Despite my salary being significantly lower than what it was, one of the perks to teaching at a Japanese public school, as opposed to an eikaiwa, is that I get to have a summer vacation. From today, I have a month to myself. This is the time to do some much needed reading and sleeping, to make some cool updates to the Japan Guy, get back on the ole exercise horse, and (a big one) to really take some time to study Japanese.
Let’s focus on the latter one for now.
I find that studying Japanese can really be a lot of fun when I am putting in an honest effort, when I am hitting on all facets of study (grammar, writing in kanji & kana, listening, reading, and speaking). One aspect that I’ve really been interested in lately is the reading side of Japanese.
Thinking back to my school days, some of the best writers and test-takers also happened to be avid readers. The people who read often also had pretty massive vocabularies (remember the SATs? (Scholastic Aptitude Test)). I remember French being one of favorite subjects in school (please don’t ask me to speak it now, though 🙁 ), and in my last year I did independent study. I read more French during that year than I had ever done, and that was my peak fluency time. I did a couple of French competitions and did pretty well. Granted I didn’t just read, I spoke and wrote everyday, and worked on grammar…but reading was an important part of the puzzle.
Because I know that reading provides an opportunity to truly expand your knowledge, I was looking for something in Japanese that would allow me to read more, but would match my Japanese level (pathetic). One solution I will be using is going to my local, public library to pick up children’s books. To find stories that are more geared towards an adult crowd, though, I have found that the Hiragana Times is pure gold!
The Hiragana Times is a short-winded, monthly publication that is perfect for foreigners who are studying Japanese. The magazine focuses on stories that are current (if you have the latest issue of course) and it really does a good job of exposing readers to customs and Japanese social norms (and abnorms 🙂 ) that you may or may not be familiar with.
In general there are two types of articles. The first are ones that have kana, furigana, romaji, and the English translation. Sounds like a bit much when you’re reading, right? Well, not exactly. The way the articles are broken down, makes for a simple, no-fuss read. The second type of article is has the English translation, kana, and kanji (but no romaji). This is more advanced practice that can be quite useful.
The stories are generally quite fascinating so it’s a fun read that really allows you to employ your Japanese skills.
There are a ton of things I like about this publication. The main thing is that it’s designed to be easy for foreigners, who may not be fluent, to read. The kana, kanji, romaji, and English translations make it possible for anyone to pick the magazine and read it. In addition, the Hiragana Times has useful information and advertisements for foreigners: from housing, to visa stuff, to get-togethers. I also like how they have stories that present aspects of Japanese culture in a funny, light-hearted way. I haven’t made use of the audio feature, but the the Hiragana Times offers an audio version that you can get access to. Listening practice, anyone?
I am a fan of the the magazine so I don’t really have a whole lot to put here, but if I were to say some negatives, maybe I’d say that it’s not geared towards the advanced student (but let’s face it, I’m not advanced). That’s not to say that an advanced reader can’t get something from the magazine, though. The other thing is that sometimes, rarely, the magazines might not have stories that are all that great or fascinating…at least to me anyway. Fascinating is a relative term, though; something I find quite dry, another person may find quite interesting. Aside from these two things, though, I can’t think of a whole lot of other negatives.
Each issue costs 450 円.
Here is a table showing the prices for a one-year and two-year subscription. The prices differ slightly depending on if you living in Japan, or living overseas.
You can probably tell from what I’ve written already, but I give the Hiragana Times two, Japan Guy thumbs up. If you need reading practice, you can get quite a bit of use out of each magazine you buy.
Please check them out at www.hiraganatimes.com