Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tweet Log 4 (December/January)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 3.
Go forward to part 5.


I wish I had a way to play more video games *in* Japanese. They're sorta hard to come by....

Manga Nostalgia: DNAngel. I was a huge fan of this back in the day... Pretty manga with a crazy fantasy plot and plenty of action.

I actually have one of the Pokemon games on my computer in Japanese, and it's all in hiragana so it's pretty easy stuff!

Happy New Year to those living in Japan!

Doing lots of grocery shopping for New Year's dinner!

I'll always remember 2009 as the year I finally went to Japan.... :)

Happy New Year to those living in Europe - calling my family in Belgium right now! :D

I plan to start up my little blog with the new year! Hope it will interest people, please check it out~ :D

January Tweets

Happy New Year from Houston, Texas!! Hope everyone has an awesome night!

So I've officially set up my blog! Check it out :D http://culturequirk.blogspot.com/

Along with the blog, check out my new Google profile http://www.google.com/profiles/culturequirk

Manga Nostalgia: Death Note. This remains one of my favorite manga series of all time. Both the art and the plotline is really brilliant.

Blog post: My thoughts on some really awesome jblogs I read! Check it out~ http://culturequirk.blogspot.com/2010/01/blogs.html

With all the online resources available, I wouldn't recommend buying supplies to learn Japanese, but I do own a couple of things myself...

Several years ago I got a CD-rom called "Talk Now!" I just learned little things like numbers and whatnot with it, but I did like it.

Another tool I got was a Berlitz audio track and workbook (Japanese in 30 Days). It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't really recommend it.

I really want to get into making bento, but I'm not a very experienced cook or anything and am not sure where to start... hmmm...

If you haven't already, check out this list of awesome blogs I follow :) http://bit.ly/6FRsPU

At a book store looking at manga :) It's been forever, it's all in English though...

Blog post: A list of awesome learning methods if you're studying Japanese! So many great websites to check out~ http://bit.ly/8zHZ8Q

Manga Nostalgia: Fruits Basket. Very cute (sometimes too cute), but I really enjoyed the plot/art, and I actually really liked the anime.

Finally cooked tofu for the first time! And it's delicious :)

My list of awesome resources to learn Japanese, or just about anything else! http://bit.ly/8zHZ8Q

Manga Nostalgia: Ceres. Very dark, violent, and depressing, but still very much shoujo. I like Yuu Watase's art, and I liked this series :)

http://twitpic.com/xdhvh - Adorable bento that @CarisEll made for us yesterday! And it was delicious~!

Blog Post: Hana Yori Dango drama review! http://culturequirk.blogspot.com/2010/01/drama-review-hana-yori-dango.html

Manga Nostalgia: Ultra Maniac. The cutest little high school story with a touch of fantasy. I loved this series, both plot and art!

http://twitpic.com/xj88r - My attempt at a tofu recipe from the Just Bento website. May not look like much, but it tasted great!

I'm liking this whole twitpic thing... I think I'll be putting up daily pictures from my trip to Japan. Might interest some people :D

Manga Nostalgia: Wolf's Rain. I liked the anime better than the two-book manga series, but I loved the art and the whole 'wolf' thing :D

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Exercising while Studying Japanese

One of the things I do is try to figure out how to insert some Japanese everywhere that I can. There are so many hidden opportunities. When you’re doing any kind of housekeeping – doing the dishes, cleaning your room, organizing some papers – you can have your favorite Japanese show playing in the background. You don’t have to pay attention 100%, just have it entering your ears. Or if you don’t have access to a TV/computer, listen to Japanese music or radio shows. The time you spend going to the bathroom or showering is also a short but valuable opportunity for more listening. I actually don’t have any waterproof listening devices for the shower, so if anyone has an inexpensive suggestion, please let me know!

