Do Your Hobby in Japanese

Thus spake AJATTeer Shawn D.:

I used to tell my fellow JETs about how “studying Japanese” isn’t really just about “studying” at all, it’s about learning to live with the language, learning and developing in the language.

For example, my favorite thing to tell people is to do your hobby in Japanese. I am really into cycling, in Japan I used to hang out with bike builders, racers, etc. I raced, hung out at bike bars and even ended up training with a keirin (競輪) team. Think there was any English there? Nope, just a bunch of bikes and Japanese.

Because I was interested in the vocabulary it wasn’t like ‘studying’ at all, I was learning. I picked up terms, phrases and culture that I didn’t have to SRS, that I didn’t even to think about. It just stuck.

My version of sentence mining was reading and translating bike magazines. It was fun so it didn’t seem like work, because it wasn’t. I even got offered jobs and visa sponsorship due to my knowledge of bikes and Japanese/English. Do a hobby in Japanese if you can; it’ll pay off and it’ll be fun.

  30 comments for “Do Your Hobby in Japanese

  1. 李便神
    July 24, 2012 at 16:31


    • Shawn D
      October 24, 2012 at 07:32

      I love this post because my name is also Shawn D. Im 16 and i only see a slight problem with this. *no criticism intended* What if one of your favorite hobbies is reading and your not the best at that yet.

  2. July 24, 2012 at 18:09

    it’s so funny because I was just thinking of getting out all of the guitar books I bought at book off and using them…after watching my daughter and my (Japanese) father in law do karaoke last night, I got inspired

  3. フレヂィ
    July 25, 2012 at 03:03

    This makes complete sense, and still… sometimes we still fall back to chore-like SRS-ing when it can be done so much easier. I started doing this type of learning, just recently so it’s taking sometime to kick the chore-like habit, but doing it in this way IS more fun… x 1,000,000

  4. Sholum
    July 25, 2012 at 06:27

    Hmmm… Physics in Japanese? Not yet…
    Computer stuff in Japanese? Already started…
    Reading and playing games in Japanese? Been doing that since day one…

    Ah, forget it! If it’s interesting I’ll do it in Japanese! Which means I’ll do almost everything in Japanese! Doing something interesting is definitely more fun than just doing SRS reps all the time.

  5. Rout
    July 26, 2012 at 00:29

    The problem I seem to have is that doing my hobbies in Japanese seems to turn those hobbies very frustrating… For example, I got a bunch of video games in Japanese, including some I’d already played in English and enjoyed a great deal, but I just couldn’t get into them when they were in Japanese. I wasn’t going straight into text-heavy games either, I started out playing Pokemon, for instance.

    I dunno, I find looking up words in a dictionary tedious after a while. And if I just try to play without worrying about stuff I don’t understand, my brain goes like “omgwtf, but I’m not learning anything new like that!” It sucks either way. 

    I don’t want it to seem like I’m whining, it just saddens me that things I supposedly enjoy stop being so enjoyable when everything is in Japanese and because of that I can’t utilize the AJATT method without feeling frustrated.  

    • ジョシュア
      July 26, 2012 at 03:46

      hmmm… interesting. i think you’re stressing too much.  maybe you should try to play the games without paying attention to meaning and guessing what they mean, and then later coming back to it with the meanings… it might make more fun out of it. If you’re still having this problem try using google translate…. i mean its not really good….. but it works better than looking up words every five seconds in the dictionary. 

      i have the same thing. so i would know, but usually i just say “screw it im playing pokemon, because i already know how to play it in english.” and just play it how i normally do, skipping all the reading. but, I recommend that you spend time with music, learn to sing it and pronounce like they do, get the meanings of words on sites that have english and japanese next to each other, and just sing over and over until you know what the songs mean. it will make alot of pokemon words clearer, escpecially anime songs…

      but yeah, i understand you, i wonder what  勝元(katsumoto) thinks….

