Level 60 — どこまでもいこう

unbridled_joy

やったー!

Learning Japanese is maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not because the language is inherently difficult (it’s not), but because it takes a whole lot of time and effort to get anywhere with it, and you have to somehow find it in yourself to keep going, repeatedly.

I found getting this far with Japanese to be harder than getting through grad school. In grad school, I had financial pressure and family pressure keeping me on track the whole time. With Japanese, the only person holding me accountable was myself. I wasn’t taking any sort of classes, didn’t have to worry about grades or tuition cost, and at any moment, I could walk away from it if I wanted and there would be no penalty whatsoever.

Getting to level 60 doesn’t mean you’ve mastered Japanese (it doesn’t even mean you’ve mastered beginner Japanese). But it does mean that you’ve figured out how to commit to a language goal and keep at it until you get there, no matter how long it takes. And that’s a start.

WaniKani honestly changed my life. Though, to be honest, it was really the forum that did it more than the program itself. This place has been a fixture of my life for the past 2+ years, and my life has been better for it.

The thing about learning Japanese is that it’s (probably) not the studying part that will get you. It’s the other stuff happening in your life that will be the biggest threat to your studies.

Because of that, I wanted to give a bit of a glimpse into what my own journey was like. The long version is in my study log, faithfully recorded as everything was actually happening, but here are all of the major highlights (with a little extra stuff included with the benefit of hindsight), plus some of the lessons that I learned along the way. The abridged version is still long. Sorry. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

There were three points in particular, I think, where I came very close to quitting.

むかしむかし、あるところに…

My first inkling of a desire to learn Japanese happened in middle school. I was deep into anime and manga at the time, but I had neither the motivation nor the discipline to learn a second language as a teenager, so nothing really came of it.

It was pro wrestling, of all things, that got me to actually learn Japanese.

In 2019, after an entire lifetime of hating pro wrestling, I discovered pro wrestling’s greatest love story, which is between a Canadian wrestler named Kenny Omega and a Japanese wrestler named Kota Ibushi. Together, they make up a tag team called the Golden Lovers. Their story began in 2008 in a very unconventional company in Japan called DDT Pro Wrestling, and the wrestlers proceeded to carry that love story for over a decade and a half (and counting), taking it to New Japan Pro Wrestling and beyond. Parts of it are exclusively in untranslated Japanese, and other parts are exclusively in untranslated English.

I had no idea that pro wrestling was capable of this level of storytelling. I went from hating the medium to being completely obsessed with it practically overnight.

2019 was a very exciting year to get into pro wrestling! It was not the greatest year to be a Golden Lovers fan. Kenny Omega left NJPW to help start All Elite Wrestling in America, trying to live up to his “change the world” catchphrase, and Kota Ibushi stayed behind in Japan. The relationship between their two companies seemed fraught at best, and so the future of their tag team was up in the air. That didn’t stop them from including little love letters to each other in their work, though.

I actually almost ended up trying to learn Japanese at the end of 2019, but was too intimidated to start, and refocused on brushing up on my old high school Spanish instead (Spanish is actually the third global pro wrestling language, besides English and Japanese. Would I have been motivated to get back into studying it without pro wrestling? I truly don’t think so).

In stark contrast to 2019, 2020 was a terrible year to be into pro wrestling. I’m not going to go into it here, but there were several points where I almost walked away from it entirely. I didn’t, though. And by the end of the year, I was actually watching more pro wrestling than I had been at the start of it…

That’s part of how I ended up here, actually. I was scrolling past Japanese tweets every single day and listening to hours upon hours of (mostly unsubtitled) Japanese media each week. At some point, your curiosity starts to really get to you.

I’ve spent most of my Japanese language journey deeply regretting that I hadn’t started earlier (as it so happened, even one year earlier would have made a difference…). But, well, I think we’re all familiar with the famous proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

And so in September of that year, I planted my tree.

Sept 2020 | 物の哀れ

Over the course of the first pandemic year, I became a little bit obsessed with the theme of transience. It was this review of a wrestling photobook that first put the thought into my head, and I fixated on it for months afterward, trying to make peace with it. It’s a repeated theme in my study log, so I guess I’m still trying to reckon with it.

That summer, I learned that I just had to appreciate wrestling stories while I had them, because there was no guarantee that anything would last. Wrestling is always moving forward, never back.

That got me to finally take the plunge with Japanese. I only had this one chance to experience all of these stories, so I better make the most of it.

I downloaded Anki and started learning hiragana and katakana, figuring I could start there and then see what happens.

And for a few months, that was about as far as I got.

Dec 2020 | 山

The first kanji I learned was 山. I figured out its kun’yomi reading (before I even understood that concept) by triangulating between Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s Miyu Yamashita’s name (山下実優) and DDT Pro Wrestling’s Jun Akiyama’s name (秋山 準). When I first discovered WaniKani, I remember coming across a spreadsheet of WK kanji, and the first thing I did was search for 山.

And there it was, a level one kanji. I learned that it meant “mountain.” With a smile, I considered Jun Akiyama and Miyu Yamashita, and thought “how fitting.”

I decided to give WK a shot. This was during the holiday sale, so I almost sprung for lifetime, but Tofugu recommended completing the first three levels before paying for a subscription, and I wasn’t sure I had the commitment or the moxie to see it through to the end.

(Not paying for lifetime from the start is my other big regret with Japanese. I did get a discount on my first year, though.)

Mar 2021 | 石

It took a couple months before I got serious about learning the language. For a while, I was content to just do WaniKani at a very leisurely pace and enjoy occasionally seeing and hearing words I recognized when I watched wrestling without any real urgency to learn more.

In the early days, I especially loved learning kanji that were in wrestlers’ names. I could enjoy that part of it without any grammar knowledge at all. New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Tomohiro Ishii (石井 智宏) is referred to as the “Stone Pitbull”, which is also the name of his theme. I was so incredibly delighted to learn (いし). Ishii’s nickname certainly suits him!

At some point, I visited the forum for the first time, and the community here really opened my eyes. I learned that I needed to do a lot more than WK if I truly wanted to become proficient in Japanese, and for that matter, that I was doing WK wrong, too. I learned how the SRS worked, and how to optimize it so that I was getting the most out of my time here. I discovered userscripts and so many other helpful resources, and I started to actually come up with a real study plan.

I still think of the day I joined the WK community as the day I truly committed to learning Japanese.

On March 10, I logged into the forum for the first time. On March 11, I made my first post. Nine days later, I started a study log (I was level 4 at the time).

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Apr 2021 | 里心

By April, I had the beginnings of a routine down. I was practicing reading every day in Spanish (I had wanted to try immersion, but my Japanese wasn’t good enough), was a good chunk of the way through Japanese Ammo with Misa’s grammar lessons for absolute beginners, had downloaded a bunch more scripts, and was well on my way to becoming a forum regular.

I read a lot of very strong opinions about WK (for the record, 里心 is still one of my favorite words), and about language learning in general. But the language learning bug had thoroughly bitten me, and I was hooked. My special interest in pro wrestling evolved to be a special interest in language learning, too. The two interests really fed into each other a lot, and my study log posts got longer and longer because I just had so much I wanted to talk about every level, even though I still couldn’t read much Japanese.

I bought Minna no Nihongo, and ultimately got so eager to start it that I caved and began reading it at level 7, three levels before I’d planned to start. I was nervous about adding another SRS, since I was doing WaniKani and KaniWani, but I started using Anki again to SRS the textbook vocab, and the workload wasn’t too bad.

Once I found a rhythm here, I kept it up without wavering for the entire rest of my WK journey.

Aug 2021 | 不変の狂猿愛

I bought my first issue of shupro (週刊プロレス, the most well-known Japanese wrestling magazine), issue no. 2126, solely because it featured Yoshihiko on the cover. The issue came out in June, but it took a few months for it to get to me, because I had it shipped overseas with some other stuff.

When the magazine arrived, it was too difficult for me to read it on my own, so I spent a few hours painstakingly transcribing the text of a few of the articles so that I could read them with the help of machine translation.

I discovered that all of the time I had put into practicing writing the WaniKani kanji had given me an amazing superpower: I could intuit the rough stroke order and draw just about any unknown kanji on the IME pad and get it to give me the right kanji without much trouble.

Every kanji save one, however. I got stumped by this one: 葛󠄀󠄀. No matter how many times I drew it, it wouldn’t come up, and I ultimately had to find it via radical search. Thanks to google (and some help from rodan), I discovered that it was used interchangeably with 葛. The word that was causing me so much trouble? It was deathmatch legend Jun Kasai’s name: 葛西 純. Hikari Noa, a wrestler from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, talked about her love of “Crazy Monkey” Jun Kasai in the interview.

Being able to sort of read shupro gave me a whole bunch of unearned confidence. I’d originally planned on waiting to try reading manga after I finished the first book of Minna no Nihongo, but I saw the book club thread for 大海原と大海原 and got so intrigued by the manga, I decided to give it a shot anyway…

Sept 2021 | 浪花節

I started reading volume one of 大海原と大海原 when I was level 16 in WaniKani and about 10 lessons into Minna no Nihongo. I had grand plans of SRS-ing all of the new vocab in the manga, but abandoned that plan pretty quickly when I saw how much work lay ahead of me, and found out how much harder it was to learn all of these new words when I didn’t yet know the kanji.

Contrary to what I had been told, it wasn’t actually all that scary trying to read manga in Japanese. But, well, compared to the experience of trying to read something like shupro, everything else felt a lot easier!

I enjoyed the manga despite having moderately poor comprehension on my own, and had fun following along with the book club thread, which helped me actually understand the overall plot, but I ultimately realized that my Japanese was too low level for manga to be a truly effective learning tool for me. I decided to stick with 大海原と大海原 simply for fun.

I was getting more and more out of tweets from wrestlers, now that I had tools like Yomichan and ichi.moe and at least a little bit of grammar knowledge. But I ran up against the limits of my ability when I read a tweet by the wrestler Yumehito Imanari, who makes the video packages for DDT Pro Wrestling and Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling.

Imanari said that he can’t make make a cool VTR with CGI like American promotions, but he always makes them with feeling and 浪花節, and he was very glad that something of 浪花節 was conveyed to Chris Brookes (who is an Englishman and not Japanese) with the video he made for Chris’s match. I felt like I had a sense of what he meant by 浪花節, since I had seen many of these videos, but after some googling, I wasn’t able to find a satisfying answer (in English) to what exactly 浪花節 even was, beyond a basic definition of the word. It was a mystery that I would just have to wait to solve when I had greater fluency.

I passed my first real milestone in Japanese: one year had passed since I first started studying the language (though I hadn’t gotten serious about it until six months in).

And after talking about it for weeks, I finally started a thread on the forum for pro wrestling! I didn’t realize at the time just how important it was about to become.

Oct 2021 | 不死鳥

Things were looking up in my personal life: I got a part time job as a librarian, which is the field that I have a master’s degree in. I worried a bit about how it might impact my language learning hobby, since my new job could potentially develop into full-time employment if the opportunity arose. But I decided I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

Less bright news: In New Japan Pro Wrestling, Kota Ibushi won his block match against Kenta, then went on to face Kazuchika Okada in the G1 tournament final (it was Ibushi’s record-breaking fourth G1 final in a row), and Ibushi ended up dislocating his shoulder after a missed Phoenix Splash, which forced the referee to stop the match.

I’d seen a few injuries happen in pro wrestling before, but none of them were as stressful to watch as this one was.

From purely an aesthetic standpoint, I love the Phoenix Splash. It takes my breath away every time. It’s one of my favorite things about Ibushi’s style of wrestling. But at the same time, it’s an incredibly scary move! I guess that gets at the central contradiction of pro wrestling, for me. I am both compelled by it and repelled by it. I want to look at it and look away at the same time.

There’s a fantastic essay on Ibushi’s entire career (up until that fateful Phoenix Splash) which talks about how that move exemplifies Kota Ibushi, the phoenix who burns up and rises from the ashes time and time again.

(I’ve made the choice to give this chapter a slightly anachronistic subtitle because I hadn’t yet learned the word 不死鳥 when all of this happened originally, but it’s the only word that comes to mind when I think back on this month now.)

Looking back now, my study log post at the time was painfully optimistic. I said that thankfully, the injury didn’t seem to be too serious. The wrestlers themselves tried to stay in good spirits about it, and Ibushi had come back from worse before.

As it turned out, that injury was just the first domino in a long line of horrors.

Nov 2021 | 喜怒哀楽

November is always a busy month for me because it’s National Novel Writing Month, so I’ve spent the past fourteen years writing a 50,000 word manuscript every November, like clockwork. This year was no exception, though I was nervous about balancing my Japanese studies and my new part time job with writing an entire novel. But it was okay; I’d gotten through grad school without breaking my NaNoWriMo streak; I could do this.

The first chunk of the month got off to a great start for Golden Lovers fans, with All Elite Wrestling directly referencing Kota Ibushi at a pivotal moment in Kenny Omega’s story. I was over the moon about that. I wanted to gif it, but didn’t have time.

Kenny’s body ended up being more broken down than any of us knew, and after he lost the AEW championship, he had to take some time off of wrestling to heal some lingering injuries. Even now, there was a strange symmetry between Kenny and Ibushi’s situations.

And so with both wrestlers out of action, I settled in for a long winter, hoping that a bright spring awaited the Golden Lovers after both of them had recovered. Instead, it was a winter that lasted many seasons. It would take me over a year to finish that gifset.

(The subtitle for this chapter is another slightly anachronistic one. I learned 喜怒哀楽 technically slightly after November, in the Kota Ibushi essay linked above. The author described it as a word which means “joy, anger, sadness, and enjoyment or fun”, and which encapsulates the spectrum of these emotions that art should strive to create and facilitate. Ibushi has used this word to describe his ideal of wrestling.)

At the very end of November, everything went wrong for me.

I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t allude to this in my study log entries at the time. I guess I was trying to push through and thought that the bad feelings were going to pass soon. I was in the process of getting friendship dumped by my best friend, though I didn’t realize how unsalvageable that situation was at the time.

And while that was happening, I also nearly lost my only remaining social support network.

I had absolutely no one left to go to. I was crying myself to sleep every single night, and I couldn’t talk about it with a single other person.

Somehow, I made it to the finish line with NaNoWriMo, though the last chunk of my novel was a blur. I tried to distract myself by spending time with family over Thanksgiving and continuing my Japanese studies. I’d somehow managed to finish volume 1 of 大海原と大海原 with the book club and had started volume 2.

Most Novembers, I spend the month telling myself, “You just have to get through November. Things will be better after November.”

But November ended, and things didn’t get better.

