Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Sad Day in Ottawa

As many readers of this blog and followers of my video blog know, I have a strong connection to Ottawa, Canada. Although I did not grow up there, I lived there most recently before moving to Japan. I earned my Education degree from the University of Ottawa and really enjoyed my time in the city. I would really like to live there again someday. My wife also enjoyed living in Ottawa and likes it very much as well.

I suppose that is why I want to share some sad news.

Yesterday, one of Ottawa's finest fell in the line of duty. He was the first police officer killed in the line of duty in Ottawa since 1983. What seems like a random attack, Const. Eric Czapnik was ambushed and stabbed to death while writing in his notebook in his patrol car. The incident took place in the parking lot of Ottawa Civic Hospital. A suspect was apprehended while in the midst of the attack by four paramedics at the hospital.

You can read more here at CTV news.

Read more at CBC News.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back in Japan

After a wonderful vacation in Canada with my family and friends I am back in Japan. After more than 24 hours of traveling, my wife and I arrived in kobe. Although it was wonderful to be back in Canada, it is always great to get back to your home. I slept like a log last night, probably due to the fact that I was dead tired, but the fact that it was "my" bed also helped a lot I think.

I was somewhat anxious because we left our fish for 10 days. I bought a food block for them that is supposed to dissolve and slowly release food into the water, but upon arrival, it didn't seem to work well. On the bright side, my fish were alive and healthy.

Check out my latest video about my trip back home and the fact that ANA were kind enough to bump us up to business class.

While at my parents' house, I had the chance to drink some of the new Dan Akroyd wine. that's right, Dan Akroyd of SNL and Ghostbusters fame. He is a native of Ottawa, Canada and is now flogging his own line of wine. You can by them at the LCBO (Ontario liquor stores). It was actually pretty good. There will be a video about it soon!

This is what Christmas is all about. Well, I suppose this is part of it. This was the Christmas dinner that my wonderful parents prepared for my wife and I. I had two full plates like this. This is part of the reason I left Canada a few pounds greater than when i arrived. i suppose that is a sign of a proper Christmas vacation.

About 2 weeks ago I shot a video of myself doing a little Christmas shopping inside Nishinomiya Gardens in Nishinomiya, Japan. It's an upscale shopping mall located between Osaka and Kobe.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back to Japan

I suppose this is simply a little update.

I am on my way back to Japan now. After a wonderful 10 days in Canada, I have seen many wonderful family members and friends, NOT trained for the Tokyo Marathon, gained several pounds, eaten great food, drunk wonderful beer and have generally been very satisfied.

The weather in the Ottwaw area is horrible with freezing rain and dangerous roads. Playing on the side of caution, we came up here a day early and are spending 2 nights in a hotel. It was a wise move.

In a nutshell, our trip back to Canada for Christmas was wonderful, but it will also be great to get back to our apartment and life in Japan. It's also a lot warmer there and I have a LOT of running to do in the next few months!

There will be several "Canada" themed videos appearing on my You Tube channel in the next week or so.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ottawa at Christmas

Christmas vacation is going well in the Land of Snow. My wife and I were in Ottawa for a few days visiting friends and checking out some of our favorite sites. We hit the Byward Market, Parliament Hill and other places.

While on Parliament Hill my wife had a chance to see her favorite place, the stray cat colony. She loves it so much because of the large population of squirrels!

Another cute little critter relaxing on an Ottawa Winter day.

Of course, as touristy as it may be, I always love to hit Parliament Hill when I am in Ottawa. When I lived here I went to this place ore times than I can keep track of. For anyone who may not know what this building is, it is the main house of government in Canada is.

While in the Byward Market we saw lots of fresh Christmas wreaths and odecorations for sale. This time of year, the Market isn't bustling with a lot of activity. In the Summer and Fall the ouside is filled with vendors selling clothes and food. In the Winter, only a hardy few remain.

Just a few more days and it's back to Japan.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From Kobe to Canada

After a painful, yet uneventful flight, we ended up in lovely and frigid Canada. We have been calling a small place outside of Ottawa (the Nation's Capital) our home away from home. It's been great so far!

I've been catching up on food I've missed, Tim Hortons and some great beer.

I've encountered one major dillema. I haven't been able to continue my Tokyo Marathon training as I had hoped. I tried running this mornin, but at -19c outside, I gave up in under 15 minutes. Hopefully it will warm up a little bit so I can try again tomorrow , but I'm not holding my breath.

Last night we tried some of Beau's Brewery"s "Lug Tread" which is a German style beer. I also had it with some amazing pizza from a shop in Cornwall called North End pizza! This is heaven!

Yesterday I had a chance to tour Beau's Brewery which is an awesome craft brewery located in a small town called Vankleek Hill. It's just outside of Ottawa. I picked up some beer, toured the facility and had a great time. There will be a You Tube video about it once I get back to Kobe.

On another subject, I'm more than a little pleased with the fact that my Christmas video on You Tube has been featured and is doing better than I could have ever expected! Thank you everyone who watched it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hatred Towards Teachers in Korea

I've been following this story for years. Although I had many wonderful years in South Korea, I have to admit, I had experienced some negative sentiments myself while I lived there.

This is an interesting story from CBC's "The Current".

From the The Current website on this show:

Korea English Teachers

Dann Gaymer has been living and teaching in South Korea for three years. And like other English teachers there, he's watching his back. That's because of what some view as a growing anti-foreigner sentiment in the country... a mood that foreign teachers say is being fueled by a group known as The Anti-English Spectrum.

On its website, in flyers, and through other activities... the teachers say The Anti-English Spectrum is spreading negative, hateful information about them and they believe the group's message is gaining traction.

Now local police are investigating an anonymous death threat sent to the Association of Teachers of English in South Korea. Dann Gaymer speaks on behalf of the group and he was in Daegu, a city in Southeastern part of the country.

Korea English Teachers

We requested an interview with the Anti-English Spectrum through the group's website... we did not hear back. We heard from Younggoog Park is Minister-Counsellor of Public Affairs at the Korea Embassy in Ottawa shared his thoughts about the group.

