Escape to Tokyo – Japan's Metropolitan Wonder

OverviewTokyo

If you decide to travel to Japan, you must stop by the largest metropolitan area in the world–Tokyo! This massive city is the capital of Japan and makes up the prefecture of Tokyo Metropolis. The metropolitan area of Tokyo has a population of thirteen million people; the surrounding Tokyo area has roughly thirty-five million with even more in the outskirts. This city is incredibly busy and full of life, so there are plenty of things to see and do!

History

Tokyo began as a fishing village named Edo more than 500 years ago. Tokyo started to grow during Japan’s medieval period once it became home to the shogun (who was in charge of the samurai). Eventually, many sub-cultures, surrounding cities, and people morphed and transformed the area into the Tokyo it is today. The Tokyo of today is a hub for technology and business, but it also has many great tourist attractions for you to enjoy!

Attractions

Tokyo Tower

This tower is for communication purposes, but it also has observation decks. It is 1,091 feet tall, making it the second tallest man-made structure in Japan. The tower gets it appearance from the Effiel Tower. At this magnificent structure, visitors can stop by the first observation deck (490 feet up in the air), the second observation deck (at 820 feet in the air), and the four-storey structure at the bottom of the tower (which has restaurants, museums, and shops). The sight, even from the first observation deck, is truly amazing. For miles around, all you can see are the huge buildings of Tokyo. There are even a couple of clear windows built into the floor that let you get a look at the ground down below! Needless to say, if you’re afraid of heights, you should probably not enter the tower!

Asakusa

Asakusa is actually a district of Tokyo. This area is famous thanks to its Buddhist temple–Senso-ji. Besides visiting the temple, you can also sometimes see religious festivals. There is also a small amusement park, theatres that show classic Japanese films, and plenty of shops.

AkihabaraAkiba denkigai in Akihabara-Tokyo

Akihabara is also a district of Tokyo. This district is also known as “Akihabara Electric Town” because it specializes in the sale of computers and all things electronic. You can purchase many types of new and used electronics here. You can visit brand name stores such as Laox, or you can venture a little further into Akihabara to find better prices!

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is considered one of the special wards of Tokyo. This area is a huge center for business–it also has the busiest station in the world! The goverment administration for Tokyo is also located here. There are tons of skyscrapers here, so it really does look like a business capital; however, Shinjuku is also a center for nightlife. The areas of Golden Gai and Kabukicho are full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and other similar establishments.

Shibuya

If you’re interesting in a youthful center of Japan that specializes in fashion and nightlife, check out Shibuya. Shibuya is another special ward of Tokyo. The district of Harajuku in Shibuya is a fashion capital that attracts many styles and types of people who are interested in fashion. Some Japanese youths dress very extravagantly, almost like they are dressing up in costumes, in order to visit this area. The Shibuya crossing is a famous intersection that you have probably seen on TV or in a movie at some point. This area is located in front of the Shibuya Station, a very busy station in Japan. When the traffic stops, this intersection becomes filled with hundreds of people, all crossing the street in different directions. 

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Bay is a beautiful area to visit. Here you can see a replica of the Statue of Liberty as well as the Rainbow Bridge (modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge). You can walk right down to the water and enjoy the view of Tokyo across the bay (you can even remove your shoes and dip your feet in the water if you want!). There are also many barges in the water, and most of them (along with the buildings and the bridge) light up at night, making for one very beautiful display. There are also many shops and restaurants nearby, so you can enjoy a meal while looking out over the water. Although this place gets crowded and busy, it is a much calmer place than the rest of Tokyo to relax and enjoy the scenery. 

Eateries

Since Tokyo is so huge with many different districts and wards, it can be difficult to find specific restaurants. Rest assured that there is a wide variety of cuisine available in Tokyo. There are traditional Japanese restaurants as well as many Western places to dine. If you love Italian food, check out Vinoteca. Although the food may not be considered authentic Italian food (you are in Japan, remember), it is still one of the best Italian places in Tokyo. For some amazing sushi, check out Daiwa Sushi. This restaurant is usually very crowded, but it is worth the wait!  For some of the best Chinese food in the city, check out the China Room restaurant, located in the Grand Hyatt Tokyo at Roppongi Hills. If you’re in to Asian fusion, check out Daidaiya where you can dine on Thai, Chinese, and Japanese dishes.

Tokyo has a little bit of something for everyone. No matter what part of Tokyo you are in, you are never very far away from any of the wards or districts. A simple ride on the subway will have you there in no time so you can enjoy everything that Tokyo has to offer. There are always plenty of restaurants, a variety of shops, magnificent structures, and interesting sights to see in this marvelous city. If you don’t like crowds of people, Tokyo may not be the best place for you; however, if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone for a while, you can take advantage of all there is to do in the capital city of Japan!

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Lesson 20: Elementary Kanji Part 2

Lesson 17 taught you some elementary kanji. I hope you have been practicing, because now it is time to learn another set! Review Lesson 17 if it has been a while since you practiced your kanji. Keep in mind that kanji is really essential for serious students of Japanese—the symbols are used in everyday written Japanese and appear on many signs and menus throughout Japan!

Take a look at the chart below, read through the notes, and complete the exercises to get started on this second set of kanji. There will be an answer key blow the exercises, so don’t scroll down too far until you have completed the work!

The Kanji

1. よう Weekday
2. うえ/じょう Up, above
3. した/か Down, below
4. なか/ちゅう/じゅう Middle, inside
5. わたし/し I, private
6. いま/こん Now
7. To see
8. い/こう To go
9. To eat
10. To drink

Notes

The kanji presented above have their most common readings listed beside them. The English listed in the last column is a rough translation (or one of the translations) that the kanji can have. After reading through this note section, you will be able to understand more clearly what each individual kanji is used for.

