2008 April 14 Monday thru April 20 Sunday.

The second week of back to school.

Another good year is on the horizon with fresh faces, and motivated young people, starting off on their life adventures.

I too, have been trying to make a comeback, of sorts.

When the cycling roads become completely free of snow and ice, it is WALKING TIME.

Any time of the day or night.

The so called Metabolic Syndrome, is just a slowing down of a human being's metabolism.

And it is not just human beings.

Horses and other large animals also develop メタボ.

When I tried to do some research into the causes and remedies for Metabolic

Syndrome on the World Wide Web, I was NOT able to find any consensual conclusion, as to the reason why some animals get obese, and others don't.

I have thought about this topic for many years, and the only thing I can say with certainty, is that in modern society people tend to become sedentary.

They sit at a desk or table, and use their mouths for speaking and their hands for gestures, to do their daily work, and get a paycheck.

People who use their physical bodies, to do their jobs, from day to day, are much less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

I am a professional language teacher, and I spend most of my working hours sitting in a chair, or standing in the front of a classroom talking.

I do not get anywhere near enough physical exercise, especially during the winter months when there is a lot of snow everywhere.

Starting last Sunday, I pledged to myself, to go for a walk 5 or 6 times a week, for between 30 minutes and 120 minutes, each and every time.

I must do this in order to speed up my metabolism again, so that I can lose weight, and get back to my normal body size of a 34 to 36 inch waist.

I have many pairs of Levi 501 Jeans sitting in boxes, just waiting to be worn again.

To increase the effectiveness of my time spent walking, I also wear weights on my wrists of between 1.0 kilograms and 2.0 kilograms.

In this way, by moving my arms around while I am walking, I burn more calories and strengthen my upper body muscles at the same time.

The only time I have to go for these long walks on weekdays, is after all of my classes for the day are finished, which is at 20:00 or sometimes 21:30.

Nonetheless, I need to do this on a consistent basis, or I will obtain no useful results for my health.

I mean, walking is such a natural and easy exercise to perform, I have no excuses for not doing it.


On Sunday, I drove out to Shibinai to visit with Charles Hamel and Family.

The weather was warm and sunny, with a high temp. of about 20 degrees C.

We went for a short bicycle ride to a river bank of the nearby Chubetsu River and enjoyed the fresh air.

I met more of his new neighbors also.

A lot of very nice people live in Shibinai.

This is country living, away from the big city.

I myself would enjoy living there, but I couldn't get enough students to come to my classroom if I did.

Oh well, at least I can go out and visit the place from time to time.


2008 April 7 Monday thru April 13 Sunday.

It is the START of the New School Year, over here in Japan.

Everybody is busy with this and that, getting ready to congregate at the schools, and await summer vacation.

On Tuesday morning, I drove out to Asahikawa University to conduct a class with some of the new freshman students.

Using the computer lab again this year, I am accustomed to the random manner of interactivity with the students.

A lot of them will be surfing the internet, and not following my lesson plan for the day.

Others will complete the planned lesson for that day, and make progress.
Different strokes for different folks.

On Wednesday, I went out to the Kosei Nursing School (JA北海道厚生連旭川厚生看護専門学校), for a class of about 40 new freshman students.

This class is always held in a rather large classroom, will all students sitting in their own little desk-chair combination units.

Therefore, it is very easy to move the seats around and form groups for pair work, and other such activities.

On Friday, I went out to the Dokan Nursing School 北海道立旭川高等看護学院 for a class with one half of the 2nd year students.

There are more boys in the class this year.

No problem there, in fact sometimes it makes things more lively and interesting.

I had a private lesson on Saturday morning, and after that it was time to play the folk guitar for a few hours.

Something I haven't done for a while.

On Sunday evening, I was able to take a nice long walk along the cycling roads that run along the Biei and Chubetsu Rivers.

No snow on the trail anymore.

I was smart enough to wear running shoes, but I refused to wear socks.

My feet stayed toasty warm, and I walked around for more than 90 minutes.

During that time, I saw light in the sky, grow suddenly brilliant white and then fade back into dull white, as it moved along it's path.

My first thought was that it is another "spook light", but it was too small and to far away to be confirmed as that.

