Category Archives: English

Welcome Back to Japan, Amelia! : It was as if we had never been apart…

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Amelia 1

     One day in January, I happened to be passing a post office, when I received an email. I stopped to check it and found it was from Amelia in Australia. I used to learn English from her when she was in Japan several years ago. Actually, she was supposed to come to Japan a few days later and we were going to meet with other friends. According to her, she tried to contact three Japanese ladies among her old students, but all the emails she had sent to them failed to get through. She wanted to meet them while staying in Japan. So, she asked me to send them letters for her to let them know about her visit to Japan and her contact information. Amelia 2

     Reading the message, I looked up from my phone and turned my head to the left. Yes! I was in front of the post office! Amelia asked me to print her message out and send them to the three ladies, but it would have taken a lot of time if I had gone back home, made photocopies of her message, written letters, and then gone outside again to send the letters to the ladies. So, I entered the post office and bought three postcards. I decided to write Amelia’s message in handwriting. Actually, there was one more reason to use postcards not envelopes. I thought that they might have been suspicious of my letters before opening item because I didn’t know the three ladies at all. But postcards wouldn’t make them uneasy because they could check my message on the spot. Amelia 3

     I added some information about me, such as my name, about my relationship with Amelia, and my phone number, to Amelia’s message on the cards. Hoping the message would work well for a rendezvous with Amelia, I sent the three cards right away…

     The next afternoon, my phone rang. The call was from an unknown number. I answered the phone, wondering who it was. It was one of the three ladies. I was surprised at the sudden phone call and the speediness of Japan’s postal system. I was relieved when she told me that she would contact the two other ladies and Amelia. She thanked me which made me very happy. Amelia 4

     Actually, that night, the other two also got in touch with me. One called me on my land line, and the other emailed me. I knew that they had both received my postcards and a phone call from the one who had phoned me that afternoon. I was very happy to know that the three ladies had already decided the dates and time to meet Amelia in Japan.

     Of course, I myself had an opportunity to meet Amelia with some of my friends. We met at (Sekai-no-)Yama-chan, a chain restaurant of ‘tebasaki,’ or fried chicken wings, in Nagoya on January 22. Amelia was as beautiful as before. Happiness was radiating from her eyes because she came to Japan with her boyfriend this time! We hadn’t met each other for a long time, but once we started talking, it was as if we had never been apart. We enjoyed chatting and eating lots of ‘tebasaki.’ I had a great time! Amelia 5

     Later, I found out that the three ladies had had a wonderful lunch time with Amelia and her boyfriend. I was so happy to see their photo taken that lunchtime. I’d like to go to Australia to see Amelia and her cat, Poppy, someday!

Good-bye, Ricky…I’d like to see you after improving my English skills someday!

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      It was snowing on December 18th. If I had had nothing to do, I would have avoided going outside in the heavy snow. But that day was special for me. In the morning my private English teacher Ricky was supposed to introduce me to a friend of his as another teacher before he left Japan. In the afternoon I was going to have a farewell party for him, and in the evening I was going to attend his band’s last gig. Therefore I went to the café in spite of the snow. It usually takes about 30 minutes to the place by bus, but it took me nearly one hour to get there due to the snow that morning.ricky2

     Ricky and I were at Komeda, a famous chain of coffee shops in Nagoya. We talked about many things, looking out the window at the snowflakes, sipping hot coffee and eating some toast and boiled eggs from their “Morning Service.” Most coffee shops in the Nagoya area have this “Morning Service” and give you some food for the cost of a cup of coffee in the morning. After a while, Ricky’s friend Anthony joined us. I was relieved to meet him because he looked very gentle and friendly. ricky3

     Then we went to a friend of mine, Hisako’s house, where Ricky’s farewell party was supposed to be held. It had stopped snowing by the time we arrived at her place. Unfortunately, most of my friends decided not to attend the party because of the snow, but two of them came. To tell you the truth, I would have liked to have a much bigger party for Ricky! But the small party was very nice and cozy with Hisako’s cordial homemade dishes.ricky4

