Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Our Christmas Pot Luck party

After the children's party earlier in the day, we could all relax a bit & get in the mood with lashings of wine & egg-nog on Sunday evening. Loads of food appeared (which the Shindai-sei mine-swept in true student style at the end of the evening) which I failed to thank everyone for taking the time to prepare.

If anybody tried some of Paul's quiche though, I strongly suggest you get medical attention immediately! Also needing emergency treatment should have been little Eric, but he's got a head made of cast iron by the looks of it - serious dents in our floor though! Joe & Ric had a free run of the place too, dodging grown ups' & table legs alike.

Yuki, Taka & Hijiri made their family debut at Luna, much to everyone's delight; "students who don't know each other" were very brave and took the chance to talk to us in a social situation, relax a bit and make new friends. It was a lovely evening, and thanks to all who came.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Children's Christmas party at Luna

Sunday afternoon on December 16th was Christmas party time for all of our younger learners at Luna. It was a really cold day outside, so we made sure to do lots of running around to keep temperatures soaring & energy levels pumping.

Every year we try out new games and ideas, so that every year the party is fresh & fun. Of course we also make sure to include activities that have proved popular in years gone by - things like sticking the nose on the snowman, relay races with oranges, musical cushions & King-size blow-football. New things we tried out this year were a sausage race and learning how to dance - from the Rocky Horror Picture show...that was a real treat!

Santa's new helpers this year helped the event go really smoothly, and make sure we could all eat when we got tired & peckish! Thank you Maki, Tomoko & Ayaka - as well as to all mums & dads who joined in. As you can see, everyone wanted to meet Santa & get an early Christmas present - and happy to please, Santa very generously came to Luna with his sackful of goodies.

Although Santa looked a bit tubby this year, he had to jog here as there's no snow for Rudulph & the reindeer to pull his sleigh through! All of our good boys & girls had a moment to talk to Santa (in English of course) & tell him something about themselves (kind of a test really!). Too soon, it was time for Santa to leave and for all of us to go home - another Merry Christmas now not faraway.

Thanks to everyone who made this party such a success - please Luna's unofficial website at http://groups.msn.com/Lunasfamily/santacomestoluna2007.msnw and also at Jim's flickr site for plenty more photos of all the fun.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Picture in London

I walked around London with the book "The Full Monty" in spite of the rain.

It was on 23 August, but it was a little bit cold.

I’m extremely sorry to be late to post this.


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Because Mr. Bean is so funny and strange, I recommend to read this book for the person who feels tired on his daily life. I was surprised to be able to read this story with no break!

Which "accidents" did you think were funny in the story ? Write about three of them.
1. The accident which Mr. Bean painted a face on Mrs,Whistler's face.
2. The accident which Mr. Bean picked up the bullet from a man's stomach.
3. The accident which Mr. Bean was held by policeman in the Airport.
I felt very funny that little things escalated to big accidents.

Masanori Yagasaki

Friday, 14 December 2007

How old do you have to be?!

Yesterday (Dec 13th) saw Luna international JP004 (our Cambridge ESOL Centre number) holding what one of the candidates called "The hardest English exam in the world"...C.P.E. I'm not sure if that is entirely true, but it's certainly not an exam you could pass by accident. It requires essentially native-speaker fluency in English - and in 5 papers a lot of language to process & produce under considerable time pressure. Anybody who can pass this exam joins a very elite club.

Actually, if anyone has passed this exam and has the relevant teaching qualifications & experience, I'd be prepared to hire them at Luna.

After three days then, we've looked after almost 60 candidates taking the Upper Main Suite of Cambridge ESOL's very good exams; delivered papers in Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening & Speaking; we've had four pairs of very experienced Oral Examiners deliver the speaking tests - and they have been monitored for quality control; we've been inspected twice in a week, also to maintain quality & security.

I am proud that my school has risen to this considerable challenge, and that the dream I had over a decade ago finally came to fruition. My NHK students will have to forgive my absence tonight (and thanks Travis for teaching my class this evening) please?! I did enjoy a beer on the last Azusa home, reflecting on what we can achieve next year - going to be exciting I think.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Venue Inspection

Wednesday was day two of three, where we were running Cambridge Exams in Tokyo. The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) is at C1 level of the Common European Framework. What that means is that candidates at this level can use language with ease & fluency. CAE may be used as proof of the langauge level necessary to work at managerial or professional level, or follow a course of academic study at unversity level.

So a very important test, and one which students have study long & hard for. It is very important in running the exams that candidates understand that we take their commitment seriously; we have been preparing for this for months as well. Candidates were impressed when I explained what the inspectors were doing - making sure that we were doing things properly. They found that rather reassuring to know that every venue running the exams has to perform to the same standard worldwide. Our venue was also surprised about this, but relieved to know that our preparations were in order & that by the end of the day we passed with flying colours.

Of course I also hope our 14 candidates passed too, but I can't make any comment on that because we send all materials to UK same day, sealing them immediately after the papers finish.
I really hope some of our students step up to this mark next year. It's so important to set goals, and just as important to measure your achievement against a meaningful barometer - in this case English learners all over the world.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

FCE in Tokyo

Today sees the second leg of Cambridge ESOL's FCE exam, which we are running in Tokyo for the first time. We are delighted to be able to do so, with the help of Luke & Kuniko at I.L.C. in Akasaka.

I.L.C. asked us earlier this year where their students could take FCE/CAE/CPE, because the British Council would no longer accept candidates. At the same time, Cambridge ESOL were asking Luna to become a Centre for those exams (also called Upper Main Suite or UMS) on top of what we are already certified for (YLE,KET, PET, FCE, TKT).

