Japanese fairy tales now available free on Kanshudo (a Japanese learning site)

By | October 19, 2020

Update: The original article was posted in October 2020, and in June 2021 a second fairy tale by another author was added. See the bottom of the article for more details.

I started Self Taught Japanese in late 2013 with the idea of sharing my experiences studying Japanese so other people would be able to learn this challenging language a little easier. Years later, I began doing translations of Japanese literature that I initially posted directly on this blog, and then eventually started making E-books that I made available on Amazon, some in bilingual format for Japanese learners. Even now I still spend a lot of time on these two objectives: helping others learn the Japanese language and making what I feel are significant pieces of Japanese literature available to a larger audience.

Recently I was contacted by Jonathan Kirk, the creator of Kanshudo (漢習道) that is a Japanese learning platform focused around an ‘AI tutor’ to guide your learning progress, and a bunch of tools and resources to make learning Japanese fun and easy. He expressed some interest in my translations, and it was not long until I had given permission for him to list on one my works, in full, on his site: “The Life of a Musical Instrument” (楽器の生命) by Mimei Ogawa (小川未明), sometimes called the father of modern Japanese fairy tales.

Kanshudo has many things to help learn to read Japanese, everything from grammar lessons and vocabulary flashcards to games and mastery tracking. There is so much there I haven’t had a chance to explore everything in detail yet (though I would like to provide a detailed review eventually), but my main focus has been on the “Reading Corner”, which is where you can find my story available. 

The Reading Corner contains a selection of readings based on real world texts, graded at various difficulty levels from absolute beginner to advanced. For Japanese learners, having a selection like this available online is nice, but the real magic of this part of Kanshudo is how you can go sentence-by-sentence and see a detailed description of each part of the sentence, including vocabulary words and grammar points. Besides things like definitions and conjugation, you can even hear the word pronounced and see its “usefulness level”. The Reading Corner is nice on it’s own, but it is also integrated into the site’s other features like the lessons and flashcards, etc. I can say that I sure wish this site was around back when I started Japanese!

This part of the website is not just conceptually a nice idea, but it’s executed pretty well in terms of user interface and overall usability. It’s clear Jonathan and his team have spent a great amount of time developing and refining the way things work.

Anyway, like all great websites of course there are some pay features, but Kanshudo let’s you do quite a lot with a free account, including reading all of “The Life of a Musical Instrument” and all the associated explanatory information about it. You can find the first part of the story here (it is broken into three parts), though you will need to first create an account here for that link to work.

Finally, I’d like to thank Jonathan for allowing me the opportunity to have one of my translations available to a larger audience. It was nice working with him and I wish him the best luck with Kanshudo into the future.

Update: I’m happy to announce that Kanshudo added another one of my fairy tales, “The Crane’s Flute” by Hayashi Fumiko (which is published in this book). This one is a bit more difficult but I think it’s a great story with a nice moral. If you are already a member of Kanshudo you can get to it via this link.

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