I’m in the Local Newspaper!

The jet lag from the return trip home reminded me of how that first week of life feels after you have a new baby. I just wanted to sleep, wear my fat pants, and have my husband bring me snacks when I was hungry. For that most part, that’s what happened. And yes, I took full advantage of it.

A few people reached out to hear about my trip, included a friend who works for the local paper. He asked if he could do a write-up about my time in Japan and what in the world made me interested in going in the first place. Once I’d recovered enough to meet, we did an interview, and here’s the final product:

A Japan Experience

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in the local paper and help share about Shiga and the Michigan-Shiga Sister State relationship with the people in my community. I’ve already had a few great conversations with folks about my time in Shiga and the sister state relationship. I’m pleasantly surprised how excited people are to read and talk about my experiences. 🙂

It feels like a pipe dream at the moment, but I hope that one day all of this leads to local Japanese language classes and clubs, cultural events, or even a little Asian market, especially since many folks don’t have the means to get to the Saginaw area (or farther) even though it’s less than a few hours away.

I plan on starting some of this with my little building that’s coming with the business we’re purchasing next door. She isn’t much, but she’s mine. And the timely arrival of this building in my life feels like maybe my pipe dreams aren’t as fanciful as they seem. Time will tell, I suppose. Until then, a girl can dream….

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Channeling Chikubushima: The Power of Following Your Life Interests

Back in December of 2016, months before knowing the itinerary for this trip, I learned about the Japanese Buddhist goddess, Benzaiten. She is one of three female deities honored at the temple island of Chikubushima, and my personal favorite.

Benzaiten is the bestower of language and letters, a water goddess, a goddess of good wealth and fortune, and a patroness of music, poetry, learning, and art and everything that “flows.” How could I not love her?

So that day back in late December she become the background photo of my phone and personal “kami,” especially for the year 2017- The year I planned to learn Japanese, muster up the courage to take to go to Japan, and dedicate more time to writing, art, and music and finding my life’s “flow.”

The itinerary for the Goodwill Mission to Japan came sometime in June. Naturally, I sat at my desk and bawled like a baby as I read through the amazing things planned- a sake brewery tour and taste testing, temple and shrine visits, a ninja house, etc. So incredible!!!

By the time I got to the last day of the itinerary, tears blurred all the words into a puddle of letters. Afer gaining enough composure to read clearly again, my eyes were once again burning and buried in tears at what I saw:

Chiku-freaking-bushima.

I never thought incredible things like this could happen to me. And I believe they can happen to anyone if you learn to be a little less afraid and a little more curious.

“Pay attention to the things you are naturally drawn to. They are often connected to your path, passion, and purpose in life. Have the courage to follow them.” ~Ruben Chavez

Now What?

June 16 was the last time I posted. That means that a ton of things have happened since that post, including my trip to Japan, which is what I’m going to focus on since that is what this poorly neglected blog is all about. 🙂

The first thing I can tell you is this…..

happiness japan

 

Have you ever felt like something was missing from your life but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what?

It’s not like I wasn’t happy before my trip, but there was this elusive longing in my heart for something else.

What bothered me most about this feeling was the thought that I might never discover the reason or remedy for this mysterious feeling. I always wondered if I’d just go the rest of my life having this sort of strange lingering insatiable void.

You guys, this is going to sound super cheesy, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it (although, I’m sure you’ve already figured it out by now):

the mystery void was a Japan-shaped hole in my heart.

japan heart

 

 

Now What?

“You can’t be in two places at the same time.” Chuck Brooks

I know you can’t be in two places at once, but half my heart is in Shiga, Japan, and the other half is here in Bad Axe, Michigan. It’s a strange feeling to say the least.

If my husband wasn’t in the midst of purchasing the business next door to us, we’d be scheming up how to move our family to Shiga. That’s the honest to goodness truth right there, too. Maybe one day. 🙂

Shiga Shar

The next best thing to being able to live in Shiga is sharing my love for all things Shiga and Japan with my family, friends, and community.

In addition to trying to blog more regularly here, I’m going to be opening up a shop next door to my home, where along with selling secondhand books and vinyl records, I’ll be selling Japanese and Asian-inspired items, hosting hangouts to learn more about Japanese food, arts & crafts, culture, and language.

