New Zealand


12/23✈ Haneda → Guangzhou
12/24✈ Guangzhou → Auckland
1/4✈ Auckland → Guangzhou
1/5✈ Guangzhou → Haneda

20181116.2.NZ.png 2015-07-01.02.New Zealand.png 20181116.1.NZ.png

Homework Objectives


What is the point of homework? I was chatting with my coworkers the other day and learned they were spending long hours grading homework. I asked them why, and we had a fascinating conversation. It turns out they were spending ten times as long on it as I was, because they felt like it was somehow proper or necessary, but on later reflection we agreed that oftentimes it isn't.



The first and most common objective of homework is to practice something. Students studied it in class, and you want them to get some reinforcement, so they do some drills at home. Suppose they are learning to spell some words, and their homework is to write each word five times. The next class, you show up, and collect the homework. Here's an important question: Should you carefully check that they spelled each word correctly? In my view, no. Most of the time you don't need to check so carefully. If you're smart, you'll have a spelling test in class, and tests are the place to find out exactly how good their spelling is. When you're grading their homework, you can take a quick look, see that they did it mostly correctly, and give them an A. Remember, if they were supposed to practice by doing their homework, and they did, even if they were wrong in certain places, then they did what you asked, so give them the A already.

I sometimes feel weird writing "100" or "A" on something that might have errors, so I instead draw a star or use a "Good Work!" stamp to indicate it was done well. Conversely, if students skip sections, copy, or are obviously careless, I write "0" or "25" or "50" and a note explaining why.


In college you were probably assigned to read some pages before coming to class. It's possible to use homework as a way to preview a topic, or to get students' minds primed so you can jump into it quickly in class, either for a project or a discussion. In many junior and senior high schools, this is probably less effective than in college, because some students don't care about your class. You can give it a try, but have a backup plan in case things fizzle out.


Sometimes we assign homework mostly because it's fun, or at least we hope students will feel that it's fun. If you ask students to make an exciting video about something, you'll be surprised how much energy they might put into it.


I don't assign much homework, and most of what I do assign is stuff that we started doing in class and we ran out of time. By making it homework, I'm encouraging students to use class time efficiently. If Jane was focused and finished the paper in class, but Jimmy was sleeping, then Jimmy has to finish up at home. Jane feels happy because she can take it easy later, and Jimmy still learns whatever I wanted him to learn.

Check Answers in Class

Suppose your students do a homework assignment with three parts: a true/false section, a spelling section, and a paragraph writing section. In class, before you collect it, ask them to correct the first two sections themselves. You can say the answers aloud or write them on the board, and students can see what they did right or wrong much faster than if they had to wait until you graded it. Also, if they have questions about why something is what it is, they have a good chance to ask you. Since they can't reasonably check their own paragraph writing, you'll have to handle that later.

You might worry that students will cheat, and either they'll write down the correct answers when you say them and pretend they finished it at home, or they'll pretend an answer is correct even when it's wrong. In my experience, this doesn't happen very often. You can easily see if they are holding a red pen or pencil, and even if they grade their homework erroneously, that won't help them when similar questions appears on the test later. Ideally, your tests look similar to your homework, and you can tell your students this, which should help them focus on properly identifying and understanding mistakes.

Don't Fix Everything

Suppose your students did the above homework, and in the writing section they each wrote a paragraph about their favorite breakfast and why it is or isn't healthy. You're now grading the writing section. Many teachers have a strong urge to fix all the mistakes. This is wrong. It's wrong, and the reasons it's wrong are cool to think about.

First of all, you're a teacher and you're busy with many tasks. If you want to provide detailed writing feedback with lengthy corrections for hundreds of students on a regular basis, you probably can't do that in your working hours. So then you're taking things home and working overtime, for which you almost certainly don't get paid. That makes your life suck, so don't do it. But you might object, and you might say something like, No, no, I agree my life sucks right now, but it's for the good of the students! I have to help out the students, so I'll do it anyway. OK, it's good that you care, but if you really believe that, then it's your duty to go to the boss and tell him you need fewer classes or an assistant so you can handle all of the writing. Don't overwork yourself on a regular basis when the problem is the lack of adequate staff. After all, whoever replaces you in the future might not put in those hours, and if you can fix the problem properly now, future students will benefit too.

Even if we ignore that, and you're OK with doing a ton of unpaid overtime, it's still bad to correct all the mistakes, because it destroys motivation. Imagine Joe writes his paragraph, hands it in, and gets it back with 28 mistakes noted in red pen. What will Joe feel? I imagine he'll feel pretty damn awful, like maybe he sucks at doing English, like maybe writing is pointless because he'll never get rid of all of those errors. Also, if he has 28 mistakes and you corrected all 28 of them, it really doesn't help anyone, because he's not going to read all of it. Understanding why something is wrong takes some time, and Joe might look at the homework for a minute or two, but that's it. So don't correct everything. Choose some mistakes that you think are the easiest to fix or the most important and correct those, and you'll help Joe focus that minute or two on something small and comprehensible.

Sometimes you don't want to correct mistakes at all, because you could just underline them instead. If you find five relatively simple mistakes and underline them, you can ask the student to figure it out on their own. If they already studied that spelling or grammar point, and they can do error correction themselves, it's a great learning opportunity and a useful life skill to develop.

Depending on the circumstances, you could respond to the content and not the delivery. If students are writing about their healthy breakfasts, you could correct the spelling and grammar as described above. But instead you might want to focus solely on the content. You could read their paragraph and put a comment at the bottom such as, The example you gave of bananas with high vitamin value was great. Nice job! and be done with it. This would show the student that you really care about their thoughts, which would raise their motivation for that type of work. It turns out that writing things, even if nobody corrects the mistakes, helps people get better at writing. So although sometimes you definitely want to proofread and mark things up in detail, you certainly don't have to do it all the time, and some of the time you don't have to do it at all.

End at the Term End

Suppose you collect some homework in the last class of the term, right before winter vacation. You could mark it up, grade it, and hand it back in January, but why? If the term test is done, the odds of students caring much about homework they finished a month prior are relatively low. In a situation where you can't return the homework in a prompt fashion, you don't have to return it at all. If it's something special, hold onto it until January, but if it's a fairly standard assignment, just enter the grade in your grade book, drop the paper in the shredder, and enjoy the holidays.


In summary, when you're grading, decide what you think is important. Once you know what the main objective is, you'll get a good idea of what to look for on students' papers. This will allow you to quickly focus on a few key areas, give students suitable feedback, and finish everything in a professional fashion.


Kaburi Pass


Kaburi Pass (顔振峠) is an easy day hike in the outskirts of Tokyo. The starting point is Agano (吾野). From there, it's around 3.6 km to the summit of the pass. It's about half road walking and half trail walking. For most of the walk, you're close to a stream, which is nice for sound and cool air, and near the top there's a view of Mount Fuji if the weather is good. At the pass, you get to a road crossing, and the road crossing has a little restaurant run by an old woman with soba and udon. I had a bowl of sansai udon.

From the pass, you have several options. You could walk down the road either direction, but I kept following the path to the north. After a lot of downhill in thick forest, the trail comes out on a road near Kuroyama Santaki (黒山三滝). From there, it's a very long road walk to Ogose Station (越生). There is also an infrequent bus that goes to the station. I walked down the road until the bus came, took it back to station, and went home.

The popular hiking destinations in Tokyo get crowded. A place like this isn't famous, and that makes it a nice choice for a lazy relaxed hike. The trail is fairly easy. There's some elevation change, but it's nothing too severe, and the forest is quiet. I only met two other hikers over the whole 10 km! At a leisurely pace, 10 km only takes two or three hours, so if you get up late and get a late start like I did, you won't have problems running out of sunlight.

20181102.01.Kaburi.png 20181102.02.Kaburi.png 20181102.03.Agano.jpg 20181102.04.Agano.jpg 20181102.05.Sign.jpg 20181102.06.Walking.jpg 20181102.07.Kaburi.jpg 20181102.08.Kaburi.jpg 20181102.09.Restaurant.jpg 20181102.10.Udon.jpg

USA Flashcards


This is a deck of maps of the fifty states in the U.S.A., plus Washington, D.C. These images are SVG, so they'll scale well to any size screen.

Here's the 51-card package for Anki.

USA/New Hampshire.svgNew Hampshire
USA/New Jersey.svgNew Jersey
USA/New Mexico.svgNew Mexico
USA/New York.svgNew York
USA/North Carolina.svgNorth Carolina
USA/North Dakota.svgNorth Dakota
USA/Rhode Island.svgRhode Island
USA/South Carolina.svgSouth Carolina
USA/South Dakota.svgSouth Dakota
USA/West Virginia.svgWest Virginia
USA/Washington DC.svgWashington, D.C.

If you are planning on traveling extensively within the U.S., learning the states is probably worth your time. I knew most of the states before making this deck, and for me the only tricky places were the tiny states near New York.


Canadian Province Flashcards


This is a deck of maps of Canada's provinces and territories. Canada only has thirteen provinces and territories in total, so it won't take long to learn. These images are SVG, so they'll scale well to any size screen.

Here's the 13-card package for Anki.

Canadian Provinces/Alberta.svgAlberta
Canadian Provinces/British Columbia.svgBritish Columbia
Canadian Provinces/Manitoba.svgManitoba
Canadian Provinces/New Brunswick.svgNew Brunswick
Canadian Provinces/Newfoundland and Labrador.svgNewfoundland and Labrador
Canadian Provinces/Northwest Territories.svgNorthwest Territories
Canadian Provinces/Nova Scotia.svgNova Scotia
Canadian Provinces/Nunavut.svgNunavut
Canadian Provinces/Ontario.svgOntario
Canadian Provinces/Prince Edward Island.svgPrince Edward Island
Canadian Provinces/Quebec.svgQuebec
Canadian Provinces/Saskatchewan.svgSaskatchewan
Canadian Provinces/Yukon.svgYukon

If you're thinking of visiting Canada some day, it might be handy to know the general geography. Also, having some general geographic awareness of a country helps you connect with people who tell stories about the place when they lived or visited there.


Organizing Files


As teachers, we have a lot of data, and how we organize our files impacts whether we can easily share them with other teachers in the future. Here are some organizational tips I've learned over the past decade that I think will help you keep your data organized so you can work smoothly with other teachers to develop excellent educational materials. Let's assume you have a shared drive, such as a local network folder, Google Drive, or Dropbox.


If you think it's useful, and you only have a paper copy, scan it. Some people have physical folders with copies of all the great worksheets they've made or received, but generally speaking, digital is better. Here's why.

  1. You can email it to a friend or coworker.
  2. Your shelf won't fill up.
  3. You can search for it quickly by name.
  4. You can copy/paste good parts and use them in new materials.
  5. You can easily take it with you when changing jobs.

Our school has a photocopier/scanner combo machine with a feeder. It scans stacks of papers and makes PDFs. If you have that kind of device on hand, scanning things is quick, and surely it will benefit you later.


Let's suppose you have a bunch of documents. You might keep them on your computer in folders like this.

Homework ├ 2016 ├ 2017 ├ 2018 ├ Amazing Plants (2).odt ├ Copy of Amazing Animals.odt New ├ Letter to Parents (New).odt Notes ├ Eighth Grade ├ Ninth Grade ├ Letter to Parents.odt ├ Seventh Grade ├ Grades (2017).ods ├ Grades (2018).ods Oral Communication ├ 2012 ├ 2013 Pictures ├ Summer Slides.ppt ├ Summer Slides PDF.ppt.pdf Tests ├ Seventh Grade Term 1 Test.odt ├ Seventh Grade Term 1 Test (Old).odt Worksheets

When we start creating and organizing data, something like this seems like it'll work. But over time, issues creep up. Here are some tips that help things stay sorted.

  1. Make the year folders top-level. If you have file names like Grades (2017).xls and Grades (2018).xls, you're mixing last year's data with this year's. It makes more sense to have a folder called 2017 and another called 2018. Put grades inside those folders.

  2. Don't use parentheses. In the above example, consider these two files.

    Tests ├ Seventh Grade Term 1 Test.odt ├ Seventh Grade Term 1 Test (Old).odt

    The bottom file is apparently old, but next year, both files will be old. What should your file names be then? I don't know! But if you sort the data by year at top level, you can avoid this whole problem.

  3. Remove pointless words. Here's a directory worth cleaning up.

    Homework ├ 2018 ├ Copy of Amazing Animals.odt ├ Amazing Plants (2).odt

    They probably got those names because the user was copy/pasting files, and the system automatically added Copy of and (2). To make the data easy to read, we should go through and rename files, removing the extra text as appropriate. It would be much prettier if it looked like this.

    Homework ├ 2018 ├ Amazing Animals.odt ├ Amazing Plants.odt

  4. Use numbers instead of words. The example has notes for Seventh Grade, Eighth Grade, and Ninth Grade. If you sort the directory alphabetically, it shows up like this.

    Notes ├ Eighth Grade ├ Ninth Grade ├ Seventh Grade

    That's awkward because seventh grade comes last. If you use numerals instead, it looks much more sensible.

    Notes ├ 7 ├ 8 ├ 9

  5. Don't repeat extension information. In the above example, there's a file, Summer Slides PDF.ppt.pdf. The file type is expressed by the end of the file name, so it should simply be called Summer Slides.pdf. Duplicate information about the format makes things hard to read, and it's not needed.

  6. Preserve the original file. In the above example, there are two related files.

    Pictures ├ Summer Slides.ppt ├ Summer Slides PDF.ppt.pdf

    It looks like the user made a PowerPoint file and then generated a PDF of it. There are good reasons to do that — for example, I often copy data onto my tablet, but my tablet doesn't support PowerPoint. As a temporary measure, it's reasonable to make PDFs, but for archiving, it's unnecessary. When you or another teacher is looking at the data next year, the original file is by far the most useful, because it can easily be modified to fit new situations. The PDF doesn't help, so delete it and be happy.

  7. Use the date if really needed. In the above example, there are two related files.

    New ├ Letter to Parents (New).odt Notes ├ Ninth Grade ├ Letter to Parents.odt

    Most of the time, you don't need both files, so you should just replace the bottom file with the top one. However, sometimes you really want a record of something. Perhaps you sent a letter, realized there was a typo, fixed it, and sent a new version. In that case, you could put the date in the file names, like this.

    Notes ├ Ninth Grade ├ 2018-09-01 Letter to Parents.odt ├ 2018-09-05 Letter to Parents.odt

    This works well because the two files are in the same folder, and the file names tell us which was sent when. Always use the format YYYY-MM-DD or YYYYMMDD. This is unambiguous — you don't wonder whether 9/3 means September 3rd or March 9th — and it automatically sorts in chronological order.

  8. Don't assume course names will stay the same. The example has a top-level folder, Oral Communication. That class used to be offered in Japanese high schools, but several years ago the national curriculum was revised, and it no longer exists. Instead, there are two related classes, English Communication and English Expression. If I want to organize everything by course name, what do I do? Should I leave Oral Communication there, knowing that new teachers will never look at it? Should I rename it to English Communication, because the two courses are similar? It's unclear what to do, but if the data were sorted by year at top level, we wouldn't even be asking the question.

  9. Don't assume event names will stay the same. This is similar to the previous point. My school has an event called "International Day", but it used to be called "MECC", and from time to time it's called "Board Game Day". If file organization depends on the name staying the same from year to year, it's going fail.

  10. Video files might need special treatment. If you have lots of very large video files, perhaps you can't just copy them to a new folder each year, because it might fill up your hard drive. You might need a separate top-level folder just for videos. In my experience, only video files are large enough where this is a concern.

    If I'm using large videos that are on YouTube, I like to keep the URLs in a notes file, and I can download the videos again in the future.

    I always take videos of students' presentations. This lets me grade the presentations at a leisurely speed, and when students have questions about why they got a particular grade, we can watch the video together. A month or two after the term ends, I delete most of those files, saving a few of my favorite ones to be used as examples in future years.


If we apply the above rules to the initial example, we get a directory structure that's much easier to navigate. It would look something like this.

2012 ├ Oral Communication 2013 ├ Oral Communication 2016 ├ 7 ├ Homework ├ 8 ├ 9 2017 ├ 7 ├ Homework ├ Worksheets Grades.ods Term 1 Test.odt ├ 8 ├ 9 2018 ├ 7 ├ Homework ├ Amazing Animals.odt ├ Amazing Plants.odt Grades.ods Term 1 Test.odt ├ 8 Summer Slides.ppt ├ 9 ├ 2018-09-01 Letter to Parents.odt ├ 2018-09-05 Letter to Parents.odt


I like to create materials for classroom use, and I enjoy sharing those materials with others. This is particularly important for a school like mine, where we have several native teachers on staff. Every few years, some teachers go, others come, and there's a decent chance that we teach different grades or courses than what we taught previously.

When you're planning for a class you haven't taught before, or haven't taught for several years, the first step is to ask last year's teacher for their data. If that data is organized well, you'll definitely appreciate the work they did to get it that way.

Some teachers are self-conscious about sharing their materials. They might refuse to upload files, or they might upload them but leave everything in a horrible mess where we can't really tell how things were meant to be used. Perhaps they lack confidence, and they are worried that if other teachers see the low-quality materials, their poor teaching practices will be revealed. This type of concern is understandable, but if you're feeling it, here are some things to keep in mind. First, we all make mediocre materials from time to time, and yours won't be the worst. Even if some of your materials are mediocre, there are probably some gems that will excite your coworkers. Second, materials are only one aspect of teaching, and looking at them doesn't give other people enough information to judge your general effectiveness as a teacher. Third, if you're going to continue teaching in the future, then sharing your materials with others is a great way to get their feedback. If they find typos, they'll tell you, and if they make an updated version, just ask them to send you a copy.

Be positive, share your data with other teachers, get their feedback and their data, and work together to create cool stuff.

The Tatsudomari Line


For the long weekend, I took the shinkansen to Akita City, rented a motorcycle and went riding. One goal was to ride the Tatsudomari Line (竜泊ライン), a famous motorcycle road in the Tsugaru Peninsula of NW Aomori. So I rode up coastal Route 101 from Noshiro, spent the night in Hirosaki, and rode the Tatsudomari Line the following day.

20180915.02.Tatsudomari Line.jpg 20180915.03.Hokkaido.jpg 20180915.04.Mt. Iwaki.jpg 20180915.05.Tappizaki Lighthouse.jpg 2014-06-12.10.Tatsudomari Line.png 2014-06-12.11.Tatsudomari Line.png 2014-06-12.12.Tatsudomari Line.png

Later in the day I headed south, first on Route 101 back to Noshiro, and then down the expressway to Honjo. Todd put me up for the night, and we went drinking at Castaways. The next morning we went to visit Michan and Eva.

20180915.08.Castaways.jpg 20180916.01.Michan-Todd-Eva.jpg 20180916.03.Todd-Eva-Doug.jpg

Tohoku in the fall is a magical place. For the week or two before the rice harvest, the plants turn yellow and gold and sparkle in the sun. If the weather is good, any activity that gets you into the countryside is a great experience. When I lived in Akita, I was driving and jogging every day in that environment, and since it's awesome, this weekend I went for the shinkansen plus bike rental option. Highly recommended.

20180914.04.Route 101.jpg 20180914.05.Route 101.jpg 20180915.01.Mt. Iwaki.jpg 20180915.06.Octopus.jpg 20180915.07.Seafood.jpg 20180914.01.Akita Station.jpg 20180914.02.Ramen.jpg 20180914.03.CB400.jpg 20180916.02.Rice.jpg

I owned a Honda CBR250 for several years and sold it last fall when I moved apartments. I sold it for several reasons, but one reason is that getting out of Tokyo on a motorcycle is tiring. The hour plus ride on city streets in city traffic is one I'd rather avoid. By taking the train and then renting, I can save my riding energy for the good roads, and it gives me more range. Get to the good places, ride the motorcycle in a leisurely fashion, visit friends, have a good time.

Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long interms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don’t get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you’re from and how long you’ve been riding.

— Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Police Harassment


Here's a history of times in Japan that the police stopped me on the street and demanded to see my Residence Card.

I've written about this in the past, but the short story is... The cops come up to me and demand to see my passport or Residence Card. But only foreigners have those, and the only reason they think I'm a foreigner is my skin color. It's pretty obviously racist. However, the law is ambiguous, and getting arrested would be horrible, so there's very little I can do except document the badness and share it with others.

2010-07-28Narita AirportWalking to the check-in counter to see Toby off.
2010-07-28Narita AirportTwo hours later while sitting on a bench.
2014-05-29Musashino (Musashisakai)Walking to dance class after work.
2014-06-18Tokyo Metro (Kayabacho)Escorting students on a school trip to Tsukiji.
2014-07-07Musashino (Musashisakai)Walking to the coffee shop.
2014-09-05Musashino (Midori-cho)Walking to dance class after work.
2018-08-24Musashino (Midori-cho)Walking home from work. YouTube.

Each time it happens it's scary, and it doesn't get any better over time. Each time they come up to me, there's a chance I could have forgotten or lost my Residence Card, and then I'd be arrested and thrown in jail. Also, once you realize that you're the target, because they'll harass you when you're simply walking down the street, your perspective on the police changes. They see me as the likely criminal. In their eyes, I'm a danger to society. And all because I did ... nothing at all.

I live here and go about my life normally. I work a job and pay my taxes, just like anyone would. If I'm not doing anything suspicious or breaking any laws, I just want the cops to leave me the fuck alone. They don't, and it sucks, and it's sad.




For summer vacation I went to Newfoundland to visit David and Amanda.

20180610.01.Canada.png 20180610.02.Canada.png 20180610.03.Eastern Newfoundland.png 20180813.01.Panini.jpg 20180815.01.David.jpg 20180815.02.St. Johns.jpg 20180815.04.St. John's.jpg 20180815.05.St. John's.jpg 20180815.06.Signal Hill.jpg 20180815.07.Signal Hill.jpg 20180815.08.Douglas.jpg 20180815.09.St. John's.jpg 20180815.10.Cape Spear.jpg 20180815.11.Cape Spear.jpg 20180815.12.Cape Spear.jpg 20180815.13.Cape Spear.jpg 20180815.14.Middle Cove.jpg 20180815.15.Middle Cove.jpg 20180815.16.David-Doug.jpg 20180816.01.Pouch Cove.jpg 20180816.02.East Coast Trail.jpg 20180816.03.East Coast Trail.jpg 20180816.04.East Coast Trail.jpg 20180816.05.East Coast Trail.jpg 20180816.06.Cape St. Francis.jpg 20180817.01.Tim Hortons.jpg 20180817.02.Campsite.jpg 20180817.03.Terra Nova National Park.jpg 20180818.01.Salvage.jpg 20180818.02.Salvage.jpg 20180818.03.David.jpg 20180818.04.Terra Nova National Park.jpg 20180818.05.Douglas.jpg 20180818.06.Terra Nova National Park.jpg 20180818.07.Terra Nova National Park.jpg 20180818.08.Douglas.jpg 20180818.09.David.jpg 20180819.01.Signal Hill.jpg 20180819.02.Signal Hill.jpg 20180819.03.Signal Hill.jpg 20180820.01.Carbonier Nature Park.jpg 20180820.02.Flower.jpg 20180820.03.Canada Goose.jpg 20180820.04.Carbonier Nature Park.jpg 20180820.05.Mall.jpg 20180820.06.Mall.jpg 20180820.07.Sign.jpg 20180821.01.Douglas.jpg 20180821.02.Puffin.jpg 20180821.03.Birds.jpg

The scenery is beautiful. Lots of pine trees, some exposed rock. It's kind of like Maine or northern Vermont. The food has been pretty tasty but rather greasy. Fine for vacation, though. Lots of fries, fried cod, fried sea food, and other assorted brown and tan foods. Mostly sun, some clouds, some light rain. Nothing too hot, which is a nice contrast from the ridiculous temperatures we've had this summer in Tokyo.

Newfoundland is really far from most anywhere. I listened to Great Big Sea a lot back in college and thought it'd be neat to see the places they're singing about, but it's hard to get up here. Finally, with David and Amanda living here, I found the chance! There are fewer people here than I had somehow expected — the population of St. John's, the largest city, is 108,000 people. When parking or shopping or sightseeing, there's a lot more elbow space than I'm used to. It's quite relaxing.

Tops and Bottoms


My dance group was invited to perform in a new musical called Tops & Bottoms. We performed at the Akasaka Blitz venue on August seventh. The musical itself was composed of professional musical theater performers. Four dance groups appeared in dance-only events and as back dancers in musical songs. My group was organized by Kraus, Ryota, and Ayano. We had three songs: a standalone dance number to the song Boogie Wonderland, a masquerade ball dance to the song Keep My Cool, and a back dance segment for a fight scene and song from the musical.

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I only have a short video clip from Boogie Wonderland. Usually dance events aren't strict about photography, but this is a new musical, and I suppose the production team has some idea of how they want to market it. That's OK, but unfortunately it means I don't have video of the whole thing.

Health Check


Most people in Japan with full time jobs have to do an annual health checkup, and my job is no exception. Reading the forms is problematic. In the worst case, the doctors usually know medical terminology in English, so I can ask them for help with the paperwork, but it would be better to be able to read the forms. Doctors here need to be able to read medical literature, which means even if they can't speak English well, their knowledge of medical terminology is generally sufficient ... although, for more obscure technical terms, perhaps you or I might not know the English.

This document was first written in 2013. My company's health check form changed slightly in 2018, and I've updated the Japanese to reflect the changes.

2013-06-13.90.Health.jpg 2013-06-13.91.Health.jpg

The above pages are directions and a blank form for me to complete. Here is my translation. I think it's of rather decent quality, but in medicine you don't want to screw things up, so please use your own judgment. Also, some of the Japanese words are vague, which makes for equally vague English translations. I think hospitals and dentists are some of the scariest places in foreign countries, because if you don't understand exactly what the question or explanation means, you won't really know how to answer or use it. Just guessing or being approximately on target isn't good enough. The good thing is, what I've found is that it's usually not so difficult for you to say what feels wrong with you. If the doctor is good, he or she can take that information and do something intelligent with it, which is half the reason you went to the doctor's office in the first place. The bad thing is that the doctor might or might not be good at explaining things in a comprehensible fashion, which can be stressful (for both you and them, but we aren't as worried about them). In some cases, I've had reasonable results with getting the explanation on paper and later asking school nurses and the internet for help.


This page is to be completed in pencil. To be precise, the form says either pencil or mechanical pencil is fine. These are seen as two different things in Japan, though I don't really understand why.

1内服中Currently taking medicine
2定期検査中Regular testing
3食事療法中On a medical diet
5放置・中断Leaving as is

The above are answers for the below table. If you had or have any of the below conditions, circle the relevant number as described above. If you haven't had any of these conditions, put a circle in the □ 特になし box.

高血圧High blood pressure12356
脂質異常症(高脂血症)Lipid abnormality (hyperlipidaemia)12356
心疾患(狭心症・心筋梗塞等)Heart disease12356
痛風(高尿酸血症)Gout (hyperuricemia)12356
胃十二指腸疾患Gastroduodenal ulcer12356
血液疾患(貧血等)Blood disease (anemia, etc.)12356
肝疾患Liver disease12356
呼吸器疾患Respiratory illness12356
肺結核Pulmonary tuberculosis12356
慢性腎臓病・腎不全(人工透析等)Renal failure (dialysis)12356
その他の腎疾患(結石等)Other kidney disease (kidney stones, etc.)12356
婦人科Gynecology (birth control)12356
眼疾患(高眼圧等)Eye disease (ocular tension, etc.)12356
脳出血・脳梗塞Cerebral hemorrhage or stroke12356


There are several yes/no questions.

手術を受けたことがありますか。Have you ever had surgery?□ いいえ No□ はい Yes
心臓ペースメーカーをお使いですか。Do you use a pacemaker?□ いいえ No□ はい Yes
採血後に気分が悪くなったことがありますか。Have you ever felt bad after having blood drawn?□ いいえ No□ はい Yes
ピロリ菌の除菌をしたことはありますか。Have you ever been treated for gastric ulcers?□ いいえ No□ はい Yes
今までに胃のバリウム検査によって体調不良や少しでも異変を感じたことはありますか。Have you ever felt bad or strange after taking a Barium stomach exam?□ いいえ No□ はい Yes


Next, there is a section about subjective symptoms (自覚症状). For each symptom, if you're feeling it, put a circle in the box to the left of the symptom. If you aren't feeling any such subjective symptoms, put a circle in the □ 特になし box.

胸痛Chest pain 肩こりStiff shoulders 便秘Constipation
動悸Palpitation (e.g., heart)腰痛Lower back or hip pain下痢Diarrhea
息切れShortness of breathCoughむくみSwelling, edema
疲れやすいEasily tiredPhlegm口が渇くDry mouth
頭痛Headache食欲不振Loss of appetite手足がしびれるNumb hands or feet
めまいDizziness腹痛Stomach acheいらいらするGetting irritated
耳鳴りRinging in the ear胃の具合が悪いStomach troubleその他Other

There is also a section for women on the right side of the subjective symptoms section.

For women only.
Are you currently menstruating?
□ はい Yes       □ いいえ No
Is there any chance you're pregnant?
□ はい Yes       □ いいえ No


Here are some questions regarding lifestyle and habits. Answer by writing a circle in the relevant box. For each question, choose only one answer.

Are you taking medicine to lower your blood pressure?
□ はい Yes (薬品名 Medicine name)□ いいえ No
Do you take shots or medicine to control your insulin or blood sugar?
□ はい Yes (薬品名 Medicine name)□ いいえ No
Are you taking medicine to lower your cholesterol?
□ はい Yes (薬品名 Medicine name)□ いいえ No
At present, do you have a smoking habit?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
Have you gained more than 10 kg since you were 20 years old?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
In the past year, have you exercised for 30 minutes or more 2 or more times a week?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
Do you walk or do some other physical activity for at least an hour daily?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
8ほば同じ年齢の同性と比較して歩く速度が速いですか。(普通の場合は いいえ に記入して下さい。)
Do you walk faster than people your age? (If the same, select "No".)
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
When you eat food, which of the following best describes your chewing conditions?
① □ 何でもかんで食べることができる
I can chew and eat anything.
② □ 歯や歯ぐき、かみあわせなど気になる部分があり、かみにくいことがある
I have some concerns about my teeth or gums making some food difficult to eat.
③ □ ほとんどかめない
I can't chew most food.
Do you eat faster than others?
□ 速い Fast□ 普通 Normal□ 遅い Slow
Do you have dinner less than 2 hours before bed 3 or more times a week?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
Do you have snacks or sweet drinks outside of your regular three meals?
□ 毎日 Daily□ 時々 Sometimes□ ほとんど摂取しない Rarely
Do you skip breakfast 3 or more times a week?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
How often do you drink alcohol?
□ 毎日 Every day□ 時々 Sometimes□ ほとんど飲まない Rarely
On a day when you're drink alcohol, how many drinks do you consume?
□ 1合未満   Less than 1□ 1~2合未満   1-2 drinks
□ 2-3合未満   2-3 drinks□ 合3以上   3 or more
Do you get enough sleep?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No
Would you like to try to improve your exercise and eating habits? Choose only one of ①-⑤.
① □ 改善するつもりはない
I have no plans for changes.
② □ 改善するつもりである(概ね6ヶ月以内)
I plan to make changes in the next six months.
③ □ 近いうちに(概ね1ヶ月以内)改善するつもりであり、少しずつ始めている
I plan to make changes little by little starting soon.
④ □ 既に改善に取り組んでいる(6ヶ月未満)
I've made changes in the last six months.
⑤ □ 既に改善に取り組んでいる(6ヶ月以上)
I've made changes more than six months ago.
Are you generally interested in a consultation regarding lifestyle changes?
□ はい Yes□ いいえ No


Upgrading a Special Teaching License


I got a Special Teaching License (特別免許状) several years ago. This license allows me to do solo teaching and be a homeroom teacher in public and private schools (JHS & SHS) in Tokyo. The Special Teaching License is valid for ten years and can be renewed, but it can only be used in the prefecture where it was obtained. However, it's possible to upgrade from a Special Teaching License to a Regular Teaching License (普通免許状), which can be used anywhere in Japan. There are three classes of the Regular Teaching License: Second Class (二種免許状), First Class (一種免許状), and Specialist (専修免許状). The upgrade procedure goes to the highest rank, Specialist. I haven't done the upgrade, but here are some notes based on information from national education regulations and the Ehime Board of Education.


