From the monthly archives: November 2013

Why? How? Stories about Society
監修 (Editor):橋本五郎(はしもと ごろう, Hashimoto Gorō)
Level 5 本, 176 pages, 9,500 words (est.) ★★★★★

This book is part of a popular series of books that are divided by grade level. There’s short stories, biographies, science facts, stories about animals and so on. (A lot of them are listed on the page I made for short story collections divided by grade level.) This particular book isn’t recommended for any particular grade, although I personally would peg it at about 3rd grade level. It’s divided into 37 short essays that answer questions such as “What does the Prime Minister do?,” “What are stocks?” and “Why do we study English?” It also has a short story at the end of each chapter.

I think this is a great book for extensive readers because it deals with adult subjects in a basic way. Textbooks for adult learners being what they are, most learners probably have encountered many of the words used before in their formal studies, such as 株式会社 (joint-stock company), 国際連合 (the United Nations), or 保険証 (insurance card). However, if you’re doing extensive reading and starting with simple books, these kinds of words don’t usually come up. So although it’s not an easy book, it’s very likely that a beginning reader can enjoy it as well, and it will help to reinforce some of those more complex words that the reader has probably seen at least once or twice in a textbook. The format means that if you don’t understand one story, you can just skip ahead to the next one, and there are a lot of pictures to help the reader understand some of the more complex ideas. (I am not sure that I myself fully understood stocks until I saw the concept illustrated with a little tiger selling stocks to a bunny, a kappa and a hamster.)

It’s also nice because its content dovetails with that of one of the best sites for intermediate readers, NHK News Web Easy, which puts up five articles every weekday from NHK News that have been rewritten in simpler language. Many of the words that are explained in this book frequently appear in several news stories, such as 世界遺産 (World Heritage) and 遺伝子組み換え (genetically modified). I think that the writing is slightly more complex than the average News Web Easy story, but if you’re in the habit of reading them, or want to be, this is an excellent supplement.

According to Hitosugi and Day’s classification system, I’d give it a 5. There’s a good deal of text, but it’s not too small, and there are just enough pictures to help the reader understand what’s going on. All kanji have furigana, and I think that for a 3rd-grade level book it’s pretty heavy on the kanji, which is nice for those of us who like a lot of kanji in our reading material.

Sample text
Happily, there is a preview of this book up on Google Books. I don’t think any of the essays are entirely available, but there is enough content that you should be able to tell if it’s a good fit for you.

How to get it
Please refer to my post about buying books online for advice. (It is a little out of date at this point, though! I’ll work on it.)
It’s at Kinokuniya, YesAsia, and of course there’s always Amazon (watch the shipping and handling fees) and honto as well. I paid $15.60 for it at Kinokuniya, which was a bit expensive, but I think it was worth it.

You can see if it’s at a library close to you with worldcat.

I have no idea how to number the weekly updates anymore, since I’ve hardly done them every week! So, to heck with it, really :) I’ve kind of lost track of how many books I’ve read and how many words I’ve read, too… I guess that it’s a sign that I don’t need to track them anymore, once the number doesn’t matter to me!

I wrote that I wanted to organize my Japanese books, which, since our move, had been hanging out upstairs, in the living room, in my study and in the bedroom. Now they’re all on the bookshelf to the right of my desk. And they’re beautiful. I often just stop to look at them, and I’ve been reading more since they’re right there, looking tempting. Before I knew about extensive reading, and back when Japanese books were hard to come by for me, I would buy books that were waaaay too hard for me, give it my best shot and give up. So I’ve got so many books I’ve never read. Some of them, though, are starting to be within my fluent reading level…

I’ve been continuing to read the NHK News Web Easy articles over breakfast. I love them, I wish there were more than 5 a day! I’ve been watching a lot of the NHK school programs, too. (I’ll put them on when I’m feeding the boy, for example. Makes the shoveling of oatmeal a little less boring.) Are you watching 歴史にドキリ? You should at least check out the songs. I mean, who doesn’t love watching Commodore Perry bopping around with members of the shogunate?

All right, that’s enough self-indulgent chatter for now. And for you, that’s enough reading of the self-indulgent chatter! I know, for me, it’s way too easy to get into reading about Japanese without actually reading Japanese. If you’re a beginning reader, go, right now, and read なめれおん, the little chameleon that licks everything. It won’t take you long and it’ll brighten up your day. If you’re an intermediate reader, give おばけにょうぼう a try. It is beautiful and creepy and it’ll teach you what 仲人口 means.


