Finished!

I finished reading my first novel in Japanese yesterday! I am quite excited about it. Last November I wrote about receiving a Japanese translation of Little House in the Big Woods. Yesterday morning, I had two pages to go before the last chapter. I read the those pages and went on to finish the last chapter! The last chapter was rather short, but I think it was the most I have read so far in one sitting in Japanese!

SAMSUNGWhile reading, I made the decision not to stop and look up new words, but to highlight them to look up later. I know that there are some that cringe at the idea of marking up a book, but I think that this book felt big and important to be studied so diligently. After I finish looking up the words, I intend to go back and use this book for reading aloud.

This series is my spouse’s favorite childhood series, and she knows it almost by heart. This has been quite helpful in that I have been able to check my comprehension by telling her what I thought happened. The only trouble has been that at times, she has gotten so excited that she has told me what will be coming up before I have stopped her.

In celebration of my completion, my spouse and I played with the paper dolls she bought me a while ago, when she visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum in Missouri on the way to visit her mother and brother. Then we went out for lunch.

SAMSUNGToday, I started the next book in the series, 大草原の小さな家, Little House on the Prairie, which my spouse gave me for my birthday this year. This one is a different translation using the older Helen Sewell illustrations. Hopefully, my Japanese has improved enough that I will be able to get through this one a little faster, although it does look a little harder than the first book. It is exciting, though.

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Slowing Down

Last week, a new book came in the mail.  My spouse had purchased it for me as a gift.  The book was 大きな森の小さな家, or the Japanese translation of Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This happens to be one of her favorite childhood books, and she has been reading the series again.  It was quite exciting really.  The Japanese company that sold it also sent along a little card, saying ありがとう (Thank you), stickers, and a little origami star.  I thought that was so very sweet and wonderful.

???????????????????It seemed like a good place to start my Japanese novel reading.  The thought of rediscovering reading again is quite exciting.  Although, it may seem strange reading a translation of an American novel as a starting point, but it feels “right” somehow.  Strangely enough, I do not know if I actually have read this book before, and if I have, I do not remember it.  It seems like something that I *should* read, and I am really focusing Japanese, with little time leftover to read fiction in English.  This book is a bit beyond my Japanese level; however, it is possible if I work hard, I think.

On the practical side, my spouse has already been helpful in checking whether I am comprehending what I am reading.  She has read this books so many times, she almost has it memorized.  It seems safer to ask her (and let her quiz me) then to check the English version myself.

It is exciting, but it is very slow, and I think it will likely take a long time (I have only gotten through a few pages, highlighting the many, many words I do not know).  This is interesting because my spouse has talked about being able to read these books in an afternoon (in English, of course).    My spouse and I have lots and lots of books, and I am used to being able to consume books very quickly.  Yet, if I am to have any hope of anything beyond a vague comprehension of this book, I will have to savor this book and spend a lot of time with it.

All of this has made me realize how much learning a new language has made me slow down.  As a part of my studies, I have been watching a great deal of Anime.  Yet, I am watching it is a much different way than I have watched anything in the past.  I have several series of Anime going right now, yet I am taking each one rather slowly, watching each episode between two and four times, in different ways.  There was a time I could watch an entire series in a few weeks, but now for each series, I am not even really managing an episode a week.

I think I am grateful for this slowing down.  I am finding I am appreciating everything so much more that I am unable to rush through it.  I find myself thinking about the other books in this series, and realizing, well, it will be quite some time before I get to them.  The one I have will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.  Then I find myself treasuring my new book and carrying it around with me, even when I am not reading it.  I am excited to be making friends with book all over again!

Why Japanese?

For many months now, I have been deeply immersed in the study of Japanese.  Indeed, I probably spend at minimum of 3 to 4 hours a day actively studying and at least another 3 or 4 hours with Japanese media in the background while I do other tasks.

I have to admit to feeling a little awkward when people ask me what I have been doing lately.  I explain that I have been deeply engaged in the study of Japanese.  I often get asked the questions, “Why Japanese?” and “What are you going to DO with it?”

Those questions are a bit tricky to answer as at the moment, I am not really sure of THE reason for Japanese, if in fact, THE reason exists.  I seem to have been led in this direction, and I have learned from long experience that the Fairies often give us information on a “need to know” basis.  Still, they are trustworthy, and it is generally best to follow where they lead.

That being said, there seem to be lots of reasons, and more and more reasons become manifest every day.  It occurred to me that some of the reasons are deeply intertwined with the journey that this blog has been documenting.

Language is far more fundamental to our being than many of us realize.  Not only is language a means of communication, but it shapes they way we think and look at the world.  Many English speakers, especially English speakers in the U.S., never learn another language.  Most people take one or two years of another language in high school and/or college, but that is not the same thing as actually learning a language.  I took two years of French in high school, but I really do not remember anything from it.  In order to truly learn a language, one must really embrace it, and I think that embracing a new language really changes a person on a fundamental soul level.

I have noticed many changes in myself over the past several months.  It is hard to really describe the changes, but I think that overall, Japanese has softened me.  I have noticed that I feel gentler and more quiet inside.  While I my Japanese is not yet at the level that I can think in Japanese, or at least not for very long, it has stilled my inner monologue considerably.  Even in English, I have noticed that my voice has become softer, and I feel less pressured in social situations.  I have also felt safer when out and about, as if Japanese has formed a protective shield around me.

vlcsnap-2014-09-06-01h18m25s84On this blog, I have written many articles about the Image Sphere.  As part of my studies, I have been consuming a great deal of media in Japanese.  As the reader may know, I had already been watching Anime with English subtitles, but watching them in Japanese (even at my level of Japanese) is a much different experience.  Even in English, the shows were gentler and cleaner than anything I have seen in Western media, particularly recent Western media.  Yet, watching them in Japanese makes even the English translations seem course.  (Cure Dolly wrote an article about the difficulty of translation between Japanese and English that can be found here).

