David Chart's Japan Diary

December 13th 2003

I haven't been off to any exciting parts of Japan this week, so the news part of this entry will be fairly brief.

I have been doing quite a bit of socialising. On Tuesday, I had dinner with Sonia, Mike, and Emi, and then we stayed up until about 4 am talking. In conclusive proof that I'm over my illness and caught up on sleep, I made it into school on Wednesday, stayed awake during lessons, and even did my homework. I did sleep quite a lot Wednesday night, though. On Thursday, I had dinner with Paul, who is going back to England tomorrow. He treated me to dinner at a restaurant called Hanekita (I think -- that's one possible reading of the kanji in its name, anyway), which was very nice, and vegetarian. So certain family members may get taken there in a few months.

A couple of days ago I tried to pay my rent by credit card, and the fraud check at the Co-op flagged up the transaction, so I had to phone them to sort it out. I'm not entirely sure why they flagged it, particularly as I was able to pay using my other Co-op credit card without any problems. I told them I was going to be in Japan, and I'd already used the card several times over here for things like accommodation and train fares, so I guess we have to put that down to the mysteries of pattern-recognition computers. Everything should be alright now, though.

And that's about it for news. Today I read a book, washed my bedding and aired my futons, and that's about it. Exciting, neh.

Two Months In

Well, nearer two and a half, but I didn't have time to write a summary any nearer the time. Two months in, things are going well.

School is definitely going well. I can now understand the lessons, with occasional sentences where I miss a word or two, rather than occasionally catching something. My listening comprehension is still weaker than it needs to be, but it is undoubtedly a lot better than it was. My marks on the morning grammar tests are completely independent of the amount of work I do, and of my understanding of the grammar involved, depending instead on the vocabulary involved in the questions, which occasionally goes beyond what I've learned. My marks on the kanji tests are much better correlated with whether I revise the kanji properly in advance.

My vocabulary is larger, my conversational fluency is much improved, and I can read Japanese aloud much more fluently. There's still more effort going into producing sounds than into getting the meaning when I do that, but I'm sure that will come with further practice. I think my straight reading comprehension is improving as well, but there it's a bit less obvious.

I still frequently feel bad at Japanese in school, but that's to be expected as the lessons have moved on as I've got better, so I'm constantly working near the limits of my ability. I wonder whether it might not be good to not move up to a class continuous with this one next quarter, and thus both be under slightly less pressure in school, and have a chance to consolidate my current level. I know that when I devoted six months or so of self-study to consolidating basic Japanese, that paid off. One result of this feeling is that I'm not knocking myself out to prepare for the placement test next week. We have a composition on Monday and a standard test on Thursday, and the results will be used to put us into classes for next quarter. Underperforming slightly on that test might actually be a sound strategic move... In general the school will move you up or down at the beginning of a quarter, but if the appropriate class is full, you can't move -- in either direction. So, while I'm not going to make deliberate mistakes, I don't think I'm going to devote all my waking hours to revision.

Outside school is going as well or better. I'm getting on with my freelancing, although I need to do a bit more of that (another reason for not spending too long on revision), and I'm managing to set aside reading time most days. I've done all the 'must visits' already, which means that I can relax a bit. I still want to see Yuko and Yuka, which will mean a couple of long trips, and there are a few more places I want to go, but Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara are all done.

The conversation exchange meeting I've set up here seems to be going all right. I couldn't go last week because we had a test I did want to revise for the following day, but there are enough Japanese people turning up. I might need to spread the word a bit more at Yamasa, though.

I've got a number of Japanese friends in Okazaki now, and several friends from among the Yamasa students, although Paul, as mentioned above, is now going back to the UK.

Overall, I've certainly not got time to get bored.