Ryan the Wired is going to Japan

Above: These will be my classmates. I’m in for a wild ride!

I'm going to Japan! The interview to study abroad went really well. I introduced myself in Japanese (a surefire way to impress the panel) and got a lot of good advice. Primarily, be open to new experiences and take advantage of all the resources available to me both at Sozosha (Soh.zoh.sha) and my home school. Also, another student, Tara, who's an illustrator, is going as well. We've form a small band of language learners and speakers, working with a tutor, Rio Sensei, and one of my Japanese obsessed instructors, on the side.

For Japan, I'm planning on going out at the beginning of March, Spend about a month in Tokyo so I can adjust to the culture, and take a language class to really immerse myself in the language to prepare myself for school. I'm going to stay with a host family, rather that trying to navigate a month in hostiles and the like. It will also give me time to scope out the Japanese creative scene. One of my instructors has a connection in Tokyo at a design and animation studio called Tokyo Lab. They don't specifically do what I do but the founders were both educated at American design schools and work bilingually. They'll be a good insight into what its like to be a creative in Japan and help me know who I need to know.

Then I'll head out to Osaka at the beginning of April to start my design classes at Sozosha. There, I'll also be staying with a host family, who will be indispensable in navigating my way through my time there. Let me tell ya, I'm looking forward to some good Japanese eats. I'm going to approach it with an open mind and try as much as possible. A vegetarian open to new things; a flexitarian. Our group went to a Japanese restaurant, the most delicious in town, and Rio taught us manners. I had what is called a Donburi. They vary in ingredients, but mine consisted of a bowl with a bottom layer of rice, with tempura vegetables piled on top. Osaka is known to be the place for food and the place for the arts; a perfect combination. Classes at Sozosha go until August. Then I'll fly back to home and start up classes again at the very end of August.

Hard work is paying off; cant wait to jetset to the other side of the globe.


Asking "how to say" in Japanese

Today in Japanese class our sensei introduced us to a handy phrase, giving us the ability to ask how to say something, that we don't already know, in Japanese.

__ は にほんご で なん と いいます か。
__ wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka?
How do I say __ in Japanese?

Glasses wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka?
How do you say Glasses in Japanese?

megane iimasu.
You say megane.

This phrase is handy, especially when talking to a teacher, because they are able to take your english request and parse it into Japanese.

When in Japan, I know I will be using this phrase all the time, but my Japanese host family probably wont understand English. Thus this helpful modification is appropriate:

kore wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka?
What is this called in Japanese?

sore wa hon desu.
That's a book.

The next time you're not sure how to say a word in Japanese, don't be afraid to ask. Just us this valuable phrase.


Elementary Japanese 101

Tomorrow marks the first day of my institutionally structured journey to better understand the Japanese language. I will be taking Elementary Japanese 101 at a local liberal arts college, in addition to my current education at design school. The course is a requirement in order to study abroad, yet one that I am looking forward to.

We will be using the Nakama Japanese textbook and workbook. Together, they were over $100 used at the bookstore. Hello Amazon.

In my self guided study, as well as working with my Japanese tutor, we worked with the Genki textbook. Genki was accessible and tried to make learning the language fun, overall a good textbook. Solely judging by the cover of Nakama, it looks strictly business. Hopefully as we progress, it will open up a bit.

Looking forward to meeting my fellow classmates and studying hard.

As usual, がんばります!(I'll do my best!)


Think You Know Your Kana?

While learning the Japanese Language, I've often been asked if I know hiragana and katakana; It is a good way to measure a beginner Japanese learner's skill level. I would always answer that I knew my kana well; I knew the phonetic sounds and how to write Japanese characters on my computer.

Yet when I was asked by my Japanese tutor, Rio Sensei, who is thankfully very specific in regards to learning the Japanese language, I thought, no problem. Yet, there's a twist: write them out, by hand, without any reference. Fail. I knew how to write some of the characters, but many I simply drew a mental blank.

Thus, Rio provided me a handy sheet for practicing hiragana and katakana. Over my time learning Japanese, I've completed over 80 sheets of kana practice. That's approximately 12,300 individually written kana; does your arm hurt after that. This is over a time span of about five months now.

