Fun and games at the Brighton & Hove Japanese Club Open Day


If you have children while living abroad, or you move with your kids to a country where a different language is spoken, how do you expose them to your native language?

One option is to join a club of people in the same situation. (Or, if there isn't a club, to start one!)

The Brighton & Hove Japanese Club runs a Saturday school for children from Japanese-speaking and bilingual families. The club exists to promote cultural exchange between Japan and the UK.

Every year they have a well-attended Open Day to celebrate the school's successes, and welcome visitors in to see what the club has to offer. And there's a LOT on offer.

I went along this year with my students again. Here's what we got up to!

The open day has two parts - workshops in the classrooms, and demonstrations and performances on the stage. The club makes really good use of the space, with lots to see and do.

We started with a calligraphy lesson, having a go at writing 春 (haru), the kanji for Spring:


Diligent students!


Dan likes a challenge, so he wrote the most difficult kanji he could think of: 鬱 (utsu).


This character means depression, or "low spirits", which is also how you might feel after trying to write a kanji with 29 strokes!


James showing off his handiwork:


Also, this is what I look like after half an hour doing calligraphy:

Excellent GIF by David.

Local calligraphy artist Takako Higgs was there too, with a stall of Japanese goods.


When she's not doing large-scale calligraphy demonstrations or teaching calligraphy, Takako sells beautiful Japanese goods, personalised with your name in Japanese.


Next, we headed into the main hall to see some of the shows.

It was jam packed!

The organisers had to get an extra pole so their video camera could see over the crowd.


Usually my favourite bit is the second-hand book stall where I pick up something I want to read (often pretending to myself I'll use it in class...)

But I was knew I was going to Japan the following week so I didn't buy any books this year.

I did however get this adorable Anpanman cookie!

I sat on him later and squashed him, but he still tasted great.

I also got some melon pan from this cute bakery stand.

("Gu choki pan ya" is the name of the bakery from the Ghibli film Kiki's Delivery Service).

And I bought some Japanese sweets to take home from the Cafe an-an stall.

(No photo of An-an's stall I'm afraid, I was too busy chatting to Noriko, the owner, to remember to take a picture).

While eating some of the sweet Japanese treats I'd bought, we watched the manga drawing contest.

The contestants were given the name of a manga character and had to draw them. The kids could peek at the screen, but the adults had to draw from memory.

Two of the adults participating are professional manga artists, so that was fun too.

The event is presented in English and in Japanese, with speakers switching between languages.

This compere did a great job and was very funny, especially when doing the "big reveal" and having the contestants show their pictures.



We also watched a koto (Japanese harp) performance by Sakie Plunkett.


And some students had their portraits drawn by manga artists Inko and Chie Kutsuwada.

Here Inko hard at work:


 And the finished result!

 As is tradition, we went for a quick half of ビール (beer) and/or コーラ (cola) in the パブ (pub) afterwards, to show off everything we'd made, bought and eaten.
It was a relaxed, nice day out.

I always meet someone new and interesting at the Open Day, and the organisers are very friendly and welcoming.

Why don't you come along next year?

Find out more about the Brighton & Hove Japanese Club on their website (click here).

More links:



End-of-term Sushi Night! Easter 2018


When I started teaching Japanese, I thought it would primarily be an academic endeavour. 

I didn't think we'd go out for sushi, and do calligraphy workshops, and all kinds of other exciting things. 

It's good to get out of the classroom sometimes, spend time in a different environment (and of course eat Japanese food).

Here are some photos from the end-of-term sushi night this Easter. 








Thanks for coming!

Where shall we go for our next (non-academic) event?

How did I do? A look back at 2017's goals


It's no use just making goals. You need to assess them.

How did I do with last year's New Year's Resolutions? Let's find out.

I scored myself a pass or fail for each one...

2017's goals were:

1. Blog more


I published 26 blog posts in 2017, up from 11 in 2016.

That's not the one a week I planned (it's literally half that!) but I'm still pretty happy.

I was helped along the way by an adorable twitter bot created by my student @EliteFreq which tweeted at me when I didn't blog that week:

This was genuinely very motivating.

Conclusion: PASS. Tell your friends your goals, so they can support you along the way.

2. Finish some books


My plan was to read more fiction and to actually finish a book instead of getting excited and moving on to the next one. This didn't exactly go to plan.

However, I reckon I read Japanese news every single day in 2017. I'm pretty proud of that.

I also completed Zero Escape 999, and two (nearly three) Ace Attorney games. Visual novels are reading too...


Conclusion: FAIL but maybe that's fine


3. Watch more drama with my students


This goal didn't come to fruition either. I was on the lookout for things to watch but never found anything "just right".

I planned to use Terrace House (Netflix's Japanese reality TV show - think Big Brother circa 2003), but the logistics of showing Netflix in class got the better of me...

We did watch some Japanese TV ads in class though. That was a lot of fun.

Conclusion: がんばれ! (KEEP TRYING!)


4. Have more parties


From Origami Night, to the Summer Barbecue, to the end-of-year Christmas Party, this year has been really busy. Good busy!

We definitely had more parties and attended more events this year. Onwards and upwards!


Conclusion: PASS


5. Be reflective


I think I have actually spent less time reflecting in 2017 than in previous years, and more time actively doing things. This is probably a good thing.

Conclusion: いいじゃないですか? (That's alright, isn't it?)

How did you get on with your New Year's resolutions in 2017?

And have you made this year's yet? I'm still whittling down my list...

2017: A Round Up


I'll let you into a secret.

