Amity Language Institute LEARN Japanese

Amity Language Institute LEARN Japanese


This video has somehow been popular, so I will share it with you, too! このビデオ、なぜか学校で評判がいいので、シェアしておきます。
I wonder why some foreigners like to see only bright sides of Japan. And why some foreigners like to see only its horrible sides. This may happen to any country but it seems extreme. どうして一部の外国の方々は日本のいい面ばかりみたがるのでしょう。そして別の外国の方々はひどい面ばかり見たがるのでしょう。どの国にもあることなのでしょうが、極端です。

Amity Language Institute was created in 2005 in the hope of building friendly relations between people of all nationalities. Our mission is to promote cultural exchange through Japanese language instruction.

Amity Language Institute

Operating as usual

Migrating Butterflies / 渡りをする蝶 - Learn Japanese with Yuko

This fall, we learned about two powerful butterflies, the Chestnut Tiger in Japan and the Monarch Butterfly in the US. I hope you will enjoy the beautiful photos of the Chestnut Tigers.
In a week, we will finish working on furigana, and let you know.
この秋、エネルギッシュな二つの蝶について学びました。日本のアサギマダラと米国のオオカバマダラ です。アサギマダラ の美しい写真を楽しんでいただければと思います。

Do you have migrating butterflies in your country? We learned about the beautiful one in Japan, and we would like to share it with you.

What relationship do you think these have?
In South Carolina, Eastern Bluebird typically produces three broods by August. And this was taken on December 5.
Anyway, we hope they bring to all of us good luck for the year 2021!
南カロライナでは、ルリツグミ (Eastern Blueburd の日本語名)は通常8月までに三回ヒナをかえすそうです。でも、この写真は12月5日のものです。

The Katakana That Disappeared / 消えた片仮名

After the English text, we placed the Japanese translation.
We have fully rubied (put furigana to) all Chinese characters in the Japanese text. If you are interested in a bit of history of katakana in modern Japanese, take a look! This is an update of a former post from spring of 2019. / これは、2019年春の投稿「ヴのなくなる日」の改訂版です。

The Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper has reported (so far) about two names which could be read “Jou Baiden”.

One is a place name in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The bus stop in the attached photo (taken by 柳瀬成一郎, Seiichiro Yanase, Mainichi Shinbun) says “上梅田 (pronounced kami-Umeda)” as the stop name. That is the name of this remote area of about 180 residents, an aging local community. The character for “上 (kami)” means upstream or the upper part of something, “梅 (ume)” means plum fruit/flower/tree, and “田 (da)” means rice field.

However, you may know that in Japanese, a Chinese character (kanji) almost always has two pronunciations. They are the Chinese sound (called on-yomi) and the native Japanese sound (called kun-yomi).

“Kami Umeda” is the kun-yomi of these characters “上梅田”. However, if you force to read them with on-yomi, it will be “Jou Baiden”!

In the second photo (taken by 清水晃平, Kohei Shimizu, Mainichi Shinbun) appears the mayor of Yamato Town, Kumamoto Prefecture. His name is “梅田穣 (pronounced Umeda Yutaka)”. His last name "Umeda" is the same as in the bus stop, and the character for his given name “Yutaka” can be read “Jou”, hence the coincidence.

His family and friend noticed it and began to call him and wished him good luck as they recognized the sound similarity to the president-elect. Some said, “Now you are famous nationwide!"

He says, “I was born as the first boy of a farmer, and I understand my father wanted to give me a name meaning good harvest. But the Chinese character (formally spelled 穰)is so complicated and the reading “Yutaka” is so unusual that one out of a thousand I have met could read it on our first meeting. And I always held grudge against my father. (Now he feels a little different.)
“We need to have more visitors and tourists to our town. I hope my town becomes famous not by my name!”


1. A katakana that disappeared
2. What is “ヴ”?
3. Words with “va” “vi” “vu” “ve” “vo”
4. A change in the spelling system
5. The transition of “v” to “b”
6. The remains of the old spelling
7. MoFA and the katakana that disappeared
8. “ヴ” can be very important to some
9. “ヴ” in today’s Japanese

*ルビなし和訳付き / Japanese translation without Ruby is attached on the bottom of this post. Currently we are working on the Ruby.
1. A katakana that disappeared

From April 1, 2019, the character “ヴ (pronounced “vu”)” in foreign country names disappeared from official documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
You may have seen the katakana “ウ” (“u”), but did you know another katakana, “ヴ”?

