Japanese Novel Review: 妊娠カレンダー The Pregnancy Diary by Ogawa Youko (小川洋子)

In 1990, Ogawa won a biannual literary award called the Akutagawa Prize (芥川龍之介賞) for this novel. The Akutagawa Prize is considered one of Japanese’s most prestigious and sought after literary awards. When picking this novel, I was a little bit intimated due to its award winning status. Usually when I pick books based off of awards, I tend to stick to the Bookseller’s award as it seems more accessible. It is true to some extent and this book will be a vocabulary tester as words are used in surreal ways to describe normal situations.

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Japanese Novel Review: 天国はまだ遠く Heaven is Still Far Away by Seo Maiko (瀬尾 まいこ)

Recently Seo Maiko(瀬尾 まいこ)’s words have really made their way into my heart and she has become my favorite author. Heaven is Still Far Away(天国はまだ遠く) is the first novel’s of hers that I have read. I purchased it off of Kinokuniya’s USA online site for $9.99.

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My current Japanese vocabulary study style(i.e. Why I’m slowly quitting SRS)

My relationship with SRS

I LOVE anki. It really helped me when I was a student to get perfect grades and succeed academically. It also does greatly increase the progress that I am able to make in learning Japanese. But this isn’t something that I want to do for the rest of my life. My ultimate Japanese goal is to stop studying and I have decided to start working towards it. Due to the fact that SRS is such a powerful tool, it has taken a lot of experimentation and time to figure out what the best balance for me is.

Failed Attempt at quitting SRS

Since I graduated from university, I have put a lot of time into my Japanese to make up for lost time. My major area of study was unrelated to Japanese and I was really academically motivated to do well in school. So I quit Japanese all together or 2 years, only using it to hang out with friends and my partner. After graduating, I started studying Japanese again and really heavily used SRS along with JLPT textbooks. I was able to get back to my previous Japanese level with in a few months and have been trying to work out how to quit studying ever sense.

Late last year I tried to quit anki and just rely on reading novels and watching Japanese TV. It did not work out because I was not reading nearly enough to make up for the loss of anki. While TV helps to reinforce words that I have learned, I found that I do not pick up any new words unless its from an educational youtube channels. I ended up not progressing much in my language ability and decided to get back on anki. I started over. Got rid of my previous homemade decks and just re-downloaded a N2 vocab deck that I was using previously and cram reviewed it. I started making a new J-J vocabulary deck and used anki as much as I could. This was too much tho and while it did help me for a little bit, I still needed to make more changes to really help my Japanese.

My current style

I was inspired by the advice of Stephen Krashen to ditch traditional vocabulary exercises and try to invest my time more into extensive reading. I am finally reading enough to make this a viable path for me. I do still watch JLPT based educational videos on youtube as I am generally interested in grammar and all of the explanations are in Japanese.

I have stopped using pre-made decks. While they are easy to use and really help me get the reading for different words down, its takes too much of a time investment to use anki to teach me the meaning of each word. This makes sense as anki is a review tool and not really a teaching tool. Now I just pick a few words at a time from native media. I try to make as few cards as I can. But sometimes a word will stick out to me where the meaning of the word is very clear, and I just need some sort of reminder to make sure I retain the meaning that I already learned. It seems like an obvious way to use anki, but as I was using anki to cram information for tests in school previous, this is a complete new style for me.

I watch Japanese media and read novels on my days off from work(3-4 days a week). Since I have really increased the amount of pages I am reading, I am finding that I do not need to use anki as much anymore.

If I come across a new word, I just look up the reading, reflect on the meaning, and move one. If I stick to reading one novel at a time, there is a good chance that the new words will pop up again at some point.

Future Plans

Once I feel that I have reached N1 level, then I will start actively studying for the JLPT and then the professional exam I need in order to continue with my career once I move back to Japan. I know that it will take a lot of work and time. I am working hard at my current job too so that I can learn as much as possible and have a good knowledge base to work from when taking the exam in Japanese.

I hope that in the future, I will be able to read books to the extent where I do not even need light use of anki. I think I should be able to get to that level in a year or so. But then I will have to start using anki again if I do indeed end up taking that professional exam in the future.

Do you really need SRS?

If you are not actively reading Japanese novels on a regular basis and want to make good progress with your Japanese, then I recommend using SRS. For me personally, the level that I need to increase my vocabulary consistently without heavy use of SRS is one book a week.

But learning a language is not a race. You should examine your goals and make daily habits that lead to success with whatever your individual time line is. Reading novels is a great way to increase vocabulary.

Recap

SRS is an extremely powerful tool for language learners and I recommend it to pretty much everyone. But at someone, studying forever doesn’t seem like a great idea and you might get tired of SRS while still wanting to make good progress with life long learning. It takes a great amount of daily input to make progress without SRS. But it is up to you to decide how you want to design your daily life and how to continue with Japanese as the years go on.

