How to make mistakes

At any point in language learning, we have what I would call a “gut meter” based on patterns or word usages we’ve seen before and how often.

This “gut meter” is what allows us to avoid mistakes based on “feel” without having to consult hundreds of grammar rules and linguistic jargon. It is also constantly evolving. For example, a native English speaker looked at me like I was crazy when I pronounced “forehead” as “fore-id” simply because it was unfamiliar.

So if you feel like you’re stuck at a certain stage eg, 私は元気です, etc., I would say it might be a good time to experiment. Even 15 years in, I like to get out of my comfort zone and try to use words and patterns that I’m not too sure are correct. Being on the internet all the time is probably not a good influence either. LOL

The important thing to realize is that language is evolutionary so you don’t want to make up random nonsense out of thin air (unless I guess poetry?). So I try to base things on other stuff I’ve seen before but also get creative and have some fun with it. So it’s really important to keep that input flowing. Even in our native language, writing and speaking styles can change based on what we read and hear. Especially for language learners, input is essential for seeing and getting accustomed to a large number of new concepts and vocabulary to enrich a nascent repertoire (see what I did there?).

The last perhaps most important part is to get feedback so that you can keep your “gut meter” calibrated. You don’t want to get used to your own mistakes and weird grammar and start thinking that saying “私は” every time is normal. Basically a sanity check with the rest of the world is always a must.

  1. Get more input
  2. Experiment with input
  3. Get corrections

I’d like to say I’m some sort of Japanese Master and I never make mistakes but of course, only a delusional and arrogant fool would claim mastery of any language (unless you have a Nobel prize in literature, I guess).

We all make mistakes and in this case, it’s not a bad thing at all. So if you see me make a mistake, shoot me a comment cause I definitely ain’t embarrassed about them (just don’t bring up that パンツ vs pants episode…)


What’s the best way to learn Japanese?

Q: What’s the best way to learn Japanese?
A: It depends.

Q: What’s the best way to learn Kanji?
A: The question is vague.

Q: How long until I can become fluent?
A: What does “fluent” mean? Also, it depends.

I get very short emails of this kind all the time and I usually don’t respond (sorry if this was you). But really, 99% of these generic, vague questions I can answer: “It depends”.


Learning a language is a big job. You’ve been practicing it and learning it for years and years from your parents and school all the way up to adulthood and beyond. Now that you’re starting ALL OVER AGAIN, it’s time to set priorities.

Even if you don’t set priorities, they will get set whether you like it or not. Of course like you (I hope), I strive to be natively proficient at everything but frankly, my writing skills can use work, a LOT of work. That’s because instead of writing in Japanese, I’m spending my time writing this blog post in English and mostly reading. Even though I can naively wish my writing would magically improve, it won’t happen unless I work on it (I’m not).

So if you need Japanese for your work, have family, interested in anime or whatever, you can easily break it down into one of four skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Once you have your priorities, you need to work on improving those skills by actually DOING IT.

Triage and focus on one of:

  1. listening
  2. reading
  3. speaking
  4. writing

However, when it comes to output skills, you need input otherwise you’re just making up random nonsense. So if you want to work on speaking, start by listening, reading before writing (about 2-4 times more input over output).

2-4X input over output:

    listening > speaking
    reading > writing

Finally, even if you triage (which will happen regardless), you should still work on the other areas. Our brains are a complex neural network and stimulating different parts of it helps retention. So if you spend all your time buried in a book, get out and talk to some people. If you’re just winging it in Japan, go home and do some reading.

Having a visual image of an object for example, a “vending machine” with the Kanji 自動販売機 “self moving sell machine” after hearing the word in conversations is the best way to cement it in long-term memory.

Maintain a good balance

Counter examples

Take these stereotypical examples and it’s easy to see where the problems lie because priorities were not in line with desired result.

1. Advanced Japanese student who can’t hold a conversation
Didn’t actually spend time outside classroom speaking to people.

2. Cannot speak with Japanese significant other
Always speaks in English with significant other. Has some excuse for not studying or reading.

3. Loves anime, can’t understand a word
English subtitles always on. Doesn’t spend time looking up the words. Doesn’t read manga or light novel with a dictionary.

4. Can’t write Kanji by hand (this is me and probably many Japanese people)
Always uses an electronic device to type. Rarely writes by hand.