Dec 2021 | プロレスは諸行無常

December came with the bitter news that my favorite wrestling translator, Mr. Haku, was leaving CyberFight at the end of the year. This meant no more live translation threads for DDT or Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. No more translations of post-match comments or press conferences.

DDT/TJPW English Update was the means through which I had watched Kenny Omega come back to DDT Pro-Wrestling for Ultimate Party 2019. It was the means through which I had gotten so invested in Hyper Misao’s story in TJPW that it got me hooked on the entire company.

I deeply regretted the fact that I hadn’t started learning Japanese in December 2019 instead, or April 2019, or any point earlier than when I did. If I’d started earlier, I’d be farther along than I was now, and maybe I’d have more of a chance to be able to watch DDT/TJPW and understand without completely relying on translation.

I tried to remind myself that when I started watching wrestling in the first place, I started with the Golden Lovers’ DDT matches that happened before Mr. Haku was even hired, and I was able to watch them without understanding a word, and it was still somehow enough to pull me into this weird and wonderful world. The beauty of wrestling is that you can watch two people in a match together and just know that they love each other without them ever needing to verbally express it. Ultimately, it’s a story told with people’s bodies, and that part of it transcends language.

But it hurt so much to lose translation because now I knew what I had lost. I’d gotten a taste of being able to actually follow along with all of the jokes and the nuances of the stories as if I were fluent, and now I wouldn’t have that anymore.

I couldn’t help but think about what Pro Wrestling NOAH wrestler Masa Kitamiya had said a few months before: プロレスは諸行無常. Every day, I think about how transient these stories are, all of these moments in time. But I’d failed to consider the transience of the experience of watching wrestling in itself, the people and fans who make that possible and enjoyable. I expect tag teams I love to break up, my favorite wrestlers to retire, stories of heartbreak and separation and longing. But when my favorite translator leaves, I’m blindsided. I suppose I’d taken it for granted that even if the story turned sad, at least there would still be a story for me to follow.

I was so numb from all of the other stuff that had been happening to me, the pain from losing Mr. Haku’s translations barely registered at first. It didn’t feel real.

When I watched my first show without Mr. Haku’s translation, the despair set in.

This was the first point where I considered quitting Japanese. DDT and TJPW felt suddenly completely unobtainable for me. My brain kept trying to trick me into believing that if I listened close enough during DDT and TJPW shows, I’d be able to magically understand everything they were saying. Instead, it just served to highlight just how far I had left to go.

Why not just give up and walk away from it? Why study Japanese if I couldn’t even use it when I needed it? Why keep watching DDT and TJPW if I couldn’t actually follow what’s happening?

If this were normal media, it would be easy to just set it aside for a few years and come back to it when my Japanese ability was better, but pro wrestling doesn’t work like that. It happens entirely in real time. The stories wouldn’t wait for me.

Ultimately, my investment in the characters won out. I picked myself up off of the floor and started a massively overambitious project. Even if it was just for the benefit of myself and a handful of my friends, I was going to attempt to translate as much DDT/TJPW content as I could.

To put my Japanese level in perspective, I had just learned the て form in October. That’s where I was at when I decided to do this.

I ended up splitting the workload with a friend whose Japanese was far better than mine was. She would tackle TJPW (which we both thought was more important, haha), and I would try to cover DDT. I had no listening comprehension to speak of, so I relied entirely on the show recaps they put up on the DDT site, which summarized highlights from the matches and transcribed some of what was said in the ring and in the post-match comments.

And so, armed with ichi.moe and DeepL and some beginner Japanese, I tried my best.

The WaniKani forum was what really saved me in the end, though. I am very, very lucky to have found this place, and to have made a friend like rodan, who just so happens to also like pro wrestling and also really likes answering questions.

That pro wrestling thread I had created a few months earlier became ground zero for my translation drafts and questions.

I realized that I was going to have to step things up with my Japanese studies if I was going to do this, so I started adding words to Anki that I encountered while doing my translations. If I saw it in wrestling, then it was a word that I needed to learn, if not now then eventually, so I might as well put the time in and learn it now.

To seal my commitment to Japanese, I bought lifetime membership to WaniKani during the December sale. I wasn’t going to let that become another regret.

Jan 2022 | 黄昏れる

January passed in a bit of a blur. I signed up for my first read every day challenge, figuring that between the DDT translations and 大海原と大海原, I’d have no trouble at all keeping up with the challenge (I was right).

I also signed a new work contract that doubled my hours, though I was still working very part-time.

The first week of January is イッテンヨン week, named after 1.4, January 4, the traditional date of Wrestle Kingdom, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year. It’s sort of like WrestleMania week in the US, where it has become a bit of a tradition for a whole bunch of other companies to put on shows around that time, piggybacking on the wave of enthusiasm for pro wrestling. Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling had their traditional 1.4 show, and DDT had one at the start of the year, too.

I loved this tweet from Sanshiro Takagi (the president of CyberFight, the umbrella company which includes both TJPW and DDT), which contains a photo of Yoshihiko (the DDT wrestler who is a blow-up doll) looking melancholic after his match with Chris Brookes. It taught me the word 黄昏れる, which felt appropriate for my recent mood.

While listening to a bit of Japanese commentary for TJPW, I realized that I was actually starting to recognize some of the words that I’d put into Anki from my wrestling translations. That was pretty affirming.

I also found out that I could actually read NHK News Web Easy without too much assistance! In my enthusiasm, I got a little overzealous, and started adding words from that to Anki as well. However, those extra reviews came with added stress, so I ended up abandoning this practice pretty quickly; the wrestling translations were simply more important, and I needed to save all of my energy for that.

I think it was around the end of January when I had my first panic attack over my increased Anki workload, thanks to all of the wrestling words I’d been adding, plus the NHK words. I felt like they weren’t sticking at all, and I was just beating my head against the wall trying to bash them into my brain somehow.

But, as always, I got through it somehow. Eventually the feeling passed, and the words started actually sticking, and the number of reviews I was doing every day went back down.

Things were still very hard for me emotionally, but there was some brighter news on the horizon: a fan stepped up on twitter and started doing live translation threads for DDT shows there, just like Mr. Haku used to do. When I found his tweets, I was so happy and relieved, I literally cried.

I considered whether I needed to continue with my own translation project, because this other fan was clearly more qualified than I was, but I wasn’t really satisfied with having only partial translations of the post-match comments, so I decided to keep going for the time being. I didn’t know if the other fan would be able to keep this up, so I thought it was best for me to prepare for a world in which I had to do this on my own.

Feb 2022 | アイアンマン第1529代王者

Miraculously, I managed to finish volume 2 of 大海原と大海原 on time. I made the (somewhat ill-advised) decision to sign up for the spin-off book club for the third volume, which is much longer than the first two volumes, and is much darker in tone and aimed at an older audience, so there is very little furigana. Bit of a steep difficulty jump there! To my surprise, it wasn’t actually as hard to read as I’d feared. My kanji was good enough (I was around level 28), and I was familiar enough with the character names and the story that I could actually survive pretty well on my own without even needing a vocab list.

It was the time investment more than the difficulty curve that ultimately did me in. I fell out of schedule early on in the book club, and to this day have still not finished the manga, though I do manage to squeeze in another chapter every few months or so…

That February, I won my first (and undoubtedly last) wrestling championship! I lost it less than a minute later, but that’s just how it tends to go with the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship.

DDT Pro-Wrestling streamed one of their house shows live on youtube on an iPad, and at the end of the show, Ironman Heavymetalweight Champ Mao came over to the camera and ended up knocking it over, so the iPad (and everyone watching the match on it) pinned him and we collectively became champions.

It actually marked a very real milestone for me, because the show where I became Ironman Heavemetalweight Champion was the very last DDT show that I translated.

Why did I quit? DDT actually hired the fan who had started live translating the shows on twitter, and so all of their shows going forward had translation again. I gratefully stepped back and let an actually qualified person take over. I could go back to just being a fan again.

However, around that time, my friend who had been translating Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling ran out of time and had to stop doing the translations. I volunteered to do it in her stead, and so midway through the month, I once again took up the reins…

Mar 2022 | 頑張ります

There’s knowing a word and then there’s understanding it. I feel like it wasn’t until I started translating wrestling that I really understood 頑張ります.

It’s probably the single most common word in my translations (besides “match”, at least), even more common than “winning” or “belt” and the like. It’s almost always “頑張ります” specifically, too. It’s what the rookie wrestler says to the cameras at the end of her comments after she loses, or before she’s about to have the biggest match of her career.

Rookies in Japanese wrestling do a lot of losing. Especially in a company like Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, where you start at the very bottom and have to slowly make your way up, working very hard to improve over the course of several years before you get anywhere close to beating a top wrestler.

Does that sound familiar?

It helped me when I was just starting out as a translator to think of it like being a rookie wrestler. You’ll be very, very bad at it in the beginning, and only after years of hard work and applying yourself to the craft will you start to become genuinely good at it.

I needed to give myself that permission to be bad at it because the shoes I was trying to fill were impossibly big. Not only was I profoundly unqualified for the job; I was trying to fill in for my favorite translator in the entire industry. Even if my Japanese was very good, I still wouldn’t measure up.

March was my first major test as a translator, because Grand Princess was happening on March 19. Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s biggest show yet.

I kept hoping that TJPW would hire an actual professional translator like DDT did and render me obsolete. But there was no sign of that on the horizon, so if I wanted to keep watching and allow other folks to follow along, too, I had to be the one to carry it.

I think I cried from stress while translating every single big show that TJPW had that year. Back then, even the 6,000 or 7,000 characters from the official recaps felt like an overwhelming amount of work. But somehow, I always managed to get through it.

Leading up to Grand Princess, I was also feeling more and more guilty about essentially keeping the translations to myself (they’ve always been public on this forum, but I doubt many TJPW fans would think to look on a forum for a kanji learning program to find translation of the shows). I had created a blog for all of the translations, mostly just for the convenience of myself and my friends, and I ended up tentatively promoting it on my tumblr blog, just in case there were folks there who were interested.

There were… not! Well, maybe a few people found it that way; I don’t really know. The post didn’t get much traction because there’s simply not much of an audience for TJPW there. But I was glad that I tried. I wanted people to have the chance to go into TJPW’s biggest show yet with as much context that I could offer.

March also came with several other huge milestones for me. I reached level 30 on WaniKani (halfway done!), finished book one of Minna no Nihongo, and officially passed a full-length practice test for the N5.

I celebrated my one year anniversary on the WK forum with a big overview of my first year of committed study.

Despite all of that, I finished the month with an incredibly low mood thanks to pandemic related stress on top of being depressed from friendship stuff and everything else that I’d been dealing with.

I wish I could say that this was the lowest point of the year for me, but things were about to get a lot worse.

May 2022 | 復活の炎

The pro wrestling industry is a very ugly place. I’ve asked myself over and over again how an industry that is this evil can be capable of producing art that is this beautiful. Pro wrestling has all the same problems as any entertainment industry, but it’s compounded by the fact that it’s a medium that is very hard on people’s bodies, and from the very foundation of it, you are always, always being lied to.

It’s not all bad, of course. If it was, I wouldn’t still be here. But there are times where the industry makes it very hard to be a fan.

I almost walked away from it that May. I almost walked away from Japanese, too.

I’m not going to go into it too much, because it’s a long and depressing story, but early in May, Kota Ibushi broke kayfabe and started calling out New Japan Pro Wrestling management for exploitative labor practices on twitter. As it turned out, the company had been trying to force him to come back to wrestling before his shoulder injury had healed, which was causing him (and his mother) a considerable amount of stress. Here’s a recap of the situation, with a link to translations of all of the tweets.

For the first time, I was using my Japanese to read about horrifically stressful things instead of things that brought me joy.

That month, I started translating senryu in the daily senryu thread, I guess because I was looking for a distraction. I’ve never cared much for haiku, and I didn’t have a strong opinion on senryu before I started participating in that thread, but now I really like them. They’re fun to translate because they’re a bit like a puzzle in addition to being a poem, so my brain enjoys chewing them over.

I kept up with the read every day challenge only barely. I was reading essentially bare minimum each day, and I stalled out a bit on my translations due to all of the stress and despair from the above situation. Paragraph by paragraph, I would get there eventually.

I resolved not to let NJPW take my love of pro wrestling away from me. I was determined to keep trying to translate for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, and keep studying and working on my Japanese.

I greatly appreciated this tweet from Kenny Omega, which was almost certainly intended as a message of support for Ibushi. Kenny said that the flame of resurrection will burn hot again someday, and until then, everyone, 頑張りましょう.

I held onto those words a lot over the course of that month.

In late May, I woke up to the news that my mom had tested positive for covid and she’d gone to quarantine with my dad at my uncle’s cabin, and then I went from that to watching Kyoko Kimura put on a memorial wrestling show for her daughter Hana Kimura, and then the news about Kota Ibushi’s mom hit right at the end of the show. I think maybe there’s a limit to how much mother-related grief and stress one person can deal with in one day, and I certainly reached it.

I don’t even know how I got through that last week of May, much less how I kept going with my translations and with Japanese in general.

But, well, I guess you eventually get sort of used to a baseline level of stress. Somehow, I was able to get back into most of my usual study habits, and even started writing poetry in Japanese.

This was the hardest month of my life, in the hardest year of my life. But I survived it.

Jun 2022 | 禁断の扉

Midway through June, one of my coworkers passed away unexpectedly. This made my workplace a lot more miserable and stressful, at a time where I really did not need any more misery and stress. I wondered if I was about to get more hours at work, which might potentially jeopardize my study plan.

Firefox reset all of my extensions, and I ended up having to reinstall all, uh, 32 of my userscripts. So, a word of advice: make sure you backup your tampermonkey scripts.

I signed up for the first listen every day challenge, making it a goal to listen to something in both Spanish and Japanese every day, just as I had been doing for the read every day challenges. For Japanese, in addition to using pro wrestling stuff for this challenge, I started listening to 童話 stories on this website and reading along. These are a pretty good indication of where my grammar was at the time, because I could read them without having to do any grammar lookups.

Naturally, the situation with Kota Ibushi and New Japan Pro Wrestling continued to loom over everything. A little bit of background context for this next part:

From 2019-2021, New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling had engaged in a bit of a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. For Golden Lovers fans, it was a particular source of despair. It felt like this great big immutable wall of company politics stood between the wrestlers, forcibly keeping them apart.

But by the time we finally managed to fully get there, it was too late.

In early April, I rambled excitedly in my study log about the rumor that NJPW and AEW were planning a supershow together, which was set to take place in June.

That supershow ended up happening on June 26. It was called Forbidden Door, named after a late 2019 machine mistranslation that went so viral, it ended up becoming real.

