Japanese Immersion: October week 1

Watching a drama, at last!

I finally found a drama I like: the Japanese remake of the Korean drama “Signal”: 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』. It is about a police investigation team specialised on old unsolved cases. A walkie-talkie allows one of the members of the team to communicate with one of the detectives from the past, who is living at the time when the murders they are working on were committed.

I have always tried to watch romance or daily life comedy because they are easier to understand than dramas with a criminal investigation that are set in a police environment. The problem is that I don’t usually like romance and comedy while I would buy anything even remotely connected with a police investigation.

While it can be wise to choose something at your level and force yourself a little bit to study it even if it does not interest you, this method does not work for me. If the drama does not interest me, even if I can feel that it helps me to improve my listening skills, I won’t be able to watch it. On the contrary, I will be motivated to provide the extra effort to study something above my level if it really speaks to me.

This is what I did with シグナル, and it was worth it!

I watched the first episode and understood very little of what was said. I watched the second episode and studied it afterwards:

  • I listen to each scene and try to write down what they say.
  • I try to look up words I don’t understand, either by listening (I look up what I think I hear) or by guessing (if I know from the context what word they must have used, I look up this word in English in my English-Japanese dictionary). This sometimes happens when I cannot make out what they say because they speak too fast or do not articulate enough.

Then I watched the third episode and understood it much better than I did the two preceding ones. I was glad to see that my listening had improved a little and that working on one episode hadn’t been in vain.

Note: I like the Japanese version much better than the Korean one. There is always something in Korean dramas that I don’t like, though it is hard to describe what it is exactly. The Japanese version also has shorter episodes, which suits me better.

Japanese News

Reading the news has become much easier since I have buried myself in the LDP election thing.

One of the major topics now is Abe’s new government (which is more or less the same as before, with the exception of 13 resignations) and Abe’s desire to speed up the discussions to amend the Constitution. If I understand correctly, Abe will have to present his amendment draft to the Diet and convince two-thirds of each house. If two-thirds of the members of both houses approve it, it can go to a referendum.

In Korea, media are watching this very attentively and are prompt to large interpretations: a Korean newspaper (and it is not the only one) describes the constitutional amendment as a step towards a Japan capable of doing war「戦争可能な国に」, even though Abe’s proposition is to keep the first (stating that Japan renounces war) and second paragraphs unchanged and only add a clear mention of the Self-Defense Forces who already exist anyway.

Another dispute is taking place between Korea and Japan concerning the Rising Sun flag, which was the flag of the Imperial Army and is now flown by the Maritime Self-Defense Force. For Korea, this flag is the symbol of Japan’s past militarism. This month, there will be an international fleet review taking place in Korea and the host does not want the Japanese ships to use the Rising Sun flag. Japan Defense Minister said they would, and so on.

There were two other topics that interested me recently. First, the magazine 新潮45 was forced to suspend its publication because of the many critics it received. This magazine published a politician in August who expressed discriminatory contents against the LGBT community. This had raised criticism. Instead of excuses, the magazine published a special issue (October) to defend this politician. One of the authors who contributed to this issue put the LGBT on the same level of sexual perverts! This issue raised even more criticism from readers. Some authors stopped their contribution to the magazine while some bookshops refused to sell books from the publisher 新潮社. The publishing house finally made public excuses, suspended the publication of the magazine and imposed a 10% reduction of salary to the magazine’s director and the editor in chief. The magazine made this unfortunate editorial choice in its attempt to increase its sales by targeting a certain audience. (several articles on this topic here)

The second topic is a trial that takes place in Sapporo. Kikuo KOJIMA, who had been sterilised by force when he was 19, is taking the State to court and asks for a financial reparation. He accuses the States of having violated the Constitution which guarantees each citizen’s right to seek happiness. What was noticeable is that efforts were made to allow persons with reduced mobility, persons with visual or hearing impairment and mentally challenged persons to access the trial. More than half of the seats in the tribunal’s room were adapted to allow an access to wheelchairs, a sign language interpreter was there, and two monitors transcribed what was being said. The participants were asked to speak slowly and in a way that would be easy to understand. The judge, who usually speaks fast, adopted a slower pace and added explanations to the legal terms he used. (several articles on this topic here)


I am very happy with the modest progress of my listening, I plan to work a little more on it this weekend!