That said, there are a few pesky kana, particularly katakana, that I blank on. While the previous kana worksheets are great for learning form and order, I have devised a new work sheet to help with memorization; unaided recall.

This new sheet has no sample kana to sample from; it is just you and your memory. I like to stream through all the hiragana then katakana, in proper order, then start again on the next line. If I blank, I leave a space and move on. It's good for keeping track of the characters you forget.

Get the blank practice sheet here

Now I know that I frequently forget: め(me), も(mo) in hiragana and ヌ(nu), ネ(ne), メ(me), モ(mo), ル(ru), レ(re) in katakana.

What hiragana and katakana do you seem to always forget?


My Japanese Coach Review.

Many people seem to be using the Nintendo DS video game My Japanese Coach to learn the Japanese language, so I thought I would give it a play.

I have been learning Japanese, self studying, for some time now. Thus in the placement test, I tested into lesson five.

The placement test gives you a series of, at the most, 50 some questions. If you get two incorrect answers in a row, the test ends and you get placed in the appropriate lesson. The part that I fumbled up on was the days of the week. I should know them by know, so I am glad that’s where I’m starting out. The days of the week are an important thing to know.

The video game My Japanese Coach is a great resource as an introduction to the Japanese Language. It is fun and easy to get into. It starts you out with English spellings of Japanese words (romaji) and as you progress becomes written with Japanese characters (hiragana, katakana, kanji).

My only qualm is about the necessity of romaji for continued learning. It serves its role in making this game accessible, but is a crutch in the long run; if your learning a foreign language, you should use the proper characters. Thus, my word of advice: learn hiragana and katakana as soon as possible and get away from romaji just as quick.

Overall a fun game. がんばって! (Do your best!)

Japanese Designers.

Japanese designers, architects, engenieers, creatives, and thinkers from Kenya Hara’s book Designing Design
shigeru ban
masahiko sato
kengo kuma
kaoru mende
kosuke tsumura
naoto fukasawa
norihide imagawa
tadasu ohe
akio okumura
kaoru kasai
kanji hayashi
mayumi miyawaki
shin sobue
toyo ito
shuhei hasado
yasuhiro suzuki
shunji yamanaka
keiko hirano
masayo ave
reiko sudo
kazunari hattori


Wired in Japan: Icon

The generosity of olliecapehorn (from the Japanese language site, JapanesePortal), was an impetus in the creation of an icon for the Wired in Japan blog.

I designed this mark to evoke the symbology of the Japanese flag;
an immediately recognizable icon in itself. It also plays off the idea of being wired, or connected. There are also formal similarities in the iconography for RSS, broadcasts, transmission, and a worldwide wholeness or globality.

As you will undoubtedly notice, the icon is composed from the Japanese character の (no), which is a particle that "indicates ownership or attribution." The use of a Japanese character was important to denote the focus on learning the Japanese language.
Also, to me, it is representative of my personal experiences,
thus my individual journey to learn about Japan.


Graphic Design Terminology

For all you Smart.fm users, I created a list on graphic design terms in Japanese. These terms a very helpful when searching for Japanese design. One can get a good view about what is happening in Japanese design by googling in the native language.

The list encompasses basics like:
グラフィックデザイン - Graphic Design
フォント - Font
ロゴ - Logo
ポスター - Poster

To more esoteric terms like:
バウハウス - Bauhaus
ポール・ランド - Paul Rand
スイス・スタイル - Swiss Style
ヘルヴェチカ - Helvetica
ビジュアルコミュニケーション - Visual Communication

All the words are in katakana, because they're loan words or foreign names. Basically sound out the English word with Japanese pronunciation.



Practice Writing Hiragana and Katakana

Rio-sensi, from the beginning, has put much emphasis on writing hiragana and katakana. To practice, I've been using writing sheets, which are composed of an array of boxes, each with a four cell grid, notating every basic kana. Thus, mimicking the initial example kana, the repetition and tactile experience has made profound development in my ability to understand written Japanese, in addition to the ability to breakdown vocabulary for proper pronunciation.


I recently revised the Hiragana and Katakana practice sheets to make them more efficient. View the new practice sheets here.


Practice Japanese With Pankun

パンくん (Pankun), the genius chimpanzee, is the star of a Japanese television show. Pankun is a chimp that's able to complete everyday tasks and is one comedic character.