So we did the logical thing & combined forces. Wednesday we will run C.A.E. & Thursday C.P.E.
There are 33 candidates taking FCE today, and even in the large room available to us it was a tight squeeze to accommodate everyone. In the past, candidates had to take the speaking part on a different day. This is OK if you live locally, but impossible if you are coming a long way (Nagano? Nagoya? Hokkaido?)...so we are trying this way. Unfortunately, it is impossible to please everyone all the time.

Candidates took four papers - Reading, Writing, Use of English & Listening before the speaking tests to finish. It's a very long day - exhausting. At first candidates looked very nervous, later hot & tired. Our four Oral Examiners (thank you Jennifer, Mark, Phil & Martin) were busy and we justabout managed to finish on schedule.

For me this was a stressful day - preparing for it has taken a lot of my time over the last 3 or 4 months - and to finish it with everyone satisfied and no major problems was a relief. As well as running the exams, I needed to make sure the staff at ILC knew what they were supposed to do & when, what to say in the exam room & how to manage a lot of confidential material. So I was very relieved when we'd finished & the last candidates had left - only two more days of the same again!

(Thank you & sorry to my students whose classes I had to cancel today; I hope you can see the bigger picture - I want you to take the exams in Matsumoto!)

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Three short stories of Sherlock Holmes

Which other famous detectives do you know from books, film or television? Write about one of them.

Kogorou Akechi is one of famous detective in Japan.
He is a fictitious character in stories that were written by Edogawa Ranpo.
He is a very brilliant detective who has cracked various difficult cases.
He is famous as a man who fought against Kaijin Nijumensou(a famous character as a formidable thief).
He is also famous for having led detectives group of boys named Shounentanteidan.

By the way, the name of the author Edogawa Ranpo is associated with his favorite other novelist Edger Allan Poe.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

First Certificate in English - at Luna

I think I may have said this before, but FCE was the exam I wanted to have my school associated with years ago (before I even owned my school). It really is the benchmark exam for any serious English student to measure themselves up against.

I am delighted to report we had three candidates brave enough to tackle FCE this year in Matsumoto; all five papers were taken in the same day (which was exhausting I know). I need to thank Jon & Theron for doing the oral examining for us.

We also got inspected today, which was not unexpected; it is very important international standards are maintained even when we have a very small session in Matsumoto - candidates are taking the same exam on the same day worldwide. This was a very good practice for me, before we have a large session in Tokyo on Tuesday...there we will have more than 40 candidates from all over the country & overseas sitting the exam. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Last of the Mohicans

At the end of the story, Alice writes a letter to a friend in Scotland.She tells her friend about Uncas, Chinachgook, Hawkeye and Cora.Write Alice's letter.

Hawkeye is white man.Chinachgook is Mohican Indiean chief.Chinachgook is Uncas's father.Uncas is last of The Mohicans.Cora is my elder sister.
Uncas, Chinachgook and Hawkeye, they were really kind for us.And the fought to Huron and save us from Huron attack.So that we could arrive at fort and met our father.But I'm incredibly sad, Uncas and Cora dead by Huron Indean's knife.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Mr. Bean

Which 'accidents' did you think were funny in the story? Write about three of them.

One of funny accidents was a trick on the riding machine. He enjoyed riding a crazy vehicle. If it was safety, I might enjoy it, too. But it was too dangerous for kids and old person to get in.

Other story that I felt funny is an occurrence about drying his trousers. I could not understand why wearing wet trousers is more shameful than dancing in front of a picture.

I think the funniest accident is a story of his speech. He didn't mention about a painting technique, touch, method, the history of an artist, and so on. In spite of his ignorance, he could get over the trouble successfully. Due to appeal to their sense of family, he succeeded in getting sympathy from journalists. He was so lucky!

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Babe - The Sheep Pig

Writing- Read Chapter9 again. Two dogs are killing sheep in the next village. The police telephone Mrs Hogget. Write their telephone conversation.

H: Hello.
P: Hello, Mrs Hogget. This is a police speaking. I must inform you a bad news.
H: What’s happened?
P: Six sheep were killed by two wild dogs in the next village. They still seem to stay near here.
Check your sheep and keep paying attention to ensure your sheep’s safety.
H: Oh! That’s terrible. All right. Thank you for information.
P: OK. Bye.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Colouring & drawing

I've got some cool artists in one of my classes on Wednesday afternoons! This week we drew pictures called "Outside". Unfortunately it was a bit too cold to go outside, but we could remember the view from Luna's lovely big windows.

Then we coloured in, my favourite part of teaching! I always think of my old friend Ciaran when my students do colouring, because one child asked him if 'he could learn English by colouring?' Classic question. Today we learned outside words (like 'rock', 'river', 'tree', 'bridge' etc) - we already know all our colours!

Anyway, my tots today produced a great set of pictures which we wanted to share. Here's Shuntaro's masterpiece, which he was very proud of (he has a scrapbook of things he's drawn at home, so this will join his collection) when he showed his mum. Good job kids!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Working on Sundays

I have to admit, working on Sundays is not my favourite routine! I guess it goes with the territory - owning your own business & trying hard to stay ahead. The language school business is a very competitive one.

Every year the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) have a jamboree (Conference), which is attended by the "Great & the Good" of the industry - leading academics, famous authors, reknowned teacher-trainers, obscure researchers & many, many more. There are three days full of presentations, workshops, discussions etc, and an exhibition room packed with publishers & wholesalers, companies with EFL support materials & software developers.

I try to go every couple of years - it's expensive, and not always in a convenient location. The last two years it has been in Tokyo, so I've been able to attend. Bizarrely this year, I was so busy bumping into people I only got to one keynote speech - interestingly about "How many words you need to be a good (or 'effective') reader". A lot of you know I am a big fan of reading?! This speech made me want to crack the whip even harder - our students really need to get busy!

