The Most Peaceful Place in Otsu 天孫神社

滋賀県大津校の天孫神社Otsu city (大津市) is the capital of Shiga prefecture (滋賀県), with a population of over 340,000 people. The heart of the city is the area between Otsu station and Ishiyama station. The area in front of Otsu station is the business and governmental centre, home to municipal, prefectural and national government offices. This is a busy urban centre. This is also where our English conversation school (スミス英会話大津校) is located, right in front of Otsu station, between Shiga Building (滋賀ビル) and Lake Biwa National Government Building (琵琶湖大津合同庁舎). In this concrete jungle, in this bureaucratic hub, where can a person go for a little peace and quiet?

Tenson Shrine (天孫神社) is located less than 200 meters from Otsu station. Though small, it is a little oasis in the middle of the city. Built over 1200 years ago, the shrine has 2 gates, a central stage, and dozens of trees packed into the tiny grounds. In April, the trees show their true colours, i.e. pink, as the cherry blossoms are on display. Many business people enjoy a stroll through Read More »

It’s Great to Have Young Students Who Enjoy Speaking English!

photo-36A new school year is starting and most students in Japan are concentrating on preparing for entrance examinations for high school and university. As we all know, they do not need to be able to speak English to enter university in most cases. That’s why it’s so great to have a young student who really enjoys learning and speaking English. YUTO has been my student since she was in elementary school. That is about 7 years.  She’s starting her last year of high school this week. It’s amazing how fast time flies but I am really proud of YUTO!

Along the way she was also fortunate to be taught by my part-time assistant YUKO, who herself, having studied at international schools overseas for 8 years, really got YUTO interested in speaking English. YUTO was also chosen as one of 10 high school students in Kobe last year to spend a week at a school in Seattle, where she was gracious enough to buy and bring me back a bag of fresh coffee beans from the first Starbucks Coffee shop. Thanks YUTO!

Here she is writing the English words on the whiteboard for the Japanese vocabulary I recite to her. I’m happy too that I can read the KANJI for those words. It’s certainly good practice for me too! This time she correctly remembered and spelled 93 of 100 words. Great job YUTO !

Al Bartle, Smith’s School of English, Okamoto, Kobe

Rainy Days are the Best!

膳所城跡公園 雨のお花見 スミス英会話大津校 1Last weekend was supposed to be our English conversation school’s 8th annual Hanami Party. Sadly we had to cancel due to rain. The silver lining was that we had a free day. Unfortunately we couldn’t contact a few students to inform them of the cancellation. so my son and I decided to go to the park, just in case. We donned our rain gear and headed out to Zeze Castle Park, where our party was supposed to have been held. It had been raining quite heavily and there were some huge puddles in the park. My son and I enjoyed splashing in the puddles and running around the park. Because of the rain, there were very few people in the park and we could basically have free fun of the place. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the rain made everything shiny. It was a very beautiful site to see and I was so happy we had decided to go play in the park. My son and I enjoyed playing in the park, then lunch at an udon shop before heading home, This was truly a silver lining on a gray rain cloud.

Spring cherry blossoms near Azamino (あざみ野)

よみうりラドンWell this year the cherry blossoms have come, but instead of going to one of the famous parks like Chidorigafuchi we decided to see them in our local area.  Since I have been riding my road bike all over Kanagawa (神奈川) these past few years I have discovered some great spots.  I was even able to show my students some new places and they have lived here all their lives.  This year, the best place for us to see them was near a small temple just behind Yomiuri land which is not that far from Azamino あざみ野.  Even though it was Sunday, there were very few people so we got to enjoy them all to ourselves.  These areas may be a lot smaller than say, Shinjuku Park, but not having so many people made it a much more pleasant experience.  Sometimes staying close to home and enjoying Read More »

People of All Ages Welcome at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi

Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving a trial English lesson to a nice lady at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi. She asked me if she was too old to study English and if there were other people her age studying at my English school. I told her she wasn’t too old and that we have people of all ages from children to retirees. This concern about age is something I have encountered quite a few times over the years teaching English in Tsukaguchi. My belief is that it’s never too late to study English or anything else for that matter. If you really want to learn something, it’s never too late to do it. Our founder Mark Smith believes it is never too late to start and he himself is today studying a postgraduate degree which he started at the age of 57.  Some of my students in Tsukaguchi are in their sixties. If you really want to study English and improve your English conversation skills, don’t let concerns about your age hold you back. Just do it!

