One student wanted to kindly knit a scarf for a friend's little dog to keep him warm when out on winter walks.
She bought 2 balls of yarn, but soon realized it would be more difficult than she had expected....
What was the last handicraft you did?
Have you ever taken on a small project which you couldn't finish?
I'm sure we've all experienced the dreaded moment when grilling food sets off the smoke alarm.
Like me, you have probably scrambled for something to fan the smoke hoping to pacify the device and avoid an embarrassing moment.
One student had just that situation this week and the house security company raced to the door in about 5 minutes!
What 'alarm' moments have you had?
Price rises have been announced for salt and flour in Japan for the first time in about 30 years.
The main reason is that production costs have been increasing of late.
In January, the price of 300 grams of salt will rise to 153 yen from 144 yen and flour will rise by 1-3%.
What products do you think are expensive and would like to see become cheaper?
Yuko's nephew asked her to take him to Forest Adventure in Itoshima, which is an outdoor activity centre where you move through the forest canopy by tight rope walking and zip wire riding..
Activities are held at heights in excess of 10 metres so safety harnesses are always used.
New adventurers start at 30-minute intervals.
How would you feel doing this?
A quick poll of students present in one class showed that given the choice of an activity above ground or underwater; 'above ground' would be the overwhelming preference.
Would you feel acrophobic or claustrophobic?
The poinsettia, a pretty green and red foliage plant which almost looks like it was made for Christmas, actually originates from Mexico. Robert Joel Poinsett, a US minister for Mexico and an avid amateur botanist back in the 1820's, found it on his travels around Mexico and decided to send samples to the US government.
The rest is history, as we say.
The poinsettia was brought to Japan in the Meiji Period.
What colours and things do you associate with Christmas?
Do you put up lights and decorations at home?
If so, on what date do you normally take them down?
Today, Mark Is Momochi opened. 'What's that?' I hear you say.
It's the latest shopping complex to open in Fukuoka. There are 163 shops over 4 floors.
One shop is called '89' because all vegetables cost/everything costs 89 yen. Number 89 was also the shirt number of Mr Oh, the former Hawks coach.
Questions you ask could include:
Do you plan to go there? (do = now)
Are you going to go there? (be going to = future)
Do you like to visit a new place on the opening day or a few weeks after it has opened when there are fewer people?
What type of shops would attract you to visit a new shopping mall?
What big names (chain stores) would you look forward to seeing?
The New Zealand national rugby team announced that they will cover up their tattoos at the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
This mark of respect is for the Japanese population who to a large extent and particularly in older generations view tattoos as a symbol of gangland crime.
But is New Zealand's action right? After all, televised world sporting events such as this year's football World Cup showed many players sporting body art.
Who should be more accommodating; the hosts or the visitors?
Tattoos are in New Zealand's indigenous heritage from one view and for many people around the world they are simply a form of body art much the same as wearing jewellery, perhaps.
Do you think players at sports tournaments should cover their tattoos in Japan or other countries?
Shocking clips of a man being attacked by a wild boar at a suburban railway station just outside the city of Fukuoka were played over and over on the TV last week.
Though the attack was short, lasting about 10-15 seconds, no-one came to assist.
It is increasingly reported in the media that bystanders are happier to record incidents on their phones than help.
That may be useful after an event if a crime is involved but it doesn't help the victim of an incident at the time.
What would you do if you saw a person or animal even being attacked?
A weekday morning student came back from Morocco this week to tell us about her experience there.
Morocco's agriculture accounts for about 14% of the economy but employs over 40% of the population. Evidence of smallholdings and low-tech farming systems are often to be seen apparently.
The food on offer, not surprisingly perhaps, was mainly vegetable based but plain and lacking flavour.
For an early riser, there was the opportunity of an exotic pleasure, a camel ride into the desert to see the starry sky before dawn, which in November is after 7.30 am. The days are short and the sun sets at 6 pm.
Day time temperatures usually hover around the 20 degrees Celsius mark.
The obvious souvenir to bring back was a carpet and that's exactly she bought, albeit a small one....
What exotic destination have you been to or would you most like to go to?
Have you ever ridden a camel, often known as a 'ship of the desert'?
Discussion centered on a film one student had watched recently titled Snowden. It is the story of Edward Snowden, who at the time was a computer engineer working for the US Intelligence Agency, the CIA.
He fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong in 2013 taking all the secrets he had copied, known as classified information, and leaked them to waiting journalists.
Other famous whistleblowers in this century are Julian Assange, the Australian founder of Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning, the transgender former US soldier, who served a 7-year sentence from 2010-2017 for revealing state secrets.
Both Assange and Snowden are living in asylum outside the USA.
A website that has recently started to make an impact in the same sphere of interest is bellingcat.com. Authored by a British man with no previous experience in journalism or intelligence services, it has revealed secrets about the recent poisoning of two Russian citizens. Neither died of the attack, which hospitalized them both, but in a separate incident connected to the same substance a British woman died.
The question posed was 'if your spouse was a spy, would you want to know about their activities?'
Kenichi told us about getting stuck in an elevator in Tokyo on one occasion during his working years. Such was the frequency of the breakdowns of this particular lift that the owners actually installed a toilet inside.
This may sound a crazy idea, but after a strong quake in Tokyo a few years ago, the government explored the possibility of making toilets a design feature in lifts used in very tall buildings. It's difficult to imagine how this could be done....
