Category Archives: JAPANESE

Katana Samurai Sword – A Practical Guide

Anyone interested in Katana, the traditional Japanese sword?
Even though Katana is no longer used as its original practical purpose, there are many enthusiastic fans all over the world, who are attracted by the beauty of Katana.

Origin of Katana

The Katana is perhaps one of the most iconic swords ever made and its prominence is tied closely with the Samurai of ancient and feudal Japan. The Samurai is a warrior class who get their name originally from the Japanese verb “saburau” which literally means to serve. Their main role in Japanese society was to serve and protect the imperial family or other feudal lords. They follow a strict moral code known as the Bushido or “the way of the warrior” which they are expected to observe.

Bushido considered the Samurai sword its symbol of power and spirit. The very possession of the sword imparts to the warrior a feeling and air of self-respect and responsibility. The Katana embodied his mind and heart, his loyalty and honor. Until death, the Samurai was never parted with his sword.

The origin of the Katana dates back to the Kamakura Period in the year 1185 but it was only during the Muromachi Period of the 1400s that the sword became a favorite weapon of choice for the Samurai. It was prized for its razor-sharp blade and it was light enough to carry and wield during combat. It had been used extensively by Samurai warriors from the 15th to the 19th century until the Meiji Period when they were forced to relinquish their swords.

The Katana is a weapon steeped in so much history, making it a highly sought after item. The Japanese have perfected the meticulous art of sword craftsmanship and any sword enthusiast would surely want to own a Katana as a distinctive symbol of Japan.

Parts of a …continue reading
    

Unagi and Konnyaku Sentences in Japanese

Unagi, or eel.

ウナギ文 コンニャク文

An unagi-don, or box of eel on rice

The Japanese are a nation of foodies, take what they eat very seriously indeed, and talk about it a lot. It is no surprise then, that food expressions are used to describe a couple of peculiarities of Japanese grammar.

Unagi means “eel” in Japanese, and is a summer delicacy that will cost you at least 1,000 yen, usually for those imported from China, and at least twice that for home-grown ones.

Konnyaku is the romanized spelling of the Japanese pronunciation of konjac (Amorphophallus konjac), a plant used to make a jelly much used in Japanese cuisine – especially oden – and which is related to the very smelly plant that has the world’s largest flower, the Amorphophallus titanum.

Anyway, an unagi sentence is a common grammatically contracted sentence in Japanese that seems to identify the speaker as a foodstuff, but which really only identifies the speaker’s preference for it. The archetypal example is “Ore wa unagi da.” 俺はウナギだ Ore means “I” and is used to address only those with whom one has a very close relationship, or who are ranked well below you. wa (は) is the marker indicated that ore is the topic of the sentence. Unagi is eel. The final da is a sentence ending that equates to the be-verb in English, affirming the existence of something.

Literally translated, this would mean “I am an eel.” in the same way as “Ore wa sarariman da” (“I am a businessman”) indicates that the speaker is a businessman.

However, this so-called literal translation is based on a misunderstanding of the function of the marker wa. As stated above, wa is the marker indicating that the word which precedes it is the topic of the sentence. And the topic of …continue reading

    

How to use Desu and Masu in Japanese?

When to use Desu (です) & Masu (ます) in Japanese?

Photo from chotda on flickr.com

Hi everyone, hope everyone is enjoying the summer. Some of you might be out on vacation, others might be just staying in to relax and enjoy quality time with your friends and family.

Starting this month, I thought I would start a basic Japanese lesson to give you a foundation of Japanese, from the simple ones to a more complex ones. These are must know basic rules in Japanese in my opinion so you can have a good foundation on learning more complex rules later on.

In my first post in this series, I would like to cover “~desu(です), and ~masu(ます)”. Desu & Masu expressions are critical to know so you can speak clean and polite Japanese at all times which you can apply to any situation.

Let’s get started!

~desu. (です)

1.わたしの なまえは さとこ です。(私の 名前は さとこ です。

Watashino namae wa Satoko desu. My name is Satoko.

2. ここが わたしの いえ です。(ここが 私の 家 です。)

Koko ga watashi no ie desu. This is my house.

3. わたしは 25さい です。(私は 25歳 です。)

Watashi wa 25 sai desu. I am 25 years old.

4. わたしの おとうさんは べんごし です。(私の お父さんは 弁護士 です。)

Watashi no otousan wa bengoshi desu. My father is a lawyer.

