Saturday, December 31, 2005

Yokohama Bay

Near Sakuragicho/Minato-mirai. Just behind Landmark Tower and the mall---probably one of the nicest areas in Yokohama. Nice place to relax. Lots of decent shops in the mall. Tokyo is in the background behind the bridge. You can take a nice 1-2 hour cruise on the bay on the cruise ship (Royal Wing) in the middle picture at a decent price. We did so 2 years ago on 30 December and it was very enjoyable.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Tokyo

It's about the same as in the States. The spirit of Christmas is buy, buy, and buy. The non-religious aspect does not bother me at all, as I am agnostic, but I hate going anywhere near a department store. It certainly reminds me of all I disliked about Christmas in the U.S.

I am nostalgic for an American Christmas, though. I would at least like the chance of a white Christmas, and the opportunity to see my family. I miss Christmas music. Even though I can get CDs here, and hear it in department stores, I miss the more traditional stuff. The Beach Boys singing a Christmas carol on a CD at Starbucks, makes me want to run out the door. (Well, the Beach Boys singing anything has that effect on me. Of course, if I get REALLY desperate, I could turn on the military station---810 AM which used to be called FEN, but is now PIGEON or something to do with birds. It has some of the worst music one could listen to, but it is actually stuff popular in some parts of the U.S. Especially bad are the new country music versions of Christmas songs.

Basically, Christmas here consists of buying a Christmas cake. Most taste like they were made by the millions of chemicals with flavor spray added.
A lot of young people use it as more or less a lover's holiday and spend Christmas Eve in a hotel.

The real holiday season starts next Wednesday. The New Years holidays last until about January 3-4. Tokyo is almost deserted as people return to their home towns. It is nice then as the air is clean and one can actually ride a train safely and comfortably.

Blog Time Zone

Apparently, blogspot has its own time zones. My setting are for Japan standard time, but recently, blog sets some other time. For example, the post below was posted on Christmas morning, but the time on this blog is Christmas Eve.

Well, it's a free blog. No customer support, but beggars can't be choosers, I guess. If I paid, maybe I'd have one that works correctly.

Even the spellcheck tool does not recognize "blog."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

So You Want to Teach in A Japanese University or Public School?

You are seriously interested in teaching as a profession. This interests you as much as, or more than, the "mysterious Orient" where you can go on a semi-sober backpacking expedition through Japan doing the "easiest job you've ever had" (an old NOVA recruitment tagline).

If so, perhaps you would like to come to Japan to teach in the JET program, or use your masters degree to teach at what passes for a university in Japan. First, I would suggest that you read this very good, spot on article; Discussion Paper: Language Teaching (English) – Japan
‘Perspectives from inside the school system’
Michael J. Matuschka MACE at and then read the book The Myth of Japanese Higher Education by Brian McVeigh : .

Afterwards, if you still are interested in coming, you will understand the problems and challenges to some degree, and you will also understand why you will not be taken seriously as a non-Japanese.

Nihonjinron--the Myth of Japanese Uniqueness

Here is a link to an interesting article on this nonsense. (See Nihonjinron: Identity, Misconception and Controversy
by Brent Poole.)

Especially interesting is what happened to the author to stimulate his interest in the subject which he discusses at the end of the article. Good for him that he did not prostitute himself to play henna gaijin (weirdo outsider) on TV for a few bucks like many do here. (I have to admit guilt, because to some extent, that is what an English teacher does in Japan. Most especially the eikaiwa entertainers.)

Granted, most foreigners are aware of this myth. Unfortunately, many believe them to be true. Look at the success of the absurdly nonsensical Last Samurai movie. Whenever a Japanese (or baka gaijin) starts a sentence with, "Japan is the only country..." or "The Japanese are the only people who...," you can usually consider what follows to be pure horse manure.

For a good example of nihonronjin and its absurdity (with rebuttal) look at : On Language and Japanese Rational Thought Processes Guest Forum: Where there's no 'will' there's no way By Shin-ichi Terashima, University of the Ryukyus at :

Sunday, December 18, 2005

But as always, the food is delicious

Our tempura lunch at a restaurant in the Futakotamagawa Takashimaya

December Autumn/Winter in Tokyo

Well, actually near Miyazakidai station on the Denentoshi line. Notice that the leaves are still on the trees.


This morning there is a beautiful, fresh, cold wind blowing with the smell of snow. It takes me back to West Virginia, or Montana, or Washington state after a fresh snowfall.

It is nice and clear in Tokyo today and as usual there is little or no chance of snow, although it has been heavily snowing in other parts of Japan for the last week or so. Too bad!

Tokyoites cannot stand real cold weather. When I visited Kyoto---hardly the coldest place on earth---a taxi driver told us to come in the winter because there were very few visitors then. When I mention this to people in Tokyo, they say "eeewww! Cold Kyoto!!!"

Anything below about 60 degrees is cold in Tokyo. They are like Texans and start putting on jackets at 75-80 degrees. The worst thing is that when it does get cold out, people tend to turn up the heat in offices and department stores to the extent that you sweat. While shopping, you have to take off your coat and carry it or give to the bag holding people who will keep it in storage while you shop (for a small fee).

Friday, December 16, 2005

The End of My Biggest Mistake

Nearly 3 years ago, I accepted a job with Berlitz. The economy had been bad and my hours at my old company had declined. I was looking for a full-time job. Berlitz was recruiting specifically saying that qualified/certified instructors were preferred. Later, when I complained that a trained TESOL instructor would not be happy at Berlitz because he/she could not utilize much of their training, I was told that Berlitz HR did not know that they were advertising for certified instructor until I told them!!! (They did remove it from later recruitment ads in Japan.)

I had declined Berlitz two or three times in the past. I wasn't really interested in using the old, obsolete, disproved Direct method. (When I say disproved, I mean that modern science and research has shown that it was not the most effective way to teach a foreign language. Actually, I believe that it is not bad in Japan where most students want to be told how and what to think and say and expect a strict focus on accuracy and strict correction. It also seems good for those who won't study, i.e., many Japanese. Of course I am not really talking about the real Direct/Berlitz method, but the quasi-audiolinguistic approach Berlitz was using until 2004. Berlitz now uses its peculiar derivative of the communicative approach although I doubt more than 2-3 teachers have a clue what that is.) However, I decided to try it and was also curious about trying the direct method since actually trying a communicative approach was often frustrating.

I again rejected the first offer due to the poor pay and lack of a full-time contract. HR called and reassured me, so I decided to give it a try. I met my first supervisor who was pursuing a master's in linguistics and who seemed to know what he was talking about. Darn, I thought Berlitz was real. Even training was a very quick, bare bones, basic TEFL course--nothing in depth but enough to get someone started. so I thought they must really be serious.

Well, unfortunately, outside of the training section, actual knowledge is scarce. It isn't required anyway, and in fact, if you do have any knowledge it is detrimental. Most supervisors know some of the jargon, but dig about 1mm below the surface and it becomes apparent that they have little clue. In fact, I was told by two different supervisors that it makes no difference what one does in a class "as long as the students enjoy it and think that they have learned something." And that is true. That is the bottom line. That is a quality Berlitz lesson.

This is fine, because only an damned fool would think that he was really teaching in an eikaiwa chain school anyway. It would be like a hamburger flipper at McDonald's claiming to be a chef. (Not offense to McDonald's, they may not be working as a chef there, but they still have to cook something edible. Unlike an eikaiwa teacher, they can't get away with pulling some garbage out of the trash and calling it a "quality" product.)

Many eikaiwa kyoshi's try to do a good job most of the time. They get little or no real training unless they get it at their own expense. They don't really bother to try to research more effective ways to teach. An example is Berlitz pronunciation. Teaching pronunciation is not intuitive. You have to have had some training or at least made an effort to learn. A very few have. Most don't and just fake it with the Berlitz book. Why not? Berlitz won't reward any efforts in this area. Since they don't have the same students each class, it won't help the student either. Most of the teachers are decent people. Unfortunately, they really don't know of much outside of Berlitz/NOVA/GABA so they tend to believe all schools/companies in Japan are the same.

On Christmas Eve, I will go to "work" at Berlitz for the very last time. It has been only a part-time job for me for the last year, but a full-time worry. I never know where I will teach, who I will teach, or what I will teach until the night before at best. I never have any preparation time, am almost never able to use non-Berlitz materials, almost never able to use anything I learned in college about TESOL (in fact, I am required to do things I know to be detrimental).

