A day-to-day, true to life drama of a Jamaican male, living and working in Japan.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

News in Japan - ( What’s wrong with English education in Japan? / Tokyo 4th in Global Rankings / Naruto Ends Next Month )

What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up a chair

By KK Miller - Japan Today

"When you speak to foreign English educators in Japan, one thing becomes crystal clear: English education in Japan isn’t working. It’s just awful. While English classes are mandatory in Japanese schools, the percentage of students who emerge with actual English abilities are surprisingly low. Students in China, Korea and Japan are in an arms race to see who can produce students with the best English, and Japan seems to be trailing far behind in third place.
With the Olympic Games coming up in 2020, the Japanese government has proposed changes to increase the level of English ability in their students. Changes like starting introductory English classes in 3rd grade elementary school and making the subject compulsory from the 5th grade. Are these changes really going to help? We’ve gathered opinions from both foreign teachers and Japanese citizens about issues with the system and what might improve it.
Every foreigner who spends any amount of time in Japan will understand the fundamental need to change the way students study English. But a recent thread on the Japan subreddit, which seems to have been started by an English educator, tried to assemble as many opinions as possible about the matter in one place. Many of the complaints fell into three main categories:
1. Teaching to the tests
For those unfamiliar with the Japanese school system, most high schools and universities have a test that prospective students must take and pass. Especially in the case of high schools, there is a mandated set of content that appears. And so, Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) focus on the grammar and vocabulary that will be on the test. A broader understanding and the practical uses of English are largely ignored because they have to cover the specific material and don’t have time for anything else.
So, if Japanese students have to learn specific material for the tests, why should they learn anything else? There is no point in actually learning the language if all that is required is being able to pick the correct answer on a multiple choice test. Many Japanese netizens agree, “Why change anything unless the style of testing is changed?”
2. The quality of the textbooks is quite low

Many foreign language teachers criticized the textbooks used in the classrooms, complaining about all manner of things including content and grammatical errors. Even more specifically, many people found the choice of grammar included to be suspect, saying it wasn’t grammar used very often in native English. The JTEs have to teach these archaic forms through topics such as recycling plastic, people and animals dying in WWII and boring Japanese history, causing students to be apathetic. (Topics like these are required in government approved textbooks.)
3. A focus on translating into Japanese and JTEs speaking in only Japanese. Where is the English?
Perhaps one of the biggest complaints was the amount, or lack of English used in the classrooms. The JTEs often teach all the grammar in Japanese, and check that the students can follow the textbook by translating the English into Japanese. Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) are regulated to human tape recorders, and then set free to roam the class and “help” the students. Of all the hours of English education, how many of those hours were spent actually listening to and speaking English? (Repeating English is not the same as speaking it.)
Japanese people agree that the current teaching style often limits students to what little English they hear from the teachers and what words are put in front of them. Successful teaching should include as many senses as possible to surround students in English. One Japanese netizen suggests that TV dramas should be utilized to hear real English, while seeing the facial expressions and mouth movements all together in one package. How can a student not be excited to learn phrases like “OK, I’m on my way”, “What’s the problem?” or “Freeze! You’re under arrest!”
Which brings us to the main problem with the current system: Japanese students don’t understand the benefits of learning English. This is certainly not limited to Japanese learners, but how many time do you hear a student say, “I’m Japanese, so I will never use English in the future.” Studying English as a language is one of the least interesting things about it. But, what about all the different things that you can experience when you understand English? TV shows, movies, books, games, and it’s not even limited to entertainment, scientific journals, international business and the majority of the Internet is conducted in English.
When the exposure of English is limited to the classroom and the unfortunate textbooks, a majority of the students will disengage from it and end up not learning anything. When students are forced to study and learn about certain grammar points and vocabulary, with no knowledge about how you can apply it to all the amazing things in English, of course, the students are going to do poorly. Expose them to the idea that, yes, this is a subject you have to study, but look at what you can do with it outside the classroom. You can excite students with that and promote self-study, which is a much better approach than learning “This is a pen” for the sake of a test."



