The Japanese love movies, and watch a lot of them. Happily for gaijin like myself, they usually prefer watching U.S. movies in English with Japanese subtitles, rather than dubbed into Japanese — quite different from countries like China, where all films are shown dubbed in the local language. Hollywood films are a staple of Japanese theatres, as you might expect, but except for big-budget productions that aim for global releases, movies often open in Japan several months after their debut in the U.S. — for example, the Brothers Grim is just opening this week, no doubt repositioned as a Halloween film for the local market. There are always several Japanese films showing in our local theatre, such as the live-action adaption of Nana, a popular shoujo manga about two very different girls who share the same name, and the latest installment of the Masked Rider (Kamen Rider) franchise for the kids. Movies tied to anime are popular, such as the live-action version of Touch and the upcoming second Zeta Gundam movie (I’ve got to catch both of those). Japan’s fascination with Korean film continues, with several films showing right now, including April Snow, which seems calculated to recapture the popularity of Winter Sonata. The trend towards foreign films seems to be widening — in addition to one film in Cantonese, our local theatre is showing Heinahattu ja Vilttitossu, a film from Finland.
Succeeding at studying a language takes hard work, and one bit of advice I often offer to prospective students is, “find what floats your boat,” i.e., try to come up with interests that will help move your study efforts forward a little each day. I worked hard to find Japan-related interests, including reading manga in Japanese, which gave me a constant stream of vocabulary words to absorb. Karaoke was another way to tackle the language — it’s always fun when a gaijin gets up to belt out a song in Japanese, and this feedback gave me a reason to learn more. If you’re interested in learning Japanese through songs, I’ve chosen three excellent classics you might consider: Kampai (an emotional tear-jerker sung at weddings); Namida Sousou (a traditional Okinawan song turned into a pop hit); and the excellent Tsunami, which J-List’s own Tomo is pretty good at belting out. See the songs and lyrics here.
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