履歴書 – Japanese Résumés


Japanese résumés, unlike American résumés (and I assume other Western résumés), follow a rigid format. They sell special résumé paper here that is gridded into different categories. Applicants fill them out by hand in their prettiest handwriting and stick on a photograph of themselves.

If you have confidence in your kanji skills and a ton of free time, you might consider filling yours out by hand – that would have to be really impressive to anyone looking to hire. I myself couldn’t be asked, so I created a résumé in Word using tables. It covers all of the basic categories and was relatively easy to edit. I’ve edited it into a mock résumé for Lupin III and uploaded it here. Feel free to download it and adapt it for your own uses. I originally created the file in Word but have been editing it in Open Office, so I apologize if the formatting is a little finicky. If it comes in handy for you, send me your success story.

A couple of interesting differences with an American résumé:

– Japanese use photos on their résumés. You will go far if you are tall, dark, and handsome with striking sideburns.

– Japanese put their date of birth, age and sex on résumés. Too many X chromosomes, and you may be serving tea.

– A lot of people list their hometown and parents. I was encouraged to do this by a teacher I was working with. This could be especially effective for foreigners because katakana may help with the pronunciation of difficult city names.

– There is a lot of what they call 自己PR (literally “self public relations”) that goes on with résumés and also job hunting in general. It reminds me of the pep rallies at the junior high school where I taught. The teams lined up individually and the kids had to give a self-introduction. They go down the line one by one and say a little sentence about themselves: “Hello, I’m Taisuke in the second year. I will do my best at the tournament and run as fast as possible.” The kids all vary their statements slightly (“I will give my best effort.” “I won’t ever give up.” etc.), and I always felt bad for the last guy because all the good words had been taken! 自己PR is kind of like this, but you have to say what your strong points are. I always felt like it was a load of crap. To give you an idea, here’s what I use on my actual résumé: ひとつのことにこだわらずに、いろいろな角度で物事を考え、見て、行動できることです。そのときの状況を踏まえて行動できるからこそうまくいきます。Basically I have a short attention span and am good at extemporaneous bullshitting. And remember, those words are mine – you’re next in line, so get your own!

– While the document is two pages, Japanese résumés are double-sided, so this is actually a one-page résumé. Always print them on one page.


Cool Dictionary – Yahoo 辞書

My least favorite part about reading Japanese dictionaries is all the madness: tiny fonts, jam-packed pages, single kanji that float around and explain things (e.g. what part of speech a word is, what particles are attached to the end). And to be perfectly honest, I’m a lazy man who doesn’t appreciate the whole having to physically pick up a book and actually find the word thing.

Enter Yahoo 辞書. This is a little trick that I picked up at work. Many of the Japanese people in the translation department (who basically play the mirror image of my role, i.e. E-J) use this, and occasionally they’ve sent me links from entries when I ask a question about a Japanese word.

Lots of great things about the dictionary. First of all, it’s digital, which means I only need to move my ten digits. Second, it has a clean layout with simple, easy to read definitions. If you’ve wanted to start using Japanese dictionaries but have been worried that you won’t understand the definitions, this is a great dictionary to start with.

Take for example the word 彷徨う. Plug it into the dictionary and you’ll see immediately that the reading is さまよう. Alternate kanji are さ迷う (which already provides a partial definition). There is a bit of the madness ([動ワ五(ハ四)]), of which I only recognize the 動 as a verb marker and 五 as a 五段動詞 (although I can’t recall the specifics of what that means), but it soon gives way to the clean cut definitions presented in an easy-to-read layout: 1 – 迷って歩きまわる, 2 – あちこち動く, 3 – 判断に迷う. I love it.

They occasionally provide examples of usage from great works of literature such as, in this case, The Tale of Genji…not that I understand them, but still a cool feature. You can also click on the tabs to access the thesaurus (類語) or J-E (和英) dictionaries for the word. Great dictionary. Just need to train myself to use it more often.

(Don’t forget to check out this past entry about how to read from context and use Japanese dictionaries.)

Green Goddess For Cheap (Update)

Anyone who’s looking for a good dictionary should check out Amazon Japan. There are super cheap copies of old editions of Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, aka the Green Goddess. It’s famous for loads of usage examples. The old edition is also good for beginners since entries are listed in alphabetical order. It’s a steal at 786 yen.

I would be remiss if I didn’t provide this link (via Wikipedia) to Tom Gally’s writings. He worked on the fifth edition of the dictionary. You can read specifically about the dictionary here, here, here and here.

How to Map

I love, love, love it when people complain about living in Japan. Often it’s a symptom of homesickness or culture shock and they’re just lashing out at anything to compensate. Sometimes they’re just cynical.

There are no trash cans. Wah. Trains stop running so early. Wah wah. There are no hand towels in the bathrooms. Wah wah wah, motherfuckers.

One of my all-time favorite complaints is the fact that Japan doesn’t have street names. People who voice this particular complaint are in such a state of blissful ignorance that they are unlikely ever to get used to it. I once met a German guy who was complaining about how hard it is to find things in Japan because of the lack of street names and numbers. I asked him for his address and showed him where he lived in less than 30 seconds. I was equipped to do this because I was carrying my trusty map:


The 2009 version just got released, so I upgraded from the version I bought three years ago. There are a number of different pocket-sized maps, but Mapple’s is the most popular. It has tons of useful information in the front.

