September 14, 2008

F.A.C.T.S. - A Belgian Anime Convention (and much much more)

The 11th and 12th of October, it's time for F.A.C.T.S. An occasion any anime fan from the Benelux shouldn't miss. It isn't only about Anime but it's the biggest one we got.
The F.A.C.T.S. convention is organized once a year by Con-Fuse bvba, an organisation promoting Science Fiction, Comics, Fantasy and Japanese animation. Con-Fuse bvba creates a forum for all fans of the "fantastic genre", giving them one day during which all of their favourite events are united under one roof. As one of the few convention in the Benelux, the convention had more visitors than the previous edition.

F.A.C.T.S. was originally a convention where every corner of the I.C.C. was filled with merchandise ranging from DVD's, CD's, occasionally a videotape, to model kits, action figures (mint on card, los, vintage, modern, etc.), posters, postcards, books, computer games, comics, manga, magazines, trading cards, card games, etc. etc. We have more that ninety dealers from Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, U.K, Luxemburg, Sweden, U.S.A., etc. Every diehard collector finds something to complete his collection.

Since the early beginning F.A.C.T.S. received many comicartists and mangaka: Cam Kennedy (artist from the Star Wars comics) from Scotland, George Pérez (comic book veteran) from the U.S.A., Koichi Ohata (Gunbuster) from Japan, French manga talent Jerome Alquié, Steve Firchow (The Darkness) (US), John Avon (Magic the gathering), Steve KyteRomano Molenaar (Witchblade) from the Netherlands and don't forget our annually cartoonist Lectrr.

At the end of the nineties the first actor popped up at F.A.C.T.S. This was Richard LeparmentierRay Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars : The Phantom Menace), Jeremy Bulloch (Bobba Fett), Dave Prowse (Darth Vader). Another popular film saga is Lord of the Rings, where some of its actors were guests at F.A.C.T.S. : Lawrence Makaore (Lurtz), Paul Norell (King of the Dead) and John Rhys-Davies famous for his unforgettable role as Gimli.

F.A.C.T.S. also had the privilege to received some film legends such as the legendary director Roger Corman, David Carradine (Kung Fu - The Legend, Kill Bill), Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Gallactica, The A-team) as well as the tallest Dutch actor Carel Struycken in Hollywood.

But also television actors can be spotted. At the F.A.C.T.S. 2005 edition, two actors in a leading role in the popular Stargate SG-1 series were present : Don S. Davis en Corin Nemec.

F.A.C.T.S is not only about merchandise and actors. Many activities are organised during the F.A.C.T.S.-weekend ranging from an arcade gallery, card game demonstrations, model kit demonstrations, anime-projections, Q & A's with the actors, swordfights and an extravagant cosplay competition with many costumed visitors.
(Thunderbirds) from the U.K., and was followed afterwards by other Star Wars colleagues like
(Photo under creative commons from ClausM's photostream)

A lot of resources for the Japanese language

The following list of links might help people like me who are starting to learn Japanese.

Character and Writing: iting_system - A Wiki article on historical development of Japanese writing system i - List of kanjis to be learnt in elementary school with the pronunciations and meanings. - List of kanjis to be learnt up until high school with pronunciations and meanings. ml - Kana and kanji - preparation for JLPT. htm - katakana/hiragana and some kanji writing tutor (with stroke order animations) - Kana lessons with sound and animation files ll/index.html - JLPT kanji levels - Another web page that helps you when it comes to kanjis for the JLPT. - Very cool page for kanji beginners, includes writing order, meanings, etc. - kanji stroke orders ukanji.html - printable list of the Jouyou Kanji as well as a some other commonly seen ones, arranged in the order they are learnt in Japanese schools. - printable kanji flashcards /honji.htm - Variant forms of Chinese characters; from China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. - practice the reading of random characters from your selected list graphy/ - Flickr group to help find out the characters in calligraphy works

