All posts by Courtney

Visit Osaka – Japan's Commercial Center


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!


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.


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.


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!


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 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)!

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.


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.


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


Lesson 24: Adjectives in Past Tense and Like/Dislike

Lesson 22 detailed how to conjugate  い and な adjectives in the present tense. You learned both affirmative and negative conjugations. Now, we will learn both the negative and positive conjugations for adjectives in the past tense. If you are still uncomfortable with the present tense forms of the adjectives, review Lesson 22 before moving on to this lesson. You will also learn how to say your likes and dislikes in this lesson. The adjectives for “like” and “dislike” function the same way the other adjectives in this lesson do.


In order to conjugate an い adjective into the affirmative past tense, you must drop the final い symbol and add かったですto the end. For example, おもしろい would become おもしろかったです. This would mean that something in the past was interesting. You could say “That movie was interesting,” by saying そのえいがはおもしろかったです.

For the past tense negative, you must drop the final い and add く. After く, you need to add ありませんでした. Notice how theです in the affirmative changes to でした (the past tense of です). This occurs even though both phrases are in the past tense. If you wanted to say “That movie was not interesting,” you could say そのえいがはおもしろくありませんでした.


To make the affirmative past tense form of a な adjective, you first need to drop the な ending. After this, simply add でした. Likewise, for the negative past tense form, drop the な ending first. Then, add じゃありませんでした. Take きれいな as an example. You could say “That town was pretty,” by saying そのまちはきれいでした. You could also say “That town was not pretty,” by saying そのまちはきれいじゃありませんでした.

Irregular Adjectives

The only irregular adjective you really need to worry about is いい. When you conjugate this into the past affirmative form, you must change いい to よかったです. When conjugating いい into the past negative form, you must change いい to よくありませんでした. This adjective does not follow any established patterns, so you will just have to memorize it.

Talking About Likes and Dislikes

There is a specific adjective for “like” and also an adjective for “dislike.” すきな is “like” and きらいな is “dislike.”

The sentence structure for talking about your likes and dislikes is like this:

X は Y がすきです.

In the above structure, すき can be replaced with きらい. The subject is not necessary if you are talking about yourself, but if you are referring to someone else’s likes and dislikes, you can add a subject. It is important to remember that すき and きらい always use が as their particle.

You can also amp up these two adjectives by adding だい in front of the word. This changes “like” to “really like” or even “love” whereas “dislike” changes to “hate.”

だいすきです= to really like something, or love something

だいきらいです = to hate something


Practice I

Conjugate the following い adjectives into the past affirmative and past negative forms.

  1. おもしろい
  2. いそがしい
  3. あたらしい
  4. おおきい
  5. あつい
  6. さむい
  7. こわい
  8. ちいさい
  9. たのしい
  10. むずかしい

Practice II

Conjugate the following な and irregular adjectives into the past affirmative and past negative forms.

  1. げんきな
  2. きれいな
  3. きらいな
  4. ひまな
  5. しずかな
  6. にぎやかな
  7. いい

Answer Key

Practice I

  1. おもしろかったです おもしろくありませんでした
  2. いそがしかったです いそがしくありませんでした
  3. あたらしかったです あたらしくありませんでした
  4. おおきかったです おおきくありませんでした
  5. あつかったです あつくありませんでした
  6. さむかったです さむくありませんでした
  7. こわかったです こわくありませんでした
  8. ちいさかったです ちいさくありませんでした
  9. たのしかったです たのしくありませんでした
  10. むずかしかったです むじかしくありませんでした

Practice II

  1. げんきでした げんきじゃありませんでした
  2. きれいでした きれいじゃありませんでした
  3. きらいでした きらいじゃありませんでした
  4. ひまでした ひまじゃありませんでした
  5. しずかでした しずかじゃありませんでした
  6. にぎやかでした にぎやかじゃありませんでした
  7. よかったです よくありませんでした

Lesson 23: Kanji Part 3

Lessons 17 and 20 focused on teaching you some kanji characters. This lesson will serve as a follow up to those lessons and help you add more kanji to your vocabulary. Keep in mind that you should review the previous kanji lessons—this will help you keep those kanji fresh in your mind, even if you are not using them right away. Kanji is definitely necessary for serious students of Japanese! Keep practicing until you learn all of these new kanji, but remember to refresh your memory on the older kanji as well!