Teachers currently holding a Special Teaching License who have taught using it for three or more years and have enough university credits in certain areas qualify for the upgrade.

教育職員免許法施行規則 第十一条の二

Required university coursework is specified in the table below.


For both JHS and SHS, ten credits related to education are needed, and fifteen credits related to either education or the target subject (i.e., English for English teachers) are needed. In Japan, a university class that meets once a week for 90 minutes for one semester is worth 1 credit (単位).

  1. 第二欄に掲げる教科又は教職に関する科目の単位の修得方法は、第六条の二第一項に定める修得方法の例にならうものとする。ただし、教科又は教職に関する科目の単位のうち三単位までは、第六条第一項の表に規定する教職に関する科目に準ずる科目の単位をもつて、これに替えることができる。
  2. 中学校教諭又は高等学校教諭の専修免許状の授与を受ける場合の教職に関する科目の単位の修得方法は、第六条第一項の表に規定する教育の基礎理論に関する科目六単位以上並びに生徒指導、教育相談及び進路指導等に関する科目四単位以上を修得するものとする。
  1. The types of required coursework is described in Article 6.2.1. However, up to three credits related to education or the target subject may be replaced with similar courses listed in the table of Article 6.1.
  2. For junior and senior high school licenses, at least six credits must be fundamental education (教育の基礎理論) coursework, and at least four credits must be in student guidance/education consultation/career guidance (生徒指導、教育相談及び進路指導等) coursework.

Unfortunately, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, the college coursework has to be completed at a Japanese university after you receive the Special Teaching License. In other words, old college courses don't count, and neither does international distance learning. It seems to me that working full time while trying to complete fifteen credits at a Japanese university would be an awful lot of work, but if you have advanced Japanese skills and are working part-time, then it might make sense.



It's time to make a new computer. After five years using the old one, I decided to upgrade. My old machine worked very well, so I don't plan on changing the style very much. My goal here was to build a fast, simple, and quiet machine. I'm not a gamer, so I don't need super-high-end hardware, and I'm not going to overclock anything. It's fun to put together a machine with the parts I want.


PC.Monitor.jpg LG 32UD59-B A 32" 4K monitor with built-in speakers. The maximum resolution is 3840×2160. It takes 50W of power. I have some nice Bose speakers, but since I can't play anything at loud volume in my apartment, most of the time I use headphones, and the speakers become paper weights.
PC.Case.jpg Scythe SCY-CFS3-BK An ATX case that's relatively small. It has 5.25" bays on the front and allows for case fans on the top. Many new cases don't have exposed front drive bays, and if you want to use an optical drive or card reader, they aren't what you need. Although I didn't buy one, there are many slick affordable cases with glass sides on the market. It could be fun to get an illuminated motherboard or cooling fans and show off your stylish hardware.
PC.GT1030.jpg Gigabyte GT1030 An NVIDIA graphics card. PCI-E 3.0, 2GB GDDR5 RAM, HDMI and DVI output. There are good (but proprietary) drivers for Debian (nvidia-driver). The card is passively cooled. It's not a high-end gaming card, but I'm not a high-end gamer. My old machine had on-board Intel graphics, which had excellent open-source drivers but was slow.
PC.RM650x.png Corsair RM650x A 650W power supply. 80 Plus Gold certified. Silent when power consumption under 260W. Like many mid-range power supplies on the market these days, this power supply doesn't start the cooling fan until the load rises. When the cooling fan isn't moving, it's silent. This is especially nice for a periodic power user like myself who pushes the machine hard on an irregular basis.
PC.Z370.jpg ASRock Z370 Pro4 An ATX motherboard that holds Intel Z370 chips, socket LGA1151, with four slots for memory, an M.2 hard drive slot, and an M.2 wifi slot. I'm eager to try out an M.2 hard drive, because they're ridiculously fast. The M.2. WiFi is convenient because it's small, but WiFi is slow enough that a PCI card could probably perform comparably. ATX motherboards are handy because they have a lot of connectors and PCI slots, but most of them don't have on-board WiFi. If you need WiFi, you add either an M.2 card or a PCI card. I'm trying out M.2 because it's cheap and low-profile.
PC.i7.jpg Intel i7-8700K An i7 3.7 GHz processor. Socket 1151, 12 MB cache, 6 cores, 12 threads. This is a fairly high-end processor.
PC.Corsair.jpg Corsair Vengeance LPX Two 16 GB sticks of memory (32 GB total), DDR4-2666. According to the Internet, this quality of RAM (2666) gives good cost-performance relative to the next step up. My old machine had 16 GB of RAM, and I only maxed that out a few times, so 32 GB should keep me going for a long while.
PC.Scythe.jpg Scythe Kotetsu Mark II A CPU cooler featuring a large heat sink and a 120 mm cooling fan. This barely fits in my case. I've used this style of heatsink before, and if you have the room in your case, it works well because the large heat sink lets you use a large cooling fan, and that cools everything well without making a ton of noise. The stock 120 mm fan is loud even when there's no load, and I replaced it with an Ainex CFZ-120GL.
PC.Reader.jpg OwlTech OWL-CR7U2B A 3.5" card reader. I sometimes use this for the cards in my cameras and phones when transfer by USB cable is finicky. External USB card readers should work fine too, but some of them have Linux support issues, and the drive bay style keeps my workspace cleaner. Be careful of the difference between motherboard sockets for USB 2.0 and 3.0. My motherboard only has one 3.0 socket, and it was already in use, but it has three 2.0 sockets. This card reader plugs into one of the three.
PC.CFZ-120GL.jpg Ainex CFZ-120GL A 120mm case fan that runs 900±200 rpm at a very quiet 10.8 dB. I use two: one for the front of the case, and the other on the heat sink.
PC.CFY-140SA.jpg Ainex CFY-140SA A 140mm case fan that runs 600 rpm at an incredibly quiet 7 dB. I like large case fans because the low speed keeps the noise down and lengthens the fan life. For the top of the case.
PC.Samsung.jpg Samsung 960 EVO An MVMe M.2 250 GB solid state hard drive. Sequential read 3,200 MB/s, sequential write 1,900 MB/s. When I got my first solid state hard drive five years ago, it was a jaw-dropping moment. Solid state hard drives are amazing. This one is reasonably fast, and M.2 is designed to provide faster access than SATA. On my old machine, my OS and software only take up 50GB of space, so this drive is a fine size.
PC.Seagate.jpg Seagate ST4000DM004 A Seagate Barracuda 4TB 3.5" internal hard disk drive. 256 MB cache, 5,400 RPM, SATA 6.0 Gb/s. This is a large, slow, and inexpensive hard drive. You can get a solid state drive of a similar size for eight times the price, but I think this will handle large data storage well.
PC.8260.jpg Intel AC 8260 An M.2 WiFi card. 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.2. This fits directly on my motherboard. You have to get a separate antenna and connect it yourself. Depending on the make and model, Linux drivers for WiFi can be a problem, but Intel generally has great open source drivers. I stopped using this because the antenna connectors are tiny and tedious, and the large antennas are unwieldy. It worked fine, though.
PC.PTM-UBT7.jpg Princeton PTM-UBT7 A Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle. This dongle is cheap and works perfectly right out of the package.
PC.Edimax.jpg Edimax EW-7811Un A 802.11N WiFi USB dongle. This tiny dongle provides 802.11B, G, and N support. It works right out of the package. Always check that there's Linux support for a WiFi card or dongle before buying one, because many of them don't work.

System Information

$ uname --all Linux black 4.15.0-2-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 4.15.11-1 (2018-03-20) x86_64 GNU/Linux


$ free --human total used free shared buff/cache available Mem: 31Gi 3.7Gi 699Mi 678Mi 27Gi 26Gi Swap: 31Gi 171Mi 31Gi


$ df --human-readable | grep /dev/ | grep --invert-match tmpfs /dev/mapper/black--vg-root 197G 13G 174G 7% / /dev/nvme0n1p2 237M 75M 150M 34% /boot /dev/nvme0n1p1 511M 132K 511M 1% /boot/efi /dev/mapper/data_crypt 3.6T 142G 3.3T 5% /home/d/Data


$ lspci 00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Device 3ec2 (rev 07) 00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Xeon E3-1200 v5/E3-1500 v5/6th Gen Core Processor PCIe Controller (x16) (rev 07) 00:14.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH USB 3.0 xHCI Controller 00:14.2 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH Thermal Subsystem 00:16.0 Communication controller: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH CSME HECI #1 00:17.0 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH SATA controller [AHCI mode] 00:1b.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PCI Express Root Port #17 (rev f0) 00:1b.4 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PCI Express Root Port #21 (rev f0) 00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PCI Express Root Port #1 (rev f0) 00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PCI Express Root Port #3 (rev f0) 00:1d.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PCI Express Root Port #9 (rev f0) 00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation Device a2c9 00:1f.2 Memory controller: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH PMC 00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH HD Audio 00:1f.4 SMBus: Intel Corporation 200 Series PCH SMBus Controller 00:1f.6 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection (2) I219-V 01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation GP108 [GeForce GT 1030] (rev a1) 01:00.1 Audio device: NVIDIA Corporation GP108 High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1) 03:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd NVMe SSD Controller SM961/PM961 05:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 8260 (rev 3a)


$ lsusb Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub Bus 001 Device 004: ID 058f:6364 Alcor Micro Corp. AU6477 Card Reader Controller Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0603:1605 Novatek Microelectronics Corp. Bus 001 Device 006: ID 8087:0a2b Intel Corp. Bus 001 Device 002: ID 04b4:ef0f Cypress Semiconductor Corp. Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub


$ lspci -vnn | grep VGA -A 12 01:00.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: NVIDIA Corporation GP108 [GeForce GT 1030] [10de:1d01] (rev a1) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller]) Subsystem: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd GP108 [GeForce GT 1030] [1458:375d] Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 135 Memory at de000000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16M] Memory at c0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M] Memory at d0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=32M] I/O ports at e000 [size=128] [virtual] Expansion ROM at 000c0000 [disabled] [size=128K] Capabilities: <access denied> Kernel driver in use: nvidia Kernel modules: nvidia 01:00.1 Audio device [0403]: NVIDIA Corporation GP108 High Definition Audio Controller [10de:0fb8] (rev a1)

$ nvidia-debugdump -l Found 1 NVIDIA devices Device ID: 0 Device name: GeForce GT 1030 (*PrimaryCard) GPU internal ID: GPU-2237f212-189a-c9d4-c09d-78d71f444811


$ lscpu Architecture: x86_64 CPU op-mode(s): 32-bit, 64-bit Byte Order: Little Endian CPU(s): 12 On-line CPU(s) list: 0-11 Thread(s) per core: 2 Core(s) per socket: 6 Socket(s): 1 NUMA node(s): 1 Vendor ID: GenuineIntel CPU family: 6 Model: 158 Model name: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8700K CPU @ 3.70GHz Stepping: 10 CPU MHz: 800.174 CPU max MHz: 4700.0000 CPU min MHz: 800.0000 BogoMIPS: 7392.00 Virtualization: VT-x L1d cache: 32K L1i cache: 32K L2 cache: 256K L3 cache: 12288K NUMA node0 CPU(s): 0-11 Flags: fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc art arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc cpuid aperfmperf tsc_known_freq pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx smx est tm2 ssse3 sdbg fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch cpuid_fault epb invpcid_single pti tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 hle avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid rtm mpx rdseed adx smap clflushopt intel_pt xsaveopt xsavec xgetbv1 xsaves dtherm ida arat pln pts hwp hwp_notify hwp_act_window hwp_epp

Kyoto and Hiroshima


My class went on a trip to Kyoto and Hiroshima for spring break. It was a whirlwind tour, pretty cool, and here are some pictures. Our first day was in Kyoto.

20180322.05.Fushimi Inari.jpg 20180322.07.Komainu.jpg 20180322.08.Torii.jpg 20180322.09.Torii.jpg 20180322.10.Torii.jpg 20180322.11.Memorial.jpg 20180322.12.Torii.jpg 20180322.13.Torii.jpg 20180322.14.Bamboo.jpg

On the second day we went to Hiroshima.

20180323.05.Okonomiyaki.jpg 20180323.06.Okonomiyaki.jpg 20180323.07.Okonomiyaki.jpg 20180323.10.Genbaku Dome.jpg 20180323.11.Hiroshima.jpg 20180323.12.Genbaku Dome.jpg 20180323.13.Genbaku Dome.jpg 20180323.15.Genbaku Dome.jpg 20180323.16.Peace Memorial.jpg 20180323.17.Genbaku Dome.jpg

On the last day we went to Miyajima, an island SW of Hiroshima.

20180324.04.Miyajima.jpg 20180324.07.Itsukushima Jinja.jpg 20180324.09.Miyajima.jpg 20180324.11.Miyajima.jpg 20180324.12.Dolls.jpg 20180324.13.Douglas.jpg 20180401.01.Japan.png

Clothes Flashcards


This is a card deck of clothing words. The front of each card has a picture of an object. The back has the name of the food in Japanese, phonetic Japanese, and English. Many of these words are katakana loan words from English, so you can expect to learn those cards very quickly. Marjorie Carlson found a lot of the pictures used here.

Here's the 50-card package for Anki.

Clothes/baseball cap.jpgbaseball capベースボールキャップベースボールキャップ
Clothes/bow tie.jpgbow tie蝶ネクタイちょうネクタイ
Clothes/cowboy boots.jpgcowboy bootsカウボーイブーツカウボーイブーツ
Clothes/cowboy hat.jpgcowboy hatテンガロンハットテンガロンハット
Clothes/dress shirts.jpgdress shirtsワイシャツワイシャツ
Clothes/high heels.jpghigh heelsハイヒールハイヒール
Clothes/jean jacket.jpgjean jacketジージャンジージャン
Clothes/knit cap.jpgknit capニットキャップニットキャップ
Clothes/leather boots.jpgleather boots革ブーツかわブーツ
Clothes/long sleeve t-shirt.jpglong sleeve T-shirt長袖Tシャツながそでティーシャツ
Clothes/pocket watch.jpgpocket watch懐中時計かいちゅうどけい
Clothes/reading glasses.jpgreading glasses老眼鏡ろうがんきょう
Clothes/rubber boots.jpgrubber boots雨靴あまぐつ
Clothes/running shoes.jpgrunning shoesランニングシューズランニングシューズ

I love building vocabulary with picture flashcards. They're super easy to use, and it helps avoid overusing text-based studying. Traditionally, people always studied using a book with words on a page, but if your goal is to know what a given object is called, why not start with a picture of the object itself, rather than a word representing it?


Tokyo Marathon


This year I ran the Tokyo Marathon on February 25. Last year was fun, I figured this year would be too, and it was.

Marathon Day

It was cold and cloudy, but the weather remained steady all day, which made for good running conditions. My time was about the same as last year. I felt great at the beginning and ran a nice speed, the same as my regular training speed. After about the 30 km mark, I was out of energy, and I finished at a slow pace, coming in just under the four hour mark. Even in the second half of the race when I ran out of energy, I felt pretty decent, and I didn't get injured.

There's a saying that any veteran marathon runner would know, Nothing new on race day. So I chose my gear from my normal training wear: sunglasses, running shoes, a pair of wind pants, synthetic socks, synthetic underwear, a long-sleeve nylon shirt, a thin windbreaker, and a calf compression sleeve (for the leg that got injured years ago). The faster runners wear less gear, but they generate more body heat and finish sooner. For the start, I bought a rain poncho at Family Mart. I ditched the pants right before the gun, and I ditched the jacket ten minutes into the race. February mornings in Tokyo are cold, so you have to bring some disposable clothing to keep yourself warm before the race starts. Don't forget the Vaseline beforehand to combat nipple and groin chafe. I didn't put on sunscreen because I'm out right now, but luckily the clouds protected my face.

The race is organized very well. There are plenty of food and drink stations, and fans give away a lot more food and drink to anyone running by. The elevation change is minimal. More significantly, though, the fans are just amazing. For the entire forty-two kilometers, people cheer for you. They give you high fives, wave, yell encouragement, and generally make for a friendly racing atmosphere. I haven't run other major marathons, so I can't compare, but in any case, this one is ideal.

My only complaint is that many runners who check luggage have to walk about twenty minutes after the finish line to reclaim it. They give you some drink, food, a towel and emergency blanket, but still it's just rough. Once we stop running, our body temperature drops a lot because our gear is thin and sweat-soaked, and on a cold day like today, that walk was miserable. Although, if you have a friend who can meet you at the finish, you wouldn't have to check anything, and the whole fiasco could be avoided.

Split Time
Net Time
Min / km
5 km 00:30:27 0:24:48 24:48 09:40:27 4:58
10 km 00:54:27 0:48:48 24:00 10:04:27 4:48
15 km 01:19:15 1:13:36 24:48 10:29:16 4:58
20 km 01:44:36 1:38:57 25:21 10:54:37 5:04
25 km 02:11:19 2:05:40 26:43 11:21:20 5:21
30 km 02:40:24 2:34:45 29:05 11:50:25 5:50
35 km 03:11:14 3:05:35 30:50 12:21:15 6:10
40 km 03:44:37 3:38:58 33:23 12:54:37 6:41
Finish 03:58:29 3:52:50 13:52 13:08:30 6:19

20180224.01.Shirt.jpg 20180224.02.Shoe.jpg 20180224.03.Shoe.jpg 20180224.05.Wristband.jpg 20180225.01.Report.jpg

Training Schedule

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
   9/2510.1 km 9/26  9/2710.1 km 9/28  9/2910.1 km 9/30 
10/1  10/210.1 km 10/36.5 km 10/4  10/510.2 km 10/6  10/710.1 km
10/86.4 km 10/9  10/10  10/1110.1 km 10/12  10/13  10/14 
10/15  10/16  10/17  10/18  10/19  10/205.8 km 10/21 
10/22  10/236.7 km 10/24  10/25  10/26  10/276.6 km 10/28 
10/29  10/30  10/31  11/1  11/27.6 km 11/3  11/4 
11/511.1 km 11/6  11/7  11/8  11/9  11/10  11/11 
11/12  11/13  11/14  11/15  11/16  11/17  11/18 
11/19  11/207.6 km 11/21  11/22  11/23  11/24  11/25 
11/26  11/27  11/28  11/29  11/30  12/14.1 km 12/2 
12/37.9 km 12/411.0 km 12/5  12/6  12/74.4 km 12/8  12/9 
12/10  12/11  12/12  12/13  12/14  12/15  12/16 
12/17  12/18  12/19  12/205.0 km 12/21  12/22  12/236.0 km
12/24  12/25  12/26  12/27  12/28  12/29  12/30 
12/31  1/1  1/2  1/3  1/4  1/5  1/6 
1/7  1/8  1/94.0 km 1/10  1/11  1/124.0 km 1/13 
1/14  1/155.0 km 1/16  1/17  1/184.0 km 1/19  1/2014.0 km
1/21  1/22  1/235.0 km 1/24  1/25  1/26  1/27 
1/28  1/2910.0 km 1/30  1/315.0 km 2/1  2/210.0 km 2/3 
2/412.1 km 2/5  2/6  2/7  2/89.0 km 2/9  2/10 
2/1112.1 km 2/12  2/13  2/1412.1 km 2/15  2/1624.0 km 2/17 
2/185.0 km 2/1912.0 km 2/20  2/21  2/22  2/235.0 km 2/24 
2/2543.6 km                  
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

Two years ago I tore my calf muscle playing basketball. Apparently this is a common injury for men in their thirties who play basketball. Bummer, right? Since then, I've had several smaller problems with the same leg. To deal with this, I found a great book: The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker. There are many stretches that I'd seen but didn't use or understand, and others that I never knew about, that help me a lot now. Also, I go to the physical therapist on a regular basis. They do good stuff, and it's helpful to talk to the experts. I've made progress in caring for my legs properly, but sometimes things don't go well. If you look at the calendar and notice a week or two without running, that's why. On the plus side, when I'm not running, I often go bicycling and do weight training.

Hardware Flashcards


This is a card deck of hardware and construction words. The front of each card has a picture of an object. The back has the name of the food in Japanese, phonetic Japanese, and English. Many of these words are katakana loan words from English, so you can expect to learn those cards very quickly.

Here's the 50-card package for Anki.

Hardware/air compressor.jpgair compressor圧縮機あっしゅくき
Hardware/allen wrenches.jpgAllen wrenches六角棒スパナろっかくぼうスパナ
Hardware/belt sander.jpgbelt sanderベルトサンダベルトサンダ
Hardware/box cutter.jpgbox cutter
utility knife
Hardware/drill bits.jpgdrill bitsドリルビットドリルビット
Hardware/garbage can.jpggarbage canゴミ箱ゴミばこ
Hardware/hand saws.jpghand sawsのこぎり
Hardware/hard hat.jpghard hat保護帽ほごぼう
Hardware/needle-nose pliers.jpgneedle-nose pliersラジオペンチラジオペンチ
Hardware/phillips screwdrivers.jpgPhillips screwdriversプラスドライバープラスドライバー
Hardware/pipe wrench.jpgpipe wrenchパイプレンチパイプレンチ
Hardware/safety glasses.jpgsafety glassesアイケアグラスアイケアグラス
Hardware/saw blade.jpgsaw bladeチップソーチップソー
Hardware/socket wrench.jpgsocket wrenchソケットレンチソケットレンチ
Hardware/soldering iron.jpgsoldering iron半田鏝はんだごて
Hardware/staple gun.jpgstaple gunタッカータッカー
Hardware/swiss army knife.jpgSwiss Army knifeアーミーナイフアーミーナイフ
Hardware/tape measure.jpgtape measureメジャーメジャー
Hardware/wire cutters.jpgwire cuttersニッパーニッパー

Picture flashcards are a great way to build vocabulary, but sometimes you run into obscure things that you just don't know what the object is. If you study using this set of hardware and hand tool pictures, and the picture is clear but you don't know what a given device is, just delete the flashcard and move one. There are plenty of other flashcards to be studied. In general, confusing or time-consuming flashcards should be deleted. We want to study cards quickly, and for topics that require slow and precise thinking, we can study them in other ways.




For winter vacation, I went to Hawaii with my family on my dad's side. After that, my parents and I went to North Dakota for a few days, and then my mom's side of the family met in Tennessee for my grandmother's memorial service.

2017-12-24.01.Haneda.jpg 2017-12-24.04.Hawaii.png 2017-12-24.02.Sign.jpg 2017-12-24.03.Trees.jpg 2017-12-25.01.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.02.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.03.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.04.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.05.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.06.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-25.07.Punalu'u Beach.jpg 2017-12-27.01.Beach.jpg 2017-12-27.02.Beach.jpg 2017-12-27.03.Matt.jpg 2017-12-27.04.Gecko.jpg 2017-12-27.05.Gecko.jpg 2017-12-28.01.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.02.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.03.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.04.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.05.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.06.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.07.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.08.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.09.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.10.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.11.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.12.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.13.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.14.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.15.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.16.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.17.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.18.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.19.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.20.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.21.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.22.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.23.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.24.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.25.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.26.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.27.Volcanoes.jpg 2017-12-28.28.Sulfur.jpg 2017-12-28.29.Sulfur.jpg 2017-12-28.30.Sulfur.jpg 2017-12-28.31.Caldera.jpg 2017-12-29.01.Path.jpg 2017-12-29.02.Hawaii.jpg 2017-12-29.03.Peacock.jpg 2017-12-30.01.Peacock.jpg 2017-12-30.02.Peacock.jpg 2017-12-30.03.Tiki.jpg 2017-12-30.04.Hawaii.png 2017-12-30.05.Sign.jpg 2017-12-30.06.Hawaii.jpg

On this trip, there were seven of us: Dex & Betsy, Matt & Diana, Nash, Toby, and me. We went snorkeling and swimming in the ocean several days. That was excellent, because the beaches were warm and not crowded, and the water was cool but not too cold. Several turtles were hanging around, too. One morning we got up at 3:30, drove to Volcanoes National Park, and walked in to see the Pu'u'oo lava flow. You can walk very close to the red-hot lava without worrying too much. The heat gets excessive, and the rock gets hot enough to melt your shoes, so you have to keep moving, and periodically checking your soles is a good idea. That sounds pretty dangerous, but on the other hand, that lava flow moves slowly, and it's not explosive, so if you have a geologist to guide you (my dad) and you pay attention (we did), it's safe enough. Well, going out to play in the lava flow is a wild idea to begin with, but that's what we come here for.

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North Dakota was really cold, but we stayed inside most of the time. If you're ever planning a visit, the winter is probably not what you want, although if you grew up with this ridiculousness then it's OK. My friends have all left town, and some were visiting during Christmas when I was in Hawaii. Since they weren't around, I went to visit some of their parents. I also renewed my driver's license. It had expired five years ago, so they made me retake the computer test and then the road test. Just because it's always in the test up here, I had to parallel park ... but since finding two cards the appropriate distance apart is difficult, the man told me to park behind one. You can drive in most states with a Japanese driver's license, but for some companies, rental prices for international license holders are shockingly high, so it's nice to have a domestic one. It's nice to get back here, hang out with the cat, and chill at my old house.

2015-03-24.01.Tennessee.png 20180103.01.37830.png 20180104.01.Dog.jpg 20180106.01.Mutti.jpg 20180107.01.102 Emory Lane.jpg

My grandmother Mutti (Helen McKown) passed away in December. We held the memorial service at her church and house in early January. She was 94 years old. Almost everyone from that side of the family made it down to Tennessee. I was also surprised to see several other faces, including George's former climbing buddy who had moved to Oak Ridge, and a two of Betsy's old friends who lived in Grand Forks when I was growing up.

Moving Apartments


I'm moving to a different apartment later this month.

所在地LocationMidori-cho, Musashino
階 / 階建Floor2F (of 3F building)
駐輪場Bicycle ParkingCovered bicycle parking
賃料Rent¥85,000 (¥82,000 家賃 + ¥3,000 管理費)
礼金Key Money¥0
敷金Security Deposit¥164,000 (2ヶ月)
仲介手数料Realtor Fee¥44,280
家財総合保険Renter's Insurance¥20,000 (2年間)
家賃保証会社Guarantor Company¥40,000 (1年目) + ¥10,000 (2年目から)
鍵交換Lock-changing Fee¥21,600
築年月Build DateJanuary 1986

2017-10-08.01.Layout.jpg 2017-10-08.02.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-08.03.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-23.01.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-23.02.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.03.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.04.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.05.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.06.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.07.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.08.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.09.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.10.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.11.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.12.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.13.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.14.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.15.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.16.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.17.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.18.Apartment.jpg 2017-10-29.19.Apartment.jpg

Search Criteria

Between Musashino University and Kichijoji. Somewhere quiet, not on a main street. I've been living in Nishitokyo, and the location is convenient for work and going to the park, but it's too far from my dance school and night life.
35m2 or larger. I want space for my bed, desk, and sofa. When friends visit Tokyo, I want to have enough room for them to stay over.
Generally speaking, there are three types of apartment building materials in Japan: concrete (RC / 鉄筋コンクリート), steel frame (鉄骨), and wooden (木造). Of the three, concrete buildings are the quietest, and wooden buildings are the noisiest. I only looked at concrete and steel frame buildings.
On average, higher floors are more expensive. First-floor apartments can have humidity issues, depending on the building and location. I looked at one, and it smelled somewhat humid. You can buy a dehumidifier to deal with that, but it's an extra expense.
I've been living in a place with tatami flooring in the living room and bedroom. I'd prefer a place with no tatami, but if it were only tatami in the bedroom, that's acceptable.
Many apartments don't have covered bicycle parking, which is unacceptable to me. Unfortunately, the new place doesn't have motorcycle parking. I will probably sell my motorcycle. That's kind of sad. On the other hand, there's a rental place close by. I love riding my motorcycle, but I typically ride it about once a month, so the overall cost is comparable. Also, it opens up other riding setups, like taking a train to another city and renting a motorcycle there.
I searched for places ¥85,000 and cheaper. It is possible to find cheaper places by relaxing any of the above conditions. My old place cost ¥66,000. I like to save money, so moving to a more expensive place is a minus, but the quietness and the location are important enough to go for it. Right now, if I have a tiring day at work, I often go home and relax on the sofa. I'd like to dance and hang out with friends more, and moving closer to Kichijoji and Mitaka will help with that.

Old to New Comparison

Floor3F (of 3F)2F (of 3F)
Bicycle ParkingCoveredCovered
Motorcycle ParkingCoveredNone
Key Money¥66,000¥0
Security Deposit¥66,000¥164,000
Build Date19781986

Moving Out Activities

There's always a lot to do when you move. Finding a place can take a while, but the amount of information available online helps a lot — I searched online, the real estate agent did too, and then we went around to the places that looked good. You can look at color pictures and floor plans before you go, so you don't waste too much time. My real estate agent was good about communicating by email. I don't answer my cell phone at work, and even if I could, email is easier to use. Overall, apartment hunting was smooth sailing.

There are various ways the property owners nickel and dime you. The realtor takes a one month finder's fee. Many places make you pay for new locks when you move in. You pay a damage deposit, but you won't get it all back. In my old and new contract, I agreed to pay for a professional cleaning company when I move out, and for part of the cost of replacing the tatami. There's a base rental price, but some places — like my new place — have an extra "management fee". Most landlords require renter's insurance, which costs me around ¥18,000 for two years. When you want to renew your lease after two years, you have to pay an extra month's rent. You need a guarantor, and if you can't find one, or the one you find somehow isn't good enough, you have to pay a private company to act as one. That would have cost me around ¥40,000 up front, plus around ¥10,000 per year. Owning a car in Tokyo is not recommended, but if you have one, you have to pay for parking, which might run you ¥20,000 per month. When you're calculating the cost of a place, take a look at the detailed paperwork to see how much these extra fees will cost you.

Depending on your landlord, it's possible to avoid many of the extra fees. Many companies don't charge key money. Some companies don't charge you for new locks. There's a wonderful company called UR that owns many large apartment complexes in the Tokyo area. I didn't go with them this time because I wanted a specific location, but perhaps in the future. UR's apartments are slightly expensive, but they don't charge key money, a realtor's fee, or a renewal fee, and most importantly, they don't require a guarantor. Guarantors are particularly dicey for non-Japanese residents, because typically one would ask their mom or dad to be a guarantor, but we can't. So, we end up asking our bosses, and that's a risk because if you get fired or let go right when your apartment renewal comes up, that could cost you a chunk of time and money right when you're transitioning jobs and don't have either to spare. Last month, my boss agreed to be my guarantor, but just two days before the move-in date, he changed his mind, and instead I'm using a guarantor company, which is still within my budget, but it's an extra expense and it happened right when I was busy preparing for the move. My boss isn't being a jerk — I think he just thought things through carefully and realized that as he gets closer to retiring, he will no longer be able to be my guarantor, and he couldn't even if he wanted to, so declining now is the sensible choice — but still the timing is unfortunate. I don't like the guarantor system, and if you're careful and lucky, perhaps you can find a place that doesn't use it.

I've been cleaning and packing and boxing things up. My new place is larger than my old place, so I don't have to get rid of tons, but I've managed to throw out a lot. If you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it. There are a few exceptions. I didn't use my ice skates last year, but I'm keeping them. My photos, books, music, and almost all of my paperwork are digital, which helps keep the clutter down. When I moved to Tokyo, everything fit into my X-Trail. Now I own too much furniture, but other than the furniture, it probably still would. That's nice.