5. Can’t write that novel in Japanese
Writes English blog post about learning priorities (yeah you know who you are).

6. Grammar is confusing
Didn’t read my book (shameless plug)

Tokyo Alice

東京アリス is a free visual novel by 郷愁花屋. It’s supposed to be pretty short, just a few hours in length so I thought I’d try it out. Here are the first few lines of text, in case you’re interested in using it as reading practice. Copy+paste as needed and have fun! Post a comment if you need help with a certain sentence.



I will update this post with more if anybody is interested.

Essential Japanese Grammar Review

Ok, the last book Tuttle Publishing sent me for review is Essential Japanese Grammar: A Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Usage so let’s dig into it.


According to the book’s Preface, this book is “intended to be a thorough grammar reference and self-study guide for language learners who wish to study Japanese seriously or refresh their understanding of the language”. It’s split into two major parts, the first being an overview of Japanese grammar while the second goes into a more detailed look into the usage of particular words.

Part one

The first part goes over various aspects of Japanese grammar. For example, it goes over Accents, then goes over Adjectival Nouns, followed by Adjectives, and so on and so forth. The information is pretty solid though it does tend to use a lot of grammar terminology such as “Sentence-conjunctional words”. It has lots of example sentences and is generally understandable once you wade through the linguistics jargon. I especially like that they cover accents and accurately describe word order. Many books about Japanese incorrectly describe Japanese sentence order as SOV. This book doesn’t fall into that trap and gives a good explanation.

In general, the information in this book is detailed and doesn’t try to “baby you” like other books do by using only romaji and ignoring the dictionary form. My only complaint about this section is that it’s organized like a dictionary, not an overview. The topics are arranged in alphabetical order and feels disjointed if you read it from beginning to end. For example, it covers “Honorofics” before “Verbs” only because well “h” comes before “v” but it certainly isn’t the order you want to learn them! Really, you should look at the table of contents first and choose a topic that interests you instead of reading it in order.

Part two

Part two is simply a dictionary of various grammatical phrases such as 「らしい」 or 「つもりだ」. Honestly, the two parts do not mesh together AT ALL. For example, the first part has a completely unhelpful two-page section on “Requests” that says here are some ways to make requests with some examples. It doesn’t have any explanation on when to use 「くれる」、「もらう」、 and 「あげる」. Then the second section starts by describing 「あげる」 (because it starts with an “a”) and has a note “(→ See kureru and morau.)” Essentially, the topic of requests is completely broken up into 4 sections scattered throughout the book.

Yet another example is the section on “Comparisons” in part one with notes to see 「方」 and 「どちら」 in part two. In general, this book is filled with these “(→ See XYZ)” notes which force you to flip around the book to even learn about a single topic.


Overall, the actual information in this book is very thorough and informative. Unlike the other two books Tuttle sent me for review, this book isn’t made up of mostly filler material as each page has lots of information and examples. However, I find that this book has a kind of identity crisis. The grammar topics are covered in alphabetical order and overlapping topics are split between parts one and two. In my opinion, this book should have either stuck with being a grammar reference such as “A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar” or focused on comprehensively covering each aspect of Japanese grammar.

What purpose does this book serve? I think if you are already using something else to learn Japanese and you want to learn a bit more information about a certain topic, you can’t go wrong with this book. If you can get past the linguistic mumbo-jumbo, the explanations are pretty detailed with plenty of examples. However, you may have to skip around a bit between part one and two. For example, take a look at how the book describes 「なら」.

Nara can directly follow (adjectival) nouns (with particles), but it also follows a clause followed by no or n. (→ See nara for more details.)

The authors are very knowledgeable but I think they took the wrong approach in organizing this book. If you want a detailed and a bit technical reference guide to Japanese grammar, this book is not bad. It’s certainly a great book if you want to learn about grammatical terms such as “Conjunctional particle for clauses”. Perhaps you’re a Japanese linguistics major. In conclusion, I think there’s lots of great information here, it just needs to be organized better. The preface claims it’s a “thorough grammar reference and self-study guide”. It might be a grammar reference but it’s definitely NOT a self-study guide and I think it hurts the reference part by trying to be both.

600 Basic Japanese Verbs review

Tuttle Publishing sent me 600 Basic Japanese Verbs: The Essential Reference Guide for review so here we go again.


The book’s introduction starts by saying, “Fluency in a language cannot be attained without a solid understanding of that language’s verbs and their usages”. According to the book, the introduction is used to “help students learn both the conjugation and the usage of Japanese verbs”. For a fairly short introduction, it does a good job of going over the various verb forms. It tells you how to separate the verb into 3 groups and the conjugation rules for various forms such as the volitional and conditional with plenty of examples. After the short introduction, we go into what makes up the bulk of the book.