I have had my contract hours moved so that Berlitz wouldn't have to pay for having me work outside of contract hours. (For example, my contract stated my hours as 445pm to 915. Outside of that I should have been paid an extra 1920 yen per class minimum. My supervisor, often under instruction of the director, would switch my contract to cover lessons outside of contract so they could save paying me for the extra classes. It would have been ok occasionally if they had asked first like they are required to do.)

When I informed HR, it took over a month to get partial backpay because the IS whined so much about having to check all the pay records. In the end, I gave up on some of it. For example, they would switch our lunch time (break time by our contract) and not pay us for working that time. The excuse was "well, the idea is 11 units, 5 before lunch and 6 after, or visa versa. It is all ok as long as it is 11 units." The problem was, this is not what was in the contract or on the schedule. This is not what Berlitz work rules say. And it is certainly not what I agreed to. Extend that logic---a part-time worker is required to work 20 units. Could I come to work at 4 am and wait until 6pm and claim that I was available for 20 units and take the rest of the week off with full pay? After all, the idea is 20 units per week. When the units are is not relevant. Prior notice and agreement of a schedule change is not relevant.

Oh well, I am done anyway. Before joining Berlitz, I was warned never to work in an eikaiwa chain. Now I know why.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

International Child Custody Disputes in Wonderful Japan

I suppose that this is not news and most people with more than a passing acquaintance with Japan are aware of it, but Japan is a haven for Japanese spouses of an international marriage who kidnap children.

Many non-Japanese have found out the hard way that the Japanese government and court system will ignore international arrest warrants, international child custody decisions, international kidnapping, visitation rights, and more. As in most things, your rights as a foreigner are very weak if they exist at all. You certainly will be in serious trouble if your dispute is with a Japanese. Decisions seem to be based on the whim of the judge in the case more than law.

You can read some of the personal stories of non-Japanese custodial parents and how Japanese "courts" have served them here:

Naturally, of the hundreds of cases, there must be some cases where the parent has regained legal custody, visitation rights, or had other legal victories. After all, Japan does have a firm, non-discriminative legal system right? Those are listed here: . All 0 of them as of this date.

But don't be too critical, after all, this is a traditional Japanese custom which, as a baka gaijin, you can never understand. (Understand in the Japanese sense, meaning agree with.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rush Limbaugh and Torture

Was just listening to Rush Limbaugh once again excuse and explain away what some limited parts of the U.S. military has done against prisoners (such as stripping people naked and putting a leash around their neck and walking them like a dog to excite and stimulate the perverts among the troops) as humiliation, not torture. I remember when this first came out, Rushy was asking "Who died? Did anyone die?" as a way to excuse what was done. I guess then as long as you killed no one anything was acceptable. Well, it turned out that some people were killed---or at least physically beaten. I never heard how Limbaugh excused that. Imagine what that hypocrite would be saying were it Americans or our allies who were stripped naked and paraded like a dog for the entertainment of perverts.

This is the same clown who, during the first Gulf War, pretended it was a movie by assigning actors who would play the roles of major players in that war. Himself as Scwartzkoff (sp) as I recall.

I remember when he first started in about 1989. His show was fun and entertaining and took a much needed right of center view of events as opposed to the normal left-wing stance of the major media. God, only the talk show hosts Phyllis Donahue and Larry King were around before him. (Larry does not believe in reading books before interviewing the author. A real intellectual.)

Since 1992 when Bush #1 had finished invading Panama (why did we do that again?)and was running for reelection, Limbaugh has simply gone to the nutter crowd. GW 1 invited Rush to the White House because Rush was critical of Bush and showed some signs of leaning toward Pat Buchanon. After that visit, he was never the same. In fact, he now seems to be the official voice of the Republican party, because all he does is parrot the Republican line. Anyone who disagrees with him is a not a "real" conservative. Only Rush is. And while it used to be funny to hear him brag that he was always right, now I think he is deluded enough to believe it.

I only hope that the people who call in and agree with him are only a small number of worshippers. I can't run around defending Americans if many are as ignorant as he has become. Anyone in Japan and probably other countries can pick that up and listen to it. How utterly embarrassing.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thanks to the Japanese Government...

we are gonna be safe. Last week a 7 year old Japanese girl in Hiroshima was murdered. A Peruvian with a history of child molestation has been charged with her murder.

Initially, the focus was on the murder of such a young girl and the search for the sleaze who killed her. After the Peruvian was arrested, suddenly the focus seemed to change to the fact that he was not a pure Japanese, but a foreigner. (He was 1/4 Japanese. I guess his evil non-Japanese genes overpowered his pure, innocent Japanese genes.) One Japanese female TV reporter was so upset that she even slipped and used the word gaijin. She immediately corrected herself and said gaikokujin. Good thing or else someone might of thought her to be a rude bigot which does not exist among the pure Japanese people.

In various newspapers today, there are reports of a new government commission set up yesterday to help stop these crimes by the evil filthy, AIDS infested untrustworthy non-Japanese foreigners. You see, a crime is more a crime if committed by foreigners. Thank God (or the Emperor?) that this bunch has been formed.

Unfortunately, there was another 7 years old girl who was found murdered yesterday. These murders are NOT uncommon in Japan. I wonder why. I remember about 18 years ago in a so-called love hotel that there was a film of naked 7-10 year old girls swimming. I guess this was to help some of the Japanese clientele to get it up. Strangely, it tended to have the opposite effect on me. But, then again, I am just an evil gaijin who could never understand the wonderful Japanese. Thank goodness that 2-3 years ago the Japanese government decided to finally take action on the child porn being produced in Japan. At the time, it was one of the leading sources in the world for child porn. See this for more details , also here to see why the child porn problem in Japan continues

Anyway, if the other young girl was murdered by a Japanese, I wonder if the government will set up a committee to address crimes committed by Japanese perverts? Here are some examples of crimes committed by Japanese that they could look into:

January 1, 2006 update on the Japanese child porn law. According to today's Asahi Shimbun, the Child Porn law was just amended in July 2004. As originally passed 6 years ago, it only made the sale of child pornography illegal, but the 2004 revision made photographing or exchanging it illegal. In the first 11 months of 2005, there were 441 arrests under this law, 274 more than in 2004.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sales in Japan

One of the interesting things about sales in Japan is that occasionally you will find things "on sale" for the same price as before the sale. Often this is after a 30% discount.

One example is a bike store I usually shop at. This store always discounts most bikes and parts. The discount price is exactly the same as other discount bike shops. A few weeks ago, the one in Akasaka-mitsuke, Tokyo (Y's Bike Academy) had such a "sale." Most of the discounted prices were the same as before, but I noticed that they had raised the "regular" price, thus giving the 30% discount that they advertised. I told some Japanese friends about this and they said it is common.

Another thing you have to watch for is at department stores during year-end sales. They will bring in merchandise from somewhere else and put a nice red discount price on it. There may be no mention of a regular price. In my experience, this stuff is usually some cheap junk not even worth the sale price. I suspect that if they stocked it regularly at that price they could never sale any.

All of this is apparently legal in Japan. Even if it isn't, like most things in Japan, you can openly violate the law unless you piss off the wrong person (the wrong person isn't likely the average citizen) and then they will come after you. But they will only come after one violator. It is rare that they would try to clean up a whole industry even if the violations were widespread.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


We went to Kyoto (by shinkansen)for a few days last week, the 17th and 18th, just after Bush and Koizumi had visited. We stayed in a suite at the Westin Miyako Hotel---nice, but not really worth the price.

It was the first time in 18 years since I had been there. The thing that struck me was how clean the air seemed. It also seemed like a small town compared to Tokyo, which I guess it is. It was very relaxing until Friday morning when we went to see Kioymizu temple, one of the most famous in Japan. It was almost as crowded as rush hour on the Denentoshi line. Filled mostly with high school kids. Gotta say it was less then impressive compared to other places I have seen in Kyoto.

The autumn leaves were almost in full color---perhaps they are this week. One of the taxi drivers told us the best time to come is in the winter if we want fewer people. WHen I tell that to people in Tokyo they are shocked---who wants to go to cold Kyoto in the winter! So the cab driver is right. We will probably go again then and visit smaller, less popular spots.

