JapaneseReader.com’s Micah Cowan on Remembering The Kanji and Kanji ABC

So the other day I found this high quality and thorough review of Heisig’s “Remembering The Kanji”


JapaneseReader.com – Remembering the Kanji, volume 1, by James W Heisig

I particularly liked:

I would love to see someone completely rework this system, and perhaps choose better keywords, and address some of the other problems I mentioned above. However, it still remains at this time, the most effective system for quickly gaining a solid repertoire of characters, and at the end of it, you really can read Japanese much more effectively. You obviously can’t read without effort and further study, but the difference in ability is well worth the 2 to 4 months you will have spent in study with RTK.


I too would love one day for the resources that different people have under development to improve Heisig’s RTK.

There are so many resources out there (a very short list) but its still a far cry from what I would love it to be.

RTK has been around for decades but besides some SRS systems few have really taken learning by Kanji mnemonics any farther.

And the few who have are mostly obscure. Sad.

Posted in Kanji Revolution | Comments closed

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

There is a revolution taking place in the way people learn – AND (if I’m successful) teach – Kanji!


The methods are faster, smarter, …. lazier


My goal is

to merge mnemonics and context

to use neuroscience and tadoku

to push these kanji methods into the classroom


And to shine light on all of the projects and rebels making the revolution possible…


The revolution will not be televised


Posted in Kanji Revolution, Neuroscience | Comments closed

One sweet and succulent dictionary! – an interview with Gregory of the Tangorin dictionary app

tangorin Japanese dictionary app

Hope you made room for dessert because today you’re in for a treat! We’re chatting it up with Gregory Bobin, creator of Tangorin Japanese dictionary!

JapanTree: What motivated you to start your Tangorin project?

Gregory: The faculty at my university declined my offer to digitize and open source the kanji learning materials they were distributing to students in small batches on paper (this was 10 years ago). I also couldn’t afford a denshi jisho at the time and I was working part-time as a web developer as I found all these Japanese-related open source projects online that just needed to be put together with a little code. I started using my own dictionary in class and my friends liked it so I put it online.

JapanTree: What part of running the project do you like the best?

Gregory: I really enjoy normalizing all the data coming from different projects like WWWJDIC and Tatoeba. The code that parses all those input files and builds the Tangorin database is in fact bigger and more complicated than the website/dictionary itself. I also loved watching my friends at university using my dictionary over their expensive denshi jishos.

JapanTree: What makes your app unique and how can readers get the most from your site?

Gregory: I think the user interface is what makes Tangorin unique. My main goal was to make it feel like a paper dictionary where all the information is in plain sight right below the word definition and you don’t have to “click” and move around to get it.

JapanTree: I know your app pulls from some great projects like tatoeba, tanaka, wwwjdic. As a knowledgeable person on those projects, how would you say they have impacted the development Japanese language apps?

Gregory: I’m pretty sure 90% of those apps wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for those projects. Especially Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC.

Japantree: Well, I’m sure everyone’s thankful for all those projects, including yours, that have made learning Japanese a little easier. Any last words for us?

Gregory: Thanks for taking interest in Tangorin!

Thanks Gregory. And thank you dear reader. If you haven’t already get your hands on a juice Tangorin today.

You can download the app at the following links:

Google Play app

iTunes app

And the project’s homepage is http://tangorin.com/ (Tangorin project home and extensive online Japanese dictionary)


Have a great day!

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Kanji Link


Found a really interesting site a while back
Called kanji-link

It has a great introduction to kanji

And thought I’d share it.

The introduction explains how 75% of the kanji fall under just ~30 radicals!

The chart explaining that looks great too. If you’re a teacher its great since its easy to use in the classroom.

Posted in Learn Japanese, Teaching Japanese | Comments closed

2,136 Kanji OR Die! The 97 Day Kanji Challenge – an interview with Nico from NihongoShark.com

Alright !!  I’ve got a treat for you!

Today I’m chatting with Nico from NihongoShark.

His website has plenty of good information for language learners including a free ebook on learning Japanese that gives an excellent overview of what and how to study.

If you’re looking for motivation, great advice (some of the best I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot), and a bias towards learning on the cheap (yay!), then Nico is definitely your man!

But enough of my talk. Let’s hear from the man himself.


JapanTree: What is the mission/vision of your site? What’s NihongoShark all about?

Nico: Yikes. I have no idea. I started the site on a whim, actually. I just thought that I had a cool method for studying Japanese. It makes a little bit of money, but that’s not really why I do it. If it was, I’m sure I’d work on it more often.

There is just so much that I would have done differently if I could go back to Day 1 of studying Japanese. And I want to share those things with other people and help them. I want to convince them that, Yes, you can learn Japanese. I want to go back in time and say that to myself, because I spent way too many hours feeling horrible about myself “failing at Japanese.” Learning a language is a mental struggle.

First, you have to believe that you can do it.

Then you have to commit to doing it. And commit means long-term. Studying consistently over a long period of time. Studying consistently over a long period of time. Studying consistently over a long period of time. If you keep going, you will get there. It’s math.

Once that’s drilled into your head, then you can start worrying about what’s effective, what works well and doesn’t work well—all the stuff that everyone else is talking about.

I want to go back in time and say stuff like that to myself. But, as I can’t, I might as well see if I can help someone else avoid my mistakes.

JapanTree: What’s your favourite part of running NihongoShark?

Nico: Thank you emails from readers. Sometimes I get emails from people who have learned all of the kanji using my method. Or just people that told me they found motivation through my site and my e-book, and it’s pretty much the best thing in the world.

