I will begin this post with a confession - わたしはあまりにほんごをべんきょうしません。

That's right, I've studied Japanese little if at all this semester. It's not that I don't have the time, but when it comes to the most important things to memorize - the vocabulary, the hiragana and katakana - I generally have prior working knowledge. (Not to say I'm perfect, though. I missed some words on the quiz today, so I might have to re-evaluate my opinion of myself.)

What I really need to work on are the little things that can only come with repeated practice and experience - namely, correct particle usage and fluency. I hope that I'll eventually master this in class. Really, that's my only option, unless someone is willing to frequently meet and converse with me in casual Japanese.

That said, I have some secret study methods that served me well in high school, and are probably still useful here at UVA. I'll share them now for the first time!

The first strategy is to adopt a mantra to motivate your studies. I have two. The first is this: "Anyone who ever told me I couldn't learn Japanese was a narrow-minded idiot." I feel that studying in defiance of someone or something always brings about the best results. My second mantra is the "Pokemon rule," which goes like this: If I could remember the names and powers of 151 Pokemon when I was a kid, then I should definitely be able to remember 23 hiragana, or 100 kanji, or whatever. (The longer you played Pokemon, the more valid this rule is. So I herd u liek Mudkips...?)
Anyway, my second strategy is to watch subtitled Japanese-language anime, and try to read signs or pick out words I know from the dialogue. It keeps me focused, it feels like practical application, and it dovetails with something I already enjoy. The only trouble with this method is that not every anime character speaks the way a normal Japanese person would! *shock* But seriously, don't let that discourage you.

My third strategy is to keep a constant stream of Japanese music flowing through my ears. This not only serves as a window into Japanese culture (you'll inevitably have to consult Japanese sources to find the popular bands), but is another way to get used to hearing the language. Again, I try to pick out words I know and understand as much of the song as possible. If I'm no good at that, I can at least enjoy the music.

Also, I'd recommend checking out the "Mainichi Shimbun" link that I've posted somewhere. The Mainichi, as it's lovingly known as, is one of Japan's top newspapers and is provided online and translated by MSN. Reading it every now and then will give you an understanding of current events and trends in Japan - which might come in handy for a future project.

And those, my friends, are my secret strategies.


Last week, I was supposed to share how my semester's been going. I blogged about other stuff instead. Hopefully, it's not too late to add these two cents.

So, it's no secret that I'm in the middle of my very first semester as a college student - and despite the anxiety I felt before and during my move-in, a lot of the transition has gone very well. I'm getting used to living on my own - taking care of my own chores, getting my own meals, managing my own schedule, and making sure I get enough sleep. I feel like it's easy to adapt to dorm life as long as I have all the necessities. On top of that, Woody House is a really great place to live - the best, in my opinion.

Classes are really exciting, too. I never really imagined how much college professors would transcend my teachers in high school in terms of knowledge of and enthusiasm for their chosen subject. I'm prone to falling asleep during lectures, but Professor Griffin keeps me wide awake in HIST 338. I usually don't take detailed notes, but in PSYC 210, Professor Williams practically forces me to do so. College is forcing me to exceed my old academic limits - and that's exciting.

But while I can be happy about my semester in those two respects, other things didn't go so well. The days that I spent desperately searching ISIS for an available slot in a Japanese class left me continually frustrated and a bit depressed. It took me a really long time to make friends here, too - during the first few weeks of the semester, I constantly felt alone and miserable. I once counted my iPod as my only companion.

Thankfully, much of that is changing. I did, of course, eventually find a way into a Japanese class, and I feel lucky to work with such great people on a daily basis. I hold my classmates in high regard, and unavoidably I think of our class as a family of sorts (with Sato-sensei as the quirky matron, I suppose. *laughs*). After the Activities Fair, I became active in a lot of clubs, as well, which eventually ended my days as a lone wolf. I can usually count on finding someone from CAINE or the Go club or the Shotokan Karate club at lunch or out for a walk - and that means my iPod doesn't have to keep me company so much anymore. (Oh, and I'm in three more clubs as well - and I get the chance to do amazing things in all six of them.)

I guess I'll close with some random thoughts. I'm a really big fan of our football team right now, as they've really improved after bad games against Wyoming and Duke. Supporting the Cavaliers on the field has done a lot to boost my school spirit in general. On the other hand, I was really excited to meet people from other parts of the world, but I haven't gotten to know any りゅうがくせい as well as I would like. The cultural barriers are... more intimidating than I thought, especially in groups. (Case in point: I'm part of Japan Club, but I don't know a single Japanese person yet.) Also, in general, Charlottesville and UVA are much bigger and more diverse than my tiny little hometown, so my head is constantly spinning and I'm not always sure what to do or who to talk to or where to go next.

Oh, and now midterms are coming up. I hope I can study responsibly... I'm worried that I won't get anything done because I'll be distracted by manga or video games.



I've been wondering... what should I call you if I run into you in "the real world," a.k.a. anywhere outside of Japanese class? I suppose that some of you might prefer to be addressed as (surname)-さん as we've been doing in class, but I imagine that most of you have first names or nicknames that you'd prefer I use.

