, soba. So good!

Ever heard of korokke? It's the Japanese version of the French fried dish croquettes. One of my favorite foods, I love all kinds!

Japanese snacks are very different from most American snacks...

Most people know about things like Pocky, but what about mochi, taiyaki, onigiri? If you have the opportunity, try new things!

If you go to Japan, something to check out is the conveyor belt sushi places. Not always the best sushi ever, but it's just fun to check out.

I used to watch more anime than I do now - while I still enjoy anime, I much prefer watching jdramas and reality shows.

For learning Japanese, I feel like variety shows is one of the best sources because it's real, almost completely unscripted Japanese speech.

After reality shows, I feel jdramas are great because it's still fairly natural speech despite the script.

Anime is at the bottom for me when it comes to learning Japanese due to speech being dramatic and a little inaccurate, but it's still fun!

If you want to watch Japanese TV live try KeyholeTV

Jdramas I'm currently watching: My Girl, Tokyo Dogs, Orthros no Inu, Kurosagi, and Ikebukuro West Gate Park. LOVING the first two.

A few of my favorite dramas ever: Maou, Hana Kimi, The Quiz Show Golden, Gokusen, Brother Beat, and the classic Hana Yori Dango :)

I'd like to start making drama reviews, and I'm always looking for new ones to watch. Suggestions are always appreciated! ;)

I'd like to watch other kind of dramas later (Korean, Taiwanese, etc) but right now I'm really focusing on learning Japanese and jdramas.

I just wish I had more time to watch dramas! Entertaining shows with good looking actors while improving my Japanese? Yes, please~

Plans for the upcoming winter break: Kanji SRS. Drama/variety show watching. Learn some new recipes. And hopefully launch my blog :)

Even though I'm minoring in Japanese, I would much rather learn it on my own than take classes.. Glad I'm done with them for the semester :)

I listen to so much Japanese music - lots of jrock and even more jpop. I usually like happy stuff, but I can enjoy sad or angry stuff too :P

I do enjoy visual kei - I've seen Dir en Grey live and they're amazing! In fact, most Japanese concerts I've seen live have been visual kei.

I was never really into Malice Mizer, but I do love Gackt. He's not just a pretty (plastic...) face; I really love his voice and music.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Japanese Food Log Summer 2009

So I decided to make another food post, this time from my trip to Japan! Here’s some of what I ate and my thoughts on them…

These are buckwheat noodles, usually served cold, and it typically comes with a special sauce. It’s a very typical meal; I had it a couple of times in Japan and occasionally make it myself at home. It’s not my favorite food in the world, but I do enjoy it.

Curry rice
Very simple, very common – curry! The basic component of this, of course, is the rice and curry sauce, and there will oftentimes be certain meats or vegetables mixed in the sauce. Again, this is a meal I had a few times while in Japan, but you can easily find it here too. There are so many different kinds of curry, and I really enjoy Japanese curry.

More noodles, and these are usually served in a hot broth. Udon noodles are usually fairly thick and slippery, and I’ve seen a wide variety of vegetables and meats in the broth. I’ve even had udon served cold, which wasn’t my favorite way of eating it but was still very good.

I. Love. Korokke. Maybe because it sort of goes back to my own roots – the original dish is a French dish, “croquettes,” which I mention in my Belgian food post. Like croquettes, a filling is enclosed in a crunchy fried batter. I’ve only had one kind while I was in Japan, so I’m not sure if there are other kinds of it, but the one I ate had a potato puree inside it and was so simple, cheap, and delicious.

There are many kinds of “donburi” foods, which is basically some kind of meat, fish, or vegetable served over rice. Gyudon in particular contains beef – the one I ate had thin strips of beef and onions over rice. It was sooo cheap and surprisingly filling, and while I wouldn’t have it everyday, for something so quick and easy I really liked it.

I know this is such a super vague term, as bentos can have anything in them, but I honestly don’t know/remember what was in it. “Bento” simply means “lunch box,” and they’re very commonly sold in Japan (in convenient stores and whatnot), but what I remember about this one was the charm of the situation. We were in Osaka, wondering where we could get something cheap to eat, and happened to run into this woman who was setting up a tiny stand of bentos in the street. We each got one for only a couple hundred yen, and simply stuffed with a bunch of different yummy components. We actually ended up seeing many more of these small stands; I wish they existed here~!

