Two whole posts in a single week!

How many people want to bet that this never happens again?


Let's talk about Hiroshima.
As I mentioned months ago, I accepted a position at a junior/senior high school on the west side of Hiroshima City. It's a really nice school, though the current class of 8th graders makes me want to rub my face against a cheese grater on a regular basis. My supervisor seems to feel the same way. The new 7th grade class is full of awesome kids, and I've heard great things about the other four grades, though I do not teach them. I am having a blast.

Since getting here, my husband and I have made an effort to get more acquainted with Hiroshima City in general. Gifu was not nearly as big of a city, and it cost nearly twice as much to get down to Nagoya City so we never really explored as much as we probably should have.

We've been here for almost sixth months. In the past six months we've explored our little neighborhood, and have explored a small chunk of downtown. We've also been to Miyajima twice, but we still have a lot more to go. I have an unprecedented three two-day weekends this month.


I am estatic.
We're going to try to rent a car next weekend (the 16th and 17th) and drive out to Okayama to visit the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum and Token Village.
Because they have a scale model of the Lance of Longinus from Neo Genesis Evangelion.
Monday the 17th (a national holiday) is the last day, so we have to go.
I have friends who will stop talking to me if we don't go.


In May, Japan had it's great Golden Week, which is three days in a row of national holidays at beginning of May, plus a national holiday on April 29th. Many companies and schools give the entire period from the 29th to May 5th off, making it one of the busiest times of the year to travel.

But that's not the point.

The point is, YAY NO WORK.

The first day, we hung out at the Flower Festival down at the Peace Park. Wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't too bad. Ran into my school's baton club after they finished marching in the parade and had a lot of giggles from the girls about my being married. Didn't stay too long, but have plans to go again next year.

The second day, we headed over to Hiroshima Castle for the first time.
Now, I love castles.
I mean, love castles.
I've been to: Matsumoto, Ueda ruins, Yatsushiro Ruins, Kumamoto, Shimabara, Hirado, Gifu, Kano ruins, Gujo Hachiman, Ogaki, Ogura ruins, Nagoya, Osaka, Nijo, and Inuyama. I guess you can even include the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.
We have plans to get to Himeji (even if it will still be under restoration) while we are living in Hiroshima. And any other castle or castle ruins I can find in the neighboring prefectures.

Even if it is a rebuilt replica, if it's a castle, I want to go.
I just love walking around the grounds. I love the gardening, and I love the architecture.
The grounds around Hiroshima Castle and the moat are just lovely for a picnic, or for a quiet day in the shade with a good book. There's even a jogging course around the moat and through the adjoining park.

For only being there a few hours, I took a metric ton of photos.
I nearly maxed out my 4GB SD card. With only JPEGs. Go me.

Here are some of the best, including two I messed around with in HDR software:

HDR of the main gate!

HDR of the main castle tower. So glad those clouds cleared up quickly.

There was a bunker on the ground with a bunch of high school girls who had been mobilized during the war effort. They were some of the first to radio in about the atomic bombing.

Best part about castles? The moat.

Chinese zodiac charms! I totally need to go back and get a bunch as presents for my cousins.
These were at the Gokoku Shrine next to the castle. On Children's Day, May 5th, they hold a crying baby sumo championship.
Yes. A crying baby sumo championship. Parents sign up their babies. Two get put into a "sumo ring" and the first one to cry wins.
No, I do not understand it, either.

Wish boards. Many of these were specifically to past tests.

All over the castle grounds were ruins and foundations of various military facilities that had been built leading up to and during World War II. One of the buildings was the Emperor's military headquarters for a while.

Now, as this is a full two-day weekend, I will hopefully have time to go through my photos from the last day of Golden Week and have a post of that up sometime Saturday or Sunday. When I'm not so tipsy. Have I mentioned that I've had two Suntory Strong Zero grape chu-hi? Yeah. I'm a bit tipsy.
Hi again. Been awhile hasn't it?
It always ends up like this. Oops. Maybe I should start writing blogs during my lunches at school?

I have tons of photos I'm slowly sifting through and messing around with in Lightroom, Photomatix and Photoshop. One day I'll get around to posting them. I have some I want to write posts about anyway.

However, I am not writing this to write about Japan. Hell, I don't know if anyone even reads this anymore, but what I need to say needs to be said.

