Late Cherry Blossom Views in Kotoen – スミス英会話 甲東園

Hello everyone!

With all the choppy weather and rain that we have seen it is a wonder that the cherry blossoms held up as well as they did.  More cloudy days are forecast, but it is unlikely that we will see any more cold.

Many people were unfortunately forced to cancel their ‘hanami’ parties and what a shame for those that did.  However, others braved the cold and took a risk.  At the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen, スミス英会話 甲東園, the official ‘hanami’ did not get off the ground but we were able to have a short get-together to view some of the prettiest blossoms in Hyogo Prefecture, at the mountain-side of Kabuto-yama where Nishinomiya and Takarazuka meet.  Students from KGU were everywhere.

Now as I write most of the blossoms are gone, but a few of the popular later variety known as ‘yaezakura’ are still around and they look lovely.  I handful of dogwoods are in bloom and before you know it, the world will be all pink and white again when the azaleas bloom.  In front of the Kotoen school, azaleas are everywhere and buds are beginning to open.

Now as we all break up for a much-deserved rest, we will miss watching those pink azaleas blooming in front of the school, but they tend to last a good long while and should be looking fine when we return May 7th.

Until then, take care everyone!

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nice Smith's logo

My Smith’s Golden Week Holiday in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki

This year I will be spending the Smith’s Golden Week holiday (April 20-May 7) in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki. I have lots to do:

1. Moving

My family recently bought an old house in good condition in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki near  Hankyu Tsukaguchi Station. We are having it renovated now and will be moving into it by the end of this month. My wife, daughter and I will be painting 3 upstairs rooms ourselves! (^.^) Read More »

Tsukaguchi (Amagasaki) and Kawanishi English Conversation Teacher Remembers Family Toyota Land Cruiser and Winter Life in Quebec, Canada

Scan 5In “Winter Life in Tsukaguchi (Amagasaki), Kawanishi and Quebec, Canada“,  I talked about winter snow where I’m from (Quebec, Canada) and the pleasures that snow brings. Yes, snow can be fun but it can be dangerous too as it is slippery. In Canada we have special trucks with snow ploughs which clear the roads of snow. On highways and some other big roads, salt is sprayed to make the snow or ice melt. On smaller, less-used roads, sand is sprayed. The sand doesn’t melt the ice and snow but still makes driving safer by giving cars more traction. Read More »

Classical Music Interests at Smith’s Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園

GRL_0016English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English スミス英会話 甲東園 have many interesting hobbies and jobs.  Classical music, whether listening at home, going to concerts or playing, either as a hobby or as a profession, is one of those big, important traditions that is as much alive and well in Japan today as it was fifty years ago.

In fact it is flourishing.  At Kotoen, there are three students who play classical music as a hobby, and at least another five who listen to classical music as a hobby.  Even more interesting are the two who make a living from classical music.  One plans to go to the UK to study music at the post-graduate level and the other is a well-known teacher and recording artist.

The six recordings featured on the the right have become like a kind of homework, something inexpensive and complicated to review, analyze and discuss.  There are two German composers as well as two French, one Russian and one Austrian.  In addition, there are two German orchestras of the highest recognition, one Dutch, and three American, two of which are relatively lower-tier orchestras but have nevertheless mastered the work in question for the respective recording.  One has had the well-regarded Japanese conductor, Eiji Oue who is originally from Kyoto and has conducted the Osaka Symphony Orchestra.  I am often invited to come listen live by my students!  Great luck!

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nice Smith's logo


Cherry Blossom Views in 甲東園

The weatherman has been quite the comedian these past few days with nothing but rain, rain, and more rain forecasted over the three-day weekend.  Thankfully the reality, while not completely opposite, was much better than expected and we were able to have a small outing to marvel at the cherry trees in the area.

English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 were delighted and with what little opportunity we were blessed with.  The weatheman forced widespread cancelation of ‘hanami’ around the region and many Sunday outings were on a ‘last minute wait and see’ program.  Luckily, we were able to have a short-but-sweet get-together this morning.

It was a little cold and we fear that the blossoms well be short-lived compared with last year, but that’s OK.  We had two beautiful years in a row and this weekend turned out better than expected.

One of the beauties of having a Smith’s School of English Franchise is the ability to get involved with the local community in the area of your choice, making meaninful relationships, helping people improve themselves with whatever goals they have laid out, and making a nice, easy, low-stress living in the process.  Today was proof of that.

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nice Smith's logo

In-door Cherry Blossom Party

In-door Cherry Blossom Party at La Post Restaurant

In-door Cherry Blossom Party at La Post Restaurant

The weather gods were not so cooperative this year for an outdoor Cherry Blossom Party, so at the last minute we moved it indoors to La Post restaurant in Okamoto. I brought a sprig of Cherry Blossom to decorate the table.

This year we had 8 attendees including myself. It was fun to be able to invite my former students Tomo, his wife Mizuko and their son Kai. They came back from Los Angeles last year after living there for 4 years! Tomo explained many things about he and his family’s experience in LA where he worked as a medical researcher. He said it was a great experience and the whole family are great English speakers. Tomo and Mizuko said they really enjoyed living in the states.

My other students Aiko, Kazuki, Masafumi and Miho were very surprised at how bilingual Kai is. He seems to be able to switch between English and Japanese anytime as he likes.

