Short topics from English conversation classes at a school in Japan.
Short topics from English conversation classes at a school in Japan.
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.....
The discussion point one lunchtime last week was sayings that have stayed with us for many years and defined our character.
Perhaps your parents repeated a saying to you over and over again, Or, maybe you heard it in a lecture and instantly realised that you agreed with it strngly.
Yukiko's son believes in the saying she translated as 'lucky in leisure', whch means to be relaxed and wait then something will happen if it is meant to......
Personally, the philosophy I try to live my life by is 'do as you would like to be done by', which means that I want other people to be kind and considerate to me, so I will be the same to them .
Do you have a favourite saying that you lead your life by?
If you have ever sat close to the driver's cabin on a train in Japan, you may have heard the driver talking to himself.
What is he saying? Well, I guess he is giving himself instructions to check things before the train departs from a station.
Unusual? Well, research has shown that this spoken action can reduce the incidence (number) of driver errors as the spoken word forces the person to check properly.
I can understand the logic, and actually, I do the very same thing when I leave the house in the morning to make sure I have everything important that I need.
Usually, I say 'phone, keys, computer, food, water, trousers.......' Well, apart from 'trousers', everything else is true.
Do you ever do this?
Following on from a recent discussion about porch pirates, I asked students on Wednesday if they had ever had anything stolen.
One had suffered a break-in by an experienced burglar of more than 300 crimes!
Another had had her car windscreen wipers stolen. She only noticed when it started to rain during one journey!
Imagine it was the summer and there was a drought. It could be three weeks before you noticed!
We all had visions of the spinning spindles only and driving with your head out the window.
Have you ever had anything stolen?
On Tuesday, Satoshi recalled a holiday in Europe before the time he could communicate well in English. Hoping to ride an express train in Belgium, he enquired at the ticket office why the train hadn't left at the scheduled departure time.
The attendant replied but he couldn't understand the meaning, so he, unfortunately, had to wait 3 hours on the platform for the next train.
It reminded me of my UK trip this summer. Waiting on the platform at Cambridge station, from time to time, I heard announcements that trains had been cancelled, but was surprised to hear that they also gave the reasons. More than once, I heard 'lack of staff'.
On one occasion, repeated calls were made for the driver to report to the control office. Where was he or she?
Another time, a change of platform was announced. One minute later there was a rumble of wheeled suitcases as a tsunami of frantic passengers hurried past!
Have you had any interesting train experiences abroad or in Japan?
Talking in class this morning about the New Zealand Rugby Team's statement that they will respect the Japanese cultural dislike for tattoos and plan to cover them during games.
This will mean some team members will need long sleeved shirts or large patches. As rugby is a game of strong physical contact, it is easy to imagine that the tattoo covers will not stay in place for long....
Though, Japan may associate tattoos strongly with crime groups, the Ainu had a culture many years ago of body art. Here is an example.
What do you think of a person you see having tattoos?
Short of time?
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See you there!
Last week, Akiko was traveling on a packed subway train next to a man who was playing games on his smartphone. That's not unusual, of course, as many of us do the same....in silence, though.
He was pretty excited by the music playing through his headphones, however, and sang off-key close to her ear for the whole of her journey. He sang the same tune over and over again.
The 'ordeal' lasted 15 minutes.
Personally, I find people, usually men, who snort when they have a cold to be particularly distasteful. On one occasion, I offered a young guy on the subway a free packet of tissues I had been given as I entered the station. He accepted it gratefully not realising the true intention was to stop my annoyance!
What manner do you find annoying when on public transport?