the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Two Major Japanese News Stories

1) The English Conversation School "NOVA" has gone bankrupt leaving
4,000 foreign English teachers unemployed.

2) Starting in November, the Japanese government will start
fingerprinting "all" people who are not ethnically Japanese who enter
the country. There are many ethnically Chinese and Korean people living
in Japan because of World War II. These people are, of course, not
ethnically Japanese. The idea that foreigners cause crime is widely
accepted in Japan. Years ago the Japanese government tried to require
them to be fingerprinted.

However, ethnic Chinese and Koreans have protested many times for their
rights. So in this legislation they have been graciously omitted. So
mostly "non-Asians" are being fingerprinted. Some people call this
racial profiling or a violation of privacy. Whatever it is, it is
defiantly Japan following the lead of US policy Good or bad, the US is
an example.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Japanese Pop Culture

I've started saving my favorite Japanese pop culture on YouTube:

The Most Important Word for Winter

In Japan there are no central furnaces. Your home probably has a network of smaller gas and electric powered heaters. For your gas heaters you need to go out and buy some kerosene at the closest gas station.

The word for kerosene in Japanese is touyu 灯油 - literally igniting/fuel oil (as opposed to vegetable oil). I went and picked some up today. If it's still nice enough weather to be walking, it might be a good idea to go and get some before you're trying to haul it home in the snow.

Two canisters cost me about 3000 yen ($30). That amount got me about half way through the winter last year.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great Online Kanji Study Tools

If you're studying any kind of kanji, read this article in The Japan
Times, and Google the names of the tools and sites they recommend. It
works way better than a Google search (or Google translation) of that
kanji you just can't remember, read or understand.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

If I wasn't working

A friend recently asked me what I'd be doing if I wasn't working
tomorrow, and I thought this was insightful about my life here so, I
copied and pasted it here.

If I wasn't working I'd be:
1) Reading Manga, that's studying Japanese, right?

2) talking to the old lady down the street with a BBQ chicken cart. Her
family has a business of food carts that go to all the local festivals.
She knows all kinds of inside info about everything in town, and she's
really nice.

3) Hanging out with my "host mom". I snagged one from the local uni. She
already has three host kids, and I'm friends with her daughters, so she
kind of adopted me. She taught me to write haiku (5-7-5) and renka
(5-7-5-7-5). She's a "Japanese lit and culture" teacher at a local high
school, and I'm sure she'd teach me more if I had time. The dad died a
few years ago, and the family is just kind of lonely.

4) mountain biking and hiking somewhere. Justin left me a mountain bike,
and I've put some miles on it. I can bike to the mountains in less than
half an hour, and there are all kinds of hikes with mountain streams and
temples and stuff here. It's like the Legend of Zelda (actually the
creator of the Legend of Zelda used to play around old mountain shrines
when he was a kid). What bites is that they're so close and I rarely go

5) Singing karaoke (they have karaoke box rooms here, it's way funner).
And if you know some Japanese pop it's even funner. I spend a lot of my
"Japanese study time" listening to Japanese music and watching Japanese

6) Hanging out with local college students. I never have time for them,
but they're really fun. There's all kinds of great things to do at the
college, but I've got to remember I'm not a student. But it's on my way
home, and many of my best friends in town are college students.

7) Traveling to Kansai, Kyushu or Okinawa - if I had money. People from
Kansai really are great and fun people, at least the ones I've met. And
all those places are warmer than here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Four Humors for Healthy Living

I just had a talk with SL over Skype. She's really great. She thinks
there are four things (humors) necessary for a healthy life:

  1. Physical

    • Eat right

    • Exercise

    • Sleep right

  2. Emotional

  3. Intellectual

    • Reading

    • Musical

    • Creative / Art

    • Etc.

    • studying ONLY Japanese is NOT healthy

  4. Spiritual

If you're lacking or overused in any of these areas, your life is
unbalanced. The hard thing is that #2 and #4 are almost impossible to

That said, I feel unbalanced. And I just noticed I've been unbalanced
for a while. I am more spacey than usual lately.

On a side note, Japanese people usually try to avoid offense at all
costs, but people can just be ignorant sometimes. Here's the quote that
offended me (originally in English):

"Are you over culture shock yet?"

Know that culture shock never quits, it gets less pronounced, but you're
fighting concepts you've formed since birth, and they don't just go
away. Some concepts you have to keep and some you don't. It's a never
ending process. It's not a sickness you just "get over".

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oshiri Kajiri Mushi

Public Television in Japan has a 10 minute program in Japan called "みなの歌" (Songs for Everyone). They're usually pretty simple and cute, and of course they're easy for everyone to sing. But this month's song is pretty funny. Have a look:

Does that qualify as a cultural experience? The song's creator is quoted as saying, "I thought I could make something that would brighten everyone's day by making them laugh."

Monday, October 08, 2007

School Life Scenes

So, every afternoon at 3:15, the students clean the school before they go home. They get divided into groups of 3~5 and they are assigned a cleaning task for the semester.

One of those jobs is of course to clean the black board. In Japan, there's a little "vacuum cleaner box" that you run the erasers over and it sucks the chalk out. Pretty cool, right? Much better than going outside and beating the erasers together.

But when there's a long line for the vacuum box, and students have to wait well... see what happens right? Nobody'll ever see it if you open the window and beat the eraser against the side of the building. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Somehow I forgot summer vacation!

Well, some how I forgot to post my summer vacation picks. ND came up to visit me before he goes home. After that we went up to Hokkaido in search of cooler weather. In Sapporo we met up with my good friend K-kun who was a great guide.

We met K-kun at Sapporo station. And of course he took us to see the great view of Sapporo from the top of the station tower.

Later we met some sumo wrestlers. (Wish I had a better picture).

And went to "Thriller Karaoke".

That was the big trip. I did a few other things. Participated in the local summer festival, had lunch with friends, got a girlfriend. How did I forget to post these for two months?