For Andrea Vandom, the activities of the Anti-English Spectrum and the changes in her visa requirements were unacceptable. So much so - that she left her teaching job in South Korea. She has also launched a constitutional challenge against the government's visa requirements on the grounds they are discriminatory. The HIV and drug tests that are mandatory for all foreign teachers, are not required by law for Korean teachers working in private schools. Andrea Vandom was in Irvine, California.

Korea English Teachers

Of the 20,000 foreigners teaching English in South Korea, an estimated 5 thousand are Canadian. Steve Snowball was one of them. He's a Canadian who used to teach English in South Korea. His extra-curricular activities in the country landed him in jail for six weeks. We heard from him.

Ben Wagner says stories of carousing is what gives many foreign English teachers in South Korea a bad image. But he also believes that anti-foreigner sentiment runs deeper than that. Ben Wagner has lived in South Korea for 15 years... he is a law professor at the Kyung Hee University Law School. He has raised his concerns over discrimination against foreigners with the country's National Human Rights Commission. He was in Seoul, South Korea.

I found out about this story from a great website; Brian in Jeollanam-do

Random Kobe Stuff

I was just posting some pictures to Facebook and came across some odd signs I've spotted in Sannomiya. For anyone who has ever lived or traveled to Asia, bizarre signs are nothing new, but they are still always fun for me. Seven years in Asia and I still feel like a big kid every time I see one! A few times in the past when I've made posts like this, a few people have complained, "After being here for a few years I don't care about that!" I suppose for those crusty folks, their inner child has been stepped on!

This just doesn't seem like a good name for a restaurant. IIt doesn't make me want to come in. when I think of fine dining, ketchup normally isn't involved.

Is this a CSI bar??? Not extremely bizarre, but caught my attention nonetheless.

I suppose this could mean many things. My mind was in the gutter when I looked at it .....giggle, giggle.

Again, this just seemed like an odd thing! Bring your baby here to have needles inserted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Best Burger in Kobe

Here's the deal. I live in Japan and I really love Japanese food. Japanese food is simply wonderful, but as a Canadian, sometimes I crave the food I know best. I crave things I used to eat when I lived back in Canuckistan!

As a stereotypical male, I love eating flame broiled beef! Yep, I love steak and hamburgers. Sometimes I really just want to enjoy a nice juicy cheeseburger. These days, it's fairly easy to get a cheeseburger in a place like Japan, but the challenge is to find a good one!

McDonald's sucks, Wendy's will do in a pinch, but for a TRUE cheeseburger, I know a place.

If you need a meat fix for a great price, hit Polo Dog in Sannomiya, the main shopping area of Kobe. Polo Dog is a pub located on the second floor of a building behind Uniqlo, Seiden, etc. I believe it is mentioned in the Lonely Planet Japan.

Here you can see the outside of the pub and the signboards. What is really great about this pub is the price of food! Eating in Japan can be expensive as can drinking. The regular price for the cheeseburger platter is 600¥, which is about $7.00 Canadian. That is a really low price. Also, a pint of Kirin draft beer is only 500¥...that's VERY cheap in Japan.

Check this baby out! It is a thick beef paddy that is seasoned very well. It comes with fresh tomato and lettuce as well as potato wedges and onion rings. The burger is juicy and makes you want to come back again and again!

I've tried some other pubs and restaurants in the Kansai area and no burger holds a candle to this one in my opinion. Normally, an equivalent meal at a pub in Japan will set you back 1,200¥ (double Polo Dog's price) and only be half as good.

So, why does Polo Dog have the best cheeseburger in Kobe (if not Kansai):
1. It tastes great!
2. At 600¥, the price is amazing (that includes potato wedges and onion rings).
3. The drinks are cheap too!
4. the staff is SUPER friendly and nice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry Christmas メリークリスマス: The Movie

After too many hours to count editing, sending emails, tweaking and changing, my big You Tube project for 2009 is finally completed. The Merry Christmas From Around the World video is now online. Please check it out and enjoy. Spread the word please! Tweet about it, Facebook it and tell your friends. I think it is a lot of fun and I hope you do too.

Now that this collaboration video is finished, I can concentrate on packing and doing some last minute Christmas shopping before my wife and I head out to Canada.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I ate deer today!

I suppose, normally, when I go out to eat in Japan I eat Japanese food. In a very simple way, that makes sense. Of course I really enjoy other types of food as well.

Today my wife suggested eating Italian food. Actually, it was slightly more than a suggestion. She had Italian on the brain and who was I to argue? My wife has great taste and had already planned our afternoon together.

we went to and area of Kobe called Motomachi. we ate at an Italian restaurant called Osteria Gaudente. It is located under the train tracks in Motomachi, just across from the Motomachi Station Police Box. It was an absolutely brilliant lunch. The restaurant had a very cozy and warm atmosphere. The decor felt very European and the waitress who served us was very attentive and efficient. The Italian chef was also attentive! Between cooking dishes, he mingled through the restaurant speaking Japanese to the clientele and even bused our table!

My wife at pasta with tomato and mozerella sauce. I had fussili with deer sauce! That's right. Venison as we say in Canada. It was pasta with a VERY delicious deer meat and tomato sauce.

Here is the really awesome salad that started the meal off. We both had the lunch set that only goes for 1000¥ (about $10). The best part of the salad, for me, was the crunchy pieces of renkon (the honeycombed shaped vegetable).

Here you can see the deer meat pasta. It was tender pieces of a deer from Hokkaido (Northern Japan) in a tomato sauce with freshly grated cheese. It was very delicious.

This is the outside of the restaurant. It is located in a narrow alley under the train tracks in Motomachi. it is directly across from the Motomachi Police Box. There is another brach of this restaurant in Umeda, in downtown Osaka.

A lot of birds

While walking downtown last night to do some filming at the Kobe Luminaire, I stopped because there were some noisy flocks of what I think were starlings. They seemed to be aimlessly flying around in circles between some apartment buildings. I'm not sure why they were doing it, but it looked fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Perv tries to squeeze a cop!

