I returned home recently from a long drive with my family, and as we got out the car we could hear a rhythmic drumming and the faint sound of a traditional Japanese song. A quick search for the source of this sound and we found the local ‘Bon Odori’ festival in a nearby park.
The colorful lanterns that surrounded the central square platform provided a pleasant ★ambience and friendly feel to the festival, and I quickly remembered how much I enjoy these events. As is ★customary, several people dressed in traditional clothing stood on top of a small tower banging two large drums in time to the traditional music. Many of the local residents had come to celebrate the festival; some were dressed in yukata and jimbei. When they formed a circle around the central platform and began to dance, my family and I joined in. People of all ages were dancing and enjoying themselves, and there was a real sense of ★community spirit. At the end, my children were given a small gift by the festival organizers. It was a lovely evening.
These small community festivals that are held throughout Japan help to maintain tradition and ensure that future generations understand older customs. From a foreigner’s point of view, these simple community events provide a contrast to other countries where such customs have sadly been lost over time. I look forward to next year’s ‘Bon Odori’ and may even wear my jimbei!
My name is Neil, and I am a new teacher at Wordwise. I grew up in Worcester, England, which is famous for Edward Elgar, horse racing and the world famous Worcestershire sauce. I have been teaching in Japan for over 7 years in Kyushu and Hokkaido. I enjoy cycling and once cycled from Rishiri to Sapporo! My other interests are football and travelling. I really enjoy experiencing new things and am happy to ★give most things a go at least once!
I aim to bring ★enthusiasm, passion and knowledge to your lessons here at Wordwise to help you ★advance your English skills.
I am really pleased to be here, and I am looking forward to meeting all of the Wordwise students and being a part of the team. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have.
See you soon,
★give ~ a go: give は「与える」goは「行く」でおなじみの言葉ですよね！このように使うと 「～をやってみる」という意味になります。今回 自己紹介をしている二―ルは、新しいことを経験すること、また、たいていのものやことに対して、一度は挑戦してみるという彼の性格をこのように表現しています。
Being a foreigner in Japan gives me an alternative view on things that are “normal” in Japan. White Day is something that was new and unusual to me when I first came to Japan. In the U.K., we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving our partners, or a person we ★fancy, a gift. This is done by everyone, both men and women. However, in Japan, gift giving is separated: on Valentine’s Day women give gifts to men, and on White Day men give gifts to women.
I was curious about this, so I looked into the history of White Day. By all accounts, it was started at the end of the ‘70s by a Fukuoka-based company called Ishimuramanseido, and was originally called Marshmallow Day. I guess, Marshmallows rather than chocolates were given as gifts. This did not ★take off, but was adapted in following years into what we now know as White Day. Though a little unusual to me, the idea of separate days is easy enough to understand. However, the thing that still puzzles me is the idea of sanbai gaeshi. This term means that men are expected to buy gifts for their partners which are three times the value of the one received on Valentine’s Day. White day is celebrated mainly in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and China.
Europeans too have unique holidays. One of these is called Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day). It takes place every year at the end of February or the start of March. This is a festival that marks the beginning of Lent, a time when people are supposed to give up ★rich foods for 40 days. So on Shrove Tuesday, people use up all the rich foods in the house, such as eggs, milk and butter to make pancakes. In the UK we have pancake races where people run down the street with a frying pan flipping a pancake! Personally, I prefer to eat them with lemon and sugar.
Anyway, I have to make sure I get my wife something for White Day or I will be ★in the doghouse. If you are ever in the UK around the end of February, make sure that you ★indulge in some lovely, rich pancakes.
So, the Asian Winter Games start in a couple of week with the opening ceremony being held at the Sapporo Dome on February 19th. ★No doubt the organizers have put together a great lineup of entertainment to welcome the athletes, support staff and spectators from around Asia. I believe that the ever-popular Japanese pop band, Dreams Come True will even be performing (Dorikamu iissho!) And then over the following 2 weeks, 64 events will be held across 11 different sports. That all sounds great, doesn’t it?
Personally, I’m really looking forward to the event. It’s nice to see the city we live in being highlighted in the news, and it is fun to see participants from different countries walking around downtown in their official uniforms. And even though I am not a huge ski jump fan, don’t know who the “team to beat” in the curling tournament is nor ★overflow with excitement at the thought of watching some figure skating, I will try to get out and have a look at some events. Hopefully, I can take my son along to see some, too. My pick at this stage is the snowboarding events being held at Bankei Ski Area. Being almost 5 years old, these experiences can create lifelong memories for him.
And that’s where the beauty of events such as the Asian Winter Games lies – they are special and don’t happen every year. True, these Games may ★pale★in comparison to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but they are still a great chance to see world class athletes compete and enjoy something a bit different.
So, I encourage everyone to get out and take in the Asian Winter Games later this month because you may have to wait a long time for a similar event…well, at least until 2019 when the Rugby World cup comes to town!
I have always had an addictive personality. By this, I mean that I easily become ★addicted to things. As a young boy, I would stay up all night playing a board game; in high school, I played sport whenever I could; and when I discover a great new TV show, I watch as many episodes in row as I possibly can - the online streaming service Netflix is both a ★godsend and a ★curse. In the last few years, golf has become my passion with most of my free time spent practicing, playing or watching golf.
While these pastimes have all brought me a lot of enjoyment, there is generally little to show for them. It is this point that makes my new addiction to DIY (Do-it-yourself home improvements) ★superior. I recently bought a house. It is an old house that had been renovated (or “reformed” in Japanese-English) before I moved in, and I love it! However, there are still a lot of things that I can do to make it even better. So far, I have only completed a few simple projects: installing a handrail for the stairs and building some toilet shelves. But I know that I have ★caught the DIY bug!