The first kanji is used when writing the days of the week. Each name for a day of the week has the syllables よう in it. You have already learned the kanji for each day of the week as well as the kanji for day. Now all you have to do is put the three together. Remember, the kanji for “day” will go at the end and this new kanji for よう will go in the middle!

The next three kanji symbols will help you with location words. 上 is used when you want to say that one object is on top of another. The second reading for this kanji is used when talking about a person being good at some activity. The adjective for “to be good at” is 上ずな. We will cover how to use this adjective in a later lesson.

The kanji forした is used when you want to say an object is below something else. The second reading for this kanji is commonly used when writing the word for “subway” (地下鉄). The kanji for なか is used when saying one object is inside of another. The second reading is used when reading the word for China (中国) and the third is used when talking about years.

Kanji number five is a very useful kanji. This is the kanji you use in place of私, or “I.” Both males and females can use this pronoun and this kanji. The second reading of this kanji is used when the kanji means “private” such as in “private university” (私立大学).

The sixth kanji is used when you are talking about something happening right “now.” いま means “now.” It is also used to write the words for “today” and “tonight” (hint: the word for “today is written with this kanji plus the kanji for day). Tonight is written as 今晩.

The final four kanji are used most often as verbs. We are going to concentrate on those readings and meanings the most. Each of the kanji represents a syllable that makes up a verb you have learned. For the remaining syllables of the verbs, hiragana symbols must be used. 行 can also be used to write the word for “bank” (銀行).

Now that you have learned some information about each kanji, take some time to memorize the symbols. It may also be helpful to look up a stroke dictionary on the internet (or buy a paper version). Stroke dictionaries will show you the stroke count and which stroke comes first. Practice writing the kanji until you feel comfortable with each symbol.

Exercise I

Write the following words using kanji where appropriate (it is okay to have some hiragana symbols in some of your answers).

  1. Verb for “to eat.”
  2. Today
  3. I
  4. Verb for “to see.”
  5. Inside
  6. Above
  7. Verb for “to drink.”
  8. Now
  9. Verb for “to go.”
  10. Monday
  11. Tuesday
  12. Wednesday
  13. Thursday
  14. Friday
  15. Saturday
  16. Sunday
  17. Under

Exercise II

Transcribe the following kanji and hiragana into romaji or English.

  1. 飲みもの
  2. 食べもの
  3. ぎん行
  4. 見る
  5. 飲む
  6. 行く
  7. 食べる
  8. 今日
  9. 今ばん

Exercise III

Translate the following sentences from Japanese to English.

  1. 月曜日私はぎん行に行きます。
  2. 今日はどう曜日です。
  3. なにを食べますか。
  4. えいがを見ましょう。
  5. 私の本はつくえの上です。

 

Answer Key

Exercise I

  1. 食べます
  2. 今日
  3. 見ます
  4. 飲みます
  5. 行きます
  6.  月曜日
  7. 火曜日
  8. 水曜日
  9. 木曜日
  10. 金曜日
  11. 土曜日
  12. 日曜日

Exercise II

  1. Nomimono / drinks
  2. Tabemono / food
  3. Ginkou / bank
  4. Miru / dictionary form “to see”
  5. Nomu / dictionary form “to drink”
  6. Iku / dictionary form “to go”
  7. Taberu / dictionary form “to eat”
  8. Kyou / today
  9. Konban / tonight
  10. Ima / now

Exercise III

  1. I will go to the bank on Monday.
  2. Today is Saturday.
  3. What will you eat?
  4. Let’s watch a movie.
  5. My book is on top of the desk.
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Small City Himeji – A Wonderful Getaway!

Overview of Himeji

The city of Himeji is located in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. This city is fairly small when compared to cities like Kyoto and Tokyo, so it makes for a calmer, quieter getaway! Even though the city itself if not as large and sprawling as some of Japan’s most famous cities, Himeji still has plenty to offer all types of travelers. Whether you have a deep interest in the history of Japan or just want to visit a different type of city on your vacation, Himeji is a great travel destination.

History

Himeji was established as a castle town many long years ago. This city was also the capital of Himeji Prefecture before that prefecture was merged into Hyogo in 1876. The city of Himeji was considered as a possible relocation for the capital of Japan after the 1923 Kanto earthquake, but this move never took place. In fact, Himeji saw its own share of destruction. Typhoons and the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake all shook Himeji but did not destroy it. During World War II, Himeji was the target of over 700 tons of bombs; this destroyed the majority of the city. Himeji has since recovered and is able to share its culture and past with the world.

Attractions

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle has remained mostly intact since 1346, despite its exposure to the bombs of World War II and natural disasters. This castle is considered one of the best surviving examples of feudal Japanese castle architecture. Visitors today can explore the castle grounds that house 83 buildings as well as walk through the castle itself. Himeji Castle has seen several expansions and has been extensively remodeled throughout its long life. This castle is also the largest and most visited castle in Japan. Its history shows that it passed through the hands of several samurai, including the famous Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Engyo-ji

This temple may look familiar to anyone who has seen The Last Samurai. The Western-made movie, starring Tom Cruise, actually filmed some of its scenes at this Buddhist temple. Engyo-ji was established in 966 and is located at the top of Mt. Shosha. The temple complex has multiple buildings that tourists and pilgrims can visit. Several of the buildings are considered very important to the culture of Japan.

Himeji Central Park

Although the name may be a bit misleading, Himeji Central Park is actually a combination between a safari park and an amusement park. In the safari section, visitors can see many types of animals including: cheetahs, lions, tigers, giraffes, hippos, elephants, bison, zebras, monkeys, bears, birds, and kangaroos. The park has both walking tours and driving tours. There is also a sky safari that will let visitors view the animals from above! The amusement park has theme rides, a swimming pool area, and an ice rink. Keep in mind that the pool is only open in the summer and the ice rink is only open in the winter.