There are a lot of perverts in Japan and that is no secret. Bizarre sexual stories are commonplace in local newspapers. I thought this one was particularly interesting sicne I spend a lot of time in Akashi which is a small city located a few kilometers from Kobe.

This is a tale of a very stupid pervert!

60-yr-old man arrested for trying to molest policewoman in front of police station


A 60-year-old-man was arrested right in front of Akashi Police Station in Hyogo Prefecture on Wednesday night after he allegedly tried to fondle the breasts of a 47-year-old female police officer who was leaving her shift. The officer dodged Tamotsu Inaba’s wandering hands and dragged him into the police station, where he was charged with violating prefectural nuisance prevention laws.

Police quoted Inaba as saying that he “wanted to touch a woman.” The officer was dressed in street clothes at the time. Inaba told police he didn’t realize she was an officer or that he was in front of a police station. see original

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two Beers in Asia

During the summer I was putting some serious thought into beginning a podcast about living in Japan. I am a huge fan of several podcasts set in Japan and South Korea and wanted to take a kick at the can myself. I suppose I was somewhat intimidated to take on a new medium though. Although I am very familiar and comfortable with producing videos and blogs for You Tube, the world of podcasting would be new. The technical side of producing a podcast s easy enough I suppose, but in order to build support and a reputation I would have to reach out and network with a new community.

Community is a huge part of becoming a success when producing media online. If you want to become a successful You Tube personality, you need a lot of luck, but you also need to form strong relationships with other video makers. I suppose thesame goes for blogging and podcasting.

Although a podcast may be in the cards in the future, I decided to take the model I had in mind and put something like it together on You Tube, a medium I was comfy with. I asked my good friend and fellow You Rube video maker, KansaiPJ if he'd like to join me as a host on a show about life as a foreigner in Asia. Since we both have a passion for drinking fine beer, we decided to do a beer review with every episode.

Two Beers in Asia was born.

If you haven't seen any episodes of my collaboration show with KansaiPJ, check a few out here:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Month til Christmas

It's officially been a dog's age and a half since I have last entered the blogosphere and contributed anything. I of course normally only contribute light and fluffy things, but contributing something is better than nothing.

The school term is coming to a close and reports cards are due. Student Christmas shows are approaching and practicing needs to be done. Stomach viruses, colds, swine flu and other blights are flying throughout the air here in Kobe. I caught a stomach virus and a cold, but luckily nothing more serious. In the past, that would have ben serious enough, but these days, there are even more worrisome viral critters flying through our friendly japanese skies!

Here are a few vids I threw up over the last few days.


I am also putting together a Christmas Season collaboration video on You Tube. Anyone and I mean ANYONE is invited to submit a video to me. You DO NOT have to be a Japan-based vlogger to take part.

Watch my video and see!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updates on the Ichihashi case

Here is some more news on the Ichihashi case:

Police on Tuesday night arrested the suspect in the 2007 murder of a British woman after fingerprints confirmed he is Tatsuya Ichihashi, a 30-year-old fugitive wanted in the case.

Ichihashi, who had altered his appearance through cosmetic surgery, was taken to Suminoe police station. He is currently only wanted on a technical charge of abandoning the body of language school teacher Lindsay Hawker, who was 22 at the time of her death, at his apartment. Chiba prefectural police said they will upgrade the charge to murder.

Ichihashi was taken into custody on the second floor of Nanko ferry terminal after police received a phone call at 6:44 p.m. from another passenger at the terminal saying that a man resembling Ichihashi was sitting by himself. Two police officers arrived at first and approached Ichihashi who was wearing a gray jacket, black cap and sunglasses. Two other officers arrived shortly after.

Witnesses told NHK that Ichihashi remained calm and could be heard telling the police his name. He had been reportedly waiting to board a ferry for Okinawa after coming from Kobe earlier in the day.

Ichihashi was transported from Shin-Osaka station to Chiba by bullet train later Tuesday night.

NHK also aired comments from Ichihashi’s parents. His father said they were relieved to hear that their son had been taken into custody. They expressed sorrow for the Hawker family and urged their son to explain clearly what he did.

Meanwhile, Hawker’s father Bill told TBS in a telephone interview on Tuesday night that his nightmare is finally over. “I very much look forward to seeing Ichihashi across a courtroom, so I can look him in the face,” Hawker said. Read More

Here's some news from BBC:

Japan bathtub murder suspect held
The only suspect in the murder of British teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker has been arrested by police in Japan, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, 30, is being held in police custody in Osaka.

Miss Hawker, 22, from Brandon, near Coventry, was buried in a sand-filled bath at the suspect's Tokyo flat in March 2007, but Ichihashi disappeared.

Her father, Bill Hawker, said: "The chief investigator office told me we always get our man and they have done."
'Hard battle'

Mr Hawker added: "He never gave up Ichihashi. He ran away from the scene of the crime, he was running away today when he was caught. He has no remorse and I hope the Japanese society give him the maximum penalty."

Mr Hawker said it had been "a long, hard battle" for the family.

"We have worked tirelessly as a family and have never given in for our daughter," he added.

"We wanted justice and we have finally got it." READ MORE

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tatsuya Ichihashi Captured in Osaka

It is pretty strange when you hear news of a "Most Wanted" fugitive on the loose somewhere close, but a relief when you hear he's been captured by the police. That's the case tonight as the suspected murderer of English teacher, Lindsay Hawker was captured this evening in Osaka.


Police on Tuesday night arrested the suspect in the 2007 murder of a British woman after fingerprints confirmed he is Tatsuya Ichihashi, a 30-year-old fugitive wanted in the case.

Currently, Ichihashi is wanted only on a technical charge of abandoning the body of language school teacher Lindsay Hawker, who was 22 at the time of her death, at his apartment, but the police will upgrade the charge to murder.

The case has attracted widespread public attention as Ichihashi, who media reports once suggested had killed himself, was found alive and with a new look after undergoing plastic surgery on several occasions.

