Rikaisama is Dead. It’s Yomichan vs Rikaichamp – the review

Yomichan in action: making the Japanese Web readable

Rikaisama has finally passed away, but Yomichan and Rikaichamp are waiting in the wings to take over the crown.

You will still be able to read unknown kanji and get instant definitions and deconjugations on almost any web-page.

And fortunately, just like Rikaisama before them, they are both free.

We always recommended Rikaisama on this site. Its amazing functionality – especially its ability to seamlessly create Anki cards with one click, made it far and away the best contender for the serious learner of Japanese. So it is with regret that we report that the application no longer works with the latest Firefox upgrade (it was always Firefox-only and by itself made Firefox the browser of choice for serious Japanese immersionists).

The new Rikaisama alternatives are Yomichan and Rikaichamp. The more modestly named Yomichan is clearly the more powerful of the two. It does most of the things Rikaisama did and a few that it didn’t.

Rikaichamp

Rikaichamp is essentially Rikaichan, which we strongly recommended before Rikaisama appeared, minus a few bells and whistles – but a bit faster as a result (though Rikaichan was already pretty fast).

Which Rikaisama alternative is best for you? Rikaichamp is the simpler of the two. If you were a Rikaichan user and Rikaichan was adequate for your needs, then Rikaichamp will give you a seamless transition to an almost identical experience.

You won’t have the lookup bar (assuming you ever used it) and there is less customization (you are stuck with the pop-up window in blue, for example).

However, these are minor issues and if you want to continue with Rikaichan then Rikaichamp is the way to go.

Yomichan

However, if you need the functionality of Rikaisama you really have only one choice. Yomichan.

Yomichan does almost everything Rikaisama did. The interface is more modern and more robust. It can create Anki cards just like Rikaisama (by using a button in the definition window rather than a keypress, which is an improvement). It can send a sample sentence into your Anki card in much the same way Rikaisama did. It has sound readings of the words which can also be imported to Anki as with Rikaisama.

So all in all, Yomichan is a sleeker and more robust version of Rikaisama. We are very lucky to have it waiting in the wings just as our beloved Rikaisama goes down. So what’s not to like?

Frankly, I think most people are going to be 100% happy with Yomichan.

However, I miss Rikaisama and I know that a number of other serious Japanese immersionists feel the same.

Why? It’s not just sentiment. There are a few of Rikaisama’s features that Yomichan doesn’t have, and one of them is a serious blow for me (and not only me).

That feature is Rikaisama’s Sanseido mode, which allowed one to get Japanese–Japanese definitions taken from Sanseido’s simplified online dictionary. When in Sanseido mode one’s automatic Anki cards had J–J definitions.

Can anything like this be done with Yomichan? Well, yes. Like Rikaisama, Yomichan allows the import of selected J–J EPwing dictionaries (and unlike Rikaisama it actually works).

There are two problems here. The first is that EPwing dictionaries are not very easy to get hold of. Yomichan doesn’t include them in its downloadable dictionaries as they are proprietary products.

The second problem is that even having solved the first problem, I found the definitions much less satisfactory than the simple Sanseido ones. For an Anki deck I prefer a brief  to-the-point definition, which I then turn into audio with the Anki TTS plugin.

In fact, I sometimes end up pasting in a definition from the Sanseido site, which slightly undermines the whole automation concept.

I have had some discussion with Yomichan’s developer on the subject. He says that the “web scraping” involved in the Sanseido mode is technically difficult and inherently unstable. I am sure he is right. Rikaisama’s Sanseido mode could certainly be flaky and not always available. But it worked most of the time.

He also is of the opinion that only “hard core” learners use J–J definitions. Here I have to disagree. I think any serious immersion learner will graduate to J–J definitions at some point. And it can be done in less drastic ways that make the transition painless.

In short, I think J–J definitions were part of the core functionality of Rikaisama. I know beginners don’t need them. I also know that a lot of more advanced learners never graduate to them, but that is part of what is wrong with the whole non-organic non-immersionist “studying not living the language” approach. In my humble opinion.

So should you be using Yomichan? If you are a serious immersionist, absolutely you should.

