Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Private Students

Earlier, I posted some of my ideas about teaching private students---those you get on you own without a company. These now make up the largest part of my teaching time. I still work on a contract basis for a corporate teaching company for which I have worked with since 2000, (Except for a 2 year nightmare with Berlitz during which I taught a few courses off and on with them) but I have my own company courses as well as numerous---as many as I want right now---private students. I will modify some of my ideas and maybe add a few.

I suggested that one should not get involved in "lessons" which are nothing but sitting around and chatting---or trying to. However, if the "student" wants this--a minority do---and if you are willing to do it, why not? There may not be a goal nor objective and no way to measure progress or much of anything else, but frankly, when a large percentage of people WILL NOT study or prepare, there is little difference. Why waste your time preparing a lesson for a student when he/she spends no time preparing for it? It is pointless. Of course, being your own boss, you could dump this kind of student. Just become "too busy" to continue teaching the person. They'll get the hint.

Write out your lesson policy in easy to understand English, and give a copy to the prospective student at the first meeting. Emphasis that you are serious about it. (For example, if you say you don't do "free conversation" as a class, make sure this person realizes that you are now feeding them the usual horse manure.) Many people will agree with everything you say during the first meeting---this is Japan after all---but then tend to forget any and everything agreed to soon.

Ignore every single person who says that they will study and prepare. Assume that it is false. That way, in the extraordinary case in which someone actually does that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will find that you are suddenly a much better teacher. This is sort of a hint, that unless you are a total nitwit like some whom I knew at the place where I had the nightmare experience, it matters little what the teacher does. The most important thing for success or failure is the student's efforts. Period. Forget Steven Krashen, CLT, whole language and all of that. If they won't study, you could just about stand on your head and whistle Dixie and be as successful as you would trying to assist someone who comes to class for an hour a week and makes no other efforts.

Deflation is dying in Japan, and some price increases are noticeable. Pass all costs on to students as a general rule. Copying, transportation, some people even charge the student for the coffee they drink if a lesson is in a coffee shop. Why not? At 230 to over 500 yen for a cup of coffee which you must buy to sit in one for an hour or two, it eats into your pay fast. If you gotta use one, you aren't the person who should pay. I don't do this, but am considering it in the future. Of course, it could be a tax deductible business expense too if you buy it (I am not sure ), so keep records for when you pay taxes.

More to follow later as I learn myself.

Monday, May 29, 2006

"It's difficult"

One of the things I have noticed about Japan, is that when faced with a challenge or some difficulty, the common first reaction Japanese is to find reasons/excuses as to why something cannot be done. Often these are so absurd one cannot believe his/her ears. You get to hear " We Japanese don't (or do) X" or "It's difficult" (meaning no) or "You can't do that in Japan..." or some nonsense about Japanese tradition or culture. There is little sense of "We have a problem, it's tough, but we will find a way to solve it." Japanese will attack problems/difficulties too, but first you have to listen to why it can't be done, and this is often just nonsense to try to avoid leaving one's comfort zone.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

IKEA in Chiba

We went to buy some furniture at the new IKEA in Chiba this morning. I had read a little about some in the US on the internet. One site had people saying how much they hated going because the people were rude, pushing and shoving, blocking the path, blocking the way of anyone trying to look at the furniture. Exactly the same as the one in Chiba.

I never knew it, but not only do you have to assemble the stuff yourself, you have to take it down off the shelves in what is in effect a large warehouse, put it on a cart and take it to the checkout. If you want it delivered, you then have to take it to the delivery section. Hell, you do about everything yourself, may as well get some decent wood and materials and make it yourself. Of course, in Japan, most of the wood I have seen that was suitable for furniture construction, would cost almost as much to buy as it would to buy the completed piece.

IKEA had good furniture for the price by Japanese standards, but Japanese standards on furniture tend to be exceedingly low. Sort of like late high school/early college style at absurdly ridiculous prices. Wonder where that money goes...the arcane, complex distribution system like used to be claimed?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Of course, the most important thing

that I failed to mention below, is not only to pretty much disbelieve most of what you are told, but you must pretend that you do believe it. Don't argue, don't point out that something is absurd, illogical, impossible, or flat out false. Just smile and pretend it is true. Only then will you, like Tom "I'll eat the placenta" Cruise in The Last Samurai, become Japanese. In fact, more Japanese than the Japanese.

Monday, May 22, 2006


You would think it would be simple to throw away garbage, but in this part of Tokyo (Denechofu) it is anything but. In fact, separating different types of waste as required here is so time consuming that my wife and I have altered what types of food we buy because of the packaging, and how often we eat out.

In Kanagawa where we lived until just recently, we separated pet bottles, aluminum, metal, newspaper, cardboard and left the rest in "burnable" garbage. Here, we must remove milk cartons and take them to a local grocery store or convenience store for recycling. The same with pet bottles---recyclable plastic bottle that contained juice, soda, and so on. We have to separate corrugated cardboard. We also have to put plastic food wrappers and similar containers into a special container especially for this waste. There are other rules too, which I won't list. It can be tough to decide which group some types of waste fit into. To make things more difficult, regular burnable garbage is only picked up 2 times a week. The other types, once a week.

