Kansai Scene Magazine


Not for beginners

Japanese for All Occasions
Mastering Speech Styles from Casual to Honorific

Author: Taeko Kamiya

• Publisher: Kodansha International • Paperback, 200pp • ISBN: 978-4-7700-3151-8 • Price: ¥2,520


It’s tough being an intermediate Japanese learner — you’ve got past the basics, and now you’re getting an idea of just how big the iceberg is. Speaking at length is still a challenge, but you want to start talking to your Japanese mates with­out using the polite masu form. And perhaps you’re facing the new Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level 4 too. When it comes to study books, you want something motivating, not just informative, to help raise your game. So if you’re about ready for a new book, this new little paper­back promises to help you grasp the key differences between plain, polite and honorific speech patterns.

After a brief overview — which speech style to use where, the differences between male and female speech, and a reminder of adjectives and conjugations, we head into the lessons. There are 19 lessons in total, with three short dialogues in each one demonstrating the three different speech styles. The lessons are based on everyday, realistic situations — and the dialogues are long enough to be challenging without becoming overwhelming.

Each dialogue is first presented in Japanese, followed by a translation and some key notes. All 57 dialogues are on an accompanying CD, so you can hear them spoken at native speed. Finally, at the end of the lesson, there are a few practice questions to test your knowledge of the three speech styles.

As the Japanese transcript has no romaji, it will force you to read the kanji, katakana and hirigana — great practice for the JLPT. The dialogue set-up makes this book perfect for pair practice, if you have a willing study partner. But for such a compact-sized book, this has a lot of rich study material, and the CD and practice lessons alone make it a great self-study tool as well.

Food for thought

What’s What in Japanese Restaurants
A Guide to Ordering, Eating and Enjoying

Author: Robb Satterwhite

• Publisher: Kodansha International • Paperback, 256pp • ISBN: 978-4-7700-3144-0 • Price: ¥1,890


Feeling hungry? By the time you’ve finished one chapter of this book, you will be.

After just a short time in Japan, you quickly learn there’s a whole lot more to Japanese food than sushi. But unless you’re a kanji whizz, facing a full-on Japanese menu with no pictures can still be a daunting experience.

You need a Japanese friend — or the next best thing, a foodie who can understand Japanese — to give you a guiding hand. Then pull up a chair next to Rob Satterwhite, the author of Japanese food website Bento.com. He’s blended years of knowledge about Japanese food and restaurant styles with a generous helping of important kanji and key restaurant phrases to cook up this handy little paperback.

The starters are a basic overview on Japanese cuisine, presentation and customs — you can skim over these if you’re lived here more than a year, but they’re fantastic for newbies or visiting friends to digest.

The main dish is a guide to different kinds of foods and the kind of restaurants you can try them at. If you want to know how many ways eel can be prepared, or what kind of sauce comes with your yakitori chicken, this makes for a deliciously detailed read. From roadside ramen to Kobe beef, Robb gives you the important facts and the kanji to decode your menu — and truly whets the appetite for more food adventures.

There’s more than enough here to satisfy any curious foodie, and no prior knowledge of Japanese is needed, as menu items are listed in kanji, hirigana, katakana and romaji. The last chapter is dedicated to menu reading and ordering, and includes key phrases you might hear from waiters. But this isn’t aiming to be a Japanese lan­­guage study book — it’s a Japanese food book first and fore­most, consider it a tasty side dish.

Text: Donna Sheffield • Books: Kodansha International

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