Most of the utilities are set up well for people moving, and it's easy to turn them on, off, and switch apartments. I transferred gas and electric online, and water took a twenty minute phone call. Internet took a long time because NTT is a horrible company. I called to move or cancel the internet, but it had to be done before 5PM, and couldn't be done online. So I called back at work the next day, and they asked all sorts of identity confirmation questions, such as "How do you pay for internet?" Well, either I pay with credit card or by automatic bank transfer, but I couldn't remember because either way it's automatic, and the important thing is that I wanted to stop paying. The person on the phone said if I couldn't confirm the payment method, I couldn't cancel, so I told her that was horrible. I called back the next day with my papers in hand, and finally got the thing stopped. That person didn't even ask me the same questions. Something similar happened years ago when I canceled my NTT Docomo plan, so I guess NTT simply doesn't value customer service. And they charge a lot.

After the nonsense with NTT, I was discouraged about internet and planned on tethering my phone for a while, but on the day I moved in, a guy from JCom, another TV & internet provider, came to my apartment for some landlord the owner had scheduled. I asked him about internet, he explained their plan, and got me signed up. He said, "My coworker will be here in an hour with your wireless router, and he'll get you hooked up right quick." And his coworker came and configured the wireless router, and everything works now. To recap, during a typhoon, I signed up for and started using high speed internet in my apartment, and the whole thing took less than two hours on a Sunday afternoon.

There was a lot of other paperwork and offices to visit. It's easy enough, but it takes time. Nice to have a new place.



For summer break this year, I went to Bali, Indonesia, for ten days.

Preparation was fairly simple. I purchased the plane ticket, reserved the motorcycle, and reserved the hotels using Agoda. I don't have a paper guidebook, because all of the navigation can be done using my phone. But hey, the phone could break, so I printed out some maps showing hotel locations. As I traveled, I used WikiVoyage and talked to hotel staff to figure out interesting daily activities.

Gear needed to be minimal because I was riding a motorcycle. Passport, wallet, plane tickets, maps, cell phone, small first aid kit, sunscreen, power adapter, a USB charger, 2 USB cables, 2 USB batteries, tablet, digital camera, headphones, PADI card, file with papers, poncho, shoes, sandals, sunglasses, swimsuit, towel, bandana, a pair of pants, two pairs of shorts, socks & underwear, three shirts, a windbreaker, motorcycle gloves, toothbrush & toothpaste. All in a small backpack.

8月12日SaturdayHaneda → Kuala Lumpur.
8月13日SundayKuala Lumpur → Denpasar.
Denpasar → Bedugul.
Hillside Guest House, Bedugul
8月14日MondayBali Botanical Gardens.
Ulun Danu Temple.
Fiji Waterfall.
Hillside Guest House, Bedugul
8月15日TuesdayCultural excursion in the small village of Lemukih.
Ride along the ridge north of Lake Buyan.
Hillside Guest House, Bedugul
8月16日ThursdayBedugul → Lovina.
Ride in the mountains past Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan.
Santhika Bed & Breakfast, Lovina
8月17日ThursdayDolphin watching.
Santhika Bed & Breakfast, Lovina
8月18日FridayScuba diving.
Santhika Bed & Breakfast, Lovina
8月19日SaturdayLovina → Padang Bai.
Harmony Guest House, Padang Bai.
8月20日SundayScuba diving.
Harmony Guest House, Padang Bai.
8月21日MondayScuba diving.
Harmony Guest House, Padang Bai.
8月22日TuesdayPadang Bai → Denpasar.
Denpasar → Narita.
8月23日WednesdayGo home.

2017-08-12.01.Haneda.jpg 2017-08-12.02.Haneda.jpg Southeast Asia.svg 2017-07-02.01.Indonesia.png 2017-07-02.02.Bali.png

There are overnight flights from Haneda to Kuala Lumpur, and then morning tranfers to Denpasar, Bali. Denpasar is a big city with relatively bad traffic. I rented a motorcycle so I could weave through traffic along with the thousands of other motorcycles flooding the asphalt. Traffic rules are somewhat optional, so you have to be careful.

2017-08-13.01.Bedugul.jpg 2017-08-13.02.Pizza.jpg 2017-08-13.03.R15.jpg 2017-08-13.04.Hillside.jpg 2017-08-14.01.Breakfast.jpg 2017-08-14.02.Waterfall.jpg 2017-08-14.03.Waterfall.jpg 2017-08-14.04.Fiji Waterfall.jpg 2017-08-14.05.Hillside.jpg 2017-08-14.06.Statue.jpg 2017-08-14.07.Ulun Danu Temple.jpg 2017-08-14.08.Ulun Danu Temple.jpg 2017-08-14.09.Ulun Danu Temple.jpg 2017-08-15.01.Path.jpg 2017-08-15.02.Douglas.jpg 2017-08-15.03.Farmer.jpg 2017-08-15.04.Sugar.jpg 2017-08-15.05.Craftsman.jpg 2017-08-15.06.Snake fruit.jpg 2017-08-15.07.Douglas.jpg 2017-08-15.08.Guide.jpg 2017-08-16.01.Breakfast.jpg 2017-08-16.02.Breakfast.jpg 2017-08-16.03.Bedugul.jpg 2017-08-16.04.Lake.jpg 2017-08-11.01.Hillside Guest House.png

The first place I stayed was a tiny B&B in the mountains near Bedugul. The Agoda listing was incorrect. It said the place had WiFi, but there was no cell signal. It said the place took credit card, but no chance of that. And the water pump on the roof was super noisy. On the other hand, the location was scenic, quiet except for the water pump, and the locals were very friendly. The owner showed me around his village, took me to visit a farmer who harvested palm sugar, booze from the sap, raised chickens and cows, and grew coffee and cloves. We also went to chat with a bamboo instrument maker. The kids in this area try to practice their English a little, because if they can speak well, they can get jobs as guides and drivers in the high season. That works out well, because the high season for tourism is July-August, which off-season for farming.

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My next stop was a town on the northern coast called Lovina. The beach is quiet and relaxing; one day I just sat there and read books. Another day I went scuba diving with Bali Spice Dive. The dive site was Menjangan Island, an hour's drive to the west. The reef was not remarkable, but we saw a shark, an eel, and a manta ray. It was my first time diving in perhaps ten years. My oxygen consumption was relatively high. Scuba diving is super cool. Who dreamed up the idea that you put a suit on, strap a metal air tank to your back, and hang out with fish and sharks fifty feet under the water?

2017-08-19.01.Padangbai.jpg 2017-08-19.02.Blue Lagoon.jpg 2017-08-11.03.Harmony Guest House.png 2017-08-11.04.Bali Bike Rental.png 2017-08-19.03.Bali.png

The last town I visited was Padangbai. This town has excellent scuba diving. Many people come here for the ferry to the islands east of Bali, but some people come for the diving. I dove four dives over two days with Geko Dive Bali. The first day we saw a ribbon eel, a turtle, some large schools of mackerel, and other assorted sea life. The second day we went to a dive site called Crystal Bay which is known for mola mola (sunfish). The mola mola live most of their lives in deep water, but once a year, they come up to shallow water for cleaning. That is, they come up near the reef in shallow water so other smaller fish will come and eat the parasites living on their skin. On our second dive, the dive shop owner took off ahead and below us. The dive master and I could see his bubbles, and then we heard a ding. That must be him banging on his tank, we thought, so we quickly descended from 50 feet to around 130 feet. We got there quickly, and the three of us hung out for several minutes next to the weird looking giant critter. Then we did a celebratory mola mola dance and went back to shallower waters for the decompression stop. Great diving, exciting exotic fish, how nice.

The next day I rode the R15 at excessive speeds back to the rental shop, got a taxi to the airport, lounged around until the overnight flight, and came back to Japan.

BlockOn Happyokai


Today we had the annual BlockOn Happyokai, a dance recital for my dance club. This year I was in the Kraus & Chau Number, a lock and punking style number. We had two teachers, and four of the dancers — Kuri-chan, Shimizu (Taicho), 17 (Bun-chan), and me — are regular students for Kraus's Friday night lessons. The other eight dancers are students of Chau.

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Last year I had work during both of the big annual dance recitals, but this year the calendar worked out well. It's nice to get back on the big stage.

Riding in Shikoku


For spring break this year, I made a plan and went motorcycle riding in Shikoku, Japan's south-central island. My goal was to see the mountains Tokushima and Kochi, and I did.

3月19日SundayFerry: Tokyo → Tokushima
3月20日Monday Ride in the mountains of Tsurugi.
Guest House Momonga Village
Visit the Kotohira Shrine
Guest House Momonga Village
3月22日Wednesday Ride in the mountains
Otaniso Hotel in Tokushima
3月23日Thursday Ride south around Cape Muroto
Otaniso Hotel in Tokushima
3月24日Friday Circumnavigate Awaji Island
Otaniso Hotel in Tokushima
3月25日SaturdayFerry: Tokushima → Tokyo
3月26日SundayGo home

2017-02-28.01.Shikoku.png 2017-03-26.01.Map.png 2017-03-19.01.Ferry.jpg 2017-03-19.02.Motorcycle.jpg 2017-03-19.03.Ferry.jpg 2017-03-19.04.Ferry.jpg 2017-03-19.05.Ferry.jpg 2017-03-19.06.Ferry.jpg 2017-03-19.07.Ferry.jpg

The overnight ferry from Tokyo to Shikoku is perfect for motorcycle riders. You can read a book and sleep at night, and it arrives in Tokushima around noon. I tried taking a small back road up to the youth hostel, but it was still closed for the winter. Then I made a U-turn, and it started raining. Oh well. The hostel was warm and the people there were friendly.


The next day was rainy too, so I kept the riding short: an hour to a nearby city, a leisurely lunch plus some window shopping, and an hour ride back.

2017-03-21.02.Mountains.jpg 2017-03-21.03.Mountains.jpg 2017-03-21.04.Momonga.jpg 2017-03-22.01.Udon.jpg 2017-03-22.02.Ocean.jpg 2017-03-22.03.Ocean.jpg 2017-03-22.04.Ocean.jpg 2017-03-22.05.Muroto.jpg

For the rest of the trip, the weather was cooperative. The temperature was fairly low, but the light overcast days made for easy riding. I put about 1,100 kilometers on the bike, and the scenery was very enjoyable. March is still early season for Shikoku, and the roads were rather empty.

2017-03-22.06.Hotel.jpg 2017-03-22.07.Bath.jpg 2017-03-23.01.Temple.jpg 2017-03-23.02.Temple.jpg 2017-03-24.01.Mountains.jpg 2017-03-24.02.Sea.jpg 2017-03-24.03.Coast.jpg 2017-03-26.02.Japan.png

Ride the motorcycle in the mountains and on the coast, read some books, study some Japanese—that's what it was, and it was good.

Tokyo Marathon


The Tokyo Marathon was on Sunday, February 26, starting at 9:10. For regular runners, you apply in August and there's a lottery, the results of which are posted in October. After five years of applying, my number came up, so I started training and ran the race.

Time of day

The above table is timing data from the Tokyo Marathon Foundation. The split time and net time are slightly different. I think they're trying to offset the waiting time at the start line. Anyway, the race started at 9:10, and I walked across the start line at 9:20. I think people were going slowly so they could take pictures, and we all started jogging right after that. The slow start is normal for a race with 36,000 people.

My lap times were fairly consistent. The 10k lap time was longer because of a quick restroom and stretch stop. And the 35k and 40k lap times were longer because I got tired. Still, I was happy with my speed, and how I kept the pace fairly well. If you go too fast at the beginning, you get tired and feel bad, which sucks, and your overall time can suffer greatly. My right calf was bothering me at the start, which is generally bad, but when I ran slowly, it felt fine, and that helped me keep a slow and steady pace.


The area around the start is incredibly crowded. There were hundreds of toilets, but with thousands of runners in line, good luck! Better to use the bathroom at the train station, check your luggage, and wait for the race to start. There are many porta potties along the way, and once the crowd spreads out, the wait time is low.

It was cold at the start line, but what you can do is wear some throwaway clothes and a cheap rain poncho waiting for the starting gun. Both before and after the race starts, there are hundreds of volunteer staff members with trash bags who will take your unwanted clothing and throw it away. I wore a rain poncho, hat, and gloves until just before the race started. What's seven dollars matter when you've been training for six months?

The start line was cold, but overall the weather was wonderful. There was almost no wind, it was sunny, and it was fairly warm. The volunteer staff and fans along the road were all friendly and supportive, which makes a big difference when you're running for so long. The Tokyo Marathon has excellent drink and food stands. Every 5k there is a water or energy drink station. In the latter half of the race, there are several food stands. I ate an orange, a bread roll with cream in it, M&Ms, and seven umeboshi. The umeboshi were my favorite because of the salt. Those are the official drink and food stands, and many fans will give you free food or drink along the way, but that's in lower quantity so you can't plan around it.

The atmosphere of the race is great, because there are so many runners, many in costume, and the fans and volunteers are ridiculously excited. Plus, you get to run through the touristy parts of Tokyo: Shinjuku, Asakusa, the Sky Tree, and Tokyo Station. It's a lot of work training for a full marathon, and my feet hurt, but it was a fun race.

2017-02-27.01.Towel.jpg 2017-02-27.02.Medal.jpg 2017-02-27.03.Medal.jpg 2017-02-26.02.Report.jpg 2017-02-27.04.Results.jpg 2017-02-27.05.Results.jpg

Adam and Tomoko came to cheer during the race, which was very cool of them, and later we had bacon cheeseburgers and milk shakes.

2017-02-26.01.Cheeseburger.jpg 2017-02-26.03.Douglas.jpg


The expo for the marathon was held Thursday through Saturday at Tokyo Big Sight. We all had to go down there to pick up our bibs, time chips, and security wrist bands. Hundreds of vendors set up booths with shoes, running gear, energy drinks, and other touristy stuff. I bought a small towel and tried on some shoes.

2017-02-24.01.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.02.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.03.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.04.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.05.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.06.Expo.jpg 2017-02-24.07.Tokyo Big Sight.jpg 2017-02-24.08.Towel.jpg 2017-02-24.09.Beer.jpg 2017-02-24.10.Chip.jpg 2017-02-24.11.Chip.jpg 2017-02-24.12.Bib.jpg 2017-02-24.13.Baggage.jpg 2017-02-24.14.Shirt.jpg 2017-02-24.15.Wristband.jpg


Here's how I trained for the marathon. On days that I ran, the kilometers are written. For example, "10k" means I ran ten kilometers. Other sports are iconified: karate = Karate.svg, volleyball = Volleyball.svg, basketball = Basketball.svg, and dance = Dance.svg. The application was due in late August. The entry results came by email on September 15, so that is when the calendar begins.


Month Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Month
10k Volleyball.svg Basketball.svg
5k Dance.svg
13.6k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
Basketball.svg Dance.svg
4.6k Basketball.svg
Karate.svg Dance.svg
Volleyball.svg Basketball.svg
7.3k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
Karate.svg Dance.svg
Karate.svg Dance.svg
7k Dance.svg
10k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
8k Dance.svg
12k Dance.svg
7k Dance.svg
7k Dance.svg
Karate.svg Dance.svg
7k Volleyball.svg
5k Dance.svg
7k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
5k Dance.svg
7k Dance.svg
Month Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Month

Financial Stability


In the last few years, I've started thinking more about money and financial stability. These topics used to bore me, but I've grown interested in the last few years. The better I understand my financial position, the greater confidence I have in speculating on how to handle the unknown future.

Motivating Questions


Temporary Jobs Are Temporary

In Japan, most English teaching jobs for expats are temporary. I came to Japan on the JET Program, and I worked five years on one-year contracts. Then I worked five more years with another company, again on one-year contracts. Last February, due to budget negotiations, I almost lost my job a month before the new fiscal year. That wasn't cool. Also, the salary for temporary teaching jobs in Japan is low, even if you're experienced. These jobs are nice for a while, because the responsibilities are simple and there are a lot of openings. But if you change jobs a lot, you have to move a lot, which is stressful and expensive. With temporary jobs, it's hard to save money.

Teaching Jobs in Japan

An ALT (英語指導助手) is an assistant teacher. Many companies will hire you if you're a native English speaker with a 4-year college degree. Most ALT contracts are one-year. It's entry-level, so the pay is low and work responsibilities are light. There's always ALT work available in the cities.
Special Foreign Lecturer
As a Special Foreign Lecturer (外国人特別講師) you can teach English by yourself, but only at private schools. Technically speaking, your school brings your college diploma to the local office and gets you a Provisional Teaching License which is good for three years and can be renewed. Most schools that hire special foreign lecturers hire them on one-year contracts. The salary is low, and it doesn't rise much with experience. Tenure is extremely rare. You cannot be a homeroom teacher.
Part-Time Teacher
Part-time teaching (講師) doesn't qualify you for an instructor visa. If you have a spouse visa or a permanent resident visa, you could look into it.
Full-Time Teacher
A full-time teacher (教師) can work at a public or private school. There are separate licenses for elementary, junior, and senior high school. It's common to get the junior and senior high school licenses at the same time. For junior and senior high school, teaching licenses are subject-specific. The usual path for licensing is going to a four-year Japanese university and taking certain courses and tests. If you come to Japan as a working adult, you could obtain the functionally-equivalent Special Teaching License. Many schools hire you to a three-year tenure track position. After three years, either they give you tenure (permanent hire) or say goodbye. Salary for full-time teachers is based on age or experience, depending on the school.
University Instructor
To qualify for an English instructor position at a Japanese university, you definitely need a four-year degree. The applicant pool is flooded, and if you're seriously pursing a position, it's best if you have a master's degree or PhD in applied linguistics or a similar field.
Eikaiwa Instructor
There are many evening/weekend English conversation schools in Japan. In many cases the pay is low and job security is bad, but there are good companies to be found. Eikaiwa schools typically have fixed teaching materials and methods, so work could get repetitive and boring in a hurry.
Preschool Teacher
The visa for this is a child-care visa, not an English instructor visa. Salaries are shockingly low, and the experience you gain isn't going to help you in the future. You probably don't want to do this.

The Six Month Rainy Day Fund

Imagine you get fired. Can you afford not to work for six months? For years I didn't have a rainy day fund. Now I do, and it lets me relax. After all, you never know if your company will go bankrupt, or if you'll mess something up, or if someone else screws up but somehow you're the one who gets axed. You can't control what other people do, but you can make plans for emergencies.

As an expat living in Japan, I need a visa to be in the country legally. Right now I have an instructor visa, and to qualify for that, I need to be teaching English. This summer, I'll apply for a permanent residence visa. Once I get it, I won't have to teach English, and I could even take a few months off without having to leave the country. The thing is, I don't plan to stop teaching English, because I like teaching, and I don't plan to change jobs, because my school is a friendly place, but I don't know what's going to happen. Flexibility reduces worries.

There are various scenarios where you could end up leaving the country in a hurry. If a drunk guy picks a fight with you and you are arrested for brawling, you might be deported. If someone in your family gets sick, you might want to live with them and care for them. Leaving the country on short notice is not ideal, but it happens from time to time. If it's convenient, split your rainy day fund between the two countries.


Good Online Banking Is Good

I live in Japan, and I have bank accounts in the U.S. and Japan. It's important that these accounts have good online banking features. If I'm visiting the U.S., my money in Japan should be somehow accessible, and the same goes for my U.S. money when I'm in Japan. Wiring money between countries costs a bit, because the bank charges you for the exchange. I don't send money very often, but I can, and that gives me more ways to handle the unexpected.


If you're an American working abroad and you make less than $100,000 (in 2016), you don't have to pay U.S. income tax on it. This is called the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. You still have to file, though.


There is a U.S.-Japan treaty that merges Japanese national pension with U.S. Social Security. Payments in Japan can be used if retiring in the U.S., and vice versa. However, you wouldn't want to retire on national pension or Social Security alone, because the payments are small. In both countries, you're required to pay into these systems.

A conservative politician might predict that Social Security is going to fail in thirty years from ... whatever year it is now. Some people say the same thing about the Japanese national pension system. And if you get on any investment forum, people will often hedge their advice by mentioning that the stock market is unpredictable, and you might lose money. Changes to both U.S. and Japanese tax law could significantly affect retirement, too. We just don't know what's going to happen, so we need to diversify.

I'm in a position now to save extra money for retirement. My general goal is to have money in the U.S. invested in U.S. stock and bond indexes, and money in Japan invested in Japanese stock and bond indexes. However, it turns out that U.S. tax law gets wildly complicated very quickly when you invest in non-U.S. companies. Depending on the amount of money, it could make sense to do most of the investing on the U.S. side.

Information Sources


Permanent Residence Visa


If you plan on living in Japan for a long time, you should get a permanent residence visa (永住ビザ eijū bisa). Why? Because it gives you more control of your life, and there are no drawbacks.

When I first came here, I had an instructor visa, which allowed me to teach English, and I've renewed that visa several times. To renew the instructor visa, I need proof that I have a full-time English teaching job with a decent salary, a letter from my employer, and some other trivial paperwork. That's simple enough, but it puts constraints on me: I have to teach English, I have to work full-time, I'm highly dependent on my employer completing the proper paperwork, and I have to be employed.

The permanent residence visa doesn't require any of these things. You can work part-time, and many people like to work a combination of two or three part-time jobs. Or if you have savings, you don't even have to work at all. And you can shift from teaching English to whatever other kind of work might come your way.



According to the Ministry of Justice in 2016, here are some requirements for me to obtain permanent residence. If you're married, or can use some other special application procedures, the requirements are different.


To apply for a permanent residence visa (永住許可申請 eijū kyoka shinsei), it would be useful if you speak decent Japanese or have a spouse who does. Or you could hire a professional to apply on your behalf. The English-language documentation is sparse, but Japanese help pages exist.

The Ministry of Justice describes the procedure. Here's the required paperwork.

Your guarantor (身元保証人) needs to complete some paperwork, too. There is no legal or financial liability for the guarantor, but you still need one. I asked a coworker.


I went to the immigration office in Tachikawa but I only had half of the above papers. The man gave me an envelope and a list of the things I still need to submit. I have two weeks to gather the remaining papers and send them in.

Six Months Later

The postcard came in the mail. I had moved apartments, and although I was worried about whether the mail would forward properly, everything was fine. After years of experience waiting for hours, I learned that if you arrive at the visa office at 7:30 — an hour and a half before it opens — you'll be first in line. So I grabbed my postcard, passport, Residence Card, and two ¥4,000 yen revenue stamps and headed down to Tachikawa. Sure enough, first in line. Fifteen minutes after the doors opened, I got the card and was gone. The second guy in line joined me at the convenience store for a cold beverage to celebrate the occasion.

Peacefully Living Abroad


In many countries people are afraid of foreigners for no good reason, and as an expat, this type of irrational behavior has a direct impact on my life. Let me tell you about some of my experiences living abroad so that you can learn about some of the stupid ways people target you when they find out you're a foreigner.

Hungary During the Iraq War

I lived in Budapest in the fall of 2003, not long after the Iraq War began. My friends and I were part of a wonderful university exchange program called Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, and we studied math every day. One night after class we went to see a movie. We were walking on the sidewalk and talking to each other when a cab pulled up. Here's the conversation he had with us.

Driver:Hey, you from America?
Driver:Fuck you.
Me:Where are you from?
Me:Well fuck you too.

How's that for diplomacy? I opposed the Iraq War long before it started. I went to a few protests, and I wrote emails to friends and associates arguing that Cheney was a deceptive slimeball and explaining how the intelligence was vague and unreliable, and that Iraq had little to do with al-Qaeda. Of course the taxi driver didn't know any of that. All he knew is that I was American, and to him, America was doing bad things. He carelessly blamed the leader's actions on the citizens, and on me.

People said before the Iraq War, If the Iraqis don't like Saddam, why don't they get rid of him? What nonsense. I voted against Bush, and the majority of Americans disapprove of Trump, but nevertheless they both took office. As citizens we have the responsibility to act politically, and specifically to vote, but sometimes bad things happen despite our best efforts, and it's ridiculous to blame us for things we tried hard to prevent.


I've been in Japan for ten years, I spent a lot of time developing my Japanese, and I don't ever jaywalk. I never break the law here, except for traffic laws, and everyone breaks those. If I get a criminal conviction, my visa won't be renewed, and I'll have to leave the country. Certificate for teaching English? High level Japanese abilities? None of it would matter, because I'd be gone. As an expat, I know that I can't risk breaking the law. If I got caught, the consequences would be disastrous. All expats know this.

If I were somehow arrested and found not guilty, I still might lose my job or my apartment. Where there's smoke, there's fire. Or not, but many people think so.

In Japan, the per capita crime rates of Japanese citizens and non-Japanese residents are approximately the same. The data is real, but that doesn't mean the average person knows it. Cops sometimes stop me and demand to see my immigration papers just because I'm "obviously a foreigner". Racial profiling at its finest. It's ridiculous because cops can't tell if you're foreign just based on skin color, you have the legal right to remain silent, and if you're a Japanese citizen, you don't have to carry any documentation proving so. But refusing to speak to them is an awful risk. If they arrest you anyway, you're screwed.

You might be thinking, Hey, white people are more likely to be foreigners, so they're more likely to commit visa violations, so isn't it reasonable for the cops to do spot checks? This is an interesting question. Not only is it a sick attempt to justify discrimination as practical and therefore necessary, it's also a data-dependent policy question. The short answer is, No, it's not reasonable, not that the data shows. It turns out the vast majority of non-Japanese residents in the country are from Asian countries, and racial profiling won't catch them. Other countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and many places in Europe, are more likely to have citizens of ethnic backgrounds that make them visible in a crowd, but people from these countries almost never overstay their visas. And when they do, it's almost always accidental, and a quick trip to the visa office makes everything better. Also, there are a huge number of Japanese citizens of mixed roots. In short, your intuition might suggest that white means foreign means visa violation, but actually there are too many false negatives (people who "look Asian"), too many false positives (Japanese citizens who "don't look it"), and too few violators. In Japan, racial profiling is an ineffective way to fight illegal immigration.

Some of my students are Japanese citizens, born and raised, but they don't "look Asian", people might say. In a few years, they'll grow up and become new victims of officers who think that racial profiling is peachy. Can you imagine that? Your parents are Japanese citizens, you're a Japanese citizen, you're born and raised in Japan, you don't speak English, but because you have a pale or dark skin color, cops will detain you and threaten to arrest you.

There was an interview in the Japan Times (Meet the man who gets frisked by the Tokyo police five times a year, Baye McNeil, 2017-01-22) with a man who routinely deals with police harassment. If you've never read first-hand narratives of this kind of abuse, you should read the article. It's sick and twisted. The cops are looking for African drug couriers, so they illegally search bags of black people walking down the street. This type of police behavior is illegal, racist, and really needs to stop. I think that is clear enough.

People Blindly Trust Police

In comments of the above Japan Times article, I discussed some of the drawbacks of racial profiling with other commenters. One of the discussion threads stood out, because the person chatting with me couldn't imagine the cops were getting it wrong. It was fundamental to him that the police were keeping us safe. Here's a snippet of the discussion.

Andrew:So it happens to white guys. It seems to be a 'scheduled activity', and I think its a reasonable undertaking. One can't ignore the fact that 'crime is cultural'. Race might correlate with culture, but Japanese police cannot not make the distinction. Of course Japanese police 'cultural profiling' is only a statistical proclivity. You can insist they shouldn't 'generalise', but that is what you do in the absence of 'specific knowledge'. If you require police to have 'specific knowledge', then the criminals win because they are just as smart as police, and have more reasons to evade police than the police have for finding them...
Me:Statistically, foreign residents in Japan commit about as many crimes per capita as Japanese people, and that includes visa overstays. Police can stop a ton of crime without resorting to racial profiling. And they do, right, because a ton of "Asian-looking" people get caught breaking the law every single day.
Andrew:... I don't begrudge people doing their job in difficult conditions. I empathise with their situation. I tell myself, if they think my nationality is responsible for cultivating a perception that 'we are all thieves', then let me offer an alternative perspective. Just as I do when Japanese estimate of Australia is 'kangaroos'. I can begrudge their 'simple' estimate, or I can add to it, knowing they don't study much geography, or travel so much.

I totally failed to convince him of two things. First, I couldn't convince him that cops often act improperly and that this is horrendous. That was weird, because the entire interview above the discussion highlighted the badness. And on a policy level, I couldn't convince him that national policy could be used to make the police force on the whole work more efficiently and keep us all safer. Without any evidence whatsoever, he believed—and probably still believes—that if cops are left free to act on their own instincts, they'll keep society safe.

It's interesting to see people slowly recognize that police can break the law and do bad things. Here's the summary of a conversation my dad and I had last year.

Dad:I think police officers are well-intentioned.
Me:Really? A cop last month stood in front of a car, stepped aside when the driver hit the gas, and then tried to shoot the man from behind as he was driving away. And then lied about it on the police report.
Dad:No, that kind of thing doesn't happen.
Me:No, please, don't take my word! There's video. Get on YouTube and see for yourself.
Me:Look, there are lots of cops out there. It's hard to say they're all doing the right thing all the time.
Dad:Yeah, as you say...

Interestingly, my initial description appeared to be third-hand information, and therefore unreliable, but once I mentioned that a video of the incident was available, my credibility instantly rose. My dad didn't watch the video, at least not then, but he's a smart guy and quickly revised his position. The good thing is that we have the technology to take video and share it with others. The bad thing is that in order to get video of people being mistreated, that mistreatment has to occur. It would be highly preferable if people wouldn't assume the authorities always do the right thing, so we could talk about sensible public policy before so many people's lives are disrupted.

We Don't Hate People

When I talk about cops and racial profiling, sometimes people assume that I hate the cops. That assumption is incorrect. When cops target someone because of their skin color, they're doing the wrong thing. They're doing the wrong thing, but I don't hate them. I don't even know them. What I know is that the bad actions are the problem. If you take the police officers who target visible minorities for no good reason, and make and enforce new rules preventing them from doing so, those officers might spend their newly-acquired free time doing things that actually reduce crime. Asking public officials to form reasonable public policy is not an expression of disdain for public servants but rather an expression of care for society at large.


On January 26, 2017, President Donald Trump said, "We’ve taken in tens of thousands of people; we know nothing about them. They can say they vet them, they didn’t vet them. They have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don’t know anything about them and you have no papers? How do you vet them? You can’t. On January 27, he said, "I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We want to make sure we are not admitting to our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas." In reality the U.S. already had thorough procedures for vetting immigrants, but that only matters if you care about the truth.

Let's look at some excerpts from his January 27, 2017, executive order.

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

This is stupid. If you want to fix immigration law, don't start by breaking it. Plane tickets and paperwork expire, and families are being torn apart simply because of a person's passport.

(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.

A textbook case of xenophobia. Anyway, it should not matter what the president determines. If he wants to change the law, he should work with Congress.

(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;

(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

Do you see the badness in the above sections? It makes sense to keep track of dangerous people, and it makes sense to keep track of terrorists. But that order only keeps track of foreign terrorists. It intentionally omits domestic terrorism. Why? Because if you start counting domestic terrorism, and it turns out that Americans can be dangerous too, then your anti-foreigner policies start to fall apart. And that would undercut Trump's message.

Thorough documentation of law enforcement actions is a good thing, but what new data is supposed to be uncovered here? There are very few cases of terrorism, and they're all well documented. There's nothing of substance to be found.

It's Not Just Trump

Trump is trying to blame crime and terrorism on foreigners, and the same thing happens in other countries. It's an old trick: you blame all of the badness on a group with no political power, because they can't stop you, and it's so much easier than actually dealing with real problems. Don't fall for this trick.

If You Don't Like It Fix It

When you talk about foreigners or expats or immigrants and difficulties living abroad, people are quick to say, If you don't like it so much, why don't you just leave? What nonsense. First, if a situation isn't going well, fixing it is a good idea. Why not try making things better before quitting? Second, some people can't "just leave" because they have family, or they've invested time and resources into getting where they are. I've worked hard to learn Japanese and do my job well, and I like living in Japan and teaching English and international culture to Japanese kids. Third, I would return the question. If you don't like listening to me trying to make this country a better place, even though I'm an immigrant, why don't you leave instead?