The verb list

The rest of the book lists one verb on each page with various conjugations and example sentences.

Much like the “Japanese Kanji and Kana” book I reviewed previously, I really don’t understand the purpose of this portion. The rules for verb conjugation are not as complicated as other languages that have a TON of irregular verbs such as Spanish. So really, a simple computer program can do what this book does for any number of verbs not just 600. In fact, there happens to be just such a tool online at WWWJDIC. Just look up a verb in the dictionary and click the [V] link. Not only is it free, it’s far more complete compared to the book and works for almost any verb you’ll ever learn not just 600. Also, this book doesn’t even reach 400 pages including the introduction. I didn’t count each verb to verify but if my math is correct and each verb takes up one page, how in the world does this book have 600 verbs?

Conjugation Chart

WWWJDIC conjugation chart

The tool impressively even conjugates obscure exceptions such as 「問う」 and 「請う」 correctly. Neither of these verbs are even in the book. The only verb so far the tool doesn’t conjugate is 「ある」 because the negative for 「ある」 is an exception to the regular conjugation rule. This brings me to the core flaw in this book.

Memorize the dictionary approach

While the first 28 pages describing various conjugations are informative, it is far from comprehensive. It doesn’t cover tricky conjugations such as 「なさそう」 and it doesn’t highlight important exceptions such as the negative form of 「ある」. It also completely ignores the fact that Japanese is unique in that while the state-of-being is not technically a verb; nouns and adjectives are conjugated just like verbs to express state of being. You are missing a huge chunk of Japanese grammar if you don’t cover state-of-being. In fact, it doesn’t even cover the conjugation rules for the negative, past, or negative-past for any verb. Instead, it only describes a slight change for negative of verbs that end in “u” without actually talking about what the regular rule is. I’ve looked and I can’t find it anywhere.

The book’s introduction is not nearly enough to fully teach you how to conjugate any verb. I get the sense that it only tries to give you a rough idea of how to conjugate and instead expects you to use the rest of the book to look up each individual verb as you encounter them. This approach might work fine for some languages that have tons of irregular verb conjugations such as Spanish but is ill-suited for Japanese. It would have been much more effective to fully teach you the regular conjugation rules and highlight the small number of verbs that have exceptions. In other words, the two sections of the book should have been reversed with the verb lists being 28 pages and the rest of the 350 pages devoted to explanations.

Otherwise, you’re just looking up the conjugation per each verb when the rules are the same over and over again. Also, it’s hardly likely that the verb you’re looking for will be in this extremely short list of 600 or I’m sorry, ummm… 305? verb list. And then when you hit a crucial verb that have exceptions such as ある, you just have to know to pay attention somehow.


Let’s consider these two questions once again for this book.

1) What purpose does it serve?
2) Can something else do it better and/or cheaper?

This book’s purpose seems to be for giving you a general idea of verb conjugation. It tries to fill in the holes with a list of individual verb conjugations and plenty of example sentences. While I like that there’s lots of examples, I just don’t agree with this methodology. Let’s say you see a new verb you’re not familiar with. First, you need to look up how to read it using dictionaries NOT in this book. Once you figure out the reading, you need to convert it to romaji to find it in this alphabetized list of verbs. Finally, there are 3 possible outcomes. The first most likely outcome is that the verb won’t be in this short list. The second is that it’s in the book but it follows the same conjugation rules as every other verb in the language. The 3rd is that it’s a verb with a rare exception that you have to notice even though the book doesn’t highlight it at all.

Either way, the critical flaw of this book is that it doesn’t really teach you how to conjugate verbs yourself. The book’s introduction describing verb forms should have taken up most of the book with a small list of verbs that highlight important exceptions to take note of. And then perhaps exercises to help you practice conjugation. Now that would be a book I would recommend though there is a free website that already does this (you might have heard of it if you’re reading this blog). As it is, this book lists out conjugations for verb after verb that follow the same rules, something a simple and free computer program can already do online.

Unless you can’t use the internet, I would not recommend buying this book. Ironically, most of the introduction, which I see as the only valuable part of this book, is available to preview on Amazon. The rest of the book is not very useful.

Japanese Kanji and Kana review

Tuttle Publishing sent me four books to review so without further ado, here we go. The first one on the list is Japanese Kanji and Kana by Wolfgang Hadamitzky & Mark Spahn.

According to the preface, this book is useful as “both a textbook and a reference work” and it “serves beginners as well as those who want to look up individual kanji”. So let’s take a look at what purpose this book serves.

