Monthly Archives: April 2016

A place to learn more about Hokusai

Although I’m very much into many facets of Japanese culture, one thing I need to spend some more time researching is some of the classic artists of Japan. Katsushika Hokusai (often just called ‘Hokusai’) is one of the most famous artists from the Edo period. It’s very likely you’ve come across his famous print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, which is a good display of his unique style.

I was happy to come across the Katsushika Hokusai site on Artsy the other day, which contains a detailed bio, over 85 of his works, exclusive articles, and even up-to-date Hokusai exhibition listings. If you look around the site you can find other nice gems, such as a list of suggested contemporary artists to help you continue in your Japanese art studies.

If you are a fan of Hokusai, or just want to learn more about traditional Japanese art, this is a good place to start.

(Image taken from here:


Japanese podcast review: “僕と、嫁さんと、息子と、ゲームと” (My wife, my son, games, and me)

In this post I’d like to discuss the Japanese podcast “僕と、嫁さんと、息子と、ゲームと” which I’ve been listening to almost every day during my commutes to work lately. (By the way, if you aren’t using podcasts to help supplement your Japanese studies, you’re missing out! You can see a few other of my podcast reviews here)

This podcast, translated as “My wife, son, games, and I”, is pretty true to it’s name: it involves a husband and wife talking about raising their child, along with discussions about games and gaming  in general. To be honest, the content itself isn’t that groundbreaking–if you are personally raising a child or are a gamer yourself, you won’t necessarily learn that much, though you’ll likely have many “そうだよね〜” moments where you nod in agreement as you listen. This is pretty much in line with the authors intentions, since they explicitly say at the beginning of each episode they are making these recordings as a memento of their lives so they can come back someday and remember how things were (“後から振り返るために”)

As someone studying Japanese as a foreign language, the great thing about this podcast is the medium, not the message. Though there are occasionally polite forms used, the conversation is between a husband and wife talking about things very personal to them, like how their son had to go to the hospital for some problem. They aren’t professional broadcasters either, nor are they aiming for the type of formal atmosphere, so you just get two people chatting naturally about everyday stuff. Once they start talking about a subject, they tend to stick to it for some time (though they sometimes go on a tangent), which helps Japanese learners understand the flow of conversation easier, especially when there are words or phrases you aren’t familiar with. Also, both of them are pretty expressive with a rich vocabulary of phrases, and that I always pick up new things from each episode.

For those of us learning Japanese that are trying to get away from stiff, formal, or unrealistic (from anime, etc.) language and hear “real” Japanese as it is spoken by everyday people, this is a real treasure trove. And if you are into raising children and games, like me, then it’s even better. I’d even go as far as to say that this is required listening for parents who are raising their son or daughter bilingual Japanese, but are not native speakers theirself.

So why not start listening now? Even for beginners who are still learning basic grammar and vocabulary, I think a few minutes of this day will work wonder to enrich your Japanese. There isn’t that many special terms used, and getting a good grasp of the language they use is essential for anyone considering (or currently) living in Japan, or just wanting to increase their conversational fluency.

You can check out their website here, and their iTunes link here. Skimming through it myself for the first time, I noticed that the father from this podcast is actually a big fan of another podcast I’ve reviewed previously.



Japanese phrase “~kara de” (〜からで)

I feel that particles (such as の、で、に) are the heart of the Japanese language, or at least a grammatical aspect of the language that is significantly different to languages such as English. I think it’s fair to say that without a very strong grasp of particles, one can never fully understand the subtleties of more advanced sentences.

I have previously written several articles about particle combinations (For example: へのではではならの), and when I had stumbled across the phrase “からで” (“kara de”) sometime back, I initially thought it was comprised of the particles から and で. However, further research shows that で used in this context is not actually a particle.

In any case, even though this expression isn’t too common, I feel that it’s good to learn because it’s unlikely to be in any textbooks you read. For those who are into grammar, like me, it’s just fun to learn more such expressions to fill in gaps of remaining knowledge.

So let’s see each of these words used on their own first, before we see them put together.