Happy studying! (^.^)

Derek

Smith’s Otsu Teacher Profile: Chris Mungioli

スミス英会話大津校 クリス先生 1 This is Part 2 in the series Smith’s Otsu Teacher Profiles. Part 1 can be read HERE.

At Smith’s School of English in Otsu we currently have a team of 4 teachers working together. Each teacher is unique in their own way and they all bring different teaching styles to the classroom. I wish to take this opportunity to introduce the members of our team to you. The first coach we introduced was Chi-Yow Lee from the United States. The second coach we will introduce is Chris Mungioli. Here is his self-introduction:

Leaving Katsura (桂)

英会話 桂 cup and cardYesterday I had a last lesson with my student Yuka. It’s always sad when a student leaves, but it also makes me happy to see Yuka reaching her goal. When she came to Smith’s Katsura (スミス英会話 桂) my job was to coach and improve her English conversation skills. And she’s now ready for another challenge: to live and study in an English speaking country.

Yuka is moving to England next week. She will stay there for a year, possibly two. Yuka is planning to deepen her English skills so when she comes back to Japan, she can find a job where English language is used every day. Actually, her biggest dream is to one day become a translator. I wish her all the best in pursuing her dreams. Good Luck Yuka.

And thank you for your thoughtful gift. I’ll keep the coffee cup in the classroom as a reminder of your success.

 

Finding My Kawanishi English School via the Internet

The Internet is truly wonderful. Not only is it a great way to communicate with people, it is also a great place to find something  you’re looking for. I’ve been teaching English in the Smith’s School of English franchise system for 13 years now. When I started we didn’t have a Japanese web site but now we do. People seeking an English school in their area can now easily find us on the Internet. It’s fantastic. For example, just today at Smith’s School of English Kawanishi I gave a trial lesson to a man who had found us via the Internet. He lives in Toyonaka, Osaka on the Hankyu Takarazuka line and was looking for an English conversation school that was along that line. My English school, located just across the street from Kawanishi Noseguchi Station along that line, was what he was looking for so he came to Kawanishi  and I had the pleasure of meeting him and teaching him English.  The Internet is great! (^.^)

Derek

 

It’s Cherry Blossom Viewing Time! 花見の時です!

スミス英会話大津校 滋賀県の琵琶湖
March ends and April begins. The cherry blossoms are usually expected around this time. In Otsu and all around the southern part of Lake Biwa, they have just started to open. Full bloom in Kyoto and southern Shiga is predicted for Saturday the 4th of April. This week, and especially this weekend, is the best time for hosting a cherry blossom viewing party, known as hanami (花見) in Japan. Our school, Smith’s School of English Otsu, will be hosting it’s 8th Annual Hanami Party this weekend at a lakeside park. We are hoping for sunny weather and full bloom. I believe the blossoms will be perfect, but I’m not sure so I’ll check the JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) website daily for weather and blossom updates. No matter what the weather and blossom conditions, we will enjoy chatting, eating, drinking and playing under the wonderful pink trees, next to beautiful Lake Biwa (pictured above). We hope you will also have an opportunity to do so sometime this week or next. It’s Cherry Blossom Viewing Time!
Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Torinosuke Kotoen – とりのすけ 甲東園

とりのすけ 甲東園English Conversation Students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 need to unwind after a long day at work.  Those long days are then followed by an English lesson and other evening activities before finally retiring in the comfort of one’s home.  One of the best ways to do the unwind is to invest JPY3,000- for an all-you-can-eat AND all-you-can-possibly-drink experience at Torinosuke とりのすけ in Kotoen 甲東園.

The festivities are particularly good in the month of March because the vast numbers of university students who consider this type of entertainment important to basic life skills are away and so there are no line-ups.  In April the crowds will be back!

Torinosuke has great food and cold beer.  For the small price of JPY3,000 you will get refreshed and satisfied any time of the year.  Orders are served to the table upon request and the most difficult part by far is knowing when you have had enough.  Everything is so great that having to stop is a real disappointment!

Students often have a plan to go on Saturday and Read More »

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