At the time the show was announced, I was incredibly excited for it. It felt like the pieces were finally starting to fall in place. AEW had somehow managed to secure partnerships with both NJPW and DDT (both of the Golden Lovers’ former companies), who are themselves competitors. AEW had a lot more Japanese support now, and with Kenny Omega’s heavy involvement, it felt like the Golden Lovers were truly at the center of it all.

Then May happened and everything came crashing down.

For how excited I was when it was announced initially, I almost ended up not watching Forbidden Door at all. Even without considering Kota Ibushi, the show itself felt cursed. Leading up to it, misfortune after misfortune befell the wrestlers, and the card for the show had to get rearranged again and again to make up for the absences.

I went into that show with absolute rock bottom expectations. I had very little investment in any of it, which I guess probably helped me enjoy it a lot more than I was expecting.

As a distraction, at least, it succeeded.

Aug 2022 | 忘れられない夏

Machine mistranslation is a frequent lament on my study log. This was the month where I finally snapped.

It was a combination of a few things that pushed me over. The first was seeing a bad machine translation of a Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling article go viral, and the second was seeing a whole bunch of western fans failing to understand that a story being told by TJPW was in fact a deliberate story that had been repeatedly coming up in the wrestlers’ post-match comments, and not a random act of malice by the booker of the company.

So I made a decision: Screw it. I’m gonna take my translations public.

I tried to be very upfront on my brand new TJPW translation twitter account that I was still a beginner, and that I do occasionally make mistakes (even with rodan catching most of them). But I realized that even though my own work was imperfect, it was so, so much better than the alternative, which was DeepL mangling things beyond belief and causing people to think that TJPW was sending Yuki Arai to All Elite Wrestling on excursion, and stuff like that.

I had spent the past several months waiting for someone else to step up, and no one had. So I became the resource that I wished I could just be following instead.

I also discovered that shupro’s mobile site has full recaps of just about every TJPW show, including transcriptions of most of the in-ring promos and post-match comments. You have to pay for their monthly membership to access them, but this was a goldmine for me.

Armed with the shupro transcripts, I was able to go from translating the official recaps on the DDT/TJPW site to translating the full promos and post-match comments. This was exactly the kind of stuff that Mr. Haku used to translate for every show and post on twitter.

It felt very suddenly like I was doing this for real now.

I wasn’t doing it officially, of course. I was (and still am) very much doing unofficial fan translation, but I was supplying the same type of translation that I used to enjoy reading after every DDT/TJPW show. I wasn’t a full replacement for Mr. Haku (live translation remains beyond me), but I was a partial replacement at least.

Doing translations of all of the post-match comments meant a couple things. The amount of work I was doing increased, and there was a lot more pressure to get stuff exactly right because it was pure quotations from the wrestlers, instead of including some of the dialogue mixed in with recaps of matches. The match recaps were pretty straightforward, and I could sort of fudge them a bit if the Japanese was tricky, but I didn’t want to do that to the wrestlers’ actual speech.

I sort of tend to stick to the shadows in wrestling fandom, so this was my first time really having a public twitter account that can actually interact with wrestlers and participate in hashtags and such. It ended up providing some avenues for practicing Japanese production, which I’ve enjoyed more than I thought!

And so, Miu Watanabe had her 忘れられない夏 where she defeated two of the three most powerful wrestlers in TJPW only to fall to Yuka Sakazaki in the finals of the Tokyo Princess Cup, and my translation account was born just in time to document her rise and ultimate defeat.

Things in my personal life were continuing not to go so great.

My favorite coworker left that month, which made things a lot tougher and less fun for me at work. I was filling in for like four people’s jobs, all while on a part time hourly contract.

My Japanese studies continued, though. I was in the middle of studying pronunciation and pitch accent after diving into the subject in earnest in July. I don’t have much of an interest in learning to speak the language, but I figured learning the fundamentals would at least help with listening (it did).

I was experiencing some stress from the TJPW translation workload (so many Korakuen Hall shows in a row…), but I managed to grit through it and only cried a few times. I told myself that it was going to be extra hard for a bit, but eventually it’ll get easier.

I just had to keep going.

Sept 2022 | 温故知新

My brother visited at the beginning of the month, and I got more or less only bare minimum studying done while he was here. He left right before All Elite Wrestling’s All Out pay-per-view started on September 4, and I thought, “Great! I’ll be able to get some studying done tonight after the show!” Wrong!

This is another thing that I’m not going to go into too much here, because it’s messy and complicated and there are a bunch of rumors mixed up in truths (welcome to pro wrestling!).

Essentially what happened is that Kenny Omega made his return to the ring in August, but he returned to a troubled backstage environment at AEW, which finally boiled over during the media scrum after All Out. Kenny and the Young Bucks (who are executive vice presidents of the company) went to confront CM Punk (who had just won the AEW championship) after he said some not great things to the press, bringing the chief legal officer and the head of talent relations with them, and… CM Punk and his friend Ace Steel ended up physically assaulting them.

The whole thing was A Mess. All of the wrestlers were suspended while the company investigated the incident, and all four of them got their championship titles stripped from them. In many ways, it felt like a betrayal of what AEW stood for at the beginning. Kenny and the Bucks had tried to create a company that was different, but ultimately they couldn’t outrun the shadow of the industry forever. Punk brought with him a deep bitterness and resentment that festered within him until there was nowhere else for it to go but out.

This was the third time I considered quitting. Quitting pro wrestling, quitting Japanese. I was here in the first place because of the Golden Lovers, and at that moment, a Golden Lovers reunion felt more impossible than ever. What was the point of doing any of this, then?

In my study log, I wrote: “But, well, I’m still here. And wrestling is still here. AEW is still here. The Golden Lovers are both still here, reaching constantly for a reunion that’s always just out of their grasp. I guess for me, the lesson is that, as always, you just have to love the things that you love while you still have them. Nothing is unshakable, and just because something is good now doesn’t mean it always will be.

Then, right when I least expected it, a miracle happened.

A week later, Kenny went to Japan on a, uh, work trip turned personal trip, and while he was there, he met up with Kota Ibushi again at a restaurant. It was the first time they’d been together in public for over three years. As soon as I saw that tweet, I just started bawling (I wasn’t the only one).

Kenny’s reply to Ibushi’s tweet the day afterward taught me the word 温故知新, which is a proverb about developing new ideas based on study of the past. Based on the context (the photo is staged pretty clearly like it’s meant to imply a date, with the candle on the table and the two straws in the drink), it seemed like he was saying that the Golden Lovers were giving their relationship another try, with the intent of not repeating the mistakes they made in the past.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been happier to add a word to Anki than I was to add “温故知新”. Every time the card comes up, it just makes me smile.

I’m looking forward to being able to learn more words from Golden-Lovers-related stuff in the future. I guess one small benefit of the reunion taking so long to happen is that I had the time to start learning Japanese in the meantime, which means that I’m better able to appreciate the story that we’re getting now in addition to the past.

I wasn’t exactly sure where this reunion stood, in terms of the overall canon of the story. The Golden Lovers have always blurred the lines between kayfabe and real, and this time in particular felt especially hazy, as both of them were technically in the middle of being punished by their respective companies for violence that had been unfairly done to them.

So they chose to reunite on their own terms, outside of the bounds of any company.

(In the months since, it has come up in the context of enough other matches that I can confidently say now that they are together again, in kayfabe. As partners or lovers or whatever you might call them. We’re still waiting for them to share a ring again, though. Maybe someday soon…)

I kept going with my studies and my Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling translations despite the emotional rollercoaster, though let me tell you, it was not at all easy to focus. This was the month I discovered Smartcat, which is a free CAT (computer-assisted translation) software that operates in the browser. That program has helped ease the load a little bit, but even though CAT helps you out, you still very much have to do the work.

Oct 2022 | 私の背中を乗り越えろ

A full-time position opened up at my workplace, and I spent part of the month working on my application for that and stressing out over it just in general. I really needed the job if I wanted to get any sort of foothold in my library career, because my current part-time position was going to be evaporating at the end of the year.

I was also keeping busy with the usual stuff, plus a month-long drawing challenge and a free conversational Spanish class that I’d signed up for. The class ended up being a lot more doable than I was expecting, thanks to all of the time I’d been spending reading and listening to Spanish!

Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s other biggest show of the year, Wrestle Princess, happened in the first half of the month, and I worried about stuff like how I was going to translate the sentiment of 私の背中を乗り越えろ in terms of how Shoko Nakajima and Yuka Sakazaki are never going to stop trying to surpass each other, even as the sun sets on their era of the company. At 9k+ characters, it was my longest translation yet. Thankfully, I finished translating it before the bad news hit in my own life.

I didn’t get the job.

Multiple factors contributed to it, a lot of it boiling down to the fact that I picked some fights with my boss that I probably shouldn’t have because my professional ethics wouldn’t let me leave things alone. I realized that some of my skills as a librarian (particularly in preservation librarianship) are things that actually make library directors hate you, and things that are important to me are not priorities in the field as a whole.

This job was pretty much my only shot at being able to do this as a career, so losing out on it was pretty devastating. I dragged myself miserably to the finish line with my drawing challenge, and felt like a zombie at work, just going through the motions.

Nov 2022 | 愛があれば大丈夫だ

In early November, I decided that I was giving up on libraries.

If I was going to just fail at my backup career, I might as well fail at the career that I actually want, which is writing. I resolved to spend the next year or so hardcore studying Japanese and working at getting better at translation (and ideally trying to get back into writing as well). I’d like to publish my own books, but I was increasingly open to getting into translation professionally as well.

I realized that despite all of the stress that doing translation work that I’m very unqualified for had caused me, all of that paled in comparison to the stress I’d experienced while working part-time at a library. Should the world work that way? Feels like it shouldn’t.

I’d had a couple librarians ostensibly offer to mentor me, but the actual mentor I had that year ended up being a complete stranger on a kanji forum who was helping me just out of the kindness of their heart.

It’s probably unlikely I’ll ever get a paying job translating wrestling, and the world of translating literature can be pretty competitive, but it occurred to me that I could look into translating Japanese papermaking stuff into English, since the papermaking field is pretty small, and I don’t think there are many people who have papermaking expertise who are also capable of doing Japanese-English translation.

There certainly would be a lot of demand for it on the English-speaking side, because the entire field of modern book conservation heavily relies on Japanese paper. I have some connections in the field, so I thought maybe I could reach out to them in a few years if I manage to reach an advanced level of Japanese.

I set that as my new goal to aim for.

Before November had started, I’d been nervous about overcommitting. I had my Japanese studies and translations like usual, plus my conversational Spanish class, and I was doing NaNoWriMo again, all with the looming possibility of my part-time job suddenly becoming a full-time one.

Weirdly enough, translating, writing, and studying all ended up being the easy parts. I didn’t have any trouble completing NaNoWriMo or staying on track with everything else. Once again, work was the stressful part, and I spent every single day of it just wanting to cry.

November also brought with it a new stressful thing, which was Elon Musk’s takeover of twitter. As you can probably tell from reading all of this, twitter plays a pretty vital role in furthering wrestling storylines, and it’s a cornerstone of my Japanese immersion.

One of the bright spots for me in a bleak time was this tweet from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s Raku after she and Yuki Aino challenged for the tag team belts. She said: “愛があれば大丈夫だ” and included a picture of the two of them. It made me smile a lot, and I didn’t have any trouble reading it just from the discord embed, which is always a nice feeling.

Tweets are good immersion for several reasons. They’re bite-sized, for one thing, so translating one or two isn’t too intimidating and it’s easier to find the bravery to try reading them unassisted. And for pro-wrestling specifically, because I have that emotional investment, I have a huge incentive to want to read them and properly understand.

Just like last year, I tried to remind myself that if twitter did end up going down, then there was just nothing to be done about it. Pro wrestling is about the impermanence of all worldly things, after all.

(I made a tweet with a translation of that プロレスは諸行無常 quote on my TJPW account, and Masa Kitamiya saw it and liked it. If nothing else, I’m glad that he knows the impact that quote had on me.)

Dec 2022 | 年越し

My employment contract ran out at the end of 2022.

While struggling to survive an increasingly awkward and depressing work environment, I tried not to think about work and tried to focus on the things that I loved instead. Things like pro wrestling, and studying Japanese.

I passed my one year anniversary as a fan translator on December 12. To mark the occasion, I wrote up a guide to learning Japanese for pro wrestling fans, trying to sum up all of the biggest lessons I’d learned and the most important resources I’d discovered. I wanted to make the path a little easier for whoever follows after me so that they don’t have to learn all of this on their own like I did.

I’d been slowing down on my daily WaniKani lessons, and I slowed down even more that month. I wasn’t in any rush to finish, and I wanted to take it easy on myself because I had started to feel the strain from the workload a little bit.

I was deeply exhausted on an emotional level and kept repeatedly breaking my own sleep schedule, but was too depressed to really care.

My last day of work was on December 30. My boss gave people the option to work from home that day, and neither she nor a single one of my coworkers came in to say goodbye to me. I couldn’t do my job from home, so I had to be there physically. I cried my way through the entire work day.

That night, DDT Pro-Wrestling and Big Japan Pro Wrestling did their annual DDT/BJW 年越しcrossover show, which happens every December 31. The show ended up being a lot more fun than I was expecting, and even though it wasn’t technically New Year’s yet where I live, I was really feeling the 年越し spirit that night, so I celebrated the new year along with Japan.

I put 2022 behind me, and looked ahead to a better year.

Jan 2023 | ゴールデンラバーズは終わらない

It was イッテンヨン week once again, and I was watching New Japan Pro Wrestling for the first time since 禁断の扉. I watched Kenny Omega enter to 片翼の天使 and then come down on Will Ospreay like a vengeful angel, and it was maybe what you call closure. Even here, despite everything, the Golden Lovers’ story continues. As I heard someone once say, “in wrestling, you can choose to be whatever you want to be, and Kenny Omega chose to be in love.”

I passed out at 6AM and woke up to two really sappy tweets from both of the Golden Lovers. Here is what Kota said in response to the match/finish, and here was Kenny’s response (links are to translations). I think “待ってて” and “俺はいつまでも待てる” might be one of the most romantic exchanges I’ve ever seen in my entire life? The “ゴールデンラバーズは終わらない” hashtag got me right in the heart. Every time I’ve tried to put it into English, it somehow feels lacking.

I guess in a weird way, there is one positive in the fact that it has taken this long for them to get back together. I have only just started to reach a point with the language where I feel like I can actually genuinely appreciate things in the original Japanese.