This past weekend was PAX Prime in Seattle. I have never gone to PAX, though I have friends who have. My cousin Ky over at ExplodedSoda has gone to both PAX East and PAX Prime. Every time she has gone to PAX or any other convention (She's been to a few ComicCons, and has gone to other cons as well I do believe), she always raves about how awesome it was and how awesome the people she met there were. Hearing stories from both her and my other friends has always made me want to join in the festivities if I get the chance. I'm not even that big of a gamer compared to them (though I will admit that 80% of my month-long summer vacation was spent playing Age of Empires III, Ticket to Ride, and Heroes of Might and Magic V), but it just sounds a like blast.

It was much to my dismay when on Sunday evening that I found my cousin freaking out on Twitter about something that had happened at an after party away from where PAX was officially being held. Several minutes of frantic text messaging back and forth about what happened ensued.

I love my cousin. She is a very strong woman and I am proud of her for who she is and what she is doing with her life. However, I am also EXTREMELY defensive of my cousins. Maybe it's because Ky and I are the only cousins who are only children; our other 9 cousins all are in families with two or three kids. Maybe it's because I'm the oldest of the 11 of us and spent most of my life from 5th grade through graduating college baby-sitting and being the caretaker of my cousins at family gatherings.

Ky is like a sister to me, and has been since I first got back from my exchange to Japan in high school. At that point, I could count how many times I had met her face-to-face on one hand; her family was the only one of my mother's siblings not to live in the tri-state area. Once I was back in the US, we were talking CONSTANTLY on AIM. Now here was a girl who I had barely known growing up, but we were quickly turning into more sisters than cousins. I still think we were supposed to be twins but a deity somewhere screwed up and we ended up being born 4 years apart to different mothers. At least they got the family right?

Anyway. Tangent.

I am extremely proud that she had the courage to write about her experience. Not many women do. Her blog post has spread to Kotaku, reddit, 4chan, and elsewhere on the net. The creator of Minecraft (who had hosted the party where this sexual assault happened) has even publicly announced that he is upset at what happened and will look into the incident. Many of the comments on her blog and on other blogs that have given her support. As Raf's comment on her blog, states "He whipped it out. He grabbed her and made her touch it. HE DID IT." in response to Ky stating that she was plagued by guilty thoughts after the fact.

Regardless, there are many who have stated all over her blog and in comments elsewhere that she was pathetic for "trying not to cry because she saw a penis in [sic] a party", making herself a martyr, and telling her, although sometimes not outright, that it was her fault.

Seriously, people? We're still blaming the victim?

It doesn't matter if she should have kicked him in the nuts or gone to find security more quickly.
It doesn't matter if you think she shouldn't have been drinking.
It doesn't matter if you think she should have told him outright that she wanted to be alone.

What matters is it is never appropriate to whip your dick out and force some girl you do or do not know to touch it. Ever.

Doesn't matter if it was at a gaming-related after party or the Democratic National Convention. Keep your dicks in your pants. If a girl specifically asks to see it and you're okay with that, go ahead. Show it to her. If a girl asks to see it and you do not feel comfortable with a random chick asking to see your wand, don't show it to her and walk away.

There are also a lot of comments everywhere about how Ky should have screamed or yelled; should have made a big enough scene to get the guy noticed.

People, she just had been violated. Even if it hadn't completely sunk in yet, any type of violation leaves one feeling dirty and in a fight-or-flight mode. Ky obviously took the flight option, and I don't blame her.

Unless you were in the same situation you cannot know for sure how you would have reacted.

Everyone reacts differently to situations. Had this been somewhere where she had not been drinking, maybe she would have been able to scream or smack him. Maybe not. That's not the point. The point is, her emotions, her feelings of guilt and disgust, are all things that only she will ever be able to know at their core and no one has a right to tell her how she should have reacted.

The point is, the guy never should have forced her to feel his dick in the first place.

Stop saying she was at fault, or that she should have done this and that, or that she's just trying to get attention. When men and women say these things about women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped, it creates a culture where victims feel they cannot raise their voices about what happened. It creates a culture where women blame themselves for actions forced onto them by others. It creates a culture where women feel that even if they are harassed/assaulted/rape, no one will ever believe them so why bother telling anyone it happened? It's sickening.

Same for men. There are many men out there who have undoubtedly been placed in a sexual situation where they were not comfortable. Be it being hit on/touched inappropriately by a female co-worker or boss, or random women coming up to them at the beach and rubbing their chests or buttocks. Men who are subjected to this may be fewer in number, but they are just as cautious about telling anyone that it happened because they feel they will get laughed at by a society which promotes men feeling empowered by being a sexual object to women.

