Author Archives: locksleyu

Japanese expression “〜するも” (~suru mo) and vagueness of the が (ga) particle

Recently I read the very enjoyable short story “麦本三歩は今日が好き” by 住野よる in the literary magazine 小説幻冬 (Dec 2016 edition). I even translated a short excerpt of it into English here.

There was one line of the story whose grammar I just couldn’t figure out, and I thought that it was either some strange pattern I had never seen before, or just a typo. While I could have used something like Japanese Language StackExchange to get some help, I decided to write the publisher directly (in Japanese).

Here is the line, from page 44:


The sentence is a bit long and complex, but you may have picked up on the weird part–the “も” at the very beginning. I double checked and the character before this was a period. My first guess was that this was a typo for  “もう”.

Here is the answer from their editorial department:


The summary of this is that the も is usually connected to the previous sentence, rendering the pattern “〜するも” which translates to something like “〜したけれも”.  However, the author apparently added a period before the も in order to create a unique sense of rhythm.

Looking at the previous sentence before the “も” we see  “。。。フークで持ち上げてから指でつまむ。”, which means that this:


effectively means this:


For beginner, or even intermediate students of Japanese this can be quite confusing, because a non-past verb tense (つまむ) is effectively being interpreted as a past verb tense (つまんだ). However, once you consider that Japanese verb tenses are generally a little more fluid than in English, this is a bit easier to accept. One manifestation of this how you may find a mix of past and non-past tenses in literature (even in the same paragraph) much more often than in English.  (The phrase “ちょっとまった!” is another example, can you guess what it means?)

Now that I knew this was a variation of the ~するも (~suru mo) pattern, I searched for that and found this educational post in Japanese. (Note that you shouldn’t confuse this with “〜するのも” (~ suru no mo) where the verb is being treated as a noun. This would have a different, more straightforward meaning (ex: “日本に行くのもいい”, “It would also be good to go to Japan”)).

As is typical with posts asking about grammar explanations, there are some differing opinions, but overall I think there is some agreement that this is a literary expression that is used less frequently (if at all) in spoken speech. Also, as I talked about above,  the 〜するも pattern can mean 〜したけれも, and the post also mentions meanings 〜したのに and 〜しても.

The topmost answer (No. 5) mentions something really interesting that I thought I would touch on here, which is that there are some people who advocate avoiding the use of “が” as a connecting particle (this is supposedly one of the reasons why 〜するも is preferred over が). The below examples were given:


In the first sentence, が has more of a connecting meaning, as in “It’s cheap and tastes bad.”

However, in the second sentence, it has more of a contrasting meaning, as in “It’s cheap, but tastes good.”

So, in summary, we see that the が particle can be used for two very different meanings (not to mention other common ones such as a subject marker which I am not addressing here). The poster of that answer mentions that this can “put a burden on the reader” and expresses his/her annoyance regarding its usage.

I vaguely remember learning that が had these double meanings a long time ago, but it’s good to know that some native speakers also struggle with the vagueness of this usage. Fortunately, I think most cases you can tell the purpose of が from the context, as in the above examples about cheap food.

Japanese Short Story Translation Excerpt: “A Perfect Day For Miho Mugimoto” (麦本三歩は今日が好き) By Yoru Sumino (住野よる)

Recently I’ve been reading a few stories from the magazine “小説幻冬” (December 2016 edition), and I came across one that was particularly entertaining.

This story is told in monologue-style, and though little happens in terms of action, I really like how the main character’s personality is portrayed and could really empathize with her.

I couldn’t help but translate a few paragraphs, just to see if I could convey the same tone and feeling in English. I think it turned out pretty well, but let me know what you think.

Just to be clear this is an unofficial translation, in no way endorsed by the author or publisher.

I think it would be fun to translate the whole thing, but as this is from a published work I’ll refrain from that. But if you would like to read more let me know, and if enough people are interested who knows, we might get an official full translation someday.



“A Perfect Day For Miho Mugimoto” (麦本三歩は今日が好き)

By Yoru Sumino (住野よる)

(Short Excerpt)


When Miho Mugimoto isn’t asleep, she’s awake. This may seem like an obvious statement, but Miho isn’t awake because she wants to be. That’s why she would like to point out that being awake now is by no means desirable from her point of view. If you were to ask who she wants to point this out to, she would probably answer to someone who’ll compliment her for being awake. She was terribly perturbed above having to part ways with her warm comforter early in the morning once again to go to work. The honest truth is that she’d love to sleep until 10 am.

In her bedroom with curtains shut tight, Miho shut off the alarm which had been set for a few minutes early and fiddled with her cell phone from within her comforter. Email, Twitter, news on Natalie–having checked all of her usual web sites, it was about time to get moving, but her mind and body felt sluggish. She was quite healthy and in good spirits. It’s just that leaving bed was simply annoying. Just too much of a hassle. She only wished to stay with her soft comforter forever. Half-seriously pondering why she couldn’t just spend time with the things she loved, Miho rubbed her cheek against the comforter. Snuggle snuggle.

Things were great when she was in college. As long as she avoided picking any first period classes, in the morning she could wake up naturally, play around with her cell phone, and read any books within reach, all with time to spare. So what, you ask? Once she graduated and got a full time job, both her early schedule and the alarm’s ear-piercing sound returned, as if things had regressed back to her high school days. It made her feel like life ended at college, folding back upon itself.