In total, Japan has over 600,000 lifts nationwide, 150,000 of which are in Tokyo. Earthquakes can trigger safety systems which stop lifts operating, resulting in people being trapped for long periods.
Have you ever been in a lift that stopped working?
Do you have a phobia?
Things which we had each done for the first time recently came up in conversation this morning.
My trip to Sun Palace for the first time two weeks ago to see Deep Purple in concert, also f a first time experience, was ironically their last tour performance in Japan....perhaps.
Akiko topped that story, though, with her anecdote of sitting next to the current yokozuna, who for those of you unfamiliar with Japanese sumo wrestling is the highest ranked wrestler. Visiting a local chiropractor for treatment while taking part in the Autumn sumo tournament this month, this was surely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Unfortunately, she didn't have the courage to talk to or ask to take a photo with him. Oh, well...
Tell us about a first-time experience you had recently. Or even, a once in a lifetime opportunity that you either took or didn't take. Perhaps, it is something you regret...
76-year-old Tasuku Honjo, who is an immunologist at Kyoto University, was awarded a Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of an important cancer related discovery.
His motivation in life is contained in 6 words beginning with the letter 'c'; curiosity, challenge, confidence, continuation, concentration, courage.
Which of the six letters summarise your character best?
Do you have a saying or proverb by which you lead your life?
One student decided to cancel his home phone and internet contract, instead preferring to use just his mobile phone connection.
The reason? Well, he simply doesn't use his landline enough to need it.
Even the basic fee is expensive if you only make 1-2 calls month. Many online providers such as Line offer free calls, too.
More able, affordable and reliable mobile devices have meant we all receive a lot more communication, but psychologically it is a brave move to cancel what has been a major part of our lives; our personal infrastructure if you like, since our younger days.
Do your remember your home phone number from your childhood?
Have you thought about changing to a mobile contract only?
In 10 years time, do you think more people's main phone will be their mobile phone?
An unfortunate fact about the taking of selfies came to light in one class this week.
Apparently, a survey by an Indian University revealed that there were over 250 reported deaths worldwide between 2011 and 2017 caused by people trying to take selfies.
92.5% of those killed were men and most were aged in their 20's.
The most common causes of death were drowning, followed by vehicle hits and falling from high places.
India tops the list of victims followed by Russia and the USA.
Have you ever had a lucky escape from a dangerous situation?
Shizuko discovered a box of small coins when she was tidying up at home. She took it to the bank and the final count realised an amazing 4510 yen!
They were the smallest denomination, 1 yen!
How long did it take to amass so many, do you think? My guess is about 10 years.
Have you ever collected small things?
Coincidentally, I have an old sweet bottle in the office which I'm using to collect 1 yen coins. Students have been trying to work out how many there will be inside when its full based on the weight when full of sweets, 966 grams, and the fact that 1 yen weighs 1 gram.
I think we'll have to wait about another 2 years to find out!
Information in an annual survey by Henley & Partners, which Yukiko talked about last week, has revealed the ranking of countries whose residents can enter other countries 'visa-free'.
Topping the list in 2018 is Japan whose residents receive a visa-free welcome in 190 countries.
At the opposite end of the scale are a number of countries ravaged by internal strife including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and the Palestinian Territory.
How many times have you applied for a visa before travelling to another country?
How many friends do you have in other countries?
Henley & Partners are an international residence and citizenship planning company who mainly serve wealthy clients and governments.
Here is a link to the survey details.
A recent story that caught my eye was of a local man in his 70's who was caught taking grapes from an expensive bunch in front of a shop he would pass often.
When caught by the police he said he wasn't stealing anything. At 55 yen per grape, this is clearly untrue. But how exactly was he caught?
Well, it seems he made the fatal mistake of sucking out the flesh but not eating the skin. After finishing the naughty delight he discarded the skins of more than one he stole on the path near the shop. This was noticed by the shopkeeper and lead to him being caught by CCTV.
If he had eaten the whole grape thereby destroying the evidence, he may have got away with it...
Actually, it would seem difficult to spot if a grape was missing from a bunch. One suggestion made in class was to name each grape individually. "Where's Bernard?" I joked.
If you were a judge, what would you decide to do with the old gentleman?
An amusing story came up on Friday this week of a koala that refused to enter the cargo hold of an airplane.
I'm not sure exactly how it refused as I presume it was in a cage at the time, but they are quite nervous creatures apparently, so perhaps it became very distressed.
Anyway, the airline staff must have decided there was only one solution; to put it in the cabin with the passengers.
They did this by allocating a bank of four seats. Nice!
Have you ever been treated like a VIP?
Have you ever been given an airline seat upgrade, for example?
One student on Tuesday evenings recently purchased a new leather-bound diary.
Normally in Japan, the pages at the end of April and early May would show the cluster of annual, national holidays which are known as Golden Week.
However, the pages were blank, as was the 23rd of December 2019!
The reason, of course, was the coming abdication of the Emperor in early 2019.
The official holiday dates for next year have yet to be decided and the publisher was clearly aware of that fact.
The official holiday schedule announcement is expected by November and may mean up to 10 days holiday around Golden Week in 2019, so be prepared!
The 2019 calendar I bought from a 100yen shop sadly wasn't up to date, but I'm not going to lose much sleep about that.....