Gardens

There are several gardens in Himeji. One of them is located right next to Himeji castle. This garden is made up of nine sections and was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Himeji’s establishment as a municipality. This garden was established on top of ground where there were once samurai houses. Another beautiful garden is the Himeji City Tegarayama Botanical Garden. This garden is located in Tegarayama Central Park.

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History

Although this museum has little to do with the actual history of the prefecture, if you are interested in Japanese history, consider stopping by. The museum has displays of festivals, replicas of castles, and an art gallery. Entry is cheap but may cost more during special events.

Eateries

Himeji has a wide selection of foods and levels of dining. You can eat casually in Western or Japanese themed fast food places or dine a bit formally at some of the nicer restaurants. Many foreigners really enjoy Koba and More. This ramen shop boasts a unique dish: milk ramen. Vegetarians will really enjoy Sakura-saku, a restaurant with many different types of vegetarian friendly food. If you want something a little more familiar, there is a McDonald’s (open twenty-four hours a day) in the Himeji JR station as well as a Subway restaurant on a street nearby. For bars that are great for foreigners, check out Nobu. This bar is small but has English speaking staff. Hosanna Irish Pub is also a common spot for foreigners.

Nightlife

Himeji, because it is smaller, does not have as many clubs and activities for after-hours. There are, however, several popular clubs that both locals and foreigners flock to. Check out Club Roxy Himeji if you are interested in nightlife. This club has good drink specials, a mix of old and new music, and free admission for women (before 11pm). The club is a short walk from the Himeji JR station.If you have a hard time finding nightlife in Himeji, remember that bigger cities such as Kobe and Osaka are very close by. You can get to either of those cities easily and enjoy the multitude of clubs and bars there.

Himeji is a wonderful place to visit because of its history, culture, and atmosphere. The city is big, but not too big. If you have traveled to some of the larger cities in Japan, you will appreciate the less crowded city (that still has green spaces!) of Himeji. The weather is similar to that of the rest of Honshu, so the spring months are ideal for traveling to Himeji. Depending on what time of year you visit Himeji, you may be able to participate in one of the many festivals they have. No matter what your interests in Japan are, you are sure to enjoy your time in this beautiful, historical city.

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Lesson 19: Supplementary Vocabulary and Practice Part 2

Here is another lesson that will cover some supplementary vocabulary and practice. Some of this may be review, and some of it you may have never seen before. It is good to practice new words so that you will be prepared for future lessons, but it is also good to revisit some of the vocabulary you have used previously. It can be hard to learn and remember all of the vocabulary words you are taught in a lesson, especially if you do not use them on a regular basis.

It is also a good idea to make flash cards for new words that you learn. You should write the Japanese script on one side and the English on the other. Try not to write the romaji on the flash card. You can then test yourself by looking at the English side of the card and saying the Japanese word. You can also look at the Japanese and see if you can translate it into English. Flash cards are a useful tool, and you can sometimes find online programs to make flash cards with!

Look at the table of vocabulary words below. Study them over, and then complete the exercises that follow. You should be able to complete the exercises without looking at the chart. It may take you a while to remember all of the words; do not worry, this is completely normal!

Japanese Romaji English
クラス Kurasu Class
おみやげ Omiyage Souvenir
かく Kaku To write (verb)
びょういん Byouin hospital
かう Kau To buy (verb)
わかる Wakaru To understand (verb)
アルバイト Arubaito Part time job
こども Kodomo Child
せんしゅう Senshuu Last week
ホテル Hoteru hotel
ひと Hito Person
スーパー Suupaa Supermarket
本や Honya bookstore
かいもの Kaimono shopping
あした Ashita tomorrow
まち Machi Town/city
しゃしん Syashin Picture/photo
バスてい Basutei Bus stop
こうえん Kouen Park
きのう Kinou Yesterday
ごはん Gohan Meal (or rice)
きょう Kyou today
てがみ Tegami Letter (to someone)
おてら Otera temple
とる Toru To take a picture

 

Practice

Translate the following sentences into English.

  1. わたしはおてらにいきます。
  2. わたしのいぬはこうえんにいます。
  3. こどもがいますか。
  4. あしたはとしょかんでにほんごをべんきょうします。
  5. かいものにいきませんか。
  6. とこどきおみやげをかいます。
  7. げつようびクラスがありますか。
  8. なにをかいますか。
  9. えいごをわかりますか。
  10. わたしはおかあさんにてがみをかきます。
  11. どんなまちにいきますか。
  12. いっしょにごはんをたべましょう。
  13. きのうはどうようびでした。
  14. あのひとはだれですか。
  15. わたしはバスていにまちます。
  16. びょういんはがっこうのみぎです。
  17. このまちで本やがありますか。
  18. せんしゅうテニスをしました。
  19. たくさんしゃしんをとります。
  20. スーパーでコーラがありますか。
  21. わたしはいそがしいです。アルバイトがありますから。
  22. そのホテルはとてもきれいですね。
  23. このしゃしんはたかいです。
  24. あなたのてがみは本のうえです。
  25. きょうはわたしのたんじょうびです。

Now take a look at the following conversation. You should read the conversation out loud to practice your pronunciation. It is also good to practice this conversation with a partner. You can change some of the phrases around to get some more practice, but first just read the conversation as it is written. Then translate the entire conversation into English. The answer key is at the bottom of this lesson!

A: B-さん, こんばんは! おげんきですか。

B: こんばんは! はい、げんきです。あなたは?

