How to learn Japanese with fun.

How to learn Japanese with fun.

Today I am going to talk about “How to learn Japanese with fun“. If you get bored to learn Japanese at desk, you should try it.

1. Reading a Manga

If you want to learn Japanese with fun, this will be one of the best way to learn a Japanese vocabulary and this is already being tried by plenty of Japanese learners. Basically, Manga is the stuff for kids so Vocab in it is not so difficult to understand, but some of Manga is really difficult to understand even native Japanese. In other words, you can choose one which adopts your level. But be aware you definitely cannot blast Kamehame-Ha from your hands.

2. Watching Anime

This is really similar to previous way of learning. You can learn not only Vocab, but also pronunciation from it. If you have any specific character who you really like, she or he might help you to learn Japanese. But be aware you definitely cannot get marry with them.

3. Playing Video game

As I mentioned above, basically, Manga or Anime is stuff for kids and Video game is too, so they should be your good teacher. In fact, my brother learned Hiragana from Pokemon. And nowadays, there are thousands of Video games for learning, so you can find the best one for you. But be aware you definitely cannot find an electric yellow mouse-like creature in Tokyo.

Hanzômon – 半蔵門

Our school is located in the Hanzômon area of Tokyo. But what is Hanzomon, and where does the name come from? Well, let’s find out! ^_^

The Hanzômon Gate in the 2007. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

The Hanzômon Gate in the 2007. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

Hanzômon, or 半蔵門, means “the gate of Hanzô”, and was a gate to the old Edo Castle, or today’s Imperial Residence. It was located in Edo Castle’s westernmost part. The gate led straight on to the Kôshû Kaidô, one of the “Five Highways” of Edo Period, and connected Edo with today’s Yamanashi Prefecture. This gate has given it’s name to the area of Hanzômon, as well as the Metro Station in it’s vicinity.

The Hanzômon Gate in the Meiji Period. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

The Hanzômon Gate in the Meiji Period. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

The area inside of Hanzômon was known as the Fukiage (吹上, “clean blown”) in the Edo Period, and was where previous Shôguns and their families were housed. Today, this area houses the Fukiage Imperial Gardens, the Imperial Palace, the Biological Research Institute, and much more. The Hanzômon Gate is mainly used to accessing the residences of the Emperor and his closest family. It is not open for the general public, however. During WWII, the original gate burned down, and in it’s place stands the Wadakura Gate (和田倉門).

Hattori "Hanzô" Masanari. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

Hattori “Hanzô” Masanari. (Photo courtesy of Japanese Wikipedia)

The gate itself got it’s name from the famous samurai and ninja Hattori Masanari, and his son with the same name. They often used the name “Hanzô” (半蔵) to refer to themselves, a tradition that has been used at least three times before the father/son duo. Another theory is that during a Sannô Matsuri, the statue on top of the float, or “dashi”, had to be cut in half in order to be able to pass through the gate, as the statue was too big. Hence, “half statue” becomes 半像, which is also read as “hanzô”. However, the established theory is the former, as the Hattori family and their vassals, about 200 men from the Iga Clan of ninjas, built a large mansion outside of the gate, and were in charge of patrolling and securing the area from Yotsuya (四谷) to the Kôshû Kaido.

So why not book a class with us, and while you are in the area, you can take some time to enjoy the history and beauty of the Hanzômon area. ^_^

Ultraman

 

Ultraman performs his Ultra-slash move (Photo courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

Ultraman performs his Ultra-slash move (Photo courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

We have previously written about two sub-genres of the Tokusatsu (特撮) genre of Japanese movies: the Kaiju (怪獣) movies, and the Super Sentai (スーパー戦隊) series. This time we take a quick look at the long-running series “Ultraman”.

“Ultraman” also falls under the Tokusatsu genre, and was first aired in 1966, on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). The series has become a major pop culture phenomenon in Japan, and has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, imitators, and even remakes and parodies.

Ultraman fights Neronga. (Picture courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

Ultraman fights Neronga. (Picture courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

The central characters of the “Ultraman” series were created by the same special effects pioneer that was in charge of bringing the first Godzilla to life in 1954: Eiji Tsuburaya from Tsuburaya Productions. The final design of Ultraman ended up being a mix between alien designs from the American pulp magazines of the 1920’s, with the design of the classic “Roswell Alien”.

The first series starts when Shin Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (科学特別捜査隊 “kagaku tokubetsu sôsatai”) is flying in his plane, and suddenly he crashes into a red light-sphere. This sphere turns out to be the transport for a giant being known as Ultraman.