I plan on posting a few more pics and stories about my time in Japan in upcoming weeks. Until then,

またね!(See you later!)

Shiga Shar

 

 

79 Days Until My Japan Trip

79 days left until my Japan trip.

The realty of the trip sank in a bit deeper about 10 days when when I received the itinerary and flight information for the trip in my inbox. The itinerary is incredible. Temples, a ninja village, a sake brewery, shopping, museums, and more.

This is pretty much how I looked after I read through the info.

steve martin cry

No joke.

Next week I’m applying for my passport, which I’m sure will also make me cry.

Part of me is scared something is going to happen and I won’t be able to go. It’s been an insane few weeks personally, and it appears the insanity won’t be ending any time before my trip. I hope that things get a bit more sorted out before I have to leave so my husband and kids will be okay without me for 10 days.

For now, I’m going to do my best to be positive and take one day at a time.

 

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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I also write on this blog HERE.

 

 

Practice Using the De で Particle

Whenever I’m learning something new, I like to associate the new material with familiar things to better recall and retain the information.

Today, I thought I’d share how I practiced learning the basic uses of the de で particle using one of my all-time favorite movies, Beetlejuice. I’ve included five example sentences using movie scenes to demonstrate how the de で particle may be used.

First Off, What is the De で Particle?

The de で particle is used to indicate things such as:

  1. where an action takes place,
  2. the means by which an action takes place,
  3. a total, time, or cost,
  4. what something is made of, and
  5. cause.

 

 

  1. WHERE AN ACTIONS TAKES PLACE (location: in, at, on, etc.)

enddance

いえおどりましよう。       Let’s dance in the house.

We look in front of the で to learn the house [いえ] is where we’re being invited to dance. で is used here, rather than に because the focus of the sentence isn’t the house, it’s the action happening inside the house: dancing.

 

2. THE MEANS BY WHICH AN ACTION TAKES PLACE (by, with, in, etc.)

beetlejuice door

かれはチョークドアをつくった。He made the door with chalk.

We look in front of the で to learn that chalk [チョーク] is the means our subject (は) he [かれ] made [をつくった] the door [ドア].

 

3. COST, AMOUNT OF TIME, OR TOTAL AMOUNT OF SOMETHING

beetlejuice movie

あなたは1時間半えいがをみることができます。You can watch the movie in an hour and a half.

Notice that the amount of time it takes to watch the movie comes before the で particle.

 

4. WHAT SOMETHING IS MADE OF

shimp hand

この手はエビつくられています.    This hand is made of shrimp.

この=this, 手=hand, エビ=shrimp

 

5. CAUSE (Because of, due to, owing to, etc.)

accident

車が落ちたの、彼らは死んだ。 Because the car fell, they died.

The cause (falling) comes before the de で  particle.

 

Hopefully this helped give a bit more clarity on the basic uses of the de で  particle. If learning this way isn’t your cup of tea, you can also visit the following resources on the de で  particle:

Japanese Meow: http://japanesemeow.com/lessons/japanese-grammar-particle-de/

PuniPuni Japan: http://www.punipunijapan.com/japanese-particle-de/

Nihongo Ichiban: https://nihongoichiban.com/2011/03/27/particle-%E3%81%A7-de/

ChopsticksNY: http://www.chopsticksny.com/archives/contents/language/2010/02/3788

 

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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Memrise Japanese 1 Vocabulary Worksheet {Levels 1-7}

I’m a proud nerd.

steve urkel
I love you, Steve Urkel.

So making worksheets, flashcards, and other study materials most definitely puts me in my happy place.

These worksheets are specifically for the vocabulary words/phrases in the first 7 levels of Japanese 1 on Memrise. There is a total of 15 vocabulary words/phrases. For each word, you’ll need to write down the meaning of the word and write down the word in hiragana.

