Resource: Hiragana no hiragana megane

A quick resource post for you all this week! For those who are just starting out on their Japanese language journey and are looking to improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary, one neat online tool is Hiragana no hiragana megane. This site is meant to process Japanese webpages, automatically inserting ruby text (furigana) over kanji to help the reader learn to read vocabulary.

There’s no special trick to the website or any bells or whistles—just pop the URL into the webpage and hit enter!

This seems like an immensely useful and powerful tool, but as with most things, it comes with some caveats. First, it’s not clear to me how often the website is updated, or whether it can cope with certain newer types of webpage designs.

For example, some of their example links (such as Japanese newspapers), came up with errors when clicked. However, for some sites I was able to directly enter news article links and get the furigana to appear (whereas others gave me sporadic errors and I needed to reset my browser’s UTF-8 encoding to see properly). Along these same lines, certain blogs could not be read by the site when I tested them out, so you might find Hiragana no megane’s capabilities hit or miss. Some of their example sites did work, however, like this one on novels/short stories, so this is not to say that everything is broken!

One should also be aware that this tool is geared towards modern language usage and is not perfect. Out of curiosity, I popped some of my historical research-oriented sites in there, to hilarious results. And even a simple museum webpage showed me some false positives on ordinary words, like trying to read the term jidai 時代 (time period) as tokiyo. Normally working with medieval terms that take unusual readings, that gave me a good laugh.

Nevertheless, for people first starting out with recognizing vocabulary and getting used to the multiple readings of kanji, this can be really helpful. So if you’re in the early stages of your Japanese language journey, be sure to check it out!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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