Ultraman Dyna fights Grossyna (Photo courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

Ultraman Dyna fights Grossyna (Photo courtesy of http://ultra.wikia.com)

Feeling guilty for having killed the human, he merges his essence with Shin, and brings him back to life. Hence, Shin serves as the human form, working with the Science Special Search Party, and whenever they run out of resources or solutions, Shin activates his “beta capsule” and transforms into Ultraman.

Another connection between Godzilla and Ultraman, is that the principal monsters in the Ultraman series was played by Haruo Nakajima, the same suit actor that played Godzilla. Also, famous monsters like Godzilla and Baragon would appear in the Ultraman series, just slightly altered, and under different names. And sometimes the alteration would only be a slight repaint with a spray can, or similar quick alterations.

If you haven’t seen anything of Ultraman, give it a go. When two of the men behind the original Godzilla are involved, it can only be great!

Tsukuyomi – The God of the Moon

Over the last two weeks we have written about Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and Susanoo, the god of storms and the seas. Time has come for the last of the “Big Three” in Shinto: Tsukuyomi – the God of the Moon.

Tsukuyomi (月読) is a compound of “tsuku” 月 (meaning “moon, month” and is today read as “tsuki”), and “yomi” 読 (meaning “to read”). However there are sources that gives another spelling of his name, like the Nihon Shoki. There it is written 月弓 “tsukiyumi”. However, it is thought that the reading “tsukiyumi” is only a variation of the pronunciation, which has led to this alternate spelling.
Another interpretation is that it might be “tsukiyo” 月夜 (“moonlit night”), and “mi” 見 (“seeing, watching”).

Tsukuyomi differs a little from the moon-gods of ancient Greece and Rome in that he is a male. This is seen in the old sources such as the Kojiki and Man’yôshû, where he is sometimes mentioned with the suffix “-otoko” 〜士 (“man, gentleman”).

Amaterasu emerges from the cave, with the other gods gathered to cheer her up. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Amaterasu emerges from the cave, with the other gods gathered to cheer her up. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

As mentioned before, Tsukuyomi is the brother and husband of Amaterasu, and brother to Susanoo. They were born when their father Izanagi was purifying himself after having been through the underworld. Tsukuyomi was born out of Izanagi’s right eye. Tsukuyomi was the second god to appear, following his sister Amaterasu, and before Susanoo.

“Wait, the god of the moon, and the goddess of the sun are married? Why are they not together in the skies then?” you might be thinking. Well, one day Amaterasu was invited to a feast, but could not attend. So she sent her husband instead. The feast was presented by the goddess of food: Uke Mochi. When everyone had arrived, and the feast started, Uke Mochi turned to the sea and spat out fishes. Then she turned to the forest she spewed out wild game. And finally, she turned to the rice fields and coughed up rice. Tsukuyomi thought the food looked delicious, but he was so disgusted with how Uke Mochi had produced the food that he killed her. When Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, found out about this, she was so angry that she never wanted to see him again. So she is forever making sure to move to the other side of the sky, separating day from night.

And this ends our series on the “Big Three”. Whenever you look up in the sky and see the sun, or the moon, or feel the breeze on your skin, you know that the ancient Japanese were thinking about these gods and goddess. And they are fickle, and wild gods, with short tempers, and full of “human” flaws. Much like the mythology of Greece, or the Norse gods. However, they give us great stories even to this day. ^_^

 

P.S. The Japanese aren’t to fond of depicting the God of the Night, so it was hard to find pictures that wasn’t from a game, anime, manga, or Amaterasu or Susanoo.

Susanoo – The god of Seas and Storms

Susanoo and the Water Dragon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Susanoo and the Water Dragon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Last week we talked about Amaterasu – the godess of the Sun, and the main diety of the Shinto religion. In that text we also mentioned her brother and husband Tsukiyomi (the God of Moon and Night). Today we take a closer look at her other brother: Susanoo.

Susanoo (須佐之男) is the Shinto god of seas and storms. He is also known as “the Powerful Storm of Summer”. As we mentioned in the post about Amaterasu, she and her brothers were born when their father Izanagi purified and washed himself after having gone through the underworld. Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi were born out of Izanagi’s left and right eye respectively, and Susanoo was born from the nose. Susanoo also had a famous sword known as Totsuka-no-Tsurugi (十拳剣 “Sword with a length ten times it’s handle”), or also called Orochi-no-Aramasa (蛇之麁正).

As with most of he stories about the Shinto gods, the oldest sources are the Kojiki (古事記) and the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀). These two chronicles speak of a long-standing rivalry between Susanoo, and his sister Amaterasu (like with most brother-sister relationships, perhaps?). One day, Susanoo was told to leave heaven, and before leaving he went to bid his sister farewell. She was suspicious of Susanoo’s motives, and in order to convince her about his sincerity, Susanoo challenged her to a bet. They each took one thing from the other, and from that object they summoned new gods and goddesses. Amaterasu created 3 goddesses out of Susanoo’s sword, and Susanoo created 5 gods from Amaterasu’s neckless. Amaterasu then claimed that the 5 gods were hers, because they come from her neckless, she thought she had won, but Susanoo then claimed himself the winner as his sword had created goddesses.

