A Great Experience With Smith’s

IMG_2732[1]When I started working in Japan in 1998, one major objective was to find a personal business opportunity that I could really call my own.  In those days, I had a high school day job which generated sufficient income while I promoted my Smith’s School of English Franchise in Koshien in the fall of 1999.

This has been a tremendous success.  In only eleven months, my Smith’s Franchise was earning 1.5 times the high school job salary.  I was working fewer hours at my own school and completely in control of everything.  I was my own boss.

In the fourteen years that have since passed, the English Teaching Industry has gone through massive changes and many competitors have gone bankrupt or just given up.  Smith’s, in contrast, has never stopped leading the way forward with conviction.  Continuous development in franchisee services, student scheduling, curriculum and sales support keeps Smith’s well positioned within this ever evolving industry.

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

Winter Life in Tsukaguchi (Amagasaki), Kawanishi and Quebec, Canada

By Derek of Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi and Smith’s School of English Kawanishi

In my hometown of St-Sauveur in Quebec, Canada, lots of snow is part of winter life.  If it snows here in the locations of my English conversation schools (Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki and Kawanishi), the snow usually melts right away or soon afterwards because it’s normally above 0 degrees Celsius. Where I’m from, snow stays and accumulates over winter, creating huge drifts of snow everywhere. Lots of snow is good for those who like winter sports like downhill skiing and skating. It’s also good for kids who love playing in the snow. When I was young, I used to sometimes go downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, skating and sliding in my hometown. Snow was so fun. You could make a snowman, dig a tunnel or a kind of mini cave to crawl into, or make and throw snowballs. Sometimes when there were snow storms (where lots of snow would fall in a short period of time, like 20-30 centimeters of snow overnight), my school would be closed. I used to take a school bus to school. When there was a snow storm, I knew my school had possibly been closed when the school bus that usually picked me up wouldn’t show up at my home. My mother would call my school to see whether it had been closed or not. If it had, it meant a day off from school which was great!

As you can see, winter life in Tsukaguchi (Amagasaki), Kawanishi and my hometown St-Sauveur in Quebec, Canada is quite different. I’ll talk some more about winter life in Canada in my next blog. Don’t miss it! (^.^)



Beer Festival Near Fukushima!

belgian-beer-weekend-nagoya-kopieOne of my first dates with my girlfriend was not far from Smith’s School of English in Fukushima at the Umeda Belgian Beer Festival underneath the Umeda Sky-Building. It is a weeklong event that ends on a weekend in June. Since that first time, we’ve gone every year to enjoy the tasty brews and yummy snacks.

Although the festival is in the summer, I enjoy Belgian beer year-round. My favorite kind is Belgian White beer. The color is beautiful, like a ray of sunshine. It is made primarily from wheat. Belgian white beer also contains delicious herbs and spices such as orange peels and coriander. The result is that the beer has a smooth and unforgettably delicious taste. You can even cut a slice out from an orange and put it in your glass or bottle to enhance the various flavors contained in the beer.

Another of my favorite kinds of beer is the India Pale Ale (IPA). Ales are made using mostly malted barley. IPA’s don’t actually come from India. They have that name because the East India Company used to ship it from England to India. It became popular not only with Indian people, but also the sailors who were transporting it. It has a stronger flavor than the Belgian White. Since it has such a strong flavor, I recommend having only one or two with a meal. Like a fine glass of wine, the taste of your food is complimented by the hearty flavor.

After your next lesson at Smith’s School of English in Fukushima, perhaps you would like to try a Belgian White or IPA. There is a nice craft beer and wood stove pizza restaurant near our school that has them. Also, don’t forget to check out this year’s festival!