So who did I meet then? Well, I had a good chat with my friend Koichi, who works for Oxford University Press. He's a Shinshu boy, and we've been friends for over a decade. We usually don't talk about books, but on this occasion we did, as OUP has a really cool range of new reading materials from the UK. I also spied a series of lovely, interesting books I'd love to use at Luna, teaching other subjects in English (Science, History, Geography etc). Maybe a bit hard for most students, but certainly useful for returnees (children who've lived overseas).

I also met up with Tomomi at Cambridge University Press; she came to visit me earlier this month in Matsumoto & we had a good chat about Young Learners exams around the country. She, and quite a few other people I've met recently, are keen to become Oral Examiners for us next year (great news!).

In the coffee shop I caught up with Cambridge ESOL's Senior Team Leader, and a group of past & present Cambridge examiners, including Simon who'll be examining CAE for us in December. There were some familiar faces from the Matsumoto/Nagano/Ueda area, as well as catching a quick word with Taro from Hokkaido (YLE examiner) & Cynthia from Kyushu (she does everything).

I thought a pint with Luke would be relaxing, as we discussed next month's exams at his school: not so! I was introduced to one of his friends who knows one of my friends, and who is doing exactly what Shuji asked me about 2 years ago - putting dictionaries on mobile phones. I nearly spilled my beer, as she also told me about her next project to get reading books available onto mobiles...I can't wait! It also turned out Luke knows a guy from Australia that I used to know from Ueda - small world as usual. All in all, a busy Sunday - and for a working day not a bad one at all, as I managed to get in a couple of pints of Guinness & some fish & chips too!

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Monday, 26 November 2007

Postcard from Taiwan

How are you doing? I am in Taiwan now and enjoy doing business and playing at night. I will be back in Japan when this mail gets to you. From your class member Junichi M.

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Saturday, 24 November 2007

Luna firsts - Niigata & Tokyo

Today Luna International added two new 'venues' for Cambridge ESOL exams under our status as a Centre (Japan's most active).

Alan Morrison owns an English school called Sunshine, in Ojiya-shi, Niigata-ken; Trevor Joseph owns King's Road English School in Akasaka, Tokyo. Neither school has previously held Cambridge ESOL exams before, and naturally both Alan & Trevor were nervous about 'getting it right'. I am delighted to say that both ran really well-organised sessions, under a lot of pressure, and that all candidates today were able to sit their exams in professional & proper circumstances. Well done Alan & Trevor - you both earned a cold beer this evening, and put your schools on the map. Both Alan & Trevor should be very proud of themselves/their schools & students.

Both Sunshine & King's Road deserve a big thank you from me. In Niigata, we need to thank Ayako for her help ushering & Mark Brierley for giving up his day & a long trip from Matsumoto to invigilate & examine. In Akasaka, thanks due to Martin Nuttall for helping make sure the sessionwent smoothly, and to Malcolm Prentice/David Munn for examining a lot of candidates in cramped conditions & under time pressure.

Altogether, 20 candidates took K.E.T. today, and 26 took P.E.T. A lot of candidates came from the two schools hosting the exams today, but also a lot of private candidates from far and wide; high school & university students, housewives, engineers & business people alike sat side-by-side.

Results will be available online within 4 weeks, and candidates will receive their certificates mid-January. I am really excited with today's session for Luna too - first time we have run multiple venues for Lower Main Suite exams. Altogether a very good day!

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Friday, 23 November 2007

National Holiday

Feel I must share with you the fact that Luna's teachers were at work today, in their free-time, researching for new ideas & plotting our Christmas party. Not many school's staff have that kind of motivation & commitment...

Monday, 12 November 2007

Postcard from Saint Paul de Vence (France)

Hello everybody (Luna, NHK, Sayuri)!
I'm staying in an old village in France. It's at the top of a small mountain, like a hill. The houses, which were built in the 16th Century, are impressive. It is impossible to turn into the village in a car, so it is tough to stay in a hotel inside the village with big luggage. There are lots of tourists in the narrow streets. I prefer Roquebrune, which is a tiny village where we stayed 2 days before we came here. I was able to be like a villager. *Sorry lots of mistakes!

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Sunday, 11 November 2007

Chess Titans

Hi everyone! I have recently discovered Chess Titans on my computer and have become quite addicted to the game. So far I have won 2 games of 6, which gives me a 33% success rate, not bad for a beginner! If anybody is keen for a non-virtual game please give me a shout, I'd love to practice my skills against a real opponent. In the meantime I'll be building my artillery! Cheers for now, Tana.

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Saturday, 10 November 2007

Postcard from Portofino (Italy)

Hello Sayuri, Luna & NHK guys!!
It is the third day of my trip! I am at Santa Margherita-Ligure in Italy, a beautiful seaside resort near Genoa. I am writing this card on the terrace of the fantastic hotel. I can see the bright sea, birds are singing. We drove here from Milan yesterday. For dinner, we had extremely delicious seafood at an "at-home" restaurant - 'Restrante Arfled'. It became one of my best restaurants in Italy. We are going to Portofino (my dream), and get to Cote D'Azure in France today. The photos on this card are quite old-fashioned, but it is not old-fashioned here! I love Italy. Teruki

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Friday, 9 November 2007

Congratulations Trudi!

Brilliant news from China, where Eugene proposed to Trudi during the week. A delighted Trudi accepted, of course! Nice ring on display, of course!

Trudi worked for Luna a couple of years ago & has kept in touch while
teaching in China, and has been back to visit us too. Best news of the week,
and all of our best wishes from all of us to the happy couple.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Tokyo bookfair/Expo

An annual event that I strongly encourage our teachers to attend. We can join in workshops where authors develop ideas for using their books & materials; we can pick up new ideas for teaching different areas such as phonetics; we can find out about new trends and technology; we can discuss teaching philosophies with our peers; we can meet the publishers and see what is new on the shelf.

