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Japanese Language for Japanese Food

UPDATE: All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, smart.fm management shifted direction and decided to take all that user-generated goodness and run. All of the links to individual lists are now broken. I can no longer recommend this site to anyone. If you want a vocabulary learning site that works, try Quizlet.

For any of our Japanese readers, you can probably just skip this unless you have a friend who wants to learn a bit of Japanese for work, travel, or personal fulfillment. Then, by all means please pass this along to them. Everyone else, I’d like to share a truly useful resource for acquiring Japanese. This comes dangerously close to crossing over from my role as food and sake otaku to my day job of language otaku, but here goes anyway.

Smart.fm is was a website for learning, especially for learning language. That sounds very simple, but the tools they provide are based on sound cognitive science research and work well. The site allows users to create playlists of items for study. These items can contain audio, text, and images, so the study content is quite rich. The developers have already populated the site with an extensive library of items for study, but users keep adding more, then mixing and matching to suit themselves. If you want to learn more about how Smart.fm works, please watch this short video, or just take my word for it that the system works and read on to the good stuff-food.

I’ve searched the site for food-related lists, but there are plenty of other options to be found too for Survival Japanese or easy conversation. For anyone worried about the Japanese writing system, Smart.fm is flexible. You can study Japanese: written in the roman alphabet to help you with basic conversation or ordering dishes in a restaurant; work with hiragana and katakana to begin reading menus; or go straight to kanji to enjoy the many creative and beautiful ways that the names of fish are written. Just use the quiz settings to choose your literacy level.

Anyone on their way to Tsukiji or any other sushi haunts might want to work on their sushi nouns where they pick up a few basics. And, when you are ready, there are some more over at Fish, Sushi, and Sashimi from user Andrew Shuttleworth.

Had enough seafood? Ready to head out the izakaya? This list of food and drink covers everything from awamori to chicken gizzards and will definitely help you navigate a menu better.

And for those looking for the more day to day, there is plenty of that too. Koichiben, AKA Tofugu, has set up a very simple list of 25 Fruits and Veggies. This list is super newbie-friendly and accessible for anyone just getting started learning Japanese. For those of you already living here, or someone preparing to come to Japan, this list of supermarket Japanese will help you get up to speed when you go in search of basic staples at the grocery store.

If after all of that food you need something simple, then Japanese Plain Fare is just that.

I hope this site helps visitors get more out of their dining experiences here in Japan. If you are looking for other reference materials for food and restaurants, check out Et-chan’s post, Tokyo Government Now Supporting Non Fluent Foodies?, for more.


7 Responses to “Japanese Language for Japanese Food”

  1. Awesome, Te-chan! I’m starting this today!

    Posted by Tim Hoffman | August 6, 2009, 2:42 pm
  2. Hey Tim! Good to hear from you and the Sake Pirate site looks wicked fun.

    Smart.fm is just one of the best sites I’ve found online in a long time. Actually, I’m getting a little obsessed. I hope you have fun with it.

    Posted by Te-chan | August 6, 2009, 2:53 pm
  3. Though it’s not an online resource, I’m also a big fan of Richard Hosking’s “A Dictionary of Japanese Food”. It’s not totally comprehensive, but it has a wealth of information about ingredients, their use, and their seasonality.


    Posted by Bruce | August 6, 2009, 3:48 pm
  4. @Bruce Thanks for linking out to that dictionary. I’m sure folks will find it useful. The reader reviews on Amazon are consistently great.

    Posted by Te-chan | August 8, 2009, 11:40 am
  5. Very helpful post, especially for those who are looking for some good lists for their smart.fm. Now I want sushi!

    Posted by Japanese Words | August 8, 2009, 4:05 pm


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