If you were happy with Rikaichan, then Rikaichamp will serve your needs near-perfectly. However, if you use Anki you might still want to take a serious look at Yomichan.

If J–J definitions don’t matter to you, then Yomichan is a step up from Rikaisama. Not a vast step up. Most of its functionality is pretty much the same, but it does everything more robustly and generally it is a polished, high-class piece of software.

Despite my criticism on that one point, I want to go on record as both congratulating and thanking Foosoft for a truly splendid creation.

Without Yomichan, the life of the serious, slightly-advanced immersionist would have become significantly harder with the loss of Rikaisama.

As it is, it has become just a little bit harder.

And the life of the pre-J–J immersionist has become just a little bit easier.

Finally, whether you are installing Yomichan or Rikaichamp, I recommend doing it through Firefox’s add-ons management system (just go to Add-ons and search what you want to install). Almost all once-reliable download services like Softpedia and Softonic have sold out and now often include unwanted bits of nasty that don’t do your computer any good. So please always download via your browser’s add-on manager or from the actual developer’s site.

The “Suffering Passive”. Textbooks at their confusing worst! And the cure.

The “suffering passive” or “adversity passive” is one of the weirder notions that the Western version of “Japanese grammar” foists on us.

According to the textbooks, Japanese people, for some quite inexplicable reason, lapse into the passive voice in order to complain or lament about some event.

They don’t.

As we have explained before, there is no passive in Japanese, at least not in the sense of the English “passive voice”. It is the insistence that the Japanese ukemi (receptive form) is “passive” that leads to this odd notion of a “suffering passive”.

What is actually happening in the meiwaku ukemi (nuisance receptive – the accurate Japanese term for the “adversity passive”) is much simpler and actually is something that English speakers also do all the time – although it isn’t considered to be correct grammar in English.

Once you know this, you can forget the Byzantine explanations of European-language-based “Japanese grammar” and see the nuisance-receptive form as it really is – simple, logical and easily intuitive.

Watch this seven-minute video and stop suffering passively forever!

‘Cause dolls do what doctorates don’t.

 

Notes:

This video unpacks pretty deeply the confusing tangle that is Western “Japanese grammar”. The “suffering passive” misconception is born out of three other misconceptions. I think this video works on its own but you may need some help (and it certainly would be a good idea anyway, to dispel the other three.

So I am listing the three underlying misconceptions and giving links to the lessons that clear them up.

 

“Suffering Passive”: Underlying Errors

  1. That the Japanese receptive form is something like the English passive voice.
  2. That it is a “conjugation” – which in turn is based on
  3. The notion that the amazingly simple and logical Japanese helper-verb and helper-adjective structure is “conjugation” in the European sense.

If the ideas are unfamiliar to you, you will also find it useful to watch the lessons on the zero pronoun and particle and Japanese ga-centered grammar structure.

Sorry for all these links! I do think the video above is understandable by itself but it is based on unpacking the whole misguided structure of Europeanized “Japanese grammar”.

And this is something you are going to want to see for yourself if you want to make the whole of Japanese grammar – not just the “suffering passive” – as simple as it really is.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments section of the video. I usually answer pretty quickly.

https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Japanese-Making-simple-really/dp/1539485501/

Te iru, te aru, te iku, te kuru. How and when to use them – and why

Te iru, te aru, te iku and te kuru are among the most commonly used constructions in Japanese.

Once you’ve learned how to make and recognize the te-form (made super easy in our last video lesson) you’ll want to start using it. It isn’t difficult and the textbooks don’t do a bad job of teaching it.

But…

They do tend to omit telling you the rationale behind how it all works, and that makes life harder.

Why do they do it? In this case I think it’s because they don’t want to burden students with “something extra to learn” – but that something is what makes it all hang logically together.

So it’s a bit like making people carry the shopping home without a bag because the bag would be “something extra to carry”.

Yes it would – but it’s the something that makes carrying the rest easier!

It’s not a huge deal in this case (the way it is in some of the grammar taught in this series) but if you know, for example why te iru (meaning “be”) is used the way it is, and what is the logic behind using te aru in place of te iru, it makes it a lot easier to know what you are doing instinctively rather than just trying to remember abstract “rules”.

