Kenrokuen – Hokuriku Road Trip

080815_1315~0001Hello readers!

This is Martin Werner Zander from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー  スミス英会話 甲東園 !  I am hoping everyone has been enjoying their much-deserved time off during this Obon holiday season.

My wife Yoko and I wanted to go camping in Toyama and Ishikawa, but because of the unpreictable weather caused by Typhoon Halong (TS 1411), we just decided to stay in hotels along the way.  We took a drive up the Echizen coast of Fukui and Ishikawa Prefectures and came back down through Toyama and Gifu Prefectures, along Routes 156 and 158.  This is a drive that we have taken several times before, including two previous visits to the famous Wajima area in Noto-hanto and enjoy this enviromentally clean and culturally rich region very much every time.  If you haven’t been, you really must, and allow for lots of time to explore the mountain roads and hidden villages.

Despite the less than ideal weather predictionss, we saw more tour busses than ever before.  Tourists from China to Europe are flooding the region and we therefore recommend going during a quiet season.  Obon and Golden Week should perhaps be avoided if at all possible, but going at any other times will reward you with unrivaled experiences.

Drive safetly and watch out for motorcyclists!nice Smith's logo


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

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川

Street Presence At Smith’s Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園

IMG_3428[1]Hello everyone!

I wanted to point out the good kharma that comes from getting known in the local community where you have your Smith’s School of English franchise スミス英会話.  At the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園, there is a Family Mart convenience store on the corner at the main street, Nakatsuhamasen.  The peculiar habit of this store is allowing local produce vendors to set up a temporary food stall at the corner of the parking lot right alongside the sidewalk.  Those stalls are set up right next to my Smith’s tank and flag on the corner.

Every few weeks in the spring and summer the town officials send out hedge cutters to trim the hedges along the street, and in a good effort to avoid damaging my flag, the workers neatly moved the tank out onto the sidewalk, well away from their saws.  This was a pleasantly unexpected gesture.

However, when the workmen left, they accidently left my tank and flag standing out in the middle of the sidewalk.  What happened next is the real surprise …… one of the part-time workers from the food stall went over and put the tank and flag back into the correct position, properly visible and also out of the way of pedestrians.  This was much appreciated and I didn’t even have to lift a finger myself.

The school’s long-term establishment in the area is the main reason for this good fortune.nice Smith's logo

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

The Newly Improved Japanese Dairy Industry

IMG_3416[1]Hello readers!  Here is Martin again from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen, スミス英会話 甲東園.

Check it the Kotoen school website at the link below:

It may not always be easy, but most of us like to be optimists.  In ongoing conditions of hardship, and especially in the face of sudden difficulty, having the courage to be optimistic and proactive are major advantages.   Everyone makes mistakes, even entire countries, but failures large and small are learning experiences that teach us what not to do, what to improve upon next time, and where and how to channel our future efforts.  That courage to move forward without looking back negatively rewards us with improved chances of success.

English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen have correctly applied this doctrine to a small but meaningful improvement evident around us :  the new dairy industry.

The milk pictured here is delicious.  I come from a country where dairy products are heavily monitored and tightly controled to meet health standards, and the regulations apply to taste and consistency of quality as well.  In the sixteen years I have been in Japan, I have not had the pleasure of a dairy product of this consistent quality until now.  Most likely it is a new dairy farm born from the fallout created by recent strict policy changes, necessary changes made in the face of extreme hardship for a great many people.  The right decision is not likely the easiest one.  Try this ice cold!

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


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

スミス英会話 甲東園校 甲東園 仁川


Lalu – Indian Home Cooking In 甲東園 Kotoen

IMG_3421[1]When the need arises to acclimatize quickly, a hot, spicy meal from India or Thailand may be exactly what you need.  It may seem rather odd, but actually having hot food and hot drinks on a hot day helps one to cope with the heat and humidity just a little bit better.

One of the best places for this in Kotoen has long been a favorite with the English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.  Lalu is owned and operated by well-educated Indians who are friendly, take great pride in their culinary craft and are deeply respectful of the Kotoen area.