In this episode watch Pankun face off with Aiba, a Japanese entertainer, in a contest of feats. They battle in various physical activities, such as: push ups, an eating contest, and a dance off.

To make learning Japanese a bit more interesting, I find it enjoyable to watch videos in which Japanese is the only spoken language, without any English subtitles. Watching videos without subtitles seems daunting at first, yet one is able to gain at least a fragment of understanding, even without completely understanding what they are saying.

If you simply watch the way people use body language, as well as listen to the emphasis and emotion that is put into the way they speak, it is easy to get the gist of what is going on.

I don't see watching video in Japanese as a way to learn the Japanese language, but rather a fun way to see how your listening comprehension is. After learning Japanese for a little while, I am able to progressively pick out words and phrases. The more that Japanese I learn, the more I will be able to understand.


tofu vs natto. とうふ vs なっとう.



From a message I hand wrote to my teacher:

Hello Rio sensei.
Tofu is my favorite. Natto is not my favorite.
(I've never actually tried it, but i hear it is quite peculiar.)

What is your favorite?


Purikura. Sticker Pictures on the iPhone.

I recently referred to the Sticker Picture craze among young Japanese women and came across a handy iPhone application for customizing your very own Purikura.

The application is called STICKi PICi and it allows one to decorate their iPhone pictures with hearts and star bursts, so ubiquitous on the Purikura scene.

Their website describes Purikura:

These popular asian photobooths are also known as purikura プリクラ (from Japanese pop culture lingo purinto kurabu プリント倶楽部, meaning print club).
As a student studying the Japanese language it is always fascinating to learn about the origins of a word. It is especially interesting to see how English loan words are pulled and blended together creating something uniquely Japanese.

I wish I was part of the print club, alas I have no iPhone. For those of you who are iPhone endowed, you can be part of the illustrious print club (プリント倶楽部 - purinto kurabu).

Check out STICKi PICi's features:
- Over 40 frames to choose from!
- Over 100 stamps to decorate your photos!
- Works with both portrait and landscape photos.
- Moving and scaling every stamp on your screen
- No object placement is permanent. Just select your drawing, stamp, or bubble to move and scale it!
- Choose from several fonts when typing in your chat bubbles.
- Choose your colors for the gel pen and the text in the chat bubbles.
- Airbrush your photos with the soften feature.
- Choose between having your creation in color, sepia, or black & white.
- Auto-saves your photo session so your work isn’t lost when you need to exit the application or you get an unexpected phone call while drawing.


Remember the Kanji - Lesson 1

I completed Lesson 1 of Heisig’s Remember the Kanji. It was super easy and a quick lesson. I used the list on smart.fm to study my way through.

There was only 15 items to learn which included the numbers 1-10 in addition to the words moon, mouth, day, rice field, and eye. The kanji for the numbers is quite beneficial. I also noticed that the nouns in this lesson were built on similar shapes and sounds.

一 – いち – i.chi – 1
二 – に – ni – 2
三 – さん – sa.n – 3
四 – し – shi – 4
五 – ご – go – 5
六 – ろく – ro.ku – 6
七 – しち – shi.chi – 7
八 – はち – ha.chi – 8
九 – きゅう – kyu.u – 9
十 – じゅう – jyu.u – 10
口 – くち – ku.chi – mouth
日 – にち – ni.chi – day
月 – つき – tsu.ki – moon
田 – た – ta – rice field
目 – め – me – eye

I’m really starting to like Kanji. It’s not nearly as scary as I first thought. I’m picking them up real quickly because I’m dominantly a visual learner. That way I can develop visual cues which help me relate words and meanings. This process makes remembering the Kanji a snap.


Rosetta Stone Lesson 1 Complete!

I just started using Rosetta Stone to supplement my self directed Japanese language study. Today I completed Lesson 1 of unit 1 from the course Japanese 1.

Rosetta Stone was much more than I expected. It creates a good balance between each of the necessary language skills: speaking, reading, writing, pronunciation, grammar.

My personal favorite sections are speaking. Rosetta Stone utilizes the built in microphone in my macbook and uses voice detection and audio analysis to gauge the correctness of your pronunciation. The feature is spot on and it really helps because spoken Japanese is my weakest language area.