A: はい、わたしもげんきです。いっしょになにかをしましょう。

B: はい。でも、わたしはとてもいそがしいです。アルバイトがあるますから。

A:そうか。あの、すいようびはどうですか。

B:すいようびクラスがあります。もくようびはどうですか。

A: いいえ、もくようびはテストをべんきょうします。

B: そうか。きにょうびはどうですか。

A:きにょうび?わたしはきょうとにいきます。

B:わたしもきょうとにいきます。いっしょにいきませんか。

A: はい、いきましょう。きょうとでなにをしますか。

B:あの、かいものにいきます。おてらもいきます。

A:わたしはあなたとかいものにいきます。じゃあ、またね。

B: じゃあ、きにょうびに!

 

 

Answer Key

  1. I am going to a temple.
  2. My dog is in the park.
  3. Do you have children?
  4. Tomorrow I will study Japanese at the library.
  5. Would you like to go shopping?
  6. I sometimes buy souvenirs.
  7. Do you have class on Monday?
  8. What are you going to buy?
  9. Do you understand English?
  10. I am writing a letter to my mother.
  11. What kind of city are you going to?
  12. We should eat a meal together.
  13. Yesterday was Saturday.
  14. Who is that person?
  15. I am waiting at the bus stop.
  16. The hospital is to the right of the school.
  17. Is there a bookstore in this town?
  18. I played tennis last week.
  19. I am taking a lot of photos.
  20. Does the supermarket have soda?
  21. I am busy because I have a part time job.
  22. That hotel is very pretty, isn’t it?
  23. This picture is expensive.
  24. Your letter is on top of the book.
  25. Today is my birthday.

 

A: B-san, good evening. How are you?

B: Good evening! I am well. And you?

A: Yes, I am also well. We should do something together.

B: Yes. But, I am very busy because I have a part time job.

A: I see. Um, how is Wednesday?

B: Wednesday I have class. How is Thursday?

A: No, Thursday I have to study for a test.

B: I see. Then, how is Friday?

A: Friday? I’m going to Kyoto.

B: I am also going to Kyoto. Shouldn’t we go together?

A: Yes, let’s go. What are you going to do in Kyoto?

B: Um…I’m going shopping. I’m also going to a temple.

A: I will go shopping with you. See you later!

B: See you Friday!

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Lesson 18: Location Words

Introduction

Describing where things are is an important skill to have in Japanese. Being able to describe where things are not only enhances your ability to describe locations; it also aids you in asking for and giving directions. In order to do so, there is a set of words known as “location” words. These words are used to describe where something is (a noun) in relation to other noun. These words are not used only in the scenarios described in this lesson, but we are just going to focus on their main uses for now.

First, here is a list of the location words and their English equivalent.

To the right of みぎ
To the left of ひだり
In front of まえ
Behind うしろ
Inside なか
On/above うえ
Under/beneath した
Near そば
Next to となり

 

Explanation – Part I

X は Y の “location word” です.

This is the basic sentence structure that you will follow in order to describe where something is. To start with, let’s say that you want to describe where the bank is. If the bank is in front of the library, you would say ぎんこうはとしょかんのまえです。

の must always go between the second location and the location word. As seen in the above sentence, the second location is the library, and the location word is まえ. So, when saying the bank is in front of the library, the word for library must go with the location word. That’s how we get ぎんこうはとしょかんのまえです. If the bank was behind the library instead of in front of it, you would say ぎんこうはとしょかんのうしろです. You can change the location word to any on the above list; just place it in the same place that まえ and うしろ previously occupied in the sentence.

Take a look at the following sentence pairs to see some more examples of how location words look.

A: 本はどこですか。

B: 本はテーブルのうえです。

A: デパートはどこですか。

B: デパート はぎんこうのひだりです。

A: えんぴつはどこですか。

B: 本のしたです。

As you can see, in the final sentence the subject was omitted. Keep in mind that this is acceptable in Japanese as long as the listener knows what the subject is.

Explanation – Part II    

Now that you have an idea of the basic structure for location words, let’s go a little more in depth.

You will recall from an earlier lesson (Lesson #10) the Japanese pronouns それ, これ, and あれ. You were also taught another form of these pronouns (その, この, and あの). Now we are going to learn a third form of these pronouns because these forms can be used with location words. The new forms are そこ, ここ, and あそこ. Take a look at the chart below in case this does not make sense.

それ (that) これ (this) あれ (that over there)
その (that noun) この (this noun right here) あの (that noun over there)
そこ (there) ここ (here) あそこ (over there)

*Note that where it says “noun” in the chart, a noun should be filled in.

Here are the new pronouns in examples:

ぎんこうはどこですか。 (Where is the bank?)
ぎんこうはあそこです。 (The bank is over there.)

ぎんこうはどこですか。 (Where is the bank?)
そこです。(It is there.)

ぎんこうはどこですか。(Where is the bank?)
ぎんこうはここです。レストランのまえです。(The bank is here. In front of the restaurant.)

These pronouns work best when you can point to the location of the building or noun.

Finally, let’s learn how to say that something is in between two other things. You will use this structure.

X は Y と Z のあいだです.

For example, if the pencil is in between the book and the bag, you would say:

えんぴつは本とかばんのあいだです。

This structure also works for buildings.

Practice I

Translate the following from English to Japanese. If you aren’t sure of the Japanese word for a noun, look it up in a dictionary. You may want to purchase a Japanese dictionary or use one online. There is a link to a Japanese dictionary on the right hand menu of this website. Using a dictionary will help you learn new words. Don’t look at the answer key until you have finished the exercises!

  1. The umbrella is under the chair.
  2. The restaurant is near the department store.
  3. The school is next to the bank.
  4. The pen is in the bag.
  5. The book is near the bag.

Practice II

Translate the following into English.

