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I’m moving to my own blog!

I’ve decided to start my own blog at:

The reasons why I’ve decided to stop writing on 3yen is because I wanted more flexibility in the subject area since I’m currently learning Chinese. I also have more flexibility over the site itself and you’ll see things like recent comments and static pages that I haven’t been able to add here. Unfortunately, now I’ll have to keep up with the security updates and deal with the spam, a big reason why I started on 3yen.

I’d like to thank Yves, the administrator of 3yen for hosting me for over three years (wow!) and for giving me all the post and comment data. I wish him luck and success. If you’re interested in continuing this blog, feel free to contact him! I never asked for money but who knows, you might actually be able to make some for your efforts!

I hope to see you guys at my new blog. Also to subscribers, please update your feeds to


Posted by Tae Kim in About this site | 15 Comments »


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Ruby tags considered harmful

For those of you unfamiliar with the ruby tag, it is an html tag that adds tiny readings over kanji. 「ルビ」 traditionally is used in print for archaic kanji or when the author wants to indicate a non-standard reading for the kanji. However, on the net, ruby tags are being abused everywhere I see them. Here’s a simple benchmark (with a neat acronym to make it “official”) for determining whether you’re abusing the ruby tag.

Ruby Abuse Benchmark (RAB)

1. Do you use ruby tags for every kanji?

2. Do you use ruby tags for any kanji that most Japanese people can read?

3. Do you use ruby tags?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you are abusing the ruby tag.

This abuse happens most often on sites that are intended for people learning Japanese. For example, this site about the JLPT or Japanese language blogs like the one you’re reading now. I don’t use ruby tags though. Even sites for kids stay away from ruby and just use Hiragana instead. Here’s why you should stay away from them too.

The Technical Reason

Ruby is only included in the XHTML 1.1 specification, which has been around forever and still hasn’t gained much traction. The HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 Transitional DTDs are still being used in the majority of website that care about standards. This means that if you want to use a schema that the majority of the web is using, <ruby> won’t validate.

Plus, the markup is terribly hard to read and write. Take a look at these markup examples. Imagine doing that for every kanji. Your Japanese text will be indecipherable and an incredible pain to edit.

The Practical Reason

Because XHTML 1.1 hasn’t gained much traction, a majority of browsers don’t support ruby. The only one I’m aware of that does is IE and in today’s world where up to 30% of your visitors might not be using IE, IE-only is not practical.

People without Ruby support will see this.

田中(たなか): はい、元気(げんき)です。早坂(はやさか)さんは?

Terrible, just terrible. It’s totally unreadable. Plus, even if you DID have Ruby support, the text is far too small. It’s a lose-lose situation. The correct use of ruby is to show the readings of a few archaic words that the author assumes will not readable by his audience or when he wants to expand on the word. It is NOT intended to be used for every kanji. The print is too small for people who need them and distracting for the people who don’t need them. Also, it can become a crutch allowing people to never actually read and learn the kanji.

So, even if you can install something such as an extension to make ruby tags work, it’s just not a good idea.


1. CSS mouse-over popups: It’s one simple span tag and it works in all major browsers. It’s also more versatile because you can add more information such as English definitions, etc.

Html: <span title=”たべる – to eat” class=”popup”>食べる</span>
Appears as: 食べる

I suggest adding a visual highlight so that the reader can easily see which part of the text applies for the popup or whether there is a popup at all (not supported by some older browsers). You can easily do this by adding some CSS like the following to your stylesheet.

span.popup:hover {
color: rgb(159,20,26);

Plus, you can easily see the readings for only the words you need, removing the distracting ruby text and preventing the furigana from becoming a crutch.

Here’s a recent convert and look at all the positive comments he’s gotten.

2. Make a list of the vocabulary at the beginning or end of the page so that the reader has something to refer to.

3. Suggest additional tools such as WWWJDIC, 理解.com, moji, and rikaichan so that people can learn to teach themselves. (You know, the whole teach a man to fish thing.)


I think the first method is good for static resources like my guide to Japanese grammar but when you don’t have the time to add readings and definitions manually all the time (like this blog), you can’t beat the third method. Plus, it helps your readers read any online Japanese text instead of just your own. In the end, whatever method you use, it certainly beats the hell out of writing this for every word that uses kanji.


Ah!!! My eyes!!


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I created a new category that I’d like to call プチポスト (tiny-post).
I have all sorts of random thoughts and ideas that are too short for a マジポスト (real-post) so hopefully this new category will allow me to post more often.
(Yes, as a matter of fact, I am making these words up as I go.)

Personally, I hate meaningless posts with just a couple sentences or a random image/video/link so I’ll try to post something that’s at least mildly interesting but feel free to ignore this category if you just care about the meatier articles that I pump out about once every month (or two).





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It’s a bird. It’s a plane! No, it’s yet another podcast!

Thanks to the new site update (Thanks Yves!), I have set up the Skype lessons as a podcast.

If you’re still stuck in the “early internet era” and is unfamiliar with terms like podcasts, web 2.0, tags, and [add your own meaningless buzzword here], you can get a very informative description of what a podcast is by asking a ninja. There is also a more illustrated version of the same video.

Ha ha ha, oh that ninja. He’s so droll. Ok ok, here’s a more serious description from Wikipedia. But I didn’t understand any of that technical nonsense so it’s really easiest to think of podcasts as a big pie factory with a bunch of whales lined up in front of it.

Anyway, you can subscribe to this podcast with iTunes by clicking the following link:

Subscribe to this podcast with iTunes

Or you can go to the “Advanced”->”Subscribe to Podcast” option on the iTunes menu and copy the following link:

I hope you enjoy the pies!


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My very own interview

Will from did an email interview of me several days ago so if you are remotely interested about where I come from, here it is:

Hmm… is this bad taste to link to my own interview?

Anyway, he also has neat tips such as how to put Japanese notes on your ipod so why don’t you check it out?

On a sidenote, I will put up the third skype lesson details this weekend and email the participants. Unfortunately, next, next Sunday is no good for me because I have to go to work!!


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About the Nihongo Blog

Hi, my name is Tae Kim. I’m currently working on a Japanese guide to Japanese grammar.

What you will find here are tidbits about Japanese that I hope will be useful for those studying the language. I plan to separate my posts into three major categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. In the beginner category, I will be talking about the fundamental principles of Japanese such as particles, parts of speech, and simple expressions. The advanced category will cover things like formal language and various written expressions. Everything in between will go in the intermediate category.

Everything here will assume knowledge of Hiragana, Katakana, and the basic ideas behind Kanji. If you are completely new to the language, I suggest you learn Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji at the following pages:

All Japanese words in the beginner category will have the reading and definition included. All you need to do is hold the mouse over the word and a small popup will display the reading and definition. For verbs, the popups will have the reading for the original dictionary form. For anything above beginner level I will assume you will be familiar enough with the language to look up everything yourself. With the Internet, this is incredibly easy as there are all sorts of online dictionaries and tools that will automatically create mouse-over popups with definitions. Check out the useful links post for resources that will do this for you.

Here are the feeds for this blog so that you can save yourself from having the check the site all the time.

If you have any questions, suggestions for posts, or want to go drinking in the Tokyo area, don’t hesitate to email me at or you could just post a comment somewhere too.

Posted by Tae Kim in About this site | 3 Comments »


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