から (kara)

から can mean “from” (in the sense of “海から帰ってきた” = “I returned home from the beach”), however it is also commonly used after a verb or だ+noun/na-adjective to mean “because” or “so”. For example,

  • お腹がすいたから食べたい。
  • I’m hungry so I want to eat.

で (de)

で can be used as a particle to mean where an action is performed, or how it is performed (ex: “バス行った” – I went by bus), however we are more concerned with its meaning as a portion of the phrase “である”, which has the same meaning as the common word ”です” (namely “is”, and this is also called the copula). The difference is that when で is by itself without the ある portion, it still means “is”, but there is now a sense of something continuing after, in the same way that the “-te” form (i.e. 歩いて, “I walk and…”) can express an action followed by another action.

Let’s see an example of this usage since the above explanation may be a little hard to understand.

  • 僕はアメリカ人、彼は日本人です。
  • I am an american, and he is Japanese.

からで (kara de)

Now we come to what happens when we combine these two words. Fortunately, the resultant meaning is pretty straightforward–it’s simply the combination of the two words’ meanings.

Rather than make up my own example, I’ve decided to use a slightly more complex sentence taken from a Japanese book.

  • 錠がついているのは鍵をかける必要があるからで、それは郵便物が個人情報のかたまりであり、大切なものだからです。
  • The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked, and this is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important.

(Note: I’ve elected for a mostly literal translation here for the purposes of explaining the usage of からで. If I was doing this translation in a more formal setting I would tweak the wording and grammar to more accurately convey the meaning in a natural way)

In the above sentence, we can see からで is immediately following 〜必要がある (“there is a necessity to ~”) and it is used to explain a reason and then continue the sentence.

You may ask is such an expression really needed here, and the answer is that while it is not strictly needed to express meaning, it achieves a subtle but important difference in tone. This can be see in English as well, as in the following examples:

  • The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked, and this is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important.  [original sentence translated]
  • The reason there is a padlock attached is because it needs to be locked. This is because postal mail is a bundle of personal information and very important.  [translated sentence where ”からで” was replaced with “から” and then starting a new sentence]

Comparing these two passages, you can see they mean basically the same thing. However, the first one (single sentence) sounds a bit more wordy, and the second (broken up into two smaller sentences) sounds more basic. In the same way, I have seen ”〜からで” mostly used in academic or literary contexts, and never in everyday conversation.

Actually, “からで” can be used for other meanings besides “because… and…”. For example, in some cases the “から” can actually mean “from”:

  • 電話はお父さんからで、話したいことがあるんだって。
  • The phone call was from my dad, and he said he had something to talk about.

Since here the pattern “noun[お父さん] + から” is used (as opposed to “noun + だ+から”), you know ”から” is being used to mean “from”, not “because”.

Here is one final example (taken from this post):

  • 最初は友達からでいいんで付き合ってください。
  • Would you go out with me? I’m fine just starting as friends.

(Note: here I took a more non-literal approach to the translation since it’s difficult to convey the meaning with a literal translation)

In this case as well, “から” is being used to mean “from”, in the sense of “starting a relationship from being just friends”. The “で” is actually used here in the common “〜して(も)いい” pattern which is used to express or request permission to do something. (ex: “帰っていいですか?” = “Can I go home now?”). Saying “permission” is a bit extreme here since someone is actually talking about their own preference, so you can think of it more as “I’m OK with ~”.

Here is another translation of the above phrase, taking a more literal approach just so you can see how things fit together:

  • I am OK with starting from friends at first, so would you please go out with me.