Let's stop blaming the victim for their reactions.
Let's stop blaming the victims for their clothing.
Let's stop blaming the victims for "putting themselves in that situation".
Let's stop blaming the victims period.

And let's start addressing the main issue here:
We as a society needs to teach our children that whipping your dick out and forcing a girl you've never met before to touch it is not okay.
Hi there.

I swear, I am still alive.

Seriously, I am. Just busy as all hell.

Since my last post, life has been busy. Moving was an adventure and a half due to my credit card company randomly deciding to drop my credit limit by over $3000 to just a few hundred over what balance I still have to pay off. Not happy about that, but my new employers not only paid for my moving costs up front for me, but also helped out with most of the start-up costs for our house.

Yeah. The job is just that awesome. I had to have $550 taken out of my paycheck every month to pay back what went over the relocation allowance they had already established, but as they also give me $550 a month to cover rent on top of my paycheck, I am not complaining.

Since getting to Hiroshima, we haven't had too much time to really explore. I started training two days after we moved, then spent the next week unpacking, arranging furniture, buying needed things from the 100yen store, etc. I was nominated out of all 4 new teachers to be the one to stand in front of the entire school (2400 students) and give a speech. That was interesting, to say the least. Nerve wracking.

First real outing we finally had time for was in early April to the flower fiesta downtown at the Memorial Peace Park. My school's baton club was marching in the parade. Maybe one day I'll post some pictures.

In May, during Golden Week, a friend from Gifu came to visit and we went down to the US Marine base in Iwakuni for the yearly Friendship Day air show. It was pretty damn good. Much better than the one in Kakamigahara back in Gifu. Hubby enjoyed talking to the Marines and reminiscing about his time in the Air Force. We were both bummed that the food court was closed as we both were hoping to get some Taco Bell.

If Japan had a Taco Bell, I probably would not have a reason to leave other than family matters. Seriously.

Japan's Self Defense Force has a group of trick fighter pilots, similar to the US's Blue Angels, called the Blue Impulse. In Gifu, they'd do a few maneuvers, but never anything too amazing or over the crowd. Most likely because that base was in the middle of the city. Iwakuni, however, is in the middle of nowhere. They pulled of some pretty amazing fly-bys, sky writing, and several things directly over our heads. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died, and my extra pack weren't charged. Sadly, that resulted in no photos. I was a pretty sad Chino, because there is no way I am going back next year, unless another friend comes specifically for it. Why? Because there is only one gate where they let visitors in to the event. So it is packed, hot, and takes forever and a day to get up to the gate.

After a few months, by June I was finally starting to get into a decent rhythm with my school life, so we decided to take a day at Miyajima. It was supposed to rain, so we figured that no one would be there. However, it ended being an absolutely beautiful day. I got quite a few pictures taken (nearly 400), most of which are triple bracketed shots.

Wait, what? Triple bracketed shots?

Yeah. I've started getting into HDR photography recently, and that requires me to have minimum three different exposures of the same thing. So, when I say I took almost 400 shots, I actually only have a third of that.
 Here's the result of this screwing around:


Did I mention I got a Bamboo Touch and Pen tablet before we moved? "Used" for like 4000yen. No? Well, I did. And oh man, it is nice. This is the first time I was really able to use it for my photography. It is going to make editing so much easier. I've also done some doodling with it, but not sure how far I will get into that.

And now, as much as I would love to keep this post going, I need sleep.
Odin and Freya somehow have gotten fleas in the past few weeks, and we noticed Sunday. Vets were all closed, so we gave them a flea bath and bought flea collars to help keep some fleas off of them until we could get to the vet today.


I forgot how dumb Odin can be sometimes. He licked a bunch of the chemicals off of his collar and started reacting to it. Gel-like drool for a bit. I freaked, read up about horror stories of people losing cats due to flea collar reactions, freaked some more. Eventually found the number for the local emergency nighttime vet and gave them a call. Being as the vet is a 30min drive across town and I no longer have a call, I knew I couldn't bring him in, but I could at least ask what I could do at home until I could get him to the vet. By the time I felt satisfied that Odin was okay, it was nearly 2:30 in the morning. I had to get up for work at 5:30 this morning.
So yeah. I've done a full day of work (mainly planning meetings and grading as it's technically summer vacation), plus taken the cats to the vet to get real flea meds. I am EXHAUSTED. It's sleepy time for Chino.
Holy cow, stop the presses. Chino is actually making a blog post.