First look at the chart below, then read through the paragraphs that follow. Move on to the exercises when you feel comfortable with the kanji. The answer key is below the assignment as always.

1. ひがし East
2. 西 にし West
3. みなみ South
4. きた North
5. ぐち/くち Mouth/exit
6. To exit
7. みぎ Right
8. ひだり Left
9. ふん Minute
10. がい Outside


The kanji in the chart above have their most common readings listed beside them. The English for those readings are found in the final column. Keep in mind that kanji can have multiple meanings. Read the paragraphs below for some more details on each individual kanji.

The first kanji character, which means “east,” is used when talking about the direction, but it is also used to write the word “Tokyo.” In kanji, “Tokyo” is written as 東京. This kanji can be combined with kanji number five to write the word for “east exit” (東口). The hiragana for “east exit” is ひがしぐち.

The second kanji is used alone to write “west,” but it is also combined with kanji number five. This forms the word for “west exit.” It is written 西口in kanji.

Kanji number three is used to write “south,” “south east,” and “south exit.” You can write “south east” by combining this kanji with the kanji for “east” (南東). You can write “south exit” like so: 南口.

Kanji number four works like kanji number three does. You can write “north” and “north exit.” “North exit” would be 北口.

Kanji number five can be used to write ぐち or くち. ぐち means “exit” and くち means “mouth.” The kanji symbol stays the same even though the meaning and pronunciation differ.

The sixth kanji is used to write 出る(でる) (to exit), 出口 (でぐち)(exit), and 出す (だす) (to take something out).

The seventh symbol is read みぎand means “right” (as in the direction). You can also say “right turn” by saying 右折 (うせつ). Likewise, the eighth kanji symbol on the list is the word for “left” and is read ひだり. You can say “left turn” by saying 左折which is read させつ.

Kanji number nine is often read as ふん. This symbol is used to represent minutes. For example, if you want to say ten minutes, you would say じゅっぷん which is written as 十分. The reading of the kanji symbol will change depending on how many minutes you are talking about. Five minutes, for example, is read as ごふん and written as 五分.

The final kanji symbol is the symbol for “outside.” It is normally read as がい but can sometimes be read as そと. Use it to write “foreign country” (外国, read asがいこく), “foreigner” (外国人, read asがいこくじん), and “outside” (外, read asそと).

Once you have read all of the kanji notes and thoroughly studied the chart, move on to the exercises below. As you learn more and more kanji, be sure to review the previous lessons, including this one, by reading over the charts and filling in the exercises again!

Practice I

  1. Write each kanji symbol out ten times, making sure to follow the correct stroke order. It’s also a good idea to write the English meaning beside the symbols, and sometimes the hiragana (if you don’t know how to pronounce a kanji).

Practice II

Write the correct kanji for the following English definitions.

  1. North
  2. South
  3. East
  4. West
  5. To exit
  6. Mouth
  7. Minute
  8. Left
  9. Outside
  10. Right

Practice III

Write to following words in Japanese, using kanji where appropriate.

  1. Foreign country
  2. Left turn
  3. Foreigner
  4. Exit
  5. Right turn
  6. North exit
  7. Tokyo
  8. West exit
  9. South exit
  10. East exit


Answer Key

Practice II

  1. 西

Practice III

  1. 外国
  2. 左折
  3. 外国人
  4. 右折
  5. 北口
  6. 東京
  7. 西口
  8. 南口
  9. 東口

Travel to Nara – An Old Japanese Capital


If you are planning on traveling to Japan, you should consider stopping by the city of Nara. This city is home to eight sites that are recognized collectively by UNESCO as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” You can spend time exploring these eight sites and learn a great deal about the history of this ancient city. Modern Nara is the capital of its prefecture, so now the city has its own centers of commerce. The population of the city is roughly 373,000, so this city is a great place to visit if larger cities (like Tokyo) aren’t appealing to you.


The city of Nara in Japan functioned as the capital city from 710 to 784. During this time period, Nara grew because of Buddhism’s influence and popularity. This explains why there are many Buddhist temples in this city which are still preserved to this day. Unfortunately, Nara is not as well-known as Japan’s other ancient capital, Kyoto, so many tourists do not pay a visit to this wonderful historic city.