Introductory Chapters

The first 68 pages have some interesting information about the Japanese writing system. It describes various aspects of Kana, Kanji, and punctuation. I found this to be the most helpful and informative part of the book. In particular, the 17 structures of Kanji and the rules for writing Kanji were particularly helpful.

It also has all the information you need to teach yourself Hiragana and Katakana. However, I wouldn’t recommend using this book to learn Kana because it has no audio resources to hear the pronunciations. In addition, there are so many better tools online to learn Kana for free, that you don’t really need to get a book anymore to learn it.

You can actually check out most of this information yourself by looking inside the book on Amazon although there currently appears to be an issue with all the Japanese showing up as dots.

Jouyou Kanji List

The bulk of this book from pages 71-376 contain the list of Jouyou Kanji. Each character has the stroke order, radicals, readings, meanings, example words, you know, the usual stuff. This edition has the complete list that was recently revised and even kept some of the really useless ones that were removed such as “pig iron” (銑). (Why???) This brings me to my major complaint. What is the point of this book?

Is this a textbook or dictionary?

If this is a textbook, how am I supposed to use this to learn kana and kanji? There are no pronunciation for Kana, no practice sheets to write with, and no reading material to learn Kanji in context. There are a few tips on exactly two pages such as “Learn the kanji in order”, “Learn compounds with known kanji”, and “Review, and train yourself to read quickly”. However, I don’t see how the contents of this book really help accomplish those goals. And really, learn the kanji in order? Are you kidding me? Might as well start telling people to start learning by memorizing the dictionary. I don’t see how this books helps with learning kanji except as an incomplete and functionally obsolete kanji dictionary. Which brings me to my next point.

The end of this book has 3 indexes to look up Kanji with: radicals, stroke order, and reading (in romaji, ugh). This is how we used to learn Kanji back in the old days when I had to go to school uphill both ways. If you ran into a word you didn’t know, you needed to take EACH character in the word and look it up in a Kanji dictionary by going through a long list of Kanji with the same stroke order or guess which radical was picked to be THE radical. Then try different combinations of multiple on and kun readings in a regular dictionary and hope you got lucky. Basically, for words like 仲人, you didn’t stand a chance in hell of figuring out how to read the word or what it meant.

In today’s world where you can get FREE kanji dictionaries that can do combined multiple radical lookups, stroke order ranges, and even handwriting recognition on any number of devices such as your phone, computer, tablet, and even a Nintendo DS, there is really NO point in having a paper Kanji dictionary. This is especially true for one as inferior as this one with only 2,141 characters. I’ve already written about the trap of “Learner dictionaries” and how the Jouyou Kanji list completely undermines the importance of Kanji outside the list. This dictionary falls into both categories and is likely to fail you pretty early in your studies as soon as you run into a non-Jouyou Kanji and you frantically try to find the missing character and then realizing you need to buy ANOTHER REAL dictionary or silly you, there’s a bunch of free tools online that’s way better and you just wasted your money.


In reviewing any book, I ask myself the following two questions.

1) What purpose does it serve?
2) Can something else do it better and/or cheaper?

This book can be used to teach yourself Kana and act as a Kanji dictionary. However, both of these tasks can be done with superior tools that are free such as and kana courses on I assume you have some device that can browse the internet because you’re reading this. If so, chances are, there are better tools out there for your device than what’s offered in this book. The first 68 pages have some useful information but you can also find it elsewhere online for free such as Wikipedia or even my website.

If you want to enjoy the pains of learning Japanese back in the day when we had nothing better, then go for it. Otherwise, I would suggest saving your money. Unless you’re going to a place with no internet and electricity and feel like learning some Japanese. I suppose that’s always a possibility…

Games in Japanese (Updated x3)

One of my favorite games of all time is Parasite Eve. The story, scary atmosphere, combat, weapons, abilities, everything about it was awesome. So naturally, I was super excited to play the sequel, which I bought off eBay in college. I got the Japanese version because I was studying Japanese and was kinda hoping it would work on my Playstation (of course it didn’t). So I held onto it for years until I finally bought a PS2 while living in Japan. Man, what a let down. The worst part of the game was the awful Resident Evil style movement. The only other game with a sequel almost as inferior is Chrono Cross.

My gamer creds

My gamer creds

Anyway, now that I can read Japanese, I’m thinking of replaying classics like Chrono Trigger and ones I missed like Mother 2 (Earthbound) in its original form. However, figuring out what game is available and in what language is a big chore and often times confusing.

