Home » Culture » Studying 絵本 (Ehon) – Japanese Image Books as a Japanese Learner

Studying 絵本 (Ehon) – Japanese Image Books as a Japanese Learner


Once I lived in Tokyo, my good friend and I might usually take lengthy meandering walks adventuring across the metropolis and sometimes ended up in bookstores. Whereas he tended to gravitate towards the academic textbooks, I by some means at all times ended up within the youngsters’s part. One thing concerning the cabinets stuffed with image books simply appeared so inviting to me.

I do not care what number of kanji you recognize, it may be formidable to attempt to learn even a novella in Japanese. If there are not any illustrations, it is simply you and the textual content — there are not any different contextual cues to depend on. However with youngsters’s books, I did not really feel like studying them could be an amazing problem from the beginning, and I felt completed studying a complete e book (regardless of how quick or what number of photos).

Nevertheless, simply because youngsters’s books are for youngsters doesn’t suggest they’re essentially straightforward to learn for these learning Japanese as a international language. On this article, I am going to talk about why youngsters’s books could be a nice useful resource for Japanese-language learners, in addition to among the inherent challenges to be careful for. I am going to additionally suggest some genres of books that grownup learners of Japanese would possibly take pleasure in and recommend the place to seek out your personal books.

絵本 (Ehon): Japanese Image Books

If you hear “youngsters’s books,” the very first thing which may come to thoughts is the traditional image e book. However there are additionally straightforward readers, chapter books, center grade, younger grownup, and a ton of different associated classes of books aimed towards early readers. For instance, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry Potter are each youngsters’s books, however they’re fairly completely different when it comes to degree, size, and the quantity of images.

Ehon are illustrated tales for youngsters wherein the textual content and pictures are built-in, and customarily work collectively to inform a narrative.

For this text, nevertheless, the main focus will likely be narrowed to image books, or 絵本 (ehon). So what precisely will be thought of ehon? To place it merely, ehon are illustrated tales for youngsters wherein the textual content and pictures are built-in, and customarily work collectively to inform a narrative. It might sound apparent, however to think about the earlier examples, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an image e book however Harry Potter isn’t. I do know, I do know, however what concerning the illustrated model of Harry Potter? No, nonetheless not an image e book, as a result of the narrative doesn’t depend on photographs on each web page to assist additional the story and have interaction the reader — who, within the case of an image e book, is commonly being learn to, not studying the e book themselves. However for the sake of the assets I’ll introduce on this article, any e book that’s heavily-illustrated, from youngsters’s tales to encyclopedia-type specialty books generally known as 図鑑 (zukan) will likely be known as a “image e book.”

Why Learn Japanese Image Books?

There is a purpose I gravitated in direction of the image books in Japanese bookstores — it was just like the sweet aisle within the grocery retailer. Amongst lengthy rows of research guides and harried college students, administration tomes and surly salarymen, and “straightforward” cookbooks and the heavy mantle of my very own failures, the youngsters’s part beckoned like a heat hug. It was a microcosm of brilliant colours, cozied with charmingly tiny tables and chairs, the cabinets full of titles I might really learn — or at the very least roughly work out from the quilt artwork.

Past the welcoming environment of the youngsters’s part, as a Japanese language learner I additionally take pleasure in studying youngsters’s books as a result of they really feel extra approachable. In case you’re nonetheless not satisfied, listed here are just a few extra causes to attempt them out.

Footage Present Context Clues

Particularly for these at a decrease degree who’re nonetheless studying to learn in Japanese, photos could be a recreation changer.

For one, you may’t take it without any consideration that they visually make it extra interesting and approachable. In comparison with one thing that is text-only, photos actually decrease the emotional hurdle of choosing up a e book and beginning to learn. Studying youngsters’s books would not really feel like learning, even.

Studying new phrases from image books might help you achieve a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and once they’re sometimes utilized in context.

Footage may also present context to not solely provide help to learn, however learn between the traces as nicely. In reality, analysis has proven that the mixture of textual content with graphics like photos or diagrams facilitates studying comprehension. Photographs might help you perceive phrases you might not know, and offer you further details about the way to interpret the textual content. Because of this photos may also provide help to study new phrases and phrases with out translations. Studying by means of photos is a extra direct and intuitive strategy than, say books with parallel translations. Whereas studying new phrases by means of translation is a standard strategy for language learners (like flashcards), studying new phrases from image books might help you achieve a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and once they’re sometimes utilized in context, which is one thing direct translations cannot at all times archieve.

