A better, more Genki school

Posted on June 20, 2017 | genkijacs

One of the very special things about GenkiJACS compared to other Japanese schools is that we're always actively improving. This month alone, we've added projectors and a digital teaching system to all our Fukuoka classrooms, added a reading library in our Fukuoka lounge, and replaced most of the desks and chairs with much more comfortable ones.

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But today we want to highlight another special thing we do: bringing in guest teachers for special lessons. Since we began offering long-term student visa courses a couple of years ago, we've tried to bring in guest teachers every so often, to give students a bit of extra excitement. In recent weeks, we've had special lessons from some very exciting people:

1. A former sumo wrestler!
Mr. Takahashi Keiji (高橋圭二) came to school to talk about his former life as a sumo wrestler, how he got into the sport, his training regimen, and how eventually he got out. He has since been running a restaurant in Fukuoka called Hakata Tomoki 博多とも喜 (はかたともき). Mr Takahashi also treated our students to Chanko-Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋), the main dish of sumo wrestlers!

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2. A famous TV chef!

Ms. Mako Araki, who appears regularly on the NHK show "はっけんTV", and on RKB's "たべごころ", taught our students how to make some of the most basic and most important of Japan foods, including miso soup and onigiri. After all the cooking was done, our students had a chance to ask her about her journey to becoming a master chef. Ever since she was little, she has been striving to create beautiful and delicious dishes, and the students witnessed her passion for the craft of cooking first-hand! Fun fact: Mako-San`s favourite dish is Tamagoyaki 卵焼き(たまごやき).

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3. The former president of JR Kyushu!
That's right, in a couple of weeks, Mr. Ishii (石井), the former head of JR Kyushu, one of the main train companies of Japan, will visit the school to tell students all about his former job, and about the business world in Japan. It should be extremely informative! We will make sure to update you as soon as we can!

These lessons are an incredibly rare opportunity for our students to meet Japanese people from very different walks of life, learn using real Japanese, and hear about experiences they otherwise might never come across. It's just one more way that Genki Japanese School is different from and, dare we say it, better than most other schools!

Listening Practice Advice for Beginner/Pre-Intermediate Level Learners

Posted on June 19, 2017 | genkijacs

Studying Japanese is fun, but it is also hard. As we strive to make it as easy as possible for you, here is a little introductory article of how to start practicing your listening skills in Japanese.

Unlike with reading and writing practice, listening is not as easily accessible to those not residing in Japan. Listening to your textbook’s audio files is fun, but only to a point. So let us look at some of the learning materials to get you started. You may find them useful as well as entertaining.

NHK Easy News
It is free and they provide you with a great variety of topics and even keep you up to date with the current events. The language is aimed at a beginner/pre-intermediate level learner and every article has an audio file attached to it.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/

NHK World Lessons
Another NHK-run website providing Japanese lessons. You will be following Anna, an international student, in Japan. The Lesson Structure is easy to follow and there are hours of audio files to keep you engaged. Click on the link below and see if it is something you may be interested in.
https://www.nhk.or.jp/lesson/english/learn/list/1.html

JapanesePod101
If you like practicing your listening on the go then the world of podcasts is for you. JapanesePod101 gives you a good way to start listening, learning and improving your Japanese. You can download the free episodes and use your phone to listen to their casual yet culturally relevant content wherever you are. There are also printable materials and other learning supporting tools on their web page, check it out.
https://www.japanesepod101.com/

Have a look and a listen, and keep an eye on this page as we will be posting more on the topic in the future.

Martial arts series 3 - karate

Posted on June 12, 2017 | genkijacs

空手 (からて)空手 or 空手道 (からてど)means the Way of the Empty Hand. It is named that way because traditionally no 空手家 (からてか)or Karate practitioner would use weapons to fight. Another reason for it to be named so is the fact that it was originally written 唐手(からて)or the hand of the Tang Dynasty of China and due to Japan's history this had to be changed.