I wrote up a bit about that match and many others in my brand new wrestling journal that I started at the beginning of the year. I’d sacrificed most of my hobbies to keep up with Japanese, especially when I had to take up translation as well. But that journal is something that I wanted to do just for me.

イッテンヨン week kept me quite busy, and it took me a little bit to get back on my feet with my studies and adjust to being unemployed again.

I made a big retrospective post about 2022 and my goals for 2023. Most of my goals were pretty standard, but I set one particularly ambitious one: I was going to attempt to complete alternating read every day and listen every day challenges with a perfect score, 365/365 days, in both Spanish and Japanese.

I actually almost managed that in 2022, believe it or not. I hadn’t set my mind on it at first (as you can see from my patchy January/February chart with daily Spanish reading), but once I decided to aim for doing both languages every day, I did keep up with it for every single challenge I committed to. For the last half of 2022, I didn’t miss a single day.

I wasn’t the only person trying to make a new start after a horrible job experience.

Kota Ibushi’s NJPW contract was up at the end of January. The American indie promotion Game Changer Wrestling had an announcement scheduled for January 31 at 10:01 EST. If you do your timezone math, you’ll notice that that just so happens to be February 1 at 00:01 JST. Wrestling fans love nothing more than wild speculation, so you can guess what everyone’s conclusion was.

It was already late when the announcement for the announcement went out, but my sleep schedule was so far gone by that point, I knew there was no way I’d be able to fall asleep anyway, so I decided to stay awake until midnight in Japan (which was 7AM for me) and wait out the remainder of that time along with Kota Ibushi and all of his fans.

We counted down the last few minutes, giddy with excitement and relief that the long nightmare was about to be over.

7:00AM.

Everyone was posting celebratory emoji in the group chat and on twitter.

7:01AM.

I hit refresh.

And there it was: Kota Ibushi returns to the ring and makes his GCW debut on March 30 in Los Angeles.

He was free.

Feb 2023 | 舞闘会

Within the first couple weeks of February, I finished book two of Minna no Nihongo, and followed it up by successfully passing a full-length practice test for the N4.

And with that, I officially graduated out of the beginner phase! Welcome to the intermediate level.

I finished my long-overdue Golden Lovers gifset, now that it finally felt like that story could actually breathe again. I spent the last half of the month trying to work on some writing projects, and I managed to finish a few fiction pieces and a nonfiction essay.

(I wish I could say that I’d found a bit more balance between my studies and my other hobbies, but the time I’d spent neglecting Japanese came back to bite me next month. This aspect of time management is still a work in progress for me.)

I started Tobira after finishing the beginner’s level of Minna no Nihongo.

I also had a new translation project (in addition to my normal commitments), which I had started working on in January.

Big Japan Pro Wrestling did a series of Shakespeare-themed deathmatch shows from 2008-2011, which were only released on limited edition DVDs. I’m not a deathmatch fan, but I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and I was obsessed with the mere concept of these shows. They billed themselves as the first Shakespeare productions to contain real bloodshed.

These shows weren’t available anywhere online, so if I wanted to watch them, my only choice was to find the DVDs secondhand somewhere. At the end of 2022, I finally found them. My rare wrestling DVD white whale.

I spent hours in January trying to translate the cast list/card for the shows, as well as some of the other supplemental material. It was surprisingly a pretty research-intensive process, because some of the people in the shows were hard to find! The matches themselves all have interesting names, often with some sort of pun, which really put my Japanese ability to the test.

I’m a little bit obsessed with the title of act 2 of Romeo vs Juliet: “第2幕 パリステイオーの舞闘会”. As soon as I read 舞闘会, I had to take a moment because I was so filled with awe at how Japanese could make such a thing possible.

For folks who haven’t learned the word yet, 舞闘会(ぶとうかい) is a creative spelling of 舞踏会(ぶとうかい), which means dance or ball, and which I learned thanks to WaniKani! (struggle/fight) has the same reading as (step).

Japanese is so beautiful. Pro wrestling is so beautiful. Shakespeare is so beautiful.

I had to think for a while about how to even translate that act/match name. The nuance there is entirely lost in English… I ended up going with “Paris Teioh’s Ball/Brawl”, which feels so lacking in comparison, but, well, I don’t know if there’s really a way to do it better.

It wasn’t until February that I actually watched any of the shows. I watched King Lear with some of my friends after painstakingly translating the cast and the description on the back of the DVD. Here’s a post with all of the info I managed to gleam about the show and some stuff I translated, as well as a bunch of screencaps from the DVD.

I still haven’t watched any of the others yet. I have the programs for both Romeo vs Juliet and Macbeth, and I really want to translate more of the text before watching them with my friends.

But I was about to run out of spare time for other translation projects.

Mar 2023 | 物語を紡ごう

Last month was me sowing (neglecting my Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling translations to work on some writing projects instead), so this month was me reaping (having to crunch extra hard to catch up on the translations before TJPW’s biggest show of the year). I did kind of get into a groove with them, though, and they weren’t as hard as I was expecting! My stamina has improved a lot since translating that same show for the first time in 2022.

In the first half of the month, I passed my second WaniKani forum anniversary! I wrote up another overview of where I was at with my studies.

I also wrote an essay on Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki’s story going into their match at TJPW Grand Princess ‘23 on March 18. I’m really proud of it because it weaves together lots of different pieces from 2020 through now. I tried to write it to be pretty accessible, even to people who haven’t been following these characters. The translations cited at the start of it are Mr. Haku’s, but the rest of them are all mine. It’s such a strange experience citing my own translations, but I’m so glad that I did it because the reception to the essay has been incredibly positive, and it’s a story that no one else was covering.

Funnily enough, Yuka and Mizuki got me so invested in 2020, they got me to write the first full show preview I ever wrote, for Wrestle Princess 2020. So I guess it’s no surprise that the sequel to that match got me to write something, too…

Grand Princess was so good, and so affirming :sob:. Yuka vs Mizuki in particular was just spectacular. Being able to follow that story from 2020 all the way to now has been SO rewarding. That’s what it’s all about! That’s what I’m here for! That’s why I’m doing all this! Despite all the stress and the hard work of doing the translations, seeing it all come together like that in my essay, and then seeing the story play out onscreen like that, it made all of those translations and the time I’ve put into learning Japanese totally worth it.

I realized that the timeline of that feud lines up just about perfectly with my Japanese language journey. I started learning the language right in the middle of the original Yuka vs Mizuki drama, not knowing at the time, of course, that I’d ultimately have to be the one to finish Mr. Haku’s work with translating that story. Part of why I picked up the translations after 2021 in the first place was because I couldn’t let go of Yuka and Mizuki in particular. I refused to give up on those characters and those stories, and the story they gave us was just so good :sob:. 物語を紡ごう indeed…

My essay and translations even inspired a stranger to write an essay about the match building on my work, which was incredible to see. I was so touched and delighted that someone used my translations to do a queer reading of a wrestling story. That’s, like, the bread and butter of my own pro wrestling fandom, and it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped would come out of my work.

A couple days after I wrote my essay, the 2023/3/29 (No. 2235) issue of shupro came out, which featured an interview with Yuka and Mizuki. I tried to use Mokuro to read it, but didn’t have much success, so I ended up just attempting to skim it on my own. I was able to get surprisingly a lot from it! I almost jumped out of my chair in excitement when I confirmed that it was specifically that one line of Mizuki’s from 2020 (“Even though I like her so so so much, I’m going to hate her so that I can surpass her.”) that Yuka had fixated on, which made her so afraid to fight Mizuki now. My essay was right!

I’ve come so far from the days of manually typing out every character by hand in order to “read” shupro articles. I can really see how the time I’ve put into Anki has paid off, because pro wrestling stuff is totally skimmable for me now. It’s still not easy, but it is doable.

Grand Princess came with a pretty heavy translation workload, which kept me very busy. I also had my brother visiting for several days at the end of the month, and I put Tobira aside for a week or so, but stayed up late every night after my brother went to bed so that I could work on the translations.

All of that also happened to coincide with WaniKani making a bunch of userscript-breaking changes, which disrupted my entire workflow. My study pace is so regular and easy, I’ve rarely gotten frustrated with WK over the past couple years that I’ve been using it, but I came very close to losing my patience due to complications caused by this update.

I got through it, though.

I also had my first negative milestone as a fan translator, which was getting one of my translations stolen by an unethical publication. The same publication had gotten called out for other nonsense the day before, which definitely contributed to my tweet going mildly viral. Wrestling fans love to get mad at people!

The reason why I was working so hard to get caught up on my translations by the end of the month was because TJPW was having their first show in America during WrestleMania weekend (which is is a bit like イッテンヨン week in that a bunch of different companies all have shows around the same time, riding the enthusiasm for WrestleMania), and I knew that a lot of the followers of my translation account would be at that show, so I wanted to do everything in my power to make it accessible to people.

All in all, it was a really fun week because there was so much cultural mixing and connections made across language barriers, which is one of the most fun things about pro wrestling to me, and it always makes me feel revitalized to continue my own studies. A lot about pro wrestling is fake, but you can’t fake the language learning part. You have to put in the work and do that for real.

Kota Ibushi made his return to the ring the day before TJPW’s show. I don’t know if I can even describe in words what it felt like to see him wrestle again, though I certainly tried in my wrestling journal.

I guess this is the feeling they call hope.

Apr 2023 | 二足の草鞋

I spent most of April trying to catch up. On Tobira, on my translations (again), on the brand new book club for A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar that I had helped encourage.

(I love that the WaniKani forum is the kind of place where someone can propose a book club for reading a dictionary cover-to-cover and have over a hundred people express interest in the idea.)

I reached level 60 rather quietly.

I’d been preparing for it over the past couple months. I wanted to make sure that I had a clear plan for transitioning into the next stage of my studies. As part of that plan, I had started adding every new kanji that I came across in my translations to Anki. There aren’t terribly many of them, but for most shows, I learn at least one or two new kanji.

I learned one in 二足の草鞋, for instance. The phrase means engaged in two trades at the same time, wearing two hats, many irons in the fire, etc. Maybe I can relate, just a little bit.

I decided I’d wait to make my level 60 post until after I’d completed all remaining WK lessons. I didn’t rush through them; in fact I had slowed down even more in recent months, dropping down to 10 lessons a day, then to 8 once the level of vocab per level had gotten low enough.

I felt the fatigue a little more than usual at the end, worn down by my busy month and the stress of having to adapt my WK workflow right at the finishing stretch due to the recent updates.

Day by day, I plodded on slowly toward that coveted 0/0, which I had not seen since level 3.

May 2023 | この今から...

Fate has a funny sense of humor.

I somehow forgot about Golden Week until it was basically already happening. I immediately found myself swamped with a translation backlog and a whole bunch of shows from a handful of different companies, all while I was trying to wrap up WK and put together this post that you’re reading right now (my wrestling journal is currently woefully behind).

Then, once again, right when I least expected it, another miracle happened.

Pro Wrestling NOAH had a show on May 4. And at the end of one of those matches, Katsuhiko Nakajima extended his hand to his ex-partner, Go Shiozaki, whom he had just beaten in that match, and reunited their tag team, Axiz. Backstage, Nakajima said, “たった、この今から、AXIZ復活だ!”

I could hardly believe it. I’d titled the September 2020 chapter “物の哀れ” after a word I’d learned thanks to a photobook of this very tag team. They broke up just before I started learning Japanese, and now here they were, back together again two and a half years later, right at the end of my WK journey.

We’d come full circle.

Maybe they’ll find a way to make it work out this time. Maybe they won’t. For now, I’m just focusing on this specific moment in time where it feels like anything is possible. In wrestling, just as in Japanese, you have to take it day by day, moment by moment.

I typed that last paragraph thinking that I would end this chapter on that note.

But, well, life had one last curveball to throw at me (hey, there’s a baseball word that WaniKani doesn’t have).

On May 8, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling announced that Yuka Sakazaki would be graduating and leaving the company at the end of 2023.

Ah, there it is again. The 物の哀れ of it all; the プロレスは諸行無常 of it all.

To say the announcement devastated me would be an understatement.

I gave myself one night to grieve. The next day, I got to work. Translated piecemeal bits of the press conference were already floating around twitter, stripped of context as usual. I worked very hard to get a full translation of it done as soon as I could. (It’s also the reason why this post that you’re reading right now is a day late).

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever translated. Not because the Japanese was difficult, but because I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to read it, much less spend several hours painstakingly going over every inch of it. I didn’t want it to be true. As soon as I finished the first draft of the translation and posted it in the pro wrestling thread, I just broke down crying.

I had to take a day off from doing the TJPW translations after that one.

But I picked them up again the day after that.

In 2020, Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki (the Magical Sugar Rabbits) had been the happy tag team story I had leaned on to get through some of the pain from the Axiz breakup. Now it’s the opposite. I have Axiz to look forward to again, but the impending loss of the Magical Sugar Rabbits looms over everything.

It’s kind of amazing how much can change in just a few years. I was thinking back on how much had happened in both of those wrestling stories over that stretch of time, and I realized just how far I myself had gone. I went from not even being able to read hiragana when Mizuki first challenged for Yuka’s belt, to full-on translating the whole second half of Yuka and Mizuki’s story for hundreds of people.

I’ll probably be the person translating the end of Yuka’s TJPW story, too. But I’m not going to think about that yet.

There will be some hopeful things happening before the end of the year. There’s a Golden Lovers reunion in sight on the horizon. There will be new stories for me to pore over and go on Japanese research deep dives. There might even be some cool non-wrestling stories out there, too.

I don’t know what’ll happen next, but I’m excited to see where it goes. With pro wrestling, and with Japanese.

オマケ

Back in 2021, I shared a photo of a wrestling shirt made by Mao from DDT Pro Wrestling. He designed this shirt for fun, but it was instantly so popular with DDT’s foreign fans, they made it available to buy internationally.

I bought one and ended up converting it into a crop top because that felt like this shirt’s ideal form. It’s the shirt I own with the most readable kanji, so I feel like if there’s any audience that would appreciate it outside of wrestling fans, it’s the folks on this forum:

Stats

These are my stats as of the moment I completed my last WK lesson:

From wkstats:


Item distribution from the WaniKani dashboard:

WaniKani Workload Graph:

Heatmap:


KaniWani:

471x288

Where I’m at now

Kanji

I’ve reached level 60 on WaniKani, so I’ve learned 2,074 kanji from WK. I’ve also learned 47 kanji on my own outside of WK.

