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Summer Reading Adventures Part 1: Japanese Language Learning

In exactly three months from today I will be beginning my study abroad program in Tokyo, Japan. As the distant idea of my living in Japan for four months is quickly becoming more of an immediate reality, I have decided to spend the time I have before I go doing everything I can to learn Japanese culture and language. This post is the first of three, each focusing on a different book I hope to master over the next three months.

The first book I will be reading is Exploring Japanese Literature, a bilingual anthology of three short stories written by famous Japanese authors in the 20th century. This type of book is one of my favorite tools for language learning, because it is appropriate for language learners who aren’t young children and yet it is structured enough that the reader does not need to be at an advanced level of the language in order to comprehend it. If you are interested, you can purchase it here on Amazon.


One of the other great tools in this book is the conjugation chart at the beginning of the book. The book has a dictionary containing all of the words from each story, though the dictionary shows each word in the dictionary form. This chart can be used to understand the way the verb changes between the dictionary form and the way the word is written in the story.


Each page is structured in the same way; with a small section of Japanese on the Left page, the translation of that section into English on the Right page, and the dictionary for the Japanese words below on both pages. U


Upon looking at the Japanese, you may notice that 95% of the Kanji has no furigana. When I first noticed this, I have to admit I was quite intimidated and it was a bit of a challenge constantly going back and forth between the Japanese and the dictionary for the correct readings. However, I would have to say this has forced me to pay closer attention to the Kanji and their readings and I am really learning a lot.


The great thing about this dictionary is that it truly is all you need for the entire text–the book does not assume you know any of the words.


Finally, a really neat feature at the end of the book is a map of the path a character in the third story takes throughout Tokyo. This really helps the reader put the story into perspective and helps encourage the reader to learn about culture in addition to language.


Overall I am very excited about the learning that will take place with the help of this book. My goal is to widen my vocabulary and my kanji recognition skills, and this is exactly the challenge I need. Also, although I know it helps language learners to be familiar with the material in their native language before approaching it in the new language, I have decided to read through each story first in Japanese, than in English before returning to the beginning and reading it in Japanese again–this time focusing on specific details and new vocabulary. I think I may create some vocabulary and Kanji lists, and if I do I will upload them here in the future!

Japanese level needed: Intermediate

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 of my Summer Reading Adventures in Japanese language and culture! Thanks for reading and happy learning ^_^


  1. Pingback: Summer Reading Adventures Part 2: Japanese Literature | Unmasked Adventures

  2. Pingback: Summer Reading Adventures Part 3: Tokyo Walking Tours | Unmasked Adventures

  3. Thanks for sharing! I begin Japanese lessons next week! I fell for Japan during my trip there last year and I have to say I’m a bit jealous -in a good way- for people who get to live there for a while! I just discovered your blog and it seems really interesting!

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