I get one email like that, and I’ll be in a good mood all day. There’s not much nothing in the world that’s more motivating than helping people.


JapanTree: Where do you see NihongoShark going in the future?

Nico: I have no idea. I often go for long periods of time without writing anything. Then I get an email for a reader, and I might focus on the site a bit. Sometimes I think about giving it to a friend or a motivated reader—someone who would take better care of it than I do. But, I haven’t found that person just yet.

Also, I have a lot of jobs lately from publishing companies in Japan that are making books on learning English for Japanese speakers, and sometimes they mention my sites and say that maybe we could work on some projects for English speakers studying Japanese someday. So I guess that’d be cool, too.


JapanTree: What projects do you have cooking?

Nico: I’m writing a ridiculously detailed revision of my e-book on how to learn Japanese. But, yeah, it’s nowhere near complete. Also, my site EigoBoost.com, which is in Japanese, about how to learn English, gets a lot more hits than NihongoShark.com (roughly 30-40,000 unique visitors a month at the moment). So I work on that a bit, too. Plus I have freelance translating and writing jobs. Plus I have books and beer and food and video games and loved ones to share all that good stuff with.

Busy is not the word I’m looking for. I guess you could say, I have lots of things to do (and enjoy).


JapanTree: How can others contribute to NihongoShark?

Nico: Anyone’s welcome to write a guest post at any time.  About anything. “I Hate Japanese.” “I love anime.” “Best Japanese-language games on iPad.” Whatever. Anything that connects you with other learners is always good stuff.

High-level students are welcome to try an article in Japanese for my site EigoBoost.com. I’ll even get a native Japanese person to proofread it for you before we publish it.


JapanTree: What makes your site unique and how can readers get the most from your site?

Nico: Everything’s free. I think that’s pretty cool. Also, I list tons of outside resources for Japanese. It seems like everyone gets so hung up trying to sell their own products that they don’t share the best stuff that’s out there. Well, I don’t have any products! Yay! But then, that’s why I’m poor.


JapanTree: What posts are your favourites?

Nico: The most popular post, by far, is “How to Learn the 2000+ Joyo Kanji in 97 Days.” Many people have even completed it, too. Also of note are “The Best Way to Learn Japanese,” “Is Studying Japanese Worth It?” and “The Cheapest Way to Learn Japanese.

(Aside: I was really impressed by the Cheapest way to learn Japanese article, especially the Learning-Thru-Manga series. I had no idea they existed for books like E-myth and 7-Habits  – they’re two of my favourite books! The Is Japanese Worth It article is great too. Yet another reason to ignore the “Japanese is a waste of time” negativity. Personally after the intermediate level, when I started questioning if I would get a job in Japan, I decided to learn Japanese because I loved learning it and not because it would be “useful.” Its paid off. )


JapanTree: Nico, it’s been great having you for this interview, if there is anything else you want to give as advice to learners feel free to say it.

Nico: If you want this—if you really want this—then just don’t give up. That’s all. Just keep swimming. You’re crossing an ocean, but there is a shore. Trust me, I’m standing on it. Just keep swimming.


There you have it!

Just keep swimming!!

And while you are swimming, be sure to swim on over to NihongoShark.com

Nico was also gracious enough to contribute to a survey JapanTree is conducting on Japanese language learning.

So again, stay tuned for that!

Thanks Nico!

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Gone Fishin’: for a human approach to Japanese – An interview with Brian Rak of Human Japanese


Today I’m here with Brian Rak of Human Japanese. His app, Human Japanese, is on a mission to help you “get” Japanese in an engaging and human way.

This is definitely one program anyone learning Japanese will want to try out (especially self-learners). I know teachers and tutors will love it too. The introduction to hiragana (with the history of man’yougana) is amazing, as is the comparison of the quantity of English vs. Japanese sounds.  But enough of my talk, let’s hear from Brian!

JapanTree: What is the mission/vision of your app? What is Human Japanese all about?
Brian: Our apps teach the Japanese language from square one.


JapanTree: What motivated you to start it?
Brian: The thing that really got the ball rolling for me was Jay Rubin’s amazing book Gone Fishin’: New Angles on Perennial Problems, which I discovered as a teenager in Japan. This book blew my eyeballs right out of their sockets. The way Rubin broke down the language — his combination of humor and clarity — was a revelation to me. I remember reading the book on the train and laughing out loud out from the sheer delight of feeling the pieces click into place.I wanted to share that feeling with others. But Rubin’s book was not appropriate for beginners. It assumed a relatively healthy pre-existing knowledge of Japanese. I gradually began thinking that perhaps I could write a textbook in Rubin’s style but which started from square one. This was way back in the early days of the web. I started writing about Japanese grammar on a free Geocities web site. The site was a collection of short articles, each of which answered a single question, for example, the correct use of the particle yo. To my surprise, people started emailing me and thanking me, saying they had understood some concept for the first time as a result of my articles. That was really fulfilling. Those emails made me believe that maybe I really could write something that would help people.


JapanTree: What part of running your app do you like the best?

Brian: What I like best is when people write to tell us how the apps have touched their lives. One example was a student attending a high school where Japanese was not offered. He was in love with Japan and wanted to go on a foreign exchange, but he had no good resources to learn Japanese. He found our app, studied his heart out, and demonstrated his Japanese to the people in charge of the exchange program, and they let him in. Knowing that we had a part in helping him fulfill his dream was immensely satisfying.


JapanTree: Where do you see your app going in the future?

