Monday, February 16, 2015

Read Japanese for LibriVox

Do you read and speak Japanese? Do you like to read? Are you eager to learn new things? Do you like the sound of your voice? Or maybe you grimace at hearing the sound of your recorded voice, as I used to, and still do from time to time. Either way, read on because you just might enjoy reading Japanese texts for LibriVox.

The page for the LibriVox audiobook of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro on the
Internet Archive.

LibriVox is a group of volunteers on the internet who produce audiobook adaptations of written works which are in the public domain in the USA. This group of generous international volunteers gently and loosely march, mostly undetected in the cackle of online social media, along a rather wide but well-defined path toward their unmoving mark, which is "To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet." They are seemingly unstoppable, and will continue to quietly march on toward the completion of their ambitious mission.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Children of Hiroshima (原爆の子, 1952)

I know of two Japanese films which are in the public domain. One of them is Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (羅生門), and the other one is Kaneto Shindo's Children of Hiroshima (原爆の子).

The title Rashomon probably registers recognition to many readers interested in Japan, while Children of Hiroshima is probably lesser known, although there is a good chance that the film's subject can be correctly guessed from the title. The film's Japanese title, 『原爆の子』, translates literally into English as, "Children of the Atom Bomb."


Children of Hiroshima was released in Japan in 1952, seven years after the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima in 1945, and one can imagine, even from the easy chair of remoteness, that at that time, memories of the event, and emotions stemming from both, were still raw and easily summoned. The film's director, Kaneto Shindo, himself was a son of Hiroshima.

The film's story follows schoolteacher Takako Ishikawa (played by Nobuko Otawa), as she visits her home town of Hiroshima six years after the atomic bombing. During her visit, she checks up on three of her former kindergarten students who survived the bombing. She finds each of them—and their families—in different states of coping with the consequences of the bombing. She finds both despair and hope, both cold and warm receptions.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Help for quick English questions

So I'm learning Japanese, right? Right. And there are times, when I'm trying to read or write Japanese, when I have a quick question and I wish there were someone sitting right next to me who could answer that question right away.

I imagine that English language learners often have similar kinds of experiences and wishes.

So, in an effort to be of use and to give something back, I'm doing a little experiment.

I have set up an XMPP Instant Messaging (IM) account where English language learners can contact me to ask quick questions about the English language. This is my IM chat ID:

This ID can be added as a chat buddy by anyone who has an XMPP IM account. This includes Facebook and Google Talk IM accounts.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

PBS videos on Edo period Japan

The US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a YouTube account. A while ago, I found a series of programs from 2009 that they produced about Japan's Edo period. If you're interested in Japan, I think these videos are a good general introduction to that time in Japan's history, a period covering over 200 years, when the Tokugawa shoguns ruled and Japan closed its doors shut to the rest of the world. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this series and gained interesting insights into this period in Japan's history.

If you're Japanese and trying to learn English, I also think that this is a good series to watch to practice your English listening comprehension ability. It's also a chance to see and analyze, and perhaps critique how Japan is portrayed in this particular production from a generally well-regarded US media network.

The series is titled, "Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire," and is mostly based on written accounts of European eyewitnesses in Japan during that period—Christian missionaries during the early part of the period, and then other Western foreigners who were able to stay in Japan during its self-imposed isolation.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa

News reports have it that sales of the Japanese manga Barefoot Gen (はだしのゲン) have soared ever since the manga series that deals with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima floated to the top of Japanese news headlines this past August, buoyed by reports that Shimane Prefecture's Matsue City education board had requested elementary and junior high school libraries to restrict access to the manga, a request that is believed to have stemmed from the board's opinion that the manga series contains inappropriate images of atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

Besieged with criticism, the education board has since withdrawn its request; and plagued with curiosity, I have since bought the first couple of volumes of the English version of the ten-part series.