Technically, I should try to use my にほんご even when I'm not in class, but it just seems too weird to my Western mind to work and talk with people every day and not be on a first-name basis with them.

For the record, I will answer to Paul or Derek, whichever you prefer.


I had what you would a call a pretty interesting weekend.

As mentioned earlier, my friend Danny came to visit on Friday. While it was too bad that I couldn't drag him along to any of my favorite classes or clubs (he arrived somewhat late), we managed to have some fun watching "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" in Newcomb, and catching Bandazian performing practically next door. The latter is of special note, since that was my first opportunity to sample some of our local musical talent - and I thought Bandazian sounded good, reminiscent of The Killers but with a slightly different flavor. Danny and I spent the rest of the night playing some old favorites on the PS2, before he had to leave early the next morning.

I slept in, but I certainly wasn't late to catch our Cavaliers in action against Georgia Tech. The football team's been improving, and this game was a good example of that. While I don't, and perhaps never will, agree with Al Groh's playcalling, I think that Jameel Sewell and Cedric Peerman may yet be breakout stars, and Chris Long continues to prove his dominance. My loyalty to the Cavaliers earned me a bright red sunburnt stripe under my eyes, as well as bragging rights over my "friends" at Virginia Tech. 'Hoos numbah one in the ACC?

My dad e-mailed me later that night telling me he was in China on a business trip... in fact, I think he's in Shanghai right now. I told him to bring back something fun - preferably something I can eat or wear. My friends Alex and Olivia also called, marking the first time in several months that I've been in touch with either of them.

Then, I woke up this morning with a cold - probably the same one that's victimized so much of our Japanese class lately. I wasn't sick enough that I would miss my beloved Green Bay Packers defeat the San Diego Chargers, though. In addition to that, the constant stream of vitamin C that I've been consuming since this morning (orange juice, citrus fruits, dietary supplements, you name it) has done much to keep my cold in check, particularly this evening, and hopefully I'll be in good health in time for the Japanese skit on Tuesday.

Also, congratulations to my hero Brett Favre on breaking Dan Marino's career touchdowns record. If #4 isn't the greatest quarterback in NFL history, he's certainly one of the best.



Well, it's about time I got my required weekly blog post out of the way.

Our skit drafts are in, and I'm worried again. It seems like worrying about skits is going to be a recurring theme for me this semester. I guess I don't have a lot of faith in either my creativity or my Japanese speaking skills at this point. Working with Kan-san last night was a boon, though - he's quick to come up with good ideas.

I'm worried about many more things than just my Japanese homework, though. I'm worried that I don't have enough warm clothes to deal with the increasingly cool weather. I'm worried about the score I might have gotten on that test in PSYC 210 the other day. I'm worried about remembering the proper forms and movements for karate, Tai Chi, and the waltz and rumba all at the same time. I'm worried about eating right, and getting enough sleep, and managing my time correctly... and in my spare time, I worry about what my roommate's up to, as well. All that partying seems to have turned him into a nocturnal being.

My family came to visit me last weekend, though, which made me a little happier. My best friend Danny, currently こうこうよんねんせい, is also coming to visit on Friday to tour UVA. He's looking forward to being a Wahoo, and I very much hope he'll be accepted here in the fall.



Now that I've uploaded a proper picture, it's time to get down to business. This is my first serious blog here, so I better not mess it up.

The first thing that comes to mind is this: I'm glad the skits are done. I worried about this project constantly. I felt like I had to expect more out of myself than the other students in the class, because I've already had two years of instruction in basic Japanese (though I'm far from fluent even now). I was determined not to let Yingsha or Sato-sensei down. For the most part, I think that I was successful in that. Yingsha and I found lots of opportunities to work together outside of class, and we didn't make any mistakes during the actual performance. I have to give serious kudos to Shum-san and Kan-san, who upstaged the entire class. I'm not superior to anyone here - even with prior knowledge, I still have a lot to learn.

It's application, more than anything else, that is challenging me in Japanese 101. I understand basic phrases and hiragana very well, so I don't feel the need to study very much for quizzes yet. Speaking from memory in class, however, and writing dialogue both cause trouble for me - since I was the only Japanese student at my high school, I'm not completely used to using the language in conversation with others yet. I think that I might be able to speak with a more natural flow if I could use some of the additional Japanese that I know, but sensei told me not to do that. I miss being able to use "demo" and "soshite."

Still, I'm doing all right. I need to check my syllabus more often, and I probably should spend a little time in the Language Lab on my own. I have very good reasons for taking Japanese, though, and I'll survive this class for sure!

Now I just have to remember to finish the rest of my homework. I'll be able to make Ballroom Dancing tonight if I hurry. I have to get the next volumes of "Death Note" ready for Lin-san as well.

I wonder if anyone else in my class reads manga...


First things first. Before I start blogging, everyone needs to know what I look like. *laughs*

I took this picture at the Otakon anime convention in Baltimore this summer. It's a good way to preserve the memories.

The girls on either side of me are dressed as "Persocoms" from a manga called "Chobits."

I think this is my favorite picture of myself on record.