Starbucks in Fukuoka

Posted on March 31, 2009 | clarice

It may or may not come to your surprise that downtown Fukuoka is home to dozens of Starbucks cafes. Since I'm from Canada, where Starbucks is a common sight, I also go regularly to enjoy a cup of coffee (coincidentally, if you end up finding a Japanese exchange partner, Starbucks will likely be the initial meetup spot). However, what I find really strange about the Starbucks stores here is that customers sit there as long as they want. I've seen some people spend their whole day there, and they don't get reprimanded by the staff! What's even more strange to me is that Starbucks are often-times very full, and sometimes there are crowds waiting to claim seats. The staff helps customers find free seats as soon as they spot them, but don't say anything to those who are hogging the seats while taking naps, doing textbook-loads of homework, etc. I see this happening as well in other coffee places and fast food restaurants. Do you think it's strange?

PS- if you ever need to order coffee using skim/fat-free milk, say 無脂肪 (mushibou). However, most staff at Starbucks understand 'non-fat', and everything on the menu is in katakana.


Posted on March 29, 2009 | clarice

These are pictures from Maizuru Park last week. Maizuru Park is about a 15 minute walk from GenkiJACS. In the evening the school had a Hanami event under the sakura trees. It was really pretty, but it was cold!!!

耳掻き (mimikaki)

Posted on March 25, 2009 | clarice

Recently, I asked one of our teachers, Yuuji-sensei, about mimikaki, or ear cleaning, in which someone cleans your ears for you, whether it`s a family member or someone in a clinic. I think this is mostly a Japanese thing, so I hope you will find this interview interesting! For fun I`ve included the original Japanese version as well.

① What is mimikaki? Can you tell me the history of mimikaki?
A: Mimikaki is, as the name suggests, is scratching the inside of the ear (`mimi` is ear and `kaki` is scratch). In English, `kaku` means to scratch, but I think it`s more appropriate to say `ear pick`. In other words, it`s the cleaning of the ear. Have you ever done it before? It feels really nice!
As for the history of mimikaki, it`s a rather difficult question. In the Edo period, there were `mimiakatori` (literally `removing dirt from ears`) jobs and shops. Mimiakatori also appear in stories as well. In the stories, there were three ranks of mimikaki- matsu (pine), take (bamboo), and ume (plum). Matsu had the ear picks made of gold, Take had ear picks made of things such as ivory and silver, and Ume were just the head of nails. I`m not sure if there is any mimikaki history in Europe.

② Females, males, young people, older people... among which demographic is mimikaki popular?
A: People have mimikaki done regardless of their age. But who does it for them is different depending on their age. Children have it done by their mothers, men have it done by their girlfriends, seniors have it done by their caretaking stafff... Honestly, whether it`s popular or not is a difficult question to answer. It`s a question of whether you like it or not. There are some who like it and some who don`t. It`s the same as asking `among which age group is anpanman popular?`

③ What`s the procedure when going to a mimikaki clinic?
A: There is no special procedure. The shop will explain when you go. But they are not really big shops so it might be better to reserve in advance. If the shop has a point card, you can use the points on various services the shop may offer.

(More after the jump.)

The Cost of Internet Access in Japan

Posted on March 24, 2009 | evankirby

Recently, friends in Ecuador told us that they pay $140 (about 14,000 yen) a month for a 1.5 Mb/s Internet connection. This made us realize how cheap Internet access is in Japan. For example, one staff member pays 6,000 yen a month for a 160 Mb/s cable connection! Stiff competition among Internet providers means they offer some great deals for new customers. For example, the leaflet below was in our mailbox this morning.