The vocabulary was a good selection of basic words and phrases. Hello (こんにちは), goodbye (さようなら), girl(女の子), boy(男の子), man(男の人), woman(女の人). Also with phrases like “the boys are reading books” (男の子たちは本を読んでいます).

There were two instances where I continually had difficulties pronouncing words. the “hito” in “otokonohito” (おとこのひと – man) and the word “ryouri” (りょうり – to cook) used to trip me up quite a bit. Through pronunciation practice I have a much better handle.

It is also worth mentioning the ability to learn characters in kanji with furigana (kanji with small hiragana above to show pronunciation). It surprises me but I am starting to understand pairings of kana as words in themselves rather than translating them into romaji in my mind. Eventually I will see the kana for 男の子 and know that it means boy.

On to lesson two!


The Japanese Otaku: Studio 360 in Japan

Roland Kelts describes the essence of Akihabara and goes into detail about Otaku culture, their characteristics, and why they're so dang geeky.

This particular episode reports on the Japanese youth's sticker picture craze, the Japanese school girl and the identity of young Japanese women, in addition to a report on the Japanese Otaku and the geek's paradise that is Akihabara.

Studio 360 is a program hosted by the Public Radio International and they often run shows related to Japan and Japanese culture.


Do your best! Ganbatte! がんばって!

Ganbatte - Do your best! Ganbatte - Good luck!

One word that fascinates me to no end is the word ganbatte (sometimes written gambatte). It is a saying used to encourage people to try hard or used before a performance to say good luck. Ian Thomas Ash has an excellent write up on the various conjugations of the word ganbatte. It starts to get pretty complex, but think about all the ways you can encourage people to do their best!

Don't forget to support our friends in Japan!

How to write ganbatte:
頑張って (がんばって)
Do your best

The word ganbatte stems from the verb ganbaru:
頑張る (がんばる)
Ganbaru: To do one's best

Here are some other ways to use this handy verb:
頑張ります (がんばります)
I do my best
頑張れ (がんばれ)
Ganbare: Do your best
頑張ってください (がんばってください)
Ganbatte Kudasai:
Do your best, please. (formal)
頑張った (がんばった)
Ganbatta: I did my best
頑張りました (がんばりました)
Ganbarimashita: I did my best (formal)
頑張れます (がんばれます)
Ganbaremasu: I can do my best
頑張れる (がんばられる)
Ganbareru: I am able to do my best
頑張っています (がんばっています)
Ganbatteimasu: I am doing my best
頑張りたい (がんばりたい)
Ganbaritai: I want to do my best
頑張っていた (がんばっていた)
Ganbatteita: I was doing my best
頑張らなかった (がんばらなかった)
Ganbaranakatta: I did not do my best
頑張りなさい (がんばりなさい)
Ganbarinasai: you had better do your best
頑張ってくれ (がんばってくれ)
Ganbatekure: do your best for me

One instance where I find ganbaru useful is when I'm talking about my understanding of the Japanese language. I'll say, "私は日本語がちょっと分かります、でもがんばります!" (Watashi wa Nihongo ga chotto wakarimasu, demo ganbarimasu!). Which means, "I understand a little Japanese, but I do my best!".

(がんばって! - Ganbatte!)
Do your best!


smart.fm - 3.16.2009

Today I studied these terms:
優しい – やさしい – ya.sa.shi.i. (yah-sa-she) – gentle, kindhearted
易しい – やさしい – ya.sa.shi.i (ya-sa-she) – easy, simple
意地悪な – いじわるな – i.ji.wa.ru.na (ee-gee-wah-lou-na) – mean
嫌い – きらい – ki.ra.i (key-rah-ee) – dislike
正直 – しょうじき – sho.u.ji.ki (show-gee-key) – honest, upright

Two words with the same sound yet different meanings! やさしい(Yasashii) means both kindheartedness as well as being easy or simple.

I envision the kanji, 優, like a large and ornate monster that is scary at first but is actually really kind and benevolent.

The other kanji, 易, is much simpler in composition and, to me, looks like a helping hand, making everything easier by working together.

Friend me on smart.fm, lets learn together.


National Geographic in Japanese: Learning x2.

National Geographic has a youtube page with all of its videos narrated in Japanese. Not only will it help you practice your Japanese listening skills but it could also teach you a thing or two.

