For Christmas, my mom subscribed me to three months of Skoshbox, a monthly service that sends a selection Japanese snacks and candies to try. Four months of living in Japan for a semester studying abroad was enough to leave an impression on me of the interesting and often strange variety of snacks and sweets that the country had to offer. I still crave “Happy Butter” potato chips to this day, although don’t miss the unpleasant experience that was the stew-flavored ice pop. But I am certainly eager to get some exposure to snacks I’d never had the opportunity of trying.

January’s box arrived! Continue reading


Life Lessons from a J-Drama // Gokusen (PLUS BONUS DRINKING GAME RULES)

For a more in-depth look at the main lesson in Episode 1 of Season 1, go to my post Life Lessons from a J-Drama.

With three seasons running between 2002 and 2008, and a movie released in 2009, Gokusen features many familiar faces as just about every young malegokusen-1 actor popular (including such names as Matsujun and Miura Haruma) at the time made an appearance in at least one season. The lovely Nakama Yukie acts as the tough and sentimental teacher, Yankumi, who faces new challenges each semester as she struggles to gain the trust and respect of the roughest class of delinquents in the school, Class 3-D, and vows to see them all to graduation. She carries a secret however, which is that she is the heiress to her grandfather’s yakuza clan, and if this secret were to be revealed (which it inevitably is in each season), she could very well lose her job guiding her precious students. This drama is filled with humor, attractive boys, fight scenes, emotion, and relevant life lessons, that as I re-watch the series with my dad and two middle school-aged siblings, I believe we all pick up something from this drama that helps us to grow as people.

Many lessons come from Yankumi’s grandfather, who never fails to give advice when she is struggling over a particular problem. Here, in no particular order, are the life lessons from the first season of Gokusen:

  • Friends (and family too) may outwardly be rough with each other, but when a problem arises, they naturally come to the rescue.
  • Parents often are trying their hardest for their kids, loving them with all their hearts. Even so, they are imperfect people, often failing to understand their children’s needs and desires.
  • On the flip-side, children often fail to appreciate how hard their parents are working for them. Honor and respect comes from both sides, but it’s not necessarily a matter of “give and take”, because this leads to disappointment if any one side feels an imbalance in met expectations.gksguys1
  • It’s people who hurt other people, but it’s also people who save other people. We often must be the ones to put out a lending hand to give others a second chance.
  • A real fight has a real cause—that is, to protect something or someone that is dear to you.
  • It’s easy to let others help you up, but what’s important is being able to stand up on your own—this involves strength of both the body and the heart.
  • Often, the more trouble there is, the happier people become. Sounds like a paradox, but as we struggle through life, we gain many valuable experiences and develop precious relationships.
  • Blood doesn’t matter when it comes to family ties.
  • Everyone has issues—you have the power over choosing to be positive or negative.
  • Your future is in your hands. Don’t waste energy dwelling on what’s already been done, focus on what can be done.

BONUS: Gokusen drinking game! This drama definitely has a number of repetitive elements that make it great for drinking game material! This would work on any episode, any season. For anyone too young to drink, I’d recommend some sort of roulette game like with Doritos Roulette, or anything else of your choosing.^^

Drink whenever:

  • Someone says “omaera” (Often translated as “you guys”, and also likely followed by a moving speech and or crying)
  • Yankumi goes into kick-ass mode (takes off glasses and takes hair out from pigtails)– Drink twice if this happens in an abandoned warehouse.
  • Grandpa gives advice (at least once almost every episode)
  • Tetsu smacks Minoru
  • Yankumi accidentally uses yakuza language
  • Yankumi unexpectedly appears when her students are having a private conversation
  • A fight breaks out
  • Someone yells “Yankumi!”

Have fun! And thank you for reading.^^

A Pig’s Philosophy


Whenever someone who is studying English asks me the best way to improve their vocabulary, I say “Read”. As someone who enjoyed reading from a young age, I consider myself to be someone who has a more than decent grasp of the English language as well as a vocabulary that’s slightly more expanded than others’. If I take the same sort of logic which implies that reading improves language skills, then a great method of learning and practicing Japanese would be to read it!

I’ve mentioned ブッタとシッタカブッタ (Butta to Shittaka Butta)  in a couple of my most recent posts, as I’ve added it to my Japanese study routine. Well, in truth, I picked it up in order to make up for my lack of enthusiasm for translating Tofugu sentences, but I’ve gained a lot from it nonetheless. img_9923

I received it from my boyfriend, who sweetly sent me one of his favorite books in order to encourage me to study from it. He even made a bunch of notes with the readings for some of the kanji to make it easier for me ^^.

But actually, this isn’t a normal book; it’s a manga made up of 四コマ(yonkoma), or four panel comics-it’s not really for kids however, although looks can be deceiving.

This yonkoma manga is about a pig named Shittaka Butta who is facing some serious struggles in his life. He turns to Buddha to provide him with some wisdom, but it’s not a religious book, it’s more about how we face the common troubles in our lives, such as a broken heart and lack of confidence.

First I want to mention something about the name of this book:ブッタとシッタカブッタ.  知ったかぶり(shittakaburi) means “know-it-all” and ブッタ (butta) means Buddha, but also sounds like ブタ (buta), which means piimg_9910g. Hence the cute, little piggies! I love Japanese word play! So this is a story about Know-it-all Pig and Buddha.

