Makoto e-Zine #1 Audio Files

Makoto e-Zine #1 Audio Files

Issue #1
April 2018


Please note: This issue is completely free and may be downloaded as a PDF (recommended for the pretty graphics), MOBI (for Kindles and Kindle readers), or ePub (eBook format for everyone else). Click here to download the e-zine.


Listen to the story about three mighty warrior leaders who consolidated Japan and ended the Warring States period. The story is recorded both regular speed and slowed down.


Reader Sound Files SLOW SPEED: Click to Download

Reader Sound Files NORMAL SPEED: Click to Download


20+ ways to say I, ME, & THEE
NEW READER:The Warrior Leaders of the Sengoku Period

ž Laughs, Jokes, Riddles, and Puns
ž Prefecture Spotlight: FUKUI
ž Etymology: 折り紙付き
ž Phrase of the Day: Murphy’s Law
ž Ukiyo-e: Sharaku
ž Kanji Spotlight: 集
ž Grammar Time! ~ほうがいい


I, Me, & Thee: On Japanese Pronouns

I, Me, & Thee: On Japanese Pronouns

Japanese is famous for dropping pronouns. Once the topic or subject of a conversation is established, it is awkward to continually use the pronoun. And yet, ironically, there are tons of pronouns available for use—even more when considering dialects.

As mentioned above, you could, and in some cases should, avoid using pronouns altogether.

When the context is clear, drop the pronoun. When speaking to a superior, it is best to use the person’s name with an honorific such as さま sama or title such as 先生(せんせい) sensei.

But a few well-placed pronouns can enliven a conversation. Want to sound like a sixteenth-century samurai warrior? There are pronouns for that. Want to sound more masculine? No problem. Like a little girl? Sure.

General Notes on Pronouns

  • When one says “I” in English no information is conveyed other than that it is first person singular. In Japanese, however, many pronouns also carry cultural or social status connotations.
  • As long as the meaning is clear, Japanese usually omits the pronoun.
    For example:

    ka-ru san wa mise ni ikimashita.
    Carl went to the store.
    sokode, pan o kaimashita.
    There, he purchased bread.

  • Once the subject is clear, Carl, “he” is unnecessary in the second sentence even though it is required in English.
  • Single words or short sentences usually drop the pronoun as it is assumed the speaker is referring to him or herself.

    hara hetta.
    (I’m) hungry.

    (I’m) sleepy.

  • Adding the suffix, たち tachi, to the first person pronoun, makes it plural: 私たち watashi tachi we; us.
  • The suffix ら ra is a more informal version of たち tachi.
  • While you can say 彼女たち kanojo tachi when the room is full of women or girls, the norm is to use 彼ら karera for mixed groups or situations when the gender makeup of the group is unknown.


How to NOT Use Pronouns

You can get by your entire life with only using 私 watashi for “I” and あなた anata for “you,” but not only would that be boring, in some situations it might actually be rude. あなた anata, for example, can, in some cases, be rude since it implies you are stating the listener is equal to or inferior to you. Saying 私 watashi too often can make one sound conceited.

Here are a few ways to get around this:

INSTEAD OF watashi

  • Point to yourself when referring to yourself

INSTEAD OF あなた anata

  • Use the person’s name with さん san
  • Use the person’s title: 先生 sensei (for teachers, doctors, pastors, and other teaching professions); 社長 shachō (for bosses or company presidents)
  • そちら sochira literally means “there” and can be used to refer to your listeners


  • Refer to everyone as みんな or みなさん
  • In short, if you can avoid using a pronoun whether through context or substitute, do it.

Pimsleur Language Programs;

Now, let’s look at actual pronouns!

+ Everyday Use Pronouns

  • watashi—I; me [formal or informal; gender-neutral]
  • うち uchi—one’s own… [usually used with の to talk about one’s household: うちの犬 uchi no inu—my (our) dog]
  • あなた anata—you [usually said to people on a similar or lower social status; often used by wives to address their husbands like “dear” or “sweetheart”]
  • kimi—you [informal; used among friends; the same kanji is used as the name suffix -kun. Often used with 僕 boku.]
  • 彼女 kanojo—she; her [can also be used to mean “girlfriend.”]
  • kare—he; him [can also be used to mean “boyfriend.” 彼氏 kareshi always means “boyfriend.”]