Actually, I wouldn't return the question. There's no point. Many people are blind patriots. They are unwilling to imagine that their country could get better. Their country is perfect, never mind all that bad shit in the past. And when you run into people like this, it's hard, because you probably won't reach them. But we still have to try, because you might, and that's why I wrote this blog entry.

Immigrants, expats, whoever, we're all just trying to go through our lives. We work normal jobs—I love my job here—we pay taxes, we follow the law, hang out with friends and family, and basically we want to live life peacefully.


School Pictures


Here are some pictures from my school.

2011-12-18.5591.musashino.jpg 2011-12-18.5593.musashino.jpg

Before I got the job, I had to go to Tokyo for the interview. I had some free time then, and later when I came down for training, to see the place and take some pictures.

2012-01-15.0153.musashino_u.jpg 2012-01-15.0161.musashino_u.jpg 2012-04-13.0939.musashino.jpg 2012-04-13.0940.musashino.jpg 2012-04-13.0946.musashino.jpg 2012-07-27.2244.Hallway.jpg 2012-07-27.2246.Hallway.jpg 2012-07-27.2248.Hallway.jpg 2012-07-27.2249.ECR.jpg 2012-07-27.2255.Hallway.jpg 2012-07-27.2259.mj.jpg 2012-07-30.2263.mj.jpg 2012-07-30.2264.MJ.jpg 2012-07-30.2271.mj_kodo.jpg 2012-07-30.2276.musashino_u.jpg 2012-07-30.2279.musashino_u.jpg 2012-07-30.2283.mj.jpg 2012-10-14.2994.MJ.jpg 2012-11-26.3170.musashino_u.jpg 2012-12-06.3197.musashino_u.jpg 2012-12-06.3198.musashino_u.jpg 2012-12-20.3343.ecr.jpg 2012-12-20.3345.ecr.jpg 2012-12-20.3348.ecr.jpg 2012-12-20.3350.ecr.jpg 2012-12-20.3351.ecr.jpg

The south wing (南館) of the school was the old school building, and they hadn't used the rooms there as regular classrooms for years. We used to have a large old staff room just for English conversation and international exchange events. The room was called the ECR.

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In the spring of 2013, the south wing was demolished. The ECR was temporarily relocated to the browsing room in the library. We were supposed to somehow share the room with the library, but it was not a useful setup because the library didn't allow food and drink, and its closing hours were too early, so we held all of our events in elective classrooms. The view from the second floor library window was quite nice, though.

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After two years, the English department and I convinced the administration to let us make a new ECR out of one of the elective classrooms. We got the room in early 2015.

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Midway through the 2016 school year, the school demolished the old gym and started building a new one. Also, Mr. Harada found us a bookshelf for the ECR.

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The cafeteria is in the basement of the university's main administration building. Usually the cafeteria is split in two, junior and senior high school students use about a third of the space, and university students use the remaining two thirds. When the university is on holiday, everyone uses the junior and senior high school side. The menus and prices are the same.

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It snows in Tokyo a few times a year. The university has one snow plow, and everything else is shoveled by hand.

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New Mexico


For New Year's, my family went to my brother's house in New Mexico.

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The plane flight was long but everyone was super friendly. All of the airport staff and people around were in good cheer, which made for a decent but long trip. George picked me up at the airport in Santa Fe. We went shopping for jeans, because they're a lot cheaper and the selection is better. Later in the evening, Nash and Toby drove up to George's place. Toby got taller in the last five years. Gus, the cat, slept on my legs and later on my right arm.

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It was a warm winter day, and we went on a day trip to Bandelier National Monument. It's a twenty-minute drive from central Los Alamos, and the Ancestral Puebloan (sometimes called "Anasazi") ruins are awesome. You can climb up ladders on the sides of the cliff and go in little caves. Later in the day, Betsy and Dex came up from Albuquerque and we all had dinner together.

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Cora's birthday is January 1st. Today she is six. We had a birthday party around mid-day, where everyone ate cupcakes. Cora got a lot of presents, including a Jew's harp. Later in the day, she and I performed a small concert. We live-streamed the concert and had four remote viewers, along with our local family audience.

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Betsy and Cora and I went to the ice rink. Betsy fell and hit her head on the ice. It looked painful. Cora fell down a lot too, but she's shorter, and in any case she didn't clonk her head.

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Cora and I went skiing in the morning. We didn't get too many runs in, but we had fun on the beginner slope for a while, and then later making snow angels.


We decided to do some home renovations. George and I took down his old TV antenna from his roof. It was located right next to the telephone and cable lines, and we skillfully avoided dropping the long pipe on them. Then we tore an old pipe containing old power cables off the other side of his house. And around the same time, George went out and got a step ladder and some shears, and I trimmed the pine tree branches that were resting on the cable and telephone wires. That was quite a bit of maintenance for a single morning. Satisfying.

On my last night, George and I went to the local pub for cheeseburgers. It's extremely difficult to get good ground beef in Japan. In fact, I only know of one good hamburger restaurant in Japan—Martiniburger, located in eastern Shinjuku. Here in the U.S., you just go the local place, ask for a cheeseburger, and are typically happy with what you get, which we did, and we were.

The outgoing flight departs from Santa Fe at 6:45. It's a short flight to Dallas and then a 14-hour flight to Narita. Winter vacation is almost over; classes start Tuesday. I feel pretty good about what we got done. Hanging out with the family, playing with Cora, eating a bunch of American food, getting a new pair of jeans and some food to share with people back in Japan, plus whatever other random things we did. It worked out well.

Christmas Party


This year our school's annual English-language Christmas Party was held a few days before Christmas. It was organized and run by me and my colleagues, Adam Pearson, Julie Kawamura, and Ann Powell.



Before any event, advertising is key. Make a poster and put copies of it across the school. If possible, get copies to each homeroom class. Students appreciate being asked directly, so if you have time when walking down the hall, hype the event.



The most important organizational question is where you're going to hold the party. A relatively-central location is desirable because students will walk by the room when you're setting up and get excited about the event. Alternately, a room that you can set up several days in advance can be good because it allows for leisurely preparation, and it gives students several days to spot the new activity. This year we ran the Christmas Party in the ECR. Here is the room layout.



We have accumulated a lot of decorations over the years. More recently, I put together a collection of snowmen pictures. We printed these out, laminated them, and when party time comes along we stick them on the wall. It's pretty impressive what kinds of snowmen people have produced.

We have a small Christmas tree, and every year we put the Christmas tree up, and during the party students decorate it as they like. At the end of the party, we take a group picture with the Christmas tree in the center.


We always need to know how many people attended the party and how much money was spent on what. This lets us plan well for future parties, and it helps convince the bosses that they should give us money to spend, too. Here is a sign-in sheet. This year, over fifty students came.


Origami is nice because if you choose a simple object to make, you can leave the instructions sheet on the table and students will tackle the project at their own pace. For our parties, we only have three or four teachers available, which makes activities where students can figure it out on their own indispensible. My favorite Christmas origami patterns are for a Santa Boot and a candycane. When I have free time at the party, I like to sit down and teach students how to make them, and when I'm busy, the laminated A3-size sheet gets the job done.

2016-12-21.03.Candycane.jpg 2016-12-21.07.Santa Boot.jpg

Pin the Tail on Rudolph

Pin the Tail on Rudolph is a slight variant of the classic party game Pin the Tail on the Donkey. It's fun for kids and is a good way to practice giving and listening to directions. Here are the Rudolph pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4. Print them out, trim the edges, tape it together, and cut out circles of red cardboard. When students want to play, they write their name on a red cardboard circle, put some two-sided tape on the back, grab a large winter cap, and they're good to go.

Stocking Guessing Game

Adam had an idea for a Stocking Guessing Game where there are some mystery items in a cloth stocking. Students hold the outside of the stocking and try to guess what the things inside are. Near the end of the party, we reveal the objects to the party guests.


Ann had an idea for a Christmas Bingo game that she led. Bingo is a fun way to give out candy canes or other small sweets to party guests. Depending on the rules, it can be a listening activity or a mixed speaking-and-listening activity.

Oatmeal Balls

Last year Kaya taught us how to make Danish oatmeal balls, and they were good, so we made them again this year. Thanks, Kaya! Two students later reported that they made the recipe again for their families during winter vacation. This recipe is great for school because it doesn't require a kitchen.

2016-12-21.05.Oatmeal Balls.jpg


3D Snowflakes

Here are some instructions for making paper 3D snowflakes. These snowflakes are not hard to make, though they take some time. The following supplies are needed: 6 square pieces of paper, a stapler, a pair of scissors, and some tape if you like. Depending how you want to hang the snowflake, you might also want some thread. You can find instructions with video clips for this on WikiHow. That's great if you have your computer around, but for a printable version, try the following.

Take a square piece of paper. Fold it into a triangle. Then fold that triangle into a smaller triangle. Do this for all six pages.

2013-12-25.10.Paper.jpg 2013-12-25.11.Paper.jpg

Put one of the triangles on the desk in front of you with the long side towards you. Using scissors, cut three or five parallel horizontal slits. Start the slits on the thick side of the triangle (with one big fold and not two small folds) and go about 3/4 across. Put the top slit about 1/3 of the way down from the top, and space the remaining slits evenly below that one. Do this for all six pages.


Unfold a piece of paper to the original square size. Put it on the table in front of you like a diamond. If necessary, turn it over so that the main crease opens down (toward the table). Take the two inner-most flaps, gently roll them up and towards each other. Overlap the flaps and tape or staple them together. Turn the paper over and repeat for the next two inner flaps. Do this twice more for the remaining two flaps. Do all of the above for all six pages.

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Split the papers into two sets of three. Take the top corner of one set of three, make sure they are oriented the same way (facing left or facing right), and staple them together once at that corner. Staple the left flake to the center flake and then staple the center flake to the right flake. There is one spot near the middle of each flake that lines up to its neighbor, and this is where the staple goes. Do the same thing for the other set of three.


Set the two bundles on the table with the stapled corners overlapping and the bundles facing away from each other. Staple them together at that base. Then, like in the previous step, staple the adjacent pages together. There are two spots that need stapling.


The snowflake is finished! Hold it up and see what it looks like. If you want to hang it up, you could staple or tape some string to it. Or perhaps you can tape it to something directly. Probably you cannot store these snowflakes without crushing them, so bear in mind that if you use them to decorate this year, you may have to make new ones next year. But they're easy and fun to make alone or in groups, so that's no matter. In fact, we've made these for two years at the party to great success.

I think plain white paper looks great, especially if you hang a few of these in a sunny afternoon window, though some people like to use origami paper where the front and back are of different colors. These are easiest to make using large paper (for example, A3 sheets trimmed to square), but once you understand the idea, you can use smaller sizes as well.



I made some free Christmas Bingo cards and related files. In preparation for my school's Christmas party, I searched online, but most of what's out there is not free or has ugly watermarks and you can't do quite what you want with it. Here's my attempt to fix the situation. Each Bingo card here is 4x4. The images are chosen randomly from twenty-seven Christmas pictures I downloaded from Clker.

If the above Bingo sheets aren't enough, try my random board generator. If you want to modify the style or change pictures around, the board generator is just a snippet of very simple HTML and JavaScript. See GitHub for details. Depending on your needs, I imagine the following could be handy: making 3x3 boards, making 5x5 boards, switching to new images, or making a Halloween board generator.

Other Years

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Perfect Human


In October at the Friday dance class with Kraus, we did a cover dance of a popular Japanese song called Perfect Human by Radio Fish. Mari, the staff member in charge of the dance studio, asked us if we'd like to make it into a proper number and perform at a small dance event in December. We did, so we did. On December 11, we opened for the event cuBe at Tsukurite in Shibuya.


See our video on YouTube or here. The dancers are Taicho (Shimizu), Kuri-chan, Katsu, Mei, Sakura, 17, Sae, Yoko, and me.

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Transportation Flashcards


This is a card deck of transportation words. The front of each card has a picture of a means of transit, loosely speaking. The back has the name of the device in Japanese, phonetic Japanese, and English.

Here's the 40-card package for Anki.

hot air balloon
2016-10-19.02.Chair lift.jpgchair liftチェアリフトチェアリフト
2016-10-19.18.Fire truck.jpgfire truck
fire engine
2016-10-19.36.Golf cart.jpggolf cartゴルフカートゴルフカート
2016-10-19.20.Pickup.jpgpickup truckピックアップトラックピックアップトラック
2016-10-19.09.Semi.jpgsemi truckトレーラー
2016-10-19.28.Space shuttle.jpgspace shuttleスペースシャトル


Halloween Party


We have a Halloween Party at my school every year. This year, Julie and Ann, our new English teachers, mixed things up with some new activities.

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Party Poster

A flashy party poster is important. If you don't advertise, who's going to show up? And when they do, you need a sign-in sheet to keep track of names, classes, and grades. For organization, creating a layout of the room is nice.

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Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving in Japan is quite rare. For most of our students, this is the first time they'll do pumpkin carving in their lives. It seems to me that they're quite skilled with knives.

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M&M Guessing Game

Just for fun, fill a small glass jar with M&Ms from a king size bag. Students guess how many M&Ms are in the jar, and the student with the best guess wins them.


Beer pong is a time-honored college student game in the U.S., and at my school we play a non-drinking alcohol-free variant. It's still fun.

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If you have any pictures of pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns, print them out and put them on the walls. If you don't, get on the internet and find some.

Rolling Video

We have a projector. I reserved it for the party, grabbed a bunch of five minute videos relating to Halloween from YouTube, and set up shop. There's all sorts of cool stuff: costume design, animal costumes, costume parties, movie trailers, The Simpsons Halloween Special openings, and my favorite, Michael Jackson's The Thriller.


Teachers should wear costumes, and as many students as you can convince to wear costumes should do so, too. You never know who will have what kind of outfits lying around.


When shopping for food, I go to Kaldi Coffee, the foreign food store, see what's on sale, and buy some of that. There are many kinds of snack food, and it's nice to balance sugary snacks with other food.


It can get cold in late October, so the experienced party planner has both warm and cold drinks on hand. There should be drinks with and without sugar.

Bug Juice

Ann brought a recipe for "bug juice" with her from the United States. Mix, and enjoy!

Zombie Eyes

Get a can of olives, label it as "zombie eyes", drain the juice, and serve. Most students will not like them, but it's fine to try food you don't like, especially if it's only a small piece and only once.

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Mystery Box

Take a cardboard box face-down on a table. Make holes for students to reach their hands inside, and place various food items there with textures that resemble human body parts. This can lead to screaming.

Bobbing for Apples

Put water in a bucket, apples in the water, and ask students to bite the apples to pick them up out of the water. If you're unlucky, students will ask you to play, too.


Pin the Beard on the Werewolf

This is a variant on the classic party game, Pin the Tail on the Donkey. It's simple and fun.


Other Years

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Money Pictures


If you are designing an ESL lesson on numbers or shopping, using foreign money is worthwhile. Since you probably don't have a lot of foreign currency lying around, using pictures in a slide show is a great substitute. Here are some pictures of money that I've found for use in my classes. These pictures are all in the public domain.


2016-09-07.10.Thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.11.Thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.12.Two thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.13.Two thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.14.Five thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.15.Five thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.16.Ten thousand.jpg 2016-09-07.17.Ten thousand.jpg

2016-09-07.20.One.png 2016-09-07.21.One.png 2016-09-07.22.Five.png 2016-09-07.23.Five.png 2016-09-07.24.Ten.png 2016-09-07.25.Ten.png 2016-09-07.26.Fifty.png 2016-09-07.27.Fifty.png 2016-09-07.28.Hundred.png 2016-09-07.29.Hundred.png 2016-09-07.30.Five hundred.png 2016-09-07.31.Five hundred.png

United States of America

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2016-09-07.70.Penny.png 2016-09-07.71.Penny.png 2016-09-07.72.Nickel.png 2016-09-07.73.Nickel.png 2016-09-07.74.Dime.png 2016-09-07.75.Dime.png 2016-09-07.76.Quarter.png 2016-09-07.77.Quarter.png 2016-09-07.78.Half.png 2016-09-07.79.Half.png

World School Posters


Students are given a poster with information about a school in another country. They create and deliver a short presentation explaining that information to their classmates. These posters are suitable for seventh and eighth grade students.

In the past, I've made similar posters in the past focusing on countries and famous people. Creating the posters takes a long time, but once you have the posters, the activity itself is simple to understand, because you can demonstrate it and don't need to explain much, and in my experience students find the contents interesting, because the information is visible and real and the topic is a bridge connecting English with the social sciences.



2016-09-07.04.Deer Lakes.jpg






Here are the posters and worksheet. They can be opened and edited using LibreOffice. These files are also on


Famous People Posters


There's a type of activity where students are given a poster with information and make a short presentation explaining that information to their classmates. Several years ago, Adam gave me the idea for country posters. The following year, we made posters about celebrities.

Here's how it works. Students are placed in groups of three or four. They are given or choose a poster about a celebrity. They use the information displayed there to prepare and then deliver a short presentation introducing that celebrity to the class. These posters are suitable for seventh and eighth grade students.

It turns out that doing research and then making nice graphical materials and then delivering a speech is a lengthy and difficult process. By using posters like this, students focus their efforts on the latter half of the process: using graphical materials in a presentation. Given enough time, a teacher might first use these posters and some time later assign students to do their own research on a similar topic.

2016-09-03.02.Audrey Hepburn.jpg

2016-09-03.03.Emma Watson.jpg


2016-09-03.05.Taylor Swift.jpg

2016-09-03.06.Ken Watanabe.jpg

2016-09-03.07.Angela Merkel.jpg


Here are the posters and worksheet. They can be opened and edited using LibreOffice. These files are also on

After students deliver their presentations, play a short video clip of the celebrity.

2016-09-03.01.Famous People Posters.jpg

Card Games


My school's English club is called ESS. Perhaps it stands for "English Speaking Society". In any case, we meet once a week and do activities like card games, board games, watching TV shows or movies, and occasionally arts and crafts and movie making. Games are a great way to relax and have fun while speaking English, and I want to share my favorite games with you. Some of these you probably already know, but even if you know them, perhaps you haven't realized how well they can work for English club or even a small English class. I've successfully played these games with elementary, junior, and senior high school students.


Go Fish

This game is good for three to six players. To paraphrase Wikipedia...

Seven cards are dealt to each player. The remaining cards are shared between the players, usually spread out in a disorderly pile referred to as the "ocean". The player whose turn it is to play asks another player for his or her cards of a particular face value. For example, Alice may ask, "Bob, do you have any threes?" Bob must hand over all cards of that rank if possible. If he has none, Bob tells Alice to "go fish", and Alice draws a card from the pool and places it in her own hand. When a player at any time has a pair, he or she plays it face-up on the table. Play proceeds clockwise. The goal of the game is to run out of cards. The first person to run out of cards wins, the second person takes second, and so on.


This game is good because some English is built into the rules. Players have to ask other players for cards, and when they're passing cards they should also use language like "Here you are." and "Thank you." This is a good chance to practice non-genuine uses of "You're welcome."

Old Maid

Old Maid is a simple game that exists in many countries with different names. It doesn't have many speaking requirements unless you make the rules clear. To paraphrase Wikipedia...

Using a regular deck, either remove three queens or add exactly one joker. The unmatchable card becomes the "old maid," and whoever holds it at the end of the game is the loser. Deal all of the cards to the players. Some players may have more cards than others; this is acceptable. Players look at their cards and discard any pairs they have. Starting from the dealer, each player takes turns offering his or her hand face-down to the person on his or her left. That person selects a card and adds it to his or her hand. If the selected card forms a pair, the pair is discarded face up. The player who just took a card then offers his or her hand to the person to their left, and so on. The objective of the game is to run out of cards. One player will be left with the unmatchable card, the "old maid", and loses.

Although students like this game because it's simple and exciting, there aren't many places where speaking is required. When you're stating the rules, require that players say the numbers and suits of pairs when they play them. Also, only play the game once or twice. It's fun but light on speaking and so should be used sparingly.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is a commercial game, but you can make your own deck if you're on a low budget or enjoy the fun. (For example, here's my deck and word list.) If you make your own deck, you can choose vocabulary that your students are likely to know. Alternately, if you're buying the commercial game, choose a family or kids version, if that suits the level of your students better.

There are two kinds of cards: noun cards and adjective cards. Players are dealt seven noun cards. One player goes first. That player chooses an adjective card at random, says it aloud, and places it face up on the table. Each other player chooses one noun card from their hand that they think matches the adjective and places it face-down on the table. The first player mixes up the noun cards, flips them face up while saying the words aloud, and chooses which card he or she thinks best fits the adjective. The person who played that noun card gets the adjective card, which is worth one point. The table is cleared, and each player who played a noun card draws one more. Rotate clockwise. The game ends when you run out of time or noun cards.

This game is great for junior and senior high school students. It's also a good way to get to know people, because comedy has value, so when you're choosing what card to play, you have to think about what the other person would find interesting.

Crazy Eights

My mom taught me Crazy Eights when I was young. Years later I saw Uno at a friend's house and realized that Uno was a clever commercial variant of this classic game. To paraphrase Wikipedia...

Eight cards are dealt to each player. If there are six or more players, use two decks. The remaining cards of the deck are placed face down on the table. The top card is turned face up to start the game. Players discard by matching rank or suit with the top card of the discard pile, starting with the player left of the dealer. If a player is unable to match the rank or suit of the top card of the discard pile and does not have an eight, he or she draws cards from the stockpile until getting a playable card. When a player plays an eight, he or she must declare the suit that the next player is to play; that player must then follow the named suit or play another eight. The player who runs out of cards first is the winner. Stop when the first person runs out of cards or continue until only one person remains as time dictates.

In this game, when a player plays a card, he or she must say the suit and value of the card aloud. If he or she forgets, and another player notices — "You forgot to speak!" — they have to draw a card.


Uno is just a modern tweak on Crazy Eights. Since it's an international game and students may have played it in using their native language at home, if you play it at school, be sure to create firm rules about speaking English. Whenever a player plays a card, they must say the card and color. If they don't, and another player calls them on it — "You forgot to speak!" — then they have to draw a card.

Playing Uno requires an Uno deck. If I were choosing games, I would choose Crazy Eights, because it can be played using a regular deck of playing cards, and more importantly, students have to listen to your explanation of the rules. Still, from time to time students make specific requests for Uno, and if they request it, I'd say go for it.


Rummy is fun but complicated, so you probably only want to play it with high school students or older in groups of three to five.

Deal each player seven cards. Put the remaining cards in a pile face down on the table, and flip the top card over, face up. The person clockwise from the dealer goes first. At the start of the player's turn, he or she draws a card. Then, he or she can play anything as noted below. At end the turn, he or she must discard a card. Continue clockwise. When a person runs out of cards, the hand ends.

Legal plays:

When the hand ends, it is scored. Cards you played are added to your point total. Cards in your hand are subtracted from your point total.

Rummy gets better with repeated plays. If you only play one hand, that could be a good way for students to practice understanding instructions, but if you have the time and energy to play several, it will get more fun. Tactics and strategy matter a lot, and older students will figure some of them out.


Hearts is a fun game if you play it for a long time. In most ESL situations, your time is limited, and I wouldn't recommend it. Still, if you have the right situation with the right group of students, there are interesting high-level tactics that can make the game fun for people of high school age and up.

Friends and Nagano


Zoe, Marjorie, and Justin came to Japan for summer vacation. We had a good time doing sightseeing in Tokyo, Yamanashi, and Nagano. It's pretty exciting traveling around Japan with a six-year-old.

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After four days in and around Tokyo, we rented a car, drove west into Yamanashi, picked some peaches and ate them, and continued north to Nagano City.

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Marjorie, Justin, and Zoe hopped the train to Kyoto. On the way back, I took the Shiga-Kusatsu Road east through the mountains to Gunma, and then the expressway back to Tokyo. Although the outbound lanes were jam-packed with people leaving the city for Obon, going into the city was smooth sailing. The last time I drove was in December, and it was fun to get behind the wheel again on this trip.

Almond Cake


This is a recipe for almond cake. It is a variation of a recipe from Serve with coffee.

2016-07-29.01.Almond cake.jpg

Preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Let the marzipan and butter warm up to room temperature. If the marzipan is cold, it will not mix well with the other ingredients. Butter a baking pan or large pie tray.

In a large bowl, mix the marzipan and butter together, using an electric mixer if available. Stir in the sugar. Then mix in the almond essence and vanilla extract, and finally mix in the eggs. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Pour this into the first bowl and mix well.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. When the cake looks golden and cooked, and a toothpick comes out cleanish, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan. For the best flavor, wait a day before eating.

2016-07-29.02.Almond cake.jpg

Pension Refund Refund


Here is information on how to get a tax refund on the pension refund for JET Program participants after finishing JET.


My coworker worked in Japan on the JET Program for a year. She just went home, and she's going to apply to get her pension refund. When you work in Japan, a portion of your paycheck is taxed for the country's National Pension. If you're from another country and you go home, you can get a refund of up to three years of pension payments, and many people do this after finishing the JET Program. The system for getting your pension refund is clearly documented. The refund payment itself is income, and like all income, it is taxed accordingly (20%). For teachers, though, this income is tax deductible, so you can get the money back if you jump through hoops.

  1. JET participant gathers appropriate papers.
  2. JET participant designates friend in Japan as tax representative.
  3. JET participant goes home.
  4. JET participant files for pension refund.
  5. JET participant gets pension refund.
  6. JET participant sends paperwork to friend in Japan.
  7. Friend in Japan files paperwork for tax refund.
  8. Friend in Japan receives tax refund in Japanese bank account.
  9. Friend in Japan forwards money to JET participant via international money transfer.

This post describes the role of the friend or coworker in Japan (me) who acts as a tax representative.

Designate tax representative

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Before the JET participant leaves the country, a form designating a tax representative should be completed. If someone at your company gets paid to handle these things, ask them to do it. If not, ask a friend. The form shown above (所得税・消費税の納税管理人の届出書) should be printed, filled out and taken to the JET participant's tax office. When in doubt, the JET participant and tax representative should visit the tax office together. Paperwork is available at the office, and workers there will try to answer any questions you may have. Still, Japanese tax document vocabulary is fairly obscure, and it might get confusing.

The box in the upper right third of the page is for information about the JET participant.

The JET participant's address in Japan. Above this box, circle what kind of address it is. For example, we used the JET participant's apartment address, so we circled 住所地.
(TEL - - )
The JET participant's Japanese telephone number. This will soon be useless, since she's leaving the country and discontinuing phone service, but we write it down anyway.
We wrote the home address above, so we leave this box blank.
The JET participant's name, as it appears on the Residence Card. In the フリガナ box above, write the name in katakana. Put a stamp on the 印 mark.
The JET participant's birthday, using the Japanese year system. People born in 1989 and later should circle 平成.
The JET participant's type of work. She works for a private school, so we write 会社員. If she were a public school JET, we'd write 公務員.
We left this box blank, and the tax office people didn't complain.

In 1 納税管理人, I write information about me, the tax representative.

My home address.
My name, as it appears on my Residence Card. Above that, I write my name in katakana. I stamp the 印 mark.
My relationship to the JET participant. I wrote 同僚, but 友達 would be fine, too.
The type of work I do. I work for a private school, so I write 会社員.
My telephone number.

In 2 法の施行地外における住所又は居所となるべき場所, write the JET participant's address upon returning home. We wrote down her parents' address in romaji.

In 3 納税管理人を定めた理由, write the reason for designating a tax representative. The person at the tax office suggested 脱退一時金申告のため.

In 4 その他参考事項, write when the JET participant is leaving Japan.

The day the JET participant is planning to leave the country. To be precise, this should be the day the plane takes off from Japan.
Leave this blank. It is for people who planning to return to Japan.
Leave this blank. It is for people planning to return to Japan.
Other. Leave this blank.

The tax office workers check that the form is error-free, make a copy, stamp the two forms, and give you back one. I, the tax representative, need to keep it safe. It is needed when I return to the tax office in a few months.

File for refund on pension refund tax

A few months passed; now it's January and the JET participant got her pension refund. She sent me an official piece of paper showing that the pension payments were refunded. I can do the paperwork for the tax refund for the 20% income tax that was assessed on that refund. Here's what I take to the same tax office that we visited before.

When you get to the tax office, employees many not be familiar with the process, and you'll have to talk to several people before the expert comes along. First I went to the reception desk, explained what I was doing, and the man asked me to fill out this form.


This form is called 受付票兼添付書類台紙. The only information I entered was at the top, as specified by the tax office dude. It's important that the information on various tax forms is identical, so it's a good idea to copy information from the tax representative form. If you write the address differently in different places, or if you skip a middle name, that might lead to a problem, and we don't like problems.

Circle last year: 平成28年分.
The JET participant's address when she lived in Japan.
納税者氏名 カナ
The JET participant's name in katakana.
納税者氏名 漢字
The JET participant's name in romaji (even though it says "kanji").
The JET participant's phone number when she lived in Japan.
The JET participant's date of birth.

When I finished, the man sent me to a different room. In the new room, the first guy I talked to didn't know quite what I needed to do. He went off to check, and several minutes later, a woman who was apparently in charge of this kind of thing came from the back room with the paperwork I needed to complete. The forms themselves are regular tax forms, but there is a special abbreviated way of completing them that is used. There's no way you'd guess how to do this on your own, but you don't need to, because they'll tell you. She walked me through the forms, and we got everything done in around ten minutes.


On the above form, 申告書, here's what I wrote.

My address.
My name in romaji.

Additionally, I wrote some numbers, and a bunch of zeros, in the boxes on the form. The employee told me what went where.


On the above form, 申告書B, here's what I wrote.

This box is in the upper-left corner. It is a big box split in two by a dashed line. The JET participant's address when she lived in Japan goes in the top half. My address goes in the bottom half.
平成 年1月1日の住所
My name in romaji. This doesn't match the description at all. Well, the employee told me what to write, so that's what I wrote.
The JET participant's name in romaji.
The JET participant's date of birth. I suppose the leading "4" means 平成. The boxes after that are the year, month, and day.
Bank information for where to send the tax refund. I'm using the JET participant's account, and I copy the relevant details down from her bank book.

There are some other numbers that go in some boxes, the employee told me what to write where, and I did.

We finished the paperwork. I was sent back to the first room, where I dropped off the papers. They stamped them, gave me carbon copies, and I left. Tax refund money takes two or three months to get transferred.

Handle the refund

In February the refund came. The tax office sent me a post card and transferred the money to the JET's bank account here in Japan. I went to an ATM and took all the money out, and bought an Amazon gift certificate for the JET. If you're here on JET for a year, the tax refund refund is around $400, depending on the exchange rate. Somehow, you need to get the money from Japan to the home country, and one way is Amazon. Amazon's exchange rate is comparable to a bank's exchange rate, and there's no transfer fee, so it works. If the refund were much larger, you might not want the money stuck in Amazon. But for us it worked, so we did it.

I can't close the bank account; only the person who opened it can. But there is no problem with an empty account. My friend David once told me that after seven years of inactivity they will close it automatically.


This takes a lot of time, to get it done you need decent understanding of the Japanese tax system, and it's fairly boring. I was happy to learn about the process and to help out a friend, but I'm not keen on repeating the experience.

Presenting the World


A paper written by me and Adam Pearson, Presenting the World: Country poster presentations, was published in The Language Teacher, a journal produced by JALT Publications. July 2016, Volume 40, No. 4, pg. 15-16. Adam and I wrote the paper in the spring of 2015. Alternate file formats: PDF & ePub. The fact sheets are here.