Brian: We want to continue creating high-quality resources. My driver is always, “What do I wish I had when I was at an earlier stage of my studies? How do I wish someone had explained this concept to me?” We do our best to give people what they truly need on their journey, not merely what is expedient to develop.


JapanTree: What projects/etc. are you working on?

Brian: We’ve got a couple projects brewing but I shouldn’t talk about them yet. Stay tuned. 🙂


JapanTree: How can others contribute to your project?

Brian: There are so many language resources out there these days, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. If you like our app, please rate it on your favorite app store, tell others about, link to us on your blog, and so on. Little things like that make a huge difference in helping us to continue on our mission.


JapanTree: What makes your app unique and how can readers get the most from it?

Brian: Most other Japanese apps out there are basically flashcard systems. Don’t get me wrong — vocabulary is important and there are certainly fantastic apps out there for that. Where Human Japanese comes in is at the level of, how do these words go together to form actual sentences? We present the core engine of the language in a way that teaches you all the important nuts-and-bolts but is also fun and exciting. In fact, it’s my view that it’s fun and exciting precisely because it teaches the nuts-and-bolts. The moment of getting something, of feeling that click in your brain, that aha! moment of clarity — that’s one of the best feelings a human being can experience. We want our users to feel that from chapter to chapter as the pieces fall into place.

(I know I have always felt elated during my eureka moments with Japanese. And knowing now as a teacher how it feels to help a student “get it,” I’m sure it must be fulfilling to help an army of users to have eureka moments!)

JapanTree: What content is your favourite?

Brian: I’m very happy with both our apps, but Human Japanese Intermediate contains some of the best content I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone on the team just poured their hearts into this thing. From the graphic design to the programing internals to the photography to the main content itself, it was a true labor of love, and we hope that comes through.


There you have it.
If you haven’t already, skip on over to download the app. Windows tablet people (like me) will be happy to know it is available for Windows PC and tablet, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android.
Thanks again to Brian for the interview!
Brian was also nice enough to contribute to a survey JapanTree is conducting on Japanese language learning.
Stay tuned for that!
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The Internet’s Best Japanese Translation Dictionary – An Interview with Honyaku Star!

honyaku star japanese translation dictionary

Today we’re talking to Mark of LocalizingJapan. Mark is the creator of the Japanese translation dictionary Honyaku Star.

“But,” you ask, “just what is a ‘translation dictionary’? What makes it different? And what makes Honyaku Star the best?”

Ahh, my friends you’re about to find out.

But first, I’d like to say, if you’re like me you might already have a dictionary of choice (is it sacrilegious to use anything other than Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC?) and you might be wondering, “Why would I need another dictionary?”

I was like you. I didn’t think I needed another dictionary, and then I met Honyaku Star. I promise you its worth your while. But don’t take my word for it, let’s here from the man himself and then look at a few search comparisons.

Without further ado, the interview:


JapanTree: What is the mission/vision of your site? What is it all about?

Mark: Honyaku Star is all about being the best translation dictionary on the Web. It’s fast, has millions of translations, and is easy to use. It is different from a traditional dictionary in that it doesn’t have things like parts of speech (is the word a noun or a verb) type of stuff. You search for English, and you get Japanese translations–you search for Japanese, and you get English translations. I’ve used dictionaries that provide all of that extra information and never found it useful. I know if a word is a noun or verb–I just want the translation. And, I want to see it used in context. That is very important. Getting as many example sentences with translations is equally important in order to see how the word or phrase is used. Which brings us to another point–you don’t just look up words in a dictionary; sometimes you want to look up phrases. So Honyaku Star allows for that as well.

It might make sense to think of things like Honyaku Star and ALC as more like translation search engines rather than dictionaries. However, they don’t search the Internet, so search engine isn’t the right way to describe it either. So Japanese/English translation dictionary is probably the best description.


(Aside: Mark’s note about example sentences brought me back to my first year of school in Tokyo and my first Japanese electronic dictionary. Those example sentences were the greatest thing on Earth. Natsukashii)

JapanTree: What makes Honyaku Star unique from other dictionaries and how can users get the most from your site?

Mark: No pagination. If you search for something with a lot of results, you will instantly get 1,000 results all on one page. I never liked how ALC and similar sites use pages and pages of pagination when there are a lot of results. I want to scroll through them and browse at my own pace and not wait.

To get the most from the site, I recommend using Rikaichan/Rikaikun in your browser if you are not a native Japanese speaker. Honyaku Star intentionally doesn’t provide pronunciations for translations to keep the site fast and interface clean. But with something like Rikaichan, you get that for free instantly. It’s how I work with it.

JapanTree: What do you like the best about running Honyaku Star?

Mark: I mainly built Honyaku Star for me. It’s the Japanese/English dictionary site I would want to use. But finding out that other people find it useful and enjoy using it motivates me even more to keep developing it.

JapanTree: What motivated you to start it?

Mark: I used ALC a lot for translation work, and found that it was slow, didn’t have translations for some things, and the site has so many advertisements and distractions it. ALC’s main purpose is to sell you books and services–not be the best Japanese/English dictionary. I wanted a faster, better ALC with a clean interface and couldn’t find one, so I built my own.

There are many niche subject matters aren’t in any formal dictionary, but users/fans of that subject area might have built up their own glossaries. For example, I personally added a lot of video game terminology into Honyaku Star because it is something I’ve tried looking up in many dictionaries and failed to find in the past. Maybe it is not useful to a general audience, but someone somewhere might be trying to look up the same thing, and just because it isn’t mainstream for a ‘professional’ dictionary doesn’t mean it isn’t worth having. Honyaku Star is the online dictionary for everyone. All terminology and translations are accepted and wanted as long as they are accurate.