But this was no time to mull over the past. The time to leave for work was fast approaching. Miho gathered all her strength and tore her body away from the seductive comforter. Not physically, but mentally. Focusing all of her attention, she visualized this with great effort. In fact, last night she had heard from a coworker that this morning would be terribly chilly, so she predicted waking up would be even more painful than usual. Therefore, she had a countermeasure in place to handle this. Miho had prepared her favorite steamed cheese bread for breakfast. It was an exchange of one of her favorite things for another – swapping her comforter for steamed cheese bread. This was her inexpensive, yet effective secret strategy for making it through the day.


Translator notes:

1) The original title in English literally means “Miho Mugimoto likes today“, but I used some artistic license to make what I felt was a better title that reflected the mood of the story. By the way, the title makes more sense when you read the entire story.

2) “Natalie” referred to the story is a Japanese news site that focuses on popular culture (

Japanese novel translation: “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” Chapter 1: Waging War (Part 1)

This is Chapter 1 of the novel “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” by Yama Yamasaki (山崎山). I’ve talked to the author and gotten his permission to translate and put it on my blog.

The story’s original table of contents and summary can be seen in Japanese here. You can see the original Chapter 1 in Japanese here.

As usual, if you like this story please like and/or comment on this post to help me decide whether to translate more of this or to move on. You can also see this survey where you can vote for this story, or others for me translate.

Thanks to Nijima Melodiam for doing a proofread of this chapter.

(Note: you can see a link to this story’s table of contents which contains links to other chapters and the summary here)

Welcome to the Raindance Cafe     by      Yama Yamasaki

Chapter 1: Waging War (Part 1)

“Come on dude, isn’t there somebody you like?”

In my 21 years of life, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.

I just couldn’t comprehend what it meant to like someone that way. Or I guess it would be more accurate to say I had no idea what that even felt like.

Of course, I had some awareness of compatibility with others and could say this person was easy to talk to, or that person was not, but I never felt what is commonly referred to as “romantic attraction” towards a specific girl. Actually, maybe I had, but it hadn’t mattered since I didn’t understand what I was feeling.

That’s why me having a girlfriend was totally out of the question. Even if you cornered me and said, “You know when something about a girl turns you on or excites you? I’m sure that’s happened to you before, right? Right?!” it wouldn’t mean a thing to me. Sorry.

But now I finally understood.

At this moment, I was feeling the very emotions that I’d heard about countless times, yet never understood.

And they were directed at the girl right in front of me in a maid uniform.

“I’m so sorry for being rude. I didn’t expect you to be here for the job opening…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s my fault for coming up to you so suddenly…”

The girl pushed back her chair a little and bowed her head until it nearly touched the edge of the table.

I can’t believe how she can bow so respectfully to someone she’s just met. Maybe that’s just her personality. But wow, she looks so cute doing that! Sure, she’s wearing a maid outfit, but it perfectly fits her appearance and demeanour.

Nevertheless, I can’t just let her continue bowing to me like this.

“Can you please raise your head? If anyone is at fault it’s me for scaring–”

“I’d like to thank you very, very much!”


As she raised her head, I could see eyes overflowing with tears as if she’d just been through hell. This sudden change totally caught me off guard.

“Actually, I’m the only waitress here. Everyone else has quit right after starting and there hasn’t been a new person in half a year, and I don’t know what to do…”

“J…Just hold on a minute…”

At last, the girl began sobbing violently.

“Someone finally came for me!”

“Hey, can you calm down? Please don’t cry, come on now…”

I offered my handkerchief to the girl, still absorbed in her crying. A tough-looking man standing at the counter who appeared to be the manager looked at me with an angry expression. Did I do something wrong? Come to think of it, I guess technically it was me who started all this.

Realizing that in the moment I’d said something pretty stupid, I decided to take stock of the situation.

At the time, I knew it was now or never. The road I took on the way home I never normally used, and I thought that if I just kept going I’d never return here again, so when I saw the job posting on the wall I made a snap decision. I even surprised myself that I had the courage to do this, and everything happened in a flash, so by the time I had understood what was happening I was already being led into the cafe.

While the girl was drying her tears, I casually looked around the inside of the cafe.

Words like vintage and classic have a nice ring to them, but this place’s dust-covered interior was just plain old and explained why there were so few customers. Actually, at the moment the only people in the building were the manger-looking guy, the waitress, and myself. The curtain on the south side was closed and let in almost no sunlight. The cafe wasn’t very big to begin with, but the sense of loneliness that pervaded the place was deeper than you’d expect from the size. Even considering the sole waitress was an attractive girl, with an atmosphere this dismal I wasn’t surprised in the least bit that everyone else had quit. Young kids nowadays had a particular dislike of gloomy places like this.

“…Don’t you think it’s a little gloomy in here?”

Apparently catching on to what I was getting at, the girl–her eyes still a little damp–opened her mouth to speak.

“I know what you mean. But I actually like the atmosphere here. Some customers, and employees that have quit said we should clean up the place…But neither the cafe manager nor I have any intention of doing that.”

Shocked, I suddenly caught my breath.

It was beautiful.

Her smile shined on the cafe’s interior, which was anything but bright. It was a dazzling smile that made me feel like I was walking on air. Even had I not fallen for her already, I’m sure one look at that smile would have attracted me in the same way. I couldn’t look away. I stared at her as if entranced by some strong magnetic force. Then I suddenly had the sensation of something grabbing hold of my chest, my heart, with great force.