My second thought was that it is a man-made satellite that had somehow caught a momentary direct hit of sunlight, and merely reflected it back to earth.

Exactly how this would work at night, I am not sure.

But I did see, the momentary glowing up to brilliance, of a celestial object, again tonight.

First one for the 2008 walking year.


2008 April 2 Wednesday thru April 6 Sunday.

Welcome to The Learning Curve.

If you are a non-native speaker of the English Language, and you are reading this blog, with a full understanding of what I am talking about, you already KNOW what The Learning Curve is all about.

The reason I bring this topic up TODAY, is because one of my most enthusiastic students, a middle-aged person who attends my classroom 3 times a week, told me something that was profoundly interesting for me.

This particular student has only been attending my classroom for one year.

Before he came to my classroom, he had attended a big name English Conversation School, in the city of Kitami for two years.

At that time, he wanted to study English as a hobby, because he was living alone, and had quite a bit of free time on his hands.

After 2 years of living and working in Kitami, he was transferred to Asahikawa, and he immediately starting looking for a new English Conversation School in Asahikawa

It didn't take him long to find this website for my little ole school, right here on the WORLD WIDE WEB.

AKA the internet.

He called here and made an appointment for a free trial lesson 無料体験レッスン.

After that lesson, he immediately decided to sign up as a new member of this classroom, and has been coming here almost every week, and on average about 2 or 3 times a week, for a total of one year now.

At today's lesson he told me that he is so happy, that he can now speak English in a fluent and accurate manner, and he felt so good about IT, that he couldn't stop talking about IT.

I then explained to him in English, about the concept of a learning curve.

Please look at the graphic, above/left.

When a person, any person, first tries to learn something completely new, they START on the LEARNING CURVE.

At first, they must study very hard, and they do not make much progress.

But if they keep on trying for a long enough time, they will reach phase one.

At this point, they can feel that they have learned something new, but it is still not very useful in their daily lives.

If the student continues to study, they will make it to phase two and then phase three and up to phase four, where they notice a significant increase of their knowledge about the new study, but IT is still NOT QUITE ENOUGH to become very useful in their daily lives.

At this point, many people will have spent about 2 or 3 years studying this new knowledge and they all have a decision to make.

Should they continue their study, or should they quit?

Unfortunately, a lot of people get frustrated with their own slow progress, and give up at this point.

However, those students who keep on trying to learn more about their new knowledge, and DO NOT GIVE UP, have a very big surprise waiting for them, just around the corner.

After phase four, the amount of time spent studying begins to yield much bigger results in total learning achieved.

This is the point where critical mass has been achieved, and the return to the student for their time spent studying, INCREASES EXPONENTIALLY.

In other words, their total understanding of the knowledge at hand becomes greater and faster with each step they take towards that knowledge.

The student finally has enough pieces of the puzzle, to be able to SEE the BIGGER PICTURE of that knowledge base.

This is true for any type of LEARNING (knowledge acquisition).

It is a fundamental LAW of the COSMOS. IT never changes. IT just IS.

I KNOW FOR A FACT that this is true, because I have had many personal experiences, in my own 50 something years of humanoid EXISTENCE on this EARTH, that have taught me the true meaning of learning.

For example, learning how to play the guitar, the piano, the bass guitar, the Japanese Language, the teaching of languages, the learning of new languages, and the list goes on and on.

Don't be one of those people who give up when the going gets tough 三日坊主.

Hang in there and tough it out.

There are millions of sad stories about people who did their best, and then STOPPED ONLY 3 METERS AWAY FROM THE GOLD MINE.

Do not allow yourself to become one of them.



2008 April 1 Tuesday.

It may be April Fools' Day, but I am not fooling when I say that Eastern Hokkaido got socked in with about 70 cm of wind blown snow during this long cold day.

What a nasty surprise for the people living in that part of this beautiful island. In Asahikawa, it was cold, but calm.

Very few natural disasters ever happen in the Kamikawa Basin 上川盆地.

Another item of good news is that, I got an email from my skinny little sister telling me that she had received the birthday card that I had sent her about 10 days ago.

That made me feel better, after wondering out loud in yesterday's blog, about whether or not I had actually sent it, or not.