Ichihashi escaped from police officers when they called at his apartment in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, in March 2007 and then found Hawker’s body inside a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony. The police later distributed fliers and offered a 10 million yen reward for information leading to his whereabouts.

Hawker’s family also visited Japan to ask for help in resolving the case, but no significant progress had been made over the last two and a half years.

The case took a sudden turn when Ichihashi showed up at a clinic in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, in late October for another round of plastic surgery. The police soon released a photograph of his post-surgery face with double-fold eyelids instead of single, a higher nose bridge and thinner lips, and it was widely displayed.

It led to numerous further discoveries about him, including his attempt to receive another plastic surgery operation in Fukuoka Prefecture. He was also found to have lived and worked at a construction company in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, for over a year up until this October. See original here

Monday, November 9, 2009

On the sidelines

I suppose I finally have a chance to make another post. I am sitting at home on a Monday nursing a stomach virus. I had to go to the doctor this morning. As of recent, I have become somewhat of an expert on visiting Japanese doctors. I wish that wasn't the case. I'll be back at work tomorrow however, come hell or high water. One negative side is that I will miss my third Japanese class tonight. The third in 2 weeks, which means I will be completely lost again when I return on Thursday.

In non-Japanese/Kobe news:

South Korean woman passes driver's exam on 950th try
SEOUL, South Korea – A woman in South Korea who tried to pass the written exam for a driver's license with near-daily attempts since April 2005 has finally succeeded on her 950th time. The aspiring driver spent more than 5 million won ($4,200) in application fees, but until now had failed to score the minimum 60 out of a possible 100 points needed to get behind the wheel for a driving test.
Cha Sa-soon, 68, finally passed the written exam with a score of 60 on Wednesday, said Choi Young-chul, a police official at the drivers' license agency in Jeonju, 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Seoul.
Police said Cha took the test hundreds of times, but had no specific total. Local media said she took the test 950 times.
Now she must pass a driving test before getting her license, Choi said.
Repeated calls to Cha seeking comment went unanswered. She told the Korea Times newspaper she needed the license for her vegetable-selling business. See original

I thought this one was funny. I did live in South Korea for quite some time and from time to time check the news from there.

I also thought this one was rather hilarious. It is a website completely dedicated to passed out drunk people in Korea! Please, allow yourself to be entertained. If you have ever had a night out with soju, you can understand how this might happen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being a Musician in Japan: Kat McDowell

Last weekend I had the chance to sit down with Japan-based recording artist, Kat McDowell. She is a great person and it ws a lot of fun to chat with her. She performed a few hours later at the Minami Wheel music festival in Osaka, Japan. Her set at the festival was great, but I wasn't allowed to film it.

Check out my interview with Kat:

This was my first attempt at doing an interview style video. I think it went well. Kat was a great person to chat with. We have ben aware of each other for some time because of You Tube and she contacted me a few weeks ago about this show. I was really happy that she was enthusiastic about me asking her a few questions.

I was also happy to try something new on my You Tube channel. I have been growing consistently and of course am always planning new videos, but the chance to attempt an interview seems to have worked out well. This video is getting a lot of positive feedback and if it works the way intended, will give Kat a little more exposure. I know that several people have already told me they have subscribed to her You Tube channel. Hopefully, in the future, I will have the chance to do some more interviews. As for the near future, expect another food video and another comedy one. The food video is already filmed and only needs to be edited, the comedy one is scripted and will be filmed soon.

I almost forgot. Today was a national holiday in Japan. It was Culture Day. My wife and I hopped on a train and headed to Kyoto. We went to Arashiyama. I had never been there before. it is a popular sightseeing spot in the Autumn when the leaves are changing colours. Although the leaves have only started to change, we had a great time there this afternoon.

Japanese maple leaves changing colour in Arashiyama, a part of Kyoto.

Kyoto on a cold November afternoon.

Kyoto goodness in Autumn.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Should I teach adults of children?

This is the second part of my new little series of posts about teaching English abroad, but more specifically, in South Korea.

Should I teach Children or Adults?

This is a question many people ask themselves when looking for their first job as a teacher in another country. There are many jobs teaching adults in South Korea, but the vast majority of jobs are teaching children English. Some of the jobs teaching adults are at private language schools which can seem more like impersonal language factories or at universities. As for children, the schools that cater to them range from private kindergarten and university preparatory schools, to public schools.

For some people, teaching children is the right fit and for others, adult learners are what stimulate them as educators. I suppose that teaching children versus adults is much like comparing apples and oranges. You really cannot. There are very few similarities; they are people, they speak the same native language; and so many differences; they have a complete different sense of the world, work ethic, creativity, sense of joy, etc.

Who are typical students in Korea?


Adult students range from salary men to university students. Salary men are basically office workers. Many of them are enrolled in classes at private language schools because they are required to by their company or realize that they must improve their English in order to gain job promotions. Some of these students are enthusiastic about learning English, while others really resent having to spend their time doing so. The latter are the ones who may be a bit of a hassle since they can at times have a bad attitude and direct it towards you.

You may also find house wives who are studying English as a hobby or doing so in order to help their children who are too, studying English. The dedication of Korean parents is unlike that I’ve seen anywhere else. They will spend countless hours of their own time studying if they think that can in some way help further their children’s education. There are also retired people studying for something to do as well as apathetic university students who would often rather be elsewhere.
If you teach adults, every class will vary and the dynamic with every group of students will be completely different.

If you have the chance to teach children in Korea, your students may age in range from 4-18 years old. Many Korean parents enroll their young children in English Language kindergartens. They feel that this “immersive” English environment is the next best thing to sending their child abroad. Be warned however, these kindergartens tend to have the worst reputation of all language schools in Korea (for treating and paying teachers poorly).

Many children in Korea attend private language schools, or hagwons, after their regular school hours are complete. It is common to find children as young as six or seven in classrooms well into the evening studying.