  1. 日本の本はどこですか。
    しんぶんのしたです。
  2. じしょはどこですか。
    あそこです。つくえのうえです。
  3. としょかんはどこですか。
    (としょかんは) ゆうびんきょくとぎんこうのあいだです。
  4. えんぴつはどこですか。かばんのなかですか。
    はい、えんぴつはかばんのなかです。
  5. 水はどこですか。
    水はコーラのとなりです。

Answer Key

  1. かさはいすのしたです。
  2. レストラン はデパート のそばです。
  3. かっこうはぎんこうのとなりです。
  4. ペンはかばんのなかです。
  5. 本はかばんのそばです。

 

  1. Where is the Japanese book?
    It is under the newspaper.
  2. Where is the dictionary?
    It is over there, on top of the desk.
  3. Where is the library?
    (The library is) between the post office and the bank.
  4. Where is the pencil? Is it inside the bag?
    Yes, the pencil is inside the bag.
  5. Where is the water?
    The water is next to the soda.
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Destination Kyoto – Japan's Ancient Capital

Introduction

Looking for a cultural getaway? A great place for anyone to visit, especially if you have never visited Asia, is Kyoto. The name “Kyoto” in Japanese literally translates to “capital city.” Although Kyoto is not the modern day capital of Japan, it was once the imperial capital of this ancient country. Due to its long and intricate history, Kyoto is a beautiful (and culturally rich) city that will delight adventurers, honeymooners, historians, and more!

Location

Kyoto is located in the Kyoto Prefecture on Japan’s largest island, Honshu. With around 1.5 million people as permanent residents and many year-round tourists, this city is a busy place. The atmosphere is different from a typical big city; Kyoto gives you plenty of space so you hardly realize just how many people traverse the ancient capital daily. The climate of Kyoto varies depending on which time of year you chose to travel—the summers can get really humid and the winters can be freezing! However, Kyoto has very nice weather in the spring months.

History

Kyoto has seen so much throughout its long and vibrant life. Natural disasters, wars, rebellions, samurai fights, and other negative events have taken place on the same soil that you can tread on today. Although the city suffered a great deal of damage several times throughout its history, Kyoto’s magnificent temples and buildings still stand—some restored, some ancient. The traditional economy of Kyoto was sake brewing. In the modern world, this gave way to information technology. Despite Kyoto’s modernization, there are still plenty of remnants of the old world for you to explore.

Attractions

Temples

Kyoto has an abundance of religious sites including temples, palaces, and shrines. Some of the very famous sites include Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, and Kiyomizu-dera.

Kinkaku-ji literally translates to “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.” The name is very literal—the top portion of this Zen Buddhist temple is shielded in pure gold. The temple complex was originally established in 1397 and suffered damage during the Onin War. The original building was later burned down by accident. The current structure was raised in 1955. Tourists can visit the grounds of this magnificent temple and explore the beautiful surrounding gardens.

Ginkaku-ji is another scenic temple in Kyoto. The same of this temple, although very similar to Kinkaku-ji, means “The Temple of the Silver Pavilion.” This temple is also known as “The Temple of Shining Mercy.” Like Kinkaku-ji, it is a Zen Buddhist temple. The original idea for the temple grounds and gardens was initiated around 1460, and the actual construction of the temple began around 1482. Since this temple was meant to imitate Kinkaku-ji, the exterior was supposed to be covered in silver; however, these plans fell through. The temple and its gardens are still a beautiful and serene sight to visit while in Kyoto.

For a different temple experience, consider visiting Kiyomizu-dera (“The Temple of Clear Water”). This temple was originally founded in 798, but the current buildings date back to only 1633. Kiyomizu-dere is also a Buddhist temple, but there are several unique characteristics of this holy place. First, there are absolutely no nails in the temple structure. Second, there is a natural waterfall that runs through the temple complex. The water from this waterfall is clean and safe to drink, thus giving the temple its name of “clear water.” Visitors to Kiyomizu-dera can climb up to this waterfall and, with the help of a metal pole with a cup on the end, drink some of the refreshing water. It is said that the water of the Kiyomizu-dera waterfall grants the drinker his or her wishes.

Museums

A great way to explore Kyoto’s culture and history is to take a trip to one of the many museums. You can find art museums, history museums, and even some museums with a very specific focus.

The Kyoto National Museum specializes in pre-modern Japanese art. This museum has been open since 1897, but recently went through renovations. Archaeology, Fine Arts, and Handicrafts are the main divisions of this museum. Visitors can see displays of calligraphy, sculptures, pottery, fabrics, and other items from years past at this museum.

Kyoto is also home to some history museums including the Ryozen Museum of History. This particular museum has exhibits from the Meiji Restoration and Bakumatsu period.

Two very unique museums are the Kyoto International Manga Museum and the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The aim of the Kyoto International Manga Museum is to collect every manga title ever printed (and if you know anything about Japan, you know that manga is very popular)! The museum current has around 200,000 manga books. After paying the entrance fee, visitors can relax around the museum and read as much manga as they want.

The Iwatayama Monkey Park, while not a traditional museum, allows visitors a unique experience. Here, Japanese macaque monkeys walk about as they please. There is a special area for visitors to feed the monkeys. Although they are wild animals, these monkeys are used to human interaction, so they will not hesitate to take food from you!

Nightlife and Eateries

There are plenty of clubs in Kyoto, including international pubs. For a quiet atmosphere during the week, try out the bar Rub-A-Dub. This same club offers a livelier atmosphere on weekends. Want a cheap bar with an extensive menu? Give A-Bar a chance. If you are looking for something international, you can pay a visit to Gael Irish Pub. This is a great place to meet other English speakers! One of Kyoto’s most popular clubs is Metro. This club offers themed events and sometimes has live music.