One of the biggest surprises was a small okonomiyaki shop (Kiraku) we ate at on Thursday night. Some of the most delicious okonimiyaki either my wife or I have ever eaten. Also had delicious steamed mushrooms with bacon. It's just a few minutes walk downhill from the Westin Miyako Hotel. Can't wait to eat there again. And SHOCK!!! the staff was actually friendly and would talk to foreign guests in English. That is something I never see in Tokyo---at least not to engage in conversation. In Tokyo, it is only that required to get the money. Even in Japanese.

Kiyomizu in Kyoto--absurdly crowded

Kyoto Nov 17-18 views of side streets, unknown temple and Westin Miyako Ryokan

More Kyoto pics

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Interview with Tojo's Granddaughter

The right wing has been becoming increasingly influential in Japan for at least 10-15 years---witness the stubborn insistence by Koizumi visiting Yasukuni Shrine where convicted war criminals are enshrined along with ordinary soldiers who died in war.

Ms. "Tojo's" explanations and excuses for Japanese wartime aggression and crimes are nothing new---one often hears this stuff in Japan even from those who are not especially sympathetic to the right-wing views. However, I think it is a bit of a shock to see an answer like this:

Q: China has the right to protest though doesn'tÂ’t it? Japan invaded their country and killed millions.

Tojo: China played no part in the San Francisco Treaty. Countries that were not involved in the treaty or the Tokyo Trials have no right to talk about war criminals now. So why is China complaining now? The Japanese fought the Nationalists (KMT) not the Communists*. It is now a completely different country. China and Japan later signed a treaty and war criminals and prisoners were released. The word war criminal (senpan) does not exist in that treaty. They should abide by that treaty. It is unforgivable (zettai yurusanai) that they continue to interfere in our domestic affairs.

Naturally she denied any Japanese atrocities in Nanjing, ducked a question about Unit 731, and seemed flabbergasted that the current emperor (kinda) admitted that the Imperial family may be of Korean descent.

You can read the full interview here:

You can also read a short article by Karl Von Wolferen (the author of The Enigma of Japanese Power---one of the best books ever written on Japan, but dated now). He explains how the US support of Japan has allowed its continued isolation and how this isolation is now complemented by US isolation.

*Actually, the Japanese did fight the Communists as well as the Nationalists. The Communists were to some degree content to let the KMT fight the Japanese more than they did as they figured that Japan, sooner or later would have to abandon China and the the Communists could pick up the pieces. But to say that the Japanese never fought the Communists shows either that Ms. Tojo is being dishonest, or deeply ignorant of what went on in China or both. Of course, this is not really the point of the problems which exist between China and the Japanese people about World War 2 anyway.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Just let me cut you off

Another informal bike race today. This time it was with a Japanese guy about 50 years old. When I first saw him, he was going at a decent pace on an old steel framed bike with fenders. He was wearing sweats. Now I know that these are the guys who can occasionally be very, very tough. The young guys on nice bikes are usually posing and acting pretty. When it gets tough, they fade and drop almost immediately.

I passed this guy even though I hesitated at first. I am getting out of top shape now---a big reduction in mileage and very little focused training since August. He was going just fast enough to that I knew if he challenged me that I would have to really hustle much more than I wanted to today.

I passed and he was on me fast. I held at 22-23 and he did not drop. I did several short sprints to try to drop him at 25-28 mph, but he got right back on me. Even up a few "hills" he held--unbelievable for most around here. This was tough today as my heart rate was hitting 184bpm--when I am in top shape it rarely hits this high with that ammount of effort. Then we entered a curvy populated area for a kilometer or so and could not really do much and had to slow.

After about 1 mile of this (2.5 total), we were headed toward a switchback and he cut through the grass to get in front. Immediately, the pace slowed even though we were in an open area now, but he still was going over 20 mph. At first I thought he was taking a very un-Japanese turn at the front letting me draft instead of just leeching off of me. I was on his wheel for maybe 2 kilometers. (There is a HUGE difference between ridng behing another rider in the draft and being in front. I would guess the energy required drops 15-20% at times.)

Suddenly he sat up---a sure sign of tiring---and then he looked back and waved me by saying that it was dangerous. I laughed at that and stayed on his wheel. I knew if I passed I would be doing all the work again and he would be sitting back there leeching off of me until the end. No way. Strange that it wasn't dangerous when he was drafting me.

Anyway, we came to a split in the road and I went uphil to the street and he stayed on the river bike path. We rode parallel for a while and he was hammering to keep even with me, but ultimately backed off. (Nobody to pull him?) I went up the road another 2-3 kilometers and turned around to go home and saw him on the way back.

It would have been a nice day and nice little run if it hadn't have been for the gutless "abunai yo" hypocracy he pulled at the end. Usually, most Japanese just reach for their water bottle and pretend to be overwhelmed with thirst when they give up.

I wonder if he thought just cutting in front of me was all he would have to do. Did he figure I would just give up and stop or slack off? That is common in Japan. People cut in front of you all the time then slow way down. It seems all they want to do is cut you off and the block your path. This happens just walking down the sidewalk or jogging or anything. People will kill one another to be the first out of a train and as soon as they are out the door they will stop and block everyone else who is trying to get out. They seem to do this without thought. Apparentely, all you gotta do is jump in front of people and you have acheived whatever you are trying to acheive. Maybe it is away society bangs down the nail that is sticking up . You are going somewhere? Faster than me? Well, let me cut you off and slow you down like me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

New School at Miyazakidai Station

Just saw a new school has opened at the station. There already is a NOVA scam eikaiwa school there, but with luck this school will be successful. There are many small, privately run language schools in Japan, many of which are owned and staffed by professionally trained teachers--real teachers who could teach in places other than Japan. The cirriculum, the teaching, the service as far as individual attention to students goes is usually much, much, better than the NOVA, Berlitz, GABA eikaiwa chain schools are willing to provide.

There has been an increase over the last several months in people looking to study English. So I suspect that the Japanese economy is really beginning to strengthen, at least until the Japanese government kills it by raising interest rates and taxes. I have had to stop accepting new students, and will be able to become mainly self-employed except for occasionally courses for JAL Academy and a few other very select companies. I hope to keep the part-time fake teaching job at Berlitz until the end of the year to get my vacation and holiday pay. However, I am so eager to start, and eager to drop that "job" that I don't know if I can hold out.

There is a market for people who will really work to learn a language--as is necessary--in Japan and who are not simply looking for a chance to observe and be entertained by a baka gaijin clown. At least I have been finding some. Granted, it is a small group. I will see how long it lasts.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Goober the creepy 7-11 clerk

Next to our apartment is a 7-11. Now this 7-11 sucks already because they only have stocked shelves in the early morning and at noon. It's mostly bare the rest of the day except for stuff nobody ever buys.

There is a clerk there---let's call him Goober---who gives me the creeps every time I see him. He constantly---and I do mean constantly---snorts deeply and loudly like he is trying to pull up a huge goober. He does it 3 or 4 times a minute. He can't have a cold unless he has one everyday 365 days per year.

I try to avoid him when he is at the register because I don't want this disgusting creep touching my food even if it is in a package. If I am unlucky enough not to avoid Goober the Creep, I wash the packages and my hands well after getting home. I suppose I should shop elsewhere as he stocks food when he isn't at the register.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting an ass-whuppin' in a bike race

When I am riding or training along the Tama river (Tamagawa) I occasionally get into informal races. They rarely last long---2 minutes or less on average. Usually some Japanese guy on halfway decent bike all fitted out in his bike clothes---often old U.S. Postal team colors---is waddling along at 16-17 mph. When I go to overtake him, he decides he wants to race and will get up and go into an all out sprint reaching speeds of 17.3 mph. Beautiful sprints in slow motion without actually appying force to the bike, just body weight. I always hate this because I will have to waste energy to squash the sprint, or he will stay in front for 25-30 more seconds until he figures I ain't gonna just give up and wimp away because he accelerated. Often these guys just want to get in front with no clue of how they will hold it and seem shocked that being in front means ya gotta work like hell to stay there.

Well, today before my cold started hitting bad, I was doing a light zone 3 ride. I was averaging about 18-19 mph into a slight headwind, nothing spectacular. I was passing all the pretty tricked-out guys in their U.S. Postal or whatever clothes (riding at 15 mph) when I noticed a guy on my ass.

I hate that too, because most Japanese guys will ride your wheel to take advantage of the draft, but never take a turn pulling. He passed me a little while later so I figured I'd get on his wheel and ride for a while then stomp his twiggy ass. Well, this guy kept going, he wasn't weakening. I was waiting for the tell-tale Japanese sign of defeat---pretending to be thirsty and grabbing the water bottle while slowing. (This means, "Yea, buddy, I would have kicked your ass, but I gotta take a drink." Right.)