NTT leaflet

This is from NTT, the main phone provider in Japan, advertising their フレッツ光 (“Fletz Hikari”) fiber optic Internet service for just over 3000 yen a month. The leaflet also mentions that the following are free:
回線利用料まるまる1か月分 (“kaisen riyouryou marumaru ikagetsubun”, one month’s line usage)
初期工事費 (“shoki koujihi”, installation fee)
パソコン設定 (“pasokon settei”, PC setup)

But that’s not all! They’ll also throw in either a free laptop, or 20,000 yen in gift certificates! Time for us to switch providers, perhaps…


Posted on March 22, 2009 | clarice

I found Roger Pulver`s GetUpEnglish site a few years ago as I was looking for Japanese language resources online. I think it`s one of the best places to learn useful conversation phrases. But here is the catch- the site is for Japanese people wanting to learn advanced English, so you need to be able to have at least basic grammar and a good online kanji dictionary to translate explanations. The author provides a lot of examples and also explains different naunces of the same English phrase. This is especially nice if you want to say a phrase in English (for example, `over the moon`) but not sure how to convey the same meaning in Japanese.

Sakura Season

Posted on March 18, 2009 | clarice

It`s sakura season! The cherry blossoms are blooming now. At the train station today, I saw a billboard on sakura-viewing schedules for the public parks in Fukuoka. I think this website shows similar information. GenkiJACS will have a sakura viewing party next week. I hope to show some pictures of that event!

Shiina Ringo

Posted on March 17, 2009 | clarice

Today I`m going to write about a huge talent that was born in Saitama but raised in Fukuoka. Most of you who listen to some Japanese music have probably heard about Shiina Ringo. She has been an active artist on the Jpop music scene since 1998 and has collaborated with numberless bands and artists throughout her career. I cannot begin to describe her music style- it changes from song to song, from pop to rock to jazz to oldies, and her voices incredibly matches each style. Currently, she is focused with her band, Tokyo Jihen. I like almost every single song she has, but please check Youtube to hear some of her stuff!

Fukuoka Tower

Posted on March 15, 2009 | clarice

Fukuoka Tower, like every tall tower in a big city, is a landmark everyone visits when they stop over here. Though it is relatively small (at 234 meters), it is the tallest seaside tower in Japan. It was built in 1989 and welcomes tourists to its observation deck nearly every day of the year. In the evening, it lights up, and the decorations change according to the season. General admission is 800 yen per person but if you are a tourist you are eligible for discount. From the tower you can have a good view of the city as well as the sea. By the way, on March 20th, there is a big matsuri marking the anniversity of the tower.

Softbank Hawks

Posted on March 12, 2009 | clarice

I forgot to mention, but last week I was able to see a baseball game between the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the Yokohama BayStars courtesy of GenkiJACS (there was a jan-ken-pon - rock/paper/scissors match at school). The Hawks are dearly loved by the people of Fukuoka; when I ask people about sports here, most of them say baseball is the sport they like to watch most. Games are played in the Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome , a 15-minute bus ride from downtown Tenjin. The baseball season has well-started, and there are many games in a week. Tickets are around 1000¥. I enjoyed watching the game, even though the Hawks lost!

White Day

Posted on March 11, 2009 | clarice

Two more days until White Day (March 14)!
As you may already know, White Day is when guys must get presents for girls (in return for all the gifts girls gave the guys on Valentine`s Day). Many departments stores are advertising all types of gifts from bags and jewelry to extremely expensive chocolate. Also a popular gift item are marshmallows and stuffed animals.
Both Valentines and White Day fell in weekends this year, so I didn`t really see any gift passing in GenkiJACS. I wonder if it usually happens...?

JLPT results are in!

Posted on March 09, 2009 | evankirby

Otsukaresamadesu to everyone who took the JLPT (Japanese Language Placement Test) last December. The results came out a few weeks ago, and GenkiJACS are happy to be able to announce that ALL GenkiJACS intensive students who took the JLPT this year passed! Of course, in most cases this is much more due to the hard work of the students taking the test than to GenkiJACS, but we are very happy for each of the students who passed.

