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:



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!