How are they as students? Well, kids are kids. Kindergarten kids are energetic, exuberant and are a challenge. Basically, they are the same as kids anywhere. The older children (high school) are challenging for other reasons. Hormones are of course always a problem, but by this age, they are simply burnt out from studying. It’s nothing personal towards you if they are apathetic, you probably would be too if you had to cope with their daily schedule!

The Pros and Cons of Teaching Adults and Children (my opinion only)

Adults (Pros):
After two years of teaching children in Korea, I made the move to an adult school. Within my first month there, I learned more about Korean culture and history than I had in my previous two years. Through discourse with adults of various backgrounds, I simply learned a lot about Korea. I made Korean friends, was invited to countless dinners and drinking excursions by my students and had a great time. I also gained a broader knowledge about ESL education since I could then compare teaching young learners to mature learners.

Adults (cons):

If you are teaching at a private adult language school, your working hours will probably be painful verging on torturous. Most professionals only have time to go to language class before they go to the office in the morning and after they finish for the day. That means you will work a split shift. No matter how much you may enjoy working there, the hours will eventually take their toll on you, both physically and mentally.

The Korean sense of tact is different than that in Western culture. Koreans will often tell you things you might not want to hear. Our different cultures simply have different cultural rules, but it can be very tough to deal with at times. Cultural differences aside, I also had the misfortune of teaching quite a few bigoted and ignorant jack-asses over the course of my time at that school. Cavemen disguised as Brooks Brothers suit wearing office workers. I’m not sure how common this is, but I seemed to have at least one in a class every month and all of my coworkers complained about similar students.

If you are a young male teacher ( I was in my mid twenties), you may be hit on or approached by some female students. Although this may at first seem flattering and fun, this often can lead to a great deal of trouble for you. Some women may be after an instructor as a free way of improving language skills, some are looking for a fun little cross-cultural adventure and some are just plain nuts. If a student in your class is flirtatious, believe me, her classmates notice as well! This can lead to student complaints about you and your class. My advice would be to avoid these types of situations. As the old saying goes, “Don’t shit where you eat!”

Children (pros):
Kids are fun. Kids are creative. They have energy. If they are young children, they don’t judge and quickly forget reasons why they may have been angry. Young children are like massive sponges, ready and willing to absorb unbelievable amounts of knowledge. Simply put, its fun to teach kids.

Children (cons):
If you are not a patient person or in fairly good physical health, teaching young kids may not be for you. You need energy yourself and endless amounts of patience.

If you are teaching teenagers, you will have to deal with hormones and general apathy. Those two things combined can lead to a frustration cocktail. I personally found Korean teenagers to be generally the same as Canadian ones. They are ego centric, dramatic and normally don’t want to be in school. One difference between the teenagers of Korea and that of other countries is that Korean kids have to work ten times harder to get through their school system. They wake up at 6am and may not get home until 11pm at night from cram schools. Once home they have to study and do homework. They are often burned out and bitter and rightfully so. These will be your students!

The schools and parents themselves can also lead to some frustration. The Korean education system is based on the Japanese one, but far more extreme and Confucian. It is basically one way education. Teachers talk, students listen and don’t participate. Rote learning is the key. Students memorize and regurgitate facts and vocabulary with few chances to develop creative and critical problem solving skills. This is diametrically opposed to the education system you have come from. Don’t rock the boat though. Don’t think you can change things. It will be frustrating, but if you want to be happy as a teacher there, you have to learn to roll with the punches. Sometimes you will disagree with what the school and parents expect of you as a teacher, but they brought you to Korea to do a job the way they want you to do it. You might subtly be able to make life for the kids in your room a little more creative and enjoyable though.

There you have it. The opinion of one blogger/vlogger. If you were unsure about teaching adults or children, hopefully this helped.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Teach Overeas?

I’ve decided to start a short little series of posts about teaching in South Korea. I realize that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea and for many of the folks who frequent this blog, irrelevant. I can safely assume that many of you have never been to Korea and probably have little desire to do so, but the videos I have made for You Tube about teaching in South Korea still tend to be some of my most popular. I can assume from the number of people who watch them and leave comment, both good and bad, that there is a definite interest in the topic.
For my regular readers who have no interest in the topic, have no fear. These posts will be made over the next few weeks or maybe months, but the majority of posts here will still be about life in Japan and more specifically, Kobe.

Why Become a Teacher Overseas?

I suppose one of the first questions one must ask before making the immense commitment of moving their life to the other side of the world for a year or more is; “Why do I want to become a teacher in another country?” I suppose there is a different story for everyone out there considering this job choice. There seem to be some common themes though:

1. I just finished university and have no idea what I want to do with my life so I think I’ll become an ESL teacher.

2. I just finished university and want to put life on hold because the real world is scary and I don’t want to face it yet.

3. I owe a lot of money and with only a generic B.A., this is the best way I can think of to pay off the debts relatively fast.

4. I have a desire to travel and broaden my horizons.

5. I already have a great job, but am feeling burnt out and need a change.

6. I have a legitimate interest in the country I’m interested in heading to.

7. I just finished a long term relationship and it ended horribly. I just need to get away from that entire scene.

Of course there are a variety of different reasons why folks head to places like Korea to teach, but in my years there, these seemed like some common reoccurring themes.

Do Your Research

One of the first pieces of advice I give anyone thinking of becoming a teacher in South Korea is, “Do your research!” I can’t stress this one enough. Most of the information you are looking for is just a quick Google search away as well. All of the basic FAQ’s out there are answered on blogs, in You Tube videos and on forums. I will tell you however, before ever posing a question to a blogger or You Tube video maker, attempt to find the information yourself. If through research, you can’t find the answer to your question; then shoot a question out to someone in the interwebs. I say this because on an almost daily basis, I am peppered with questions on You Tube that the writer could have very easily found the answer through a quick Google search.

