Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking For a Fun Way to Learn Japanese?

Learning Japanese often feels like an unending marathon with lots of effort but little to show for it. Over the years I have found that comic relief is essential and really does help with learning the language.

Here is a clip that we usually watch when we have visitors from outside Japan, if you have studied Japanese at least a little you will probably get a lot of enjoyment out of it:

A Group of Cats Learning Japanese (you will need flash installed to view this clip)
SHIMBASHI - The Yamanote Line
CHIBA - Japanese Prefectures (Thanks to Stephen Shores for the tip)

[Scot's note: these are both done by the comedy duo "The Ramens", who also did the video series I posted a little while ago]

If you have found a fun way to learn Japanese that works for you, please leave a comment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Great Communion Celebration -- an example from TEAM mission meeting in Japan

One of Nancy Nethercott’s passions is celebrating Christian communion… she also thrives on planning communion services for both large and small groups. Below is Nancy’s description of the Christ-centered communion service she recently planned for our mission here in Japan.

We had a wonderful morning (final session) on Saturday of our mission annual conference, celebrating communion in a way that made it fresh and memorable. Our theme for the week was from John 10:10 " the Full." So, I had ordered large loaves of light rye bread from the local bakery (Asanoya) which Tom & Nancy Edwards cut it into large chunks. Tom and Nancy also prepared much larger than usual glasses of juice. After a time of worship through music and Scripture, Steve Baughn shared a short devotional. The people came down the center aisle of the chapel to receive the elements and then fanned out around the outer edge of the chapel in a circle holding the elements until we were all served (there were around seventy people in attendance).

Then, Steve broke a large loaf of bread as he said, “The body of Christ given for you;” and poured juice from a large pitcher into a clear glass as he said, “the blood of Christ shed for you; remembering the lavish sacrifice of Christ, partake with thankfulness in your hearts.” We ate and drank for an extended time savoring the "abundance,” and "fullness" of the provision of Jesus Christ - it was quite special. We closed with singing the traditional “Doxology.”

I got many comments afterwards about how meaningful this time of communion was. People entered into singing the songs and seemed to appreciate the "Scripture Tapestry" reading that Karyn, Gerald, and I presented. It was a Scripture reading focusing on Christ (from John 1) with related verses woven in (this reading is from Reformed Worship magazine June 2008 issue, pages 32-33). The larger than usual servings were a visual reminder of just how big and lavish the love of Jesus is.

Instruments included two guitars and one piano -- Mike Gray and Paul Nethercott played guitar with Tim Johnson and Rita Schellenberg taking turns on the piano. Nancy Nethercott, Angie Carter, and Tim Johnson were the lead singers.

Communion Service for TEAM Japan Annual Conference
Karuizawa, Japan August 16, 2008

Order of worship:

Song: Lord, Reign in Me (by Brenton Brown)

Song: Jesus, Hope of the Nations (by Brian Doerksen)

Scripture Tapestry: Read by Nancy Nethercott, Karyn Zaayenga and Gerald May
(This group practiced several times, they were well prepared which was an important aspect of the effectiveness of this reading)

Song: Here I am to worship (by Tim Hughes)

Recognition and prayer for several members of TEAM (this took about 40 minutes)

Song: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (by Stuart Townend)

Prayer from “The Worship Sourcebook” (based on 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 2:24)

All pray:
Awesome and compassionate God,
you have loved us with unfailing, self-giving mercy,
but we have not loved you.
You constantly call us, but we do not listen.
You ask us to love, but we walk away from neighbors in need,
wrapped in our own concerns.
We condone evil, prejudice, warfare, and greed.
God of grace, as you come to us in mercy,
we repent in spirit and in truth,
admit our sin, and gratefully receive your forgiveness
through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.

Silent Prayer

Hear the good news:
This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
that we might be dead to sin,
and alive to all that is good.
I affirm to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
you are forgiven.

All: Thanks be to God.

Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness (traditional)

Steve Baughn: Communion Devotional (about ten minutes)

Communion Ceremony

Closing Song: The Doxology (traditional)

NOTE: We used a Power Point presentation that included several photos, the service was on the long side, but it did not seem too long, as everyone in attendance was invested in the TEAM related presentation/prayer for members.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Anime/Manga 101: A "What's What" and "How To" Guide from a Christian Perspective - Manga Formats

In the last entry to this series, we looked at Anime Formats, where we talked about anime movies, OVAs, and TV Series. In this entry, we are going to look at Manga Formats. The series is going to be reordered and renamed to the following:

Anime/Manga 101 - A "What's What" and "How To" Guide From a Christian Perspective
I. Anime Formats
II. Manga Formats
III. Genres
IV. Vocabulary
V. Common Themes

The previous entry to this series has been updated accordingly.

2. Manga Formats

Manga is a printed media, rather than its audiovisual counterpart, anime. Therefore, it doesn't suffer from the same time constraints. Though anime always has to be 23 minutes long and broken into chunks of 13, manga can really be as long or short as it needs to be. So, as we talk about manga formats, understand that the numbers are much more approximate than the numbers we used last time.

Manga exists in four major formats pertaining to when and how the manga is published. Most manga exists first in a magazine that can be bought at a convenience store. They are phonebook-sized, quite heavy, and very cheap (from 250-600 Yen apiece for a 300-700 page magazine). The ink that is used is low quality, and the paper is akin to newspaper. After a certain number of chapters are published, they will be collected into a tankoubon (aka. Trade Paperback, volume), which uses acid-free paper and high-quality ink. The number of chapters in each paperback depends on the publishing format. Let's take a look.