2. What Is “ヴ”?

“ヴ” is a katakana created near the end of the Edo Era.
At that time, the Japanese people had re-discovered Western culture. It was a huge collection of information, and much of it had not been available to them through the meager communication with Holland allowed by the Tokugawa Shogunate.
As the Japanese tried to learn about and from the West, they found that many Western words contained “v” whose sound didn’t exist in Japanese then.
Therefore, Fukuzawa Yukichi, an educator, proposed to use new characters “ヷ”, “ヸ”, “ヴ”, “ヹ”, “ヺ”, to express “va”, “vi”, “vu”, “ve”, and “vo” respectively. He just added two very short lines on the top right of existing katakana, “ワ (pronounced “wa”)”, “ヰ (pronounced “i” today)”, “ウ (“u”)”, “ヱ (pronounced “e” today)” and “ヲ (“o” or “wo”)”.
That is how “ヴ (vu)” was born.

3. Words with “va” “vi” “vu” “ve” “vo”

Well known examples with these characters include:
- ヷイマール (Vaimaaru for Weimar)
- ヸオロン (vioron for violin in French)
- ヴロンスキー (Vuronskii for Vronsky in “Anna Karenina”)
- 『ヹニスの商人』 (“Venisu no shoonin” for “Merchant of Venice”)
- ヺルガ (Voruga for the Volga, the longest river in Russia)

4. A change in the spelling system

After WWII, there was a big education reform in Japan. In 1947, new spelling rules were enforced and as a result, “ヷ”, “ヸ”, “ヹ” and “ヺ” went out of use.
As for “ヴ”, it stayed, but it was used in a different way.
In the new spelling system, “ヴ” had two pronunciations. When we read it alone, we pronounced it “vu”. However, if we saw it followed by another character such as “ァ (“a”)”, “ィ (“i”), “ェ (“e”)”, “ォ (“o”)”, or “ュ (“yu”)”, it stood for “v” and as a combination we read it “ヴァ (“va”)”, “ヴィ (“vi”)”, “ヴェ (“ve”)”, “ヴォ (“vo”)” and “ヴュ (“vyu”)” as one mora. 

5. The transition of “v” to “b”

During the subsequent decades, the Japanese borrowed a huge number of words from English and began to use them in everyday life.
Some words were spelled with “ヴ” such as in “テレヴィジョン (“terevijon” for television)”. However, the use of “バ (“ba”)”, “ビ” (“bi”), “ブ (“bu”), “ベ (“be”)”, “ボ (“bo”)” in place of “ヴァ (“va”), “ヴィ (“vi”)”, “ヴ (“vu”)”, “ヴェ (“ve”)”, “ヴォ (“vo”)” has become increasingly common.
With the “b” sound, we feel that the word has truly become a part of Japanese. Now we call a TV set “テレビ” only.
Other such examples:
- バニラ (“banira” for vanilla)
- ビニール (“biniiru” for vinyl)
- ソビエト (“sobieto” for Soviet)
- ラブレター (“labu-retaa” for love-letter)
- エレベーター(“erebeetaa” for elevator)
- ボランティア(“borantia” for volunteer)

6. The remains of the old spelling

Even today, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the spelling of loan words. It seems some old spellings still remain.
With regard to some words borrowed or transcribed from German, Russian, etc.:
- We often spell “va” as “ワ”. Example: ワイマール (“Waimaaru” for Weimar), ワルシャワ (“Warushawa” for Warsaw), モスクワ (“Mosukuwa” for Moskva, meaning Moscow), ワルワーラ (“Waruwaara” for Varvara, a woman’s name), ワクチン (“wakuchin” for vaccine)
- We sometimes spell “v” at the beginning of a word as “ウ (“u”)”. Example: ウラジミール (“Urajimiiru” for Vladimir)
- There is an example to spell “vo” as “オ (“o”)”: ウラジオストック (“Urajiosutokku” for Vladivostok)
It seems that words such as the old “ヴァイマール”, “ヷルヷーラ”, “ヴラジヺストック” had been so popular that even after the spelling reform of 1946 people kept using the same characters without the short lines. They could still recognize the meaning easily.
We hope to keep looking for information on the transition in spelling of loan words.