Japanese book review: “Reserved Seat: Short short oukoku” by Jiro Akagawa

I had gotten a recommendation that Jiro Akagawa was a good author so I decided on trying his work “Reserved Seat: Short short oukoku” (指定席〜ショートショート王国)published by Kobunsha in 2012 (digital version in 2015), which is a compendium of 32 short stories. They are generally on the very short side, tending to be under 10 pages each. (“Oukoku” means “Kingdom”)

These stories are a mixed bag, in terms of both their topics as well as how much I enjoyed them. For example, “秘密の階段” (The secret steps) is about a boy that stumbles on a mysterious staircase in a relatives house which leads him to a revelation about his mother, and ”お茶が入るまで” (Until tea is ready) which is a poignant tale about a family’s attempt to end their suffering. One of my favorites is “二級天使”  (Second-rate angel) which describes a two-tiered hierarchy of Angels in heaven and the roles of each.

Common themes across many of the stories are everyday life, family, and escaping from some bad situation. The stories tend to be a mix of ironic and funny, and the closest thing I can compare their style to that you might be familiar with is the classic “Twilight Zone” series from the late 50s, early 60s. The main difference is that many Twilight Zone stories end on a sad, or mysterious note, whereas many of the stories in this set end on a more positive feeling.

After I finished reading this book, I did some research and found out that these stories were actually written using input from Akagawa’s fan club, where each topic (お題) was provided by one of his readers. It’s quite impressive that he can write up such creative stories using starting points from others. There is actually two other books in this series which are composed in the same way (see entire series here).

Linguistically, these stories generally have a very terse, simplistic style (文体が簡潔), with short sentences and paragraphs, which is great for those learning Japanese. After plowing slowly through “Downtown Rocket”, which has many difficult parts, this was a a breeze. The vocabulary of “Short short oukoku” is also pretty tame, and nearly all names have Furigana which avoid having to look up the pronunciation of each character’s name.

Due to the societal and family elements of these stories, those less familiar with Japanese culture will also probably learn a few interesting things. Like for example I discovered that there are names for many different Marriage anniversaries in Japan, with the 50th anniversary being called “金婚式” (Kinkonshiki). Their extra short length also makes them good bite-sized stories that you can hopefully read through each in a sitting or two, and then contemplate the significance of the story.

This work is available on places on Amazon Japan (Kindle and paper version), as well as other digital book sellers like Booklive.

Jiro Akagawa is actually a very prolific writer active since the 1970s, and I am considering trying out one of his novels someday (full list of his books).


Vocabulary list: Being sick in Japanese

Nobody loves being sick, but there is nothing worse than being sick except being sick where you can’t express how you feel to those around you.

This vocabulary list is about words related to not feeling well, and about getting better (the doctor, etc.) Many of them I have used myself in the real world.

I hope this list will be useful since often the details about being sick are left out from media like movies and novels unless it is critically important to the plot.

Note: some of these words listed as nouns can be used as verbs with “する” (ex: 採血、下痢、診断, 完治 etc.)