One of the realizations that Shittaka Butta comes to after his bitter heartbreak is that he has faults and weaknesses, and his self-validation comes from others, rather than himself, which leaves him with a warped image of who he is. But, if he were to love himself first, others would be able to love him naturally for his actual self, rather than who he works so hard to pretend to be. The picture to the right depicts his reaction to a girl that tells him that she likes manly men. His first instinct is to show off just how “manly” he is, but she ends up far more impressed by the amount of personal growth that he has undergone, so that his “manliness” comes from the amount of true confidence and acceptance he has for himself. Not everyone will love us for who we are, but that’s alright, because it is better to love ourselves and find the people who will love our true selves rather than a false identity.

The picture toimg_9907 the left depicts how without the hills and valleys of happiness and suffering, we’d have nothing; there’s no joy without some amountimg_9909 of pain.

This page on the right says it best: Struggles aren’t a bad thing. Not being attractive is not a bad thing. Sadness is not a bad thing. Timidness is not a bad thing. Such conditions are fine. You ought to love all of yourself, for it’s your life after all.

This manga really gets you thinking. As I’ve translated it, I’ve not only picked up some new vocabulary and grammar points, but some valuable philosophical lessons about life too.

I might post some more about it as I continue to translate. In the meantime, I encourage my fellow Japanese-studiers to seek out ways to make learning fun and interesting! If it means translating manga, I say go for it! Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough at Japanese to start, start now and use it as a way to get better.


During my semester abroad in Japan, I took a class on Japanese literature. It was a memorable class in that it was completely horribly, unbearably boring. The professor was a type that obviously had an unimaginable amount of knowledge on the subject, but completely lacked the ability to convey any sense of enthusiasm. A certain catch-phrase of his that he would drawl in his slow, deep, Russian accent (that he had such trouble projecting that he had to use a microphone in what was not exactly a sizable classroom) was Continue reading

Life Lessons From a J-drama // Itazura Na Kiss~ Love in Tokyo

itakiss_mainpic_zps927aba19When this drama first came out, I was hesitant to watch it. I had barely made my way through the Korean version “Playful Kiss” (despite my love at the time for idol Kim Hyun-Joong), which left me with the impression that this was a story of an obnoxiously dumb ditz who manages to force a sullen, utterly compassion-less, smart guy to marry her. Their nearly totally unhappy “romance” was at times painful to watch, and I had to wonder if the Japanese version, the story returning back to its country of origin, would have a different spin to it.

It did. And it has become one of my top favorite J-dramas. Continue reading

Life Lessons from a J-drama // Yume wo Kanaeru Zou // Part 4

It’s time for the final installment of the series on Yume wo Kanaeru Zou. As we reach the end, it’s time to see whether Asuka has found happiness as Ganesha promised her she would. If you haven’t read the other posts to this series, start with part 1 here!

In the previous three episodes, the tasks focused mainly on supporting others with a heart of service. Through this, Asuka is starting to develop a friendship with her co-worker Amida, a handsome but arrogant man that seems to get a rise out of bickering with Asuka. She admits to Ganesha that although she’s been learning more about how to care for people, men are becoming even more confusing in her eyes. The final tasks that Ganesha assigns are intended therefore to allow Asuka to look even deeper into people’s cores, but will it ultimately lead her to the love and happiness she’s been seeking? Let’s find out! Continue reading

Life Lessons from a J-drama // Yume wo Kanaeru Zou // Part 3

If you haven’t already, please read my first two posts in this series! You can find part one here!

The theme in the last three episodes seemed to revolve around Asuka seeking to find out more about herself, her qualities both positive and negative, and even the dark feelings that others harbor toward her. By this point, we sadly have to say goodbye to Kondo-san, whose proposal to Asuka to marry him and follow him to France has been rejected. Not only this, but Asuka has suddenly been fired from her job after insulting Amida-san, the ace ideas-man of the company. So, even after working hard to follow all of Ganesha’s tasks, Asuka appears to be no better off for it than at the beginning of the show. Continue reading

Life Lessons from a J-drama // Yume wo Kanaeru Zou // Part 2

Are you struggling to find love? Despite everything you do, are you still unable to be truly happy? Then you’ve come to the right place! This is exactly what Hoshino Asuka is struggling with in the Japanese drama Yume wo Kanaeru Zou, but by following the tasks given to her by elephant god Ganesha, she’s been guaranteed happiness in just three month’s time. If you haven’t seen my post about the first three episodes, please read it here!

When we last saw Asuka, she had just been to a mixer where she managed to catch the eye of calm, dependable, handsome Kondo-san. Kondo-san asks Asuka out for dinner, but first Ganesha assigns a task that may cause Asuka to question his wisdom. Continue reading

Life Lessons from a J-drama // Yume wo Kanaeru Zou

I’ve started re-watching another favorite Japanese drama, Yume wo Kanaeru Zou, which translates to “the elephant that makes dreams come true”. An elephant that grants wishes sounds like an unconventional sort of fairy godmother, which wouldn’t be too far off the mark.


Our story begins with Hoshino Asuka, a temp at an advertising company,  on her 25th birthday. It turns out to be just about the worst birthday she can imagine as she finds herself dumped by the man she imagined herself marrying, who tells her that she’s simply too dull. To make matters worse, she returns home to find her apartment on fire. Continue reading