Shinjuku Gyoen / 新宿御苑

Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful and expansive garden in the heart of Tokyo that contains many different sub-areas showing off various aesthetic styles, including Japanese, English, and French.
Nestled in the Japanese areas, there’s even a tea house where you can stop in for a cup of strong ‘matcha’ and a piece of ‘wagashi,’ a Japanese treat that normally accompanies the tea.
Adult admission is only 200 yen, or 2000 yen for a year pass, which makes it a popular place for locals to come to have a picnic or set up a stool and practice their drawing or painting. If you plan a trip to Tokyo, it’s definitely worth a visit!
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Human Japanese Intermediate for Windows 8 Now Available!

We’re proud to announce that Human Japanese Intermediate for Windows 8 is now available in the Windows Store. Optimized for both desktop and tablet devices, this stunning new edition of Human Japanese Intermediate is your rocket ship to the next level of Japanese. Together, we’ll fly deep into topics you need to understand to reach your goals, all the while maintaining the sense of humor and warm tone that you know and love.

Download a free trial today and continue your journey.

CreateUser
Multiple users sharing a PC or tablet can track their progress independently.

KanjiAnimations
Learn your kanji with animations, example sentences, discussion, illustrations, and more.

ExampleSentences
Example sentences automatically keep track of what kanji you’ve learned and adjust the “spelling” (kanji vs. kana vs. kanji with furigana) to match. No more chicken-and-egg frustration!

Ingredients
An instant breakdown of example sentences is always just one tap away.

CulturalNotes
Cultural vignettes provide a breath of fresh air and keep you excited about the language.

FullScreenPhotos
Full-screen photos show how life really works in Japan.

KanjiStrokeOrderQuiz
Five different kinds of quizzes, such as this kanji stroke order review, track your history and help you focus on trouble spots.

Chapters
Unlock content by successfully completing chapter-end reviews. Or, if you prefer, choose to roam freely in Settings.

 

Human Japanese 3.0 for Windows Desktop now available

We are very proud to announce that after more than seven years, Human Japanese for Windows Desktop has received a major overhaul and is ready for download. This update brings the app up-to-speed with the features we’ve introduced more recently in Intermediate, such as chapter-unlocking quizzes, full-screen photos, Ingredients™ example sentence breakdowns, and more.

If you’re not using Human Japanese yet, download a free trial here. We think you’ll like what you see.

And if you already own a copy of Human Japanese 2.0 for Windows Desktop, great news — this is a free update! Just have your original activation code ready to go and use this wizard to get started.

Helping you reach your language goals is what drives us, and we hope this new update will keep you energized and inspired on your journey. Thank you for your support, and best wishes on your continuing journey!

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Update: Checking in with Steven

The other day, we had a chance to catch up with Steven, who you’ll recall is currently on foreign exchange in Japan, attending a local high school and using the Human Japanese apps as part of his study regimen. Steven is about a week away from wrapping up a 10-month stay, so it was a good time to look back over the trip and reflect on things.

What has life been like over the last ten months? Steven says that at first it was challenging, but that it was amazing after getting over that initial hump. No matter how much you study in advance (Steven had taken two years of high school Japanese), nothing can quite prepare you for the onrush of real-world Japanese that greets you as you step off the plane — it’s like moving from a quiet stream to a raging river — and one of the biggest frustrations in the beginning was simply not being able to express himself fluidly and naturally like he does back home.

This had the good effect, however, of motivating Steven to study hard. Utilizing a variety of materials, he relied on Human Japanese Intermediate to make the pieces click. He told us, “Every time I finish a chapter in HJ Intermediate I wonder how I ever got by without that knowledge before!” (We’re very proud of Intermediate and think it fits well with what people at Steven’s stage need in their studies — download a free trial here.)

When we talked to him recently, Steven was very happy about his current Japanese language skills. Speaking Japanese feels easy and natural for him now. At this point, when a thought or a feeling percolates up in him, it just automatically comes out in Japanese — a fantastically satisfying feeling and the real meaning of fluency.

From an early point during his stay, Steven has been reading various material, including manga, but as a way of going to the next level in his understanding of the language and culture,  Steven has started reading Japanese novels, which he describes as “a whole new world” of Japanese. He describes it as a challenging but immensely rewarding experience that he intends to continue upon returning to his native Canada.

Steven’s stay in Japan has been rewarding in other ways. The experience of living with host families provided a glimpse into everyday life that not many foreigners are privileged to see. Coming home from school and making chit-chat with his host mother, or seeing a host sibling get in trouble for shirking his chores, or just hanging out with the family — these are simple but precious moments, memories that will stay with him and inform his Japanese at a “gut level” for years to come.

The same goes for his slightly rough-and-tumble, all-boys high school, which at first shattered Steven’s expectations of a calm and orderly Japanese learning environment. Now completely a part of the school, Steven speaks warmly about his classmates — about the nicknames they all have for each other, the camaraderie, the rambunctious sense of humor. He laughs as he describes how, walking down the halls at school, people in entire other buildings will bang on the windows to get his attention and wave to him. Being a foreigner in Japan means never quite fitting in completely, but it also means being a kind of celebrity. And that can be a lot of fun.

Upon getting back to Canada, Steven intends to keep using his Japanese language skills by creating a meetup group for Japanese speakers and possibly getting a job where he can speak Japanese.

We’re proud to have been a part of Steven’s journey, and we wish him all the best as he wraps up his foreign exchange and embarks on the next stage of life. スティーブンさん、これからも頑張ってください!

 

Ki wo kubaru / きをくばる

We’re always impressed by the little ways Japanese businesses show that they’re really thinking about the customer in Japan. At this outdoor cafe in Daikan-yama, Tokyo, on a sunny but brisk morning, there was a blanket on each and every chair for patrons to put on their laps.

The expression for thinking carefully about the experience and comfort of other people is 気を配る / きをくばる / ‘ki wo kubaru,’ and seeing it in action is always a delight.

Izakaya / 居酒屋

Japanese food culture: Izakaya (いざかや・居酒屋)

Walk around any Japanese city after dark and you’re likely to stumble upon lots of little bars — often tiny places that seat as few as ten people — that specialize in small dishes of traditional Japanese food. Known as ‘izakaya,’ you can think of these down-to-earth places as the Japanese equivalent of the tapas bar.

The one pictured here specializes in seafood. Starting in the upper left and moving clockwise, the dishes are 1) Shirasu, tarako, and daikon over rice, 2) Whole squid with a sauce made from its insides, 3) broiled broad beans with a pile of salt, and 4) roasted bamboo shoots. These dishes are meant for sharing over drinks, so grab a few friends and check one out!