For example, the JP version of Chrono Trigger for the DS has both English and Japanese. But apparently, they removed the Japanese in the US version. Yes, they went out of their way to remove something already in the game for the US release. I guess because of the strong yen?

Nintendo loves to region lock and everything is locked down except for handhelds up to the DS lite. Unfortunately, that was too consumer-friendly so the newer handhelds such as DSi and 3DS are now region-locked. I guess it makes sense because their last region-free system did terrible (ie, fastest-selling handheld game console of all time).

Thankfully, Sony has seen the light as their products starting from the PS3 and PSP are region-free, which means you don’t have to buy one for each region. However, they have really started to lock down digital content on the Vita, a worrying trend. One annoying problem with Sony is that they switched the X and O buttons around for the US? WHY??? Sometimes with a Japanese game on a US console, you have to press X to confirm until you start the game. Then you have to switch to O until you go to save or quit. Then you have to switch back to using X. Argh!!!

Even with region free systems, while some games support both Japanese and English, unfortunately for the most part, you still have to import the game to play it in Japanese. Some games have dual audio options but don’t allow changing the text which is bizarre to me. In the end, it’s a big and confusing mess so here’s a list of some games you can play in Japanese WITHOUT having to import it from Japan.

Games with full Japanese support

If you have any games that have Japanese language option, please let me know! I like to play games in their original language (English games in English) so I’m more interested in games made in Japan that have dual languages.


  1. Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC)
    F2P MMO with an option to pay for items. Fans have been clamoring for a US release forever but not a problem for us since we want to practice Japanese! You need to register for a Sega ID and go through all that hassle (or good reading practice if you’re thinking positively). But once you’re signed up, there’s no region lock so just download (takes forever) and play!
  2. 真・女神転生IMAGINE
    If you’re a SMT series fan, you should definitely try this free MMORPG.
  3. sweet ampoule (Android/iOS)
    This developer has a bunch of Visual Novels on Android and iOS for free (yay!). I’m not sure what’s in it for them as I’ve played one (briefly) and haven’t seen any ads or anything of the sort and the reviews look good.
  4. True Remembrance (PC)
    More free visual novels. You can download TRUE REMEMBRANCE and 送電塔のミメイ for your PC.
  5. Imaginary Range

    And also Imaginary Range Ep.2. This is a free interactive comic with various mini-games and items hidden inside the comic. You can change the language to Japanese by changing your phone’s language to Japanese. If your phone doesn’t have Japanese as an option (mine didn’t), you can install this app to force it.

    Not sure about the iOS version. Let me know if you’ve tried have it to verify.

  6. Tokyo Alice

    Another free visual novel. Haven’t tried it yet. Will update with more details when I get around to it.

  7. Akemi Tan, Mad Father, Aooni
    Some indie, free horror games. Brrr. Scary.
  8. ゆめにっき
    Strange, surreal game but not a lot of text so might want to skip.

Not free (shucks)

  1. Killer is Dead
    The language is shown as supporting both text and audio in Japanese.
  2. Resident Evil Revelations (PC/3DS)
    In the PC version, text and audio can be changed to Japanese in settings. 3DS as well though it is region-locked. Haven’t confirmed other platforms.
  3. Asura’s Wrath (PS3)
    I just got this game so I can’t say much about it except that it does have full Japanese voice and text. But I read somewhere that you have to pay extra (DLC) to get the true ending…. ugh…
  4. Resonance of Fate (PS3)
    The text will be in Japanese if your console’s language is set to Japanese. You can select the language for voices between English and Japanese.
  5. Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (PS3)
    Allows choosing between English and Japanese voices, as well as, a larger list of languages for the game text. I just started playing and it looks good for the price. My first annoyance is that ship has too many screen transitions so it takes forever to get around.
  6. The Last Remnant (PC)
    The PC version (not Xbox 360) has both Japanese voice and text options. I only played the very beginning. The graphics are pretty good but the dialogue seems slightly out of synch. Might be just a config issue. You can probably get it for a great price if you wait for a steam sale.
  7. Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy and the sequel Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PC)
    Called 勇者30 and 勇者30 Second on the PSP. I got the first one on sale for $5.99. The Japanese text uses too much Hiragana for my tastes (no spoken dialogue) but it is strangely entertaining.
  8. Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3 & Xbox 360?)
    I’ve only tested the two but most of the Ninja Gaiden series seems to be dual-language. Need to set your console’s language to Japanese.
  9. Resistance (PS3)
    Need to set your console’s language to Japanese. This kind of game is better in English anyway given the setting and genre but I listed it anyway. Have not tried 2 and 3 yet.
  10. Soul Calibur IV and Soul Calibur V (PS3 & Xbox 360*)
    I have the PS3 version of Soul Calibur IV and it has full Japanese support. According to a comment, the same goes for Soul Calibur V.

