Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Miss My (Other) Home

I saw this picture on Google Earth just now and really started to miss Sakura City (さくら市), my home away from home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

OSU Charity Events

I attended a meeting tonight set up by OSU students and employees who feel that a campaign needs to be created to raise money here in Stillwater, OK for Japanese earthquake relief.  We have a lot of things in mind for ways to raise money including:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cheap Flights

If you have been wanting to take a trip overseas this season and perhaps were thinking about going to Japan, don't let the disaster up North turn you away!  I checked ticket prices last night for flights in March and April and with taxes included, flights to Tokyo are about $750.00 with flights to Osaka around $850.00. That's almost half off of normal prices!  People are very freaked out over the quakes, the flooding and the radiation and, as a result, have been canceling their trips left and right.  But all that stuff only concerns about one third of the country.  If you wanted a cheap flight to Kyoto or Osaka or Hiroshima, now is the time to strike while the iron is hot!

Also, the economy of Japan is getting worse and worse by the day.  Why not help out by taking a trip there and spending lots of tourist money on hotels and food and souvenirs?  If it were June and I didn't have classes to attend, I would be there in a heartbeat, but alas, priorities.  My return to Japan will come someday, just not this year.  But that doesn't have to be the case for you!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Relief: How You Can Help

If any of my readers would like to help the relief effort in Japan by donating some money, I have come across some pretty good ways to do so.

1. The American Red Cross
You can donate directly to a fund to help those in need in Japan or you can simply donate to whomever has the greatest need at this time.  They have many choices available, but I would recommend donating directly to the Japan option.

2. The Salvation Army 
You can decide whatever amount you wish to donate to their tsunami relief fund.  Also, if you don't have the time to fill out all the information or just aren't near a PC, they have an option to send them a text message and it automatically sends them a donation of $10.00.  If those two ways to donate aren't varied enough for you, and you like wearing sweet t-shirts, check this out. It's $20.00 and 100% of the proceeds goes to The Salvation Army's Japan relief fund.  What a great deal! You can help out and look cool at the same time!

$20.00 that goes directly to Japan.

While I'm not much of a fan of her music or her on-stage persona, she is offering bracelets for $5.00 each and while it is not stated how much of that money goes to Japan relief, the website does give you the option to pay more for the bracelet than it costs and that money does go towards a Japan relief fund.  It's kind of a neat looking bracelet, despite being a little creepy.

"WE PRAY FOR JAPAN" in English and Japanese. $5.00

4. Linkin Park
One of the band's members, Mike Shinoda, whose father is Japanese-American, is having a vote for which tsunami relief t-shirt design he is going to print and sell here.  They are also one of the founding bands of Music For Relief which is a group of bands and their fans that have joined together to help those in need during times of crisis.  You can text them $10.00 or simply donate normally online.  Also, I think they have some songs available for download and the money is going towards Haitian earthquake relief, but if you keep checking over the next few weeks I'm sure they'll come out with some sort of music download for Japan relief as well.

 Go to to vote on which t-shirt design you would like.

Well, those are the four best ways that I know of to donate money to send some help Japan's way.  If you know of any others, please let me know and I'll post an update with the new information. 

UPDATE: Here is another link with several other links to disaster relief organizations.   Please check it out! There are lots of different ways to donate, just pick your favorite and help save some lives.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Before and After

Today I came across a link to a site that has aerial views of some of the hardest hit locations before and after the tsunami had come and gone.   To see the pictures please click here.  Just move your mouse over each image to see the 'after' pictures.

I've been watching Japanese television news online a lot the past few days and some of the footage that ordinary people have taken is just simply stunning.  It makes me think back to May 1999 when a record breaking one-mile-wide F-6 tornado came through Oklahoma City  and left a huge path of destruction in its wake.  It makes me think that even with our very worst possible natural disasters here in Oklahoma, there just is no comparison to the destruction that has and is still going on along the Pacific coast of Northeastern Japan.  