And quite a lot more. I have a lot of friends working in the profession - as authors, salespeople, teacher-trainers, etc - and the bookfair is a good excuse to socialise as well, network a bit, and make sure everyone knows Luna International is going strong. It strikes me as odd that other schools do not take advantage of this weekend, because even though I've been going regularly for the last 15 years, there's always something new to pick up.

This year my staff & I attended the following presentations:
  • Magical keys to the world of the Oxford Reading Tree (Setsuko Toyama). Setsuko has presented at Luna in the past, and will be coming back in 2008. Luna uses the Story Tree series of readers, which are better for students. Have a look at the display in the school?
  • Teaching reading to Children (Jason Good).
  • Task-based learning and authentic news reports (Daniel Ferreira).
  • Tips for teaching JHS/HS with 'My First Passport' (Jon Robinson)
  • What students really need for the TOEIC (Grant Trew). Grant presented at Luna early this year, and is a source of excellent exam-taking skills... doesn't have to be TOEIC!
  • Three worlds unite - using literature in the EFL classroom (Michael Stout). Several good ideas to connect readers with the 'real' world.
  • What else can you do with stories? (Tomomi Katsuki).
  • Fun supplementary activities for kids classroom (Hugh Graham-Marr)
  • Thinking beyond the story - exploring graded readers (Richard Attwood)
  • Developing confidence in early readers (Patrick Jackson). This the inspiring author of Potato Pals (new link on the right), who is a very good presenter & also coming to Luna in 2008.
Jim also went to a meeting of school owners, where a few interesting things were discussed - including the death of NOVA of course! We did of course have a couple of pints with old friends in the pub as well, where all the best business is done anyway. We met Trevor Jones, the owner of King's Road English School in Akasaka - venue for KET & PET exams in a couple of weeks.

All in all a very good weekend; think you'll agree Luna's teachers try harder than most.

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Monday, 5 November 2007

Bonfire Night

Remember, remember,
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

Yes, tonight is Guy Fawkes Night (or "Bonfire Night") in Britain.

But I found this amazing race which is far more exciting - double click on the title above, and put your seatbelts on!

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Sunday, 4 November 2007

With extra bits!

I went to Tokyo last weekend, for a bookfair. Sounds dull? It does, doesn't it! Over the years, the Tokyo English Language bookfair has produced some of the most incredible urban myths (I'll post a collection one day!). However, the most important thing for me, with my school owner's "hat on", is that I re-establish links with authors and publishers and introduce my staff to authors, publishers & colleagues/peers.

Luna is a small school. No debate there. But you really should see the response our staff get when they give a Luna International business card to people at an event like this! It's like Moses at the Red Sea. Doors open, eyes widen, "ah, Jim. Just a moment, I'll get my boss." It's great! And it makes my teachers feel really important - and makes them feel good about joining my staff. A Luna International business card is like a Gold American Express card!

In the 18 years I have been teaching here, I have been attending conferences/workshops/meetings/training events/bookfairs all over the country. Luna International's teachers have been attending the same events since the school started, which means that our teachers are at the forefront of new developments in English teaching - they meet the authors and get to talk about "teaching stuff", they are asked to test new material for the next generation of books (as we have been in the past - we piloted material for English Time and Potato Pals for instance ...check out the links which are now extremely active. Click on one!)

Anyway, news soon about the bookfair, who we met, what we learned etc., as well as a few new links. Meantime, I just want to ask if you like the new 'functionality' I've been able to add to the blog. Do you like the new bits (widgits, technically)? I think I'll add a poll (questionnaire) next week.

Is there anything else we should think about adding? Incidentally, some students cannot post from work (firewall/security issues) - so please email me from your home email address so I can then invite you again. Remember, this is still a closed group.

For now, any bets on when we get visitor number 1,000?

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My hometown - Shimosuwa

I live in Shimosuwa, which is a town around Lake Suwa. It has a population of about 20,000 people. It isn't so big a city.

Shimosuwa is famous for Suwataisya, which is a big and famous shrine. There is a big festival called "Onbashira", which is held once every six years. Most people living in Shimosuwa, prepare years before. We enjoy "Onbashira" and a lot of visitors come from throughout Japan and overseas.

My house is near the Tho River. We call it "Tho-gawa" in Japanese. In the summer, a lot of children swim in it. A lot of families enjoy barbecues on the banks. We can feel cool in the summer there. I like the Tho River very much.

The weather is clearly defined in four seasons. In the rainy season, sometimes the Tho River is brimful with big water, because of heavy rains. In the winter season, we have to clear snow from the neighborhood. It is hard work for me , but it is good exercise for my health.

There are a lot of natural things near my house, such as the Tho River, rice fields, fields, etc. I love nature. So that's the main reason why I like living here.

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

Reader - Walk About

Mary remembers a day in the bush:

I wake up early morning and looked for the things that can be eaten. Fortunately, we found some kinds of nuts and were able to pass hunger with them. On the other hand, we also had to find the way that returns to our home. When we are thinking about that we encountered with a bush boy. Firstly, because I didn't know how to communicate with bush boy, I feared to him. Besides we couldn't communicate by own language. For a while, Peter began to play with him. Swimming, Dancing, etc. Unconsciously, Peter was able to take communication and he began to understand the words that bush boy spoke. Also bush boy seemed to know what we want to do. In order to make it to the nearest town, we were walking day after day in bush. Bush boy became sick by the long journey. Day by day, he lost vigor. Finally, bush boy died. I regretted my thought that I scared to him. Thereafter, we could return to my home. I am writing about our varied experience now. Masanori Yagasaki

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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

My home town - Suwa

I live in Suwa-city, which is located in the middle of Nagano prefecture. It has a population of 52,850 people.

It has a lake, called Suwa-ko, which is not only famous as a sightseeing place, but also notorious for its dirty water.

The altitude of Suwa-city is 761m, and it is very comfortable in summer season. However, in winter, it is colder than Matsumoto-city. Sometimes Suwa-ko is frozen and a mysterious phenomenon called "Omiwatari" appears. This is not an annual event.