If you are at the point of reading Japanese novels on a regular basis, I think it is worth examining how you spend you time and how much of your life you want to invest in SRS.

How many Japanese novels do I read at one time?

Reading Multiple Books at a time

If your goal is just picking up a book and reading, then I think reading from random books based off of your mood will help to to reach that goal. But maybe try to think about what is tempting you to read multiple books at the same time.

What makes you want to take a break from a book?

Are you bored of the story?
Is the vocabulary too hard for you?
Too many cultural references that you are unfamiliar with?
Are you just not into the writing style?
Just looking to switch things up?
Do you have more fun reading this way?

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Japanese Novel Review: ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

This is a review for the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人) by J. K. Rowling.

Harry Potter, as I am sure you know, is an extremely famous book series that has ingrained itself into American culture despite being a book from England.  I think most people have heard of the series and basically everyone I know has at least a basic idea of the story and have seen a movie or two.  Growing up many of my friends were reading the book series as it came out.

Due to people’s familiarity with the story line, many people seem to turn to this book as a first choice when trying to start out reading novels in a new language.  I too purchased random Harry Potter books that I found at Book Off while living in Japan.  Anytime I saw one for 100yen, I purchased it until I had the full collection.  While I started this book many times my first year living in Japan, I never really got past the first chapter because it is a fairly difficult novel.  I do not recommend this book for beginners and I will get more into my reasons below in this book review.

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Japanese Novel Review: 西の魔女が死んだ The Witch of the West is Dead by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩)

This is a review of the novel The Witch of the West is Dead(西の魔女が死んだ) by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩).  This is a young adult novel that really high lights that fact that juvenile fiction isn’t always easier then regular novels from the language learners perceptive.  I do not recommend that this be any language learners first book.

I bought this book while I was visiting my partner’s parents in Osaka at Book-Off.  I have seen the book a few times and the very easy to read title and cute cover stuck out to me.  It was only 100yen so I decided just to pick it up and opened it up for the first time this year. I was inspired to read this story due to the fact that a Japanese blogger I watch often mentioned it as being one of her favorite books.

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10 Tips for reading novels in Japanese(or any language)

Here are a few thoughts that I have about reading in general and some tips to make it easier for language learners to start reading or to find new books to read.  I think these ideas can apply to any language.  So if Japanese is not your target language, please just replace that word with your language of choice when reading this article.

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Japanese Novel Review: 星の子 Child of the Stars by Imamura Natsuko(今村 夏子)

 

This is a review for the novel Child of the Stars(星の子) by Imamura Natsuko(今村 夏子).  Imamura  is a well renowned author who has won an impressive amount of literary awards.   Child of the Stars won the Noma Literary Prize in 2017 as well as being nominated for the Book Sellers Award in 2018. I looked at this book every single time I walked into Kinokuniya, but never got around to reading it until just now.  I purchased the book on Amazon JP’s online store for 654 yen.

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Japanese Novel Review:5分で読書: きのう失恋した Yesterday’s Heartbreak in 5 Minutes by The カドカワ読書タイム Team

I found this book for free on yomeruba.com. I saw from a post on reddit that this website has been doing campaigns where they have a monthly selection of novels that can be read for free. I decided to read this novel to see if it would be a good choice for beginner students. This is my first time reading a Japanese novel online. I really prefer paper based novels as I love everything related to trees in general. But I really wanted to seek out more beginner reading materials and I am interested in find free materials online to help me with my budget. There are some more expensive hardcover books that I am interested in, but my current budget would only allow me one paperback book per week.

Ive heard of this book series before, but basically it is a collection of short stories with the same theme.  Each story is broken up into sections that would take a Junior High School level Japanese student around a few minutes to read. I think that this format would work well for language learners as well! It is nice that it basically tells the reader a good place to stop. While the description might make it seem like its the same thing as chapters in a normal novel, the timing of these breaks is more consistent.

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積ん読 Tsundoku – My reading line up

I was inspired to write this blog by Peregrinja’s post over on her blog, The Blog of a Reiwan Lady, on her own habit of collecting novels but in Japan and back home.

I am sure that for most people reading this blog, Tsundoku(積読) is a word that you have seen before.  Its basically the habit of collection books but not actuality reading them. The word implies that the book collector had originally planned on, or still does plan on reading the vast amount of books that they have managed to collect.

When I was younger, I was an avid reader in my native language and would read non-stop no matter where I was. My parents really supported my hobby and got my as many books as I wanted. While I had an extremely large collection of books, they were all books that I had read cover to cover and I never really got into the habit of letting books sit around unread. That changed when I moved to Japan. I started feeling guilty about reading books in my native language when I felt that I should have been using that time to focus on my Japanese. This lead to me putting a pause on reading for pleasure for quite a long time.

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