Posted in General, Japanese

Snowy Day

Actually not really. Most of the time, it was just rain and sleet. The snow doesn’t stay but it’s heavier than the one that we had when I attended the earthquake drill.

February is here and it also means we will have more wet days, so please get ready with your umbrella. The cheapest umbrellas are the clear and transparent ones. Some shops sell them for 300 yen.

I remember seeing that kind of umbrella for the first time maybe 25 years ago on the window display of a fancy shop around Marble Arch, London. I thought it was such a sexy see-through umbrella, then. It cost £20. 😱 Definitely not the kind of umbrella a student would use.

But now in Japan, because it’s too common, it had somehow lost its appeal. I wanted to be different last year, so I got a solid red colour umbrella. My husband borrowed it and left it in his office and then it simply disappeared. Someone must have ‘borrowed’ it.

A few days ago, I saw the transparent umbrellas being sold at a nearby shop. These ones are styled differently. Instead of having black frames and handles, they have colourful ones.

So today, when I returned from the Japanese class (we had completed book I and will start with book II Minna no Nihongo next week) and the rain turned heavier, I went and bought one with a purple handle.

See, I’m too sexy for my umbrella. 😜

Around me however, I observed many people were using solid colour umbrellas with patterns instead. Yeah, it was either they were still using their summer umbrellas or those were actually their early purchase for the coming spring.

(This was written last Thursday, the 9th of February. We had heavier snow on Friday. After my two-week’s absence, did you expect to see such a vain topic? Well, did you want me to rant about Trump’s crazy travel ban, instead? You might wish I never started, if I did. So, I’d rather stay on safe topics. 😊)

Posted in Japanese, School

2nd Week of January 2017

Today is a public holiday to celebrate the coming of age day. Tomorrow will be the first day of school in 2017 for my kids. My Japanese class will also start tomorrow.

I will proceed to the C class this semester after spending the autumn semester repeating the B class. (Only 3 chapters were repetition though, then I had 6 new chapters). I’d spent this winter break revising the past lessons especially the “te” form where I struggled the most in memorizing. 

My sensei had suggested learning it through songs and I found several on YouTube. However, constructing my own chart, I think I’ve got the hang of it. Finally! Alhamdulillah.

That’s the chart we got in class.

And here’s the chart I drew up myself. 

In my garden, I can still see some roses. Here they are, my January roses. Subhanallah!

These are probably the last ones for this season. 

Posted in General, Japanese

My Garden in November

I figured if I really want to blog, I should post the pictures I took, here rather than just sharing them on Instagram or Facebook.

Last autumn the only flowers I had in my garden were some yellow flowers that look like daisy which attracted the yellow butterflies. However, this year, on top of the yellow flowers, the roses are also blooming. They are not that spectacular but they give me enough pleasure when looking out the window of the tatami room. I feel so blessed that even in mid-autumn, I can still have flowers in a garden of my own. Alhamdulillah.

In the garden, there is also a plant with green reddish fruits. I don’t know its name. It must be some kind of inedible berry. This is how it looks.

This side of the garden is one long stretch from my bedroom, the living room and the tatami room. This is the garden view from the tatami room window.

Here is the view of the garden outside of my bedroom. The plant with the red leaves is a flowering dogwood. In summer/early autumn, it produces red fruits which attract many birds. It is lovely to listen to the birds singing. What irks me is the souvenir they left behind on the balcony next to my son, Ar’s room.     That gives me extra work to keep the balcony clean, but I guess that’s life. We shouldn’t really expect to have nice things without making any efforts. 

When we first came to view the house, we asked the agent for the name of the plant. He said he didn’t know. Because of the red fruits, I had mistakenly thought it was a Japanese barberry. But then, in spring when the flower appeared, I managed to find its correct name. The flowers are in white colour. I had seen other variety in pink and yellow.

This is how the flowers look like. This photo was taken from our balcony upstairs last April.