Unserialized/ Volumes
- This is the rarest type of (popular) manga. It is not serialized in a magazine at all, but is released in whole volumes. Sometimes, these have chapters, and sometimes they just read straight through. Many non-Japanese manga (specifically Original English Language [OEL] manga from Tokyopop) use this format. New Life League Japan's manga series also uses this format.

There is a subsection of this format called doujinshi, or self-published works. This is a wide category that can include fan works from pre-existing series (akin to fan fiction), original manga from popular artists that they don't want to sell in the mainstream, and original works from non-professional authors. However, be careful searching for the word "doujinshi" on the internet. Though it isn't the case in the actual world, a majority of internet doujinshi that's posted is pornographic in nature.

How to Read: in general, series that are published this way tend to be much shorter, often less than five volumes. However, these volumes tend to be spaced very far apart; often up to a year or more. Therefore, it is good to read the volumes as they come out and then re-read the previous one before you move onto the new one. For me, a manga volume takes a little over an hour to read. I often read it in multiple sittings.

Monthly Mangas - These manga, as the title suggests, are published monthly. Many monthly manga magazines exist in Japan, including Shounen Ace, Shounen Gangan, and Jump S.Q. Monthly magazines, because of their release schedule, tend to have much longer chapters than weekly manga. Oftentimes, a chapter is between 30 and 50 pages, though I have seen some that go up to 60. This also means that there are less chapters in each paperback volume. Paperbacks from monthly mangas range between 4 and 6 chapters per volume, and are generally released about 2 months after the last chapter is finished, meaning that the magazines are often 6 months ahead of the books.

Similar to monthly mangas, but much rarer, are bi-monthly mangas. These are exactly the same except for their release schedule.

How to Read:
unlike the mangas published in volumes, it is a little bit easier to remember the story from month to month. I would suggest reading these chapters as they come out, and then once every six months or once a year, re-read everything again.

Weekly Mangas - These are manga series that are published every week, with the exception of certain holiday weeks. Some of the most famous manga in history are weekly mangas, including Dragonball, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Slam Dunk, Death Note, and far too many more to list. Many weekly magazines exist, but none of them come close to Weekly Shonen Jump, which sells 3 million copies a week in Japan, and is even published in America. Because of their frequent releases, weekly manga tend to be much shorter; usually 15-20 pages. This also means that in their bound form, there are more chapters per volume. Each trade paperback has about 8-12 chapters in it, and they are released much more frequently than the tankoubon for monthly mangas.

How to Read: Read these as they come out. There should be little reason to go back and re-read chapters, as the weekly releases keep your memory fresh. Even if you are only reading these in trade paperback format, the more frequent release schedule makes things much easier. Also, because of the frequent releases, weekly manga tend to be less "dense" in terms of story (with some notable exceptions).

One-Shots - One shots are manga stories that are contained within a single chapter. They appear in both weekly and monthly magazines on a regular basis, usually when one of the regular artists is taking a break. One-shot mangas sometimes operate as a standalone story, and sometimes they are simply pilot-chapters that an artist uses to sell a new idea; if it gets good ratings, they may get an offer to turn it into a series. One-shots are usually a first step into the business for young artists, though establish artists are also known to try out new ideas in this format. Some magazines even hold one-shot competitions. Unlike the other three formats, one-shots rarely make it into trade paperbacks, because of their size.

How to Read:
Read it straight through. If you like it, you may want to physically cut it out of the magazine you read it from and keep it in a file.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Looking for Great Photos of Japan?

Photos of Japan are easy to come by; good photos of Japan are a little bit rarer. I have spent time slogging through different websites out there looking for great photos of Japan, and have found some gems -- several that belong to friends of mine. So, enjoy browsing through their sites. If you use any of these pictures, please give credit to the photographer!

Andy Gray
- Japan Window (Various) : Andy has a tremendous collection of very good photos on his site -- this is a rich resource for photos of Japan AND for commentary on life in Japan. Andy and his family (he has three cute little girls, two of which are twins) lived next door to me for a couple of years. At that he was just getting his web site established but now, he has almost one thousand photos, organized in easy to navigate categories. A number of Andy's photos feature one or more of his daughters. []

Andy Gray just sent me the following wonderful photo, and wrote "these days I'm posting more at rather than at

For several more amazing people photos by Andy go HERE

Tim Crowson
- Tim Crowson Photography (Scenery and Black Gospel Concert): During the two years Tim lived in Japan he took some exceptional photos. Many of his scenery shots are stunning, and he also has an album of photos he took at a black gospel choir concert (with mostly Japanese singers!). []

Robin White - Outlook on Japan (City Shots/Everyday Life): Robin lives in Nagoya, so he has lots of opportunities to get shots of people going about their daily business. []

Here are a few more options from people that I don't know:

TREK EARTH Trek Earth (Locations): a huge collection of photos organized by location. If you are looking for shots of a particular place in Japan, this is a great place to start. []

Chuck Neel
(aka Slug) - Japan Photo Gallery by Slug (People): Lots of people shots, primarily in and around Tokyo. []

Eric Lafforgue's Flickr Page (Close Ups of People): a good site for closeups of people of all fashions (ancient and modern) and ages. You'll find everything from standard to sumo to kabuki to the street fashions of Shibuya and Harajuku. []

"ENGRISH" Site (Humor): is a classic site chronicling badly used English in advertisements, signs, and translated media. Not all of it is from Japan, but a good portion is. This site is great for a laugh. []

I hope you enjoy these pictures. Do you know of any more great sites? Do you want to put in a plug for your own photos of Japan? Leave a comment!

Thanks to Scot Eaton for his excellent editing help on this post.