Daylight saving?

2013年 04月 11日 インストラクターブログ

With spring finally here and the snow gone, it’s time for me to start running again in the mornings. It’s also time to again start wondering why Japan doesn’t have daylight saving.

I love getting up early in the morning, around 4:30 am, and going for a run along the Hassamu river. I usually run about 12-15 km, and I get home around 6:00 am. But the thing that constantly amazes me is how bright and sunny it gets while most other people are still asleep.

In Australia, where I’m from, we have daylight saving – people put their clocks forward an hour in summer, so instead of wasting the sunshine early in the morning, they get to enjoy an extra hour of sun after work in the evening. I wish we could have this in Japan!

I know it was used in Japan in the past but abandoned in 1952, but with concerns about power usage it makes a lot of sense.

The peak electricity use in the home is around 6 to 7 pm. If Japan implemented daylight saving, there would be little need for lights to be turned on at this time, thus saving electricity use. So come on, guys, let’s put some pressure on the government and introduce daylight saving!!!




私の出身地であるオーストラリアでは、サマータイムがあります。 – 人々は夏、朝日を無駄にしないよう時計を1時間早めます。なので仕事の後は、余分に明るい時間を楽しむことができるのです。日本にもサマータイムがあったらいいですよね!




Saint Patrick’s Day

2013年 03月 12日 インストラクターブログ

On New Year’s Eve, couples exchanged a kiss at midnight to welcome the new year.A month ago, couples again had an opportunity to display their affection for each other on Valentine’s Day. Now, if you aren’t involved in a relationship at the beginning of the year, you probably start feeling lonely, maybe even slightly depressed and definitely celebration-deprived come March.
Luckily, on March 17th, another catholic saint gives single people the long-awaited chance to enjoy themselves. I am talking of course about Saint Patrick, also known as Saint Paddy.

Saint Patrick was born at the end of the 4th century in Britain and first discovered Ireland after being kidnapped and taken there as a slave by Irish raiders. After a while, he managed to escape and returned to his family. Not long after that, he decided to become a priest and to go back to Ireland to Christianise the Irish. Although little is known about the details of his life, a number of legends helped build Saint Patrick’s myth. He is said, for instance, to have banished all the snakes from Ireland. In a now widely catholic country, he is revered as a saint patron, a symbol of the Irish Church and nation.

One may wonder how a local religious figure like Saint Patrick became synonymous with partying and alcohol all over the world. Well, his worldwide fame could be explained by the Irish diaspora in the 1840s. At that time, Ireland was hit by a great famine and many Irish people had to leave their island. As a result, an estimated 80 million people around the world claim to be of Irish descent. The reason why his name is associated with partying probably finds its roots in the pride of the Irish in their cultural heritage and their will to keep their ancestral traditions alive, and some smart advertising by renowned Irish brewers, such as Guinness, just to name one.

So, if you haven’t already made plans for March 17th, hit your local Irish pub and enjoy the fine Irish brews and liquors. And, who knows, if you’re single, you may actually meet your next Valentine on Saint Paddy’s Day!



セイント・パトリックは、4世紀の終わりに英国で生まれました。そしてアイルランドの侵略者の奴隷として誘拐された後、アイルランドで発見されました。しばらくしてから、彼はなんとか逃げることができ、家族の元に戻りました。その後まもなく、彼は聖職者になり、アイルランドの人々にキリスト教を広めるためにアイルランドへ戻ることを決意しました。彼の人生の詳細については、ほとんどわかっておりませんが、いくつかの伝説がセイント・パトリックの神話を作り上げたと言われています。 例えば、彼はアイルランドから全てのヘビを追い出しとか。





“From your Valentine…”

2013年 02月 07日 インストラクターブログ

Every year at this time, the windows and display shelves of department stores and gift shops in many places around the world are adorned with cardboard hearts and Cupids armed with bow and arrow.

Then, on February 14, candy, flowers, and other gifts are exchanged by loved ones*, all in the name of St. Valentine. And it’s big business, too! According to the U.S. census board, American consumers spend US$448 million on valentine’s chocolates alone. But, who is this mysterious Saint Valentine, and how did he come to represent love and romance (and how did these traditions come to be part of modern culture)?

