🎄 2023 Aozora Short Story and Essay Advent ☃

Happy December (in a bit, this post is a pre-order :wink:)!

Last year I did an Advent Challenge on the WK forums where I read a random Aozora short piece of writing each day. Some of these were short stories, some were essays, some were children’s stories - all were chosen mostly at random and a surprise each day!

I choose the stories from the 10分以内 and the 30分以内 lists here.

I have prepared 2 calendars here - one is similar to last year where every day is a surprise. I don’t know the content nor the difficulty of the text - at most I may be familiar with the author and maybe glanced at the publication date (we’re ending on a 大正 :grin: )

The second calendar contains Aozora shorts I have read and vetted for being at least somewhat entertaining. Feel free to swap out any story you don’t like or which is too high of a level for any other Aozora story.

Calendar of unknowns - read at your own risk :slight_smile:

These aren’t all on Natively yet - I’ll work on getting them added :slight_smile:

Pre-vetted calendar


Will you be partipating in the Aozora Advent Challenge?
  • Yes :books:
  • No :no_good_woman:
  • Maybe :person_shrugging:
0 voters
Which calendar will you be following?
  • Mystery picks :man_detective:
  • Pre-vetted :smiling_face:
  • Combo and/or picking my own Aozora shorts :dizzy:
0 voters

Thank you so much! I’m curious to see what your Mystery Picks contain! :blush:

Admittedly I‘m a bit scared regarding the „max 30 minutes“ - in case they based this off of the reading speed of one of my language partners, we could end up with up to 50 pages :cold_sweat: and I will probably not have the time to read such long stories in one day. Will switch to the pre-vetted calendar in this case :sweat_smile:


The times map pretty well to YouTube 朗読 usually, but I also didn’t pick many from that set iirc. I also don’t want to spend a long time each day on just the challenge, so I try to keep it small!


I had a quick peek forward and at least one of the “mystery” calendar entries is 歴史的仮名遣い :grin:


Which one? You can spoiler it if need be.

It’s the one for the 6th. It’s pretty short, though. It’s probably a reasonable choice for anybody who wants to try bluffing their way through the old kana spellings for the first time :slight_smile: I can put together a short bluffer’s guide if anybody’s interested…


I would love that!


As promised, here is…

A Bluffer’s Guide to Old Kana Spellings

With a little practice, reading a text in the historical kana spelling (歴史的仮名遣い) isn’t too hard. The rules for converting old spellings to new are fairly mechanical, but you can also get a long way by treating it like an unknown dialect and trusting that if it looks roughly like what a plausible sentence would be then it probably does mean that; for instance 御存じでせうね is 御存じでしょうね.

Old spelling texts may also use old unsimplified kanji, be freer with kanji choices, not use exactly the same division into kanji and okurigana as modern conventions, and use kanji in places like “grammar” words that are usually written in kana today. I don’t try to address any of that here.

I’ve ordered the subtopics below starting with the simpler and more useful ones.

No small kana

Old spellings use regular size kana where modern spelling uses small kana:

怒つた → 怒った

そりや → そりゃ (i.e. contraction of それは)

ピヨン/\ → ピョンピョン (note also the use here of the multi kana repeat mark)

Extra kana ゐ and ゑ

The “w” column of the kana chart has two extra kana: ゐ “wi”, pronounced い, and ゑ “we”, pronounced え. Modern spelling turned all the uses of these into い and え. You’ll also see を used to write the お sound in more places than just the object-marking particle.

思つてゐます → 思っています (you’ll see ゐ a lot because it’s used to spell いる)

をかしい → おかしい

こゑ → こえ (声)

は column kana pronounced wa / i / u / e / o except at beginning of a word

In modern spelling the only places a は column kana is pronounced oddly are the topic particle は and the direction particle へ. In old spelling whenever a は column kana appears somewhere not at the start of a word it’s pronounced like the わ column kana (i.e. wa i u e o):

いふ → いう (to say)

思へます → 思えます

似合はない → 似合わない

More use of ぢ and づ

Modern spelling uses ぢ and づ rarely. They’re more common in old spellings; read them as じ and ず, as you do already.

歌ひくづす → 歌いくずす (歌い崩す)

くわ for か

The か sound might be written くわ; similarly が can be written ぐわ.

くわんのん → かんのん (観音, the goddess)

さんぐわつ → さんがつ (三月)

Long vowel spellings

Sound changes over the centuries mean that various long vowels are written oddly. Here I’ve used romaji to indicate that the transformation holds for any kana ending with that sound. Where the right hand side has a y that means in modern spelling the word has a small ゃ, ゅ or ょ.

-au → -ou

Xのやう → Xのよう (the grammar point よう)

さう思へます → そう思えます

きしやう → きしょう (気象)

-iu → -yuu

りう → りゅう (竜)

-eu and -ehu → -you

でせう → でしょう

けふ → きょう (今日)


Webpages and books I used in writing this up


【高校古文】「歴史的かなづかいの読み方」 | 映像授業のTry IT (トライイット)

Kobun (Classical Japanese) - Old Kana

A Japanese Reader: Graded Lessons for Mastering the Written Language (Tuttle Language Library) | L20 (lessons 51 to 59 are in the old spelling)


What an awesome write-up! Thank you!


Fabulous! Thank you for this


Ohh, I hadn’t picked up on this before. Great write up, very concise and informative. :slight_smile:


I just read 野ばら. That was sad :confused: I like the style though.


I knew the first story (I think there was a short story collection read on the WK forums last year ot something like that?), but it was nice to re-read it. Pretty effective in showing some of the effects of war.


I was just having a look at the titles and

Oooh, way back in the days I nominated a short story collection of the same name in the advanced WK book club (it never got picked :sweat_smile:). I can’t remember why though. But I guess I’m finally going to read that story.


Read my first advent short story, 赤い蝋燭 | L19. Pretty cute, and I’ll admit that even pretty much knowing how it was going to end, I was still oddly amused by it, haha.


Oh man, 野ばら hit me in the feels. I admit I started with what I had assumed was a kids story due to all the furigana, and it probably was, but I wasn’t expecting that :sob:

It occurred to me that I should probably read ahead by a day because I’m the latest time zone of anyone participating (that I know of) but also the host :joy: And I wanted to provide these links ahead of time each day:


Agree with everyone that 野ばら was sad. :smiling_face_with_tear: So few words but so much said at the same time.


Yep, if you make that last-year-and-change :rofl: actually 2 and a half years ago :sweat_smile:

It is a children’s story, but back when we ran the book club, we all agreed that these are not stories that a Westerner would easily identify as childrens’ stories… The author is also called “the Hans Christian Andersen of Japan” in case that helps.

Yes, you did, and I also read that story in a WK-unrelated book club - it’s a very nice story, enjoy!


That makes me want to read more by them :eyes:


I enjoyed the two December 1st stories, though I was only going to read the candle one, because I read the first few lines of the other one and got bored (my attention span is rubbish). But then I saw that people on here were saying it is a good read so I listened to the YouTube roudoku and it was a touching story. I learnt a couple of new words too - せがれ and 睦む.