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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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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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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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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