For the first time in over two years.

Two. Years.

Yeah. It's about time.

There are several reasons for the untimely death of this blog. The main being a big misunderstanding between my boss and I as to what counts as "on the clock hours" and "adequate staffing". I guess two full-time teachers and a handful of unqualified part-timers is enough in her book to teach over 280 hours of class time a month, plus planning, lesson creation, and travel between classrooms. In reality, could have used a few more full-time teachers.

However, that will be behind me starting from the 23rd of this month.


I got a new job.

That's right. I have a new job. A better one. Not just in terms of pay, but in satisfaction levels and personal worth.

I will be starting a job as a full-time English teacher at a private joint Junior High/Senior High School on the west side of Hiroshima City. Far, far, far away from my current babysitting English School job.

I'll be leaving a lot of friends and memories behind, but I'll be moving on to a position that will help me further my career as a teacher. I'll be part of a qualified team of teachers holding actual teaching certificates in creating a curriculum. The school will be using an English textbook for the first time in years starting in April. Every detail I have heard about this job just creates an abundence of energy and excitement.

I get to be a real teacher. A real. Teacher. Like, in a classroom. In a school. With students. With classes that only I and my paired native co-teacher are in charge of.

No more seeing classes once a month if I'm lucky.
No more crisscrossing the city racing to get to three different classrooms in a single day with my only break time being my commute between classes.
No more having to pull lessons out of thin air because only two kids out of an eight person class showed up.

I get to have meaningful lessons with kids who want to learn and have the support of an experienced teaching team and a school that prides itself on personally tailored curriculum. Kids from this school scored the highest on a national writing test the past school year. Every single test taker got a perfect score.
Their test scores for grammar knowledge have been lacking, hence the start of a textbook, but that has mainly been due to the fact that national tests are set up in the same order as grammar is taught in textbooks. Without a textbook, the teachers have been bouncing around grammar topics as they see fit. This has resulted in the students knowing things "out of order" by Japanese standards. They'll know some things that are on the test, not known some things on the test, but know other things that aren't being tested yet. Moms in the PTA have gotten through the the principal and other members of the school board, so now a text book and weekly review sessions by a teacher of Japanese decent have been added to the curriculum.

Anyway. Enough about that. The reason I say that my current job is behind me starting the 23rd despite the new school year starting in April, is because the 23rd is my first training session at the new school.
My husband, Odin, Freya and I will be moving to Hiroshima sometime either March 21st or 22nd.
We're still looking for an apartment. We're going by night bus this Friday to look at apartment over the weekend. The company that hired me as a teacher for the school has already asked a real estate agent they know in the area to find us a good place, and I should hear back from them sometime this week. Hopefully we'll find something nice in our price range.

But as such, since I will no longer be affiliated with the job that prompted the start of this blog, I will be removing the link to the school in the top header bar. I may still do a few Japanese site reviews, but I think I shall try to turn this more into a personal blog. A place where I can air my mind out about things that perturb me about Japan, and a place to post photos. I'm also hoping that I'll have the time and energy to start posting over at Odin's Abode again. I have a year of photos of Odin and Freya that need to be edited and posted. They turn 3 on the 17th this month. They're huge and have gone through a lot in the past 6-8 months, so I have plenty to put on that blog once I have time.

So, I guess that's it for now. Come back from time to time starting in April to see if I've gotten into the flow of things and have started posting again. Hopefully there will be something here!
I know it's a few months early, but I'm going to get one of my New Year's resolutions out into the open now:

Never promise to have an update later in the week ever again.

Seems like every time I promise to update this later in the week or within the next week, it ends up being months. A strange, twisted amendment to Murphy's Law? Who knows. Perhaps if I stop promising, I'll actually end up posting regularly. We can only hope.

Today I'll be reviewing a site that has been sitting in my e-mail inbox for a few weeks now, theJapaneseTutor.com. The main author of the site e-mailed me requesting a review, so here we go!

Note: Supposedly you need Microsoft Silverlight to be able to access several functions of the site (I'm guessing the flashcards and quizzes). I believe Silverlight is already pre-loaded into both Windows Vista and Windows 7. I did not need to install it on my RC version of Win7 even with using Firefox to view the site.