Posted in General, Japanese

Interview with my Daughter’s Friend

Today, my daughter forwarded some interview questions from her friend. It was rather long. Since I had made an effort in typing the answers, I might as well share it here. So, here it goes.

  1. Why do you travel there?

I came to Japan to accompany my husband who has been posted by his company to work in Tokyo. I’ve lived here for more than a year. 10 years ago, I also lived in a different part of Japan for about 20 months.

  1. How is the culture different from your original culture?

Japan has a very complex culture. It’s not easy to understand it especially if we don’t speak their language. They are very punctual, very hardworking and look down on lazy people, and very clean too. Cleaning the school or office is everyone’s responsibility. Even teachers are involved in cleaning up the school.

Japanese remove their shoes upon entering their homes, just like Malays but they take it even further. At school, children must bring a different set of shoes to be used only inside the school. Outside shoes cannot be used inside the school. For visitors, slippers are provided at the school entrance. Children at schools have a specific cleaning time. They are also required to brush teeth after lunch.

Shoes must also be removed when entering a fitting room in a shop/department store. In some changing rooms, high heels are provided so that we could see the length of the pants/skirts/dresses when wearing high heels. Even more extreme, in some fitting rooms, face covers are provided, so that when we try on the clothes, we would not dirty them with our make-up.


These are just a few examples of the cultural differences.

  1. What are the challenges that you confront as you try to communicate and understand their language?

Learning a new language is not easy. Japanese are written using 3 forms of writing. Hiragana, Katanana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are not so hard to learn, but Kanji is very hard. Most road signs, food labels, medicine description are in Kanji. I rely a lot on Google Translate app. I usually scan the writing using my phone, and then get it translated into English. The translation might not be accurate, but that’s the best solution I have so far.

One clinic required me to bring a translator along because they didn’t have staff that could speak English. Fortunately, a friend volunteered to accompany me and be the interpreter.

In order to drive in Japan, Malaysian drivers are allowed to used International Driving License only during the first year of our stay. After that, we need a Japanese driving licence. I have to take a driving test where everything is conducted in Japanese. I understand probably only half of what the instructors say. I had failed my test three times.

4. What do you feel when you first talk to them?

I don’t really understand this question. Do you want to know how I feel every time I talk to a Japanese? Well, it depends on the situation.

If I know they can speak English, I will not worry at all.

On the other hand, if I’m not sure, I’ll try to communicate with my limited Japanese knowledge and resort to pointing and sign language when necessary and also use some English words.

Sometimes, I also use the Google Translate app. Type in English, get it translated by the app and then show it to the person concerned.

  1. Your reaction and their reaction when both sides don’t understand each other?

I will just give up after trying all of the above. That person who is talking to me might go and find his colleague or friend to help us out.

6.What do you do to learn their language? Do you find it easy or not?

I learn mainly by attending a class twice a week. Altogether, I spend three and a half hours in class and besides that, I might do homework. Sometimes, I try to watch Japanese TV programme, but the story must be interesting enough to make me finish watching from beginning till the end.

7. Do you sense any improvement within yourself?

I have some improvement in reading Hiragana and Katakana but I’m still rather slow at writing. I still do not memorise all of them, I keep on referring to the charts.

8. Do you have funny or interesting experience in the learning process?

Last week, I had to go to a clinic and could not attend my Japanese class. I thought it would be a good practice to write in Japanese. However, after I had sent the message to my teacher, I realised that I had made some mistakes. I used “gomen kudasai” when it should have been “gomen nasai”.I thought “gomen kudasai” was the more polite form of gomen nasai when they actually meant something else and to be used in a completely different situation. 😀

9. Phrases and daily sentences that you know? (kita harap arifah boleh bagi 5 and above onegaishimasu!)

i.Chotto matte kudasai. Please wait a moment.

ii. Sumimasen, _____ doko desu ka? Excuse me, where is ______?

iii. _________ arimasu ka? Do you have ________?

iv. Ikura desu ka? How much is it?

v. Hai, daijobu desu. Yes, it’s alright.