On another note, the test itself has one big change from this year: levels 1 and 2 (the harder levels) will be given in July as well as December, in Japan only. This is assumed to be partly because levels 1 and 2 are helpful when applying for work in Japan, and having the test twice a year means more people can take the test to prove their Japanese ability ahead of a job interview, if required.

Other changes to the test itself, to add an intermediate test level between current levels 2 and 3, and to make level 1 test higher-level skills, have been postponed until next year.

For anyone who's thinking of taking the test this year, we wish you the best of luck in your studies, although luck has very little to do with it!


Posted on March 08, 2009 | clarice

Age: 27
Length of Study: 3+ months
Japanese Level: Beginner
From: Switzerland

1. Why did you choose GenkiJACS?
I picked it through a Swiss language school website.
2. How was your first day of school?
It was very interesting. I didn`t know any Japanese but I felt welcomed, so it was very good.
3. How much have you improved since you arrived?
We`re going at a good pace.
4. What will you do with your Japanese after you finish with GenkiJACS?
I`m in the hotel management business. I plan to use Japanese for my job in Japan in the future.
5. What do you do during your free time?
Jogging, football, music, partying
6. What is your favorite Japanese snack/food?
Tantan men (Chinese noodles)
7. What is your favorite Japanese drink?
Kirin Strong Seven beer
8. What is your best school memory (so far)?
Early on, I did a hiragana test and got 0 on it. But today I was able to read the hiragana on the board so I was very happy.
9. What is something unexpected you found out about Japan?
Everyone is very kind.
10. Top 3 tips for future students?
– Learn hiragana
- Get a phone
- Choose host family stay, because it makes a big difference.


Posted on March 05, 2009 | clarice

Do you know Moomin?
Japanese have a love for storybook characters. You can see it by the way they hold books such as The Little Prince and Anne of Green Gables in high esteem.
They also like Moomin too, a character from Finland. If you go to Canal City in Hakata, there is a Moomin Cafe on the first floor. I think it`s so cute because you can sit with a giant stuffed Moomin while you eat :D

Movie Days

Posted on March 04, 2009 | clarice

Every week at GenkiJACS a Japanese movie is played on the projector in our lounge. A variety of movies is shown, from comedy to drama, old and new. This month, the following movies have been/will be played:
- Tegami (The Letter) // drama
- Returner // drama
- Shall we Dance? //comedy
- Onmyouji // action/horror

Ramen (ラーメン)

Posted on March 03, 2009 | clarice

Fukuoka is home to Hakata-style ramen, which is made from tonkotsu-based soup, or pork bone, in other words. The taste is very rich and quite filling. Including all the yatai stalls and restaurants, there is no end to finding a decent ramen shop in the city.

Two of the more frequent places frequented by students at GenkiJACS are Ippudo and Ichiran. Ichiran features a unique setting- everyone eats in their own booth (i.e. not an ideal place for a date or lively conversation) and they order their ramen according to a list of specifications, including the amount of fat and the thickness of soup (don`t worry, they also have an English sheet). These two places are located near the school in Tenjin.

If you want to sample a whole variety of ramen, the shopping mall Canal City has a sort of ramen-world on the top floor. So much ramen!!

Buying Manga

Posted on March 02, 2009 | clarice

If you are someone who has bought manga in Japan before, you will undoubtedly recognize the stores Mandarake and Animate, two chains found all over Japan. They both have locations in Fukuoka- click here for directions to Mandarake and here for directions to Animate. Fukuoka`s Mandarake hosts several floors of goods including used and new doujinshi (boys and girls), general comics, games, and toys. Animate sells a number of anime/manga character goods as well as the newest published manga.

For those looking for extremely cheap used manga, I would recommend going to Book-Off, which sells all genres of books, videos, cds, and games as well.

Site update

Posted on March 01, 2009 | clarice

Though the content largely remains the same, the GenkiJACS homepage has now been given a makeover! There will be several other small changes in the future but I hope that you will like the new design. :)