May 31, 2008

Chabo!--Read a Book and Pledge Your Donation

Earthquakes, cyclones, poverty, political instability, and unfortunately, the list goes on...

There are so many issues all around the world that are impossible to ignore. The first step is to be aware of what is going on and be compassionate. The second move is to act in order to rescue these survivors and sufferers.
You can pledge your donation now by purchasing a book through Chabo!

Chabo! is a charity system which has been established based on the idea of Kazuyo Katsuma, a Japanese best-selling author, with efforts of other fellow authors.

The following is the English translation of "About Chabo!" from Chabo! website, translated by Karen.
We are delighted to introduce you to Chabo!, a new way of international cooperation.

Through Chabo!, Charity Book Program, authors will donate 20% of the royalties on their registered books to JEN,
a Japan-based non-governmental organization. The donation will be used to support people in need all around the world, including refugees and disaster victims. JEN also provides people in challenging situations with support programs toward self-reliance.

When you find the Chabo! mark at a bookstore, please take a few moments to browse through our books.
If you like it, simply go to the cashier!  
Chabo! brings you fresh and new charity opportunities.

For more details, please refer to this article from JapanTimes article or visit Chabo! website.
Thank you for your visiting my blog.
Have a great day!


May 25, 2008

Last Friends: Japan's Popular TV Drama

Domestic Violence(DV), Gender Identity Disorder(GID), sex phobias, child abuse and neglect, office romance and extramarital affair, AND love triangle of a DV victim woman and her best friend who suffers GID, and a man who is a child sexual abuse victim and a sufferer of sex phobias. All of these serious issues are being featured in a single TV drama called "Last Friends."

It's sort of like a mixture of Boys Don't Cry, Antwone Fisher, The O.C., ER(extramarital affair), and Beverly Hills, 90210(Remember Donna and Ray?) Moreover, these sufferers and the office romance couple share a house all together. To share a house with friends is not common in Japan, btw.

Last Friends is doing well and ranked No.3 most-watched drama of the season last week. I think it's a reflection of the current atmosphere in which we realize that we need to address these social issues. Pop culture always mirrors social phenomena and vise versa.

The theme song of the drama is "Prisoner of Love"by Hikaru Utada. The single has been downloaded 1.5 million times so far (source: Listen Japan). Utada writes music and lyrics that sound fresh and new. You can hear a little bit of the sentimental song at Listen Japan. People's comments are available on oricon style music.

Unlike American TV series, each season brings new dramas in Japan. As these programs are replaced quarterly, conversation topics and fashion trends shift accordingly. Or, current trends change so rapidly that the dramas need to follow them. No wonder it's hard to keep up with the trends even for locals in this fashion-conscious country.

May 22, 2008

Resources for aspiring architects

I got a comment from Bogota on Studying is In-Part 1 post. He/She is planning to pursue a post degree in architecture in Tokyo--sounds awesome.

I'm answering his/her questions by posting this article because it's easier for him/her to read and get information than commenting him/her back--links are not hyperlinked in the comment section.

If there's anybody out there working in the field or learning architecture in Japan, please help Bogota with his research on universities, staff, programs, etc.  

Hi, Bogota,

Thanks for your comment! I know a Todai graduate who has master's degree in Engineering, but his speciality is robot engineering, not architecture. Unfortunately, I don't know any architecture-oriented people among my friends and coworkers, so I did some research for you instead.

You may be interested in these universities:

Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music
You can email them at

Tokyo Institute of Technology
You can contact their International Office at

Waseda University

Nihon University

I also found a list of blogs of architects and students learning architecture. I'm not sure if they speak English well or not, but you may want to contact them.

Tadao Ando, Riken Yamamoto, and Kengo Kuma--as you probably know, they are one of the most famous Japanese architects (even I know).

Tadao Ando
His works include:
Fukutoshin line Shibuya station
Omotesando Hills
He used to teach at Todai, but it seems he no longer teaches there.
The University of Tokyo

Riken Yamamoto
His official site
Mr. Yamamoto teaches at Yokohama National University

Kengo Kuma
His official site
Mr. Kuma received Energy Performance+Architecture Award 2008, France.
He teaches at Keio University.

I've just written a post on my Japanese blog talking about your questions.
If anyone comments on that post, I will let you know.

Hope these will help you :)
Good luck with your research and post graduate degree program!


May 19, 2008

6 Reasons to Blog in Japanese

If you are learning Japanese, have you ever hoped to blog in Japanese? You can open your Japanese blog even today if you decide you should do so no matter how poor you think your skills are. Your Japanese blog will accelerate your learning, believe me. Here are the reasons why:

1. Have more opportunities to use Japanese
As you probably know, it is crucial to use Japanese to maintain and develop your skills. Are you learning from your teacher or language exchange partner? Of course, that's a good way to express yourself in Japanese. So, how many hours a week do you speak Japanese? I assume most of you attend 1-2 times a week and spend an hour or so for each lesson. Yes, having lessons with native Japanese-speaking teachers is simply fun.

However, I would like you to note that taking lessons is not the only way to use what you learned. And it is not enough unless you have a private teacher 24/7. To blog in Japanese, you don't have to buy textbooks, pay a large amount of money for school, or make a reservation for a lesson. Blogging provides you with virtually free and convenient lessons exclusively for you.