I am also going to suggest avoiding internet forums. Forums tend to be filled with some pretty bitter and angry people. They seem to lurk around these dark internet places for endless hours, waiting to pounce on “newbs.” They are normally anything but helpful. I always get a kick out of the hosts of the Seoulpodcast who refer to the forums on ESL Café as a big circle jerk. I suppose that can give you an idea that they aren’t always the best source of information. I will however suggest, skimming through them and reading some of the posts already made. Some of the information may be useful.

Teaching in Korea is a Real Job

No matter where I lived in South Korea and no matter how many teachers I met, there was one thing I realized. Many people “working” over there, in no way take their jobs seriously. Remember, this is a real job. Even if you haven’t had a “serious” job working in a company in your native country you must remember that the school that hired you, invested a lot of money in you. They had to get your visa, fly you abroad, put you up in an apartment and pay you! You should treat this teaching job the same way you would treat a teaching job in your hometown or city. In most cases, the more professional you are, the better you will be treated by your employer, coworkers and students.

Of course, this isn’t always the case in Korea. It is not uncommon for teachers to be treated like crap by schools. In some cases, schools treat teachers like cattle who are there only to serve them and make profit for them. They treat you with little or no respect. If you get the vibe that a school you are interested in seems a little too impersonal or “heartless”, you’d better look for a different place to work.

To sum this little point up, act professionally. Don’t come to class in the morning stinking like booze, don’t complain about unpaid preparation work (welcome to the life of every teacher in every country), show up well before your classes start, dress well and try to “play ball”.

Getting Rich

If you would like to work in Korea to pay off debts or start a nest egg, you’ve made a good choice. If you are planning on making lots of money, that probably won’t happen. For some strange reason, probably Korea’s questionable media, Koreans tend to think that English teachers make a lot of money. Many Koreans even think that English teachers are rich! This is laughable. Even with free rent, free airfare and bonus (something all Korean employees get as well), you are still only pulling in a lower to average middle class salary in a country such as Canada or the United States.

Another problem, if you are planning to stay in Korea for a few years or more, is that wages tend not to increase. Wages for Korea now are pretty much the same as they were when I first went there in 2002. A school teacher in a country like Canada though, would receive raises of several thousand dollars a year until their salary capped out.

As a young and single person, the salary in Korea is great. If you are expecting to support a family though, it is good, but that’s about it. Of course, some people who have been there for years have found ways to turn a very high profit, but they aren’t the norm. Again, I have no idea why many Koreans think otherwise.

Long story short, going to Korea is a great move for many people. Sometimes it can be a bad experience for people as well. Once arriving, you’ll soon realize that there is an element of Korean society who is not very impressed with foreigners coming to their country; that aside though, most people are very warm. If you do your research before you come, your chances of finding a job or location that suits will drastically improve. Also, act professionally and treat the culture with respect. You are not better than others because you come from Canada, England, the Unites States, etc. You are just different.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Izushi Blueberry Beer

It's been a long week and will get longer from here. For only the second time during my year and a half stint in Japan am on medication. It's nothing major, but it is kickin my butt and making me drowsy. I'm doing my best, but have been basically stumbling around throughout the day like a zombie. I suppose tomorrow will probably be no better.

This week is also a week of Halloween parties. As we come closer to the big day this Saturday, there are 3 parties at my school that I have to dress up for and help execute. Between field trips, zombie-like medicated stumbling and Halloween parties, there will be no You Tube videos this week.

I came across this picture this evening and wanted share it. During the summer, I visited the small town of Izushi, located in Northern Hyogo Prefecture. the town is known within japan for it's amazing soba noodles and beautiful scenery. While there I picked up this craft beer. This blueberry beer is made by the Izushi Shiroyama Beer Company.

I saved this beer in my fridge for a few months and had it in September. It was quite good. It had a very full and solid taste with a hint of fruity sweetness. In this picture you can see the one blueberry that was inside the bottle. I think I would have preferred it if there was a stronger berry flavour. This is a nice summer beer. Years ago, when I was living in Moncton, New Brunswick, I was a regular patron of the Pump House Brewery. They had a great blueberry ale there. I suppose to this day, i always compare any blueberry to that one and most normally come nowhere close.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great Brazilian food in Kobe

This evening I revisited the amazing Brazilian BBQ place located in MOSAIC in Kobe. Braziliano is an amazing bbq buffet. For about 2,400¥, out get all of the amazing food your body can handle. The veggie buffet is great as are the Japanese and Chinese side dishes. The highlight of this culinary experience is having friendly and jovial Brazilian men come to your table with freshly charred cuts of beef that they slice on to your plate.

I came to this very restaurant a few months ago with fellow You Tube vloggers; myargonauts and KansaiPJ. we were there for Jason's (myargonauts) last night in Japan. it was great that night and even better today. It was better this afternoon since I was there early and didn't have to worry about closing time (last time there we closed the joint).

Mai and I had an amazing feed of great meat and a great buffet the staff was very friendly and very much on top of service. The cuts of beef were fresh and amazingly cooked.

The entrance to Brasiliano, which s on the 3rd floor of Mosaic. this is in the downtown area of Kobe. Get off at JR Kobe Station and walk through Harborland towards Mosaic. Once there, it is easy to find.

Kevin admiring the faux Brazilian meat cooking over a faux fire!

Wonderful food at Brasiliano.

It was a great meal. the last time I was there I was impressed and this time around I was again, impressed. When I visited this restaurant earlier this year, I was in a rush since we were there before closing. This time around, Mai and I were there earlier so there was no need of panic.

Check out my video from when I was at the same restaurant at the end of July. I was there to met for the first time and say farewell to Japan-vlogger, myargonauts.

Autumn Food in Japan

It's been difficult, but I have recently laced up my shoes and have begun running again. I was having a lot of motivation problems lately and just haven't felt the ambition to get out there. In August I applied for a spot in the 2010 Tokyo Marathon. I wasn't holding my breathe since I had about a one i six shot of getting in since there was a lottery. Much to my surprise though, last week I received an email saying I had a spot.It is on February 28, 2010. That's a Saturday. This will be my second full marathon and my first major one. I have a little more than four months to train and this time around I hope to take the training a little more serious than for my last marathon. I completed the last one without any problems, but I know I can push myself to do better this time around.