  • 顔色が悪い (kaoiro ga warui): (you) don’t look too good  [literally: face color is bad]
  • 風邪をひく(kaze wo hiku): to catch a cold    [Do not confuse with 風 which is pronounced ‘kaze’ but means ‘wind’)
  • 気持ち悪い (kimochi warui): to not feel good  [Technically not a verb, this phrase means something like “feelings are bad”]
  • 病気(byouki): sick  [Often refers to a more serious illness]
  • 重い (omoi): serious, as in a serious illness  [literally: “heavy”]
  • 精神病気 (seishin byouki): mental illness
  • 体調 (taichou): body condition    [Can be used to refer to illness or some other good or bad condition. Ex: 最近、体調が悪い]
  • 具合 (guai): condition [commonly used to refer to health condition, ex: 具合はどう? = ‘how are you feeling’]
  • 症状 (shoujou): sympyom(s) of an illness [ex: runny nose, etc.]
  • 下痢 (geri): diarrhea
  • くしゃみをする (kushami wo suru): to sneeze
  • 頭痛がする (zutsuu ga suru): to have a headache  [偏頭痛 = migraine headache]
  • 気絶する (kizetsu suru): to pass out
  • 鼻が詰まってる (hana ga tsumatteru): nose is blocked
  • 鼻づまり (hanazumari): nose congestion
  • 吐き気がする  (hakike ga suru): to feel nautious
  • ゲロを吐く (gero wo haku):  to throw up, vomit    [can be used without “gero wo” part]
  • 寒気がする (samuke ga suru): to have chills
  • 目眩がする (memai ga suru): to feel dizzy
  • 熱 (netsu): a fever    [熱がある = “to have a fever”]
  • 体温計 (taionkei): thermometer
  • だるい (darui): languid, sluggish
  • ぐったりする (guttari suru): very tired or fatigued (similar to だるい)
  • 鼻が垂れる(hana ga tareru):  to have a runny nose
  • 鼻水が出る (hanamizu ga deru):  to have a runny nose   [hanamizu = snot]
  • 咳をする (seki wo suru): to cough
  • 薬 (kusuri): medicine or drug
  • うがい薬 (ugaigusuri): mouthwash or gargle
  • 飲み薬 (nomigusuri): medicine that you drink
  • 粉薬 (konagusuri): powered medicine
  • 塗り薬 (nurigusuri): medicine you put on the skin, lotion
  • 処方箋 (shohousen): medical prescription
  • 病院 (byouin): hospital or a doctor’s office
  • レントゲン (rentogen): X-ray
  • 血 (chi): blood
  • 血液 (ketsueki): blood
  • 血液型 (ketesuekigata): blood type    [used in Japan for characterizing different personality types]
  • 注射 (chuusha): a shot [with medicine, etc.]
  • 採血(saiketsu): blood sample
  • 血液検査 (ketsueki kensa) : blood test
  • 顕密検査 (kenmitsu kensa) : detailed test  [may require a blood sample]
  • 診断 (shindan): diagnosis, examination
  • お医者さん (oishasan): doctor
  • お医者さんに診てもらう [Oishasan ni mite morau]: to be seen by a doctor   [Note the kanji for “miru” is different than the usual “to see” (見る)]
  • 看護婦さん (kangofusan): Nurse
  • 看病する (kanbyou suru): to take care of a sick person
  • 手術 (shujutsu): operation   [also オペ]
  • アポ (apo): appointment     [Ex: アポを取る = “make an an appointment”]
  • 持病 (jibyou): chronic illness
  • 仮病 (kebyou): faked illness
  • 寝たきり (netakiri): bedridden
  • 長くない (nagakunai): literally “not long”, but often used to refer to someone who doesn’t have much time before they will die due to some illness
  • 治る (naoru): to get cured
  • 完治 (kanchi): a full recovery
  • 治療 (chiryou): treatment
  • 回復する (kaifuku suru): to recover
  • 安静する (ansei suru): to rest, relax
  • 再発する (saihatsu suru): to relapse
  • 初期 (shoki): early stage of an illness
  • 中期 (chuuki): middle stage of an illness
  • 末期 (makki): final/terminal stage of an illness
  • 救急車を呼んでください  (kyuukyuusha wo yonde kudasai):  please call an ambulance
  • 119: emergency hotline in Japan, similar to ‘911’ in the US.
  • 入院する(nyuuin suru): to be admitted to a hospital
  • 退院する (taiin suru): to be discharged from a hospital
  • 薬局 (yakkyoku): drug store


An important Japanese word that is good to master: “hoka” (ほか、外、他)

As anyone who has studied a foreign language can attest to, knowing what words to study is one of the more challenging things because there is so many words out there.

In this post I’m going to go over the word “ほか”(also written in Kanji as “他” or ”外”) and some of it’s uses. This was actually a request from one of my readers, but I think it’s a great word that is good to master regardless of your skill level, since it is used pretty commonly.

“ほか” has several different uses, but many of them revolve around the concept of an “other” in reference to something already stated or implied. It has strong connections with the word “以外” (“igai”), which I wrote a post about here, and 以外 is actually used in several of the definitions of ほか, for example “それ以外の人や物事”.

Let’s start with a simple example of how ほか can be used:

  • Person A: 旅行したいところはありますか?
  • Person B: 日本に行きたいです。
  • Person A: 他に行きたいところは?
  • Person B: 中国にも行きたいです。

And in English:

  • Person A: Is there anywhere you want to travel?
  • Person B: I’d like to go to Japan.
  • Person A: Any other place you want to go?
  • Person B: I’d also like to go to China.