Well, Thank Gawd I don't have Alzheimer's Disease!!!

Anyway, getting back to today, I had the privilege and opportunity, to attend a Teachers' Meeting of the Kosei Nursing School, that was held at the Asahikawa Grand Hotel, starting at 18:00.

As with just about every year at the general meeting, the staff and other teacher's commented on how the learning level of the students seems to be going down, year by year.

Personally, I feel that a big reason for this is that most young people these days, spend a lot of time communicating by mobile phones, and less time communicating face to face with other people.

They spend a lot of time pushing buttons, not just on their mobile phones, but also on PC or TV games as well.

As a result, they have no real self confidence when dealing with real people, face to face.

Even though these students can memorize most of the complicated facts presented to them during their three years of nursing school, most of them have trouble connecting all of the facts together into a whole, so that they can see the BIG PICTURE.

And believe me, it is not just this school. Far from it.

It is a general trend in society at large, and not just Japanese society either. In general, I call it a DUMBING DOWN of society.

Most likely, it all started way back in the early 1950s when the first black and white television sets, became freely available to the general public.

Since that time, people have been spending less and less time interacting with other people, and more and more time interacting with electronic devices, of many kinds.

The internet included. Anyway, after the general business meeting was finished at about 17:00, we all moved over to the room next door for a dinner party that lasted for about 90 minutes until 20:30.

At the end of the dinner party, one of the other teachers, a retired physics professor, invited me to walk into town with him, and go to a Karaoke Bar. I said; "Yes!", and so we went there.

I haven't been out to sing Karaoke in about,... let's see when was that last time,.....????

Oh, yeah!

It was exactly one year ago and with this same professor, last year at this same time.

Wow, I am really becoming a stay at home type of guy.

Anyway, we both had a great time singing lots of songs in Japanese until about 3:00 in the morning hours.

I used to do this type of thing a lot, but not much any more.

Sometimes it is a good thing to do something totally different, and break you usual daily routine.



2008 March 31 Monday.

Brrrrrr..... It was cold today.

Not just after the sun went down, but even during the day when it was mostly clear and sunny.

It might say that spring is here on the calendar, but the folks with boots on the ground, know different.

Today is my younger sister's birthday. Maybe I should say little sister, instead. She is younger that me, but she is the same age as my lovely wife, which is not all that young when viewed from the standpoint of a high school student.

Yeah, little is a better word because she is as skinny as a toothpick, without its wrapper.
I thought that I sent her a Happy Birthday
Post Card, like the one shown in the photo above/left, on or about March 20, but I haven't received any email from her yet, telling me that she received the card.

She always sends an email when she gets my card each and

every year.

Unless,..... I forgot to send the card by snail mail, and she never got it.

I don't know for sure. Did I really send the card, or was it just a brain fart, I had during a dream.

Maybe I have Alzheimer's Disease like Ronald Reagan had.

Gawd, I hope not. Oh! That reminds me of an American Joke that I heard on the internet a few years ago.

I t goes

something like this: An elderly person was feeling bad, so they went to see their doctor.

The patient said to the doctor: "Doc, I'm not feeling so well. Could you please give me a complete physical exam and see if there is anything wrong with me?"

The doctor said; "Sure, I'd be happy to. Please

come with me into the examination room."

In the examination room all manner of tests were done, and sent to the hospital laboratory for further analysis.

About one week later, the patient came back to see the doctor and asked about the test results.

The doctor said to the patient; "I have some bad news. You have cancer."

The patient cried out; "Oh my Gawd! How long do I have to


The doctor replied; "Only about one more year. But, that is not all.
You also have Alzheimer's Disease."

The patient again replied in a worried voice; "Did you say that I have Alzheimer's Disease???"

The doctor answered; "Yes, that's right." The patient suddenly became silent and looked down at the floor.

Then, he quickly looked up at the doctor with a big smile on his face and said; "Well, Thank Gawd I don't have cancer!!!"

Have you ever heard this joke before, and do you understood why it might make an optimistic person laugh?

I have tried telling this joke to almost all of my adult students from time to time, and I always get the same reaction.

Glassy-eyed silence. They don't get the punch line 落ち.

Japanese humor and American humor are worlds apart, but they are both equally amusing, in and of their own right.