JapanTree: What challenges did you face in starting your Honyaku Star project?

(by the way, I’ve been playing with it and it really is extensive. I searched for some difficult to find things like a word I couldn’t remember recently when doing some simultaneous translating. The word was “comfort zone.” The word wasn’t in Breen’s dict (I submitted it after) or Tagaini Jisho or my Aedict app.)

Mark: The main challenge was how to make it fast. Fortunately, there was a project called Senna, and now called Mroonga, that is an n-gram index for the MySQL database that is specifically made for indexing Japanese. Mroonga makes Honyaku Star fast. Then, the next challenge is making the translation dictionary the best one out there. I am constantly looking for new sources of data and updating it. Beyond traditional dictionaries, there are translation resources all over the place that provide terms and example sentences. For example, many open source projects have documentation that is translated into multiple languages. Individual translators might have built up a personally glossary of hard-to-translate terms over the years. Any source helps if it can add new content. You will not find these types of sources in a mainstream dictionary, but they are very useful, so Honyaku Star has them. And finally, time is always limited. There is always more work to do than time available to do it.

JapanTree: Where do you see the project going in the future?

Mark: The goal is to be the best advanced Japanese/English translation dictionary on the Web and have translations for everything.

JapanTree: How can others make contributions to the project?

Mark: Contribute translations. If you have personal glossaries or translation memory databases that you can share, everything helps. Even just an email with a word or phrase that you noticed isn’t in Honyaku Star.


And there you have it, Honyaku Star!

If you didn’t “get it” (understand the difference) and still don’t know why you need it… here’s my advice, go play with it now!

Then take a look again at the things Mark mentions – notice the beauty of no pagination, bask in the light of a thousand example sentences, and find those hard to find definitions/phrases.


Testing :

For my part, I did a little playing around and testing. Nothing substantial (not anything like a scientific study), but maybe interesting. I wanted to see quantity of entries for somewhat obscure terms and compare it to other dictionaries

Examples of great (and random 🙂 ) searches:


The Colbert Report

Why Colbert Report? I don’t know. Felt like it. Came up in Honyaku Star. WWWJDIC and ALC had nothing


How about musical terms? (Let’s try a slightly obscure musical instrument)

I searched for “mellophone” an instrument I played in high school marching band (my high school made all the saxophone players learn mellophone for markching band)

  • Mellophone
  • メロフォン

ALC and  WWWJDIC had nothing

linux kernel: 19 Terms and Phrases

  • Linux kernel
  • Linuxカーネル
  • In case there are serious bugs, Linux kernel version are numbered
  • 万が一本当に深刻なバグがあったときのために、Linux カーネルのバージョンのナンバリングには工夫がある。

ALC brought up no entries for Linux Kernel and searching kernel rendered a mass of other uses of kernel that I did not have patience to wade through.

Searching ALC for Linux brought up 34 entries. The same search on Honyaku Star? linux: 220 Terms and Phrases”


Hey! Why are you still here when the dictionary of your dreams is waiting for you?

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My Japanese Diploma – years of hard work, money (mostly other people’s), sweat blood tears, created this sheet of paper

japanese diploma

diploma from Jochi Daigaku (Sophia U) in Tokyo

My diploma, a bachelors degree, from Jochi University in Tokyo Japan.

Earned in 2006. Displayed here in 2014 to say I got one.

It is a B.S. in “comparative culture” – the name of all degrees from the then faculty of comparative culture.  In my case it was a degree in International Business, specifically Economics and Comparative Marketing. Sounds impressive, don’t it?


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Registering for the J-cat

I think it would be great to get rid of the JLPT; J-cat a free test from the Univ. of Tsukuba is a nice alternative.
I have registered for the J-Cat and am awaiting my login info.

Only being able to take it once in 6 months is a little worrying. I need to play with the pre-test and make sure I’m ready to challenge the test and prove my Japanese language beast-hood.

some pictures from registering


J-cat homepage. Notice the red arrows I added pointing to some pretty nice EngRish :)

J-cat homepage. Notice the red arrows I added pointing to some pretty nice EngRish 🙂

J-cat checks your system to make sure you meet system requirements. My windows tablet passed

J-cat checks your system to make sure you meet system requirements. My windows tablet passed

J-cat sends an email confirm stating you will get access to take the test in 72 hours.
So I have some time to get ready.

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Use your personal Japanese library to teach your students – Pictures of my Japanese language library

During my three years of University in Japan (and in my high school classes) I amassed a small library of Japanese textbooks. I am willing to bet that if you have reached the advanced stages of learning Japanese you have at least a small library too.

On top of that I picked up a ton of cheap books/videos at Book Off during my time in Tokyo. (most of them were only 100 yen ~ $1 USD)

Maybe you have too. If not, maybe you live near a Book Off branch (in the U.S. there is at least one I know of in New York).

Start mining these resources to teach your students Japanese.


Here are some of my Japanese library items:

Yokoso Japanese textbook

Yokoso Japan textbook audio CD

japanese movie songs

CD of movie songs

bugs bunny japanese japanese popeye

not partially useful

not partially useful

Japanese school education videos are great teaching tools.

