7 Apps That’ll Most Definitely Help You Out with Japanese (They’ve Saved My Hide, Anyway)

1. JED for Android
JED is my first go-to as a Japanese/English dictionary, and honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without it. While it barely takes up any space on my phone (about 5MB), it is also offline, meaning it doesn’t need any internet access for use (other than updates) and its lookup speed is super quick. Which already makes it top Weblio in my book.

Another feature that really makes this app stand out, in my opinion, is its ever-convenient tag feature, which lets me create decks of vocabulary words that I save and look up for later reference. I’ve got decks for JLPT, for questions I plan on asking my fiance when he’s awake (US/Japan time difference is a bi*ch), and for the words I’d like to review and make into flashcards for word memorization.

Unfortunately for you Apple people, I haven’t been able to find this app for Apple devices, but I’m sure you Apple people will be able to find something similar. Or maybe it’s already released a separate version by now, I’m not sure.

2. Weblio
Weblio is more popular for Japanese-speakers looking up English, I notice, but one thing Weblio does better than JED is its ability to look up phrases like slang, idioms, or proverbs that aren’t typically found in a traditional Japanese/English dictionary. It does require internet access for use (or at least, I haven’t found a roundabout way for this), so if you’re looking for a word mid-conversation, there may be a bit of awkward waiting for that word to load for you.

3. Google Translate
I can’t deny the power of Google Translate. My most common uses for this app are probably three-fold:

For taking pictures of kanji I don’t know.
For getting the furigana and romanji of kanji I don’t know.
For writing in the kanji I don’t know.

…Yeeeeeah, I don’t know a lot of kanji.

First of all, it has this pretty great Camera Mode that lets the user take pictures of Japanese text and then translates it on the spot. Naturally, this can be a bit buggy, but if you’ve got a whole block of text from a page of a book in front of you that you just don’t feel like translating yourself, this feature can give you a great start.

Second, a quick tip I learned is that if you translate into the Japanese language (say, even Japanese to Japanese), then not only does it show the native, written language itself, but it also shows you the romanji, so that you can easily read and look up those words you stumbled over.

Third, it’s Writing Mode, predictably, is great for hand-writing unknown kanji to look up. When it comes to unknown kanji (depending on how many there are), this Writing feature is usually my go-to, since all I need to do is just write in in Google then copy-paste that sucker into JED to figure out what it means.

4. Kanji Study
So like most Japanese studyers, kanji is a major weakness of mine, and has cost me many retakes of the JLPT, admittedly. I just started using this app the last time I was in Osaka, because I really wanted to level up my kanji reading skills. I will say that the full version of this app is $10, but I would say that – for those serious about kanji, and for those who are disciplined enough to utilize it to its full potential – it is a price worth paying.

I love how this app is organized by school grade, meaning that we work in the official, standardized Japanese system, and that we work from easy to harder. For each grade, there is a flashcard study, a multiple choice quiz, and writing challenges for the masochistic. Outside the school-grade decks, however, there is a lot of customization that can be done, too, with the paid version; such as making your own decks for those pesky kanji you always seems to get wrong but you just want to move onto the next grade so it sticks around and you can keep practicing it untilyoueventuallymasterthehelloutofitorforgetaboutitamonthlater (inhale). We all have those kanji, I’m sure.

5. NHK Easy Japanese News
I was almost hesitant to write about this app, because for whatever reason, lately my luck with getting this app to load has been not-so-successful. Some days it just crashes, some days it takes a while to load, but on the days it works fine, it works FINE.

This is really a great resource, as you can imagine for a number of reasons. One, because the stuff you’re reading here is really beneficial if you want some legit reading practice. Especially for that next JLPT or to get your feet wet practicing reading actual Japanese newspaper-leveled material (bless you). Since I’m not quite at the newspaper level yet, I like going through this app, picking out articles that I’m not very familiar with that’s filled with a bunch of new technical terms for me to learn.

It’s an excellent source, but if you have trouble getting the mobile app working, I would still recommend the official NHK Easy Japanese News website.

6. Study Droid
I add this one to my list with a heavy heart. My main squeeze for flashcards and route memory learning is kind of majorly an abandoned app, and it’s no longer offered on Google Play. I will start by saying it has a couple of awkward bugs about it (if you still decide to try it out), like after you’ve deleted a card, it still shows up on the Search screen… I’ve emailed them about it before, but never got a response or update… Sad days.