Online Lessons/Tutorials: - Easy to follow grammar lessons, some vocabulary. Nice for starters. / - The excellent Daily Yomiuri Online "Pera Pera Penguin" articles. ngo.html – Various tutorials and phrase books in Russian. - Japanese lessons by NHK Radio available in 21 languages over.html - Teach yourself Japanese - Basic Japanese with a linguistics approach. ge.php - One hundred "[w]atered-down, understandable, bite-sized grammar helps". - JPLANG provides e-learning materials for learning Japanese, developed by a TUFS team. .php - for beginners, lots of audio, free but with a registration - 34 free lessons and tools - free-to-use online study materials 1jp/main.html - conversational topics and grammar references

Reading Material: - Collaborative translation project. Usufruct granted by acknowledgement. - Public domain documents including an encyclopaedia, a biographical dictionary and Japanese laws - Collection of copyright-free works. A lot of texts have phonetic guides in hiragana. - listen and read fairy-tales - Oku no Hosomichi by Matsuo Bashō - Japanese classics in text and audio files rary_e.html - text and audio files of early modern Japanese literature s/ja - Japanese reading materials in Project Gutenberg =list〈=jp - Contemporary Japanese opinions with English translations - Recitations including classic literature (texts may be found in Aozora Bunko) - Recitations by a voice actor (texts may be found in Aozora Bunko)

Pronunciation: 2&postcount=9 - IPA explanations and tools, compiled by WR's own timpeac. - sound files for IPA symbols as revised in 1996 - instructions for setting up your computer to display IPA symbols les/index.htm - sound files for Japanese syllabary and verb conjugations. nciation.html - Quick tips of phonemes (aimed at English speakers)
Web Services: - Searches library catalogues in universities and research institutions. - Home page of National Diet Library. - Google Japan with Web services in Japanese. - Yahoo's Japanese portal. - Nascent technology for transcribing and searching podcasts.

Media: - News from NHK, Japan's public service broadcaster. ndex.html - TV Asahi News is another good listening resource with transcripts. Enjoy! - Generates small vocabulary bubbles for Japanese news text. - live streaming of NHK Radio Japan - News site of TBS, a commercial network.

Dictionaries: in/wwwjdic.cgi - Commonly known as Jim Breen's dictionary, supports a verb conjugator. in/wwwjdic.cgi?1R - search for kanjis by combinations of stroke counts and radicals - WWWJDIC spin-off with more user-friendly interface php - French-Japanese / Japanese-French dictionary. - A bidirectional English-Japanese database with a search box for looking up more natural expressions. - Online dictionaries offered from Yahoo! Japan Dictionary. Includes Ja-En, En-Jp and Jp-Jp. - Online dictionaries offered from Goo, another Japanese search engine. Includes Ja-En, En-Jp and Jp-Jp. - Online dictionaries offered from Excite. Includes En-Ja, Ja-En, Jp-Jp, Ch-Ja and Ja-Ch.
http://www.englishjapaneseonlinedictiona A Romaji English <> Japanese dictionary. - Jeffrey's Jp<>En Dict. Kana and Romanji input. Display results in Romanji and Kanji jisearch.php - Kanji-English Dictionary ding.php - Kanji-English Dictionary by romaji input. a/p10.htm - Dictionary of Japan-made kanjis. Entries are provided as image files. .html - Kanji Dictionary, with stroke order, English meaning, On-yomi (phonetic reading), Kun-yomi (native Japanese reading), irregular pronunciations (e.g.一日 = ついたち), example sentences, and audio files. - thematic picture dictionary with audio - Collection of numerous Japanese dictionaries - kanji dictionary and themed lists