“Oh, thank you for the handkerchief. I’ll wash it and return it later.”

“Huh? Yeah…Oh…Ok.”

“…Is something wrong?”

“No, not really…”

“Oh, I get it…”

Tears appeared in her eyes again.

“I….I knew it…You were lying about wanting the job…”

“No, of course I want it! I really want to work here, so please don’t cry!”

This girl has some serious mood swings. But to me, even this was a good thing.

Someone watching me might think that I was getting too carried away, having only met this girl less than an hour ago. But that didn’t really matter to me; my heart wasn’t a mechanical thing that would fluctuate with the passage of time.

I had confidence that no matter what she did, I could accept that as a part of what made her attractive. A fresh, pure emotion had begun to grow within me. I realized intuitively that this was called love. These feelings touched something deep in me, and I felt like a very lucky man. Once more, I had the sensation of levitating in mid-air.

I didn’t know anything about this girl who’d been working here for quite a while, but I dearly wanted to work at this old cafe for her sake. She was here, and that made it the right thing. That simple.

“…I promise I’ll do my best. Please hire me!”

“Oh, are you serious?!”

Her eyes sparkled with hope.

There was something extremely genuine about her. I guess rather than saying she lacked any pretense, it was like her face reflected what she was thinking without being filtered by reason. Being naive to this extent was a little concerning, but at the same time there was something reassuring about the fact that her expression perfectly projected her state of mind.

In any case, I was prepared to put my stake in the ground here–although this was just a part-time job. I don’t mean that literally, but rather in the sense of ambition, of trying hard to find happiness. I guess it sounds a bit extreme, but I really wanted to take advantage of meeting this girl and take my life in a new, positive direction.

“Thank you so much! Sorry, I don’t think I introduced myself properly before. I’m Rei Ochikibe! And that scary, macho guy is my manager Mr. Manaka!”

“Hi, I’m Jun Momose. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too Jun! Alright, I guess I might as well take your resume now.”



When I started to panic, she instinctively did the same.





“You don’t look too well. Are you OK?”



“Since you are asking if I am OK…No, I’m really not OK at all.”

“You aren’t OK?!”

My hands were sweating like crazy, or rather, my entire body was sweating profusely.

I hadn’t considered this at all. I had applied for a job on the spur of the moment; of course I didn’t have anything like a resume prepared. To be exact, I literally had nothing prepared. I also just remembered that the job paid only minimum wage. It was now painfully clear to me that my rash behavior had put me in a seriously bad situation.

I had to do something. If I didn’t make a good excuse, I’d have to withdraw from the race for which I now stood at the starting line.

“Just joking! Of course I have what you need. Please don’t be alarmed. And by the way, Rei,”


“What I have on me…is only about 40 bucks. Is that going to be enough?”


Unconsciously, part of me had decided to try to bribe her. I caught myself just in time. I was so desperate that I was willing to do anything. But, if I don’t say so myself, this was a dirty, political tactic. I think now I really understood what it was like to be a politician.

“So… I guess you don’t have the resume with you?”

Rei asked me with a suspicious look, like a police officer questioning a suspect.

Being honest here just wasn’t going to work. Because of who she is, she’d just see right through me. I had no choice but to use a cheesy excuse to get through this.

“I’m really sorry. I was in a hurry, and left it at my house.”

“You mean your resume?”



“So…I guess without it, you won’t hire me, right?”

“Yes, that’s right. The manager has instructed me to not hire anyone who doesn’t have a resume I can verify…”

Rei frowned and nodded to herself with her hand posed on her chin, like a detective.

I felt pitiful for having not thought things through. I guess this is what they mean by ‘love is blind’. Actually, maybe that doesn’t quite fit.

For a moment, I considered writing out my resume on a sheet of paper and handing it to her. But I didn’t have a picture of myself, and I didn’t want her thinking I was the type of person who would do such a thing.

I continued to sweat like crazy while the wrinkles on her forehead got progressively deeper.

“But this time honey, I’ll make an exception.”

I heard a deep–yet somehow feminine voice from above me.

“This place is nearly bankrupt, and you’ve come this far so I’ve got no choice. Rei, I appreciate you being the serious type, but don’t just blindly listen to everything you are told, OK darling? I also told you to act according to the situation, right?”


Rei looked up towards the tough, muscular man standing there.

Manager…Oh, this is the guy she had just introduced as Mr. Manaka. He’s even bulkier than I had originally thought. And I could immediately tell he was… well, you know.



“For now, just give us your name and address, and also your phone number. Since you’re right here, I already know what you look like and don’t need a photograph. All I care about is whether you do a good job, so I’ll just leave it up to Rei to decide whether she’ll get along with you, and we don’t need a formal interview. If she doesn’t have any complaints, honey you’re hired! Rei, what do you think?”

“Of course I don’t have any complaints! I think everything is perfect!”

“All right then, it’s decided. Sweety-J, I’ll see you tomorrow, kay?”

Mr. Manaka gave me an exaggerated wink and went back behind the counter. I felt a chill run down my spine, as if someone was running their fingers down my back.

“So, I guess that covers it for today. Now, can you please give us your information, Jun!”

“Oh, Sure. I’ll give you it…now.”

As I stared in a daze at Rei, her bright smile made my eyes sting.