I read over 1200 pages for the tadoku contest this last month! Not bad for the mama of an 18-month old, especially considering I just started a new job. It’s thanks to the hundreds of hours my husband and I put in establishing the concept of “bedtime” and “naptime” by rocking the baby to sleep. At 18 months, he goes to bed at 7 and wakes up at 7, and he usually has a nap in the morning and a nap, or at least a quiet play time, in the afternoon. This gives me time to read, do housework, work or do nothing much at all. (It may be hard for those of you who haven’t gone through feeding a baby every two-three hours for months to understand how mind-blowingly awesome this is.)

I started translating for Cookpad at the beginning of this month! Cookpad is the largest Japanese recipe site, and they just started an English version. In practice, I proofread and edit other people’s translated recipes more than I translate myself, both because I think that I do a good job with that, and because I’m a slow translator. (Well, it’s not so much that; it’s more that I get caught up on maybe one or two things that confuse me or get distracted by something interesting in the recipe. Since I’m paid by the recipe, these side trips are costly.) So that, of course, has affected my tadoku time, but it’s also made me excited about improving my Japanese.

The tadoku summary:
1) I read the new articles on NHK’s News Web Easy every weekday morning while I had breakfast. I had started doing this shortly before tadoku started up, actually. I’m at the point where they’re well within my fluent reading level, and they’ve been awesome for reinforcing vocabulary I only encounter a little bit in books. I’d like to branch out, but the other news sites for kids I’ve seen seem more like regular news with furigana added, and I’m not quite there yet.

2) I watched a lot of drama. I use an app called J-Drama Master to download Japanese drama to my iPad, and then I watch it while I’m at the gym. Not all of the offerings have subtitles, but plenty of them do. I’m pretty lousy at understanding spoken Japanese without subtitles, but during Tadoku time I can pretend it’s reading practice! I ended up watching a lot of different shows, but I’m particularly taken with ごちそうさん.
3) I took a tentative step into the world of manga. I’m actually kind of intimidated by manga, because there’s so many to choose from that I don’t know which I’d actually like (I’m pretty picky), the ones I do want to read are still too hard, I have a hard time figuring out who’s talking sometimes, I can’t deal with the teeny tiny handwritten notes and all the sound effects, and I often feel like I’m missing something, like when sentences are left unfinished, people are being vague and so on. Ciao, a manga magazine for young girls, has the first chapter of its stories available on its webpage, so I did a sort of… manga boot camp? My findings are that the ultimate Ciao manga setup involves dogs, a heroine with a cute name, handsome boys, super-elite schools and transfer students. Mix those five things together and you’ve got a hit! Anyways, I read 29 of the first chapters available on the Ciao homepage. I can’t say I liked any particular one of them enough to actually go buy the collected books, but I enjoyed the feel of reading a phonebook manga, if that makes any sense. It’s annoying reading them on the computer, though, the characters are too small and I can’t read the furigana half the time.

4) I read a bunch of books. I actually have a big backlog of books from when I was studying and ordering books, before I got pregnant, so I read through a fair amount of those. I’m amazed at how some books that were pretty hard for me when I started tadoku have become much easier to read. I haven’t been the most diligent learner — now that’s an understatement, considering I completely abandoned Japanese studying when I got pregnant — and I sure haven’t done much to study besides read.

5) I played one game, a GBA game called “Sparkling Nurse Story” ピカピカナース物語 which was kind of like a simulation game, where you take care of patients, do mini-games and make choices in how you interact with people. I got the worst ending because I wasn’t able to raise one stat, and when I went online to look for a walkthrough or something, the first hit was a blog post basically saying “It’s impossible to raise that stat!” After some digging, I found a post saying that you have to force the minigames to appear more often by getting the patients almost well, then leaving and coming back another day. I didn’t have the patience to try again, but hey, maybe someone else will play this sometime!

Before the next round of tadoku in January, I want to get my Japanese books sorted out. Once upon a time, I had all of our books in some semblance of order, and it was great, but then we moved, then we moved, then we moved, then we moved cross-country, then we moved to our current house and now I’ve got Japanese books upstairs, in the living room, in the bedroom, in my study… My goal is to get them all together, read the ones that have become easy for me and then, by tadoku time, challenge myself with some books I’ve wanted to read for a while. See you all then, tadokists :)

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