Japanese school education videos are great teaching tools.

kids video with captions and furigana on cover

kids video with captions and furigana on cover

Hayao film

Spirited Away. I think this one cost me more than 100 yen, maybe 500.

cheap 100 yen video. this one proved to be pretty useless as the cover should have suggested.

cheap 100 yen video. this one proved to be pretty useless as the cover should have suggested.

japanese kid video

bought this at Book Off. 100 yen

catalog of kanji that comes with tuttle

catalog of kanji that comes with tuttle

tuttle cards tuttle cards

tuttle cards

tuttle cards

tuttle kanji flashcards

THE Tuttle kanji cards. 3rd and 4th level.

japanese language resources

language resources pile

japanese language library

my pile of Japanese language books

grammar dictionary

Japanese grammar dictionary. If you are teaching Japanese, this is your best friend.

manga in japanese

Manga. Some, like this mainstream one, can be useful

Japanese children's novel

Children’s novel. Cost 100 yen at Book Off

intermediat to Advanced japanese situational japanese Inside situation Japanese textbook situational japanese

situational japanese

situational japanese

handbook for foriegn students in Japan.

This is a Handbook for Foreign Students that Sophia University hands out. A little window into student exchange.

science magazine

kids science magazine

japanese science magazine

Japanese science magazine for children.

situation japanese

Situational Function Japanese textbook. This book is an attempt at a living language textbook

A business magazine in Japanese. Kinda random. But resources like this can be interesting for your student.

A business magazine in Japanese. Kinda random. But resources like this can be interesting for your student.

A good beginner's book. Glad I kept a few of the beginner ones.

A good beginner’s book. Glad I kept a few of the beginner ones.

hiragana chart

hiragana chart in Yokoso japan. A pretty good beginner’s text

kanji book

intermediate kanji book

japanese textbook

another intermediate to advanced textbook

translated books in japanese

back of the same book

translated book in Japanese

The Missing Piece by Shel Siverstein in Japanese. I think I book this at Book Off

kanji book

an intermediate kanji book

kanji books

This is one of my Kanji books. I pilled up a lot of these during my studies. If you copied the pages instead of writing in the book it will be easy to reuse when you teach Japanese

japanese textbook

From intermediate to Advanced Japanese. There are some great portions of this textbook that can be watered down for even lower level students.

Advanced Japanese textbook

Advanced Japanese textbook. Even if you don’t have students at this level it is good for you to review and drill these basics to keep your personal level up.

Business Japanese

Business Japanese textbook. This book is an advanced Japanese textbook geared toward business majors

Japanese language class textbook for native speakers

Japanese school textbook. Japanese language textbook use by native Japanese in school

Disney video in Japanese

Disney’s Pocahontas in Japanese. Watching video that you know already in English is a great way to learn


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Neuroscience and teaching Japanese

In 2012 I went to a seminar taught by the director of CIE.ca (Canadian Institute of English), a PhD in Neuroscience.

The course taught laguage teachers a couple dozen methods of teaching.

These methods were based on neuroscience and how our brains learn.


our brains learn when our bodies are active.


sitting at a desk, in a classroom…. is THE worst environment for learning.


boring lessons … are the worst way to teach anything.


with those thought in mind, I am posting thoughts on NeuroScience and teaching Japanese. Many more to come.

Posted in Neuroscience, Teaching Japanese | Comments closed

George Lucas influenced by Akira Kurosawa

When my Japanese got to the intermediate level I fell in love with Akira Kurosawa movies.

7 Samurai, Ikiru, Madadayo are some of my favourite movies of all time.

(I love the line in Madadayo where the teacher makes “baka” soup – a deer/horse combo. It you know the kanji for baka you know why that’s clever in an Oyaji-gaggu kinda way) 🙂


The thought happened to pop into my head that Star Wars borrowed a lot from Japanese elements so I googled it (I had this thought before but had never googled). I’m not a Star Wars fanatic (never been to a fan gathering and haven’t watched them quite 100 times), but I like Star Wars so the result of that google research was interesting.

Turns out George Lucas and Akira Kurosawa had a lot in common and Lucas “bit” (to us the bboy phrase) a lot from Kurosawa’s style.

Check it out


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Adventures in Teaching Japanese

If it is your first time here – I am a non-native Japanese teacher. (years of Japanese/ Japanese University grad)

I am currently teaching at a small private high school that encourages innovative methods.

For me, teaching Japanese is like coming home. It is like giving back.

In my senior year of high school my Japanese teacher was Puerto Rican. He was also my best Japanese teacher and is (based on their Japan Bowl results) one of the best Japanese teachers in the U.S.

I owe him a lot. A whole lot.

So for me, teaching others is like paying forward what he did for me.

Teaching Japanese is an interesting road.

The more I teach the better I understand the languages advantages and challenges myself.

Japanese is a neat language.

One goal of this site is to record my adventures teaching Japanese. And hopefully what I write might help some other Japanese teachers and language learners.

I will be adding more , highlighting resources , etc.

So sign up for my newsletter.


Posted in How To Teach Japanese, Teaching Japanese, Yakitori Sensei !, Yasuke Adventures in Japanese, Yasuke Tips for Teachers | Comments closed

Yakitori Sensei ! “I can teach you to learn Japanese and go to Japan”


Welcome! My students call me “Yakitori Sensei!” It’s nice to meet you!

taiyo pencil sketch

Book my online lessons on Wyzant.com

Teacher Profile:
Japanese is FUN!
I work as a Japanese instructor at a small private school in Delray Beach, FL.

I also organize classes and tutor individuals.

In all my classes I use CIE learning methods.