He never went for his bottle. In fact, after we turned a switchback--and he stayed on the correct side of the road---I realized he was not a Japanese, but a westerner. The shaved legs of a cyclist should have given that away sooner. Then, after we went up a small hill (while he remained seated---Japanese often have to stand to go over an anthill), he really started going. I was on him at 23-25 mph for maybe a kilometer or more with my heartrate monitor hitting 178bpm (just below my apx maximum of 181), but I let myself slip off his wheel and he accelerated slightly again. I could not catch him. I was dropped. My ass was kicked.

Actually, I enjoy losing more than winning, because of maybe 100 or more informal races I get in each year, I win 98 without trying. I can even take on and beat pacelines here. That's insane. Nobody in his right mind would take on a paceline of decent cyclists anywhere else as beating them would be impossible, a fool's errand. Actually, most of the pacelines aren't really pacelines. The riders don't seem to understand the purpose of them. One guy gets in front and stays in front---at 17mph. The guys who beat me are always older Japanese guys in their 40s and 50s. Young guys are no threat.

But this guy today really did a number on me. It has been a long time since I was dropped so badly. I have been getting so overconfident here---I remembered how hard it was in the States to race and beat younger or older guys. It's damned tough if you have a group of good cyclists racing. Very, very tough to win.

Well, I was brought back to reality today. I only wish I could have more chances to ride with, and compete against, decent, serious cyclists---Japanese or not. Then I can really measure how I am doing without being misled because I beat a bunch of tatemae pretenders all the time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another view of Berlitz from Thailand.

Think what I say about Berlitz is tough? Read this from a popular EFL website in Bangkok.


The producer of excellent phrase books and tapes has two schools in Bangkok. Berlitz has developed their own system for language teaching that uses very few of the accepted practices and works on a kind of "drill it into the brain and hope the students remember it" approach. Many "sex tourists" work here and this school will take ANYONE who walks through the door wearing a shirt and tie. They have a mandatory one week unpaid training course to complete before you start working for them - about 50% of people who do the course stay on to work there.

Within their buildings they have microphones in all of the classrooms that allow the branch manager to listen in and hear what the class / teacher are doing / saying. There are regular checks to ensure that you are following the Berlitz way and you will be condemned if you are teaching using anything other than the fixed narrow minded and downright stupid Berlitz approach. Needless to say, this school is for unqualified teachers.

This school is for those with no teaching qualifications and no desire to think about what they have to do. If this is you, it's probably your dream tourists take note!

This sounds so true...just like Japan, although Berlitz has claimed to have moved away from the old Direct and audiolinguistic methods they used until a few years ago. Now they claim to be using the commuincative approach, but nobody there understands it at all. It takes a little more than 1 week of half-assed training to use that complex approach.

Yea, take classes there. A lot of people do and enjoy it. Berlitz makes a lot of bucks for doing it. The Japanese lap it up. It is "fun" and "teachers" correct a lot.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A grumpy old Ojiisama on the Tama

Was down on the Tama River this afternoon taking---or trying to---take some photos. As a was packing to leave, some old man (old is relative in Japan, people start acting elderly at 35-40) came up the path pushing his granny bike. He stopped and started staring at me.

Now this isn't so unusual, some Japanese, mostly the gummers over 50 still stare at foreigners. I know this is rude, and the Japanese are, of course the most polite people in the universe, but staring at foreigner doesn't count.

I often star back when this happens, but this old gummer looked like he might start gibbering to me. So I ignored him.

In a few seconds he started grunting. Again, not unusual as a lot of these old gummers grunt with even the slightest effort such as inhaling.

I took a few minutes getting my stuff packed and as soon as I moved a few inches right, old grampa grabbed his clunker flew up the path like a bat out of hell as fast as he could waddle. He was muttering and cussing to himself, and then it dawned on me. I was standing on the path he wanted to take. He didn't just say "excuse me" (sumimasen, shitsurei shimasu etc) he just stood there grunting like an old sow with a corn cob up her ass. I was supposed to have understood the meaning of his grunt.

Wow. I stood in the way of an old gummer like an idiot and ignored him. I am turning Japanese! Damn. Payback at last!!!

What many students think of Berlitz (or any) English teacher

At my now part-time income supplement job at Berlitz, I was doing an exercise with elementary ability level students. I was helping them make a recruitment ad, so I used Berlitz as an example knowing I would get this kind of answer.

Question: What skills does a Berlitz English teacher need?
1. Can speak English.
2. Is usually polite.
3. Is funny

So basically, they assume Berlitz teachers need no knowledge, education, or skills. I don't disagree much about this for Berlitz or many other eikawa chain schools. However, many Japanese assume this for any non-Japanese English teacher anywhere.

If they want an intelligent, well-educated and trained teacher, they go to Japanese teachers. For native-speakers, they look for entertaining clowns---basically language whores---for "classes" which are primarily "fun." The idea that interesting, effective, and useful classes are possible or desirable is something many never think about.

An example of delusionary--or at best, wishful thinking

I found this posted on the internet a year or so ago by an apparently frustrated and disgusted teacher fed up with the fake teaching going on in schools in Japan. He or she seems to be living in a dream world. Gone nutter, perhaps. This is what happens when you teach here too long. Poor person is about as nutty as me if he/she thinks the Japanese want real language teachers/teaching. They'd have to really study, do homework, and accept responsibility for their own success or failure. Ain't no fucking way.

As does every other place in Japan, schools often hire people just out of college (or even high school if they can get a visa) with no teacher training or experience. They figure that all you need to do to be able to teach a language is speak it. Naturally the result ain't so good. But who cares, they pay big bucks for it and their lack of success reinforces the nihonjinron fallacy that the Japanese are uniquely unique and can't learn English because their brain functions on the opposite side. I am not making that up!

(Some universities are even hiring eikaiwa cahin school "teachers" to teach for credit courses in Japanese universities. People who may be without even a BA or BS degree teaching university courses. Only in Japan.)

Below is the post by this guy. His predictions turned out to be completely wrong so far. There has been no increase in demand for qualified teachers in Japan. Never was. Never will be. Most people prefer clowns. Give 'em what they want. Let 'em keep throwing money away. Who the hell cares?

With the new school/business year starting soon it is necessary to state what is happening in new Japan for your readers.
First, the boards of education, companies, schools have been pressured to produce well educated students, clients, etc. With
that in mind, the disappearance of the entertainment style of being with children will soon disappear. It is so great to see and feel that now. For some time, in some areas of Japan, they were allowed to entertain, sit by their desk and file their nails, be a clown in general...That time has gone from a lot of boards of educations and companies.
There has been a drastic reduction in those types of people near Tokyo and just recently spreading to various areas of Japan this year and in the up and coming year. Instead, their jobs have been reduced, amalgamated with other contracts, or for some of them outright cut.
In replacement of these individuals is the return of the qualified teacher with experience, the background, and the knowledge of how to have children behave academically in the classroom. As a result of this drastic change, the professionals who are here now are swamped by the demand for good, quality education....the prop, theatrical way is out......the foreigner standing in the room is out.......the idea of performace[sic]in teaching is a tremendous part of the market and WE cannot and I MEAN cannot meet this demand!
The idea of textbooks at all levels of education is going to be coming to we the professionals eventually will have all we need here.
Goodbye to the clowns

Posted: March 11, 2004

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A word of advice

Do not come to Japan to "teach" English unless you have some other reason for being here. A year may be o.k. if you are interested in teaching as a career, but don't come and work for one of the big entertainment industry chain eikaiwa (conversation)schools. You will learn nothing except bad habits and have a good chance of being cheated out of money. You will deal with people of the most questionable ethics, and if you stay with it much you stand the chance of accepting and adoptingthe low standards and unethical. Dishonest behavior that is common in many of them.

Even teaching in good companies is not something you want to do long term if you don't have to. You can't really teach when you cannot test, when students won't do any outside class work, and won't write because they very mistakenly believe the only way to improve speaking is to sit around and shoot the shit.

The pay may seem good, but it isn't. It won't increase much over the long term. Companies like Berlitz rarely give annual raises and make a huge effort get you to pay for their responsibilties(e.g. Berlitz will often send "teachers" to different schools and refuse to reimburse them for the transportation costs.)