Tokyo stays fourth in global city ranking

by Masaaki Kameda - Japan times

Tokyo topped the list in the economy category and came in second in research and development, but ranked a lowly 17th in livability, ninth in environment and 10th in accessibility

"Tokyo remained fourth out of 40 major cities in an annual global city ranking released Thursday, trailing London, New York and Paris.
The latest Global Power City Index, compiled annually by the Institute for Urban Strategies at the Mori Memorial Foundation since 2008, assesses 70 indicators in six categories: economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment and accessibility.
“Though Tokyo came in fourth place, the same as last year, in the overall ranking, the city improved to sixth from eighth in the cultural interaction category,” said Hiroo Ichikawa, a professor at Meiji University’s Graduate School who helped compile the ranking.
Ichikawa said the hefty increase in the number of foreign travelers to Tokyo last year contributed to the improvement in its cultural interaction rating. The capital drew 6.81 million tourists from overseas in 2013, up 22.5 percent from the previous year.
Tokyo topped the list in the economy category and came in second in research and development, but ranked a lowly 17th in livability, ninth in environment and 10th in accessibility.
Ichikawa said that despite the high economy ranking, Tokyo could stand to improve its market attractiveness and regulatory environment.
One way to improve the poor score in accessibility, meanwhile, would be to increase the number of flights to and from Japan, he said.
Tokyo should take advantage of the 2020 Summer Olympics to improve on its weak areas, Ichikawa added.
Rounding out the top 10 was Singapore in fifth place, followed by Seoul, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong and Vienna."




After 15 years of ninja action, manga Naruto is ending next month

By Casey Baseel - Japan Today

“Naruto,” creator Masashi Kishimoto’s wildly popular weekly ninja series, is just weeks away from its final installment.
When “Naruto” made its debut in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump in 1999, it’s doubtful that even the most optimistic editors at the magazine expected it to last as long as it did. Stories about a plucky warrior in training, who teams up with his friends (one he has a rivalry with, and the other he has feelings for) to face evil foes and overcome challenges had already been done by numerous other series before Kishimoto ever drew sketches of main characters Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura.
The devil’s in the details, though, and while readers may have seen the broad strokes before, the fine points of Naruto struck a chord with readers and drew them in. It has had such a strong hold on fans that the manga now stands at 694 chapters, with 70 collected volumes that have sold more than 130 million copies in Japan, and another 70 million overseas.

And now, after 15 years, it’s all coming to a close. Kishimoto announced two years ago that “Naruto” would be winding down, and this week publisher Shueisha announced that the manga’s 699th, and final, chapter will be published in the issue of Shonen Jump that hits newsstands on November 10.
Given that Kishimoto is just 39, it’s likely we’ll more manga from the artist after he takes a well-deserved break. Naruto and company aren’t going to immediately disappear altogether either, as there’s a new anime movie, “The Last – Naruto the Movie” scheduled for release on December 6. Shueisha has also promised some form of “Naruto entertainment” is coming in 2015.
But even though November 10 isn’t going to be a complete and final goodbye, it still marks a big change for fans who have become used to getting together with their ninja buddies once a week for the past decade and a half.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Daily Life ----- (Final Daily Blog / A Week of Activities and Scare / 2 Performances in a Day )

Pictures of the Week:

So yeah, as I mentioned in my last (Daily life) blog, this will be my last week of daily blogging for now. I will focus on the Japan news stuff or if something really interesting happens I will blog about that as well..... So I'm not going anywhere. Well not for now at least.  

Days 2395 - 2400
Thursday, October 9 - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 2395 ( What tha ... )
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today was one of those random days when I decide to jog to school instead of ride. And while jogging I encountered ....................................

The thing didn't even crawl away. It was just there.

Later on I added some more stuff to my up coming book. It is slowly coming along. About 3 or 4 chapters to go plus the acknowledgments, editing and proofreading etc. Maybe it can be done by next month or at least before Christmas.

About 2 weeks now, I received a book that my fellow Jamaican friend in Japan wrote, about Jamaican green smoothies. A healthy lifestyle book.



Day 2396 ( Jamaica vs Japan International Friendly / Heading To Yokohama)
Friday, October 10, 2014

After 4 classes, I took a bus to the Toyama airport. While in the airport, a football match was going on in Niigata, Japan.... Jamaica vs Japan.

It was a friendly football match to mark the 50th anniversary of International Relations between Japan and Jamaica. Jamaica lost 1 - 0 because of an own goal. I thought Jamaica was going to lose
3 - 0. Not that I have no faith in my country, but I know the team ain't all that.

Got to Haneda airport in Tokyo at about 9:30 pm then went to the Jamaican restaurant in Shibuya. It took about 1 hour from getting out of the plane to getting to the restaurant. Met up with some friends in Shibuya then got back to my apartment at about 1am.



Day 2397 ( 2 Performances in a Day )
Saturday, October 11, 2014

Today was quite busy, but exciting. First thing on the agenda was to head to the dentist. I try to go twice a year.... My dentist would prefer me go there 4 times a year but hell to tha naaah. I did the usual cleaning .....

He said I may need to get wire retainers because my teeth are starting to move back to their original position.