    • joshua
      July 26, 2012 at 05:10

      sorry, the last reply was removed i said something stupid…. bad me. but i really want to tell you that i can understand where you’re coming from. it is tedious, but yet you should still continue to do it, especially with a monolingual dictionary, but if you ever feel like you don’t understand its always okay to go back to a bilingual dictionary. actually i use both, since they are helpful and give sample sentences. but for pokemon, you can do kanji lookups and find them in the monolingual dictionary. if you want a free online one here you go: 
      and the bilingual: 

      in the last one i said a bad thing…. i referenced a bad source.  and thanks to the people at ajatt they caught me. im kinda saying what i meant to say, so i thank them for fixing me. thanks whoever checked my post :). im really happy because i want others to be successful too :)

      but back to you rout, you should try to make yourself more comfortable with learning i think, because you want to have a good experience :) 

    • ライトニング
      July 26, 2012 at 06:15

      I was there. Everybody on AJATT was there. My only advice is to just do it. Who says you need to learn the words right then? I just write the sentences on a piece of paper and SRS them later. Who wants to constantly look up words during playing a video game? Just take a few seconds to write it down and go on.
      Even if you don’t learn anything new, at least you get reading practice. And I’m sure that after you play enough you’ll pick up some things naturally. As long as the game uses Kanji, preferably .

    • kalek
      July 27, 2012 at 01:03

      Maybe I’m a little crazy this way, but I enjoy playing the same games over and over.
      By the time I started AJATTing, I had beaten the 日本語版 of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (時オカ) multiple times with no understanding of Japanese beyond おはよう, こんにちは, こんばんは, すごい, and かわいい. That’s how well I knew the game. I liked to speed run, and in the Japanese version, the text scrolls SIGNIFICANTLY faster (not to mention written Japanese is insanely efficient compared to English), so I guess my impatience was my motivation to play the Japanese version rather than the American.
      So, what did I do when I started AJATTing? I played 時オカ. In the beginning, I just tried to read the kana or recall kanji meanings (within the context of the game), but I had the game memorized to the extent that I mostly knew what all the characters were saying, and if I got bored, I could just skip through and continue on with the main story without trying to read it since I knew how to finish it. When I started MCDs, I made (and still make sometimes) MCDs of the game’s dialogue.
      By now, I’ve beaten it more times than I can remember since starting this Japanese project, and I now understand probably 90-95% of the game. I think could beat it without ever having played the English version (esp. since I DID beat Skyward Sword before ever even seeing friends play the English version, and for the most part they were at the beginning of the game). I also largely don’t remember the English dialogue in the game anymore — the Japanese has replaced it :>.
      Beyond that, in the beginning I played lots of Super Mario Galaxy. The objectives are mostly clear enough that you don’t have to understand anything to go through the game, and it’s not too text heavy, but there still is plenty of text to read if you feel like reading it.  Plus, it has kanji with furigana :>. Most Zelda games and RPGs outside of 時オカ were too reliant on text for me for a while (for close to a year after? I don’t know, half of that was my Kanji phase anyway), but these days I can go through them pretty well.
      When your brain tells you that you aren’t going to learn anything new, just ignore it. If you’re reading at all, you’re getting used to Japanese sentence structure, Japanese words, etc. You’re making your reading speed go up. If you haven’t already, you’ll eventually start picking out words from context and/or kanji meanings, and at that point, it won’t be a chore to do dictionary look-ups and add it to the SRS — that card will be a joy to add and insanely easy and fun to do reps on.

      • Rout
        July 27, 2012 at 02:15

        Hey, lots of helpful advice. Right now I’m hooked on Guild Wars, and while the game has a Japanese language option, I’m rather hesitant to turn it on… I guess I’ll stick to my Pokemon for the time being. It might be a new game, but if you played one Pokemon game, you know how to play ‘em all (plus the new games have kanji in them, how awesome is that?). I think the problem was that my OCD brain was telling me to look up every new word I come across and that gets boring fast. I don’t really like beating games over and over again, unless it’s short and insanely fun, but there are some titles I’d like to play again, such as Persona 4, which I’d acquired in Japanese some time ago. 

        Question about making MCDs of the game dialogue – how did you go about entering the bits of dialogue into Anki? Did you just write it down somewhere while you were playing and added it later?  

        • kalek
          July 27, 2012 at 10:04

          I wrote up a reply to this, but I don’t know what happened to it? Oh well.
          Anyway, with the exceptions of Pokemon and Skyward Sword (where I hand-transcribed everything I wanted to learn, which means I didn’t actually SRS much from either game), I’ve used text dumps or other peoples’ transcriptions. Google a few lines of dialogue from whatever game you’re playing and may find a dump or transcription. Every Zelda game (神々のトライフォース、時のオカリナ、ムジュラの仮面、風のタクト、トワイライトプリンセス) and every Final Fantasy game (6, 7, 10) I’ve played has them available, along with Chrono Trigger.
          Also, on the Guild Wars in Japanese thing, if it’s not much trouble, change it now and see what happens. If it’s too hard, then change it back and just turn on a Japanese podcast or music (or audio rip from an anime or drama you like).