Lalu serves the usual style commonly seen in Japan:  a piece of tandoori, a small salad dish, saffron rice, two or three curries in steel cups and a huge piece of naan which I believe can be replaced when the first one disappears.  Where it gets interesting is in the array of home-made sauces the restaurant specializes in, and upon request will be happy to make it mild or dangerously hot depending on your personal favor.

Lalu is open nearly every day and is well located in the Paseo Koto building, convenient for lunch whether you have 30minutes or two hours to spare!

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


“Lawnmower” is an important TOEIC word!

Lawnmower riding 4500 When I was giving a TOEIC practice test to one of my students I was surprised to hear a conversation about lawnmowers among the listening exercises. Then I wondered if it was a common TOEIC word. So far I have found the word in every TOEIC vocabulary book and list I have seen. This got me thinking about why it is included. Then I realized that cutting grass


and grass itself is an important part of English culture.

This made me remember the hundreds of hours I have spent in my life mowing the yard of every house I have ever lived in since I was about 12 years old. I have lived in 8 different houses so far in my lifetime and I have had the “pleasure” of cutting grass around each one of them!

So there you have it! Grass and lawnmowers are a cultural phenomenon in English speaking countries. I even have some grass at my current house. You can some pictures of it in this video of a BBQ party at my house in 2009. Grass certainly is important so it might be good to study about lawnmowers, lawns, grass-court tennis, football and golf. You see! Grass plays an important role in English culture. Enjoy the video! 2009 Smith’s Schools of English Okamoto, Tsukaguchi and Kawanishi Joint BBQ Party.

Sample conversation:

A: Hey Bill, can I borrow your lawnmower? Mine seems to be on its last legs! I can’t get it started.

B: No problem Jim. Just make sure to refill the gas and sharpen the blade if you run over any rocks.

A: You bet Bill! I’ll have her back by sundown.   (Note: Men often refer to their cars and machines with engines as if they are females. That’s why I used “her” in the last sentence.)

Al Bartle (Owner and Head Coach of Smith’s School of English in Kobe-Okamoto)

Kansai Fireworks Schedule Update – スミス英会話 甲東園

SA2A0005Hello all you summer revelers!

The final Kansai fireworks schedule is approved and ready with the major festivals summarized below.  This is one of the major reasons why my wife and I love living in Japan, the very fun-filled, holiday-spirited, summer festival season which starts around the middle of July.  It starts now actually, and ends in the first week of September.  The smell of barbecue fried squid and the sound of giant cicadas chirping everywhere are great ways to forget that it’s 37 degrees with 75% humidity outside!

In this article I have chosen to list the festivals by date.  Rather than the usual method of  listing by location, listing by date was suggested by one of the English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.

7/25 Fri Tenjin … 7/26 Sat Ashiya and Ayabe … 7/27 Sun Maizuru

8/1 Fri PL Tondabayashi

8/2 Sat Kobe Minato … 8/4 to 8/14 Nara Tohkae

8/5 Tue Nagahama, Shiga

8/6 Wed Takarazuka … 8/7 Thurs Kameoka … 8/8 Fri Otsu Biwako … 8/9 Sat Yodogawa

8/11 Mon Ujigawa … 8/14 Thurs Nantan

8/16 Sat Inagawa … Tsuruga … Daimonji … Miyazu

8/23 Sat Itami

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



20140715_190640 One of the things that I love about being an English Instructor/Coach at Smith’s Eikaiwa Kyobashi is sharing things with my students.  We share stories about traveling, photography, sports, family, etc.  I often to talk to my long term student Takahashi san about his love of scuba diving, underwater photography and music.  I was very impressed when he told me that he plays in an orchestra.  I’m hoping to be able to see one of his concerts in the near future.

Yesterday we had an enjoyable Eikaiwa session.  Takahashi san had a birthday this month so I surprised him with a little cake and some cool drinks.  The best moment for me was seeing the surprised look on his face when I brought the cake into the classroom.