Long story short, I've been out on the road several times this week. Twice, running home after my Japanese class. It is about a 5 km run back home, but i have to do it with a fairly heavy pack on my back. Hopefully the training will continue and I will find my legs again.

Last weekend, I went to Osaka-fu with my wife. We were staying with some of her family for the weekend. it was a great rural experience. they live in a very small farming village called Nakamura. It just happened that on that weekend there was a large matsuri or festival. This village as well as more than a dozen surrounding villages were having a harvest festival. Groups of men from every village would push a danjiri, or portable shrine, throughout the streets of the village, singing, dancing and praying. They would begin around 6 am and continue into the night. The Nakamura danjiri stopped at the house next to where I was staying for a break. The men pushing it were refueling with tea, snacks and morning beers!

While in the country last weekend, we picked some sweet potatoes and soy beans to take home. It is Fall in Japan and sweet potatoes are a big deal here. Most bakeries carry seasonal treats baked using sweet potato. A few nights ago, Mai made sweet potato muffins at home. they were awesome. A great breakfast treat.

You can see what they looked like when they were fresh out of the oven. Many people also collect chestnuts and make seasonal baked goods with those as well. Yu can find both sweet potato and chestnut breads, cakes, muffins, etc., throughout the area.

Two Fridays ago, after work, I stopped in Sannomiya. Sannomiya is the main downtown area of Kobe. I was there to pick up a new camera. I purchased a Sanyo Xacti HD which will make my You Tube video making better. Mai and I needed a bite to eat so we wandered through the crowded back streets of Sannomiya looking for a restaurant. We stumbled across a Korean style bbq restaurant and decided to give it a try.

Korean food is really quite expensive when you are outside of Korea, but this place was reasonable. The meat was delicious, but the servings a little small. Grilled beef and a beer is a great way to finish up the week.

Great looking food grilled on hot coals. Although, I don't normally miss Korea very much, I do miss the food. Korean food is great and it was always so affordable to eat out at restaurant. It is no surprise that many foreigners who move to South Korea to teach and work, normally never cook at home. They don't have to because Korea has such an amazing restaurant culture. The food is cheap and good.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gingerale Candy Bars in Japan

A short, yet sweet blog post!

Last night I made my draw for the Halloween Hello Kitty contest. It was won by a You Tube user in Toronto names "eskibaby." She won the Hello Kitty toy as well as a plethora of other cool Japanese snacks. Also included in the package will be something I saw for the first time this afternoon. I came across a Gingerale Kit Kat bar. I haven't tasted it yet and will leave it to eskibaby to make a video about this one!

Gingerale Kit Kat bar. I have no idea what to expect with this one.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving in Kobe

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canucks out there!

It is Thanksgiving and I am here in Japan. Although it is not as important a holiday as in the United States, it is still cool to have turkey and enjoy a day off. Ironically, today happens to be a national holiday here too. It is Sports Day.

Tonight I made a little Thanksgiving meal. Instead of turkey we had chicken. Some mashed potatoes and veggies as well. To top it all off, my awesome wife made a pumpkin pie for the first time. it was absolutely incredible. We bought all of the ingredients at Kaldi, a foreign food store here in Kobe.

The pumpkin pie to die for! It was and still is so amazing!

A great spread. I plan to have a big fill of turkey this December when I'm back in Canada for vacation.

Here is the plated meal. Some yummy stuff. Mashed potatoes, chicken, carrots, red bell peppers with asparagus.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Typhoons, Turtles and Kobe, Japan

Another week finished and i finally have a day off. For many of those who may follow this blog or my video blogs on You Tube, you may now that I work six days a week. This is a situation of my own choice, but the extra money is very helpful. Hopefully, next year, I won't have to work a part time job and will have more free time on the weekends. Luckily though, with my current job, I have a lot of days of and some good holiday time.

Tyhphoon Melor came and went and it sounds as if the only place in this part of Japan that had some serious damage was Nagoya. A city that is traditionally prone to flooding, they had it happen to them again. I saw some surprising images on NHK of Nagoya Station flooding quickly while JR employees made a futile attempt to block the deluge with a few sandbags.

The typhoon sure sounded a lot worse than it really was. I suppose that's because I live on the top floor of a tall apartment building on a man-made island in the middle of Kobe harbour. there is very little protection here and the wind really lashes us. It was also made worse by the fact that Japanese buildings are normally not insulated. there is no insulation in the walls and the windows are always single-paned glass. The wind whistled loudly through the windows and rattled the heck out of them. When we got up on Thursday morning, we just discovered a lot of leaves on the ground as well as a lot of garbage that had blown around. That was it!

On a cuter note, while out the other morning and wandering through a large grassy field, I found this little critter. One of the few moments in life I wasn't carrying my video camera. I took a few pictures of the baby turtle, just before I released it into a nearby pond.

Gosh golly! What a cute little chap! I was really surprised at how sharp their little claws are. I suppose they need them for climbing up rocks and things.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Typhoon Melor hits Kobe

Typhoon Melor passed over us last night. It was moving faster than forecast and hit us starting around 12am. Buildings in Japan are not insulated so the wind howled through our apartment all night. It was my first time dealing with a direct typhoon so I have to admit that I was a little freaked out. I couldn't sleep most of the night because of the howling wind, rattling windows and the shaking building.

This morning, I awoke to the news that the weather warnings were still in effect, meaning no school. It is rainy and windy, but nothing more than a normal rainy day. Typhoon Melor has moved North towards Tokyo. I hope all of the folks in that dierection will be alright.

Here is my latest You Tue video. This one is about Melor:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hello Kitty, Halloween and the Big O

Good news and bad news.Bad news first. Tokyo was not awarded the 2016 Olympics. It went to Rio de Janeiro. I have to admit though, it is cool that the Olympics will be going to South America for the first time.

It is October and it is time for one of the biggest commercial holidays in North America. Although I live in Japan, the Halloween "spirit" in some ways is here as well. The Japanese love a great party and will co-opt holidays and events from other countries if they think they can have fun doing it.