As far as restaurants go, you have ample choices in Kyoto. There are plenty of international places to eat (including many Italian restaurants with superb food), but there are also lots of great Japanese restaurants to check out. Ramen shops and other noodle shops (such as soba and udon shops) are easy to find and always worth checking out. Visits to sushi places are a must! One traditional Kyoto-style restaurant to check out is Uosue. Uosue offers great lunches for around 1000 yen (that’s roughly $10 USD). Fujino-ya is also a good place to stop by for dishes such as tempura and yakisoba. One unique restaurant is Cocohana. This café serves Korean cuisine and is known for its friendly staff.

Kyoto is an enchanting, historical, and cultural getaway for any type of visitor. Whether you travel to Kyoto for business, pleasure, or school, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Make the most of your stay in Kyoto by getting out of your hotel and exploring the city!

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Traveling to Japan

Do you want to travel to Japan?

Japan is an ancient country with loads of history and culture to share with you. If you have never traveled to Asia before, you will be awed and intrigued by the many historical sites and temples located in Japan. You can also experience unique culture, cuisine, and entertainment while in Japan. Even if you are not particularly interested in Japanese culture or history, Japan’s sprawling cities will keep you occupied!

Getting There

It is a good idea to prepare and research thoroughly before traveling to Japan, especially if you have never traveled internationally. It is important to make sure you acquire your passport in advance! It can take several weeks to get a new passport, so make sure you fill out the required forms, have your picture taken, and mail the request at least eight weeks before you depart. If you are leaving from the United States, you will likely have the option of flying via Japanese airlines or USA airlines. Research both airlines to figure out while flight and price works best for you.

Your airline should have guidelines posted on their websites. Even Japanese airlines such as ANA (All Nippon Airways) have English guidelines posted. Make sure to read these before you pack—many airlines have strict regulations on luggage size, carry-ons, and liquids. Pack accordingly!

If you are going to be in Japan for a while, it is a good idea to pack your clothes in travel vacuum bags. These bags allow you to pack more clothes because you have to push the air out of the bags. This condenses the space your clothes will take up in your suitcase. Also, it is a good idea to buy small travel bottles for your liquids.

The flight itself can be up to fourteen hours (if you are flying out of the United States). It’s a good idea to sleep as much as you can on the flight! When you get to Japan, it will seem like you have lost an entire day!

What to Bring

Depending on what country you are traveling from, your personal appliance chargers may not work in Japan. Japanese outlets have a smaller voltage than outlets in the USA, so chargers from the USA can still be used in Japan. However, if the plug on your charger has uneven prongs, you will need an adapter. Japanese outlets support two prongs that are the same size (this means that you can still plug in the charger no matter which way you flip it). Adapters can be purchased at most electronic stores.

If you are going to be in Japan for more than a week or if you just want to keep in touch with family and friends, consider purchasing a phone card before you leave. You can buy “Call Asia” cards at most supermarkets. These cards allow your family and friends to call you in Japan for a decent price. This works best if you have also rented a cell phone to use in Japan. Some US cell phones can be altered to work in Japan, so it is best to talk to your cell phone provider to see how much this would cost. Renting a Japanese cell phone to use on your trip is easy—there are many websites based in Japan that will rent cell phones to travelers for good prices. Many companies also offer free incoming calls!

The season you are traveling in is important. If you are going in the winter, be sure to bring a thick jacket! It can get really cold in Japan. Likewise, the summers can also get extremely hot. A fan and some shorts are great for the summer time. The spring time weather is mild, so light jackets as well as summer clothes are a good option.

Currency

yen dollar 300x195 Euro surges against the Japanese YenJapan is still mostly a cash-based society. Because of this, it will make it much easier for you if you exchange your currency for yen. You can do so in the airport, but for a cheaper rate, consider changing your chase through your bank before you leave. You can also change it once you get to Japan. Debit cards and credit cards are good to have on hand, but not all places will accept cards. Debit cards can sometimes be more of a hassle in Japan, especially if you are trying to use an ATM. If your card is from the US, it is not likely that it will even work on Japanese ATMs. Japan is a very safe country, so you do not have to feel wary about carrying a lot of yen on you.

Language

English is a common second language for many Japanese people, but most of the English speakers will be of the younger generations. Most businesses you go to and restaurants you eat at will not have English-speaking staff. In some of the larger cities, there are restaurants with at least one English-speaking staff person, but you should not count on this. It is best to learn some Japanese before going to Japan. Give yourself plenty of time so that you can learn basic phrases, how to order in a restaurant, and the hiragana writing system. You probably will not have time to learn kanji, but if you can learn some basic ones it will really help you! It is also a good idea to carry around a travel Japanese guide. These guides will list the most common phrases for any type of situation.

Cities and Sites to Visit

Some interesting Japanese cities are listed below, along with some great sites to check out.

Tokyo

  • Tokyo Tower
  • Akihabara
  • Shinjuku
  • Tokyo Bay
  • Roppongi Hills
  • Asakusa

Kyoto

  • Kyoto Tower
  • Kiyomizu-dera
  • Ginkaku-ji
  • Kinkaku-ji
  • Nijo Castle
  • Imperial Palace

Nara

  • Todai-ji
  • Nara Park
  • Nara National Museum

Himeji

  • Himeji Castle
  • Himeji City Zoo
  • Kokoen Garden

Osaka

  • Osaka Castle
  • Osaka Museum of History
  • Sumiyoshi Shrine

No matter where you choose to visit in Japan, you can easily travel throughout the country to take advantage of all the wonderful sights and sounds. Japan is a beautiful, peaceful destination for travelers of all kinds. Historical sites, culture, native cuisine, and entertainment all abound in this magnificent country.