7. MoFA and the katakana that disappeared

After WWII, the MoFA tried to spell the names of foreign places as closely to the original pronunciation, or sometimes English pronunciation, as possible.
Naturally, they frequently used “ヴ (“v” or “vu”)” in the new spelling system.
However, no name with “ヴ” became truly popular. People always called Vietnam “ベトナム” (Betonamu) and never “ヴェトナム (Vetonamu)”.
About the year 2000, finally, the MoFA began to discuss the use of country names that Japanese citizens would understand easily and could adopt in their lives. They researched dictionaries and books that people frequently referred to, and found out “ヴ” was actually very little used.
So, they replaced “ヴァ (“va”)”, “ヴィ (“vi”)” , “ヴ (“v”)” , “ヴェ (“ve”)” and “ヴォ (“vo”)” with “バ (“ba”)”, “ビ (“bi”)”, “ブ (“bu”)”, “ベ (“be”)” and “ボ (“bo”)”, one by one, in their official documents.
As a result, as of March 31, 2019, there were finally only two countries whose names contain “ヴ”. They were St. Christopher Navis and Cabo Verde. From tomorrow, in the MoFA websites, they will appear as “セントクリストファー・ネービス (Sento Kurisutofaa Neebisu)” and “カーボベルデ (Kaabo Berude)”.
[On April 2, 2019, we confirmed the changes on their websites.]

8. “ヴ ” is very important to some

On the other hand, some people received the news of the MoFA’s spelling policy change with dismay.
Among them were fans of the popular animation “ヱヴァンゲリヲン(“Evangerion”) and the professional basketball team “熊本ヴォルターズ (“Kumamoto Volters”)”. They feared that their beloved animation and the team had to change the names to plain “エバンゲリオン (“Ebangerion”)” and “ボルターズ (“Boltaazu”)” with the commonplace “b” sound. Some even inquired to NHK (Japan’s National Broadcasting Corporation) and National Institute for Japanese Language about it.
Of course, the use of “ヴ” outside the MoFA will be intact.

9. “ヴ” in today’s Japanese

In today’s Japanese, we often see “ヴ” in words when their foreign origin is stressed.
- ヴィネグレット (vineguretto for vinaigrette)
- ルイ・ヴィトン (Rui Viton for Louis Vuitton)
- オーボンヴュータン (Oobonvyuutan or Au Bon Vieux Temps, a pastry shop in Tokyo)
- ヴェネツィア (Venezia or Venice)
- ヴォーグ (Vogue, the magazine)
However, in reading these words, we unconsciously change the “v” to “b”. In other words, we actually say “bineguretto”, “Biton” and so on. The “v” sound is so unfamiliar that even today people refer to the alphabet “V” as “bui (pronounced like “buoy”)”.
Then, why use “ヴ”?
If someone uses “ヴ”, the speaker could sound more cultivated; the thing could look more beautiful or expensive; or they could impress some young people or some people who yearn for the foreign culture.
Looking back at its history, Japan has always respected foreign-born things. Even the people were not very interested in speaking a foreign language, they have always cherished using loan words.
It seems that “ヴ” reflects our such attitude as that.
[The end of the English post]


1. 消えた片仮名
2. “ヴ” とは?
3. ヷ行の言葉
4. 仮名遣いの変化
5. バ行 への置き換え
6. 旧仮名遣いの名残
7. 外務省と消えた片仮名
8. 「ヴ」が大切な人々も
9. 現代の日本語と「ヴ」

2019年4月1日より、片仮名「ヴ (“vu” と読む)」が外務省の文書の外国名からなくなりました。

2. “ヴ” とは?

日本人は西洋について、そして西洋から学ぶ過程で、西洋の言葉には当時の日本語にはなかった音を表す “v” がたくさんあるのに気づきました。
そのため、福沢諭吉という教育者が既存の片仮名「ワ」「ヰ」「ウ」「ヱ」「ヲ」の右肩に短い線を二つ付けて、「ヷ (vaと読む、以下同じ)」「ヸ (vi)」「ヴ (vu)」「ヹ (ve)」「ヺ (vo)」という新しい文字で “v” の音を表すことを提唱しました。

