2008 March 21 Friday thru March 23 Sunday.

Friday was the day when many kindergartens and elementary schools held their graduation ceremonies.

As a result, some of my students were absent from my classroom on that day.

I didn't have any classes on Saturday this week, so I took advantage of my extra free time, and drove all over the main city areas of Asahikawa, going through all of the major districts.

Something I haven't done for many months.

All of the major roads and sidewalks are completely clear of snow and ice.

Spring is most certainly here, in full force.

Many other people were out driving around, just for the fun of it, despite the high price of gasoline at the pump.

So what?!?

An automobile is no good if you can't use it when you want to.

Sunday was the Christian celebration of

As the story goes, Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, put into a grave, and then miraculously came back to life on Sunday, and rose up into heaven.

Sounds too good to be true?

To me, it sounds more like the story of the winter solstice, put into a different time frame.

None the less, millions upon millions of people all around the world, celebrate this occasion in many and varied ways.

For me, Sunday was just
Another Day in Paradise.

At this time of the year in Hokkaido, anyone who goes outdoors, can see, taste, smell and feel this island coming back to life. Again.

Just like it does every year.

The cycles of the seasons.

Something you can really depend upon.


2008 March 20 Thursday.

Today is a National Holiday in Japan known as 春分の日 which means the Spring Equinox.

As such, my classroom and a lot of other schools and government offices were closed for the day.

Therefore, I had a lot of free time today to enjoy the spring-like weather and we got out and around to see a few familiar places.

I was even so bold as to wear sandals with no socks today, for the first time in many months.

It felt great until the sun went down. Then my tippy toes began to feel cold.

All of the snow in the lowlands has not yet melted, and the night time temps, are hovering at zero, or just below zero. Socks and shoes are a must for the happy hiker, who is walking around at night. Our first out of classroom experience for today, was a short walk over to Crystal Hall, where we listened to the 旭川市ななかまど少年少女合唱団 第23回 定期演奏会.

Two of my students belong to this group and they asked me and Ikuko to come and listen to their performances.

This chorus group is made up entirely of elementary, junior high school and high school students, only.

In a word, they were excellent!!! What beautiful sounds they could make with their young voices. The entire show lasted almost 2 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. After the show was finished at about 16:30, Ikuko and I went for a drive along the back roads to Biei and then up to the ShiroGane Onsen 白金温泉 area.

The gate at the road leading up to the Mt. Tokachi Dake Observation 十勝岳 望岳台 area was still closed because of snow on the road, so we had to turn back and return to Biei Town. There, we stopped at 山頭火ラーメン and ate dinner.

After that, it was a slow drive along the dark back roads from Biei Town to Asahikawa City.

For the first day of spring, it was an excellent day indeed.

Many more like it to come, starting again tomorrow.


2008 March 17 Monday thru March 19 Wednesday.

On Monday, at the 神楽公民館で英会話を楽しむ会, I talked a bit about Saint Patrick's Day, and how it is celebrated in the USA and other countries around the world.

My ancestry is about 1/4 Irish and 3/4 German, so I have some affinity for this celebration.

I have fond memories from my elementary school days, of a certain custom that was popular at that time. If a person wasn't wearing something GREEN in color, the other students could take their fingers and pinch them.

This was a symbolic gesture to represent a snake bite, according to the Irish Legend of Saint Patrick's Day.

According to this legend, St. Patrick was walking along the roads throughout Ireland, while playing a flute.

When the snakes on the island heard the flute music, they all started to follow St. Patrick as he walked along the roads. Being a clever guy, St. Patrick saw an opportunity to rid the island of all snakes, so he led them all up to the cliffs that overlook the sea, and the snakes all fell off of the cliff and into the sea.

That is why, there are no snakes in Ireland to this day!!!

I can't testify as to the veracity of this story, but it does make the imagination ready, for a good legend.

On Wednesday evening after my last class of the day was finished at 19:00, Ikuko and I got on a bus and rode out to the Suehiro District of Asahikawa, heading for a Korean Restaurant known as 韓国村.

Neither of us have ever been to this restaurant before, and the objective of our visit was to celebrate Ikuko's birthday anniversary, which was on March 11. We were both very busy on that day, so we took advantage of some extra free time today, to have a birthday party for her.

