Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's Slushing!

I had a 'Weather Pixie' on my blog, but she seems to have disappeared. I guess she's as fed up of this weather as I am. This (so-called) spring there have been TWO warm days. And today it's snowing. Well, the snow is sooo wet, it's actually falling as slush. So not nice.

In othe news, I'm going on a mini-break to Seoul from Sunday to Wednesday :D

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Thinking of teaching in Tokyo?

Are you thinking of teaching in Tokyo, and wondering if it'd be the right job for you? Well, here's a quick mini-guide to the requirements for the job. A university degree (any subject) and an ability to speak better English than your students is a requirement. Got those? Then jump on the plane and get a job. Grammar knowledge, teaching experience very optional.

  • You must have good sense of humour. The importance of this is evident on many levels. The best way to execute this is to remind yourself that you won't be working in the same place forever and all students eventually will leave. Playing tricks on your students is always a good one too - Japanese learners like a safe environment, choosing the same place to sit each week, etc. It's always fun to rearrange the classroom so they are forced to sit in a different place ;-)

  • Acting skills are a prerequisite. For example, the 10 millionth time a student tells you they went to shopping and cleaned their room at the weekend, you must make it sound like you think it was a fun thing they did and pretend to be interested in who they went shopping with this time and what they bought. This time.

  • You must have no inhibitions. You will spend a part of every day demonstrating verbs, racing around a classroom, dancing in front of parents, making stupid noises, etc.

  • Subtlety is important. You cannot say: 'what the fuck are you on about?' to your students. However tempted you may be. Likewise when a student is doing so little work on their English and attending so erratically that their English is actually getting worse, you cannot tell them they are crap and wasting your time and their money.

  • Patience is very important. You will have older students with memories of drunken goldfish. Expect to spend 3 weeks in a row, for example, explaining 'Fair Trade' to the same student. Even when you've exhausted every pie graph, chart, story, time line, diagram, picture you can think of, and they appear to have 'got it'. And then ask you about it again the next week. Patience is also important when you're doing a craft activity with a table of 3-5 year olds who ALL need help at the same time.

  • Multi-tasking skills are a bonus. See above. You need to have eyes in the back of your head, be able to work your hands like an octupus, supply cuddles as required (strictly with kids this one. Although, come to think of it, some of the male teachers.... ), think 3 steps ahead all the time, fix a kids' hair clip while handing a tissue to another kid, helping a kid glue and stopping another kid from cutting their activity in half.

  • Time management is important. Always clean your board while saying goodbye to your student. Never after. Not if you want to sprint to the toilet and get a coffee before the next student 3 seconds later.

  • Creativeness is a bonus. My current favourite gadget of choice is a timer. I've got low level students amazed at how fluent they can be when they don't have time to think in Japanese before speaking. It also seems to be working well as a motivator for phonics work, which kids don't really like.

I'll add some more soon!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Odd Day

My bedtime seems to be slipping later and later every night, despite my best intentions! This evening I was so tired I had a nap around 9pm, which has fucked up tonights sleep but I've finished up a bottle of Arak a student gave me a while back, so I've a feeling that might help with the sleep.

Today another student gave me a gift of alcohol. Bring it on! This guy works in Shochu. Not literally. He does copywriting or some kind of promotion for them. Anyhoo, today he gave me a huge, heavy, VERY VERY nice award winning bottle of shochu. I almost danced around the school. Reception thought I was nuts for being so happy at any rate!

The school I work at on Thursdays has a very different vibe from other schools I've worked at. Part of it is down to the school managers that have worked there and part of it down to the students - it's in a very wealthy area of Tokyo - if that's relevant. Anyway, it just seems a lot friendlier than other schools. There's more chatting; it feels more relaxed. It also has some of the strangest students in the company - but that's something else! Okay, okay, it isn't. For example, there's Mr. Echo - the student that echos everything you say. Not repeats but echos. A millisecond behind you. VERY disconcerting. He doesn't understand me and I don't understant him. A friend of mine, another teacher, used to text me every time he got Mr. Echo on his schedule. Not the most popular of students. Then there was Mrs. Anime Woman. Mrs. AW is in her 60s. Long purple streaked hair, dungarees, need I say more? Very amusing and interesting student - when you could understand her. She was, unfortunately, very prone to monologues. Mr. Record Business was another one. He only wanted to chat. And every lesson, with almost every teacher, all he wanted to talk about was himself and his job. Nice guy but telling your teaching 'I like talking about myself' - well!

Anyway, recently there's been a host of lovely - but very giggly - work experience women. They've mainly been sitting in a room translating a business text teachers notes from English into Japanese. They've been allowed brief stints on reception too! Today I gave a business email lesson to four of them - one was elementary, one pre-intermediate, one intermediate and one advanced. Miraculously the lesson worked. Awesome ladies. I'll miss them now they're going.