Exercising is a great time to insert some Japanese immersion. Not only is it good for you, you can maybe learn something at the same time! First, there’s the obvious method of just listening to Japanese music while working out or walking. Simple and effective. Another idea that’s more difficult to carry out is to use a treadmill or something so that you can work out while watching Japanese TV. Finally, I was recently referred to a podcast that helps you run (it tells you when to start and stop running, and becomes a harder workout week by week). Unfortunately, this podcast is in English, but if someone found something like this in Japanese, I think it could be a great study tool.

The very specific way that I do it every time I go home (and have access to a treadmill) is the following. I’d use the podcast I referred to earlier (Robert Ullrey’s Couch to 5k Running Program). On top of my treadmill is a convenient spot where I can place my laptop. And although I’m listening to the podcast in English, I’m watching a Japanese variety show, which has those handy Japanese subtitles to practice reading. The show I always watch is VS Arashi as it’s very action-oriented and just seems more appropriate for exercising!

So there you have it. One of my personal methods that you could maybe pull ideas from! :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tweet Log 3 (December)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 2.
Go forward to part 4.


Today, just trying out a tiiiny bit of Mexican culture with food. Got some fresh tortillas and ready to make some fajitas. Deliciosa!

Finishing up a batch of homemade chocolate truffles. These are always such a hit during the holidays. Belgian chocolate is so amazing :)

Manga Nostalgia: Inu Yasha. The series ended up way too long and I never finished, but the premise really was great. Good times...

I love seeing all the gifts under the tree. Gets me in the Christmas-y mood! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season :)

For many countries in Europe St. Nicolas day is celebrated on the 6th. We haven't celebrated it in a long time, but it's nostalgic.

Manga Nostalgia: Card Captor Sakura. I love Clamp! And this one is just a classic! I don't care if it's for a younger audience - soo cute ^^

I love seeing all the Christmas lights outside my window. While I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on it I think it's a lovely tradition~

We have a box of fruits de mer! They're sea creature-shaped chocolates that are a very classic treat from the Belgian coast.

I've been in the mood for making onigiri lately. Should I put salmon or tuna in them? Methinks I'm buying both! :D

Manga Nostalgia: Fushigi Yuugi. Very cheesy shoujo series, but it sort of became a classic. Not my favorite, but still enjoyed it!

I finished watching My Girl! I may have shed a tear... It was such a cute series overall!

I've got such a huge backlog of kanji to review! Slowly whittling away at it...

Lately I've been trying to work on some entries ahead of time for when I start up my blog~

Manga Nostalgia: Rurouni Kenshin. Loved it, and now that I know more about Japanese history it's really interesting to read through it again.

If there are any topics that might interest you for me to write about in my upcoming blog, I'm always happy to get input! ^^

Hmm is a restaurant/movie theater an American thing? I can't remember going to these in any other countries...

Just finished watching G no Arashi! ちょっと長かったけど超面白かったなぁ〜 I'm pretty sad it's over XD

Family from Canada coming in today! I only went there when I was a baby, so I'd love to go back and travel there one day.

Manga Nostalgia: Chobits. The content and story may have been a bit risqué, but I still enjoyed it, and I really loved the art.

It's already the 25th for those living in Japan! Merry Christmas to you guys~! :D

Lots of preparations for dinner tonight! We usually celebrate Christmas on the 24th, but lately we've started opening presents on the 25th.

Christmas Dinner menu: lots of amuse-bouches, smoked salmon, croquettes au fromage, and buche de Noel. Sooo excited.

We're opening presents in the morning this time, which is a little more American. It's rather exciting :)

メリークリスマス!Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas! Hope you had a great one!

The holidays have been so busy... I just hope to get through my backlog of kanji cards before heading back to school!

The holidays have been so busy... I just hope to get through my backlog of kanji cards before heading back to school!

Getting caught up on my variety shows! First up, Tensai! Shimura Doubutsuen. It's all about animals and is so fun and adorable~

Another show I watch - VS Arashi. It's a fun, sporty type of gameshow. Virtually all the variety shows I watch are Arashi shows...

Another show I watch - Himitsu no Arashi chan. Tons of little corners full of competition and discussion featuring Arashi and special guests.