+ Formal Pronouns

  • watakushi—I; me [more formal then just watashi; uses the same kanji as watashi; gender-neutral]
  • ware—I; me [literary style]
  • 我ら warera—we [literary style]
  • 我が waga—my (or can be plural: our as in 我が社 wagasha—our company) [gender neutral]
  • 我々 ware ware—we [formal; used when speaking on behalf of a company or group]


+ Pronouns for Women

あたし atashi—I [a shortened form of watashi used commonly by women]

+ Pronouns for Men

  • ore—I [gives a sense of masculinity; can be rude in some situations]
  • boku—I [used by males of all ages, but particularly with boys. Can be used when calling a boy whose name you don’t know: “hey, kid” or “hey, squirt.” The kanji 僕 shimobe means “servant”]
  • washi—I [often used by older males]


+ Archaic Samurai Edo Period “the Fun” Pronouns

  • あっし asshi—I; me [Edo period slang for 私 watashi]
  • 拙者 sessha—I; me [used by males; samurai pronoun; the kanji means “clumsy person”]
  • 我が輩 wagahai—I; me [used by males; has a nuance of arrogance; Natsume Soseki’s famous book, I am a Cat is called 吾輩は猫である wagahai wa neko de aru.]
  • soregashi—I; me [used by males; used by samurai as a first person pronoun, but literally means some unknown person]
  • yo—I [used by males] Say this after a good meal:  余は満足じゃ。 yo wa manzoku ja. I am satisfied.
  • onore—I; oneself [used by males; humble when used as first person pronoun, but hostile when used as a second person pronoun (see below)]
  • 汝 nanji—you [used by males and females]


+ Pronouns for When Upset

  • あんた anta—you [rude; a shortened version of あなた anata; used when angry]
  • おまえ omae—you [can be rude or can show familiarity similar to 俺 ore. Often used by husbands when speaking to their wives]
  • てめえ temee—you [rude; used when angry; used by males; also てまえ temae; kanji: 手前]
  • きさま kisama—you [rude; historically, this was a formal pronoun the kanji, 貴様 meaning an honorable person]
  • こいつ koitsu—him; her [informal; implies contempt; used to refer to someone nearby]
  • あいつ aitsu—him; her [informal; implies contempt; used to refer to someone away from the speaker and listener.]
  • おのれ onore—you [used by males; humble when used as first person pronoun, but hostile when used as a second person pronoun]


+ Less Common Pronouns

  • おら ora—I [rural feel; used in anime or manga such as Crayon Shinchan and Dragon Ball characters]
  • 我ら warera—we [informal; like たち tachi, ら ra is a pluralizing suffix that usually shows familiarity]


+ Plural Suffixes

  • ~たち ~tachi [informal: 私たち watashi tachi—we; 君たち kimi tachi—you; can also be added to names、groups, or places: 青木さんたち aoki san tachi—the Aoki’s]
  • ~ら ~ra [informal: 彼ら karera—they; あいつら aitsura—they; ]
  • ~とも ~tomo [humble; changes to ~domo; わたくしども watakushi domo]
  • ~かた ~kata [formal; changes to ~gata; あなたがた anata gata—you (plural; more formal than あなたたち anata tachi]


+ Other

  • あの人 ano hito—he; she [literally, that person; informal to formal]
  • あの方 ano kata—he; she [literally, that person; formal / polite]
  • あの子 ano ko—she [literally, that child, but usually refers to a girl or young woman]
  • 我が社  waga sha—our company [used when representing one’s own company]


Learn Japanese Animal Names

Learn Japanese Animal Names

Animal Names Vocabulary List

For beginners: Let’s learn a few common animal names in Japanese.

First, the word for “animal” is 動物 doubutsu. This literally means moving (動) thing (物).


1 minute Japanese: Basic animal names in Japanese



alligator – ワニwani
Tenshi Rafael
 – アリ ari
armadillo – アルマジロarumajiro



Nautilus – オウムガイ
TO Uichee (Vijay)!
 – イモリ imori
|| THANKS TO Alan Mogi!
Nightingale – サヨナキドリ or ナイチンゲール sayonakidori
or naichinge-ru
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!



bat – こうもり koumori|| THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
 – 熊 kuma
birds – 鳥 tori
birdschicken – ニワトリ niwa

birdscrane – 鶴 tsuru
birdseagle – 鷲 washi
– 鷹 taka
birdsowl – フクロウ fukurou
birdssparrow – スズメ suzume 
birdsstork – コウノトリ kou
no tori

birdsswan – 白鳥 haku chou



Octopus – 蛸 tako
TO Alan Mogi!
Orangutan – オランウータン oranu-tan
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!