Not like Manga, It is Not All Dialogue

However why all this discuss image books when you could possibly simply go and decide up some manga? Primarily based on this standards, they need to be excellent studying materials, proper? Full of images, maybe a bit of longish however not too text-heavy, Japanese tradition savvy, and naturally tremendous enjoyable!

Dialogue tries to copy how individuals really speak, and will be very casual and sometimes colloquial.

Do not get me flawed, I really like manga. However manga will be tough for just a few causes, and among the large ones are associated to the truth that the tales are primarily advised by means of dialogue. After all, this dialogue tries to copy how individuals really speak, and will be very casual and sometimes colloquial. On high of that, spoken Japanese can require you to choose up on quite a lot of subtext, since issues like topics are sometimes omitted. All of this collectively signifies that manga can typically be tough for newbie and even intermediate learners to know.

You will discover a few of these challenges additionally apply to image books, however as a result of the tales are typically advised by means of narrative textual content as a substitute of almost solely by means of dialogue, I discover they are often simpler to digest. Whereas the tales in manga may also get actually difficult actually quick, the tales you discover in image books are shorter and never overly-complex — in spite of everything, they’re geared towards youngsters.

You Can Set Small However Achievable Targets

You may learn — and end — them sooner.

As a second-language learner, I usually discover that making an attempt to deal with an extended e book or a novel to be daunting, and the stress to complete will be deinsentivising. That is why I’m an enormous proponent of setting smaller, extra achievable objectives to remain motivated to learn. As a result of image books are on the shorter aspect, you may learn — and end — them sooner. I at all times really feel a heat sense of accomplishment once I’ve completed studying a e book in Japanese, and it would not actually matter if it is a novel, a chapter e book, or a thirty-page image e book.

Be taught About Japanese Tradition

Fascinated about Japanese tradition in a broader sense, many Japanese youngsters’s books, both explicitly or implicitly, clarify or train youngsters about Japanese tradition and the way to be part of Japanese society.

You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective widespread information.

Take into consideration all of the tales you hear and concepts you decide up as a youngsters that go into your understanding of your tradition and the way to be part of it: fairy tales and songs, tales about well-known individuals and occasions, characters which can be a part of a shared cultural reminiscence, what you may anticipate to see and do somewhere else, expectations about how it is best to act. You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective widespread information — as an example, the tune Donguri Korokoro, who Kaguyahime and Urashima Tarō are, what you would possibly do within the springtime, and the way to work along with a bunch.

Image books might help you study not just some foundational facets of Japanese tradition, however may also be a type of backdoor to understanding a Japanese perspective!

And… They’re Merely So A lot Enjoyable!

Maybe the very best a part of studying Japanese image books is that they’re enjoyable. And cute, and brilliant, and charming, and simply plain beautiful.

Even if you happen to had been by no means an enormous fan of studying to start with, or if you happen to’ve developed an emotional allergy through the years of making an attempt to learn in Japanese, similar to Harry Potter impressed non-readers to seek out the enjoyment in studying, making an attempt out Japanese image books could be simply what you have to jumpstart your journey into studying Japanese (once more). So if it feels like a enjoyable thought, give it a attempt! It could be simply what you have to encourage you to deal with one thing with much less, and even no photos, ultimately.

Inherent Challenges of Studying Japanese Image Books

Like I discussed earlier than, the youngsters’s e book part beckons just like the sweet aisle of the bookstore. Nevertheless, sadly not each Japanese image e book provides a simple jaunt by means of sweet land. So, let’s shortly discuss among the challenges so you are not shocked by a bitter gummy worm while you’re wolfing down on some candy, candy gummy bears.

As a second language learner, there are going to be some inherent challenges that include studying books written for native audio system, even when these native audio system are youngsters.

Baby-Centric Vocabulary

Whereas the overwhelming majority of Japanese image books are written for youngsters who’re native audio system of Japanese, if you happen to’ve spent a lot time round youngsters you will know that they’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

They’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

For instance, one of the crucial well-known English youngsters’s tales is Pat the Bunny, however I could not inform you the final time I used the phrase “pat” or learn it in a sentence that wasn’t in Pat the Bunny. It is such a easy phrase, simply three letters, but it surely’s not even within the high 5000 phrases beneficial for superior learners of English by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.