There are several legends explaining the origins of Valentine’s Day, and the most popular of these dates back to Ancient Rome. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three Saints named Valentine (or Valentinus), all of whom were martyred. One legend claims that Valentine was a priest who lived in Rome during the third century. Believing that single men made better soldiers than those with wives, the Emperor outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, however, opposed this decree and defied the authorities by continuing to secretly perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers. Unfortunately for Valentine and the many young couples hoping to get married, his actions were discovered and he was sentenced to death.

An alternative story contends that Valentine may have been killed for helping Christians escape persecution. The story goes that while in jail awaiting his execution, Valentine was visited often by a young girl, possibly his jailer’s daughter. Valentine fell in love with this girl and, apparently, sent her the very first “valentine” greeting. On the night before his death, he wrote a letter to her and signed it, “From your Valentine.” This expression is still in use today.

Later, at the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. And, although the origins of Valentine’s Day will remain unclear, the stories all emphasize Valentine’s appeal as a heroic and romantic figure. And despite the commercialization, it remains a day for the romantic.

*The tradition differs here in Japan where only ladies give men presents on Valentine’s Day. Men get to give presents to ladies in return one month later on March 14th, White Day.












The Year of the Snake

2013年 01月 19日 インストラクターブログ

According to the Chinese Zodiac the Year of the Snake (this year is a black or water snake year) begins Feb 10, 2013. For those of you who were born in the Year of the Snake (like me), this could be a great year for you . . . or maybe not?

“Snakes” are naturally intelligent, materialistic, and graceful, with great taste when choosing books, music and furnishings. But this year may not be so lucky for “Snakes”. Let’s have a look at some predictions for the year to come for us “Snakes”.

Healthwise, “Snakes” appear to be prone to minor accidents this year and may need to take things a bit quiet to avoid stress and anxiety.

In terms of money, hard work should be rewarded this year, but care should be taken with investments and new business deals. If you going into business with a “Snake” this year, take care!!

Relationships in 2013 may be problematic for “Snakes”. You may have a number of misunderstandings and fallings out with loved ones, but things are likely to be better with friends and acquaintances outside the home.

So overall, after a lucky year in 2012, “Snakes” can expect to be a little less lucky in 2013. Good luck to all the “Snakes” out there: work hard, get plenty of rest and take care of your loved ones.




“ヘビ” は生まれつき知性的・唯物的で・優雅であり、本や音楽・家具を選ぶのに優れているそうですが、今年は”ヘビ”にとって、そんなに良い年ではないかもしれません。





ということで、総合的にいえば、ラッキーな2012年の後には、少しだけラッキーな2013年があるということです。すべての”ヘビ年の人たち” 頑張って下さいね:一生懸命働いて、十分な休息を得て、あなたの愛する人たちを大切にしてくださいね!


The makeover of Mount Moiwa

2012年 12月 20日 インストラクターブログ

As many residents of Sapporo, I hold the view of Sapporo from the top of Mount Moiwa as my favorite. I inevitably take first-time travelers to Sapporo there for them to admire our city. So, when my sister and her friend came to visit last month, we got on the streetcar and headed for the ropeway. Little did I know that a few surprises awaited me there.

It all started when, after unsuccessfully looking for the entrance for a couple of minutes at the side of the building where it had always been, it finally hit me that the whole place looked like it had been renovated. And, sure enough, we found the entrance at the front. We entered and got on brand new elevators that took us to a brand new lobby. A giant stuffed Morris (モーリス), the mascot of Mount Moiwa, was proudly standing there.

When we got the top of the ropeway, the doors opened, much to my surprise, onto a vast hall almost entirely occupied by a gift shop. As I took a closer look at the merchandise, I realized that we had just walked into Morris-land. There wasn’t one souvenir that didn’t have Morris on it, except maybe for the unavoidable Shiroi Koibito. I don’t even remember seeing any Mari Mokkori key-rings. Sigh…

Suddenly, an announcement tells us the Morris-cars are about to leave and to, please, proceed towards the departure area. The Morris-cars? What happened to the one-person ski-lift that used to take visitors to the viewing point? To me, that was half the fun of going there. And it was free. Riding the Morris-cars, on the other hand, will cost you an extra 600 yen. And then it occurred to me that the advent of the Morris-cars probably also meant that I’d never get to ride again the funky snowcat-powered sleigh that carried visitors to the summit in the winter.

The makeover isn’t, of course, all bad. For one thing, the whole Moiwa facility now looks a lot more attractive and is more in keeping with what foreign travelers may expect to find in a city like Sapporo. Besides, the takeout foods at the summit are quite tasty – that’s not unimportant! After all, it’s like everything else: It’ll just take a little getting used to.