This restaurant is managed by a Korean person, and the food is authentic.

Each table is contained within a small private room, and the atmosphere is truly relaxing.

I was pleased to see that the entire menu was written in both Japanese and Korean, and I had a good time reading the Korean Language names for all of the selections on the menu.

After about 90 minutes of good food and good drink, Ikuko and I paid our bill, and went outside again to walk back to the bus stop.

Unfortunately, there were no more buses for the day, that go directly to the Kagura District where we live.

So, I flagged down a taxi.

If you like Korean food, I highly recommend this restaurant. You can visit their official website by clicking here. 韓国村


2008 March 11 Tuesday thru March 16 Sunday.

Instead of snow, it has been raining a lot this week.

This, is a good sign.

A sign that warmer temperatures, and an explosion of new life, will soon be upon us.

Here in Hokkaido, and all around the world.

Today on Sunday, I took advantage of the excellent sunny skies, and went for a drive to Kami Furano, and then back up North again, for a swing-by thru HigashiKawa Town and ShiBiNai Village.

The farther you get away from the city center of Asahikawa, the sweeter and more fragrant the air becomes.

There is a very noticeable difference.

The district I live in, is just across the Chubetsu River from the center of the city.

It will be even closer, in the very near future. Two more bridges are scheduled to be built, within the next 1 to 5 years.

Then, Kagura WILL BE in the center of the city! YIKES!!!

What ever happened to my Country Living???

This location is good for my little classroom, but the air is not so sweet, in this area of Hokkaido.

Suddenly, I remember back to living in LA. Hell A.

No complaints here, in Happy Camper Land, Private Hokkaido.

While I was at the top of a very well known hill in Kami Furano, I took some photos of the clearly visible snow covered mountain range in front of me.

As I was doing so, I heard a jet airplane coming from the west.

As I looked up, I could see that it was a regularly scheduled passenger airliner, taking off from Asahikawa International Airport, and heading for parts, southwest from here.

I was able to snap a photo of the airplane, with a big rainbow in the misty sky above, as you can see from the photo above/left.

There are many flights, every day.

It is easy to take off, when you know you can fly.


2008 March 8 Saturday thru March 10 Monday.

It is getting warmer day by day, and the snow is melting fast.

Sunny days are noticeably warmer, and the cold nights continue.

Don't remove your winter tires yet.

There are still more snowfalls to come, but many less than during the pervious 4 or 5 months.

Hokkaido, during the the months of NO SNOW, is a totally free nature zone, if ever there was one.

Walking, driving, riding a bicycle, riding a horse, riding anything at all, is much easier and more enjoyable, than it is during the season of MUCH SNOW.

The season of no snow, will soon be upon us.Every Saturday morning starting at about 10:30, I have a private lesson with a very bright and intelligent elementary school girl.

As I was getting ready for the lesson at about 10:00, all of a sudden a big noise that sounded like someone was using a big Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner, started reverberating throughout my entire classroom.

At first, I though maybe the heating/cooling AC unit on my balcony was acting up, but when I checked it out, it was working OK.

Finally at about 11:30 when the lesson was finished, I went outside to look and see if I could find the source of the constant noise.

I found it to be coming from the kitchen exhaust fans 換気扇 of the Soba Noodle Restaurant directly below my classroom.

I asked the building manager if she would go into the kitchen and ask about the source of the noise.

She did so, and came up to my classroom a few minutes later to explain that the fan system had started having trouble on Friday night, and that it is continuing still today.

A few hours later, the restaurant manager came up to my classroom to apologize for the disturbance, and to inform me that the fan will be replaced as soon as possible.

It seems that it will take about one week to get a new unit.

I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of these people.

They are good neighbors.

However, when compared to the noise that I had to put up with during last summer, when the entire outside of this building was being completely redone, this noise is not so bad.

Things could be worse, but they aren't.

In fact, the noise will be gone by about next Saturday or Sunday.

Silence is Golden.

2008 March 4 Tuesday thru March 7 Friday.

The graduation season is upon us again, and today I was able to attend a gorgeous graduation party 謝恩会 for the JA Hokkaido Kosei Nursing School, which was held at a wedding palace known as Bloomington Hill in the TakaSagoDai 高砂台 area of this city.

In all years past, this event was held at the Palace Hotel or, more often, at the Grand Hotel in the downtown area.