10. Is there any similarities between your language and their language?

A few similarities:

  1. In Malay, we end a question with kah or ke and in Japanese it ends with ka.
  2. In Malay, it’s considered impolite to address a second person as awak or kamu especially when they are older or in a higher position. In Japanese, the word anatawa is rarely used either. It is better to address the person we are speaking to by their name with the title –san. If they are teachers, doctors, or instructors, they are usually addressed as Sensei.



Posted in General, Japanese

Driving Test

Yesterday, Wednesday 27th of July, 2016, my husband and I went for a practical driving test at Fuchu Drivers’s License Center (they use American spelling here). Malaysian drivers are allowed to use international driving licence for only up to one year in Japan and after that we need to have a Japanese driving licence if we want to drive in this country. We arrived in Japan on the 26th of July, 2015, therefore we definitely cannot use the international licence anymore. We do not own a car at the moment, but even if we want to rent a car, we still need to have a valid driving licence.

The testing place is 24 km away from our house. It takes nearly one and a half hours to reach there because we need to change train at Shinjuku and then take a bus from Mushashi-koganei station to the centre.We left home before 6 a.m. to avoid the morning peak hours and to ensure ample time to be there before 8:30 a.m.. I was anxious the night before the test and could not really sleep. I prepared breakfast at 5 a.m. and even the kids woke up early to have breakfast with us.

When we changed train from Shinjuku-sanchome station and walked to Shinjuku station to take the Chuo line, it was rather confusing. There were rapid and local trains and we decided to be on the safe side and took the local train which stopped at all stations. The train was not too crowded and we could still find seats. We thought we could go direct to Musashi-koganei but the train that we took  had a final stop at Mitaka. We had to go to another platform to find the train to go to Musashi-koganei. It turned out that we had made a mistake. The rapid train is the one that goes to Musashi-koganei and the local train only goes up to Mitaka. On the rapid train, there were many people, so we had to stand. From Musashi-koganei we took a cab to go to the test centre because taking a bus would be too confusing, we might get off at the wrong stop. The cab cost us 1,000 yen.

We reached Fuchu Drivers’ License Center at around 7:40. Before we went for the test, we had done a lot of research on the internet. We read tips and watched videos on Youtube. We had the general ideas on what to do but still I could not help feeling nervous especially because of my limited Japanese language ability. One of the tips we read suggested that we arrived early at the centre so that we could take a walk at the driving course (the test site). When we arrived, we saw a long queue of Japanese but only one other foreigner. We tried to take a peek at the driving course, but an officer said something to us in Japanese. We didn’t really understand what he said, but we could assume that he was telling us off, that the place was out of bound.

By 8 a.m., the door was opened. We went straight to the 3rd floor, counter 31 meant for matters relating to conversion of foreign driving licence. We joined the queue and when our turns came, submitted the envelope we brought with us. The envelope contained the translation of our Malaysian driving licence, juminhyo (a proof of address issued by the ward office), copies of our residence card and driving licence and application form which had been processed by Samezu Driving Test Centre one month earlier. (We went to Samezu back in June to do the first part of the application and to take a written test and vision test. The written test contained only 10 questions. We had to do it on a computer. Surprisingly, the questions were in Malay, rather than English. Then they gave the practical driving test for 27th of July.) The officer checked our documents and told us to have a seat and wait.

At 9 o’clock an officer came and gave a short briefing in Japanese. I thought we were ready to be tested, but no, we had to wait for some more. 2 more officers came. Officer 1 called out names of people and asked them to form a line in the order that he had told them. Those were people who were going to be tested by him. Then Officer 2 called out more names. I was no 4 and my husband was number 5 to be tested by this Officer. We also formed a line. Then he told us to follow him to go to another briefing room downstairs.

We followed him, told to sit in two rows of chairs, according to our numbers and then listened for another lecture. All these talks were in Japanese, I could probably understand about 5% of it, that’s how poor my Japanese is. We were told to turn off our phones. The talk ended at 9:30 a.m. and we were told to go outside.

This is already too long, so I’ll continue this tomorrow.