However! Sentiments aside, I know that a lot of schools and teachers recommend Quizlet (which I also do, but for different reasons), but let me list thy ways in which a more simple, searchable flashcard app like this can work better.

First, no internet needed. It’s completely offline, which means no data/wifi being used, no battery life being drained, and no slow-moving search time. This app has been my best friend when I’m sitting/standing on the train and need some brainless repetition to keep my Japanese fresh.

Second, have I mentioned the Search option? IT HAS. A SEARCH OPTION. I’m not sure why Quizlet hasn’t thought of this yet, but to be able to search through decks of 1,000+ flashcards for a word that’s on the tip of your tongue or you KNOW you’ve learned before, but just can’t remember what it is… Well, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to reunite with it again.

7. Quizlet
Ladies and Gents, you knew this was coming. This one is good for those words that you don’t necessarily need on-hand, but still want to get some study time in for that next test coming up, for example. There are a few other things that Quizlet really does well, such as…

Number One. Detecting dupes of cards. Reeeeeally nice if you’ve got a deck for JLPT N2 that has 1,000+ cards.

Number Two. Its online compatibility. Because editing massive decks on mobile is very time-consuming and frustrating, all I need to do is just get on my Mozilla Firefox on my PC and start editing away,

Number Three. Its ability to be shared and viewed by other people, too. For group studying, this is nice. Or again, wanting to get some extra study time in on a different device without the pesky, distracting cell phone.

These have been my seven suggestions that hopefully can help you out, too. Good luck with your language acquisition and happy learning!

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Komeda Coffee – A Recommendation

So it’s 3:00PM. Time for tea. Or in this case, coffee. Nagoya-styled coffee. Your place of choice? Before you get comfortable and say, “Starbucks”, let me first urge you to “give Komeda Coffee a shot”.

Or “get a shot… of coffee… from Komeda…”

…I tried the pun thing. Maybe I’ll be more creative next time.

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Komeda’s Coffee is a great cafe that offers decently-priced delicacies from Nagoya. My favorite of which is the infamous Ogura Toast, which is basically a thick (and I do mean thiccc with three C’s) piece of bread, slathered with sweet, whipped butter and red bean paste. You can order this Ogura Toast thinly-sliced or thickly-sliced. But let’s be real, thick is where it’s AT.

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Their sandwiches are also excellent. I ordered a Fried Pork Cutlet Sandwich (no pic included) from them, which was quite sizable and tasted fresh. And, of course, I highly recommend their coffee (pic included way above).

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They’ve got coffee. They’ve got Ogura Toast. They even got fluffy, Shiro-Noir Danish pastries. For your viewing pleasure, the menu: http://www.komeda.co.jp/en/menu/index.html

Since Komeda Coffee started off in Nagoya, you can find them all over the Aichi prefecture, but I’ve also seen them around the Kansai area, as well. If you spot one, and if it’s remotely close to 3:00pm, I’d highly recommend popping in to scope out those sweet, sweet (and I do mean sweettt with three T’s, if that’s a thing) tasties.

Ikumimama’s Animal Donuts – A Recommendation

Here is another example of Japan being really good at producing quality goods that are detailed and downright adorable.

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Ikumimama no Doubutsu Donatsu, everyone! If you are lucky enough to happen upon one of these little shops, I highly recommend giving these delights a shot. Even for those foodies without a sweet-tooth, the taste of these donuts are very light, as the ingredients used are very raw; the eggs, wheat, salt, butter, and not a whole lot of processed chemical bits.

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But enough about the nutritional facts, let’s check the spoils.

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Handmade with smiles in mind, these adorable snackies are all shaped like animals such as cats, bears, tigers, penguins, and depending on the day and season, they also have a great selection of seasonal goodies, which you can check out on their website.
https://ikumimama.com/

DSCN9551I’ve seen these shops pop up around Tokyo, and now I’m super thrilled to have finally found one in Osaka. If you come across it, just remember these words of Runa, “Give into the cuteness, feast, and be merry!”

Osaka’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018 Results

So White Day, March 14th, has just passed me by. The day in which women receive a return gift from those they have given Valentine gifts to. Since I, too, participated in the Valentine gift-giving, this March 14th, I received some Mister Donuts from my wonderful boyfriend, who knows me so well.