Double note: I'm not sure if the site is completely up and running yet. It seems they are still in the works with getting everything up and running, so there may be areas that aren't as filled in as they could be.

Right off the bat, I love the front page. It's simple, centered, no scrolling required to see everything. There's a random phrase of the day-like thing with English, romaji, kana and kanji, plus a sound bite and a link to another random phrase. Very good way to get learners intrigued into what else the site has to offer. There's also a brief introduction to the site with links to get starting learning the language or the culture, as well as a brief highlight of a part of the site. Currently it's katakana on my screen, but on click of the "Home" link on the top navbar and it changes the background picture, random phrase and the highlight to another part of the site.
Speaking of the navbar, I like it's set up a lot. It's divided into "Home", "Language", "Culture", "Community" and "About" with all but "Home" and "Community" having drop-down menus that let the user pick the sub-section they want right from the start.

Let's start with the "Language" section, shall we?

Clicking on the navbar takes you to a start page for each section. This start page lists the same sub-sections as the drop-down menus on the navbar does, but also offers brief introductions to what each section is. My favorite part on the "Language" start page? Getting Started section! Every site needs a easy-to-find getting started section. Every site that doesn't, or makes it impossible to find, loses major points in my book.

The main thing I love about this site is how clean it is. There are ads, but they're well placed and don't intrude on the site. There's never too much going on for one page, so there's never any sensory overload while browsing. Subsections are further divided up into smaller sections, with a link menu carefully places on the left-hand side. theJapaneseTutor.com uses their "Getting Started" page as a way to further introduce what their site is all about. There's a nice overview about Japanese and suggestions for what to do on the site depending on what type of learner you are (casual, passionate, one-stop resource).
My only complaint about this section, is that none of the suggestions for the different learners offer direct links to suggested areas of the site. I would suggest adding at least one in-text link for at least one suggested area of the site for each type of learner listed. For the Casual Learner, I'd make a link to definitely the cultural articles, and maybe one to the vocabulary page. Passionate Learner, maybe link to the grammar section. The One-Stop Resource Learner would love a link directly to the kanji section!
One further note on the Getting Started page, the greeting on the top of the page is misspelled. It should be いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase) not いらしゃませ (irashaimase). Also, ようこそ (youkoso) would be a better translation for "welcome". Irasshaimase is used mainly in stores as a way of saying "Welcome! How may I help you?" to customers. It is common to mix the usage of these up as if you look either up in a dictionary they both come up with "welcome" as their English translation.

Moving on to the hiragana and katakana pages, things are looking good.
There's a top menu on both with "Introduction", "List", Flashcards", "Quiz" and "Resource" links. Katakana also has a "Special Notes" page link. Both pages have the same subsections: an overview, basic chart, extended chart, usage and conclusion. The overview gives a bit on the history/usage of each script, which is a good start for the page. It lets the learner know what's going on before they even start. The basic chart for both appear directly under this introductory overview, making it very easy to get into the swing of learning. You don't have to go to a separate page just to get started; it's right there in front of you. You can even click on the individual characters and hear the pronunciation! Now if only it showed you the stroke order, the page would be perfect!
Under both charts there are several key points to writing both charts, things like small つ (tsu), particles, and special characters used in katakana but not hiragana. While this is really useful, there is one mistake on the katakana page. "Taxi" is written on the page as タクシイー (takushiii) when in actually it should be タクシー (takushii). Using the extender bar, ちょうおんふ (chouonfu), means you don't need the extra イ that the author put after the シ.
At the bottom of each page is a link to the next subsection, the extended sets. Both extended sets feature the characters that have diacritical marks as well as combined sounds. The hiragana extended chart is listed (and once again clickable), the katakana chart is not. I feel a katakana extended chart should be available on the page, especially to help learners comprehend the special combinations (wi, we, wu, wo, fa, fi, fe, fo, va, vi, vu, ve, vo, etc) a bit more than the written explanation on the "Special Notes" page offers. Instead, you have to access the extended chart by clicking the "List" menu option on the horizontal menu at the top of the page.
Also, both the hiragana and katakana extended set pages say that combined characters follow an easy pronunciation pattern with the exception of those made with し "shi" and じ "ji". I personally think those made with ち "chi" should be included as "exceptions" if you're going to say there are pronunciation exceptions.