Again, do not make the mistake of coming here with an idea of a career in TESOL. Even in universities, if you have an MA in TESOL, my understanding is that you will have little actual input as an instructor, but simply expected to teach and shut the fuck up and let the brilliant Japanese staff make the decisions. After all, you are a happy boy airhead baka gaijin who could not possibly understand the Japanese or Japan.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Autumn---or what passes for it in Tokyo

seems to be about here. Normally, were I back home I wouldn't be calling days of 80-83 degrees autumn-like, but it has cooled some, especially at night.

With fall comes an increase in colds which seem to spread quickly and easily here. One of the big reasons is that people don't regularly use handkerchiefs to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. It actually seems rare. Sneezes are done full volume and full blast. If you are close to an sneezer, you are likely to have your eardrums burst as well as getting a full load of spit all over you. This is great fun in trains.

Today, I was only coughed on a few times by some young guy in his 20s---seemingly the weakest when it comes to cold immunity---who was shopping near me and coughed on me twice from about 3 feet away. Yes, it is hard to not say anything (or punch someone in the nose) for that, but this is Japan. Had I said something, I would have been the bad guy.

The other nice thing about cold season is that Japanese don't like to blow their nose (or wipe it on a tissue). It is much better manners to sniff constantly. Most foreigners really enjoy this. It is nice to work next to someone all day who sniffs her runny nose about 30 times a minute. Nice to be next to someone on a train doing that, while sneezing, and coughing all over you.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Recently, trains and subways in Tokyo

have reintroduced women only cars. Usually these are the last cars of a train. They can ride any car, men just aren't supposed to ride women's cars. This was done, supposedly, because of the number of perverts on trains feeling up women. Women also claim men stink and are often drunk. Naturally, women don't drink and never stink. Equality in Japan.

sunset this evening

Pics from around the neighborhood this evening

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Results of 4 Berlitz classes on a private student.

I have been teaching a intermediate-level student for the past 10 months. When we first started, she lacked confidence and had the common problem of focusing on perfect grammatical accuracy first, rather than communicating an idea. This resulted in her over-correcting constantly and causing problems in comprehension for listeners because she was so hard to follow. She slowly improved over that period as I worked to get her focus off of form and on fluency.

Well, one month ago she started a Berlitz eikaiwa class at her company. Her fluency and speed have deteriorated to the point to which they are worse than when we first started working together. She cannot get half a sentence out without correcting things which are not even wrong to begin with. She is constantly stopping and searching for the "right" words. Frankly, most native-speakers would not be able to talk with her for long if she spoke like that.

It is obvious why this happened. She told me that her "teacher" is a 10 year Berlitz vet who is very strict on grammatical errors, correcting them all immediately, critical or not. Berlitz itself claims to have gone to a communicative approach in which this type of error correction is not done because the vast majority of modern research indicates that it is counter-productive. But in fact, most Japanese students have been incorrectly conditioned to believe that grammar is the most important part of acquiring a foreign language and that 100% correction is the best way to achieve accurate grammar. Sort of like this is still 1940, which conveniently matches the era that Berlitz operates in. And, of course Berlitz doesn't care as long as "the students enjoy the class and think they learn something." And come back and waste another $3000 for 50 40 minute "classes."

I would never go to Berlitz for language lessons. Mere exposure to the language and use of it generally will provide some benefits for most. The question is, is it the most efficient, effective use of one's time and money. Personally, I want someone who can effectively teach instead of being forced to follow a one-size-fits all model.

Unfortunately, I cannot do much for her if she continues to go to this class with such incompetent teaching, and then come to mine to practice what amounts to stuttering instead of speaking. I may have to stop teaching her as long as she is with Berlitz. It will be a waste of her money and my time to try to again get her off the conscious focus on form. It is a shame as she was making progress.

Update: 2 March 2006. She finished the Berlitz classes in December and has just gotten back to the point where she is able to speak much more quickly and fluently. She began to realize what she was doing, so she has made an effort to get off the excessive worrying about grammar and form. Her knowledge of grammar was already well above average, but she occasionally makes the normal grammatical errors when speaking, most of which are insignificant.

I often feel that I am too hard on Japan

on this blog. I get tired of the Japanapologists---the vast majority foreigners---who apologize and explain away everything that happens in Japan because the Japanese are unique and pure of heart and intent. Japan, like every country and culture has its unique aspects, but it ain't uniquely unique. The Japanese are not always polite, they are not weird or inscrutable. They are not "mysterious," they are not WW2 type imperialists. Many are truly---though unrealistically pacifist. Most especially if it means Japan has to get involved. Some, like blinky Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo are blatant racists. Racism---or racialism as I have heard it described perhaps more accurately---runs beneath the surface of Japanese society. Often it is hidden, but it is easy to find. Apologists will excuse that because they themselves are bigots and believe that no better can be expected of the Japanese. Then again, many Japanese are not racist and are as opposed to it as anyone. Japan is not a crime-free society, nor is it the "safest" in the world as is often claimed. (Show me some figures that support this claim.)

I started thinking this over after seeing a Japanese news program in which they interviewed some foreigners about their beliefs about Japan before visiting here. A few said they had thought that Japan was the most opposite culture to America or England on earth, and were surprised to find this to be untrue.

This is the fault of people like Edwin Reischauer---the Harvard historian and former ambassador to Japan, who wrote some of the most obviously ridiculous nonsense ever written about Japan. Unfortunately, he was very influential in Asian Studies in the US until the old fool kicked the bucket in September of 1990. At that time I was in college finishing a BA in Asian Studies. Japanese who were in some of the classes we used his books in would say, in class, that what he wrote was not true. Too bad the old coot took so long to expire. Most people now understand how idiotic his sugar-coated bullshit was.

Hollywood movies like The Last Samurai, Mr. Baseball, Shogun, Lost in Translation don't help. They push the idea that Japan and the Japanese are weird, or 18th century warriors, or inscrutable. One recurring theme is the dirty, filthy, uncouth foreigner comes to Japan and gradually accepts the Japanese way and in the end is accepted by the Japanese as one of them, and is actually more Japanese than the Japanese. This garbage is so unrealistic as to be comical.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

As much as I laugh

and complain about Berlitz and NOVA and the other eikaiwa (conversation) "schools" in Japan, I can't blame them. They are giving students what they want---sort of satisfying a fetish for English---more than what they need. If they really tried to teach English as it should be taught and is taught in the States, Australian, and England, most students would quit and the schools would end up going broke. If Japanese customers started demanding professional level classes, companies would start providing them. I don't know, but I doubt Berlitz could get away in the U.S. with what they provide here. The idea of "we don't care what you do as long as the students enjoy the class and think that they learned something" wouldn't fly. At least in the classes they teach on contract in some public schools in the US. Standards are a bit higher there. However, the fact that students will accept any kind of garbage, doesn't excuse some of the unethical behavior some of these companies are involved in against their students and staff.

I recently got a "smile award" from a student who liked my class in part because my pronunciation was easy for her to understand. Wow. Now I feel like I have reached the peak of my teaching ability. I have such clear pronunciation, I get an award. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but that is the type of criteria students judge teachers on.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Koizumi Reelected, but

will there be any real change? According to all of the pundants---especially foreign journalists, Koizumi won in a landslide because the Japanese want change and action. However, he focused on reforming the Post Office this time. That is understandable, but his postal reforms are so watered down that it will not be until 2017 that most changes take effect and that leaves plenty of time for evasion of even these small changes.

The LDP---Koizumi's party---has been in power since 1955 except for very brief intervals. Some of the so-called opposition parties are ex-LDP members who pretty much agree with the LDP. Every time the LPD has won an election in the past 5-10 years, foreign "experts" have claimed that somehow the LDP victories were showing that the party was weakening and Japan was moving towards a real 2-party system. Most Japanese whom I told about this (or who could read the articles) laughed at such idiocy.

Now the LDP has won a huge landslide. So now many of these foreign experts are claiming that the LDP itself is bringing "change" to Japan (lead by Koizumi). Koizumi has said he will retire next September. The LDP is still led by 70-85 year-old retro-grouches. Change? Reform? Don't hold your breath for this one.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Two good Japan articles (from Japan Focus)

One is on how "free" peaceful protest is in Japan if you oppose the nutter rightwing WW2 apologists at Yasukuni Shrine. (PM Koizumi and the racist bigot Tokyo governor Ishihara will have no problems there.)

