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!

落語を見に行ってきた! We Went to See Rakugo at the Brighton Fringe And It Was All Kinds of Awesome


The first time I heard of rakugo I was at the weekly Japanese conversation club at MER Cafe in Nagoya in 2011, and the teacher / awesome boss lady Akiko-sensei was telling me about an event they were holding the following week.

"This man Sunshine-san is very famous," she told me. "He does traditional Japanese comic storytelling in English."

"Pfft," I thought to myself. "I don't want to see a show in English. I didn't come to Japan to watch stuff in English!"

Well, six years later I saw that same show right here in Brighton, and boy was I wrong.

Akiko wasn't lying when she told me that Katsura Sunshine is famous. He's the first ever western storyteller in the history of the “Kamigata” Rakugo tradition, and the second western Rakugo performer ever in the history of Japan.

A post shared by Sunshine Rakugo (@katsurasunshine) on

Rakugo means "falling words", which makes little sense in English but a bit more sense in Japanese.

Raku (落) means fall, and the same kanji as ochi 落ち which is the Japanese word for "punchline". Each comic story ends with an abrupt turnaround - a punchline.

The storyteller sits on stage in seiza (that kneeling position people in Japan do in formal situations) and tells stories using only a fan and a little cloth as props.

So I thought this might be an ideal spring trip for my students - accessible and fun! Plus, I really wanted to go and see what all the fuss was about.

A post shared by Sunshine Rakugo (@katsurasunshine) on
We went last Sunday, the last night Sunshine was playing at the Brighton Fringe. There were thirteen of us and the theatre was super tiny, so we took up about half the seats. 

I needn't have worried about the show being in English - the subject matter is basically all Japan! And there were plenty of jokes about the complexity of the Japanese language, and the entertaining perils of being abroad in Japan. That got a lot of laughs from our group...

A lot of the stories (dialogue etc.) is actually left untranslated from Japanese, which is great I think. You can pick up some Japanese words from context, but the show makes sense even if you don't speak Japanese.

The first half of the show was kind of like stand up (except of course he's sitting down) and the second half is storytelling. It was way more fast-paced than I expected.

↓ Post-rakugo pint

I should probably have gone and seen him in Nagoya six years ago...but I'm glad I got a second chance!

I won't spoil the show for you - you should go and see it if you get the chance - but you can check him out on YouTube if you'd like to hear what rakugo in English might be like.

Happy Friday! 素敵な1日を過ごしてください〜

Top picture and bottom pictures are mine; the others are Sunshine's, but you probably guessed that ^_^