This is likely the way of the future all over the world. I remember people complaining---and often not complying with---the far simpler rules we had in the last city where I lived in Washington state.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bushido Saves the World

A few months ago, I wrote about a Japanese writer who claimed that westerners could not understand the famous poem about the frog and pond written by a Japanese poet Basho(?) because we are unable to tell the difference between one frog and many. This was according to a Japanese guy who was reading the book and found parts of it ludicrous.

Well the name of the author is Masahiko Fujiwara, who is a mathematician who taught in the US for 3 years and, as do most Japanese who spend a few months in the USA (or with foreigners who spend a few months in Japan, or just visit) became and expert on the US and American culture.

He has written a book entitled Kokka no Kinkaku, most commonly translated as The Dignity of the State. According to what I have read, and what people have told me, he believes Japan should return to Bushido as capitalism has destroyed Japan. (As usual, the evil foreign devils and their filthy ideas have damaged the purity of the Japanese.) He also claims that the Japanese are an emotional people (others are coldly logical, like Mr. Spock perhaps) and that rational, logical thought does not fit well with Japanese (and brings up the straw man argument that logic cannot explain everything). Yes, he is a mathematical. Do not think logically about this contradiction. One person told me that he wrote that one cannot logically explain why we should not commit murder. Apparently, emotion and bushido can. This helps explain the behavior of Japanese troops in China and other places in World War 2, I suppose. To give him credit, he does say that the behavior of Japanese troops in the war was a "humiliating" failure of bushido.

He is also one of the brilliant experts of Japan whose expertise extends to every single subject on earth, not just his area. So he has become and expert, apparently, on language acquisition without bothering to check any research. (Oh, forgot, logic does not apply here.) He claims that Japanese children should not be taught English, or any other language, while young as it will take away from their Japanese ability. Language learning is a zero-sum game.

Fujiwara also includes the usual explanations of how America is responsible for Japan's troubles, as well as similar stuff about the Chinese. Again, it's those foreign bastards.

It is good to know that logic is not required in Japan. 2+2=22. I need not prove that logically, it is because it is tradition. I believe it. You must too.

This book has become a record top seller in Japan. I have a copy and am starting the laborious task of translating parts of it. I will try to avoid distortions or taking things out of context. I will have to have help from my Japanese teacher and friends too as my language skills aren't sufficient to accurately do it, especially when things are very nuanced. Or maybe I should not worry about accuracy, as that would be a logical argument and committing various logical fallacies in analyzing what he says would be acceptable. This is Japan, after all. And I am turning Japanese. You as an impure foreign devil could never understand anyway.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Finally back online

after 2 weeks offline to move. Yahoo BB, our provider needed that long to transfer the service!! why? Because they have to go through NTT which owns the lines and to which Yahoo pays fees. NTT has fought tooth and nail to monopolize the industry. Just 4-5 years ago, Japan had the highest internet prices in the world because NTT had a legal monopoly. They even tried to limit ADSL so that people would be forced to use NTT's obsolete DSL technology.

Surprisingly, the Japanese government stopped that nonsense, and now Japan has one of the highest broadband usage rates in the world and has very reasonable access prices. Of course, one very strongly suspects that if NTT's competitors had been primarily foreign companies that the monopoly would never have been broken.

Anyway, the bottom line is, as usual, NTT is up to its old anti-competitive monopolizing tricks to punish Yahoo BB (owned by Softbank) and its customers. Direct customers of NTT can get service transferred immediately.

19 May: I have to correct this. I was told by an acquaintance that the 2 week delay does not occur with other providers. It is something that Yahoo BB does. There may be others, but this type of horrible service seems to be Yahoo BB's unique way of treating its customers. Moral: Don't use Yahoo BB.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Japanese High Quality Service

We are moving tomorrow. We just found out from our fine internet provider, Yahoo BB, that we will not be able to use the internet in our new place until 17 May! Can you believe it? WTF is that? Oh, it that great service we hear so much about here. Actually, you hear about it more from Japanese who are as usual bragging about the superiority of Japan and the Japanese (while being humble of course) and some foreigners who drop in for a short visit--long enough to be patronized---or those who don't really trouble themselves with more than shallow appearances.

Want to see absolutely horrible service? Visit a Japanese bank! Or most hospitals (think American hospitals are bad, huh?)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Prime Minister Aso?

Perhaps the favorite candidate for Koizumi's post, Aso has been making some rather nationalist statements. No surprise as his family ran a mine that used Korean and Allied POW slave labor in WW2.

Like Japan itself, neither Aso or his family has ever apologized or offered any payment to these people. Gee, wonder why so many countries which were invaded and brutalized by the Japanese in World War Two don't believe that the Japanese government really means it when they "apologize" for some bad things that happened during the war.

Japan Focus has a good article on Aso and many other Japan-related topics. Read it here.