After leaving the dentist, I rushed to the University of Tokyo (The #1 ranked university in Japan )
東京大学 to do a performance along with some members of Writer's Block Tokyo, the group I perform with in Harajuku, the last Sunday of every month.

The event was organized by the Japan Poet's Club. It was the club's International Day and the focus was International Exchange with CARICOM (Caribbean Community). A Professor and poet from Jamaica, Edward Baugh, came to give a lecture about Caribbean poetry.


I initially thought this was going to be like a small crowd of say 10 or 20 people. I was surprised to see the Jamaican Ambassador to Japan and a whole host of Japanese professors and lecturers there.

After a lengthy question and answer segment, the writer's block went up and read poetry from some Jamaican poets.

Then I did 2 of mine. "Mi heart jus a beat boom boom" and "Baby mi love yuh" - I'm working on a music video for this one.

These pics are just snap shots from a video I took using the iphone 6 plus. Look at the quality !! and its only a snap shot !.



I left from Tokyo in the evening and met 2 of my friends at the Shibuya station to go to my other friend's party. It took about 1 hour to get to the station name Yamato, where the party was being held. Didn't know where the party location was exactly but saw a friend there and we followed her.

The party was really fun. This was a good fix for my boredom and slowly going nuts situation in Toyama.

Happy birthday Simone

And I also performed 2 poems here.

I left this party with a headache..... Long day. Got in my apartment at about 2 am. But it was crazy fun. I needed this..... From university to crazy party ... Wait but they do go hand in hand sort of right?



Day 2398 (  )
Sunday, October 12, 2014

Went to a German culture festival at the Akarenga in Yokohama.

Then I went to the Jamaican restaurant in Harajuku to have some Jamaican food and meet up with a few friends. I actually owed the restaurant a 1000 yen from the last time I went there back in July lol. Not sure how I forgot to pay my tab. I also purchased a Patois/Patwa (Jamaican dialect) to Japanese book/dictionary, written by the restaurant owner, Yvonne.

A typhoon is coming tomorrow and there is no work, so we all went to another place in Shibuya to have a few more drinks.



Day 2399 ( Flying Back to Toyama in a Typhoon !!! )
Monday October 13, 2014

While in Yokohama today, I got a call from a police station in Toyama saying they found my bicycle. So I should be going to pick it up there tomorrow after work.

Today, lots and lots of rain coming from the very strong typhoon seen above. I should be traveling back to Toyama in this !!!! And my flight wasn't cancelled!!! ..... I only got a message on my phone saying I should listen out for announcements.

So headed to the airport in the rain and the airport staff said the flight is scheduled to leave like normal. It was delayed a bit for like 10 mins but that's all.... I was of course worried sick.

The plane took off in the terrible weather and as expected, turbulence like crazy.....Have you ever seen the movie flight with Denzel Washington? (I just watched it recently), that was all that was going through my mind. There was this Japanese man seated behind me saying "kowaii koawaiii - I'm scared, I'm scared" .... Hmmm why ??? This isn't helping me at all .....   After the first 10 mins of turbulence, the flight was more or less normal until near the landing, then there was some amount of shaking. Overall the flight was generally ok.... Even though we were flying in a huge typhoon.

I then took a taxi back to my apartment in Toyama.



Day 2400 ( Got back my Bicycle / Final Daily Blog )
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

After work, I headed straight to the police station to collect my bicycle. I am usually bad mouthing the police in Japan but these guys at the Shinjou station in Toyama, made me have a change of heart. In all my over 6 years in Japan, I have never met police officers like these. They even asked me out to go drinking with them. They were not only funny, they were extremely helpful and we had a verrry long conversation .... I wish more police in Japan were like these, instead of racially profiling foreigners ......especially in the Tokyo area.... I hardly see them in Yokohama so no problem there.

They said they found my bicycle on August 8th !!!! this was a day after I left Japan to go to the US. I thought I locked it before leaving ..... apparently I didn't. The lights, cup holder and the umbrella holder thingy were all gone. 100 yen a piece...Ok weird thief...why did you leave the bicycle then? And yeah, this bicycle actually feels better, but the newer one looks better.


