Japanese customs for foreigners - part 1: toilet slippers

Posted on November 27, 2005 | evankirby

Toilet slippers
It's happened to every foreigner in Japan: you come out of the toilet, back to the party, but before you even sit down, everybody starts laughing at you. Did you forget to button up your trousers? Is there toilet paper sticking to somewhere strange? No, you forgot to take off your toilet slippers again...
In almost every toilet in Japan are a pair of slippers that you're expected to put on before you go into the toilet, and take off before you leave. In some ways, this makes a lot of sense - after all, there are all sorts of strange substances that could potentially hit the floor in a toilet, and you wouldn't want that on your socks. However, the slippers in most people's homes look more like something designed to make rabbits want to mate with your feet, so they seem to be more for cuteness than hygiene.
Nevertheless, it's vital to remember to put them on when you enter the toilet, and take them off as you leave. Also, please note how they're always facing the right way when you enter - you can put them on without touching them with your hands first. This means you have to leave the toilet as you entered - facing the bowl itself. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it smoothly, but you'll have to shuffle off the slippers while walking backwards out of the toilet, and try to leave them in a fairly presentable pair.
When you're in Japan, you'll get used to taking off and putting on shoes more than you ever have in your life, and among all of these, the toilet slippers may just be the most important. Good luck!

Hi-res satellite photos of Fukuoka: Google Earth

Posted on November 26, 2005 | evankirby

Google's great world map software, Google Earth, has just added ultra-high resolution satellite pictures of Fukuoka City to their maps. The level of detail is amazing, making games of "Count the Starbucks" almost too easy... They haven't added the new pictures to maps.google.co.jp yet, but I'm sure they will soon. Download the software and check it out! Just so's you know, our school building is in there at 33deg 35' 13.28" North, 130deg 23' 46.85".

What is Hakata-ben?

Posted on November 24, 2005 | evankirby

Hakata-ben kouza

As you know, our school is located in Fukuoka City, on the island of Kyushu, in Southern Japan. The local people speak a dialect of Japanese called Hakata-ben, Hakata being the name of the other town that Fukuoka combined with to become the place we know and love. Hakata-ben is quite famous throughout Japan, and people often say it has a ‘cute’ sound. As we're quite far from Tokyo, Hakata-ben has some big differences from standard Japanese, and we'll be going into some of those differences in the coming weeks. Needless to say, a foreigner who can speak Japanese with a Hakata-ben accent is a thing of wonder. Practice up on the phrases we introduce before you come to Fukuoka and you'll make friends in no time!
Choose "Hakata-ben" from the Categories menu on the right to see only the posts related to that topic. (We promise there'll be more soon!)

Japanese formal speech - it's easier than you think!

Posted on November 24, 2005 | evankirby

To many students of Japanese, the use of polite forms (or "keigo") can seem like one of the hardest parts of the language to learn. After all, the words in a sentence can change completely based on whether you're talking to someone higher in rank than you, someone lower in rank, or an equal. For example, here are just a few of the ways you can ask someone if they want to eat (in Japanese, "taberu")

Japanese I learned from "24": Part 1, -tamae

Posted on November 23, 2005 | evankirby

Watching 24 on DVD with Japanese subtitles teaches me a whole variety of useful phrases - I will never again be stuck for what to say when torturing a terrorist, that's for sure - but today I want to look at just one: -tamae
Whenever President Palmer gives an order to someone, even just asking someone to sit down, the subtitles don't use "-te kudasai" or "-ro" or any of the common endings, but "-tamae" instead. So, for example, "sit down" would be "suwaritamae".

Summer Culture Course

Posted on November 17, 2005 | evankirby

We're working on some exciting things for this summer, including a whole new course focused on enjoying Japanese cultural experiences, with the Japanese language study reduced to a manageable two hours per day. This two-week course gives you a different cultural event every weekday, from making soba noodles to visiting a manga school; from learning how to put on a kimono to learning how to cook traditional Japanese food.
The course should be really exciting, and we'll give more details when everything is worked out, but if you're interested, feel free to ask for more details!

Winter Vacation Schedule - clarification

Posted on November 10, 2005 | evankirby

For some time now our homepage has been proudly advertising the fact that we're closing the school for a good 2-and-a-half weeks for winter vacation (December 23rd to January 9). Well, the truth is that while we will be reducing our service during that time, due to student demand we won't be entirely closed. Some classes will still be going on, and teachers will be there intermittently. We will continue to provide email service during the vacation (although we might not manage to meet our 48-hour reply deadline so often...). Phone and fax messages should be answered at some point, although probably not the same day.
For our local students and home students, check with your teacher as to the class schedule during this period.
For other students, including intensive course students, if you really really want to study during the holidays we can usually work something out for you, although there will be a small surcharge. Call the school (092-716-8673) or email us and ask. Flexibility is our middle name! (We already have a few signees, so don't worry about being the first!)

