Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Today's Japanese lesson

A short Japanese lesson for you today, and its an important one! Those four big red characters read no-mi-ho-dai, which means "all you can drink".

Japanese is usually read from right to left and top to bottom. The first character on the top right means "drink'. On it's own it's read "no". The second character below it is a hiragana character (used to make tenses, etc) and is read "mi". The one on the top left is read "ho" and the one below it is "dai", together meaning "all you can" or "as much as you want".

The white ones mean "no reservation necessary". The number is the price, 1500 yen, or about $15. That's pretty good value ...

Chris Ward
30th April 2013

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Spring is (supposed to be) in the air ...

Sunday 21st this year was Nagano Marathon, and for the sixth time in eight years I slept through it (of the other times, once I was helping out with some charity stuff while in 2010 I actually ran it!) but when I woke up and looked outside to see the snow(!) I kind of felt sorry for the poor people slogging round Nagano's streets for five hours. It's very, very rare to have snow this late into spring. Once in twenty years, a co-worker said.

It did a great job of crushing my daffodils too, although it had melted off by the afternoon.

Still, you know it's spring in Japan when the bugs start to appear in the hardware stores! Won't be purchasing one again this year ... the cat would probably just eat it! Found out one of my co-workers actually breeds the things, which is interesting. Apparently if they top 8cm they're worth a fortune. His best he told me was about 7.4cm. Don't give up ...

Chris Ward
April 25th 2013

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A perfect combination?

Spotted this interesting little combo in a bar in Matsumoto this week. Hmmm...

English Day in Fuetsu High School, Iida

Today, despite being Saturday, I went down to Iida in south Nagano to help out at Fuetsu High School's English Day. There were six foreign teachers in total and we had to do a variety of activities with a total of around 40 students.

Due to Iida being in the butt end of nowhere, I stayed over at a mate's house the night before and we made our way down together. Still, it required a 5am start. We were on the road at 5.50am, and while the sunrise was nice and all, I'd have much rather been asleep!

Fuetsu High School is set in a really pretty location halfway up a hill from the main part of Iida town.

For my special "world culture" activity, I taught the students how to make English tea. There were six groups of students, and because the first couple went pretty heavy on the milk I had to water it down to make it last. The last couple of groups had some pretty strong tea!

They seemed to enjoy it well enough, though.

 After lunch my base group had to listen to me "lecture" them for ten minutes and then make a presentation based on my talk. I told them all about the history of the words "Britain", "England", "Great Britain" and "the UK", and then about hte origins of the British flag. Surprisingly none of them fell asleep.

 Here they are discussing what to talk about.

And here's my group doing their presentation. They did it completely ad-lib without writing a script like all the other groups did, and while it was interesting, and one point there was a two-minute period of giggling and whispering. Slightly un-pro but they did a good job anyway!

Overall, lots of fun was had by all and the kids really enjoyed it. I caught the direct bus back to Nagano (three long hours) and found it rather surprising that it was still snowing up in the highland areas. It's late April!

Chris Ward
20th April 2013

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Where I live

Nagano City is located in the middle of the Japanese Alps, two hours by train / four hours by bus from Tokyo. It's a relatively small city by Japanese standards, about 380,000 people, and is famous for the 1998 Winter Olympics. I remember nothing of that, of course, because in 1998 I was at university and spent most of my time drinking and watching crap horror movies. Oh well.

I live right on the edge of the city, not far from the river you can see in the above picture. I work at a high school called Nagano Shogyo, which means Commerical High School. My students are pretty good but they generally don't like English and don't speak it very well. They're quite good at sports, though, and you can see the edge of my school's baseball ground in the foreground.

Of course, it's currently spring time, and Nagano, like everywhere else in Japan, is famous for cherry blossom viewing, what is called "hana-mi", literally "flower-viewing".

The cherry, or "sakura" flower is the most popular, and is a light pink colour.

Here's some at the end of my street.

Generally, what people do is sit underneath them and get drunk, which is all well and good but in early April it can be freezing cold in the evenings. Still, it's a national pasttime, so it has to be done!

This is Zenkoji, the Buddhist temple near my house and Nagano's number one tourist attraction.

This is my old car, in the snow last winter. We get some pretty huge dumps and this was one of the biggest, probably about 30cm overnight. On the right is my house. That's about all you need to see of it. It's pretty small and is owned by my school. Still, it does the job.

Not far from my house we have views like this. That line of mountains in the distance is the northern part of the Japanese Alps. Lots of great skiing and hiking.

This is my new car, a 2004 Honda Fit, which I just bought a month ago. It was dead cheap because it has high mileage, but it's been really well looked after and compared to my old car it's a Rolls Royce. In the background you can see the Alps again.

And this of course is my cat, Miffy, the reason I'm not as productive as I'd like and why I get up at 4 a.m. every day. She turned four this month.

As well as an English teacher I write books in my free time, and have been doing so since I was eight or nine years old. Yes, that's them you can see in the side bar, and if you've come here from my writing blog then welcome. This blog isn't to sell my books but of course I won't mind if you buy fifty copies or so for every single person you know. They're actually quite good.

Anyway, that's all for now. Be sure to stop in again soon.

Chris Ward
April 18th 2013

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Good morning and welcome

I just set this blog up today. My name is Chris Ward, and I am an English teacher and part time writer living in Nagano, Japan. This blog will be about my Japanese life.

I'll try to be posting at least once at week. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to make sure you don't miss any posts.

Thank you for reading!

Chris Ward
April 18th 2013