Japanese Novel Review: 魔女の宅急便 Kiki’s Delivery Service



This is a great book for N3-N4 level students!

This is the review for 魔女の宅急便 Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono(角野 栄子)This is her most popular novel.  After watching the Ghibli film adaption of her novel, she was inspired to continue to story and has written 5 additional novels to expand on Kiki’s story.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is by far my favorite Ghibli movie, although recently I did see Whisper of the Heart for the first time and really enjoyed it. When I first moved to Japan, I really related to Kiki’s story. I felt like I didn’t really have any skills or any specific plan, but just basically set out on my own and moved to a random new sea side location. I was really excited to live so close to the ocean as the area I am from is extremely land-locked. When I saw the novel that the book was based off of in a store, I quickly brought it. I think this may have been one of the first books that I bought in Japanese.

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Reading practice on Youtube: かずえちゃん

Picture taken from かずえちゃん twitter account

Today I would like to introduce a source of reading practice outside of novels, youtube channels with subtitles! The first channel I would like to introduce in this series of post is かずえちゃん.

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What are book covers and why are they so popular in Japan?

What are Japanese book covers?

For over a 100 years, people in Japan have been using book covers made from various materials to cover the front and back of their books. These book covers can be reusable, made of materials such a cotton, PVC, or leather. They can also be one time use as well, such those made with paper.

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Japanese Novel Review: 君の名は Your Name


Last year, I did not watch animated films often. I think that I didn’t have enough knowledge of anime to find movies that I would be interested in.

I remember when I first started hearing about the movie Your Name. I saw it mentioned a few times in the news about breaking records in ticket sales. I read articles that mentioned that people loved the movie so much that individuals were going to the movie theater multiple times to see it. Even then I didn’t really look into it. I just figured that it would be too new to be available in America. And the fact that anime fans saw it multiple times? My image of anime fans is that they watch their favorite series on repeat. So I didn’t really see the big deal about that either. But I was wrong, and now I am a repeat watcher of Your Name as well.

I started watching it with no prior knowledge of the story line. I really enjoyed the music and the scenery shown in the movie. I did not expect the plot twist at all and over all really enjoyed the movie! This movie inspired me to start looking into other animated films as well and I have found a few that I really enjoy.

I purchased Your Name at Kinokuniya in Chicago for 10.99. Kinokuniya also had copies of novels based off of other popular movies directed by Makoto Shinkai.

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What are Aoi Tori Bunko Books?


Aoi Tori Bunko(青い 鳥 文庫) is a book publication that is created for Japanese elementary school children. The books are created by the publishing company Kodansha(講談社).

There are fiction books made for the readers enjoyment as well as educational books that can be used as supplemental educational resources related to elementary school classes. In these books, all of the kanji will have furigana and the story will use simple grammar.

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What are Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko books?

Look for this on book covers if you want furigana

What is furigana? It can sometimes be found next to Japanese characters. It will give you the reading for the word and let you know how to pronounce it. In Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko, almost all kanji will have furigana. The text might also be bigger with more spacing between words and sentences, meaning there will be less words per page. There may also be additional annotations and pictures included through out the text.

Here is an example that shows what the inside of Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko books look like.

Random page from Your Name(君の名は), Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko Publication

What is the difficulty level of these books?

The grammar and vocabulary words used in these publication series are at a somewhat advanced level. For example, in Your Name(君の名は)the Tsubasa edition and the ‘normal’ Kadokawa edition both have the same story inside. They use the same words, the same grammar, and the same kanji. The main difference is that the Tsubasa edition is easier to read as it has furigana and larger text. If you are looking for novels that are both have an easier grammar and vocabulary level and have furigana, I recommend the series Aoitori(青い鳥)made by the publishing company Kodansha. I will write a blog post later explaining Aoitori books and how to find them.

Who would benefit from reading Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko books?