Quick guide

Keywords:Presentations, peer-teaching, foreign geography, foreign culture
Learner English level:Junior high school and up
Learner maturity:Junior high school and up
Preparation time:5 minutes
Activity time:30-40 minutes
Materials:Handouts (see appendices), blackboard or projector and screen

Presentations are common activities in English conversation classes, but because gathering data is difficult and time consuming, the scope is typically quite narrow. The goal of this activity is for students to develop and deliver a presentation on a foreign country without the burden of research. A presentation can be divided into four parts: information gathering, writing, practicing, and presenting. All of these are important skills, but since doing all of them together can be overwhelming, in English as well as in one's native language, this activity removes the first step, simplifies the second, and allows students to focus on the remaining two.




If you have the time, you can do the same project with different countries a few weeks after doing it the first time. Students should be much faster the second time around. A common problem when talking about countries is improper generalization. Consider the statement, “In the U.S., people like to eat pizza.” That's not entirely true, because many people don't. It would be better to say, “Pizza is popular in the U.S.” By carefully choosing how we display the information on the posters, teachers help students avoid this kind of pitfall and simultaneously provide examples of ways to properly make large-scale observations. The vocabulary that students need to deliver these presentations is taught in JHS 3 and above. However, if the topic is changed from “countries” to “foreign schools” or “celebrities”, and new posters are carefully created, the same general procedure can be used with JHS 1 and 2 students.


The appendices are available from the online version of this article at <>.











In 1964, Kyuya Fukada wrote a book called 100 Famous Japanese Mountains (日本百名山) listing is favorite hikes in Japan. This is a de-facto list for hiking enthusiasts in the country. I haven't made any specific effort to hike these mountains, but over time I've hit up many of the peaks.


1Mt. Rishiri利尻岳2009
2Mt. Rausu羅臼岳2011
3Mt. Shari斜里岳
4Mt. Meakan雌阿寒岳2011
5Mt. Asahi旭岳
6Mt. Tomuraushiトムラウシ山
7Mt. Tokachi十勝岳
8Mt. Poroshiri幌尻岳
9Mt. Yōtei羊蹄山2009
10Mt. Iwaki岩木山2007
11Mt. Hakkoda八甲田山
12Mt. Hachimantai八幡平
13Mt. Iwate岩手山
14Mt. Hayachine早池峰
15Mt. Chokai鳥海山2007
17Mt. Asahi朝日岳
18Mt. Zao蔵王山2013
19Mt. Iide飯豊山
20Mt. Azuma吾妻山
21Mt. Adatara安達太良山
22Mt. Bandai磐梯山
23Mt. Aizu-komagatake会津駒ヶ岳
24Mt. Nasu那須岳
25Mt. Echigo-komagatake越後駒ヶ岳
26Mt. Hira平ヶ岳
27Mt. Makihata巻機山
28Mt. Hiuchi燧岳
29Mt. Shibutsu至仏岳
30Mt. Tanigawa谷川岳
31Mt. Amakazari雨飾山
32Mt. Naeba苗場山
33Mt. Myoko妙高山
34Mt. Hiuchi火打山
35Mt. Takazuma高妻山
36Mt. Nantai男体山
37Mt. Okushirane奥白根山
38Mt. Sukai皇海山
39Mt. Hotaka武尊山
40Mt. Akagi赤城山2014
41Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane草津白根山2015
42Mt. Azumaya四阿山
43Mt. Asama浅間山
44Mt. Tsukuba筑波山
Kita Alps
45Mt. Shirouma白馬岳
46Mt. Goryu五竜岳
47Mt. Kashimayari鹿島槍岳
48Mt. Tsurugi剣岳
49Mt. Tateyama立岳
50Mt. Yakushi薬師岳
51Mt. Kurobegoro黒部五郎岳
52Mt. Kuro (Mt. Suisho)黒岳 (水晶岳)
53Mt. Washiba鷲羽岳
54Mt. Yari槍ヶ岳
55Mt. Hotaka穂高岳
56Mt. Jonen常念岳
57Mt. Kasa笠ヶ岳
58Mt. Yake焼岳
59Mt. Norikura乗鞍岳
60Mt. Ontake御岳
Yatsu-ga-take Region
62Mt. Kirigamine霧ヶ峰
63Mt. Tateshina蓼科山
Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park
65Mt. Ryokami両神山
66Mt. Kumotori雲取山
67Mt. Kobushi甲武信ヶ岳
68Mt. Kinpu金峰山
69Mt. Mizugaki瑞牆山
70Mt. Daibosatsu大菩薩嶺
Mt. Fuji Region
71Mt. Tanzawa丹沢山
72Mt. Fuji富士山2008
73Mt. Amagi天城山
Chuo Alps Region
74Mt. Kiso-komagatake木曽駒ヶ岳
75Mt. Utsugi空木岳
76Mt. Ena恵那山
Minami Alps
77Mt. Kai-komagatake甲斐駒ヶ岳
78Mt. Senjo仙丈ヶ岳
79Mt. Houou鳳凰山
80Mt. Kitadake北岳
81Mt. Ainodake間ノ岳
82Mt. Shiomi塩見岳
83Mt. Warusawa悪沢岳
84Mt. Akaishi赤石岳
85Mt. Hijiri聖岳
86Mt. Tekari光岳
Hokuriku Region
87Mt. Hakusan白山
88Mt. Arashima荒島岳
Kansai Region
89Mt. Ibuki伊吹山
90Mt. Odaigahara大台ヶ原山
91Mt. Omine大峰山
92Mt. Daisen大山
93Mt. Tsurugi剣山
94Mt. Ishizuchi石鎚山
95Mt. Kuju九重山
96Mt. Sobo祖母山
97Mt. Aso阿蘇山
98Mt. Kirishima霧島山
99Mt. Kaimon開聞岳
100Mt. Miyanoura宮之浦岳

Tsukaya Liquor


There's a liquor store near my house called Tsukaya Liquor (塚屋酒店). One day when walking to the park I saw a sign in front of the shop advertising "Fresh Bread!" That struck me as odd, because it's a liquor store, right? Well, no, sort of. It turns out the shop is a small grocery store. They sell booze, groceries, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Plus, one of the women who runs the shop is chatty and likes to talk about where the produce comes from, and what seasons and months are best for what vegetables. It's a nice little place. It also turns out that the owner of the shop is a distant relative of my landlord, which is conceivable since the shop is near my apartment, but still it's Tokyo, so who would have guessed.

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Today I went there to get some bread and onions. They didn't have any onions, so instead I bought some natsumikans (from Ehime) and cherries (from Yamagata). We were chatting about the seasonal progression of mikans and mikan-related citrus hybrids. It turns out that the hybrids bear fruit at slightly different times of the year. The shopkeeper orders Japanese produce whenever possible, so she knows what's good when. And in the course of conversation, she mentioned that you can find random herbs and vegetables growing wild all over Tokyo. For example, across the street. So, she grabbed her shoes, and we went across the street to find some.

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When we got across the street, it took a minute for the shopkeeper to locate a kind of Japanese wild onion called Allium macrostemon (ノビル). The first ones we found were near the sidewalk and because of dog walking not good for eating. After another minute, she found another plant and pulled it up. Sure enough, there was a small onion at the bottom. Take it home, she said, and slice it and put it on toast, so I did, and it was good.

Today at the liquor store, I learned how to pick and eat wild onions in suburban Tokyo.

〒202-0023 東京都西東京市新町5-12-10





I visited Betsy and Dex in Norway for a week at the end of March. Here are some pictures.

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It's a twelve hour flight from Japan to Copenhagen, then a one hour flight to Oslo. Jet lag on the way over was fine, but the return trip wiped me out. Works for me! I had a blueberry Pop-Tart in Copenhagen Airport. They probably don't call it "Pop-Tart" though. Betsy and Dex met me at the airport, and we went to Oslo for the night.

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On the second day (the first full day) we went on a Norway in a Nutshell tour. It's a customizable package thing that lots of tourists purchase, apparently. So, we took the Bergen Railway up to the ice planet Hoth. It was cold and windy outside, I imagine, but we stayed in the warm train car. Some people were snowkiting, which I'd never seen before. At Myrdal, we hopped on the Flåm Railway and predictably went to Flåm. After that it was a trip on a boat through the fjords. Dex is a geologist, and he explained the geology behind the country's ridiculously curvy coastline.

2016-03-27.01.House.jpg 2016-03-27.02.Telephone.jpg 2016-03-27.03.Waterfall.jpg 2016-03-27.04.Shop.jpg 2016-03-27.05.Flowers.jpg 2016-03-27.06.Dex-Betsy.jpg 2016-03-27.07.Fjord.jpg 2016-03-27.08.Fjord.jpg 2016-03-27.09.Road.jpg 2016-03-27.10.Waterfall.jpg 2016-03-27.11.Waterfall.jpg 2016-03-27.12.Waterfall.jpg 2016-03-27.13.Village.jpg 2016-03-27.14.Valley.jpg

I thought the weather in Norway in March would really suck, but it didn't. We got a little rain one day, a lot of rain another day, and then lots of partly cloudy and sunny weather. It was warm, too. Good conditions for walking outside. We walked up a mountain road for an hour and turned around when the snow got too deep and the sun dipped low in the sky.

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It was too windy to get a flashy guidebook-style photo atop Pulpit Rock. The view was good, though. Later in the afternoon we had lunch at the lodge. Betsy and Dex had a potato and leek soup, and I had a smoked salmon sandwich. I don't know much about Norwegian food, but I enjoyed eating a lot of new things. The restaurants served a lot of fish. Breakfast buffets included pickled herring, whole wheat bread, Norwegian cheese, musli, and other standard fare like eggs and bacon and sausages. Hot dogs appear to be a staple food product here. Many convenience stores and shops serve large delicious hot dogs. I consumed my share.

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Dex flew back to work, so Betsy and I toured Bergen on our own. My friend Henrik said that a guidebook once opened, "In Bergen, sometimes it does not rain." I'm suspicious of the claim. Certainly we experienced a lot of precipitation, but we had the umbrellas and jackets, so with soggy shoes and socks we hit the popular sites. The popular sites were mostly empty, because tourist season is in the summer, so there were no lines. We saw the The Hanseatic Museum, showing off the old town, the Bryggens Museum, with a display on a town fire a century ago, and Troldhaugen, the house where Edward Grieg lived when he wasn't busy touring the rest of Europe.

Can you think of any famous Norwegians other than Edward Grieg? Well, if you don't listen to classical music, you probably don't even know who he is. My parents suggested that that guy who painted The Scream is famous. That might be true ... although Adam later remarked that the painting itself is famous, and the artist is less widely known. If you're a mathematician, you might know of Abel, who made great contributions to the subject in the early 1800s. And if you start naming famous musical groups, the odds are decent you're getting Norway confused with Sweden or Denmark.

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Moss is a town about an hour south of Oslo. Dex is teaching geology at a small university campus there for a semester. It looks like a nice facility. In the morning we went shopping, and in the afternoon we walked around town. I fixed some of their computer problems and explained some of the others.

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Betsy and I went to several museums in the Oslo outskirts. There were some old Viking boats at the Viking Ship Museum, a big ship that went to the North Pole and the South Pole at the Fram-Museum, a balsa wood boat and a reed boat at the Kon-Tiki Museum, and old buildings with moss on the roof at the The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Four museums in one day usually gets tedious, but if you mix up the types like we did, it's interesting. In the late afternoon, we went to Vigeland Sculpture Park to see the sculptures. My friend Henrik from graduate school lives in Oslo, and we met up for drinks. You can't afford alcohol in Norway, though, at least not on a regular basis. It's very heavily taxed. It was fun to chat with Henrik; I hadn't seen him in almost a decade. Dexy took the train up, and later in the evening we went to a fancy restaurant.

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It's fun walking around downtown Oslo. That's what we did on my last morning. Around noon, I said goodbye and hopped the train to the airport. The plane ride back to Tokyo felt shorter than the plane ride there, but maybe I just slept through more of it. A good vacation. The new Japanese school year starts next week.

Teacher Certification Test


The traditional way to become a licensed teacher in Japan is to go to a four-year Japanese university and get certification along the way to graduation, but there are other ways to get the same piece of paper. Relatively recently, MEXT introduced a special certification track in order to obtain a teaching license. Here's a PDF (in Japanese) with the details of the process. In this blog entry, I summarize and translate the parts of the process that are relevant to me.



Every year, several thousand native English speakers come to Japan to work as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) who teach English to Japanese elementary, junior high school, and senior high school students. In the past, many ALTs were assigned to junior and senior high schools, and in recent years there has been an increase in elementary school ALTs. By law, if you want to teach at a public school in Japan, you need proper certification: a teaching license (教育職員免許状). Almost all ALTs lack this license, so they have to team teach. That is, a properly licensed English teacher — typically a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) — should in theory be in the classroom with them at all times. In reality, people have been known to occasionally ignore national educational policy, and sometimes some ALTs teach some of their lessons alone. When I was an ALT, a few times the Japanese English teacher was called away on an emergency or otherwise had too much other work to do, and the school asked me to run the class by myself. As a practical measure, team teaching is beneficial for language education, because the two teachers can demonstrate conversations to the class. But if you want to stay in Japan a long time, you probably want to get a promotion.

Private Schools

If you work at a private school, it is possible to teach by yourself even without a proper teaching license. Private schools can hire you as a Special Part-Time Lecturer (特別非常勤講師). The translation here is misleading: the job can be full-time, as in forty hours per week. The word "part-time" is used to indicate that it's a non-tenure position. When my current school hired me as a Special Part-Time Lecturer, it made the arrangements for me to get a Temporary Teaching License (臨時免許状). This license is good for up to three years and can be renewed. This license is tied to your place of work; if you change employers, maybe you have to get a new one. My impression is that the office in Tokyo that grants temporary licenses appears to prefer master's degrees to bachelor's degrees, but certainly bachelor's degrees are sufficient. Rules for obtaining a temporary license vary by prefecture. Private schools themselves vastly prefer a candidate holding a master's degree to one with only bachelor's degree. But that varies from school to school. With an otherwise strong resume and a strong ability to speak Japanese, those with bachelor's degrees and several years of ALT work experience can find decent jobs teaching English at private schools in large Japanese cities, and particularly in Tokyo. As a Special Part-Time Lecturer, you can work as a teacher at a private school, but if you want to work as a teacher for a long time, it would be better to get a proper Japanese teacher license. Your resume looks stronger, the hiring process is easier for the school, some schools have special not-as-good positions for employees with only temporary teaching licenses, and the option of working at a public school is worth having.

If you're an expat teaching English in Japan, you might change jobs every few years. This is fairly common in the expat teaching world, but it's unstable. Your Japanese friends may be surprised that you have to go out and find a new job after you reach the three-year or five-year contract limit. Still, there are many teaching jobs that open up every year. GaijinPot and O-Hayo Sensei are good resources for those in the job market.

Bad News On Public Schools

The bad news is that even if you get a proper teaching license, most prefectures in Japan will not offer you a tenured teaching position at a public school. Several years ago, all prefectures except Tokyo had clauses forbidding foreigners from getting tenure at public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. I speculate that the situation may have improved recently but cannot say for sure. Without tenure you can still get a job at a public school, but you may have to renew your contract every year, and presumably your salary would rise slowly or not at all. This kind of thing varies by prefecture and school district.

Good News on Licensing

The good news is that one can obtain a Special Teaching License (特別免許状). The general idea of the Special Teaching License is that some people, regardless of their field, become teachers after spending years in the workplace building up their expertise. Such people may well have the knowledge and skills to teach, but they aren't going to go back to college for four years just to get the certificate like other teachers. Instead, they may be eligible for the Special Teaching License. As a foreign language teacher with years of experience and native-level English.


Official Documentation

The following are excerpts from the official MEXT document and my casual English translations. My translations are quick and casual. If you aren't sure about the translation, take a look at the original Japanese. If you don't speak any Japanese, ask your Japanese coworkers. My comments are in italics.


Cover Page

特別免許状の授与に係る教育職員検定等に関する指針 平成26年6月19日 文部科学省初等中等教育局教職員課

Guidelines on Testing for Certification of Teachers With Special Teaching Licenses. 2014-06-19. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, & Technology. Teachers Branch of the Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau. This is the title of the document.



  • 特別免許状は、教員免許状を持っていないが優れた知識経験等を有する社会人等を教員として迎え入れることにより、学校教育の多様化への対応や、その活性化を図るため、授与することができる免許状である。
  • すなわち、教職課程を経ていないながらも、学校の教員として学校教育に貢献することのできる優れた知識経験等を有する者が授与対象者となる。したがって、特別免許状の授与に当たり行う教育職員検定は、外国の教職課程を経ていることを前提とし行う教育職員免許法第18条に基づく教育職員検定とは異なる。
  • 都道府県教育委員会によっては、特別免許状に係る審査基準を具体的に定めていない場合や、審査基準を厳格に定めている場合があり、全国的に制度の利用が進んでいるとはいえない状況である。
  • これらのことを踏まえ、都道府県教育委員会による特別免許状の積極的な授与に資するとともに、特別免許状所有者による教育の質を担保するため、以下において、特別免許状の授与に当たり行う教育職員検定等に関する指針を示す。


Chapter 1: Confirming Matters About Official Certification to Become an Educator

第1章 教育職員検定において確認すべき事項

  • 授与候補者の教員としての資質の確認
  • 任命者又は雇用者(雇用者は、学校の設置者に限る。以下同じ。)の推薦による学校教育の効果的実施の確認
  • 授与候補者の教員としての資質についての第三者の評価を通じた確認
具体的な内容は、第2章第1節から第3節に示すとおりである。なお、教育職員検定においては、これらの観点に加え、第2章第4節に示す付加的観点を 選択的に用いることも考えられる。

There are three main points to consider regarding teacher certification.

Details on this process are contained in Chapter 2. In Chapter 2, Clause 1 through Clause 3 are considered, and Clause 4 is optionally considered.


Chapter 2: Details of the Official Certification Process

第2章 教育職員検定において確認すべき具体的内容

Chapter 2 Clause 1: Qualities Required for an Applicant

第1節 授与候補者の教員としての資質の確認


The applicant must meet the core qualities and qualifications described in either Item 1 or Item 2 below.

Chapter 2 Clause 1 Item 1: Those With Expertise or Special Knowledge of a Field

第1項 教科に関する専門的な知識経験又は技能

  1. 学校教育法第1条に規定する学校又は次に掲げる教育施設における教科に関する授業に携わった経験が、最低1学期間以上にわたり概ね計600時間(授業時間を含む勤務時間)以上あること。
  2. 教科に関する専門分野に関する勤務経験等(企業、外国にある教育施設等におけるもの)が、概ね3年以上あること。

For those with special expertise in a field, such as those with experience working in a field, applicants must meet either the first or second requirement below.

  1. The applicant has at least one year and 600 hours of teaching experience at a school as designated under Article 1 of the School Education Law or some other institutions. Work experience at regular Japanese schools fits this requirement. Some schools abroad also qualify; see the PDF for more examples.
  2. The applicant has at least three years of work experience in the relevant field. There are examples of what kind of experience counts in the PDF. Working at a company or working at a university can qualify, if your specialization there matches what you hope to teach in the future.

Chapter 2 Clause 1 Item 2: Those Popular in Society with Strong Motivation and Zeal

第2項 社会的信望、教員の職務を行うのに必要な熱意と識見

  • 授与候補者が提出した推薦状(第2節の推薦状とは別に2通以上。勤務予定校以外の日本の学校における学校活動実績がある場合には、当該校の設置法人の役員や校長等管理職による推薦状を必ず含む。)の内容評価
  • 本人の申請(志願)理由書

Those held in high confidence by society with the necessary zeal to teach can qualify here. Applicants need good academic references and two letters of evaluation and recommendation from principals or heads of educational institutions. The applicant also must write a letter of intent explaining why he or she wants to become a teacher. This is a method whereby if there's enough public pressure, it's possible for a person to get certification even if they otherwise lack any reasonable qualifications. I imagine it's very difficult to get approval in this fashion; you're probably better off showing relevant work experience as outlined in Item 1 above.

Chapter 2 Clause 2: Implementing Effective Education at the Recommending School

第2節 任命者又は雇用者の推薦による学校教育の効果的実施の確認

  1. 授与候補者を配置することにより実現しようとしている教育内容
  2. 授与候補者に対し、特別免許状を授与する必要性があること
  3. 第4章第1節~第3節に関する対応状況

The employer recommending this applicant should be able to place the person in a manner where they can be an effective educator. The below three points are to be considered.

  1. What subject matter the applicant will teach.
  2. The necessity of the applicant receiving a Special Teaching License.
  3. Information specified in Clause 1 through Clause 3 of Chapter 4.

Chapter 2 Clause 3: Third Party Evaluation of the Applicant's Qualifications

第3節 授与候補者の教員としての資質についての第三者の評価を通じた確認


A third party must evaluate the applicant's qualities and attributes relevant to teaching. A third party, through conducting an interview, should confirm that the applicant possesses scholarship experience as specified in Chapter 5 Clause 5 of the Educational Personnel Certification Law.

Chapter 2 Clause 4: Additional Points

第4節 付加的観点

  1. (例) 外国の教員資格の保有
  2. 修士号、博士号等の学位の保有
  3. 各種競技会等における成績
  4. 大学における教職科目の履修
  5. 模擬授業の実施による評価

If the information in Clause 1 above is insufficient for a board of education to make a decision on whether it would be appropriate to award a Special Teaching License, the additional factors here may be considered.

  1. (Example) Possesses teaching certification in a foreign country.
  2. Possesses a Master's degree or Doctor's degree.
  3. Results of various competitions.
  4. University courses in education.
  5. Evaluation of mock lessons.


Chapter 3: Details on the Certification and Judgment Process

第3章 教育職員検定の具体的な審査方法等

Chapter 3 Clause 1: Details on the Certification and Judgment Process

第1節 教育職員検定の具体的な審査方法



Using the information detailed in Chapter 2 (excluding Clause 3), the board of education reviews the applicant's documentation for suitability.

For those who are considered by the board of education as targets to pass the document review, in order to further collect information about scholastic experience and to see if the applicant is has a suitable personality, the interviewer with scholastic history described in Chapter 2 Clause 3 may be asked to speak to the board of education about the applicant. Applicants have to get interviewed by someone appropriately qualified, and for applicants who look good enough on paper, the interviewer goes to the board of education and tells them about the applicant.

Chapter 3 Clause 2: Preparing and Applying for the Special Teaching License

第2節 特別免許状授与申請手続の整備及び周知


Each prefectural board of education coordinates with its member local board of educations and schools. For local board of educations and schools that would like to submit an application for a Special Teaching License, a suitable procedure shall be created, and preparation and application documents shall be created.


Chapter 4: Other

第4章 その他


Those with a Special Teaching License should, when thinking about employment, bear in mind Clause 1 through Clause 5.

Chapter 4 Clause 1: Training Plan Draft and Enforcement

第1節 研修計画の立案、実施について


Special Teaching License holders may not be skilled in creating educational plans. Other regularly-licensed teachers at the place of employment should assist with reviewing such documents and plans and also help with implementation. Additionally, apart from the teacher's regular subject there are classes such as the Period for Integrated Studies, Moral Education, and Periods for Special Studies, as well as potential duties such as student guidance. Training should also cover these areas. This is meant to apply to people who just received their Special Teaching License and may at first be unfamiliar with various educational matters.

Chapter 4 Clause 2: Organization of Common Governmental Curriculum Guidelines

第2節 学習指導要領等の共通理解のための体制について


In order to prepare materials, choose textbooks, and do other school work, in the case where the person does not have a grasp of fundamental Japanese, the school or institution should provide requisite support. One interpretation of this is that if you don't speak much Japanese, your school should outline how it will support you when you apply for the Special Teaching Permit. Otherwise, the assumption is that you won't be able to read official materials or do any other relevant school work involving Japanese.

Chapter 4 Clause 3: The Posting Rate of Special Teaching License Holders

第3節 特別免許状所有者の配置割合について



※ 特別免許状の授与を受けた後3年以上の学校勤務経験(当該校に限らない)があり、普通免許状所有者と同等に教育活動及び校務を担当することができると認められる者

In order to assist with guiding Special Teaching License holders in advancing reasonable education goals for the school at large, the number of teachers with a Special Teaching License out of the total number of teachers should be less than 50%. There is some discussion of a 20% figure in certain circumstances.

For schools focusing mainly on foreign language and having some specific plan where the above-mentioned ratio would be problematic to maintain, or for research and development schools or curriculum development schools, if the school obtains proper designation from MEXT the ratio can be ignored.

For the above numbers, teachers who have been working more than three years under a Special Teaching License are counted as regularly-licensed teachers. The idea is that for the first three years on the Special Teaching License you're doing on-the-job training, but after that you're just a normal teacher.

Chapter 4 Clause 4: Employment of Those Already Awarded a Special Teaching License

第4節 既に特別免許状を授与された者の任命・雇用について


For those who already hold or held a Special Teaching License, their service record or work evaluation records should be verified. I believe the intent is that before re-issuing a Special Teaching License to someone who held one before, a review of the person's previous work should be conducted, just in case there were serious issues.

Chapter 4 Clause 5: The System of Special Part-Time Lecturers

第5節 特別非常勤講師制度等の活用について




The Special Teaching License is considered identical in rank to a regular Teaching License with the assumption that holders will conduct school education and activities normally. On the other hand, in the case where a person is limited to only teaching within their area of expertise, the person might report as a Special Part-Time Lecturer. This is an alternative to obtaining a Special Teaching License. If the person is a guest teacher or always doing team teaching, they do not need to have a Special Teaching License or be a Special Part-Time Lecturer. This is saying that the ALT system is acceptable. If you team teach, only one teacher needs proper certification.

Additionally, school districts and schools that elect to have classes on Saturdays or otherwise outside of the official MEXT-designated curriculum do not need teachers for those hours to hold a Special Teaching License or be a Special Part-Time Lecturer. This is saying that certified teachers are only needed for MEXT-required courses. It's rare but possible for schools to offer more classes than required by law. If they do, the extra classes are far less regulated.

According to case-by-case circumstances at a board of education or school, with the goal of creating an optimal system, if it should happen that someone with proper qualifications cannot be found, it might be possible for a member of the community or someone who is an expert in the relevant field to be welcomed into a school to teach together with a certified teacher.


Tokyo Certification

Now I'll look at and translate the rules for the certification process outlined by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. If you work in Tokyo (東京都), this applies to you. The below rules were last updated in 2012, and MEXT's guidelines were updated in 2014.

This is not an official translation. I abbreviate some sections and skip others entirely. If you're applying for the Special Teaching License, you should probably read the original Japanese yourself. If that's too difficult, get a Japanese friend or coworker to go through it with you. The information here will be useful, I hope, as a general overview and point of reference. It should not be considered authoritative.

2013-05-11.47.Tokyo Station.jpg

Rules for obtaining a Special Teaching License



These are the public rules for the Board of Education on granting the Special Teaching License.


Article 1: Objectives

(目的) 第一条
  1. この規則は、東京都教育委員会(以下「教育委員会」という。)が授与する教育職員の特別免許状に関し、必要な事項を定め、もって東京都における学校教育の効果的な実施に資することを目的とする。
  1. This document details how the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education (hereafter simply described as the "Board of Education") awards the Special Teaching Permit, which is designed to amplify the effectiveness of school education in the Tokyo area. We're talking about Tokyo Metropolis here, not the smaller central area that you might normally think of as Tokyo, particularly if you live somewhere else. Also, when you apply for this license, you apply together with your employer (or possibly your future employer). Your employer has to write a recommendation for you saying why they need someone like you and what kind of work they want you to do.


Article 2: Definitions

(定義) 第二条
  1. この規則において「受検者」とは、教育職員免許法(昭和二十四年法律第百四十七号。以下「免許法」という。)第四条第一項に規定する教育職員の特別免許状(以下「特別免許状」という。)の授与に係る免許法第六条第一項に規定する教育職員検定(以下「検定」という。)を受けようとする者をいう。
  2. この規則において「任命権者」とは、受検者を任命し、又は雇用しようとする者をいい、大学附置の国立学校(学校教育法(昭和二十二年法律第二十六号)第二条第二項に規定する国立学校をいう。)においては大学の学長、都立学校にあっては学校の長、区市町村立学校にあってはその学校を所轄する区市町村教育委員会、私立学校にあってはその学校を設置する法人を代表する権限を有するもの(学校法人にあってはに限る。)、法人以外の設立に係る学校にあっては当該学校の設置者とする。
  1. In this document, the word "applicant" means an applicant for a teaching license as described in national education law. The term "Special Teaching License" is an abbreviation for "Special License for Instructors of Education", or something similarly long-winded in the original Japanese. The determination of whether an applicant receives the license or not is abbreviated as "determination".
  2. The word "recommender" refers to a person at the applicant's workplace who is asking for the license in order to employ the applicant. In the case of a national high school attached to a university, this is the university president. In the case of a prefectural school, this is the principal. In the case of a municipal public school, this is the local board of education. In the case of a private school, this is a delgate of the school who has great authority, such as the principal or chairperson of the board. This is essentially the same as the person who makes official hiring decisions at your school. If you're being interviewed by several people for a job, most likely it's the person of highest rank who interviews you.


Article 3: Application Documents

(申請書類) 第三条
  1. 受検者は、特別免許状の授与に係る検定を申請するときは、次に掲げる書類を提出しなければならない。
    1. 教育職員特別免許状検定授与申請書(別記第一号様式)
    2. 住民基本台帳法(昭和四十二年法律第八十一号)第十二条の住民票の写し(本籍地(日本国籍を有しない者にあっては、国籍等)の記載のあるものに限る。)
    3. 担当しようとする教科又は教科の領域の一部について有用な専門的知識経験又は技能(以下「有用な知識経験等」という。)を有することを証明する書類
    4. 人物に関する証明書
    5. 身体に関する証明書
  2. 前項の場合において、教育職員免許法及び教育公務員特例法の一部を改正する法律(平成十九年法律第九十八号。以下「平成十九年免許法等改正法」という。)附則第二条第一項に規定する者については、有するいずれかの免許状及びその写し(免許法第五条第七項の授与権者が発行する免許状を有することを証明する書類(以下「授与証明書等」という。)をもって、これに代えることができる。以下同じ。)を提出しなければならない。
  3. 受検者は、その性質上第一項第三号に規定する有用な知識経験等の証明書を得ることができないときは、自己申告書(別記第二号様式)をもってこれに代えることができる。
  4. 第一項第四号に掲げる書類は現に職を有する者にあってはその雇用者、その他の者にあっては教育委員会が指示する者が、同項第五号に掲げる書類は医療機関の医師が、証明したものでなければならない。
  5. 受検者は、第一項の書類に次に掲げる事項を記載した任命権者による推薦書(別記第三号様式)を添付しなければならない。
    1. 任命しようとする学校の名称及び所在地並びに任命権者及び学校長の氏名
    2. 受検者の氏名及び住所
    3. 担当させようとする教科又は教科の領域の一部の名称及びその内容
    4. 受検者について学校教育の効果的な実施に特に必要があるとする理由
  6. 平成十九年免許法等改正法附則第二条第二項に基づき免許法第九条の三第一項に規定する免許状更新講習の修了確認を受けた者、同条第四項に基づき修了確認期限の延期を受けた者、又は同条第五項括弧書の規定により免許状更新講習の受講の免除を認められた者は、第一項各号に掲げる書類並びに第二項、第三項及び第五項から第七項までの場合にそれぞれ提出すべき書類のほか、免許管理者(免許法第二条第二項に規定する免許管理者をいう。)が発行する教育職員免許法施行規則の一部を改正する省令(平成二十年文部科学省令第九号)附則第十五条に規定する確認証明書又は授与証明書等を提出しなければならない。
  7. 第一項、第五項及び前項に掲げる書類のほか、教育委員会は受検者及び任命権者に対し、必要と認める書類の提出を求めることができる。
  8. 第一項第四号及び第五号の書類の様式は、それぞれ教育職員免許状に関する規則(平成元年東京都教育委員会規則第三十七号。以下「委員会規則」という。)別記第九号様式及び第十一号様式の例による。
  1. In order to apply for the Special Teaching License, the applicant must provide the following documents.
    1. Application for the Special Teaching License. This can be found on the Board of Education website.
    2. The applicant's Certificate of Residence (jūminhyō). This document can be obtained at the city office where you live.
    3. Documents showing the applicant has technical expertise and experience in the target field of employment.
    4. A document on the applicant's character.
    5. A document on the applicant's physical health.
  2. To comply with the Teacher's License Law and the Civil Servant Special Training Law, applicants who have received a license in the past must submit a copy of it. I believe there was an old certification system that has since been revised, and if you have a license obtained under the old system, you should submit a copy. If you don't know what this means, you almost certainly don't have such a license.
  3. Those who cannot obtain the third-party document outlined in Clause 1 Item 3 above must write a personal statement to be submitted instead. A template for this can be found on the Board of Education website. If your Japanese isn't particularly great, you will not want to write one of these. It would be preferable to get your employer to produce the document in Clause 1 Item 3.
  4. The document in Clause 1 Item 4 above should be prepared by the applicant's current employer. If that can't be done, the Board of Education can permit an alternate source. The document in Clause 1 Item 5 must be prepared by a doctor at a medical institution. The phrase "medical institution" means a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. The English word "institution" suggests a large place, but the Japanese has no such nuance.
  5. Along with the documents in Clause 1, an application must include a recommendation letter from the applicant's (future) employer. The school that wants to hire you has to argue that you deserve to get the license.
    1. The letter should contain the school's name, location, and the principal's or school representative's name.
    2. The letter should contain the applicant's name and address.
    3. The letter should identify with specificity what subject the applicant will be asked to teach.
    4. The letter should identify why the school needs this applicant in order to implement a more effective educational plan.
  6. If the applicant already has completed a particular kind of teacher training renewal certification process, this should be included with the application. It seems that Tokyo had some such system in the past that may no longer exist. If you don't know what this means, almost certainly you don't have this.
  7. In addition to the documents mentioned in Clause 1 and Clause 5, the Board of Education may ask for additional documentation if it is necessary.
  8. The above documents should be of a specific format. The Board of Education website has templates illustrating this format.