   -川獺 kawauso ||
THANKS TO Alan Mogi!
Oriole – コウライウグイス kouraiugaisu
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!
Ostrich – ダチョウdachou
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!
Otter – 川獺 kawauso
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!
Owl – フクロウfukurou
|| THANKS TO Uichee (Vijay)!



cat – 猫
camel – ラクダ rakuda
cow – 牛 ushi
crab – カニ kani
crow – からす karasu ||THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael



panda – パンダ panda|| THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
 – ペンギンpengin || THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
 – 豚 buta
polar (white) bear – 白熊 shiro kuma



dinosaurs – 恐竜
kyou ryuu
dog – 犬 inu
dolphin – イルカ iruka
donkey – ロバ roba
dragon – 竜 ryuu
duck – アヒル ahiru ||THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael



quail – 鶉



elephant – 象



rabbit – ウサギ
rat / mouse 
– ネズミ nezumi
rhino – サイ sai



fox – 狐 kitsune
D. Nights
frog – カエル kaeru 
firefly – 蛍 hotaru
|| THANKS TO Tenshi Rafael
fish – 魚 sakana
fishcarp – こい koi
fishgoldfish – 金魚 kin gyo
fishshark – サメ same
fishwhale – 鯨 kujira



scorpion – さそり
sasori || THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
 – 羊 hitsuji
skunk – スカンク sukanku
snake – 蛇 hebi
snail – 蝸牛katatsumuri || THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
squid – イカ ika ||THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael



giraffe – キリン
goat – ヤギ yagiGodzilla – ゴジラ gojira
gorilla – ゴリラ gorira



tiger – トラ
turtle – 亀 kame



hamster – ハムスター
hippo – カバ kaba
horse – 馬 uma



unicorn – 一角獣



insects – 虫
fishbee – 蜂 hachi
fishbeetle – カブトムシ kabutomushi
fishbutterfly – 蝶々 chou chou
fishcricket – コオロギ koorogi
fishmosquito – か ka
fishwasp – スズメバチ suzumebachi
fishworm – ミミズ mimizu



Vulture – はげたけ
hagetake || THANKS to Ulrike



jaguar – ジャガー



wild boar
– 猪 inoshishi
wolf – 狼 ookami



kangaroo – カンガルー
koala – コアラ koara





lamb – 子羊
lion – ライオン raion
leopard – ヒョウ hyou



yak – ヤク



mouse / rat – ネズミ
monkey – 猿 saru
moth – 蛾 ga || THANKS
TO Tenshi Rafael
mule / donkey – ロバ roba



zebra – シマウマ
shima uma
Learning Japanese Kanji: What are On and Kun Readings and When to Use Them

Learning Japanese Kanji: What are On and Kun Readings and When to Use Them

On, Kun? What is That? And When Do I Use Which?

Hiragana, katakana, and kanji are the three legs that make up the Japanese writing system stool. The kana (a classification name for hiragana and katakana together) are fairly easy to learn in just a few weeks of careful study. Kanji, on the other hand…


To be fluent in Japanese, the government recommends learning about two thousand kanji characters. Why so many? You should be grateful. China has over 40,000 characters.

Another reason for being grateful: Most kanji have a single core meaning (this could be an abstract notion or something more concrete). While many do have other meanings, [for example, 生 can mean “live,” “give birth,” or “raw.”] most kanji can be safely associated with a single meaning or idea. The problem comes with the “readings” or pronunciations.


However, to complicate matters further, the ancient Japanese seemed to have not realized their language was a different language entirely from Chinese. Most of the time, the meaning behind the imported Chinese characters were often already found in Japanese. To add one more layer of complication, the Japanese thought it best to use the Chinese pronunciation(s) in addition to their own native Japanese pronunciation(s). This is why there are often two totally different sounding readings.

Take 木, the kanji for tree, for example: The Japanese called a tree “ki” but they heard their Chinese neighbors pronounce it as “moku.” So, 木 has two readings, a kun (ki) and an on (moku). –Actually, it has a few more, but these are the most useful.

Take a moment to memorize this:

on = pronunciation taken from the Chinese
kun = pronunciation from the Japanese 


音読み on yomi — ON READING

The on yomi is a representation of the ancient Japanese people’s understanding of the ancient Chinese words. As a result, you can often see/hear similarities with modern Chinese or even Korean regarding how they pronounce the same or similar kanji, but it is definitely not the same. Don’t expect a study of on readings will give you the ability to speak Mandarin!

In fact, because Japanese has fewer sounds in the language, the more complex sounds and pitches found in Chinese had to be condensed. This further distorted the family resemblance.