The "Usage" page for both offer some good notes on how to use each set of characters, as well as a small foray into grammar (i.e. introduction particles and sentence structure a bit). These are very, very simple explanation, but I believe good for a novice learner just trying to get a start. Hopefully the grammar sections offer more in depth explanations.
One problem with the example sentence on the katakana usage page: the verb used (つぶす "tsubusu") means "to crush" or "to squash", not "to break". The correct verb should be こわれる "kowareru", the intransitive verb "break". Because of this, the sentence should read タイヘンだ!メリーのミルクのガラスがこわれました!(Taihen da! Merii no miruku no garasu ga kowaremashita!). Since こわれる is an intransitive verb, the particle が "ga", not は "wa", is more common. However, は "wa" is also usable depending on the context.

The katakana also gives more hints as to usage with foreign words and names, mainly how to form f-sounds, w-sounds and v-sounds. This is a pretty useful page, but having a chart of all the extra combinations would be nice. Also, there are slight mistakes with the katakana for "Wii" and "wink". Nintendo's official pronunciation for "Wii" is ウィー not ウィイ. The page also has "wink" as ウインク (uinku) even though the explanation directly above it says the イ should be small. This is most likely a typing error, and should actually be ウィンク.

Now the awesome part of both the hiragana and katakana pages are the Silverlight-based flashcards and quizzes. These are GREAT study resources. Both offer several options to customize the flashcards and quizzes to what suits your level of learning. For both the flashcards and the quizzes, you can choose what you want on each side of the card (usually audio, romaji or kana), if you want just hiragana, katakana or both, and if you want to include the extended sets. Both the ease of use and the customization possible makes both of these great ways to study if you have some extra free time on the net.

Moving on to the Kanji page, there's a lot more information to take in. The top menu is the same as that for katakana, and there is a side menu for each of the different subsections. One main difference between this and the kana pages is that all the information is on one page. All the explanations about On readings and the Kun readings, as well the difference between the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and "daily use" kanji lists, are on the same page, one after the other. While this may seem daunting, do not worry. The side menu takes you to each section of explanation separately so you don't have to scroll through the whole page if you don't want to. The "Special Notes" page gives more in depth explanation for the different readings, which I find to be a very good set of explanations. It's still a bit basic, but it's better than just saying "On is the Chinese pronunciation and Kun is the Japanese" like many resources tend to do.
The "List" page has lists of not only the "daily use" kanji separated by grade level, but also lists for all four levels of the JLPT. Once again, another great resource! Both sets of lists have the kanji, stroke count, English meaning, On reading and Kun readings. The readings are written in both kana and in romaji for easy learning. All the lists are pretty long, but it's a good set up to start with. Only thing I would probably find to be a neat addition would be if they allowed the learning to organize the kanji list by stroke order if they so wanted, though that would probably be pretty difficult to code into the site.
Flashcards and quizzes work much like the ones for kana, giving you options of what you want on both sides of the card (or on the quiz) and what lists you want to use. I approve!
The resource section for the kana and kanji pages list suggested books, which for some reason fail to show up on Firefox, but show up on IE just fine. They also all list some suggested websites for more information if you're still craving for more.

Once you get through briefing yourself on kana and kanji, you can move on to the vocabularly lists provided on the drop-down menu. There are nine lists of nouns ranging from animals to food, to time and weather. There is also a list of simple verbs and another of adjectives. All the lists are set up similarly: English, Romaji, Kana, Kanji, sound clip. Several words list the rarely-used kanji, which is nice because it's hard to pick them up as they aren't seen in writing as much anymore. Good way to impress people in Japan is to use kanji that no one uses anymore! For the most part, the vocabulary is very useful and contains many words that are used on a daily basis. There are a few where there's only one English meaning listed, but there are other uses for the same word/kanji, so be careful. If you go into this site knowing that one particular word can be used in several different contexts to mean several different things, you're fine. Usually the different meanings are similar, so you should be able to figure it out on your own later as your studying progresses. The one good thing about only having one meaning listed is it makes the flashcard and quiz functions less confusing. You don't have to guess which meaning the card or quiz wants as the answer.