The last show I keep up with is Arashi no Shukudai kun. They talk a lot, so it's good for Japanese practice, and it's really entertaining~

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Drama Review: Nodame Cantabile

I had heard many good things about this one, so I watched it based on good reviews instead of wanting to see a certain actor (meaning I was completely unfamiliar with almost all of the actors in this show). The thing I would stress the most about this drama is its uniqueness. It’s centered around classical music, the characters were ridiculously different yet still retained interesting chemistry, and the show was somehow both quirky and majestic. I didn’t necessarily like every single aspect of this drama, but in the end I greatly enjoyed this show thanks to the features that make it so different.

The plot may not seem too out of the ordinary at first glance. Chiaki Shinichi is a brilliant pianist whose dream is to become an orchestra conductor. When he was a child he lived and studied in Prague, but after being traumatized by a plane’s emergency landing, his fear of flying kept him stuck in Japan, where he does not feel he could have much of a future in music. At the music school he attends, everyone around him is mediocre, and while the other students revere him, he remains cold and arrogant. He then encounters Noda Megumi (aka “Nodame”), a girl with a very eccentric personality, who ~by a twist of fate~ happens to be his next door neighbor. Nodame is childish, poor, unorganized – everything Chiaki isn’t – and Chiaki is loathe to be anywhere near the girl. When it comes to piano however, although Nodame’s playing is sloppy and lacks control, it has brilliant individuality that Chiaki cannot help but to be in awe of. Hiding behind the scenes for a bit is the brilliant yet unusual famous conductor Streseman, who comes to the music school and puts together an orchestra filled with music students that one would deem inadequate, but who all have that same promising individuality that Nodame has. Chiaki is eventually pushed into becoming this orchestra’s conductor, and thus unfolds many trials and tribulations. The drama follows Chiaki’s evolution as a conductor and as a person through his interactions with all those so different from him, and especially through his friendship with Nodame.

I have to admit, this drama confused me at first. The first episode I found really promising, then in the second one I started to get super annoyed with quite a few of the characters. I initially thought Nodame was unconventionally cute, but then the way she spoke started irritating me, the boisterous drummer Masumi was too over-the-top and stopped amusing me veeery quickly, and Streseman was just… *shudder*. I didn’t really care either way for Chiaki and my favorite character was definitely the rocker violinist Ryuutaro. I stuck with it, though, and before I knew it I was addicted and even at times deeply touched by this drama. I think one of the best aspects for me was the music. I’m by no means an expert on classical music, but I still greatly enjoy it. The pieces in this show were all beautiful and fitting, and although this might not work for everyone, I loved it. I began to like the characters more, too; I found the friendships that developed between them more and more endearing. Heck, by the end of it I didn’t even completely hate Streseman anymore (though I never liked him… he was just too creepy…) I’ll be keeping an eye out for many of those actors in future dramas~!

The plot itself, however, I’m still not sure how I feel about. There was nothing that really bothered me while I watched it, and it was only when I had finished watching did I notice things that bothered me. About midway through the show comes the integration of a new set of characters, and while I didn’t dislike those characters by any means, I rather wish the drama had only followed the growth and development of the “original group” of characters. As always, I’m being careful not to spoil anything so this might sound confusing, but those of you who have seen this might know what I’m talking about. Also… I’m not usually a huge fan of dramatic mushy romance fluff, but I do wish there had been a little more… XD;; But honestly, these are just some of the facets that happened to be negative for me personally and didn’t by any means ruin the show.

Ultimately, I definitely recommend that you at least start watching this drama and see if you like it. I think many might actually enjoy the super quirky, anime-like storytelling that had initially irritated me. The music is amazing and its incorporation into the story was really great and unique. The characters were well played, and, as in many shows, you learn to love them. After finishing this series, I actually wouldn’t mind seeing it again - that’s how much I enjoyed this drama! I would love to see other unique shows such as this and I urge you to check it out~!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Variety Shows!

