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Japanese Cultural Learning Aids

Posted: 25th August 2015 08:32

TV Shows

Beginner: You wa nani shi ni nihon e?

Typically quirky, this reality programme is set in an airport where presenters ask arrivals at an airport why they have come to Japan.  From Japanese-fluent working foreigners, to tourists with sushi and anime on their minds, the language is easy to follow and often translated from English into Japanese.

Intermediate: Burīchi

Watch Ichigo and his friends at the Soul Society fight to protect the human world and the spirit world.  The language in Burīchi (Bleach) can be confusing at times but, it’s easy to find episodes that have subtitles to help you through.

Advanced: Kaseifu no Mita

From the television series Asadora, Kaseifu no Mita follows the story of a family grieving over the suicide of their mother and the housekeeper they hire.  Winner of seven awards, this story is dramatic and emotionally gripping, and will test your language skills as you grabble with the plot.

Movies

Beginner: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

Perhaps the most well-known Japanese animated fantasy film, Miyazaki Hayao's story is about a young heroine who enters the spirit world to save herself and her family.  As Japan’s highest grossing film, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)is a coming-of-age story portraying Japanese generational conflicts.

Intermediate: Batoru Rowaiaru

Satirising Japanese society and particularly their sometimes torturous television shows, Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale)follows a group of teenagers who are forced to enter a fight to the death game by their government.  Not for the faint hearted, this script will challenge your ability to understand Japanese through the hysteria and the screams; Hunger Games eat your heart out!

Advanced: Jūsannin no Shikaku

Jūsannin no Shikaku (13 Assassins) is the 2010 remake of a 1963 movie which details the fast paced story of a group of samurais in early 19th Century Japan defeating an evil tyrant.  The complex language and volatile settings will challenge and captivate you in this modern retelling of an old epic.

Books

Beginner: Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) is one of the most popular animes of recent times and the Manga is equally entertaining.  The comic strip style will help you associate the speech with the visual story of Eren and Mikasa as they join the Survey Corps to fight against the Titans.

Intermediate: Grotesque

Natsuo Kirino presents us with what appears to be an elaborate crime story but delves far deeper.  Told by four unreliable narrators and raising questions about the social roles of women in Japanese society, the story twists and turns as the relationship between two conflicting sisters is told.  You will need to pay close attention to the text to decipher the clues. 

Advanced: Nejimakidori Kuronikuru

Written by one of Japan’s most highly regarded authors, Nejimakidori Kuronikuru (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) begins with the story of a man looking for his cat and ends up as a convoluted, random tale involving a psychic prostitute and scarred war veteran in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Music

Beginner: Happy End

Credited as being the ‘Japanese Beatles’, Happy End are one of the most influential and successful Japanese pop acts.  Produced to sound very clear and crisp, the songs and melodies are particularly catchy, so you'll easily be able to sing-along.

Intermediate: Base Ball Bear

This four-piece rock band are similar in style to British indie band Oasis.  A lot of their music revolves around nostalgic tales of teenage life, so the vocabulary shouldn't stretch you too far whilst still being memorable and fun.

Advanced: Babymetal

Babymetal are a Japanese metal band with questionable song titles and lyrics.  With a discography that includes ‘Gimme Chocolate’ and ‘Headbangya!!’ accompanied by a large amount of noise, if you can understand them through the racket then you're doing an excellent job.