TV Shows

Posted on November 10, 2005 | evankirby

Time for some TV show recommendations, I think. Here are some current Japanese TV shows that might just help your Japanese ability:

1. Tamori no Japonica Logosu (every Tuesday, 11pm, channel TNC in Fukuoka)
Fukuoka-born Tamori and a panel of guests pick the mistaken Japanese out of daily situations. Full of interesting tidbits for the somewhat advanced learner. For example, did you know that "moushiwake arimasen" is incorrect? Me neither, but according to their experts, it's a one-word adjective, "moushiwakenai", so "nai" is NOT short for "arimasen"! Feel smart when you can get one right, feel less dumb when half of the studio guests get the same ones wrong as you...

2. Anata, setsumei dekimasu ka? (every Wednesday, 7:25pm, channel RKB or TBS)
Anata, setsumei dekimasu ka?
A little similar to the one above, this show asks guests to guess the difference between two similar words. (Yeah, a whole program built out of one very simple concept, but at least it's good for the Japanese learners amongst us...) For example, did you know that the difference between "onigiri" and "musubi" is that musubi are made by hand, while onigiri are made using tools? Try telling the staff in the convenience store that half of their products are labelled incorrectly, though...

3. NHK Nihongo Kouza: Shin Nihongo de Kurasou (every Thursday 0:10am - 0:30, Friday 11:10pm - 11:30, channel NHK Kyouiku)
One step above your basic Japanese language education show, this features a small cast of foreigners to help you through each week's topic, all presented by the fastest-talking teacher in Japan. A lot of useful information for the pre-intermediate student, and well worth taping regularly.

4. Sanma Daigoten (every Saturday from 11pm)
Koi no Kara Sawagi
Absolutely no educational benefit at all, just a personal favorite of ours... If vapid discussions about love by strange strange women are your thing, you will be happy here.

JLPT Level 3 Weekend Exam Course finished!

Posted on November 09, 2005 | evankirby

Our special 2-day preparation course for level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (not the official homepage) finished safely, and hopefully successfully! We covered a lot of material in the two days, and the students looked tired by the end of it, but they should also be feeling a little more confident and ready for the test. Level 3 is a big jump from level 4, and it can seem daunting, but the number of hours of preparation required is still not impossible - they reckon 300 hours total study is required for level 3, exactly double the 150 hours for level 4. Well, the attendees can knock 8 hours off that total now, and we'll be waiting excitedly to hear everybody's results whenever the test scorers finally get around to marking those tests in February sometime... Good luck, everyone! If you have any questions about the test, we're always happy to help!

Day trip to Dazaifu, Akizuki, onsen

Posted on November 08, 2005 | evankirby

On Saturday the 19th of November, we'll be running a one-day trip for our students, to three local places of interest.

First, we'll leave the school at about 9am and stop by Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, a beautiful and huge shrine just outside Fukuoka City. The oldest Tenmangu shrine in Japan, it's a work of art. There is also a wonderful zen garden nearby, as well as the brand new Kyushu National Museum (PDF link. Japanese page here), which we'll be visiting. The museum focuses on Japan's connections to Asia, which is a refreshing change.

Next, we'll drive to Amagi City, and Akizuki (Japanese only), which is a traditional Japanese town that is famous for the beauty of the surrounding scenery, and especially the autumn leaves. It's a wonderful sightseeing spot, so don't forget to bring your camera!

Finally, we'll visit an onsen nearby to relax, before heading back to Fukuoka, hopefully arriving home at about 6pm.

The total cost for all this fun? 3000 yen, including transport, and entry to the museum and onsen. (Lunch is not included.) It should be a great day - hope to see you all there! If you haven't booked a place with us yet, send us an email!

New photo gallery!

Posted on November 07, 2005 | evankirby

We have added a photo gallery to our website at last, with a whole bunch of pictures from various events over the last year. there's a lot of good memories in there, and looking at them all together in one place makes us realise how much we've really done this year, and how grateful we are that we had such fun students to do it all with. Thank you, everybody, for being in such excellent photos!
Our photo album

Welcome to the GenkiJACS blog!

Posted on November 05, 2005 | evankirby

We intend to fill this space with news and info about our school, as well as provide a central base for our students' blogs. At the lower right you'll see a list of links to student blogs. Feel free to check them out, and come back often for more info!