The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami – How You Can Help

The great tragedy in Japan with the earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks, and resulting nuclear disaster has left everyone with heavy hearts and hopefully with the question “How can I help?”. We are not going to post news, pictures, and updates as there are many sites where that information is available but rather a simple link to a Google page entitled ‘Resources related to the 2011 Japan Crisis‘ which is a very comprehensive list of aid organizations, news updates, maps, shelter info, Person Finder, phone numbers, links to donate, flight info, and much more. It is an extensive resource that will be continuously updated as needed. Please check it out here:

Google 2011 Japan Earthquake Crisis Resources

Sakura Zensen and Hanami

In Japan, one of the most anticipated events in the spring is the coming of the sakura or cherry blossoms.  The cherry blossom is a very important cultural symbol of Japan and the blossoming time is akin to a national holiday.  So much so that there are countless festivals and parties to celebrate its arrival.  These parties are called Hanami, or sakura viewing parties and they may be as simple as a few people and a blanket under the tree to gatherings of thousands in parks across Japan.

The coming of the cherry blossoms is such a big deal in Japan that there are forecasts on the news and on the web for the sakura zensen or ‘cherry blossom front’.  Basically the blossoms start in the southernmost part of Japan in the early spring and move north throughout the country until reaching the northernmost island of Hokkaido in early May.  The sakura zensen is tracked with the same precision and importance that would be given to the approach of an oncoming typhoon.

There are many great resources on the web for tracking, viewing, and reading about the sakura, hanami, and sakura zensen.  Here are a few good ones to get you started:

Hot off the Press! The 2011 forecast from

National Geographic’s Cherry Blossom Photos

Absolute Japan – Photographs of Sakura

Ueno Park -  Hanami!

Japan Meteorological Society – Tracks the Sakura Zensen

Wikipedia’s Hanami Page – Hanami in Japan

There is a very entertaining travelogue written by Will Ferguson called Hitching Rides With Buddha that tells the story of Ferguson (a Canadian) hitchhiking the entire length of Japan from southern tip to northern tip following the cherry blossom front.  It is an absolutely great read!  Check it out here:

Japanese Links and Resources

Jim Breen’s Japanese Page Home of the free EDICT Japanese-English dictionary. Also an extensive list of links to other sites about Japan and Japanese language.

Web Japan Information about Japan covering many different subjects including culture, sightseeing, society, history and nature. Web Japan is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan Website that covers Japanese foreign policy, economic affairs, and other governmental relations between Japan and the rest of the world.

Japan Society The website of Japan Society, a New York based non profit institution that hosts a wide variety of events and offers countless opportunities to experience Japanese culture in the US

Japanese Language Wikipedia Page

Japan Today Great website offering a very comprehensive selection of Japanese news and discussion.

MEXT Website of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology

National Museum of Japanese History

The University of Tokyo The official website of the prestigious University of Tokyo.

Japan National Tourism Organization Don’t leave home without it!

Japanese Castle Explorer One of the most comprehensive sites on the web covering the rich history of Japan’s castles, a must if you are going to Japan and want to visit any of Japan’s wonderful castles.

10 Incredible iPhone Apps for the Japanese Language Learner

With so many iPhone apps on the market now, it is becoming more difficult to sort through and find ones that are of a specific interest or that are of good quality.  The following is a list of 10 apps about learning the Japanese language as well as Japanese culture that we use and recommend.  All are free or close to it and well worth a download from the App Store.  Enjoy!

  1. Kotoba (free) – The best and most in-depth Japanese dictionary app available and it’s FREE!
  2. Kanji (by LimaSky, $0.99) – Covers 2040 Kanji characters for only a buck.
  3. iTranslate (free for lite version) – Not specific to Japanese, actually covers over 50 languages.
  4. iKana Touch ($4.99) – Best app for learning the kana.  Uses flashcards, tests, and a chalkboard to teach stroke order.
  5. Sushipedia (free) – The name pretty much says it all, unbelievable database for the sushi lover.
  6. Kanji Pop ($1.99) – A very fun way to test yourself on your Kanji progress with 127 testing levels.
  7. RadioJapan ($1.99) – Over 100 Japanese radio stations available 24/7 on your phone -how cool is that?
  8. Japanese (Rakudoor, $2.99) – A comprehensive vocabulary program, with over 8000 words.
  9. JLPT Study (free or $3.99 for full) – 8500 words and 2000 Kanji that you’ll need to know for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
  10. iZen Garden (free for lite version) – A fun little virtual Zen garden with rocks, rakes, and more.

Of course this is by no means a totally comprehensive list and there are new apps coming to market daily, but this should give you some great resources to help expand and complement your Japanese studies.


We found this in Wired magazine and thought it would be fun to share:

Obamu – v. To triumph over obstacles by acting with unfounded optimism.  Taking Barack Obama’s “Yes we can!” mantra as inspiration, this Japanese neologism has become a popular term of encouragement in tweets and blogs, often for friends suffering kobamu (rejection).”