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Why Khatzumoto Went Back To Using a Denshijisho Electronic Dictionary (And So Can You!)

Do you remember 電子辞書s (電子辞書=でんしじしょ=denshijisho)?

You know, them (usually clamshell) electronic dictionaries that every student from Japan you’ve ever met carried around?

Over the past decade, they’ve kind of gone the way of the dinosaur what with the rise of tablets and smartphones.

But dinosaurs are still around — we just call them birds. And paper books are still around, too. Kevin Kelly says that virtually no technology ever dies, it just grows or shrinks in “market share” (ubiquity, status, prevalence etc.). That is, the scope and scale of its use changes, but it never goes extinct. Now, that’s a bold-a$$ assertion, and those ancient astronaut jokers aficionados theorists at The History Channel won’t be buyin’ it (lol), but the Kell seems able to back it up.

Personally, I’ve owned about four denshijshos in my life so far. All of them have been Canon brand. My first was one of these (not this exact model, but the same IDF series): [Amazon | CANON wordtank IDF-2200E (5コンテンツ, 英語モデル, コンパクトサイズ) | キヤノン | 電子辞書 通販]

The second was this guy, with the touchscreen and stylus: [Amazon | CANON wordtank V90 (22コンテンツ, 第2外国語, 中国語, 発音機能) | 電子辞書 | パソコン・周辺機器 通販]

The third and fourth were Canon A500 series, including this guy:
[Amazon | 「CANON 電子辞書 中国語対応モデル WORDTANKA503」 | 電子辞書 | パソコン・周辺機器 通販]

When the iPad came out, I was happy to reduce the number of devices owned, so I gave away or chucked away my denshijishos #minimalism. After all, there’s only so much you can fit in a Japanese home before going hoarder mode.

One thing I loved about the V90 and the A503 was how they had a Mandarin-Japanese-Mandarin dictionary that included full pinyin for every single example sentence in the dic. That dictionary is the Sanseido Super Crown Dictionary.

  • [Amazon | 超級クラウン中日辭典 | 古川裕, 白井啟介, 代田智明, 費錦昌, 松岡榮志, 樋口清 | 學習法 通販]
  • [クラウン日中辭典 | 杉本 達夫, 牧田 英二 |本 | 通販 | Amazon]
  • [三省堂 中日・日中辭典 〜 超級クラウン中日辭典・クラウン日中辭典 〜を App Store で]

You know how you don’t miss something until it’s gone? Well, I missed the crap out of the Super Crown. But life goes on (thanks, Tupac). Now, I’m not gonna bog you down with my story of how I switched from all-iOS to mostly Android (TL;DR — Samsung stopped sucking and became awesome while iOS still doesn’t let you use external storage without a ####ing letter of permission from President Obama and the Director of the CIA).

The point is this:

  1. Apart from denshijishos, the Super Crown only exists on the market in digital form on iOS 1 — and, yes, I do own the iOS app. But keeping an old iPad charged and present for the purpose of just one app is annoying to me.
  2. Tablets and smartphones are almost too powerful — they can do too much stuff and this is distracting.
    • Also, their power-to-screenspace ratio is low. I use about five monitors (sometimes four, sometimes six) on my main PC; and it’s not just for looking cool — it’s actually essential to my productivity.
    • You know what? Tablets and smartphones kind of need to start rocking dual/multiple monitors — like the Nintendo DS did — because jumping from app to app is too distracting and disorienting; one rapidly loses track of what one is doing. Now, there are some dual monitor tablets out there, but they have not impressed me — yet. No doubt it’s simply a matter of time until that changes.
    • That’s part of why reading books is so much fun. It’s not the paper, it’s the real estate — lots of high-resolution  “screen space” (paper), zero distractions.
    • Why not just keep the iPad around and keep using the iOS app? Because reasons. An iPad is large, still distracting and needs charging where a 電子辞書 runs off AAA batteries like a boss.

If you like alcohol, you could play a drinking game where you count the number of first world problems I’ve just whined about (“boohoo my iPad is too heavy”…where is the wheelbarrow where this Khatzumoto guy carries his balls to come up here and be whining like that amiright? lol) .

So with iPads, paper and Android tablets all a bust, what’s the next best thing? What’s the best bad idea? Bringing back the denshijisho, that’s what. I just ordered mine through the Mazon (Amazon; I don’t know what possessed me to call “The Mazon”) and it’s still in the mail, but I’m curious to see how this return to the near past will turn out for my continued Mandarin laddering.


  1. obviously, it exists in paper form, and, yes, you could digitize the paper version and make it searchable using OCR and, yes, I’ve tried that lol

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