Be my Valentine?

Hello everyone,

Last Thursday we enjoyed Valentine’s Day here at school. Many students brought homemade sweets, and others brought store-bought sweets to share with friends and teachers. I was talking to a couple students, and they taught me two Japanese phrases for the day: giri-choko and honmei-choko.

In English we could call giri-choko “obligation chocolate”. This is chocolate you give to someone you have to. Honmei-choko could be called “true-feeling chocolate”, and it goes to someone you really like.

But… what happens if a girl is giving obligation chocolate, and the boy thinks that it is actually true-feeling chocolate?!? How can people know? Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day about love, but it seems that there is also a chance for heartbreak.

I would also like to mention that the Japanese sweets industry is very clever, because it has also promoted “White Day” in Japan. In Canada, Valentines day is a chance for both girls and boys to buy each other gifts, but in Japan it is spread out over two different days. That is good for business! However… the boys who received Valentine’s Day chocolate must remember who they got it from and return the favor. Some people say that is should be worth THREE TIMES as much as the Valentine’s Day present. If they don’t, or they forget… more heartbreak!

This is all very confusing. Let’s eat some more chocolate and think about it a bit longer. Have a good week! Only two more weeks until your final tests!


Hello everyone,

Influenza, or “the flu” has spread all over the country. Unfortunately, some students and teachers have also caught it. The worst problem is in class M3D, who had to stay home for a few days this week. Hopefully they will be ok tomorrow and can come back to school.

One word we use in this situation is “quarantine”. When something is “quarantined”, it is kept away from other things until there is no danger. One of the most common things to quarantine are animals. If you bring an animal to a new country, it might need to stay at the airport for some time so it doesn’t spread disease.

The origin of the word quarantine is from Italian, quarantine, which means forty. Quarantina giorni means forty days, which is the time that ships from dangerous areas had to wait in the sea before landing in Italy.

There are a lot of little stories like this in English, because English words come from many different languages. The study of this “word history” is called etymology. If you find the history of words, it can help you learn how to say them. Also, it is just interesting! When you learn the story of the word “sandwich”, you will never forget it!

Have a good week.


Hello everyone, especially YOU class H1E and H1F (they are here for their homework!)

Last time we talked about the Center Examination. When I went to university I had a different kind of test. It was called an “analogy” test.

An analogy is a word puzzle that shows a relationship between two ideas. A simple example is…


We can read this puzzle like: Summer is hot, and winter is cold. Using this, we can test knowledge from many different areas. For example…

1. Math – 36:6::81:__?__

2. History – Napoleon:France::Stalin:__?__

3. Geography – Amazon:Brazil::Nile:__?__

4. Chemistry – H₂SO₄:Sulpheric Acid::__?__:Carbon Dioxide

5. Art – Monet:__?__::Mozart:Composing

I took an analogies test when I entered graduate school. There were 120 questions with 60 minutes to solve them all. Can you try these five questions? If you tell me the answers, I have a surprise for you! Have a good week,


Center Listening Part 1 – FLYING CARROTS

Hello everyone,

Last weekend our grade three students went to Wakayama University to take the Center Test. The last test on the first day was the English listening test. The test is 30 minutes, and has 25 questions divided into 4 parts. Each student has earphones and an “IC Player” that uses an SD card for the listening. Even though they were tired from taking many tests on the day, our girls did their best. Let’s take a look at the part one questions today.

Question 1 – Easy!

This question should have been no problem! Fruit or vegetable, strong or wings. Many people commented on the art of this question. I like to think that the test makers knew students had some stress and wanted to relax them a little bit. The question definately had a “strong impact” for students. Of course your answer is…

Question 2 – Easy!

This question should also have been simple for students. Adding the days in London to the days in Vienna gives you the answer, 8 days. The question says “For how many days…” which is a little different than the usual “How long will…”.  Also, the cities Vienna and Istanbul are not as well known at Tokyo, London, or New York, so that may be different for students. Quick, without checking, what countries are those cities in?

Question 3 –  Easy!

This is another pretty easy question, but there is a trick to it. Students read the question carefully to know that they want the woman’s activity, and not the man’s. However, they need to also listen to the man’s activities, because the woman reacts to his story by saying “I wish I had.” and “So did I.” Hiking and golf seems like a good vacation!

Question 4 – Medium

When I have a picnic I never take a salt shaker, I just put some salt in a small paper and twist it! Anyway, for this question you find the correct answer by taking out the other three. When the man suggests the kitchen table and toaster, and the woman says she checked those places and the sink as well, you know the answer must be “in the picnic basket”.

Question 5 – Getting harder…

This is another calculation question like number 2, but this time students have to calculate both time and money. “Hourly rate” means money per hour, and students also need to connect “12:00” with “noon”. Once they do that, they can multiply the rate by the time. 2 hours x 2,000 yen = 4,000 yen. This is a question where notetaking is very important. Keep your hands busy taking notes while you listen, so if you need more time to find the answer, you can go back and see what you wrote.

Question 6 – AHHH! GRAPHS!!

