Made it to level 17!
It took me thirteen days, which isn’t bad. Level 17 will probably be a day or two (or three) longer, just because there are more vocab items.
My burned item count as of the beginning of this level: 356
I also started burning items in Kaniwani finally! Unfortunately, the reviews from the first few levels came in large bursts because I started KW late . But at least almost all of those items are burned now, so I don’t have to deal with huge review clumps anymore. Currently, I have burned 139 items in KW.
Fun encounters with Japanese outside of WaniKani:
One of the highlights of these past couple weeks was another ひらがなまっする show! I always look forward to these immensely. This is perhaps a blasphemous opinion for a wrestling fan, but if I had the chance to see just one wrestling show live in Japan, Hiragana Muscle would be my first choice (yes, even over a Tokyo Dome or a Budokan show). It’s such an incredible use of the Korakuen Hall space, and combines the best qualities of both wrestling and theater.
Here’s a clip from near the beginning of the show that I thought was very cool and well-done (remember, this is a live performance for the crowd in the venue!). This scene would be some fun reading practice to revisit later on, because it has the Japanese names for a lot of common wrestling spots and moves.
The show started, as is typical for a Yoshihiro Sakai/Super Sasadango Machine project, with a powerpoint. I loved the powerpoints before I could read a single word in Japanese, but they’re infinitely more fun now that I can actually read some kanji. As always, my process for watching these shows is by following along via Mr. Haku’s live translation threads on twitter.
(Cut for a long digression on ひらがなまっする specifically)
The powerpoint started by talking about the concept of public awareness, and how awareness of ひらがなまっする is low. The slide had a diagram labeled 世聞, which seems to be the phrase that Mr. Haku was translating as “public awareness.” I was pleased that I was able to read 世界平和 a little later on and immediately understood it to mean “world peace” before Mr. Haku finished typing his translation.
The plot of Hiragana Muscle 5 centered around a parody of the Olympics. At the start of the show, “Yuriko Koikebukuro,” the governor of Tokyo, had some unfortunate news for the director and the assistant directors (they all got fired). I had just learned 大変 in WK, and had learned “大変ですね” used to express sympathy back in lesson 4 of MNN, and I heard 大変 used here as well, and was able to guess that “Yuriko” had some bad news for the other characters before I saw the translation.
I also wrote down 目前 during my notes while watching the show, but I can’t remember the context for it, haha! I think maybe I heard it spoken and quickly wrote it down. It means exactly what I thought it meant. Yomichan translates it as “before one’s very eyes.”
In the plot of the show, most of the 250 countries declined to participate due to covid, but two of the countries that joined were the “United States of Finish” (the group of face wrestlers who are sort of the main characters are the personified gods of wrestling finishers), and “Isubekistan” (the group of heel wrestlers who are antagonists for the Finish Boys are the Steel Chair Boys, who are personified groups of foreign objects, especially chairs. いす is, of course, the word for chair, hence “Isubekistan”). If you watch wrestling, いす is a word that you will not forget.
Sidenote: DDT once had an “イス vs イス” match (here’s the press conference for it, and here’s a link to the match itself, though warning: it contains Danshoku Dieno). A chair also started off DDT’s Ultimate Party 2019 show. One of the chairs had pinned another chair prior to the match and had become Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion. I can’t link to that match to show the chair’s entrance, but I did manage to find the song the chair entered to by searching for イス歌 on youtube.
In this Hiragana Muscle show, the Finish Boys (temporarily) gained a new member. He walked into the ring wearing a shirt that said 練習生, which I read as “practice student” at first glance. 練習生 is, of course, the word for a trainee! The Finish Boys introduced him as the personified god of seconds.
For a good chunk of the show, the wrestlers had to perform different かた, and the crowd (plus the judges) would pick a winner. The かた were things like “the opening few minutes of a match,” or “mid-card wrestler in match 2 of the third show of a non-Tokyo tour,” or “typical tag routine that will probably be popular in US indies in the near future.” The rounds included singles matches, tag matches, a 3-way match, and backstage comments.
I was curious about the kanji for かた, so I looked it up after the show, and it appears to be 型 (since in the show, the かた were modeled after martial arts), which is a level 24 kanji that WK has assigned the meaning “model.” I wondered if this word was another word like かえる, which can be 返える or 帰える, both of which have slightly different meanings. WK teaches 形, and in some words, the kanji is read かた or がた, and 形 can mean shape or form. At first I thought 型 and 形 might share a component, but according to the Keisei script, they do not, haha. Perhaps the two kanji and the associated words actually aren’t related at all.