This year was different.

I liked the atmosphere of this room, because of the very high A-shaped ceiling.

It had a sort of Northern European feel about it.

The food was pretty good as well, and the drinks were nothing special.

Also in attendance, was a retired physics professor, whom I have known for many years.

He sent his son to my school for a few months, before the son went off to Stony Brook New York, to study physics for himself.

After about four years in the USA, the son came back to Hokkaido, and got his PhD in physics from Hokkaido University.

When I went over and talked to the retired professor again tonight, he told me that his son was now living near Nagoya, and working for a very large and well known company that makes digital devices of many kinds.

His son is currently in the research department, developing a device that will merge mobile phones with GPS, and display a very detailed navigation map, to the end user.

That sounds like a very interesting project.

I'm sure he enjoys his work very much.

I enjoy my work also.

A work worth doing, is the best work of all.

2008 March 1 Saturday thru March 3 Monday.

Again this Monday at 13:00, I had my usual class with the adults who belong to the 神楽公民館で英会話を楽しむ会.

Last Monday, I gave each member of the group a copy of my two page essay entitled; Embarrassing Moments Part 2.

This mini essay, is the true story of an event that happened during the summer of 2006, when I tried to light my BBQ fire, and have a cookout.

You too, can read this mini essay by clicking here.

At the end of last week's lesson, I asked each and every member of the group, to think about one or two, of their very own embarrassing moments, and tell the entire class about it, during our next lesson.

That next lesson was today.

There were some very interesting and amusing stories told by the members of our English Conversation Circle today.

One younger lady told us about how she had burned her bedroom carpet with a hot iron, while ironing her husband's white shirts.

Ouch. Another lady told about us how she and her family members had missed an airplane flight, because she had drank far too much alcohol the night before, and couldn't get out of bed.

Hmmmm..... One lady even had a very similar story to mine, that happened when she was a university student, during a freshman rush.

But perhaps the most interesting story of all, was about an experience that happened to one lady, when she was just a high school student.

She was standing at the bus stop on a cold winter morning, when a car was slowly passing by in front of her.

She did not have her glasses on, and she thought she saw one of her high school friends, riding in that car.

So, she waved at the other girl.

The car stopped, and the window was rolled down.

When the girl waiting for the bus took a closer look inside the car, she realized that the other girl inside the car, was not her friend, but a complete stranger!

How embarrassing.

But, this story has a happy ending.

The girl inside the car asked the other girl who had been waiting for the bus, to get into the car and come to school together with her.

Luckily, they both attended the same high school.

And ever since that day, the two girls would often ride together in that father's car, and go to school.

She had made a completely new friend, and all because she had waved at a girl whom she thought was someone else.

What a nice ending to another true story of life as it happens.

I don't think I could even make up a better story than that one.

2008 February 26 Tuesday thru February 29 Friday.

Is there anybody out there, reading this, who was born on February 29?

The babies born this year won't be able to read nor write anything of their own native languages, until about 3 or 4 years from now.

However, the leap year babies who were born this year, will begin to learn their native spoken languages, almost immediately from their day of birth.

Spoken languages and music, are basically the same thing.

Music is the language of the universe, and is everywhere and all around us, at all times.

Speaking of written languages, I have been spending a lot of time this week, writing simple sentences in Korean, using a book that my wife bought entitled; 文法から学べる韓国語 ISBN 4-8163-3706-7.



  • 作者: 李 昌圭
  • 出版社/メーカー: ナツメ社
  • 発売日: 2004/05
  • メディア: 単行本

Even though she bought the book, I'm the only one who uses it.

The title in English would be something like; Learn Korean starting with grammar.

Sounds kind of boring, doesn't it.

It is not boring.

In fact, I find it to be rather interesting, because my main focus right now, in regard to the Korean Language, is to learn how to read and write it.
Well, for one thing, I am becoming more and more able to read Korean Language websites, of which there are many.

Also, I have very little opportunity to use spoken Korean, unless I want to go out of my way, and make some time for such situations.

Maybe some day, I will do this, by taking a trip with my wife and her family to the southern part of South Korea.

Then, I can really test myself to see how much progress I have made in listening comprehension and speaking ability.

This little side trip is probably about 2 years away.