     Around two o’clock, Anthony and Ricky left Hisako’s place. Anthony had to go to his school, and Ricky needed to prepare for that evening’s concert. I went home after clearing up after the party, and then went to Juke★Box, the music studio, in the evening. They have a party room and you can have a small party and a concert there. Ricky’s band “Los Tres” usually rehearsed at the studio. In fact, I myself often practice playing the drums there. ricky5

     Los Tres was a rockabilly band consisting of three musicians: Ricky, the vocalist and the keyboardist, Antonio, the vocalist and the guitarist, and Sally Fat, the bassist. The name Sally sounds female, but he is a man. I had wondered what the band would do after Ricky left Japan, and was shocked to know that they would disband. Antonio was also going back to his home in Spain soon! Not only me but also the staff at the studio were surprised at the sad news. So they served many kinds of food and drinks for free as a farewell.ricky6

     The concert was fantastic! Ricky, Antonio, Sally Fat and the drummer played energetically and their music fascinated the audience. Anthony came to the party after his job during the interval. “Oh, we have the same name!” After Anthony and Antonio greeted each other, Anthony borrowed Antonio’s guitar and sang a few songs. That was also great! I had a wonderful time, but the end of the party meant I had to bid farewell to Ricky… Good-bye, Ricky. Thank you for your lessons. I don’t know when I can see you next time, but I’d like to see you after improving my English skills someday!

Maru-chan is Great!- An English Class Party

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     “Michael?”10644226_10152864428677356_7465040322612952079_o
    
“Oh, Maru-chan!”

     All of the people including me were surprised and watched the two men who were glad to see each other again. That happened during the English class party on December 9th.

     I took an English class at Chukyo University for three months from last September. Although I joined class in the middle of the course, I became the organizer of class party in November. I did not know where to have the party because I was a stranger around the Yagoto area. But one of my classmates kindly offered to help me look for a good place to have the party.

     10470852_10152864428822356_7059506429380459043_oAfter class she and I were strolling in a dark alley, where there were many kinds of shops. Their illuminations were luring us. We were checking menus outside and peeping inside at each restaurant. All of a sudden, a man’s voice called from behind us. We turned around and found a man in a white cook coat standing with a big smile in front of a building. “Why don’t you come to my restaurant?” he said. It was the first time I met Maru-chan.

     We checked his menu. It was nice and reasonable. We decided to try some food and to check inside. All of food was very nice and the atmosphere was also good. We made a reservation for our class party when we left the restaurant: Nude-R Yagoto.10700757_10152864428902356_581425881724085529_o

     It was a chance meeting! The man who appeared from the kitchen saying “Michael?” was Mr. Maruyama, a.k.a. Maru-chan, the chef, and Michael was my class’s teacher at Chukyo University. According to Michael, he and one of his friends Paul used to frequent Maru-chan’s former restaurant in Sakae. But suddenly the restaurant was closed several years ago. Since then Michael and Paul had been searching for Maru-chan but had not been able to find him until that night.

    10857239_10152864428762356_4366614944756609720_o Michael was in a good mood due to the nice wine and delicious food, but he became merrier after Maru-chan appeared. My classmates also became happier to see our teacher’s big smile and praised me. “Wow! Well done!” Actually, I had not done anything, though…

     All of the food Maru-chan cooked was very nice and Michael shouted “Maru-chan is great!” All of us enjoyed the food and talked about many interesting topics. Of course I had a great time, too!

Change in the Field of Health and Medicine: Anyway, I went to buy oil for cooking after the class…

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20141002_192419     At that moment, all the students in the classroom let out a scream. Raising a hand and mouth dropping open, I stared at my teacher. It was one scene at an English class, which I started to take at Chukyo University this week. Actually, the course had already begun at the beginning of last month. I was a little nervous to enter the room before the class because I did not know what the class and my classmates were like. Hoping to relax myself, I took a deep breath, and then opened the door timidly. But it was soon revealed that I already knew most of my classmates. The room was filled with greetings as if I was in a class reunion.

