Osechi-ryouri (おせちりょうり – 御節料理)
Meaning: Traditional New Year’s Day food in Japan. Many traditional foods are served in stacked boxes called juubako like the photo.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osechi


謹賀新年、明けまして おめでとうございます!

Happy New Year, everyone!
Let’s start the year by looking at a nenga-jou, or New Year’s card.

本年も どうぞ よろしくお願いします。

Kana-only version
きんがしんねん、あけまして おめでとうございます!
きゅうねんちゅうは たいへん おせわに なりました。
2014ねん、みなさまに とって、けんこうで しあわせな としに なりますように!
ほんねんも どうぞ よろしくおねがいします。

The Japanese you see above is typical of what you might find in a nenga-jou, a New Year’s card. Like very formal English writing, it makes use of words and phrases that you don’t find in everyday speech. For example, instead of the ordinary words sakunen and kotoshi for “last year” and “this year”, it uses kyuunen (“the old year”) and shinnen (“the new year”).

Another interesting construction is the phrase that ends with …narimasu you ni. If you take any ordinary polite sentence and stick you ni on the end, it makes it into a form that sounds like an invocation or prayer. So if Shiawase na toshi ni narimasu means “It becomes a happy year,” then Shiawase na toshi ni narimasu you ni means “May it become a happy year.”

And of course, no polite Japanese communication would be complete without claiming that the writer has been a lot of trouble for the reader. The word sewa means looking after someone, taking care of them, seeing that their needs are met, bailing them out when they’re in trouble. O-sewa ni narimashita is a very common phrase that you can understand literally as “I became sewa for you,” but which we might translate more naturally as, “Thanks for everything you did for me,” or perhaps “Thanks for all your support.”

So the whole card means:
Happy New Year! (“Congratulations on the dawning of the new year!”)
Thanks for all your support during the last year.
May 2014 be (“become”) a healthy and happy year for everyone!
Douzo yoroshiku for this year too!

Photo: Keiji Koizumi


Oomisoka (おおみそか- 大晦日) Meaning: New Year’s Eve

Example 1: きょうは おおみそかです。としこしそばを たべましょう。 / 今日は 大晦日です。年越し蕎麦を 食べましょう。/ Kyou wa oomisoka desu. Toshikoshi soba wo tabemashou. = Today is the New Year’s Eve. Let’s eat toshikoshi-soba.

Example 2: とうとう おおみそか ですね。らいねんも けんこうで しあわせな としに なりますように。 / とうとう 大晦日 ですね。来年も 健康で 幸せな 年に なりますように。/ Toutou oomisoka desu ne. Rainen mo kenkou de shiawase na toshi ni narimasu you ni. = It’s finally New Year’s Eve. Here’s to a healthy and happy year.

Cultural Note: Toshikoshi-soba is a traditional dinner for New Year’s Eve in Japan. It is symbolic of a person’s wish to have a long life like soba.

Human Japanese Intermediate for Android is released!

Hey, Human Japanese fans! I’m very happy to announce that we have released Human Japanese Intermediate for Android. Available today in the Google Play store, you can download it from these links:



Human Japanese Intermediate for Android is packed with:

  • More than 40 illuminating chapters
  • Over 2600 example sentences and dialogs with crystal-clear recordings of male and female speech
  • Nearly 3900 crystal clear recordings altogether
  • Kanji animations, tips, illustrations, and more
  • Photos and cultural notes to keep you engaged and energized
  • Intelligent quizzes that track your history and help you focus on trouble spots
  • INGREDIENTS™ example sentence breakdowns for total clarity in every example
  • A U.S. patent-pending system that automatically adjusts the “spelling” of words in example sentences to use kana, kanji, or kanji with furigana on top as appropriate to your current knowledge.

Here are a few pics:

Users are loving the app. One called it “a magic carpet into the fabulous world of Japanese.” Another says that “the content is even better than its predecessor. I’m three chapters in and it’s just wonderful. I can’ say enough good things about the author and the way that the Japanese language is presented.”

We think you’ll love Human Japanese Intermediate too. Download it today and take it for a spin!

Announcing the Human Japanese blog

Hi there, everyone. It’s Brian, your friendly sensei and author of the Human Japanese series of apps for learning the Japanese language. We’re excited to announce this new blog, which we hope will be a great resource for both new students and seasoned travelers alike. To kick things off, allow me to give you a feel for what we have planned for this space.

Word of the Day and Cultural Note articles
If you’re a fan of our Facebook page, you know that we frequently post articles on Japanese culture and vocabulary, including many with recordings and photos. But up until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to access these all in one place, as they get lost in the never-ending stream that is a Facebook news feed. From here on out, we’ll be posting such articles here and tagging them appropriately so that you can, for example, see all our recordings in one easy-to-navigate basket.

User case studies
We’re very excited to be working with several users who are living in Japan and learning Japanese with our apps. Starting in January 2014, we’ll be posting periodic snapshots of their daily lives. We hope that their stories inspire you on your own journey.

Status updates
Our small but productive team stays very busy. Expect frequent reports on new platforms, new apps, and updates to existing ones.

Musings from the author
What would a blog be without a few rambling posts only obliquely related to the topic at hand? Probably a good deal better. But I’m going to do it anyway. Stay tuned for thoughts on language learning in general, the process behind creating Human Japanese, and more.

And that’s about it! Please add us to your favorites and check back frequently.  宜しくお願いします!(よろしくおねがいします!)