A little something to look forward to, in the near future.

However today, having enough time to write this blog again, I am hunkered down in my own Private Hokkaido.

It is snowing big time, just outside my window.

I think I'll take a long hot bath, while listening to spoken Korean on CD.

Learning is so much fun, I just can't get enough of it.

How about you?

2008 February 25 Monday.

Today, was the last day of my 英語ふれあい (English Friendship) performances at the Chestnut Tree Kindergarten, for this school year.

You can see a photo of me and the graduating class of more than 50 kids, along with their classroom teachers.

This is the graduating 3rd year students ONLY!

Yeah, this is a very big kindergarten. Maybe the biggest in Asahikawa.

It is also a family business, started by the grandfather, continued by the father and his sons.

These guys are very good, at what they do. And so am I.

Again this year, for the 15th consecutive time, they asked me to continue my English Language Presentation, for yet another year. Thank you sooooooooooo much!

I really love this gig.

One of the many gigs, that I do, on a regular basis.

The reason I say performance, instead of lesson, is because the entire student body of about 220 students, assemble in the big hall, all at the same time, and I am responsible for engaging their minds, and helping them to learn the sounds of spoken English, and the sounds of music, and,...... It goes deeper than that.

You can imagine.

Anyway, the kids in this photo, are only about 39% of the total student body.

This school is a very well thought out, and a very well organized institution.

I have learned a lot from them, during the years, that I have been an independent contractor with them.

When true professionals get together and cooperate, miracles begin to HAPPEN.

IT IS the law of the COSMOS. Learn IT. Live IT.

Smile everyday, and at all times.

IT IS always NOW.

No way to avoid IT.

Make IT your friend.

Get to know IT.

You will be amazed by the change in your daily life journey.


2008 February 18 Monday thru February 24 Sunday.

Another busy week of afternoon and evening classes, some lasting until 21:40.

All throughout the beginning of this week, I kept hearing a song in my head, that I haven't heard for many years.

I am talking about a song that first came out in about 1972, when I was still in high school.

The song that I was hearing over and over in my head was Rikki Don't Lose that Number by the band Steely Dan.

I just couldn't get it out of my head, so on Friday night after my last class of the weekdays was finished, I went onto You Tube and found several videos of the song, as well one video of a guy who shows you how to play the song on the acoustic guitar.

Of course, I had to get out my dusty old guitar and try to play along, with mixed results.

Recently, I don't play the guitar very often.

Nowadays it's mostly the Alto Recorder and the keyboards that I turn to when I want to make my own music.

When I was in high school, and after that in the USCG, I would play the guitar every day, for anywhere from 2 to 6 hours.

Needless to say, I was pretty good at that time.

Not so nowadays. Another thing I spent some time doing this week, was to practice writing some simple sentences in Korean.

I am pleased that I can now begin to read some of the basic words and phrases that appear on Korean Language Web Sites.

The Korean Language uses an ALPHABET which they call HANGUL.

Once a person learns the basic letters, and the basic rules for putting the letters together to form words, that person can make rapid progress in their ability to read and write the language.

Just another TOOL available for use, to acquire further knowledge of the world around us.

Anyway, with today being Sunday, and a sunny day, I think I'll go for a drive on the wet streets.

It is beginning to look a lot like springtime.

At least for today.

2008 February 15 Friday thru February 17 Sunday.

After the huge dump of pure white powder snow, taking place over the past three days or so, the temperatures are getting above freezing during the daytime.  

As a result, the black asphalt of the streets is showing through, from under the ice and snow.  

This does not mean that spring is just around the corner, but it does mean that IT is getting closer every day.  

On Saturday morning at 10:30, I had a private lesson with a little lady that I haven't seen in about 4 or 5 years.  

When she and her mother first came to my classroom,  this little girl was still in kindergarten.   

Even at that time, I was very impressed with her abundant enthusiasm for learning new things.  

The only problem we had at that time, was that she was much more interested in the many decorations that are on all of the walls and tables in my classroom, than she was in the actual lesson.  

She could only focus on her English Lesson for a short time.  

However, when I met her again today, I was pleasantly surprised to discover  that she still has that same powerful enthusiasm AND she now has the ability to concentrate 100% upon her English Lesson.   

This is the kind of student that every teacher dreams about having.  