The second is an article by a non-Japanese teacher's (William Underwood at Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University) attempts to address Japanese denials of its World War 2 atrocities. It does tend to slightly degress in the "everyone does it" excuse for Japan's war conduct that many Japanese do. (The Americans did bad things too, so we can be excused.) Frankly, the US or British conduct that did not have a direct on Japan's---the atomic bombing could not be said to have influenced the Nanjing Massacre, for instance---so be kept a seperate issue. Period. Japan has used that excuse long enough.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another perspective on living in Japan (link here)

Just found this blog, a lot of good information and commentary, but with a very sad note. Makes one appreciate what he has and not sweat the small stuff so much....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Year's Worst Movie

is the Emperor Penguin, a French film---supposedly a nature film about penguins in the Antartic. Unfortunately, although you got to see penguins migrating in a natural setting, the sound was all dubbed. Even worse, you had a simple-minded dialog which was supposedly the penguin's thoughts all the way through the film without more than a few seconds break. Who the hell wants to watch a fake, manipulated "nature" film with the natural sound replaced by idiots pretending to be penguins? This has pretty much been the uniform reaction of people I saw it with. Yet not one so-called critic---foreign or Japanese---that I have read ever mentioned this at all. However, the ceaseless chatter begins to grate on people within the first 5 minutes. What a disappointing waste of time and money.

Avoid this crap at all costs and go to a Disney film. You have people acting like animals, but at least the dialog is not something that could be written by a rather shallow 8 year old.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Real Japan is

at my station, Kajigaya! I thought this place was pretty boring and not much to see or do. Then I read this article and discovered that it is the real Japan as opposed to Tokyo which I guess is the fake Japan. The writer compared Disneyland in the US to Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo and implied that believing that Disneyland was the real USA was the same as believing Shibuya or Shinjuku is the real Japan. I don't know, but I sorta think Disneyland is an amusement park and Shinjuku and Shibuya are real parts of Tokyo where average people work and live. Both are in real Japan. You needn't come to Kajigaya to see housewives shop in Tokyu store, you can see that in Shibuya. You can see people chatting and women with children. So I wonder why Kajigaya is real and the other two aren't? It seems to be an endless search for a myth. Anyway, here's a pic of a mysterious real Japanese photo shop.

Oh, by the way, contrary to the author, Kawasaki motorcycles are neither made in Kawasaki City nor named for it. Actually he has written some interesting stuff, but I was a bit surprised by this article.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

How do you teach people who won't try?

Perhaps it is always a question, but it is especially one in Japan. Adults who basically have to be treated as children. I would say 70% make no effort---or at the very least, no consistent effort to study or practice anything they "learn" in "class." Many seem to want nothing but entertainment (this is especially true at the eikaiwa chain schools it seems). Now most teachers know that their class should be interesting and useful, and hopefully fun. However, few other than 5-15 year olds place "fun" as one of the most important parts of a class. It isn't unusual here though. Forget studying and preparation. Just go to a "class" an hour or two a week and maybe try to say something if it is not too troublesome and never,ever have anything to do with English until the next class and then claim you can't learn English because you have some genetic Japanese inability to speak English. Of course it could be because you are a horrible student if you were anywhere else but Japan.

Last week I was at a Starbucks listening to a "teacher" do a private lesson with 2 Japanese girls. He came in and ran his mouth for 45 minutes. The 2 girlies giggled (in English?) and one actually muttered 2-3 responses in English. They paid him 3000 yen---about $27---and were very satisfied. I guess he was their entertainment and fulfilled the stereotype of Western foreigners as entertaining, but ignorant buffoons. However, they paid him. He did no work and did not teach a damned thing. Who were the ignorant buffoons?

No wonder companies like NOVA, Berlitz, et al get away with what they do. No wonder the Japanese spend millions on English and are barely above North Korea in English ability in Asia.

March 6, 2006 update: I have heard that at some of the private language schools in the U.S., things aren't all that different. I have spoken to a few guys who taught at company-owned private schools---and have heard similar horror stories. When I student taught---or observed--- in the US, it was always at government schools. Of course teachers there can tell you horror stories of some of the students too.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Danger along the Tama River

One of the most dangerous things one can do in Japan is to ride a bicycle. In an earlier post I mentioned some of the dangers as examples of why. To be blunt, people simply do not watch where they are going. They focus on the front wheel of their bike or will ride while looking to the side or behind themselves while utter disregard for their own safety or that of others. If they do see a danger, they are very reluctant to take any action to avoid it or to even use their brakes. Generally, they will continue on their way and it is up to you to avoid it. (I quit riding on Sundays because of the number of unbelievable accidents I saw, most of which were due to pure negligence.)

In May I was hit by some old guy who came flying down a hill out of control. He looked right at me---stared in fact---and headed out of his lane directly toward me. He made absolutely no effort to slow down or stop, but had a look of total panic (and profound idiocy) on his face. I was barely able to avoid a head on, but he still hit me hard enough to badly bruise my shoulder. He kept on going, until---very un-Japanese like---I started cussing him in both English and what I could think of in Japanese. He stopped, came back and gave me the standard phony apology. There was nothing I could do so I dropped it.

Yesterday, I was coming around a blind curve, and knowing the special dangers in Japan, I slowed way down. Sure enough as soon as I turned the corner there was a poser in his full cycling gear and a nice road bike on the wrong side of the road directly in front of me. He did slow down and utter a "gomen" and move out of the way after I had stopped to avoid a collision. This marked him as different than the average cyclist or pedestrian.

I think a lot of this, especially the habit of pedestrians to blindly walk around and carelessly block entire roads or walk directly into the path of others after they have seen and are aware of them, to be an example of the passive-aggressive characteristics which one observes here. "I may be slow, lazy and weak, but you are gonna have to act that way too. I will control what you do."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

An unusually "green" area in Kawasaki

This looks much nicer than it is, but at least is is "quiet" and even has a hill. Well, quiet, except for the train lines. A rather expensive area to live in compared to mine. About 20 minutes away on foot.

Beautiful Tama River on an August Saturday afternoon

The Real Japan

People have been looking for this since Isabella Byrd in the late 1870s. It is more of a Western fantasy (or fetish) than it ever was a reality. The top two are near Shinjuku JR station, the 3rd is near Highway 246 about 500 meters from my home. Notice the love and respect for nature and the environment. I don't know, but for some reason this seems much more real than zen Buddhism, anything from The Last Samurai or Lost in Translation.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

If you are a student

Why would you pay the huge price at Berlitz when you get little or nothing more than at NOVA or GABA? You certainly will not get nearly as good teaching or course or material as you would at some small schools. You are basically a number there. At a big LC, the "teacher" probably don't even know your name. They have no time to prepare for your class. They can do almost nothing extra to help you. Berlitz training is very light and quick. Teachers cannot use it when teaching. Why pay for that? I admit, I can't understand it. I would never take a lesson there.

If you are a company, why would you pay for this? Is it because Berlitz is a famous brand name? Guess what; Berlitz Japan is not the same as Berlitz in the US. Even in the US, people who are serious about learning a foreign language choose other means, such as community colleges or universities. Berlitz is famous yes, but more often for their bad travel guides than for language teaching.

Interviewing at an eikaiwa

A lot of people seem to want to know tips for interviewing at Berlitz, NOVA, GABA, ECC, GEOS and the other chain "conversation schools." I can't give you any except that as we all know, no special ability, education, or skills are needed. Just "enthusiasm" and appear dumb and passive enough to follow their nonsensical "methods" and whatever other garbage they will give you. My only experience was with Berlitz. The interview was advertised as "very competitive" but it was the least competitive I have ever seen. Basically, they scheduled a group of us for an interview on the same day, time, and place and we sat and chatted about Berlitz after we introduced ourselves. The HR rep ran it, and gave us a quick, semi-accurate overview of a polished, ideal, Berlitz (Naturally he left out the parts which would cause concern such as supervisors switching "teacher's" contract hours around and in effect, defrauding them of salary .) Everyone at that interview showed up at the "training" week and passed the "training" too. You would have to be an complete and utter moron to fail, and even that would give you only a 30% chance of doing so.

Remember, at these places you are not teaching, and in fact, neither the management nor most of the students really want you to teach. It's all fake, you know....

So the question is, why would you want one of these garbage jobs if you are at all interested in teaching. (Or even real employment?) These things are not in the least challenging, you will learn nothing at any of them except for bad habits which could get you fired in any other job.

