The Three Kubari’s: Expressing Consideration for Others

I recently started studying for N2. Today, my Japanese coworker explained the three くばり’s to me. They’re all related to taking care of something or someone, and they sound similar, so let’s look at their differences. We can understand and remember them by recognizing the meaning of the first kanji in the word. And, because I just got a WACOM tablet, as a bonus you receive crude, crappy drawings! Please enjoy~.


配り (めくばり)

This one is pretty straight forward. (め) means “eye”. This means to keep watch of something or someone. For example, this is used to talk about how a parent watches over a child.

The next two are really similar in meaning. They roughly translate to “to be considerate” or “to be thoughtful” of others. What’s the difference?

配り (きくばり)

The first kanji, (き) has several meanings, but here the most appropriate meaning is “atmosphere” or “mood”. The connotation of this word is that you see a situation now and you are considerate in the moment. For example, if you see your coworker is struggling with a situation, you might step in and help them. In essence, you are reading the atmosphere of a situation and being considerate of it.

配り (こころくばり)

The first kanji in this one, (こころ) means “heart” or “mind”. [CULTURE NOTE: In Japan, the heart and mind are the same. Whereas in Western culture we often feel with our heart and think with our head, in Japanese culture thoughts and feelings both come from the heart.] The connotation of 心配りis that you are always considerate of a certain person. For example, you might have a very close friend, lover, or family member who you are always thinking about and being considerate of no matter what. That person is always in your heart.

卍 : Trending Japanese Slang


This symbol has been popular with JK  (Joshi Kosei, or female high school students)  in the recent weeks. Let’s find out what it means to them.


High School Girls Love Swastikas????


A lot of Westerners might be upset seeing this symbol. They identify it as the Nazi swastika, which you can see on the left below this eagle. But please take a closer look. Compare it with the symbol below.

Notice anything different?

That’s right! The angle is different, and the image is flipped. The reason is that the Nazis appropriated this symbol for their own use, so they changed it a bit to differentiate it from its previous usage.

This symbol is called a manji in Japanese. The symbol “comes from Sanskrit, and is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism…[and] has to do with well-being, good luck and good health. It has a very long history in Japanese Buddhism, and even if it’s off tourist maps, it’s still found all over the country.

(A Japanese Temple)


Maji Manji: What do you mean???

In a similar way, JK are appropriating this Buddhist symbol for their own communication needs. “Maji” means “serious”, and is usually used in the same way that we say “Seriously????” (imagine the intonation of a teenage girl when you read this word).

I first heard about this slang from my high school first year (U.S. sophomore) students. Students are using the phrase “Maji Manji” or sometimes just the Manji symbol itself, but they can’t really explain it well. They said, “It doesn’t translate. It’s a feeling.” What they told me corresponds with the information found in this article. My students told me they use it because it’s quick, convenient, and flexible, so they can easily respond with 卍 when they are in a hurry. It is often used to express the feeling of “Seriously???”, likely because of its similarity to “Maji”. However, it can have other meanings depending on the context. It still seems to be mysterious even among its users, and it’s all up to the situation and relationship between the users to determine how it is interpreted.





JLPT Test Day: Frustrations and Reflection

(How I spent my Saturday)

As many of you know, the JLPT was on Sunday, December 3rd.  I took the N4 during university and I passed the language and grammar/reading sections, but I had never been to Japan then and my listening skills were terrible, so I failed that section and the whole test. After being in Japan for two years, I felt taking the N4 again would be a waste of time and money, so I jumped to N3 (intermediate). This post will share my feelings about test day.


The JLPT is the top proficiency test for Japanese in the world, and you need it as proof of your ability if you want to get a job using Japanese. Because of the significance of the test, the proctors are pretty strict. If you do a small thing wrong, you get a warning (indicated by a yellow card). If you do something so wrong that your test results are deemed invalid, you get a red card.

There were some special rules for this test. Phones had to be turned off (of course) and placed in a plastic bag, which then had to be put inside of your own bag. Your bag and coat/jacket had to be under your chair at all times during testing. You had to use a traditional wristwatch without sounds or timers, as our room did not have any clocks. Erasers had to have the paper cover taken off. You could use mechanical pencils, but you could not have led cases on the desk during the test.

It amazed me at how many people didn’t know proper test taking procedures. During the test, a man behind me kept mumbling to himself. Every time the proctors gave instructions, he complained (in Japanese, so everyone could understand him) about how pointless it was, and that everyone knew the rules, so we should just get on with it. He was angry when he got a yellow card. Another woman continued furiously filling in bubbles after time had been called, and was also confused and even scoffed when she got a yellow card. At the very end of the test, people got up and started to leave before we were given the “okay” from the proctors, and some of them said nasty things directed at the proctors. I can’t understand why you would pay money and then sit through such a long test just to possibly have your results thrown out because you were too impatient and couldn’t wait two minutes for an explanation of then the test results would be released and how to access them. It’s a test, guys, take it seriously or don’t take it at all.

Rant Finished…

Overall, I think it was a pretty good experience. I didn’t feel totally lost, but I know for a fact that I made some stupid mistakes. I surprisingly had time to finish the test, look over my answers again, make some changes, and then still had five or ten minutes left. When I struggled, it wasn’t because of grammar, as I was expecting, but instead was because my vocabulary skills were lacking. Soon, I’ll post some resources for studying, advice for taking the test, and talk about a few aspects of the test that I know for sure I made mistakes on. I hope to help you get 100% on your test.

Stay tuned~.

Made in America: The difference between 産, 製, 作, and 品

I was recently studying for the JLPT N3.  For those of you who don’t know, this stands for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. The lowest level is N5, and the top level (equivalent to a native speaker) is N1. The level I took is N3, around intermediate level. While it’s not quite where I hoped to be after four years of university and two years of living in Japan, if I pass it I’ll be grateful.

I stressed and crammed a lot. After I finished a test and checked my answers, I always analyzed why I got a question wrong so that I could try to avoid the same mistakes on the actual test. I have many practice test books. The good ones have the answers as well as an explanation of each answer. However, the official JLPT N3 practice test, does not have explanations (not so helpful for students studying alone).

(Me trying to understand Japanese by myself)

I turned to my Japanese co-workers for help.

Made in America

In the book, the following sentence appears:

このオレンジはアメリカ (  ) です。

This means

This orange is (     ) America.


The answer options are:

産(san)         製 (sei)          作(saku)          品(hin)

From what I could tell, they all mean a product. I looked each one up in the dictionary to find out the difference.


Native of; product of

-made; make

Work, production, harvest, yield

Item, article

Even after looking up the meanings in the dictionary, I was still pretty lost. My Japanese co-worker was able to clear it up for me.

This mean “product”, but it refers to a natural product, like a crop or resource.

This mean “made”, as in “man-made”. So, this is used to signify a product that was made by humans, like bags or TVs.

This is another product made by people. It usually refers to a work of art, like a statue or painting.

This means a “product”, but it’s not used after a country’s name. The best way my co-worker could explain it to me is that “It’s simply wrong”.

The Answer!

While they all mean roughly the same thing, their usage is difference. In the above example, because the product is “oranges”, we have to use  because it’s a natural resource of the U.S.


I hope this helps clear up this question for you guys!



(This post has nothing to do with Trump–sorry if I mislead you).