Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beginning Japanese: Lesson One - Bonus One

The photos are from the wood block prints of Gengi Monogatari. Original documents do not exist, but several copies survived, and an excellent wood block artist recreated an excellent copy. Isn’t that wonderful? You can’t tell if it’s a woodblock print, can you?

The below photo, you read right to left and top to bottom. Can you find あ on the first line? あ is “a” of aiueo. Remember? It says あたらしきもふるきもwhich means “New as well as old.” But you’re looking at only あたらしき (new). I just wanted to show it to you so that you know that with guidance, you’re able to read how it’s like to read ancient Japanese texts.

Isn’t that exciting?

Once you learn all the hiraganas, you can read aloud many books written in hiragana. And they’re not only children books but adult books with furigana. Furigana is hiragana written in small prints next to kanji so that they help readers with not much knowledge of kanji. You can also read newspapers written in hiragana. But I mean you can only read aloud knowing all hiragana. Understanding what you read is another matter, of course. But reading is easy, right?


keiko amano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keiko amano said...


Look closely at the bottom photo. You can see し and き as well as あ. Can you see three き in total? Also can you see か at top left?

With only one lesson, you have accomplished quite a lot.


Vincent said...

Oh Keikuccia! Just the series of lessons I wanted, but fifty years too late. It makes my head hurt now, because I come to it after wrestling with VBA, SQL, Jet Engine and Microsoft's unsolved bugs in Access; and need something simple, like the sound roosters make in different languages. But I might take you on later.

Luciana said...

Keiko, I´m trying to figure out the beginnings and the endings of the ideograms. I have to adjust my brain, but arigato for the lessons!

keiko amano said...


It’s never too late to learn new things. Actually it’s very good for you. Japanese language isn’t like another European language. So it’ll force you to use different parts of your brain, I think. It will energize you. You’ll be 20 years younger.

Currently, I’m learning Sanskrit. And just today, I was reading an ancient Chinese poem and realized that I could read it more easily than before. I think the reason for that is because I have new level of awareness about languages which I gained through learning Sanskrit. I may not look younger, but definitely in spirit.

keiko amano said...


Please take your time and be patient. Here, we're going to have fun only, no pain.

I have a dream. Someday, I'll be so good at teaching Japanese over the Internet. Maybe I can use multi media to give flexible and complete instructions for all.

Rebb said...

Keiko, The wood block prints are lovely. On the second one, I am filled with the feeling of rain--of words raining down the page.

You've really made me try to imagine when I learned how to read and write by learning the Japanese Hiragana characters. I then said my ABCs in my head and was perplexed at how meaning is given to the combination of letters into words. It baffles my mind. I love it though. It makes me feel hopeful to be able to learn new languages. You are a good teacher, Keiko and forever a child in spirit!

keiko amano said...


You are a good student! If it baffles your mind, you have already learned the first important phase, a cultural shock.

About raining-like letters, it's interesting. But I see it. Maybe it was the way I took the photo. The letters are written on a scroll, and we sit on tatami mats to read it. So, it's more like a river flowing with letters.

Overá said...

Hello Keiko-san :)

Thank you for this post. I've always wanted to know how you read those ancient texts; I always saw them like your own version of the, that what we call, handwritten script or cursive, perhaps?. I'm in my first steps of learning Japanese, I'm using the memrise online language tool, to aid myself or better saying my memory (which needs a bit of a push hahaha and I like Japanese because of the reason you gave, "it makes us use another parts of our brain"); I hope to learn it slowly but surely.

By the way, my name is Michelle and I'm a new reader of yours from Paraguay. I'm really enjoying your posts. Please keep on going :)

Arigato! :)

keiko amano said...


Thank you for your comment. Because of it, I just re-read my post and all the comments. I think I wanted to follow up with more lessons, but stopped. I should get back to it, but right now, I'm trying to finish writing my second memoir. And my mind is made of one track. I appreciate your encouragement!

By the way, do you know Iida san?
He taught in Paraguay a while ago, and he speaks Spanish. He is my blogger friend. You'll enjoy his photos.

Overá said...

Oh don't worry... there's no rush at all, take your time; I'm already a follower of your blog. I just love when I found post like this of yours, helping others by building bridges between cultures. It makes a loving world... my encouragement was bit more around that.

Unfortunately I don't know Iida san but left a comment at his blog and I'm already enjoying his photos. Thanks!.

I've read that you're learning Sanskrit, that's also a beautiful language, very complex like Japanese. I'm sort of learning it indirectly (through reading spiritual, philosophy, and related texts), also the Tamil Language from the South of India, it's the other one I'm sort of indirectly learning. It's funny that sometimes, one unknowingly learns something through the things one likes.

Thank you! :)

keiko amano said...


About your learning Sanskrit and Tamil indirectly, that's great! I'm interested in them, but I haven't spent much time learning those languages. I know that Oono Susumu, a Japanese linguist, had connected Japanese with Tamil in the past, but I heard his study haan't been conclusive. But I found his book fascinating.

Overá said...

