When Midterms Get Tough, Students Go Shopping!

Hello again, and welcome to another installment of Big Hippo on Campus.  This weekend was another instance of sticking around campus, as my transportation specialist was facing midterms.  The Japanese and Eastern Asian History classes do not concern him much, but he seems to be a bit worried about the Japanese Language one.  He seems to be doing okay with the homework and the in class exercises, but test performance still gives him anxiety.  As for me, I’m just chilling out and trying to figure out how to use his spare tablet to get Domino’s pizza delivered.

Upshot is that for the short times we did get out this weekend, they were work trips.  After a fashion, at least.  Our first visit was to the Nitori Mall in Sagamihara.  It is a little over a 20 minute walk from the Global Residence where we are staying.  The day was bright and sunny with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 Fahrenheit) with a respectable level of humidity.  I’m glad I don’t mind the humidity.

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Japan has a HUGE electric rat problem.

My transportation specialist had two objectives visiting here, a bookstore and an arts and crafts store.  He was looking for starter kits in the arts and crafts store for a couple of traditional Japanese hand crafts, hoping to be able to demonstrate some of what he learned while he’s over here to the people back home.  Unfortunately, the shops in the mall that he looked at didn’t seem to have anything for the crafts he was looking for.

His trip to the bookstore turned out to be unexpectedly successful, however.  My transportation specialist was looking for some books for learning Japanese reading and writing that were aimed at the preschool or kindergarten level, seeing as that seems to be the level he is understanding.  While the mall did not have a bookstore, per se, however, it did have a Toys ‘R’ Us.  There he found a couple of books that looked just childish enough to work.

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We went to the mall and all I got was to sin near the books.

On my left is a book written in Japanese that tells 20 different Japanese stories that share mythic qualities with European fairy tales.  They have a minimum of Kanji in them, but sometimes still are somewhat difficult to puzzle out due to the conjugations and other grammatical elements that are unfamiliar.  However, they are aimed at 3-6 year olds, so hopefully my transportation specialist can puzzle them out before he leaves.  In any case, just the practice of reading them, even without total comprehension can aid in improving his ability to turn the words into sounds.  The book on my right is an activity book, similar to one that a preschooler might use to work on the alphabet.  It is hoped that more guided practice will help with fluency of character recognition and retention of what he’s already learned.  He’s not bright, but he tries so hard.   Too bad there is no try.

In addition to these constructive methods of reading comprehension acquisition, my transportation specialist found a second hand item shop that has an extensive collection of manga, video games, figures, and other pop culture odds and ends.  There after asking, in mostly correct Japanese, even, he found a the first volumes of a couple of mangas that had been indicated to be easy on early readers.

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Yes, I’m starting Dragonball.  Don’t judge.

The manga on my left is called Yotsubato! and it chronicles the adventures of a 5 year old girl named Yotsuba and her slice of life adventures in suburban Japan.  The child is very energetic and keeps her single father on his toes, as well as the neighbors.  The down to earth subject matter should also help with gaining vocabulary that might be useful in daily life.  The tome on my right is the tip of the iceberg that is Dragonball, a long running series of manga that has spawned numerous spin offs, anime, and a movie or twelve.  It has also inspired many of the current creators of the most popular series in Japan.  It starts out as a tongue in cheek retelling of Journey Into the West a classic Chinese myth, but soon spirals wildly out of control with dinosaurs, martial arts, modern armies, robots, and various monstrous beasts.  Then the sequels add aliens and things start to get crazy.  It is also aimed at a younger audience, and should be easier to read than some of the manga aimed at teenagers that my transportation specialist had at home.  These are the treats that should help motivate him in his studies.

Next week midterms will be over, and I will be on the downward slide of my Japanese adventure.  There’s so many things I still want to do.  Maybe I can talk the pack mule into going out next weekend, but I’m not holding my breath.   Mostly because I don’t have lungs.

Until next time, Hippo Hippo!

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