I’ve heard this dish referred to as the Japanese version of a pancake, pizza, omelet… It’s really hard to describe okonomiyaki if you’ve never heard of it, but it was one of my favorite foods over there. Although the batter and toppings vary a lot depending on where you go, from my experience it’s usually eggs, cabbage, and some kind of meat or vegetable or something mixed to form a batter, and then cooked similarly to a pancake. There are a couple of different sauces you can pour over it. It’s very different from what most non-Japanese people are used to, so if you’ve never had it before, try it out!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Warning… I get sorta fangirly with this one :P

While I will probably write more about J-pop and Japanese music and general, I really want to write about one of my greatest interests – the music group Arashi (嵐)! Most of you reading this have probably at least heard about them; they’re super popular in Japan right now. I’ve been a fan of theirs for about five years now. So for any one who’s interested, I’d like to give my introduction to the fandom (^^)

Arashi is an all-male five-member music group that is a part of Johnny’s and Associates. The five of them are young (though they’re in their mid to late twenties now… time flies so fast…), handsome, and have a very fun, happy image. Much of their music is cute and light-hearted, or meant to be uplifting and inspiring, while every once in a while they’ll have something a little darker, which can be interesting too. While I do really, really love listening to their music, I’ll say it right now: I’m not really a fan of them based on the music itself. They have decent voices, but not the best in the world, they can dance, but they’re not incredible at it (except for one of them…which I’ll get to later), and they don’t usually write all their own stuff, so they’re very “commercialized.”

(Still, look at how fun their music is!)

No, Arashi’s charm extends way beyond the music business. First of all, they’re all actors as well, and damn good ones at that, in my opinion. One of the boys, Ninomiya Kazunari, has actually starred in the Clint Eastwood movie, Letters from Iwo Jima, if you’ve heard of that. They’ve all acted on stage before as well, in both plays and in musicals. They have their own variety shows, which I will discuss in a later blog, that are generally really entertaining. Most of them have their own radio shows, one of them is a newscaster, one of them is a visual artist – the list goes on. The most charming thing, though, beyond their talents and activities, are the boys themselves. They all have such unique personalities, and they have amazing group chemistry that feels so real and is so refreshing. I really think that is where the fandom lies.

So… *drumroll* Here are the members!

Ohno Satoshi
The leader of Arashi, and famous for being very “unleaderlike.” He’s not very assertive or talkative, and he tends to zone out or just be really odd. The other members poke fun at him for this, but honestly it’s all in good fun as they all love their “Riida”. He’ll make really random comments, and I just think he’s so cute and funny. Ohno is truly an artist in many ways – he’s definitely both the best singer and dancer in Arashi (seriously… he’s an amazing dancer), he draws/paints/sculpts/etc, and he is a brilliant actor both on stage and in front of the camera (Maou, anybody?). I think his quirkiness is really great, and I actually like the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have that charisma that most stars exude.

Sakurai Sho
Sho is a wonderful combination of serious and silly. He’s a great speaker and is actually an accomplished newscaster for News Zero; he’s the only one of the members who graduated, or even went to, college (and Keio University at that); he’s poised, mature, and is often thought of as the actual lead figure of Arashi. On the other hand, he always messes up on all the silly games and experiments they do and is thus always poked fun at; he loves to play with kids and is great at taking care of them; and he makes fun of himself all the time. He’s the rapper of the group and writes his own lyrics, and the rap parts of songs are often called “Sakurap.” The other members sometimes call him “Okaasan” (Mother), which says a lot about him, as he just seems so caring. And I personally think he might be the best looking member of Arashi… (^^;)

Aiba Masaki
Aiba is just a ball of sunshine. He is always soooo happy and excited about everything. He is super silly and dorky and receives many a smack in the back of the head from other members. While he’s made fun of for sometimes messing up dance steps and whatnot during performances, Aiba is actually one of the most athletic of the members. He has a really unique voice that took me some getting used to, but I actually really like it. He often acts like a kid and seems like he’d be a lot of fun to hang out with, but at the same time he isn’t immature or anything and can be really professional.

