Last weekend we moved house. Our new place is a house rather than an apartment, just 1km north of our previous apartment. If you need my new address then please drop me an email.

Almost a year since my last blog post. Very bad of me. The last one was a report that I’d finished Kiki’s Delivery Service Book 2. It’s taken me ten months to finish books 3 and 4, but I’ve now done so. I’m just over half-way through Book 5 (which I’m racing through, having read the first 150 pages of 280 in just over two weeks). I’ve also now seen the recent live action Kiki movie. This is definitely derived from the first book, rather than from the Ghibli animation. In some ways it sticks closer to the book. For instance Kiki cannot accept money in return for her magic services. It’s never quite explicit in the book, and the “economics” of this are somewhat glossed over in terms of how she manages daily existence if she can’t earn money (or possibly can’t even deal with money directly). There’s something of an implication of receiving services in “barter” for her own and she can certainly accept gifts in kind in exchange for her services. Although this bit is closer to the book, and some of the scenes/sequences in the movie are heavily inspired by chapters in the book, it’s still quite a departure from the book in many terms. In the book there’s a sequence with a girl asking her to deliver a black envelope to another girl, which it turns out is an old tale of witches cursing people. In the book this is dealt with on the small scale of the girls involved only, whereas in the movie it’s part of the plot whereby after this incident people start distrusting Kiki and even returning things she’s delivered to them, back to Kiki instead of back to the sender.

I watched the movie in Japanese (no choice – there doesn’t seem to be an English subtitle version available – but I wanted to do that anyway). Since I know the story pretty well and it’s a kids/teen movie, I was able to follow much of the dialogue well enough, but I certainly wasn’t understanding every sentence in detail. Harder than the book, of course, since spoken word is harder to follow because of speed and difficulty to re-tread (I was watching it with $DAUGHTER so could hardly stop every thirty seconds and re-play to get the dialogue, though I may do some of this later to try to improve my Japanese listening).

2013 Typhoon No. 26 will make move through Tokyo area in the next 12-18 hours. It is not seriously dangerous, though will disrupt transport. Luckily for me I have no appointments tomorrow so will just work at home. $WIFE has to go to the office (but has rearranged a meeting outside since her interviewee is not sure of being able to make it in) but she uses the subway to get there, so should be fine.

The first week this month, I was in LA. A few days after getting back from that I flew the other direction to Denmark. After a week of me being jetlagged at home $WIFE headed off to Canada leaving me to do my part of taking care of $DAUGHTER as a lone working parent (I am NOT complaining about this – I do it too often to her and she doesn’t complain). She arrived back in Tokyo yesterday and less than 24 hours later (just fourteen hours after she arrived home I left home) I flew out on the trip I’m currently in transit on. I’m in the Senator Lounge at Munich airport in transit to Lisbon (there are no direct flights from Tokyo to Lisbon that I can see, so I’m on Lufthansa via Munich on the way out and Frankfurt on the way back). Two days after I get back to Tokyo I head off to Hong Kong. At least that’s a medium haul flight, daytime flight both ways and only one hour time difference. I get a break from travel then until late August and Worldcon.

Unfortunately my talk is the first one in the first session after the opening plenary tomorrow morning, and because of the connection I’mnot even scheduled to land in Lisbon until 21:50. Still, I’ve no hold luggage and Lisbon airport isn’t far out so I hope to get to the hotel and fall over by around 23:00.

Yesterday I took $DAUGHTER to Kinshicho Park. She reall enjoys the fountain (with sideshows) and the playground in there. It’s all new, rebuilt in the last two years. On the pedestrian way in nearest the train station there are 15 inch high removable bollards. I know exactly how high they are because there’s a hole in the skin on my shin 15 inches up where I walked into one of them. It’s hard to see down there them when carrying a toddler on your front and you’re paying attention to elders with walking frames, kids and adults on bikes and other parents with pushchairs.


SO I’ve now been sudying Japanese for eight years. In the first few years I was only so-so committed to spending the time on it. After my sabbatical here in 2007 I got much more committed to it and since moving here I’ve started using the Anki flashcard system which encourages me in a number of ways to study quite hard (1-2 hours per day typically, self-study, plus a one hour personal lesson every week). With both my teacher in the UK and my new teacher here, sometimes I’d feel like I was making no progress. That’s because they’re good teachers and are always pushing just beyond my confort zone, so I always feel like I’m working hard, and sometimes I’m failing at things. $WIFE and $COLLEAGUES do tell me I’m improving, though. Certainly I can read more of the kanji I see on the street and occasionally I can keep up with (some of) the substitles (part of the normal broadcast) on news programmes that $WIFE watches. I can even sometimes figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word and its pronunciation because I already know its constituent kanji characters from other words (or on their own).
Today I managed something that I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to. When I bought my current laptop the store didn’t have extra power supplies available, and when I enquired later they don’t stock them as standard and advised going direct to ASUS. Before Christmas I checked with ASUS and they didn’t have stock. Today I checked their website and they had stock in, so I ordered two extras (I need one for home, one for the office and one for the bag). Yes, I do need these – once in the past three months I forgot to unplug the power supply at home when heading into the office – luckily I was able to keep things short in the office anyway and come back home for the rest of the day. Why this is relevant to my improving Japanese is that the Asus Japan website is entirely in Japanese and I was able to find what I was looking for, check they had stock and go through the whole ordering process, while being absolutely certain I understood everything on the way and without having to look any words up in a dictionary. I’ve done similar things before, though I usually have to ask $WIFE to help or at least look a few things up in the dictionary. Now, this is obviously not fluency. I have a long way to go yet. According to my Anki studies I’ve only completed the JLPT2 vocabulary and have another 3000 words/phrases to learn to get to JLPT1 (the highest level and supposedly equivalent to high school gradate Japanese, at least in listening and reading, with some claim to “writing” ability but no speaking test). However, it is progress. I was also able to have a real conversation with $FATHER-IN-LAW and $MOTHER-IN-LAW at the New Year family party without needing interpretation by $WIFE. My grammar used to be ahead of my vocabulary. I think it’s now the other way around and I must add appropriate grammar cards to my Anki deck and interleave new vocabulary with the grammar. I think it will take me until 2015 to be basically fluent and maybe 2017 before I think I could even approach doing my job in Japanese. But, it’s nice to feel progress and have confidence that the work I’m putting in is paying off.