A student who will listen to each and every word, and follow along with the lesson plan, every step of the way.  

After about 60 minutes, I called an end to our scheduled 50 minutes lesson, and told the mother that her daughter's English Language ability in all of the 4 BASIC skills, Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, has improved dramatically since the last time, we had a lesson together.    

Her mother replied that she was very happy to hear that.   

I then asked if she had been studying English at home by herself and/or going to some other classrooms.   

Her mother replied; "Both.  

We have been using the Disney English Learning Materials, and we also went to one of the Big Name English Conversations Schools that has classrooms throughout Japan.   

Or, HAD classrooms throughout All of Japan, is what I should say.   

Yeah, there IT IS again.   

When you have seen the rest, you can always come back to the best.  

That was confirmed to me, AGAIN TODAY,  when the mother asked me if she and her daughter could come to my classroom EVERY WEEK for the foreseeable future.  

Yes Please!   

I would be honored to have the privilege of helping your very able daughter, to master the basics of English.     

BINGO!   Right down the middle, STRIKE.   

Not only am I looking forward to guiding this enthusiastic young lady, who will become a 4th Year Elementary School Student in April of this year, but also this gig is a private lesson.  

Yeah, that's right.  

I work almost full time on the week days, and part time on the weekends.   

I seldom have to leave my classroom.  

The best students in Asahikawa, come to my place.  

I LOVE YOU ALL!!!     

Thank YOU SO MUCH!!!!     


Broadcasting from Hokkaido.   


2008 February 14 Thursday.

Speaking of snow, here is how much fell during the last 72 hours or so.  

In the photograph above/left, you can see the amount of snow, and the wind patterns that shaped them into what they are today.  

Down the hallway to your left, is the entrance to my classroom.  

To your right, are some other business offices as well as the elevators and the stairwell down to the first floor.  

In front of you is an open air courtyard that has a small garden for visual pleasure.  

As you can see, the snow is beginning to pile up on one of the windows.   

This can become a serious problem for older buildings with single-pane glass windows.  

The windows often break, under the pressure from the snow.  

This window, is safe for now.

2008 February 12 Tuesday thru February 13 Wednesday.

The Asahikawa Winter Festival may be over, but winter is most certainly not finished with us yet.  

See the photo above/left for details.   

After several days of clear skies and higher temperatures, the white stuff is coming down again, with a vengeance.   

In the English language, this type of weather condition is commonly called a WHITE OUT.  

A person can see a lot of white, and not much else.  

Especially if you are driving your car at night.  

The headlights create a sort of dancing crowd of white fairies that must be wiped away, with wiper blades on at full speed.  

Of course, reducing the rolling speed of the automobile is also a must.   

In the city, there are still street lights and traffic lights and other car lights to help you find your way.  

But, if you are out on a country road somewhere, all alone, and this type of blizzard comes upon you, a person can easily become disoriented and end up in a ditch, alongside of the road.  

This is no laughing matter.  

Hokkaido is both beautiful and dangerous at the same time, during certain seasons and weather conditions.  

Approach it with respect, and drive slowly.  

Very slowly.

2008 February 6 Wednesday thru February 11 Monday.

Another very cold week in the middle of Hokkaido.  

Friday morning, when I got up to get ready for my English class at the DoKan Nursing School, I knew right away, that I wouldn't be able to make it on schedule.  

I had a slight fever, and I couldn't get my arse off of the toilet seat.    Literally.  

I sent a FAX to the school, asking for the day off, and went back to bed.  

By about 13:00, I could stay away from the toilet long enough to teach a 50 minute class.   

Back to business as usual.  

Even by Saturday early evening, I still wasn't quite up to snuff.  

Mr. T. and I had talked about going the Asahikawa Winter Festival together again this year, but I had to tell him that I wasn't up to going on Saturday.   

Finally on Sunday, after sleeping until noon, I got up and took a hot bath.   

As I started to feel more motivated, I suddenly decided to leave my house at about 16:00, and walk down to the winter festival by myself.   

I got to the Asahikawa JR Station at just before 17:00, and started taking photographs.  

Lots and lots of photographs.  

You can see an auto playing slide show of most of the photos by clicking here.   

The weather was absolutely perfect today.   

Clear skies and no wind.  