Specialised Vocabulary and Phrase Books: book - Survival Japanese for Travellers. i/jinmei.html - A list of kanjis that represent typical morphemes for Japanese given names. ex40.html - Japanese family names, searchable in kanji and half-width katakana. - A database of Japanese place names, searchable in kanji and hiragana. f/old_chara.html - Tables to match old and new kanji forms. - A list of kanjis created in Japan. - Yojijukugo (four-charactered idioms) with definitions, usages and English translations. .html - Pronunciation dictionaries compiled by topics. - Names of chemical substances in Japanese and English; database - Slang with definition and usage. - Glossary of colloquial expressions e - Themed list of conversational phrases g_in=1 - Glossary of loan words and Japanese English g_in=2 - Glossary of yojijukugo or four-character expressions g_in=3 - Glossary of proverbs and clichés g_in=4 - Glossary of onomatopoeias and mimetic words g_in=5 - Glossary of Japanese culture and news html - Proverbs and clichés with synonymous and antonymous expressions. - User-driven database for regional dialects
Grammar: - Very useful web page when studying grammar for the JLPT (from 4kyū to 1kyū). A rather successful all-in-one Japanese site. From very basic dictionary, to grammar through particles. Noteworthy: giongo (giongo defines words usually described as onomatopoeia and then quite a lot more!). l#contents - Japanese grammar reference by constructions.
Particles: s.htm - Particles overview. m - Basic particles overview at home.html - A guide to the functions of structural particles in Japanese. ticles2.html - Verb related particles. /jgr_part.htm - Particles from a linguistic point of view.

Software: - A Firefox add-on to enable easy input of Unicode characters: includes kana shortcuts. - For Firefox users: Rikaichan is a pop-up dictionary - reads Japanese web-pages. / - Kanji flashcard system by Peter Salvi. Uses Tcl/Tk. - freeware that parses Japanese text, in English and Furigana and Romanji (Hepburn) 67.exe - complete download - converts both Kanji and Kana into Romaji (select "Kanji to Romaji" option) .aspx - parses Japanese sites and provides pop-up vocabulary. Also in Chinese and Korean. .htm - Pazuru Alfabet is a learning tool that helps to recognize kanas. /tradkan0.htm - Converts between Chinese and Japanese kanjis, old and new varieties. /readkan0.htm - kaňon (漢音), goon (呉音), MSC and Hanja pronunciations output /zen2hanz.htm - Converts between zenkaku and hankaku scripts. pce.html - Japanese word processor, with a built-in IME for kana input and kanji conversion. Also supports dictionaries. - Online Web-based Japanese Input Method sp - vocabulary flash cards

About Japanese: nguage - Wikipedia's general account of the Japanese language. rb_conjugations - Comprehensive tables for Japanese verb conjugations. onology - Basic topics of Japanese phonology. ammar - An account of Japanese grammar with emphasis on morphology. norifics - Japanese honorifics tracted_words - Japanese abbreviated and contracted words und_symbolism - Japanese sound symbolism aphic_symbols - typographic symbols nctuation - punctuation marks l - Titled "A quick and dirty guide to Japanese". adgtj.html - The quick and dirty guide to Japanese. (kana version) g/ - Blog, lessons and method of learning Japanese ime/japanese/ - tips for common but difficult expressions ing/outline.htm - Outline of the Japanese Writing System ese/index.html - fundamental differences of Japanese from European languages - Translations and grammar for Classical Japanese

Links: esources.html - Melita Rowley's Japanese learning resources. ese.html - Once again Jim Breen's. This time his Japanese related web page. Ugly, but every link in that page is worth gold.

Preparing for the JLPT: - The JLPT Study Page is a resource of study materials for JLPT Levels 2, 3 and 4. - JPLT FAQ from the University from London

(Photo under creative commons from nnnnic's photostream)

Benii-san is alive !!!

No, I'm not dead. I just neglected this blog somewhat. But that is going to change.

I have subscribed myself at the Centrum voor Levende Talen to follow Japanese classes (finally) like I planned and I will blog about my progress.

Although it's not Japanese, I tried out Tai Chi today. I have done Japanese martial arts for years but that was ages ago. Tai Chi seemed interesting to learn some relaxation techniques. But more information will follow in a next blog post about that.

(Photo under Creative Commons from (nutmeg)'s photostream)

July 12, 2008

The biggest Japanese garden in Europe

Well, it's not always possible to go often to Japan. So let's let Japan come to us.