The whole thing had happened so fast. I wasn’t given much of a chance to speak, and with only a few words Mr. Manaka managed to eliminate all my uncertainty and sweat–along with Rei’s forehead wrinkles. He wasn’t just pretending to act like a manager. I sensed a deeper type of strength, altogether different from his physical toughness.

And he also had said something quite thought provoking, too.

“Sure, like the manager said, I’ll just…umm…I’m sure there is a memo pad around here somewhere…”

Rei took a ballpoint pen and memo pad from her apron pocket and handed it to me.

“Here you go!”

I thought it was a little strange that the manager in charge of everything didn’t help out, but perhaps leaving all the HR work up to his only waitress, a part-time worker, was some indication of his abilities as a manager…or something like that. It’s even more surprising if he was putting her in charge just to make her happy. I bet he really appreciated having her around.

Having said that, I think maybe the reason new hires never stayed around is because of his preferential treatment of this part-time waitress. He seemed to look protectively at her as a parent would a child.

While thinking about all this I wrote down the information he’d asked for.

“Oh, it looks you live close to me.”

Rei mumbled, apparently watching what I wrote.

“Do you live by yourself?”

“Yes, I’m currently attending college.”

“Wow, oh really?! You know, I also live alone. In that area, there sure is a lot of apartments, and a few colleges nearby too. Is college life tough?”

“It’s tougher than when I was living with my parents. But in exchange, I get more freedom.”

“Also, the college I am going to is near this cafe, so I commute via train.”

“Oh really?”

To my delight, Rei showed me her amazing smile each time I spoke.

This girl is unbelievably cheerful and kind. Unable to look at her straight in the face after I realized the pen and memo pad I was using was hers, the more she smiled at me the harder I felt the need to look away and avoid eye contact.

I did learn something important here though. I’d never imagined she lived in my neighborhood. It would be really bad if she happened to find me walking around half-asleep in a convenience store on a day off. I’d be too ashamed to face her.

Judging from the way she spoke, she didn’t seem like a student. I had estimated her age to be around the same as mine, but apparently this was a faulty assumption.

“Ok, I’m done. Here is my information.”

“Thank you very much.”

I closed the memo pad and made a great effort to somehow avoid touching her hand as I returned it along with the pen.

“All right, this completes the paperwork. I’m sorry for giving you so little time, but would you be able to start tomorrow?”

“Yes, I don’t have any lectures tomorrow, so that will be fine.”

“Really? In that case, I’ll see you around noon here tomorrow! I’ll prepare your work clothes, so you don’t need to wear anything special!”

With a look of utter enjoyment, she raised the hem of her apron and swayed it back and forth in front of me. Along with the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, a doubt came to mind which I voiced to her.

“I’m sure I’m wrong about this, but there’s no way you are going to make me wear a maid outfit, right?”

“Of…Of course not. It won’t be a maid outfit.”

“Did I happen to just avert a major crisis?”

Judging from the way she was covering her face with her apron and looking away, it appears I did in fact just avert a major gender crisis. Oh, I get it–Maybe she simply has modern beliefs on sexuality. Her original intention to recommend a maid outfit for me was most likely an effort to break down the wall between the sexes. At least for the time being I’ll go with that interpretation.

“A…Anyway, I’ll prepare your clothes by tomorrow, so just bring your smile with you. Although I am not saying the work is going to be easy…”

“I know that. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“…I greatly appreciate your prompt understanding.”

I detected a hint of annoyance in her response. Seeing this sudden change of attitude I couldn’t help but break out laughing, which caused her smile to return. I knew it – she looked best with a smile. In my entire life, I’ve never met a single person for whom any expression but a smile just doesn’t seem right. Her smile is the heart of her charm, attracting others as it did me.

After talking a little more, I left the cafe, sent off by her smile. To be honest, leaving her was the last thing I wanted to do, but when I thought about how I’d be seeing her frequently, I realized it wasn’t a big deal–at least that is what I told myself as I walked to the station. The image of her cheerfully waving goodbye with an expression of longing was burned in my memory, raising my pulse every time I recalled it.

I boarded a moderately crowded uptown train and was lucky enough to get an end seat. As I basked in the rays of the autumn sunset I finally understood the implications of my course correction which had led me to the cafe.

Without much trouble – or should I say without much thought – I had taken a big step. This was a step in both the course of my life and in my growth as a human being. The extraordinary experience I had just moments ago would, starting tomorrow, become a usual part of my daily life. When I thought about that, I couldn’t help but grin to myself. I quickly buried my face in my backpack.

I’m going to make this work.

I realized that whenever I thought this, her smile always came to mind.

Japanese Children’s Book Review: 「言葉図鑑」(Visual Word Encyclopedia) by Taro Gomi (五味 太郎)

Sometime back, I mentioned that I recommend reading children’s books in a foreign language as a good way to experience native-level content that isn’t too difficult. For Japanese, this is especially useful since you will have very little, if any, kanji to worry about, which is one stumbling block when reading Japanese books.

I’ve read a great many books to my son in Japanese, and they’ve been a great help (as well as great fun) to both of us. But recently I came upon a series of books that I felt was extra special because of how it taught difficult concepts in a cute way.

The 10 book series is called 「言葉図鑑」(Visual Word Encyclopedia) and is written by Taro Gomi (五味 太郎). You can see a link to the entire series here, but I have spent most of my time with the third book (on adjectives) which you can see here, and this review reflects that. We actually rented this book in a public library in Portland, Oregon (isn’t Portland great!).