For those of you out there, who are reading this blog, let me try and summarize why this joke is funny to the Average American English Speaking Male.

When the guy goes into the doctor's office for the

second time one week after his examination.

The doctor FIRST tells the patient that he has cancer.

Then, a few moments later, the doctor tells the patient SECONDLY, that he has ALZHEIMER'S disease.

When the patient hears this, he initially feels depressed, and looks at the floor.

However, after a momentary self-reflection, the patient realizes that he is lucky to NOT HAVE cancer.

You see, the funny part is, that the patient HAS ALREADY FORGOTTEN that the doctor told him less than one minute ago, that the patient had cancer AND Alzheimer's disease.

That IS the punch line. Enough talk about THAT.

Words have meaning, thoughts are things. MAGNETIZE your THOUGHTS in a POSITIVE manner at all times.

All the while, noticing the absurdities and contradictions, that we all encounter in our daily lives.

Laugh as much as possible.



2008 March 30 Sunday.

Oh what a beautiful sunny day.

By that I mean, the sky was so clear that I could vividly see the Taisetsu Mountain Range from my balcony window.

On days like this, a drive towards the mountains is a must, if I have the time.
And today, I had all the time in the world.

Just a few minutes after 12:00 noon, I got a telephone call from Charles Hamel asking me if I had enough time to drive over to Shibinai and visit for a while.

Of course I did, and I arrived there at about 14:15.

Even though they do not yet have a telephone line nor internet service, they have just about everything else they need to live comfortably at their new home, thanks to all of the nice people who live nearby.

Their kids were outside, playing with the neighbor's kids and having a wonderful time.

We adults sat around the kitchen table talking about various things for about 40 minutes or so when I finally said; "Hey Charlie.

We should all take a drive up towards the mountains, because the weather today is absolutely perfect for just such a drive."

Charlie agreed and told me that his children had never seen snow before they came to Hokkaido.

Even though there is still some snow on the ground around their house, as you can see from the photo above/left, the really deep snow can only be seen near the base of the mountains during this time of year.

So, we all hopped into my Road Meister Toyota Noah mini van, and drove straight towards the mountains, passing by Chubetsu Dam and Chubetsu Lake along the way.

First destination was Tenninkyo Hot Springs 天人峡温泉.

We went as far as the road would take us and ended up at the parking lot of the Hotel

We all got out and looked around as much as we could, but the hiking trail to the waterfalls was still full of snow and not passable.

Next, we drove back down the hill until we got to the "Y" in the road that leads up to the Asahidake Hot Springs

We turned right and drove back up the hill until we got to the ropeway at Asahidake, but we didn't get out of the car there.

We just drove slowly around the area, enjoying the beautiful sights.

After that, we drove back down the hill and on into Shibinai, with plenty of daylight left.

On the way up to the mountains, we stopped along the road where there is a clear view of Lake Chubetsu, and the kids had some fun walking around on the top of the deep snow, and even making and throwing some snowballs, for the first time in their lives.

Yeah, it's cold isn't it.

The Hamel Family members were all smart enough to wear long rubber boots, but I was crazy as usual wearing only sandals without socks.

I did not climb around on the snow, for obvious reasons.

Even so, the time I did spend out of the car walking around, was a bit cold for my feet.

It will be getting warmer day by day from now on so, I won't be wearing any socks or shoes for many months.

Simple is best.


2008 March 28 Friday and March 29 Saturday.

Beautiful sunny weather for the most part.

On Saturday after a private lesson in the late morning, and a lunch of Natto and brown rice 納豆と玄米 in the early afternoon, I found myself to be very sleepy.

I had originally planned to take a drive out to Shibinai to see how
Charles Hamel and Family were getting along in their new home.

Unfortunately, I was too sleepy to drive, so I laid down at about 15:00 to take a nap.

When I woke up, it was already 19:30.

Not only would I not be driving out to Shibinai, but I was also an hour late for a Jazz Concert at the Taisetsu Crystal Hall.

Yikes! I got dressed quickly and walked on over to the concert hall.

I got there at 20:00, and it was too late to buy a ticket, so I sat in the lobby and watched the stage on a TV screen.

