Clubhouse: Great tool for Japanese learners looking to improve fast

You can learn Japaense on Clubhouse!

Clubhouse can be a great tool for language learners. You can find clubs where people are casually speaking your target language, and you can find rooms that are set up to actively help people learn the language. Here are some Japanese-language clubs that I have found to be entertaining and useful.

Note, Clubhouse is still invite only, but most people have tons of invites. If you want to join and need an invite let me know your Twitter handle and I will hook you up.

朗読【日本昔ばなし】クラブ

朗読【日本昔ばなし】クラブ / Reading Japan Folk Tales Out-loud Club

This club has talented native Japanese speakers reading traditional Japanese folk tales. As many Japanese Folk Tales are very old, thus in the public domain, if you look you can probably find the text online to read along yourself.

J-E Translator’s Club

J-E Translator’s Club

The J-E Translator’s Club is just a bunch of people in the J-E translation industry chatting about translation. Most of the people who join are native Japanese speakers. They discuss interesting things on occasion. One time I heard that apparently in Japanese when you make a good shot in basketball someone may say ナイスシュート but in golf they would say ナイスショット. In English, we say “nice shot” for both.

にほんごではなそう

Nihongo de Hanasou / Let’s speak Japanese

This club is a bunch of Japanese, many of whom are Japanese teachers, who gather to speak about teaching Japanese online, and invite Japanese learners to practice their Japanese with them. They are all very generous and patient.

ENJOY 日本語発音 CLUB

Enjoy Nihongo Hatsuon Club / Enjoy Japanese Pronunciation Club

The title of this club is to enjoy Japanese pronunciation. In reality, sometimes the teacher does a reading from a text. Sometimes the “students” in the room talk about some topic in Japanese. Something that alway happens though, is that the host goes around the room and asks everyone to contribute something.

ARIGATO CLUB

Arigato Club

This club is a straight up teacher-led Japanese lesson. The teacher is @mrmonaka and he speaks carefully and slowly the first time through the lessons. He really is a professional, and sometimes I wonder why people take the time to run these lessons. I guess it’s for the love of the game. He works from a textbook, and will ask the audience to read along with him. Probably the most structured Clubhouse-based Japanese lesson I have mentioned on this page.

関西弁 話さへんか?!

関西弁 話さへんか?! / Won’t you speak Kansai-ben with us?

From what I have gathered, this club is just a bunch of people speaking Kansai-ben together. They love it when others from western Japan join and chat with them, and they welcome foreigners who are interested in Kansai dialect for any reason. I enjoy listening in on this one, even though they do not discuss any topic in particular.

That’s a wrap! Clubhouse really is a great too for language learners. You can pop into a room of people discussing whatever in your target language, and just hang out. It’s good stuff. Try it out, might be fun!

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Japanese Lesson from Games: てんやわや

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Monster Hunter Rise, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

もう周辺はてんやわんや!

Japanese: もう周辺はてんやわんや!

Hiragana: もうしゅうへんはてんやわんや!

Romaji: mou shuuhen wa tenya wanya!

てんやわんや is a very fun, sort of old sounding expression that means that everything is topsy-turvy, chaotic, upside down and hectic. The word 周辺 just means this area, or “around here,” and もう technically means “already.” The friendly dango seller is just saying that “things are so crazy and hectic around here! (Because a Osaizuchi has appeared around the shrine ruins .)

Another note on Monster Hunter Rise, in this version of Monster Hunter you can play with anyone worldwide. The previous Nintendo release of Monster Hunter, MH Generations and MH XX, were separate games so if you bought your game in the US it was only English and you couldn’t play with players in Japan. In Monster Hunter Rise lobby creators have an option to restrict their lobbies to people from the same “language” — which seems to really mean which country’s Nintendo Online subscription the person is on. Oh Japan… linking language with country again as if it is a worldwide phenomenon… But I digress. Enjoy playing international Monster Hunter!

Let’s find some tenyawanya in the wild!

Here is a movie from the 1950s called Tenyawanya.