3. ヷ行の言葉

- ヷイマール (Vaimaaru、Weimar のこと)
- ヸオロン (Vioron、フランス語でバイオリン violon のこと)
- ヴロンスキー (『アンナ・カレーニナ』の登場人物Vuronskii、Vronskyのこと)
- ヹニスの商人 (『Venisu のしょうにん』、“Merchant of Venice” のこと)
- ヺルガ (Voruga、ロシアの大河 Volga のこと)

4. 仮名遣いの変化

それによれば、「ヴ」は発音が二つあります。「ヴ」の字だけを読むときは、”vu” と読みます。しかし、「ァ」「ィ」「ェ」「ォ」「ュ」など他の字が後につくときは、ただ “v” を表し、それらの字と併せてセットにして、それぞれ「ヴァ (va)」「ヴィ (vi)」「ヴェ (ve)」「ヴォ (vo)」「ヴュ (vyu)」とモーラひとつ分として読むのです。

5. バ行への置き換え

“V” があって「テレヴィジョン」のように「ヴ」を使う言葉もありましたが、そのうち「バ」「ビ」「ブ」「ベ」「ボ」が「ヴァ」「ヴィ」「ヴ」「ヴェ」「ヴォ」にとって代わることが多くなりました。
- バニラ (vanilla)
- ビニール (vinyl)
- ソビエト (Soviet)
- ラブレター (love-letter)
- エレベーター (elevator)
- ボランティア (volunteer)

6. 旧仮名遣いの名残

- “va” を「ワ」と書くことがあります。例:ワイマール (Weimar)、ワルシャワ (Warsaw)、モスクワ (Moscow)、ワルワーラ (Varvara、女性の名前)、ワクチン (vaccine)
- 語頭の “v” を「ウ」と書くことがあります。例:ウラジミール (Vladimir)
- 語頭の “vo” を「オ」とする例があります。例:ウラジオストック (Vladivostok)

7. 外務省と消えた片仮名

4月1日から、これらの国名は「セントクリストファー・ネービス」 と「カーボベルデ」と書かれることになりました。




- ヴィネグレット (vinaigrette)
- ルイ・ヴィトン (Louis Vuitton)
- オーボンヴュータン (Au Bon Vieux Temps, 東京の有名なパティスリー)
- ヴェネツィア (Venezia)
- ヴォーグ (Vogue、雑誌の名前)
しかし、これらの言葉も、話すときは無意識に “v” を “b” に読み替えています。つまり、「ビネグレット」「ビトン」などと言うし、アルファベットの “V” も、「ブイ」と読みます。

Tea Olive (Osmanthus Fragrans) / ぎんもくせい
This is written in English and Japanese. Japanese is Rubied for those who would like to learn Chinese characters!

Charleston is abundant with Osmanthus Fragrans trees. It is a cousin of the Kin-Mokusei trees which are very popular in Japan today.

Tea Olive (Osmanthus Fragrans) / ぎんもくせい (In the next post, we will put a link to our blog with the Japanese translation with Ruby)
1. Flower scent
2. Tea Olive (Osmanthus Fragrans)
3. Ghin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans)
4. Kin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans var. aurantiacus)
5. Osmanthus Tea
6. Ghin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans) and Kin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans var. aurantiacus)

1. Flower Scent

Fall came earlier than usual.
When I was taking a walk, something reminded me of the feeling of early fall in Charleston.
I stopped in the middle of the way and looked around.
A nostalgic, sweet flower smell like ripe peach and gardenia was in the warm, humid air.
But I couldn’t tell where the flowers were just by looking around.
I could perceive this scent in many parts of the city; on the path through the fields, in residential areas, in parking lots.
What was it? I was very interested in the first fall after my moving.
I asked my neighbors and posted a photo of a “suspicious” tree on Facebook, where an old student identified it for me. He used one of his “apps”, I had never been so impressed by modern technology.
One name for the tree is Tea Olive

2. Tea Olive (Osmanthus Fragrans)

Tea Olive trees can be of a person’s height or can reach the roof of a house, and the shape of the tree is varied, but in general, they look rather inconspicuous.
Also, the flowers look like someone tore up white, crumpled crape myrtle flowers, and inserted each piece between the leaves and a branch. You hardly see them from afar.
However, the tree is very “vocal”.
When I walk in town thinking about something, suddenly I feel a blanket of fragrance thrown over me.
Surprised, I look around. It is a Tea Olive tree standing in someone’s yard, and it can be ten meters (thirty feet) behind me.
It feels as if it were saying,
“Hey, I say ‘hello!’”
and it makes me smile.