そうしているうちに、モーリスカーが出発するので乗車口までお急ぎくださいとのアナウンスが流れました。モーリスカー? 展望場所まで連れて行ってくれたあの1人乗りのリフトはどうしたのだろう?実はあのリフトをとても楽しみにしていました。無料ですし。



An exhausting meal

2012年 10月 10日 インストラクターブログ

Last month, taking advantage of an invitation to a party, I went down to Morioka in Iwate Prefecture. When my friend found out this was my first visit to Tohoku ever, he insisted that I try as many local specialties as I could in 24 hours. We started off with a bowl of reimen, later followed by Fukuda-pan and a variety of sweet and salty snacks typical of the Morioka area.

The culinary experience culminated with a meal at a famous wanko soba restaurant. Having never heard of wanko soba, I assumed it was just another variety of those thin Japanese noodles. I started having doubts when the waitress gave us a box full of little wooden sticks like toothpicks or matches which, she explained, we were supposed to use to keep count. “Keep count of what?” I thought. The waitress went on talking for a couple more minutes. She was speaking rather fast so I couldn’t quite understand everything she was saying although it was clear she was basically telling us how to eat our noodles. “How hard can it be?” I wondered. The one thing I got was that we weren’t supposed to drink the broth in order to avoid getting full too quickly. And the waitress pointed to a bucket on the table in which the broth ought to be discarded.

At that point, I was quite confused about the whole process so I decided to just watch my friend and imitate him. You know what they say: “When in Rome…”And that’s when the meal really started. Or should I say the race. The waitress brought a tray with 20 little bowls each containing one mouthful of soba. My friend raised his bowl towards the waitress who poured one of the mini portions into it. I watched my friend as he unceremoniously gulped his first bowlful and reached out his bowl for the waitress to refill. 30 seconds later, when I finally decided to start, my friend was already working on his fourth serving. We knocked back our soba for the next half hour at a frantic pace. As soon as I had finished a portion, the waitress was already ready to give me the next one. Everything was going so incredibly fast that I hardly had time to try all the condiments that had been laid on the table, let alone take a sip of my beer.

When we finally decided we had had enough, I felt relieved…and exhausted! It was established – I’m not sure how because I had completely lost track of count despite the little ‘matches’ – that both my friend and I had eaten 77 servings each (about 5 regular portions of soba). Although I enjoyed discovering a new way of eating soba, I found the sheer pace of the meal a little stressful. But if you’ve never had wanko-soba, you definitely ought to try it once.







Picnic food for the lazy gourmets

2012年 07月 11日 インストラクターブログ

You’ve been invited to a picnic and are faced with the eternal question once again: what am I going to make? Here are three reasons why you should try my special rice salad: it’s dead easy to make, you don’t need to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen and it’s delicious.

Basic ingredients (for 4 guests):
4 cups of rice (use a standard-sized glass to measure it)
2 tomatoes, 2 eggs, a can of tuna fish, a can of corn, a small jar of olives (black, green or mixed)
For the dressing: 8 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Cook the rice and hard-boil the eggs. Dice or slice the eggs and tomatoes, shred the tuna and mix all your ingredients with the rice and the dressing. Serve cool. Yes, it’s that easy!
And, since rice goes with everything, feel free to be creative and add or substitute some ingredients. Over the years, I’ve tried avocado, cucumber, green and red peppers (cooked or raw), chicken, grapefruit, etc. Anything goes!

By the way, if you’re going to a picnic that you know I’m attending, please make a different dish because you can be sure that’s what I’ll be bringing, too!




塩・コショウ 少々

ご飯を炊き、たまごは固めにゆでます。たまごとトマトはサイの目にするか、スライスにします。ツナをほぐして、全ての材料をご飯とドレッシングと混ぜ合わせます。 あとはキレイに盛り付ければ、出来上がりです!とっても簡単です。




How much can a Panda bear?

2012年 07月 09日 インストラクターブログ

As you’ve no doubt seen on the news, Shin Shin, the 7-year-old Panda brought to Ueno Zoo from China last year, has given birth. This is the first Panda born in Ueno Zoo for 24 years, and it should be regarded as quite an even as it was conceived naturally without artificial insemination.

In honour of the birth, let’s have a look at a few interesting facts about Pandas, as they truly are one of the most intriguing creatures on our planet.

