GenkiJACS Christmas Party 2008

Posted on December 25, 2008 | evankirby

We held our annual Christmas party last week, in the new GenkiJACS lounge. There were a variety of acts, and hopefully we’ll soon have an edited video of some of the students singing and giving speeches. However, perhaps the highlight of the party was GenkiJACS teachers performing the song "Nihon no mikata", by Yajima Biyoushitsu.

Yajima Biyoushitsu is made up of the comedian duo Tunnels, and DJ Ozma. The original version of the song is here.

The lyrics of the song (Japanese here / English here) make fun of foreigners' expectations of Japan - the three (male) singers dress as glamorous visitors from Nevada, arriving in Japan for the first time, and sing about being surprised by the revolving sushi, the lack of samurai, etc. It’s fairly funny, and seemed an appropriate way to poke fun at the students. Although the teachers themselves looked pretty funny doing it…

GenkiJACS is a Fon supporter

Posted on December 22, 2008 | evankirby

Fon logo

We have recently joined the worldwide Fon network, by installing a Fon router at the school. We have always offered free (secure) wireless Internet access to our students. The Fon service lets us offer access to the surrounding neighborhood as well, without worrying about security issues. If you already share your Internet access with others through the Fon network, your username and password will let you use our wireless Internet for free. If you are not a Fon member, small hourly charges apply.

We were turned on to the Fon system by the organization We Love Tenjin. They are a group devoted to improving Tenjin in a variety of ways. In the past, this has included:

- giving names to all the streets (usually only major streets in Japan have names)
- producing maps of the Tenjin area
- organizing pedestrian-only Tenjin Picnic days
- arranging the beautiful Christmas illuminations

They put us in touch with Tenjin Wifi, an organization trying to increase the availability of Wifi access points in the Tenjin and Daimyo areas. To see a map of the current Fon spots around Tenjin, click here, and enter “Fukuoka” in the search box. Let’s hope they keep expanding!

A Word of Thanks to some of our friends

Posted on December 17, 2008 | evankirby

Students at GenkiJACS

There’s an amazing thing about GenkiJACS: the students keep coming back, again and again! For most people, visiting Japan is a once in a lifetime experience, and we always try to keep that in mind when dealing with students – this may be our only chance to show them how great Japan is, so we have to try our best with each and every student. However, there are some students who don’t just come back to Japan again, they choose to return to study at GenkiJACS, instead of visiting somewhere else in Japan.
We’ve been accepting students from overseas for three and a half years now, and in that time we’ve had more than 800 people study with us from overseas. Of those, three people have come to study with us four times. Four times in less than four years! This fact still amazes us. So, we would like to take this space to offer a special thank you to those three students: Susan, Alan, and Rod. In particular, Rod quit his job to study with us for half a year this time! We are deeply appreciative of the sacrifices these students made to study with us, and the responsibility we have to give them the best experience and education we can.
Another six students have studied with us three times in three years. Finally, more than 70 students have studied with us twice. So, in total, almost 10% of GenkiJACS students return to study with us again! The teachers love to see students come back, partly because it is a statement from the student that they enjoyed their time with us, but also because it’s great to see old friends again! And just in case any former GenkiJACS students are reading this, don’t forget we offer 10% tuition discounts for returning students…

(Note: the statistics above are from an automatic search of our database, and may not be exact counts. For example, two variations of the same person’s name would be counted as two students.)

GenkiJACS Art Gallery

Posted on December 14, 2008 | evankirby

GenkiJACS entrance

To bring a little more culture and sophistication to the school, we’ve commissioned a series of paintings that are now hanging in the entrance at GenkiJACS. These pictures were painted by a quite famous local artist, Sekirai Tanaka, born 1943, known for the logo of the Ippudou ramen chain. Each picture represents one of the 12 animals of the Chinese astrological calendar. The pictures are oils on paper, and the frames are also handmade by the artist, using recycled materials in keeping with his motto of もったいない (mottainai, don’t waste). Each animal corresponds to a year, and it is common in Japan to carry items featuring the animal of the year you were born. Some people also think that the animal defines your personality! 2008 is the year of the rat, and according to one source, “those born in the Year of the Rat are clever, ambitious, creative, hard-working, fastidious, charming and sociable, but can be a bit stingy when it comes to sharing their wealth or possessions.”
If you look carefully, you’ll notice there are only 11 pictures – the tiger is missing! Hopefully that doesn’t bode badly for 2010, the next year of the tiger…