And there's the other thing. An email I got from an old friend. Sorry, ex-friend, who's father is dying. I feel bad about not making contact but there's a lot of complicated history and I don't want to make contact. But there's the guilt. Nuff said. I have to deal with this.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Doing an activity today on probability. Students had to say how probable it was that this would be their best year (or something like that). Two of them said it was highly probable because their kid/grandkid had got into a new school.

No comment. Just thought it was an interesting take on students here.


Another student - a freshman in his job - have I mentioned the whole 'freshman' thing before? It's used to refer to people in their jobs. They then use 'second year', 'third year', etc. I still find this quite strange but, in Japan, remember that a majority enter their first (and sometimes only) job straight from university and so it is seen this way - unlike in England where we chop and change jobs so much.

So, this guy studied sports training or sports management, or something like that but wasn't interested in doing a related career (again, pretty typical here, in my experience), didn't know what to do, and so ended up working for an optician's where he does eye tests, etc all day and fits people for contact lenses. Now, I don't know, but I would imagine in England you'd need to qualify in optometry or something to be able to do this, wouldn't you?

He described his life as a student. Unusually for a Japanese student, he lived in halls of residence. A flat of 20 people. All studying the same course, but from different years. The younger students were required to cook for, run the bath for, clean up after, etc, the older students. At university.

Hmmm. Different worlds, aren't they?


My blogroll is hopelessly out of date but I have a lot to sort out before I sort that out. In the meantime, am currently obsessed by 65redroses which I found about a month ago through mcmama's blog which I found about six months ago through matt's blog which I found a couple of years ago through thorntree which I found in 1999 when I was researching my first trip to New York. Phew, so there you go.

DISCLAIMER: all of these blogs have been going for a while. If - like me - you are prone to read blogs from the beginning, I will not be held responsible for your 'wasted' day.

Go and check them out. 65 red roses's Eva and Matt are pretty inspirational people. I've cried reading there blogs. A lot. A lot lot. Mcmama's is a different case. I can't really say why I'm hooked on it - but I am.

Who are you reading these days?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Life in a Gaijin House

AKA - when Google Translator gets it wrong!

I'm finally getting around to post this. I took photos of these notices, in my new house, the day I moved in but, as ever, things don't tend to make it onto the blog for a long time. There is no cleaner in this house (a lot of gaijin houses have them) but there is a rota for the cleaning. Hence these 'instructions'.

All punctuation and spelling is as per the notices. I find them very funny. But then, that's me. I mainly understand what they are talking about!

- Garbage throwing away
It checks in the plastic bucket on the side of the door.

- Cleaning of common space
To complete with a detergent and a tool.
When you wash me, please do washing and exchange to a common towel etc, together.

- Management of vessel
Check on vessel (Toilet paper, Detergent, etc...), The thing that not is and the thing that seems to disappear are repporte and order to housemanager or the houseoffice.

Please without forgetting it is symbiosis! To do comfortable life, everyone always bears it in mind!

We wish to express our gratitude for you cooperation. Thank you!!

*Please give the person on duty note to the door in next person on duty's room after the person on duty ends of me.

Oh a further notice tells us that the garbage must go

to the decided place untill 8am.

After some consultation I've concluded this means 'before'. Clear as mud, innit!

Monday, March 01, 2010





I had to work on Sunday. A special promotional day of demo lessons to prospective new clients. Kids. Luckily I got to get out of there at a reasonable time and met up with an old housemate, E, and one of her friends, A, for a really fun evening.

We went to a small bar to see a comedy act Shoshinz (love the English on this website!). Before they came on, there was a singer and - well, their fans are utter geeks. E, A and I were in hysterics watching them. One song was called 'Milk' (I think) and I guess it was about a cat as the audience kept swooping - totally out of time with each other for the most part - and pawing the air singing 'meow, meow', waving about light sticks, etc. Utter geekdom. Fucking funny. And taken so seriously. Apart from by E, A and I.

The geeks were all thirsty and disappeared off to the bar after singer finished, allowing us to get right to the front for the Shoshinz, who were pretty funny / rather strange depending on what they were doing. It was all very cute though. They're act is without speech, just lots of expressiveness, use of their bodies, singing, etc. Different.

E is a sake expert. Seriously. She's (apparently) the first qualified sake somelier in France. Not that anyone in France drinks sake. Apparently ;-)

So, we went off to drink sake. Lots of sake. A started off with a beer, while E and I attacked sake setS. And then more sake. And then more. The food was awesome and it was all bloody cheap.

We had a lot of fun and - bizarrely - a lot of the Japanese people sitting around us spoke English and we had some funny random conversations with them too.

Got home. Headache set in. And blocked nose. Now (early afternoon) head is fine but nose still blocked - and I have a phone interview later on! Yay.

OOOOO LOL - advert on telly for a cream or cleansing product or something (didn't take that much notice) called... 'VIRGIN FACE'. LMAO. (okay, I accept I'm maybe in a minority that finds that very funny).