Article 4: Application Time Frame

(申請期間) 第四条
  1. 前条の申請は年二回、二月又は七月の一日から十四日までの間に行わなければならない。ただし、教育委員会が特に必要と認める場合は、この限りでない。
  1. The application process happens twice a year: in February and in July. The application period is the first of the month to the fourteenth of the month. In special cases as determined by the Board of Education, this limit can be ignored.


Article 5: Official Certification

(検定) 第五条
  1. 教育委員会は、第三条に規定する申請があったときは、受検者の人物、実務、身体及び学力の各項目について、同条に掲げる書類に基づき、検定を行う。
  2. 教育委員会は、前項に規定する書類による検定を行うことが困難と認める場合は、実技その他適当と認められる方法による検定を行うことができる。この場合において、教育委員会は、受検者に対し、その旨を通知する。
  1. After the Board of Education receives the application documents described in Article 3, a determination is made based on the applicant's personality, work experience, health, and scholastic ability.
  2. If a determination cannot be made when considering the above documents alone, the applicant's practical skills or other pertinent information could be taken into consideration. In these cases, the Board of Education will contact the applicant.


Article 6

  1. 前条第一項の検定のうち、学力及び実務の検定は、有用な知識経験等について、担当しようとする学校の種別及び教科を考慮して行う。
  2. 人物及び身体に関する検定については、委員会規則第二十二条及び第二十四条の規定を準用する。
  1. When making the determination as described above, the candidate's scholastic experience and work experience will be considered together with the target school's type and curriculum.
  2. The candidate must be of healthy mind and body as outlined in rules elsewhere. I believe there are general rules for teacher health described in another document created by the Board of Education. If you have serious health concerns, you'll probably want to look into this.


Article 7: Questions from the Commission of Inquiry

(審議会の諮問) 第七条
  1. 教育委員会は、第三条第五項第四号の理由に正当性があり、かつ、受検者について教育職員としての適格性があると認めたときは、次条に規定する検定審議会に対し、教育委員会の判定の適否について意見を付して諮問する。
  1. As outlined in Article 3 Clause 5, in order to determine an applicant's suitability, the commission may ask some questions as outlined below.


Article 8: The Commission of Inquiry

(審議会) 第八条
  1. 特別免許状の授与に係る検定を、公正かつ適正に行うため、教育委員会の附属機関として検定審議会(以下「審議会」という。)を設置する。
  1. To ensure fairness when deciding who receives a Special Teaching License, a Commission of Inquiry (abbreviated as "commission") has been established as an extension of the Board of Education.


Article 9: Items of Jurisdiction

(所掌事項) 第九条
  1. 審議会は、教育委員会の諮問に応じ、次に掲げる事項に関して審議する。
    1. 受検者の教育職員としての適格性
    2. 任命権者の推薦の正当性
    3. 教育委員会の検定に係る判定の適正性
    4. 前三号に掲げるもののほか、諮問を行うために必要と認める事項
  2. 前項の審議は、第三条の書類及び第七条に規定する教育委員会の意見書に基づいて行うものとする。
  1. The committee considers the following factors when deliberating.
    1. Applicant's eligibility.
    2. Legitimacy of the recommender.
    3. Reasonableness of official certification from the Board of Education.
    4. An inquiry covering items other than those listed in Article 3 above, if deemed reasonable.
  2. The decision is based on the items listed above, the Article 3 documents, and the results of the Article 7 inquiry.


Article 10: Organization

(組織) 第十条
  1. 審議会は、教育職員免許法施行規則(昭和二十九年文部省令第二十六号。以下「免許法施行規則」という。)第六十五条の四に規定する者の中から、教育委員会が委嘱する十人以内の委員をもって組織する。ただし、次の各号のいずれかに該当する者は、委員となることはできない。
    1. 免許法第五条第一項各号に規定する者
    2. 現に他の教育委員会が設置する同一の目的をもって設置された審議会の委員である者

The up-to-ten person committee that makes licensing decisions is organized by the Board of Education. It's not particularly relevant to applicants.


Article 11: Committee Member Terms of Office

(委員の任期) 第十一条
  1. 委員の任期は、三年とする。委員に欠員が生じた場合は、前条第一項の規定に従い、新たに委員を選任する。
  2. 委員は、再任されることができる。
  3. 委員は、心身の故障その他の理由により、その職を遂行できなくなったときは、教育委員会に申し出ることにより、辞職することができる。
  4. 委員は、前条各号の規定に該当するとき、又は免許法施行規則第六十五条の四の規定に該当しなくなったときは、辞職しなければならない。

This paragraph describes how long committee members serve. It's not particularly relevant to applicants.


Article 12: Chairperson's Establishment and Authority

(会長の設置及び権限) 第十二条
  1. 審議会に会長を置く。
  2. 会長は、委員が互選する。
  3. 会長は、審議会を代表し、会務を総理する。
  4. 会長に事故のあるときは、委員の互選により選任された者が臨時にその職務を代理する。

This paragraph states what the committee chairperson has the power to do. It's not particularly relevant to applicants.


Article 13: Convening the Committee

(招集) 第十三条
  1. 審議会は、教育委員会が招集する。
  1. The Board of Education decides when the committee should convene.


Article 14: Jurisdiction of the Commission of Inquiry

(審議会の権限) 第十四条
  1. 審議会は、審議を行う上で必要があると認めるときは、教育委員会の意見を求め、若しくは受検者及び任命権者に対し、それぞれ第三条第一項各号に掲げる以外の書類の提出を求め、又は受検者について実技その他の方法による審査を行うことができる。この場合において、第五条第二項後段の規定を準用する。
  2. 前項の実技の審査は、第五条第二項に規定する教育委員会の検定と同時に行うことができる。
  1. If a committee in deliberation feels it necessary, it may ask the applicant or recommending person for documents other than those specified in Article 3 Clause 1. It may also ask for some other method of demonstrating practical skills.
  2. In the above cases, Article 5 Clause 2 applies.


Article 15: Quorum and Adjudication

(定数及び判定) 第十五条
  1. 審議会は、委員の定数の半数以上の出席がなければ会議を開くことができない。
  2. 審議会の判定は、出席委員全員の一致とする。ただし、意見が分かれたときは、出席委員全員の過半数の意見をもって審議会の判定とすることができる。
  3. 前項ただし書の場合において、可否同数のときは、会長の決するところによる。

More than half the committee must be present for there to be a quorum. It's not particularly relevant to applicants.


Article 16: Findings

(答申) 第十六条
  1. 審議会は、判定の結果について、教育委員会に書面をもって答申するものとする。
  2. 前項の場合において、合格させることが適当でないと判定したときは、その理由を明示するものとする。
  3. 前二項の場合において、前条第二項ただし書の規定による判定を行ったときは、出席委員全員の意見を表示するものとする。
  1. The committee reports its findings to the Board of Education.
  2. In the case where an applicant does not pass, an explanation should be provided.
  3. When this explanation is provided, members of the Board of Education may state their opinions.


Article 17: Determination

(決定) 第十七条
  1. 教育委員会は、審議会の答申を受けて合否の決定を行う。
  2. 教育委員会は、不合格の決定をしたときは、受検者及び任命権者に対し、書面をもってこれを通知する。
  1. The Board of Education reports the committee's determinations of success and failure.
  2. When an applicant fails, the Board of Education delivers that information in a letter to the applicant or the recommending person.


Article 18: Awarding the Special Teaching License

(特別免許状の授与等) 第十八条
  1. 教育委員会は、前条第一項の合格の決定を行ったときは、特別免許状(別記第四号様式)を授与する。
  2. 特別免許状は、東京都内の学校においてのみ有効とする。
  1. The Board of Education gives a Special Teaching License to each successful applicant.
  2. The Special Teaching License is only valid within Tokyo.


Article 19: Conferment Date

(授与年月日) 第十九条
  1. 特別免許状の授与年月日は、二月に受理したものについては四月一日、七月に受理したものについては九月一日とする。
  1. Applicants who pass the test in February receive licenses starting on April 1. Those who pass in July receive licenses starting on September 1.


Article 20: Charge

(委任) 第二十条
  1. この規則の施行に関し必要な事項は、東京都教育委員会教育長が定める。
  1. These rules were created by the Tokyo Metropolitan Superintendent of Education.


Additional Rules


1 この規則は、公布の日から施行する。
2 この規則の施行の際、この規則による改正前の特別免許状に関する規則別記第二号様式及び第三号様式による用紙で、現に残存するものは、所要の修正を加え、なお使用することができる。


1 この規則は、平成十年四月一日から施行する。
2 この規則の施行の際、この規則による改正前の特別免許状に関する規則別記第一号様式及び第五号様式から第七号様式までによる用紙で、現に残存するものは、必要な修正を加え、なお使用することができる。


1 この規則は、公布の日から施行する。
2 この規則の施行の際、この規則による改正前の特別免許状に関する規則別記第五号様式による用紙で、現に残存するものは、必要な修正を加え、なお使用することができる。



1 この規則は、平成二十一年四月一日から施行する。
2 この規則の施行の際、この規則による改正前の特別免許状に関する規則別記第一号様式及び第三号様式による用紙で、現に残存するものは、所要の修正を加え、なお使用することができる。


This list shows when this document was revised since its creation twenty-six years ago. The revisions themselves were made in-place, and there's no reason to concern ourselves with precisely when those revisions occurred.




There are some Word documents available for download from the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. This includes the application form for the applicant and the letter of recommendation form for the employer.


Here is information on the interview process itself. Procedures vary by prefecture and year. This is information about 2016 in Tokyo (東京都). Although other places are probably similar, they won't be identical.

You need to apply with your school, or your future school. The Tokyo office didn't want to deal with me directly. So, to begin, I convinced my school to sponsor me. My school got the Tokyo rules and application forms from the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. There were several forms. I filled out one, and my school filled out the rest. We also submitted other paperwork, including sheets proving I taught classes in the past, and the previous year's annual health test. Because my school dealt directly with the office, I didn't have to worry about the details.

The office handling the paperwork is nitpicky but supportive. They asked my school to bring the paperwork down in January, and they went over it to look for mistakes or missing information. That guaranteed the February application be error-free. Actually I wanted to deliver the February application myself, but the office didn't want to deal directly with the applicants. Perhaps they were worried about language issues. In any case, a guy from my school delivered the application.

You can apply for multiple licenses at the same time. I teach English at a junior & senior high school, so I applied for JHS English and SHS English. That meant I had to fill out two application forms differing by a few words and pay the application fee in double (¥5,000 * 2 = ¥10,000).

The application fee is paid when dropping off the applications in early February. When my school's guy dropped off the application and payed the fee, he received and gave me a receipt, and I will use this receipt when picking up the license (assuming I pass the test) in April.


The Interview

Tokyo interviews this year were in late March — March 21 through 24. Mine was the last day. The interview is the test; if you pass the interview, you get the special teaching license. The location was the eighth floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan School Personnel in Service Training Center (東京都教職員研修センター), a five minute walk from the East Exit to JR Suidobashi Station (水道橋). There was a waiting room with staff who examined my Residence Card where I checked in. The waiting room had a nice view, and the staff said I could freely leave the room. I did, to use the restroom and get a can of coffee and kill time. Upon entering the waiting room, they gave me a rule sheet in English and Japanese. Here are the English rules. My comments are in italics.

  • Today's personal interview time is 20 minutes. Please answer briefly to the question. They have lists with many questions, and they'll use the whole twenty minutes.
  • The staff will guide you in front of the interview room about 2 minutes before the time of the interview starting. My start time was delayed, but they told me about it when I arrived, so it wasn't stressful. Just took a long time. Several of us chatted while waiting for our interviews. There were two interview rooms, A and B, and on the day I went, each room had nine interviews. The first one started at 10:30, and the last one started at 15:10.
  • Please wait a moment in the waiting room up to that.
  • When going to the interview, please keep your baggage. You must not go back to the waiting room. In my case, I was the last of the day, and when I finished the interview, the waiting room was locked and the lights were off.
  • Please enter the interview room following the staff. Please knock on the door. When the interview committee replies, you enter the room. This is standard for interviews in Japan. Watch a TV show or anime if you don't know what it looks like.
  • When entering the interview room, please put your coat and baggage on the table near the door.
  • Please tell your full name for the interview committee. There were two people on my committee.
  • When the interview ends, please leave this building. Don't return to the waiting room. Results are announced days later.
  • In the waiting room, don't use communication equipment like a cellular phone. I think they mean don't make calls. Many of us had phones out to exchange contact information and kill time. The staff saw us but didn't say anything, and I don't think it was a problem.
  • In the waiting room, you may eat and drink. There is a vending machine on the 1st floor. The vending machine has drinks, and they're cheap.
  • Please don't enter the restricted area on the map. The 8th floor restroom is only for the women, so when using the mens' restroom, please use the 7th floor. They gave me a map when I checked in showing the location of these places. They don't want you to snoop or interfere with other interviews.
  • Don't go out of this building until the interview ends. Nobody was watching. You could easily check in and then go to a convenience store, and nobody would care.
  • If you need any help, just dial [2803], the staff room. (This call doesn't get through to outside.)
  • Your result will be delivered to your school in the beginning of April.

In the interview, the people ask you questions about education, and they tailor it to the type of license you're seeking. I applied for JHS & SHS English, so they asked questions about both junior and senior high school. I wrote and said that I wanted to be a homeroom teacher, so they asked about that, too. Here are some questions that a friend and I were asked. We wrote this information down after our interviews finished, so the wording is only approximate.

  • Why do you want the Special Teaching License?
  • I just wanted to confirm that you want this for English, and for both JHS & SHS. If you apply for two licenses, like I did, you still only have one interview.
  • What sort of experiences do you have that will help you when teaching?
  • If you become a homeroom teacher, you'll have to give guidance about daily life, not just your subject. What kind of guidance would you give them? This went on for a while. I first talked about my students who will study abroad, but the interviewer wanted to hear more about day-to-day affairs. She asked several follow-up questions to get me focused on the target topic, and that was OK.
  • How can you get students more interested in academics?
  • What would you do if you had a classroom where students were not a cohesive unit and didn't function well together? There is some technical term for this, but I didn't know it, and the man explained it to me.
  • How can you encourage students to be more communicative?
  • How are junior high school students different from high school students?
  • How can you teach your students to be better decision makers?
  • How would you like Japanese students to become?
  • What challenges do you see for yourself as a teacher in the future?
  • What can you work on to be the kind of teacher you want to be?
  • If students are causing problems, what is the most important thing? There was a follow-up question asking whether discipline should be based on the student or based on the bad action.

I felt pretty good about the whole thing. The interviewers were professional staff. I got the impression that they run teacher training. The questions were all fairly standard questions. I have a lot of experience teaching English, and they knew that, so they focused more on matters of school life than English itself. My impression was that they have a long list of questions, and after reading my application and listening to my answers, they selected other related questions to ask. They also asked some follow-up questions. In a few cases, they used some technical terms that I didn't know. They had no problem explaining the terms in simpler Japanese, though. If you don't speak Japanese well, you can request a translator be present when applying, and they will provide one. Beforehand, I felt my Japanese would be sufficient, and it was. The things I didn't understand were technical terms that don't really have direct English translations.



Success! The results were delivered to my workplace in early April. Back in February I was told that I would have to pick up the certificates directly, but that didn't happen. Perhaps an office person from the school picked them up, or perhaps they were mailed — in either case, I didn't have to go anywhere. The certificates are valid for ten years.

Nature Flashcards


This is a card deck of nature and hiking words. The front of each card has a picture of an object. The back has the name of the food in Japanese, phonetic Japanese, and English.

Here's the 50-card package for Anki.

Nature/beach ball.pngbeach ballビーチボールビーチボール
Nature/four-leaf clover.pngfour-leaf clover四つ葉のクローバーよつばのクローバー
Nature/log cabin.pnglog cabinログハウスログハウス
Nature/pine tree.pngpine treeまつ
Nature/stone bridge.pngstone bridge石橋いしばし
Nature/wooden bridge.pngwooden bridge木橋もくきょう


Reading Japanese Books


Reading books in Japanese has been a challenge for me. If I have to use the dictionary too much, the speed is slow and it's boring. But reading is a good way to build your vocabulary, and anyway if you're not reading, then why would you study it? Although I'd studied Japanese in written form, it was only in 2015 that I began to read (short and easy) Japanese stories.

One of the struggles with reading kanji is that you can't sound words out. If you don't know the characters, you skip them. As a consequence, reading material above your level feels pointless. The site Aozora Bunko has a large numbers of old public domain Japanese essays, short stories, and books. Many of these works contain furigana. Someone sorted them by difficulty and posted the results. The easiest-to-read works (measured by kanji) are at the top of that list.

To keep motivation high, it's a good idea to read a lot of short relatively easy pieces. Sometimes I run across an article on an outdated topic, or I read a short story and it's boring. Initially I was worried about that, but I've realized it's fine. Regardless of what you read, it's good reading practice. Obscure topics can be engaging because of their obscurity, and if nothing else, they can expose us to rare words and writing styles. Finally, if it's a short piece, you're going to finish it soon, which is satisfying, and you can find another story in the near future.

Here is a list of works I've finished. Dates and character counts are approximate.

2015-06桜の樹の下には梶井 基次郎Motojirō Kajii1,738
2015-07妙な子宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto2,453
2015-08茶わんの湯寺田 寅彦Torahiko Terada3,989
2016-02父親と自転車小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,416
2016-02うぐいす原 民喜Tamiki Hara1,042
2016-02炎天汗談太宰 治Dai Osamu1,310
2016-02死に対して宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto1,355
2016-03空色の着物をきた子供小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,768
2016-03人馬楠山 正雄Masao Kusuyama3,069
2016-03「冒した者」について三好 十郎Jurō Miyoshi1,141
2016-03神様の布団下村 千秋Chiaki Shimomura4,382
2016-03電信柱と妙な男小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,693
2016-03赤い手袋小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,370
2016-04文福茶がま楠山 正雄Masao Kusuyama3,470
2016-05すみれ北條 民雄Tamio Hōjō2,229
2016-05犬と人形夢野 久作Kyūsaku Yumeno1,571
2017-08火星の記憶R・F・ジョーンズRaymond F. Jones19,800
2017-10明日のマーチ石田衣良Ishida Ira161,500
2017-12ふしぎの国のアリスルイス=キャロルLewis Carroll115,000
2018-10吾輩も猫である赤川 次郎 +Jirō Akagawa et al.128,000
2018-10自信のあるなし宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto761
2018-10国際観光局の映画試写会宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto446
2018-10働く婦人の結婚と恋愛宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto552
2018-10ある男と無花果小川 未明Mimei Ogawa485
2018-10戦争からきた行き違い夏目 漱石Sōseki Natsume467
2018-10私の事宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto328
2018-10婦人民主クラブについて宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto368
2018-10私の愛読書宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto301
2018-10小倉西高校新聞への回答宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto282
2018-11王さまの感心された話小川 未明Mimei Ogawa2,825
2018-11六月十九日太宰 治Osamu Dai651
2018-11今後の寺院生活に対する私考坂口 安吾Ango Sakaguchi333
2018-11久野さんの死宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto508
2018-11私の書きたい女性宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto1,085
2018-11石段に鉄管小川 未明Mimei Ogawa2,159
2018-11矢田津世子宛書簡坂口 安吾Ango Sakaguchi801
2018-11人生を愛しましょう宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto984
2018-11無題(四)宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto918
2018-11感情の動き宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto993
2018-11犬養君に就いて 芥川 龍之介Ryūnosuke Akutagawa332
2018-11日本は誰のものか宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto352
2018-11一問一答太宰 治Osamu Dai1,181
2018-11自分自分の心と云うもの宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto404
2018-11アブセンス・オブ・マインド西田 幾多郎Kitarō Nishida790
2018-11砂をかむ坂口 安吾Ango Sakaguchi1,039
2018-11星の子小川 未明Mimei Ogawa4,000
2018-11雪子さんの泥棒よけ夢野 久作Yumeno Kyūsaku886
2018-11その人らしい人が好き宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto455
2018-12真理を求めて中井 正一Masakazu Nakai646
2018-12星の世界から小川 未明Mimei Ogawa2,635
2018-12大きい足袋宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto1,454
2018-12四十代の主婦に美しい人は少い宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto388
2018-12東宝争議について宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto351
2018-12未亡人への返事宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto1,252
2018-12魔の電柱田中 貢太郎Kōtarō Tanaka311
2018-12牛女小川 未明Mimei Ogawa3,968
2018-12白い小犬を抱いた女田中 貢太郎Kōtarō Tanaka443
2018-12垣隣り宮城 道雄Michio Miyagi1,041
2018-12夕焼け物語小川 未明Mimei Ogawa3,345
2018-12赤い船とつばめ小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,236
2018-12無題太宰 治Osamu Dai453
2018-12けしの圃小川 未明Mimei Ogawa5,357
2018-12無題(二)宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto2,547
2018-12どこで笛吹く小川 未明Mimei Ogawa5,000
2018-12M子宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto2,353
2018-12ピッチの様に宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto811
2018-12作者のことば宮本 百合子Yuriko Miyamoto471
2018-12犬と人形夢野 久作Kyūsaku Yumeno1,573
2018-12つばめの話小川 未明Mimei Ogawa1,438


Freeing Your Materials


A paper of mine, Freeing Your Materials, was published in The Word, a journal produced by Hawai‘i TESOL. February 2016, Volume 25, Issue 2, pg. 3-4. I wrote the paper in the fall of 2015. Marjorie Carlson helped me edit and revise it. Alternate file formats: PDF & ePub.


The problem in the education world is that teachers and professors spend hours upon hours every year writing tests and homework that only get used once, in one classroom. Teachers go to great lengths to develop high quality materials, but sharing them takes extra time, and so we don't. I think teachers ought to put a stronger emphasis on collaboration. First of all, we should post our work online. Second, we should freely license it. When teachers work together to freely license and share their materials with others, we can build on each other’s' work. This gives teachers greater access to high quality materials, which in turn makes for a better educational experience.

Sharing your own work is easier than you might think. If you have a website, upload your work there. If you have videos, which you often use in the ESL classroom, post them to YouTube or Vimeo. All sorts of files can be shared using Dropbox or Google Drive. I prefer, but in any case there are thousands of sites where you can upload your work.

Why should you bother? Well, imagine you've put together a nice lesson plan, and you have some associated files — a worksheet, a slide show, several audio clips of conversations, and a video. You can upload it to your website and email the link to your colleagues. They'll take a look, and if they like it — or if they teach the same course next term — they'll make use of some of what you made. If the quality is good enough, they'll send the link in turn to their colleagues. If the materials you create are high quality, you'll develop a reputation for them.

Just posting your work online helps you and other teachers, but it has limits. Suppose you posted some materials to your website as described above, and you shared the site with a colleague. They liked it, and they want to build on what you made. At the moment, that's not possible, because copyright law gets in the way. Your colleague can download your materials and even make other materials that go with it, but what your colleague cannot do is upload the entire bundle to their own website. After all, they don't hold copyright over anything you made, so they can't upload it without getting your permission.

When people have to get permission to do things, they often do something else instead, and this stifles sharing. Imagine you're web surfing, you find a nice worksheet on some website, and you want to make a second one. Are you going to email the author and ask permission? You might, if it's someone you know, but if it's a stranger, probably not. And even if you email them, how long will you have to wait for a reply? Most of the time it's sensible to forget about it and start writing from scratch.

If we want teachers to share their work online, we should look to successful collaborative sites like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and OpenStreetMap and see what they've done right. There are many reasons those sites are successful, but one crucial factor is the use of Creative Commons licensing. A Creative Commons license is a kind of promise. It says, “You can take this work and do all sorts of things with it, and you don't ever have to ask my permission.” When users don't have to ask permission, and when they can build on each others' work, they often just go ahead and do it — and make great things as a result.

Here's how the Creative Commons Attribution license works in education. Imagine I write a test for a class. I post it online, and in the description I add the following sentence. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Other teachers who see that sentence know that they're allowed to modify, reuse, and redistribute the file, as long as they cite the source. Perhaps one teacher creates an MP3 for the listening section of the test. Perhaps another teacher creates several review sheets for the test. Because the original test is freely licensed, these teachers can post all of these materials to their own websites. Over time, the test that I wrote grows into a collection of materials that go together with the test, and because the work is shared, this can all happen without any single person investing long hours in the process. As teachers adjust to creating and working with freely licensed materials, we spend more time polishing and making refinements and less time reinventing the wheel.

ESL is behind the curve when it comes to Creative Commons materials. In 2012, the state of California passed legislation for Creative Commons textbooks for popular university courses, but no ESL courses were included. A search of the Merlot II materials for ESL textbooks under a Creative Commons license comes up empty. In comparison, consider an introductory economics textbook, “Principles of Microeconomics” by Rittenberg and Tregarthen. This book is used by Matthew Holian, a professor at San Jose State University. Holian praises the book and its free licensing. “A major motivation for me was ... to save students money. However, I also want to make the material easy to access, i.e., by sending students PDF documents, or by copying and pasting sections of the text into emails and so on.”

There are dozens of examples of university courses with freely-licensed materials, but to date very few of those are in the ESL field. If we switch our focus to media that we can include in our own ESL materials, there is a lot to be found. For photography, Wikimedia Commons is a great resource. If you're looking for an example of a specific vocabulary word used in context, Tatoeba has hundreds of thousands of sentences in dozens of languages. For video, both YouTube and Vimeo have Creative Commons search filters. The raw materials are there, and it's up to us to put them together.

When you start using Creative Commons materials, you soon find that the walls between user and creator are blurred. If you want to make a slide show with nice graphics, grab some pictures from Wikimedia Commons for your slide show, use it in class, and then turn around and upload the slide show to your own website. In the long run, this approach benefits everyone. Teachers share the best of what they've made, other teachers take that, build on it and make it even better, and our students get to learn in classrooms filled with excellent educational materials.

About the Author: Douglas Perkins lives in Tokyo and has taught junior and senior high school ESL for almost a decade. He makes and shares many of his own classroom materials and is an active contributor to Wikimedia Commons, YouTube, and many other collaborative websites.


Nationality Is Not Ethnicity


Japan is not homogeneous. Nationality is not ethnicity. These two facts are obvious, if you stop and think about them, but many people assume the opposite so often that it is worth going into detail about where intuition diverges from fact.


Japan Is Not Homogeneous

No country anywhere is homogeneous. If you get a large group of people, you get a lot of different traits, hobbies, and behaviors.

By definition, a country is homogeneous if it is "uniform in structure or composition throughout". So, let us ask if Japan is uniform. What about Okinawa? It was part of the U.S. from 1945 to 1972. Does that mean the people of Okinawa don't count? I don't suggest choosing one way or the other, but if you're making a claim of homogeneity, you would need to.

There are many minority groups in the country, too.

The nine largest minority groups residing in Japan are: North and South Korean, Chinese, Brazilian (many Brazilians in Japan have some Japanese ancestors), Filipinos (most Filipinos in Japan have Japanese ancestry), Taiwanese, the Ainu indigenous to Hokkaido, and the Ryukyuans indigenous to Okinawa and other islands between Kyushu and Taiwan. The Burakumin, an outcast group at the bottom of Japan's feudal order, are sometimes included. There are also a number of smaller ethnic communities in Japan with a much shorter history.

— Wikipedia: Ethnic issues in Japan, 2016-02-06.

The presence of indigenous Japanese minorities should be sufficient to show that Japan is multicultural.

If Japan is homogeneous, then people should have a lot in common. As a thought exercise, let's stereotype for a bit and think of some "very Japanese" things. Eat rice and miso soup with every meal. Live with parents and grandparents. Do karate. Do judo. Know a lot about green tea. Like green tea. Like eating natto because it's healthy. Play baseball. Know how to wield a sword. Have a fancy cell phone. Enjoy watching variety TV shows. Sing karaoke. Drink sake. Drink Asahi beer. Eat tofu on a regular basis. Practice Buddhism. Practice Shintoism. Mispronounce the letters L and R. Go to Hawaii on vacation. Love Disneyland. Love Hello Kitty. Flash the peace sign when being photographed. Do all Japanese people do all of these things? Of course they don't. Although there are trends, and certain behaviors and habits are more or less common, there's no chance that everyone thinks or feels the same way about everything.

It may seem pedantic, but sometimes seemingly-small changes in wording affect the accuracy of statements in a strong way. For example, I can accurately say, "Rice is a popular food in Japan." But if I say, "Japanese people eat rice.", then it's just wrong, because some Japanese people don't eat rice, and some people eat it irregularly. Similarly, I can accurately say, "Many boys in Japan play baseball." But it would be inaccurate to say, "Japanese boys play baseball." After all, some boys don't play baseball — and then, what, are they not Japanese? But that is absurd. If we want to make observations about societal tendencies, we should try to note them using phrases like "... is common." or " ... is popular." It is generally incorrect to open a claim with "Japanese people do ..." or "Japanese people like ...", because invariably some people don't do or like the thing, and you've just ignored their presence. Speaking accurately is important, and it also helps us recognize minority populations.


Nationality Data

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs & Communications, in 2014 the foreign resident population comprised 1.64% of the total population. In other words, Japanese citizens comprise 98.36% of the country's population. For the 1.64% of residents who don't have Japanese citizenship, we know what countries they are from. Japan does not allow adults to hold two passports — at least, not legally — so there is no data on dual citizenship.

Nationality.Pie.svg Nationality.Bar.svg

There are large numbers of people from China and South Korea. If you're trying to guess someone's ethnic background based on their skin color, you might see these people on the street and assume they're ethnically Japanese. Simultaneously, you might see someone who's born and raised in Japan but for whatever reason has light brown hair or blue eyes and assume they're non-Japanese. This goes to show that guessing someone's nationality based on their skin color is error-prone.

Getting the Facts Wrong

It is written in the CIA World Factbook that the population is 98.5% ethnic Japanese. The same claim shows up on various websites.