Here we can see that 他に is used in the sense of some place other than Japan.

Person A could ask the same question using the following:

  • 他にはありますか?   [Are there any others?]

You could write this sentence without the “は”, but I feel it is more natural with it.

You can even abbreviate this as:

  • 他には? [Any others?]

“ほか” can also be used to modify a noun along with a connecting “の”. Imagine that someone asked you to read a certain book, you could respond with:

  • 僕は他の本を読みたい。   [I want to read another book]

You can also see “ほか” used with the modifier “その”  as the phrase “その他”, which you can think of as meaning “それのほか” or “the others” with respect to something that was said before. You can often see this as the last answer of a survey question, meaning some other answer which was not explicitly present above (usually expressed in English as just “other”).

There is also a reverse usage where ほか precedes の followed by a noun (ex:  “ゲームの他”). As opposed to the “他の~” pattern just discussed where you are looking for another instance of a certain category, in the “~の他” case you are looking for another instance of something besides the “~” part. For example:

  • ゲームの他に好きなものある? [Is there anything you like besides games?]

You can also use the “~の他” pattern to list one of more items, in the sense of “In addition to ~” or “Besides ~” (ex: “ゲームの他に漫画も好き”, “Besides games I also like Manga”)

In the above example sentences, ほか was used as a modifier to something else. However, it can be used as a noun on it’s own, as in the following sentence where it becomes the object of an action:

  • 他をあたってください。 [Please try somewhere else.]

This phrase can be used when you go somewhere in search of something (like a product in a store) and they don’t have what you are looking for.

After going through these example sentences, I think you’ll be able to pick up how to understand the meaning of this word in the sentences you come across. However, one of the tricker parts of using this word is deciding on what particle(s) to use with it: for example に、にも、には、は、も、or を.

I am not going to attempt to cover all of these cases because I feel mastering this requires reading through many different example sentences and learning to pick up the patterns yourself, along with a good fundamental understanding of each of these particles.

However, I’d like to look at one final example for a common case, “他に~” vs “他の~”. Let’s look at the below two sentences.

  • 他に質問はありますか?
  • 他の質問はありますか?

Both of these mean “Are there any other questions?” and are grammatically correct. However, the first of these (with “に”) is more common and sounds more natural. I am not sure if there is a clear reason why it is preferred, but just memorize this pattern and you will be one step closer to fluently using 他。

It is good to understand the grammatical difference of these two sentences, however. In the first one, ”他に” is being used more as an adverb and feels separate from the noun “質問”. I can’t think of a perfect English match, but maybe “additionally” is close. In the second, 他 is directly modifying “質問”, so that “他の質問” feels like a unit. I feel this is a bit closer to the English phrase “other question”, which is why for some time I had a habit of using “他の質問” until I realized that に is more natural in this case.

Japanese movie review: “百瀬、こっちを向いて” (My pretend girlfriend)

I’ve seen my share of Japanese movies, especially romances. There are those with dramatic tragic settings (like a fatal heart condition,etc.), or those with a fantasy element, but what most of these movies share in common is they usually extremely unrealistic.

What I loved about “My pretend girlfriend”, released in 2014 by Suurkiitos, is that it takes a fairly believable setting and evolves it in a way that doesn’t involve any crazy plot turns or jumps of faith.

The basic story is that Noboru, a pretty nerdy boy in his high school, ends up getting into a fake relationship with a cute girl (Momose) in order to cover for a friend of his. At school they walk together and act like they are in love, but as soon as they step off the school grounds they become just normal friends, or even less.

The events of this movie are pretty simple, but the movie uses flashbacks to switch between the current time and the past to let things play out slowly over an hour and a half. While I feel flashbacks are generally very overused in Japanese entertainment media, in this case I felt they were a perfect fit.

