Posted by: ChchCAN | January 31, 2010

This is the future, baby!

Does anyone else get the feeling that the techno future we as a culture have dreamed and nightmared of is just about upon us…?   Genetics, nanotech, network ubiquity, cybernetics… the ipod.  This idea is a recurring theme of Japanese anime and one of the pre-occupations I find so interesting about Japan.

I’ve never owned an ipod.  Until a month and a half ago.  I came across a New Scientist article on ‘apps’.  Journalistic spin sold me – there was one particular line : “The device in your pocket is not a phone any more.  It is anything you want it to be.”

Anything I want it to be…  Wow…  While it hasn’t quite lived up to that reputation, there is still the sense that apps are limited mostly by human imagination.  I see this as a huge jump forward for cybernetics.  The ipod/iphone paves the way toward a society comfortable with the idea of biology and circuitry being one. 

Anyhow, the point of all this is, I’m hoping apps can be an effective way to learn Japanese and so far I can say they are!

Kana Complete

This little app costs a measly NZ$4.19 (about US$3) and has helped me learn the entire hiragana set in a little over a month and that’s a pretty slack month – I certainly haven’t been practising everyday.  As the name suggests, the app teaches both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries.  It does this via drills and flashcards primarily.  The drills include audio, have all the options you need and seem to work on spaced repetition which has proved an excellent learning method (at least, for me).  Flashcards back up the knowledge you have gained in the drills.  Kana Complete also contains writing practice (using the touch screen!) and pronunciation notes.  Comes with my big fat recommendation!


Japan Subway Route Map – Tokyo/Osaka/Nagoya

A map of  the entire subway systems of each of these cities right on your ipod!    Shows each line, which various lines each station can transfer to and exit information (which apparently can be a complicated experience – for example, Shibuya station has over 15 exits!).  Very handy, although hard to judge how handy at the moment given my inability to really test it.  There is no search function so if you have a station you need to get to, you need to know the line, failing that you’ve got to search for it on the map.  The website, cryptically states, “Please note in advance that we dare not prepare search functions for routes in this application, because of the shortest movement using JR and a private railway, rather than Tokyo subway, in some cases.”  Huh?!?!  ‘Shortest movement…’?  They ‘dare not’?  What’s going to happen to them?  Anway, still a cool little app. (scroll down for English, includes video)


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