The premise of this series is simple. Each of them is basically a visual encyclopedia of words, with a descriptive picture above each word that written in hiragana. These are introduced in groups which span two pages at a time, each of which focuses on  a specific person or object.

For example, page 20 is about “どんな  はこ” (What type of box?) and has examples like “おもい はこ” (heavy box), “すくない はこ” (few boxes), and ”つまらない はこ” (boaring box).

While I am sure there are many good visual encyclopedias out there, there are a few great things about these books:

1) The author’s art style is simple, yet really cute and funny.

2) The pictures are done very creatively, and made as simple possible to illustrate a variety of concepts.

3) Regardless of your level, you will likely come across of words you haven’t seen frequently, if ever. Examples: けたたましい、そそっかしい、ものものしい、むごい、いかめしい、きぜわしい、むつまじい, etc.

Having said that, the drawback to these books is that in a few cases, if you don’t know the word at all you may have trouble picking up the exact meaning (at least in book 3). Some of this depends on how familiar you are with various techniques to express motion in a still pictures, though many of these are arguably common sense.

In some cases, there are subtle differences between words, like ”おそい じどうしゃ” and “のろい じどうしゃ”, where both have a car going slow, but in the latter case there is someone behind the car, looking frustrated.

I think the best way to read this book is go through it once without a dictionary, thinking about what the pictures are trying to show. Then, you can go through a second time and look up words you are unfamiliar with, which should shed some light on the picture’s intent. As I already knew many of the words (though not as many as I’d liked), I was biased and cannot say how many of these pictures will be confusing to others.

But in a sense, many of these words really don’t have a perfect equivalent in English, despite what the dictionary says. (Interestingly, this is one of the only books I have read that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t feel a need to translate it.) That is why sometimes through the pictures can you discover new nuances to these words. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words (:

To be honest, I am curious if the average modern Japanese child would know all of the words in these book, since many are terms I wouldn’t expect a child to know, or at least not use in their own speech. Part of it may be because this book is over 30 years old, and some of these words are used a little less frequently nowadays. Also, I’m sure the author purposefully choose some difficult words, because otherwise the book would appear to a much smaller audience.

In any case, I’m sure you’ll learn something from it.

Japanese novel translation: “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” Summary and Prologue

I’ve decided to start translating the novel “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” (original title “パーセント・エイジ 〜カフェ、レインダンスへようこそ!〜”)  by Yama Yamasaki (山崎山). I’ve talked to the author and gotten his permission to translate and put it on my blog. This post will cover the summary and the prologue.

The story’s original table of contents and summary can be seen in Japanese here. You can see the prologue in Japanese here.

As usual, if you like this story please like and/or comment on this post to help me decide whether to translate more of this or to move on. You can also see this survey where you can vote for this story, or others for me translate.

I hope you like it!

(Note: you can see a link to this story’s table of contents which will contain links to other chapters here)

Welcome to the Raindance Cafe     by      Yama Yamasaki


Life. It’s all about probabilities―and miracles.

Jun Momose is a college student who’s been quite fortunate in his life so far, except that he’s never fallen in love.

One day, on a whim Jun decides to take a different way home and stumbles on the antiquated Raindance Cafe, where he falls head over heels for the waitress Rei Ochikibe.

Heart racing with unfamiliar feelings, he ends up working at the cafe, only to discover it is frequented by a dangerous crowd and on the verge of going out of business.

Pushed around by these unsavory customers, Jun begins to learn about a world very different than the one he knew. In this world, everything he thought to be true disappears in a puff of smoke.

In the process, he begins to discover certain things about Rei’s past.

What should he say? How should he act? Jun is faced with more and more difficult decisions.

Because life is determined by probabilities



I read once somewhere in a book that the probability of getting hit by a meteorite falling from the sky is greater than the chances of winning a million dollars in the lottery.

When I first heard this I was genuinely surprised. Or I guess I should say that since there are actually people who have become billionaires by winning the lottery, it logically follows there is a greater number of people who have actually been killed by falling meteorites, and I cursed the fact I had been born on this planet. Just a little.

While we are exposed to such dangers as we live here, I guess to be honest the matter of whether we will be hit by a falling meteorite or not is completely irrelevant, at least to our actual everyday life. There is no point in thinking about something that leads nowhere. And there’s bound to be an enormous number of other things which have the low probability of a meteor falling on your head.

That’s right–this includes even the chances of you being born from your parents. That’s apparently a one in two billion chance. The odds alone of your parents meeting are amazingly low, which makes the odds of you being conceived by them astronomically unlikely. If you consider that this type of thing happens every day around the world, being human isn’t that bad after all. Our world is built on such fortunate events.

The fact I have lived a healthy live without any major injuries and am now able to attend college is also a result of passing through nearly countless probabilities. Depending on how you look at it, you might say I am one of the “lucky ones”, or have lived a rich, adventurous life. A fulfilling life of only 21 years.

At least that is what I thought–until a moment ago.

“Excuse me…”

The girl asked with a frown.

What beautiful blond hair. It didn’t appear to be dyed, and framed a face with well-defined features. I bet she’s only half Japanese. Judging from the bamboo broom in her hand, she was probably in the middle of cleaning.

I’ve really lived a rich, adventurous life.