All in all, Hiragana Muscle was a blast as always. Usually how these shows go is I spend most of them laughing, and then at the end, they get surprisingly emotional. I think Sakai has ended every single one of them in tears because of how well they manage to come together, and how they manage to touch on some aspects of wrestling that are real and magical despite the ridiculousness of it and the fact that so much of this is everyone collectively playing pretend.
Supposedly this show (which was over two and a half hours long) was entirely put together in a week. That’s absolutely incredible for a show that includes so much choreographed dancing and acting. I think it’s something that is only really possible in wrestling, where the wrestlers themselves can be trusted to handle their individual performances in the ring and improvise when needed.
In other news, I realized that I’ve learned almost all the kanji in Kota Ibushi’s name: 飯伏 幸太. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers, so this makes me happy. The only one that I have yet to learn is 伏, which is unfortunately a level 55 kanji (it means bow), so it will probably be over a year before I learn it, haha.
I was also happy to learn the kanji 軍 this level! Japanese wrestling fans learn this word pretty quickly, because many wrestling factions use it in their name. In TJPW, there is 伊藤リスペクト軍団, the Itoh Respect Army, which I have a t-shirt for (or at least, my shirt is for the NEO Itoh Respect Army, not the original flavor), and there is one of my favorite factions in wrestling, NEO美威獅鬼軍, NEO Biishiki-gun, whose motto and twitter bio I can now read without machine translation: 美しさは強さ (“beauty is strength”).
There is also, of course, 鈴木軍, NJPW’s Suzuki-gun, which exploded into international prominence a week ago when its leader, Minoru Suzuki, made his surprise debut at AEW’s PPV, All Out, in Chicago. Suzuki’s entrance theme is a song called 風になれ, and it is traditional for the crowd to shout out the main chorus, “風になれ!”, along with the music. However, due to coronavirus restrictions in Japan, crowds have been prohibited from vocalizing, so the audience has been unable to sing it for a year and a half now.
America has been, well, much more callous and less careful about the pandemic than Japan has been, so American crowds do not have the same restrictions, and sure enough, when Suzuki made his entrance, he held his hand up to his ear, and the crowd of thousands of American fans shouted “風になれ!” for the first time since the pandemic started. It was one of those moments that filled me with an indescribable emotion.
After that, 風になれ climbed the iTunes rankings to number 12 in the j-pop section for the US, and then a day after that, it was number 1 (as they say, “鈴木軍一番！”). This is higher than it has ever ranked since its original release in 2004. I think it was extraordinarily cool to hear that audience (who didn’t even know that Suzuki was coming) respect that tradition from Japanese crowds, and sing that line from a Japanese song.
When Suzuki debuted, former NJPW wrestler (and current WWE wrestler, which means he is not really allowed to talk about AEW) Shinsuke Nakamura just tweeted “#風になれ”. It wasn’t until I saw that tweet that I realized that I could read the title of the song now.
Suzuki had a match on AEW Dynamite on TNT a few days later, but sadly the production team messed up and cut his entrance off before the 風になれ part. Normally I’m pretty forgiving of AEW’s production errors, but this one got me heated. AEW did realize their mistake right away, though, and it looks like we’re probably going to get Mox & Eddie vs Lance & Suzuki at an upcoming show, where they will almost certainly not make the same mistake.
That was a lot of paragraphs to talk about not a lot of Japanese, haha, but things like that are what keep me going, and are what brought me here in the first place.
みんなの日本語 Lesson 10 – Lesson 11
I am forcing myself not to track the time I spend on MNN lessons anymore because I think I’ve gotten enough of a rough idea of it by now, and I’m better off focusing on other things, like the actual language, instead of my study habits.
Lesson 10 went fine! I don’t think I have specific comments on it. I was able to get it done decently fast, which is nice because I’ve been a little bit quicker with leveling up on WK lately, too.
The Lesson 11 vocab was a breeze. I’ve learned most of it already on WK, so there were only a few new things I had to worry about memorizing. So far, the exercises haven’t been too difficult, either.
One fun coincidence is that lesson 11 teaches the counters for a number of things, and just when I added those cards to my MNN Anki deck, those same vocab items came up on WK and KW for burn review!
I updated the MNN kanji by WK level spreadsheet with the lesson 11 kanji! (Just a reminder that it’s possible to sort the chart by WK level or MNN lesson number, whichever is most useful to you).
