Searching for what comes easily and naturally - How to Japanese - October 2022
This is How to Japanese, a monthly newsletter with something about Japan/Japanese and a dash of いろいろ.
I’ve settled into life in Osaka. Work hours are from 9:00-5:30 and swell to 7:20-6:30 with the commute and prep/decompression included. I find myself vacuuming a lot in the time I have remaining. I have very little space, so I’m more motivated to keep it clean and organized. I also have much less stuff than I did in Chicago, so it’s easier. After I’ve eaten and cleaned, however, I am filled with a metaphorical vacuum that’s been difficult to displace. I want to be writing and translating on my own, but once the dishes are away, I forget what it is I was supposed to do next. With all the displacement and replacement I’ve gone through in the past 90 days, I’ve given myself permission to go with what comes naturally and easily.
I found a municipal gym and pool and usually go three times a week. I’m reading The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a truly revelatory recipe book/cooking textbook. I cook at least once a week and put away frozen meals for the weeks ahead (thanks in part to an Instant Pot I bought for 6,000 yen on Jmty.jp). I’m keeping up with my kanji, and at the same time my J Drama. It took me a minute, but I’m also caught up with an American show for the first time in forever with House of Dragons nearing its finale. These have all come easily.
Other than kanji study and J Drama, though, I haven’t been able to put much energy into my Japanese study. That is until I bought a 月刊誌 (gekkanshi, monthly [manga] magazine).
I’ve read manga here and there, mostly from a few authors I was into (for example Higashimura Akiko), but I’ve never been encyclopedic in my knowledge, nor had I ever read a monthly magazine. I decided to get an issue of コミックビーム (Comic Beam) put out by Enterbrain. I’ve read a few of their manga over the years (like SOIL) and found their titles to be truly diverse; the subtitle is “A MAGAZINE for the COMIC FREAKS” and it can’t really be shoehorned into a single category. I’d always thought about doing a 購読 (kōdoku, subscription), but I wanted to make sure I’d actually get through a single issue first, so I ordered the October issue. I managed to get through it just in time for the November issue’s release on October 12, which I promptly ordered and started to devour.
The semi-urgency of finishing within the month pushes me to read. There are around 20 stories in each issue, which is the perfect amount. One or two a day, with some room for error. I’m realizing that not every series runs every month, and often there are 読み切り (yomikiri, one shots), such as the moving マイお兄ちゃん (My Older Brother) by 鳥トマト (Tori the Tomato) in the November issue.
I’m also realizing once again the importance of ritual. It took me far too long to pull the trigger on a sofa, so I had a restless few weeks with nowhere to sit in my apartment, but now that it’s here, I’ve enjoyed carving out time each night to make progress. I’m on my second issue, so I’ve gotten more discerning about what I devote my attention to. If there’s a story I’m not feeling, I skim it or skip it altogether. This also gets filed under “easy and natural.”
I’ve recently added another magazine to my stack: the “young ladies” manga Cocohana, which is running Higashimura Akiko’s current series 銀太郎さんお頼み申す (Asking Gintaro-san). Compared to Comic Beam, it’s a different experience altogether—there are no adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft in Cocohana, for example—but I’ve actually really enjoyed the stories. I’m not sure I would’ve read them without the push from Higashimura-sensei’s serial, but I’m enjoying them as language practice, as a peek into a different literary culture, and as stories in their own right. Like with many drama, they’re really effective at generating an emotional response.
So this month’s newsletter isn’t necessarily a call to get a subscription to a monthly manga magazine. This is a call for mindfulness. To notice how your Japanese study is going, what’s working and what’s not. Can you put yourself in a position to do more of what’s working? Of what comes easily and naturally? For myself, I’ve found that the urgency of needing to watch J Drama before they expire from TVer each week and needing to read manga each month propel me through the episodes/stories. What creates the most natural momentum for your Japanese study?
This is also a call to take it easy on yourself at times. There will be a time for pressure, for intensity. There has to be in order to make significant progress. But that time should come naturally as well.
I searched for the closest craft brewery on Google Maps, and it turns out to be the quirky little brewery Kamigata Brewing, which has a setup in an old sentō. Worth seeking out if you’re looking for a random adventure in Osaka.
Two How to Japanese Podcast guests got together on Translation Chat! Jenn O’Donnell spoke with Mercedez Clewis about the localization of Super Cub, which I am keen to watch now.
This is the latest trendy Japanese song on TikTok, but it hasn’t made the jump to other countries. Still, worth swiping through to see some fun dances in Japan. I think these are the guys who started the dance.
My IUC classmate Thu-Huong Ha interviewed Osakabe Yoshio in the Japan times! This is such a cool interview. Osakabe was a Murakami fanatic before it was cool to be a Murakami fanatic. He even followed him to marathons and ran with him. Wild.Latest spin on the annual Murakami-didn't-get-the- article ? japantimes.co.jp/life/2022/10/0… (But the guy is honest, admitting that if Murakami did get it: "It would be a happy event, and the value of my collection would increase.")