Those who want to get started reading Japanese novels, but lack knowledge of kanji or feel imitated by seeing a large amount on kanji all at once. These books could help you get started off on the right foot! You would have the pronunciation for each word available to you and this can help you to look up the meanings of new words. Or maybe you read books often and are looking to have a break from constantly being challenged. It could be a nice change of pace! It could also help intensive readers get a taste of what extensive reading feels like.

They also are a great choice for new readers who would like to read a story line that they are already familiar with. Many well know anime movies have novelizations published by this company. The novels tend to be extremely loyal to the movie’s plot. Here is a list of a few examples.

Your Name – 君の名は
Weathering with You – 天気の子
A Whisker Away – 泣きたい私は猫をかぶる
Penguin Highway – ペンギン・ハイウェイ
Her Blue Sky – 空の青さを知る人よ
Wolf Children – おおかみこどもの雨と雪

What are the disadvantages of books with furigana?

As a learner, you will need to do some self-reflection on why you want furigana and if it will help you level up your Japanese. For some people, they may end up relying on furigana as opposed to really actually learning the readings. If you feel that furigana will prevent your from progressing in your Japanese, I would advise purchasing the normal publications.

How can I find these books?

Look for green edging around the cover. Also look for the 角川つばさ文庫 icon. It is green with white writing. It has the phrase 『ひらがな、どこでも』or 『角川つばさ文庫』. They can be found online and at physical book stores. In America, I have seen them at Book-Off and Kinokuniya. Below I have added an example of a Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko to help you see what they tend to look like.

Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko Book cover for Your Name(君の名は)

Update 2021:

For a more applied review of Tsubasa Bunko novels, check out my review for Wolf Children(おおかみこどもの雨と雪).

Should you take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test(JLPT)?

YES! That is my answer for everyone who is learning Japanese regardless of their current level.

JLPT 2020

Have any of my fellow Americans seen the news yet? JLPT 2020 has been officially cancelled! Knew it was coming, but I am still bummed out about it as it sets back a major plan of mine. This news inspired me to share my story and how my feelings towards JLPT certification changed over time.

My Story

I never needed the JLPT for anything so I never really took it seriously. From the start, I was not a serious learn-by-textbooks kind of language student. I think this is why it took so long for the JLPT to gain my attention. I used the language to interact with the world around me and make lots of friends. I used it as a means of communication.

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JLPT Textbook Review: 500 Practice Questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level N2

Just a heads up, but I have not been able to take the JLPT exam yet. In this review I am sharing my studying experience and comparing it to other study resources available.

The Book
500 Practice Questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level N2: New Edition(新にほんご500問 N2) written by Noriko Matsumoto and Hitoko Sasaki. This book is part of the Nihongo Sou Matome JLPT textbook series. It is a popular series known for its ease of use. Each textbook is broken down into days to help the learner develop and maintain a good study pace. While it is easy to use, this book series is also known for being the easiest JLPT textbook series content wise as well. I am usually more concerned with getting a good amount of content and study time out of the books I invest in, so the main series that I use for JLPT is Shin Kanzen Master(新完全マスター). This is my first time using a book from the Nihongo Sou Matome series.

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Do you need a Denshi Jisho(electronic dictionary)?

Short answer is NOPE!

But if you are thinking about it and have some cash to spare it could be a value learning tool for you.

I was toying with the idea of purchasing one for a while but figured I could just make due without one. I started thinking about how many times I day I use free online Japanese dictionaries and how I wasn’t 100% happy with the experience…. so I decided to just go for it. Reading is my main hobby right now so if it’s something that I really want, I should just get it at this point. I don’t think my interest in Japanese novels is going to go anywhere any time soon.

My electronic dictionary requirements
– I wanted a Casio Ex-word
– I wanted one with these three dictionaries included
– 広辞苑
– 新和英大辞典 第五版
– NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典
– I wanted a writing pad below the keyboard
– I wanted an older model
– I wanted to spend under $150

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