Hiking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage Trail in 2018 - A Round-Up

Hiking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage Trail in 2018 - A Round-Up

The week I spent last spring walking the first leg of the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage trail was peaceful, thought-provoking, and challenging - often all at once.

Here’s all my writing about that trip in one place.

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New Year's Resolutions - 2018


明けましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions this year?

January is a really good time to think about goals for the year ahead.  Apart from anything else, it's cold! And it's nice to be inside making plans.

Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2018:

1) blog once a week


This one is easy (I hope!) and a continuation of last year.

In 2017 I aimed to publish a blog post a week. I actually did 26, which is one a fortnight.

That's not bad, but I definitely want to beat that in 2018.

2) play more games


In class, I mean. I want to work on making classes more fun, and one easy way to do that is more games.

 My lovely students playing fukuwarai ("Lucky Laugh") game


When we laugh together, we learn together.

(Cheesy but true).

3) read every day


This is a personal one. Last year I tried to read more Japanese fiction, and kind of failed.

I did find, though, that once I actually start reading I'm ok. It's the getting started that's the tricky part.

This year, I'm going to read some Japanese fiction every day, and keep a note in my 5-year diary when I've done it.

(16 days in, this is going pretty well.)


4) go to more teaching events


This year, I'm planning to go to more Japanese teaching and education-related events in London.

I went to a couple recently - a Japanese grammar teaching workshop at SOAS, and a bunch of seminars at the Language Show London.

I found it super helpful to reflect on my teaching practice and discuss ideas with other teachers and linguists.


I definitely want to go to more events like this in 2018.

...and it's a good excuse to go to London for the day too.


5) track these goals


Waiting until the end of the year to see how your goals are going doesn't really work.

In 2017, I actually completely forgot about one of my resolutions (to watch more drama in class). I'm going to avoid that this time by pinning them above my desk.

I'd love to know what New Year's Resolutions you made. Let me know in the comments!

New Year's Resolutions - 新年の抱負


明けましておめでとうございます!Happy New Year!

新年の抱負はありますか。Have you made any New Year's Resolutions?

My good friend Karli of designosaur (the brilliant people who make all those dinosaur necklaces I wear to class) writes a new year's post every year, and I always find it super inspiring. I don't always make resolutions, but this year I have loads and I'd like to share some of them with you!


1. blog more


This one should be easy. I like writing this blog, but it's always bottom of my to-do list! Karli's suggestion was to make a regular schedule and stick to it, so I'll try that.


2. finish some books


I often tell people that I read a lot of Japanese books, but actually what I do is start reading a lot of Japanese books. Then find a new one, get distracted and start the new one. That's good for variety, but not very satisfying.

I'm going to try and read one book at a time (currently reading マチルダは小さな大天才) and not start any new books until I finish!



3. watch more drama...with my students


I love J-drama and it's a great way to listen to everyday spoken Japanese - especially if the programme is centred around a family or group of friends. This year I'm hoping to use some drama clips in class. I haven't quite worked out the details yet but I think it'll be a lot of fun.

I'm currently watching Beautiful Rain (ビューティフルレイン) which is adorable and very tear-jerky. Have you seen it?

4. have more parties


We had a great time at the first annual Step Up Japanese christmas party, and one of my goals for 2017 is to have more school events like this. I've got a little list in mind, but if you have a suggestion please let me know!


5. be reflective


This one is less of a resolution and more of a humblebrag.

Some days I skip home from class because everything went swimmingly. Other times I'm left thinking how I could have explained something better / given you more chances to speak Japanese / had a good answer to your question on the spot instead of telling you I'll look it up.

My point is, it's good to be reflective - and not just because you won't get knocked off your bike. I really, really want to keep improving and bring you bigger and better things in 2017!


Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I'd love to know what yours are! 今年もよろしくお願いします〜

5 Apps to Download Before Your Trip To Japan


If you just love missing your bus because you waited in the wrong place, overpaying for things because you can't remember the exchange rate, or wandering around for hours looking for a wi-fi spot in vain - stop reading now, because this one's not for you.

Today I'd like to share with you five super-useful apps to download before you travel to Japan!

Whatever you've got planned in Japan, these apps should get you well-prepared.

(Looking for language-learning apps? You should read my other post Five (and a Half) Apps to Get You Started Learning Japanese!)

1) HyperDia



Once you look past the sometimes awkward-sounding English (when Hyperdia tells you "TAKE TIME", it's not wishing you a leisurely trip, but telling you the duration of your journey), it's a solid tool for navigating Japan's wonderful rail system.

Hyperdia's app, just like the website, allows you to plan journeys and search timetables for (almost) all of Japan's train services. In English! It also benefits from the "Japan Rail Pass Search", which as you might guess allows you to search for routes you can take with the JR pass.

The app is free for 30 days, which should be enough for most trips.

Hyperdia: App Store | Google Play

2) Norikae Annai



Norikae Annai is Japan's most-downloaded travel app. It's easier to navigate than Hyperdia, much more nicely designed and more user-friendly...so long you can read Japanese.

If you can't, you'll be a bit stuck. You might want to stick with Hyperdia - or you could always get someone who can read Japanese to help you. Or download both and use Hyperdia in a pinch?

Norikae Annai: App Store | Google Play

3) Tokyo Metro



I LOVE the Tokyo Metro app, because as well as transfer information it also has a fully offline, pinch-and-zoom map of - you guessed it - Tokyo's metro system.

Good for getting to grips with (what often seems like) the world's most complex underground rail system!

Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists: App Store | Google Play

4) Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi




Even if you don't want to be connected all the time, you'll probably want wifi at some point on your travels. Navitime is an app with an offline map showing free wifi spots, as is JapanTravel and its sister app Japan Connected-free Wi-fi.

The wifi app also has downloadable offline maps of all the major cities in Japan - and all for free!

(Or you could just do what I do on holiday and stand outside McDonalds pretending to wait for someone while actually using the free internet. That's cool too, right?)

Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi: App Store | Google Play

5) XE Currency



Not Japan-specific, but definitely useful.

Until the exchange rate hits a nice easy number like 100 yen to the pound, you'll probably want a currency converter so you can figure out how far your spending money's going to go. And the XE converter works offline, too.

XE Currency: App Store | Google Play

So that's what's in my "essential Japan travel apps" folder! What's in yours?

Planning a trip to Japan this year? Check out the Travel Japanese for Beginners course at Step Up Japanese starting April 12th!