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Start brushing up on your kanji to prepare for the annual Japanese Language Proficiency Test, this year taking place on Sunday, December 3 throughout the country. Passing the coveted ikkyu (level one) is considered the ultimate mark of achievement for a non-native speaker, indicating a comprehensive level of fluency and a guaranteed boost on a resume. Those who want to take the test must apply in advance by September 5, and application forms can be picked up for ¥500 at many bookstores (see www.jees.or.jp for a complete list). Results will be announced mid-February.

For more information, call the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services at 03-5454-5577. NU

776: Tokyo Fiancee
774: Japanís Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity
772: Sparkling Rain: and other fiction from Japan of women who love women
768: Population Decline and Ageing in Japanóthe Social Consequences
766: The Diving Pool
764: Showa Japan: the Post-War Golden Age and Its Troubled Legacy
762: Exhibit C
760: Art Space Tokyo
758: Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess
756: Lala Pipo
754: The Erotic Odes
752: Travels in the East
748: Translucent Tree
746: Japanese for Daydreamers
744: Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
742: Tokyo Guidebooks
740: America & Other Poems
738: Losing Kei
736: Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White
734: A Wild Haruki Chase: Reading Murakami Around the World
732: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
730: Noon Elusive and other stories
728: Midori by Moonlight
726: From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who Was Responsible?
724: Erotic Haiku
722: Vibrator & Sayonara, Dream-eater
720: Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems: Poetry & Calligraphic art
718-719: A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics
717: The Astro Boy Essays
714: Mrs Fergusonís Tea-Set, Japan and the Second World War: The Global Consequences following Germanyís sinking of the SS Automedon in 1940
712: Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman
710: Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom
708: Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku
706: Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangsterís Daughter
704: The Swordless Samurai: Leadership Wisdom of Japanís 16th-Century Legend Toyotomi Hideyoshi
702: Tokyo Year Zero
700: Japonisme: Cultural Crossings between Japan and the West
698: The Pillowbook of Dr. Jazz
696: Kamakura
694: 69
692: Border Town: A Novel
690: A Diplomat in Japan
688: Glory In A Line: A Life of Foujita, the Artist Caught Between East and West
686: Crossfire
684: Japan-ness in Architecture
682: Nectar Fragments
680: Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan
678: Shutting Out the Sun
676: The Passion of Phineas Gage & Selected Poems
674: Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne
672: Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US
670: Autobiography of a Geisha
668: Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People
666: Bedtime Eyes
665: Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822
664: Skin Museum
662: The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
660: The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan
658: Last of the Red Hot Poppas
656: Lost Girls and Love Hotels
654: In the Pool
650: Wrong About Japan
648: Japan Modern: New Ideas for Contemporary Living
646: The Couch Potatoís Guide to Japan: Inside the World of Japanese TV
644: My Handís Tired & My Heart Aches: Letters from Japan 1995-2005
643: Kamikaze Diaries
642: The Blue-Eyed Salaryman
640: Certainty
638: Modern Japanese House
636: Native American in the Land of the Shogun
634: The Reindeer People
632: Undercurrents: Episodes from a Life on the Edge
630: The Snake that Bowed
628: The Black Lizard & The Beast In The Shadows: Two Classics of Suspense and Detection
624: Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women
622: Modern Asian Living
620: Japanese in Mangaland
618: Do You Know What it means to Miss New Orleans?
616: A.A. Gill is away
612: JRock, Ink.
610: Toppamono: Outlaw, Radical, SuspectóMy Life in Japanís Underworld
608: Mao: The Unknown Story
606: Japan Houses
604: A Hundred Years of Japanese Film
602: Sai Kon Tan: 100 All-time Precious Proverbs
600: Shadow Family
598: Dr. Noguchi’s Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery 596: Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
594: Inspired Shapes: Contemporary Designs for Japan’s Ancient Crafts
592: Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game
590: The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan’s Finest Ryokan and Onsen
588: Chibikuro Sambo
586: The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945, Japan’s 21st Century Vision
584: Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers, The Stadium: Architecture for the New Global Culture
582: Snakes and Earrings, The Very Small Home

Inspired Shapes: Contemporary Designs for Japan’s Ancient Crafts
by Ori Koyama with photographs by Mizuho Kuwata, translated by Charles Whipple (Kodansha International, ¥3,800)

Either you have just begun your courtship with Japanese arts and crafts, or you have long enjoyed the exquisite beauty of Japanese lacquerware, ceramics or textiles. Either way, Inspired Shapes is one of most exquisite coffee table books you will find on the subject of Japan, its craft and the artisans who so modestly tend their designs.

Author and interior specialist Ori Koyama has created a book that will satisfy both the connoisseur and the curious. She has avoided the usual explanations of traditional craft techniques—the kind that produces museum-like fatigue—opting instead for words and photos bursting with contemporary freshness. Koyama highlights over fifty artisans who “keep their crafts compatible with modern lifestyles and contemporary aesthetics” and features “fresh takes” on items such as the sake set, stacked food box, washi lantern, calligraphy brush and folded screen.

As the title suggests, this book has a wonderful premise, “to look forwards and backwards” at the same time. It highlights the very best modern Japanese design has to offer, and the photographs are magnificent. Trina O’Hara-Thawley


How to Tell the Difference Between Japanese Particles
by Naoko Chino (Kodansha International, ¥2,310)

When studying Japanese
grammar, nothing causes more fear than the word “particle.” The was, wos, nos and nis that litter Japanese sentences are hurdles that we students stumble haplessly over, often forcing us to retire from the challenge with injured pride. To lessen the pain, Naoko Chino has come up with a new approach to particles.

Chino, who has written a series of detailed books about studying Japanese, suggests that, “instead of studying similar particles independently and without reference to one another, students can now see particles with similar functions arranged together so that they can be easily compared.” This is a refreshing change from most methodical Japanese grammar texts, and is even a departure from the format of her other books, such as All About Verbs and All About Particles, both of which are more like reference books than study guides.

The exercise section, in particular, helps students identify their weak areas and address them. Each question is tied to a specific section in the chapter, making it easy for students to quickly review their mistakes. Such a user friendly approach is perfect for home-study.

However, beginners beware. Some example sentences are over-complicated and the English explanations confusing for students just starting out. Even though the book has sentences written in both Japanese and Roman letters, the beginner will have to learn some intermediate vocabulary and sentence structures to understand the particle comparisons the book presents. For intermediate students, though, this will be a great resource. The rest, of course, is up to you. Jean Woodward

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