As mentioned above, this will be my final daily blog. You will see the random news stuff and other interesting stuff that happens, when they happen. So I hereby take a break at Day 2400. Likkle more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

News in Japan - ( Japan the 9th Best Country to Grow Old, Norway #1 / Japanese Man Arrested for Throwing Urine on Woman )

Norway named best place to grow old; Japan 9th

Japan Today

"Norway is the best place to grow old, according to the latest Global AgeWatch index of 96 countries published on Wednesday, while Afghanistan is the worst.
All but one of the top 10 countries are in Western Europe, North America and Australasia, with Japan the exception at ninth place, according to the ranking which comprises 91% of the global population over the age of 60.
Norway tops the index, pushing last year’s number one Sweden into second place in the second year the index has been released.
Unsurprisingly, African countries make up half of the lowest quarter of the index, although Venezuela, Turkey and Serbia are ranked 76th, 77th and 74th respectively.
HelpAge International, the charity which compiled the list, said economic growth in itself was not enough to improve the lives of older people.
“Specific policies need to be put in place to address the implications of ageing,” said the report, published on the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.
“Policies on income security in Mexico (30) have lifted it 26 places in the overall rankings since last year despite being less wealthy than Turkey (77).”

The index is based on 13 indicators grouped into four areas: income security; health status; capability, which includes employment and educational status; and the enabling environment, including issues such as physical safety.
Some countries fare better than others in different areas. Japan tops the rankings when it comes to health, while Switzerland has the best environment for older people.
This year’s report focuses particularly on income security, namely pensions, which older people consistently identify as their top priority to fend off the risk of poverty.
With rising numbers of old people—two billion over the age of 60 by 2050, a similar number as children under 15—HelpAge International chief Toby Porter said pensions were vital for all governments.
“Incomes are often too low to save for old age, which is why there’s such a need for a basic social pension now,” he said.
In low and middle-income countries, only one in four people over 65 receive a pension while worldwide, half of the global population do not have a pension, the report said.
But it applauds an “explosion” of new tax-financed, non-contributory pensions over the past two decades, which provide regular income for the very poorest.
Across Latin America, countries have “dramatically extended coverage” of social pensions, helping push them up the global rankings.
This reflects a global trend that saw China introduce a rural social pension in 2009, reaching 133 million more people, and Nepal and Thailand follow a similar route.
“In most European Union countries, pensions systems as a whole do more to reduce inequality than all other parts of the tax or benefit system combined,” said Porter.
The top 10 in the index are: Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Iceland, United States, Japan and New Zealand.
The bottom 10 are: Iraq, Zambia, Uganda, Jordan, Pakistan, Tanzania, Malawi, West Bank and Gaza, Mozambique and Afghanistan. "



Man kicked to death in argument over ramen shop seat

Japan Today

"A Japanese man who allegedly kicked a fellow diner to death in a fight over seats in a ramen eatery calmly returned to his food as the other man lay dying, media reported Tuesday.
Shinichiro Imanishi, 37, was being questioned in connection with the death of a 49-year-old man whom he allegedly threw to the floor and then stamped on repeatedly in the ramen shop in Tokyo’s Kita Ward on Sept 27, a police spokesman told AFP.
The trouble erupted when Hisao Kitajima pulled a chair which Imanishi was using to rest his foot on, the spokesman said, adding Kitajima died of his injuries two days later.
Imanishi, who weighs 120 kilograms did nothing to help his victim after the frenzied attack, instead ordering a bowl of noodles, local media said.
Imanishi, who was arrested shortly after the incident, explained to fellow diners that he might as well eat his meal, reportedly saying: “I will go to jail. This will be my last supper.”"



20-year-old man arrested for pouring urine on woman

Japan Today

Police in Tokyo have arrested a 20-year-old man on assault charges after he poured urine from a bottle on the leg of a woman in Adachi Ward in August.
According to police, the suspect, Junichi Minezaki, an upholstery worker, approached the 24-year-old woman as she was returning to her home on Aug 2 and poured urine from a plastic bottle onto her right leg, TBS reported Wednesday.
On Tuesday, police publicly posted a photo of the suspect taken from a street surveillance camera. In the afternoon, police received a call from Minezaki saying he was the man in the photo and that he would turn himself in.
On Aug 20, a similar incident occurred in the same area in Adachi Ward, involving a high school girl. Police also said that in April and May of this year, a total of six cases were reported in which a man riding a bicycle flung urine on unsuspecting pedestrians.
Investigators are questioning Minezaki about his involvement in those incidents. 



Teen admits killing mother, grandmother in response to ‘harsh discipline’: police

Japan Times - KYODO

"A Hokkaido teenager suspected of killing her mother and grandmother said she wanted to escape after they “harshly disciplined” her, police investigators said Thursday.
The 17-year-old high school student allegedly stabbed her mother, 47, and grandmother, 71, with a kitchen knife at their home in the town of Namporo, Hokkaido, early Wednesday. She was arrested later in the day.
The girl admitted to the allegations after initially denying them and did not express remorse, the investigators said.
Police say the bodies of the mother and grandmother were found face down in separate bedrooms with multiple stab wounds in the neck and chest.
The police quoted the student as saying she “wanted to get out of her current situation.”
Neighbors said the parents were known to be strict ever since she entered elementary school, making her do household chores such as clearing snow and walking the dog, rather than letting her play with friends.
Police suspect the teen’s frustration built up to the point that she attacked the pair while they were asleep.
Local media outlets initially reported the names of the slain but began withholding their identities after the teen’s arrest.
Information from the girl led to the discovery of a knife thought to be the murder weapon, in a park less than 5 km from the house.
The bodies were found by the teen’s 23-year-old sister when she returned from work at around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday."