To those unfamiliar with Japan’s “Mister Donut” shops, I beg you to try their “Pon De Ringu”. https://www.misterdonut.jp/m_menu/donut/ That stuff is fluffy gloriousness.

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This Valentine’s Day, I was fortunate enough to visit Osaka Hankyuu’s very own St. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018. There’s not much else to say, other than “Holy chocolates, Batman!”

There were lots of hungry consumers, and there were lots and lots of glorious chocolate stands, all of which had a different theme to them.

For example, there were the “cute” styled ones.

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There were “cool” themed car ones, which you could actually “take apart” and eat. Very creative.

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There were “Godzilla” themed ones, the largest of which cost 7,560en (about $75!).

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The most popular ones seemed to be the “sake chocolates” and the “animal” themed booth, which I had a hard time taking a picture of because of the extensive lines and crowds surrounding the poor stand and its very busy, underpaid part-time workers.

 

There were also very badass “outer space” themed ones, Foucher Olympus, and I’m telling you, I felt like the Chocolate King of the Cosmos, going back a second time to actually buy these (shameless Katamari reference). http://valentine.season-evt.info/foucher/

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I’ve searched the web to try and see if you could order these, but all I’ve found is, “There are no more products found for this product”, meaning they’re probably sold out… Which sucks, because I would definitely buy these suckers again.

They had a very mature, kind of sophisticated taste about them, most of the flavors dealing with an alcoholic beverages, like brandy, vodka, and more. Very quality, creamy, and light stuff. If I can ever find a link that sells these, rest assured, I’ll be posting.

All in all, I had a fun time at the Expo, contributing to the heavily-marketed Japanese Valentine’s Day. I’ve noticed that, to Japan, Valentine’s Day is really money-oriented, rather than the more traditional Western representation of a “holiday of love”. (Taking it a bit further, White Day can also be observed as another “Japanization of Western culture”, as it created the day – pessimistically speaking – to make some more money.)

However, when you think about it, gift-giving has ALWAYS been a big part of Japanese culture to begin with. And as a consumer, I think the products they deliver are very creative, and the holiday can be a lot of fun; especially the giving part. And with Mister Donuts, I mean, who can complain?

Laundry in Japan: the Hitachi NW-6MY Washing Machine

Hello, all! I hope you’ve been doing lots of things that make you happy. What’s one thing that makes me happy? (Don’t laugh.) Doing laundry.

As you’ve probably already guessed, doing laundry in Japan is very different from laundry in America, but not by much. My apartment doesn’t have its own drier, meaning I gotta go oldschool and hang my stuff outside on the balcony to dry. Which is fun and meditative, actually. Especially looking out over the nice, city view I have here on the 8th floor. Or especially while listening to music, or the TV on in Japanese for extra listening practice.

I want to introduce you to my meditative process that is laundry out here in Osaka.

The washing machine I have in my apartment is a Hitachi NW-6MY, so this tutorial will be showcasing this guy.

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He’s a good, hard-working washing machine. 10/10 washing machine.

The Process:

After tossing all (or most, whatever fits) of your laundry in the machine, it’s detergent time. I love the Ariel detergent; it has a distinct, fresh scent about it, and it’s mega affordable, too. Another cool thing with Ariel is that after buying a bottle, you can then follow up with buying bagged refills, which are nice and cheap.

 

For the Hitachi NW-6MY, you’re gonna put the detergent in this little slot here.

Then it’s time to start the machine! You’re gonna want to press Power Supply On (電源:切/入), and there should be a ding and the lights should come on the left side. Then hit the Start button (これっきりボタン:スタート/一時停止), and you’re good to go.

 

A quick explanation from the left:

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Water Amount (水量), Wash (洗い), Rinse (すすぎ), Dehydration (脱水), Water Drain (お湯取). For 9 minutes, it will Wash. For 2 cycles, it will Rinse. Then for 6 minutes, it’ll do a Dehydration cycle, not unlike the American machines I used back in Illinois.

Sometime during the 2 Rinse cycles, however, here’s where I pause the machine to get my Laundry Softner in. The Pause button (これっきりボタン:スタート/一時停止) is the same as the Start button. Quick note: the Hitachi NW-6MY has an automatic lock everytime you close the door of the machine. So depending on the timing of the cycle, it might be locked, but just be patient, and it’ll unlock.