At the elementary school athletic meet relay race I made a miracle comeback for the win, and in middle school I helped the track team make it to the regional tournament. In high school, I won first prize in the cultural festival, and even now I’m doing great in college. Raised in a family you could say was well-to-do, I was able to do whatever I wanted. My parents were a little strict, but it’s thanks to my great cook of a mother and my hardworking father that I have become what I am today.

Whether you can call my life “rich and adventurous” surely depends on the person, but personally I feel like it’s an apt description.

And yet, so far there has been something sorely lacking in my life. One experience that is typically considered an important part of any adventurous adolescent life.

I’ve never fallen in love.

“Is there something you need…?”

This was something completely new to me. An emotion I’d never felt before.

To come this far, I’ve made it through nearly countless probabilities. My third period lecture was cancelled, so I left for home earlier than usual, only to discover the road I usually took was closed due to construction. Since I had to make a detour anyway, I decided to try a route I’d never taken before, and as luck had it, she happened to be cleaning outside the cafe.

It was something like a miracle. No, it was a miracle–I couldn’t see it as anything else.

A paper posted on the wall happened to catch my eye. In an instant, I made up my mind. At the same time, I gave thanks to this overwhelming probability.

What is this feeling? It’s…It’s…

“Oh, hello…I’d like to apply to your job opening.”

This is…love at first sight!

Japanese web novel translation: “Japan: A New Age” by Tasogarenin (黄昏人) [Chapter 7: Development stage one complete]

This is the 7th chapter of a Japanese Science Fiction web novel about a genius boy who helps develop amazing technologies that change Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.

You can find the original text for this chapter here.

You can see the table of contents for the translated chapters here which includes a synopsis.

I’d like to thank Nijima Melodiam for doing a quick look over of this chapter before I posted it in order to check for any mistakes I missed.

Note: If you want to see more chapters of this work translated, please consider voting for it on this survey where I ask what I should translate more of. Or you can use that survey to vote for something else for me to translate (including adding your own suggestion).


Japanese Mobile App Review: Sanseido’s Gendai Shin Kokugo Jiten (三省堂現代新国語辞典)

Recently I went on a long plane trip where I knew I wouldn’t have network for a few hours, and since I was planning on reading and/or translating during the flight, I needed a good Japanese dictionary mobile app that I knew would work offline.

I ended up downloading a few, but the one I will be reviewing this time is the “Sansei’s Gendai Shin Kokugo Jiten” app (三省堂現代新国語辞典). While there seems to be an Android version, I have only tried the iPhone version and so will be reviewing that.

One reason I decided to review this app is because it cost a whopping $13.99, by far the most expensive app I purchased on the app store. I generally play around with free apps, and once in awhile spend a few dollars on a game that seems great, but in this case I wanted to try and get the best offline dictionary possible and Sanseido is a major publisher (and I’m sure their actual paper dictionary is great), so I made the splurge.

The first disappointment about this app is that it doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2014, and when it first comes up my iPhone gave a warning that it may slow down my device. What’s frustrating is that while doing this review I searched and found this page, which seems to be a newer version of the app (updated 2016) on the Japanese app store. I got my version from the US app store, and didn’t think of going through the trouble of switching to the Japanese app store (which I have done on rare occasion). After all, if I am going to go there, there is probably a large number of competing Japanese dictionary apps. But it’s sad that Sanseido didn’t update their app in the US version of the app store.

One important thing to know about this app is it is only Japanese to Japanese (hence the kokugo/国語 part), and there are no English definitions. That actually wasn’t a huge deal for me since I commonly use Japanese->Japanese dictionaries, though I wouldn’t have minded having both languages. It may be a major drawback for those of you who are at an earlier stage in your studies, however.

Anyway, it’s pretty easy to do basic word lookup: you just type in the word in Japanese characters (kana) and it shows a list of candidate words in real time, even if you don’t have any internet connection. It’s fast and this makes the app pretty handy, so in a sense it is what I was looking for. The app is designed to display things vertically and scroll horizontally, which gives it a nice classic Japanese touch, and also has a nice large default font you can see the Kanji without squinting. There is also frequently Furigana reading hints which is nice. For searching you can search for complete matches (完全), match starting at the front (前方)and at the end (後方). Being a kokugo dictionary, it doesn’t support looking up English characters (romaji).

The definitions are relatively simple, along with occasional sample sentences, both in the vein of many of the definitions on my favorite online dictionary Goo. You also get related expressions, so searching for 気 gives things 気にくわない and 気に入る.

One of the other disappointments of this app is that there is very few dynamic links in the definition text. If you scroll around you will find the occasional one, but I wished there was much more. Besides the definitions and example sentences you’ll see notes on things like antonyms (ex: search for 寒い and you get “対:暑い”), the type of speech it is (名・形・自動五段, etc), and alternate kanji readings.

Since this app seems like it is trying to simulate their paper dictionary, there are features like a “next” and “prev” button which go through the various entries in order, but honestly I am not sure how these would be useful. There is also an “Index” mode where you can ‘leaf through’ the dictionary as if you were using your finger with a real one, but again the usefulness of this is debatable.

In terms of kanji, there is a nice mode where you can look up characters by stroke count (though apparently not by radical which is my preference), and each Kanji shows animated stroke order and has links to some related words (though I wish there was more links and related words).