Last trains:

Detailed subway transfer information (which car to stand in for the easiest transfer):


But the most useful part of all is its main function – maps. To find a place, all you need is the 区 (Ward, although recently I’ve seen “City” used frequently), the neighborhood name, and then the address number. The number is a three-digit number in the format 1-2-3, where 1 is the neighborhood number, 2 is the block number, and 3 is the building number. As an example, let’s find the Sword Museum. Its address is 渋谷区代々木4-25-10.

Generally you can look for the ward first on the map. Shibuya is pretty easy, but Yoyogi, the neighborhood name, is actually a bit far from Shibuya Station, so it’s easiest to track down Yoyogi Station’s page from the map in the front, which tells us Yoyogi Station is on pg 88:

Here’s pg 88 around Yoyogi Station:

Clearly not on this page, so lets check one page south:

There’s 代々木4. Now you track down the light blue 25 closest to it, and that will be right about where it is. On the map it’s marked with 刀剣博物館.

Rather than doing everything street by street, Japan takes a grid approach, which is actually a lot more manageable when you think about it. Get used to it. Once you do, you should be able to find anything. Mapple – don’t leave your tiny ass apartment without it.

Oh, and you can forget visiting the Sword Museum – it’s crap. Small display and zero English.

Grossest Idiom Ever?

Last week at work I came across possibly the grossest idiom in existence – 爪(つめ)の垢(あか)を煎(せん)じて飲む. The first thing I did was turn to my trusty 慣用句 (かんようく) online dictionary. The interface could be better; the search engine is pretty good, but if that doesn’t find it, you have to narrow down the idiom by the first two kana via the menu on the left. Some of the idioms have their own pages, others are just given on a long page with other definitions. The best part is that the whole thing is in Japanese, which forces you to study and get a feel for how it works in Japanese, rather than learning a straight up translation.

This one has its own page, and the definition is: 優れた人の爪の垢を貰って薬として飲むという意味で、その人に肖(あやか)ろうとすること。

So, yes, you boil an awesome person’s fingernail crud and drink it as medicine so that you can be cool like them. Something like that. I had to look up 肖(あやか)ろう, and I think it means something like “be lucky.” Still getting used to the usage here, but I’m thinking it’s something like “I wanna be like Mike.” It can be put into basically any tense by changing 飲む – some of the frequently used tenses are 飲みたい, 飲ませる. The difference between these two is pretty drastic. With 飲みたい, the speaker thinks the person is so great, great enough that they’d drink their fingernail crud. With 飲ませる, someone is clearly lacking something that crud from fingernails of superlative person X could hopefully fix, and the person doing the causing thinks they should drink up. Gross.

Here’s a blog entry with actual usage. Always good practice to learn stuff.

It would be fun to write a fake article about the “recent boom” of Japanese “fingernail crud cafes.”

Cool Compound – ニコイチ


Randomly hopping around on Wikipedia yesterday I came across an amazing phrase – ニコイチ. I had a great time reading the entry and figuring out what it means. I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, so I won’t say what it means here. Go ahead and give it a read. It’s a good read for intermediate students…hopefully not too, too advanced.

Four Random Wikipedia Articles

As previously mentioned, Wikipedia is a great place to check translations and Japanese usage. It’s also a fantastic source of study material. The Japanese page has over 500,000 entries, and as in the English version these are articles that have been written and edited by real people. (Unlike all the other written material in Japan which is made by robots.)

To prove these points, I’ll take a quick look at four random entries and show exactly how useful they can be. The only rule I’ll have is that I’ll skip any wacky mathematic formulas or nonsense like that.

First thing to note is that “Random Entry” in Japanese is おまかせ表示. That’s a nice localization; randomness is a somewhat difficult concept to convey in Japanese.

Article 1 – 福島町 (曖昧さ回避)

Ha, that’s a strange turn of fate. I spent three years living in Fukushima Prefecture, and the first article that pops up is the disambiguation page for Fukushima Town. While this isn’t an article, it’s still pretty useful. We get to see how Japanese deals with “disambiguation page”: 曖昧 (あいまい) with a さ to make it a noun and then 回避 (かいひ), which is a way to say avoid. This page shows how Wikipedia can be useful for tracking down the pronunciation of difficult place and people names.

Article 2 – 山形県護国神社

This appears to be a shrine in Yamagata Prefecture, and judging from the name of the shrine and content of the article, it’s clear that the shrine plays some sort of role with national protection or the enshrinement of national heroes/war dead. (Note that I’m using only the Japanese here. The other rule is that I can jump to other Japanese articles to figure things out. Just no English.) You get some good vocab here. 明治維新 (めいじいしん) and 第二次世界大戦 (だいにじせかいたいせん), or the Meiji Restoration and World War II.