More importantly, by learning it logically and organically we  start to get a grasp of the way Japanese, unlike Western languages, fits together in various ways like so many very regular, very logical lego-blocks.

So let’s devote 8 minutes to learning just how te iru, te aru, te iku and te kuru really work!

 

Notes:

1. One other irregularity (apart from kuru and suru) is iku which is irregular in te-form only (it is itte instead of iite). This really is the only other irregularity you will encounter in basic Japanese.

2. Why do we say akete aru when we say aite iru? This is because logically te aru can only be used with transitive verbs while te iru can be used with both intransitive and transitive ones (but tends to favor intransitive).

Our article on transitive and intransitive verbs makes this much easier. But if you’re a beginner don’t worry about it too much yet. All you need to know is that 開く means open (as in “the door is open) while 開ける means opening something (as in “I opened the door”).

Te aru needs a transitive verb because it is always stressing that somebody caused the state something is in. Te iru doesn’t and is happy with either. If this is all gobbledegook to you, don’t worry. You’ll get to it as your Japanese level advances.

How to Pronounce つ Small Tsu in Japanese

Do you have trouble pronouncing small tsu in Japanese?

If so, this three-minute video will solve your problem!

Yes, just a quickie from the KawaJapa Cure Dolly TV channel this week, but one that answers a question I am often asked.

The 促音 sokuon or small tsu is a sound that worries people because there seems to be no equivalent in English

The Japanese word literally means “stimulated sound”, presumably because the consonant following the small tsu is intensified or semi-doubled.

Semi-doubled sounds weird, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t that logically mean “singled” or left as it is?

Ahem. What I mean is that while it is said to be doubled that isn’t quite what is happening when we pronounce it. Luckily, what is happening is very simple and is in fact a sound that we all make in English from time to time.

Once we understand that, small tsu becomes very easy.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers as a Japanese Immersion Tool (even for non-geeks)

Containers in action. Note the green underlined tabs for English activity (click to expand image)

If you are serious about Japanese immersion, you will have noticed something. Japanese content starts popping up unasked on your computer.

It’s a fact of life that your online life is tracked by various agents in various ways. If you use Japanese a lot, if your YouTube account is with YouTube JP rather than your local one (it should be, and it’s easy to do), if you use Japanese-Japanese online dictionaries and read NHK News Easy (to take a few examples), you start getting Japanese ads and other content served to you whether you wanted them or not.

This is obviously a good thing for immersion. You want things to be this way. You want to keep your Japanese bubble as complete as possible. However, if you sometimes browse in English you will get more English language content served to you. The more you use Japanese the more Japanese content you get and vice versa. If you exclusively browse in Japanese and use Japanese services your Japanese unsought content will become dominant.

But you may have to use quite a lot of English. Or at least a certain amount. This is where Multi-Account Containers for the new Firefox comes in.

To be honest, I have been using this technique for a long time and I did it by using different browsers. I use Chrome for English webbing (for example, writing this article) and Firefox for my everyday Japanese immersion life.

This works and you can use this method if you like. However, Firefox Multi-Account Containers let you run as many accounts as you like without switching browsers. The cookies generated by one account are boxed off from the others so there is no spillover from one set of activities to another.

A geeky (and well-organized) friend of mine has her different activities all neatly packaged up with multi-account containers. I will never be that well organized. However, one can also do it in a very simple way.

What I do is this:

At the simplest, just make an English container. Any English browsing/consuming/creating you do, you do in an English container tab (the tab itself will be color-coded so you can keep track easily).

That’s all. For my general Japanese online life I don’t even need to use a container. Just make sure the English stuff is packed away in a box where it doesn’t affect everything else.

Make the English container your default container and then when you visit an English site check “always open in default container” in the Containers toolbar. From then on that site will always open in your English box and won’t contaminate your Japanese immersion life.

You may also want to make a separate box for financials (PayPal etc) to make them a bit less vulnerable to hacking from all the strange sites you visit. But that’s another question.

Happy immersion!

Te Form of Verbs Made Easy – learn te-form in ten minutes with this simple mind-map

The te-form of verbs is one of the more difficult parts of Japanese because it really is a small set of “facts” that you have to learn.

