Taoru wo doozo!

Posted on December 26, 2005 | miyuki

In Japan, the gas stations provide services that are as good as restaurants do. At full service gas stations, which most are, allows you to sit back and relax while the staff do all the work for you - filling up the gas, cleaning the windshield, throwing away your cigarette butts and etc. One of our former students went to a gas station for the first time with his friend. He was pretty impressed with the service he received. While he was left alone in the car when his friend went to the restroom, he was given a towel. With excitement, he thought “Wow! You can even get a wet towel for refreshing!!” But right before he put the towel on his face to wipe as you would in an airplane or in a restaurant in Japan, he noticed the towel doesn’t look so clean. As confused as he was, he reported the incident to his friend and said, “I only wiped my hands and gave it back to them!” Well, you can actually do whatever you want with it, but the wet towel provided by the gas stations is generally for you to dust the interior yourself by wiping the top of the dashboard or inside the window panes and etc. Though it might be uncomfortable for some people to have everything done for them while they sit there and do nothing, it is fair to say that the wet towel is a nice touch which everyone appreciates.

Fukuoka Robots!

Posted on December 17, 2005 | evankirby

Kiyomori
This week's news brings us Kiyomori, a two-legged robot with a great website, born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture. It's famous for the revolutionary ability to rotate its pelvis as it walks, which gives it a much more natural walking style, allowing it to stretch its knees. Anyway, the latest demonstration of this technology was to have the robot (dressed, of course, in full regal "kachuu" armor and crazy glowing red eyes) visit Munakata Shrine, just north of Fukuoka City, to pray. Pretty amazing and wonderfully strange application of technology...

Festivals coming up in Fukuoka!

Posted on December 17, 2005 | evankirby

Tamaseseri

Japan loves its festivals, and Fukuoka is of course no exception. Here's what's coming up (info excerpted from a very helpful post to the Fukuoka JET website:

January 3: Tamaseseri at Hakozaki Shrine
A New Year festival held to wish for a good harvest. Two groups of men in traditional costumes fight for a wooden ball.

January 7: Oniyo at Daizenji Tamatare Shrine
A shinto ritual to expel evil spirits, one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan. The highlight of this festival is Taimatsu-mawashi in which three hundred young men in loincloths twirl six huge torches with scores of oak poles one after another on the grounds of the shrine. Each of the torches is one meter in diameter, thirteen meters long and weighs one ton.

January 7: Usokae & Onisube at Dazaifu Shrine
People who have come to the shrine exchange kiuso, wooden bullfinch dolls, with each other. Then, for Onisube, people try to drive away a devil with smoke and sparks emitted from large torches.)

How safe is Japan?

Posted on December 15, 2005 | evankirby

Very very safe! A few examples we've noticed recently, from in and around Fukuoka:

- When you get large amounts of change from the subway vending machine, a loud recorded voice announces "big spender here!" (or something close to it)
- A local tv show interviews people on the street, asking them how much money they have in their wallets. Most people carry way more than 50,000 yen ($500) at any time
- Rice theft makes the local evening news for 3 nights in a row
- The Japanese version of Cops has a section on the Fukuoka Police force. The two featured crimes? Violence against a vending machine, and unauthorized posters.
- A non-fatal stabbing makes national tv news. Number of deaths: 0

Shitsurei desu ga...

Posted on December 10, 2005 | evankirby

Sometimes the implied meaning of words can be very different from the stated meaning.
A friend of ours in Japan, on a recent visit to the offices of another company, asked the receptionist, "Kobayashi Hiroko, onegai shimasu" ("Please get me Hiroko Kobayashi"), only to be told, "Shitsurei desu ga..." ("Excuse me..."). Thinking that she hadn't been able to catch the name of the person he was looking for, he repeated himself. She laughed a little, and said "Onamae wa nan desu ka?" ("What's your name?").
In this case, the Japanese phrase "Shitsurei desu ga" (literally, "it's rude, but") implied something like "Excuse me for being so rude, but who should I say is asking for her?" This is just one of the many situations in Japan where just being able to understand the spoken words is not enough - to communicate successfully, you have to understand the cultural background, and hear the unspoken words as well as the spoken. This is a major part of our approach at GenkiJACS (the "C" stands for "Culture"!), and the reason we offer a cultural component to all our courses. Words alone are nearly meaningless - cultural context, it could be argued, can change everything...