Better then a museum, a Japanese garden lets you meet with the rich culture from the land of the rising sun. Respect for nature, for the beauty of the environment, religions, philosophy, ... it's all weaven into the garden design.
With a surface of about 25.000 m², the Japanese Garden in Hasselt is the largest of its kind in Europe. It was constructed with the help of the Japanese city of Itami (sister city of Hasselt) in 1992, based on the pattern of 17th century Japanese tea gardens. A walk through the garden makes one feel like being in an entirely different atmosphere so close to the busy city center of Hasselt.
The 2.5 ha big garden has grown out of it's infancy. It was constructed in 1992. The tree and plants took their time to grow to give additional shape to the surroundings of rocks, waterfalls and buildings. The park contains some 250 Japanese cherry trees. Cherryblossom (sakura) gives a nice spectacle in the spring. This Japanse garden also celebrates this festival around beginning of April.

The garden is based on three sections:
-a transition area between the Kapermolen Western style park and the central authentic Japanese Garden
-the central garden with its ceremonial building, teahouse, splashing water features and attractive landscaping
-a park with 250 Japanese cherry trees.
-from 1 April to 31 October
-Tuesday to Friday inclusive: 10.00 - 17.00 hrs
- Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: 14.00 –18.00 hrs except Easter Sunday
- on Easter Monday and White Monday from 14.00 to 18.00

Entrance fee
-adults: € 5.00
-groups (of 15 people or more), discount: € 4.00
-school classes (+ 12 years old): € 1.00
-up to 12 years old: free

*Last ticket sales: 30 minutes before closing time
Every Saturday at 15:00 there is a guided tour of the garden lasting about 90 minutes. This tour is only available in Dutch.
Price: €8.50 per person (reduction price € 7.50 per person). Reservation required at Japanese Garden, no later than Friday 12 noon.

Dogs are not allowed.

Guided tours
-book via Tourism Hasselt, telephone 011 23 95 42.

Japanese Garden
Gouverneur Verwilghensingel s/n (outer ring road – opposite Grenslandhallen)
B-3500 Hasselt

-telephone 011 23 52 00 (1 April - 31 October)
-telephone 011 23 95 44 (outside this period)

The programme includes a wide range of interesting events and/or evening walks.
For up to date information visit our website

Free busses to the Japanese Garden
There are two possibilities: the city bus H3 (direction Trichterheide) and line 45 (direction Maaseik). Busses depart from Hasselt's station square every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on Sunbdays and holidays. Get off at the stop 'Koning Boudewijnlaan' near the water tower. Cross the street and take the stairs down to the cycling path, straight ahead then a few more steps to the entrance of the garden.
Information: De Lijn Limburg, Telephone + 32 70 220 200

On Sundays and holidays you can use the municipal tram's shuttle service

Preparing for the JLPT exam

My first goal is to pass the JLPT 4 exam. Abstract from wikipedia:
The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験 nihongo nōryoku shiken?), or JLPT, is a standardized test to evaluate and certify the language proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. It is held once every year, on the first Sunday of December. The JLPT has four levels beginning at level 4 and progressing to level 1 - the most difficult. The Japan Foundation estimates that level 4 is reached after approximately 150 hours of study and level 1 after approximately 900 hours of study.
According to some friends from Japan, the basic level JPLT 4 is more then doable. Besides registering at the CLT institute, I want to begin with some self study.

There is one book that a lot of people referenced and that I bought from Amazon: Japanese for Busy People: Kana Version Bk. 1 (Japanese for Busy People Series): Kana Version Bk. 1
and the book with exercises: Japanese for Busy People 1: Workbook (Japanese for Busy People Series): Workbook Bk. 1.

More information on self study resources will follow.

I'm still trying to find out where and when the JLPT exams are being held in or around Belgium. Any information is welcome.

Examples of the JLPT examens can be found at the bottom of this site.

More detailed information on the JLPT exam from wikipedia.

And this interesting site is from the Japanese department from a Belgian University which contains among others a Japanese-Dutch Dictionary in wiki form and loads of other information.