The Snowiest Place in Otsu

Canada Friends-Asahi Plaza-Wedding-Sledding 210The Snowiest Place in OtsuWritten by Edward Iwaskow, SSE Otsu

I will now unveil a secret to you, a secret which you must promise to keep. Otsu city is not often thought of as a snowy wonderland, but deep in the mountain in the north-western part of Otsu, there is just that. Kutsuki-Katsuragawa Prefectural Nature Park (朽木・葛川県立自然公園) is located in a gorge between 2 mountains- Mount Shirotaki (白滝山) in Otsu and Mount Kamakura (鎌倉山) in Kyoto. Less than an hour by car from Smith’s School of English Otsu (スミス英会話大津校), but a whole world apart. There are a few houses, restaurants and inns tucked along the road which follows the Katsura river (葛川) as it winds its way down through the mountains and eventually out into the Japan sea (日本海) to the north of Shiga prefecture (滋賀県).

In this quiet little corner of Otsu there are few people, but lots of snow. A popular spot for school excursions, camping and hiking, in the winter this area is even quieter and for those of us living in Otsu, Kyoto or Takashima City, this is a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in the city and enjoy a day of snowy countryside (or mountainside in this case, literally!). There is usually enough Read More »

Spring Baseball is Coming!

imageSpringtime is quickly approaching here at Smith’s School of English in Fukushima! For many people, that means warm weather, cherry blossoms, and a new beginning to the fiscal year. Those things are nice, but springtime for me means a fresh start to the baseball season.

As a person from Michigan, I’m a staunch supporter of the Detroit Tigers. They are the Major League Baseball team from my home state. Last year, they went to the American League Champion Series, but lost to the eventual World Series winners: The Boston Red Sox. I dislike the Red Sox. Two years ago, the Tigers went to the World Series, but lost to the San Francisco Giants. I really dislike the Giants. This year, they have replaced their manager and improved their team, so I am looking forward to returning to the World Series, but this time to win!

Due to my love for the Detroit Tigers, moving to Kansai and also falling in love with the Hanshin Tigers was easy. I LOVE ALL TIGERS! However, the Japanese Giants are a difficult opponent for the Japanese Tigers. The Yomiuri Giants are Nippon Pro Yakyu’s all-time best team. I think most people from Kansai, especially here in Osaka near Smith’s School of English in Fukushima, are eternal supporters of the Hanshin Tigers, even though they have a hard time defeating their rivals from Tokyo. I hope this upcoming season is more successful for the Tigers. I will definitely catch a game at Koshien Stadium this year. How about you? Which team do you support?

Talking about the Olympic Games in Katsura(桂)

Big sport event like the Olympic Games is a nice topic for an English conversation.

Every day, millions of people around the world watch the best players competing for their country. And of course my students and I are the same. We love watching the Olympics.

Last three weeks I had an English conversation about winter sports with students at Smith’s Katsura(スミス英会話 桂). Many like to do skiing and snowboarding and almost all my students like watching figure skating. We often talked about good locations for winter sports. Biwako Valley is a very popular area for people living in Kyoto.

We also talked about the joy of watching sport players winning Olympic medals for their countries. Everybody was happy to see Noriaki Kasai winning a silver medal in Ski Jumping. Kasai has already represented Japan at seven Winter Olympics and has no plans to stop. He is a true sportsman.

Some young Japanese talents were successful too. Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka are teen snowboarders who won Silver and Bronze medals. It was their first time at the Olympics and it was great to see their happy faces on the podium.

All together Japan won eight medals and I’m sure there were many happy faces around Japan watching the Sochi Winter Olympics.

As happy as my students in Katsura(桂).

Winter Temperatures in Kawanishi, Tsukaguchi and My Hometown in Canada

As I write these words on February 14 at my English conversation school in Kawanishi, Smith’s School of English Kawanishi, it’s 2 degrees Celsius outside. For my students here and in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi, that’s pretty cold. I think it’s cold too, but compared to where I’m from (St-Sauveur in Quebec, Canada), it’s not so cold. There, temperatures get much lower at this time of the year. At the moment it’s about -6 degrees (Celsius) there.  A low of -12 degrees and a high of -5 degrees are forecasted for today. I think that’s not so cold for this time of the year there but for next Monday, a low of -21 degrees and a high of -10 degrees are forecasted! Yikes! Now that’s cold! Believe it or not, the winter temperatures in Kawanishi and Tsukaguchi are more like spring temperatures where I’m from, so I can’t complain about the temperatures here. It’s actually quite nice!

