Year-End Party, or 忘年会 (bounenkai)

Posted on December 23, 2015 | evankirby

End of year party photo

It's the time of the year for Japanese companies to have their year-end parties, or 忘年会 (bounenkai). The kanji for this literally mean "forget year meeting", and in theory that's part of what people are supposed to be doing - forgetting all the bad things that happened that year, so we're ready to approach the new year with new energy. But in practise it's usually just an excuse for a big party.

End year party at Genki Japanese

So that's what we did! Yesterday, December 22nd, GenkiJACS' Fukuoka Japanese school had our bounenkai at a nearby restaurant. About 70 people attended, and we put on a whole program of entertainment, from karaoke to cosplay to quizzes and more!

Genki Japanese School party

We hope we'll see you at our year-end party in 2016!

National holiday: the Emperor's Birthday!

Posted on December 21, 2015 | evankirby

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It's a national holiday in Japan tomorrow, but do you know what day is it? It's the birthday of Emperor Akihito, so as well as being a national holiday (yay! no school), so the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo will also be open for public access! Take this great opportunity to stroll through the forbidden grounds, wave the Hi no Maru (日の丸) with the crowd, and of course, use your great Japanese skills to listen to the Emperor's speech :D

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While part of Tokyo school’s Japanese Plus Culture course is visiting the Imperial Palace (皇居), the tour is pretty much limited to strolling around the moat and stone walls. Certainly the Eastern Imperial gardens are beautiful with its seasonal changes such as cherry blossoms in Spring and red leaves in Autumn, but visitors are not granted access to the inner grounds. However, twice every year, the Imperial Palace opens its gates to the public, once on the Emperor’s birthday and once during the New Year celebrations.

Those of you who are in Tokyo, it’s a great opportunity to drop by the Imperial Palace tomorrow, 23 December, the birthday of Emperor Akihito. The two nearest stations, Otemachi Station and Tokyo Station will be jammed packed (even more so than the usual rush hour crowd), filled with Japanese locals visiting to pay respect to their Emperor, tourists who can’t miss the opportunity to glimpse inside the Imperial Palace, as well as all the security personnel. Be warned, it’s going to be CROWDED, but since it’s Japan, it will still going to be pretty orderly and safe.

The only gates that will be opened to allow public access is the Nijubashi Gate. There will be make shift check points there where security personnel will inspect your belongings. For larger bags and suit cases, you will have to deposit them with the security office and only pick them up after your tour. We highly recommend you to have as little personal belongings on you as possible to avoid all the hassle. A small Japanese flag, or more commonly known as Hi no Maru (日の丸) will also be handed out to visitors.

Once you enter the usually closed off Nijubashi gates, you’ll be able to get a full view of the Fushimi Yagura guardhouse. This architecture was formally constructed as part of the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto, and was moved to Tokyo (then known as Edo) in the 1600s ordered by the Tokugawa government.

At the end of the walk, you will arrive at the Inner Gate in front of the Chowa Den Reception hall (長和殿) where the Emperor and the Imperial family will greet the public.
Here is the schedule for tomorrow:
First Appearance: Around 10:20 a.m.
Second Appearance: Around 11:00 a.m.
Third Appearance: Around 11:40 a.m.

More information can be found here and here (PDF).

If you’ve missed the visit on 23 December, the next one will be on 2 January, where the Emperor will give his new year speech.

New Plan for Fukuoka City: A Ropeway from Hakata Station!

Posted on December 17, 2015 | evankirby

Transport company JR Kyushu has unveiled a proposal for an elevated ropeway connecting Hakata Station, the main train station of the city and just a couple of minutes from our Fukuoka Japanese school branch, with the convention center and waterfront 2km away. Just in case you also weren't sure what a ropeway is, it's gondolas hanging from a "rope", often used to transport people up steep mountainsides and places like that. This would be the first ropeway in an urban area in Japan, and it's being proposed as a cheaper alternative to extending the subway.

To practice your reading skills, here is an article in Japanese about the plan. If it's a bit tough at your current level, there are extensions available for Chrome and Firefox that give you meanings and definitions for Japanese words on webpages you visit:
- Chrome: Rikaikun
- Firefox: Rikaichan

This year's kanji

Posted on December 15, 2015 | genkijacs

At the end of every year, one kanji is nominated to become the "symbol" of that year. This kanji embodies the spirit of the past year.

The official kanji of 2015 was announced yesterday: 「安」 (あん, "an")
This kanji appears in the words 安全 (あんぜん, "anzen" - safety, security), and 安心 (あんしん, "anshin" - peace of mind), and was chosen specifically because of the terrorist attacks on Paris in November.
Asahi newspaper says the kanji 安 was chosen because 2015 was a year during which "many people were wishing for safety and peace of mind".

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The official kanji of 2014 was 「税」 (ぜい, "zei" - tax), because of the 8% increase in Japan's consumption tax that kicked off last year.

Japanese student visa applications done!

Posted on December 14, 2015 | evankirby

We just got back from handing in the first batch of student visa applications to the Japanese Immigration authorities. Thanks to all the students who will be studying Japanese at our Fukuoka branch from next April, for helping us to get everything in on time and complete! We learned a lot from the application process this time, which will help us to do things even more smoothly next time.
In the typical fashion of governments everywhere, they'll look over the documents for the next couple of months, and give their final confirmation around the end of February.

GenkiJACS has been introducing students to other long-term Japanese schools for the last 7 years now, and none of our former students have ever been refused a student visa in Japan. So we're very confident that the applications of all the people for Japanese classes starting next April will be successful. Wish us (and the students) good luck!

And if you're thinking of joining our student visa course for next year, the next start date will be October 2016, for which the application deadline is the end of May. We look forward to seeing you in Fukuoka!