I dressed appropriately for the occasion, and felt warm and dry the whole time.  

Except for one thing.   

About 30 minutes before I walked out of my place, heading towards the Chubetsu Bridge, I had just gotten out of a very hot bath.   

As a result, my hair was still wet.  

Especially the Pony Tail sticking out from under my hats.    

After about 50 minutes of being outside, I began to notice a very cold sensation on the back of my neck near the base of my skull.   

Surely enough, my PONY TAIL WAS FROZEN.    

Again.    This has happened before, and I call this phenomena the PONYICICLE.   

A pony tail icicle if you will.   

That was the only problem of the day.  

Having a frozen mass of my own hair poking me in the back of the neck.

2008 February 2 Saturday thru February 5 Tuesday.

Wow, what a weekend.   

I mean,...   There was Super Bowl Sunday on February 3, in the USA.  

I have to admit, right here and now, that I didn't even remember it was happening, and of course I didn't watch it on TV.  

Did I really miss anything important, to me?   

I doubt it.   In fact, I didn't hear anything about the big NFL Super Bowl, until Mr. T. came to my classroom this Tuesday, at about 15:20, and told me about it.     

I haven't seen Mr. T.,  for about 4 or 5 months.  

He has been busy with Park Golf and other things.  

He told me that even during the winter, a person can play Park Golf indoors, at the 東神楽森林公園,  about a 40 minute drive from my classroom.  

I had never noticed the park golf facilities before, even though I have been to this location, many times. 

Both by car and by mountain bike.  

It is a beautiful place, with a hot spring resort hotel, and bungalows, and an auto campground, and basketball/tennis courts and cycling roads, and,....    In a word, it's a beautiful place.    

And not at all expensive.   

Any pensioner can afford it.  

The human aspect of Hokkaido, is awesome in its accessibility.  

It is everywhere, and all around you.  

In every season, it has a different hue.  

ALL flowing by, in smooth succession.  

By the way, the photo above/left, is NOT of HIGASHI KAGURA, but is of 赤い屋根の小屋 which is near to the FARMS CHIYODA just off of Route 237 in Kami Furano Town.   

This photograph was taken on 2008 January 26 at 12:36 by 空犬 and posted on his excellent website Rambling On My Hokkaido.    

Thank you once again 空犬 for allowing your excellent photos of Hokkaido, to be used freely by anyone, anywhere in the world.  

Thank you so much, for your interesting photo/essay CHRONICLE of HOKKAIDO.  

I have learned a lot from you, and I know that many others have also.

2008 February 1 Friday.

Today is the beginning of the coldest month of the year in Asahikawa.

The winter festival will be starting in exactly one week.

The PhotoGraphic above/left in today's blog, is my visualization of what I call a Window Of Opportunity.

I have had many such moments in my life, and this is the kind of feeling I get, when I see one.

It makes me feel optimistic and ready for action.

In my case, right now, it is the light at the end of the tunnel, after a long winter.

In other words, I am looking forward to going to the Asahikawa Winter Festival next weekend.

A few weeks after that, the school graduation season starts.

Then, in early April, the new school year starts and shortly after that, Golden Week will be upon us.

Golden Week means that I will be on the road again, for a long drive, after many months of not driving that much, at all.

After about 5 months of snow on the ground, the end of April and the beginning of May, are the most fragrant season of the year.

Not so much the smell of flowers yet, but the smell of the dirt waking up from a long frozen hibernation.

It's the kind of subtle smell that anyone can intrinsically detect, in the deepest part of their nostrils.

How can a person make words or pictures that can transmit a smell or a taste sensation over the internet?

I have no idea. Maybe some day, it will be possible.

Maybe it already is possible, and I just don't know about it yet.

That is a distinct possibility.

To get a feeling for what the Asahikawa Winter Festival is like, there are several photo slideshows of it on this website.

For example, the photos I took in February of 2005, can be viewed by clicking here.

The photos from 2005 are mostly of the main pedestrian shopping mall called KaiMonoKoEn  買物公園.

The most recent photos I took of this same event are from 2006, and can be viewed by clicking here.

These photos are mostly of the Riverline Park area, bordering on Tokiwa Park.

This is a whole other world, unto itself.

Even though both locations are less than two kilometers apart.

See you all there again, in both locations, at next weekend's event.