My advice is, unless you need it to get a visa, avoid the Berlitz/NOVA/GABA chain schools like the plague. If you have any real teaching experience or training, you will be extremely dissatisfied. Of course you will be more so if like some may do occasionally, you are cheated out of earned pay. Contrary to myth, not all schools nor English teaching jobs in Japan are like these. Avoid them.

I can't stand unions, and this one is especially weak and ineffective (normal in Japan) but check out this site for info on what Berlitz does.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I miss this weather now

The Tama River near Futakotamagawa last March after an unusually late snowstorm. Loved it then---have always loved snow, even when I lived in Montana. Would like some now although it would interfere with cycling to some degree.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rainy season is over

for the year. Now the real heat begins, but so far it has not been as hot as last year. But even with the A/C on the apartment temperature is about 83 degrees. Japanese housing is not know for good insulation. If fact, there is almost none. Think of the energy that could be saved if proper insulation were used. Wasn't the Kyoto Protocol signed in Japan? Think maybe Japan would be serious about it? Wonder why they waited until after Bush withdrew from it in 2001 before ratifying it themselves? Serious?

Monday, July 18, 2005


A three day weekend. My wife and I went to see the Mel Brooks play, The Producers. It was excellent. Much better than expected. Next month a Japanese cast takes over and it will be in Japanese, so we hope to watch it again before then. She had to get the tickets last year to get the good seats we had. Unlikely that we will get such good seating again.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tour de France

Since the Tour is not broadcast on any Japanese TV station---except possibly one of the satellite channels, I have one again been following it on the internet. This year I have been able to listen to it live on

The first time I lived in Japan---Toyama City in 1991-92--I had to get most information via shortwave radio. What a difference the internet has made. I can get almost the same information about anything nearly as fast as I could when in the US. Even in the last year things have continued to improve---more audio is available, and even video is increasing. Can't wait until I can watch the Tour live even if I have to pay to do so. Unfortunately, many sites block people outside the country of origin from listening to or watching broadcasts.

Anyway, it's stage 15 tonight and Armstrong is still in yellow. He has been surprisingly strong this year even when the Discovery team wasn't around to help him. He certainly whipped all the competition, esp Ullrich and Basso yesterday. A lot of people now hate Armstrong mainly because he has been so successful---even Americans. Many were claiming that it wasn't Armstrong, but his team that won the six Tours. Yea, his team is important, but it seems unlikely that any other rider would have had the wins he did even with the same team. Since this is his last year, I kinda expect the popularity of the Tour---an thus the coverage--- to decrease in the US from next year. Then we'll hear all the US whiners complain about the lack of coverage. The same people who whine and complain about Armstrong.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

In Ebisu

I love this area in Tokyo. Near Ebisu station there is a shopping area which looks very nice. Not a lot of shops especially, but some decent restaurants and a movie theater which shows smaller films. The only place to see Woody Allen films, for example. I used to go to this area to eat lunch outdoors when I was working in Tokyo. A lot of people walk their dogs here on weekends, so if you like dogs you can see a large variety of mostly purebreeds.

Monday, July 11, 2005

If you really want to learn

customer service and how to do business in Japan, the best thing to do is recruit you own students---especially corporate clients. If you are working for one of the assembly-line big eikaiwa chain schools, it is unlikely you will learn much of anything, including how to teach.

However, even one day working with an HR manager will teach you more than you can learn working for someone else---even a good school. Gotta advertise, sell, then follow through on your promises. You needn't do any of that at most places. (Some do expect you to sell their services though).

Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4

U.S. Independence Day. It brings back a lot of memories of the U.S.--especially in West Virginia. I remember being home about 23-24 years ago in firing a muzzleloading rifle into the air (no ball--powder only) in the evening as a celebration. I also remember in 1979 during the Carter oil crisis driving around on fumes because gas stations were closed by government order.

It also makes me aware that as much as I complain about Japan---mostly the government---that the U.S. is not perfect either. In fact, I probably had more criticism of the U.S. than I do Japan. Of course, that is what patriotism and citizenship is---not just blind acceptance of everything. Democracy exits in Japan to the extent that it does because of the U.S. what the U.S. did--often against the wishes of the Japanese government--after WW2. So I suppose I can freely make critical comments in Japan largely thanks to those postwar U.S policies. I am sure that thought will cause many to soil their panties.

Interesting homework

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my Japanese class today with Hiramura-san. However, she came up with a clever idea of recording a Japanese T.V. drama and splitting it into small segments so that a student can use it to practice listening comprehension. She pre-teaches difficult vocabulary, so it makes it possible to get most of what is being said in each segment. Listening skills are my weakest area, so this is a beneficial way to improve---even though the speed and language used is above my level.

Improving actual speaking and listening is such a slow process. I wonder how so many Japanese can stick to it in Japan where the opportunity to actually use English is so rare for most.

Rainy season

Another wet rainy day. Some places were suffering from drought, but I wonder if they still are. The rain seems to have been increasing and the number of rainy days more than last year. It is even nice and cool today. Didn't even have to turn on the A/C. Thank goodness as the expnse is tremendous.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hot weather in Tokyo

Already there have been record temperatures this year. Yesterday it was 35 degrees Celsius in Tokyo. When I was cycling on highway 246, a thermometer I had with me registered 100 degrees at about 11 am. Rainy season officially started last week as I recall. It has been rainier so far this year than last it seems, but a lot of areas are still threatened with drought.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Japanese government manipulation of science

I suspect most people know of the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by the North Koreans. Perhaps you even know of Ms. Megumi Yokota whom North Korea claims to have committed suicide in North Korea. When what were said to be her remains were returned to Tokyo, DNA tests were conducted which supposedly showed the remains were of 2 different people, not Megumi.

This has caused the tensions between the two countries to continue to rise. North Korea obviously cannot be trusted very much here, but how about the Japanese government? But did you know that 2 DNA tests were conducted, the first by the government which determined that it was not possible to determine whose remains they were or weren't after they were cremated at 1200 degrees centigrade. The second test was conducted by a lecturer at Teikyo university who had no experience testing cremated remains for DNA. The same scientist later told Nature magazine that the test really proved nothing. The Japanese government, as is their custom, did not debate the point, but instead attacked the magazine. You can read the full story at (Sorry, dead link, article has been removed by Japan Focus. Why?)

The story in short, available from several sources on the web, including Time and Wikipedia:

An article in the 3 February 2005 (Nature) issue revealed that the DNA analysis on Megumi's remains had been performed by a member of the medical department of Teikyo University, Yoshii Tomio. Yoshii, it later transpired, was a relatively junior faculty member, of lecturer status, in a forensic department that had neither a professor nor even an assistant professor. Remarkably, he said that he had no previous experience in the analysis of cremated specimens, described his tests as inconclusive and remarked that such samples were very easily contaminated by anyone coming in contact with them, like "stiff sponges that can absorb anything." In other words, the man who had actually conducted the Japanese analysis pronounced it anything but definitive. The five tiny samples he had been given to work on (the largest of them 1.5 grams) had anyway been used up in his laboratory, so independent verification was thereafter impossible. It seemed likely as a result that nobody could ever know for sure what Pyongyang's package had contained.

When the Japanese government's chief cabinet secretary, Hosoda Hiroyuki, referred to this article as inadequate and a misrepresentation of the government-commissioned analysis, Nature responded, in a highly unusual editorial (17 March), saying that:

"Japan is right to doubt North Korea's every statement. But its interpretation of the DNA tests has crossed the boundary of science's freedom from political interference. Nature's interview with the scientist who carried out the tests raised the possibility that the remains were merely contaminated, making the DNA tests inconclusive. This suggestion is uncomfortable for a Japanese government that wants to have North Korea seen as unambiguously fraudulent. ... The inescapable fact is that the bones may have been contaminated. ... It is also entirely possible that North Korea is lying. But the DNA tests that Japan is counting on won't resolve the issue. The problem is not in the science but in the fact that the government is meddling in scientific matters at all. Science runs on the premise that experiments, and all the uncertainty involved in them, should be open for scrutiny. Arguments made by other Japanese scientists that the tests should have been carried out by a larger team are convincing. Why did Japan entrust them to one scientist working alone, one who no longer seems to be free to talk about them? Japan's policy seems a desperate effort to make up for what has been a diplomatic failure ... Part of the burden for Japan's political and diplomatic failure is being shifted to a scientist for doing his job -- deriving conclusions from experiments and presenting reasonable doubts about them. But the friction between North Korea and Japan will not be decided by a DNA test. Likewise, the interpretation of DNA test results cannot be decided by the government of either country. Dealing with North Korea is no fun, but it doesn't justify breaking the rules of separation between science and politics."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Welfare/unemployment for English speaking foreigners

That is what eikaiwa really is. For a variety of reasons, the Japanese are reluctant to hire non-native Japanese. This can be because of the fear that a non-native Japanese won't fit in, because of poor Japanese language skills, or because they simply don't want non-native Japanese in the company, or because some are born bigots and racists like Blinky Ishihara and do not believe a non-native Japanese (defined by "blood"--- a person of recent Korean ancestory is not considered native Japanese even if he/she were born here. In fact, the Tokyo government led by Blinky, prohibits non-Japanese citizens from being in a position to supervise the god-like Japanese) should work in many positions in Japan.