If you visit Nara, you must visit this temple! This temple is home to the Daibutsu, the biggest Buddha statue in Japan. This temple is also unique because of the deer that roam the grounds freely. You can purchase food to feed them, pet them, and take pictures of them—they are really tame and don’t mind people at all! But be careful, sometimes they can get angry if provoked. The temple grounds are beautiful, so plan to stay a while and enjoy the scenery!


While in Nara you can also pay a visit to the Nara National Museum in order to see some of the history of the city. There are English speaking guides at this museum who can answer your questions about the exhibits. Another museum you can check out is the Nara City Museum of Photography.


There are two well-known gardens in Nara. You can visit these for a relaxing experience in a park with beautiful scenery. There is the Yoshikien Garden and the Isui-en Garden. Foreigners actually get in to the Yoshikien Garden for free!

Mount Wakakusa Fire Festival

This festival is held the night before the second Monday in January, weather permitting. At this festival, you can see a large section of dry grass set on fire and watch fireworks.


This is a section of Nara that was founded in the eight century. There are unique shops and cafes to visit here, as well as Harushika. Harushika is a sake brewery where you can go on tours of the establishment and participate in sake tastings.


While in Nara, you should check out a restaurant that offers local cuisine. Hiraso is a good place to dine for this type of meal! This restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from ten in the morning until eight in the evening. There is an English picture menu available here, so you should have no trouble ordering, even if you don’t speak any Japanese.

You may also want to pay a visit to Udon-tei. This restaurant serves udon noodles in different forms, so you can find a dish you’ll enjoy. Udon noodles are very popular in Japan, but be advised that these noodles are much thicker than ramen noodles! Some tourists don’t like udon because of its thickness, but you should at least give it a try!

You can also find a few take out places in Nara, if that is more your style. There are a few places that will serve western-styled dishes as well.


If you enjoy alcohol, there are a few places you should visit besides just a sake brewery. Kuramoto Hoshuku is a popular place which serves sake, beer, and snacks. If you rather be in an atmosphere with foreigners, House of the Rising Sun is a bar where many tourists hang out. Wembly Crown is a British pub which caters to foreigners and locals alike.

Places to Stay

There are many places to choose from, and the prices vary greatly. If you are traveling to Japan during the holidays or in August (or even just during peak season), you should make your reservations very early in advance. This will ensure you get the rates and rooms you want! Many hotels book up during the peak seasons, and this drives the prices up for other hotels that still have vacancies.

The Yuzan Guest House is very small and cozy, but the owner speaks good English so you can communicate well. This house also offers great accommodations such as free wireless internet and a Western-style breakfast.

Ryokan Seikanso is a traditional Japanese-style hotel. While ryokans are more expensive, they are very, very nice to stay at. If you can afford to splurge a little, even just for a night or two, make sure you book a ryokan!

There are a few mid-range hotels in Nara. These include the Hotel Fujita Nara and Nara Washington Hotel Plaza. Both of these offer nice amenities and are western-style. The rooms are small, which is typical of Japan, but the hotels are still really nice and comfortable.

No matter where you choose to stay in Nara or what you choose to do, don’t leave this wonderful ancient capital out of your tour of Japan! Nara is a nice, fairly quiet city that has a lot to offer!

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.

Lesson 21: Negating Sentences and Past Tense Verbs

In one of our early lessons we learned the dictionary form and present tense long form of some Japanese verbs. Now it is time to build on that previous knowledge by learning how to negate the present tense long form. This lesson will also start to explain how past tense verbs work in Japanese.

For the purposes of teaching the different forms in this lesson, we will use the verb たべる. Remember, this is the dictionary form of the verb!

Present Tense Long Form:

Affirmative: たべます (to eat)

Negative: たべません  (to not eat)

This is similar to negative あります sentences (ありません) which you have already learned in a previous lesson. In order to negate other verbs, ます must become ません. This means that the verb is negated, unless you are using the ませんか structure to extend an invitation.

Now, in order to make verbs, both affirmative and negative, in the past tense, you need to follow the patterns below.

Present Tense Affirmative: たべます

Past Tense Affirmative: たべました

Present Tense Negative: たべません

Past Tense Negative: たべませんでした

As you can see, ます becomes ました and ません becomes ませんでした.