Here’s my “level 61”:

鷺鷹鴨鮫頷鞋鞄遡辰躊躇葛󠄀葛絆稽禄祇琲珈牡滄溢涛桐曖昏揃掴彦巳峙嫉妬喰哨叶叉剋兎云騙窟潰拭唸摯舐

Here's how they are represented on the joyo/LJPT/frequency charts of kanji that aren't in WK:

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JLPT N1 kanji:
(7) 叶巳彦桐禄辰鷹

Joyo kanji:
(10) 妬嫉曖稽葛遡窟潰拭摯

Frequent kanji:
Top 1001-1500: (1) 彦
Top 1501-2000: (6) 葛辰桐鷹鴨哨
Top 2001-2500: (14) 禄巳祇鷺絆鮫峙叶嫉稽溢揃拭摯

Not in any lists:
(22) 鷺鷹頷鞋鞄躊躇葛󠄀琲珈滄涛昏掴喰叉剋兎云騙唸舐

Grammar

I’ve completed book one and two (lessons 1-50) of Minna no Nihongo and the first 5 chapters of Tobira, and am somewhere between N4 and N3 in grammar ability.

Vocab

I’ve learned 6,528 vocab words through WaniKani, as well as over 1,080 vocab through Anki that I mined from native Japanese media. Additionally, I’ve learned 2,129 words (through Anki) from my textbook Minna no Nihongo, and 476 from Tobira, many of which overlap with WK, but many of which don’t. These are the words I consider essentially my working vocabulary, which I am comfortable using when producing Japanese.

What I can do:

  • Can read without feeling a need to use ichi.moe because the majority of sentences have few enough unknowns that spot-checking unknown words with Yomichan is sufficient, though reading without a dictionary is still impossible most of the time, except with some circumstances, like reading some wrestling content.
  • Can read a fair number of tweets without needing to use Yomichan (which I don’t have on my phone) or the auto translate, and can skim-read for wrestling information pretty efficiently.
  • Can read many manga sentences without any grammar or vocab lookups, though plenty of sentences still contain unknowns, and I can’t understand enough from context to be able to read without a dictionary.
  • Can follow along with a transcript for pro wrestling comments and promos and generally understand at least the gist of what is being said.
  • Can understand lots of scattered words and phrases in spoken Japanese, and occasionally catch full sentences, though I often make mistakes and miss nuance.
  • Can write fairly complex multi-part sentences about simple everyday things and pro wrestling, though my working vocabulary and grammar are limited enough, I’m not able to express much nuance.
  • Can handle short interactions in writing, though I’m very slow at composing my responses, and I’m still learning how to navigate what level of politeness is expected in different contexts, and which words are used only in text or only in speech. I also make a lot of mistakes, but usually my meaning still comes across regardless.
  • Can understand and translate senryu poems, for the most part.
  • Can understand and translate pro wrestling promos and backstage interviews as long as I have a transcript, though it’s rare for me not to make at least several mistakes.
  • Can recognize almost every kanji that I encounter. Reading without furigana is easy.
  • Can write a lot of kanji (poorly), but only a few from memory.
  • Can more or less guess the stroke order for most kanji, and can get the correct kanji to come up by drawing it on my Japanese keyboard IME pad 99% of the time.

What I can’t do:

  • Carry on a spoken conversation. I still have yet to try this, but I feel like I would struggle a lot and my answers would be incredibly stilted.

Have I met my goals?

In the first post of my study log, I listed these two things as my ultimate goals with Japanese:

  • Be able to read tweets and articles in Japanese, as well as handwritten Japanese
  • Be able to understand Japanese pro wrestling commentary and words spoken by wrestlers in the ring, as well as Japanese podcasts and spoken interviews

So, how close have I gotten? Let’s see…

Be able to read tweets and articles in Japanese, as well as handwritten Japanese: Yes, I pretty much can do this now! At least in the domain that I care about the most, which is pro wrestling. I still make mistakes, and still run into stuff that is beyond me, but by and large, I can read the things that I want to read, assuming I put the time into it. It isn’t quite effortless yet, but it gets easier every year.

Be able to understand Japanese pro wrestling commentary and words spoken by wrestlers in the ring, as well as Japanese podcasts and spoken interviews: Well… sort of? I’m on the way there, I think. I can understand these things if I have a transcript or subtitles. Pure listening is more touch and go. I never in a million years expected to be doing what I’m doing now with the Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling translations, and yet here I am, doing it. So I would say that even though I still can’t survive on my own without transcripts, I have proven to myself that I can actually follow a Japanese pro wrestling company on my own without official or unofficial translation. I don’t know if I ever thought I’d actually get that far.


Despite my best efforts, I did in fact run up against the character limit :sweat_smile:. The next post is lighter on the personal anecdotes and heavier on the resource lists, if that’s all you’re after.

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Essential tools

These are all of the tools that I feel were essential for me alongside WaniKani. All of them are free except for the textbooks.

Yomichan

(Disclaimer: Yomichan is no longer being maintained by its creator, so I will eventually be shifting to a fork of the program once that becomes necessary. It looks like TheMoeWay has forked it and will be rebranding it as Yomitan, so keep an eye on that project.)

Yomichan is an awesome free tool installed in the browser that displays a popup when you mouse over Japanese text, containing definitions and information from multiple dictionaries for each word, including some information on frequencies. The “Innocent Corpus” dictionary number indicates how many times the words occurred in the set of books, so the higher the number, the more common the term is. It even gives you audio pronunciation! You can also use Yomichan to instantly create Anki flashcards from words you find in the wild, complete with attached audio.

I can’t overstate how useful Yomichan is. It’s one of those tools that completely transformed the learning process for me and made it actually possible for me to start reading Japanese even at a very low level of language skill.

Here are some useful Yomichan additions:

  • shoui Yomichan Dictionaries Collection — A collection of additional dictionaries that can be added to Yomichan, including some monolingual dictionaries and frequency dictionaries. Extremely useful for helping you start to transition to using monolingual dictionaries. But even as a beginner, monolingual dictionaries are great for adding extra clarification if the English translation is lacking or unclear, because you can always nest multiple Yomichan popups and use Yomichan to decipher the Yomichan entry.
  • Yomichan JLPT/WK info addon — An addon that adds JLPT and WK level tags to vocab/kanji look-ups. Very useful for determining at a quick glance if a word or kanji is worth adding to Anki, or if I can just wait and learn it through WK later.
  • Yomichan Forvo Server — Allows Yomichan to pull audio directly from Forvo. Handy!

Anki

Anki is a free SRS that has been with me since the start of my Japanese language learning journey. It’s what I originally used to learn the kana! I’m currently using it to learn the vocab from my textbook, as well as learning additional vocab and kanji that I find in the wild. The UI can be a little clunky, and it’s not always the most intuitive program, but it’s incredibly versatile and integrates with many other programs, and additionally can be customized to do just about whatever you want it to do. It is useful for beginners, intermediate learners, and advanced learners alike, so I’ll probably still be using it years from now. I’ve personally found that Anki is more pleasant to use if you customize the CSS so that your decks look better. If you want to see what my decks look like, I’ve shared screenshots and more information about them here.

Here are some useful Anki addons:

  • Forvo pronunciation downloader — This addon makes it extremely easy to add audio to cards. Before I installed this, I had to remake preexisting cards with Yomichan if I wanted audio! It’s also great for adding audio to some words that Yomichan does not have audio for.
  • Japanese definition scraper — This addon adds Japanese definitions to cards. I’m currently not using this, since I have a Japanese dictionary installed on Yomichan already, but it’s handy if you’re working with a premade deck, or if you want to add a Japanese definition to your early Yomichan cards.
  • Kanji colorizer (stroke order diagrams) — This addon adds a colored stroke order diagram to my kanji cards. I wanted to have some sort of recall test in addition to the cards I already have which test recognition, so I thought I’d try forcing myself to memorize how to write the kanji. Ideally, this will eventually allow me to recognize the kanji on sight haha.
  • Card Retirement — This addon will retire cards based on the conditions set in each deck’s options (mine is set to retire cards if they’re set to come up next in a year or more). You can set it to run this daily automatically, or only when you manually run it.

ichi.moe

ichi.moe is a really handy resource for helping break down Japanese grammar. You can input phrases or entire sentences into it, and view them piece by piece all at once. This is the primary way I could read manga at all at the very early stages. However, it does sometimes make mistakes, so you have to be careful with it and trust your intuition. It’s also very easy to use it as a crutch, so watch out for that!

KaniWani

KaniWani is a companion website for WaniKani. WK only tests you on Japanese to English recognition, so KW tests you on English to Japanese recall. I currently have KW set up to only give me new items once I’ve guru’d them on WK, so that helps cut down on some of the review churn over there. KW’s fatal flaw is that it doesn’t have a very good way to manage synonyms, but I haven’t found this too annoying as long as you let yourself add synonyms rather liberally.

I have two scripts installed for KW:

  • KaniWani Audio — This script plays the original audio from WaniKani when you get a review item correct in WaniKani. I have WaniKani set to play audio by default after every correct review, and this does the same thing in KaniWani.
  • KaniWani: Disable Enter on Wrong Answer — This script won’t let you proceed with the enter key if you get a review wrong. I kept accidentally just powering past wrong reviews, which especially caused problems when I got marked wrong because of a synonym I hadn’t added yet. This script solves that problem.

Kanji worksheets

I know that many Japanese language learners don’t care about learning to write, but I’ve personally found that it has benefited me a lot and made me a lot more competent at both recognizing unknown kanji and reproducing them. My main method for developing a sense for basic stroke order and learning the basics of writing are these practice worksheets that one user put together, which are organized by WK level and can be printed directly off of your computer for free.

Textbooks

My primary resource for grammar and additional core vocab outside of WK was initially the textbook みんなの日本語 (Minna no Nihongo). I own the first core book in the series, 初級Ⅰ, as well as the Translation & Grammatical Notes in English, and two of the workbooks: 標準問題集 and 書いて覚える 文型練習帳. I also own the same four books for 初級2, the second book in the beginner’s series. I created a thread to share MNN-specific advice, including a spreadsheet I made which contains all of the kanji in the MNN vocabulary, sorted by WK level.

I really liked MNN, personally. I liked that it has you read in Japanese without even having the option of falling back on a direct translation for a lot of the text. I think it does a good job with sort of bridging between the absolute beginner phase and starting to read actual Japanese content.

After completing Minna no Nihongo 初級 1 and 2, I moved on to Tobira for intermediate Japanese. I also own the grammar workbook, though not the kanji one. I like Tobira so far, though I’m only a third of the way into it. I don’t feel that there was a large jump in difficulty after MNN, though I’m also coming at it from the perspective of having read lots of native material over the past year that is far more difficult than any textbook. Your mileage may vary if your only reading experience is from textbooks and graded readers prior to starting Tobira.

So far, I would say that Tobira has been useful for helping refine a lot of my slapdash knowledge that I’ve picked up by necessity through my immersion. The grammar workbook also has a lot of production practice, which might not be what everyone is looking for, but I think I’ve benefited from it despite finding it difficult in terms of the amount of time and mental effort it takes to produce sentences in Japanese.

I also own all three volumes of A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar. I’m currently reading them cover to cover along with the book club here! They’re an extremely handy reference, and I feel like I get more and more out of these books the more I learn.

Smartcat

This one is a translation resource, not a Japanese learning resource! Important distinction there. I felt compelled to mention it because it has been really helpful for me, but it’s obviously not necessary unless you want to full-on translate something and not just read it.

Smartcat is a CAT (computer-aided translation) software. It’s web-based, so Yomichan still works on it, and the way it splits everything up line-by-line is pretty helpful. It’s also free, which is awesome.

It learns from your previous translation choices, which is really handy for stuff like wrestling, which machine translation and dictionaries often struggle with. You can also upload your own glossaries (I made a word list from the NJPW English book, for example). The cost of it being free is that your own translations get used to train machine translation, but honestly with wrestling stuff, that’s almost more of a plus :sweat_smile:. Ultimately my goal is to prevent false rumors and such from spreading, and the better machine translation gets, the less that happens.

Something that’s especially fun about Smartcat is that it tells you what percentage of the text you’ve translated, so it’s really handy for tracking overall progress and splitting up the workload into more manageable chunks, and it’s good for the part of my brain that likes to watch numbers go up, haha.

Userscripts

I modified WK pretty heavily with userscripts. Here are the ones that I used:

WaniKani userscripts that I think significantly boost my learning:

  • Keisei Semantic-Phonetic Composition — This script adds a phonetic compound information section to kanji and radical pages, lessons, and reviews. It adds some information that can be really helpful for remembering kanji readings and for guessing the readings of unfamiliar kanji. This is, in my opinion, probably the single most important script to have. I highly, highly recommend it.
  • Jitai Font Randomizer — This script randomizes the font used for radical/kanji/vocabulary in reviews. It’s really helpful for exposing you to a variety of different ways that kanji can be written, which is useful if you ever attempt to read handwritten Japanese or any digital fonts that appear different from WaniKani’s default font.
  • WaniKani Pitch Info — This script displays pitch info for a given vocabulary reading.
  • WaniKani Rendaku Information — This script adds rendaku information to the lessons information for each vocab, trying to explain why it does or doesn’t rendaku.
  • WaniKani Lesson Filter — This script lets you specify the number and type of lessons you want to do. It also allows you to reorder your lessons so that you can study radicals or kanji before completing the previous level’s vocabulary. Like all reorder scripts, it’s a dangerous tool, and must be used very carefully. I use it to space out my kanji lessons so that I’m learning a few kanji a day alongside vocab lessons instead of learning kanji in huge bursts, which I’ve found to be harder and more demoralizing. Spacing out your kanji lessons also lets you avoid having to chew through a huge backlog of vocab lessons at the end/beginning of a level, since you can space those lessons out as well.
  • Self-Study Quiz — This script lets you quiz yourself on WaniKani items outside of the review schedule without affecting your SRS times. I installed it for just one reason, which is to get a little more practice on new items immediately after doing the lessons. This script is more robust than WK’s own extra study mode (at least at the time of writing this post), because it does more to test your listening recognition and recall than WaniKani does on its own.