     The English course is entitled “Life in Our Changing World 2.” Oh, I must have missed #1 in the first semester! The course description on the leaflet says: Nowadays, our lives and the world around us are changing faster than ever before in history. People are living longer, yet they are also suffering from new diseases. Now countries are forming and old countries are breaking up. Scientists are making new discoveries and creating technologies – some useful, some dangerous. Even our way of thinking is changing: we used to read long novels, but now we surf the Internet. On this course, we shall look in detail at some of the changes that are so dramatically affecting our lives, and discuss their significance.

     In line with this, the topic of that day was change in the field of health and medicine. For example, dairy products, such as milk, butter and cheese, were thought to be good for our health because of their high calcium and protein content until about 40 years ago. But people started avoiding them as they were afraid of taking too much cholesterol. Now it is known that they do not affect people’s cholesterol levels directly. We produce cholesterol inside and stress rather than dairy products elevates its levels.

     Okay, let us go to the beginning. What happened at that moment? The teacher said to the class, “Raise your hand if you use olive oil at home.” All of them raised their hands and waited for what was coming next. “Extra virgin oil changes to trans fatty acid after heating…” said the teacher with gravity. “Whaaaaaaaaat?!” “Reallyyyyyyyyyyyy?!” All the students made a big exclamation in surprise.CAM00369

     That is, cold pressed olive oil also can be transformed when it is heated. Meanwhile, olive oil extracted by other ways such as heat or with chemicals will not change when it is heated. So, we should use cold pressed olive oil like extra virgin for unheated food such as salads, and use cheaper olive oil (in general, non-cold pressed oils are cheaper) or other kinds of oils for cooking. But the teacher added, “You shouldn’t think about it so seriously. Look at Italian and Spanish people. They don’t mind it so much, yet Mediterranean diet is generally healthy.” 20141002_192450

     After studying about oils, the teacher gave the students a new scientific discovery: Brain repair may be boosted by curry spice! If you cut your skin, the wound will heal gradually. Of course, this is as long as the injury is not so serious, though. And if your brain is injured, what would happen? The damaged cells will never heal again. Brain cells are never regenerated. However, researchers in Germany have found recently that a substance called aromatic-turmerone contained in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells, which is thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit. We might conquer some brain diseases like Alzheimer’s in the near future. In addition, curcurmin, another substance in turmeric is also known for its anti-cancer, liver-protective and –repair benefits. Oh, should I eat curry more? Anyway, I went to a grocery store to buy oil for cooking after the class.

Churchill in Love: I thought it had Churchill’s bedroom scenes!

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チャ     “A Yes vote for Scottish independence on Thursday would go down in history as a political and economic mistake as large as Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return the pound to the gold standard or the failure of the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banking system which we now know brought on the Great Depression in the US…”20140914_143033-a

     The chief economist of German financial giant, Deutsche Bank, warned Scottish people about independence from the UK last Friday. I do not know whether Scottish people accepted warnings like his or not, but they finally chose to remain as part of the UK yesterday. I am wondering what the result will cause from now on, but at least it seems that we were able to avoid a world crisis.

     By the way, I went to see a play last Saturday about the politician who was referred to in the German economist’s warning to Scottish people. The title was Churchill in Love. Yes, the protagonist Winston Churchill was a high-flyer during the interwar period. But “in love”? So, I asked the actor who played Churchill when I received a flyer for the play, saying “Not ‘Churchill in Nagoya’?” But he replied, “Ha ha! No, no. It’s Churchill in Love!” with a laugh, and then added, “It’ll be the first time for me to have a bedroom scene.” Whaaaaaat? Churchill in a bedroom scene? I bought a ticket on the spot. 20140914_123326-a