The identical goes for Japanese image books. For instance, they usually use onomatopoeia and different fun-sounding expressions that add good rhythm to the tales. ごっつんこ gottsunko, as an example, is a phrase used for when one thing bumps to one thing else. It is a pretty widespread expression for Japanese youngsters, and whereas it might even be utilized by native-speaking adults, isn’t essentially as well-known to second language learners. Studying these kind of phrases could be a pleasure, however may also be a stumbling block, similar to the comparatively superior grammar which may pop up.

Grammar the Textbooks Do not Train You

Once more, with youngsters’s books, the belief is that the reader is a local speaker. And native audio system study language in a very completely different manner in comparison with second language learners — textbooks don’t have anything on that spongy child mind!

You would possibly see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round.

So, which means that you would possibly see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round, just like the pleasant trio causative, passive, and causative-passive. Oftentimes, even when there’s some grammar you do not perceive you may nonetheless get sufficient of the context to determine roughly what a sentence means (that is precisely how I learn a textual content written in classical Japanese), so do not get too discouraged!

You may also come throughout contractions, like 〜てる for 〜ている or 〜ちゃう for 〜てしまう, or some sound adjustments or different phrases related to child speak, like 〜ちゃま for 〜さま. These colloquialisms is probably not in your dictionary, however you may usually determine them out with a fast Google search. You may undoubtedly give your dictionary (or at the very least your mind) a exercise with the following problem: lacking kanji.

No Kanji… Can Be A Little Difficult

a page from an ehon that uses only hiragana

Many books for very younger youngsters — from toddlers to these within the first yr of elementary college — usually have only a few kanji, or none in any respect. On the one hand, this implies you needn’t know any kanji to begin studying youngsters’s books, and you will not stumble over the meanings or readings of kanji you are not conversant in. Hurray!

However, I had no thought how a lot I really relied on kanji to understand the that means of a sentence till my good friend’s toddler requested me to learn him a e book with zero kanji. I used to be fairly assured — actually I might learn Japanese higher than a two yr outdated? The reply was sure — however not with out some preliminary hits to my dignity.

Take, for instance, this image e book title: 「きょうは なんのひ?」

It is a bit of difficult, proper? You’ll sometimes see the title written like 「今日は何の日?」, however with no kanji, it will possibly take a minute to parse the place the tip of a phrase is, what’s a particle and what’s not, what the that means of a phrase is… Sentences are damaged up into chunks, nevertheless, usually with areas after particles, which is quite a lot of assist.

Using kanji is one thing it is best to look into particularly when deciding on a e book.

Like the opposite challenges, this is not an enormous impediment that may’t be overcome — simply one thing to pay attention to. You is probably not snug studying (nearly) all-kana textual content at first, however you will get used to it as you learn. If you aren’t positive, studying out loud would possibly provide help to acknowledge a phrase you really know.

Not all image books are devoid of kanji — there are alternatives geared towards older youngsters and extra superior readers which you need to use to apply your kanji information. Simply needless to say using kanji is one thing it is best to look into particularly when deciding on a e book!

It Can Be Tougher To Discover A Ebook At Your Stage (Than Graded Readers)

It may be more durable to discover a image e book that is appropriate on your degree.

In comparison with assets like graded readers for language learners, that are categorized into ranges of issue, it may be more durable to discover a image e book that is appropriate on your degree. Some web sites like EhonNavi (which I am going to discuss later) assist you to search by age, which will be a sign of issue degree, however this may be limiting when the studying materials isn’t tailor-made for language learners, particularly.

NPO Tadoku Supporter’s web site is a web site the place you’ll find graded readers and seek for different beneficial extensive-reading supplies. Of their database, you may seek for their curated image books. Every e book is given a grade so you’ll find books that match your studying degree. While you’re on their web site, make sure to take a look at their unique graded readers too, as many can be found without cost — particularly lower-level reads use a number of photos, so that they’re like an ideal mixture of image books and graded readers!

Japanese Image Books Style Suggestions

After studying about the advantages and challenges of studying image books, I hope you’re up for giving them a shot. Though “Japanese image books” feels like a selected class of books, it really encompasses all kinds of genres. In case you are not positive what to search for, or the place to begin, I put collectively just a few suggestions, specializing in genres that you would be able to study Japanese tradition from, in addition to ones that I believe adults can take pleasure in. To search out or instill the enjoyment of studying, I believe it is essential to choose a e book about one thing you’re keen on or that you simply’re at the very least concerned about. I hope you’ll find one thing on this checklist that you simply really feel enthusiastic about studying!

