The Peace Sign

Almost everybody does it when being photographed. I have been watching it for years, and recently began wondering how this became a part of Japanese culture. I have asked students and friends “why the peace sign,” but no one seems to know, so I did a small amount of research on my own. This is what I came up with.

In the late 1960’s it was prevalent in the USA during the Vietnam War. The “hippy movement” also caught hold to some of the younger people in Japan. In the early 1970’s American figure skater Janet Lynn was famous in Japan for giving the peace sign, and it has also been linked to a Japanese television commercial for Konika/Nikon cameras in 1972. The peace sign started catching on, slowly replacing the word “cheese.”11136291_10204469498242492_199705433705346308_o (1)

I must admit, it is contagious, and really does become a reaction when being photographed. I don’t know about other people, but I like “peace” better than saying “cheese.” It helps me smile too!



Learning Something New

Once again, I had a chance to learn something new about Japan from a student. This time I found out more about ramen. The delicious noodle soup that is so popular among locals. There are five “ramen restaurants” near my house, that’s how popular ramen is in Japan.

スミス英会話 桂 student Hisako prepared for her man-to-man lesson an English presentation: “Ramen from Japan to the world”.

She explained the origins of different types of Japanese noodles like udon and soba. Hisako also talked about the old times when cart vendors started selling hot noodles on streets.

I learned about Momofuku Ando, the creator of the world famous Cup Noodle. How Mr Ando came to the idea of dried noodles and why he later decided to sell them in paper cups.

I was also showed examples of ramen being used in various types of pop culture.

It was an interesting, well prepared presentation and a big effort from Hisako.

She practised extensively her English writing and speaking skills and I  learned a lot about one of my favourite dishes. Great lesson for both of us.

Students at Kotoen 甲東園 Love Science

Hello Readers.  There are a considerable number of English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 interested in science.  Most of those students have science-baスミス英会話 甲東園 NASA JUNOsed jobs or are studying a field based on science in school.   Indeed, in my former life in Canada, I was an environmental engineer, an applied science profession working in the forest industry.

In recent years, the topic of NASA, ESA and JAXA often comes up in conversation classes at Kotoen 甲東園.  It’s a great topic considering the large number of wildy succesful missions that have been carried out.  The media loves to focus on the failures and give society one impression or another, but the fact is that the successes of all three space organizations greatly outweigh the failures, and most of the failures are experimental steps in which failure is only a temporary setback and sometimes a necessary learning stage.

This story introduces three of NASA’s major core missions currently underway that are a little less well-known compared with the monumental Cassini-Huygens mission for Saturn and Titan and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Global Surveyor Missions with their much-loved Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity Rovers.  The DAWN Mission is right now busily securing a close orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, NEW HORIZONS is preparing for an epic fly-back of Pluto on July 14, and JUNO is most of its way onward to a Jupiter orbit.  Pictured above is the ultra-high-tech Atlas V rocket that NASA developed as core launch vehicle for several missions including JUNO back in August 2012.

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


Smith’s School of English Kotoen 月謝制 Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

A Wonderful Reunion of Strangers

スミス英会話大津校 Hockey in Nagano!One of the saddest things about living far from home is that you can’t attend reunions. I moved to Japan immediately after graduating from university and so far have not been able to attend a single reunion. Another one of the tough things about living far from home is being homesick. I haven’t been home in a couple years and although I love my life here and I love my new home town, I sometimes miss my family and my childhood friends.
Last weekend I attended a hockey tournament in Nagano prefecture. This tournament is hosted by the Tokyo Canadians, a friendly but competitive team of Canadian ex-pats living in the Tokyo area. They host this annual tournament, which is a friendly, open invitational tournament (anyone can join!) Usually about half of the attendees are Canadians. This makes for a wonderful reunion of sorts, although we might all be meeting for the first time. Even though it may be our first time meeting each other, we have a shared childhood culture.
We watched the same childhood TV programs, we played the same games, we sang the same songs. It is such a wonderful chance to reminisce with new friends who understand where we come from. As I said, I love Japan and I love my new friends, but it is such a wonderful opportunity to remember my youth, to make new friends, and to play really fun hockey. Thank you Tokyo Canadians for giving me this chance every year.
Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Measuring Achievement

Measuring AchievementHow can achievement be measured? How do we know we have progressed? In some subjects this is simple, in others more difficult. For the language learner, measuring success can be difficult, though not impossible. Here is one way an English conversation school student measures her progress.

