The Open Window Season

スミス英会話大津校 Fall is Fabulous & FunAfter many years of living in this wonderful country I have come to understand the change of seasons quite well. People proudly state that Japan has four seasons and I must say that I agree with this. But what does this mean, for a place to have four seasons? Aren’t there four seasons everywhere? Yes and no. Canada has them, but the balance is slightly in favour of winter- winter in Canada is very long, spring and autumn are average in length. Summer however, is a little shorter than in more southern countries. We definitely have summer in Canada- my mother swims in the ocean every day throughout the summer, which she says is from the 1st of July til the 31st of August. On the flip-side, most people are stuck in their houses for the snowy season, which lasts from December through March. So in Canada, winter is 4 months, summer is 2. Spring and autumn are the usual 3. In Japan, we truly have balance. Cold winter is about 3 months, sunny spring is about 3 months, hot & humid summer likewise, and autumn too.

I, however, would like to add a newly defined season which occurs twice a year, in spring and in fall. I call this the “open window season“, that perfect time when neither air conditioner nor heater is needed, and we can keep the windows open for most of the day. At our house in Ishiyama and at Read More »

Kyoto Gosho Garden – Oct 30 to Nov 5

121103_1548Hello readers !

Here is Martin Werner Zander of the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 just to give you all a quick heads-up on an important event about to start.  Have a look at the link below to see the school:


For those of you who have not yet been to Kyoto’s former Imperial Palace grounds, next week offers an unusually extended opportunity to visit it.  It appears from initial forecasts that the weather is going to be good, and with the humungous crowds expected, I would advise going during the week days if it is at all possible.  My alternate recommendation would be to arrive as early as possible and get through the site before the tour buses arrive.

The easiest access is to get off at Hankyu Karasuma Station and walk north for about 15 minutes into the Marutamachi area.  The subway to that station can also be taken if you’re coming in on JR or Keihan.

You really only need a maximum of two hours for entry to exit, and even ninety minutes can be enough if you’re in a rush.  It is also a nice place to just sit and contemplate things, though the amount of actual sitting places will be at a minimum in an effort to keep the flow moving.  Gnice Smith's logoo early on Friday morning and avoid Sunday Nov 2 if at all possible.

Smith’s School of English 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


Birthday Surprise

20141022_185923I really love being here and being an English coach at Smith’s Eikaiwa.  There is nothing else that I would want to be doing.  It has been said that if you find a job that you really love then you will never have to work again. In the short time that I have been in Japan I do not feel like I have been working. I have been able to get many great memories and have been enjoying one of the best years of my life.  This is another of those great moments that I will remember for a very long time. One of my long-term students surprised me with an early birthday gift of these sunglasses and a box of cookies.

20141023_144130They are shortbread (which is one of my favourites) with a gummy fruit centre. The box is very beautiful. I will keep both the box and the sunglasses as reminders of my surprise and joy at receiving them. I am looking forward to my future here in Japan and continuing to build lasting relationships with my students as they succeed in their goals of improving their English conversation skills.

Devoloping New Curriculum: An Easy Team Task

Drawing this picture was a piece of cake!Recently we’ve been working very hard to develop new conversation curriculum for our English school. During discussions about what to include we started talking about our favourite idioms and which idioms are EASY to teach as well as EASY to use in daily conversation. Coincidentally both Derek from Smith’s school of English Tsukaguchi and Adrian from Smith’s School of English Hirakata had the same favourite idiom! They both said it’s the idiom that they most frequently teach and students seem to love it. Derek from Tsukaguchi said that the meaning is EASY for students to understand and Adrian from Hirakata said that once taught, students really enjoy using it. What is this EASY idiom? Which idiom could be so EASY and fun that it was chosen by two different teachers at random? I’m sure the picture has already given you a hint. This idiom is: Read More »

Isara Thai Restaurant in Kotoen – スミス英会話 甲東園

GRL_0038Hello readers!!  Here’s a quick heads-up on the restaurant scene in Kotoen, and I want to highlight one particular, family-owned ethnic food place just a minute from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 :

Isara Thai Restaurant in Kotoen

Now unfortunately they haven’t gotten around to making their own website, but it’s so near to my Smith’s Franchise in Kotoen as to practically have the same directions from Hankyu Kotoen Station.

What sets this traditional Thai restaurant apart from most others you have tried in the Kansai area is that this one is a family business which self-imports the majority of its ingredients and welcomes exchange students from Thailand to come and help out.

The food is healthful, honest, delicious and also cheap thanks to the owners having no overhead.  Give it a try the next time you’re in the area, or contact me well ahead and I’ll treat you there!

Martin Werner Zander

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダーnice 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 甲東園校 仁川

Shodo Island (小豆島)

ShodoshimaEvery year during the national Obon holiday, Smith’s Katsura (スミス英会話 桂)  has a short break too. And every time I spend these few extra days off outside Kyoto city with my family. In the past, we have stayed in local mountains or travelled north to the beaches of The Japan Sea. This year, we have decided to go further away.

Shodo Island (小豆島) lies between Shikoku Island and Awaji Island. Small place with beautiful nature and tasty seafood. It’s famous for olive plantations. And really, some parts of the island reminded me of Greece. On my way to the beach, I passed large green areas with olive trees, surrounded by white sand and stone.