June 25, 2008

Upcoming anime series

Not having seen any new Anime for some time, I stumbled upon this image on a forum listing upcoming OVA series for the summer of 2008. One of them is a remake of an old manga series I know: Cobra. One of the series I knew from Club Dorothée from TF1. Click on the image for more details.

A nice change from the still ongoing Naruto & Bleach. One of the latest Anime I have seen was Death Note. Also worth a look.

Looking for travel information

Well, I wanted to look up some travel information for the upcoming trip to Japan. Where could I find information about hotels, places to visit, local customs, restaurants, etc....?

There are probably a lot of websites but I started with It's a site by and for travelers. You can make a profile and describe all the places you visited (or lived in) and provide useful information.

Their main categories are:
  • Hotels
  • Things to do
  • Restaurants
  • Local Customs
  • Nightlife
  • Off the beaten path
  • Tourist traps
  • Warning or dangers
  • Transportation
  • Parking lists
  • Shopping
  • Sports Travel
  • General tips

June 24, 2008

Back to school

I'm planning to start evening classes next september. Since I live in Antwerp, I thought it would be best to take classes at the Centrum voor Volwassenenonderwijs LBC-NVK 'Borgerhout'.

The curriculum for 2008-2009 [pdf] was already online and I had a look. There are four levels of languages from basic to advanced. The first year normally consists of 2 years. For Japanese, this is four years. Unfortunately, the LBC Center first year is on Thursday, coinciding with another class I'm following.

So I found the 'Centrum voor Levende Talen'. Since I work mainly in Brussels, and classes are during the week, so that makes Leuven also an alternative. The benefit is also that CLT also goes to RG2 (Richtgraad 2) and doesn't stop after 4 modules like the other institute in Borgerhout. Although 8 years does seem to be a lot. Let's start with one.

This is from the CLT institute. The Levels or 'richtgraden' (RG) correspond with the levels as describer in the European References (ERK): RG1 = Waystage (A2), RG2 = Threshold (B1), RG3 = Vantage (B2), RG4 = Effectiveness (C1).

Richtgraad 1 **




4 x 120u

Richtgraad 2




4 x 120u°

I did some searching on Google for experiences and it seems that CLT in Leuven is one of the best choices. I did see some discouraging comments like "it would take about 10 years to be able to have a decent conversation in Japanese".

In any case, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

June 23, 2008

Why Japan?

People sometimes ask me: 'Why do you like Japan (or the Japanese culture) that much?

It all started when my father started a Jiu-Jitsu club when I was around nine years old. Of course, I had to join from my father. In the beginning, it was somewhat against my will but I soon started enjoying it. I followed Jiu-Jitsu for about ten years till I went to the university. During the last years, I tried out some others like Wing Shun, Taekwondo, Karate,.... but I didn't like sparring all too much.

My father's club was a sportsclub and not a dojo. He really did it as a sport and didn't learn too much about the origin of this discipline. Out of interest, I started to read about the subject from books from the library. I eventually also read a lot about Samurais and Bushidō which I found fascinating. This got me interested in the culture.

A second element were the cartoons I watched during childhood. Although not a native French speaker, the channel with the most cartoons was TF1 (Télévision Française 1). So I grew up watching Dragonball, Les Chevaliers du Zodiac (Saint Seiya), Ken Le survivant (Fist of the North Star), Nicky Larson (Cityhunter), ....
At the time, I didn't know these were Japanese Anime but dubbed in French. Later on, I tried to collect these series in original Japanese and so my collection of Anime started. Although I wanted to follow some series without having to read the subtitles. Hence my wish to learn the language.

I got to know fellow collectors and over time I found a lot of new series like Ghost in the Shell, Naruto, Bleach (some of my favorite series) etc......

So my goal is to
  1. Start a blog to track my progress and keep track of resources (and exchange them with others)
  2. Start Japanese evening classes this year
  3. Visit Japan within the next year
  4. [Classified]