Scripts that I’ve found useful to have:

  • Double-Check — This script allows you to change your answer if you made a typo that WK didn’t accept, or if it accepted an answer that was actually wrong.
  • WaniKani Heatmap — This script adds a heatmap to the bottom of your dashboard that tracks how many lessons and reviews you did each day, and how many you have coming up. It also provides several other statistics.
  • WaniKani Workload Graph — This script is an addon to the heatmap script that displays a graph of your review workload over time, as well as a graph of experienced level difficulty (the error rate per level).
  • Leech Training — This script gives you extra practice on items that you’re struggling to learn, including mixing in similar looking kanji that you might be mistaking for other kanji.
  • Niai Visually Similar Kanji — This script is handy if you’re getting any kanji mixed up with each other because you can compare them side-by-side without leaving your reviews page.
  • WaniKani Unobtrusive Kanji Stroke Order — This script has stroke order diagrams for kanji as well as vocab, which is convenient if you’re trying to write a word that exists in WK because you don’t have to open all the kanji pages separately in order to reference the stroke order. It also doesn’t take up any space when you don’t need it.
  • Progress Percentages — This script calculates the percentage of kanji you have learned for each JLPT level, Joyo grade, frequency bracket, and various other sources, and displays it at the top of the dashboard. I’ve found it helpful for putting my WK learning in perspective.
  • Expected Daily Reviews ⁠— This script calculates the number of reviews you should expect in a given day with the current SRS distribution and displays it beside your review forecast. The number fluctuates throughout the day as you do review sessions and lessons, but it’s still a good rough indicator of your current workload.
  • Lesson Hover Details — This script shows you how many of your lessons are radicals, kanji, or vocab when you hover over the lessons icon on the dashboard. I downloaded this one because I’ve been spreading out the kanji lessons over time instead of doing a huge batch at once, and this helps me keep track of things.
  • 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!
  • Tofugu Latest — This script adds a section to your dashboard with links to the most recent articles on Tofugu.com. I really enjoy Tofugu’s articles, but don’t really have the time or energy to constantly check for new ones, so this is very handy!
  • Wanikani Leaderboard — This script adds a leaderboard to your dashboard where you can track people’s level-up progress. I installed this so that I could add my friends to it.
  • Item Inspector — This script can display several tables of WK items, which can be configured by the user. The one I was most interested in was the leech table, so I decided to give the script a try. I was curious to see how many leeches I actually had, since I don’t feel like they cause me that much trouble. I never have any issues with my apprentice item count getting out of hand, but it’s nice to have this list of items for a quick reference.
  • Remove Useless Panels — This script removes the panels for recent unlocks, critical condition items, burned items, recent community topics, and WaniKani news at the bottom of the dashboard page. I installed this because I now have a lot of scripts that display actually valuable information on this part of the page, and I didn’t like scrolling past a bunch of clutter that I never looked at anyway.
  • Level Duration 2.0 — All this script does is show at the top of the dashboard how long you’ve been on a level. Handy!
  • Overall Progress Bars — This is another script for adding a WK progress bar to the top of your dashboard. This one has a bar representing each level, with different colors representing the SRS stages of all of the items in that level. There are three display options, and these two are my favorites:
  • WK Extra study mover — This script allows you to move the extra study UI (or hide it completely). At first, I wasn’t really bothered by the position of the new feature, but after having it for a couple weeks and ignoring it completely in favor of the self-study userscript, I started to feel like it was taking up valuable real estate, so I used this script to move it to the sidebar instead.
  • Dashboard Progress Plus — This script adds visual indicators of SRS stages of items, as well as a “90%” kanji box, plus gives you a popup with item information when you mouse over the items. I installed it pretty much entirely for the last thing, because sometimes I’ll prelearn the kanji a day or two before officially learning them, and this lets me check my memory by simply mousing over the items without having to open them in a new tab.
  • Forum: IME2Furigana — This script allows you to add furigana to forum posts.
  • Forum: Details Keep Open State — This is a script for the WK forum that simply keeps the details tags open while editing. Just a small quality of life thing, but really helpful if you’re someone like me and are prone to making long posts, or editing wiki posts on a certain pro wrestling thread :sweat_smile:.
  • Forum: Emoter — This script lets you upload your own custom emotes! I used it to import some favorites from a wrestling discord server I’m in.
    unbridled_joy

Useful resources (WaniKani and WaniKani-Forum-related):

I link to this all the time on the forum, and if you haven’t already read it, please check out the Ultimate Guide to Wanikani! An essential read, in my opinion, if you want to make the most out of WK and reduce the likelihood that you will burn out.

(Disclaimer for the below stats-related sites: recent changes to WK have made some review information impossible for third party sites to retrieve. Hopefully this will get fixed soon, but if one of these websites isn’t working as anticipated, that’s probably why.)

WaniKani Statistics lets you view your account’s statistics, including how long you’ve spent on each level and your overall accuracy, as well as individual items that you’ve learned and other statistics.

  • WKStats Projections Page — This script adds a projections page to wkstats. I thought it was interesting to see the estimated time it would take me to reach level 60 if I continue at my current pace.

Wanikani accuracy and review pacing shows your accuracy by percentage for each WK SRS stage. It’s a neat reference to see how well things are sticking, and to get a rough estimate of how many reviews you should expect to do each day based on your accuracy and current pace.

Nihongo Stats is a stats aggregation tool that a WK user put together for Japanese language learning apps (Wanikani, BunPro, Anki)! It’s similar to wkstats, but has a different presentation and offers some graphs and data that wkstats does not have. My two favorite parts are the review accuracy and total items graphs. I don’t think other tools have offered visualization for this kind of data before, so it’s cool to see!

WaniKani History is another WK stats site with a heck of a lot of stats and other information!

BookWalker is an ebook store that frequently has a bunch of free manga and other books available for download. This is a great source for native reading material, especially thanks to the BookWalker Freebies Thread, which contains lists of highly rated free books that are currently available on BookWalker. The lists are configured to pull content tags for the books as well as their Natively difficulty level (if they’re in that system), which makes it significantly easier to find free books that might be of interest to you.

The Absolute Beginner’s Book Club is one of several regular book clubs on this forum. It’s a great way to get started with reading native media because other forum users can provide grammar and vocab support, and the club structure offers deadlines and motivation. I started with the 大海原と大海原 book club, and it was a great experience!

Once you’ve started to dip your toes into reading, the read every day challenge on this forum is great motivation. I’m currently doing the spring 2023 challenge. It’s fun to see what other folks are reading, and it’s a good place to share your own progress!

The daily senryu thread on this forum is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to learn random new things about Japanese and/or Japanese culture! It took me a while to really warm up to the style of senryu poems to the point where I felt like I could understand and appreciate them, but now I’m quite fond of them. Don’t be afraid to just jump in and try your hand at translating the latest poem! I have a compilation of most of my senryu translations from this thread on Notion.

I also want to give a shout out to the Let’s Durtle the Scenic Route thread. It’s not really a direct learning resource for WK specifically or for Japanese in general, but I’ve found it to be a really pleasant little community. I found it shortly after I started actively visiting the forum, and it really ended up shaping the direction my WK journey has taken. The more speed-oriented challenge threads are a lot more active and popular than this one, and as a beginner, I was really intimidated by that and felt very out of place, so I was relieved to find a group of learners who were not trying to rush through everything.

This one is really more of a resource for reading my own study log and has debatable utility beyond that, but I started a pro wrestling thread last year with all sorts of info, if you see anything in any of my posts and get confused by the wrestling terminology or the acronyms or are just curious and want to try watching something new. It has been great practice for me because I can post individual questions I have about grammar and get help, haha, as well as share things that I find interesting or cool.

I also highly recommend starting your own study log on this forum! I’ve gotten so much use out of my own. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to keep track of new resources, record my progress, receive advice and encouragement from others, and make friends. It’s really helpful to have something keeping you accountable, and I genuinely enjoy posting in there about the things that bring me joy during my studies, as well as my struggles.

Useful resources (non-WaniKani):

Natively is a free website for Japanese learners to find and share books that you’re reading. There are some Goodreads-type features, and users can additionally grade books based on difficulty. I have a profile there, though my page is very unexciting because I haven’t read many books yet! It’s a super handy website for identifying books near your level.

Notion is a note-taking and productivity app which I only recently discovered thanks to this cute template that bellynx made, and I totally couldn’t resist trying it out :sweat_smile:. I really like it so far, though! Click that first link to browse my Notion page.

昔話童話童謡の王国 is a website with a collection of 450 Japanese children’s stories with audio. I had fun listening to these as I read along for the listen every day challenge last year. They’re pretty accessible if you’re somewhere in the N5-N4 range and are equipped with Yomichan.

A Year to Learn Japanese is an in-depth guide to, well, learning Japanese that I really appreciate because it lays out different paths and gives multiple options without trying to claim that any one is the right way. I don’t really reference this guide much, but I did work through the pronunciation section last year and feel like I benefited from it a lot.

The Japan Foundation overdrive library is a digital library for US and Canada residents which consists of broad genres such as manga, literature, Japanese language, art, history, culture, society, cooking & food, etc. There are 1,800 titles total, and they’re completely free to read! Many of these books aren’t in Japanese, but they do have some that are. Last year, I enjoyed reading Japanese–English Translation by Judy Wakabayashi.

Book Manager | ッツ Ebook Reader is a tool for reading epub files in the browser so that you can take advantage of Yomichan while reading. I haven’t done a lot of actual book reading yet, but just from trying it once, I could immediately see how useful this is, and am anticipating that I’ll be using it a lot going forward!

Mokuro, which I found out about thanks to this thread, is a program that takes manga images and converts them into an HTML file where the text can be selected. Since the HTML file opens in the browser, you can then use tools like Yomichan to parse digital manga text without having to manually type out the words and sentences you want to look up. This speeds up the manga reading process considerably! I tried using it on shupro (週刊プロレス), but unfortunately it wasn’t very good at figuring out if the magazine text was vertical or horizontal. It worked great when I tried it on a manga, though! The main thing I was angling for was a tool that would make it easier to pull the entire context sentence with the word when adding words to Anki so that I don’t have to retype the whole thing, so I’m looking forward to experimenting more with Mokuro in the future.

  • ChristopherFritz wrote a nice bit of code that will screencap your BookWalker manga for you, which is excellent news for those of us with extensive collections of BookWalker freebies who might be interested in using Mokuro to facilitate reading them.

Language Reactor is a browser extension that works with Netflix and YouTube and lets you watch content with dual language subtitles, a popup dictionary, precise video playback controls, and other neat features. I haven’t tried it out a whole lot, but I was pretty impressed with what little I’ve seen of it!

Game2Text is a program that launches in the browser and basically lets you use Yomichan on other applications, such as RPG Maker games, for example. This is another thing that I have barely tried! But it seemed handy when I tested it (on the 大海原と大海原 video game), and again, anything that makes it easier for me to pull the entire context sentence with the word when adding words to Anki is a useful tool for me.

There weren’t really any existing resources out there that I could find on how to get into translating pro wrestling, so my friends and I sort of had to figure it all out on our own. Because of that, I ended up creating this guide to learning Japanese for pro wrestling fans in the hopes of helping pave the way for whoever comes after me.

What my daily study routine looks like

Full disclosure: I am currently unemployed and don’t have family commitments, so I have a lot more time to study than most people. Learning Japanese is currently one of my primary hobbies, along with watching Japanese pro wrestling, so putting this much time into Japanese is neither desirable nor achievable for many people :sweat_smile:.

I spend quite a lot of hours immersing myself in Japanese each day. A lot of this time is passive immersion that I don’t count as studying, though I am steadily picking up more and more in my passive listening. Sometimes I have partial translation, sometimes I’m completely on my own. It’s a lot of (unsubtitled) spoken Japanese as well as written Japanese on places like twitter and interviews and blog posts and such.

For active study, I have sort of a three-pronged approach:

WaniKani

  • I did at least three sessions a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once at night. On most days, I would break this up into smaller sessions if possible (it’s easier to do 20 reviews in one sitting than 50).
  • I did a consistent number of lessons every morning. For most of WK, I did 9 vocab and 3 kanji, but I reduced the number in the later levels, since there are less radicals and vocab items, and I have more leeches now. When I ran out of kanji, I would do 10 vocab a day until I level up (except in later levels, when I would do fewer). This resulted in a pretty even two-week level pace. The first day on a new level, I would do all radical lessons, and for the majority of the levels, I would generally do a few kanji and some vocab on those days, too.
  • After doing my lessons, I would drill myself on the new material with the self-study quiz.
  • I fell out of practice with using the leech training script, but it would probably help me now, because I’ve picked up a lot more leeches over the past year! When I realize I’m confusing two kanji, I usually take a moment to compare the differences and figure out what was giving me trouble (the niai visually similar kanji script is helpful for this).
  • I’m also doing KaniWani to practice recall. I’m more lax with the SRS intervals on this, but I try to do my reviews at least two or three times a day. My KW is set up to only give me new items after they’ve reached guru on WK, so there are usually a few days of delay between me initially learning them and then practicing them here.

Minna no Nihongo

(See the Minna no Nihongo thread I started for what my study routine looked like for that textbook!)

Tobira

  • Tobira is currently my primary form of grammar acquisition. I’ve picked up a lot just through exposure with my translations, but my understanding is very slapdash and surface level, so I’m using Tobira to fill out my understanding of intermediate grammar. I tried to complete one chapter each WK level (about every two weeks), though the chapters have more content than the MNN chapters did, so I have to push myself a little harder to keep up this pace with Tobira.
  • The first thing I do for each chapter is add the vocab for the 読み物 reading to Anki while I’m still finishing up the previous chapter in the workbook. I’ll have several days to run through the cards so that I’m ready to start the next chapter immediately. Then I’ll work through the chapter in this order:
  • Read the first half of the grammar section (covering everything that shows up in the 読み物).
  • Read the beginning of the new chapter through the 読み物.
  • Skip to the 内容質問 section and do the 読み物 questions.
  • Run through the vocab for the 会話文 reading in Anki while doing the 読み物 reading and related exercises.
  • Read the second half of the grammar section (covering everything that shows up in the 会話文).
  • Read the 会話文.
  • Do the 会話文 questions in the 内容質問 section.
  • Read the rest of the chapter and do any remaining exercises that aren’t conversation practice or kanji-related.
  • Do the workbook exercises for that chapter.
  • I try to make at least some progress on the textbook every day. Some days, this means more work than others! No matter what else I have going on, though, I always make sure I at least clear my Anki reviews.

Reading and listening/active immersion/translation

(See my first post for how I got into doing fan translation in the first place.)

Most of my reading/listening practice, or active immersion, or whatever you want to call it, is translating in-ring promos and post-match comments for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. Slowly but surely, the quality of my work is improving, and I’m making a lot less mistakes. It is, however, a huge time suck with pretty much weekly deadlines (if I want to stay ahead of the next show), so I have to sort of fit the rest of my non-TJPW immersion around it whenever there are lulls in my translation workload.

I recently calculated my average translation speed, and it factors out to be about 600 characters an hour (at least for pro wrestling. I imagine it would be slower for a domain I’m not familiar with, haha). This includes the initial rough draft of the translation, researching the words and grammar I can’t figure out, watching the video and following along with the transcript, posting my questions in the pro wrestling thread, and then implementing edits and doing the final polishing.