Susanoo and Yamata-no-Orochi (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Susanoo and Yamata-no-Orochi (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Another story about the relationship between the two sibling gods is one where Susanoo grows restless, and in a fit of rage goes berserk. While wrecking havoc upon everything around him, he destroys Amaterasu’s rice fields, and killes her servants, among other things. This causes Amaterasu to go and hide in a cave for some time, and there is no sun. In the end she is persuaded to come back out, and Susanoo is banished from heaven, and he traveled to the province of Izumo, in the east part of today’s Shimane Prefecture.

Here he meets a family, headed by an old man by the name of Ashinazuchi, who tells Susanoo about the eight-headed, and eight-tailed, snake called Yamata-no-Orochi (八岐の大蛇). The family used to have 8 daughters, but the snake had eaten all but one, and he was soon coming back for her. Susanoo decided to help the family, if he was allowed to marry the last daughter: Kushinada-Hime. They married, and Susanoo turned her into a comb, to be able to have her close to him while battling the giant snake.

Susanoo as portrayed in the Kagura (sacred dance) "Orochi" (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Susanoo as portrayed in the Kagura (sacred dance) “Orochi” (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

He built a huge fence, with eight gates in it. Behind each gate he placed a huge barrel of sake. When the snake came, he put one head through each of the gates, and drank the sake, and fell asleep. While being knocked out, Susanoo could easily cut of the heads of the snake, and its tails. And in the forth tail, he found a sword, that he would later give to Amaterasu as a reconciliation gift, and be allowed back into heaven. This sword later became known as the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣), and is one of the Japanese Imperial Regalia.

In popular culture, Susanoo can be found in many different games, mangas, and animes: In “Naruto”, the Uchiha family can use their strongest ocular power, the Mangekyo Sharingan, to summon a powerful diety named Susanoo; in the video game “Puzzle & Dragons”, Susanoo is a collectible god; in the video game “Okami” he is one of the protagonists; he showed up in the card game “Android: Netrunner” from Fantasy Flight Games; and he appears in the tabletop roleplaying game “Scion”.

As you can see, Susanoo is a rough, wild character, who isn’t even afraid of his sisters wrath, and who carries out both great deeds of heroism, as well as acts of vandalism. A great warrior, well worthy the title God of Seas and Storms.

"Nihon ryaku-shi", where Susanoo is depicted.

“Nihon ryaku-shi”, where Susanoo is depicted.

Super Sentai – スーパー戦隊

The Kyôryû Sentai Zyuranger, that became Power Rangers in America. (Photo courtesy of power ranger.wiki.com)

The Kyôryû Sentai Zyuranger, that became Power Rangers in America.
(Photo courtesy of power ranger.wiki.com)

Last week we talked about Kaiju (怪獣) movies, or Monster movies, with monsters like Godzilla, Rodan, and Gamera. We also mentioned in that post that the Kaiju genre is a form of Tokusatsu movies. Tokusatsu (特撮) means “special photography”, and the name refers to movies with a lot of special effects in them. This week we return to this type of movies, to look at a different genre: the Super Sentai Series!

Super Sentai Series (スーパー戦隊シリーズ) got it’s name from the Mechas, or Super Robots, that the heroes commonly use, and from the Sentai (戦隊) which means “task force”, or “fighting squadron”. There are two more genres in Tokusatsu, which are related to the Super Sentai in style, and they are the Ultraman Series, and the Kamen Rider Series. We will come back to these in the future.

Denji Sentai Megaranger. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Denji Sentai Megaranger. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The typical format of a Super Sentai Series is the illustration of the fight between good and evil. The good side usually consists of 5 people, but sometimes less than that. These heroic main characters receive super powers, in one way or another, which can be magical or technological in nature. And they are easily recognised by their characteristic colour-coded uniforms, with red, blue, black, yellow, and pink as the most common colours. They usually fight with advanced weapons, martial arts skills, and with robots/mechs against the forces of evil.

Speaking of which, the forces of evil are usually threatening to conquer or destroying the world. Every week the heroes will have to fight through an army of underlings, and a “monster of the week”. This monster fight is usually not an easy task, and usually ends up in the monster transforming into a giant version, forcing the heroes to assemble/transform their robots into an equally big version, and the fight continues, until our heroes win.