Suwa-ko is well known for its fireworks festival. It is held on the 15th of August every year. The fireworks are very beautiful and have a powerful sound. They really impress to the crowds. The number of spectators is approximately 450,000. It causes heavy traffic jams for all of Suwa-city. You can see the fireworks on the website below on demand.(Sorry, this website is written only Japanese.)

There are five Japanese-Sake cellars. In spring and autumn, they have a festival called "Kamisuwa kaiko nomiaruki." It means "Drinking and walking on the Kamisuwa-street."
You can drink as much as you like, and the fee is JPY2,000.(The year before last, the fee was only JPY1,000. It was a very reasonable price.)
You can taste many kinds of Japanese-Sake. You may feel very happy.
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My hometown - Matsumoto

I live in Matsumoto, which is a city next to the mountains in the middle of Japan. It has a population of 228,814 people and it's a normal sized city in Japan.

It's a beautiful city, and it's great for walking around. There are lots of narrow streets, and it's full of shrines and markets. There's an area called Nawate where is a lot of outdoor markets and yatai-restaurants -people go there at the weekend to buy something for everyday use and eat something.
The weather here is very different from Tokyo. The winter is very cold, and it sometimes snows for days. The summer is wonderful - it's sunny but not usually too hot, and it's great for going to the mountains.

Matsumoto is famous for a castle, which is a national treasure. The most tourists visit there. It's a beautiful black colored castle. There's a festival in Auguest called Matsumoto Bon-bon, with a dancing people in the streets, and everybody competes their dances each other.

But I think the best things about Matsumoto are the people and the atmosphere. It has a clear air and water. It's a working city and it has a real sense of history, and that's the main reason why I like living here so much.

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Sunday, 28 October 2007

My home town - Ikeda

I live in Ikeda-machi, which is a small town in middle part of Nagano-ken.
It has a population of 10736 people.
It's a small town on countryside. So, there are much rice field and a few shops. But it's a peaceful and calm place.
It's cold place because its altitude is about 600m. In winter, usually it's fine day, but it sometimes snows.
Ikeda is famous for flowers and herbs. There is a big herb garden and shop named Herb Center. And at Omine highland in Ikeda-machi, there is a famous big maple tree that shows beautiful colored leaves in autumn.
The best thing of Ikeda-mach is the view of mountains called Kita-alps. You can look very beautiful view of mountains from a lot of place places in Ikeda-machi. My house is one of them.
The best place to see nice view is CraftPark. There is a large lawn field and some playground for kids in that park as well.
( This picture is what I took, on 28th Oct.)

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Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Arrival in Japan

Wow! What a beautiful city this Matsumoto is!!
I've spent the last few weeks enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air as I cycle here and there around the city.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to spot the first snowfall which just covered the mountain peaks in the distance and has already melted, only a few days later. I've been told to expect much more snow and to get my winter woollies ready! "But," I ask, "how cold can it really be?" Come on winter!!
I had an insight into traditional Japanese culture when I went on a sake tour at two breweries in the Nagano prefecture. Besides being interesting it was also a lot of fun as we were invited to taste the many different types of sake afterward. Mmmm, yummy!
Of course, no visit to Matsumoto would be complete without a visit to the castle. With it's beautiful terraced roofs and pointed arches it really took my breath away! That and the beautiful scenery which surrounds it, the parks, walkways and flowers. I love the way the trees grow here!!
And with winter on it's way I may even try my hand at skiing down a mountain or two! I'll keep you posted of course :-) In the meantime there are still so many things to do in Matsumoto. There are museums and art galleries to visit, shops and restaurants to go to.
Until next time! Tana

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

It's all (N) OVA - open letter

Dear students,

In the very near future you will be seeing a nationwide English school going out of business & closing its doors. I think there will be a lot of unhappy students – people who have spent good money for English classes which they have lost.
If you have friends or colleagues in this situation or your children at school have friends without classes to go to, please tell them to contact us at Luna. We feel ashamed that another English language school has behaved so badly, to its teachers and its students.
Luna International is prepared to offer “2 for 1”. That means if an unhappy student wants to get an English lesson that they have already paid for at another school, they can have the value of those lessons at Luna – every 2 points they had unused = 1 point at Luna. For example, a person with 40 points (= 10 x 40’ classes) can get 5 classes at Luna “for free” – and remember, our adult classes are 60 minutes.
In order to claim this offer:

· Adult students need to take a placement test (one hour) to help us find their level.

· Children we will place according to age & length of study.

· Proof of the number of points unclaimed (a recent printed out receipt).

· Join Luna (usual fee applies) before Dec.1st , 2007.

In return for introducing a student to us, we would like to give you a token of our thanks – so please make sure your friends mention you! Thank you as ever for choosing Luna International and for you continuing support.

My home town - Shiojiri

I live in Shiojiri city, which is in the center of Nagano prefecture. It has a population of 70,000 people and it's the 8th biggest city in Nagano prefecture. (I found this information at http://uub.jp/cpf/nagano.html  )
There's a beautiful view of mountain chain called Japanese Alps. The height of those is about 3,000 metres. If you want to know more information about Japanese Alps, please visit web site, http://www.pref.nagano.jp/xkyouiku/sance/inpak/ya1/ya1_index.html .
The winter is very cold. It's usually under subzero in the morning. It needs careful driving, because the road freezes!
Wine is famous, but I can't drink alcohol, so I don't know good point of Shiojiri's wine.
The best thing about Shiojiri is atmosphere. I like living here, because I feel the time goes slow (except work...).

Monday, 22 October 2007

Luna - open house

This week we make a special effort to encourage parents to come & see how our classes are taught, and how their children are developing in class. We feel it is very important that parents' are involved as much as they want to be; some are rather wary as they "can't speak English", others double-check homework and want to know in detail how each class has gone.