Ninomiya Kazunari
Nino is the first member I knew about from a drama who “introduced” me to Arashi. He looks like a puppy, writes really fun and cute songs, and he just seems like he would be such a sweetheart. When you see him interacting with the other members or whatnot, however, he can actually be pretty sassy, which I was really surprised by. He gets so sarcastic and cheeky with the other guys, although it’s always in good fun; he’s actually really hilarious. Nino’s the gymnast of the group, and despite his small frame he definitely has a big personality. He is a brilliant actor and even made it to Hollywood with Letters from Iwo Jima.

Matsumoto Jun
Probably the most popular member of Arashi is Matsujun. He starred in one of the most famous dramas ever, Hana Yori Dango, among other things. He’s definitely the one with the “cool” image in Arashi, although he definitely has his silly moments as well. He’s the youngest member of the group, but doesn’t really look or act like it. He’s very professional, and can also be a little intimidating. Unlike a lot of people, he’s not necessarily my favorite member, simply because I don’t think he shows enough of his personality, but when he does sort of let loose and be dorky I really like it. He cares so much about Arashi, and I really enjoy him both as an actor and a group member.

I have so much love for these guys. Sure, they’re talented, sure, they’re handsome, but mostly, their personalities and group dynamic is where there charm lies – watching them is just so much fun. I always say, I’m not necessarily an obsessive fangirl with posters of them all over my room and their faces plastered on my folders, Arashi still has the huge role of making my life a bit brighter.

Later on, I’ll discuss how they’re teaching me Japanese :P Stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Belgian Food Log Summer 2009

I thought people might be interested in what kind of foods people eat in Belgium, so when I went most recently I made a little log of what I ate everyday for anyone who’s curious. Mind you, I only wrote down the more substantial dishes – in the evenings and several times at lunchtime too we would have sandwiches or leftovers and the like. If anyone wants to know any details on these foods, feel free to ask!

Boudin blanc

A sort of “white” sausage that was served with French fries and applesauce. Made by my grandmother~

Long, thin sausages that taste a little more like what I might find in America, that was served with carrots and mashed potatoes. Also made by my grandmother.

Steak béarnaise
A steak with a sort of buttery sauce, served with a salad and French fries. I ate this at a higher-class restaurant, but even at cheaper places steaks tend to be amaaazing.

Mousse au chocolat
Chocolate mousses are usually fairly light and there are so many different chocolate flavors out there, but because it’s Belgian chocolate, it’s almost automatically great. The time I had mine at a restaurant there were small bits of chocolate mixed in with a light whipped cream on top~

Gauffres de Brussels
Um, they don’t call them Belgian waffles for nothing. I loooove these things! There are the more pedestrian, but still delicious kind you order and walk around with that are usually just coated in sugar, but you can also sit down at a restaurant or café-type place and order a more fancy waffle with fruit and stuff. I usually get one with strawberry and whipped cream. This may really heavy and unhealthy, but really they’re usually a very light dessert and not considered that big of a deal.

Croquettes au fromage (aka fondus au parmesans)
Croquettes come in many different forms, and it’s hard to explain what it is if you don’t know already. There’s always some kind of filling enclosed in a batter and deep fried. It’s sort of grainy and crunchy on the outside, and is usually filled with mashed potatoes (probably my favorite kind <3), shrimp, or in this case melted cheese. I guess these are comparable with those mozzarella stick things… except, in my honest opinion, infinitely better (^^)

Poulet-frittes et compote de pomme

Nothing particularly outlandish, chicken in a complementing brown sauce with French fries. What might be a little different for some was that the other side was applesauce. This is pretty common in Belgium, I eat applesauce with a lot of different things!

Crêpes au champignon crème

If people are familiar with crepes, most are probably imagining the sweet kind, with whipped cream and fruits and whatnot. There are also the salty kind, though, where you can put in meats, vegetables, fish, sauces, etc. The possibilities are endless~ (Seriously, the menu of the crepe restaurant we went to was like a novel…) The one I had was with cream of mushroom.

