In this Issue…



Thank you so muchfor your purchase!

Our two kids (ages 16 and 13) have grown up hearing Japanese. They understand their mother very well, but unfortunately, they almost always reply back to questions in English.

That got me thinking about ways to work on speaking Japanese even when you don’t have someone with whom to speak—or if you are too embarrassed to speak.

This may sound a little strange, but when you are alone—maybe in the car or in the shower—try posing yourself questions and then answering them. Practice giving your 自己紹介(じこしょうかい) (self-introduction) to an imaginary Japanese audience.

It’s not perfect and you don’t have someone to correct you, but I believe this technique (yes, let’s be fancy and call “talking to oneself” a “technique”) will help get you used to speaking to people as well as getting your mouth used to speaking Japanese.

Give it a try!

Thank you!Clay & Yumi

The cover says, ぼく、ブルーベリー!おいしいよ! boku buru-beri-! oishi yo!, which means, “I’m a blueberry! I’m delicious!”

Laughs, Jokes, Riddles, and Puns


「要冷蔵(ようれいぞう)」と書(か)いてあった。カナダ人(じん)は、とても得意(とくい)そうに「いつもクールって意味(いみ)なんだ。」と言(い)った。日本語(にほんご)って難(むずか)しいと思(おも)った。要冷蔵(ようれいぞう)は、keep refrigeratedという意味(いみ)だ。タトゥーをするときは、意味(いみ)をよく調(しら)べよう。

There was a tattoo on the Canadian’s arm, and when I looked at it, it said,

「要冷蔵(ようれいぞう)」. The Canadian said very proudly, “It means, always cool.” I thought Japanese is difficult. 「要冷蔵(ようれいぞう)」means “keep refrigerated.” If you get a tattoo, check the meaning carefully.


  • ジョーク jo-ku―a joke
  • カナダ人の腕に kanada jin no ude ni―(a tattoo) on the Canadian’s arm [カナダ人(じん) (Canadian; カナダ (Canada) + 人(じん) (-ian (suffix); person;  people)) + の (‘s; of; modifier) + 腕(うで) (arm) + に (on; expresses the location of existence)]
  • タトゥーがある tatuu ga aru―there is a tattoo [タトゥー (tattoo) + が (emphasizes the preceding word タトゥー) + ある (to exist; to have)]
  • ので node―because of; given that; since [explains the reason for action]
  • 見てみたら mite mita ra―when (I) looked (at it) [from 見(み)る (to see; to look; to watch); ~てみたら describes the clue leading to the discovery; how to form: Verb (て form) + みたら]
  • 「要冷蔵」と書いてあった you reizou to kaite atta―it said, “youreizou” [「要冷蔵(ようれいぞう)」 (“youreizou”) + と (quotation marker) + 書(か)いてあった (said; was written; from 書(か)く (to write); ~てあった is the plain past form of ~てある (is used when the result of an intentional action still affects the current state or the result exists until the moment when the speaker describes it); how to form: Verb て-form + あった)]
  • カナダ人は kanada jin wa―the Canadian [カナダ人(じん) (Canadian) + は (indicates the sentence topic)]
  • とても totemo―very; exceedingly
  • 得意そうに tokui sou ni―proudly; as proud as a peacock; smug look [得意(とくい) (pride; satisfaction; triumph) + そう (is used to express how something looks/sounds/seems) + に (is added after 「得意(とくい)そう」 to turn it into an adverbial form)]
  • いつもクールって意味なんだ itsumo ku-ru tte imi nan da―it means, always cool [いつも (always; at all times; all the time) + クール (cool (i.e. fashionable, attractive, etc.)) + って (more casual form of という (that; called; is used to define, describe, and generally just talk about the thing itself)) + 意味(いみ) (meaning; significance; sense) + なんだ (explanatory ender; shows emphasis; how to form: Noun + な + んだ)]
  • 「いつもクールって意味なんだ。」と言った itsumo ku-ru tte imi nan da. to itta―said, “It means, always cool.” [「いつもクールって意味(いみ)なんだ。」 (“It means, always cool.”) + と (quotation marker) + 言(い)った (said; plain past form of 言(い)う (to say; to utter))]
  • 日本語って nihongo tte―as for Japanese [日本語(にほんご) (Japanese (language)) + って (is used to define the topic 日本語(にほんご))]
  • 難しいと思った muzukashii to omotta―(I) thought (Japanese) is difficult [難(むずか)しい (difficult; hard) + と (used for quoting (thoughts, speech, etc.)) + 思(おも)った (thought; plain past form of 思(おも)う (to think; to believe))]
  • 要冷蔵は、 keep refrigerated という意味です you reizou wa, keep refrigerated to iu imi desu―“youreizou” means “keep refrigerated” [要冷蔵(ようれいぞう) (youreizou) + は (indicates the sentence topic) + keep refrigerated という意味(いみ)です (means “keep refrigerated”; という (that; called; that says) + 意味(いみ) (meaning; significance; sense) + だ (be; is))]
  • タトゥーをする tatuu o suru―get a tattoo; have a tattoo
  • ときは toki wa―when [とき (when; time; moment) + は (adds emphasis)]
  • 意味をよく調べよう imi o yoku shirabeyou―check the meaning carefully; let’s check out the meaning carefully [意味(いみ) (meaning; significance; sense) + を (indicates the direct object of action) + よく (carefully; well) + 調(しら)べよう (let’s check; polite volitional form of 調(しら)べる (to check; to examine) which is used when making a suggestion to one or more people including oneself)]

