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

Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko (角川つばさ文庫) is the publisher’s version of popular books for younger readers. While this may not apply to 100% of the Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko, they tend to have the same text as the original Kadokawa Bunko publications. The main difference being that the text will include 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)

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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How to Read Novels in Japanese

When it comes to language learning, and reading in general I suppose, people tend to mention two different reading styles. You can either read intensively or extensively.

Intensive Reading

This is the slow way of reading. A person who uses this style would focus on understanding the passage 100%. This is someone who looks up every single word and taking notes. This style can help you examine new information that is presented to you in the passage.

The focus in on grammar and vocabulary learning.

Extensive Reading

This is the faster way of reading. A person who uses this style would work through the book without supportive resources like a dictionary. Using the knowledge that they currently have, they go through the book and try to guess/infer meaning. These readers focus on trying to achieve overall understanding. This style can help increase your reading speed and reinforce previously studied knowledge.

The focus is on enjoying and reinforcing the language.

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My *New* Japanese Goals for 2020

Pre-COVID goals 2020:
– Read 50 books
– Use textbooks to tighten up my language knowledge
– Pass N2 to December of 2020
– Finish N2 review by July and start on N1 studies

In the beginning of this year, I set the high goal of reading 50 books in Japanese this year! While I knew that it would take time to get my reading speed up since I was starting from scratch, it seemed reasonable since most Japanese novels seem to be around 200-300 pages. I thought that if I was able to read 20-40 pages a day on average, then I would be all set. Looking back, while it seems perfectly possible math wise I don’t think it is going to work out to work out anymore.

This year I started a new job in a new specialty. This was a huge change for me and required a lot of self study on my part to adapt to my new role. I now work longer hours, meaning that it would be impossible for me to read on the days that I work as I only have time to shower and sleep between shifts. I don’t even have time to eat at home. I toyed with the idea of reading on the bus, but due to COVID I thought it would be best to not use any personal items while riding public transportation. My job has also become much more busy and difficult due to COVID which has decreased my ability to concentrate on my days off. Sometimes due to low staffing, I am forced to stay late and don’t even have time to sleep.

I am also not confident about being able to take the JLPT this year. While it is not officially cancelled yet, things are not looking good and I assume that it will not be held in the states this year. I am a little disappointed by this turn of events as this sets my professional goals back by a whole year. I was planning on moving back to Japan in 2021, but again I am not sure that that is going to happen either. I am just going to continue doing my best while being kind to myself in regards to what is possible with current global events and my life style. I think that considering everything that has been going on, I am happy with the amount of progress I have been able to make this year.

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Japanese Novel Review: Penguin Highway by Tomihiko Morimi

I just want to say that I think this would be a great first novel for any beginner or intermediate Japanese learner.

Why did I pick this book?

Sometimes I lurk on the subreddit ‘LearningJapanese’ for inspiration and to find different media or resources that are out there. I saw that Penguin Highway was recommended as a great beginner novel, I looked into the author more and realized that I have other novels by him and decided to purchase it.

I didn’t really look too much into the story line before buying it, but I was interested in it mainly because it was labeled as a SciFi novel. I used to enjoy that genre when I was younger, and the idea of reading a science fiction novel in Japanese aimed for adults seemed a bit intimidating so I thought this would be a good place to start.

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Japanese Novel Review: 『夏の庭 ・The Friends』 by Kazumi Yumoto

The review is for the novel 夏の庭(なつのにわ)・The Friends by 湯本 香樹実(ゆもと かずみ). This is her first and most popular most novel.

I will give a quick over view on the story line, but my main focus in this review is accessing the book as a language learning tool. I want to share my experience of reading the book and share with others what I feel the approximate level is and who this book is suited for.

Before I start, I just want to say that I think this would be a great first novel for any intermediate Japanese learner.

Why did I pick this book?

I was recently inspired to finally pick up and read this book thanks to a recommendation from someone on the Japanese book based social media platform, Bookmeter. Before I started reading a novel, I was reading a different one that turned out to be a hard read for me due to cultural references and random topic changes. I decided that I needed a break and asked online for novel recommendations. I have recently discovered that I tend to gravitate more to books that are set outside with descriptions that are more nature based. I just haven’t really been into reading passages describing Tokyo. I used to work there and didn’t really find it a visually appealing city. I was pretty excited when this book was recommended to me as I already had it on my book shelf! I do not remember my reasoning for buying this book, but I am really glad that I had it. I used to pick books at random to purchased based off of the cover or books that stood out to me based off of the amount of times I have seen them in prominent areas of libraries and bookstores.

I used to be worried about having too many books as I wasn’t really making use of them, but now that I am unable to get new books easily due to COVID, I am extremely happy that I have a small library of books waiting to be read.

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