There are some other features like bookmarks, twitter integration, and a bunch of extras (付録) like help on using polite language (敬語の概要), how to write letters (手紙の書き方), and easily mistaken Kanji (まちがえやすい漢字の例).  While these are all interesting, I’d generally just look these up on some website if I had access to the internet and a computer.

One more minor point is that when reading through a historical novel (歴史時代小説) there was several words which didn’t show up in this dictionary. Some of them I found online later, but some weren’t in the other dictionary app I checked, so I am not sure if this dictionary is necessarily worse or better than others. However, the fact that it has not apparently been updated in over 2 years means it can’t be as updated as an online dictionary. There was at least one word I didn’t find in this dictionary that I did find in another offline free dictionary (ouch!), though I did find it later under a different reading.

All in all, this is a reasonably good Japanese to Japanese dictionary, however I don’t think it is worth $13.99 unless you are really desperate. I’d say with its present feature set, it would be a good deal around $5.99, and if they added some more features (like character recognition using the camera would be nice, though that technology arguably needs work) it may be worth a few more bucks.

But how often is one in an environment where they have no internet these days? If I was really desperate, I could have just paid the (high) cost to use internet on the plane, though that would have exceeded the cost of this dictionary to use it for more than a few minutes.



Japanese web novel translation: “Japan: A New Age” by Tasogarenin (黄昏人) [Chapter 6: The Start of Development and Unforeseen Aftereffects]

This is the 6th chapter of a Japanese Science Fiction web novel about a genius boy who helps develop amazing technologies that change Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.

You can find the original text for this chapter here.

You can see the table of contents for the translated chapters here which includes a synopsis.

I’d like to thank Nijima Melodiam for doing a quick look over of this chapter before I posted it in order to check for any mistakes I missed.

Note: If you want to see more chapters of this work translated, please consider voting for it on this survey where I ask what I should translate more of. Or you can use that survey to vote for something else for me to translate (including adding your own suggestion).



A look back on 2016, the year of translations and connections (コネ)

Since the year is almost over, I thought I would do a quick look back about what I did and learned in 2016 related to Japanese.

More than anything else, 2016 was the first year where I got really into doing translations from Japanese to English, as  both a hobby and as a side job at Gengo. My focused work at Gengo only lasted around three months, though I came back to it once in awhile after that. One of my most memorable jobs there was doing a short translation for a certain popular Fantasy game.

My hobby translations, which actually began in December 2015 with a small portion of a Candy Candy novel, eventually began taking a large chunk of my free time. In September, I finished my longest single hobby translation project yet, a light novel of 11 chapters. Just a little over a month ago in November, I started another massive (50+ chapter) project which has gotten a lot of attention from the community (at least more than my other stuff). I can’t predict when I will finish it, but I’ve learned a great deal so far from it, and all the other projects I’ve done.

However, after some more consideration, I think something I’ve started picking up this year which is equally important is a few connections. By that, I mean people who read my blog and asked me a question or two over email, or those I’ve reached out to for some reason or other. One way to describe this sort of connection in Japanese is コネ (‘kone’, a loanword which comes form ‘connection’), and another is 人脈 (‘jinmyaku’).

While it is just a handful of people, it is a diverse set including someone who works in the literature industry (who has worked on some surprisingly hit books), a professional translator (who was nice enough to let me interview him), the creator of another site about studying Japanese, and the Japanese author of a published book. Of course, there are all those who have communicated with me via comments on this blog.

I’ve also talked several other Japanese authors of web/light novels over email, and in several cases got feedback on my translations and/or answers to my questions about their novels or short stories. Not to mention how I’ve been able to gradually improve my Japanese email writing abilities through these exchanges.

I am sure that for some people, making contacts is a pretty obvious thing, but until recently I wasn’t really active at all in this area (I don’t even have a business card).

To be sure, I am not trying to collect a massive number of email addresses like some people try to do with social site friends, but I am hoping to build up a small circle of dependable contacts so that if I ever try to make more active career moves into translation (or some other related area) then I may be able to get a little extra help. Even if I never use these connections to land a job, I still value their friendship and any information I have exchanged with them.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned is that it’s actually easier to make and maintain these types of contacts then I previously thought. It just takes some courage to make the initial contact (or respond to their initial message), honesty in communication, and consideration about what each side of the relationship is looking for (something that surely applies to all human relationships).

Just for the heck of it, a few days ago I decided on writing a certain Japanese publisher the other day about a potential mistake in a book I was reading. Depending on their response, maybe I’ll even ask them if I can translate something from one of their books. Who knows where it might go…

Anyway, I’ll close this article by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s make 2017 the best yet!

I am always open to hearing from new people, so feel free to email me at selftaughtjapanese (at)



Japanese book translation excerpt: “Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code” by Kohji Matsubayashi

So far, the translations that I have posted on this blog have mostly focused on portions of books, short stories, or online novels. But when I came across the book “Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code” (子供を億万長者にしたければ、プログラミングの基礎を教えなさい) by Kohji Matsubayashi(松林弘治), I decided I wanted to translate at least a small portion of this interesting book.

It is not my intention to give a detailed review of this book in this post. However, the excerpt I am giving here (which covers up to page 13) is pretty self explanatory and will give you a good taste for what the book is about.

This book is special to me because it covers three things which are important to me: software development (my day job), Japanese (a longtime hobby), and child upbringing (I have a young son).

As with some of my translations, I want to make it clear that is a non-official translation, not endorsed by the author or the publisher in any way.