     The flyer had the plot: In the summer of 1959 Sir Winston Churchill and his family boarded on the luxury yacht Christina at the invitation of Aristotle Onassis and his wife, Tina. Also invited on board the yacht was the mercurial opera diva, Maria Callas. What follows is a tempestuous cruise into the heart of deceit, desire, and disillusion as the aging Churchill and his family, seek to avoid any hint of impropriety. Love and lust wage war in this historical meditation of one man’s long love affair with his wife and another man’s descent into desperation. 20140914_125705

     Hmm…What will happen on stage? I was excited as I walked to the theater, which looks more like an old warehouse than a theater. It is a 42-year-old building named Nanatsudera Kyodo Studio which is located in Osu, Nagoya. An army major was standing in front of the building when I arrived. He was the actor who was playing Major Lang. Before the curtain-up, the play had already started. In fact, he and an actress who was playing Churchill’s wife came and went between the stage and the audience seats inside to enhance the mood.20140914_142300

    Actually, there was no bedroom scene played by Churchill and his wife. Instead of them, Ari Onassis and Maria Callas played love scenes. I was relieved. You know, Churchill was in his 80s. Love has different kinds like ancient Greek identified: familiarity (storge), friendship (philia), sexual and romantic desire (eros), and divine love (agape). The play depicted that Ari and Maria did not know true love or how to love someone from the heart. But they just pursue eros, one form of love. So, they also knew about love, which was just different from Churchill’s. Anyway, the play was interesting with thrilling episodes of those historical famous characters!

Gone with PB&J: It was a golden harmony!

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20140911_132901-a     You must be American or have American friends if you know about PB&J. For the readers who do not know about it, it means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and is one of the American staples. I am not American and have never been to the U.S, but I love them!

     The first time when I had PB&J was when I was taking an English class at NHK Cultural Center several years ago. My teacher made some sandwiches of peanut butter and blueberry jam for us when I visited her house with some of my classmates. She was Japanese but had experience of staying with a family in the U.S. when she was a high school student. Peanut butter and blueberry jam together? To tell the truth, I hesitated to reach out for it. I was not able to imagine what taste it would be.

     Anyway, I got the courage to try this new food. Hey! I was surprised when I had a bite. The rich taste of peanut butter and the flavor of lush blueberry jam filled my mouth. It was a golden harmony. I was staring at my half-eaten bread with wide-open eyes while relishing its taste. It’s delicious! I went nuts over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches right away. Since then I have sometimes bought peanut butter and made some, but had not eaten them for a while until recently.

     Luckily I had an opportunity to have some last Thursday, when it was the final day of an English course at Aichi Shukutoku University. Like other universities in the Nagoya area, they offer many different varieties of classes to the public, and the English course was one of them for the intermediate level and had six lessons:
Lesson 1 – Asking about hypothetical situations
Lesson 2-Comparing society and yourself from today to the past
Lesson 3-Using Words differently (Vocabulary building)
Lesson 4-Thinking creatively and coming up with new ideas
Lesson 5-Discussing current issues
Lesson 6-Talking up relationships and snack time20140911_132936-a

     I enjoyed myself learning many things with my classmates at the course this summer. Now, look at “Lesson 6”! Yes, snack time during class?! I have had coffee with my teachers and classmates “after” class, but it was the first time for me to have coffee and snacks “during” class! Andy, the teacher from the U.S. brought many items: A bottle of coffee and of tea, a big can of cookies, and his handmade PB&J sandwiches! I also brought a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures and of Doritos Jalapeno & Cheddar Tortilla Chips (to make my teacher homesick), but Andy’s PB&Js were the best! I had a wonderful time as if it were a picnic! There was a terrible storm outside, though.