Japanese Vocabulary


engi ga warui

bad luck; bad omen; unlucky

  縁起 engi is used like the English “luck”; it can be “good” or “bad.” Literally, “an omen is bad.”



This morning, my shoelace broke when I left home. I must have bad luck.


  • asa―morning
  • 出かける dekakeru―to leave home; to go out
  • ~ときに ~toki ni―when~; when (doing~) [とき (when) + に (indicates time)]
  • 靴ひも kutsuhimo―shoelace [靴(くつ) (shoe) + ひも (string)]
  • 切れてしまう kirete shimau―(unfortunately) broke (shoelace) [「切(き)れて (te-form of 切(き)れる (to break; to be cut)) + しまう」indicates regret or unfavorable outcome)]
  • ~なんて ~nante…―such as (breaking shoelaces); it is…that~ [colloquial for とは which quotes something that the speaker thinks is out of ordinary in both a good or bad sense before stating his or her own opinion about it.]
  • 縁起 engi―luck; omen
  • 縁起が悪い engi ga warui―luck is bad (bad luck)

Prefecture Spotlight

Niigata 新潟(にいがた)

Japanese: 新潟県 niigata kenCapital: 新潟 Niigata  Population: 2,227,496 (July 1, 2019)


Niigata means “new lagoon.” The famous 16th century daimyo and rival of Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin was from the Niigata area. Niigata was the first port on the Sea of Japan to be opened to foreign trade after Commodore Matthew Perry opened Japan.


· Sado Island—the sixth largest island of Japan is home to the endangered Toki bird (Japanese ibis).

· Yuzawa—one of Japan’s largest ski resorts also known for its hot springs.

· Two Niigata castles: Kasugayama Castle and Shibata Castle—both are ruins, but Shibata Castle has an original gate and is being restored.

Muramatsu Park—a park with 3,000 cherry blossom trees.  


· Koshihikari rice—a highly prized type of rice.

· Rice products: sake, mochi, senbei, and arare; Niigata is the #1 producer of rice in Japan.

· Tulips.

· Koi fish—the ornamental and colorful carp known as koi originated in Niigata.

· Skiing in the winter, swimming at the beach in the summer, and hot springs all year round.

· Fireworks—during the Nagaoka Festival in August, about 20,000 fireworks are launched. 

· Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto—the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during WWII was from Niigata. He was in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle of Midway.

語源 Etymology




“Tachiuchi dekinai” is a term used to describe a situation in which the opponent is so strong that the other is defeated. This Tachiuchi came to mean “to fight seriously face to face”, since the two fighters used a large, long sword called “tachi” to strike each other. Nowadays, it is often used with the negative form “dekinai” and is expressed as “tachiuchi dekinai (unable to compete with)”. It means, “Be no match for. Even if I fight, I will lose.”