Most of what gets presented as the random “gotta-learn-em-all” facts of Japanese grammar actually aren’t that at all. They are part of a logical system that the textbooks never teach and I have explained the real secrets in my book Unlocking Japanese and in various articles and video-lessons.

However, the te-form of verbs is one exception in that there really are six different forms depending on how the verb ends, which you just have to know.

Mendokusai (Japanese for “pain in the petunia”), ne?

Fortunately it can be made a lot easier.

In this video I give a simple mind-map with mnemonics that will allow you to dominate the te-form in a very short time. The video is under 8 minutes and you may want to watch it a couple of times. But you should have the te-form of verbs conquered for life in under an hour!

Notes (and advice):

There are  just three notable exceptions to the system presented here. They are Japan’s famous two irregular verbs kuru and suru, plus iku, “go”. Iku, instead of becoming the slightly awkward-sounding iite becomes itte. They work like this:

する (suru)→ して  (shite)

来る (くる kuru) → 来て  (きて kite)

行く (いく iku)→ 行って  (いって itte)

Even though I mention these for completeness, I don’t recommend “learning” them now unless it feels easy.

My advice is, if these three feel confusing, just ignore them for now. Don’t let the whole system feel over-complex for the sake of these three. Consolidate the overall system in your mind. You will easily pick up the few exceptions over time.

A lot of people stay shaky on the te-form of verbs for a long time (especially recognizing it on the fly). With this system you can master the whole structure in a very short time.

https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Japanese-Making-simple-really/dp/1539485501/

Sanrio Puro Land – Amazingly Cheap Discount Tickets – and review

Sanrio Puro Land is the world capital of kawaii, and you can get super-cheap discount tickets if you know where to look. But are they a good buy?

It’s a departure from our usual Japanese language articles, but anyone interested in Japanese kawaii really needs to visit Sanrio Puro Land.

It’s a little bit pricey but I found a really good deal on tickets. At the time of writing a day passport is ¥3,300 but by going to Voyagin I was able to get a ticket for ¥2,100 – a pretty steep reduction. I was also assured that the ticket was valid for about three months so if you buy it in advance (which you have to, but one day is fine) and then find you can’t make it on the day you planned that’s ok.

You get an E-ticket sent direct to your phone, so you just have to show the QR code on your screen at the gates of Sanrio Puro Land.

My main worry was that in the past some tickets were not full passports and did not include all attractions. However when I got there I was passed in with no trouble and was free to go on all rides, shows, and everything included in the regular passport.

Oh and before you ask, no I am sponsored or paid anything to tell you this. Just something  really good that I want to share with y’all.

If you want to get a feel of what Sanrio Puro Land is really like I think this video really conveys the feel. It is in Japanese but has English subtitles (you need to enable them) and also Japanese subtitles. So if you are practicing watching Japanese with Japanese subtitles, please use those instead.

Notes for Japanese learners

Sometimes the Japanese use of English is more confusing than the Japanese use of Japanese!

ステージ (stage) is a katanana English word but here it does not mean the literal stage, but the show.

ロケット (rocket) Is a term for a spectacular musical finale, especially as found in Takarazuka Review performances. This is why the video calls the Hello Kitty finale (which is based on Takarazuka finales) “Kitty Theater’s Rocket”.

The Japanese verb conjugation chart to END conjugation charts!

Yes, I really meant the title.

This is a verb conjugation chart that is simple enough to keep in your head. It covers all the main conjugations (except -te/-ta form) and it simplifies the Japanese verb conjugation system to the point where you’ll never have to worry about it again.

Too good to be true?

How could one small android do all that?

The answer is, I didn’t do it. The Japanese language did it. Japanese “conjugation” (so-called) really is amazingly simple, logical and easy to understand – if you look at it the way it really is.

Japanese is language done right. Until you start to apply Western models like “conjugation” to it. Then it becomes the confusing mess you find in the Western “Japanese grammar” textbooks.

So let’s just strip away the confusing ideas and show you the real Japanese verb conjugation chart.

It takes me a quarter of an hour to explain it (mostly because I walk you through showing how the same principle applies to all “conjugations”). Once you understand it in all its brilliant simplicity you will never need a Japanese verb conjugation chart again.

Please enjoy this video.