Yes, -21 degrees is very cold, but extremely cold temperatures like these don’t usually continue for long periods of time where I’m from. You normally get some milder temperatures mixed in with the really cold ones which make the really cold ones somewhat more bearable. With proper warm clothing (boots, a down jacket, winter hat, scarf and gloves) it’s not so bad I think. Besides, the below 0 degree temperatures of winter make the joys of Canadian winter life possible, something I’ll talk about in my next blog. Be sure to read it! (^.^)



My Day as a Ninja

imageOne of my first experiences in Japan happened to be near Smith’s School of English in Otsu. I went to the  Koka Ninja Village with some Ritsumeikan friends. It was a fantastic and unique experience. After arriving at the Koka train station, a Ninja Village employee picked us up in a van and took us to the village. I expected the village to be like an amusement park, but actually it had a very authentic feeling. Many of the buildings and equipment were old from many years of use.

After being introduced to our ninja guide, we rented ninja uniforms to enhance our experience. We could choose black, blue, or red. Of course I chose black! After putting on our uniforms, we went through various trials of ninja training . First, we explored a ninja house that was full of tricks, traps, and hidden places. Ninjas were very clever! Then, we tried climbing a rock wall. After that, we climbed across a wooden wall that had notches in which to put our feet and hands. Next, we did water-walking by putting our feet into tires that were wrapped with plastic, then pulled ourselves across a pool with a rope. I almost fell into the dirty water! Lastly, we threw ninja throwing-stars at a set of targets. Maybe you won’t believe me, but I hit the bullseye on my first try! There was also a small museum with old paintings and ninja equipment.

I loved going to the Koka Ninja Village. If you are in the area for a lesson at Smith’s School of English in Otsu, please check it out. I promise that you will have lots of fun!

Winter Hike in Osaka

imageAs you may know, I am a big fan of hiking. Rain or shine, hot or cold, I am ready for a hike. When I found out about the Mount Kongo Frost Covered Tree Festival on February 2nd, I knew that I had to go.  Mount Kongo is located in the southern part of Osaka Prefecture. To go there from our English conversation school in Fukushima, I took a train to Kawachinagano, then took a bus to the base of the mountain.

There is a ropeway to the top of the mountain, but I prefer hiking, so off I went with my iPod, my camera, and my hiking stick. There were more people hiking than I am normally used to, but that gave me an opportunity to say hello to the other friendly hikers. There is never a grumpy face when you are enjoying a hike on a beautiful mountain!

Although there wasn’t much snow at the start, it gradually got whiter and whiter towards the top. The trees were really frosty! At the top of the mountain, there were kind festival workers giving out pork soup. It was warm and yummy; just what I needed after a cold hike.

Smith’s School of English in Fukushima is in a great central location for a hiker like me, because the trains can quickly go to any of the nearby mountains. How about a quick hike before your next lesson?


Shirokiya Kotoen 白木屋 甲東園

After a long day’s work teaching English to a long line of eager and devoted English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園, the best way to chill out afterwards is with a cold beer and the company of one or more party folks who just aren’t quite in the mood to go straight home.

One of the most delicious, most reasonable and most popular izakayas in Kotoen to do that kind of chilling out is Shirokiya, only a short walk from the Smith’s School toward Kotoen Station.


It opens every day at 17:00, and it isn’t unusual to see a band of KGU students parked outside waiting patiently for the festivities to begin, provided they don’t have an exam the next day of course!

Why don’t we go in for a cold refreshment after a lesson or if you just happen to be in the neighborhood?

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


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