Are any of these things THE reason for studying Japanese?  I do not know.  Yet, I do think that they are very good reasons.  What I am going to DO with Japanese?  I do not know that either.  What am I doing with Japanese now?  I am learning and letting my soul be reshaped by this language.

Field Trip

Last week, I went on a field trip with my spouse to a Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa Marketplace, which is about an hour and a half from where I live.  It was a lot of fun!  It had a grocery store, a food court, a bookstore, a bakery, and a video store.  It was all very exciting.

2014-07-18 14.46.37I tried chicken katsu (“chicken cutlet”) for the first time, and I really liked it a lot!  I also tried the Miso soup that went along with it.  One of my faults is being a bit of a finicky eater, so I was not sure how I would manage, but I really liked it a lot.  It was also a bit exciting, in that tonkatsu (“pork cutlet”) was a vocabulary word, and it has now changed from being a word on a list to memorize to a real food in my mind!  I also had matcha (green tea) soft serve ice cream for the first time.  It was definitely something quite new, but I think I liked it!

I have to admit to being a bit overwhelmed.  The marketplace was HUGE, with so many wonderful things.  We were a bit short on money, and I have to admit that this was probably a good thing, as it would have been quite easy to spend a fortune there.  I had to keep reminding myself that we can always go back later.  We ended up settling on a few food items, including an okonomiyaki mix and Anpaman cookies.  We also went to the bakery and brought home Melonpan and Kuremupan, which were both quite tasty.

SAMSUNGThe bookstore was truly amazing, with many, many books in Japanese.  I had thoughts of getting a grammar book for Japanese children, a kanji practice workbook, a book of knitting or crocheting patterns in Japanese.  There were just so MANY books, I just could not decide, so I ended up not buying any of these things and settling on the Sailor Moon manga in Japanese.

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I felt slightly guilty that I did not buy something more directly educational or supportive of my studies, but I am very much enjoying reading the manga.  The new Sailor Moon series, Sailor Moon Crystal seems to be following the manga quite closely, so it is fun to be reading the manga while following the series.

Ganbatte Kudasai!

I have been studying Japanese lately, and I am finding Japanese a very interesting language in many ways.  One of the things that is so interesting is that there are words for concepts that are not expressed easily in English.  One of these words is ganbaru, which roughly translates to “doing one’s best” or “hard work.”

One of the things that is quite interesting is that in Japanese the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai!” is used in a similar context that the phrase “Good luck!” would be used in English, and is said when someone is about to undertake a difficult task or some other endeavor.  The rough translation of “Ganbatte kudasai!” is “Please do your best!”

Akane-chan GanbaruI have to say that I really like this usage.  It says so much that is very important, I think.  It is especially important for the work of reclaiming our Hestia as an important and even sacred space.  I am not sure about anyone else, but I know that I have compared myself to others and felt that I am not good enough or organized enough to undertake such a journey.  I was certainly not able to do much around the house when I had a demanding career outside the home.  I was (and still am) in awe of women that are able to raise children, have a job outside the house, and still maintain a semblance of order in their home.  There is a lot of pressure on women to be able to do it all, and do it all well, in the present day and age.

As you can see from previous articles, even now that I am winding down my previous career and even without children, I am having trouble with juggling my projects and endeavors.  The phrase and the concept behind the phrase, “Ganbatte kudasai,” is really quite helpful.

This concept is important because it helps me remember that the important thing is doing my best.  I am sure that I am not alone in worrying whether my best will be “good enough.”  There are so many expectations placed on us, both by our world and by ourselves.  It is easy to say, “Oh, this is impossible.  I will never be good enough, so why bother.”  The concept of ganbaru is so helpful with this.  The important thing is not the result; the important thing is that I am doing my best!

This may seem quite strange for us, but I am learning that in Japanese culture, ganburu is actually an abstract concept, which is not related to any particular activity.  I think, though, that there was a time when this was understood even in the West.  I remember as a child, we would get separate grades for effort.  I do not know if this is still the case, but I do know that I have heard that scoffed at, with the idea that it is achievement, not effort, that is what is important.

Yet, I think that there really is a value to effort and to doing our best, regardless of result!  I am thinking of my days in school…at every level from elementary to graduate studies.  There was something satisfying about doing my best in a class that was very difficult for me, and that getting a B (or even lower grade) in a difficult class was much more satisfying to me than getting even the top grade in a class that was easy.  Indeed, it sometimes felt embarrassing to get a good grade in a class that I had not worked very hard at.

I have gone on a little bit of a tangent here, but I think that this concept and idea really is important.  The idea of this blog is not to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed or that they are “less than.”  Our society has a funny attitude around the home.  It is considered shameful if our homes are not in order; however, efforts to maintain our homes are not valued.  I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “So, what are you going to do all day?” when I have talked about closing my business.  Some are satisfied when I talk about starting an astrology practice, but when I say that I am going to be a housewife, the looks are quite dismissive.  It is almost like people think  that houses maintain themselves by magic, or something.  It really is a lot of work!

So, in the face of all of that, I think remembering the concept of ganbaru is so important.  It is not expected that anyone is perfect, just that she is doing her best!

So, to all my readers….”Ganbatte kudasai!”

And for myself, “Ganbarimasu!”  (“I will do my best.”)

For more about the concept of ganbaru, here are some wonderful articles on the subject:

Precure, Preschool, Ganbaru, and the Way

The Happy Prince, Selflessness, and Ganbaru

Japanese Training–Natto, Rice Grains, and Speech

There is also a new blog that has been started by a friend of mine about learning Japanese, if anyone is interested:

Profoundly Kawaii Japanese