The art from itself originated in (沖縄)Okinawa in the early stages of its development, which arguably can be traced back all the way to 1300s. But unsurprisingly, it is incredibly difficult find out the real origin of the art form in this era. The reason why there is no real use of weapons in Okinawan 空手, according to the popular belief, is that after the ban on weapons in the 1600s, people were encouraged to learn how defend themselves using just their hands as a weapon.

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There were three distinct styles of 空手and they are believed to have originated from 首里手(しゅりて), 那覇手(なはて)、and 泊手(とまりて)。The styles were named after the cities they were mostly practiced at.

At the turn of 20th century 空手 was allowed to be introduced to public schools in Okinawa. One school that adopted the practise early on in 1902 is 糸洲安恒 (いとすあんこう) school.

船越義珍(ふなこしぎちん), one of Itosu's students, further expanded the art form to the rest of Japan. He is also credited to changing the older name of 唐手 into 空手 as we know it today in order for it to be accepted into the 大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Japanese Martial Arts Association, which was introduced in one of the previous blog posts. These and many other changes have lead 空手 to become accepted as a traditional 武道 (ぶどう)or Martial Art by the Japanese.

Practice

Different styles of 空手 all have various 基本 (きほん)or foundation movements and 型 (かた)which is, like in many martial arts, a set of movements codifying them into a pattern. It is supposed to simulate a defensive and offensive situation. There is also a sparring part of 空手 between two practitioners called 組手(くみて)and it can be seen during a normal practice as well as during competitions.

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Belt System

There are slight variations of belt systems in 空手 but generally if you are beginner, you are expected to wear a while belt or 帯 (おび). As you progress through the ranks you will attain: Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue/Green. Purple, Brown and finally Black. One thing to note is that Black belt has a number of so called 段 (だん)grades that are there to mark the skill of a 空手家 as they progress further.

空手 Now

These days 空手 is practiced as a sport and a martial art all over the world and is even recognised by the Olympic Committee. There are many 空手 organisations and discussing them in detail goes beyond anything that we can realistically discuss on this blog. Millions of people are practicing one or another style of 空手 throughout the world.

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If you are interested in discovering more for yourself, please do check some of the links below. Some of the information was taken from these pages and they are worth a read.

http://www.historyoffighting.com/karate.php
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate
https://www.wkf.net/
http://jka.or.jp/en/

Vocabulary Covered (Excluding Cities and Names):
空手 (からて)→ Karate, Empty Hand
空手家 (からてか)→ Karate Practitioner
唐手(からて)→ Karate`s Old Name. Meaning the Hand of Tang Dynasty
基本 (きほん)→ Basics, Fundamental Movements
型 (かた)→ Practiced Movement Patterns
組手(くみて)→ Sparring
帯 (おび)→ Obi or a Belt
段 (だん)→ Dan grades will follow after a practitioner attained Black Belt Level.


Martial arts series 2 - archery

Posted on June 05, 2017 | genkijacs

Continuing our series of martial arts, today we will be briefly introducing the subtle and relatively calm art of Japanese archery or 弓道(きゅうどう, "kyuudou"), which literally means the way of the bow. Much like the previously discussed 剣道(けんどう), this particular art form came from the warrior culture of Japan.

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.

A bit of history

The bow has been in use in Japan for millennia, with some mentions of this particular tool dating back more than two thousand years. With this it can only be expected that this particular weapon was used in warfare. The bow that the warriors were using was and is called 弓(ゆみ, "yumi").

During the warring period in Japan, the art of the bow or 弓術 (きゅうじゅつ, "kyuujutsu") became a very important part of Samurai training, using 弓 especially while on a horseback. Much like during any time of any conflict, constant warfare during the warring states in Japan, 弓 and 弓術 saw a rapid development, and at that time numerous schools of archery were established.