Spaghettis bolognaise
An extremely common dish, you might have had this before even if you’ve never been to Europe. It’s simply spaghetti noodles with a meat and tomato sauce, and sometimes other vegetables such as carrots, peas, mushrooms, etc.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Drama Review: Hana Yori Dango

Sooo I thought I might as well start reviewing the jdramas I’ve seen! I apologize if I’m not particularly insightful on these shows; I’m not a great writer or anything, and I’ve never done anything like this. But I’d like to voice my opinion on them, and make sure not to give out any spoilers, so take a look and see if a certain drama might interest you!

For this first review I’ll write, I just have to do the one that many of you have probably seen, an absolute classic: Hana Yori Dango. Although technically not the first drama I’ve ever seen, it might as well have been as it really brought me into the wonderful world of jdramas. You might be familiar with the manga (I was never a fan), and the show does often feel like an anime come to life. Funny, great actors, and if you don’t mind romance, this is definitely a great “first” drama.

The plot might seem rather stereotypical and unrealistic, but I think that’s what brings it a certain amount of charm - the classic manga situation. Makino Tsukushi is a girl that comes from a poor family but is sent to attend an elite school full of ridiculously rich students. The four most influential of these, a group going by the name of F4 (who are not only rich but really attractive), lord over the school: Mimasaka Akira, Nishikado Soujiro, Hanazawa Rui, and their leader Domyouji Tsukasa. Domyouji is especially aggressive and arrogant, and he targets specific students to torment to exhibit F4’s power. By a twist of fate, Makino becomes one of these targets, but for the first time in F4’s history, Makino stubbornly fights back. She becomes entangled with F4 in a flurry of love triangles, comic arguments, and many outrageous situations. The ending of the series, in my opinion, was very satisfactory, and while there is a sense of closure, it also definitely sets you up for the second season, which I might like even better. In the second season all the old characters are back along with several new ones for more laughs and tears. There was also a full-length movie that takes place after the second season to wrap up the story, which I won’t really go into as much although I did greatly enjoy it as well.

There were so many things I loved about this drama, although it’s hard to clearly explain why it’s so addicting. The characters were great and the actors had such good chemistry. While you sort of hate F4 at first, especially Domyouji, those feelings completely reverse themselves somehow as the show progresses. Domyouji is always angry, but comically so, and his clumsy manners in showing his affection can actually be pretty touching – I love the way Matsumoto Jun played him. Hanazawa Rui was one of the first jdrama characters that I just fell in love with – not only is Oguri Shun super handsome in this, but his quiet and mysterious, yet very kind and caring personality can make any girl melt. Soujiro is so cute, especially in the first season, and I really liked his character and story. Akira is the nice, peaceful one who’s always trying to get everyone to get along despite all the drama (poor guy). F4’s relationship oftentimes seems like it wouldn’t work due to such different personalities, but somehow their chemistry is really great. Makino Tsukushi is one of my favorite female characters ever in jdramas; Mao Inoue is so cute! Makino’s crazy family, who are really poor but always full of life, along with the other friends and enemies at the school, just bring so much color and extra humor to the show. Overall, there are so many laughs and ridiculous situations that make this show interesting.

I will admit the show can be pretty frustrating at times. A lot of the unfortunate situations wouldn’t happen if the characters would just… communicate better… it’s a little much sometimes. Love triangles can be pretty tiring too as someone always loses… Super romancy dramas don’t usually appeal to me because of the cheesiness of it all, and when I think about it logically, there are many of those elements in Hana Yori Dango. Sometimes I feel that the actors over act a little bit too; the show very much behaves like a cartoon. Yet somehow all of these typically negative (for me) aspects somehow didn’t bother me at all when I was watching this show. Something about it sets it apart from other romantic dramas. The flow of the story and the chemistry of the actors just work so well and make Hana Yori Dango exceptional.

Ultimately, this was a great romantic comedy that revolved around lovable characters and employed some really fun humor. I would strongly recommend this one, as it’s definitely one of my favorite dramas of all time. If you’ve never seen a jdrama before, Hana Yori Dango is a good one to start with.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Japanese Learning Methods

I would like to make list of online resources for learning Japanese for those interested and my reviews of them (a lot of these websites can be used for other languages or even entirely different subject matters as well). Also, please check out this article posted by Koichi over at Tofugu:
That is the page I found some of these awesome resources, and there are also some that I haven’t written about too, so take a look!