Kousoku Sentai Turboranger. (Photo courtesy of http://www.jefusion.com)

Kousoku Sentai Turboranger. (Photo courtesy of http://www.jefusion.com)

The many different Super Sentai Series have been somewhat distributed outside of japan, with France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil airing a few of the earlier series in the 70’s and 80’s. Hawaii has seen a long tradition of airing the series’ on Hawaiian television, in its original Japanese, with English subtitles. Sacramento, Los Angeles and the California area has also had a few series shown on local television.

Ressha Sentai ToQger. (Photo courtesy of www.orendsrange.com)

Ressha Sentai ToQger. (Photo courtesy of http://www.orendsrange.com)

There have been 38 different Super Sentai Series’, and I won’t list them all here. I will mention a few that usually stands out in each decade:

  • Battle Fever J (70’s)
  • Choudenshi Bioman (80’s)
  • Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman (90’s)
  • Kyôryû Sentai Zyuranger (90’s) (which became Power Rangers under Saban Entertainment)

The list can be made much longer, and there are tonnes of movies, OVAs, and other productions besides the series. And since the Super Sentai phenomenon has been around since the 70’s, it has shown up in many other places, such as video games, game shows, and other television shows. There has also been a lot of parodies and spoofs (one funny one in particular you find Here!).

So why not grab your colour-coded jump-suit and helmet, and head into this fascinating part of Japanese culture? Who needs anime, when you can fight guys in rubber suits? ^_-

The RV Robo from Gekisou Sentai Carranger. (Photo courtesy of powerranger.wikia.com)

The RV Robo from Gekisou Sentai Carranger. (Photo courtesy of powerranger.wikia.com)

Amaterasu – The Japanese Sun Godess

Amaterasu emerges from the cave. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Amaterasu emerges from the cave. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

As you might already know, in Japan there are two main religions: Buddhism and Shintoism. The lines between these two religions are sometimes very blurred, and it’s hard to distinguish what part of a tradition comes from where. And at other times it is clear as day. One thing that is clear is the gods, or Kamis, of Shinto, with their leader at the top: Amaterasu (天照), or Amaterasu Ômikami (天照大神).

The name Amaterasu can be translated into “shining in heaven”, and Amaterasu Ôkami can be translated to “Great Kami that shines in heaven”, and is a more than fitting name for the Shinto deity of the Sun and the Universe. It is also believed that the Emperors of Japan have all been direct descendants from Amaterasu.

The oldest stories of Amaterasu can be found in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki (the two oldest records of Japanese history). She is the sister of Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and the night. These three siblings were all born of a higher deity named Izanagi-no-Mikoto (one of the Gods that is said to have created the islands that today make up Japan) after he had been through the Underworld. While purifying himself, Amaterasu was born when he washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susanoo from the washing of the nose.

Amaterasu and other Kamis (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Amaterasu and other Kamis (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

It is believed that Amaterasu and her brother (and husband) Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and night, where to rule the heavens together. However, one day Tsukuyomi killed the god of food, Uke Mochi, because he was disgusted with how she produced the food. (She either threw it up, or blew it out of her nose.) When Amaterasu found out what her brother had done, she refused to look at him, and labeled him as an evil god, and split night from day.

Amaterasu also bickered and fought with her other brother Susanoo a lot. One event that is told about is when Susanoo became restless and decided to go on a rampage. This rampage led to Susanoo destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, killing her servants, and throwing a horse into her loom. Amaterasu, full of fury and grief, decided to hide in a Ama-no-Iwato (天岩戸, “the heavenly cave”), and there was no sun anymore. Not until the rest of the Kamis had managed to cheer her up again, and Susanoo apologising to her by giving her the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (one of Japan’s Imperial Regalia), did she decide to come back out, and the sun was back. (According to some stories, the famous Onmyodo practitioner Abe-no-Seimei also helped cheering up Amaterasu.)

The temple for worshiping Amaterasu is in Ise, in Mie Prefecture. It is said that the three Regalias of Japan, the mirror, the jewel, and the sword, are all housed at this shrine.

Amaterasu from the game "ôkami" (Photo courtesy of http://okami.wikia.com, all rights reserved by Capcom)

Amaterasu from the game “ôkami” (Photo courtesy of http://okami.wikia.com, all rights reserved by Capcom)

Since Amaterasu is one of the three main Kamis in Japanese culture, she has also been the inspiration on popular culture. Her name appears as a fire technique in “Naruto”, and in “One Piece”. There are cards named after her in “Yu-Gi-Oh” and “Cardfight!!! Vanguard”. And the Capcom game “Ôkami” has Amaterasu herself as the protagonist, in her wolf-shape. Even the Canadian/American Sci-Fi-series “Stargate SG-1” has Amaterasu as a minor antagonist.

The sun has played a big role in many religions and cultures, and as you can see Japan is no exception. So next time you are outside and feel the warm sun on your skin, it might just be Amaterasu showing her warmth. ^_^