        • ライトニング
          July 28, 2012 at 04:06

          I really advise you to turn on the Japanese setting on Guild Wars. Why? Because, it’s needed. And you being hooked with it is even better. You will learn so much Japanese with it because If you love the game, you will be wanting to know what’s going on, which will make you want to learn those words. The only way you will get good with Japanese is to do it. My poor English knowledge when I was 5 and 6 didn’t stop me from playing text heavy RPGs like Final Fantasy. 
          You’re a Japanese child, and children do stuff that adults do, no matter how much they know the language.
          The only way you’re gonna get extra good in Japanese is if you go extra far with it. So, if I were you, I’d turn on the Japanese setting. (Gain massive knowledge)

    • July 27, 2012 at 23:08

      I’ve played through a few Japanese games, and didn’t feel the need to look up every single word I didn’t know. 
      Well, I thought I should at first, but realised that’s too hard.
      Remember that it’s just reading practice, anyway.

      • Amphy64
        July 28, 2012 at 03:22

        I agree, it was the same for me too, I love games, I love Pokemon, I really was eager to play the newest Pokemon games (Pokemon Black, then Soul Silver) as soon as possible rather than waiting for them to be released in English…but each time, it was far far too frustrating. For me, I’ve found doing my hobbies in Japanese can be the fastest way possible to make me not enjoy my hobby, and truly HATE Japanese (for ruining the fun I’d otherwise have with my hobby). It also teaches me to tune out Japanese, which is not what I want to be doing, if there’s a lot I don’t understand it’s overwhelming and becomes just irrelevant noise. I’m not learning anything if I’m ignoring all the Japanese in the game.
        For me, I’ve found it’s not efficient, I can struggle with a game for hours and only learn one new word if anything, instead I could spend the time using a guide like Tae Kim’s and learn in a more structured way. It’ll vary depending on the individual, I think, personally, I like (good) textbooks, so using one isn’t an issue for me, I’ll have more fun doing that than messing around with something that’s way over my level. No, I can’t read Kokoro (my other hobby is reading) yet, maybe it’s not really worth torturing myself trying. It’s so painful to me not to be able to read, it really does feel like that.
        On the other hand, it can work Ok, if for instance it’s already a game I know very well. I’ve learnt a lot of Japanese from Tales of the Abyss (a game for which I basically know the English script back to front). What made the difference with that was it has an anime adaptation, so I could just watch, if I’d had to play it I would have just got frustrated again. I think you really have to *love* the material as much as I love that game for it to help much, though, or it can quickly become uninteresting and frustrating due to the extra barrier Japanese can feel like it places between you and the material.
        There’s also a lot of extra material for that game that’s only available in Japanese (manga with extra story etc.), so I think that’s good motivation, if anyone has a hobby with material they can only access by learning Japanese (martial arts, bonsai, figure collecting and building, idol singers etc.), it’s at least very motivating, though trying to read it before you really feel ready may not be any fun. For me it’s still just frustrating, and these manga are something I want to read really really badly, not something I’m just ‘meh’ about. Actually I think that’s part of the problem – it’s much worse to not be able to understand something I really want to than it would be not to be able to understand something I was only vaguely interested in. I’d get frustrated much less quickly if it was something I cared less about.
        So, I think involving hobbies can work and be helpful, and are something you’ll naturally gravitate towards anyway since it’s what is most interesting to you (especially for those in the オタク crowd for whom their hobbies are part of their motivation to learn Japanese in the first place). I also feel it can be a bit of a double-edged sword, because it’s easy for it to be a source of frustration, and end up generating unreasonable expectations. I mean, here’s me getting fed up and upset because I can’t perfectly understand material I know full well is aimed at older teens or adults, rather than appreciating I’m doing Ok to understand *any* of it. You naturally expect to be able to function in your hobby at the same level you’re used to doing in English, rather than recognising that you may still be an infant in Japanese terms. So, no classic novels for me yet, but maybe I can read fairy stories.

  6. Dakota
    July 28, 2012 at 00:01


    I play Minecraft in Japanese. I learn fun words like Enderman and Creeper, so that makes learning the Japanese fun.

  7. Narcface
    July 28, 2012 at 02:49


  8. Rjriediger
    July 29, 2012 at 14:57

    I work for a major airline and met a young Polish-American pilot who had taught himself English. I asked how he did it: “I read flying manuals in English”. 

    Maybe off-topic, but I follow americanjokebot on twitter. All the jokes are short so I don’t get bored, and they make good srs mcd cards.

