Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Overview of the Prefectures of Japan

Do you know what a prefecture is? I have to admit that I hadn't heard about it until I started watching anime. I learned from Wikipedia that "Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages." And in order to get a clearer picture of Japan, I wanted to familiarize myself with its prefectures. Luckily, I found this diagram on Wiki as well:

I know that Hokkaido is where Japan's famous hot springs are. So if I want to go to the hot springs, I'd have to travel to the northern tip of Japan. Okinawa, known for its beaches, is at the southern tip. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is in the central part of the country. Knowing the relative location of the prefectures and its surrounding cities has given me a much clearer picture of how I should plan my trip. My next step is to research about each prefecture to see which one best matches the experience that I am looking for.

Learning Nihongo, The Japanese Language

The desire to speak Japanese is something that slowly developed as I watched my very first anime Rurouni Kenshin (a.k.a. Samurai X) more than ten years ago. I remember buying three books as a result of wanting to watch Rurouni Kenshin in its original language without subtitles:

  • Speak Japanese Today: A Self-Study Program for Learning Everyday Japanese
  • Learn to Speak Nippongo the Easy Way
  • Basic Japanese

Sadly, I didn't get very far with the books as it soon proved too difficult to actually learn the correct pronunciation of the words by just reading them. And I tucked away the books and contented myself with watching anime English-dubbed.

Then about a year ago, I went through a "revival phase". As I watched more and more anime, I began to feel the sparks of interest in Japan once more. This time, I wanted to actually travel to Japan and experience the Japanese life that I saw so often in anime. And before I knew it, I was all fired up to learn Japanese again. I did some research and discovered the Pimsleur approach to learning Japanese which consists of the following comprehensive courses:

  • Pimsleur Japanese, Comprehensive Level I for Beginners
  • Pimsleur Japanese, Comprehensive Level II for Intermediate Learners
  • Pimsleur Japanese, Comprehensive Level III for Advanced Learners

Each level has 30 lessons, and you are supposed to tackle one lesson each day, but you're also not supposed to proceed to the next lesson until you've mastered at least 80% of the previous one. I started the first course for beginners some time last year. My progress was very slow during the first several lessons. There were times when I had to repeat a single lesson for more than two weeks. I began to get frustrated, and I reached the point of giving up.

Luckily, I decided to give it another try after a long hiatus. To my surprise, I still remembered my past lessons. And the lesson that had been giving me so much trouble actually seemed easy this time! (The wonder of the human brain!) My mind began to slowly grasp the nuances of the Japanese language, and the succeeding lessons became easier to understand.

I am currently on lesson 19 of Pimsleur Japanese Level I, and I am very excited about what I have learned so far. I also like that it's in audio format so I can actually get to hear the correct pronunciation of the words, and I can simply listen to it on my mp3 player while doing something else. No textbooks, no written drills, no hassle. In the future, I will be posting notes on the lessons that I have already mastered as part of my review.

I believe that learning Japanese will add value to my experience in Japan. Being able to communicate with the Japanese people will be a great learning experience indeed.

My Pursuit of Japan Begins

And so my Pursuit of Japan begins. Or more accurately, it begins in earnest. It has been one of my dreams for quite some time now, but I've never really gotten around to doing much about it. Now I am ready to follow my imagination. (The slogan of Yokoso! Japan, Japan's tourism campaign for 2010 is Follow Your Imagination.) And I have decided to slowly and steadily take steps to achieve this dream I have of Japan.

I have divided the process into five stages:

The Game Plan

Stage 1.
Nihongo, The Japanese Language
Prefectures of Japan, Places to Visit

Stage 2.
Japanese Yen, The Budget
The "Japan Fund", Monetary Preparations

Stage 3.
Japanese Lodgings, Where to Stay
Japanese Food, What to Eat
Japanese Culture, How to Behave
Japanese Transportation, Getting From Place to Place
Japanese Weather, What to Bring

Stage 4.
Embassy of Japan, Visa Application

Stage 5.
Japan Travel Itinerary
Flights to Japan, Airline Schedules, Promotions and Booking
 Accommodations and Other Necessary Arrangements
Final Arrangements

There will be no time frame for each stage. I will allow things to happen at their natural pace, keeping myself open to opportunities and possibilities. And I will be blogging about each stage as my pursuit of Japan continues. Now let's have some fun. :)