  • 語源 etymology; origin of a word
  • 太刀打ち competing against; contending with; fighting against
  • 相手が強くて the opponent is strong [相手(あいて) (opponent (sports, etc.); other party) + が (emphasizes the preceding word 相手(あいて)) + 強(つよ)くて (て-form of 強(つよ)い (strong; competent; tough) which is used to connect to the next phrase; how to form: remove the い ending from the い-adjective and replace it with く then add て)]
  • こちらが this person; I; we [こちら (this person; I; me; we; us) + が (identifies who performs the action)]
  • 負けてしまう is defeated; lose [from 負(ま)ける (to lose; to be defeated); ~てしまう refers to a regrettable event or negative meaning; how to form: Verb て-form + しまう]
  • こと (Verb nominalizer) [allows to use verbs as a noun phrase; how to form: Verb (casual, non-past) + こと]
  • を (indicates the direct object of action)
  • 「太刀打ちできない」と言います is called “tachiuchi dekinai” [「太刀打(たちう)ちできない」(“tachiuchi dekinai (unable to compete with)”) + と言(い)います (called; named; that says; that)]
  • この太刀打ちは this tachiuchi  [この (this) + 太刀打(たちう)ち (tachiuchi; competing against; contending with; fighting against) + は (indicates the sentence topic)]
  • 大きくて large and [て-form of 大(おお)きい (large; big; great) which is used to connect to the next phrase]
  • 長い刀 long sword [長(なが)い (long (length)) + 刀(かたな) (sword (especially Japanese single-edged); katana)]
  • 「太刀」“tachi” [「」(quotation marks; “ “) + 太刀(たち) (tachi; long sword)]
  • で by; with [indicates means of action]
  • お互いに mutually; with each other
  • 打ち合う to hit each other; to fight
  • ことから since; because; from the fact that [「X ことから Y」,「X」 shows the reason, cause, and basis for saying 「Y」; how to form: Verb-casual + ことから]
  • 「真剣に面と向かって戦う事」“to fight seriously face to face” [「」(quotation marks; “ “) + 真剣(しんけん)に (seriously; earnestly; for real; in a serious manner) + 面(めん)と向(む)かって (face to face; right to someone’s face; 面(めん) (face) + と (with) + 向(む)かって (て form of 向(む)かう (to face; to head towards) which is used to connect to the next phrase)) + 戦(たたか)う (to fight (with); to make war) + 事(こと) (verb nominalizer; thing; matter; incident)]
  • 「真剣に面と向かって戦う事」をさすようになりました came to mean “to fight seriously face to face” [「真剣(しんけん)に面(めん)と向(む)かって戦(たたか)う事(こと)」(“to fight seriously face to face”) + を (indicates the direct object of action) + さす (to point; to mean; to indicate) + ようになりました (came; became; polite past form of ようになる (to come to be that; to turn into ~; to reach the point that); how to form: Verb (dictionary form) + ようになりました)]
  • 今は nowadays; at the present time [今(いま) (now; the present time) + は (adds emphasis)]
  • できないという否定の形で with the negative form “dekinai” [できない (dekinai; unable; impossible) + という (that; called; is used to define, describe, and generally just talk about the thing itself) + 否定(ひてい) (negative; negation) + の (of; modifier) + 形(かたち) (form) + で (with; by)] 
  • 使われること多くて (it) is often used and [使(つか)われる (is/are used; plain passive positive form of 使(つか)う (to use)) + こと (verb nominalizer) + 多(おお)くて (て-form of 多(おお)い (frequent; common; often) which is used to connect to the next phrase, creating the meaning of “and”)]
  • 「太刀打ちできない」“tachiuchi dekinai” [“unable to compete with”;「」(quotation marks; “ “) + 太刀打ち (tachiuchi; competing against; contending with; fighting against) + できない (dekinai; unable; impossible)]
  • 「太刀打ちできない」という言い方をします is expressed as “tachiuchi dekinai” [「太刀打(たちう)ちできない」(“tachiuchi dekinai”) + という (as; that; called) + 言(い)い方(かた)をします (say; speak; tell; express)]
  • とてもかなわない be far inferior; be no match for
  • 戦っても負けてしまう even if (I) fight, (I) will lose [戦(たたか)っても (even if (I) fight; from 戦(たたか)う (to fight); ~ても means “even if; even; even though ~”; how to form: Verb て-form + も) + 負(ま)けてしまう (lose; from 負(ま)ける (to lose; to be defeated); ~てしまう refers to a regrettable event or negative meaning)]
  • 「とてもかなわない。戦っても負けてしまう。」という意味です it means, “Be no match for. Even if (I) fight, (I) will lose.” [「とてもかなわない。戦(たたか)っても負(ま)けてしまう。」 (“Be no match for. Even if (I) fight, (I) will lose.”) + と (quotation marker) + いう (to call; to declare; to say) + 意味(いみ) (meaning; significance; sense) + です (be; is); ~という意味(いみ)です is used when you explain the definition of a word, sentence, etc.]

Anime / Manga Phrases


生(い)きてきたの?」エマのセリフアニメ 約束(やくそく)のネバーランドより

watashitachi wa zutto taberareru tame ni ikite kita no?

ema no serifu

anime yakusoku no neba-rando yori

“Have we been living just to be eaten?”