It was one of the greatest feelings I have had so far in Japan.  I’m looking forward to sharing many more happy moments with my students.





OGGI Cycling Club and Bike Shop – Azamino あざみ野

cyclingSeveral months ago I joined the OGGI Cycling Club (which is located between Azamino あざみ野 and Eda 江田 after being invited out by one of the employees Masa-kun.  OGGI is an excellent shop which has a great selection of road bikes at reasonable prices.  They gave me an excellent deal on some new wheels for my bike and even serviced them for free after I rode them for a while.  Now despite my limited Japanese ability, during the Sunday morning rides I have been able to make some friends and really have a great time going out with the cycling club.  There are typically between 10 to 25 cyclists and we ride to Yokohama and go to Tully’s for a snack, then ride around the bay area, but we also change it up and go to the Tama Hills area for some good hill climbing exercise.  One of the people I usually ride with is 70 years old man who is an amazing rider.  Two days ago we rode from Azamino on an 82 kilometer ride at a pace above 30km/hr for most of the way.  It was quite a hot day and a pretty challenging ride.  It certainly felt like I was with someone 20-30 years younger!  Overall I am very happy I joined, I am making some good friends, I have a trusted shop to service/repair my bike, I am practicing my Japanese, I have lost about 5kg, and the best part is: I am meeting local people who are very happy to show me around Yokohama!!!   Oh and I should mention that the Sunday club rides are free, so if you enjoy cycling meet us at OGGI Sunday morning at 8am.  I am usually there and pretty easy to see since I am the “only western guy”.  So stop by and say hello, I’ll do my best to speak Japanese, or better yet, use what ever English you know.   After all, I am an english teacher and would be glad to help you out!


Owner/Teacher (英語の先生/フランチャイズ店のオーナー経営者)

Smith’s English School  (スミス英会話 あざみ野校)

Pride in My Daughter

Rachael has had an interesting life so far.  Her first language was English, but her mother-tongue is Japanese. Born in 1991, she attended American childcare centers and socialized with American kids from the beginning, giving her a good foundation with the English language. At four-years-old, our family moved to Japan and she began acquiring her Japanese through childcare centers  here,  going through Elementary, Junior High School, High School, and College. She practiced karate and played on a boys baseball team in Elementary school. She took Flamenco dance lessons and performed with women three or four times her age. In Junior High School, she joined the volleyball team and was selected to represent the Kanagawa Prefectural team in tournaments in Osaka. Continuing in high school, she held the ace attacker position on her team, going to the All-Japan National Finals in Tokyo for two years. An athlete.1934614_1041207915449_7692279_n

Majoring in English in college, she continued playing volleyball, and now works very hard in her job at an aesthetic clinic in Yokohama. Over the years, she has found some time to occasionally sit-in some of my classes and meet the students. I am very proud of this young woman, and what she has become so far. Japan has been good to her.  Her future is very bright, and I look forward to seeing which direction life takes her in the future. Yes, I am a very proud father. Her brother, my son, has also done great things with his life, and I look forward to writing about him soon.

Jim  10460182_488580211288264_2670874726078581026_n


Shirokiya Kotoen 白木屋 Smith’s School スミス英会話 甲東園

GRL_0039Once in a while the English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 need a moment to unwind.  The summer is hot, and rainy season has proven to be quite formidable.  An easy way to beat the fatigue is to head to one of the many low-cost watering holes in the Kotoen area, places that are very popular with the university student crowd as well as working adults.

Shirokiya has branches in many favorite, happening locations and the one in Kotoen is no exception.  In recent days it has been very lively with students going out in packs, after class, after sports and events and definitely after EXAMS!

The menu is extensive with a great many food offerings and the beer mug can be ordered bottomless for a pre-arranged duration.  Non-alcoholic beer-like substitutes are also available.  Food is normally the salty, fried variety served with glee in pubs around the world and Shirokiya has a healthy focus on fresh seafood in addition to the usual fare.

Don’t plan to drive and go for the 2-hour, all-you-can-eat-and-drink option!!

Martin Werner Zander


Smith’s School of English 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


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