Hello again Keiko, thanks for sharing your red room's link, unfortunately the site seems not to be working anymore; the second is working wonderfully, I'm already reading it. Thank you so much!!

And sorry for the delay in replying... I was looking for a link I've bookmarked somewhere about a Brazilian scholar who finded similarities between some sounds in Tamil and Guarani (which is my other language). Although I didn't went further to investigate more.

I recall that around that time I was texts about the Siddhars of South India, and found similarities of some sounds like "aa", "ee", "oo", "uu" and some other words with some of those spoken in Guarani. And wondered if it could be perhaps that there were more travelling around the world that those documented lol :D 'cause there are even some Old Norse/Viking words from the time when a tiny settlement of them were established here, that probably were adopted during that contact/interaction. Unfortunately those findings never were investigated... it's a shame really.

Anyways, sorry for that ramble above, I love this stuff lol :D

The link I mentioned before was about a book written by Dr P V Vartak you may click Ctrl+F and write Paraguay to go where the similarities between the phonetics are briefly mentioned. Although for some Tamils and Dravidians were different groups.

And also here's the link of the author's book

Arigato! :)

keiko amano said...


That's really fascinating. I wish I can go back like a science fiction movie and listen to the people talk and see how they communicated. Viking met the native people of Paraguay and mingled? Fascinating!!!

Thank you for the link. I printed out, so I shall enjoy reading it.

About Guarani, is that the language created the words like chocolate and cougar?

keiko amano said...

Michelle, please don't apologize. It is never late. I'm a slow person like turtle. I become anxious being with the people who check their wristwatch and cell phone often.

Overá said...

Yes, all the journeys humans did around the world are really fascinating; most things here are still a mystery, there were some previous intents by some archaeologists to do some more research but after the Great War that happened here many years ago, the goverments that came after kept ransacking the country, and whatever they may find they would probably steal, sell or who knows; recently there were found treasures from that war (many were buried throughout the country, on the hope from the owners to return later and recover them) and politicians are all excited about it (like inland pirates lol), it's so sad... I can't imagine what would happen if something valuable is found in that viking settlement. I guess that some things are better for them to be left like that, hidden.

Here I've found a forum thread in English with some photographs about the Viking site, they mingled specifically with the Guayaki ethnic group.

Cacao/chocolate are Nahualt from Mesoamerica.

Cougar yes but the actual word is Guazú Ara in Guaraní.

There is also a tinier version called Jaguarete'i, 'cause its similar to a much bigger cat called Jaguarete... from that came the word Jaguar.

Here I found some words (listed as Tupi-Guarani)

Thanks... and I don't use watch and my cell phone is older than me lol I'm slow turtle person too. :)

keiko amano said...


I’m glad I read “The Scientific Dating of the Mahabharat War.” I’ve introduced the link in my Facebook post. It’s truly fascinating, and I’ve confirmed my past vague memory. I think the author was Nakamura Hajime, and in one of his books, he wrote that one big chunk of the Indian history which covers about 50 kings did not survived, but the archeological evidence remain in the coins.

Dr. Vartak does mention about it, and he calculated it to be 64 kings. That is close. After reading it, now I have better understanding of how he combined his knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, while reading the Sanskrit documents comparing with the current knowledge and lack of. To know the lack is a key, isn’t it? What a gigantic mystery he solved! It’s amazing. Time and time again, I’ve read how the ancient Indian people excelled in astronomy and mathematics, and I believed it each time because those books were written by top scholars, but now I am convinced.

About the origin of the Native American words, thank you for the good link. When I wrote about it in the past, I was excited to find out that Paraguay kept the indigenous language as the national language. I think it isn’t easy to thrive speaking/reading/writing only in Guarani because of the history, but from Japanese perspective, I feel sad to see the people in other countries thriving mostly in English.

keiko amano said...

About "aa", "ee", "oo", "uu," I noticed when I took a few months of the beginning Arabic, when the teacher elongated vowels, the word was plural. It could be coincident and if it is not, there could be exceptions, but she was surprised of my discovery. I wonder if that is true also to Norse or Guarani.

Overá said...

Hello Keiko! :)

This subject is fascinating. I was just reading some news regarding findings of a lost continent in the Indian Ocean

Here's also a link about the Sri Ramayana Bridge

About thriving only in English... right now it seems there's a new "wave" of sort of people, or perhaps general interest in knowing more languages... of course English is the sort of the first option as a second language but many noticed that it's not enough, and its usability is lost when one wants to comprehend and interact more deeply with cultures that aren't native English.

About the elongated vowels... in Guarani, those are like emphasis... going to investigate more about that. In this link are some audios in Guarani, if you'd like to hear how it sounds, (the left column is in Guarani) :D

keiko amano said...


Thank you for all the links! They are all fascinating. I have posted all of them on my Facebook timeline. It's much better than reading any fiction. It's grand, romantic, and mysterious to think about it.

Guarani sounds kind language.

Overá said...

Yes... I completely agree, it's much better than reading fiction.

By the way, have you read about the Vimanas?, here's a link

And here's another work about Lemuria... it has beautiful illustrations. Which is I like the most about this work. :)