Ethnic groups:
Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%

— CIA World Factbook: Japan. 2016.
Though America is made up of people from many different countries, Japan is overwhelmingly Japanese. The population of Japan is about 98% ethnic Japanese, and the biggest minority groups are Korean and Chinese people.

— HubPages: Cultural Differences Between the USA and Japan, 2013-09-28.
The Japanese people (日本人) are an ethnic group native to Japan. Japanese make up 98.5% of the total population.

— Quora: Japanese Ethnicity and People, 2016-02-06.

We can find more such claims without searching hard, and even when people don't use the exact number, they may be inclined to assert without evidence that Japan is almost entirely "pure Japanese". I've asked what exactly people mean by "pure" before, but nobody really seems to know. Anyway, the 98.5% claim is easily refutable.


The last census in Japan was in 2015. I filled it out for my apartment. The census is conducted every five years by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The form that each household completes is about two pages long and asks a variety of questions. One question it does not ask is, "What is your ethnicity?" No questions or check boxes on the form have anything to do with ethnicity. The census doesn't measure it.

However, one thing is still unfortunately being overlooked in the census: Japan’s ethnic diversity... Japan’s census does not measure for ethnicity (minzoku). It still measures only for nationality (kokuseki). In other words, on the form you indicate that you are Japanese or that you are miscellaneous (indicate nationality)... Then how about naturalized citizens? I of course wrote down “Japanese” for my nationality on the census. But I would also have liked to indicate that I am a hyphenated Japanese — a Japanese with American roots, an Amerika-kei Nihonjin. But it’s not just about me. How about children of international marriages? My kids are just as American as they are Japanese, so why not have it formally acknowledged?

— Debito Arudou, Japan Times: Census blind to Japan’s true diversity, 2010-10-05.

This is not just one columnist's opinion. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications states clearly that the census doesn't measure ethnicity.

Japanese refer to those who have Japanese citizenship. Therefore, those who reported both Japanese and foreign nationalities are regarded as Japanese.

— 2010 Population Census: Explanation of Terms.
The 2010 Population Census covered the following topics.
For household members:
(1) Name
(2) Sex
(3) Year and month of birth
(4) Relationship to the household head
(5) Marital status
(6) Nationality
(7) Duration of residency at the current domicile
(8) Place of 5 years previous residence
(9) Education
(10) Type of activity
(11) Name of establishment and kind of business (Industry)
(12) Kind of work (Occupation)
(13) Employments status
(14) Place of work or location of school
(15) Transportation to the place of work or the location of school
For households:
(1) Type of household
(2) Number of household members
(3) Type and tenure of dwelling
(4) Area of floor space of dwelling
(5) Type of building and number of stories

— 2010 Population Census: Outline of the 2010 Population Census of Japan.

As we can see, the Japanese census measures nationality but not ethnicity, and it considers people of mixed nationality to be 100% Japanese. Since there is no official data on ethnicity in the country, some people just use nationality data instead.

If one wanted to get actual data on ethnicity, the ideal way would be to revise the census and start collecting it in 2020. Another option is to extrapolate based on the numbers of international marriages and children born each year. If they were inclined, perhaps professional demographers could do a decent job of tallying up the numbers of first- second- and third-generation people in the country. Although, if the goal is to identify "pure" Japanese, you'd also need a standard for that. If your grandfather was born in Austria, are you disqualified from being "pure Japanese"? What if it were your great great great grandfather? I don't know. And you'd also have to address Japanese minority groups. It sounds like a lot of work. Whatever your approach, probably whatever number you'd produce would be far lower than the 98.5% figure we see floating around today.


It Matters

Why should you care? If you live in Japan, you should care because the police like to harass "foreign-looking" people, and that might include you. If you're concerned about discrimination in Japan, you should care because people use claims of homogeneity as an excuse for racism. If Japan is almost all "pure Japanese", then you can't fault people much for mistreating minorities, right? It's not their fault the country has so few minorities, and it takes time for people to adjust, or so the apologists would argue.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

— Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail. April 16, 1963.

Making change on issues of race and discrimination takes a long time, but you don't get anywhere without the facts. So the next time someone says Japan is homogeneous, let them know that reality disagrees, that the country is and has always been a diverse, multicultural place, and that we should be recognizing and embracing these differences.

Music Flashcards


Here are flashcards for music vocabulary. Each flashcard has a picture of an object on the front and the name of it in English, Japanese, and phonetic Japanese on the back.

Here's the 50-card package for Anki.

Music/acoustic guitar.jpgacoustic guitarアコースティック・ギターアコースティック・ギター
Music/bass clef.pngbass clef低音部記号ていおんぶきごう
Music/cassette tapes.jpgcassette tapesカセットテープカセットテープ
Music/double bass.jpgdouble bass
drum kit
Music/eighth note.pngeighth note8分音符はちぶおんぷ
Music/electric bass.jpgelectric bass
bass guitar
Music/half note.pnghalf note2分音符にぶおんぷ
Music/jews harp.jpgJew's harp口琴こうきん
Music/quarter note.pngquarter note4分音符しぶおんぷ
Music/sheet music.jpgsheet music楽譜がくふ
Music/sixteenth note.pngsixteenth note16分音符じゅうろくぶおんぷ
Music/treble clef.pngtreble clef高音部記号こうおんぶきごう
Music/whole note.pngwhole note全音符ぜんおんぷ


Countries Flashcards


Here are flashcards for maps of countries. Each flashcard has a map of a part of the world with one country highlighted. None of the maps display any text. The goal is to look at a map and say the name of the country shown in it.

Here's the 228-card package for Anki.

Countries/American Samoa.jpgAmerican Samoa
Countries/Antigua and Barbuda.jpgAntigua and Barbuda
Countries/Bosnia and Herzegovenia.jpgBosnia and Herzegovenia
Countries/British Virgin Islands.jpgBritish Virgin Islands
Countries/Burkina Faso.jpgBurkina Faso
Countries/Cape Verde.jpgCape Verde
Countries/Cayman Islands.jpgCayman Islands
Countries/Central African Republic.jpgCentral African Republic
Countries/Christmas Island.jpgChristmas Island
Countries/Cocos Islands.jpgCocos Islands
Keeling Islands
Countries/Cook Islands.jpgCook Islands
Countries/Costa Rica.jpgCosta Rica
Countries/Cote d'Ivoire.jpgCote d'Ivoire
Countries/Democratic Republic of the Congo.jpgDemocratic Republic of the Congo
Countries/Dominican Republic.jpgDominican Republic
Countries/East Timor.jpgEast Timor
Countries/El Salvador.jpgEl Salvador
Countries/Equatorial Guinea.jpgEquatorial Guinea
Countries/Faroe Islands.jpgFaroe Islands
Countries/Federated States of Micronesia.jpgFederated States of Micronesia
Countries/French Guiana.jpgFrench Guiana
Countries/French Polynesia.jpgFrench Polynesia
Countries/Hong Kong.jpgHong Kong
Countries/Marshall Islands.jpgMarshall Islands
Countries/New Caledonia.jpgNew Caledonia
Countries/New Guinea.jpgNew Guinea
Countries/New Zealand.jpgNew Zealand
Countries/North Korea.jpgNorth Korea
Countries/Northern Mariana Islands.jpgNorthern Mariana Islands
Countries/Palestinian Territory.jpgPalestinian Territory
Countries/Puerto Rico.jpgPuerto Rico
Countries/Republic of the Congo.jpgRepublic of the Congo
Countries/Saint Helena.jpgSaint Helena
Countries/Saint Kitts and Nevis.jpgSaint Kitts and Nevis
Countries/Saint Lucia.jpgSaint Lucia
Countries/Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.jpgSaint Vincent and the Grenadines
Countries/San Marino.jpgSan Marino
Countries/Sao Tome and Principe.jpgSao Tome and Principe
Countries/Saudi Arabia.jpgSaudi Arabia
Countries/Sierra Leone.jpgSierra Leone
Countries/Solomon Islands.jpgSolomon Islands
Countries/South Africa.jpgSouth Africa
Countries/South Korea.jpgSouth Korea
Countries/South Sudan.jpgSouth Sudan
Countries/Sri Lanka.jpgSri Lanka
Countries/Trinidad and Tobago.jpgTrinidad and Tobago
Countries/Turks and Caicos.jpgTurks and Caicos
Countries/United Arab Emirates.jpgUnited Arab Emirates
Countries/United States.jpgUnited States
Countries/United States Virgin Islands.jpgUnited States Virgin Islands
Countries/Vatican City.jpgVatican City
Countries/Western Sahara.jpgWestern Sahara


Mie Pictures


Adam and I went on a road trip to Wakayama, Mie, and a little of Aichi and Shizuoka.

2015-12-27.01.Aqua.jpg 2015-12-27.02.Tent.jpg 2015-12-27.03.Stream.jpg

On the first night we stealth camped at a rest area. The next morning we packed up and went to a town called Owase in southern Mie. There is a place in Owase that serves all-you-can-eat buffet lunches. The chefs are local ladies who pool their resources to give you a taste of the local cuisine. If you're in the area, the food is tasty, the price is reasonable, the cooks are friendly, and there's a bath house next door should you want to bathe.

2015-12-27.04.Owase.jpg 2015-12-27.05.Lunch.jpg 2015-12-27.06.Lunch.jpg 2015-12-27.22.Owase.jpg 2015-12-27.07.Adam.jpg 2015-12-27.09.Onigajo.jpg 2015-12-27.23.Douglas.jpg 2015-12-27.10.Shionomisaki.jpg

On the second night we headed down to Shionomisaki, the southernmost point in Honshu. One goal was to watch the sun set over the ocean, but it was slightly cloudy so we didn't get the money photographs. Still a nice sunset. Adam reserved a room at Misaki Lodge. The hotel and hostel served a giant dinner with lots of fish. I like fish, and Wakayama and Mie are famous for it, so I was happy.

2015-12-27.12.House.jpg 2015-12-27.13.Pickles.jpg 2015-12-27.14.Food.jpg 2015-12-27.15.Rice.jpg 2015-12-27.17.Fish.jpg 2015-12-27.18.Soup.jpg 2015-12-27.19.Sashimi.jpg 2015-12-27.21.Fish.jpg 2015-12-27.20.Adam.jpg 2015-12-27.24.Douglas.jpg 2015-12-28.01.Ponkans.jpg 2015-12-28.02.Monument.jpg 2015-12-28.03.Statue.jpg 2015-12-28.04.Kashinozaki Lighthouse.jpg 2015-12-28.05.Water.jpg 2015-12-28.06.Hashiguiiwa.jpg 2015-12-28.07.Hashiguiiwa.jpg 2015-12-28.08.Hashiguiiwa.jpg 2015-12-28.09.Sazae.jpg

Wakayama is home to a ridiculous number of shrines. In the south, where we were, are the Kumano shrines. There's a hiking trail and pilgrimage route that we didn't do, seeing as we aren't practicing Shintoism, and anyway it's December so who would want to walk through the mountains for days on end when it might rain and it's cold even without the rain, and in lieu of that we just drove to some of the larger shrines to see what they look like. One of them, the Kumano Nachi Taisha, is up in the mountains near a large waterfall. Hats off to whoever decided to build that shrine there.

2015-12-28.10.Nachi Waterfall.jpg 2015-12-28.11.Nachi Waterfall.jpg 2015-12-28.12.Nachi Waterfall.jpg 2015-12-28.13.Nachi Waterfall.jpg 2015-12-28.14.Shrine.jpg 2015-12-28.15.Adam.jpg 2015-12-28.16.Statue.jpg 2015-12-28.17.Kumano Nachi Taisha.jpg 2015-12-28.18.Statue.jpg 2015-12-28.19.Nachi Waterfall.jpg 2015-12-28.20.Kumano Nachi Taisha.jpg 2015-12-28.21.Fountain.jpg 2015-12-28.22.Kumano Hayatama Taisha.jpg 2015-12-28.33.Doug-Adam.jpg 2015-12-28.34.Doug.jpg 2015-12-28.35.Doug.jpg

The religious site of Oyunohara houses a giant torii. It's said to be the largest torii in the world, but you know how these things are. Everyone wants to have the largest Buddha, or the largest standing Buddha, or the largest wooden Buddha, or the largest torii. Maybe it's not the largest in the world, but then again, I've never seen a bigger one. Anyway, it's fucking huge. They were setting up for some major event presumably scheduled for early January. We don't like the major events, at least not when traveling by car. Better to get there a few days in advance before the roads get clogged up.

2015-12-28.23.Torii at Oyunohara.jpg 2015-12-28.24.Torii at Oyunohara.jpg 2015-12-28.25.Torii at Oyunohara.jpg 2015-12-28.36.Doug.jpg 2015-12-28.26.Water.jpg 2015-12-28.27.Adam.jpg 2015-12-28.28.Breakfast.jpg 2015-12-28.29.Dinner.jpg 2015-12-28.30.Sazae.jpg 2015-12-28.31.Shark.jpg 2015-12-28.32.Dessert.jpg 2015-12-29.01.Heater.jpg 2015-12-29.02.Hostel.jpg 2015-12-29.03.Taikoji.jpg 2015-12-29.04.Graveyard.jpg 2015-12-29.05.Meoto Iwa.jpg 2015-12-29.06.Meoto Iwa.jpg 2015-12-29.07.Meoto Iwa.jpg 2015-12-29.08.Frog.jpg

Ise Grand Shrine is a top religious site in Japan. It's a nice place, though I didn't feel anything especially mystical when visiting. There's a large forested area with paths through it and wooden shrine buildings. Some of the places are closed unless you "donate" a bunch of money. Other places are closed unless you're a priest or in the royal family. Most of the complex is open for your viewing pleasure. We walked around and enjoyed the scenery. This site is similar to Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, except it's much larger and the buildings are newer. Apparently they tear down the temple buildings and reconstruct them every twenty years. I don't know why.

2015-12-29.09.Ise.jpg 2015-12-29.10.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.11.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.12.Adam.jpg 2015-12-29.13.Douglas.jpg 2015-12-29.14.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.15.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.16.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.17.Ise Jingu.jpg 2015-12-29.18.Post office.jpg

On the way back, I dropped off Adam at a stop on the shinkansen so he could return to Tokyo early. Then I drove to the Izu Peninsula, slept at a rest area, went to a bath house, and drove the Izu Skyline and Hakone Skyline, and continued on back to Tokyo.

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Good company, food, sites, weather, and roads. A nice start to winter vacation.

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2015-12-30.04.Izu Skyline.jpg 2015-12-30.05.Izu Skyline.jpg

Happy New Year's!


Literature Done in English


The following is a information about Literature Done in English, a short textbook Adam Pearson and I wrote for a two-month segment of my tenth grade Applied English course.


Table of Contents


The files here are all connected with the ESL textbook, Literature Done in English, written by Douglas Perkins and Adam Pearson. The textbook and associated files that we've produced are all under the license as noted below. In a few cases, snippets of externally-copyrighted work are included. These are labeled as such. This information is brief, limited in scope, non-commercial, and included for nonprofit educational purposes. As such, its inclusion is fair use.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Chapter 1: Poetry

At some point in this unit, students can be asked to recite some poetry — either their own or someone else's, as you see fit. Poetry is meant to be spoken and heard, so whenever you have extra time, ask students to read some poetry from the textbook aloud. Vary the setup, so that sometimes students are in pairs with one speaker and one listener, and sometimes they're in larger groups with more people listening. This helps students smoothly adjust to speaking in front of large audiences. In the U.S. there's a poetry contest called Poetry Out Loud, and videos from it can be found on YouTube. Though not freely licensed, watching one or two of these prior to an in-class poetry recitation is a nice way to show how American high school students perform.

There is a great deal of overlap between poetry and music, and in particular hip-hop, because much of it is lyric-centered. It can be neat to show rappers performing without music, because they are in fact reciting poetry. Tupac Shakur is well-known for his poetry, and this clip by Grandmaster Caz is also rather neat.

In a warm-up speaking activity, students recite the poem The Ad-dressing of Cats from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). The slides switch automatically, and students have to speak quickly or they will fall behind. After trying the speaking activity, watch the music video from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, composed and first performed in 1981.


The English language uses syllables, but Japanese is divided into mora, and this difference can make life slightly challenging for Japanese ESL students. Some words are much shorter in English than they are in Japanese; for example, max, orange, and different. One cool thing about studying syllables is that learning happens rapidly. Just one or two classes touching on the topic makes a noticeable difference in students' ability to learn proper pronunciation in the future.


Some poetry snobs are quick to point out that haiku don't have to have the 5-7-5 syllable count. They might be correct — after all, haiku is what haiku authors write — but for the purposes of this class, we try to use the 5-7-5 pattern. This gives students the opportunity to focus on syllables themselves.


We say that two words rhyme if they have final syllables that sound the same. Actually, the notion of rhyming is not always so strict. With song lyrics, people tend to be accepting of similar-but-not-identical sounds. Students may not realize that most English-language pop music is filled with rhymes, so it could be instructive to watch a music video or listen to a tune that's popular now and pick out some of the rhyming words and lines.


Limericks are an excuse to focus on rhythm. The general structure of a limerick is two long lines, followed by two short lines, followed by a long line. The first, second, and fifth line should rhyme, and so should the third and fourth. Traditionally, limericks are comedic, and therefore difficult to write, so let's not ask our students to do so. Reading and speaking are suitable goals.

A section of the poem Jennyanydots from Cats is included here. Watch the YouTube video if you have time. It's interesting to see how poems from the 1930s led to a musical in the 1980s. If the teacher has time and interest in showing historical connections, many poems in this textbook are reused in part or whole in contemporary books, movies, and songs.

Assonance and Consonance

Two ideas that have fancy-sounding names but are simple to learn are assonance and consonance. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound; for example, the long e sound in sleep and breathing. Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound; for example, the c sound in cuckoo clock. Note that the sound is important — spelling is not the focus here. You can find assonance and consonance a lot in old poetry. It's also present in assorted modern rap music — for example, Eric B and Rakim's Follow the Leader.


Repetition is used in all kinds of poetry. Indeed, you can find it in both old Japanese haiku and original nineteenth century limericks. If we group music together with poetry, then song refrains are ubiquitous examples of repetition.

The textbook contains a passage from The Lord of the Ring, which has been recorded by J.R.R. Tolkien himself; the audio is on YouTube (not freely licensed).

Chapter 2: Shakespeare

In this chapter we cover the famous "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It. There's a great Youtube video of a professional theater presentation that's worth using (though sadly it's not freely licensed). The vocabulary in Shakespeare, and especially in this passage, is difficult. Though counterintuitive, students might do better than you expect — not because they can understand the passage easily or much at all, but rather because they're used to running into English that far exceeds their knowledge.

The skill of dealing with language where a lot of the vocabulary is new to you is an important one. After the passage from Shakespeare, students do an activity where they cross out words they don't know and draw pictures in place of them. This is one way of dealing with unknown words, and it is surprising how close people can get to the actual meaning even when they don't know the key vocabulary.

Although not in the textbook, if you have time you might show part or all of Romeo and Juliet. Because the English is highly difficult, though, associated homework and in-class activities necessitate careful consideration.

Chapter 3: Prose

Adjectives and Adverbs

To develop expressiveness, students are asked to identify adjectives and adverbs, and then to use them to make sentences longer.


Two commonly-used comparisons are metaphor and simile. Given the definitions, students can quickly distinguish the two. High school students are of sufficient level to produce their own similes and metaphors, and it's a good way to practice English.

For an introduction to metaphors, consider the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. It was written in 1906, and over the past century several singers have composed songs using the lyrics — for example, Phil Ochs in 1967 and Loreena McKennitt in 1997. Those can be contrasted with a purely poetic reading. This example, like Romeo & Juliet and Cats, illustrates the connection between historical works and contemporary remakes and variants.


Many of the activities in the textbook benefit greatly from the teacher bringing a computer to class. That lets us show videos, listen to listening tracks, and use websites. For playing video and audio, your computer's default media player is fine. VLC is a good choice, too.

Most materials here were produced in LibreOffice. It's an office suite that's better than Microsoft Office. For editing SVG files, we use Inkscape. For editing photos and other pictures, we use the GIMP. These programs are free and open source.


For general information on the textbook, see the author's website or contact the author on twitter.


2002-01.1000.elle.jpg 2003-03.1000.douglas.white_sands.jpg 2006-12-06.0951.jpg 2007-07-26.1149.itty.jpg 2010-08-17.5670.jpg 2014-01-15.04.Fuji.jpg 2015-08-15.12.Flowers.jpg 2015-10-17.10.Shakespeare.jpg 2015-10-17.11.Noyes.jpg 2015-10-17.12.Keats.jpg 2015-12-07.01.Hemingway 1959.jpg 2015-12-07.02.Hemingway 1934.jpg 2015-12-19.02.Sand.jpg 2015-12-19.03.Stone.jpg 2015-12-19.04.Hand.jpg 2015-12-19.05.Richard Wright.jpg 2015-12-19.06.Matsuo Basho.jpg 2015-12-19.07.Endymion.jpg 2015-12-19.08.Beard.png 2015-12-19.09.Ring.png 2015-12-19.10.Gloucester Cathedral.jpg 2017-02-19.01.Angelou.jpg 2017-02-19.02.Hughes.jpg 2017-02-19.03.Hood.jpg 2017-02-19.04.Dickinson.jpg 2017-02-19.05.Gibran.jpg 2017-02-19.06.Stevenson.jpg 2017-02-19.07.Allingham.jpg 2017-02-19.08.Dunbar.png 2017-02-19.09.Atwood.jpg 2017-02-19.10.Geese.jpg

I make my SVG graphs using Matplotlib. If you're interested in modifying them, take a look at the source and go for it.

Danish Oatmeal Balls


This is a recipe by Emma og Anne for danish oatmeal balls (gode havregrynskugler) from Alletiders Kogebog. Kaya, my school's Danish exchange student, wanted to do cooking for the annual school Christmas party. We don't have easy access to the kitchen, and she thought of this no-bake recipe. Kaya tells me that many kids in Denmark make these kinds of snacks around Christmas time. With this kind of food, as long as there's enough butter for everything to stick together, you can make small adjustments according to your own tastes.

In a bowl, mix the coffee, sugar, oatmeal, and cocoa powder. Then mix in the butter. Use your fingers to crush everything together until it forms a sticky mass.

With your fingers, make 1" balls. Roll these in coconut powder or powdered sugar and put them on a tray. Optionally, cover the tray and refrigerate for 2 or more hours. Refrigeration brings out the flavor, but if you're pressed for time, eat the oatmeal balls immediately after making them. Enjoy.

One batch produces around thirty balls. These oatmeal balls are sweet and buttery. They go well with tea or coffee.

2015-11-08.03.Oatmeal balls.jpg



I recently purchased a VPS from EcoVPS to replace an old box in North Dakota and hosting space with DreamHost. DreamHost used to handle my email, but now it won't, so I'm installing an email server. Here are the details is some information. I knew things would get rocky at some point, and they did. Around that time I decided to write an outline and leave links to sites that helped me with tricky details.



I'm running Debian 8.2.

$ uname -a Linux debian 3.16.0-4-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.16.7-ckt11-1+deb8u3 (2015-08-04) x86_64 GNU/Linux

$ lsb_release -a No LSB modules are available. Distributor ID: Debian Description: Debian GNU/Linux 8.2 (jessie) Release: 8.2 Codename: jessie

The VPS has a gigabyte of RAM.

$ free total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 1017560 906464 111096 22256 132612 617216 -/+ buffers/cache: 156636 860924 Swap: 0 0 0

$ free --human total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 993M 885M 108M 21M 129M 602M -/+ buffers/cache: 153M 840M Swap: 0B 0B 0B

The VPS has 250 GB of storage.

$ df --human-readable Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/sda1 246G 91G 143G 39% / udev 10M 0 10M 0% /dev tmpfs 199M 17M 183M 9% /run tmpfs 497M 0 497M 0% /dev/shm tmpfs 5.0M 0 5.0M 0% /run/lock tmpfs 497M 0 497M 0% /sys/fs/cgroup

This VPS has just one CPU.

$ lscpu Architecture: x86_64 CPU op-mode(s): 32-bit, 64-bit Byte Order: Little Endian CPU(s): 1 On-line CPU(s) list: 0 Thread(s) per core: 1 Core(s) per socket: 1 Socket(s): 1 NUMA node(s): 1 Vendor ID: GenuineIntel CPU family: 6 Model: 44 Model name: Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X5660 @ 2.80GHz Stepping: 2 CPU MHz: 2800.099 BogoMIPS: 5600.19 Hypervisor vendor: VMware Virtualization type: full L1d cache: 32K L1i cache: 32K L2 cache: 256K L3 cache: 12288K NUMA node0 CPU(s): 0


MX Records

When you own a domain name, there are several ways that other computers use the domain name to connect to your server. For email, the MX record must be properly configured. If it isn't, other email servers won't find your email server.

My DNS is handled by DreamHost, so I go to the DreamHost Web Panel and configure the record there. My new record is...


This is the simplest case. I have one computer that handles the email for one domain. DNS changes can take hours to propagate around the world. This is a good time to take a break. Later, I check and see that the changes are widely available using and dig.

$ dig MX



Postfix is a mail transfer agent. It is the main piece of server software for handling email. There is an out-of-date tutorial on the topic that makes for a handy reference.

# apt-get install postfix

When prompted, I choose the "Internet Site" option and enter my domain name,, when prompted. The rest of the installation is automatic. After apt-get finishes working, test the installation as follows.

$ telnet localhost 25 Trying ::1... Connected to localhost. Escape character is '^]'. 220 debian ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)

I also test connecting via the domain name.

$ telnet 25 Trying Connected to Escape character is '^]'.

This is a good time for me to email myself. Still within telnet from just above...

mail from:<> rcpt to:<> data To: From: Subject: Test email This is a email on Debian using Postfix.

To end data, press enter, type a dot, and press enter again.


Then quit.


Now, when logged in as fakename I can see if the email arrived by running mail.

This all works, and the basic Postfix installation is complete. Here is information on SMTP authentication which is used when sending email from client-side programs (e.g., Thunderbird). And here is /etc/postfix/

smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP $mail_name (Debian/GNU) biff = no append_dot_mydomain = no readme_directory = no smtpd_tls_cert_file=/etc/ssl/local/dperkins.crt smtpd_tls_key_file=/etc/ssl/local/dperkins.key smtpd_use_tls=yes smtpd_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtpd_scache smtp_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtp_scache smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_unauth_destination smtpd_relay_restrictions = permit_mynetworks permit_sasl_authenticated defer_unauth_destination myhostname = alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases alias_database = hash:/etc/aliases myorigin = /etc/mailname mydestination =, debian, localhost.localdomain, localhost relayhost = mynetworks = [::ffff:]/104 [::1]/128 mailbox_command = procmail -a "$EXTENSION" mailbox_size_limit = 0 recipient_delimiter = + inet_interfaces = all

By default, Postfix listens for SMTP connections on port 25. Some ISPs block port 25 because historically it was linked to spam problems. If you have a situation where you can send email from one location (your house) but not another (your WiFi network), there's a good chance that the port is blocked. The solution is for Postfix to listen on port 587 as well. In /etc/postfix/ there is a line like this.

#submission inet n - n - - smtpd

Remove the leading # so it looks like this.

submission inet n - n - - smtpd

Restart Postfix and it will now listen on both ports.

For me, the default maximum attachment size in Postfix is 10 MB.

# postconf | grep message_size_limit message_size_limit = 10240000

I'd prefer to make it larger, as detailed here. I edit /etc/postfix/ and insert the following line.

message_size_limit = 20480000

I restart Postfix and can now send attachments of up to 20 MB.



To check and read email remotely, I need to install an IMAP server such as Dovecot.

# apt-get install dovecot-imapd

This should install the server. Test it with mutt. If you can log in, and if you can read the emails you sent to yourself when configuring Postfix above, it is to some degree functional.

$ mutt -f imap://fakename@localhost/Inbox

To make Postfix communicate with Dovecot for SMTP authentication, I add the following to /etc/dovecot/local.conf.

auth default { mechanisms = plain login passdb pam { } userdb passwd { } socket listen { client { path = /var/spool/postfix/private/auth mode = 0660 user = postfix group = postfix } } }

To make my mailbox have separate folders for Inbox, Drafts, Trash, and Sent, I modify /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf as described here. The last line below fixes a Postfix/Dovecot bug described here

mail_location = mbox:~/mail:INBOX=/var/mail/%u namespace inbox { type = private inbox = yes mailbox Trash { auto = subscribe special_use = \Trash } mailbox Drafts { auto = subscribe special_use = \Drafts } mailbox Sent { auto = subscribe special_use = \Sent } } mail_privileged_group = mail

For SSL support, I modify /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf as described here.

ssl = required ssl_cert = </etc/ssl/local/dperkins.crt ssl_key = </etc/ssl/local/dperkins.key



To exchange email in my web browser, I install RoundCube. You could install Roundcube using apt-get. Unfortunately, that installation procedure is linked closely to Apache, and it will install many more things than you really need. Instead of that, I get the most recent version from the download page.

Unfortunately, the installation script is broken, and I ended up doing some database creation by hand. The SQLite database was not created automatically, so I ran the appropriate scripts to make it and then updated the configuration file so it was visible. This took me perhaps twenty minutes, and if you've never done this kind of thing it's rather opaque. Probably smoother to use apt-get. But then you get unnecessary packages.


Reverse DNS

Certain email providers try to stop spam by requiring that a reverse DNS lookup functions properly for the email sender's domain. If you try to send an email and it bounces with an error talking about Connections not accepted from servers without a valid sender domain ... Fix reverse DNS ..., it's probably because you haven't configured this.

A simple explanation of reverse DNS is that it’s the exact opposite of DNS. Standard (aka forward) DNS maps a domain name to an IP address whereas reverse DNS maps an IP address to a domain name. The two are distinct and separate lookups however. Just because a forward lookup of resolves to doesn’t mean that a reverse lookup of will resolve to

— Mathew Mombrea. IT World. 2013-06-26.

I own a domain, My domain resolves to the IP address That's what we normally want from a domain name. Some spam filters want to go the other direction. They want the IP address to map to Let's see what things look like before I start debugging.

$ dig -x | grep -A 1 'ANSWER SECTION' ;; ANSWER SECTION: 0 IN PTR

$ nslookup Server: Address: name =

The PTR record for my IP is not what I want. Where it reads, I want it to read This information can also be confirmed by web interface.

PTR records require authoritative DNS nameservers before they can function properly. To find the authoritative DNS nameservers of your server's main IP address, trace the Start Of Authority (SOA). Changes to your server's DNS nameservers do not take effect if your server's DNS nameservers are not authoritative for your IP address. Many hosting providers do not delegate authority for PTR records to their customers. Contact your upstream provider to either delegate authority to your nameservers or set up PTR records for your nameservers.

cPanel. Updated 2015-11-18.

To see who controls the PTR record, we do an advanced search as follows. Realistically, if you're renting a VPS from a company, that company probably controls the PTR record, but taking a few moments to confirm matters is sensible enough.

$ dig +nssearch SOA 2015101919 7200 3600 4294967295 3600 from server in 391 ms. SOA 2015101919 7200 3600 4294967295 3600 from server in 400 ms.

The server controlling that IP address is, and shows us that it is owned by EuroVPS, the company leasing me the VPS. I contact EuroVPS via the support panel. They come through in matter of minutes. Their tech support person adds the PTR record as desired. Here's what it looks like after tech support does their stuff.

$ dig -x | grep -A 1 'ANSWER SECTION' ;; ANSWER SECTION: 600 IN PTR

$ nslookup Server: Address: Non-authoritative answer: name = Authoritative answers can be found from:

DNS information takes hours to propagate; be patient after changes are made.