2. Get active
Blogging is active. You write about what you are passionate about. It's a lot more exciting than reading articles, highlighting new words. Reading is entertaining but somewhat passive. Learning Japanese tends to be filled with passive activities and it often gets boring. To keep motivated, you need to make your learning varied by doing many different kinds of practices. To increase hours to do something active, blogging is a must-try. What you need to do is just follow your heart, be real, and write about your own ideas that come from within.

3. Learn a lot by having your readers
Do you keep a journal in Japanese either in analog form or digital one? Then,who are the readers? Probably your are the only reader. I had been writing a journal in English for years, doing "fast-writing," that is what I learned from my college English professor. It's an innovative way in which you never use your dictionary without worrying about grammar or spelling. You just jot down ideas as they pop up in your mind. Although this is a great idea not to slow down your writing, there is a limit to how much you learn by fast-writing. You can't check if your writing is grammatically correct or not. You depend on words and phrases that you already know.

While keeping a journal is personal, blogging is public and you have your readers. So, you will have a little more pressure from them. This will impact you in a positive way. If you want to write quality posts, you may want to use your dictionary to avoid mistakes , check your sentences by google, and go on to Eijiro. This will enable you to expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar significantly.

4. Answer a pile of questions
It's a great opportunity for you to solve your "How do you say this in Japanese?" questions. These kinds of questions tend to pile up horrendously. You may even forget what your questions are. When you write a post in Japanese, you have to answer your questions. It takes longer than you expect. It is frustrating to realize that your Japanese skills are poorer than you imagined. This process may not sound pleasant for you, but it is a necessary step toward proficiency if you have a feeling that your vocabulary is limited and your grammar is weak. You can't be fluent in a language if you leave questions unsolved. You will consequently learn how great it feels when you tackle and solve these questions. You will feel refreshed and become wiser, too.

5. Learn Japanese on a regular basis
The more you blog, the more traffic to your blog you come to want to get. One of the tips to gain more readers is to post frequently. Writing more posts in Japanese means you will spend more time not only writing but also learning new words and phases as I explained in #3. By posting 2-3 times a week, you will probably spend at least 4-6 hours being focused on using Japanese, maybe thinking in Japanese.

6. Interact with Japanese (for free!)
Break the language barrier so that your blog will appeal to a large audience in Japan. You can gain current trends in Japan through your own media, your blog, by communicating with Japanese speakers. Thanks to the Internet, it's free to talk to them now. You don't have to buy an air ticket to share thoughts and information globally.

So, what do you think? Do you want to give it a try now?
Please let me know when you open your Japanese blog!

May 7, 2008

Studying is In-Part 2

I can't believe it's been about two weeks since I posted Studying is In-Part 1. Sorry for your waiting for Part2, in which I was going to explain the reasons behind the enthusiasm for study. I have been busy, studying.

So why do we study, anyway?

I've been thinking about the reasons why. Here's what I've come up with:

1. Study sells.
It's a kind of "hegemony" in which we buy into the ideas which mass media, publishers, and schools for working people promote through advertisements. These industries make us believe that we need to keep studying, otherwise we are going to get behind and have trouble. That's the way marketing is. Companies always want us to pay more, sending us messages that they will solve our "problems." Hence, we seem to have developed "we've got to do something about it" mentality.

2. Studying as a safety net
The industries are probably fueling demand for studying.
At the same time, we are convinced to do so because we actually face a lot of challenges. Younger generations, especially the second-generation of baby boomers in their late 20s and early 30s, or 団塊ジュニア(dankai junior), are called one of the most disadvantageous generations because they have been exposed to intense competition. They tend to be serious about improving their skills.

According to official stats, Japan's economy was booming in the last few years or so (I didn't even realize when it happened). However, it seems that those who receive benefit from the boom are newly hired employees and college graduate job-seekers. Not second-generation of baby boomers who struggled to survive "the glacial age," or 氷河期 (hyoga-ki), when jobs were so hard to come by. The survivors have become programmed to keep studying for an anticipated difficult situation. Studying is a solution to cope with anxieties and live through the seemingly uncertain society.

3. The Paradigm Shift
The uni-cultural society is finally getting diverse and once-unusual ways of life are now being widely-accepted. . Being a generalist used to be a norm for most of the Japanese company employees. However, we have seen a shift towards being a specialist in the last decade or so. Starting your your business is becoming common in this conservative country where people tend to rely on lifetime employment, rather than challenging yourself in a new field. Getting a certificate and/or achieving special skills is a plus (maybe a must) to be successful and stand out in your company, even if you choose to remain to be a company employee.

4. Instinct
Like appetite, we simply want to learn something new. We love it because it's entertaining. It's inherited through genes. Look at kids. Their eyes sparkle when they try or find something new. My curiosity about foreign countries has been the main drive of learning English. It makes my life more fulfilled.

5. Meditation
This is a very personal reason. Studying is a process in which I trust myself, believe in a better future, and gain confidence by listening to my inner voice and spending time by myself. (The photo shown above was taken at a place of quiet "meditation.")

The above list turned out be shorter and simpler than I expected. I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't come up with more. I have to improve my skills to analyze current social phenomena. Oh, I gotta go now to study...