Spent 6.5 weeks in Ōsaka. Having had many things to do in mind and being aware of the limited amount of time, things felt a bit rushed at times. Nevertheless pleased with how the stay went in general and what I got done. :)
- Book hunt
After finishing 『九州は横浜のどこですか？』 on my Kindle last year, I struggled to really get into another book. Only my physical copy of 『日本語雑記帳』 found its way into my hands from time to time. I therefore went on somewhat of a book hunt this time and spent many hours in BOOKOFFs and a considerable amount of my short Tokyo trip in 神保町. What I ended up bringing home with me is:
- 『世界の文字』 (done reading)
- 『日本語びいき』 (almost done reading)
- 『活版印刷三日月堂』 (half way through the first of the 4 books)
I made a conscious decision to switch from QUERTY to フリック入力 on my phone years ago in order to internalize thinking of the words I input as being made up of かな and not Latin alphabet characters. While in Ōsaka I found out about 親指シフト and ended up getting a cheap keyboard labelled accordingly for testing. Got it to work on my Ubuntu 18.04 system using oyainput. Time will tell whether or not I'll have the frustration tolerance and endurance to make the switch. Will also have to test if a Votex CORE (the keyboard I'm using most of the time currently) can be programmed accordingly.
Took the 漢検 5級 as well as 4級 and passed both. :)
- arrived early and saw a parade of ちびっ子 streaming out of the building :3
- question sheets were basically huge (257×379 mm) 圧着ハガキ, resulting in quite the sound when a room full of people simultaneously opened them
- sitting next to me taking 4級 was a 9 year old D:
- Can recommend 大阪府立中之島図書館 to everyone in Ōsaka looking for a quiet space with air conditioning, power sockets and free wifi (registration required, was a bit buggy on PC but ended up working)
- Entered a Carcassonne tournament (カルカソンヌ日本選手権). Won 2 games and then was destroyed twice by more serious (nevertheless super nice) contestants.
- Visited people at 京大 and met again with colleagues at NII
- Attended 活版WEST
- Stayed at a 旅館
- Finally got to the end of うぶんちゅ！ chapter 12 after translating the first few pages some time last year.
- Visited 遊舎工房 and got some keycaps
- Was able to eat at 丸香 and MENSHO again while in Tokyo
- Went to see 下赤阪の棚田, which ended up being a ride a train, then ride a bus, be the last person left in the bus, walk a bit, talk to the ground keeper of a school and be let through a few gates you're not supposed to go through as an outsider, arrive and be the only person around type of trip—i.e. a diametric opposite to the sad state of over commercialized tourist destinations—i.e. awesome :)
- Saw a person poking out of a ticket machine for the first time. :'D
Location wise Ōsaka was nice to explore the Kansai region a bit, but didn't quite click with me the way Tōkyō did. Guess with a bunch of disparate, rather niche interests, Tōkyō is hard to beat just because of its sheer size.
Several times within the last year, maybe two, I ventured into the depths of the interwebs in search of a monolingual Japanese dictionary app that could be used offline. What I found was JE-EJ dictionaries, 広辞苑第七版 for €89.99 and people in forums suggesting apps that wouldn't work offline. On my most recent desperate search I even came across a geoblocked dictionary app—to top it all off by a company deriving their name from the words "big" and "globe". m(
At this point I thought about just solving the problem myself. Looking at some dictionary websites, I found one where the entries were nicely enumerated from 1 to 297,199, so I wrote a small crawling script. In the meantime I used scholarly search engines to see if there happened to be some open data sets that could be used. I would've just thrown terms and definitions in an SQLite DB and installed some SQLite viewer on my phone.
In the end I found a better solution. One that's accessible and doesn't require technical skill—which is why I'm writing this. Watching this video (by this guy) I learned about EPWING, a JIS standardized format for digital dictionaries. Now, looking at aforementioned video you might get your hands on some such dictionaries. All you then need is an app to interface with them: I quickly found DroidWing, which I happily link here because the author also distributes a paid version where the only difference is the icon color. <3
So yeah, not bound to any service provider, platform independent, offline ... 国語辞典 case solved for good. :3
(This is just to feed the Google, in case someone else also looks for a solution to this: アンドロイド アプリ 国語辞典 国語 辞典 辞書 オフライン 無料.)
Five years ago I realized Amazon deems Japanese books incompatible with the Kindle 4 and suggested using 青空文庫 as an alternative source for e-books. While I wholeheartedly suggest you always search for DRM free sources for your e-books first, there are cases where Amazon simply seems to be the only available source.
In the following I'm going to show a viable way to handle Japanese e-books from Amazon, for people still holding on to a Kindle 4.
what does work
- vertical writing with PDFs
- Japanese file names
what doesn't seem to work
- vertical writing with AZW3 files
- highlighting text in vertical writing
- links (e.g. from the TOC) in vertical writing
- proper dictionary function
Before jumping right into the technical stuff, be reminded that if you're okay with reading on your PC or phone, the easy solution is to just get the Kindle app and have your e-book delivered to that. If it is to be the Kindle, here's how that works:
If you're on Linux, get a Windows 10 VM, install the Kindle app and load the books you want to transfer to your kindle from your library. Now, word has it there are ways to free books you bought from Amazon from their DRM. For the purpose of this explanation we're just going to assume you have a DRM free AZW3 file. If you prefer to read your book in horizontal writing, you're basically done at this point. Copy the file to your Kindle and curse Amazon for not allowing you to send it to the device directly. For verical writing there are a few more steps to go through.
If you haven't already done so, download Calibre and add a book (probably a AZW3-file) to your collection. To generate a PDF with vertical writing we're going to use 青空キンドル which takes plain text as input. Unfortunately, exporting a book as TXT in Calibre will mess with furigana (append them as normal text). To get proper furigana, export the book as HTMLZ and from the resulting archive extract the file
index.html. To convert the HTML file into plain text while preserving furigana in a format 青空キンドル understands, use the script
html2txt_ruby.py from this repository. Running
python3 html2txt_ruby.py index.html will give you a file
out.txt. Use this as your input for 青空キンドル (you will most likely want to edit the first few lines of the text to get a proper cover page).
Now, PDF file names. Five years ago I noticed problems with book names when just copying over PDF files with Japanese names. The Kindle takes the author's name from a PDF's metadata, but doesn't do this for the title. The title is taken from the file name and non Latin characters in file names can be a mess to deal with on FAT file systems. To get Japanese file names for PDFs properly displayed, mount your kindle with the parameter
-o uni_xlate=1* and use the script
uni_xlate_filename.py from this repository generate an encoded file name. Example: running
python3 uni_xlate_filename.py 使用例 will give you
:4f7f:7528:4f8b. Meaning if you name a PDF file on your Kindle
:4f7f:7528:4f8b.pdf while mounted with the parameter mentioned above, it will show up as
使用例 on the device.
And with that you can enjoy Japanese books from Amazon in vertical writing on a Kindle 4. No need to abandon a device that's still working perfectly fine. :)
*See man page of mount (search for "unhandled Unicode") for details.