 

For softener, I use Laundrin’ Tokyo Laundry Softener. As much as I hate to admit it (my boyfriend kind of hooked me to this), it really does help get the extra smell out. Especially after the wonderful boyfriend had done some running or had futsal practice sometime during his day.

Again, the same place you put your detergent, just pour this stuff in there too. The amount doesn’t have to be precise.

Once the laundry’s done, the washing machine beeps a few times, letting me know I gotta take that stuff out to dry. This is the most time-consuming part, but depending on the weather, this is also my favorite and most meditative.

 

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Also, see this cute, pink cat towel I got there? “It’s TAACHAN!” I bought this at my local Loft at Umeda, Osaka. It was on sale. I couldn’t resist Taachan. I found the link, in case you want to check out some more Taachan specials. ロフト・ターチャン検索

And now, enter the one-question Q & A session!

Q: Does laundry need to be done every day?
A: Almost every day for me, but definitely depends on the family, the size of their house, and size of their washing machine. I have a few working theories on this one, but here are my two-cents. First, the Japanese washing machines are a lot smaller than the American-made ones. Meaning that there’s only so much laundry that can fit. Meaning that it needs to be done a lot more often.

Second, because the laundry needs to be hung up outside, it usually takes up to a full day to get dry, wearable clothes, amiright? But depending on the weather or overall humidity, it can take longer, amiright? Meaning that they’ll be taking up limited space on the highly-limited balcony (or in and hung up around the limited space in my house), on limited drying racks, with limited clips and limited hangers. Meaning that doing laundry in advance is always a good move, anyway, so the new dirty stuff isn’t waiting around for space to open up.

Third, not all Japanese households do this (some of my host families did, but others didn’t), but after showering, my boyfriend uses his towel once and then immediately throws it in the wash. I prefer to hang mine up to dry and then use it the next day (I mean, how dirty can it get?), but regardless, and needless to say, with a towel-usage style such as this one, laundry tends to pile up really quick. Even with just two people in a tiny apartment.

Anyway, those are my two cents worth. I hope I was able to give you a peek into the laundry world of Japan with the Hitachi NW-6MY. Thanks for reading, I know this one was a long one.

Japanese Facial Cleanser and Exfoliator – A Recommendation

Although this seems like a weird first post, the occasion is this: I ran out of my American-bought Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which means, YES I GET TO TRY SOME ASIAN CLEANSERS (CHEAP, while they’re non-imported) while I’m out here in Osaka.

Also, before I begin, I’m just gonna say this; if you ever come across these products at Mitsuwa (our local Japanese supermarket here in the suburbs of Chicago), don’t bother buying them there. Because they’re imported, you can bet your bottom dollar that the prices have been UPPED by 2x or 3x the price. (I’ve seen the Cure Natural Aqua Gel for $40+ there!) So, save your money, time, and gas, and shop online. :> Thank you.

My new (and highly improved since Cetaphil) cleanser recommendation is Senka Perfect Whip.

 

 

 

It’s advertised as a cleanser and moisturizer. This stuff goes on MEGA-smooth and really helps to get off excess makeup and extra oily patches. For those blessed with dry, oily combination skin (such as myself), I notice that it really takes the oily edge off at the end of the day, without completely drying it out. Thus, the skin suuuuper soft afterwards. I imagine that if I had a Clarisonic, this would be a really nice cleanser to apply to the brush to wash~ And a gigantic plus, it’s only around $5. YUS. SENKA パーフェクトホイップ

The second recommendation of mine is not a cleanser, persay, but this time, an exfoliator: Cure Natural Aqua Gel.

 

 

 

I’ve been using this one for a few years now, because it is just wonderful. You apply it to dry skin, rub in circular motions, and viola, watch the literal dead skin just pile up on your fingertips. I notice that if I repeat this twice, then less (or most times, no) dead skin piles up, meaning that yes, it IS taking the dead skin off your face and those are not just face-scrubbing beadlets. Anyways, SUPER nice product and definitely highly recommended. This stuff is about $25 online. Cure Natural Aqua Gel

Testing testing 1 2 3… Anyways, this is has been Runa’s first post. I hope to do more of these kinds of product reviews to introduce you guys to some effective and not-so-costly products of Japan, since Japan makes some excellent quality stuff. This has been Runa, over and out!