Oklahoma City on May 3rd, 1999

Sendai, Arahama on March 12, 2011

I am very thankful and appreciative that I have not ever had to deal with a disaster of this scale.  It truly puts the "problems" that arise within our comfortable lives into perspective.  Hopefully something like this will teach us all about what is really important in life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

8.9 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Japan

  Around 11:30 p.m. last night, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake was recorded about 80 miles off the coast of the city of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture.  It is the largest ever recorded earthquake in Japan since they have started recording them in 1900 and the seventh largest worldwide.  Afterward, a 33 ft. high tsunami hit the Pacific coast of Japan killing hundreds and stranding millions.

 My wife's Grandparents live about half and hour South of Sendai, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.  I still haven't heard whether or not they are alright, but I'll post an update as soon as I know anything. (Update: I just got word that everyone in my wife's family is doing fine. *whew*)

I suppose this is a good time to tell everyone (who speaks Japanese) to download a program for their PC's called "Keyhole TV".  It's a program that lets you stream live TV and radio broadcasts from all over Japan for free.  The whole Japanese media is inundated with news of the quake, so if you can understand Japanese and want some fresh info on the subject, straight from the source, please check it out.  It's a small download.

Oh yeah, the tsunami is expected to hit pretty much every country that touches the Pacific Ocean today.  So, if you live in California or Hawaii, prepare to get wet.

For the full story, click here.

UPDATE: I'm sure by now that everyone has seen footage and photographs of some of the damage, but for those interested in a large collection of some high resolution pictures of the carnage that has occurred across the nation, click here.  Some of these are bone-chilling, especially when you stop and consider how far away some of the locations are from the earthquake's epicenter.  

Please be sure to keep the people of Japan in your thoughts and prayers and, if possible, donate a few bucks to an organization like the Red Cross to get the ball rolling for some recovery.  Japan was having enough problems with their economy before this disaster was dumped on their laps and we can't just sit back and expect our own governments to foot the bill.  If I come across any good relief groups accepting donations, I'll post them here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The JLPT 日本語能力試験

JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test.  It is a language test used worldwide to determine the proficiency of non-native Japanese language speakers.  It is administered by The Ministry of Education within Japan and by The Japan Foundation for testing sites overseas.  It is a multiple choice test that is held twice a year in July and December in most countries and only in December in others. (America)

 My results from taking level 3 in 2009.

Before 2010, the test was divided between four levels of proficiency with 4 being the easiest and 1 the most difficult.  However, since 2010 a fifth difficulty level has been created and placed between the old level 2 and level 3 tests in order to compensate for the large difficulty gap that existed between those two levels. Also, instead of just labeling them as 1-5 they are now referred to as N1-N5. I guess the "N" is supposed to refer to the fact that they are the "New" levels.

You must register to take a particular level and pass that specific level.  Unlike most tests, the JLPT is pass/fail only, so it is very possible to study hard and wait for a whole year to take the test only to fail and have to do it again the next year.  This, of course, would suck very much so my advice is to register for the test level you feel the most comfortable with passing.  For lots of detailed information on what to expect for each level, as well as sample questions for each level, please check out the JLPT website.  

My kanji poster with all 1,945 daily use kanji. 

For some very helpful supplemental study materials that will help out tremendously in preparing for the JLPT, check out some of the amazing products offered by White Rabbit Press.  The kanji poster above is from WRP and they offer some very good quality kanji flashcards as well that they designed themselves and are grouped together based on which level of the JLPT they appear.  They also have a plethora of good study guides and Japanese language texts specifically designed for JLPT takers.  No, I don't work for White Rabbit Press and no, they are not paying me anything for this glowing review.  I just think they offer great products and that anyone interested in taking the JLPT definitely needs to check them out.  I like rewarding good businesses with public praise to bring them more business.  Keep it up, White Rabbit Press!

Kanji cards for JLPT level 3.
That's all I had for today.  I hope any would-be test takers found it helpful.  As always, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or just shoot me an e-mail if you're shy.  I plan on taking  N2 this December in Fayetteville, AR so if anybody else is in the area taking the test that day, feel free to say hello and we can wish each other good luck! 
New Vocabulary 
日本語 - Nihongo - Japanese Language
能力 - Nouryoku - Proficiency
試験 - Shiken - Examination
日本語能力試験 - Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken - Japanese Language Proficiency Test
漢字 - Kanji - Chinese characters used in Japanese