Line from Emma

From the anime “The Promised Neverland”


  • 「」—(quotation marks; “ “)
  • 私たち watashitachi—we [私(わたし) (I; me) + たち (is a pluralizing suffix (especially for people and animals))]
  • wa—(indicates the sentence topic)
  • ずっと zutto—throughout; all along; the whole time; remain; continuously in some state (for a long time or distance)
  • 食べられる taberareru—be eaten [plain passive positive form of 食(た)べる (to eat)]
  • ために tame ni—for; to one’s advantage; for the benefit of
  • 生きてきた ikite kita—(we) have been living [from 生(い)きる (to live; to exist); ~てきた is the plain past form of ~てくる (to continue; to do… and come back; to become); how to form: Verb て-form + きた]
  • no—(indicating a question and often with an emotional emphasis)
  • エマのセリフ ema no serifu—line from Emma [エマ (Emma) + の (’s; of; from; modifier) + セリフ (one’s lines; speech; words)]
  • アニメ anime—anime; animation; animated film; animated cartoon 
  • 約束のネバーランド yakusoku no neba-rando—The Promised Neverland [約束(やくそく) (promise; agreement) + の (of; modifier) + ネバーランド (Neverland)]
  • より yori—from


Kobayashi Issa 小林(こばやし)一茶(いっさ)    


七夕(たなばた)や 涼(すず)しき上(うえ)に 湯(ゆ)につかる

tanabata ya / suzushiki ue ni / yu ni tsukaruTanabata | the weather is cooling and therefore | soak in hot water



It’s Tanabata. At this particular time when it’s getting cooler, it’s time to bathe in a hot spring.


  • 七夕 Tanabata; Star Festival (held in July or August)
  • や (emphasizes the preceding word) [it’s a kireji (cutting word) which indicates a pause, both rhythmically and grammatically, and may add an emotional flavor to the word/phrase preceding it]   
  • 涼しき cool [attributive form of 涼(すず)しい (cool; refreshing); attributive form ends in “shiki”]
  • 上に moreover; in addition; on the top of that
  • 湯 hot water; hot bath 
  • 湯につかる soak in hot water [湯(ゆ) (hot water) + に (in) + つかる (to be submerged; to be soaked)]
  • 小林一茶 Kobayashi Issa (1763 – 1828) [A Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest. He is known as simply Issa, a pen name which means “Cup-of-tea”. He is regarded as one of the four Haiku masters in Japan.]
  • 七夕だな it’s Tanabata [七夕(たなばた) (Tanabata; Star Festival) + だ (casual form of the polite copulaです (be; is)) + な (is used when you express what you feel)]
  • 涼しくなってきた it’s getting cooler; started cooling off; it became cool; it has been getting cooler [from 涼(すず)しくなる (get cool; become cool); ~なってきた is the plain past form of ~なってくる (start to; be getting; becoming to); how to form: Verb て-form + きた]
  • 今の present; of today; as of now
  • この時期に at this time; at this moment [この (this) + 時期(じき) (time; season; period) + に (at (time))]
  • 温泉に入っている bath in a hot spring; be in the hot spring [温泉(おんせん) (hot spring) + に (expresses direction and destination) + 入(はい)っている (ている form of 入(はい)る (to go into) which is used when you talk about one’s present situation)]

Kanji Spotlight

Learning Kanji one Character at a Time

JLPT N5 Kanji

On: シ        

Kun: こ                

Meaning: child 

Hint: This is a little child with his arms wide and his mouth open crying for his mommy.  

Stroke Order:


  • 子供(こども) children; child
  • 男(おとこ)の子(こ) a boy [man’s child = boy]
  • お菓子(かし) candy; sweets 
  • 子猫(こねこ) kitten [child cat]


子供(こども)が好(す)きです。 kodomo ga suki desu.

I like children. 


  • 子供 kodomo—child                                                               
  • ga—(emphasizes the preceding word; indicates the object of emotion)
  • 好き suki—liking; being fond of; to one’s liking
  • です desu—be; is

Grammar Time



Similar to だけ, しか limits to only one choice. Unlike だけ, you must use a negative verb with しか. “Nothing but…” Compare: 牛(うし)だけ“only cows” and 牛(うし)しかいない “nothing but cows.”

how to use:

■ Place after the noun.   



I only know English. 

[Literally, “English-only-don’t understand” but the negative should be understood in the しか. “I know nothing but English.”]


  • 英語 eigo―English (language)
  • しか分かりません shika wakarimasen―(I) know nothing but (English); (I) only know (English) [しか (nothing but; except; no more than; only) + 分かりません (polite negative form of わ分かる (to understand; to comprehend; to grasp; to know));「しか + Verb (negative form)」means “only; nothing but”]  

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