It is also nice to know that the dialogue your listening to comes from a reliable source that is academic in nature, yet accessible to the general public. Maybe you’ll end up speaking Japanese like a documentary narrator; sounds like something to aspire to.


smart.fm - 3.11.2009

Today, using smart.fm, I studied these terms:
悪い – わるい – wa.ru.i (wah-louie) – bad
良い – いい – i.i (ee) – good
意地悪な – いじわるな – i.ji.wa.ru.na (ee-gee-wah-lou-na) – mean
嫌い – きらい – ki.ra.i (key-rah-ee) – dislike
賑やか – にぎやか – ne.gi.ya.ka (knee-gee-yah-ka) – lively, exciting

The the kanji for 意地悪な – igiwaruna (mean), is just plain mean looking; three complex looking kanji in a row. Notice how the kanji for bad is also in the word mean, 悪. It looks like a mean person sticking their tongue out at you.

Friend me on smart.fm, lets learn together.


Ryan the Wired on 43Things

I've spent a lot of time on 43Things (a community site for achieving your goals and writing about your journey). My main goal is to Learn japanese so that I can best study in Osaka, Japan next year.

Give 43Things a try, connect with me and lets do our best!


Visit a Shrine in Japan and Learn About Japanese Culture.

I recently watched video about visiting a shrine in Japan and the ritual traditions behind it and to me its quite fascinating. Without knowing I would probably walk in there aloof as always, yet the video describes the process of purification involved in visiting a shrine.

It is quite interesting and valuable to learn about the rituals of other cultures. We tend to take our own for granted because its such a common part of our life, yet when visiting a new place it brings on an appreciation of not only a new culture, but also your own.

A video by japanesepod101 about how to visit a shrine in japan.


In the City.

new vocabulary:
病院 - びょういん - byo.u.i.n (bi-yo-ein) - hospital
交番 - こうばん - ko.u.ba.n (koh-bon) - police station
郵便局 - ゆうびんきょく - yu.u.bi.n.kyo.ku (you-bean-key-oh-ku) - post office
銀行 - ぎんこう - gi.n.ko.u (geen-ko) - bank
スーパーマーケット - su.pa.ma.ke.tto. (su-pah-mah-ket-toe) - supermarket
店 - みせ - mi.se (me-say) - shop
図書館 - としょかん - to.sho.ka.n (toe-show-kahn) - library
薬局 - やっきょく - ya.kkyo.ku (yah-key-oh-ku) - pharmacy
パン屋 - ぱんや - pa.n.ya (pon-yah) - bakery
映画館 - えいがかん - e.i.ga.ka.n (eh-gah-kahn) - cinema

library is my 好き (favorite) word. partly because i love libraries and reading books but also because how pictographic the kanji for it is. the middle character just looks like a big stack of books, how easy to remember.

japanesepod101 - from the lesson video vocab - in the city

What's Your Name?

new vocabulary
名前 - なまえ - na.ma.e (na-my) - name

new phrases:
kanji: 私の名前はライアンです。
hiragana: わたしのなまえはライアンです。
romaji: watashi no namae wa raian (Ryan) desu.
english: my name is Ryan.

kanji: 貴方の名前は何ですか?
hiragana: あなたのなまえはなんですか?
romaji: anata no namae wa nan desu ka?
english: what is your name?




hello everyone.
my name is ryan.
what is your name

from one minute japanese - lesson 6 - what's your name?


What's your hobby?

A new phrase today. One that will help me get to know people and experience new things.

anata no shumi wa nan desu ka?
What's your hobby?

gurafikku dezain desu.
Graphic Design.

or in a complete sentence:
watashi no shumi wa gurafikku dezain desu.
My hobby is Graphic Design.

I wouldn't call it a hobby exactly. It is more like a passion. It is really all I do, all day. I go to school and design, I write essays about design, I read about design, and if I have time left over I do design for fun. I am also learning japanese so that I can practice design in japan.





What is your hobby?

My hobby is graphic design.
I practice everyday.

from Talk Sushi - Japanese Phrases - Hobbies.


Wired in Japan is Here.





I'm here.

Hello everyone.
My name is Ryan.
I understand a little japanese, so I will try my best.
I understand hiragana and katakana, but I don't understand kanji, yet.

Thank you very much for your help.