I hope as many mums and dads as possible take advantage of the opportunity this week - of course, we are happy to welcome observers any time - and that you can see for yourselves the thoroughness with which our classes are conducted, and that yes, money well spent.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

It's a boy!

Brilliant news from Yuki, who gave birth to a healthy and bouncing baby boy on October 10th.

We are all thrilled for her, and are looking forward to welcoming them to the school just as soon as they are over all their exhausting experience. "Hijiri" doesn't know it yet, but he's joined a large family with loads of friends!

Congratulations Yuki & Taka.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Rugby World Cup Final - open invitation

Anybody who would like to watch the rugby World Cup final next Sunday morning (yes, it really does start at 4am) can come to Luna & watch on the big screen. School will be open from midnight, and we'll be watching some comedy/sport to get us in the mood/keep us awake. Friends welcome.
Please email me if you're coming - very important, BYO!
(Bring Your Own....beer/wine/sake/snacks) See you in your white England shirts?!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Best blog I have found

I found this blog through listening to Broadcasting House (BH) podcast from the BBC, one I listen to regularly and recommend thoroughly.


It is difficult to explain, but I'll try. Ninety years ago a young Englishman went off to fight in the 'Great' War - as did hundreds of thousands 1914-8. A generation of letter writers - mostly dead. I visited a couple of WWI cemeteries in northern France when I was a boy - and I can remember them vividly now. Seeing them had an enormous impact on me.

Anyway, this young man's grandson found an old pile of dusty brown letters in his parents' cupboard when they were cleaning up. They were going to be thrown away, but he read a couple.

He didn't throw them away. He is posting the letters to this blog, on the day and date 90 years after they were written from the trenches. I guess the English will appear rather 'formal' by modern standards - not a bad thing.

I don't find personal blogs interesting at all - instant biography? - but this is what the internet does best. Please have a look, and report back?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Love story

"Love Story", this movie was a great hit in 1970. It's an old-fashioned love story and a predictable ending. I don't think today's young people are interested in this kind of story, but there's another love story in it. It's a deep love between the father and the son.

The son was born in a rich and famous family and he always feels it tightly, but he can't change his background. As a result he is unkind to his father. The father is a rich banker and always behaves kindly and tenderly to his son. He accepts everything of his son even if he knows that he is disliked by his son. The father just loves the son and wants to help the son, but the son wants to live without the father's support.
When the son needs a lot of money for his wife's serious disease, at last he asks his father to lend it without the reason. The father says nothing and helps his son. After the death of the son's wife, he accepts his father, because his wife leaves a message and he learns that "Love means you never have to say you're sorry."

I' ve finished !!

Since beginning of this year, I’ve been reading a series of English books that are the most popular books in the world today. I finished that challenge at end of September after nine months effort.
I had never read Japanese version of that book.
Soon after starting, I was fascinated the magical world, however, because I looked up every unknown words in a dictionary, it was troublesome work.
After that, I got used to the way to cut corners not to use dictionary so much, so it sped up.

Now I am feeling a sense of achievement and slight sadness for finishing.
I intend to read again carefully because I skipped a lot of details.

(Jim sensei, I'm sorry it's not original version, it's US version.)

Monday, 24 September 2007

Jim's other "hat"

My day job is teaching, as you all probably know! However, with Luna's growing responsibilities as the busiest Cambridge ESOL Centre in Japan, there is so much more to do in a week!

At the moment we are making sure that candidates can still take First Certificate (FCE), Advanced (CAE) and Proficiency (CPE) in Tokyo this December. (The British Council shamefully decided to stop accepting candidates from outside its own school.) We are also arranging KET & PET exams to take place in Niigata, here, and in Tokyo in November. We are also arranging Young Learners (YLE) to take place in Hokkaido, Ishikawa, here & Tokyo in November & December.

Is that all? No! As well as running the exam sessions, we are also responsible for training & co-ordinating all the Oral Examiners - who give the speaking tests. That means we run workshops for experienced teachers all over the place. This weekend...Jim ran a two-day course in Kanazawa, training a group of teachers to become YLE examiners.

Fortunately, the people at Hokuriku Gakuin are very well organised, and have already run two YLE sessions at their school. Having local examiners makes sense - it's a long way for Jim to drive! As you can see, everybody worked hard - the training is NOT easy - and managed to enjoy the work as well. I am looking forward to our newest OEs getting the chance to examine soon; after their hard work over the weekend, I'm sure they'll do very well indeed! Next training will be in Tokyo in November.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Living a long way from home

A serious posting today. I'm really unhappy to have to announce that Martin will be leaving us next week. I know - he only just got here. I know, he only just replaced the last guy...what's happening etc?

Martin joined us full of the enthusiasm I welcome at my school, and is quite obviously devastated that he has to leave us before he can even warm up his classes. Martin has had to deal with every teachers' nightmare living/working overseas - bad news from home. It's the phone call we all dread - it doesn't matter where you live. I am sure you will all accept that family has to be Martin's only consideration right now, and that you will join me in wishing him a safe journey home. We all wish he could have stayed; I know he was committed to Luna.

I have no idea right now, tonight, about his replacement; good teachers simply do not grow on trees. The kind of people I want to work at my school, teach my my kids/drive all of you on to better learning...these people are very rare! I'm working on it - it is the hardest part of my job (apart from finding out who broke the doors off my Mini)

Martin: all of our thoughts are with you. Thank you for even your short time with us.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Copyright - Thank you

Very quickly want to thank:
Donn Ogawa at Pearson Longman for permission to post images of Penguin Readers
Paul Riley at Oxford University Press for permission to post images of Bookworm Readers

Luna International appreciates your continuing support. Thank you.