1. The first thing of interest is the name “panda”. The etymology of the name appears obscure, with the best guess being that the name was derived from the Nepali word “ponya” (which refers to its strange thumb and wrist structure). In Chinese, as in Japanese, the name given to the Panda means “large bear cat”, due to it having cat-like vertical pupils rather than round pupils like other bear species.

2. A second feature is its diet. The Panda have reached the brink of extinction due to the destruction of the bamboo forests which provide it main source of food. However, the digestive system of the Panda is not designed for a diet of bamboo and it gains little sustenance from it, which means it must spend around 16 hours a day eating to fuel its body. Also, the low nutritional value of the bamboo means the Panda doesn’t hibernate like other bear species. As with other bear species, the Panda is actually carnivorous and, in the wild, supplements its bamboo diet with rodents and baby musk dear (maybe even some slow Chinese farmers ).

3. Lastly, the Panda has been found to have a very high iron content in its liver. This high iron content means the Panda exhibits a slight magnetic force and, when blindfolded, it always travels north.




2. 2つ目の特徴はその食生活です。パンダは絶滅の危機にあります。それは主食である竹林の伐採が原因です。ところが、パンダの消化システムは竹を食べるのは向いていません。しかも、竹から取れる栄養はあまりないため、パンダは16時間もの間、食べ続けなくてはなりません。竹から沢山の栄養と取ることができないため、パンダは他の熊科の動物のように、冬眠はしません。また、野生のパンダは肉食でもあり、うさぎやネズミなどのげっ歯類や子供のジャコウジカなども食べます。(時々は、中国の農民たちも・・?)



Going to Paris? Don’t forget your meds!

2012年 05月 18日 インストラクターブログ

If you’re planning to visit Paris for the first time this summer, you’re probably and quite understandably excited. After all, what’s more interesting than discovering a strange city and its culture? And Paris does have some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. You may already be picturing yourself sipping a cup of coffee at the café Les Deux Magots, a favorite hangout for Jean-Paul Sartre and his friends; or walking in the footsteps of film heroin Amélie, expecting to come across architectural wonders and exquisite fashion around every corner. Well, if that’s the case, take the word of an ex-local and get your head out of the clouds: it isn’t THAT glamorous.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Paris. I’m just saying this out of concern for your health. As a matter of fact, a kind of nervous breakdown, the “Paris syndrome”, forces a dozen tourists every year to seek psychiatric treatment and to be sent home. What do those tourists have in common? They all have too romantic a vision of the city and experience a shock when the city does not live up to their expectations or when they find out Parisians can be rude.

So, if you can’t afford to fly your shrink with you to Paris, make sure you take your antidepressants with you…or, at least, a good dose of realism.

  1. Here’s my personal recommendation for a stress-less sunny day in Paris:
  2. Start by a bit of grocery shopping at the outdoor market of the lively Mouffetard Street.
  3. Stop by Contrescarpe Square for a cup of coffee in the sun.
  4. From there, walk past the Pantheon down to the Luxembourg Gardens and find yourself a nice spot for your picnic.
  5. If you still have room for dessert, walk down the boulevard St Michel and around the Notre-Dame cathedral to St Louis Island. There, right on the corner, is the best ice cream maker of Paris, Berthillon.

I guarantee your eyes and taste buds won’t regret it!


夏休みにパリ旅行を計画しているなら、今から相当ワクワクしているでしょうね。知らなかった海外の文化を知るのは本当に面白いですしね。しかもパリには、エッフェル塔やルーブル美術館などの観光客に人気のスポットが山ほどあります。ドゥ マゴ(サルトルら有名人が友人とよく訪れていたというサンジェルマンにあるパリを代表するカフェ)でコーヒーを飲んだり、素晴らしい建築物やファッションに出くわさないかなと期待しながら、映画「アメリ」の主人公になりきって歩いたりする自分の姿を想像しているのではないでしょうか?それなら、昔パリに住んでいた人間として現実を教えてあげましょう。「パリはそこまで魅力的じゃありません!」



  1. パリをストレスなく楽しめるお勧めコースをご紹介します。
  2. まずは、活気あるムフタール通りの屋外マーケットの食糧雑貨を買い込む。
  3. コントレスカルプ広場でコーヒーを飲んで休憩。
  4. そこからパンテノンを通って、ルクセンブルグ公園まで行ってピクニックをする 。
  5. デザートを食べられる余裕があれば、サン=ミッチェル通りをノートルダム寺院の方へ向って、サン=ルイ島まで行き、「ベルティヨン」でパリで一番のアイスクリームを食べる!