Student breakdown

Posted on December 09, 2005 | evankirby

We finally got round to analyzing who our students were this year, and we've posted the results to our website at this page. Some semi-interesting factoids: while the total numbers of students were fairly balanced between male and female, a lot more women wrote to us to ask for information, and usually a lot earlier than the men. The average length of study was 4 weeks, although some stayed a LOT longer than that. (You know who we're talking about!), and the average age of our students was 27.
One interesting thing for us was that our students were fairly balanced in terms of their Japanese ability when they arrived with us. About a quarter each of our students started at beginner, pre-intermediate, and intermediate levels. the teachers have endless debates about which students are the most fun to teach: beginners are completely blank slates, and when you start from almost zero, every day can bring exciting new discoveries; on the other hand intermediate students can get involved in real discussions, and teachers can learn from them.
I guess the point is that the teachers enjoy teaching all our students, no matter where they came from or where they're going. If you'll excuse a little bit of salesmanship, why don't you visit GenkiJACS, and give us the chance to enjoy teaching to you too!

GenkiJACS Getting Cheaper?

Posted on December 08, 2005 | evankirby

Well, if you're American at least. Our highly placed sources in the international finance community tell us that the yen to dollar rate hasn't been better for a long time now. At the start of this year, it was 103 yen to the dollar; this week we're at 120 yen per greenback! What does this mean to you, the American consumer? Study at GenkiJACS (and, logically, all other Japanese language schools that accept payment in yen) is now only 86% of the cost that it was in January! A 14% discount, just for waiting a year...
Of course, who knows what the future will hold, so if you're considering coming to GenkiJACS next year, even next summer, it might be for your own benefit to book early and pay early! Of course, we're not exactly disinterested observers, so take our advice with a pinch of salt.
By the way, here are the same graphs for some other beloved currencies:
British pound to yen (7.5% reduction in cost of GenkiJACS study)
Euro to yen (4.5% reduction)
Canadian dollar to yen (19% reduction!)
Australian dollar to yen (12% reduction)
New Zealand dollar to yen (15% reduction)

Now we really wish we'd listened during high school economics classes.

Rikishis at Hakata station!?

Posted on December 08, 2005 | mariko

Have you ever seen Rikishis (Sumo wrestlers) in Fukuoka except at Kokugikan (the sumo ring)? I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who has never seen Rikishis, even though they come to Fukuoka every year and stay for two weeks! Where are they? What are they doing when they are free?
I happened to hear a rumor about the one place you're guaranteed to see Rikishis: If you want to see and take pictures with Rikishis, go to the shinkansen (bullet train) platform at Hakata station! Yes, since they come to Fukuoka and leave by bullet train, you won’t miss them!! It may be a little troublesome, but check the time schedule of the day before the Basho (competition) starts and the day after it ends, and buy the cheapest ticket just to get to the train platforms. Then, you're sure to see Rikishis right in front of you (and there's no way you can miss them...)! Unfortunately, the Kyushu Basho is finished for this year, so I suppose this information won't be useful until next year, and if you do this, you'd be a big Sumo fan! Send us your photos!

If I'd just been two inches shorter, it'd all have been so different

Posted on December 07, 2005 | evankirby

One of the hardest things for students of English as a second language is the subjunctive mood, especially talking about what might have been. Just look at the grammar of the title of this post: If I had been X, Y would have been Z. And that's with the simplest of all verbs, "to be"! Because of this, many non-native speakers will simply avoid saying sentences with the subjunctive in them, as there's just no time to get the grammar right when speaking... Another result of this is that many students of Japanese avoid using the subjunctive even when speaking Japanese.
However, the truth is that in Japanese, sentences about what could have been are extremely easy! For example, a current advert for a Japanese newspaper shows a serious-looking student, and the caption "If I hadn't read the newspaper, this would have been a pretty boring day." In Japanese, "Shimbun wo yomanakattara, kyou ha taikutsu na ichinichi datta." Transliterated to English, this is something like "Newspaper (object marker) if don't read, today (topic marker) boring day was." The fact that the speaker did read the newspaper and so this wasn't a boring day (i.e., that the sentence is expressing what could have been), is all held in the suffix "ttara", "if". If we change just that part, for example to "node" (meaning "therefore"), the meaning of the whole sentence changes: "I didn't read the newspaper, so this was a pretty boring day." ("Shimbun wo yomanakatta node, kyou ha taikutsu na ichinichi datta.")
Isn't that simple? Notice how much the English changed between those two sentences, for comparison. It's often hard for native speakers of English to grasp the simplicity of this sentence pattern, and we see students trying to make sentences that are as complex as the corresponding English. But there's really no need! Sometimes simple really is best.