This movie has a lot of “dead space”, or times where characters are just walking or there are long pauses in their conversations. I felt this technique really helped to add to the sense of realism, and in some key scenes there was slow piano music added which really brought out the emotions of the moment.

The directing, cinematography, and acting was also just right, to the extent that nothing really got in the way of the storytelling and the feelings of each of the characters.

For those who are lovers of Japan, you get to see many nice daily life scenes in Japan, as opposed to the overused shots of Tokyo Tower that are in other films. Linguistically, the Japanese wasn’t too difficult and there was a good amount of everyday phrases to add to your lexicon for those learning Japanese. I didn’t watch this film with English subtitles so I am not sure how good their quality is.

One of my only problems with this film is the English title, “My pretend girlfriend”, as compared to the Japanese title which literally means “Momose, Look here” or “Momose, turn towards me”. From a marketing perspective, I think the translation is good because it really catches one’s attention with the idea of a “pretend girlfriend”. However, the phrase “こっちをむいて” (look here) is actually from a key scene in the movie (one of the last flashback scenes), and had I only known English and had watched an English subbed version, I think there might have been something important missing.

While writing this review, I discovered the movie is actually based off a novel of the same name, which helped to explain how the story was so well written and developed.

While I won’t go as far to say this is a masterpiece, it’s a pretty darn good romantic film, probably one of the best I have seen in some time. Highly recommended!

Working as a freelance Japanese->English translator at Gengo: 3 months

One of the main ways I decided to challenge myself in 2016 is by becoming a freelance Japanese to English translator at Gengo, the web-based translator agency. I’ve written a few articles already about the process to become a translator at Gengo as well as my thoughts being a translator after one month, and since I recently reached the 3 month mark I’ve decided to give another update.

My plan was to begin with only a small amount of work each day, and gradually ramp up the amount of work as I got used to translation and was able to increase my speed while maintaining quality. For my first month, I earned around $6 a day, and managed $9 for the second month. For the third month, I set a personal goal of $10 a day and managed to get slightly over $11.

It’s pretty difficult to measure my exact translation rate since I sometimes do “pre-translation” (where I start translating something before officially accepting the job), so the total time stored by Gengo doesn’t represent my total time actually spent. Having said that, I try to time myself once in a while, and I’d say that my initial rate was around $4/hour which I increased to $5/hour in the second month, and roughly $6-$7/hour for the third month. Keep in mind that job availability is random for any given day, some days I may do none and others do extra to make up for those days.

Despite the fact I’ve upped my translation speed, it still varies greatly depending on the content. I’ve done jobs with difficult content, or those which required a lot of verification at a rate of around only $2-$3 per job. I think my record was for a job that only took around 25 minutes for a $10 job, which works out to be over of $20/hour.

But I feel the most important things I’ve learned in the last few months isn’t something that can easily expressed in numbers. It’s more fundamental things about the process of translation and how Gengo works.

For example, In the last month I’ve had a few revision requests, which is where a customer doesn’t immediately accept my translation, and instead asks to edit something and re-send it for their approval. This could be because of a mistake on my part, or because they’ve decided they want to translate something a little different. While at first take these revision requests may seem like they take extra time with no financial compensation (the overall price of the job doesn’t change), they are actually an invaluable experience for a few reasons. First, the communication with the customer (which is almost always in Japanese) helps me learn more business Japanese, and allows me to practice my writing skills which is pretty rare for me. Second, the feedback is great because it allows me to catch mistakes on my end, or at least get a deeper understanding into what the customer wants. This is something I maybe able to apply to future jobs, resulting in a better quality translation. Besides pointing out a translation error or word choice they want modified, they can ask to shorten something or make it less wordy, or to adjust the tone. Keep in mind the customers may have a mediocre to reasonable grasp of English, or in some cases may have an English-speaking friend review it for them. I had one such case where I went back and forth several times to refine the translation, and though it took much time it was a very worthwhile experience.

One unique experience I had was where I was asked to refine my translation based on translation of similar content which was provided by the customer, after I had done the initial translation. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, but there were several errors in their translation and was torn on whether I should tell them or not. I asked Gengo’s customer service, to which they replied that in this case it was better I didn’t try to correct this reference translation, instead just use it as a reference and maintain my own style as much as possible.