Masako plays games. She started out doing English conversation student specific crossword puzzles, moved up to more advanced crosswords, eventually graduating to native-English speaker targeted crosswords, such as the Washington Post crossword available daily in The Japan News. She formed a small crossword club with a few English study buddies. I introduced her to Jumbles, which are another daily word challenge available in many newspapers. Masako in now playing Scrabble online with both English students and native English speakers. She has progressed and now wins regularly, even against native players. Her success is measured in her speed, ability and wins. Her achievement is easily visible in the progressions she’s made from simple games to mid-level to advanced. A nice way to measure success and games are fun too! Read more about playing games to improve one’s language skills HERE.

Edward, Smith’s school of English Otsu


In my life I have had many jobs and have worked for many companies, but nothing has made me feel as appreciated as I do now being an English coach as Smith’s Eikaiwa. It is a great feeling to have my students thank me for “an enjoyable lesson” as they are leaving. It is an even better feeling when they arrive to class and use a word or phrase that we had studied the week before. I am always happy knowing that their English is improving and their goal of leaning a new language is being completed.

20150615_152556This week I experienced an unexpected and completely enjoyable sense of appreciation when one of my new Kyobashi students arrived for our lessons and presented me with this delicious treat. I was very surprised and delighted to receive them. Knowing that someone appreciates my efforts is an incredible feeling. Although I do not feel like I am working, I never want to stop doing what I’m doing and I never want to leave this beautiful country of Japan.

Play Games, Have Fun, Learn English!

スミス英会話大津校 Game TimeWe often tell our children to “just have fun” before sending them off to school. Teachers love the expression “learning is fun”. Many people say that if you enjoy your job, it isn’t really working. I understand these ideas and make them a part of my lifestyle, and thus a part of my teaching style.
At my English conversation school in Otsu, Shiga, I often encourage students to do homework, to read English books or magazines, to write, to watch movies, and so on. Everything you do in your target language will help to improve your overall understanding of the language.
I have enjoyed success, my students have improved, but still the key purpose of coming to an English conversation is still missing. Students want to talk! Recently I have started playing more and more games with students. With young students we play snakes and ladders or card games. With older students we play word association games or boggle. This has created an atmosphere of fun at our school. Students and teachers are enjoying playing together. The best part however, is that we are chatting throughout the game time. Obviously students are also improving game specific vocabulary. Far more importantly we are having casual conversations while playing. One of my students even enjoys playing Scrabble and regularly beats native English speakers. Study hard, play games, have fun, improve!
Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

A Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Student Helps Foreigners Sightseeing in Osaka

FullSizeRenderIn my last blog, I talked about a Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi student’s apparent improvement with how she felt when speaking English and her increased confidence when speaking English.  Today I heard more great news from Hiromi, another student of the English language at my English school in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki. She said she had used English to help foreigners who were sightseeing in Osaka. She saw two foreigners looking at a map and she asked them, in English, if they needed help, using English that I’d taught her in one of her English conversation lessons.  They could speak English and asked her how to get to Osaka Castle. She gave directions and told them how long they had to walk to get there in English. Before they left, she told them to have a nice trip, in English too. Great! I was so glad to hear that! Great work, Hiromi! I’m proud of you! (^.^)


Summer 2015 Festival Schedule

Hello everyone!

It’s only June 5th but most of the major summer festival dates in Kansai have already been set.  Quite a number of towns in northern Kyoto Prefecture still have their festivals on the “canceled until further notice” list to mourn the very unfortunate accident that happened three years ago.

English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園are well-aware of my love for summer festivals in Japan, especially fireworks, and my wife Yoko and I usually attend ten or more such festivals every year.  Naturally we have our favorites!

Tentatively we see the following dates more or less fixed:

July 25 Saturday Tenjin Matsuri and Ashiya Summer Festival, July 26 Sunday Ayabe Tohrohnagashi, Aug 1 Saturday PL, Aug 5 Wednesday Nagahama in Shiga Prefecture and Takarazuka, Aug 7 Friday Otsu Biwako, Aug 8 Saturday Kobe Minato and Yodogawa, Aug 10 Monday Uji, Aug 15 Saturday Inagawa

and Aug 22 Saturday Itami.  There will probably be more dates in the next post, but this is a good start considering all the cancelations.

Martin Werner Zander


Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神スミス英会話 甲東園

Great News from a Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Student

IMG_9427Kazumi, a student of the English language at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi uses English at her work. She works in the sales division of her company. The company gets overseas calls from English speakers and some of those callers are put through to her. Today during her English conversation lesson in Tsukaguchi, she told me that since coming to my English school, she doesn’t feel upset when speaking English anymore. Also, when I asked her if her confidence to speak English had gone up, she said it had. Great! As a Smith’s coach of communicative confidence, an important job of mine is to give students the confidence they need to speak English. Seeing a student like Kazumi gain confidence and also feel better when speaking English makes me really happy. Well done, Kazumi! Keep up the great work! (^.^)


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