From Hawaii with Aloha

FullSizeRenderHello! My name is Kevin Kobayashi and I recently moved to Japan. I am from Honolulu, Hawaii. Now I’m living in the Kawanishi area. I love living and working in the Kansai area. There are so many things to do. There are many great places to eat and so many wonderful spots to visit.

Back in Hawaii I worked as a Audio and Visual Technician, setting up for concerts and many events held in Hawaii. Now I enjoy doing freelance graphic design and illustration in addition to coaching English conversation. My hobbies are drawing and painting which I continue to do here in Japan.

For the last several months I have been privileged to work at the Smith’s School of English in Kawanishi. I am having a great time coaching the many students of English that attend our English school. Seeing the happy faces of my English students inspires me to continue to bring out the very best in each person I meet. I look forward to meeting even more English students in the future.


Autumn is Festival Season

Horse Back Archery is a popular annual event held at Omi-Jingu Shrine in OtsuI love autumn. After the long hot summer, the temperature has finally come down, typhoons have basically finished and the weather is great. On top of that, autumn is the season for festivals. Music festivals, Hawaiian festivals, farmer’s markets, cultural festivals, and my favourite: sports festival.

The 2nd weekend of October is a national holiday which promotes being active, and most communities hold some form of sports festival. My family has participated every year since we moved to Otsu in 2007. Our community members are so wonderful and encouraging, they even allow my parents to participate when they visit. My parents enjoy sports festival so much that they always try to arrange to visits so as to be here for the 2nd week of October!

Other festivals are equally enjoyable and I always feel such warmth and joy from everyone. Festivals create a special type of energy which is contagious, spreading through the crowd and Read More »

Hiking in Kawanishi and Takarazuka

12088558_1018498254847472_2937114943748643810_nI  love hiking. When I was younger I did hiking and camping with a friend in Quebec, Canada many times and once in New Hampshire, U.S.A.. I also did hiking in Switzerland in 1986, 1988 and 1999 in the Swiss Alps. Wonderful!  I was very happy to discover that Kawanishi (home of Smith’s School of English Kawanishi) and also neighbouring Takarazuka offer nice hiking trails with nice views where I can enjoy hiking.

On September 23 I set out on my own from Hankyu Kawanishi Noseguchi Station and headed up to a hiking trail Smith’s School of English founder Mark Smith had once shown me. I hiked for a bit and stopped at a spot that offered a view of Kawanishi. There, I met a very friendly older Japanese man. I asked if the trail lead to Manganji Temple (where I’d been with Mark before). He ended up not only showing me the way there, but also hiking with me and guiding me the whole day, even inviting me to his home for a beer after hiking! We had a great time together!

Our hike:

Kawanishi Ishikari (川西石切 ) → Manganji Temple (満願寺) → Yamamoto Iwaba (山本岩場) → Nakayama Juusou (中山縦走) → Amami Yaduka (天宮塚) → Oku No In (奥の院) → Nakayama Temple (中山寺) → his home in Hibariagaoka.

After that I walked to Kawanishi Noseguchi Station where I’d begun my day of hiking. What a day! How kind this Japanese man had been! What a great country!


BBQ Event

英会話桂 BBQSeptember was a good time for another SSE Katsura (スミス英会話 桂) event.

It’s been a while since we met outside our English conversation classroom to spend more time together.

And the best way to have a Summer event is to do a BBQ Party. The BBQ was another opportunity to have a friendly conversation with other students while enjoying tasty food.

My favourite was grilled beef dipped in ponzu sauce with wasabi paste. My second favourite of the night was grilled smoked sausage with mustard and brown bread. Delicous.

We also played an English conversation game this time. The game rules were very simple: without looking, one person picks a piece of paper from a bag. On the paper is an English word, for example “Autumn”. Others can see the word and start saying English words related to “Autumn”. For example: “tree leaves”, “October”, “harvest” etc. The person holding the paper has to guess what word is written on it.

This game is a quick and fun way to play with English vocabulary, without being too difficult. We played this game for only about 30 minutes but everybody came up with many English words.

After the game we continued enjoying food and chatting late into the night. Nobody hurried home.


A Thank You to Smith’s Head Office

Once again, Smith’s School of English has come through for me with the best support ever.  I have lost count, but I believe this is the third or fourth visa that Yuka san has helped me with, and it seems to get easier for me every time. I sent her a short email, telling her that it was time to process, and she had all the information in my box within a few hours. I knew exactly what I had to do, which wasn’t much at all, and she did the rest, arriving in my mailbox a couple of weeks later, with plenty of time to spare. Her advice along the way was spot on. Easy, efficient, professional, no mistakes, with a personal and caring touch. I can count on her and the rest of the people at Smith’s Head Office to help me anytime, which is another reason that being part of the team is stress-free. imagesThank you Yuka, and everyone else at Head Office for doing what you do. It is well appreciated!