I wanted to write an end-of-year "round-up" post last year, but I didn't think I had enough to talk about.

This year there's too much! It's been a busy, brilliant year.

Here's what my students and I got up to in 2017.

I started the year off with a chilly trip to Namayasai, Sussex's very own organic Japanese vegetable farm.

↓ Photo by Shino. Daikon radish by Namayasai.

In March, students and I were invited to the Open Day of the Brighton & Hove Japanese Club.

We tried calligraphy, made kanji name badges, and ate a lot of Japanese sweets.


The first term of 2017 flew by.

In the Easter break we had an impromptu school outing to Hove Park for hanami (cherry-blossoming viewing)...


...and to E-Kagen for noodles and Japanese beer.


May in Brighton brings the Brighton Festival and Fringe Festival.

And this year there were a few Japanese events on!

We saw a show by kick-ass Rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling) performer Katsura Sunshine...

...and enjoyed the sunshine with a trip to the beach.
Students in my new Pre Intermediate class had an end-of-year visit from a special guest.

Haruna came to chat Japanese with students during the Free Talk section of class.

↓ Arigatou Haruna!
In July I also went to the Hyper Japan festival in London for the first time.

That was a frantic day full of shopping, different performances, and Japanese street food.

↓ Domo-kun (NHK mascot) and me at Hyper Japan.
Over the summer I also attended a number of brilliant workshops, as part of Ride the Wave - a business support programme run by the council and the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce.

It was a great opportunity to meet like-minded small business owners!

↓ And I got to wear this red and white badge.
Students and I also went to the Japanese Summer Festival organised by Ohisama Ahaha, a Japanese kids group in Brighton and Hove.




Summer rolled by and I rolled off to Berlin on holiday.

This holiday is significant because its the first trip I've taken (since starting Step Up Japanese) where I put the "out of office" on and didn't check my emails while I was away.

Working hard is important, but we all need time off too.


Many of my students were off on holiday too, including Step Up Japanese student Daniel who spent the whole month of August in Japan.



In August we also had the first Step Up Japanese barbecue! Students brought lots of tasty food to share.


In October I attended the Language Show London for the first time, attending language teaching seminars...
...and Japan Foundation events including a talk from Paralympian Gold Medallist (and fluent Japanese speaker!) Noel Thatcher.


In October half term we had the first Step Up Japanese Origami Night, a relaxed affair in one of my favourite pubs.



In November I went for Japanese Afternoon Tea at Portslade's Café an-an. This was a special event for World Vegan Day.


And before you know it, it's nearly the end of the year!

Students met for noodles and festive fun at the Christmas Party.
Like I said, it's been busy.

I'm really, really looking forward to see what 2018 brings!

Thank you so much to everyone who came to classes, took part in events, and supported me at Step Up Japanese this year.

良いお年を!Have a good new year!

Christmas Party 2017!


Brrrrrrrr, it's cold. Or as they say in Japan, ブルブル "buruburu".

We escaped from the cold snap on Friday night with a Christmas noodle party!


↓ Off to E-Kagen on Sydney Street. Spot the Step Up Japanese students...


We started the night off with a film title quiz: guess the (western) film title from its Japanese translation.

Everybody did well, but there were a few tricky ones in there too.

↓ Intense concentration.



↓ Special thanks to Phil for making an appearance despite having to rush off to host his own event the same night!


It wouldn't be a Christmas party without crackers - these ones had Japan-themed jokes in them too.




I have just realised I didn't take any pictures of the food. I hate food photos. Pictures of people are much nicer, don't you think?

The food was great though! E-Kagen has a real family-style feel, and an open kitchen so you can see your dinner being prepared.


↓ Full bellies. Massive thanks to the owner at E-Kagen for hosting such a big group of us.


↓ Excellent Christmas jumpers.


↓ Off to the pub for a mulled wine. Or as they say in Japan, ホットワイン ("hotto wain").






↓ Impromptu kanji practice. 



Thanks for another great year guys! It's an absolute pleasure to work with such wonderful students.

メリークリスマス (Merry Christmas) - and stay warm!

Is it "douzo" or "dōzo"?


"Wait, is it douzo? In the book it says dōzo..."

It's both. And it's neither!

In the beginning stages I use rōmaji (English letters) to write Japanese in class. This is to give you a head start in learning to speak.

Some people think you shouldn't use rōmaji at all, because it will give you bad pronunciation.
That might be true if you're studying by yourself.

But if you have a teacher to teach you how to pronounce Japanese words correctly, and correct your mistakes, you can learn Japanese correctly using rōmaji.

I'm pretty strict on pronunciation, I think. My students have good pronunciation - even the beginners.

Anyway, there are different systems for writing Japanese in the English alphabet. Depending on which system is being used, a word could be spelled quite differently.

どうぞ (do-u-zo) means "here you are" / "go ahead".

Some writing systems use a macron (a horizontal bar over the letter) to write the long vowel sound: ā ī ū ē ō.  Then, it would be written "dōzo".

Another method is to spell out the letters: aa, ii, uu, ei, ou.   That gives us "douzo".

Both "dōzo" and "douzo" are correct.

Sometimes, the long vowel isn't written in: "dozo". This is wrong!

You might also see ee and oo used instead of ei and ou: "doozo".

Personally I think "doozo" is just asking for trouble. That's not how the word is spelled in Japanese (it's どうぞ  do-u-zo).

Of course, the only truly correct way to spell the word is to write it in Japanese: どうぞ.

But both "dōzo" and "douzo" are fine too. Just don't forget the long vowel!