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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7 Responses to Tadoku contest wrapup

  1. Vii says:

    I read tons of manga, so I might be able to give you some recommendations. What kind of fiction genres do you generally like?
    Also, have you ever visited J-Comi? They offer a large selection of manga to read legally on their site.

  2. Liana says:

    Oh, thank you! I’d love some suggestions. Hmm… What I like best are stories that are slice-of-life, but it’s a slice of an interesting life, without a huge amount of interpersonal drama or meanness. I went nuts for the Silver Spoon anime, and I was thinking I’d like to start reading the manga. I like stories like that, where the drama comes from the setting and the external challenges. I have a weakness for shoujo manga and pretty drawings and love stories, but I hate hate hate the whole “he’s so aloof and near-abusive, but that just means his love will be worth more in the end!” trope. I really like historical fiction, and will forgive any amount of the stuff I usually don’t like if everyone is wearing great clothes. Other anime/manga I like: Ouran High School Host Club, Ōoku (I have book 1 in Japanese, but the only reason I know what’s going on is that I’ve read it in English), The Idolmaster, Slam Dunk, Naruto, Tiger and Bunny, Jellyfish Princess, Steins;Gate, Yakitate Japan … Kind of all over the place. Things I don’t like: random zany humor, stories where the heroine is constantly bullied, really contrived situations that just exist to promote stupid misunderstandings. I don’t know if that’s helpful :)
    Thank you for pointing me to J-Comi! I didn’t know about it, and I will definitely check it out further when I have some time!

  3. Vii says:

    I really like the Silver Spoon manga, although I’ve only read it in English so far.
    Off the top of my head I think I’ll suggest Hoshi no Hitomi no Silhouette (with the caveat that I haven’t finished it yet but what I have read is really good). It’s a mostly character-driven love & friendship story, and so far it’s really sweet. The mangaka had another work that was adapted by Studio Ghibli some time ago.
    Since you put down Slam Dunk, you might want to check out Kuroko no Basuke, which is another basketball manga that has people really excited these days.
    Finally, I’ll recommend Hikaru no Go, mostly because I think everyone should read it but it’s also really good. It’s about a teenager trying to make his way to the top of the professional Go world and the challenges that he and his rivals face.
    I’m actually supposed to be doing homework right now, but when I have some time to go a bit more in-depth I’ll send you some more suggestions.

  4. Vii says:

    And another recommendation: I just finished a really good shoujo manga called Shinobi Life. It starts out when a ninja accidentally time-slips to the present day and attaches himself to the descendant of the woman he originally worked for, and gets more complicated from there with everyone bouncing around the timelines. It’s both a really good romance and a really good time-travel story, and the art is very pretty.

  5. Vii says:

    Here’s another rec: You might like to read Home, by Ueda Rinko. You can find it for free on J-Comi in the Shoujo section. It’s a historical romance between a Spanish girl and a Japanese boy, set in the 1600s. It’s only 2 volumes so it’s a really quick read, and I really like Ueda Rinko’s art.
    Also, if you like Silver Spoon you might get a kick out of reading Fullmetal Alchemist, the author’s other well-known work; a lot of the characters have almost exactly the same design, which I found really funny when I first read Silver Spoon. (Fullmetal Alchemist is also a really good manga in its own right and has some of my favorite manga characters, too.)
    (P.S. I hope you don’t mind my spamming this post!)

  6. Liana says:

    Oh, not at all, thank you for all the recommendations! I’ve looked into them a bit and they all sound very tempting :) I’m so happy you came up with so many fun things for me to try! (But I’ll probably start with the free one ;) A little broke at the moment…) Thank you!

  7. Vii says:

    Saving money is always a good idea :) I’m glad I can be of help!