Category Archives: EDUCATION

Undokai: Behind The Scenes Of A Japanese Primary School Sports Day

The school sports day, or undokai (運動会), is one of the biggest events on the calendar of a Japanese elementary school. More than a month of practice culminates in a full day of activities together as a school, with video camera-clutching parents looking on. From scheduling to lunch and what to do if you have younger children in tow, there are a lot of details for parents to stay on top of. Here’s the lowdown on what the event is all about, and some advice to help you and your family have a successful day.

Undokai - Behind the Scenes of a Japanese Primary School Sports Day

What’s undokai and why does it matter?

Like most special events in Japanese schools, undokai is a team effort held to teach children of the importance of working together, working hard, and competing for the whole team (and, of course, the school).

A typical elementary school sports day splits students into two teams — a red one and a white one — and has those teams compete in a range of races to see which one wins. Although this sounds competitive, the goals of the day are more about working together and doing one’s best. No individual prizes are given and cheering each other on is even scheduled into the program.

Undokai - Behind the Scenes of A Japanese Primary School Sports Day

The day will start with the students assembled in the schoolyard to hear speeches. After that, the students will take their seats around the edges of the playing field to watch the first event of the …continue reading


Starting Small: Tips For Creating A Sustainable Life in Japan

Starting Small - Tips for Creating a Sustainable Lifestyle in Japan

On the heels of the global climate change strike that took place recently, and in the wake of Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg’s globally moving speech, it’s hard to not get involved in the eco-friendly conversation.

Greta Thunberg - Starting Small - Tips for Creating a Sustainable Lifestyle in Japan

Greta Thunberg is at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Just last year in August of 2018, Greta initiated a solo strike from school for climate change awareness. Today she stands with tens of thousands of people who are inspired, motivated, and ready for action. “I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.” She boldly stated in a speech in January 2019 at the World Economic Forum.

In an effort to inform myself on actions I could take in Tokyo, I spoke with Robin Lewis of Social Innovation Japan and Deborah Vitali, Marisa Gelenscer, Pamela de la Fuente, and Karen Dawber of EAS-Y Green Group, two groups in Tokyo actively pushing for more eco-conscious changes. Both interviews were educational, unique, and perhaps most importantly, similar in their approach to impact real change for the environment of Japan. Their message? Start small.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

They gave me the following tips to begin creating a more sustainable lifestyle in Tokyo. Small things that we can shift or change that may just begin to put out the fire. So, Tokyo, let’s look at our options.

The following interviews have been condensed, edited, and combined as if they’ve happened in one, lively, eco-friendly space.

1. Make use of the most powerful of the ‘R’ mantras: Refuse

<img src="" alt="Refuse …continue reading


What Salary Can You Make Teaching English in Japan

Junior High School Japan

If you go on Facebook Groups or Reddit forums you’ll often find people who will tell you all about how teaching salaries in Japan are capped at somewhere between ¥250,000 and ¥300,000 per month, and that “you’ll never make any more than that.” It’s often used as a thinly veiled excuse for not making more money or for leaving Japan and going home.

However, in my experience it is possible to make a lot more money teaching English when you do a few key things:

  • Become better at what you do – become a great and passionate teacher
  • Become better at looking for jobs – learn how to better monetise your skills and learn how to hustle for work. It’s always going to be a useful skill.
  • Learn what jobs pay the best, and become capable of getting those jobs
  • Carve out a niche or specialize in an area – if you’re passionate about a particular thing, teach it. I taught bakery classes, debate and philosophy, and it just so happens that the more specialised knowledge you need to teach something, the more you get paid.
  • Omit the middle-man – This will not happen overnight (and I am not condoning poaching your school’s students as the school deserves the revenue for students they sourced), but build your own network of private lessons. You would be amazed at both the difference that the extra money makes in your life and how much less stress you will have when you know you can support yourself (or even just extend your exit ramp) if you decide to part ways with your employer. While keeping your employer happy is important, having some money on the side helps you emotionally if you have to refuse an unreasonable request from your boss.

A big part of this is the type of …continue reading


Types of Students You’ll See at English Speech Contests in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot
English Speech Contests in Japan

Being an ALT in Japan, the mantra “it depends on your school” really does dictate your teaching experience. Whether you’ve got preschool kids slapping their backside or you’re being asked if your skin tastes like chocolate, it’s different for all of us in different ways.

However, there’s one common ordeal that all ALTs will encounter at some point in their tenure—the infamous English speech contest.

No matter which term, year, town or school you’re at, this all-too-regular event always follows the exact same plotline. This is largely thanks to the generic roster of competing students who can be categorized into the five following types.

Competitor #1: The “I like cats”

This student will offer a forgettable run-of-the-mill speech about a personal experience that doesn’t evoke any strong debate but just shows they can speak the language and gesture at appropriate times. She’s ready to talk about her cat and talk about it a whoooole lot.

Competitor #2: The train otaku

Yes, out of the 95% female competitors, there rises a single boy. Usually, this one will speak about his passions very… passionately. Perhaps he wasn’t able to express these opinions in Japanese, but he can in English because his classmates probably won’t understand him.

Competitor #3: The returnee

You’ll listen to this student with perfect intonation, pronunciation, and expression, all while wondering if they’re a hafu or not.

*Looks in the program for a Marie Brown or Yuki Smith*

Then BOOM! Right when their account of a deeply personal experience comes to an end the big plot twist is revealed: they’ve lived overseas for a number of years. Surprise!

English Speech Contests in Japan

Competitor #4: The forgetter

Of course, not everyone is as amazing and well prepared as your own prodigy student. Sometimes they’re just there because they’re forced to be. These are the guys …continue reading


Study Japanese With a Two Week Autumn Program in Stunning Akita Prefecture

Source: Gaijin Pot
Akita Inaka School Study Japanese in Akita Prefecture this Autumn

If you’ve ever flirted with the idea of brushing up on your Japanese skills or taking a break from city life to recharge and reconnect with the language, there’s no better time to start than fall. The weather is the perfect temperature, pumpkins spice lattes are back on sale and koyo (autumn leaves) are on full fiery display across the country.

There’s no more scenic place to study than at Akita Inaka School in Japan’s northern Akita Prefecture. The school is now accepting applications for its autumn course which runs from October 21 to November 1. Over two weeks, Japanese lessons will take place in the mornings, while afternoons are filled with a ton of awesome activities from kayaking to farm stays to playing with adorable Akita dogs.

Study in class, then take it outside

The rural town of Kosaka where Akita Inaka School is located.

Akita Inaka School is a language school situated in the picturesque town of Kosaka, just south of Lake Towada and the Towada Hachmantai National Park. Sitting in the northern corner of the Tohoku region, Akita is a region overflowing with incredible natural attractions, vibrant festivals, and plenty of onsen baths to soak in after a stint hitting the books.

Lake Towada.

Kakunodate Akita Inaka School Autumn Course

Find us a more scenic place to study than Akita in autumn.

Another thing Akita is known for? Only the cutest breed of dog ever!

<img src="–1024×640.jpg" srcset="–1024×640.jpg 1024w,–300×188.jpg 300w,–740×462.jpg 740w, …continue reading