Week 14 - Stories of the Japanese Prefectures (Absolute Beginner Book Club)

都道府県のおはなし 低学年 - Stories of the Japanese Prefectures :jp:

Week 14 - Pages 58-61

Week 13: Link

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Participation poll

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Well today, just as we’re at the end of reading 都道府県のはなし, I learned that the NHK for School website has videos on the prefectures of Japan made for elementary schoolers. The videos seem to be at the level of the book, but include a lot more details than could fit in the articles. There’s even a quiz at the end to test your knowledge on the prefectures.

Here’s the link to the NHK for School video on Kagoshima:

The video is 15 minutes long and talks about the 桜島の火山噴火 and especially サツマイモ. The video also mentions that the イモ are part of the diet used in raising 黒豚 (Berkshire pigs) which are another famous product of 鹿児島県.

Luckily captions are available (mostly Hiragana with Furigana on the kanji) in the video player in the lower right. Yomichan + pause button are definitely helpful to follow along with the video.

Edit: Added Video Timestamps

01:24 - Saigō Takamori (called the “Last Samurai”)
02:00 - Rockets (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launches rockets from Kagoshima)
02:18 - 屋久島 (Yakushima) beautiful island known for its wildlife and ancient cedar forests (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
02:55 - 桜島 (Sakurajima) stratovolcano
04:17 - サツマイモ (Sweet potato)
08:20 - 黒豚 (Berkshire Pig)
11:17 - Recap + Quiz

BTW: For anyone interested in some “easier” Japanese listening practice, the NHK for School site has tons of interesting videos.


Thank you to @Micki for running this and to everyone who gave translations @Gorbit99 in particular though I noticed others that I used!

Just finished this book. My thoughts are I really wanted to like it (and voted for it, eager to learn more about Japan) but the reality of reading it was pretty painful for me. I often found myself very lost without more kanji and felt that the sentences were more complicated than the other mangas I’ve read with the ABBC. I also only learned today, through a Cure Dolly video, that commas don’t have any significant impact on the Japanese grammar unlike with English; the sentences with many commas left me pretty confused as I was trying to parse the clauses in them not realizing it’s all connected.

That said, this is the first book (not manga) I’ve read, so maybe it’s normal I need to adapt to a very different writing style and approach.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks for HunterXHunter!


Sorry Icaraba, accidentally made it a reply

Was a nice 3 and a bit months, but time to say さよなら

Kagoshima-prefecture translation

Sweet potato, even as a snack

Sakurajima is said to be the symbol of the Kagoshima prefecture. Sakurajima is a volcano, that’s active even today.
Because of volcanoes, like Sakurajima, repeatedly erupt, as much as half of the Kagoshima-prefecture is covered in vulcanic ash called shirasu.
The shirasu-soil is made up of dirt with low nutrient content, and it’s dry. In the dry land, rice doesn’t grow. As a result of trying to find a crop that’s more resistant to dryness, the sweet potato production started.
Sweet potatoes, as something brought from Ryuukyuu (Okinawa) to Satsuma (Kagoshima), were called Ryuukyuuimo. However, afterwards, because they were brought from Satsuma to Edo (Tokyo), they became widely known (lit.: called) as satsumaimo.
Because the warm climate is perfect for sweet potato cultivation, the growing of sweet potato in Kagoshima quickly flourished.
Out of the sweet potato, snacks, such as potato paste, potato buns and baked sweet potato are made. The sweet potato, perfect for snacks, is full of nutrients.

For the record, while reading this, I got hungry and baked myself some (regular) potato.

❶ Why is half of the area of the Kagoshima-prefecture covered in vulcanic ash? Fill in the blanks!
❷ Which sentence is correct about shirasu? Circle the right answer
ア It’s soil that low in nutrients
イ It’s great for wheat cultivation
ウ Dry resistant crops don’t grow on it
❸ Where did the name “satsumaimo” come from? Circle the right answer!
ア Because it was brought from Satsuma to Ryuukyuu
イ Because it was brought from Satsuma to Edo
ウ Because it was first cultivated in Satsuma

Okinawa-prefecture translation

A beautiful sea and the Okinawan Lion

The Okinawa-prefecture is made up of a lot of islands. Because it’s the furthest south in Japan, it has warm weather all year round.
Okinawa’s sea, known for its beautifullness, is famous for the manta rays and the world’s biggest fishes, the whale sharks living there.
If you go snorkeling or ride a glass bottom boat and you’re lucky, you can meet a manta ray or a whale shark.
If you’re walking on the inside of the island, you might catch sight of a lion shaped ornament on top of the roofs of houses or gates and similar places. These are called “shiisaa” and are used as a warding against evil. The posture and expression of shiisaa varies. Quite interesting, huh?

❶ Why is there warm weather all year round in the Okinawa-prefecture? Circle the correct answer!
ア Because it’s made up of a lot of islands
イ Because it’s the most southern part of Japan
❷ What is biggest fish in the world, that also lives in the sea of Okinawa called?
❸ What is the vehicle called that’s made for looking into the ocean?
❹ Circle the two correct sentences about shiisaa!
ア They are put on the top of buildings and gates
イ They have the shape of a manta ray
ウ They are used as warding against evil
エ They have the same posture and expressions


The commas are almost always there to help you separate out important parts of the sentence. Like the time the action took place at, the subject, or just parts of the sentence that are worth the emphasis. It’s still a worthwhile effort to try to translate each section separately if complete sentences seem daunting, but you can only tell clauses apart by their connecting particles, like と or が.

The first book will always be the hardest, especially as, unlike mangas, books just don’t have illustrations to aid understanding. Also I do think that the author sorta ran out of juice by the end. The last few prefectures tended to have at least one or two sentences that were long and quite layered.


In case anyone is interested, here’s the link to the NHK for School video on Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県):

It’s not mentioned in the article or video, but the beautiful Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (沖縄美ら海水族館) is the 2nd largest aquarium in the world and has both じんべえざめ (whale sharks) and マンタ (manta rays) on display – apparently one of the first aquariums in the world to breed them.

The NHK video spends a lot of time talking about sugar cane (the largest cultivated crop in Okinawa) and こくとう (黒糖 - brown sugar) which is widely used in Japanese cuisine. The こくとう from Okinawa is said to have a very unique flavor, different from the brown sugar in the West which is just refined white sugar + molasses.

One weird thing I learned reading about Okinawa is Habushu (ハブ酒), a local distilled liquor. ハブ is a poisonous pit viper found in Okinawa:


So habushu is actually liquor with whole snakes added to the bottles and left to marinate at the bottom :nauseated_face:. ハブアイス (Habu Ice Cream) is even a thing – basically ice cream with extract of Habushu blended with skikuwasa (シークヮーサー) Okinawa lime fruit juice. I guess a nice, summer treat?


I’ve added some polls to the opening thread to wrap things up: