Category Archives: EDUCATION

Japan’s Top 10 Plum-Viewing Spots

In Japan, before the cherry blossoms come the plum blossoms! Called “ume” (梅) in Japanese, plum blossoms are associated with the start of spring in Japan, as they start to bloom all around the nation in February and March. Here are 10 places that are famous throughout Japan for their incredible plum blossoms.

1. Tsukigase Plum Valley (月ヶ瀬梅渓)


The Tsukigase Bairin (Tsukigase Plum Valley) spreads along the valley of the Satsuki River that runs through Mt. Tsukigase-oyama, and contains about 13,000 plum trees. This plum-viewing haven is said to have started when plum trees were first planted in the grounds of a temple in the area around 800 years ago. On a clear day, from the very early morning until sunrise, fog rises from Satsuki River as the air cools, creating a fantastic view.

Where: Tsukigase-Nagahiki, Nara City, Nara Prefecture

Best time: Mid-March

There is a plum festival held every year from mid-February through the end of March in which visitors can enjoy events, food, and other festivities amongst the plum blossoms.

Tsukigase Plum Valley Plum Festival Website

2. Kairaku-en (偕楽園)


Kairaku-en (偕楽園) is a 32-acre park known for its plum varieties, bamboo forest & monuments. It is regarded as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. It is also home to the famous Mito no Ume Matsuri (Mito Plum Festival), which has a history of over 120 years. During the festival period, around 100 varieties of plums in park seem to compete to see which can bloom the brightest in a beautiful scene that signals the coming of spring.

The Mito Plum Festival usually begins in mid-February and lasts until the end of March.

Where: Kairakuen, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture

Best time: mid-February to end of March

Mito Plum Festival Website

3. Soga Bessho Bairin (曽我別所梅林)

Photo: …continue reading


Making Matsuri Magic

As humans, we are social by nature. Be it with family, friends, or fellow fanatics, we are wont to gather in mutual celebration or commiseration, and this may take many forms. Perhaps we gather to watch opposing sports teams battle over a piece of pigskin, or maybe we assemble with all the other Avengers to see the newest Marvel movie, or even just convene to cook food in each other’s company.

There is an innumerable amount of ways for us to come together, but the commonality in each of these things is how they create a community for the attendees. Highs and lows of the events are shared by the guests, bringing them all closer together, and it is this creation of a community that makes the Japanese Matsuri truly remarkable.

Matsuri are celebrated all over Japan at all times of the year, and the occasions range from the commencement of the next season to religious ceremonies to simple communal parties. Invariably, each event carries with it a communal atmosphere, one which is extended to all visitors, and it does not stop once the matsuri has concluded. Instead, it persists on in the memories it creates, the traditions it preserves, and the anticipation it sows for future matsuri.

A community makes the matsuri and the matsuri makes the community in turn.

Immortal Memory in Matsuri

Japan is the most homogeneous nation on the planet, and a hallmark of it homogeneity is just how static its culture has remained despite its rapid modernization. Cash is still used extensively, many businesses still run within small families, and a myriad of festivals are still held throughout the country across the year. And by looking deeper into the history of matsuri, we can better understand how the memories and legacies of matsuri continue to inform …continue reading


6 Things to Know Before Teaching Company English Classes

Source: Gaijin Pot

Before coming to Japan I always pictured teaching English here as working with kids in a Japanese school as an assistant language teacher (ALT) or outside of school at an eikaiwa (English conversation school) but there are plenty of Japanese adults who are in need of English lessons, as well.

Having a good command of English in the business world can lead to promotions and opportunities abroad for Japanese workers. Many large companies offer help for employees to improve their English by hiring teachers to come to their offices and educate staff on site. The lack of screaming kids, high English levels and more lucrative pay attracts plenty of teachers (including myself). Although it’s an interesting career, there are a a few things I wish I had known before diving into the world of company classes.

1. The pay can only get you so far

Depending on the company that hires you, pay varies from around ¥3,000 to ¥20,000 for one lesson.

Some companies employ teachers directly as freelance English teachers and tend to pay higher rates — though these jobs can be rare and hard to find (much like working as a “direct hire” ALT). Others are dispatch companies — such as Aeon or CTS — that match English teachers with businesses in need of them. These agencies act as a middleman and pay teachers much smaller hourly wages, but they can offer more than enough classes to provide a decent overall monthly wage.

This is important because when you’re hired directly, while the payment for a single class will be bigger it’s not enough to live off on its own. Most direct hire English instructors have to juggle multiple company classes and always have to be networking with higher ups in local businesses. It can get very complicated just hustling …continue reading