For example:

konnichiwa: ko / n / ni / chi / wa                   Meaning:

Write in hiragana

The answer:

konnichiwa: ko / n / ni / chi / wa                            Meaning: Hello, Good Afternoon

Write in hiragana: こんにちは

Writing practice* is easy to overlook when using apps, so hopefully this helps prevent that problem. These worksheets are inspired by the way I did my handwriting practice while learning Memrise Japanese 1. Hopefully someone else will find this practice as helpful as I did. 🙂

*You can also check out THIS free printable worksheet from Japanese-lesson.com for hiragana writing practice .

Just click on the link below for the downloadable .pdf file of the worksheets, print them out, and get studying. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Japanese 1 Memrise Level 1 – 7 Practice Sheet

 

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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DuoLingo Japanese is Here!

pickachu dance

わーい!!!

Yay!!!

Duolingo Japanese is here! (iOS only for now)

If you’re not new to learning Japanese, there is an option to test your skills to determine your learning level. Every level has an option for testing out, actually.

I was able to test out of all of the hiragana levels and a few others, which made me feel pretty good about my learning progress so far. 🙂

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My Thoughts So Far

The Duolingo app is another free option for learning Japanese that’s worth giving a try. It has around 40 levels total, covering a wide variety of topics. So far, it’s okay. I’m a bit of a Memrise junkie, though, so that will most likely be my go-to learning application.

If you’ve never used Duolingo for learning, it does take a little getting used to. For example, sometimes words/phrases are introduced without an introduction. To figure out what they are, just tap the colored/underlined section and an explanation should pop up.

I’d never seen the phrase: といいます until I saw it today.  As you can see, it roughly means I am called/it is called/my name is/etc. So when introducing yourself you can say:

はじめまして,(your name)といいます。

hajimemashite,(your name), toiimasu.

Nice to meet you, my name is (your name).

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Have you tried it yet? What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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Talking about Possession in Japanese: Basic Grammar for Beginners

Today I want to talk about possession.

I’m talking grammatical possession here, NOT the Grudge-type possession.

Yikes.

(How do people watch that sorta spooky stuff, anyways?)

the grudge

This simple intro and explanation of possession is a great early grammar lesson for beginners, even those of you still in the hiragana and katakana learning stages.  I kept this really basic, I promise.

In English, we can indicate possession by using the words, my/mine/your/yours/his/hers/ours/theirs, or adding ‘s.

But in Japanese, we use the particle:   (pronounced: no).

Particles (in case you’re familiar with them yet) are a bit like the little laundry tags attached to the neck of t-shirts.

clothing tag

Except Japanese particles at attached to the ends of Japanese words in a sentence, not the back of your shirt.

And instead of giving you care instructions for your clothes, they give you grammatical “care instructions” for Japanese words.

And instead of chaffing your tender neck flesh, they burn your precious brain cells.

patrick

At least that’s how I feel for now. Hopefully particles won’t be such a painful part of speech down the road. Only time will tell. 🙂

Let’s start with some basic possessive pronouns created with the  particle:

Yours, Mine, Ours

There’s also:

HIS: かれの (kareno – pronounced ka-ray-no_

HERS: かのじょの (kanojyono – pronounced ka-no-joe-no)

Here’s the basic sentence structure for using  の as a possessive particle.

basic possessive sentence structure

As you can see, it’s pretty simple. You can also see how to use the particle to indicate possession with ‘s, as is done in English.

Lastly, here’s how to use the  particle to indicate possession in question sentences.

basic possessive sentence structure for questions

だれ (dare – pronounced da-ray) means whose.

です (desu), which is a verb coupla meaning. it is or to be.

The  (ka) at the end of the sentence is used as a question particle. (I can go more into the ka particle later)

You could also get more specific and ask: だれのすしですか?Whose sushi is that?

And a simple response might be: わたしのです。It is mine. OR あなたのです。It is yours.

Like I said, this is just a super simple intro and explanation to some really basic possessive Japanese grammar. Nothing fancy, just another small piece of the Japanese language learning puzzle. I hope you found it helpful. 🙂

Other links for learning possessive particle and grammar in Japanese:

PuniPuni Japan 

The Japanese Page

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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Saginaw Asian Markets Mother’s Day Haul

Part of my treat for Mother’s Day weekend included a trip to the Asian grocery stores in Saginaw, Asian Market and Far East Market.  These are my happy places.