    *For XBox 360, according to play-asia, only the US version is region free. So don’t buy the Japanese or Asian version and expect it to work on a US console.

  11. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (PS3)
    Has Japanese audio/text if the console’s language is set to Japanese.
  12. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (PS3)
    This game apparently has Japanese audio and 4 options for the text: English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. The limited edition is cheap on Amazon so might be worth checking out.
  13. Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PS3 & Xbox 360?)
    Continuing with fighting games, Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has Japanese subtitles if you set your console’s language to Japanese at least for PS3. (Not sure about XBox 360 version though it’s likely the same).
  14. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS3 & Xbox 360*)
    Lets you change both the text and audio to Japanese via options.

    *For XBox 360, according to play-asia, only the US version is region free. So once again, avoid the Japanese version unless you have a Japanese console.

  15. Vanquish (PS3)
    This game has options to change both the voice and text. Sega in generally has been awesome in this regard. Thanks, Sega!!
  16. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PS3/Xbox 360)
    This game doesn’t have full Japanese support but it does allow you to change the voice and subtitles to Japanese for the cut-scenes. The option to change subtitles is at least better than most other titles.

    I only have the PS3 version so not sure about the 360 version.

  17. Recettear (PC)
    This game can be configured to run in Japanese by right-clicking and selecting “Properties” from your steam library. You will then see a tab labeled “Language” where you can set it to Japanese.
  18. Chantelise – A Tale of Two Sisters (PC)
    Steam shows this game to have Japanese for both the interface and full audio.
  19. Fragile Dreams (Wii)
    The Wii is region locked but if you have one already for the US-region, this game apparently has both Japanese audio and text.
  20. Pokémon X and Y (3DS)
    Though the 3DS is region-locked, if you already own one anyway, you might want to pick this up for Japanese practice as it apparently supports 7 languages. However, it doesn’t use a lot of Kanji as it’s targeted for kids.
  21. Persona 4 Arena (PS3/Xbox 360)
    I almost didn’t want to list this on principle because it’s the ONLY region-locked PS3 game. I mean, like the ONLY ONE. It’s lame that they decided to use region-lock but the small consolation is that they didn’t feel scared about putting full Japanese support thanks to the region lock. The content is identical across regions so as long as you buy the game to match your console, it will have full Japanese support.
  22. Square Enix titles on Google play (and maybe iOS?)

    I was able to get Japanese on several Square Enix titles by changing my Android’s phone language to Japanese including Final Fantasy 5 and Final Fantasy Dimensions. (Chaos Ring also has a language option right in the game). The same might be the case for iOS but I don’t have one to test. Let me know if you happen to have a copy of any Square Enix games on iOS.

    If your Android phone doesn’t have Japanese as an option (mine didn’t), you can install this app to force it.

  23. La-Mulana

    Interface labeled as supporting Japanese. Appears to be text only.

  24. One Way Heroics

    Interface labeled as supporting Japanese. Appears to be text only.

Here’s some more I haven’t verified from this link

Battlefield 1943
Devil May Cry 4
Little Big Planet
Lost Planet
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Street Fighter 4

Digital releases

Digital releases that are download-only don’t come with any physical packaging and so require almost no distribution costs. So we should be able to buy all sorts of stuff from Japan right? After all, it’s just virtual 0s and 1s that speed across intercontinental fibre optic cables. Not so fast. Turns out companies still want to control distribution channels across regions, virtual or not. So here’s the breakdown of the usual jumbled mess of various policies and schemes.

  1. Steam

    Here are the list of games that have some degree of Japanese support. Steam now has a very helpful matrix that tells you whether the game’s interface, audio, and subtitles are in a certain language so make sure to check for full Japanese support by looking at both the interface and full audio. What’s baffling are games that were made in Japan like Ys I & II Chronicles+ have absolutely zero Japanese support (though you can hack some of them by messing with some files). Shame on you, XSEED.

  2. Playstation Store
    While the consoles are region-free, your PSN account is not. You must select Japan as your region when creating your PSN account and it cannot be changed. You also cannot buy games on the Japanese store without a Japanese credit card or Japanese PSN cards. You can buy the latter on various sites but expect to pay extra for the service.