While the original Japanese text was fairly straightforward and easy for me to understand, I had to put in a good amount of effort in order to have proper tone with natural phrasing.

It looks like there is no official English translation of this book, but you can see the original Japanese book for sale here.

If you would like to see more of this book in English, please feel free to like this post and/or comment. I have the contact information for the author, I can tell him if there is interest.

I will not be including any of the original Japanese text, but you can see the forward excerpted on this webpage.


Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code

By Kohji Matsubayashi  (Publisher: Kadokawa)



(Note: The forward is written with a large vertical font that fits 6 vertical columns per page)


President Obama sent a message to the children of the US.

“Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

Why would he suggest such a thing?

To make money?

To give our children a brighter future?

Certainly, of those who have succeeded in business, some have known how to program.

In fact, the US and many other countries have started putting a focus on making programming part of their education system.

Of course, Japan is already one of these.

The reason for this emphasis, besides the economic advantages, is because learning to program is considered to have a positive effect on a child’s education.

Is it really safe for parents to take a passive stance on their children’s education?

However, perhaps you are a parent who has no experience with programming and doesn’t know where to start.

If so, it may be difficult to give your children realistic advice on how to learn programming.

But the fundamentals of programming are by no means difficult.

This book will help you quickly grasp the fundamental concepts of programming, along with the current educational resources available, and learn together with your children.

A child who discovers how fun programming can be will continue learning on their own and go on to do great things.


   Teaching children about computer programming is a topic which has been increasingly popular in recent years.

   In many forms of media we frequently see stories about IT entrepreneurs who were programming whizzes as children and later went on to become successful billionaires. There are even those who make an appeal to teach programming in Japan to our children in order to cultivate the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

   There have also been news reports that Japan may soon incorporate programming as part of its compulsory education program. In urban areas, programming classes targeting elementary, middle, and high school children are cropping up all over the place. Hands-on workshops for topics such as robotics and programming where parents can participate along with their children are extremely popular.

   And yet, why is there all this fuss about teaching programming to children who will not necessarily become programmers or computer engineers when they get older?

   In the 21st century, computers permeate nearly all aspects our daily lives, to the extent that we cannot even imagine a life without computers. This includes not just computer-like things such as smartphones and laptops; computers are actually being employed in many surprising places, embedded in non-computer-like things.

   Rice cookers, microwaves, refrigerators, air conditioners, and laundry machines. TVs, video recorders, and cameras. Robot vacuum cleaners, bath water heaters, digital scales, and body composition monitors. In our homes alone, the number is practically limitless–every day we are literally surrounded by computers. Even things like grocery store registers, bank ATMs, and online shopping cannot exist without computers.

   It is in such a world where the idea of making computers and programming a part of general education–just like reading, writing, and arithmetic–is becoming more and more predominant. The proponents of this are trying to push programming education from elementary school at the governmental level and give a thorough treatment of computer science in middle and high school.

   At the same time, the idea of using programming as a tool to foster creativity in children has also been gaining in popularity. Building a program and getting it to do exactly what you want is truly the epitome of a creative activity. Programming allows one to experience the joy of creating something which cannot be obtained by simply using computers.

   The type of programming where one enjoys the process of thinking things through and constructing a program on their own is by no means a technical exercise done for the purpose of becoming a programmer, but instead can be likened to an educational toy which expands the possibilities of a child. Recently, technology has been developed which allows children in the early grades of elementary school, or even younger, to experience programming. There is a surprising number of middle and high school students trying their coding skills against other kids, knocking out programs that can hold their own against an adult.

   “I have no experience with programming, but I want to get my children interested in it.”

   What should parents who feel this way do? This question was the seed that lead to the creation of this book.

   What is programing anyway? How do computers work? How does programming relate to everyday life and work? What is the best way to start learning about programming?

   In this book, I have aimed to provide information from a variety of angles in order to fill in some of the blanks regarding the above questions, and tried my best to convey the essence of what programming is.

   There is no such thing as being too young or too old to learn how to program. My hope is that you can think and learn together with your children, and search out programming-like things hidden in everyday work, life, and play; learn to understand at least a little about the basics of computers; and give your children a tiny nudge to dive headfirst into the fun-filled world of programming. If reading this book helps you with any of these things, I couldn’t be happier.

   In my career so far I have worked as an engineer and OS developer in both enterprise and educational settings on projects such as system development/improvement and consulting, as well authoring and management of technical books. In a sense, one of my duties was to act as a mediator between engineers, users, and contractors, communicating information using easily-understood language, and facilitating communication between all parties.

   This book is not intended to be an introduction to programming or a technical book. I have not included even a single line of actual code. Even so, I’ve tried hard to give simple, easy-to-understand explanations so that you can get a taste for the what programming is like. Because of that, some experienced engineers and programmers may find the contents of this book lacking.

   Instead, I’ve included information about programming education from a diverse set of sources. I’ve paid particular attention to structuring each chapter so it is relatively independent from the others, and you can enjoy the book in any order you prefer. Feel free to peruse the table of contents, find a chapter you are interested in, and dive into the book from that point.

   I hope you and your children will join me on a journey through the exciting world of programming.

– Kohji Matsubayashi



  1. The quote on line two was replaced with the quote directly from Obama’s speech:
  2. My English translation of the title (“Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code“) is slightly different than the one listed on the cover of the book, which reads: “Teach your kids to code to turn them into billionaires”