Last subsection of the Language menu is Grammar. These currently are mainly in romaji, and are super-simplified in their explanations. They also commonly mistakenly list particles (like は wa, が ga, and を wo) as prepositions. Prepositions are things like above, under, next to. Don't get confused! Overall, the grammar offers good explanations, though simple. For true beginners, this may be a good way to start, but possibly slightly confusing. The sentence structure section is one of those that kind of makes sense, but kind of doesn't. There's too much in one section, and I would suggest possibly shortening it into smaller subsections to further explain how subjects and objects are used in Japanese grammar.
Overall, the grammar sections seem to be very well done. There are a few mistakes or things left out (like I saw 3000 written as sansen and 688 as roku-hyaku hachi-juu hachi. The bolded areas are wrong. 3000 should be sanzen and 688 should be roppyaku hachi-juu hachi and the explanation for why several numbers change sounds was mainly left out). The pages on particles give pretty easy to understand explanations, and there is pretty fair amount of detailed explanation for the particle に ni. There are also fairly good brief introductions to basic counters and the types of verbs in Japanese. Even the verb conjugation sections are well-thought out, putting each type of verb on it's own page. Currently the verb conjugation only has polite present and past tenses, but I'm sure it will fill out to include all verb conjugation in the future. The adjective section splits the adjectives into common -i and -na adjectives, which is common for most textbooks. They even point out that the colors that don't end as -i take の no instead of な na to become adjectives.
The section about "treating adjectives as verbs" maybe be a bit confusing, however. In Japanese, adjectives are often conjugated into past or negative tenses, and not the final です desu. This site refers to this as "treating adjectives as verbs" when many textbooks will refer to it as "adjective conjugation". Either way, same process. They use this section to teach not only how to conjugate -i adjectives, but also how to conjugation the copula, です desu, for use with -na adjectives. Picking up how to conjugate the copula here is nice, but I kind of wish I had seen the explanation for the copula on it's own as well.

Right now the grammar section seems a bit sparse, but if once there are more in depth explanations, I'm sure it'll be a decent resource to check your understand of how Japanese grammar works. I just hope that eventually there will be sections for intermediate and advanced grammar as well!

If you need a break from language learning, the site also offers information on several cultural topics. These are broken into categories of food, places, activities and customs. Within each of these are introductions to several well-known areas of Japanese culture. Give these a read-through if you have the chance. You may find out something you didn't know! I totally recommend the one about geisha. If we're lucky, this section will expand to hold information about areas of Japanese culture that aren't as well known to the Western world, as well as expanding on areas that are prone to misconceptions around the world.

While the site is still just starting, it's looking promising. Clicking on the Community menu will take you to the start page of their forums, which seem to not have opened for public use yet. It looks like once the forums are up and running, they will be quite useful resources as they are carefully planned out and organized to be used in conjunction with each section of the website.

Overall, I like where this site is headed. I like the ease which one can use the quizzes and flashcards, and I like how simply designed the site is. It's not cluttered with too much information on one page, and there aren't advertisements everywhere. It's a nice, simple resource that shows a lot of promise. Hopefully once the site is fully up and has more to offer, I'll be able to review it again to see how it's progress has come along!
Yeah, I know. Two months without a post.

I have tons of excuses but I won't bore you with any.

So until I have a break in classes today and can finish the review I'm in the middle of, here a link to my new photo blog chronicling the growth of my cat, Odin.

He's cute and fluffy, and hopefully will help me improve my photography.
I really need to start setting a day aside and seriously start writing this blog.
I can only blame my boss for requiring me to update from the office (which I hardly go to) anymore. If she wants this updated, then I'm going to start doing it from home!

So, here goes another try at updating this regularly!

Today, instead of a review of a website, I'd like to introduce you all to Nagaragawa Garou, or Gallery Naragagawa.

Nagaragawa Garou is an art dealer run by the husband of one of my private students, Mr. Susumu Tsuchiya. The three floor building houses a gallery of traditional and modern Japanese art (Outre) on the first floor, the dealer office on the second floor, and a hanging scroll workshop (Nagaragawa Koubou) on the third floor.

Nagaragawa Garou deals mainly in hanging scrolls, called kakejiku (掛け軸). There is a strong focus on Zen Buddhist calligraphy scrolls, particularly those done by a local Gifu artist named Hisamatsu Shinichi (久松真一), but there is also painted scrolls and oil paintings available for sale.