Aiko was happy to be able to talk with Miho as they were from the same university but had not met before. Miho started work as a pharmacist and Aiko just got a job offer. So there was plenty to celebrate! The service at La Post was excellent as always and the food and drinks were very very good.

After the great lunch and excellent conversation, we took a walk near the Smith’s School of English Okamoto and the elementary school across the street. Many blossoms had fallen off but the trees were still beautiful to see. While Tomo played with his son Kai, we walked a little way up the mountain just north of the Hankyu Kobe line. The weather suddently was very nice although still a bit too cold to spend a long time outside. I am sure that some people who started their Hanami Kai after 2:00 pm on April 6, 2014 had a nice enough time before the sun went down. But we were very satisfied with our “in-door! Cherry Blossom Party. Another student Hiroshi also took a walk up to Hokura Shrine above Okamoto and took the following beautiful picture. Thank’s Hiroshi!

View of Okamoto from Hokura Shrine

View of Okamoto from Hokura Shrine

English Conversation about Movies in Katsura(桂)

Watching movies is fun. Watching movies in English is a fun way to stay in touch with the English language at home. When students at Smith’s School of English Katsura(スミス英会話 桂) have an English conversation, the popular question is: “What’s your hobby?” and the popular answer is: “I like watching movies”, or: “I like watching Hollywood movies.” I like this answer. Watching Hollywood movies is a perfect hobby for an English conversation student. For many people, it’s easier to start with short movies or movie clips. It’s also better to watch movies with subtitles.

Talking about movies can also be fun. Students often recommend their favourite films. They tell each other why they like some movies and what is interesting about them. Students sometimes talk about movies they didn’t enjoy, and try to explain why. Most students don’t like horror movies. The most popular are comedies and dramas.

I like all kinds of movies, so I’m always happy to talk about films and cinema. I also like to recommend my favourite movies. Recently I’ve been lending students my “Moonrise Kingdom” DVD. It’s a sweet comedy about a childhood adventure.

If you want to have an English conversation about movies, you  can at スミス英会話 桂 !

Crimson Flowers Growing Near スミス英会話 甲東園

120625_1703Well, it is still only March and some days are cold and wet, but before you know it, spring will be upon us.  Even with a few short daytime highs above ten degrees, I can already see some colorful buds appearing here and there in 甲東園.

I can’t tell whether the flowers are just doing their own thing or whether some wonderful little old lady in the neighborhood is tending to their every need.  Either way the flowers are highly appreciated.

There are several English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 who care about flowers, and that sort of thing makes it well worthwhile to consider raising a few plants of your own inside or near your Smith’s School Franchise.  It just makes people happy and happy people study harder!

Very soon the cherry blossoms will be blooming and hanami parties will dominate our consciousness.  Until then, study hard!  April is coming soon, people will be looking for jobs, and the competition is likely to get stronger.


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nice Smith's logo

Don’t Miss an Important Opportunity!

Derek Photo with Girl on the runPlease take a look at this person. Here he is, standing out in front of the station which is quite far from his home. He woke up around 6:00 a.m. to go to this station to distribute flyers to promote an English conversation school which he owns and operates. But I think there is another more important reason that he makes all this effort. In his eyes and mind and I hope in the eyes and minds of those who have the opportunity to receive one of his school’s flyers, he is offering everyone who passes an excellent opportunity to acquire good English conversation skill and to practice it even if only briefly. We often hear in Japan the words ” There are no chances to speak English in Japan.” This person has offered that chance to people tens of thousands of times. So, when he says to you “Good Morning”, please realize that he has offered you that elusive chance and reply by saying “Good Morning”. If you do that, from that point in time your world will begin to grow larger. I also assure you that you will feel much better after saying it.

Please cherish the opportunity that receiving his flyer has brought you. The young women in the picture who was in a hurry was still able to take one of his flyers. Perhaps she thought it might be a good opportunity!

Al Bartle, Owner and Teacher at Smith’s School of English Okamoto-Kobe

Outstanding Head Office Support


Next month marks the nine year anniversary of SSE Hashimoto. How fast time flies. With that said, there have been a few rough spots along the way, being hospitalized for ten days, and the passing of both parents within the last two years, but there was never a need to worry about getting help from Head Office, even in times of emergency. When I needed to get on an airplane in a hurry, I was told “don’t worry, we’ve got you covered,” as they contacted all students for emergency closures.

Visa renewals have always been easy, all paperwork prepared by Head Office and mailed to me. My only requirement is to obtain a few tax records from the ward office, then take the prepared packet to the immigration office. Easy.  download

Even for small problems, the support is there. I have had a few repairs done which requires quite a bit of coordination between Head Office, the estate agent, the owner, the company doing the repairs, and myself. What a headache for Head Office, but they get it done for me. Just recently I had a problem with getting a key replaced, and it was handled very well. It took a while, but I knew through consistent email contact where we were as the process went on.

These are problems outside of what they do especially well, which is support us with scheduling and sales work on the telephone with new students. We do the teaching, they do the rest. How easy is that?

I truly appreciate Yuka and all the girls that work in Head Office. It is obvious that they care about us. So, a heartfelt thank you goes out to them for everything they do and have done for me. They are true professionals in what they do.


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