Reorganization of GenkiJACS Courses

Posted on December 11, 2008 | evankirby

There have been a lot of changes at GenkiJACS this year: converted to an NPO, almost tripled the size of the school, found perhaps the coolest thing in the world to greet visitors, and more. However, there is one change that we haven’t publicized as much as we should have. In June of this year, we completed the creation of our new comprehensive syllabus and curriculum, for all levels of study from complete beginner to advanced. This syllabus is the cornerstone of our lessons now, and enables us to provide an even better course of study for our students. We’re very proud of it, and hope to be able to publish at least some of it on this website in the near future, so that students will be able to see what they will likely study before they arrive.

To make this new curriculum possible, we had to make some changes to the structure of our courses. Here’s a comparison of the old and new course structures for each of our major courses:

Conversational Japanese Course
Old: 20 Japanese lessons per week
New: 10 grammar lessons and 10 conversation lessons

Japanese and Traditional Culture
Old: 10 Japanese lessons and 5 culture classes per week
New: 10 grammar lessons, 10 conversation lessons, and 3 culture classes

Japanese Through Pop Culture

Old: 10 Japanese lessons and 10 pop culture classes per week
New: 10 grammar lessons, 10 conversation lessons, and 5 pop culture classes

Japanese for Exams
Old: 10 Japanese lessons and 10 exam skills classes per week
New: 10 grammar lessons, 10 conversation lessons, and 5 exam skills classes per week

As you can see, all the courses now have the same core 20 hours per week of classes, divided into grammar and conversation. This was done because we felt that the old course system did not give a full rounded Japanese education to the students on the Pop Culture, Traditional Culture and Exams courses. The new courses are much more academically sound, and should ensure that all students progress much better in the full four skills.

We’ve also introduced one new course, the Intensive Conversation Course. This has the same basic 20 classes per week as the other courses, plus five additional hours of conversational Japanese per week. Since its introduction, this has been one of our most popular courses.

Sayonara Kim-san!

Posted on December 02, 2008 | evankirby

Sayonara Kim-san

Last Friday was the last day of work for Kim, our former culture classes and events coordinator. Kim worked with us for a little over a year, and was much loved by students. She arranged all of the culture course classes (tea ceremony, pottery, etc.), and also the Friday night parties and other after-school events. We're very sad to see her go.
On a happier note, Kim's replacement, Makiko, is settling in nicely to her new job, and has big plans for future school activities. Stay tuned for more information!

"Yojijukugo" - Japanese sayings

Posted on December 01, 2008 | evankirby

One of my favourite aspects of the language is 四字熟語 ("yojijukugo", 4-character idioms). Literally, it means:
yo(yon) = 四 = four
ji = 字 = character
jukugo = 熟語 = phrase
These four character kanji compounds can be used in all sorts of situations and are a very convenient way on conveying a complex concept simply and quickly. Many yojijukugo have an idiomatic meaning that can't be easily determined just by looking at the characters, although some are quite easy to understand. Becoming a master at using yojijukugo will take a lot of practice. But here are a few of the more common ones to memorize. Break these out in conversation with your friends and watch their jaws drop!

1. 弱肉強食 ("Jakunikukyoushoku")
Character meanings: weak/meat/strong/eat
English idiom: Law of the jungle (literally, the weak are meat for the strong to eat)

2. 一石二鳥 ("Issekinichou")
Character meanings: one/stone/two/bird
English idiom: Kill two birds with one stone

3. 一期一会 ("Ichigoichie")
Character meanings: one/period/one/meeting
English idiom: Once in a lifetime

4. 自画自賛 ("Jigaijisan")
Character meanings: self/painting/self/praise
English idiom: Blowing one's own horn

As always, there's a lot more info about these, with examples, at Wikipedia.