    However, once you purchase a game, you can play it on your console for any user on the PS3 and PSP. So for example, I have a US and Japanese PSN account on my PS3 using two different email addresses. Once I purchase a game on one, I can install and play it on the other. However, oddly enough, avatars are tied to the PSN account so even though I downloaded some cool free avatars on my Japanese account, I can’t use it for my US account. There’s no way I’m paying money for those things so oh well…

    The one big exception is the PS Vita which Sony has started to really lock down via updates. What you purchase from PSN has to match the account on the Vita and you can only switch accounts by doing a system reset on the machine. It’s really just unnecessary hassle which you can get around so I really don’t see the point of all this.

    There are also some imports you can buy directly from the US store!

  3. Nintendo eShop

    The advantage of region-lock means that if you have a Japanese 3ds or Wii U, you can buy Japanese games using a US credit card. Buyer beware though, Nintendo’s DRM policy is apparently very strict and you can only have ONE copy of the game on ONE system. So you know how you can play PSN classics on either the PS3, PSP, or PS Vita? So like, wouldn’t it be cool if you can buy a digital copy of Mother 2 on the virtual console and play it on the 3ds? Fuhgeddaboudit.

A few of my favorite things (in Japanese)

Learning a language is very similar to exercise in many ways. The best type of study is the one that you’ll do regularly. Which is why finding things you enjoy doing in Japanese is so important. So here’s a list of some of my favorite stuff in Japanese.

(Updated with more links and videos)

Good Friends

Things like 鍋パ with friends is a blast. Japanese people actually stop and listen to you when you talk. Something which seems far too rare here in the States.


My favorite Japanese artist is 椎名林檎. I also love the band 東京事変. Please get back together and make more songs!

I’m also amazed at the collaborator efforts of amateurs online such as Vocaloid and 東方.


タンポポ – Oh man, this film is so awesome. Just watch it.

Other films I liked:

After Life (ワンダフルライフ)
Sanjuro – My favorite Akira Kurosawa film.
Man, Woman & the Wall – Creepy, sexy, funny (not for kids)
Trick (TV series and movies)
The Great Happiness Space – Not really a Japanese movie but still a fascinating (and disturbing) documentary.

Is it just me or do Japanese movies all seem like either art films or crazy horror?


I definitely need to read more books so please give me some suggestions! Of the very small number of books I’ve read, I liked:

涼宮ハルヒの消失 (my favorite out of the series)


Dragon Ball – I first read this in Korean back when manga was virtually non-existent in the US. I didn’t really know what was going on but it was still awesome (by the way, my dream job was to work at a 만화방). I also watched Dragon Ball Z in English on Adult Swim (Vegeta’s voice was pretty good). I have since read parts of it again in Japanese, and it’s still good, after all these years.

Others I enjoyed:

One Piece
Azumanga Daioh


攻殻機動隊(Ghost in The Shell) Stand Alone Complex – My favorite anime of all time.

Others I enjoyed:

Serial Experiments Lain
Soul Eater
Darker Than Black
涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 (Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) Season 1
Spirited Away


My first Japanese console is a PS2 so I have not played that many games in Japanese. I am meaning to replay classics like Chrono Trigger in Japanese when I get my hands on it. Until then, of the limited games I’ve played so far in Japanese, I liked:

逆転検事2 – The story is brilliant.
MG3 Snake Eater – Metal Gear Solid is my favorite in the series but Mei Ling’s English voice was annoying. Hoping to try it in Japanese sometime.
Disgaea (haven’t gotten to 2,3,4 yet)

What’s on your favorite list?

Buying Japanese import games

I’ve been taking a break from the website these past few months to get back into video games. I’ve been buying a lot of import Japanese games I missed out on when I stopped playing games in college (couldn’t afford it). Unfortunately, I should have done this while I was living in Japan because buying import games can get expensive but really I was too busy at the time with stuff like you know… living in Japan!

But you know what my pet peeve is? People bidding up used games I wanted to buy past the price it would cost new on! Look, don’t bid $40 for a used game you can buy new for 3,000 yen. Since the yen is finally down to reasonable levels, let’s buy some games direct in Japan!

For example, instead of paying $39 for Final Fantasy Type-0 on play-asia or for $45 USED on ebay (duh), let’s buy it for about 30 bucks NEW on Amazon Japan using these (not so simple) steps.