I like them both equally, so don’t make me pick a favorite. You’re not going to find a lot of English on packages, so sometimes you’ll have to buy things at your own risk. I may not know a lot of Japanese yet, but I know enough to recognize it on the packaging and get a decent idea of what the contents inside. The owners at both places don’t know much English, but seem happy to help if you have any questions.

asian marketFar East Market

In my experience, the folks in both stores are super friendly and helpful. The Far East Market is a bit small and crowded with merchandise, but it’s clean and relatively organized. You’ve really got to visit both stores if you visit. They do share some similar items, but I always find neat things to try (or just look at) at each of them.

On to the goods!

Anpan あんパン

Anpan is a baked sweet bread with sweetened red bean paste (あんこ anko). This popular Japanese treat even has a mascot with a picture book series and anime: Anpanman.

anpanman

This anpan came shipped in from 168 Asian, which is the largest Asian market in Michigan, located in Madison Heights, MI (Detroit area). I’ve never been there (yet).  I scored this baby at the checkout area of Asian Market. It had no other label on it other than a plastic baked goods bag with 168 Asian written on it red letters. I only knew what it was from drooling over them on the Internet.

The bean paste is lightly sweetened and on the chunky side (which I like), and the bread was a super soft, fluffy dough with a nice sweet eggy flavor. It’s hard to tell from the image, but this baby was just about the size of a side salad plate. Delicious and filling.

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Kit Kat  キットカット

I can’t eat American Kit Kat bars since they’ve added PGPR, which gives me migrane-like headaches. I scored the matcha flavor from Asian Mart and the Sakura/Milk Chocolate blend and the Butter Cookie at Far East Market. The Butter Cookie is actually the “bakeable” Kit Kat type, where you toast in the toaster over before eating it.

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Bonito Flakes ぼにと

Bonito flakes are made from a dried and smoked type of tuna fish. I’ve never tried it yet, but can’t wait!!!! It’s a savory, smoky, umami packed addition with versatile uses in Japanese cooking.

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Vegetables やさい

I bought purple sweet potatoes and baby bok choy. I plan on stir frying the baby bok choy with some tofu and other goodies. I’m thinking of some kind roasting the purple sweet potato with some kind of sweet miso flavored sauce.

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Mochi Ice Cream もちアイス

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Matcha Flavored Snack Sticks

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Baked Rice Crackers

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I mostly grabbed this last bag of treats because the packaging was adorable. What can I say, I’m a sucker for kawaii packaging.

If you ever get the chance, you should check out the Asian markets in Saginaw.

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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Motivation, Meltdowns, and Motherhood Mental Health: My First Four Months of Japanese Self Study

Four months goes by fast, you guys. Not only am I four months into my Japanese studies, I’m only four months away from my big trip to Japan.

picard

I know that the trip doesn’t require any Japanese language skills, but I’m pushing myself like a crazy lady because really really REALLY want to be able to chat a bit with natives, my host family, and believe familiarity with Japanese will help enrich my overall experience in Japan.

I was doing great with my studies until February when we got our income tax returns filed in February. I was hoping to use this money to pay for my trip (including spending money), but the amount was half of what I was expecting. I dry-heaved and cried for a few days, and gave up on studying for almost a week while I wallowed in self-pity and snacks.

heartbroken

After a week, I told my husband that one way or another the rest of the money would come. I wasn’t sure how, I just believed it would. My dream was too big to me to just let it fizzle out because of stupid money. Even as I write this, I’m still short on funds. I’ve sent in my application fee of $200, and need to pay the first installment in early July, then the rest in early August.

The rest money will come. I just gotta believe.

believe

Picking up language learning after that week or so break was rough. I was surprised how much I’d forgotten. It totally bummed me out, but the experienced was good motivation for never making the same mistake again. It took around a week or two of super diligent practice to get back on track again, but I did it.

Language Learning Tip: If you can help it, don’t miss a day of practice! A few minutes of practice is better than doing nothing at all.