I am a non-Japanese, Japanese tutor.
(Why learn from a Non-Native Japanese teacher?)
Having learned the language myself I can give you insight into the language and learning it that a native Japanese speaker cannot. I have been in your shoes, have been where you want to go, and can help you get there. I took four years of Japanese in High School (my senior class was taught by a non-Japanese Japanese teacher, my best Japanese teacher ever) and passed the AP Japanese test. I took Japanese at University of Miami and went on student exchange for one year to Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. I transferred to Sophia University and graduated from there with a bachelors in International Business. While there I took their intensive Japanese and Advanced Japanese courses, and then took a portion of my regular coursework in Japanese. My tutoring experience started with 1.5 years tutoring English in Tokyo. In 2012 I took a seminar in Texas for Accelerated Language Teaching Methods that covered the methods used by the Canadian Institute of English (CIE). I use these methods (including Audio-lingual method & Total Physical Response) in my LIVELY tutoring sessions. I play Jazz saxophone (gave lessons/played a few live gigs in Tokyo), so I love audio learning methods.

Instead of boring, stay-in-your-seat classes, students learn while acting and doing!

So again,

  • 4 years of High School Japanese / Passed AP Japanese testing
  • College Japanese courses
  • Study Abroad to Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan
  • Transfer and graduation from Sophia University (3 years; Intensive Japanese and Advanced Japanese graduate)
  • Harry Cotton Language Teaching Methods Seminar (CIE | the Neuroscience of language acquisition)


Learn with all your senses –

Active moving brains learn better – so don’t sit at your desk!



Some Japanese Resources

Japanese-lesson.com – great beginner charts, sheets, and information

ManyThings.org/Japanese – truly many things. one of the best Japanese language resources based on quality and quantity available. Also all FREE!

Anki memorization tool – a software tool that changes the way you memorize.


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An Open Letter


“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” — Samuel Adams

If you have any part in the J-web I beg you to suffer through this long letter. If I have done my job well it will be more than worth it for your time.

As the two or three people 🙂 who used to read my blog know, at the end of 2008 I “went to the mountain” on a soul searching journey to try to figure out (among other things) what I really want out of life, who I am inside, and why are Japan and the people who are tied to it so interesting to me.

When I completed that intensive soul searching I still was not fully sure of the answers to those questions but I was sure of one thing… I was much closer to the answers than ever before and my life was infinitely better off than if I had not taken the time to examine it.

It seems to me that few of us human beings ever take the time to really search ourselves, let alone continue to “soul-search” and examine. And that is a shame because as I have learnt firsthand it is one of the most beneficial activities one could ever make time for.

That being the case, I can only consider it an extremely fortunate thing that my pride/life took such a horrible beating in 2006 that I was forced to come face to face with that question. And I must consider myself even more fortunate for the “failures” and “setbacks” of the two years that followed which lead me at the end of 2008 to stop and deeply examine life, who I am, what is important, and who I want be.

When I say that these “life shocks” were fortunate I mean it with the utmost sincerity, because I realise now that I was (/am) being forged. During forging, a katana‘s steel is not rubbed lovingly in oil. No, it is thrust into a blazing furnace, quenched in the coldest water baths, and beaten by a thousand hammer blows. This creates a blade with a quality and tenacity unmatched,… and so too with the human character.

It is only a guess, but I imagine that you can related to that; that you have gone through “trials by fire.” I also imagine that growing up you might have often been asked “what do you want to be?” and now, you are asked “what do you do?” And yet, I am willing to bet others rarely ever asked you “who do you want to be?” which is much more important. Though others might never ask you,  please do not make the mistake of not posing the question to yourself.

And so I questioned myself in 2008. The answers I have found have been moving and personal. I cannot share all of them here but I will give you an impression of my mission statement:

My mission is…
through continual development of qualities of character to:

1) … Seek to understand the purpose for my life.

2) … Be fulfilled whatever comes my way (contentment). To be confident. (internal. not based on external circumstances)

3)… <personal>

4)… Create a mobile lifestyle; very few possessions. Continual language learning.

5) Live with excitement, joy, love and deep/helpful relationships with other people (like family and friends)

And, (through knowledge, continual learning, industry, frugality, focus, discipline, and systematisation) conduct business and live my life in a way that facilitates the above life purpose to the greatest extent possible.

Why does any of this matter?

My friends, I put to you the following questions: Who are you? And what do your interests say about you? Why Japan? Why the web? Why a community?

Is our interest in the Japan-related web, in building websites and in interacting with others of like-interest not greater than just what we see on the surface? Is there nothing deeper here? I believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is.

I believe that we are different. And that is why we have these interests. And that is why we long to be part of a community.

In 2006 I started the first incarnation of my web project, Nipponster. Like all versions to date, it was a failure 🙂 But it successfully started me on my path.

In 2007 I created this blog, DailyJ, in a desperate effort to find and connect to like-interested individuals in order to feel that I was not the only one trying to create something Japan-related. I wanted to know that there were other people out there on the web with dreams and goals and missions. People with interests like mine.

And so I did something that I did not quite fully understand the significance of at the time: I began interviewing webmasters and bloggers of Japan-related websites.

I interviewed 22 of them in that year and it was so rewarding and fun!

At the time I did not truly understand why I liked interviewing them so much. And I did not realise why interviewing them was so emotionally rewarding to me or why I found each of them and their stories so interesting and special.

I was missing the point, the reason that was right there under my nose.

Now, after much thought, I think that maybe the reason was this:

We are people with a shared past/present, interested in each others endeavours toward similar goals and a similar desire for the future.

We share goals of life and travel abroad, of viable businesses or work that let’s us pursue our passion, of language and cultural learning, of excitement and adventure, and of sharing our experiences with others.

We are all looking for an unconventional life; a lifestyle free of the limitations of the past and the status quo.

We are all growing through – and with – our websites; and learning from each other’s websites.

We are all on a journey.