Bounen-kai

Posted on December 06, 2005 | mariko

Now it’s a Bounen-kai season. Japanese hold Bounen-kai between the end of November and middle of December (before Christmas) every year. Have you ever heard of Bounen-kai before? If you work at a Japanese company, you've probably already been invited to a Bounen-kai I think.
So, what is a “Bounen-kai” (or ‘bonenkai’, or ‘boonenkai’)? It’s a year-end party. ‘bou’ means to forget, ‘nen’ means year, and ‘kai’ means meeting or party. We organize Bounen-kai with colleagues, friends, members of clubs, or even with family or girl/boyfriend. Basically, having a Bounen-kai is the best reason to drink and eat ourselves to near-death. During the Bounen-kai season, the party animals among us often find ourselves (alright, themselves...) totally broke due to the number of Bounen-kais. Also, the “kanji” (person who organizes the party, not a Chinese character!) will be busy finding a nice and reasonable Izakaya (friendly Japanese restaurant)! But once you start drinking, everything seems fine and fun! We forget all our bad memories and talk about the funny things that happened this year with alcohol. That's the whole point of a Bounen-kai! So, if you're in Japan for the season (or even if you're not!) why don’t you ask your friends for a Bounen-kai?

Japanese Christmas

Posted on December 06, 2005 | evankirby

With the Christmas Season fast approaching, it's probably time to spill the beans about what Christmas in Japan is really like. You may have heard the one about Santa on the cross, but did you know that the traditional Christmas food in Japan is... KFC? Yes, as the result of an extremely successful marketing campaign, the Colonel managed to establish himself as the provider of choice for Christmas dinner, cueing long lines outside KFC every 25th Dec.
More than a family event, Xmas is a time for couples to spend a little more than usual on a romantic date, and as such is in some ways not the commercial experience xmas in many Western countries can be. Of course, most shops start playing Mariah Carey before November's even finished, but they don't quite seem to know the reason why, as nobody's buying stuff...

Pottery Classes at ACROS Fukuoka

Posted on December 05, 2005 | evankirby

Kokusai Hiroba, in the wonderful ACROS Building, is running another of their great (and almost free) classes next Monday, this time in Japanese pottery. They're always recommended! Here's their ad:
Get your hands dirty and make an earthy, utilitarian pot or a piece of fine art! A professional potter from Koishihara (famous pottery village in Fukuoka) leads the class. This is a great opportunity to learn Japanese ceramics! There is a materials fee of 1000 yen for the class, which is waived for Kokusai Hiroba supporting members. Cost 1000 yen (free for supporting members!)
Date:10th of December, SAT. 1:30-4:30pm
At:Kokusai Hiroba 3rd floor of ACROS FUKUOKA
Class limit: 25 people
Reservation: required
Inquiry: 092-725-9201

Of course, GenkiJACS is running our own pottery classes too, but for Japanese Culture Course students only...

WWOOF and GenkiJACS: Farmstay course!

Posted on December 05, 2005 | evankirby

WWOOF
Finally we can tell the world! We are proud to announce a partnership with WWOOF, Willing Workers On Organic Farms. We will shortly start offering a course of two parts: Japanese study at GenkiJACS to prepare you for farm life, followed by placement on a traditional farm in the Kyushu area, to experience a way of life very different from what you know. The details won't be finalized for a while yet, but if you're interested, send us an email!

Fukuoka public transport

Posted on December 04, 2005 | evankirby

Electric car
These nifty hybrid electric/pedal-powered taxis have sprung up on the streets of Fukuoka recently. Modern versions of the rickshaw, or in Japanese "jinrikisha" ("man-powered vehicle"), these cars are designed to show up the city's ecological side.
Natural-gas-powered buses seem to be all the rage with the local bus company, Nishitetsu Bus (Japanese site), which has also invested recently in an expensive new GPS system. This lets you track approaching buses using your cellphone, to find out exactly how late the next bus will be...

Be careful of the word "toru"!

Posted on December 03, 2005 | evankirby

Tonight, a quick Japanese tip from our head teacher, Rie. As everyone knows, Japanese is very different from English, and one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that expressions in English can also be used in Japanese:
When I used to go out with this guy from U.S., we often went for a drive in his car. He was so sweet that he always came to pick me up after work. However, he didn't know how to say "I'm coming to pick you up!" in Japanese. He used to say "ore ga kuruma de tori ni iku yo!" ("I'll come and take you."). Can you imagine what we feel like when somebody says that? The word "tori" is only used for taking objects, not people. I used to feel like I was a thing- "mono". Everytime he said that I asked him back "Then where do you want to put me?"
I don't know when he learned the right word for it, but now he says "ore ga mukaeni iku yo!" ("I'll come and get you"). Much better!
Make sure you don't make the same mistake! "toru" is for objects, "mukaeru" means to pick someone up, or come and get them.