Japan is a country that’s very focused on education, and I’ve always observed that parents seem to put more energy and thought into educating children than I’ve generally seen in the U.S. To improve the communication between parents and the school, teachers always make a visit at the beginning of the school year, to see what the child’s home environment is like and talk over any concerns with parents, and our daughter’s teacher came by yesterday. Our daughter is haafu, but with a very expressive and individualistic American side, which can sometimes present challenges in the otherwise homogenous classroom, including minor ijime by the other kids who say things like “Sorry, I don’t understand English” when she talks to them in Japanese. (Kids will be kids, and I got the same treatment when I lived in New Zealand for a year at the age of six.) This year we have an extra problem, as the fifth graders will be taking a school trip to the Sea of Japan during the summer break in August, but our kids will be in the U.S. doing fun things and learning English instead. If my daughter is the only one in her class who doesn’t go, it’ll make her nakama-hazure (nah-kah-mah ha-zoo-reh), or a person outside the group, and her teacher was putting pressure on us to change our plans for the summer. It’s a difficult decision, and probably only one that could only come up in a country that values harmony as much as Japan does. What would you do in our situation?
My wife marvels at my ability to quote the proposal scene from the Maison Ikkoku anime or the entire first three Star Wars films from memory despite being unable to recall my dentist appointment this afternoon. Yes, the way memory works is interesting, and learning a foreign language is a great way to mind-meld with your own brain and get insights on how it works. I figured out early on that trying to learn Japanese by cramming information into my skull was not going to work, and instead tried to attack each aspect of the language from as many directions as possible, including writing sentences repeatedly (an effective study method, if boring), studying in short sessions, making associations such as the kanji for “meat” looking like a rib cage, using those funky study aids from Japan, and when possible, speaking with real live native speakers, as the feedback when you screw up in a comical way is quite valuable. Another important tool was is using songs to help memorize information — although I don’t remember much about 1982, I can still remember the song that goes “867-5309.” I got a lot of benefit from listening to JPOP songs my friends would record for me as well as hitting the Japanese karaoke bar scene each weekend, since you can literally call up a vocabulary word by singing a song that contains it back to yourself. One added benefit of studying from songs is natural accent reduction, and I believe that I speak the language more like a native because of heavy use of song vocals while studying. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I can understand the U2 musicians when they sing, but not when they talk?
The Japanese have a special fascination with New York City, and it’s not uncommon to see late-night “New York News” shows featuring a slice of life from America’s most populous city from the viewpoint of the Japanese. In one show I caught they talked about New York’s “bagel culture” and how the city could not start its day without them. The same could be said of Japan’s summer season and mugi cha, the delicious barley tea that is universally consumed during the hot months of the summer here. Made of toasted barley, it’s a delicious beverage usually served cold but sometimes hot. Because it contains no sugar or caffeine, it’s considered very healthy, and has been shown in tests to reduce the effects of stress. My wife gave barley tea to our kids when they were babies to help fat-proof them, since it’s a lot better for them than just about anything else kids are likely to drink. We’ve gotten our first mugi cha tea bags of the season today, a huge package that makes 40 liters of refreshing tea for you. Why not enjoy some Japanese barley tea this summer?
We’ve got good news for fans of the DVD movie format who don’t want to be told by Hollywood that they can only watch discs from the region they happen to live in. J-List’s region free DVD players make it easy to enjoy “indies” JAV and anime discs from Japan as well as discs from any other part of the world, with full support for all the features you want, including playback of DIVX and AVI movies from DVD-R media. We’ve lowered the prices of all three of our current players, so that the reliable Rjtech RJ-200 now just $68 and the high-end RJ1000HD upscaling DVD player with HDMI (and included cable!) now just $98. Of course the players are made for the U.S. market, have full 1-year warranties and are fully compatible with your current TV.
Yulia Nova is the beautiful Russian idol who became a sensation in Japan and the Internet, and her newest DVDs are finally in stock and ready for your order. The three new titles — Yulia In the Spring, Summer and Winter — are each filmed using exclusively new footage, shot of the lovely model in Moscow in each of the three seasons. It’s a rare treat for fans of this special woman. Available now!