Monthly Archives: September 2013

Teacher with Shafts of Love Comes to Small English Club: “Teacher, Teacher, I like him!”


     “Chinese philosophy!?” The two ladies and I repeated the word in surprise. We were making curry in the cooking room of Nanzan Elementary school. It was a very hot day in July. An interesting event named Aichi Summer Seminar is held in Nagoya every July. There are more than 3,000 classes in it and anyone can take any classes freely there. That is why it is called “The Dream School”. I have participated in the dream school for five years and I take the same cooking class – Bangladeshi curry – every year. (I have written the event and the curry class in the past: 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012)

     The Bangladeshi curry class is led by some members of Japan Bangladesh Cooperative Society. Although I took the class five times, I have never met a Bangladeshi there but some Japanese members of the NGO and a Seychellois. Seychelles is a country officially called the Republic of Seychelles comprising more than 100 islands in the Indian Ocean. I think it is very rare to come across a Seychellois in this Far Eastern island country. He is Jean. He teaches English, economics, and Chinese philosophy in a university, and of course, teaches how to make delicious Bangladeshi curry in the cooking class.

     The opening exclamation was uttered when one of the classmates in the cooking class asked Jean about his leisure time:
     “So, what do you do in your spare time?”
     “Well…I read books.”
     “What kind?”
     “About my study.
     “What do you study?”
     “Chinese philosophy…”
     “Chinese philosophy?!”

     How interesting! You know, he is from Seychelles and studies Chinese philosophy in Japan! I wanted to listen to him more and I thought I should not get his story all to myself at the same time. Then a light bulb went on over my head. I have a small English club in my neighborhood and teach some senior citizens once a week. I decided to invite him as a guest to the club. In fact, one year had already passed since they had an opportunity to talk with an English speaker. (The episode is here: “An Event at a Small English Club: When is the next session?”) I was sure they would be glad at the meeting. It was very kind of him that Jean agreed readily to come to the club.

     The session was held on the second Wednesday this month. Seven members came to the club that day. The average age is around 75. The oldest person is an 83-year-old lady. The youngest is probably 63. Although one is a patient of Parkinson disease, one is recovering from a stroke, one has poor lung function, one is suffering from a spinal canal stenosis, and two of them have panic disorders, those elders and betters are flexible and curious, and enjoy their lives. So, they were waiting for Jean’s arrival in their excitement that morning.

     Jean entered the room in applause. The senior citizens looked a little nervous in the beginning, but soon all of them were attracted by his interesting stories and came out of their shells. They looked very happy during the meeting. I was also very happy to see them excited with their starry eyes. They were enjoying like children. Pleasant hours fly past. Finally the time came when they had to say goodbye to Jean. While the others were saying goodbye and thank you to him, one of them ran up to me and whispered, “Teacher, Teacher, Jean is gentle and good-looking. I like him.” “Ha ha. I knew you would say that!” I winked at her. Actually, the rest of ladies came to me later and left similar comments. It seems that Jean has not only boosted the elderly people’s motivation for learning English, but also pierced some senior women’s hearts with shafts of love!

Choshokaku–a ‘new’ historic building opens: He might be waiting for a chance to explore in a secret tunnel…


     “How about tomorrow 2pm at Kakuozan. There is a ‘new’ historic building opened there. We could visit it and go to a café for our lesson. Ciao.

     That was a text message from Ricky my private English teacher on September 4th. I take his lesson once a week. We usually meet at a donut shop in Hoshigaoka, where you can get a donut for free if you buy something to drink, and talk in English for an hour. But he suggested another place that day. A ‘new’ historic building? What does it mean? Many question marks crowded my brain. But they disappeared soon, when I happened to open a Nagoya’s community paper that night: Nagoya City had completed the restoration of the historic Choshokaku reception hall and opened the building to the public at the end of August. Ah, the ‘new’ historic building is a reception hall called Choshokaku!

     The hall is part of the estate called Yokiso which was owned by Suketami Ito, the first president of Matsuzakaya department store. He bought a 35,000 m2 land near the Nittaiji Temple in Kakuozan and built about 30 buildings on the estate by 1940. That area used to be a place for guests like the imperial family, nobility, politicians, and foreigners, and for social interaction for them. But most of the buildings were burned down in an air raid in 1945, and some remained ones were occupied by the US Army Forces for a while after the war. The Yokiso Villa has been managed by an NPO since 2003, and was donated to Nagoya City in 2007. Since then some parts of the place has been opened to the public. Choshokaku was originally built in 1937 as a guest house. The renovation began in 2011 and finally opened on August 29 this year.

     Ricky and I met near Kakuozan Station next day and walked to Choshokaku together. According to the community paper, the ‘new’ historic building is in the south area. Both of us had visited other buildings in the north area of the villa, but did not know from where we could enter the south area. However, we arrived at the building without notice while following two women who we saw walking before us. There was a striking red house in front of our eyes. Those ladies were also visitors to the heritage. We paid for the fee, which was 300 yen, and stepped inside.

     The building is a western-style house, but you have to take off your shoes at the entrance. We had a direct view of a tea room when we entered. We decided to have a lesson over tea at the tea room before touring the house. But Ricky ordered a set of curry and rice instead of tea. He has not had lunch yet. The tea room was quite cozy. This is a sequel, but Ricky liked its atmosphere and has spent a lot of time there recently…We talked about Syria’s situation, Turkish movements, and a Serbian revolutionist Popovic at the comfortable and quiet tea room. Ha ha…

     After my lesson, we started touring the house. There was a miniature land of the place at a corner and we imagined the way the villa used to be. Now in the most of the land there are many houses and tall condos. In fact, many of the windows of the house were closed and blocked not to look outside. A guide told us it was because of privacy protection for the residents around the heritage. The interiors were exotic mixed up Japanese, other Asian countries’ and European cultures. According to the guide, many of the parts of the house are made from chestnut trees and they look rough because the wood is very hard to curve. But the roughness has brought to the house its special avant-garde atmosphere.

     The house is two-story and has a basement floor. There are two rooms and a tea room on the first floor, five rooms on the second floor, and a ball room on the basement. The same guide highly recommended visiting the basement floor and came down with us. There was a hall with beautiful Indian paintings on the wall at the bottom when we descended the staircase. According to the guide, the paintings were painted by an Indian exchange student. The ball room also is designed with Indian motives. There are many relieves of Hindu gods and Indian geometric patterns on the wall and the pillars and the windows have Himalayas in the room. Actually you can rent the room at night from 3,000 to 4,500 yen. It might be nice to have a party with your friends there!CAM01243

     Interestingly there is a set of stairs down to the lower level from the basement. And you see a set of doors at the bottom. There is a tunnel behind the doors. Unfortunately it is not to open to the public…According to the guide, the tunnel connects to other places in the villa and there is a dome room in the way. It seems that the tunnel was made for evacuating or hiding important people during the war. It is not clear whether it was used really…As I mentioned above, Ricky liked the tea room. So, he bought a year pass when we left the house. He seems to visit the building and have curry and rice or tea almost every day. But I am suspecting that he might be waiting for a chance to explore in the tunnel…