むかし話: Conventional Folktales

an assortment of mukashi banashi ehon

Whereas traditional European fairy tales are well-liked in Japan as nicely, Japan has its personal conventional folktales, or むかし話 mukashi banashi, which accurately interprets to “tales of a very long time in the past.” The storylines of a few of these well-known tales, like Momotarō, Kaguyahime, and Urashimatarō are so well-known they’ve turn into a part of the cultural cloth of Japan — you’d have a tough time discovering somebody that would not know them. In reality, it’s fairly widespread to see or hear concerning the characters and references to those folktales in day-to-day life in Japan. In order a Japanese learner it is not a foul thought to increase your cultural information by studying them your self!

Only a heads-up, since folktales are tales that had been historically handed down orally by means of generations, the writing type and format are inclined to fluctuate between authors and publishers, even for a similar story. Most Japanese folktales additionally function aged characters — ojiichan (grandfather) and/or obaachan (grandmother). Due to this, some books (that revered the authenticity of oral storytelling) would possibly use very colloquial speech patterns attribute of aged characters in fiction. This may be difficult to know for Japanese learners, so that you would possibly need to look out for these quirks when deciding on a e book.

図鑑・事典: Encyclopedia

a few example pages from various zukan/jiten

That is really extra of a format than a style, however 図鑑 (zukan) and 事典 (jiten) consult with encyclopedia-type books.

For youngsters who’re studying all about new phrases and topics for the primary time, these are nice vocabulary-builders and may present deep-knowledge on a topic they discover attention-grabbing, like bugs or fish. There are zukan and jiten of actually something, so you’ll in all probability be capable of discover one which’s all about one thing you’re keen on. You could be pondering,”nicely, I am not concerned about any of the issues youngsters love.” Okay, although you may not be concerned about dinosaurs or acorns, severely, the number of zukan and jiten is big. And lots of have actually attention-grabbing viewpoints that adults would discover attention-grabbing and academic.

For instance, a e book known as 絶滅したいきもの図鑑 (zetsumetsu shita ikimono zukan) options animals that went extinct for a type of foolish and ridiculous purpose. (Like, do you know a manatee-like animal known as Steller’s sea cow turned extinct as a result of they had been too variety!? 🤯) There are additionally books that function chicken beaks, the minimize ends of citrus fruits, and even fish fillets.

What’s good about these encyclopedia-type books is that they’re formatted to parse data in an easily-digestible format as a substitute of utilizing lengthy, countless paragraphs. Normally, a topic (or a bunch of topics) is featured on one web page. This chunking makes it straightforward to learn or skip total pages which may not curiosity you with out feeling such as you missed out on one thing integral to the non-narrative format.

So long as they’re meant for youngsters, each zukan and jiten (the phrases are used nearly interchangeably) are image-heavy. Nevertheless, be aware that zukan, because the title contains 図 (which implies “image”), means “visible dictionary,” so they have a tendency to have a stronger emphasis on visuals. So, though it actually relies on the e book, it is not uncommon for zukan to have extra restricted textual content. For example, some solely checklist a reputation alongside the image of the topic.

食べ物: Meals

an assortment of food related ehon

There’s one thing particular about taking a look at illustrations of meals that scrolling photogenic foodie images in your social media feed cannot contact. Particularly if you happen to love Japanese meals (washoku), image books that function meals are a real gem.

There are story books that revolve round meals, however there are additionally extra instructional books that includes a sure sort of meals that offer you a deep dive into its historical past, elements, and extra. I believe grownup language learners who’re into Japanese culinary tradition would particularly take pleasure in these books.
Some books additionally function encyclopedia-style content material like zukan, for instance seasonal wagashi, or differing types and thickness of ramen noodles. These books are typically geared toward elementary schoolers, and are written in kana and kanji (usually with furigana readings), so that they may very well be nice supplies for learners who need to apply studying kanji. Simply make certain to eat some snacks earlier than heading to a library or bookstore — they may absolutely make you hungry!

妖怪: Yokai

an assortment of yokai ehon

Are you a fan of 妖怪 (yokai)? In case you’re into horror tales or the occult, image books about yokai may very well be your jam. If weren’t already acquainted, yokai are supernatural beings and mysterious creatures of Japanese folklore. They are often “haunted” inanimate objects imbibed with non secular vitality, water demons just like the kappa — who additionally featured in a Harry Potter sequence film — or the frigid 雪女 (yuki onna) snow girl, who freezes her unsuspecting victims to demise.

