New Year, New Japanese Goals

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I’ve always wanted to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), although it does nothing for me professionally, just to prove that I can. At the beginning of 2016, I thought I would take it by the end of the year, but I didn’t stick to any kind of schedule and in the end I never took it.

This year? I’m not confident that I will be able to take it this year either. But I would like to study as though I were planning to take it at the end of 2017. If for nothing else other than as personal growth in my Japanese ability. So, I have made Japanese study one of my New Year’s resolutions!

What went wrong last year? Last year I did not set any kind of schedule or routine for study, and therefore there was no motivation for me to study. I am good at setting long-term goals, but if there’s no plan it’s hard for me to keep on track. So this year I am going to make a plan from the beginning!

Japanese Study Texts

I am starting off with the Matome まとめ series for JLPT N3 (the middle level), and Kanji Step 6 to strengthen my basic ability. Then I plan to continue to N2 and N1, and to continue with the kanji series. I prefer a structured lesson set so I like the day-by-day worksheets in the まとめ series, but that’s a personal preference.

I’ve also started using an app called HelloTalk. This is a social language learning app, where you can find people who speak the language you want to learn, and who want to learn the language you speak. Then you can exchange messages in either language, and correct each other’s messages. I won’t be able to do all the worksheets every day, and so if I’m busy I can still practice reading and writing in Japanese with this app.

I also practice speaking daily with my husband (although usually only slang ^^), and listening daily with the Japanese news on the NHK cable TV channel that is offered through my cable provider.

So, will I end up taking the JLPT this year? I think I need to consider it a bit more carefully before I decide, but at least I hope to improve my Japanese ability!

Are you going to start learning Japanese this year? Or improve your Japanese ability? How do you plan to study? Let me know in the comments!

New Year, New Relationship Goals

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In 2017, my New Year’s resolutions include new relationship goals.

Wait, what? I thought you were already in a relationship? ∑(。・Д・。)???

Yes, I am! I’m happily married to my Japanese husband. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a new romantic relationship, but rather new friendships.

In 2015, I moved to a new town after graduating from grad school and starting a new job. At the end of last year, I moved again for work to another new town. So the year after starting over in a new town and finding new friends, I’m starting over again!

It seems daunting to again try to find friends in a place where I know literally no one. But I’m making it a resolution to try to find new friends (again). The only question is how to do it when I don’t already have friends to introduce me to new friends (and coworkers probably won’t be able to help with this).

So I’ve brainstormed some ways to get out, be social, and hopefully find some people with similar interests:

  • Professional groups – This way I will meet people who work in my field and, even if I don’t make new friends, I will at least have a professional network
  • Young professional groups – This will introduce me to young professionals, like myself, even if they aren’t in the exact same field as me
  • Meet Up – This is an app I recently heard about, where people join groups and “meet up” to do activities about once a month, thus you can find a whole group of people with similar interests as you
  • Go somewhere new – At least once a month my husband and I will go to a new place (museum, park, etc) to get more familiar with the area and to broaden our horizons – at the very least we can see what this place has to offer!

These are the ideas I have come up with so far, and if I do at least one of these events at least once a month, I hope to meet some new people!

Do you have any other ideas about how to meet people in a new town? Please let me know!

New Year, New Blogging Goals

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Yesterday, I posted about my Blogging Goals. It’s easy once you stop posting regularly to stop posting altogether, and I like to blog so I’d like to post more often.

TL;DR: I want to post more.

Last year I tried different things to post more often (like participating in the A to Z Challenge), but at some point I stopped posting regularly. And then it became easier to post less frequently, and then not at all. Add in work, travel, and moving to a new city, and I was busy enough to put blogging at the very end of my list!

Tokyo Tower New Year's Decorations 2015

This year, I want to change that! My New Year’s resolution is to post 2-3 times a week. That way I can figure out what I want this blog to be, write about stuff I like, and maybe entertain someone along the way. However, I said the same thing last year, and I didn’t keep up with it to the end of the year. So, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall into the same rut again and stop posting by the end of this year.

How to avoid doing the same thing as last year? Make a calendar. After sifting through lots of pages about blogging, I found that making a blogging calendar kept coming up. This method seems like something that I can do to remind myself to blog, without taking a whole lot of extra time to do. The basic idea is to set up a road map that you follow for your blog, so that you can follow it even when you are very busy.

My personal calendar plan consists of setting aside days to blog that fit with my work schedule (because I definitely don’t want to write a blog when I get home after a long day). I will pick the topics ahead of time, then just write short posts about each topic. Then I can schedule the posts for later in the week and not have to worry about remembering to post them. Do you think I can keep up with this schedule? I hope so! Let’s see how this works!

Does anyone else have this same problem with blogging? Do you have any methods to help you blog more frequently? Please share in the comments!

New Year, New Me

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How many times have people made New Year’s resolutions only to break them soon after? The gym is full on January 1st, but empty by February. The salad-every-meal diet dissolves into the pizza-and-chocolate-cake diet. Let’s face it, resolutions can be hard to keep.