So today I’m posting a list of the Japanese variety shows I watch, and I definitely recommend watching stuff like this if you’re looking for Japanese material. Immersion is one of the biggest tools when learning another language, so definitely check these out! I’ve also been reviewing jdramas in separate entries, and I might make shorter episode reviews on the ones I’m currently watching… But anyway, this will be focused on just variety shows! Disclaimer, though, all but one of these are specifically Arashi shows XD

Tensai! Shimura Doubutsuen

First, here’s a show you can really enjoy without being familiar with Arashi at all – in fact only one of the members (Aiba) is even in it. This is a show for animal lovers! Every episode consists of several different corners, such as funny animal videos, or continuing stories of certain celebrities and their touching experiences with a particular animal companion, or one of the regular members of the show (Shimura, Aiba, Becky) going on silly animal adventures. Most of the time the show is very lighthearted, cute, and silly, although every once in a while there is a very touching, sometimes even tear-jerking story. You don’t really need to understand any Japanese to enjoy this show, so you can watch it just for fun and absorb Japanese at the same time!

CxDxG no Arashi

So this actually refers to three different shows, and I’ve only seen D no Arashi and G no Arashi. This show does revolve around the members of Arashi as they go out on crazy random adventures, meet quirky people, or do useless but funny experiments. What’s great about these shows is the variety of topics that are covered, so the show doesn’t really get repetitive or boring. The D stands for Documentary (so documentaries on various, usually very random topics) and the G stands for Ganbare (so the boys “support” certain groups of people). It’s hard to explain the mechanics of these shows, but I think they are hilarious, interesting, and sometimes even a little educational. This could be a good way to “get to know” Arashi. I think one of the most entertaining things to watch is these boys interacting haha.

Mago Mago Arashi

This show is simply adorable. The general premise is that a couple of Arashi members at a time go visit an old couple and “become their grandkids” for a day (hence “mago mago”). They help with chores, cooking, and just hang out with the jiichan and baachan, who usually don’t have grandkids of their own or rarely see them. It’s an incredibly sweet concept and I’ve literally teared up at several episodes. Later on, they do a couple of other corners, such as taking care of kids and cooking dinner from them while the parents are gone, or running around Tokyo in a sort of treasure hunt with nothing but an ancient map from the Edo period. The kids section is adorable as well, and while this show can get repetitive as most episodes have the same premise, it rarely gets boring. Check it out~

VS Arashi
This one is still airing now, so it’s kind of fun to keep track of something that is so current. This is Arashi’s athletic game show; there’s always a guest team that go up against Arashi in a few different silly games, which include rock climbing, coin stacking, pipe catching, bowling, etc. This show went through a complete revamp this past fall, so all the games were updated and whatnot, but I haven’t really kept up with it yet. This show does get repetitive, as it’s always the same games, the same concept… However, the repetitiveness can actually help when it comes to learning Japanese. (Ex. before almost every game the announcer says “dewa, mairimasu.” I heard it so often that I learned that phrase without even thinking about it)

Arashi no Shukudaikun
This show is also currently airing and features different guests in almost every episode – actors, singers, comedians. They do a lot of talking with the guest, and usually there are a couple of entertaining activities. In most of the episodes, the guests have a favorite food or a food they would like to try out, and so lots of crazy dishes are brought out and generally there are a lot of funny reactions to it. They also play silly games and whatnot that usually have something to do with the guests’ hobbies or interests. The structure is repetitive – it’s always the same set, they often ask guests similar questions and do the food thing, but I personally like the repetitiveness as it becomes familiar and, in my opinion, doesn’t really get boring.

Himitsu no Arashi chan

This last one is another show that is still airing. There have been so many different corners on this show over time that it’s hard to pinpoint a specialty of the show. I’ll just list a few examples of the games. VIP Room: A special guest is invited to chat about topics that are important to her (mostly when it comes to men or dating), and at the end she decides which Arashi member she took notice of and be interested in dating (all of this is just in theory, of course). Mannequin Five: The members (and sometimes male guests) wear an outfit based on a theme, and have to stand still and act like mannequins while female guests are brought in and judge them based on what they’re wearing. Mote Arashi, Dame Arashi: Based on a series of questions of “what would you do in this dating situation”, the boys are judged by a panel of women comedians, and the most “dame” (no good) member gets dunked into a vat of ice water. This is just a tiny sample, but generally, this show consists of several different games that are just fun and crazy.

