The Shirakawa River in Kyoto


For Friday, I wanted to share a nice photo I found on Twitter recently:

This is the Shirakawa River (白川) that runs through Kyoto. It flows into another famous river, the Kamo River (鴨川).


Posted in Japan, Travel | Leave a comment

Getting Kicked In The Groin

December 2014 was a rough month for us. December started well after we got some extra money from our mortgage and a bonus from work. We were excited to put that money into savings, and maybe buy a new computer. But then two days later, I took our car to the dealership for a routine 90,000 mile-service. It was then we found out that the car needed a lot of repairs: it was leaking water, the brakes were almost gone, and the altenator (the thing that charges the battery) was failing, etc.

The repair costs were very expensive. We had to use the extra money from work and the mortgage. Fortunately, the car runs much better now (the brakes were getting weak), but it was frustrating to lose all that money just to fix the car.

Then, later in the month we had a leak in our roof during a bad rainstorm. We moved into this house 5 years ago after we came back from Ireland, and never had this problem before.

That night, as we worried about the leaky roof,1 my wife and I felt really frustrated. Just when we had some good fortune, bad fortuned happened and took it away. My wife was having her final Yakudoshi year (atoyaku 後厄), and we thought maybe it was a curse or something.

I thought about the First Noble Truth (仏教の四諦, bukkyō no shitai) of Buddhism: Life is marked with suffering.

In layman’s terms, this means that life sometimes kicks you in the groin for no good reason:

Life is not always bad. Sometimes it is very nice. But sooner or later, this kind of thing will happen.

But then I read some good articles about bad luck and supersition. Both articles talk about how two people might experience the same bad luck, but interpret it differently. One person will stay positive and not give up, while another person will moan and complain about their bad luck. One is optimistic, the other is fatalistic.

The lesson, I think, is that one has to take responsibility when bad things happen. My wife and I talked about the problems in December, and we realized that we were lucky to have the extra money at that time. If not, we would we would be in trouble. It also reminded us that we have to be more careful about our budget and savings. This means, being prepared for the next time life kicks us in the groin. ;)

So, when bad things happen in life, one should be prepared, but also one shouldn’t blame bad luck and such. There’s always something a person can do to be ready for next time.

P.S. More on superstition and changes in fortune.

1 The problem was that there was too much debris from the neighbor’s tree on our roof, and the water built and leaked through. Once we removed the debris, we had no more leaks.

Posted in Buddhism, Family, Religion | Leave a comment

Slowing Down


It’s been almost a week since my last blog post. I have several drafts, but I have been so busy this past week that I couldn’t finish them, which was unusual. Further, Little Guy has been waking up very early in the morning (and my daughter goes to bed late), so I’ve been pretty tired. Not much studying, or reading books. I haven’t even played Final Fantasy XIII lately. :-o

I usually try to blog three times a week, but I am going to slow down a little and do one or two posts a week until life returns to normal. Little Guy has some teeth coming out, so we think he will sleep normal again soon. Also, work has been difficult lately, but that will also calm down soon I think.

I wish I had something interesting to share, but I don’t. I’ll be posting some good stuff soon though. Stay tuned! :)

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Manchu-Korean Language Textbook

Hi Folks,

Today I thought I would share something cool I found on Twitter recently (click here to see photo more closely):

This Twitter account is owned by a researcher of Manchu language. The Manchu People (manshūjin 満州人 in Japanese) conquered China in 1644 and started a new dynasty: the Qing Dynasty (清朝). During this time, both Chinese and Manchu were the official languages of China.

But what is this book? This is a Korean-language textbook called the Nogeoldae (老乞大, 노걸대). The government of Korea would publish a foreign-language textbook from time to time, so Korean officials could study and learn foreign languages (usually Chinese, of course). This edition of the Nogeoldae is not for Chinese though, it’s for Manchu language.

You can see the Manchu writing (vertical) and the Korean letters next to it. This probably helped Korean students learn how to pronounce Manchu words. The Manchu language in this textbook is called 清語 (Language of the Qing Dynasty).

The Chinese characters used here are actually Korean hanja. I’ve posted about them before.

Anyhow, interesting stuff. :)

Posted in Chinese, Korean, Language | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Origin of Violence is Violence

Something I found interesting on Twitter recently. I think the words “Şiddetin kökeni şiddettir” are Turkish, but I am not sure. Anyhow, Google Translate said that the meaning is “the origin of violence is violence”.

Anyhow, I think the picture explains enough.

Posted in Buddhism, Religion | Leave a comment

The Universe is just So Big

Apollo 15 Tsiolkovsky crater

(Far-side of the Moon, as photographed by astronaut Al Worden)

Recently the BBC interviewed astronaut Al Worden who flew on the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon. He stayed in the ship while the other astronauts landed. Instead, he took photos of the dark-side of the Moon.

He described the far side of the Moon like so:

What I found was that the number of stars was just so immense. In fact I couldn’t pick up individual stars, it was like a sheet of light. I found that fascinating because it changed my ideas about how we think about the Universe.

There are billions of stars out there – the Milky Way galaxy that we’re in contains billions of stars, not just a few. And there are billions of galaxies out there. So what does that tell you about the Universe? That tells you we just don’t think big enough. To my mind that’s the whole purpose of the space programme, to figure out what that’s all about.

I wish I could have seen it myself. :-)

Posted in Astronomy, Science | Leave a comment

JLPT N1: To Take or Not To Take?

Although I’ve complained about the JLPT exam (日本語能力試験) in the past, I have been thinking about taking the final level: the N1 (一級). The N1 exam is the most difficult, and usually takes a few years to prepare. I completed the N2 exam in 2011, and have been studying Japanese on my own ever since. I realized that the N2 wasn’t helping me with Japanese conversation, and I wasn’t able to read simple books, especially for kids. So, I spent 3 years getting more familiar with regular every-day Japanese and had no interest in the N1 exam.1

However, lately, I feel that I should finish the series. I finished the N4, N3 and finally the N2. This leaves only the N1. So, it would be nice to try and pass the exam. Then I have the satisfaction of completing the entire series.

On the other hand, I don’t want to spend a lot of time studying it either. What I mean is that I don’t want to spend a lot of money on textbooks, mock-exams, etc. I’m already studying Japanese, so I don’t want to purchase more materials. Instead, I want to see if studying natural Japanese (not to pass an exam) is enough to pass. I believe it might work.

For example, I often read the Asahi Shinbun. I used to post English-language articles on this blog, but these days, I read in Japanese:


It’s more fun because you’re reading it in natural Japanese, plus I find enough interesting articles each day. They are somewhat short, so I can read in 10 minutes or so. It’s not easy though. There are many words I still don’t know. So, I often use Safari browser because I can look up the words as I read, as shown above.

What about listening? I don’t watch too much Japanese TV besides Eagle Talon and Massan, so to be honest, my listening skills still aren’t very good. I do have Japanese conversations with native speakers regularly (wife’s friends, people at work), but I don’t know if it’s enough.

Will all this work? We’ll find out in December. The point is that I want this to be low-effort. Either I will pass, or I won’t. If I fail, then I will have to use more dedicated methods. We’ll see. :)

1 I was also annoyed because the overseas JLPT service in the US was hacked years ago, and my credit-card information was stolen. SInce then, I’ve had my information stolen two more times, so I can’t really get mad at them anymore. :-p

Posted in Japanese, Language | Leave a comment