I am definitely not a master craftsman, and I make many mistakes that have to be thrown away. But each time I do something – good or bad -I learn a little more, and I get a lot of satisfaction from making something by myself. Also, I can ★customize everything to suit my specific purpose. So, now much of my free time is spent thinking of new projects for the house, such as new shelves and a workbench for the garage, and walking around home improvement stores. I’m lucky a Homac store is so close! And I’m already looking ahead to next spring when I plan to build a deck and much, much more.
Put simply, why spend time looking and money on cheap, poor quality items when you can do it yourself?
I lived in Melbourne for about 6 years when I was at university and fell in love with the city. The city is famous for its unpredictable weather and for weeks before my recent trip many people had said the weather was terrible – cold and dark and wet – after all it was the middle of winter. Imagine my surprise when each day of my recent trip was warm (15-16 degrees) and sunny. Melbourne . . . go figure★!
The city has change quite a bit since my university days (about a 100 years ago). Many new buildings have been erected in the city center and they have spoiled★ the old-fashioned charm of the place somewhat. However, I really like the entertainment complex on the south bank of the Yarra river, the river running through the center of the city.
This complex, Southgate, lines the river and offers a great selection of restaurants and bars. My first morning was spent at one restaurant … and it was my most enjoyable morning for years. Not only was the service excellent and waiting staff polite, but the weather was brilliant and the food terrific. I would like to enjoy many more such mornings in the future.
Of course, I visited a lot of my favourite places during my trip: St Kilda Beach and Acland Street (famous for its continental cake shops and fish and chips), The Italian precinct★ based around Lygon Street (famous for its Italian restaurants) and the Greek precinct on Lonsdale Road (my favourite restaurant, Tsindos, is still doing business there).
I guess the best change I noticed was the transportation system. Melbourne has a fantastic and convenient tram system and the city center is well-serviced by a number of tram lines. The city center is not so large but walking around all day can be tiring for an old man like me. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that a “free travel” zone has been established, and you can now ride the trams free of charge in the city center … maybe this is why there is a growing obesity★ problem in the country.
Anyway, if you like good food and a relaxing meal by the river, visit Melbourne and maybe you’ll meet me there someday!
From March 14th to April 16th I stayed in Auckland to study teaching. It was my first time not only in New Zealand but also in the Southern Hemisphere. Arriving at Auckland airport, I was struck by★ the temperature difference. Sapporo had still been very cold and snowy, slowly heading towards spring, whereas Auckland was hot, sunny and heading towards autumn. The people were also very different from the residents of Sapporo. Sapporo is a large city, but has a lack of cultural diversity; Auckland, on the other hand, is one of the most multicultural cities in the world! Along with the local white and Maori populations, a massive 39% of residents were born overseas. These people include British, Chinese, Indian, Korean, South East Asian, and many Pacific Islanders. This cultural diversity could be easily seen in the shops and restaurants that fronted the city streets. For lunch, I had a choice of anything from New Zealand meat pies to Korean barbeque. The indigenous★ Maori people are among the friendliest I have ever met, always ready with a smile and a warm greeting.
Another wonderful part of staying in Auckland was the sky. From sunrise to sunset, the sky could change from a light cloudy blue to a rich clear blue, and on to purples, oranges, and reds. Everyday gave me a beautiful painted vista of sea, cityscape, and sky. What also struck me about Auckland was the sea. The whole city has been built on islands and peninsulas★. No matter where you travel in the city you are never far from the sea. No wonder New Zealand produces some of the world’s best sailors.
Finally, what I enjoyed most about the city was the greenery. There are trees, bushes, and plants everywhere. The buildings seem to sprout from the greenery and appear to be secondary to the trees, unlike many cities in the world where nature is confined to parks. All in all, I highly recommend Auckland to any travelers…or those wishing to study overseas.
So, it seems that after a month of empty promises, spring has finally arrived in Sapporo. Even though this past winter was not the worst I have experienced in Hokkaido (I was actually able to ride my bike until mid-January), there is always a pleasant feeling when the weather begins to warm up and the snow begins to melt away. It might not be the best season in Sapporo, but there are still some great things about spring.
Just like the bears that inhabit the island, it seems as if everyone comes out of hibernation★. The streets are full of people with smiles on their faces and the whole city is in a happy mood. And just like the hungry bears, Sapporo residents have an appetite★ for life. The positive energy that exists is the thing I like most about this time of year. This energy often means people think about taking up★ new challenges or getting back into their favorite summer pastimes: running, camping, and hiking, to name a few. For me, it’s golf.
Golf is not usually seen as a young person’s sport, so perhaps it is a sign of getting older (I will turn forty in a few months), but I have been eager for the golf courses to open so that I can get out and start playing again. So, whether you are looking forward to viewing the cherry blossoms or, like me, are keen to dust off★ the sports equipment, I hope you all have a lovely Sapporo spring!
You probably all know that I hate snow, so I thought I’d take a little break from winter this year in Guam.
I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the island, but this was my 4th visit, and it was a lot of fun. What I like about Guam is that it is has some great hotels and restaurants, but is very laid back★and not very crowded.
Of course, the beaches aren’t quite as nice as those on some other resort islands (or in Australia!), but it’s still a lot of fun and it’s great to get some sunshine in January. One of the other things I like is that the food is good . . . especially the local favourite -- steak & lobster!
Despite★ there being quite a few★ Japanese and Korean tourists, it was also a lot of fun to speak English everywhere I went. I know of lot of students in Japan study because they want to communicate better when travelling, and I realized (again) just how much fun it is to talk with people from other countries. I hope that we at Wordwise can help you all communicate better on your next trips overseas!!
Anyway, here are a couple of pics . . . hope these might encourage you to visit Guam sometime too.