Learning Japanese The Classics Way

Recently while stuck at the dealership waiting for my car to get fixed (flat tire), I got into a weird thought exercise about how to learn Japanese language. I started learning Japanese on my own way back in the late 1980’s (back when Japan Inc was super cool to impressionable teenagers) and then in collegeContinue reading “Learning Japanese The Classics Way”

“Ondoku” Your Way to Smoother Language Skills

I have been studying Japanese language more or less since I was in college, twenty years ago, and much of that has been self-study. I have never lived in Japan, but my wife is from there, and we visit there every non-pandemic-year to see family, etc. Plus, I passed the JLPT N2 exam in 2012.Continue reading ““Ondoku” Your Way to Smoother Language Skills”

Blossoms Falling

祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響き有り。 沙羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰の理を顯す。 驕れる者も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢の如し。 猛き者も遂には滅びぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。 Gionshōja no kane no koe, Shogyōmujō no hibiki ari. Sarasōju no hana no iro, Jōshahissui no kotowari wo arawasu. Ogoreru mono mo hisashikarazu, tada haru no yo no yume no gotoshi. Takeki mono mo tsui ni wa horobin(u), hitoeni kaze no mae no chiri ni onaji. The sound of the GionContinue reading “Blossoms Falling”

A Pair of Pears: Language and Cultural Bias

This time of year, my wife always gets us some Asian pears to enjoy. Asian pears, or nashi (梨) in Japanese, have the shape and consistency of apples, but the taste of a regular pear. What’s interesting though is how these fruits are called in English and Japanese: English Japanese English meaning Pear Yōnashi (洋梨)Continue reading “A Pair of Pears: Language and Cultural Bias”

Buddhism and Bonnō

Based on experience of being a Buddhist (with a few interruptions) since I was 16, I’ve learned that reading about Buddhism and living Buddhism, especially within a Buddhist culture, are two different things. My wife, who is Japanese and whose father worked in the funeral industry, has always had a good, intuitive understand of BuddhismContinue reading “Buddhism and Bonnō”

Treats Over Flowers

For Mothers Day, I wanted to share a well-known proverb in Japanese language: 花より団子 (hana yori dango) This means something like “treats over flowers”. Flowers are fine, but the way to a person’s heart is good food, in other words. The term “dango” are small Japanese sweets made from rice and sometimes sweet bean paste:Continue reading “Treats Over Flowers”


Hello Dear Readers, The last couple weeks in lockdown (with at least 4 more ahead) have been interesting. After the initial panic, we’ve gradually settled into a routine where keep our kids “in school” during weekdays, take walks a lot in the neighborhood, only visit the grocery store as needed, and generally learn to keepContinue reading “Priorities”

What’s in a four-syllable phrase? Yojijukugo

Japanese as a language is somewhat unusual in that it belongs to its own language family¹ genetically but has inherited so much from the Asian mainland.  Chinese compound words make up a large bulk of Japanese vocabulary, even if the grammar and usage are entirely different, but that is not all. Japanese inherited pithy four-syllableContinue reading “What’s in a four-syllable phrase? Yojijukugo”

Japanese Particles Make the Difference

Every language is different, and each one has its idiosyncrasies.  The more languages you study and familiarize yourself with, the more this becomes apparent.  This is not something you have to be a polyglot for, but just part of the fun of learning other languages.  In the case of Japanese, the biggest idiosyncrasy I haveContinue reading “Japanese Particles Make the Difference”