If you want to ask questions, please go direct to the YouTube page and use the comments section. I will answer as soon as possible.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the KawaJapa Cure Dolly Channel while you’re there!

Mini Q&A

Why is the は ひ ふ へ ほ (ha hi hu[fu] he ho) column written as ば び ぶ べ ぼ (ba bi bu be bo)?

Because there are no verbs ending in hu (fu) or pu. Also, I thought it too obvious to mention, but for completeness, please note that where there is a ten-ten on the last kana of a word we use the same ten-ten on its transitions. So およぐ (oyogu, swim)  becomes およが、およぎ (oyoga, oyogi) etc.

Why do you have -そう (-sou) among the helper-words on the i-row chart but don’t talk about it?

Because for the sake of simplicity I am covering only the main so-called Japanese conjugations. However, since the -そう (-sou, “seems like”) helper also attaches to the i-stem  in the same regular manner as everything else, I included it in the chart for completeness.

https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Japanese-Making-simple-really/dp/1539485501/

Dolly Departs

Your doll is leaving for Japan. I will be away for a couple of months, and while I am there (as some of you may already know) I don’t speak English.

However I have prepared some video lessons in advance, and while I was thinking in terms of a few mini-lessons, actually we turn out to have some pretty substantial material lined up that you won’t want to miss.

As I probably won’t have either the time or the magic powder (I leave my English Language circuits at Tokyo Airport so even writing English takes a lot of magic powder) I probably won’t be putting the videos here on KawaJapa or sending out DollyGrams about them.

I will, however, still be responding to comments and questions on the video lessons on YouTube. So if you have any questions feel free to pop them there.

So you might want to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss any.

Normal service will be resumed some time in October. However I am happy to say that what we have while I am away in terms of video lessons is going to be really interesting valuable.

Please enjoy it.

Can the GA particle really become NO in subordinate clauses?

The textbooks tell you that the ga-particle can become no in subordinate clauses.

It’s true – kind of – but it is one of the most clumsy and unhelpful explanations in the long history of clumsy and unhelpful explanations that Western “Japanese grammar” has racked up.

It is also dangerous because it tends to fuzz up the nature of the all-important ga-particle (the core of every Japanese sentence) even more than the textbooks have fuzzed it up already.

This video lesson will explain what is really going on in these sentences and how it is much simpler and more intuitive than the standard explanation leads you to believe.

I am putting in some further explanation for people who want more details, and if you want still more, this note sparked a very full and interesting discussion in the YouTube comments section which you may want to read. I’ve pinned the thread to the top so you can find it immediately.

A quick nerdy note for those interested

I am not saying that “Ga can become no in subordinate clauses” is untrue. I am saying that it is an unhelpful description for the following reasons:

1. It gives a very abstract and complicated appearance to what is essentially a very simple and intuitive phenomenon. If you don’t happen to know what a subordinate clause is already, it is useless. And it isn’t a good idea to learn what a subordinate clause is just for the purpose (as I am sure many people do) because…

2. If you do know what a subordinate clause is, it is still inadequate and confusing because the point really isn’t that the clause is subordinate. The point is that it is adjectival. Using the general term “subordinate” just serves to make it fuzzy.

3. (And this is the crux of the matter) It gives the impression that ga is suddenly replaced by the unrelated particle no for no very apparent reason (other than “it just is, so learn it”). It also gives the impression that there is perhaps “another no” that means something completely different from the usual no. Actually no is doing something not all that different from what it usually does. We are in fact using the possessive/attributive function of no to attribute an (already stated or assumed) action or state to an already known person or thing. So in terms of practical grammar it does tend to de-emphasize the adjectival clause (marking it as “old news” as it were and throwing the spotlight more firmly onto the thing it is describing).

4. It just adds one more little twist to the process of obscuring ga. Ga is the heart and foundation of Japanese grammar, and Western descriptions seem to be almost willfully throwing obstructions in the path of understanding the very key to the language. Of course there is nothing willful about it but it there might as well be. While this is nowhere near as damaging to the foundations of Japanese understanding as saying that koohii ga suki desu really means “I like coffee”, it just helps to muddy the waters of ga that little bit more. Maybe not such a quick note after all. ごめんなさい。