てんやわんや」from 1950
Shizuko Kasagi – Listen at 0:25 「今日は朝から 私のお家はてんやわんやの 大騒ぎ」

Japanese Lesson from Games: Pearl Before Pig

Time for another language pick up from a Nintendo Switch game! This time it’s from GNOSIA, the single-player social deduction game modeled after the popular social game Werewolf.

豚に真珠ってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Japanese: 豚に真珠ってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Hiragana: ぶたにしんじゅうってことにならなきゃいいけどね

Romaji: buta ni shinjyu tte yatsu ni naranakya ii kedo ne

豚に真珠 (buta ni shinjyu) might be one of the first Japanese proverbs that a student of the Japanese language will learn. However, to see it in the wild is a rare treat so I made sure to grab this screen shot.

The expression is often translated as “pearl before pig,” and means to give a pearl to a pig. The meaning comes from the thought, what would a pig do with something as valuable as a pearl even if you gave it to it? The pearl is such a great thing, but in the pig’s hands it becomes useless — the pig does not understand its value. Kind of like if you gave me the greatest sashimi knife ever created… I don’t know how to prepare sushi, I don’t know anything about the value or quality of knives, so what would I do with it?

The later half of the sentence, ってことにならなきゃいいけどね can be broken down as… ってことis referring to the preceding 豚に真珠 pointing to it as the topic. にならなきゃ is short form of にならなければwhich is “if it doesn’t become that.” And finally, いいけどね “would be good.” So, the character is saying something like, “well it would be great if this doesn’t become a pearl before pig sort of situation…” The previous sentence is talking about how one of the other characters has a special ability of being an engineer in the game… and the character speaking is doubting their ability. That’s too much game mechanics to explain here though.

Good stuff! I really enjoyed this game. If you’re looking for a classically structured JRPG to play on your Switch, I can confidently recommend this one. It’s not a game you’re likely to sit down and play for an hour in one sitting, but it’s great in short bursts!

Remember, if you want to play this game in Japanese you have to get it on the Japanese eShop. The US eShop version of Gnosia does NOT have the Japanese text available, so if you want to play this in Japanese you’ll need to get the Japanese version. A lot of games for the Switch are truly region free and will switch languages based on your system settings, but Gnosia, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

Okonomiyaki THICC

Okonomiyaki is a staple food in Osaka. You can buy it any of the countless okonomiyaki shops, and most families have tried and true home recipes that they have used for years.

Homemade Okonomiyaki with rice
You can see the rice in this Okonomiyaki. Hefty.

The whole point of okonomiyaki is that you can put pretty much whatever you want inside. The Japanese word “okonomi” お好み means “as you like,” and that’s where the name comes from. I’ve seen okonomiyaki stores that allow you to insert mochi (rice cake), cheese, egg, as well as the usual stuff. Different regions of Japan are known for doing different things, like Hiroshima is famous for stuffing noodles inside of their okonomiyaki.

This was a homemade creation at my Kansai family’s home.

Homemade Okonomiyaki with rice
That’s a hefty Okonomiyaki

What’s the most surprising thing you have seen in an Okonomiyaki?

Try making it at home! Might be fun!

How to make Okonomiyaki (recipie)
How To Make Traditional Okonomiyaki Easily At Home

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Japanese Lesson from Games: One or two habits

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Octopath Traveler, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

Octopath Traveler - hitokuse futakuse
hoka mo hito kuse futa kuse aru renchuu da!

Japanese: 一癖二癖ある

Hiragana: ひとくせふたくせある

Romaji: hito kuse futa kuse aru

It seems this is usually 一癖も二癖もある hito kuse mo futa kuse mo aru and means a person with a very unusual and quirky personality, normally used in a negative context.

There’s actually a lot of good Japanese in this screenshot. You’ll see the speaker is labeled as 客引き kyakuhiki which is often translated as a ‘tout’ but is basically someone who works to attract customers to buy their products, usually by calling out to them.

突如 totsujyo means ‘suddenly’, and isn’t a phrase I was familiar with.