Now my own thoughts. I’m not really listing these in any particular order…

First, a couple of dictionaries.

Denshi Jisho
An extremely useful English-Japanese dictionary where you can not only look up words, but sample sentences or individual kanji. The interface is nice and very comprehensive, and I refer to this all the time.


Yamasa Online Kanji Dictionary
Also a very nice tool, I usually use this to study kanji as when you look up a kanji character, it shows you the stroke order along with an animation to help you visualize exactly how one should draw it.


There are many other dictionaries out there and I’m not saying these are necessarily the very best, but they serve their purpose well and I use them all the time. (^^) Moving on to the learning-based websites

A simply brilliant website. I really, really urge you to at least visit the site, even if you’re not studying Japanese, as you can be taught so many things here – heck you can even teach and make some money yourself. At EduFire you can find a personal tutor to help you with a certain language or subject matter and meet them by webcam. You can also look through a long list of different classes, where the teachers present their lessons via webcam to a group of people instead of an individual. Several of these classes are free, and most of them are probably cheaper then teachers you would find off-line. Seriously, it’s worth taking a look! To top it all off, the community is so warm and friendly, so even just participating in the forums is nice~ (^^)


An awesome website for practicing any language(s) you may be learning! Here you can write journal entries in the target language and people who speak that language will be able to correct your entries and comment on them. This system is very effective, as they can literally cross out a word, add one in a different color, italicize something they want to emphasize, etc. In turn, you can help other by correcting journal entries written in English (or whatever language you know). You’ll understand how useful this is when you try it, so please do! Everyone there is always so nice too~


This is a Firefox extension that can help you learn Kanji from any webpage that you are visiting. It is a dictionary extension, and when you hover your mouse over a Japanese word, you can look up its reading, meaning etc. The application can also characterizes your webpage so that the first letter of certain words becomes the Japanese character that signifies that word. You can set this according to the study method of your choice – for example, I’m using the Remembering the Kanji profile, but I know there are others such as Kanjidic and Kanji in Context. Sometimes this can get a little confusing if you’re reading something important, so what’s nice about this characterizer is that it’s very easy to turn on and off as it’s sitting right in your browser.

And finally, a more specific types of learning systems - the SRS systems.

An SRS system (space repetition system); there are many different kinds out there that work just as well, but this is the one I use. It’s basically flashcards on your computer, but based on how well you remember the answer on the card, the system shows you that card when you need to see it again to maximize effective learning. It makes a lot of sense once you try it, and it can truly revolutionize the way to memorize and learn things. You can create your own flashcards for just about anything, and there are also many decks that other have created that you can download. The most popular one is for learning kanji based on Heisig’s book Remembering the Kanji. I use this myself, and it’s one of the best tools I’ve ever used to study Japanese.

This is also technically an SRS, but there’s more to it. Instead of downloading the program to your computer, the whole thing is online, so you can access it from anywhere if you have internet. It’s also “prettier” and more interactive, and the process is a little different: instead of you rating how well you know the piece of information, you’re playing more of a game where you get the answer right or wrong. Again, you can make your own list of anything you want, or use the ones that others have made.


Here is my method concerning SRS systems (I use both of the ones I listed, but for different situations). Anki is very good for the long-term stuff – a very large amount information you want to learn over several months but retain for longer., on the other hand, is great for the short-term and smaller amounts of information (so if you have a quiz the next morning or something for a class or a trip coming up quickly). Of course, both systems can be used for both situations, that’s just my personal preference, so experiment a little and see what works for you.

I hope this can help some of you! I realize many of you are probably aware of many of these awesome websites, I’d just like to help spread the word. So are there any other good educational sites you know of? Leave a comment and tell me about them!

Monday, January 4, 2010


To start things out, I would like to share some of the blogs that I follow! These have inspired me to write my own and always provide interesting material, so I am very thankful to them~!