  9. Kimchi
    August 7, 2012 at 08:57

    And where in drawing does one incorporate japanese? It is a very lonely and non text hobby. . .

    • kawaiiimouto
      August 7, 2012 at 09:12

      You just need to be a little creative. Start visiting sites with Japanese artists like Pixiv. Watch videos on youtube with Japanese artists instead. Look for drawing instruction/advice in Japanese instead of English. Try fitting some Kanji/Kana into your next drawing.

  10. Metaldragon
    August 9, 2012 at 05:32

    That moment i realise my main hobby is reading manga… well i guess this shouldnt be too hard… just try to read japanese manga

    • ZooP
      August 14, 2012 at 10:41

      You should really becareful if you do this as most manga is slang. Of course, it’s fun to learn but make sure you know what youre reading.

  11. ZooP
    August 14, 2012 at 10:40

    Kawaiimouto, I sooooo agree with you! I enjoy drawing so I went on yahoo Japan to look up drawing instructions in Japanese. With a little effort using my pop-op dictionary and looking up unfamiliar grammar, I was able to navigate just enough to get myself by. In a short while I learned new words and some kanji. Though many of them pertaining to drawing, but nevertheless, learning took place and I enjoyed it. I learned words like 下書き (draft) and new kanji words like 見直す (review) . If I wanted to, I coud create some flashcards out of this. I will plan on doing this at leasta page at a time so as not to get overwhelmed.

    Good luck!,

  12. kai
    October 21, 2012 at 10:19

    Also I think its fair to mention that you should have other hobbies besides learning Japanese to effectively enjoy Japanese through your hobbies. There was a point in my Chinese learning where I had met a few Chinese international students at school and we had organized a language exchange. They were asking me what my hobbies were and I realized my only hobby was learning Chinese and looking for the best method(including reading all Ajatt Posts) to learn Chinese. Its extremely embarrassing awkward and eyeopening when L2 Natives ask you “what are your hobbies?” and you can only vaguely remember what your hobbies were before you became obsessed with learning another language.

    Also it’s not fun trying to learn a language with this energy or mindset or whatever. It might start off fun but once the level of acceleration of your learning starts to drop and you realize this thing your so obsessed with will take another 14 months to grasp, it gets ASM really fast. I mean sure take the time to figure out how you learn best and what works for you, but don’t do it obsessively like wanting to know your L2 Asap. IMO its not about learning it asap, granted its not about taking the least efficient path either but its about learning by doing which a lot of students almost have no concept of except maybe in math. Its a journey and it can be fun if you let it. If you obsess over it past the point where its fun to obsess, you enter ASM territory.

    Before that, or right as you hit that, you need to make the decision to remember/figure out what you want out of life besides languages. Passions, people, health too please, and then install your L2 as an interface to your life in only the ways that are fun. That is a sustainable lifestyle. IMO as someone who took things too far with the 50 Hanzi a day and burnout bad.

    • 名前
      October 21, 2012 at 12:43

      This pretty much sums me up. I’ve not really burned out, but I’ve certainly slowed down and have tried to take up other interests — I sorta hated what I became without having anything other than learning a language.

      • kai
        October 29, 2012 at 23:52

        I think your making the right decision. I want to add tho that for people learning Japanese there seem to be a lot of hobbies that are “Japanese Hobbies” like manga, anime, comedy cause Japan has a huge entertainment/art culture in that way. So I guess if those things are already your hobbies you just have it easy. For me learning Mandarin I have yet to find a hobby or something entertaining enough from that culture that is exclusive to that culture and that I would rather be doing than something from the North American or Web2.0 culture. I like a lot of aspects of the Chinese culture but so far those aspects have been mostly mindsets and ways of living. People in this situation could possibly find some Chinese people share rent with or move to China at some point but in the mean time I think its best to make sure they have other interests.

  13. Sachiko
    November 2, 2012 at 11:32

    Writing is my main love. Of course I can write in Japanese, but I’m already writing a book in English, and writing loses its magic when you don’t have a good grasp of the language you’re writing in. The whole point is to use your words to weave magic, and I can’t do that in Japanese. YET. Lol, I’ve just finished memorizing kana. So…I’ve got a long way to go.

    Do you think timeboxing my writing, listening to Japanese audio while doing it, and taking breaks to read Japanese text is a good enough way to keep up on both my language learning and my writing at the same time? I’m thinking five pages a day and the rest of my entertainment in Japanese.

    I can’t wait until I can write well in Japanese…kanji look so beautiful and expressive.

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