連中 renchuu is a somewhat casual way to refer to a person or a group of people. It’s often used in a slightly negative context, but not always.

Good stuff! I really enjoyed this game. If you’re looking for a classically structured JRPG to play on your Switch, I can confidently recommend this one.

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

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Monster Hunter Rise Ultra Basics

I am not a Monster Hunter expert by any means, but I have attempted to introduce many friends to the game. The action-packed epic battles, the nerdy customization, the cool aesthetic… and it’s multiplayer so I want people to play it with! Here are some answers to common questions I get about this somewhat obtuse game that I love so much.

Image of the many items in Monster Hunter
What do I do with all this stuff? Good thing the Item Box is bottomless!

What do I do with all these items???

You’ll collect dozens (dozens!) of items during your quests that will end up sitting in your supply box. Now what? The answer is that you let them sit there until you need them.

When it comes to many items, you won’t even know what they are for, or why you have them. Random monster fur? What’s that do? Eventually, you will need these to craft some armor, a weapon, or some other item to help you with a hunt. You do not need to consider selling off all your random items for money. In this game, money will rarely be the obstacle preventing you from getting what you need, but rare items are hard to come by! Hang on to your items and you’ll be thankful later when you’re off to craft new gear!

Monster Hunter View of Liolaeus from a Cliff
Monster Hunter View of Rathian from a Cliff

The quest is to hunt this monster, but there are so many other monsters on the map too, what do I do about them?

Your goal is to complete the main quest goal. If you don’t complete that goal in the allotted time then your quest will fail and most of your progress for that time will be lost.

So what about the other monsters? In short, if you have the time, you can hunt and carve them for items. That’s it. Nothing else that you do to them will count for anything. So either ignore them, or take them out and get the loot.

Monster Hunter Weaponsmith
He can make many weapons, but which one is for you?

Which weapon should I use?

It may help to think of Monster Hunter as a game like Street Fighter. They are both made by Capcom after all. In Street Fighter when you change your character your entire move set changes, and the strategy that you use to win should also change. Monster Hunter is like that in regards to weapons. Each weapon will dramatically change what the buttons do and how you play the game.

For example, with the long sword you get relatively close and slice and dice. A meter builds up and you can unleash a power attack. With the bow you stay back at a distance and try to line up power shots whenever possible. You’ll press and hold a button to charge up a shot. You also need to have coatings, that can make your arrows poison tipped or explosive, and you’ll change them on the fly in the field.

There is no right answer to which weapon one should use. They are all competitive and it’s up to you to decide which you enjoy the most. For something not as fiddly, try the hammer or long sword. For something more technical, try one of the bows or gunlance. The possibilities are endless!

Monster Hunter Rise Chat Menus
So many menus!

The menu maze is endless… what do I do with a ll these gestures and the camera and poses and fixed phrases and stuff?

You don’t need to do anything with them. It’s just for fun. Worry about it later!

Try Hunting! Might be fun!

Love this Zelda Boss Key Charm from Fandom Regalia – The Best Gamer Swag

Fandom Regalia is a company in Toronto that makes high-quality jewelry around geek themes ranging from Mario to Star Trek. I have started a small collection of sterling silver charms for my keychain. The stuff at Fandom Regalia is mainly meant for necklaces, but I’ll do me you do you.

Keychain
Added some bling to my keychain.

They have many attractive items. As someone who likes video games in particular, I was interested in the Mario Mushroom, the Zelda Boss Key, and the Mario Boo. I ended up going with the Large Zelda Boss Key, mainly because it is a larger size, and it is double-sided while many of the other designs have a flat back. It’s also one of those icons where, if ya know ya know — while if you don’t know, it still looks interesting.

Boss Key!

Ordering was easy and shipping was quick. When arrived it was more detailed than I had imagined. It was also smaller than I imagined, but that’s just silly because the measurements are on the website, and I checked them against a ruler before I ordered. Rest assured it’s sized as documented! The other charms that I have on my keychain are all larger, so it just looks small in comparison. If a double-sized XL Boss Key were ever created, I think I would jump on that.