No one likes graph questions. Graph questions are difficult because your eyes are looking for information while at the same time your ears are listening for information. Double input is difficult. On top of that, there are some more difficult vocabulary in the script, such as “proposal”, “majority”, and “persuade”. After the first sentence, you can cross off number 2 and 4, because the “For” part is larger than the “Against”. Then, when the students know that it is possible to get a “For” majority, they know that the answer is number 1.

After all of that, students still had 20 more minutes and 19 more questions to go. Phew! A long day for everyone, but I am sure you did your best. See you next time.

Warm up your English voice!

Hey everyone,

It is third term now, and in my class students are starting to practice for the junior high school singing contest. In their music classes, they first warm up their voices with simple exercises, and then practice their part. A simple singing warmup looks like this:

When you speak English, warmups are also important. Everyday your mouth makes Japanese sounds, so your muscles work a certain way. When you speak English, you mouth makes different sounds, so you need to practice different muscles.

Try saying these sentences slowly and loudy to practice some different English sounds:

  1. Go slow Joe, you’re stepping on my toe.
  2. Boots and shoes lose newness soon.
  3. It was the student’s duty to deliver the Tuesday newspaper.
  4. Thoughtful thinkers think things through.
  5. Eat each green pea. Aim at the game. Ed said get ready.

These are not tongue twisters! Say them slowly and carefully, and your mouth will practicing making new English sounds. After you practice, come try them with me!

Have a good week everyone.

Online English lectures

Hello everyone,

Welcome back to school! I hope you enjoyed your winter break, and that you were able to spend a good time with family and friends. How about your winter homework, were you able to finish it early and relax? Or… did you leave it to the last minute and have a stressful last few days?

This morning we had our opening ceremony in the gym. Oshiro-san talked about her online program at Stanford University. That program was a big challenge for her, so I want to say “good job!”

If you are interested in experiencing  something like that, there are many classes from American universities that are offered online, for free. A good resource to fine them is the site I often listen to the classes when I am riding my bicycle or hiking. They are usually a recording of the teacher speaking to his class, and are either audio or video.

I enjoyed…

Ancient Greek History

Basic Astronomy

and Adapting to Climate Change

… but there are many many others, so go take a look at the list of free courses, and search for something you are interested in.

The full list

See you next time!

JHS Student Council Elections 2018

Good morning!

Today in the Hall, junior high school students took part in choosing the members of the next students council. Both grade 1 and grade 2 students stood up to speak, and the rest of the students took notes. After, we returned back to our classes and voted.

Last year, the voting age in Japan was lowered from 20 to 18. That means some students in our school have the opportunity to vote in Japan’s national elections. Voting is a serious responsibility, and takes some effort. It is easy to vote for someone who is good-looking, or has a lot of energy, but it is important to listen to their ideas as well.

That is one reason we have a school council. It is a good chance for all of us to practice in this system.

Sometimes, one word in English can lead to many other words. For example, the word “elect” means “choose”. It also gives us the event, an “election”. There are also other related words, such as:

select(choose by setting apart),

neglect (not choose), and

intellect (the ability to choose between).

Have a good week. Remember, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are 家庭学習日 on your schedule. Use your time wisely!


English Club Dec. 2018

Hello everyone,

Yesterday was Friday, which is club day at school. After school the English club members gathered in the cooking room to make some Christmas cupcakes.

Recipe? Check. Toppings? Check. Santa hats? Check.
We made two groups of high school students and junior high school students mixed together.
Out of the oven, and on to the toppings. The more chocolate, the better!
Finished! I hope nobody ruined their dinner.

If you want to try making them at home, they are super easy. Just use pancake mix, milk, sugar, and an egg. Add some chocolate chips and toppings and you are ready to go!

The recipe we used.

This is our last club of this year, but I am looking forward to club starting again in January. Have a happy holidays everyone!

Christmas Lamp Shade

Hello everyone,

Before summer vacation, grade one junior high school students went to Shin-ai college for a lecture, and an art activity. They designed lapshades out of clay, and then the teacher at the college finished them. They were delivered back to use in October and have been on display at school.

Today the students took the lamp shades home, but first we displayed them all with little tea lights inside. It was a nice way to end the day. Here are some pictures:

Kawamoto-sensei setting up Class A’s table.
Here they are!
Ishikawa-sensei waiting for it to get darker (she takes much better pictures than I do!)
With the candles on.
My attempt. Don’t laugh! I tried to make the nativity scene with the star above, but Joseph started to lean over during the drying process. Hang in there Joseph!

It isn’t long until our Christmas Mass. Let’s enjoy the season together.

See you!

Christmas Music – Joy to the World

Hello everyone,

We are four days into December, and Christmas is only 3 weeks away. One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. We call Christmas songs “Christmas Carols”. Whenever I hear Christmas carols it puts me in a good mood.

Everyday at the end of the school day, my class sings a song from the hymn (=songs for church) book we have. If you look at number 421, it is called もろびとこぞりて. We have the same song in English, and it is called “Joy to the World”.

Try singing the first verse (first part) to the music of number 421, and then you will know one of my favorite Christmas songs!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing


May your heart be merry during this season. One more test day to go, good luck!