Strawberry Heart – Good Food Made At Home

In honor of our 17th anniversary coming up, Yoko has decided to bake another one of her interesting creations, the strawberry heart.  The pie crust is all-natural and completely home-made, the almonds were added at the end, and the whole thing can be eaten like a cookie in hand or a piece of cake on a plate.

IMG_3427[1]Many of the hard-working English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話甲東園 have had experience with Yoko’s marvelous baking, and I am trying to raise her confidence to a level of professional!  Her artisan hobby creations are healthful, delicious, beautiful and in demand!

One of the key ingredients to her success is the availability of fine ingredients, obtainable in semi-bulk quantities from a couple of specialty suppliers.  Most supermarkets and major chain food stores carry only ‘single-serving’ and ‘bite-sized’ offerings which unfortunately add significantly to the unit costs and make such home projects uneconomic, but with careful searching we were able to find what was needed.

Anyway, Daiei Koshien supermarket is helping out with many, many strawberries at very reasonable prices, only JPY298 a basket!   I can always steal a few when she isn’t looking!

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 門戸厄神nice Smith's logo

Like a Fish Out of Water

Like a Fish Out of WaterIdioms are fun but can be hard to remember. As an English teacher, I like to help students to remember differet idioms by giving them visual cues. The picture to the left is Ponyo, the main character from the movie of the same name. She is a fish who dreams of living with humans (much like The Little Mermaid). Ponyo has magic powers and she transforms herself into a little girl so that she can meet a young boy named Sosuke. The movie cutely shows Ponyo trying to understand the human things she encounters, such as a ham sandwich and electric lightbulbs. She is seeing these things for the first time, and she is curious but confused by them. She is like a fish out of water, and she is also literally a fish out of water. The basis for many of the scenes in this movie is the exact meaning of the idiom “like a fish out of water” (場違いな、勝手が違って). However, unlike a true fish out of water who would Read More »

Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Golden Week Holiday: Going to Minoh Waterfall of Meiji no Mori Minō Quasi-National Park

Minoh Waterfall

I recently wrote about hiking during a Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Golden Week holiday here. Another place I went during the holiday was Minoh Waterfall in Minoh, Osaka Prefecture on May 6. From Hankyu Minoh Station, I walked along a road lined with shops and soon came to the start of a paved trail (Takimichi) in Meiji no Mori Minō Quasi-National Park. The trail leads all the way to Minoh Waterfall and follows Minoh River. There were people of all ages including families. The nature was very nice. At some points the trees on both sides of the trail touched on top, creating a kind of tree tunnel which was cool. It was an easy walk and it took me I believe less than 45 minutes to reach Minoh Waterfall. There were people of all ages including families. The waterfall itself was quite pretty. I paused there a bit after taking photos and had some chocolate and dried mango. Then I headed back to Hankyu Minoh Station the same way I’d come. On my way back, I bought Momiji tempura, Maple leaves deep fried in batter,  a famous local sweet. I later enjoyed them with some students at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi.

Here’s a link to a video on my walk to Minoh Waterfall. Enjoy! (^.^)


Photos from 23 Countries

英会話 桂 Travel & Speak English

Collecting students’ travel photos  is a nice way to share their experience from foreign countries and have an interesting English conversation.  Each photo has a different personal story behind it, but all photos have one thing in common: speaking English. And that’s why students choose to study at スミス英会話 桂 and improve their English conversation skills. Here are some examples of our students’ travelling abroad: business dinner in New York, family trip to Argentina, research trip to an art museum in Los Angeles, trip with friends to Morocco and study abroad in England. Of course there are many many more. Every time a students come back from the trip we can look at their photos, talk about the experience and have a fun lesson.

Over 30 students now share their travel photos on the classroom wall and we have collected photos from 23 different countries. That’s impressive.

I’m very proud of my students and happy to continue helping them with their English skills. I’m always looking forward to our next conversation about foreign countries.

Loving Life in Kyoto & Osaka

スミス英会話大津校 京都の伏見稲荷 Fushimi Inari in Kyoto As I mentioned before, I enjoy studying and looking at different buildings in Japan, particularly the old temples and shrines. This is especially why I love living in Kyoto. Recently I do not have as much time to go to temples and shrines (plus, it is also getting very hot and humid) but it is still enjoyable to see some of the older streets and buildings that I can walk by, or see from the train when I travel to different areas for work.
Speaking of travelling, I also love how easy it is to travel to different areas of Japan. In Salt Lake City, there are buses and trains, and the system is still growing, but if you miss a bus or train, you often have to wait 15 or 30 minutes, sometimes even an hour, for the next one. I find that Japan is much more convenient to get around, whether it’s for work or for leisure. Because of this convenience, I love being able to explore different places by myself. Of course, I am still learning Japanese so sometimes it can be difficult to ask for directions if I need them, but usually I don’t need to ask for help. If I do, my Japanese is steadily improving, so that I can even give directions sometimes.