Exercise I

Below are the dictionary forms of several Japanese verbs. Put these verbs into the affirmative present tense form, the negative present tense form, the affirmative past tense form, and the negative past tense form.

  1. たべる
  2. のむ
  3. みる
  4. よむ
  5. する
  6. いく
  7. かく
  8. かう
  9. べんきょうする
  10. とる

You can also change the X は Y です form into the past tense. This occurs by changing です to でした. でした is the past tense form of です. Both of these verbs are affirmative. The negative form of X は Y です is X は Y じゃありません. This means that X is not Y. (This is review from a previous lesson!) This sentence form can also be changed into the past tense. じゃありません becomes じゃありませんでした in the past tense.

Exercise II

Translate the following sentences from Japanese to English.

  1. あなたはせんせいでしたか。
  2. これはにほんごのほんじゃありません。
  3. わたしのせんもんはれきしがくじゃありませんでした。
  4. せんしゅうなにをしましたか。
  5. せんしゅうにほんごをべんきょうしませんでした。
  6. わたしはだいがくせいじゃありませんでした。
  7. わたしはだいがくせいじゃありません。
  8. 火曜日がっこうにいきました。
  9. きょうとですしを食べました。
  10. かいものに行きませんでした。

Other phrases that go well with past tense verbs are こどものとき and こうこうのとき. こどものとき means “the time that you were a child” while こうこうのとき means “the time that you were in high school. You can ask questions and make sentences based on these time periods in the past like so:

Q: こどものときよくえいがを見ましたか。
(When you were a child, did you often watch movies?)

A: はい、よくえいがをみました。
(Yes, I watched movies often.)

You can replace よく with any of the frequency words you have already learned. Look at the following examples.

Q: こうこうのときあまり本をよみませんでしたか。
(In high school, did you rarely read books?)

A: はい、あまり本をよみませんでした。
(Yes, I rarely read books.)

Q: こうこうのときまいにちべんきょうしましたか。
(In high school, did you study every day?)

A: いいえ。よくべんきょうしました。
(No. I studied often.)

Q: こどものときなにをよくしましたか。
(When you were a child, what did you do often?)

A: よくゲムをしました。
(I often played games.)

Exercise III

Translate the following sentences into Japanese.

  1. Did you listen to music often as a child?
  2. I never read when I was a child.
  3. I read every day in high school.
  4. I rarely watched movies in high school.
  5. I studied Japanese every day in high school.
  6. Did you sometimes eat sushi as a child?
  7. I never drank sake in high school.
  8. I sometimes ate meat.
  9. I rarely played games as a child.
  10. I often played tennis in high school.



Answer Key

Exercise I

  1. 食べます、たべません、たべました、たべませんでした
  2. のみます、のみません、のみました、のみませんでした
  3. みます、みません、みました、みませんでした
  4. よみます、よみません、よみました、よみませんでした
  5. します、しません、しました、しませんでした
  6. いきます、いきません、いきました、いきませんでした
  7. かきます、かきません、かきました、かきませんでした
  8. かいます、かいません、かいました、かいませんであひた
  9. べんきょうします、べんきょうしません、べんきょうしました、べんきょうしませんでした
  10. とります、とりません、とりました、とりませんでした

Exercise II

  1. Were you a teacher?
  2. This is not a Japanese book.
  3. My major was not history.
  4. What did you do last week?
  5. Last week I did not study Japanese.
  6. I was not a college student.
  7. I am not a college student.
  8. Tuesday I went to school.
  9. I ate sushi in Kyoto.
  10. I did not go shopping.

Exercise III

  1. こどものときよくおんがくをききましたか。
  2. こどものときぜんぜん本をよみませんでした。
  3. こうこうのときまいにち本をよみました。
  4. こうこうのときあまりえいがをみませんでした。
  5. こうこうのときまいにちにほんごをべんきょうしました。
  6. こどものときときどきすしをたべましたか。
  7. こうこうのときぜんぜんさけをのみませんでした。
  8. わたしはときどきにくをたべました。
  9. こどものときあまりゲムをしませんでした。
  10. こうこうのときよくテニスをしました。

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


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.

Escape to Tokyo – Japan’s Metropolitan Wonder


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!


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!


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 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 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.


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.


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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.