In my post “back from the mountain” I wrote that I was looking for my “why,” why I wanted to do DailyJ indefinitely (despite the obstacles)

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

It took me longer than expected but I finally found exactly why I want to do DailyJ and what I want to do with it.

DailyJ is about the web as medium for empowering us, the Japan-enthusiasts of the world. Empowering current J-bloggers to continue J-blogging. To empower current foreigners in Japan to stay in Japan if that is their goal. To inspire and empowver people (like Jamaipanese) who have a dream of visiting or living in Japan, by giving them some of what they need to get there.

I now consider my mission with DailyJ to kickstart the AA of the Japan-related web.

That might seem like a strange statement, so let me explain. I think of the decentralised nature of organisations like AA. They are support groups made up of people who are all at the same rank, there are no leaders or bosses. At a support group people with a common background come together to help one another toward a shared goal; in AA’s case sobriety, in our case a freedom.

A freedom from constrained lives. A freedom to dream and strive toward a place that we long to go to, or to stay in. And more than that, toward perhaps a life where we choose where we live and on what terms. The internet has greatly enabled the possibility of these unconventional realities: the possibility of freedom from being tied down to one place; the power to overcome the limitations of the past; the opportunity to learn and to grow in new ways.

When a person blogs about their experiences in Japan I get excited because I remember my first year in Japan and how much I wanted to share my awe of that experience with the world (motivation enough at the time to teach myself HTML).

When a blogger or a commentator talks about their desire to go to Japan or to learn Japanese I get excited.

When a webmaster or blogger relates to readers about the life he/she is able to build in Japan and inspires those readers to be different, I am grateful because I know that I needed similar inspiration.

I enjoy the J-web.

I am glad that I have been able to make my own small contributions to it too. And I am glad that it is growing more and more all the time.

But mostly I am eager to see if we cannot make it into more of a place where the participants are empowering and being empowered by one another. (I know “empowering” is a bit of a silly word but I cannot think of another that conveys accurately what I mean)

Let’s share with each other the story of what we are trying to create (i.e. why we have created our blog, business, lifestyle). Let’s inspire one another to be different!

And surely we are different. Many of us, when the two roads diverged in the wood, took “the one less traveled by.” We have fought hard to do what we have done. We have strayed far from conventional and beaten paths. We have learnt impossible languages. We have learnt web development skills that others lack. We have a love for reading and learning that many do not. And we have a desire to create something of great value through our blogs, through our ideas, and by our will power.

And together, my fellow J-webbers, we will.

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The J-web economy

Nick Ramsay had an excellent post about his officially becoming a programmer.


we want to have lives on our terms. etc.

location free. yada yada.

post outline is on p.56 of #28 notebook.

Hi Philip,
Thank you so much for contacting me. I think your nihongoup is a great tool.
And I hope it is a success.
Unfortunately I have to tell you the same thing I have been telling everyone recently:
I have no time for DailyJ at the moment. It breaks my heart to have to say that because I loved DailyJ and I loved interviewing people about their Japan-related websites and projects.
I am hoping to change things around so that I can get back to doing what I love, but right now that goal is still out of reach.
When I do return to conducting interviews I would be more than happy to interview you if you are still interested at that time.

I’m sorry that I have to let you down.
If you haven’t done so already you might want to post about nihongoup on Japansoc.com. Japansoc was/is an amazing project that I was very involved with at the early stages (my best contribution to the Japan-related web).

Your fellow Japan enthusiast – Tori Johnson

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Questions – to myself and to the community




It seems to me that a sustained and useful Japan-related web community requires soul searching.

I know that for myself, for me to be a useful and long-term contributor, I have to do soul searching. I have to know what really drives and motivates me; what will really sustain my enthusiasm for this activity.

For me it is about Japan and it is about the web. But it is also bigger/more than just Japan and more than just the web.

It is about people, passion, mission.

So I have been rethinking and reformulating in the shadows. It’s not quite time yet; the ideas aren’t solid yet.

But the questions are firm and universal.

Why Japan?

Why are we interesting in Japan? What exactly is the nature of our interest in Japan? (ex: living there, want to live there, etc.) How can we satisfy that interest?

Why the web?

Why do we blog? Why do we build websites? Why do we write, podcast, videocast?

and perhaps even…

Why a community?

Why the need to organise? Why the need/desire to connect with others? How does the community benefit the whole?

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May Toolbar Improvements

I have been rather inactive on the J-web lately but it is always on my mind.

Instead I have been digging deeper into the soul searching I started at the end of last year. And I have been tapping into what my passions truly are which I think will ultimately do me and any project I choose to work on more good than just doing something for the sake of [fill in the blank].

But I have been actively working on small constant improvements to the j-web community toolbar.

Here is the latest addition:

1) Furigana Generator!

Working on a document and want to add furigana on top of all or some of the kanji?

Furigana Generator can help. I’ve put a link to it on the toolbar under the “tools” menu.


I also added a link under “japan links” to http://tokyo-vr.com/

Tokyo VR is website with neat virtual reality style panoramic shots of places in Tokyo. They are interactive so you can pan around and zoom in. The Tokyo Undergroad shots are rather interesting.

Diddlefinger.com – I was think of adding this but I don’t know if it will be useful. It is a google maps mashup where you can search google maps japan in English.

I’d really like to make this toolbar more useful. I am definitely not satisfied yet…

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Take JapanSoc on the go! J-web Community toolbar upgrade

Hi all,

As part of my commitment to make the community japanese language toolbar a force for enhancing collaboration on the Japan-related web I’ve just added a cool new feature:

Floating JapanSoc Widgets! (see screenshot below)

JapanSoc floating widget

JapanSoc floating widget

“Why should I care?” you say?