Once I got my groove back, I hit yet another wall in my studies. Memorizing phrases and vocabulary wasn’t enough. I needed to study grammar, but I was scared. I spent the entire month of April tearfully navigating grammar.

grammar cry

Honestly, grammar isn’t so bad once you have learning resources that bore or frustrate you. The Japanese from Zero videos (info below) and the Memrise App grammar levels (info below) have worked best for me so far. What I love most about grammar is finally being able to write and read basic sentences, not just memorizing them. It’s so rewarding!!!

So let’s move on to the tools I’ve used during my first four months of learning and my goals for the rest of the year.

Study Tools for January – April 2017

Memrise App for iPhone

I friggin’ love Memrise!!! I don’t think I’d be as far along in my learning without it.

What I completed from Jan. 2017 to April 2017:

  • Basic Katakana
  • Introduction to Japanese
  • Japanese 1
  • Japanese 2
  • Started JLPT N5 Grammar & JLPT N5 Vocab

My next Memrise App learning goals are to complete the levels listed below along with Japanese 3, JLPT N5 Readings, and Beginner’s Japanese Grammer 1 (JLPT N5 Grammar) before my trip to Japan in September.

I don’t know how or if my phone will work in Japan for the 10 days that I’m there, but I’m hoping to at least keep up with my review words while I’m there. If not, my plan is to spend the rest of September catching up on reviewing all my words.

Oct. through December goals are to get started on JLPT N4 Vocab, JLPT N4 Readings, and regularly review all completed words as needed to keep them fresh in my mind.

MLC Learning Center (Meguro Language Center) Free Online Resources

My goal for my first year of learning Japanese is to learn the first grade level kanji, along with any others that appear in my Memrise studies.

I have the Basic Kanji 120 MOSTLY memorized.

  • Basic Kanji 120 Lesson (first grade kanji). Sign up to get the e-mail lesson for free HERE. There is also an option on the page to download the whole booklet at all once.

Japanese from Zero Video Series on YouTube

I didn’t discover these until my second month or so learning Japanese. The videos are created to go along with the book series, but have a lot to offer even if don’t have the books.

View the Playlist HERE.

JISHO.ORG

Website HERE. Jisho is a free online Japanese dictionary. It’s crazy useful for learning kanji, vocabulary, and general reference. I use it a lot when I’m trying to figure out words or kanji in captions on Instagram by native Japanese speakers. It’s also useful for learning stroke order of kanji if you’re practicing handwriting.

Instagram

I wrote a post HERE about accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re learning Japanese. The other way I use Instagram is by making friends with natives speakers and other nice folks learning Japanese. I absolutely love my IG friends! 🙂

Instagram has forced me to look up kanji, read/translate, figure out how to create sentences, and have conversation with native speakers through a sort of digital immersion.

The Results (So Far)

I’m pretty darn with happy with how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. There is no reason to let limited funds or limited time set you back from learning a new language. I’m proof of that.

Thanks to the Internet, there are hundreds of incredible free ways to learn a new language without ever having to ever leave your house or put on pants if you don’t want to. If you have a smart phone and/or computer, you can learn a new language.

As far as finding time. Well, it really comes down to priorities. I spend WAY less time in Facebook, which has not only given me more time to practice Japanese, I feel like I have way less negativity in my daily life. I also feel like spending my last half-hour before bed practicing Japanese has helped me sleep better, too.

And as crazy as this may sound, I feel like learning Japanese is making me a better mother.  Instead of having a glass of wine at night to unwind, I practice Japanese. And to be honest, I think my nightly “wine-down” was negatively impacting my health and well-being, including my sleep habits. As of today, I’ve been “sober” for a little over two months.

I also feel like the intellectually satisfying part of learning Japanese has given me more self-confidence and self-appreciation. It’s like the self-care practice I’d been missing to help maintain daily balance in my life. If I’m feeling stressed out or in need of “me time,” I grab a cup of tea or coffee (sometimes a snack), and study Japanese. I love it.

I look forward to what the future holds for my Japanese learning experience. I’ve even recently thought about how I might be able to use my skills for some kind of job, perhaps once all my little ones are grown up and done with homeschooling. A bit of extra income around these parts would be a huge bonus, for sure.

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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