Let us honour our food and … hug?

Posted on April 24, 2017 | genkijacs

Like almost every language, Japanese has some funny and interesting word puzzles. Here are two examples for the more advanced Japanese language students. Can you find the solution?

通(とお)り時(とき)に閉(し)まって、通(とお)らない時(とき)に開(あ)いている物(もの)は何(なに)?

What is closed when you pass through and open when you don’t?

食事(しょくじ)の前(まえ)に抱(だ)く物(もの)は何(なに)?

What is the thing you hug before your meal?


If you want to know the answer, visit: http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2015/10/16/japanese-word-puzzles-nazo-nazo/

There are a lot of Japanese riddles. Just search for Nazo Nazo if you are interested.

花見

Posted on April 17, 2017 | genkijacs

As many of you are no doubt aware, late March-early April is the time for the cherry blossom. It is a wonderful time to be in Japan as parks and open spaces turn the most beautiful shade of pink. People from all over the world admire the transient beauty of the cherry blossom.

Sakura (桜) has a deeper meaning than just its beauty. Because of the fragility of these flowers, it presents itself as a perfect metaphor for life as life is just as fragile and beautiful as the flower of the cherry tree. In Japan it has historically been used to romanticize the idea of giving up one's life for the country.

To this day, Japanese people come out to admire the blooms and the blossoming is covered extensively by broadcasting companies all over Japan.

There is also an alternative view to it, which is very well encompassed by one phrase:

「花より団子」 (はなよりだんご)

This saying has a more mundane meaning. It literally means “Instead of Flowers, give me Dango”: 団子 or だんご is a kind of sweet dumpling made out of rice flour. It has nothing to do with the transient side of life or the beauty of petals falling from the sky. It has everything to do, however, with having food and something tangible to hold on to instead of watching something beautiful that has no value.

Studying – The 気to Success

Posted on April 10, 2017 | genkijacs

Did you get it? “The 気 (KI) to Succes” as in… Ok. We know we're not funny. It is true, however. In order to master a language, studying is the major key to success. This is why we will follow this lead and study some more Japanese sayings. Today’s topic is (who would have guessed) the kanji 気.

This small very simple letter can be used in all kinds of different situations to express nearly everything one wants to say if put into the right context.
The Kanji 気 (ki; sometimes also pronounced ke) basically means feeling, mood or spirit (but also gas or air). One of the words it appears in is the very popular 元気 (genki), as in GenkiJACS. Yet, the number and variety of words 気 is commonly used with are enormous. Here are a few more examples:

気持ち (kimochi) = feeling
病気 (byouki) = sickness
景気 (keiki) = condition, state
空気 (kuuki) = air
雰囲気 (fun'iki) = atmosphere
天気 (tenki) = weather
湯気 (yuge) = steam
電気 (denki) = electricity

(By the way, do not mix up the words 空気 and 雰囲気. It might lead to the embarrassing and confusing moment when you tell your colleagues or teachers that you like your company because the “air is so nice”.)

When you've mastered some of the most important 気 vocabulary (hah), you've already got the easy part covered. However, one cannot survive a Japanese conversation without knowing at least the most important phrases that contain this word. This can be very difficult and complicated at times as they are all very similar and can therefore easily get you confused. Here are some examples:

気に入る (ki ni hairu) → “sth. gets into one’s spirit” = to like something.
気になる (ki ni naru) → “sth. becomes one’s mood” = to be on one’s mind, to be curious about something
気にする (ki ni suru) → “sth. is done to one’s spirit” = to be troubled or worried about something
気に触る (ki ni sawaru) → “sth. touches one’s mood” = to get on one’s nerves
気のせい (ki no sei) → “it’s one’s mind’s fault” = it is just imagination
気のない (ki no nai) → “without soul” = being indifferent or half-hearted

Exciting Literature

Posted on April 03, 2017 | genkijacs

What could possibly be more exciting than Japan or Literature? Exactly! The two of them combined together. This is why we would like to present to you five popular and interesting novels of Japanese origin. Each one of them gives great insight in Japanese culture and history. And, if you even want to undergo the challenge and read them in Japanese, your language skills will improve, too.

1. 源氏物語 (Genji Monogatari)
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is sometimes considered the world’s first novel or rather the world’s first classic novel. It tells the story of Hikaru Genji’s life who was born as son to the Emperor Kibitsubo. Following Genji’s family dramas, love affairs and political rise and falls, the reader learns a lot about high-society culture during the Heian period.
Since the author is a woman and also addresses a female audience, the book is mostly written in kana as was custom for women during that period. Still, because of its complex and old grammar and vocabulary, it is extremely difficult to read even for native speakers. (It may be comparable to reading ‘original-language Shakespeare’.) Luckily, there are translations into “modern” Japanese. (And English of course.)

2. 枕草子 (Makura Soshi)
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon was written around the same time as The Tale of Genji and reflects observations made in the Imperial court during the Heian period. It is basically a collection of thoughts and descriptions represented in poetry. While it is mostly a personal work and therefore does not address a specific audience, it is an important and interesting work of literature due to the author’s poetic writing skills. Yet again, it might be extremely difficult to read in Japanese considering its ancient language. If you want to try so nevertheless, we recommend you have an English version to side-read.

3. 吾輩は猫である (Wahagai wa neko de aru)
I Am a Cat was written Natsume Soseki in the early 20th century during the Meiji period.
It is common knowledge that Japanese people like cats. They adore them. This work even tops this impression as its narrator is… a cat; a supercilious, arrogant pet, who throughout various short stories or “chapters” describes the lives of middle-class Japanese people. These are basically its owner, Kushami Sensei (eng.: Mr. Sneeze) and his family friends.
The novel became known for its hilarious satiric humor and is still considered a classic.

4. 雪国 (Yukiguni)
Snow Country by Kawabata Yasunari follows the love affair between Shimamura, a wealthy loner from Tokyo, and Komako, a hot-spring geisha living in the province. As pointed out throughout the novel, the geishas in provincial hot springs did not enjoy the same high-regarded status as their artistically well-trained colleagues in Kyoto or Tokyo.
Published between 1935 and 1937, the novel focuses not only on the love story itself but also on the exterior factors that led to its outcome. It thereby gives great insight into Japanese culture and provincial society during that time.

5. 1Q84
1Q84 by Murakami Haruki is a series of books with the first one being published in 2009. The title references to George Orwell’s 1984, as the letter Q plays with the Japanese pronunciation of the digit 9.
In the book, the two protagonists Aomame and Tengo find themselves in an alternative reality called “1Q84”. The two enter this mysterious reality separately but are gradually drawn towards each other during their journey towards this “other” 1984; a world that is terrorized and about to be taken over by an evil supernatural force.
The novel is said to be both surreal and exciting just as well as shocking, while some consider it Murakami’s magnum opus. It may be fiction but yet analyzes and depicts Japanese contemporary culture.

Did we get you interested? Go ahead and let these fantastic books transport you to a completely different time or culture.
However, should you decide to read any of these in Japanese, don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand everything at once. Always keep in mind that reading is considered the most difficult skill when it comes to Japanese.