Here’s something a bit unusual for your Friday. I have a lifelong fascination with Japanese culture. It’s my ultimate dream to visit Japan. In the meantime, I absorb as much “Japan” as I can find, and I study the language. Lately, I’ve been focused on Japanese pop culture, and that’s how I found Danny Choo’s Culture Japan website.
Danny is a native of the UK whose interest in Japan eventually led him to being the producer of the Culture Japan brand, which offers a fascinating look at the country’s pop culture. The site produces many fantastic products, like a web-based TV show, an amazing (and expensive) “Smart Doll,” and two decks of educational Japanese language flash cards, among other things. One deck is called Moekana, for teaching first-grade hiragana and katakana. The second deck, Moekanji, builds off of the first and teaches first-grade kanji. They all feature cute, chibi style animations of the site’s mascot, Mirai Suenaga, and her friends.
What’s cool is that Moekana comes with instructions for a game you can play with the cards. Before I get into that, however, I must explain how to read one of the cards.
Each card features a hiragana character, the equivalent katakana character and the English reading across the bottom 1/4. Above that is an example word written in both hiragana and English that uses the card’s character, plus a cute illustration of the example word. Now, here’s how to play the game.
The object is to line up the cards in your hand to form as many simple Japanese words as possible. It’s for 2-4 players, and the duration really depends on each player’s skill level. Each player is delt some cards, depending on the number of players:
- 2 players: 26 cards each
- 3 players: 17 cards each
- 4 players: 13 cards each
When the game starts, each player pairs as many cards together as s/he can to create a word and lines them up. Leftover cards remain in your hand. Once a player cannot form any more words, the game ends and each player counts how many cards are left in his hand. The person with the fewest wins.
There’s a speedy version, too, where the game is timed:
- 2 players: 3 minutes
- 3 players: 2 minutes
- 4 players: 1 minute
It looks like fun and the cards are very cute. What I really like is it’s a fun way to reinforce what you’ve been learning. Of course, your options for partners are quite limited, as a basic knowledge of Japanse hiragana is required, so you might not have a huge pool of opponents to choose from. You can, however, play the timed game against yourself.
There’s something atypical for you. Not your everyday game, but very cute, fun and educational to boot.