Thus, we have eikaiwa. When I first went to Bershitz, one guy who had been there for a while told me that I shouldn't take it as a job. It wasn't one. I finally figured out that he was right after 2 years there. I went to part time to enable myself to really teach elsewhere---or as close as one can come to teaching EFL in this country---and to give myself time for improving my Japanese and learning Chinese as well as personal time. Bershitz is simply welfare---a stable income which requires no work, thought, or effort. It is still hard to accept that it is not a job at times, but I am getting better at it. What about those who pay money for learning a language there? Well, buyer beware. There are good schools in this country, but learning requires effort and the majority are primarily interested in being entertained and perhaps magically becoming proficient in English. If anyone is that stupid, frankly they deserve what they get. I am ashamed to say that, but I have to adopt that attitude to continue my welfare program.

Unfortunately, like all welfare/unemployment programs, it can become addictive. Money for nothing is attractive, so one has to use that time to improve his/her skills and marketability. Most Bershitz welfare recipients don't do that---unless one considers getting drunk marketable outside of eikaiwa, but it's a free country.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


So far this year I have been putting in more time on training rides. Hopefully, I will be able to compete in a few races this year. Had to give up on the Mt. Fuji hill climb race as it was too much trouble to travel there by train and then race. There are many more chances to race if I get the time. Have to lay off the bike for a few days as am coming close to overdoing it. Am in the Build 1 phase of training for anyone who is familiar with cycling or other endurance sports and training.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Koizumi to Officially Visit Yasukuni again

He is doing it for the seemingly growing right-wing support in Japan. (See , and his support among Japanese He said he cannot understand why anyone would object to visiting the resting place of war dead. That would be true if some of the dead were not convicted war criminals. But, we must remember that many Japanese tend to view those convicted---Tojo victims of so-called "victor's justice" who had to give their lives so that allied forces could take some revenge on the poor Japanese.

Again, imagine the German prime minister visiting Hitler's grave and claiming he was just paying his respects to the war dead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It has been some time

since I posted, and a lot has happened. China had a period of protests over Japan's misleading school texts in which the Japanese once again tried to minimize their WW2 war crimes and atrocities in China. Many Westerners used the occasion to hone their Japanapologist skills to rationalize Japan's war conduct. (More info on some reasons that Japan's words of regret aren't believable to many in Asia at and specifically and from a German journalist's perspective at . For info on how Japanese treated its POWs and how little most Japanese know of the subject, see For an simple, but uncomfortable comparison of the actions of the U.S. in its treatment of prisoners taken in the "War on Terrorism" and what was called a war crime during the Tokyo trials see Naturally, the latter in no way excuses the Japanese, but certainly raises serious questions about our recent and current practices.)

The Chinese government obviously inflamed public opinion about Japan, but if Japan had ever shown any real contrition for its past conduct, it would be harder for the public to be manipulated (assuming the Chinese gov't allowed such information to reach the public).

The Chinese are pretty much right in assuming that Japan isn't truly sorry for what they did in WW2. If you watch Japanese TV, you can often see programs---weekly in fact---about the war. However, although they may occasionally show atrocities committed by Japan's Nazi allies, you won't see much if anything about Japan's. What is shown are attacks on Japanese cities, interviews with people who survived them, and sometimes interviews with ex-soldiers about the suffering they endured. Watching them, it becomes obvious that the Japanese consider themselves victims of the war more than victimizers. In fact, this is the impression you are left with when talking to most about WW2. They will mutter something about Japan doing some vague bad things somewhere, but then switch it to the bandwagon fallacy of "everybody does it," or that they were "caused" to go to war (the US cut off oil and other materials because of Japanese actions in China).

The IHT--International Herald Tribune carried an article the other day about Japanese and Indian relations. One way that India was trying to woo Japan was to emphasize that it was the only nation to vote to acquit the Japanese in the Tokyo War Crime trials. Now if Japan were truly contrite about its past, why would this be attractive to them? Can you imagine a country trying to woo Germany by claiming that they supported the Nazis during the Nuremburg trials?

Shintaro Ishihara, a well-known racist, bigot, and governor of Tokyo used to deny that there was any Nanjing Massacre at all, claiming it to be "Chinese lies." He has modified that somewhat to quibble over that exact number of deaths in Nanjing. He and other Japanese politicians pay no penalty for statements in support of Japanese WW2 actions, or for racist statements pertaining to Koreans or Chinese. In fact, like Ol' Blinky Ishihara, they are reelected. Reelected by the Japanese public. One has to wonder where the regret for WW2 is among the Japanese. (Read about Ol' Blinky Ishihara here

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bear season was in during this time. Saw a few hunters...only wish I could have joined them. Oops...politically incorrect for some. Posted by Hello

Notice the unusually blue lake Posted by Hello

Shizuoka again Posted by Hello

Autumn in Shizuoka mountains Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Knife control hits Japan

Everyone "knows" that Japan is "the safest country" in the universe. Of course, this is said to be partly because of strict gun control laws. Only the police, licensed hunters, the yakuza, and a select few privileged folks may possess a firearm. (Handguns basically outlawed except for the police and the yakuza.)

Unfortunately, there has been a series of murders recently using what must be assault knives. (Swords are also tightly controlled. Sorry, the samurai is long dead.) These are large kitchen knives apparently designed for only one purpose---to slice and stab. One wonders what an ordinary citizen needs with one. You can slice your sushi with a small knife. Well, finally a town has come to its senses and started a "registration" program for buyers of knives which are 15cm or more in length. One must provide his/her name, address, and the reason for purchasing a knife. It is about time we had sensible knife laws in this country. This should immediately reduce stabbing in Japan. As soon as someone about to commit murder tells them he needs one to kill people, the Japanese police will...will...never mind. They won't do anything until the murder occurs. Well, maybe the intended victim can be notified and she can flee for her life. Or, the potential killer would be forced to buy a 14.99 cm knife or smaller, with which he could not kill nor injure anything.

Thank goodness Japan is not like the U.S. where citizens have the right to own guns or even swords!!! If only the U.S. would follow Japan, outlaw guns except for a privileged few (and the Mafia and other organized crime groups), then get the knives. Then, the U.S. will be the "safest country" like Japan. It is so simple.

Friday, February 18, 2005

More state supported racism in Japan

Old news, but an interesting article of how the Japanese government signed the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1995 and then continues to ignore or condon, or as below, even enforce racist policies.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Blinky Ishihara, the bigot imbecile's recent comment on

the case involving the woman of Korean descent being denied promotion by the Supreme Court (as I wrote about earlier congratulations to all Japapologists):

"Ms. Chong .... adding that when Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro spoke about the case, he made the issue of nationality especially explicit: "He said something like, 'What if a decision about the life or death of a critically ill patient has to be made. How can we trust a foreign nurse?' That made me very angry, considering that it would not even be my decision, it would be a doctor's." (

Isn't it strange that when some rightwing neonazi nutcase makes such a racist, ignorant comment in Europe, the world jumps all over them. When it occurs---nearly daily---in Japan, there is not even a stir from the US, or Canada, or Britain, or Europe. Is it because we don't expect much from the Japanese anyway? Remember, the citizens of Tokyo overwhelmingly elected this idiot twice even though he has been known for this type of thoughts, writing, and comments for decades. They are utimately responsible. We must assume that he reflects the will of the majority. The Japanese should be held to the same standards as the rest of the modern world, and we need to stop making excuses for, and apologizing for them. Bigots and racists are bigots and racists. Period.

Look here for more on Japan's treatment for those of Korean descent.