I also learned that there are two fundamental types of translation jobs: those where the customer wants to transmit information to another party, and those where the customer has information they received that they just want to understand themselves. The latter of these seems to be much less frequent, but the stance taken by the translator should be different in these cases. For example in the latter case, slightly unnatural English (the target language) is much less of a problem, and a literal translation is probably best.

Sometime around March I was fortunate to be set as a preferred translator by a certain customer, and as a result I had access to a bunch of their special jobs which not not have been available to non-preferred translators. These jobs were related to the food industry, and actually quite difficult with many terms I was unfamiliar with. However, I forced myself to try and do at least one or two of these jobs a day, and gradually increased my knowledge and efficiency of these types of jobs.

One of the greatest parts about working at Gengo – feeling like you are almost living in Japan – is still very rewarding after 3 months.

For the next month or so, I am considering on maintaining my rate of around $10 a day if possible, since I think this is a reasonable amount of work to do given all my other things going on.

I was also considering trying to take the professional level test, but then I realized that even if I were to pass the test, I don’t feel like I have full confidence that I can provide consistent “professional-level” translations. So I think I’ll keep on at the basic level for at least another month to train myself further.

My biggest conundrum is that the translations I am most interested in, those which involve some sort of creative material (especially things like short stories or novels), are pretty rare on Gengo. If I keep at my present rate I’ll improve my translation skills for jobs commonly found on Gengo, but that won’t leave much time for me to refine my creative translation skills. So I’m still debating whether I should reduce my rate and do more hobby (unpaid) translations on my own. If I am able to find a Japanese author who would let me translate their work for free and put it somewhere online, then I might be able to gain popularity and eventually move up to paid jobs doing things like short stories and novels. I have some ideas how to find such people, but will need to set aside some time to devote to it.


More about the origin of the Japanese word くるま (kuruma) [a confession]

In my last post, I wrote about how the Japanese word “くるま” (which means “car”) originated from the words ”来る” (to come) and “魔” (devil).

While these two words are actual words with the meanings I specified, the truth is that they have nothing to do with the word ”くるま”.

After all, my post yesterday was written on April 1, which to many is known as April Fool’s day, where jokes are typically played both in everyday life and in various media outlets.  (:

The actual origin of the word “くるま” is said to come from the following: (based on this source)

  • くる: from the expression “くるくる” (to spin around) and “くるめく” (to get dizzy)
  • ま: from the word わ (輪)which means “wheel”

By the way, the tradition of doing pranks (いたずら) on April 1st is also known in Japan to a certain extent and has been done by some Japanese news outlets (source).

For the next 364 days you can expect the return of truthful content on this blog, until the next April fool’s day (:

The interesting origin of the Japanese word ”くるま” (kuruma)

I always enjoy researching word origins of Japanese words, since you usually learn a little of history, culture, and it often helps you remember that word or its meanings.

In this post I’d like to talk about the origin of the word “くるま” (kuruma) which means “car”,  and is typically written in Kanji as “車”. While this Kanji is one of the more visual and easy-to-remember ones out there, “kuruma” actually has an pretty surprisingly story behind it.

”くるま”  derives from the words “くる” and “ま”, where “くる” is the verb “to come (来る)” and “ま” is “devil or demon(魔)”, commonly seen in words like 悪魔 (“akuma”, devil). It is said that this comes from the fact automobiles moved such at fast speeds, and at night their headlights had a likeness to an evil face, therefore making them a “来る魔” or “coming devil”.

Of course the Japanese people would go on to master these fast “beasts” and be the home of the top selling motor company “Toyota”, but the name stuck. Writing the word “来る魔” quickly faded, however, and was replaced by the pictographic “車” or simply in Hiragana as “くるま”, though in old documents and such you can sometimes see it written as “来る魔”.

I have some other interesting stories related to this word, but I’ll save those for my next post, so stay tuned!