My new series of blog posts will include books(including e-books and audiobooks!) , comics/manga, niche websites, news articles, etc with useful, relevant or even interesting (yet potentially random!) vocabulary and phrases in your target language. This series will be entitled: “Koko Reads” which will include passages from different chapters with commentary on how difficult or easy it was for me to comprehend as well as new kanji (for Japanese) I’ve learnt.
Hi everyone! This week I’m going to try and read “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in Japanese. I intend on getting through the first two chapters. So without further ado, let’s begin.
From the very first page we get: “It was a long time ago, longer than it seems now, in a place that you perhaps seen in your dreams. The events from this time forward occurred on a Halloween that was on a particularly cold windy day in the holiday worlds.”
昔々（むかしむかし）- Once upon a time (昔 refers to something in the past where as repeating it implies even more distantly in the past.)
かなり- Particularly or considerably
大昔（だいむかし）- a very long time ago
君（きみ）Informal way of saying “You” in Japanese.
達（たち）This is a plural marker for certain Japanese words to indicate that’s there’s than one of something. Japanese doesn’t have an exact way of making plurals and thus, one must use a number combined with a counter word to indicate that’s more than one of something (ie: まんがが四さつあります. The manga has 4 volumes.)
夢（ゆめ）Dream (to dream: 夢を見る (lit. “To see a dream”)
見た（みた）Past (informal) of 見る- to see（Polite: 見ました）
お話する（おはなしする）to tell a story /have a talk (The “お” makes it more formal)
ある年（あるねん）- A certain year
特に-（とくに） Particularly, Considerably
寒い風（さむいかぜ）- Cold wind
起こった（おこった）- Past (informal) of 起こる – to happen, occur
It was relatively easy for me to understand the main idea of the sentence as it was but trying to translate it coherently proved to be quite difficult for me. Not to mention I had trouble with reading the kanji 祝日, even though I knew similar words: 休暇（きゅうか）and 休み（やすみ).
On the page of the first chapter, Koko learns that ドロドロ means “syrupy” and that the page had a lot of unfamiliar kanji which mean the story temporarily become a brick of wall of misunderstanding. Or something like me just skipping over the unfamiliar words altogether. Let’s have a look at these mysterious words and kanji!
階段(かいだん)- Stairway; Staircase; Stairs.
潜む（ひそむ）- to lurk ; to lie dormant; to be hidden; to be concealed; to be stashed.
無気味（ぶきみ）weird; ominous; eerie; uncanny; ghastly.
隠る (かくる) to hide; to be hidden; to conceal oneself; to disappear.
転がし（ ころがし） (1) (Abbreviation) rolling (something); knocking down; (2) fishing with multiple hooks on a weighted line; (3) repeatedly buying and selling.
道化師（ どうけし） a clown.
影(かげ) shadow; silhouette; reflection; image; presence; light (stars, moon).
現れる(あらわれる) (1) to appear; to come in sight; to become visible; to come out; to embody; to materialize; to materialise; (2) to be expressed (e.g. emotions); to become apparent (e.g. trends, effects).
訊く(きく) to hear; to listen (e.g. to music); to ask; to enquire; to query. I am guessing this is another kanji to use instead of 聞く.)
Chapter 2: クリマス・タウンの邂逅 (Christmas Town’s chance meeting)
Now let’s have a look at the second chapter and discover more interesting phrases and vocabulary.
カボチャ pumpkin; squash
(かぼちゃやろう man with an unattractive, unusually shaped face. What?!!)
太陽 (たいよう) sun;
木々(きぎ) every tree; many trees; all kinds of trees
聳え立つ（そびえたつ)- to stand towering over the surroundings.
As I reach page 22, I’m hindered by this kanji: 渦（うず）which means eddy, whirlpool and vortex. I had the most difficult time looking this kanji up when I tried to use this site to draw the unfamiliar kanji. I was so unsuccessful that I tried using Jisho.org’s stoke order look up which was incredibly frustrating because I couldn’t find this kanji no matter how hard I tried. I eventually had to reference my paper kanji dictionary: Kodansha’s Essential Kanji Dictionary and use the stroke order to look it up. It finally revealed itself on page 539!
麓 (ふもと) the foot; the bottom; the base (of a mountain).
I was able to understand the basic idea of each page but there were really difficult kanji as well as nuanced furigana (small-printed hiragana and katakana) over the kanji which gave a different reading than what it actually was but the meaning was still the same.
Example: 辻音楽隊 had（ストリート・ミュージシャン）as the reading instead of (つじおんがくたい). Which means “street musician”).
Even though it was familiar story I found to be quite difficult to read in Japanese. I think this is one of those stories meant for the parents to read to the children. It was quite challenging though! But it looks like I need to really improve my ability to read in Japanese, such as learning more kanji.
What do you think? Have you tried to read a book you’ve read before as a child but found it more difficult to read in your target? I’d love to hear your thoughts!