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Book Review: Keigo Grand Master — Develop Your Ownage In Polite Japanese Using Example Sentences

Good books are all over the place and I want to share them with you! I figure if you’re still reading this, you care, so…I mean…it beats shaking down random people in the street and trying to recommend books to them. Star Trek fans know what I’m talking about: you want the rest of your family and friends to love it, but they don’t, so you find your ST buddies…sort of like a cult.

Cult? AJATT. AJATT? Books. Books? Today’s book: a handsome little tome on keigo and how to use it.

Title/Author/Info Pros Cons Comments



Keigo Grand Master: Quiz Your Way to Keigo Greatness


Language: Japanese

Furigana: No

  • Good highlighting. I love the judicious use of bold type in Japanese business books — it really puts their English counterparts to shame.
  • Clear formatting
  • Easy to read
  • Nice division by subject/scenario (e.g. “Email”, “Customer conversations”, “Conversations with senpais”)
  • Tons of example sentences
  • Teaches with example sentences and not just freaking verb tables and arrows. This is big 🙂 . Enough with the tables already, people, dayom. Save them for something else.
  • Text is all in black and white with very few illustrations, which gets…a little boring. Yes, Uncle Khatzumoto likes his colors and pictures!
  • Points out a lot of keigo “mistakes” which you want to avoid…this can be confusing, in part because
    1. The mistakes aren’t clearly delineated by color or anything, which can cause you to trip up, and
    2. A lot of the “mistakes” are arguably minor technicalities, like whether to use “恐れ入ります” instead of just “済みません” — in my experience, it’s nothing that anyone would even really be able to notice. I mean, we’re not talking about clearly erroneous usage here as is the case with バイト敬語. Then again, this book is all about being a Grand Master, so…I guess I’m just looking for something to criticize 😛 .
  • Quiz format really isn’t for me. I find that it hurts to point out incorrect usage more than it helps. So I just go straight for the correct answer. No use filling my head with errors.
Good book. Not really for going through in one sitting. This is a “keeper”, one you’re going to want to come back to from time to time and add to your SRS piecemeal.

(Maybe you can make yourself a separate keigo deck if your SRS allows easy deck management like, ahem, Surusu 😛 )

Another word of advice…a lot of people used to tell me this and I thought it was the cheesiest double McCheese thing ever, but now I think they were right: keigo is valuable and important, but basic kindness and a smile are even more important; it is possible to deliver cold-hearted keigo, but…what a waste. 😉

Having said that, gaijin are rarely short on personality but do sometimes (frequently?) come up a teeny bit lacking in refinement and etiquette — I’m one to talk! — so…getting yourself some solid keigo would be a worthwhile exercise.

Speaking of color…gol darn, man…This is a beef I have with manga as well…I am more than willing to pay someone to get some color up in here!

Like I said, the highlighting puts English-language books to shame. A lot of English-language business book authors seem to have these weird pretensions to novel-writing. They seem to want to tell you a story.

As a reader, let me tell it straight up: I don’t need your story! Story-telling may have worked for The Richest Man in Babylon, but that was a one-book stand! We just kind of let it slide because George Clason was so smooth about the whole thing. We were young; we were inebriated; he was charming…

Business writers, businesspeople, heed my call: I know that neither academics nor artists respect you; I know you want to be considered “real” writers of artistic and intellectual value; I know that being thought of as nothing but rich philistines grates on your self-esteem, but just get over it and give me some bold type and bullet points, big fella! Tom Peters knows what I’m talking about.

  11 comments for “Book Review: Keigo Grand Master — Develop Your Ownage In Polite Japanese Using Example Sentences

  1. nacest
    August 4, 2010 at 00:11

    >Cult? AJATT. AJATT? Books. Books? Today’s book.

  2. August 4, 2010 at 00:36

    Me likes the table format for book recommendations.

    Does it come with an audio CD or anything to hear the examples? Or, should we take it to RhinoSpike?

  3. August 4, 2010 at 02:00

    You know, I’m pretty sure some religions actually pay people to shake random people down on the street and recommend very specific books to them. I sense a profitable career opportunity for you in the near future…

  4. あんど
    August 4, 2010 at 02:09

    Seconding yuzuruさん’s sentiment about the table format. I’m diggin’ it.

    Another book to add to my list of books to buy… It sounds really nice.

  5. August 4, 2010 at 08:17

    >”but just get over it and give me some bold type and bullet points, big fella!”

    Simplify, basic-iffah, concise-iffah! Gib me dem bullet points!

    I wonder if you’ve checked out “REWORK” by 37 Signals.

    37 Signals, Tom Peters, Seth Godin… God I love their conciseness.

  6. August 5, 2010 at 04:13

    I like when you post references to materials in Japanese. Actually, some of the japanese wikipedia links gave me a quick little reading exercise.

    I’m curious, do you know of any japanese language blogs that are entertaining?

  7. August 6, 2010 at 17:49

    Thanks for this post, I’ll definitely be needing this soon 🙂

  8. Bob
    August 8, 2010 at 03:04

    Wonderful post. I also found a website with interesting material for learning keigo (for business):


  9. km
    August 13, 2010 at 13:13

    While looking for this book I found a similar one called 敬語入門 (Keigo 101) that has some similar features. It is aimed at college graduates who are becoming new 社会人 and as such gives some good practical advice about the right attitude to have in various business situations, as well as example usages of certain expressions. Rather than simply explaining what to say, it also has information on what to do and the reasons behind what is being said, which is very interesting, no matter your own reaction to the stiffness of some business encounters. It does suffer from the table layout that you dislike in several portions, but also has good illustrations and diagrams for things like uh… standing position among coworkers in elevators (if you’re lowly like me, you’ll be pushing the elevator buttons for everyone else).

    It’s interesting because where I work (school), nobody talks like this, but the situational explanations are informative, easy to read, and common-sensical. Khatz, did you have a chance to check this book out when you were book-picking?

  10. khatzumoto
    September 28, 2010 at 11:29

    Does it come with an audio CD or anything to hear the examples? Or, should we take it to RhinoSpike?
    No audio. Spike it! 😀

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