The one word I wish had a link is 祀る. That is the verb the shrine is doing to the 英霊 of 殉国者. 英霊 is literally “hero ghost,” I think, and judging from the Wikipedia page for 英霊, it seems to be connected to the respect for war dead/Yasukuni debate. (This paragraph may seem like a bunch of stumbling, but that’s how you learn to read when you’re a kid. There’s definitely something to be gained from reading without bothering with pronunciation and meaning. You need a basic foundation, of course, but as some point you have to take off your floaties and swim in the deep end.)

Article 3 – 随何

Now here’s some crazy Japanese. 随何 is a Chinese politician, diplomat, and, I believe, a Confucian scholar.  (I knew I should have excluded ancient Chinese politicians along with mathematic formulas.) I know he lived from the Qin to the early-Han periods, but most of it is nonsense to me, to be honest. You never know when you’ll find a small gems, though. For example: 儒者の冠を取り上げ、その中に放尿をしたという。Ha, sounds like an angry dude.

Article 4 – ウタツグミ

An animal – another turn of fate, since I previously noted that Wikipedia was useful for tracking down the translation of クモザル. Looks like some kind of small sparrow, some variation on the ツグミ famous for its voice, so it gets an ウタ in front. Not that difficult an article to read. Gotta love the efficiency of phrases like this: 雌雄同色である. And easy enough to get the English translation (“Song Thrush”) if you needed it.

I hope that gives you an idea of what Wikipedia can do, even randomly. Feel free to try the challenge yourself. Loads of good material.


お疲れ to all the JLPTers yesterday! Just remember that the ultimate goal is to be happy with your level and get used to the Japanese, not just to pass the test. Make sure you’re reading what you want to read and watching what you want to watch.

Just a small link today. Free online Japanese lessons here. (via No-Sword) Good for anyone out in the inaka or abroad. Sign up quick because they start soon.

号外 – Oops!

    I’ve got another Murakami-related piece online over at Néojaponisme. Just a funny little extract from a Murakami conference. Dimitry Kovalenin clearly hasn’t been to a zoo for a while. Although, in all fairness, spider monkeys don’t live in Russia – too cold, no onsen.
    It is unclear when Kovalenin did his translation of the story, but nowadays there are several things he could have done in terms of fundamental groundwork for the translation, none of which would have taken much time.

Google Images

    A search for くもざる (kumozaru in hiragana) turns up a variety of strange images, including the cover of the collection and a few monkey pictures, but Google also suggests that you might be looking for クモザル (“もしかして:クモザル”). Search for the katakana version and you’ll find nothing but real monkeys.
    Google Images is quick and easy way to research what a word means and implies to people. And it’s good for more than just people, places and animals; a search for 派手, a word that can sometimes be difficult to translate in natural-sounding English, is revealing. An image search will never tell you what a word means, but it can provide you with some usage clues.


    Wikipedia entries are all cross-linked with their foreign counterparts. A list of languages for a given entry is provided in the left sidebar. This makes it an excellent tool for translation research
    Of course, this doesn’t always work. A Wikipedia search for くもざる currently brings up only three results – the Asahiyama Zoo, Murakami Haruki, and Anzai Mizumaru. Even クモザル is a little confusing; it is included within the Japanese entry for Atelidae, “one of the four families of New World monkeys.” But if you browse through that section, クモザル亜科 is listed as one of the species, and there are half a dozen examples of spider monkeys.


    Professor Numano was quick on the draw with his Kōjien citation, so I’m guessing he looked it up in an electronic dictionary. Go ahead, get yours out now. I already checked mine, and it’s nearly identical to the definition that he gave in Japanese. (オマキザル科の哺乳類。数類があり、中米から南米北部の森林に生息。) SPACEALC, a useful online dictionary that often generates a horde of contextual examples, also gives spider monkey as the definition.

    Wikipedia does not list Yoru no kumozaru as having been published in Russian, so perhaps Kovalenin translated it especially for the symposium and dodged a bullet by discovering his mistake quickly. As they say in Japan, even monkeys fall from trees. The translator’s burden is a heavy one – very little of the credit for success and all of the blame for failure. Modern resources and looking up every damn word you are unsure about can help ensure that you don’t win the Miss Translation pageant.

Cool Resource – 英辞郎

I’m sure many if not most of you are familiar with SpaceALC, a great online dictionary. But did you know that it’s just an online version of the popular 英辞郎 (えいじろう) software? Eijirō is less of a dictionary and more of a database of different contextual examples. This can be both good and bad. No, it’s not going to provide you with a list of meanings, but example sentences can be even more valuable than a definition, especially if you are trying to write in Japanese. Plus it covers a broad range of material, much of which (slang, for example) isn’t covered in dictionaries.

The fourth edition of Eijirō was released in September of this year, and as far as I know it is the first version to support Mac OS.

It’s only 2500 yen, and you should be able to find it at a bookstore or a computer store.

After a quick installation, it loads up in a tiny little screen.



The color scheme and layout will be familiar if you’ve used the online version.

This is a great piece of software, and I highly recommend picking it up. It’s faster than the online version, of course, and you can access it offline. It also boasts 1,660,000 entries, which I believe is more than the online version.