So standard TJPW shows are about 2-4 hours of work, press conferences tend to be 4-8 hours (depending on if they have one or two parts), Korakuen shows are about 9-10 hours, and big shows like Wrestle Princess are like 15 hours. I’d estimate that maybe an average month’s worth of shows is about 20 hours (minimum) of translation work for me.

This is my current process for doing the translations. I’ve refined it a lot since the early days, thanks to having better tools now and also a better grasp of the language. Here is basically how it goes:

  • I start by watching the TJPW show. Live if possible, if not, then I’ll wait for the VOD to come out (usually takes three days) before starting the translation.
  • If it’s a live show, I’ll wait until the next day for the transcripts to be up. If it’s a VOD show, I can get started right away. I’ll go to the TJPW results section of shupro’s (週刊プロレス, known primarily for their weekly pro wrestling magazine) website and view the detailed write-up of the show (this is only available if you have a subscription). They typically transcribe the post-match promos there, and all or most of the post-match comments. I’ll copy everything I want to translate into a word document.
  • Then I upload the raw Japanese text to Smartcat. Smartcat splits it up sentence by sentence, which makes it a lot less overwhelming to parse. It also has its own machine translation, which is more literal than DeepL, so sometimes it’s worse and sometimes it’s better. I have a wrestling glossary I’ve added, so it’ll bring up those suggestions when those words occur. I also usually paste the transcript of the dialogue into DeepL as I work through it, mostly for suggestions for some more natural ways to word some of the sentences.
  • I’ll work through the text sentence by sentence, spot-checking with Yomichan as needed. Often Yomichan won’t be enough to understand wrestling-specific uses of words (ぎゃく)エビ(がた)め, anyone?) or other slang the wrestlers use, so I’ll have to try googling in Japanese. I’ll search for “[term] プロレス” or “[term] 意味”, stuff like that.
  • I keep a sort of master document of all of my translations (well, they’ve gotten long enough now, my master doc is split into several files :sweat_smile:) along with the original Japanese so that I can quickly go back through and search for previous instances of a certain word or phrase, or find examples of how I translated something in the past. I’ll highlight all of the lines in the original Japanese that are particularly confusing to me as I go through it, then un-highlight them when my confusion has been resolved.
  • When I come across words which contain kanji that I already know, I’ll add them (along with their surrounding sentence) via Yomichan to my main immersion deck in Anki. I decided to focus on words with kanji because I thought it’d be the best way to reinforce what I’m learning here on WK, since I only have limited energy for flash cards, and I often have an easier time memorizing kana-only words naturally over time without needing SRS. New cards get funneled to an inactive deck that I only add cards from when my regular Anki workload is low enough (so, when I’m not actively trying to learn textbook vocab).
  • I’ve also started adding kanji (and the words which contain them) that I come across during my translations which aren’t in WK. For these kanji, in order to learn them more thoroughly, I’m forcing myself to memorize how to write them. I didn’t add every kanji I came across that isn’t in WK, but now that I’ve reached level 60, my plan is to add anything I don’t recognize to Anki.
  • Once I’ve finished the rough draft of the translation, I’ll watch the post-match interview videos on twitter (TJPW typically posts them there, so I’ll save all the links as I see them), following along with the transcript. Sometimes watching the video clears up my questions, because I’ll realize that there was a mistake in the transcript, or seeing the line with context will make it make sense to me suddenly, though my Japanese often isn’t good enough for me to catch a whole lot. For the VOD shows, I’ll watch them along with the transcript on my initial viewing, which is an interesting experience because I’ll catch a lot more of the dialogue that way.
  • When the draft for the comments are done, I’ll share them in the pro wrestling thread, along with all of my questions. This is a vital step! rodan has been very patiently helping answer all of my questions and give suggestions for how I can improve the translations, which really helps bring them to that next level and make me feel confident about sharing them.
  • I’ll edit the draft, implementing all of rodan’s suggestions to the best of my ability, and doing any additional smoothing over.
  • Then I’ll copy and paste the translation into a blog post on my wordpress blog. It takes a little bit of time to get everything formatted and tagged correctly. I’ll come up with a few bullet points to mention in a tweet promoting the link to the translation, then publish the post along with the tweet, and that’s it! It’s done!

Currently, pro wrestling is the only domain that I am actively mining additional vocabulary from, since it’s obviously my main priority right now. I do plan on eventually moving on to mining words from manga and novels and other sources, but I have more than enough on my plate with wrestling, so that’ll have to wait until the wrestling words have slowed to a tiny trickle, and I’ve gotten through the backlog of cards on Anki. I’m planning on ramping up my Anki workload now that I’ve reached level 60 on WK, so hopefully I’ll be able to actually clear that backlog soon. Also, believe it or not, a lot of the wrestling vocabulary shows up in other places, including my textbook, manga, and even senryu poems. And yes, putting in the time in Anki has absolutely paid off here.

Advice

The most important unit of time in your studies is one day. Not one year, not one month, not one week. A day. That’s when it all happens. You can set broader goals, like what you want to get done in a week or a month or a year, but you better have a path to getting there that takes it one day at a time.

In my experience, a combination of these two things is the secret sauce for maintaining motivation:

Consistency

You have to show up and put the work in every single day. There will be days where you don’t want to do it. On those days, you just have to remind yourself that your past self decided you wanted it, and your future self will regret it if you don’t, so you just have to do it.

It’s important to find a study method that you genuinely enjoy doing. Efficiency is only as good as your ability to actually do the work. An inefficient method that you will actually do is better than an efficient one that you won’t do.

Passion

You have to want it. You have to want to not only know Japanese, but you have to want to learn it. If you don’t find ways to enjoy the actual process of learning, you won’t get very far. You have to learn to appreciate every small victory, every single word you recognize, every complicated sentence you’re able to understand, every new grammar point that you internalize.

You have to learn to appreciate your failures, too. Every failed review and dictionary lookup is a learning opportunity. Every question you ask is facilitating your own understanding. Someone who is able to understand Japanese at a high level has probably made more mistakes than 99% of learners. You have to make the mistakes in order to acquire understanding.

Having a passion for Japanese media is fantastic motivation, but is in itself not enough, in my experience, to keep you going. I’ve had days where I really hated pro wrestling. You will have an easier time pushing yourself to tackle harder stuff, though, if you truly love the content, so follow your interests as far as they will take you, but don’t be afraid to take a step back if you start to get overwhelmed.

Sometimes my passion for wrestling carries me through a really tough day of studying or translation. But when wrestling is just making me sad, my passion for learning Japanese is what carries me through completing my translations and continuing my studies.

Tips on pacing

A lot of advice I’ve tried to give on this forum over the past couple years pretty much boils down to: “Please be kind to your future self.”

Any new lessons you do in WaniKani will come back as reviews hours, days, weeks, and then months later. If you overload yourself with lessons, it can be hard to keep up with them when those reviews come back in large batches again and again. Even if you’re going full speed, WaniKani is not a sprint, and it takes dedicated, daily work to make it through the program.

When you plan today’s workload, think of yourself six months from now, who might be tired, demotivated, sick, or busy. Plan your regular study schedule around the work you can easily complete on a daily basis, not the work that you can complete with maximum effort in ideal circumstances.

I had several points where I almost gave up, and all of them were due to external factors in my life that were entirely out of my control and impossible to predict or plan for ahead of time. What would have happened if I had a huge clump of extra reviews to do on one of those days? I honestly don’t think I could have done it.

I personally recommend using a reorder script (Lesson Filter is what I used, though Reorder Omega can also get the job done) to distribute the kanji lessons throughout the level, and doing a consistent number of lessons every day. This will give you a nice, even workload with a predictable number of daily reviews that you can schedule the rest of your day around. Then all you have to do is just focus on getting your daily work done each day, and one day you will just be at level 60.

I don’t recommend doing the so-called “fast levels” at maximum pace. I don’t recommend going maximum pace just in general, but especially not right at the end. The last few levels of WK are the least useful. They are also the hardest! The kanji and vocab are rarer and harder to memorize. You don’t want to rush through them. There’s no benefit to learning them fast, and you will just add a lot of additional stress and fatigue to your day because you’ll be dealing with a massive volume of reviews each day that are also more difficult than the usual fare. The level 60 badge is not worth rushing to the finish line. You don’t want to go too hard and burn yourself out on SRS entirely.

For me personally, just over two years was about the perfect pace to complete WK. I was able to learn a solid base of grammar and additional vocabulary (both from my textbook and from my immersion) within that same time frame, so by level 60, I was in a great position to go off on my own and read and watch Japanese content and learn new vocab and kanji outside of WK’s framework.

Translation as a study method

Would I recommend taking up translation as a study method? Honestly, no. I would recommend it in these specific cases: 1) you have an interest in it, 2) there’s a strong need for it in your community, and/or 3) you’re feeling bored or restless with just passively reading/watching native media and are looking for a challenge. But if you’re very efficiency-minded, you’d probably be better off spending your time just practicing reading/listening/speaking/writing etc. without attempting to learn translation.

Spending all of this time translating instead of merely reading and learning to process sentences in Japanese inevitably slows me down. Translating requires you to understand every single sentence, even the ones that are far above your level, and even the ones that are poorly phrased or riddled with typos or improperly transcribed.

But as much stress as it has brought me, it also brings me a lot of joy, and it makes each week an adventure. It’s a path I chose because I didn’t want to give up being able to watch Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling with my friends who aren’t proficient in Japanese. I chose that over fast-tracking my own Japanese skill. Unlike with a medium like manga or a video game or whatever, I didn’t exactly have a choice in the timing. I couldn’t afford to wait.

So I guess if there’s any advice in all of that, it’s that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this path to anyone else, but it definitely was the right choice for me. Sometimes I think you have to make choices that let you actually use what you have now at this point in your journey, even if it’s inefficient and therefore pushes back that theoretical endpoint of fluency.

Learning two languages at the same time

This is another thing that people generally don’t recommend doing, but, well, it worked for me! I would recommend reaching at least the upper beginner stage in one of your languages before starting another, though. You want to have the foundation down.

The main con to learning two languages at once is that it will take you longer to progress in both of them than if you were focusing on one at a time because you simply have less time to devote to each of them each day. You’ll need to be very good at time management. You’ll also need to be patient. Japanese has a very long beginner phase. It will be even longer if you are learning another language at the same time. If both languages are important to you, the cost might be worth it, but you need to be pretty dedicated to keep it up without getting too frustrated or discouraged.

I’d recommend using different tools for each language. My Spanish was intermediate level before I started learning Japanese, so I was able to work on my Spanish just by reading books and listening to podcasts. I made the choice to forego SRS entirely with Spanish because I wanted to save my energy there for Japanese. I think this was a very wise choice!

Spanish is an easier language for native English speakers to learn, so it was encouraging to see my progress there while Japanese was much more slow-going. I could put a lot less time into Spanish each day and still see huge gains in comprehension, compared to Japanese.

Balancing your studies with non-Japanese hobbies

I don’t have any advice for how to manage your hobbies and keep up with Japanese at the same time because I, uh, didn’t. I was just fortunate (or unfortunate) in that my primary hobby was in Japanese, and I had to do the hard work of learning the language if I wanted to keep up with it.

So I guess my advice here is that if you really want to get good at Japanese, you’ll have to put the time into it. That means taking time away from doing other things. You will have to decide for yourself if learning Japanese is worth making that sacrifice.

I did take the time to learn how to do embroidery. You can learn how to do it, too, if you want.

What I wish I’d done differently

Start earlier. That’s really it. I don’t think I could have gone faster no matter what method or tools I used, just because I only have so much time/energy that I can put into this each day.

What I wish was different about WaniKani

Overall, I’m very happy with the WaniKani program as it was when I completed it. Things might look very different in a few years if WK goes through with adding thousands of additional kana-only vocab items, which would have disrupted my process considerably. But that hasn’t happened yet, so I will try to focus on the program as it is currently.

WaniKani’s greatest strength is the robust community of third-party developers who lovingly craft userscripts and excellent tools that work in conjunction with the official product. This is also WK’s greatest weakness.

I really wish that all of the most popular userscripts were actual official features so that there isn’t a huge scramble after every major script-breaking update. The script that I most wish that WK would implement is the Keisei Semantic-Phonetic Composition script, which basically entirely transformed the WK experience for me.

In my opinion, learning semantic-phonetic composition is one of the most valuable things that I have learned from WK, and it’s a skill that I have carried forward out of WK into the real world when encountering new kanji.

I think it actually enhances the existing system of teaching radicals → kanji → vocab if the radicals you learn are actual components that inform the meaning/reading of the kanji. I’ve thought about how I would implement it according to WK’s own system, and I guess I’d have semantic-phonetic component kanji introduced as green items (distinct from blue radical cards and pink kanji cards), and have them work like radicals in that you need to guru them to unlock the kanji based on them, but unlike radicals, you’d get quizzed on their reading, too. Or something like that.

I don’t mind WK’s made-up radicals when they’re just pieces of kanji or heavily distorted existing kanji, but I think it actually hurts your memory when WK teaches a radical as something different when it is a real existing kanji. I’ve just faced some frustration, personally, when I can feel WK’s own mnemonic system working against me because I’ll memorize their mnemonic instead of the actual kanji meaning, and then have to try to override that somehow when learning the actual kanji later. Plus, for the complicated kanji with loads of WK radicals, I basically give up on the mnemonics anyway, especially since usually the radicals are bunched together into an existing kanji that is a phonetic or semantic component, and it’s easier to just memorize that.

It just feels like incorporating the semantic-phonetic stuff is kind of a no-brainer? It seems to genuinely gel really well with WK’s established methodology, and there’s a lot of research backing it up, plus a highly successful script out there that gives WK some idea of basic implementation of the concept that clearly is already working for thousands of other people, so why not incorporate it into the site officially?

People can download kanji decks on jpdb or on Anki or make their own from scratch, but I don’t think anything out there replicates the experience of WK + the Keisei script.

Something that’s interesting to me is that it appears that the Keisei script has actually encouraged a lot of WK users to further study this. Multiple reviews for The Kanji Code on Amazon specifically mention finding it because of WK! It’s an aspect of kanji study that doesn’t really seem to get discussed much outside of here, I guess maybe because it doesn’t seem to be taught a lot in schools, and many self-taught Japanese language learners online don’t like WK’s method and think that kanji should be learned entirely through vocab encountered in the wild, which sort of runs contrary to this approach.

I’ll probably be buying that book within the next few years myself.

In my initial draft of this post, I was going to give a pretty glowing recommendation for WaniKani. The program truly did transform the learning process and make learning Japanese feel possible to me. Now, I’m a bit hesitant. If WK continues to make radical changes to their system, like adding thousands of kana-only words, the path that I followed to get where I am today might no longer exist. Maybe it would still work for some people, but I don’t know if it would have worked for me.