3. Ghin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans)

Tea Olive is translated as “Ghin-Mokusei” or “Mokusei” in Japanese. “Ghin” means silver, and “Mokusei” is the name for its family and its genus. It seems that trees of this kind, if not exactly the same as Tea Olive, have existed in Japan for a long time.
The Ghin-Mokusei has the same Latin name as Tea Olive, and its lowers symbolize “Integrity” which derives from the image of pure white flowers.
As I was looking around on the Internet, I found a Japanese business running several care facilities and group homes for the elderly needing nursing service, whose name is “Gin-Mokusei”.
It was a little unexpected but “Gin-Mokusei” is a good name.
“Ghin (silver)” can be a poetic way of describing gray hair.
Its elegant sweet odor is very charming, so people of all ages would be happy to liken themselves to it.

4. Kin-Mokusei (Osmanthus Fragrans var. aurantiacus)

In today’s Japan, however, it is its variety, Osmanthus Fragrans var. aurantiacus (fragrant orange-colored olive) which is popular. We often see them in people’s gardens and parks.
We will refer to it as “Kin-Mokusei”, the shorter Japanese name. “Kin” means “gold”.
It came to Japan from China during the Edo Era (1603-1868).
Its flowers contain carotenoid which explains the orange color.
Since the fragrance of Kin-Mokusei is so powerful, it is dubbed “Ku-ri koo (9 ri or very far-reaching fragrance)”.
Taking advantage of the strong sweet scent, people used to plant Kin-Mokusei near their bathrooms when there were no or few flushing toilets. Probably based on that tradition, chemically composed Kin-Mokusei-scented deodorant for the bathroom was very popular when I was small.
Also, some temples and shrines have planted them believing that the fragrance deters evil spirit.

5. Osmanthus Tea

In China and Taiwan, they also love Kin-Mokusei’s fragrance. They infuse its scent in tea and liquor, they make candy of the flowers, and I have seen on YouTube a bowl of shaved ice with Kin-Mokusei flavored syrup on it!
“Keika-cha” is the word for tea scented with any flower of the genus Osmanthus, and you can make keika-cha at home with fresh flowers.
According to a recipe, you pick the flowers which are about to open (when their scent is at its height) and mix them with green tea or lightly fermented black or Oolong tea. Use two parts of tea for every one part of the flowers. Pour very hot water (90 degrees Celsius or 195 degrees Fahrenheit) over the mixture and enjoy.

6. Ghin-Mokusei and Kin-Mokusei

In Japan, it is said that Kin-Mokusei smells stronger than Ghin-Mokusei.
However, the odor of Charleston’s Ghin-Mokusei spreads so widely that I was a little doubtful. I could find no testimony from Japan of someone who actually smelled both flowers.
Fortunately, I found an interesting website of a nursery in Georgia, USA, where they grow both Ghin-Mokusei and Kin-Mokusei for sale.
And the people have actually smelled both.
The strength of the odor was not mentioned, but according to them, the smells are subtly different and Kin-Mokusei has a stronger sweet element.
I will be interested in growing Kin-mokusei in the future, because it will be as beautiful and it seems they consider its scent more Asian.
But first things first; two years ago, we planted a small Ghin-Mokusei or Tea Olive like our neighbors.
I hope it grows healthily and begins to “talk (smell profusely)” with its scent in our yard.
And one day, I may be able to make Osmanthus Tea.

1. 花の香り
2. ティー・オリーブ
3. ぎんもくせい
4. きんもくせい
5. 桂花茶
6. ぎんもくせいときんもくせい

1. 花の香り


2. ティー・オリーブ


3. ぎんもくせい

ティー・オリーブは、日本語では「ぎんもくせい (銀木犀)」「もくせい (木犀)」。全く同じではないかもしれませんが、この種の木は日本には昔からあったようです。

4. きんもくせい

一方、今日の日本で親しまれているのは、ぎんもくせいの変種である「きんもくせい (金木犀)」です。庭や公園でよく見かけます。
とても香りが強いので、別名九里香 (九里=とても遠くまで届く香り) といわれます。

5. 桂花茶


6. きんもくせいとぎんもくせい

その木が順調に成長して、庭で「しゃべる (すごく香る) ようになって」欲しい。

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Mockingbird’s spring concert / マネシツグミの春のコンサート



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