They could sound like an innately horrifying matter, however yokai, regardless of their folktale origins, are a distinguished a part of Japanese popular culture, particularly for youngsters. Ever heard of a bit of franchise known as Pokemon? Yea, yokai impressed. Yokai’s appears to be like and habits will be quirky and hilarious, making them far more than the subject of some scary tales. Since many youngsters love yokai in Japan, there are fairly just a few youngsters’s image books that includes yokai. You may also see the phrase おばけ as one thing in the identical vein — it typically refers to mysterious creatures together with yokai.

Whether or not you’re new to the world of yokai, or an avid fan already, there are numerous 図鑑 (zukan) / encyclopedia-type books that introduce the completely different “species” of yokai, and a few that even offer you ideas for the way to cope with them if you happen to had been ever to come across these mysterious creatures in real-life.

Yokai manga legend 水木しげる (Mizuki Shigeru), who’s finest identified for the ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (Ge-Ge-Ge No Kitaro) sequence, additionally wrote many image books about yokai which can be nicely price testing.

The place To Discover Japanese Image Books?

Now you could be feeling impressed to begin studying Japanese image books (or at the very least I hope you’re), however left questioning the place to choose one up. In case you’re in Japan, you may simply pop into the closest bookstore and wander over to the youngsters’s part like I did. Most bookstores can have at the very least a young children’s part. Kinokuniya, Maruzen, Tsutaya, and Book1st are all good choices. Even some 100-yen outlets promote cheap youngsters’s books. In case you’d favor to purchase used books, attempt BookOff! Do not forget to take a look at your native library as nicely.

In case you’d favor to browse or learn on-line, otherwise you aren’t in Japan, there are some choices for you as nicely. EhonNavi is a Japanese web site devoted to, what else, ehon. On EhonNavi, not solely are you able to seek for books by style, however you can even search by age, which will be useful to gauge the studying degree of the e book. One of many many advantages of buying their catalog on-line is that they supply free samples. Whereas it’s a restricted function, you may even preview complete books without cost by signing up. Along with your free account you may entry the 全ページためしよみ (all-page preview) of as much as three books a month (as soon as per title solely). Many books additionally supply a ちょっとためしよみ (“a bit of” preview) which helps you to take a peek of some pages and for this, you do not even join an account. EhonNavi additionally provides a premium, paid membership that lets you learn as many books as you need for about 4 bucks a month (396 yen, to be actual). You may nonetheless solely learn every e book as soon as, however you may entry as many books as you need! Previews are solely accessible with the cellular app, but it surely’s well worth the problem to obtain it. Sadly, though EhonNavi does have a web based store the place you should purchase bodily books, sadly, they don’t ship abroad.

In case you like free stuff and need to assist a group of volunteer creators, take a look at, 絵本ひろば (Ehon Hiroba). This Japanese web site is devoted to image books, however all of their books are created by customers! You may learn tales by novice ehon artists without cost, and there are some fantastic tales with really spectacular artwork. Join a free account and skim these high-quality ehon to your coronary heart’s content material!

And if you wish to come up with a bodily copy, transport from Amazon Japan is an alternative choice. There are after all a number of youngsters’s books to select from, and Amazon Japan normally ships internationally. For these within the U.S., particularly city-dwellers, Kinokuniya may need a brick-and-mortar location close to you. Additionally they have an on-line retailer, and transport prices are typically cheaper than Amazon Japan or different on-line shops that ship from Japan.

Able to Get pleasure from Some Japanese Image Books?

Lastly, I simply need to offer you a pleasant reminder — make certain to take a peek earlier than buying! Particularly if you’re shopping on-line, do not forget to take a peek inside earlier than whipping out your pockets and committing your money and time to a purchase order. There are numerous books that present free previews so make sure to examine them out. Once more, there’s a variety in image books, so make certain to decide on what you are feeling is correct on your degree. Books for toddlers and people meant for school-aged youngsters are vastly completely different when it comes to each language and content material, so make sure to look out for issues like writing type, vocabulary, using kanji, textual content density, and font.

Most significantly — make certain to choose a e book that you simply suppose you will take pleasure in, and concentrate on the enjoyment of studying reasonably than how a lot you may mine the assets for research materials. And naturally, do not forget to take a while to admire the illustrations!

I hope this text has given you some new concepts for Japanese books to learn. Though there are some challenges with studying Japanese youngsters’s books, as a result of they are typically shorter and have a number of illustrations, they are often very approachable. They’re additionally, after all, a number of enjoyable. I’ve gotten quite a lot of pleasure out of studying Japanese youngsters’s books, and I hope you do, too.


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