Check out their stuff, might be fun!

Fandom Regalia on Facebook, and on their official website.

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Der Clou: Roll & Heist – A Print and Play Board Game

Der Clou: Roll & Heist is a solo or cooperative print and play roll and write board game. That was a mouthful. All you need to play is to print out a few files, a pencil, and three six-sided dice.

A snapshot of part of one of the character sheets

BoardGameGeek.com rates this game highly. It’s definitely worth a look, especially since it’s free!

To put it simply, in this game you will find yourself rolling dice, and deciding how to use the values to carry out a heist. Get as much loot as you can to maximize your score before you run out of time and set off the alarms. There are different characters and character sheets, and different scenarios which adds to the replayability.

Here’s a thorough review by someone who has played the game several times.

Ready to give it a try? Head over to the official English page for Der Clou: Roll & Heist or BoardGameGeek site to download the files you need, print, and play!

Here’s some videos featuring Der Clou: Roll & Heist.

If you’re looking for another print and play board game that is just a little less involved, try Raging Bulls that I blogged about before. It’s a solid game!

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Japanese Lesson from Games: 図太い bold

Fire Emblem Three Houses - Zubutoi
sasuga wa sensei, zubutoi ne

Japanese: 流石は先生、図太いね。

Hiragana:さすがはせんせい、ずぶといね。

Romaji: sasuga wa sensei, zubutoi ne.

Meaning: Bold, shameless, cheeky, brash.

I did not know the term zubutoi before encountering it here. This term can be used to both praise and criticize. It refers to someone who is bold and self-confident in their actions, not caring too much about what others may think of them. This person remains calm, cool, and collected, thus you’ll often see the word 平然 (heizen) used in the definition of zubutoi. You can probably understand why this could be taken in a negative sense in Japan, where society often drives individuals to think about how their actions might be taken by the entire group.

Fire Emblem Three Houses is FILLED with advanced Japanese phrases and vocabulary. The game is entirely voiced, and you can replay any dialog you want as long as you don’t leave the dialog sequence. The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Fire Emblem, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Look forward to more. This game is the gift that keeps on giving.

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How to properly handle a business card in Japan

Business cards in a Japanese context are important. Bring them. Receive them. Respect them.

Going to do business with a Japanese person? Learn how to handle business cards and how to follow business card etiquette.

Note, Japan is changing. Some companies are adopting Western business mannerisms, and Japanese who are overseas may take the “when in Rome” approach. Therefore some of these tips will not apply all of the time. However, those are still the rare exceptions. Most Japanese businesses and businessmen are traditional. Until you know who you are dealing with it is best to keep these tips in mind when doing business in Japan or with Japanese people.

The No Punches Pulled Executive Summary
When in Japan for business be sure to have plenty of business cards with you and store them in a business card case. When you receive someone’s business card treat it with the same respect you would treat one of that person’s treasured possessions that they have just handed you. Carefully watch what the other person does with your card for cultural cues on how you should handle theirs. It is possible to not only ruin a first impression, but also to personally offend someone by mishandling their business card.

View over Osaka from the top of Umeda Sky Building.
View over Osaka – Imagine the number of business card exchanges!

Seniority Matters, Learn the Dance
When you walk into a meeting in Japan with Japanese people normally everyone will stand up to exchange pleasantries and business cards. Normally it is expected that the highest ranking people from each party will exchange cards together first after being briefly introduced by a lower ranking person from the visitors group who already knows the hosts.

For example, say you are the highest ranking manager on a work trip and are visiting a new customer in Japan. You are accompanied by a lower ranking coworker who knows Japan and who perhaps was in charge of setting up the meeting so was in touch with the customer before your visit. When you enter the room, your coworker will try to identify the highest ranking counterpart on the customer side, and there will likely be a lower ranking person on the customer side doing the same thing in regards to your group. Once they have figured it out, which only takes a few seconds, someone will introduce you to the highest ranking person on their side and you will exchange business cards. Then, the number two person on your side will exchange with the same highest ranking customer, and so on, until everyone has been introduced to the highest ranking person. From there things often get a bit random until everyone in the room has exchanged cards.