  • Nearly all Kanji have at least one on reading. The only exceptions are kanji created in Japan. [Click here for an article on wasei kanji]
  • On yomi is a rough representation of the ancient Chinese pronunciation for that character
  • On readings tend to be a single syllable in length, but not always as the example above with tree. [新 new | on: shin | kun: atarashii]
  • Sometimes there are multiple on readings. This is often due to that kanji being imported multiple times or from different areas of China which had variations in pronunciation. [生 life | on: sei or shou]
  • Kanji were imported in waves from the 4th century through the 16th mostly by priests and spread by the Buddhist or Confucian scrolls they brought.
  • Jukugo, compound kanji word phrases, tend to use on yomi.
  • But sometimes, jukugo could go either way: [旅人 traveler | on: ryojin | kun: tabibito]

訓読み kun yomi — KUN READING

The kun yomi is the “native” Japanese pronunciation for the concept represented by the kanji.

  • Kun readings tend to be longer than a syllable in length [新 new | on: shin | kun: atarashii] This isn’t always the case, however.
  • Most words that consist of a single kanji all by itself, use the kun yomi. [人 person hito | 車 car kuruma | 夏 summer natsu]
  • Kanji followed by hiragana (okurigana) tend to be kun yomi.


The On and Kun readings are similar to what happened to the English language after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The native population’s language was mixed with their continental overlords’. As a result, the specialized and refined words of the ruling class spoke a dialect of Old French. The common people spoke Old English. So, common everyday words like tree, hill, town, meal, and earth were of Anglo-Saxon origin, but the Norman (from Latin) influence is still heard in specialized words. We say “cow” while plowing in Anglo-Saxon, but “beef” when eating in the castle.

In our tree example, we find the kun reading, the native Japanese pronunciation, is ki. Today, when you want to say, “There’s a tree,” you’d say:

ki ga aru.
There is a tree.

But if you want to buy some lumber, you might say,

zaimoku o kaitai desu.
(I) want to buy lumber.


Unfortunately, you really need to learn both on and kun readings for kanji. Some are more useful than others, but if your goal is to be fluent in reading Japanese, learn them both.

It isn’t always easy to figure out which to use in context. There are, however, a few quick and dirty tips. (mostly repeated from the above On and Kun sections.)

KUN Tips:

  • As mentioned above, common, everyday words tend to be kun. Specialized words tend to be on. [The kanji for water is 水. To ask for water, use mizu. Swimming is suiei]
  • kun reading dominates ideas that were familiar and common to the Japanese at the time a kanji (the Anglo-Saxon words)
  • If there is okurigana (the trailing hiragana that is written after the kanji), the kanji will most likely be a kun yomi.

ON Tips:

  • As a general rule, jukugo, compound kanji that form a new word, use on readings.
  • On readings tend to be a single syllable in length, but not always as the example above with tree. [新 new | on: shin | kun: atarashii]


  • Most kanji have only one core meaning. Yeah!
  • The readings are either on yomi” or “kun yomi.”
  • 音読み on yomi–The “on” pronunciation was the original Chinese pronunciation—or at least the sounds Japanese people thought were the Chinese pronunciation.
  • 訓読み kun yomi–The “kun” pronunciation was the native Japanese pronunciation for that particular concept.
  • Due to changes in sounds over time, some kanji have an impressive number of pronunciations. It is best to learn these sounds by example which is why we include multiple example words with each kanji in this newsletter.
  • Jukugo, compound kanji word phrases, tend to use on yomi.
  • Kanji followed by hiragana (okurigana) tend to be kun yomi.
  • Concentrate on the one or two most useful readings for each kanji. You can always go back and learn the rarer ones later. This will make your learning progress faster.
  • As you read, take note of usage. You’ll start to associate kanji with their on or kun readings subconsciously.
Sick and Tired of Getting Tacos on my Ears Japanese Idiom Lesson

Sick and Tired of Getting Tacos on my Ears Japanese Idiom Lesson


Okay, this has nothing to do with the yummy Mexican food, but see below for what “tako” means in Japanese and your ears.

mimi ni tako ga dekiru
to be sick and tired of hearing something
to hear something over and over again


If someone “talks your ears off,” instead of using this idiom, you can ignore them while claiming your “ears are far” (mimi ga tooi) which means you can’t hear too well.

Literally, “get calluses on one’s ears.” The “tako” here means “callus” such as what guitar players get on their fingers or the “corn” found on feet.

Other common words with the same “tako” pronunciation are:

  • tako octopus
  • tako kite (the toy you fly in the sky)
  • The Mexican food, taco, is pronounced タコス takosu.


shukudai o shinasai to, mimi ni tako ga dekiru hodo haha ni iwareta.
“Do your homework!” my mother said so many times my ears developed calluses.”

宿題 shukudai—homework
しなさい  shinasai—do (something) [command] と to—quotation marker
ほど hodo—to such an extent
言われた iwareta—said