So there are some ideas of shows for you to check out and immerse yourself in! Have fun with it!

And discover Sho's amazing artistic abilities...

What variety shows do you watch that are fun and interesting?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tweet Log 2 (December)

Continuing my story through tweets...

Go back to part one.
Go forward to part three.


I'm also a huge fan of Miyavi. Love his style, he's brilliant on guitar, and I had sooo much fun when I saw him live in concert.

Another awesome jrock band is Bump of Chicken. I hear they're huuuge in Japan, and I love what I've heard of them.

My favorite band for the past five years or so has been the jpop group Arashi. Not just their music either, although I enjoy that too. ^^

Something really dumb and dorky I do is celebrate Arashi members' birthdays. Really it's just an excuse to bake and have fun :P

Arashi no Shukudai kun, Himitsu no Arashi chan, VS Arashi, Mago Mago Arashi, CxDxG no Arashi - I've been learning Japanese from these shows.

The Arashi boys are all surprisingly good actors, that's how I got into them. A new drama starring all five of them is coming out soon yay!

Arashi's music makes me happy... They're so catchy and the lyrics are so cute :) Listening to them always puts me in a better mood~

I love kanji, I think it's so beautiful... I just wish it wasn't so tough to learn.

I'm using Heisig's Remembering the Kanji book to learn kanji, and I definitely recommend it!

A good way to learn kanji (or almost anything actually) is an SRS system. I'm using Anki, but there are a lot of good ones out there!

I'm determined to learn 3000 kanji by, say, next summer. I'll definitely try to make a dent in that this winter break!

I follow a lot of great channels on YouTube... Throughout today I'd like to give shoutouts to some of them :D

One of the first vlogs I've ever followed was @tofugu's - if you haven't checked it out yet, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/tofugu

If you're interested in the JET program or living in Japan, check out @JapanJET's channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/myargonauts

Another awesome vlog I follow is @hikosaemon's at http://www.youtube.com/user/Hikosaemon Check it out!

If you're learning Japanese, find some fun, quick lessons at @gimmeabreakman's channel http://www.youtube.com/user/Gimmeaflakeman

Going off from yesterday, another great vlog I follow on YouTube is @hirokochannel's at http://www.youtube.com/user/HIROKOCHANNEL

Another awesome channel to check out is @gakuranman's vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/thegakuranman

Here's a vlogger who's not only adorable but is a great musician: go see @katmcdowell's channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/katmcd0well

Here's a really awesome vlog I follow from a guy living in rural Japan - @christownsend's channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/Japantics

If you know any great jvloggers or if you have a vlog yourself, I'm always willing to check stuff out, so let me know!

I'm getting acupuncture done today! It's always a great experience for me, I highly recommend it.

I'm back home in Houston and am finally done with school so I can focus on my Japanese studies and relaxing! :)

It's always funny for me to come back to my room at my parent's house. I still have an Inu Yasha scroll on my wall. So old!

I wish I had more Japanese decorations in my old room, makes me miss my place in Austin. Instead I have a bunch of cute animals~

Don't really read manga anymore, but I have a huge collection from high school days. I enjoy reading over them when I come home! to be cont~

One of the reasons I love coming home is the food. I love my mom's cooking! And it's the only way I get Belgian food :P

I want to learn how to cook lots of new recipes this winter break! Belgian recipes of course, but I'd like to try my hand at Asian foods too

Manga Nostalgia: Marmalade Boy. First manga I EVER read! Cute art, cute story, good memories :)

Today I had "cassoulet" - a French dish with a tomato sauce, onions, beans and a few different kinds of sausage. It was so good!