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Visit Osaka – Japan's Commercial Center

Introduction

Osaka is the third largest city in all of Japan. It is a large city with big skyscrapers, plenty of sights to see, and lots of activities to do. If you are interested in touring large, modern cities while in Japan, Osaka should definitely be on your list!

History

Although Osaka is a large, modernized city, it wasn’t always this way. The area now known as Osaka has been around since the 5th or 6th century, but at this time, the area was not called “Osaka.” As this area developed, it became a large center that connected this part of Japan to the rest of the country. Even today, Osaka is considered the traditional commercial area of Japan.

Attractions

Osaka Castle

Even though Osaka is a highly modern city, you can still see several important historical sites. One such sight you should definitely make time to visit is Osaka Castle. While this is not the original castle, it still functions as a type of museum and is still worth visiting.

Museums

There are other museums you can visit in Osaka. Two examples are the Osaka Science museum and the Osaka Museum of History. The science museum has interactive activities and a planetarium. At the history museum, you can learn all about the history of the city. It is best to visit these museums if you have a tour guide or know a native speaker of Japanese.

Umeda Sky Building

This building is a city landmark which is 173 meters (40 stories) tall. There is an open-air view of Osaka on the observatory deck in this structure, and the view is really nice when the weather is good. In the basement, there is a Meiji-style street with bars and restaurants made to look like the establishments would have during that era.

Sumo Spring Grand Tournament

During March, you can watch a sumo wrestling tournament in Osaka’s Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo wrestling is Japan’s national sport, and it is a very interesting spectacle to observe.

Universal Studios Japan

This theme park is one of the largest in Japan. It features many typical theme park rides and attractions. Tickets cost about $6-$7 for adults for a one day pass.

National Bunraku Theater

Bunraku is a style of puppet show that was created during the Edo period. The puppets are large and very complex; they each require three operators. Puppeteers for this style of theater must train for many years. This particular theater is one of the few places to see live bunraku shows. The plays are all from the 1600s and 1700s. This is a great cultural experience to take advantage of while in Osaka!

Eateries

Osaka is widely known for its cuisine and many restaurants. In some sections of the city, you will encounter nothing but restaurant upon restaurant! While you’re in Osaka, you should try out the following types of food that are famous in Osaka:

Okonomiyaki – this is a style of Japanese pancake which may look more like an omelette to westerners. There is often cabbage and other vegetables mixed into these pancakes.

Takoyaki – these are fried dumplings that contain octopus. You can often find them in ball shapes. Sometimes, you can see people handing out free samples of these in front of restaurants! Takoyaki is considered a type of “street food” because of the many street vendors who sell it. Don’t worry—you may not trust street food in some western countries, but street food is very popular and safe in Japan!

Kushikatsu – these are skewers that contain different pieces of food that have been deep fried. There can be meats mixed in with vegetables and other foods.

In order to enjoy some of the best cuisine Osaka has to offer, you should choose restaurants in the Umeda and Dotonbori sections of the city.

Nightlife

Nightlife in Osaka is easy to find and very popular. It doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, there is always something to do!

There are plenty of bars that cater specifically to foreigners, but there are also nightclubs and other places to go.

The Dotonbori area is a huge center for nightlife (for foreigners and Japanese alike). A good foreigner bar to visit is Coolabah. It is known for its friendly atmosphere. You may even see a few locals here who speak some English!

Other Notes

Osaka often gets a bad reputation as not being safe. Although this reputation exists, be advised that the city is very safe when compared to western cities of the same size. Japan is overall a very safe country! It is best to avoid the areas of Shinsekai, Tobita, Airin, and Kamagasaki at night. The rest of the areas of Osaka are safe, and the overall crime rates of the city are about the same as Tokyo, which is still low by western standards.

Osaka is a great place to take trips to other neighboring cities. It is a good idea to make your hotel reservations in Osaka and travel to the neighboring cities for the day. Osaka is close to Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, and Kobe. You can get to each of these cities in anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour if you stay in Osaka.

Osaka is one city you must visit if you are taking a trip to Japan. There is plenty of history, culture, and entertainment to experience, and the city itself is breathtakingly beautiful at night (just go up into the Umeda Sky Building and see for yourself)!

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Lesson 22: I and Na Adjectives in Present Tense

This lesson will teach you about a Japanese part of speech that we have not yet discussed: adjectives. Adjectives function a very specific way in Japanese. You must learn to conjugate them into the past, present, negative, and affirmative forms just like you learned with verbs. The rules for conjugating adjectives are different than the rules for conjugating verbs, so read the following lesson to learn how it’s done!

The Japanese language has two kinds of adjectives. Both kinds will conjugate differently, so you must memorize both sets of rules. The two types of adjectives are い and な. Adjectives are named for the syllable that comes at the end of the word.

To learn how to conjugate い adjectives, let’s take the word たかい, which means “expensive.” If we want to use this adjective in the present affirmative form, for example to say that something is expensive, we simply leave the word as it is and place it in front of the noun it modifies. For example: それはたかいほんです(That is an expensive book). You can also leave the noun out any simply say that something is expensive. For example: それはたかいです(That is expensive). If your listener knows what subject you are speaking about, then this form is okay.

If you wish to negate an い adjective, you must change the い to く and add ありません. Let’s use たかい like in the example above. それはたかくありません(That is not expensive). そのほんはたかくありません(That book is not expensive).

You can also leave off the subject completely, so long as your listener knows what you are talking about. たかいですor たかくありません can each be a sentence, expressing that you think something is expensive or not expensive. As long as the subject is understood, it is okay to just use these words.

The second type of adjectives in Japanese is な adjectives. These words will end in な, but only if they precede a noun. For example, take the な adjective きれいな. If you are talking about a cat and want to say it is pretty, you could simply say きれいです. Notice that the な part of the word is dropped since a verb follows the adjective, not a noun. If you place the noun cat after the adjective, you leave な in place: きれいなねこです. Use きれいですonly if the subject is understood!