Bye Bye Alex sensei

A sad day for all of us at Luna today, as we say goodbye to Alex Gordon. It is hard to believe it has been 15 months already since she arrived here from England!

Alex settled in very quickly and has become everyone's favourite teacher. She's always cheerful and smiling away :) and students will miss her sorely. I don't think we've ever seen her tired or less than 100% genki?

Alex will be exploring Hokkaido for a short while before returning to the UK. We wish her all the very best for the future, and want to thank her for all her hard work and personal commitment to all of her classes & students. We will really miss her and hope she`ll keep in touch. Please send her your thank yous etc as comments below?

While here, should also welcome Phil...big shoes to fill etc, but with all of Alex's preparation & advice, I'm sure he's going to do just fine.

So, sadly, Sayonara Alex - we'll miss you

Monday, 10 September 2007

"The Moonspinners" OUP Bookworm

Hi Jim. This is my first challenge.

The book title is 'The Moonspinners'. This is a story about people who were accidentally involvet in a case of murder and theft. The heroine is Nicola who came on a trip to meet her cousin at the villege. But she met two guys on the way to the Hotel where she was going to stay. One of them was shot and injured...

The question is:
1 You are a police officer. Write a short report about each of the five people involvee with
the crime: Stratos,Alexandros,Tony,Josef,and Sofia.

Stratos : Stratos Alexiakis. The probable age 48 or 49. He is a owner of the Hotel
'Agios Georgios 'which is in Crete. He had successful restaurant in London. But
came back to Crete 6 months ago. He has a sister named Sofia.
Stratos Stole some gold and Jewels in London with Alexandros,Tony and Josef.
He is a leader of them. They hided the stolen articles at the coast near the village.
He doesn't like Sofia's husband Josef.He kidnapped and imprisoned Colin with Tony
and Josef.

Alexandros : He is an accomplice of the crime. But killed by Josef in a mountain near Crete
when they had argument about things they had stolen in London.

Tony : Tony Camble. A British man who helped Stratos's crime in London.
Probable age under thirty.
He followed Stratos and works at Agios Georgios.

Josef : Sofia's husband. Cretan.He is often drunk. Doesn't work much. He waste Sofia's money
and not very good to her. He killed Alexandros at the mountain near the village. He also
shot Colin's brother Mark. But died accidentally by hitting his head on a rock when
scuffled with Mark's friend Lambis at the mountain.

Sofia : Stratos's sister and wife of Josef. She had money form her father. She helped Stratos
to imprison Colin in a windmill. But she took care of Colin and brought some hood for
Colin. She opposed to kill Colin.

This story was quite exciting. and of course, happy end.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Postcard from Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

"Dear Jim-san, There are so many magnificent views here in Cambodia. Today I visited a primary school at Kompong Thom, which is 100km north of Phnom Penh. Tomorrow, I'll move from Kompong Thom to visit Angkor monuments. I'm very excited. See you soon. Koa"

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(Koa was visiting Cambodian schools on behalf of the employees' union, Seiko Epson Corporation. Posted August 6th)

Postcard from Nha Trang (Vietnam)

"Hi! How are you? I'm in Vietnam. I'm going to Ho Chi Minh City from Nha Trang by train. Nha Trang has a beautiful beach. I swam a lot, so I got a suntan! I'll go to Angkor Wat in Cambodia tomorrow. I'll send you a mail again. Best regards, Junko" (posted August 8th)

Which Cambridge exam should I take?

A very good question indeed! First, ask your teacher for their recommendation - you should certainly be taking one or another at the end of the year. These exams are taken all over the world, and allow you to prove how much you can use your English. Do not be afraid - I really want to see you challenging yourselves and achieving something meaningful.

You can find some useful information and sample papers (which you can download) etc at http://www.cambridgeesol.org/
On the left side of the homepage, find the "For Language Learners", and then find the particular exam you are interested in.

This year you can take the following exams on the following dates at Luna in Matsumoto (with entry deadlines in brackets)
  • K.E.T. Sat. November 24th, afternoon. (Oct 5th) - Y7,950
  • P.E.T. Sat. November 24th, morning. (Oct 5th) - Y9,950
  • Y.L.E. (Starters, Movers, Flyers) Sat. December 1st (Oct 12th)
  • F.C.E. Sat. December 8th (Oct. 5th) - Y18,350
Luna is also organising F.C.E., C.A.E. & C.P.E. in Tokyo, Dec 11/12/13. if you are interested please contact Jim directly.

To get your entry form please email Jim: oyajim@gmail.com

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

What? No Yuki?!

Time to panic at Luna - our manager Yuki is leaving us (temporarily) to concentrate on more important things...like having a baby. She has been the backbone of common sense and good organisation at Luna since I bought the business in the previous millennium. Needless to say, it is going to be very strange trying to run the business without her (and if things don't go quite so smoothly for a while please be patient) nor seeing her bright & cheerful face every day.

Yuki, from all of us past & present, the very best of luck & good health to you and your baby. Please take care, and come back when you are ready...we are all really excited to see your child & can't wait for you to introduce us. xxx

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Computer crap? Not me...VIDEO-tastic!!!

Back on June 8th I posted a blog "I like it". I said I'd try to figure out how to whack video of the lesson up... Well, consider it done! Go have a look and please post a comment telling me how clever I am/what a cool, fun lesson we all had etc?!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Falling Leaves

It's really heartwarming tale of love I think.
I remind that we become independent by going through great tribulation. And the many Japanese people(including me) who has never known serious trouble should go thorugh the tribulation.

From the last sentence "Life had come full circle. Falling leaves return to their roots" , I think the dead may be not the end of all.

As an aside, I think the cover-page illustration should be changed, because the illustation is associated with horror story. (The illustration has a little girl without her foot)


Monday, 27 August 2007

It's a girl!

