It’s arrived! After three months, shipping from Japan, the original Eiko Kadono’s Majo no Takkyūbin (most commonly known in America as Kiki’s Delivery Service) is on my shelf!
For the last several years I’ve been studying Japanese — podcasts, films and Netflix series, language apps, social media — and no matter what medium, the language has been a challenge. (Reading bits and pieces of hiragana, kanji, and katakana is only the beginning.) But I’ve been determined, even when dining at favorite sushi restaurants, to attempt to speak a few words (or perhaps even a semi-confident sentence) in public. Having this book in my hands is the ultimate goal in my training: to read one of my most beloved tales in Japanese.
Filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki, adapted Kadono’s book into the animated film, Kiki’s Delivery Service, in 1989. It quickly became one of my favorite films for it’s purity, simplicity, and well, everything Miyazaki does best but in witchy delight form! There is great beauty in simply having a witch discover what makes her tick. What makes Kiki special? What makes her different from all other witches who have already claimed towns theirs to service? We don’t really need another spritely witch who knows everything about her ancestry and just tests her limits with a few random spells and hexes. Young girls can easily identify with Kiki because of her waning confidence and the thrill of venturing off into the world with nothing but a magical broomstick and a small, snarky friend (Jiji).
As for the book, I love Akiko Hayashi’s illustrations, like Kiki riding above a wave on her broom to rescue Jiji as he balances on a swimmer. (The rest of these wonderful illustrations you'll have to discover for yourself.) I cannot wait to "dive" into this book and actually get through the first few pages, the first chapter, of really reading and understanding the text. Until then, it has certainly inspired me to take a leap of faith on my third round of revising my own witch-based MG fantasy, The Wirewood Grimoire. To cast a spell as sweetly sincere as Kadono and Miyazaki have done with Kiki would be a great feat.
Thinking of picking up a new language?
Practice with a language app. Try it daily for a week, then a month. Then repeat lessons periodically to refresh your skills. Duolingo even has mini stories for some languages.
Netflix has a great array of foreign flicks and series. Mini series like Aggretsuko andTerrace House provide easy-to-grasp work and home conversation. One Piece and One-Punch Man are wildly adventuresome anime. Films such as The Castle of Cagliostro (#Miyazaki) bring the family together while Little Miss Sumo is a great mini documentary. For foodies like myself, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Series will be your cup of tea.
Fan of taking notes? Get used to it. I have a whole notebook dedicated to practicing hiragana and phrases from my language app.
Follow social media trendsetters in the language of your choice. This can teach you about hip places, food, and news within the country (and you may even make some virtual friends)!
Listen to podcasts! Japanese Pod 101 has many lessons for free and even provides English translated text to compare with the Japanese text for certain lessons.
Music is universal. Play foreign albums often! Teruko Akatsuki and The 18.104.22.168's give me that rockabilly and 50's jive I love all while learning.
Read, read, read! Find Japanese online magazines or newspapers and view the English version of the text. You can compare and contrast what you know and research the text you are unsure of to pick up new phrases and words.
Be brave! Change some of your phone settings to the language of your choice (after writing out how you can get back to those settings should this attempt go horribly awry). Can you navigate those changed apps? You'll start to pick up the text associated with commands for Instagram, Twitter, or #Netflix.
I cannot stop staring at this amazing book on my shelf and look forward to seeing how my Japanese develops as I explore more wonderful stories in this language.