Well, if you are a Jsoc’er you can use this handy tool to keep up with the latest Top and Upcoming stories on JapanSoc, without being on JapanSoc.

So let’s say you are “busy” watching Youtube videos but you also want to see if there is anything new on JapanSoc – now you can!

“Give me the widget already!”

First you have to have the japanese language toolbar. Once you have that, on the toolbar go to “japan links” and find the new “JapanSoc” section. In that section click on either “top stories popup” or “upcoming stories popup”

The popup can be resized using the resize thingy (what do you call those?) on the bottom right.

I hope it will be of use to you.

As always, let me know what you think! I’m all ears.

Have a great day,


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This widget floats about the web pages and stays with you as you surf away from JapanSoc

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Reluctantly switching to Google

I gave Nipponster a little makeover and made the changes live today.

This included turning my back on Swicki and using Google instead.

I really did not want to do that but I had to bite the bullet…

It’s not that I don’t love Google, I do. But I saw something unique in Swicki and their “social search.” I still believe that voting and searching ought to be together, especially in vertical search (like Japan-related search) where there can be a community built around searching.

The Swicki people were always very helpful and friendly but unfortunately the platform let me down too many times.

I’ll probably post more about possibilities for nipponster in the future. But for now that is all. Any thoughts you want to share are VERY welcome.

Thanks all

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Semi-frequent blogging

Hi, My name is Tori Johnson (a.k.a The Chemist) and this is DailyJ. It is currently a blog in transition as I search for new meaning and ways to add value to the Japan-related web community.

Click on “The Interviews” tab above for interviews I conducted with over 20 Japan-related webmasters.

Thanks for dropping by and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (less than monthly mailings/no spam) or to our posts by rss.

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Going once, going twice, gone!

Jamaipanese.com snatched up Gaijinbook.com

And I decided to keep Japanopedia.

I have one more Japan-related domain name that I might be willing to part with if you have a good plan for it. “Japandigger.com”

Email me if you are interested.

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Power to the people – the Japanese Toolbar belongs to you

I’ve just finished a wiki page for the Japanese Toolbar on JapanSoc.org.

The purpose of this page is to put the creative direction of the toolbar into the hands of the users. It is now more than ever your toolbar!

The goal of this project is also to encourage a “open-source” style of collaboration on Japan-related web projects. (Thanks Nick)

As always I’d looove to hear your feedback!

Have a great day,


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Nipponster Toolbar gets a makeover

It’s been awhile.

Being away from the action is never fun and I am glad to have found some inspiration and time to make some updates and post them.

I am always lurking and seeing things here and there though.
So much is going on lately on the J-web and I am anxious to talk about it and find out about it from the people involved.

But to start I thought I’d better make good on my word and finish working out some suggestions Nick (whom I cannot thank enough) sent me for the Nipponster Toolbar.

So here they are (thank Nick):

The radio&tv section has been cleaned up a bit

I put a link to BillWest’s JapanBlogger.net for the “Blogs, Podcasts and Videos” section of the “Japan Links”

And I added to the “Japan Links -> Forums and Communities” section also, including a link to the JapanSoc community blog

Now you can also have the largest RSS feed of Japan blogs on the planet right on your browser with the Japan Blog Big RSS feed

And, best of all, I’ve included Tofugu’s “Top 10 Japanese Language Resources” to the Japan Links section. It is a great list for learning Japanese and now each of the 10 a available right from your browser.

I am excited about the new toolbar updates and I am hoping to roll out more soon. Especially ones that will make the Tofugu resources even easier to use.

So, if you haven’t taken it for a spin yet be sure to try out the Nipponster toolbar today.

Well, that’s all from me, what is happening on your side of the J-web?

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Going once, going twice, gone!

Jamaipanese.com snatched up Gaijinbook.com

And I decided to keep Japanopedia.

I have one more Japan-related domain name that I might be willing to part with if you have a good plan for it. “Japandigger.com”

Email me if you are interested.

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Giving away a few Japan-related domain names

I have a few domain names that I’d like to give (yes, free) to anyone who will do good with them.

Going forward it will be important for me to focus my time and resources on the areas where I am already providing value (and can provide future value). And I plan to cut everything that doesn’t.

So, here are the domains available (all registered at godaddy):

Japanopedia.org – A Japan encyclopedia project was the original vision. Maybe you can make it work or come up with a better idea for it. Ganbare!

Japanopedia.com – was registered to protect the japanopedia name (which was probably pointless)

gaijinbook.com – I had so many ideas for this site. The first website I ever made was thegaijinbook.com in 2003 with the help of a friend. It was supposed to be a site where foreigners (mostly foreign exchange students) in Japan could post articles talking about their experiences. We even played with the idea of turning some of the experiences into a book (which could be done easily now with lulu) and giving all the published submitters a percentage of sales. But the idea didn’t take off (my vanity would like to think it was ahead of its time) and I moved on to other website projects. We forgot to renew the name and lost it. I always liked the name though and ended up buying gaijinbook.com (which was better anyway). I didn’t have a clear idea for it at first but finally planned to turn into a social networking site for foreigners. Probably not a great idea. I don’t know.

Anyway, maybe you can take it and do something awesome with it.

I’ve never sold or given away a domain before so I am not sure exactly how it works on godaddy although I know you can do it and supposedly it isn’t hard.

SO, if you are interested, just email me about the domain you want and we can figure out how to make the transfer from there.

eaglelandgrace Att gmail

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