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As to be expected, when the Portuguese brought matchlock rifles to Japan, the decline of the 弓 began and eventually the newly developed Japanese-style rifles were used in most conflicts in Japan and the bow became obsolete. However during the Edo period when the Tokugawa Shogunate held the power over Japan, the all-out warfare was practically stopped. At this point the Bushi 武士(ぶし) or the warrior class, otherwise referred to as 侍(さむらい), found themselves to be holding more administrative roles in the government and consequently fighting less and less. As a result the practice of archery came to hold more of a ritualistic meaning, slowly integrating the ideas of Zen Buddhism where the inner world of the practitioner was sometimes considered more important than the fact that arrow might not hit the target. Though the views on this differ from school to school.

The development of 弓道 continued uninterrupted until another big step in Japanese history: the Meiji Restoration/Revolution 明治維新(めいじいしん) when the samurai class was banned and as such the number of Martial Arts 武道(ぶどう) practitioners fell significantly. Though according to the International Kyudo Federation, after the establishment of 大日本武徳会 (だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society the practice of 弓道 was encouraged along with other 武道 styles up until the end of WW2.

But shortly after the WW2 the practice of 弓道 was revived and even became a regular extracurricular activity in Japanese schools, alongside with other forms of marital arts.

This brings us to now.

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Practice and Equipment

The principals of modern 弓道 are well established and codified and the same can be said about the equipment that is used in the practice.

The bow 弓 (ゆみ)stands way taller than the person wielding it, which makes it one of the longest bows in the world. It is traditionally made out bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. Obviously these days the 弓 can be made out of alternative materials. One remarkable thing about using the Japanese bow, is that unlike it`s counterparts from all over the world, the use of the Japanese bow is asymmetrical which means that the arrow is not placed in the middle of the shaft before release, but rather around 1/3 up the shaft from the bottom nock.

The arrow 矢(や). Also traditionally made of bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. It is very similar to arrows that most you have seen before.

The glove 弓掛 (ゆがけ). As expected this particular glove is worn by the practitioner in order to make the drawing of the bow string or 弦 (つる)easier and less stressful for the hand of the archer. The gloves are made of tanned hide and held together by glue and stitching. There are three different types of 弓掛: 三掛(みつがけ)、四掛(よつがけ)and 諸掛(もろがけ). These roughly mean three, four and five finger gloves though there are other variations to choose from.

Traditionally, while practicing 弓道 practitioners tend to wear 弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)a white top and black wide trousers called 稽古着 (けいこぎ)and 袴 (はかま)respectively. However, on more formal occasions, they tend to wear 和服 (わふく)a more formal style of traditional Japanese clothing.

Competition 大会

Competitions in 弓道 are very formal and involve a lot of rules regarding etiquette 礼儀 (れいぎ)very similar to the practice of this martial art. However, unlike the everyday practice goals, where the practitioner is not necessarily hitting the target, but rather working towards achieving the state of oneness with the arrow and the bow. During the competition it is the fact that they hit the target that counts, very similar to archery competitions around the world.

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Words Used in this Article

弓道 (きゅうどう)→Japanese archery
弓(ゆみ.)→Bow
矢(や)→Arrow
弦 (つる)→Bow String
弓掛 (ゆがけ)→The Glove
弓術 (きゅうじゅつ)→The art of the Bow
江戸時代(えどじだい)→Edo Period
徳川時代(とくがわじだい)→Tokugawa Shogunate
武士(ぶし)→Bushi (warrior)
侍(さむらい)→Samurai
明治維新(めいじいしん)→Meiji Restoration/Revolution
武道(ぶどう)→Martial Arts
大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんとくかい)→Organization to promote martial arts.
弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)→Clothing worn during Kyudo practice
稽古着 (けいこぎ)→Practice Clothing
袴 (はかま) →Wide Trousers
和服 (わふく)→Traditional Japanese clothing

For more information check the International Kyudo Federation Web page