Beaches are beautiful with warm and clean water. We were surprised by the small number of people on the beach and in the sea. Plenty of space for everybody. That’s how we like it, so we stayed by the sea all day. For the evening, our hotel prepared some seafood grilling. Fresh local fish, prawns and muscles. Delicious!

Next day we went to the mountains and visited a natural park where monkeys and deer can freely roam around. Monkeys in this park don’t like to come near people. Of course, all food must stay in the bag. Deer in the area also like to keep their distance. This gives the mountain park more natural and wild feeling.

From the mountains we could see bright beaches, olive plantations and boats sailing around the island. Amazing view. The island has many hiking trails going through beautiful gorges.

Shodo Island is a great place and I’m glad I could spend here some great family time. One day, I’d like to come back.

Building Relationships

20140903_113948One of my long-term students recently went on vacation and brought me this t-shirt as a souvenir.  I was very surprised and delighted by the thoughtful gift.

I enjoy the relationships I have built with my students as an English Communication Coach at Smith’s Eikaiwa Kyobashi’s location.  We often discuss many things that we are interested in and it gives me as a coach the chance to see the level of improvement my students are making.  As well, it gives my students the chance to practice speaking English outside of the lesson topic and as a result to gain confidence in their language ability.

It makes me happy when my students use the new language they have learned in our conversations.  I’m looking forward to our continuing relationships and helping each of them to accomplish their English language goals.

Healthful Eating is Easy in Japan

IMG_3424[1]Hello everyone, it’s Martin Werner Zander from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 checking in.  マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー  Check it out below:

I’m writing to remind how important it is to eat properly.  Don’t take in too much trans fat, sugar and salt and avoid preservatives whenever possible.  Dairy cholesterol may well be one of the biggest health food debates in history and for those who oppose dairy, a variety of good options exist.  For me personally, having grown up in a strong dairy environment in Germany, milk, cheese and butter are necessary staples, but for vegans or someone with lactose intolerance, I can understand why some might disagree.

The Thai curry vegetable stew my wife Yoko made is set apart from the usual by its list of ingredients.  Other than the white chicken meat, the rest of the dish in 100% vegan.  The spice mix was created at home from scratch using tumeric, cumin, dried chilantro, a pinch of garlic and one or two other little exotic herbs, and the bullion was made at home.  Just enough pure salt was added for taste and not a grain more.

Yoko usually makes a 5.0L pot full of this sort of stew, and while taking several days to eat up with boiled potates and bread or poured over rice like a Thai donburi, the flavor matures and gets better and better.  I actually prefer the left-overs!

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 甲東園校 仁川

Tsukaguchi English School Students Taking Action

Trial lessons, also called demonstration lessons, are an opportunity for a person thinking about studying English conversation to see how well they fit into an English school’s teaching system. I teach at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi and for me, one of my greatest pleasures is helping a person gain the confidence to actually begin the studies they have been thinking about. Often people think about doing something to improve themselves but never actually do those things. I know I often think about going to the gym but unless I actually go to the gym my physical health will not improve. I often think I really want to study at a university again but unless I actually go to a university and enroll my mind will not improve. To improve we must think and then take action.

When a person arrives at my English school for a trial lesson they have thought and taken action. If I give a bad lesson then I could stop that action and that person will lose a fantastic opportunity to improve themselves. If I give a good lesson that helps them improve their English and they also feel comfortable in my classroom, they will probably decide to study English.

I always do my very best in every lesson. It is my job and my passion to help people improve once they have taken the effort and action to improve.


Toyama Fire Department – Hokuriku Routes 156 and 158

110813_1220~0001Hello readers, it’s Martin Werner Zander from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 reporting on a another road trip you absolutely must take.

Again this summer we took a trip into the Hokuriku district, probably our fifth trip into a vast moutainous area filled with tradition and history.  From Nishinomiya or Takarazuka the best way up is along Route 173 through Kawanishi over Rurikei and at last onward to Ayabe.  From there Route 27 runs through Maizuru and along the very happy Fukui Prefecture seaside where many people stop for beach activities.  From Kyoto or Takatsuki the nicest drive up is all the way over Route 162 originating in Kyoto city from Route 9 or Gojo as locals call it.  This road passes through several interesting old villages on the way to Obama where it meets up with Route 27 at the beach.  I’m always amazed by why the vast majority insist on paying money to drive on crowded expressways and experience nothing on the way up.

Into Gifu Prefecture, the all-important junction of Routes 156 and 158 stands at Shiratori.  From here you just absolutely have to drive up north through Shirakawago (UNESCO Cultural Heritage) and right into Toyama Prefecture.  The regions in Toyama within an hour or so north of Shirakawago are mostly overlooked by the throngs of tours buses, and this is exactly where the charming experiences are to be had.

Drive slowly and take your time because the roads are not always in the best condition, and on weekends the curvy stretches are populated by motorcyclists eager to demonstrate their Daytona prowess and skill.  Another reason to go slow is not to miss the ancient villages dotted throughout the region, each of which sporting a unique sub-culture.  Enjoy!

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 甲東園校 仁川


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