I started reading the prologue of 大海原と大海原 along with the absolute beginners bookclub! Here’s my attempt at trying to read the first page. So far, it’s very slow-going, since I have to look up a lot of grammar and vocab, but I expected that. Supposedly, this first page of the prologue is one of the hardest in the book, so I felt pretty good about being able to roughly understand it!
I didn’t want to confess this in the actual book club thread, but despite being warned that your first attempt at reading native media is going to be frustratingly hard, I actually haven’t found the actual process to be that hard at all . Then again, perhaps you can’t really call it my first attempt, considering the amount of wrestling stuff I look at all the time. But this is the first time I’m attempting an entirely ground-up approach, without using machine translation at all.
A lot of folks on this forum like to recommend against using textbooks, but personally, this attempt at reading actual manga has made me really appreciate the time I’ve spent with MNN so far. I think it has been really valuable. What I really like about MNN is that it slowly adds more complicated elements to sentences, and it gives me ample opportunities to practice all of the new grammar until I feel confident that I understand it.
When I see grammar that I learned in my textbook in the wild, it’s pretty effortless for me to figure out how to read the sentence. Even if there is still unknown grammar, if I at least understand part of it, it’s easier to figure out how to approach what I don’t know. MNN has already given me an eye for looking at a Japanese sentence and figuring out sort of where to start to parse it. But if I’m looking up a bunch of unknown grammar points, that introduces a lot of variables where my interpretation can go wrong, and I also tend to immediately forget the grammar I just looked up. And since I have to read slowly, it’s often a long time before I see another example of that same grammar point to reinforce the knowledge.
What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others, but I’m happy with the path I’ve taken so far. I think the combination of WK + MNN + lots and lots of passive immersion is a great way to slowly build up a solid understanding that is then reinforced by countless instances of hearing and seeing Japanese in native media. Is it the most efficient method? Absolutely not. But it’s proving to be an effective way for me to slowly gain the ability to understand the Japanese wrestling media that I’m already reading and watching on a daily basis, and that’s my primary goal.
I’m going to keep reading 大海原と大海原 just for the fun of it, but I look forward to the day where my main stumbling block is my lack of vocab, not vocab and grammar both! I think that is when active immersion will become a lot more effective for me.
I do think, though, that I’m not going to be able to effectively SRS the vocab in this book while I’m going through WK and MNN at the rate I’m doing them, so I will save that for another time! Maybe I will reread the book after I’ve completed MNN, and will SRS the unknown vocab then.
Perhaps this is only of interest to other book and/or web designers, but I found a neat blog post with a guide on web typography in Japanese! I took a couple classes in book design in grad school and have done a little web design as well, so it was interesting to think about how the aesthetics of Japanese typography differ from English. The shorter line length for Japanese especially stood out to me, because line length is one of the most important elements of typography, and it hadn’t occurred to me that Japanese would have completely different rules here than English.
Regarding fonts, my Anki deck is currently using Yu Mincho for Japanese, and Garamond for English. Here’s a reminder of how they look together:
I was happy to see that I had chosen the Japanese font well, haha! According to this guide, the design concept of Yu Mincho is the font for Japanese history novels. It’s described as a modern font with traditional tastes, which allows it to be used in both formal and informal documents. Serif typefaces are called 明朝 in Japanese, hence the name Yu Mincho.
I think it seems to be a nice counterpart for Garamond. Garamond is a serif font, so it pairs well with a 明朝 font like Yu Mincho, and Garamond is also a popular typeface for book printing, so I think it works well with a font designed for Japanese history novels. Garamond is what I consider to be my desert island font (basically, if I had to use only one English typeface for the rest of my life for all book design, I would choose Garamond), which is why I defaulted to it here.
I prefer using a 明朝 font for my flash cards because I think it lets me get a better sense of the strokes that make up the characters. Plus, aesthetically, I just prefer the serif look to the ゴシック look (the name for sans-serif in Japanese is “gothic”).
Burn Progress — This script adds a progress bar at the top of the dashboard which shows your overall progress through WK. It tracks the percentage of items seen, as well as the percentage of items burned. Simple but nifty!
The pro wrestling thread is still not ready to post, but it’s close! I’m currently getting some help from a few friends to help fill out some sections of it that I’m less knowledgeable about. The draft for the inaugural post is over 6,000 words as it stands, and that’s without even including any specific match recommendations .
I got a bit delayed because I started working on an article about women’s wrestling that I’m hoping I’ll be able to get published on a real website (as opposed to tumblr or a forum), haha!
My goal for this next level is to finally start that thread, and finish reading the prologue of 大海原と大海原.
Onward to level 18! 行くぞ！