I couldn't hear the music all that well, but it was better than nothing.

The good news is that I got there in time to listen to the segment where one of my students, who plays the saxophone, was performing.

This was the main reason I wanted to go to this concert in the first place.

The almost 3 hours long concert was called
STEP TO ASIA Creative Concert and had at least four separate stages consisting of professional, semi-professional and amateur musicians.

Overall, it sounded very nice.

I just wish I hadn't slept in, and missed the first 90 minutes of the show.


Another milestone in the continuing story of Snowman Bei Kaiwa.

This young gentleman with me in the photograph above/left, has been coming to my classroom off and on, since he was 8 years old.

You can see what he looked like at that time in the smaller photo in the lower right corner.

Today was his last lesson at my school.

On April 1, he will be flying to Australia and start attending an English speaking high school there.

He is planning to spend 3 years in Australia and graduate from high school there.

His main goal in life is to become a professional golfer, and I know for sure that he can do it.

He first started playing golf when he and his family lived in Houston Texas for about 6 months, when he was just 7 years old.

He is now 15 years old and has been practicing golf every day of his life since he was 7.

That's what it takes to become a professional, in any field.

Unswerving dedication and constant practice of the BASICS.

Look at Tiger Woods or ICHIRO, and you can see what I mean.

Remember this young man's face, because you will be seeing him on TV in professional golf tournaments, in the not too distant future.

He will probably be on the same tour with Greg Norman of Australia, some day.

His real name is Nanase, but I just call him Tiger Yoshida.

Have a safe flight to the big down under, and come back and see me again during your Christmas Holiday.

Life can be so sweet, when you have a specific objective in mind. Rock on my friend.


2008 March 26 Wednesday.

Wow! What an exciting day. Not just for me, but also for many other people as well, including the Charles Hamel Family.

They arrived at the Asahikawa International Airport about 45 minutes late, on a JAL flight from Tokyo.

I didn't mind the extra waiting time at all.

In fact, I enjoyed looking into every nook and cranny of the Terminal Building, that I was allowed to go into.
I was a bit surprised to see so many people at the airport today.

I heard many people speaking Chinese and Korean as well.

A good sign that the rest of Asia, and the world, is waking up to the natural beauty that IS this island paradise, HOKKAIDO.

I also saw several groups of high school students, some of whom were wearing their school uniforms, and waiting to board an airplane bound for Korea.

They must be going on some kind of exchange/friendship program.

I was happy to see it.

Hopefully, they will take some interest in the Korean Language, and realize that the cultural and linguistic differences between the two countries, is very small indeed.
The Asahikawa International Airport, has really improved its image within the past several years.

The gift shops were all very busy, and there were several locations around the terminal building, where big flat screen TVs, were playing DVDs of the Asahiyama Zoo, and various other festivals held annually throughout Hokkaido.

I was impressed by the picture quality of the moving pictures, and also the fact that there were subtitles in English, Korean and Chinese too.

Yeah, the people who put these things together, really get it.
What's good for Hokkaido, is having more and more people, who are adventurous and ambitious, coming here to live and work, on a long term basis.

Japan needs more children and Hokkaido is no exception.

I have known about the Charles Hamel Family since August of 2006, but I have never met them face to face, until today.

What an interesting experience it was! In July 2006, the family began making plans to move to Japan, to live and work on a long term basis.

In August, they found my website while doing research on the internet.

At that time, I did not have any email address displayed anywhere on my website, and I never check the ADMIN account which is a part of every website.

So, Charles Hamel made a long distance call from Houston Texas and left a message on my answering machine which included his email address.

The next day I sent him an email saying that I would be willing to answer any and all questions they might have about living and working in Hokkaido, and that was the start of a long correspondence between me and him.

In the meantime he started several websites of his own, and I would read his posts, and he would read my blog, and we would send emails back and forth, about various things.

Today, he and his family arrived at Asahikawa International Airport, and I and several other people were there to greet them.

Welcome to Hokkaido my friends.

I know you will enjoy living here as much as I do. Maybe even more!

The best part of the year is just getting started, and there are many places to go and lots of things to see.

It's a whole new world, starting again and again.

All of your hard work in preparing to make this big move has just started to pay off. You're gonna love it here.