I have a Halloween contest:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eat You Veggies

Japan has a lot of very interesting seasonal foods. To go along with the interesting seasonal foods are the, "not so interesting" seasonal confectionaries. Check out the latest from Nestle. The Fruit and Vegetable Kit Kat candy bar.

Here's my take on it!

Weird Japanese Wheels

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hashima Island: Japan's Ghost Island

Someone sent me some lyrics to a song about an interesting island in Japan. At first, I dismissed it as not so interesting, but after about 10 minutes of snooping around, I thought it was pretty damn amazing!

Hashima Island; commonly called Gunkanjima (軍艦島; meaning "Battleship Island") is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself. The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island's most notable features are the abandoned concrete buildings and the sea wall surrounding it. It has been administered as part of Nagasaki, Nagasaki since 2005.

"Battleship Island" is an English translation of the Japanese nickname for Hashima Island, Gunkanjima (gunkan meaning "battleship", jima being the rendaku form of shima, meaning "island"). The island's nickname came from its apparent resemblance to the Japanese battleship Tosa due to its high seawalls. It also is known as the Ghost Island. It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was retrieving coal from the bottom of the sea. They built Japan's first large concrete building, a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers (many of whom were forcibly recruited labourers from other parts of Asia), and to protect against typhoon destruction. Wikipedia...

In 1959, its population density was 835 people per hectare (83,500 people/km2) for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare (139,100 people/km2) for the residential district, the highest population density ever recorded worldwide. As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima's mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it's called the Ghost Island. Travel to Hashima was re-opened on April 22, 2009 after more than 20 years of closure.

An eerie site for sure. This place would be a virtual wonderland for urban explorers!

A short blurb from the History Channel about the island:

An arial view of the island on video:

part of a documentary about the island:

I have to admit that i would love to travel to this island someday. it seems like an incredibly fascinating place to go.

Visiting the Island Today!

The island is increasingly gaining international attention not only as one of the modern international heritages in the region, but also as the housing complex remnants in the years from Taisho Era to Showa Era. Moreover, the island has become the frequent subject of a discussion among enthusiasts for ruins.
Since the abandoned island has not been maintained, several buildings have already collapsed. Other existing buildings are subject to breakage. In this regard, however, certain collapsed exterior walls have been restored with concrete. While the island was owned by Mitsubishi Material up until 2002, it was voluntarily transferred to Takashima town. Currently, Nagasaki City possesses the island. A small portion of the island was re-opened for tourism on April 22nd, 2009. A full reopening of the island would require an enormous amount of money to make the premises safe, due to the aging of the buildings. Wikipedia...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kobe at night

Kobe 神戸 is a small and beautiful city. I really enjoy living here. It's the fourth city I have lived in while in Asia and is by far my favorite. the seasons are changing and things are cooling down. The nasty heat and humidity that is the Japanese summer is gone and Fall is quickly approaching.

Here is a little video that I quickly put together showing Sannomiya 三ノ宮 (the downtown) at night. I plan to reshoot a similar video once I upgrade to a better camera.

An Autumn Evening in Japan

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kansai Music festival

Last weekend saw the first Kansai Music Festival come to Osaka. I thought it was a pretty cool deal because it afforded me my first chance t meet fellow You Tuber and musician, Fatblueman. Fatblueman is actually a band based in Nagoya, Japan and is comprised of one Canadian, two Americans and one Japanese person. The lead singer, John, has been a very active member of the Japan You Tube community for quite some time and launched himself and his band into a sort of micro-stardom with their viral video, "Christmas in Japan" (which I appeared in).

They performed at a showcase at a live event bar in Hommachi called mother Popcorn. This was the first time for this festival so there were apparently some major hiccups. I was told that the keynote speaker failed to show up and at the showcase i saw, one of the bands failed to do so as well. Luckily, Tom Fallon (a member of Fatblueman) and Brian Cullen stepped in for an impromtu set.

Check out some of my videos from the showcase at Mother Popcorn in Osaka:


I wanted to upload some pictures, but unfortunately, Blogger isn't allowing me to put them online!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anti-Pervert campaign

Those who live in Japan know that there is a huge problem on busy trains in this country. Often perverts ride the trains preying upon young women and girls. They try to corner them and then grope them. The term for these freak-shows is "chikan." In Tokyo this week, there has been a massive Anti-Chikan" campaign. I caught this Fuji TV special (with English subtitles) on Japan Probe. Scary stuff!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Japanese town in 'The Cove' setting dolphins free

Japanese town in 'The Cove' setting dolphins free
Updated Thu. Sep. 10 2009 6:44 AM ET

The Associated Press

TOKYO -- The Japanese town chronicled in the award-winning film "The Cove" for its annual dolphin hunt that turns coastal waters red with blood has suspended killing the animals -- at least for this week's catch -- following an international outcry.

The western Japanese town of Taiji will sell some of the animals to aquariums as it does every year, but the remainder of the 100 bottlenose dolphins that were caught early Wednesday in the first catch of the season are to be released. In the past, they were killed and sold for meat.

An official at the Taiji fisheries association, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the town abhors the publicity its dolphin-killing has drawn, said Thursday that the decision was made partly in response to the international outcry created by "The Cove." Read More...

If you don't know about the movie, "The Cove", check out the trailer. It's pretty damn powerful!

The Cove

The town of Taiji is located in Wakayama Prefecture which isn't really too far from my neck of the woods.That's the prefecture next to Osaka Prefecture.

Big Chair for a Big Guy

Sumo wrestler Yamamotoyama, who weighs 258 kilograms, and a young fan show off a seat specially created by McDonald’s Japan for sumo wrestlers in its Asakusabashi restaurant. The 25-year-old wrestler said he prefers McDonald’s to the traditional vegetable and meat ‘‘chanko’’ soup for sumo wrestlers. Japan Today

Check out my two latest vids on You Tube:

And I saw some nasty rats in the middle of the day close to my house!