5.かれは にほんじん です。(彼は 日本人 です。)

Kare wa nihon jin desu. He is Japanese.

~masu. (ます)

1. きょう あには さっかーの れんしゅうに いって います。(今日 兄は サッカーの 練習に 行って います。)

Kyou ani wa sakka- no renshu ni itte imasu. My brother went to soccer practice today.

2. これから かいものへ いきます。(これから 買い物へ 行きます。)

Korekara kaimono e ikimasu. I am going shopping now.

3. いってきます。(行ってきます。)

Itteki masu. I am leaving now.

4. あとで べんきょう します。(後で 勉強 します。)

Ato de benkyo shimasu. I am going to study later.

5. どちらを かおうか まよって います。(どちらを かおうか まよって います。)

Dochira o kaouka mayotte imasu. I am not sure which one to buy.

When you use “desu & masu” at the end of your sentence, it normally softens up the whole expression. It sounds much cleaner and more polite than using “da(だ) & dearu(である)” .

Stay tuned for the next lesson of Basic Japanese series~.

By the way… …continue reading
    

The Shinkansen: Where The Journey Is Just As Thrilling As The Destination

Gran Class Shinkansen

One exciting way to experience Japan is traveling via the bullet train or Shinkansen. You can cut travel time between cities and spend more time enjoying the tourist sites. The original Tokaido Shinkansen linking Tokyo and Osaka was launched in 1964 on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics. Up to 13 trains per hour run on this line with a seating capacity of more than 1300. It travels at very high speeds of 320 KPH and carries 424,000 passengers a day. To a novice traveler to Japan, the railway network system may seem intimidating and confusing. So, before you even arrive, research the rates, transfers, and timetables of all Shinkansen cars on Hyperdia.

How Safe is the Shinkansen?

Shinkansen has a remarkable safety record. It has now operated for 50 years without a single passenger casualty. The Japanese are uncompromising when it comes to public safety and disaster prevention. Knowing that Japan is in the Pacific ring of fire and often experiences earthquakes, the train has an earthquake warning system that is designed to stop the trains safely. This attention to detail and innovative use of technology allows the trains to run at such very tight, three-minute intervals, without schedule delays.

Why Get a JR Railway Pass?

If you plan to visit various destinations, it would be a good idea to avail of the Japan Railway Pass. You can choose cards with validity periods of 7, 14 or 21 days. The ticket fare starts at $253 per adult and $127 per child (6 -11 years old). It is much cheaper than buying individual tickets on each journey.

The JR Pass can be purchased online or agencies outside Japan. You will receive a voucher via courier if you purchased online. You can also <a target=_blank …continue reading

    

Catchy Japanese Words for Summer

夏 擬態語

The full heat of summer (natsu 夏) has just come to Japan, and, being the weather, it’s often the first thing Japanese people mention when they meet.

Atsui desu ne!” (if it’s your neighbor) or “Atsui da na!” (if you’re talking to a good friend, a child or an underling) is the standard “It’s hot, isn’t it!”

However, more nuanced talk about hot weather often involves those ever useful gitaigo or Japanese onomatopoeia.

My commute starts with a train ride which, in spite of the in-car air-conditioning, still manages to get fun-fun ふんふん (pronounced “whoon-whoon,” i.e., with the “f” sounding as much like an “h” as an “f”) i.e., close and steamy once enough people have gotten on.
Takusan no hitobito ga norikonde, shanai ga funfun shite iru. たくさんの人が乗り込んで、車内がふんふんしている。
The carriage got all hot and steamy with so many people getting on.

I then walk the 10 minutes from the station to the office.
Even the morning sun is gira-gira ぎらぎら, i.e., shining fiercely, and the walk suddenly seems twice as long as usual as I teku-teku to てくてくと (i.e., plod) go to work.
Taiyo ga gira-gira to teritsukete, teku-teku to shigotoba made arukimashita. 太陽がぎりぎらと照り付けて、てくてくと仕事まで歩きました。

I’m pota-pota ぽたぽた sweating (i.e., it’s pouring off me) and my shirt is bettari べったり stuck to my back.
Potapota to ase ga ochite, shatsu ga senaka ni bettari kuttsuku. ぽたぽたと汗が落ちて、シャツが背中にべったりくっつく。

Hot enough for you? Stay tuned – more to come!

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