But regardless of what WaniKani itself looks like at any given moment, I can say that I recommend the WaniKani forum! We’ve nurtured a really wonderful community here, and I’ve met so many folks here who are incredibly kind and helpful, and who are so generous with their time and resources.

The forum has honestly been a more important resource for me than WK itself. It’s a common joke on here for people to talk about wasting time on the forum instead of studying, but I’ve never personally felt that at all. Every thread I’ve participated in has helped keep me feeling excited and energized about studying Japanese.

I feel like I learn the most either when I’m explaining something to someone else, or when I’m getting corrected on something myself, and this forum offers plenty of opportunities for both.

I actually learned one lesson early on here that I think the WK team could also learn: don’t mess with someone’s individual study routine. People will use tools in ways that you don’t expect them to. Some of those ways will feel very backwards to you. You can offer advice, but straight up telling someone “don’t do that” (or suddenly changing a feature that people were accustomed to using) generally won’t be well-received. This might sound strange, but someone’s study routine is often a deeply personal thing, and having sudden change forced on it, or being told that something that has been working for you is actually wrong, can feel really disorienting and upsetting.

People are amenable to change if they’re given good enough reasons for it and the flexibility to choose for themselves, but I think the choice has to come from within. None of us are perfect learners, and we shouldn’t expect others to follow a perfect predetermined path, either. You can warn people, but let them make their own mistakes. People will either make it work for them or they won’t.

My plans going forward

Am I going to try to burn everything that is still left in my review queue? Yes. Why? I dunno, I just like the thought of it. I’m setting that as a soft deadline to hopefully reach N1 by. The goal is to be fully done with formal grammar study and WK and be totally on my own with native material and Anki by that point.

But the WaniKani part of my language learning journey is largely over. I’ll be here doing my reviews, and of course I’ll be hanging around the forum, but I have no plans to ever unburn any items or reset. The time I spend on the app each day will gradually dwindle away, and I’ll be putting that time into immersion and other things instead.

With KaniWani, my plan is to keep going with it for another year, then stop doing reviews there in May 2024.

I’m hoping to finish Tobira this year, and then move on to the Shin Kanzen Master books for N2 and above. I’m also hoping to keep going with the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar book club until we’ve finished the last volume. The timing of that should coincide nicely with my upper intermediate and advanced studies.

I’ve tentatively set aside five years for studying Japanese, of which I am a little more than two years into. I’m not planning on trying to get another job in the meantime, though if an opportunity arises, that might change. I’m treating it sort of like being back in school again, except without any classes or tuition or a formal degree. If I can pass the N1 by the end of that, I’ll consider it a success.

We’ll see what happens after that, if I manage to make it that far.

I intend to keep going with the Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling fan translations as long as there is a need for them. If the company hires an actual qualified professional, I’ll gladly step back and let that person take up the reins. It’d be nice to be able to translate some of the optional fun stuff, like shupro articles and videos and all of that, but I don’t currently have time to do that.

I’m going to keep updating my study log, so if you want to see how it all works out for me, come visit that thread!

Cake

My parents volunteered to make me a cake when they found out that I had completed WaniKani (after I explained what it even was), so behold! My mom baked it, and my dad decorated it (he was especially proud of the texture on the crabgator, haha).

Acknowledgements

First, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to @rodan, who was one of the first people to greet me when I first joined the forum. From there, they went on to become an amazing mentor, my translation tag team partner, and a genuine friend. They objected when I referred to them as the kindest stranger I’ve ever met, but it’s true! They’ve poured countless hours of their time into helping me over the years, and I don’t think I would have been able to stick this out if it weren’t for their support. No one else in my life has ever shown me so much kindness and generosity. I don’t know if I can ever pay them back, but I strive to at least pay it forward in whatever way I can.

I also want to thank @valkow, who I believe is the sole other person besides rodan who has liked every single one of my study log entries.

And @VikingSchism and @Daisoujou, who joined around the same time I did, and who are I think the only other surviving members of our “class” of WK users who didn’t abandon their study logs and give up on Japanese.

And @Shannon-8, @MissDagger, and @Beyond_Sleepy, who’ve been there for most of my journey, and whose encouragement has been very helpful for me.

(I ran out of @'s, so I’m going to just list these next handful of names :sweat_smile:)

I also want to thank midnightblue, taiyousea, Akashelia, prath, and emiri_learns_jp who joined the community more recently, but who have been very kind to me in the time that they’ve been here.

If you ever liked or commented on any of my study log posts, or sent me any sort of support during these years, I love you. Seriously. You don’t know how much your kindness has meant to me. This forum was there for me during a time when I had very little support, all while I was trying to do a very hard thing, which is becoming fluent in a second language. I’m so, so grateful for each and every one of you.

Thank you to @chongo for being so kind and sending me this sticker!

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Huge congrats for getting to lv 60! :partying_face: :tada: :fireworks:

XqhVAA7

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Congratulations!! It’s crazy to see how your struggles and triumphs went so hand in hand with wrestling.

Best of luck to you on the N1 and with writing!

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Congratulations on making it to level 60 - it’s a huge achievement and something to be proud of. I know I haven’t been around on the forums a lot lately but it gladdens me to see others who started around a similar time to me still here and working on their Japanese

Your passion for wrestling is always a pleasure to read about, even if it’s not a world I’m very familiar with myself and I wish you many successes in your continuing learning post level 60. One thing you can bet on is that WK isn’t likely to leave your life too soon assuming you don’t quit - I’m still keeping up with reviews myself, though they’ve definitely become lessened as I’ve moved further away from the lessons

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That was a very interesting and motivational read! Congratulations!!

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Congrats!!
Thanks for sharing all your experience, it is so complete, I have no questions :smiley:
Please keep sharing with us the pro-wrestling examples, I love it :partying_face:
Best of luck for the rest of your studies!

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Awesome job, congrats!

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FallynLeaf, 心底で おめでとう
It’s been really entertaining and encouraging watching your blog and encouragement of everyone in the forum over these years. I will be taking a year longer than you did (at least, I can see this now)… I really admire the way you handled it. I believe that you did a very thorough job that you will benefit from in years to come, because it’s a solid foundation.

お疲れさまでした!!
続いて頑張ろう!!

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Congratulations! :tada::confetti_ball::balloon::champagne:

The culmination of your steady trek up kanji mountain has seemed inevitable for a long time, and here you are:) And just look at those beautiful stats :open_mouth: Basically an ideal example of consistent effort paying off.

I’ll come limping up after you in a couple years I hope :crossed_fingers::sweat_smile:

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Thank you! And yeah, it is kind of funny how that worked out! I guess some of it is the magic/curse of having a special interest… :sweat_smile:

Thank you! And same, it makes me happy, too! I’m glad at least a few of us managed to stick it out!

I remain surprised whenever anyone tells me that my passion for wrestling is actually interesting to hear about, haha. Most of the people who know me in real life tend to get sick of hearing about it :sweat_smile:.

Thank you! I’m glad I managed to keep it interesting!

Thank you! One benefit to keeping an overly thorough study log is that I can write an overly thorough recap at the end of the process, haha!

And more pro wrestling examples will definitely be coming! Thank you for enabling me! :smiling_imp:

Thank you! I’m glad my study log has been entertaining and encouraging! I admire your tenacity, too! No matter how long it takes, you’ll get there someday! I’m a big proponent of the slow and steady route :turtle:.

Thank you! And yeah, I’m proud of the consistency of my stats! I went slower than many others, but I’m glad that I did because I feel like I really packed a lot into each one of those level bars.

I believe in you!! I’m looking forward to reading your own level 60 post someday (and Shannon’s, too) :wink:.

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That was one hell of a post and read – and a very inspiring one. You’re enthusiasm for both Japanese and pro wrestling and them being intertwined and pushing you forward undoubtedly came through.

Your wrestling love story had quite the unexpected twist :laughing::

The feeling of “why didn’t I get into it sooner” is too familiar to me and I dare make the guess that it resonates with quite a few community members on the forum as well. But as you said, it’s better to start “late” than never.

I’m very sorry to hear about all the hardships – privately and wrestling related – that happened around end of the year 2021…and throughout 2022 and just any pushback you faced on your journey thus far. But on the other hand, you perseverance in your studies and translations shows how much of an iron will you have which is incredibly impressive (and painful in a way because one’s will to continue doing one’s best in life should not be tested more or less every god**** day like how it happened to you in the last two years).

I hope that writing this level 60 post had a cathartic effect and that you could take a bit of a breather of all the baggage that accumulated over the last years as well as literally write and read along about all the progress you’ve made ever since you started learning Japanese.

I wish you all the best in continuing your studies and hope that you get to attempt the N1 within your desired timeframe. Likewise, I hope that life will be treating you better in general from now on. 頑張って! :muscle:

Lastly, I can only say that I share the sentiment from your acknowledgements: I’m grateful for the kindness you have shown me, so thank you for that. :slight_smile:

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It’s funny, people who know me post-wrestling are surprised to find out that I ever hated it, and people who knew me pre-wrestling are utterly shocked to find out that I’m super into it now, haha (I guess it conflicts with most people’s impression of me, which is a quiet bookish person with a master’s degree who is very into classic literature). I actually sort of keep it a secret in my real life simply because I get way too much joy out of the moment of reveal when I tell people what media I’ve been into lately and get treated with an expression of utter shock on their face, haha.

Yeah, part of why I wanted to include all of that (despite it being, uh, 14k words total, or something like that :grimacing:) is because I know I’m not the only one who has gone through some real rough patches in my life that interfered with my studies, and I wanted to be very frank and honest about the kind of effect it had on me, and how I tried to adjust what I was doing to work around that.

It was definitely not how I expected my end of 2021-2022 to go, but, well, sadly we can’t always choose these things! I hope others have a much smoother time getting through WK and progressing in Japanese than I did. And for the folks who have faced similar (considering how specific a lot of my experiences are, maybe “similar” is the wrong word…) hardships, I hope it helps for them to know that they’re not alone, and that it is possible to push through it and get to where you want to be even if it feels like you’re basically treading water for a while there.

Thank you! I did enjoy writing this post, as much work as it was, haha. I honestly spent years dreaming about what I would say in it, so I’m glad the day has finally arrived that I could actually write it!

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Congratulations! It means a lot getting mentioned in the post :grin:. You’ve always been one of the nicest and most helpful people around here and I’m happy to see how consistently you’re still making progress. What you’ve done is impressive – the way I focus exclusively on parts of the language works for me, but you’ve taken a much more well rounded approach that couldn’t have been easy to figure out how to balance (the handwriting, kaniwani, some output, etc). Doing translation as early as you did is seriously cool too; being able to put yourself out there like that takes courage.

I love your cake, and I’m super happy for you with your progress. I look forward to hearing about the N1 pass!

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Congratulations!!!

I feel oddly proud to have been there that day for your first introduction post, and to now be here for your level 60 celebration! With introduction posts in general, and I feel like maybe even one or two that mentioned pro wrestling over the years, I think the most common outcome is naturally a handful of more posts and then not seeing them around again. I couldn’t be happier that yours wasn’t like that at all, and presaged tons of long and interesting posts. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get a 愛弟子 and friend out of the deal!

I feel very lucky to have been at exactly the right level and place where killing time by answering interesting questions on an internet forum could be construed as a kindness toward a stranger and a positive influence I can be proud of. I’d mostly fallen off of answering language questions here, since there’s always plenty of others ready to answer, both people much more qualified than me, and people less qualified and pushing themselves to answer and getting more out of it, which I didn’t want to interfere with.
But HA! The joke’s on them! They shoulda watched more pro wrestling!!

I think it’s really neat that despite all that we coincidentally have in common, the journeys described in our respective level 60 posts are completely different in terms of tools and process and perspective. I think what you said about everyone having their own process that means a lot to them is right on. The experience of offering advice is near universal, but the experience of someone running with that advice and doing 100% of the same things the same way is nonexistent. In a good way! I’m glad to be able to read about it.

I also think it’s really neat that despite all those differences, it does seem like the journey is more parallels than not, too! Even just the handful of months longer to complete wanikani with your rigorous schedule hardly amounts to any meaningful difference in the grand scheme of things, and that’s not even considering all those translations and promo listening, etc.
It makes me profoundly happy to think therefore of the milestones and joyful moments still to come for you just around the proverbial corner, since I know just how much more emotional investment you’ve put in to all of this than me.

Thank you again for all the interesting questions, and for getting me a lot more invested in TJPW, and wrestling in general! I’m positive I’m not the only one you’ve done that for and will be far from the last.
It really is a hell of an achievement what you’ve done up to this point, and I can’t imagine that’ll end here. Congratulations!!

プロレスは諸行無常
ただ あしたへと あしたへと 永遠に

P.S. if we’re translation tag team partners, what’s our team name? I’m thinking 英訳共鳴

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That’s a nice cake man. Congratulations

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Holy crow, you weren’t kidding it was novella-length! :joy:

Seriously tho, congrats! :partying_face:
:durtle_noice:

I will set aside … um … a couple of days I guess :sweat_smile: … to read your tale.

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i’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for this post, congratulations!!! 本当に大変できました、おめでとう!!

edit: i lovingly read through every word and just saw that you mentioned me at the bottom, i am so touched, the 感動する is real right now :sob: i’m so lucky to have joined wanikani during the era of fallynleaf, i feel like i need to sign your yearbook before we leave for summer or something like that djsfdghj

truly though, most incredible wishes on the next stage of your japanese-learning adventure, you completed a major hurdle that tens of thousands of learners will never be able to say they did. I’m excited to start tobira in the next month and continue studying alongside you!!

edit 2: I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT THE CAKE IS AMAZING

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わぁ、すごい! :tada: :tada: :tada:

All 60 levels down, that’s seriously amazing! It was inspiring to see you progress through the levels by looking at your forum posts (another shoutout for the Durtlers). I was also very surprised to learn that someone else shares my weird daily schedule of mixed kanji/vocab, except you’ve been doing it since before I started WaniKani. Seriously, it’s so much more manageable than the default ordering by WK. I’m hoping to get to your place eventually. Although, at my current pace, it’s probably going to take me at least one and a half more years. It could even take longer since you’ve just pointed me to a few more interesting tools to boost my 日本語 learning, which I may incorporate to my routine. And with how much you’re gushing about pro wrestling, I may just check out what it’s all about haha. :sweat_smile:

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おめでとう!!!

I’ve really enjoyed following your progress in the scenic route durtle thread! Your dedication and persistence is the essence of durtling. :durtle_noice:

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