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Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Golden Week Holiday: Hiking to Rokku Gaaden, Mount Rokko and Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture

IMG_9031During the Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi Golden Week holiday, I decided to go hiking in the Kansai area. I bought myself a pair of hiking shoes in Osaka and I was ready to go. My first hike (out of two) was on April 29. I left my home in Tsukaguchi and took a Hankyu Kobe line train to Ashiya-gawa Station where I began the hike. I planned to hike to Rokku Gaaden (ロックガーデン) in Kobe (Rock Garden in English). I first hiked on roads then eventually reached the entrance to Rokku Gaaden where the trail began. The climb was quite challenging but fun. I eventually reached the top which offers a view of Kobe and Osaka too on clear days. It was hazy that day so the the view was not so good but it was still nice. I then decided to walk on to the top of Mount Rokko. By chance, I saw a boar along the way. After getting it on video, I took a short lunch break then carried on. There were lots of people with people of all ages, including families. I eventually reached the top of Mount Rokko which offered more views. It was a bit chilly up there.  I was tired but needed to keep moving to stay warm. To head back to Tsukaguchi, I had two choices: go back the same way I’d come (to Ashiya-gawa Station , 7.4 kilometres ) or take another trail to Arima Onsen (4.0 kilometres) where I could take a bus to the nearest Hankyu Railway station. I chose the latter. I hiked down to Arima Onsen from where I took trains back to Tsukaguchi.

Here’s a video on part of the hike. Enjoy!

I’ll tell you about my second hike in my next blog! (^.^)





Delicious Steak Restaurant

IMG_20140827_131621One of the places I like to eat near my Smith’s Eikaiwa Kyobashi location is Beco.

It’s a great steak restaurant with friendly staff as well as very delicious and affordable food. The restaurant is actually located directly under the school so it’s very easy to get to after lessons for a tasty dinner or before the start of the school day for lunch. I usually have the steak on rice meal – which comes in three different sizes (I always get the large size).  The pickles and miso soup that comes with it are equally delicious.

The owner is counted among the friendly staff, I was greeted with a smile and good conversation my first visit there. In fact, it seems to be one of the more popular restaurants in the area because there’s usually a line-up for a table, but I can understand why, because the price is right and the food is awesome. I think I’ll have dinner there again tonight after class.

Feeling Refreshed

スミス英会話大津校 Feeling RefreshedGolden week has come and gone and we are back at work. Apart from a day trip to Kyoto, we didn’t do much but stay at home and relax. Relax being the key word. After a long break, it feels good to back at work. We are refreshed and ready to tackle the next study period. This week, I noticed that not only was I feeling refreshed but also that our students were feeling energetic. I was so impressed with all of our students this week. Everyone was very talkative and everyone brought topics to the table, mostly about their golden week activities. Some students went abroad, others enjoyed “stay-cations” in Otsu, everyone had fun and enjoyed telling us about it in class. Also, apart from 1 day of heavy rain in the middle, the weather was really excellent during the golden week holiday. Over the holiday we cleaned the school, we cleaned our house, and we cleaned our minds. It’s great to be back at school, feeling refreshed. Let’s go!

Egg coloring event at Smith’s school of English in Fuse 2015!

This year, we planned the cherry blossom viewing party for the 5th of April. And again, we had a rainy day for the third straight year in a row.

But this year, we were prepared. Because the 5th was also Easter Sunday in the western Calender, an egg coloring event was planned in the case of rain. So on this cloudy, light rainy day pretty much all student who signed up for the event and one or two more joined. We had a great day despite of the rain.


Smith's Fuse Hanami photo collage

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Ten Years Strong

IMG_2839It is amazing how quickly time passes.

Ten years ago I made the decision to open this school in Hashimoto, with no regrets. It has been wonderful. Students of all kinds have come through. The youngest to date started at fourteen years old, and unbelievably so, she is still here, a strong student at twenty-three years old. Why? She likes it! High school students, single/married working women and men, young, middle aged, older, housewives, and even some retirees are all part of the mix. They all have a purpose for studying English, whether it be for their jobs, travel, preparing for an interview, understanding movies without subtitles, test preparation for TOEIC/TOEFL, or just for fun as a weekly activity.IMG_2827


Meeting all these people and helping these people achieve their goals has been a pleasure. I enjoy what I do, and consider myself a very lucky person to be able to live in Japan, provide this service to the community, and help people improve their English skills, whether they be a complete beginner or highly advanced. Indeed, I am very happy to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Smith’s School of English, Hashimoto!


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