As a male employee in Japan, you can't really leave the office at around, say, 3 p.m. to pick up your kids and still expect your boss to grade you favorably.

Japan Times

"Nobuo Komiya, a professor of criminology at Rissho University in Tokyo, saying that although measures are needed to prevent a repeat of the murder of a 6-year-old Kobe girl, it would be unrealistic for Japan to adopt the constant parental surveillance that is normal in many other countries. "


Monday, October 13, 2014

Daily Life - ( Days 2388 - 2394 ) - Jamaican Dialect (Patwa / Patois) Lessons in Toyama

Picture of the week:

Days 2388 - 2394 
(Thursday, October 2 - Wednesday October 8, 2014)

Day 2388 ( Boredom / Banged Up Abroad )
Thursday, October 2, 2014

Yeah the days here are too quiet. Need some more activities seriously. When I was in Niimi, I was booked out almost everyday. Karate, soccer, Bible study, TV appearances and random stuff. Yokohama is also just crazy busy. But Toyama??? No set schedule, everything is random .... Its like something big happens then the place goes dead again for a while. Someone encouraged me to start going to the gym, but it's just too far away..... aah what to do....Need to do something before I go nuts in this place seriously.


Banged up Abroad

Watched this thing on youtube called Banged up abroad .... I think it's the British version of locked up abroad?  .... Really interesting but kinda sad how people get themselves in some weird situation then regret it bitterly afterwards.



Day 2389 ( Planning Another Party )
Friday, October 3, 2014

After work, I met with the owner of a local bar near Toyama station. Planning another smallish party in the area. Reggae night ! It will be on November 15. So yeah spoke with the owner of the bar about the event and how we will organize it etc.



Day 2390 ( The Curious Case Of Benjamin Buttons )
Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stayed in today again :( and watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons. How did this movie slip by? I'm sure I heard about it before but just some how it slipped by. Really great plot, acting and very poetic. I enjoyed it a lot. I give it a 8/10.



Day 2391 ( Patwa Lesson/Transformers - Age of Extinction/The Harder they Come )
Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ok so a little something to do now on Sundays. I teach Jamaican dialect (Patois/Patwa) lessons to people who are madly interested in reggae and Jamaican culture. Did the first lesson today for 1 hour and it went pretty well. I had to ride in some serious rain for about 30 mins though.


 Transformers - Age of Extinction

Just didn't have the time to go to the theatres to watch this film. So watched it today after teaching the Jamaican dialect lesson.

I just enjoy the action and the clashing of giant robots, don't care so much for the plot or anything else for that matter. So 8/10.


The Harder they Come

After years of hearing about this 1970s Jamaican film, I finally decided to watch it. This is what boredom does.

Not the usual Hollywood stuff but it was ok I guess. Probably because I'm Jamaican. I can imagine it being very difficult to follow for people who aren't Jamaicans or for those who know little or nothing of Jamaican culture. I give it a 6/10.



Day 2392 (  )
Monday, October 6, 2014

Had 1 lesson today then went home and sulked about my boredom.

I made a decision now to stop blogging about my daily life, unless it has something really really interesting. So next week will be my very final blog about my day-to-day life in Japan. The news stuff will continue and if there is something really interesting I will blog about that as well.



Day 2393 ( Class Viewing by The Board of Education / A Friend's Wedding )
Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today the Board of Education and some other teachers in Toyama city came to view my classes. The teacher that I was team teaching with was a nervous wreck. It was like a walk in the park for me as I got used to this kind of thing over the years.

This was the reason why I couldn't get to attend my friend's wedding in Okayama today. I would've gladly taken the day off to go there. I remember when he was 18, he said to me that he really really wanted to get married. So he is 24 now and he did, just 2 years out of university.

When I was 24 (10 years ago), I was still in university and marriage was the furthest thing from my mind. Even when I came to Japan at 27 I was in no way ready for marriage. Someday I guess, when the time is right.



Day 2394 ( Photo shoot )
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Took photos with some 3rd year students from the English club today for the school's magazine.

Later, I arranged a night photo shoot for a former model with my friend bigmike.


Here are a few of the pics he took.