While their prices do seem relatively cheap compared to other kakejiku dealers, they are still pricey. Scrolls are priced anywhere from $300 up to over $1000. However, the service is great for the price. International shipping is available, and Mr. Tsuchiya is always willing to answer any questions about a particular scroll, the care and conservation of a scroll, and the Japanese art world in general. Many scrolls come with a tomobako (友箱), a wooden box made specifically for the scroll, and with the title of the scroll painted on the lid by the artist. If a scroll does not have a tomobako, Mr. Tsuchiya will include one in the price. You can request a newly-made box, or he can choose an aged one out of his collection of wooden storage boxes. Recently a purchase was made, and Mr. Tsuchiya included a small book containing a collection of works by the same artist for no extra costs. This doesn't happen with all purchases, but he likes to make sure that the purchase is one you will never regret.

I can't really say much about the gallery, Outre. I've only been in it once or twice. It's quite a small area, but there are always interesting works of art on the walls. I'd say about 90% of the works showcased in the gallery are traditional scrolls, but there is always a mix of traditional and contemporary. The gallery is self-serve; there is no one to greet you, no curator waiting to answer your questions. There is a automated recording that welcomes you to the gallery when you walk in, and an intercom up to the Koubou if you should have any questions.

At the Koubou, you can have several things done:
  1. Have an old scroll repaired as is
  2. Have an old scroll demounted (i.e. take off the backing paper and the border fabric), cleaned/repaired, then remounted with the original fabric
  3. Have an old scroll demounted, cleaned/repaired, then mounted in new fabric
  4. Have a new work of art/calligraphy mounted onto a scroll
  5. Have several works of art/calligraphy mounted onto a folding screen (this is a rare one)
Nagaragawa Koubou is unique as it is the only kakejiku workshop that does everything by hand. Nowadays, most mounting of scrolls is done by machines which gets everything done a lot more quickly. There's no pride in that, so Nagaragawa Koubou does everything by hand, the traditional way. All the paper used is also made locally in Mino City, just Northeast of Gifu. Mino, as I mentioned in one of my first posts, is known for it's traditional rice paper, washi (和紙).
They even use the traditional Japanese measuring system of bu (分), sun (寸), and shaku (尺). One sun is about 33mm/1.3in. Ten bu make up one sun, and ten sun make up one shaku. Most scrolls are about two shaku in length upon completion.

One reason I have been having trouble finding time to update this blog is that I have started helping out at the Koubou in my free time. This past Tuesday I was at the Koubou for a few hours and was able to take some pictures of the process. However, I was unable to get any pictures of the demounting, cleaning/repairing and remounting of scrolls. I hope to get that sometime after the Obon holiday (a post of that later this weekend, I promise). I also just realized I don't have any photos of the actual scroll bars being attached. Next time I'll make sure to get some and put them up!

Anyway, on to the pictures!

Scrolls waiting to be glued together

The fabric used as a border around the scrolls

Scrolls getting their fabrics picked out

An old Buddhist scroll, at least 100 years old, if not older

Close up of the scroll

Close up of the fuutai (風帯). We know this scroll is old because the borders and fuutai are all hand-painted

An old scroll of a Buddhist mandala waiting to be repaired

Putting glue onto the backing paper

Picking up the backing paper on a wooden stick. This is hard to do!

Phew! Got it all off the table and onto the stick without ripping!

Putting the paper on the fabric. The same process is used with backing not only the border fabrics, but also a finished scroll.

Brushing the paper on flat

Once the paper is on, it's back on the stick to transport it to the drying board

Affixing the scroll/fabric to the drying board

What a scroll looks like while drying

Once a scroll is dried, it's carefully peeled off

Finished scroll! All it needs are the bars, fuutai, and the cord!

Futai! I made these myself! The two red ones on the left are for Buddhist-style scrolls. The rest are for Japanese-style.

This fuutai is securely sewed in place!

Attaching the cord. I get to do this, too.

After the scroll is finished, the back of it gets "massaged" to soften up the backing paper. This is done with wax and a beaded cord:
Wax that looks like marble

Beaded cord!

What the back looks like when it's finished.

After that, it's rolled up, put in it's box, and packed up for shipping!

If you have any interest in owning a traditional Japanese scroll, I completely suggest looking at Nagaragawa Garou. You won't be unsatisfied.
What I'm trying to do currently is convince Mr. Tsuchiya (with the help of his wife) to start selling cheaper scrolls as well. Mr. Tsuchiya goes to several art auctions ever month and ends up with a lot of scrolls that "can't be sold" as they either end up to be prints or unsigned by the artists. Hopefully, one day, we will convince him that there is a market willing to purchase these for decent prices, and he'll stop throwing them out.