I’m just as guilty as most people of breaking New Year’s resolutions, but I try to prevent this by setting attainable goals. That doesn’t mean I always keep them, but I think it gives me a better chance!

I think that my 2017 resolutions will look a lot like my 2016 goals because I’m good at making long-term goals, but terrible at keeping on track unless there is a firm deadline. I think to have a chance of attaining my goals and keeping my resolutions this year, I will need to set some firm deadlines (like I did with my 2015 resolutions.

Kiyomizudera - Kyoto, Japan

Blogging Goals

I think that you, dear reader, will be most concerned with this goal. If you like my blog (thank you!) you might hope to hear more from me than you did last year (sorry!). Last year I resolved to post 2-3 times a week (which I didn’t, oops), but I think that this is a solid goal to try for again this year. If I can actually keep up with this goal, I think I can better shape my blog’s themes so that it isn’t as all-over-the-place as it typically has been.

Relationship Goals

In 2015, I moved to a new city and so my goal was to make new friends. At the end of 2016 I moved to another new city, and so now I find myself with the same goal to make new friends. Balancing work and personal life is important to me, but even though I have a lot of experience in moving to new places and starting over, I am going to have to get creative to meet some new people with similar interests! I am going to try to go to a social event at least once a month so I can meet new people.

Japanese Goals

In 2016, I thought I would study hard and take and pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but between work and the lack of a study schedule, I did not achieve this goal. If I were to take the JLPT this year, it would fall at the end of the year, which gives me nearly an entire year to prepare. I am not ready to commit to the actual JLPT at this point, but I plan to make a weekly study schedule and to prepare as if I were going to take the JLPT. If nothing else, my Japanese skill should improve.

I’ve also started using an app called HelloTalk, which pairs language partners based on the languages they know and want to learn. It seems convenient because you can use it at any time and chat like a social app, but still keep your privacy. Let’s see how it goes!

Travel Goals

I love to travel, especially to Japan. I would like to take at least one trip this year (that is not to my hometown). This depends on work and financial status, but if I start planning now it will be easier to make a trip! And while I’m at it, I would like to take more photos and maybe improve my photography ability along the way.

Jenny Lake - Grand Teton National Park

What are your 2017 resolutions or goals? What are your strategies for keeping your resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… Illumination

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Landmark Tower Yokohama Illumination

Photo Friday Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… 

This week’s Photo Friday Challenge is perfect for the season – It’s not this time of year without… Illumination! Yesterday I talked about my Christmas wish list of things that remind me of winter in Japan, and today I have narrowed it down to the one thing that I miss most about Christmas in Japan. Illumination イルミネーション consists of Christmas light displays that range from local characters to famous Disney princesses.

Venetian Glass Museum

Santa’s escapades at the Venetian Glass Museum, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
– photo by kei

Crowds of people mill around the light displays, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle. Couples on a date, families with children, and spectators of all ages can enjoy the illumination. Despite the cold everyone enjoys the atmosphere of the season. While there are Christmas displays in major American cities too, Japan’s illuminations are a completely different event.

Tokyo Skytree Illumination

Tokyo Skytree Town Illumination – photo by kei

Visiting different illuminations in different cities gives you a small taste of the local culture, show off amazing creativity, and I love to try to visit as many as possible. For example, the Disney princesses are located throughout Tokyo in major shopping centers, etc. So if you visit each of the areas where the princesses are, you can take photos of all of them. I suppose it’s like collecting trading cards or Pokemon!

What completes your holiday season? What about holiday traditions from other countries that you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

My Japanese Christmas List

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Happy December!

It’s the first day of December, and that has me in the Christmas mood. I was thinking about what I want for Christmas today, and the top thing on my list is a trip to Japan… However, due to financial constraints and job obligations, it looks like two tickets to the island nation will not be under my Christmas tree this year 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。

So, instead of taking a trip to the land of the rising sun, I made a list of things that would make my Christmas in America a little more like the holidays in Japan.

Japanese University Christmas Trees

Kotatsu 炬燵 – a small square table with a heater underneath, usually accompanied by a futon 布団 or heavy blanket, used to keep warm in the cold winter months

Kotatsu

You can also put a PC on a kotatsu for hours of gaming under a warm futon ^^;

Mikan みかん – a small orange, in season in the winter, often eaten while seated at a kotatsu

Christmas cake クリスマスケーキ – a sponge cake with cream and strawberries, not too sweet and in a perfect portion for two people, eaten during Christmas in Japan

Illumination イルミネーション – Christmas lights, big and fancy, done in a style special for each different location – I love strolling through light displays everywhere, from the high fashion streets of Ginza to a rural town at the foot of Mt Fuji

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

How does your Christmas list compare to mine? Is there a Japanese Christmas tradition that you would add? What about your favorite Christmas tradition from your own country? Let me know in the comments!