Social Networking: It’s for everyone

2012年 04月 09日 インストラクターブログ

I am afraid that I have become addicted to Facebook… and it appears that I am not the only one! Say what you will about the new “Timeline” view, it is still fun to hear what friends have been doing and see photos of family events taking place in different countries. I also enjoy telling others about the interesting things (at least, they’re interesting to me) that I am up to. I’m continually amazed by modern technology and how close social networking services can bring people.

In addition, I have found Facebook a useful, yet underutilized, tool for crossing the language barrier that can exist between people. My bilingual friends often post in two languages (Japanese and English), which gives less-fluent individuals like me chances to practice a second language in real, everyday communication. In cases where my friends post in Japanese only, my inability to read kanji can be overcome, to a certain degree, by using translation websites. True, the translations themselves can appear almost as mysterious as the original kanji, but with a little knowledge of Japanese grammar and some puzzle-solving skills, I am usually able to get the gist. I am certain that same is true for Japanese students of English.

Generally, I am encouraged to see that my Japanese friends are discussing many of the same topics as my English-speaking friends - effectively highlighting the similarities that exist between languages and cultures. Of course, on the other hand, the way people use these networks can also point out some interesting cultural differences. I’m still not sure why all my Japanese friends upload pictures of their lunch (but that’s a question for another day.)

In short, I’d like to encourage all learners of English to get online and use social media. It’s a chance for you to widen your view of the world and perhaps become inspired to travel or take up new interests. At the very least, it will likely motivate you to communicate with others, and hopefully, you’ll have the confidence to try communicating in English. Remember not to worry too much about small errors in grammar or spelling - native speakers don’t!

Some tips for using English on social networks:
・ Take a little time to organize your thoughts. Grammar is not everything, but a little structure (S+V~) will help others understand you better.
・ Focus on the message. A little structure is good but don’t worry too much about small grammar points or spelling. We all make mistakes.
・ Use other tools to give you confidence before you post (E.g. check vocabulary in a Japanese-English dictionary or use a translation website), but remember these are not always correct. Trust your own knowledge, too.
・ Feel free to use a mixture of languages. 1 or 2 words in katakana, for example, may be understood. Many of the people who will read your posts will be able to understand what you mean.


Facebookにすっかり夢中になっています・・・。 でも、それは私だけではないようです!
新しい “タイムライン”(Facebookの最近導入された表示方法)については色々と議論はあるようですが、それでも友達や別の国で暮らしている家族の様子を見ることができるのは、とても楽しいものです。それに、みんなに自分が面白いと思ったことを知らせることも楽しいですよね。こういった現代のテクノロジーには、いつも驚かされます。SNSはいったいどこまで私たちを近づけてくれるのでしょうか?

Facebookはとても便利ですが、私たちの間にある言葉の壁を越えることができるツールとしては、その機能はまだまだ十分に活用されていないと思います。バイリンガルの友達は2つの言語(日本語と英語)で情報を書き込んでいます。日本語がまだ得意ではない自分のような人間にとっては、普通に話されている日本語に触れることができる良いチャンスです。友達が日本語だけで書き込みをした時は、翻訳サイトを使うなどして、苦手な漢字をある程度克服できるかもしれません。 翻訳サイトの翻訳は、漢字の由来となった記号くらい、不思議に見えますが、日本語文法の知識とパズルを解くようなスキルがあれば、だいたい要点は掴めます。これは英語を学ぶ多くの日本人の方にとっても同じことだと思います。

日本人の友達が、英語を話す私の友達と同じ話題で盛り上がっているのを見ると、言葉と文化を越えた類似性がはっきりとわかるので励まされます。逆に、こういったSNSの使い方は興味深い文化の違いも教えてくれます。 なぜ日本人の友人たちは、頻繁にお昼ごはんの写真をアップロードするのでしょうか・・?(この疑問はまた別の日にします。)

つまり私が言いたいのは、英語を学ぶ人は是非こういったソーシャルメディアをどんどん活用してください!ということです。 広い世界に目を向けるいいチャンスです。もしかしたら、旅行や何か面白いことがひらめくかもしれません。なにはともあれ、ソーシャルメディアは色々な人と交流するきっかけを与えてくれます。英語でコミュニケーションをしてみようという勇気が湧くといいですね。