B： Good Morning. First, please tell me your name.
My name is ….
B： Where do you live?
I live in Hadano, Kanagawa.
B： How far is it from here?
It is about 90 minutes by train.
B. You changed trains today?
Yes I changed at Shinjuku.
B： It is not complicated?
No, it’s not. Just one change.
A： How should I call you?
A： When I came here this morning, I found those maps in Japanese very hard to understand. This is because of those Chinese characters. Could you tell me about those characters?
Yes. The Japanese people had no letters or characters back in the 5th or 6th century. Then they started to use Chinese characters and, in fact, the Chinese language, also to record history, etc. Later, they started to use Chinese characters to write the Japanese language. Each Chinese character has two or three ways of reading in most cases. One is based on the Japanese word, another based on the original Chinese sound of the character. For example, the word Tokyo consists of two Chinese characters. The first character “To” means east. The very same character is also read “higashi.” To complicate the matter further, Japanese invented two sets of phonetic letters, the equivalents of Western alphabets.
A：Learning Japanese is very hard. Could you give us your opinion about Japanese education? I understand there is some problem in Japanese education.
The recent problem is about educational reform. The government first reduced the content of educational materials to make it easier for the average child to learn, but they recently increased the educational content. This in turn made happy some parents who are keen on educating their children. It is because, that way, those children would be better prepared for entering reputable universities.
A：I understand there are special schools to address such problems ? juku, is that what they call….
Yes. Children study very hard at juku.
A：Ok, next question. I would like to buy one of those traditional Japanese fans as a souvenir. Could you tell us about them?
You are talking about sensu, the foldable fans, I understand. They come in a variety of designs and would make very good souvenirs.
A：I also understand there are fans that are not foldable.
Yes. They are called uchiwa, and they also come in various designs.
A：Where can I buy them?
If you go to department stores in Ginza, you will find them.
A：How about outside of Tokyo? Where can I buy a good sensu outside of Tokyo?
A：Kyoto is a good place, isn’t it?
Kyoto is a great place to buy sensu. I visited there this summer when they had the Gion Festival. It is one of the three major festivals of Japan.
A：What are the other two?
They are the Sanja Festival of Asakusa, Tokyo, and the Tenjin Festival of Osaka.
A：Thank you very much.
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