SSE Hashimoto


The Future of Sprinting

スミス英会話大津校サニブラウン Sprinting ChampionThis summer the IAAF World Youth Championships were held in Cali, Colombia. Amongst the numerous athletes was a young man named Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who is a 16 year old high school student from Tokyo. Having just recently turned 16, and entering his first big international contest, has put him in the spotlight. Winning both the 100m and 200m at the championships has now propelled him into stardom. His time for the 200m race (you can watch it at the link below) broke Usain Bolt’s Championship Record and was the 2nd fastest time ever for a youth (Bolt still holds the World Record). Considering that no one has come close in the 12 years between Bolt setting his records and Sani Brown’s races this summer, it is fairly safe to say that Sani Brown is the new face of sprinting. Also considering that Sani Brown is a year younger now than Bolt was when he set his records, it is clear that Sani Brown still has a lot of time to develop and become even faster. With the 2020 Olympics coming to Tokyo, the next 5 years should be a very exciting time in the world of track & field. When will we get to see these two racing each other?

Sani Brown’s CR 200m Race in Cali 2015

There is also a really great article about Sani Brown on the IAAF website:

Sani Brown: Japanese Superstar

Camping in Kyoto City!

スミス英会話大津校 Camping in Kyoto City!This summer, a friend invited us to go camping. He took us to a place which we had never heard but was less than an hour from our house in Ishiyama. This camp-site was in the mountains, deep in the forest, in the bend of a crystal clear river. We drove up the west side of Lake Biwa before turning inland and driving into the mountains which create the natural border between Shiga prefecture and Kyoto prefecture. After about 45 minutes we arrived at Katsuragawa, the north-westernmost area of Otsu city. We crossed the Katsura river and suddenly we were in the most tranquil and serene forest, in Kyoto city. I couldn’t believe that such a quiet and peaceful and rural place was actually in Kyoto city, albeit in the far north-east corner.

We enjoyed camping, having a cook-out over an open fire, swimming in the river (which was so clear that I even drank directly from it) and counting the stars. This was a truly magical place. It was mid-summer and extremely hot and humid but in the mountains, under the trees, with cool river water rushing by Read More »

Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Students Discuss Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

FullSizeRenderRecently I discussed ways we could reduce, reuse and recycle with Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi students.  Here’s a summary of what we came up with:


1. How can I reduce electricity?

– Turn off the lights when not using them.

– Get roof windows to get more natural light.

– Use LED lights.

– Go to bed earlier.

– Use a fan instead of an air-conditioner.

– Keep less food in the fridge.

– Not leave a computer in “sleep” mode over 1 hour. If not using it for over an hour, shut it down.

– Set the air-conditioner to 27 or 28 degrees Celsius.  Read More »

Do what you love!

imagesLife is short and we have so many choices that sometimes it can be hard to choose the best path. Hi, I’m Al Bartle of Smith’s School of English in Kobe Okamoto. I have been doing what I love for the past 9 years. I love teaching English and helping students to make English their own language. You see, English does not belong to only Americans, British, Irish, Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders. It really belongs to the people of the world. It can be a great tool to expand your world and make new friends.

I also love introducing students to people and places outside of Japan. There are so many people and places that can inspire students of English to really grow and improve their English and their knowledge of the world. It makes me happy when students tell me that they were happy I had introduced them to places and people they hadn’t yet heard about through the Japanese media. So you see, English can be the key to another world that you might miss if you limit yourself to only Japanese. So that is another reason to study it and try to make it your own.

Today, I want to introduce the story of a Vietnamese-American makeup artist named Michelle Phan. Her story is inspiring and for young Japanese girls, her voice and pronunciation can be a good model voice to shoot for as they try to build up English speaking skill. Here is a link to a video that explains her success. “Michelle Phan Success.” She is another YouTube success story. Take a look and remember to “Do what you love”!

Enjoy her YouTube Channel too.

スミス英会話 甲東園 is Inviting At Night

スミス英会話 甲東園Everyone is welcome at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.  It doesn’t matter what level the student is; anyone from a complete beginner to an advanced speaker looking for help speaking in public is welcome.

Beginners have recently started to appear at Kotoen, a school that has for a long time been working almost exclusively with advanced speakers.  Some kind of change in the way people are thinking about English may be happening, and possible new students who are unsure about where to go and what school to try can feel completely confident in the Smith’s School of English.  All of the Smith’s Coaches and Smith’s Staff in the system care very much about their jobs and will always do their very best for every student.

The Kotoen school has an easy access for disabled students and free parking for anyone needing to come by car.  Please come!

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


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

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