     Actually, I was feeling a little bit lonely at the same time while enjoying the food as if the summer was going with this class. You know, I took the class from the end of July to the beginning of this month. I do not know why, but I feel sad at the end of summer. The thundershower was signaling the end of the summer as if it knew my thought…

     When I posted these photos on my facebook wall after the class, an American friend, Betsy left a comment: I grew up on pb & j and occasionally tuna fish sandwiches, but that was fancy. Glad you liked them. I still eat them at least once a week! Wow! Once a week! I love PB&J, but do not eat them so often! For Americans, PB&J may be something like onigiri is for Japanese people!

Ajisai Tea Ceremony ~ Cross-cultural Event in Shirotori Garden : I’m happy that I came to Japan!

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CAM00170-a     “I never teach them in a cursory style just because they are non-Japanese or they are staying here a very short time. I think teaching Japanese culture has nothing to do with the nationality or duration of stay …” Ms. Kato began talking to the audience.

     There was an interesting event named “Ajisai Tea Ceremony” in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta(-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. Some foreigners who love the Japanese tea ceremony made tea for Japanese people following the oficial protocol, some non-Japanese ladies appeared in yukata, a kind of kimono, which had been made by themselves, and talked about their favorite points of Japanese culture, and several Japanese volunteer guides showed some of us around the garden with English commentary. CAM00172-a

     I took part in the English guided tour and the talk show. (About Shirotori Garden and the English guided tour is HERE.) The tour finished around 11:20. I arrived in time the talk show which was supposed to start at 11:30, but the room was already packed and I had to stand. I saw many people in yukata or kimono among the audience because the people who were wearing traditional Japanese attire were able to enter the garden for free that day. (The regular entrance fee is 300 yen.) In addition, those people were not all Japanese. CAM00173-a

     Ms. Kato is the teacher who taught the performers of the talk show how to make yukata. Actually, she teaches not only making kimonos but also about Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional practices. Moreover, she is a pioneer among licensed interpreter-guides in Nagoya.

     “…I knew they had sewn by hand with effort, but I sometimes drew the thread out when I thought the seams were rough. I’m sure they had a tough time. But I believe they should do good finishing jobs. Besides I didn’t want people to think, “Because they’re not Japanese,” if they found my students’ clumsy sewing. But it might have been my fault that they couldn’t sew well. I’m sorry…” said Ms. Kato, and some performers melted in tears. CAM00195-a

     It took most of the foreign ladies more than one year to complete their yukata. One of them said, “I was very surprised when I knew I had to make yukata without patterns or a sewing machine.” Her words helped me to recall the differences between European and Japanese clothes. When you make Western clothes, you take the person’s size and make the pattern from the measurement. And you cut the materials with the pattern, and then you seam each part to fit together 3-demensionally. On the other hand, kimono is made by sewing rectangler pieces of materials and use sash belts to fit to your body. If the kimono gets too old to wear, you just draw the threads out and take it back to the rectangler pieces. You can make cushion covers or something with them. Then finally the materials finish their life as dusters. It is one of the innovative Japanese ideas to recycle kimono materials. CAM00190

     “I like a sense of tension and concentration when I write Japanese characters in calligraphy.”
     “I think each stroke in calligraphy has its own beauty.”
     “There’s beauty in the unique forms in Japanese flower arrangement.”
     “When I started making yukata, I just thought it would be a good souvenir to my return. But I was able to get something more than that. I learned many things. Japanese materials are good quality and their designs have both boldness and sensibility, and are very beautiful. I was able to learn about Japanese people’s diligence and patience through sewing my yukata by hand.”CAM00191

     All of the performers looked very nice and proud in their original yukata. You can never find another like it. They did not just sew the materials, write letters with a brush, or put flowers in the vase. They have received Ms. Kato’s spirit and have been learning Japanese culture in earnest. “I’m really happy that I came to Japan.” Some of them were in tears. Those ladies’ words were impressive and their works, such as yukata, calligraphies, ceramics, and arranged flowers, were wonderful. The talk show brought the Japanese audience the rediscovery of the brilliance of their own culture, and non-Japanese people the motivation for taking an interest in Japanese culture. I was glad I joined the meeting.