Tofugu: This blog is probably the first I ever followed and one of my all-time favorites! A lot of you guys probably know about it too. The main writer, Koichi, is very active in the online Japanese blogging community and at the educational website EduFire (which I’ll probably talk about in a different post). He’s a great teacher of Japanese and very entertaining as well!


Gakuranman: Another big name in the jblogger community. I originally took a Japanese class from him on Edufire – his Japanese is very good, and he is a really great teacher! His blog is funny and enlightening, and from my understanding he’s living in Japan right now, so he has a lot to offer.


Jason Harris: If you’re interested in the JET program (which provides the opportunity of teaching English in Japan), then this is definitely the guy to go to. Jason was in JET for five years, living in the rural Japanese city of Shimane, so he has so much to offer on the program and the experience of living in Japan. He’s very active on youtube, so do try to check him out there.

Twitter (JET-related):
Twitter (Personal):

All Japanese All the Time: If you’re learning Japanese, or any language for that matter, definitely check out this website. It was created by a guy going by Kazhumoto who became fluent in Japanese in 18 months. He has so many articles on how he did it, and there are so many great tips to pull from it. Plus his writing is really great and humorous to boot. In the links I also included a really nice page that summarizes Kazhumoto’s tactic to learning a language.

Summary page:

An Englishman in Osaka: This one I follow just for kicks. Relatively frequently updated with series of comical pictured comments – an amusing, witty blog.


Hikosaemon: This is also a pretty big name in the J-blogger community, and I have to say, I’m very impressed with his videos. He’s lived in Japan for about ten years from my understanding, but I still think his fluency is incredible, and he has a lot to offer about his perspective on living there. Also, all of his videos are subtitled both in Japanese and in English, which is really great.


The Nihon Sun: “Japan’s Online Culture & Travel Magazine.” A blog with a stream of posts concerning Japanese culture – about certain festivals, places, customs, etc. Sooo much interesting material here.


Nihongo Notes: A useful blog by a guy learning Japanese himself, so he continuously offers great tips to learning Japanese. Similar to Kazhumoto’s site, although maybe not quite as intense? (^^;) Good stuff!


Rainbowhill Language Lab: Yet another great site with really useful tips on learning Japanese, as well as discussions on culture. He offers lessons on Edufire and has topics like specific study tips for the JLPT test and whatnot which are very useful. He is also really friendly and I’ve had nice conversation with him, so he can definitely help you in your Japanese studies.


There you have it for, check these people out! I’ll probably make a similar post soon, there are just so many great blogs out there (^^) If you know of any awesome blogs I should look at or have one yourself, please don’t hesitate to tell me about them in the comments~!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Hello world! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while and thought I might as well go for it! I’m trying to prepare some stuff to post ahead of time so that I’ll be uploading content semi regularly, but I’m not sure how active I can stay at this. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

Anyway, I guess I should write some kind of introduction for this~

So a bit about me. I’m in my third year of college, majoring in International Business and minoring in Japanese. I was born in Belgium and grew up in the US, so I’m fluent in both French and English, and foreign languages have been a huge interest of mine for a while now. I took about five years of Spanish in high school (though my Spanish has become quite atrocious by now…) and my passion now is learning Japanese, which I’ve been actively studying for over two years (though I still have so much to learn~!). I’ve been in love with the language and the culture for as long as I can remember and really want to share that passion with others. I looove watching J-Dramas and am a fan a few Johnny Entertainment bands (namely the band Arashi~), though my interests in Japanese music definitely extends to lots of other jpop and jrock – even some visual kei.

So what am I going to include in this blog? I’m still kinda figuring that one out... Basically I plan to write about what I love. I’d like to talk about the process of learning Japanese, maybe share some learning tips, my personal progress and thoughts on the language, and maybe offer some “lessons” on the very basic stuff. I’ve traveled quite a bit and would love to share my insight in that category, especially my experiences of Belgium and our culture, foods, etc. I’d like to discuss jdramas, doing reviews of the series I’ve seen, as well as talk about music and the like. And then, as I’ve recently finally went Japan and plan to study there, I would love to share my discovery of the country and the experience of visiting and living in Japan.

Okay, so, here’s hoping I can write interesting entries! I’d love to get some feedback from you guys~! よろしくお願いします!