Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hacking Gakken in Japanese

If you're a fan of Gakken's kits, then you probably visit their website from time to time to see what's going to be coming out next. And, if you like puzzles, you may even try "hacking" the language. If so (or only if you want to be able to understand what the "probable release date" part means), I'm here to help.

First, Japanese is made up of three alphabets: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana (written as ひらがな) is a cursive 40-character phonetic letterset that spells out the pronunciation of the word. It is used for normal everyday spelling, and for the tense forms of verbs. Katakana (written as カタカナ) is a rectilinear 40-character phonetic letterset that duplicates hiragana. Katakana is used primarily for representing foreign words and for emphasis (kind of like italics). Kanji is the pictograph set that came from China (written as 漢字). If you want full Japanese proficiency, you need to know just under 2000 characters plus their more common combinations.

Each kanji character can have two or more pronunciations, depending on the word and if it is by itself or combined with another character to form a more complex word. These pronunciations are called Kun'yomi (Japanese reading, by itself) and On'yomi (Chinese reading, when combined with another character). As an example "食べる" is "taberu", "to eat". "事" is "koto", "thing". When combined, "taberu" uses its on'yomi reading of "shoku" and "koto" uses its on'yomi reading of "ji" to form "食事" - "shokuji", or "meal". Ok, time to start.

At the top left of the index page we have "大人の科学.net", pronounced "Otona no Kagaku", meaning "Adult's Science".

Underneath this in the index section is "大人の科学マガジン vol. 28". This is just a repetition of "Otona no Kagaku" with the addition of "magajin", or magazine. This is the link to the most recently released kit, which in this case is #28, the Edo Clock.

The next entry in the index on the left is "大人の科学マガジン 次号予告". Again, we have "Otona no Kagaku Magajin" but with "jigou yokoku" - "next issue notice". This is the link for the next issue in the series, and is the one we want for our purposes (issue #29).

The third item is "大人の科学マガジン別冊", the "Adult Science Bessatsu (special issue)". This links to the special kits that include a mook but don't have issue numbers. The current special issue is the vacuum tube AM radio kit. (真空管工作 - "shinkuukan kousaku").

The fourth item is another "bessatsu". This one is the "シンサセイザークロニクル" (shinsaseiza- kuronikuru - synthesizer chronicle).

The fifth item is yet another "bessatsu" - the "ロケットと宇宙開発" (rokketo to uchuu kaihatsu - "rocket and space development") magazine.

The sixth item may be of some interest to people still relatively new to Gakken kits. This is the "ラインナップ一覧" (rain'nappu ichiran - "lineup listing"). This links to the full listing of all of the Gakken mook kits in the series.


Ok. Click on 大人の科学マガジン 次号予告. This takes you to the page for the kit to come out next. On the right side in the bottom corner is the "electronic guy" and the words "Japanino連動用コネクタつき" No points for guessing that this means "Has a connector to interface with the Japanino" (read as "Japanino rendou you konekuta tsuki").

Then in the bottom left we have the following:
A4変型判 (A4 henkei ban) - a4 paper size (8"x12")

100ページ (100 peeji) - 100 pages

2010年11月上旬発売予定 (2010 nen 11 gatsu joujun hatsubai yotei)

It's this last line that needs explanation. Obviously, we're being given the date Nov. 2010. "上旬" (joujun) refers to the first 10 days of the month. "下旬" (gejun) is the last 10 days. "中旬" (chuujun) is the middle 10 days (or the middle third of the month). This is followed by "発売" (hatsubei) - "to go on sale" - and "予定" (yotei) - "plan". Put it all together and you get "Planned released for the first 10 days of Nov., 2010."

予価: 2,800円(税別) (yoka: 2,800 yen (zeibetsu)) - Planned price: 2,800 yen (not including tax)

ふろく:AKARI切り紙 (furoku: AKARI kirikami) - Make: Light Cut Paper

"AKARI" is the name of the kit, but it translates to "light" or "glow". "kirikami" is a variation on "origami", the art of paper folding. Here, kirikami is the process of making shapes that not only includes folding paper, but also modifying it with a knife or scissors. More correctly, it's - "Kit Name: Paper Lamp".

講入方法: 全国書店 (kounyuu houhou: zenkoku shoten) - Purchase Information: All stores countrywide. More correctly, this would be - "Available in bookstores everywhere."

学研オンラインショップ: 『ショップ.学研』 (gakken onrainshoppu: "shoppu.gakken") - Gakken Online Shop: "shop.gakken".


And there you have it. On Page 1 on the left from the top:

Adult Science Magazine vol. 28
Adult Science Magazine Next Up
Adult Science Magazine Special - Vacuum Tube Radio
Adult Science Magazine Special - Synthesizer
Adult Science Magazine Special - Rocket and Space
Adult Science Magazine Product Line Up

On Page 2:

Connector for interfacing with the Japanino

Magazine size: A4 / 100 pages / Tentative release in first week of Nov. 2010
Suggested Price: 2,800 (without tax)
Name: AKARI Paper Lamp
Available: Bookstores nationwide
Gakken Online Shop - "shop.gakken"

It's just that easy. Next up, how to safely remove your own spleen with just a spork and two hedgehogs.

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