  1. Create an account on, a forwarding service that gives you a Japanese address you can ship items to. There are other potentially cheaper services but I found that this one was the cheapest for EMS, a really fast way to get your stuff with tracking (let me know if there’s a better service). There’s a link to the English version of the site on the upper-right.
    *Due to some new law in Japan or something, you may have to upload an image of identification with your name and address. No big deal, I just uploaded a picture of my driver’s license on the website.
  2. After you sign up, you should get an email with your new Japanese address. You’ll need that later obviously. You can also check it on their website.
  3. Search Wikipedia for the game so that we can get the Japanese title (right next to the English title in parentheses).
  4. Go to and copy+paste the title into the search box (in this case ファイナルファンタジー 零式). There’s a tiny link “In English” at the top right to get the English version of the site. None of the product information will be translated but it may help you for creating an account and checking out.
  5. Select the game you want (It’ll have the console name next to the price so you know you’re not getting an artbook or something). I’m gonna pick the budget ultimate hits version because screw em. I bought the first print of 3rd birthday only to find the bonus DLC had an expiration date like 2 years ago. WTF
  6. Go through the usual checkout process. Amazon will take care of the currency conversion for you. The only trouble I had was fitting the massive forwarding address within the maximum length requirements. Here’s how I arranged it so that it all fit.

    Amazon forwarding address

    Fitting the forwarding address is a bit tricky

  7. You should get an email once the order arrives at tenso and you can go to their website to pay them to then forward it to you. I paid with my credit card via Paypal to avoid a foreign transaction fee.

There’s a shipping calculator on the bottom of the page on If you put the weight of a PSP game (about 170 grams), you can see that it will cost about 1,690 yen to ship.

So about $23 for the game and $18 for shipping means you pay $41 for a new game. Wait, isn’t that MORE than play-asia? Yes but usually, you want to save on shipping by buying in bulk. For example, I bought 3 PSP games and paid about $24 on shipping so only $8 for each.

Tenso invoice

In retrospect, I should’ve bundled more games for even more savings. By buying in bulk, I can usually get it down to around $5 per item.

Also, try to pick items that ship from amazon so that they can send all the items together. can consolidate multiple packages for you one time only (and you should for multiple packages) but they will charge a consolidation fee depending on how many packages need to be consolidated.

Why don’t they localize more of these games?

I wish they would as it often drives down the demand for people like me that actually want the Japanese version and not simply because it’s the only one available (perfect example is Mother 3).

I got a Chinese copy of Jeanne D’Arc off ebay, which would have really pissed me off except the game itself is completely in Japanese. Only the cover and manual are in Chinese. Weird, I’m not sure how that really makes any sense but I guess Chinese people are flexible enough with English and Japanese to deal with it??

On the other hand, Americans complain like babies if they have to, god forbid, read any subtitles, which is why everything has to be dubbed often with disastrous results. If people say they prefer the Japanese voices, they get comments like, “OMG, why would you want to READ the dialogue??” and get called stupid stuff like “weeaboo”.

Take Final Fantasy XIII for example. Which do you think cost more? Throw in some Chinese and English subtitles for the Asian release and call it a day? Or hire all new voice actors to redo all the voices, redo all the animation to synch up the lips, and do a crappy Xbox 360 port on two discs for the US release?

A year and 300+ words later…

Wow, it’s been over a year already since I started tweeting a new word a day (almost daily minus weekends). So 300+ words later, let’s take a moment to reflect.

Looking back, it’s kind of shocking how many words I didn’t know. But then again, I’ll probably feel the same way looking back at the next 300 words I learn. For example, I tweeted 「処方」 back in 2011/11/2 and I had a Skype conversation (via mixxer) recently with a 「薬剤師」. I can’t believe I didn’t know those words till last year.

I also recently remembered 「男尊女卑」 and I see that I tweeted this way back in 2011/11/11 so I’m pretty happy about that.

I always learn new words in context and so I got to catch up to quite a bit of culture by searching for additional usages online. These words originally come from books I’m reading (huh? you mean on dead trees?), chatting locally and online (wha? like with… people?), games, shows online (Hulu/Youtube), and various podcasts.

For example, I learned the expression 「二進も三進も」 while playing FF13 (I used my phone to save the word). Much later (in this case several months), I look for other stuff online from my list that uses the same vocab like this.

Catching up on culture

Here are some highlights from my Twitter feed.

そばかす – Song from the 90s
(Lots of) Vocaloid and 東方 music
SKE48, AKB48
Weird commercial
2012 was a leap year

Looking back, 300+ words is actually a pretty small list. I still have over 600 stocked up that I have learned to various degrees in the last year. Us language learners have to do a lot of memorizing. 🙂

I feel sorry for those learning from just flash cards, classes, and textbooks. Real life is so much more interesting.