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.
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 pig. 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 to the left depicts how without the hills and valleys of happiness and suffering, we’d have nothing; there’s no joy without some amount 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.