Just a very quick post to announce the birth of Eleanor Christine George, on Saturday August 25th (exactly on schedule - very much in character with Yukari!). Mother & daughter are doing very well after a long labour (47 hours!), and I am looking forward to boring everyone to death with photos soon. I am a very, very proud father and you'll have to forgive me if lessons this week are a bit unplanned; not had a lot of sleep!


Would you like to be a pirate?
What is good about a pirate's life and what is bad?
Write about it.

Good: The life is free.
The life is adventurous.
Bad: The life is dangerous.
They need to became strong man and they need to fight.
They almoust live on ship.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


You work for a newspaper. Write a story about Apollo 13. Why didn't astronauts walk on the Moon? How did they get home?

It was Saturday,April the 11th in 1970. Apollo 13 was launched to the Moon with 3 astronauts. But serious problem happened. Oxygen got out to the space. 3 astronauts and many staffs in the control center on the Earth thought, thought and thought. They had to change the plane that to walk on the Moon. They solved some accidents, and lastly, 3 astronauts could return back to the Earth.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Sandwiches - homework!

A Tuesday morning class to discuss sandwich making? Are you sure, Jim?! Well, actually yes. Point being to practice writing instructions of a step by step process; so this morning we shared our favourite sandwich recipes & remembered our countable/uncountable nouns as well. A couple of other things came to light as well, such as not putting a whole pig in sarny - just a chop is plenty! Gentlemen (and ladies too!), your sangers as 'comments' please!

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Big Hand Bon Bon

Bon Bon 2007 was a blast; I really hope our "Big Hands" had as much of an impact on the crowd as they did on my arm/shoulder - feel like I played tennis all night! Anybody else sore??

We started off by the back of Parco, looking a bit sheepish & unsure....but that changed as soon as the music started! Eri's buddies jumped into the lead rank and stayed there pretty much for the rest of the evening, giving everyone else something resembling the Bon Bon dance to follow. Thanks guys!

As with every year we had a very young bunch of dancers, who had a blast being the stars of the show. Kayo-chan's niece once again showed us her moves, and again we were stranded for about an hour without moving - this time half-way down Eki Mai dori. Well done all our little ones for staying the pace.

Around about this time one over zealous staff member tried to tell us off for having too much fun & interacting with other groups! As if?! Never heard anything so ridiculous - not allowed to have fun at a matsuri. Anyway, I think she understood English because she didn't come back to bother us ;)...guess she didn't see me getting a bear hug from the Yamaga FC gorrilla

Last year we picked up a Chinese group, this year some home-stayers from the US, here with my old friend Mark Gribsco. Also a few other folks I didn't know, but presumably British, as they didn't mind putting on the Union Jack bandanas. Late arrivals Kouichi, Mark & family, Tsuchida-san padded our ranks welcomely as some tired ones toddled home.

Thanks this year to my parents-in-law for pushing us around - manning the drinks - and to Alex & Martin, Liza, Owen, Michelle for genki-ing up the crew. Big thank you to Maki guarding us, her baptism of fire as we tried to manage without Yuki-chan for the first time since we started joining Bon Bon about 10 years ago (of course she still organised everything!).

And of course a very big thank you to all who danced with us, or came along to cheer us through the streets. Take a moment to share your photos please at Lunasafamily@groups.msn.com and remember to book early next year for "Bambino Bon"!


I’m sorry for my late reply, but please find my writing homework as follows. I still couldn’t understand why the author chooses “DR STRANGELOVE” as a title.

What do you think is the main message of the book? Do you think it is still important today?

I think what the book wants to say is “don’t rely on the machine too much”, because there is no prefect machine. In the end, our real(not prefect) human are making and using the Machine.
I also think that the message is more important today, because we can do everything by PC and internet. E.g. shopping, cashing drawer, dealings on the stock exchange and etc
The cyber terrorist may be able to control the computer at Pentagon (United States Department of Defense) by hacking.
Finally, I think that “the Doomsday IT” is more appropriate than “the Doomsday Machine” in these modern days.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

APOLLO 13 (2)


I'm going to write about APOLLO 13, which was I read long time ago.
[13]You work for a newspaper. Write a story about Apollo 13. Why didn't the astronauts walk o n the Moon? How did they get home?


Apollo 13 had an accident through the Moon. The control ship had got an engine trouble. The astronauts, who got on Apollo 13 wouldn't go to the Moon. But Apollo 13 was on the way to the Moon. The Moon landing ship had saved them. They used it for a main rocket. It went about the Moon and round the Moon. They could be back to the Earth.

Airport time

Jim sensei twisting my internet arm to contribute to a bolg...glog...grog..oh yeah! a blog. First time blogger (really) long time friend of Jim. Missing Matsumoto as it was the very best place to live in Japan. Lucky to have had a chance to visit last October and do the onsen tour with your blogger host. Many baths and many beers later...on the train back to Tokyo and a long flight home.

Inside yet another airport today (Tampa, Florida) and trying out blogging for the first time. Will contribute photo if I ever join the 21st century and buy a digital camera. Actually got a new cell phone with camera, but haven't tried the darn thing yet. Don't camera phones steal your soul when they take your picture?

Florida is a beautiful place if you've never been and even if you have. Trying to find a job and move down here. If any of you have Florida contacts, please let me know. If you are Chicago-bound, let me know that too. Time to catch my flight!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Client

In the middle of the story when Mark met Reggie Love first, he was nervous and he wasn’t ready to talk with her. Reggie said, ”First you have to pay me something.” She took a dollar from him then said, “Okay, now I’m the lawyer and you’re the client. Let’s hear the story.” I like this scene. I feel her considerable experience and tender thought. I like the last scene too. Mark didn’t know that he would never see Reggie again before he asked her “Aren’t you coming Reggie?” Then for once, Mark who is with sound mind was not ashamed to cry in public. Reggie’s last word was “Thank Mark”. This must be an average last scene but that’s what I like.