Thanks for the free image @reshot_hq!

What I am I supposed to do with this card?
I was once with some Americans who had come to Japan for work and I was their host. I took them out to a fancy dinner at a place that I frequented and near the end of the meal the owner and chef came around to say hello and introduce themselves. This was in a part of Japan that doesn’t get many foreign guests, so the fact that I had brought other foreign friends in was sort of a big deal. Greetings and bows were exchanged, and of course, so were business cards. After we left the restaurant my friend looked at me incredulously and laughed, “What are you going to do with the chef’s business card?!” It was clear that he would never need to call or email the chef, he already had the shops card, he couldn’t speak Japanese and the chef didn’t speak English, so what’s the point?

Pragmatically there may not be a point. It’s a piece of paper that has someones name and contact information on it. You already have the same information in an email signature in many cases. However, in Japanese society, a meeting with someone in a professional environment is simply not complete without a business card exchange. One is expected to take that business card and use it to remember the person that you met.

The Second Meeting (Or is it the first…?)
You are expected to remember when you have previously received someone’s business card. One of the many embarrassing things one can do in a business setting with Japanese people is to pull out your business card case and prepare to exchange cards with someone with whom you have already exchanged cards with in the past. Even if you only met the person once in the last 6 months, it is still considered to be an insult if you have forgotten that you have already exchanged cards. It is equivalent to forgetting that you had met the person.

This is how a Japanese counterpart will interpret this unfortunate mistake.

  • They didn’t make an impression on you the first time you met.
  • You made no effort to remember them the first time you met.
  • You must not have spent any time reading their business card, or if it looked like you did, you were faking it.
  • You have forgotten that you had already met.
  • You didn’t remember their name or face.
  • If the person is more senior than you the negative impression will be enhanced.

The only time a Japanese person you have already met will offer you their business card a second time is if something significant on the card has changed. Then, when the cards are exchanged one person will often be heard saying that “oh, nothing has changed at all though, I’m still in the same (low) position.” Or, they will at least say something to indicate that they do in fact remember that you had already exchanged cards, they just wanted to give you another. They will make it clear that they realize you have already exchanged cards.

Pro Tip: If you often find yourself in Japanese-style business settings make a habit of asking your colleagues if there is likely to be anyone in the room you have already met. If there are, remember that, and instead of pulling out a business card greet them with a big smile and ask how they’ve been. You will instantly earn kudos.

Watch and Learn
As is often the case, the best way to figure out how you’re supposed to act is to watch and mimic. If after you exchange business cards if you sit down at a table, note what your counterpart does with the cards they have received.

The most traditional thing to do is to lay all of the cards for the people at the meeting face up on the table in front of you in rank order. This is only done in the most formal settings. It is normally not appropriate to stack all of the cards you have received on top of each other. It may be OK to put the card into your front shirt pocket, but watch what your counterpart does and and follow.

Card Incoming! Now what?

How Should I Receive the Card?The best place to store a business card you have just received is in a front short pocket.

Here’s a random list of things you should NOT do.

  • Don’t let the person see you put a business card you just received into your wallet or a pants pocket. 
  • Don’t spill anything on someones business card. If you do, apologize profusely and ask for another. Do not give the old one back.
  • Don’t hand someone your bent or dirty business card.
  • Don’t fiddle with someone’s business card.
  • Don’t let the person see you put their business card into a stack of other cards on your person.
  • Don’t let the person see you write on their business card.
  • Don’t fold business cards.

Business card culture in Japan is deep and has so many rules. Hopefully this article helps. Again, the best thing to do is watch and learn. Don’t do anything you haven’t seen your counterpart already do.

Good luck! Have a great business card life.

If you want to see some videos on business card exchange etiquette in Japan, search for “名刺交換” on YouTube.

This humorously highlights the contrast in Japanese and American card handling etiquette.
This is funny. When you pass the card to someone higher ranking, keep yours lower.