If you want to negate a な adjective, you drop the な and add じゃありません. For example: きれいじゃありません(It’s not pretty). Or, このねこはきれいじゃありません(This cat is not pretty).

Besides these two types of adjectives, there is one irregular one. This one is いい. This means “good.” When in the affirmative present form, you simply say いいです. If you want to negate this, you would change the いい to よ and add くありません. It then becomes よくありません.

This is the only irregularity you should worry about for now. The rest of the adjectives conjugate according to the patterns described above.

The best way to learn these new adjectives is to practice conjugating them. Check out the exercises below to learn more adjectives and get some practice with writing and conjugating them.

Exercise I

Conjugate the following adjectives into present negative form.

  1. たかい
  2. きれいな
  3. おもしろい
  4. ちさい
  5. むずかしい

Exercise II

Write a sentence for each of the following adjectives. You can use the adjective n present negative or affirmative ways. There will be no answers to this section of the lesson since you are making up your own sentences! If you want to check your answers, refer back to the lesson!

  1. つまらない (boring)
  2. げんきな (healthy)
  3. いそがしい (busy)
  4. あつい (hot)
  5. さむい (cold)
  6. ひまな (not busy)
  7. しずかな (quiet)
  8. にぎやかな (lively)
  9. たのしい (fun)
  10. おおきい (large, big)

Exercise III

Translate the following sentences into English. If you are not familiar with a word, look it up in a dictionary.

  1. このまちはきれいです。
  2. それはおもしろいほんです。
  3. えいがはおもしろくありません。
  4. にほんごはむずかしくありません。
  5. わたしはいそがしいです。
  6. わたしはひまじゃありません。

 

Answer Key

Exercise I

  1. たかくありません
  2. きれいじゃありません
  3. おもしろくありません
  4. ちさくありません
  5. むずかしくありません

Exercise III

  1. This city is pretty.
  2. That is an interesting book.
  3. The movie is not interesting.
  4. Japanese is not difficult.
  5. I am busy.
  6. I do not have a lot of free time.
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Lesson 25: TE Form

This lesson will discuss a new form of verb conjugation. This form is called “て form” and it is used when you want to ask for or give permission, ask someone to do something, and when you want to put two verbs in a sentence together.

This form is really important to the Japanese language, so you must understand it very clearly! It may take you a while to get used to this new form, but after studying the information presented in this lesson a few times, you should have a good understanding of what て form is and how to get it.

Conjugating Form

て form is rather a complicated form of conjugation. There are several different rules and a few exceptions that you must learn. First, we will learn how to conjugate る verbs into て form. Then we will move on to the different rules for う verbs. Finally we will look at the rules for irregular verbs and exceptions.

verbs

The rule for conjugating る verbs is the simplest rule of them all. For these verbs, you must start with the dictionary form of the verb. For example, use みる, the dictionary form of みます which means “to see/to watch.”

Take みる and remove the る. Replace the る with て. You are left with みて. This rule applies the same for all る verbs.

たべる would become たべて in て form, and so on.

verbs

う verbs are a bit more complicated than る verbs. Remember that う verbs do not have to end in う. They can also end in つ, る, む, ふ, ぬ, く, ぐ, and す.

For う verbs that end in う, つ, and る, remove the final syllable and replace it with って. For example, あう becomes あって. This is the same for verbs that end in つ and る. You must remove theつ and る and replace it with って.

For う verbs that end in む, ふ, or ぬ, you must remove the final syllable and replace it with んで. For example, よむ, becomes よんで. You just remove む and replace it with んで. The same applies for the verbs that end in ふ and ぬ. ふ and ぬ are removed and んで is added.

For verbs that end in く, you should drop the final く and add いて. There is an exception to this rule, and it is the verb いく. For いく, you drop the く and add って. Be sure to remember this!

Similarly, with verbs that end in ぐ, you drop the final ぐ and add いで.

If the う verb ends in す, you drop the final す and add して. An example is はなす, which becomes はなして.

Irregular Verbs

For the two irregular verbs, する and くる, you must memorize the て forms. する becomes して and くる becomes きて.

Form Uses

て form is commonly used to ask someone to do something for you. It is also commonly used to ask or give permission.

In order to make a request, you must use the てください form. This means you take the てform of whatever verb is relevant to what you are asking and add ください to it. This will have the effect of politely asking the person to do something for you.

For example, if you want to ask someone to watch something, you can say みてください. If you want to add the subject and subject particle to the sentence, that is acceptable too. For example, you could ask someone to watch a specific movie. You could say えいがをみてください.

To use the て form to ask or give permission, you need the てもいいですand てはいけません. If asking for permission, you would add か to てもいいです.

For example, if you want to ask someone if you can watch a movie that belongs to him or her, you can say えいがをみてもいいですか. If the person is okay with you watching the movie, he or she can say みてもいいですよ. Theよ is optional. If the person does not want you to watch the movie, he or she could say みてはいけません.

Another way you can use て form is to link two activities together in a sentence. For example, if you want to say “I will listen to music and watch a movie,” you would say わたしはおんがくをきいて、えいがをみます. Notice how the first verb in the sentence is in て form and the second verb is in the regular present tense ます form. You can do this with any verb.

Read through this lesson a few times to ensure you understand て form and how to conjugate. Once you have memorized the forms and feel comfortable, proceed to the exercises below.

Practice I

Write five sentences that use two verbs. Remember when and how to use the TE form to link them together.

Practice II

Write theて form of the following verbs.

  1. する
  2. たべる
  3. あう
  4. かく
  5. よむ

Answer Key

Practice II

  1. して
  2. たべて
  3. あって
  4. かいて
  5. よんで

 

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