A few email addresses from a few domains send me spam on a regular basis. That's easy enough to handle — blacklist those email addresses and domains and be happy. This can be done in Postfix and only takes a few minutes. First, I make a file, /etc/postfix/sender_access. REJECT REJECT

The first line shows an email address to reject. The second line shows an entire domain to reject. Once the file is prepared (and later, if it is changed), convert it to a format that Postfix can read.

# cd /etc/postfix # postmap sender_access

This produces a new file, sender_access.db. Next, I tell Postfix to filter incoming email using this file. In, I extend smtpd_recipient_restrictions by adding the check_sender_access line below. Order is important.

smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, check_sender_access hash:/etc/postfix/sender_access, reject_unauth_destination

Restart Postfix for the changes to take effect.



Blacklists help with spam, but I still get some, so I install Spamassassin.

First we add a Junk folder to our inbox. When email arrives, we give it to Spamassassin, and if Spamassassin decides it's spam, we will put it in the spam folder instead of the inbox. To create this folder, edit /etc/dovecot/10-mail.conf. The bottom section below is new.

namespace inbox { type = private inbox = yes mailbox Trash { auto = subscribe special_use = \Trash } mailbox Drafts { auto = subscribe special_use = \Drafts } mailbox Sent { auto = subscribe special_use = \Sent } mailbox Junk { auto = subscribe special_use = \Junk } }

Restart Dovecot and the new Junk folder will be created. Next, I install Spamassassin.

# apt-get install spamc spamassassin

Incoming mail is handled by Postfix. I want Postfix to filter it through Spamassassin. In /etc/postfix/ I change this line ...

smtp inet n - - - - smtpd

... to this ...

smtp inet n - - - - smtpd -o content_filter=spamassassin

At the bottom of /etc/postfix/, I add the following two lines.

spamassassin unix - n n - - pipe user=debian-spamd argv=/usr/bin/spamc -f -e /usr/sbin/sendmail -oi -f ${sender} ${recipient}

Restart Postfix test that it's working. Send an email to yourself (from an account on another server) to confirm. You should receive the email, and the header should contain something similar to this.

X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 3.4.0 (2014-02-07) on debian X-Spam-Level: X-Spam-Status: No, score=-0.7 required=5.0 tests=RCVD_IN_DNSWL_LOW, RCVD_IN_MSPIKE_H2 autolearn=ham autolearn_force=no version=3.4.0

Now Spamassassin is working.



Using Spamassassin, junk mail is flagged as junk, but it still comes to your inbox. Thunderbird will automatically move junk mail to the Junk folder, but my cell phone won't. Instead, I use procmail to handle it. This is done on a per-user basis.

When Postfix receives mail, it runs each message through Spamassassin and then gives the message to procmail. Procmail puts it in each user's mail directory. Create the file /etc/procmailrc as follows.

:0: * ^X-Spam-Status: Yes $HOME/mail/Junk

It's done. New spam will now be sent to the Junk folder.



In early 2016, I started getting SSL certificates from LetsEncrypt. Postfix and Dovecot settings needed minor adjustment.

For Postfix, two lines need changing in /etc/postfix/

smtpd_tls_cert_file=/etc/letsencrypt/live/ smtpd_tls_key_file=/etc/letsencrypt/live/

For Dovecot, two lines need changing in /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf.

ssl_cert = </etc/letsencrypt/live/ ssl_key = </etc/letsencrypt/live/

That's all.


SPF records

One way that servers can reduce spam sent from their domains is using SPF records. You don't have to configure SPF, but if you do, other servers are less likely to classify email from you as spam, so it's a good idea.

We need to create a new DNS record. Using spfwizard, I can quickly create the string I need. Here's what I enter in the wizard.

Your Domain: Allow servers listed as MX to send email for this domain: Yes (recommended) Allow current IP address of the domain to send email for this domain: Yes (recommended) Allow any hostname ending in to send email for this domain: No (recommended) IP addresses in CIDR format that deliver or relay mail for this domain: How strict should be the servers treating the emails?: SoftFail (Not compliant will be accepted but marked)

From that, the wizard gives me the following string. IN TXT "v=spf1 mx a ip4: ~all"

That string belongs in my DNS entry, which is over at DreamHost. I go to the DreamHost Panel, manage my domain, and add a custom DNS record. It looks like this.

Name: Type: TXT Value: "v=spf1 mx a ip4: ~all" Comment: SPF

It can take time for DNS records to propagate. After they do, check that everything looks good. This can be done using an SPF checking website or by the command line.

$ dig txt | grep spf 14400 IN TXT "v=spf1 mx a ip4: ~all"

The above entry is good. Specifically, the end section in quotation marks is intact. SPF is configured.



DKIM is an email authentication method. A DKIM filter adds a digital signature to mail I send, and other servers can check that the signature corresponds to information in my DNS entry. This is another anti-spam tool that you don't have to configure, but if you do, your mail looks better to spam filters elsewhere. Here are some instructions.

First I install the DKIM program.

# apt-get install opendkim opendkim-tools

Next I make a DKIM certificate and adjust the permissions.

# mkdir /etc/opendkim # opendkim-genkey -D /etc/opendkim/ -d # chgrp opendkim /etc/opendkim/* # chmod g+r /etc/opendkim/*

There are two files in /etc/opendkim/, a public key and a private key. I take a look at the public key file, default.txt.

default._domainkey IN TXT ( "v=DKIM1; k=rsa; "p=MIG...QAB" ) ; ----- DKIM key default for

The long string (truncated here) needs to go in my server's DNS entry. At the DreamHost Panel, I make a new custom DNS entry.

Name: default._domainkey Type: TXT Value: "v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIG...QAB" Comment: DKIM

It takes some time for DNS to propagate. Everything is good when the following DNS query returns this result.

$ dig txt | grep DKIM 14400 IN TXT "v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIG...QAB"

I edit /etc/opendkim.conf and add the following lines to the bottom.

AutoRestart Yes AutoRestartRate 10/1h Canonicalization relaxed/simple Mode sv Domain KeyFile /etc/opendkim/mail.private Selector default Socket inet:8891@localhost

OpenDKIM is configured. Restart it.

service opendkim restart

Postfix needs to filter outgoing email through OpenDKIM. Edit /etc/postfix/ Add the two smtpd_milters lines as shown.

smtp inet n - - - - smtpd -o content_filter=spamassassin -o smtpd_milters=inet:

submission inet n - - - - smtpd -o smtpd_milters=inet:

Restart PostFix and everything should be working.

service postfix restart

Configuring DKIM is quite delicate; even a small error could break things. To test your setup, if you have a GMail account, send an email to your GMail account. Take a look at /var/log/syslog. Then go over to GMail and see what the received email headers look like.

Also, if you send an email to, it will send a reply email with information about your DKIM and SPF configuration. This is fast and convenient.

Riding the Shiga Kusatsu Road


The spring and fall are excellent seasons for motorcycle riding. I went in search of good roads and found them.

Mount Akagi

In the morning, I went up and down Mount Akagi, which you might know from Initial D ... if you were into watching anime ten years ago. Approaching from the south as I did, you encounter an incredible climb up a 1.5 lane highway. The road down on the north side is wider, which makes for easier cornering. If you're choosing directions, probably best to go south to north. The mountain is large. Much larger than I thought it was. Autumn has arrived: halfway up the mountain the leaves have changed color, and by the time you reach the top, most of the leaves have already fallen.

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Shiga Kusatsu Road

Mount Akagi was good, but my main destination was the Shiga Kusatsu Road (志賀草津ルート), a road high over the mountains of Nagano starting in Kusatsu and ending in Nakano. The weather forecast called for clouds, which it was, but the road goes above them. This road is great for riding, driving, cycling, or seeing by tour bus. The views are majestic and the curves are smooth and abundant. If you're looking for geology, some steam vents and sulfur smells should give you something to play with. All-in-all an enjoyable experience.

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I stayed at Takashi's place in Nagano City on Sunday night and came back to Tokyo Monday morning.

Friends in Nagano


Takashi lives in Nagano, and we went to visit him over Silver Week. Miho, Aoi, Mayu, and I took off early Monday morning to beat the holiday traffic. That was a good decision, and we made it up to Nagano City in decent time. After a stop by Takashi's place to pick him up, we headed south to Matsumoto and Matsumoto Castle (松本城). It is said that the three most famous castles in Japan are Matsumoto Castle, Himeji Castle, and Osaka Castle. Now I've seen all three.

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It is said that in Japan, age plays a significant role in determining the power structure. Students at school are typically quite deferential to their seniors. Of course the same thing happens in the U.S. to some degree, but let's suppose the effect here is somewhat stronger, on average. Some of the activities I've done — karate and dance — are refreshingly age independent. It's very nice how our travel group this time, comprised of dancers and some of their parents, came together. We all met at BlockOn, a dance school in Kichijoji. This year we went on a trip together. Mayu goes to an English-speaking school, and we talk to each other mostly in English. Miho can understand a lot of English, but she hasn't used the language much in years, so she prefers to speak Japanese. Aoi is in elementary school now, and I think it is a good experience for her to be surrounded by multiple languages. She can experience the importance of communication first-hand, and in this case between her friends and mom. It's fine with me if my Japanese friends don't speak much English, because I'll just speak Japanese with them, but at the same time it's nice when people realize there's value to be found in a foreign language and decide to learn one.

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Our last stop Monday afternoon was at a French-style tiered waterfall, フランス式階段流路. If you're looking for a picnic or stealth camping spot in the woods, this is your ticket. It's a short drive from central Matsumoto but is remote enough to be quiet and is small enough to lack on-site staff.

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On Tuesday morning, we went to the Chausuyama Zoo (茶臼山動物園) in Nagano City. Generally speaking I don't like zoos much, but if the animals are well-treated and otherwise hard to find, that's good too. If you're looking for cute factor, this zoo should top your list. We saw red pandas. Many of them. Sleeping in trees, and walking around, and running around. Indoors, outdoors, and directly overhead. As if that wasn't enough — and it should be, because red pandas are awesome — a trio of lions — a mom and two cubs — was playing tag, except that mom didn't really want to play. She found a spot to lie down, but then the kids got boring, and they pounced on her, and she got up and chased them. And then that repeated itself a bunch of times.

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In the afternoon we went to see the Matsushiro Underground Imperial Headquarters (松代大本営跡), an underground tunnel network that was partly excavated just before the end of World War II. On the way home, we went to Ringonoyu (りんごの湯), an apple-themed bath house. The place's shtick is that they put dozens of apples in the baths. You're not supposed to eat the apples, I don't think you'd want to try, and it doesn't really seem to do much. But it looks neat, and the bath was nice.

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Wednesday we packed up and headed east. The main activity of the day was an adventure course with zip lining, Tarzan swings, and ropes between trees high off the ground at a place called Sweet Grass Adventure (スィートグラスアドベンチャー). If you've never done this kind of thing before, Sweet Grass Adventure is a good place to start. Betsy and Dex and I did zip lining on a large scale in Costa Rica several years back, and nothing here was new to me. Still, the place was well-designed, the weather was good, and it was fun to go on the course with Aoi and Mayu.

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We stopped by a large farmer's market and got some fresh vegetables. I also picked up several kinds of jam: blueberry, rhubarb, apple, and gooseberry. Of those, the blueberry is the best. That part of Nagano and Gunma has a reputation for its fruit and vegetables, and in my observation deservedly so. We got back to Tokyo late in the evening. Tomorrow, back to school.

Science Done in English


The following is a textbook I wrote for a tenth grade English class in Japan. My students are planning to study abroad in eleventh grade. Next year at their host schools, they'll attend classes in English that may make use of technical terms they've never seen. This book, and the course that makes use of it, are part of an attempt to ease this transition.

A good way to learn to do science in English is to do science in English. When students are doing things, they are engaged, and that is when learning occurs. This book has four parts: biology, physics, earth science, and the environment. I have tried to select topics that don't require any specific background knowledge. The pieces are independent. Take whatever looks best for you and forget about the rest.

I started writing this book in the summer of 2015 for use in the fall of that year. It has been updated many times.


Science Done in English

This is the teacher's manual for the science & ESL textbook Science Done in English. Much of the material in the textbook is task-based, and you can tell how to use it just by looking at the book. In other cases, some background is useful. If you aren't familiar with these branches of science, don't be intimidated. Although some review may be required if you haven't studied something since you were in high school, suppose, nothing here is particularly tricky or overly complicated. Indeed, if a topic is too difficult for the teacher to understand, students with a limited grasp of the English language would have an even worse time. On the other hand, it's fine if some topics here are fairly challenging for students. The vocabulary alone will pose difficulties for ESL learners, but by listening to and using the vocabulary in context, students will become accustomed to it.

A teacher who has little background in the sciences, or in some of these branches of the sciences, might want to brush up on some of these subjects prior to teaching them. I have found two books considerably educational: The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson and The Character of Physical Law by Richard P. Feynman. Both books are accessible to those with a high school education. Wikipedia is a valuable resource, as well. The material in these books vastly exceeds what is covered this short textbook and makes for interesting discussion material if there is extra time in class. Another way we can offset the potential inexperience of the teacher is by showing videos. There are many great freely-licensed short video clips out there. If you look hard, you can find videos where the English is at a level suitable for your students. Using these clips, students can hear the explanation of an expert. If your explanation was unclear, that's no matter — they get a second opportunity to listen, and this time to a trained scientist.

Many people helped proofread and edit this book: Marjorie Carlson, Dexter Perkins, James Copulos, and several others. Of course, my old students helped a great deal; seeing what confused them in earlier versions helped guide later revisions.

Table of Contents


The files here are all connected with the science textbook, Science Done in English, written by Douglas Perkins. The textbook and associated files that I've produced are all under the license as noted below. In a few cases, snippets of externally-copyrighted work are included. These are labeled as such. This information is brief, limited in scope, non-commercial, and included for nonprofit educational purposes. As such, its inclusion is fair use.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Part I: Biology

Chapter 1: Life

There are two main topics here. The first topic is classification of creatures. Students should learn how to use words like invertebrate and warm-blooded to describe animals. The second topic is biodiversity. Although we only touch briefly on the topic here, it is desirable if by the end of the chapter students can talk a little about species, what kinds of organisms are numerous in number, and some of the benefits of biodiversity. It may surprise the reader to know that we don't know how many species there are in the world, and we can't even pin it down to an order of magnitude.

Chapter 2: Animals

This chapter is entirely composed of animal pictures and names. By the time students reach high school, it is likely they know many of these animals. So although it seems like forty-eight animals is a lot to learn, in reality perhaps ten or fifteen will be new to students. Learning the animal names is important. At the same time, students should think about the value of learning with pictures. Additionally, pronunciation of many animal names is difficult. The words owl, vulture, and wolf are difficult to say properly. When talking about these animals, students can hear and say technical biology terms that they learned in the previous chapter.

Part II: Physics

Chapter 3: Gravity

This chapter covers calculations with gravity and significant figures. If your students have watches, and some of their watches are analog with second hands, you can introduce the idea of significant figures quite easily by dropping some objects in the classroom and timing how long they take to land. When asked to report times, students with analog watches can only give an estimate between two seconds (i.e., "between four and five seconds"), whereas students with digital stopwatches can get more precise — perhaps to the tenth of a second. Alternately, if we take a look at pictures of clocks, we find that while most display the hour, some don't display the minute, and some don't display the second. If the clock only shows information about what hour it is, and somebody asks us the minute, we can only shrug our shoulders and say, "This clock doesn't show that information." This smoothly transitions into a conversation about how to calculate averages when some of your numbers are less precise than others. In math class, we learn that 2 = 2.0, but in physics, sometimes it's not true that 2 seconds = 2.0 seconds.

Chapter 4: Egg Drop

This is a classic experiment commonly performed in American junior and senior high schools. Students make a container for a raw egg. The container should be designed so that when the egg is dropped from a height of several meters, the egg will not break upon landing. There are many rules and designs. Typically the rules ensure that the experiment is inexpensive. Prior to the drop itself, students give a short presentation introducing their container's design and why they think it's effective.

Part III: Earth Science

Earth science includes a lot of things, because a lot of things happen on earth. Interestingly, it also includes space science, which doesn't.

Chapter 5: Volcanoes

This chapter introduces a few key words about volcanoes and then changes gears to a historical perspective. Students are given information about a famous historical volcanic eruption and prepare and deliver a presentation on it. In doing so, they can make use of some new vocabulary and get a perspective of the impact that volcanoes have had on communities around the world. Studying natural disasters is a good way to show the connection between science and people's lives and communities.

Chapter 6: Space

Because the English names of the planets are the names of characters in Sailor Moon, some students may already know them all. Other students with better taste will have to learn them. In this chapter we take some time to calculate distances between planets and how long it would take to reach them. We also talk about moons of planets other than Earth. If you've never learned about moons around other planets, the fact that they exist — and some in large number — may strike you as a surprise.

Chapter 7: Energy

This chapter has two topics. First we look at energy sources. Have you ever wondered where the electricity that you use comes from, and what kind of production methods are used? In the U.S. and Japan, some of our electricity is generated by dams, and while that's good because it doesn't cause global warming, it can't be expanded because all the good places to build dams on all the big rivers already have them. If we're thinking about where to get more power in the future, the starting point is learning about our current electricity supplies. The second topic is a mathematical analysis of light bulbs. Newer LED bulbs are expensive to purchase but use little electricity and have long lifetimes. By doing number crunching, we can see how much money can be saved using those bulbs.

Chapter 8: Lifestyle

The previous chapter dealt with energy use, and this chapter switches to talking about ourselves. How do we spend our lives, and what are some things we do that impact our world? Environmental science and lifestyle choices go hand-in-hand, and the topics are easily accessible to high school students.

Many people believe that water from their town is particularly good tasting, or conversely particularly bad tasting, and yet when put to the test they can't tell Evian from Tulsa tap water. A one-lesson water-tasting experiment gives us a chance to test these claims. Students sample five different kinds of water without knowing where each is from. They evaluate the water based on several criteria. We then display which water came from where, or is sold under what label. If the teacher has an assistant available, the experiment can be set up as a double blind test.


For playing video and audio, probably your computer's default media player can do the job. If you'd like to try a new one, VLC is a good choice. It's free, open source, and runs on all major operating systems. If you like, you can play audio and video files at reduced speed, which can spice up a listening activity.

The textbook, tests, homework, and most other materials were produced in LibreOffice. It's an office suite that's better than Microsoft Office in most ways. For editing SVG files, I use Inkscape. For editing photos and other pictures, I use the GIMP. These programs are all free and open source.


In some countries, students are not traditionally taught how to use calculators. This is peculiar and seems like a bad decision. Regardless, we should expose our students to arithmetic on a calculator before sending them abroad, because in many countries it is taken for granted that you know how to use one. There are different kinds of calculators, but since they perform the same core functions, which one you use is mostly dependent on your learning environment.


For general information on the textbook, see the author's website or contact the author on twitter.


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2016-10-05.06.Stopwatch.jpg 2016-10-05.07.Tachometer.jpg 2016-10-05.08.Gauges.jpg 2016-10-05.09.Ruler.jpg 2016-10-05.10.Ruler.jpg 2016-10-05.11.Ruler.jpg 2016-10-05.12.Speedometer.jpg 2016-10-05.13.Coal.jpg 2016-10-05.14.Squid.jpg 2016-10-05.15.Quail.jpg 2016-10-05.16.Yak.jpg 2016-10-05.17.Wolf.jpg 2016-10-30.01.Nevado del Ruiz.jpg 2016-10-30.02.Nevado del Ruiz.jpg 2016-10-30.03.Nevado del Ruiz.jpg 2016-10-30.04.Nevado del Ruiz.jpg 2016-10-30.05.Nevado del Ruiz.jpg 2016-10-30.06.Nevado del Ruiz.png 2016-10-30.07.Nevado del Ruiz.png 2017-09-12.01.Puu Oo.jpg 2017-09-12.02.Pahoehoe.jpg 2017-09-12.03.Puu Oo.jpg 2017-09-12.04.Tavernier.jpg 2017-09-12.05.Iki.jpg 2017-09-12.06.Puu Oo.jpg 2017-09-12.07.Kilauea Iki Overlook.jpg 2017-09-12.08.Hawaii.png 2017-09-17.01.Mauna Loa.jpg 2017-11-04.10.Door.jpg 2017-12-08.01.Nuclear World Map.png 2017-12-08.02.Hasaki Wind Farm.jpg 2017-12-08.03.Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.jpg 2017-12-09.01.Farm.jpg 2017-12-09.02.Turbine.jpg 2017-12-09.03.Nuclear.jpg

I make my SVG graphs using Matplotlib. If you're interested in modifying them, take a look at the source and go for it.

South Korea and Japan with Betsy and Dex


My parents and I traveled for two weeks in South Korea and northern Japan.

South Korea

Our first and last night were at a hotel near Incheon, the airport, because our flights were late and early. There is nothing notable about Incheon, except that renting a car is easy when you're near a rental shop, and rental shops can easily be found at the airport. The airport ATMs were broken, so we had to change money at the counter. Later we found working ATMs at convenience stores and bus stations.

The plan for the trip was to head to Sokcho in the northeast, which is notable for its national park, and after that to go to Danyang, in north-central South Korea. Danyang, we read, has magnificent caves. On a more general note, my folks decided that if they were visiting Japan it'd be nice to go somewhere else too, and South Korea seemed like a good option. Also, there is good food to be found.

2015-07-28.09.South Korea.png 2015-07-28.10.Incheon.png


According to Wikivoyage, Sokcho has a population of around 84,000. It's quite a sleepy city and is known as a gateway to Seoraksan National Park, which is a 30 minute bus ride from the central hub. Also, the DMZ is located an hour north by bus, from the central hub. The city has many beaches and areas to view the Sea of Japan. We went there for the national park. There are many entrances and day hikes in the park. We drove around the whole thing and walked down several trails. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy at high elevations to justify going up to the high peaks. For dinner the first night we went to a place that served squid sundae — a kind of sausage where the exterior is squid and the interior is composed of rice, squid, vegetables, and spices. Good stuff.

2015-07-28.11.Sokcho.png 2015-08-03.51.Sokcho.jpg 2015-08-03.52.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-03.53.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-03.54.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-03.55.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-03.56.Sokcho.jpg 2015-08-04.01.Coffee.jpg 2015-08-04.02.Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-04.03.Sokcho.jpg 2015-08-04.04.Seoraksan National Park.jpg 2015-08-04.05.Seoraksan National Park.jpg 2015-08-04.06.Dex and Betsy.jpg 2015-08-04.07.Drink.jpg 2015-08-04.08.Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-04.09.Stream.jpg 2015-08-04.10.Biryong Falls.jpg 2015-08-04.50.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-04.51.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-04.52.Sign.jpg


Danyang is a small town in the mountains of eastern central South Korea. We had heard it had good caves, and it does. It also has paragliding. You know how you see something that looks awesome and you want to try it? Well, paragliding is about as awesome as I imagined it would be. The outfit we went to does tandem glides which are perfect for beginners. Imagine flying like a bird with views of the steep mountain valleys, rivers, hillside farms and shrines, and the town down below. Paragliding, great.

2015-07-28.12.Danyang.png 2015-08-05.01.Guesthouse Rio127.jpg 2015-08-05.02.Danyang.jpg 2015-08-05.03.Danyang.jpg 2015-08-05.04.Danyang.jpg 2015-08-05.05.Paragliders.jpg 2015-08-05.06.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-05.07.Betsy.jpg 2015-08-05.08.Dex.jpg 2015-08-05.09.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-05.10.Bridge.jpg 2015-08-05.11.Paragliding.jpg 2015-08-05.12.Paragliding.jpg 2015-08-05.13.Paragliding.jpg 2015-08-05.14.Paragliding.jpg 2015-08-05.15.Paragliding.jpg


We had gigantic meals several days in a row. Ordinarily I find that if you order a main dish for each person in the party, you get a good amount of food. That strategy has been ineffective this trip. Instead, we've been getting entirely too much food. On the one hand, we can eat a lot when we try, and I suppose our lunches have been rather light, but on the other hand, it's just a ton of food. Oh well! Good stuff, though. On the second day in Danyang, we went to Ondal Cave in the morning. There is a large fortress complex by the cave, but it was too hot to do much outdoor exploring.

2015-08-06.01.Bear.jpg 2015-08-06.02.Ondal Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.03.Ondal Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.04.Ondal Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.05.Ondal Fortress.jpg 2015-08-06.06.Car.jpg 2015-08-06.07.Car.jpg 2015-08-06.08.Coffee.jpg 2015-08-06.09.Car.jpg


In the early afternoon we went to Gosu Cave, which is just east of town. To quote Wikipedia, Gosu Cave is a huge limestone cave near Danyang, South Korea formed over 450 million years ago. It is among the best known natural caves in Korea, called the "underground palace" because of its breathtaking natural beauty. Gosu Cave is listed as the country's "Natural Monument No. 256". "Gosu" means "field of tall reeds," and comes from the fact that the area used to be filled with fields of tall grasses. After the cave was discovered in the early 1970s, rough stone instruments were excavated from the cave's entrance, showing that this used to be a home to prehistoric people. Days here have been 90°F and higher, but cave temperature is a much more reasonable 59°F. As such, caves are a nice place to go to beat the heat.

2015-08-06.10.Gosu Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.11.Gosu Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.12.Gosu Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.13.Gosu Cave.jpg 2015-08-06.14.Danyang.jpg 2015-08-06.15.Garlic.jpg 2015-08-06.16.Garlic.jpg 2015-08-06.17.Garlic.jpg 2015-08-06.18.Watermelon.jpg 2015-08-06.19.Market.jpg 2015-08-06.21.Fish.jpg 2015-08-06.23.Garlic.jpg 2015-08-06.25.Food.jpg


Last night we had more garlic, along with other food, for dinner. Danyang grows ridiculous amounts of garlic, and restaurants reflect that in their dishes. One good thing is that the garlic here doesn't have a super strong flavor. Your standard grocery store is more pungent than this stuff. In the morning, we got up relatively early — around 8AM — and beat the crowds to Cheondong Cave. This cave was the smallest of the three we visited, and it was also the most impressive. We climbed up and down and on our hands and knees. We saw stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws. It worked out well. After that was the Stone Gate of Danyang, which looks about how you would expect, and then a high speed burn across the country to Incheon for dinner at Korean barbecue restaurant for our last night in the country.

2015-08-07.01.Cheondong Cave.jpg 2015-08-07.02.Cheondong Cave.jpg 2015-08-07.03.Cheondong Cave.jpg 2015-08-07.04.Cheondong Cave.jpg 2015-08-07.05.Cheondong Cave.jpg 2015-08-07.06.Coffee.jpg 2015-08-07.08.Stone Gate of Danyang.jpg


2015-08-07.07.Taxi.jpg 2015-08-07.09.Nachos.jpg 2015-08-07.10.Barbecue.jpg


After South Korea, we flew to Tokyo and headed north. We took a train to Nasushiobara, seized David's car, and drove to Akita. I used to live here, and many of my friends still do. Sushi is not Dexy's favorite, but he's a good sport and tries everything. Betsy and Dex are doing well eating with chopsticks. Rural Akita is sparsely populated, in sharp contrast with areas to the south. That's nice for hiking and driving back roads through mountain passes.

2011-01-31.0001.Japan.png 2011-01-31.0010.Akita.png 2015-08-10.01.Chokaiso.jpg 2015-08-10.02.Chokaiso.jpg 2015-08-10.03.Chokaiso.jpg 2015-08-11.04.Foot.jpg 2015-08-11.05.Breakfast.jpg 2015-08-11.06.Sign.jpg 2015-08-11.07.Sign.jpg

For lunch the second day, we met Etsuko and Kazunao Mitsumori at the ginger ramen shop. My former student's dad, Mr. Masaka, was there by chance, and he called his son Kimiaki, who joined us for the meal. Kimiaki graduated and is in fire fighter school now. He spoke mostly in English, which was helpful for Betsy and Dex.

2015-08-11.20.Betsy-Dex.jpg 2015-08-11.21-Kimiaki-Douglas.jpg 2015-08-11.22.Kimiaki-Douglas.jpg 2015-08-11.23.Kimiaki-Doug-Dex-Betsy.jpg 2015-08-11.24.Douglas-Kimiaki.jpg

Hottai Waterfall

On the foothills of Mount Chokai lies the majestic Hottai Waterfall. The waterfall is big and tall. You can go swimming at the bottom of it, or you can walk up the trail to the top and get a view of the valley and river below.

2015-08-11.08.Hottai Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-11.09.Suehiro.jpg 2015-08-11.10.Hottai Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-11.11.Hottai Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-11.12.Hottai Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-11.13.Betsy and Dex.jpg 2015-08-11.14.Hottai Waterfall.jpg 2015-08-11.15.Suehiro.jpg 2015-08-11.16.Chokaiso.jpg

Mount Chokai

We climbed Mount Chokai on a cloudy day that turned sunny. Our guard was down when the sun came out, and we got red faces and necks. Sunburn aside, it was a fine day. In the evening, we went to Warabeuta, an okonomiyaki place in Honjo, for dinner.

2015-08-11.17.Tonkatsu.jpg 2015-08-12.01.Escudo.jpg 2015-08-12.02.Haraikawa.jpg 2015-08-12.03.Ridge.jpg 2015-08-12.04.Summit.jpg 2015-08-12.07.Chokai.jpg 2015-08-12.08.Summit.jpg 2015-08-12.09.Chokai.jpg 2015-08-12.10.Yashima.jpg 2013-10-31.10.Chokai.png


After visiting Akita, we took the ferry to Tomakomai in Hokkaido. After a night in Sapporo, we drove north around Shokanbetsu-dake. The original plan was to climb it, but we had no time and the rain came, so we had an excellent lunch instead. Or rather, I had an excellent lunch of a seafood rice bowl. Betsy and Dexy had seafood curry and katsu curry, which looked decent enough.

2015-08-13.01.Coffee.jpg 2015-08-14.01.Coast.jpg 2015-08-14.02.Seafood curry.jpg 2015-08-14.03.Katsucurry.jpg 2015-08-14.04.Seafood.jpg 2015-08-14.05.Forest.jpg 2015-08-14.06.Forest.jpg 2015-07-28.05.Shokanbetsu Dake.png


We had three nights in Furano. We stayed at this excellent hostel called the Furano Youth Hostel. Don't let that fool you, though. This place is as good as any hotel. It's up on the hill overlooking the city, the owners cook simple and tasty food with lots of locally grown fresh vegetables, and the building's architecture is bizarre and exciting, as if the owner decided to go crazy with home renovation and build whatever crossed his fancy.

2015-08-15.01.FYH.jpg 2015-08-15.02.FYH.jpg 2015-08-15.03.Breakfast.jpg 2015-08-15.04.Dex.jpg 2015-08-15.05.Sunflowers.jpg 2015-08-15.06.Sunflower.jpg 2015-08-15.07.Farm Tomita.jpg 2015-08-15.08.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.09.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.10.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.11.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.12.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.13.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.14.Flowers.jpg 2015-08-15.15.Sign.jpg 2015-08-15.17.Sign.jpg 2015-08-15.18.Farm Tomita.jpg 2015-08-15.20.Soft serve.jpg 2009-07-31.9998.png

On our first full day, we went to Farm Tomita, a giant flower garden specializing in lavender. It has huge lavender gardens, although so does the rest of town, and it also has some other large gardens with various colorful flowers in great quantities. They sell lavender soft serve ice cream, too. In the afternoon, we made shorter stops at the Furano Winery, to sample some wine, and the Furano Cheese Factory, to sample some cheese and eat pizza. In the afternoon, we walked down some jeep track in the foothills for an hour looking for the bears. We didn't find any, but Betsy spotted a fox trying to catch dragon flies.

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It was raining in the mountains, and we went to the zoo instead. The Asahiyama Zoo is Japan's most famous, and rightly so. There are all kinds of big dangerous critters like polar bears, lions, tigers, and birds of prey. The gabons were pretty awesome, too. A juvenile gabon was playing tag with one of the adults, and their acrobatic antics were downright amazing. It must be awesome to swing and jump around on ropes and monkey bars like that.

2015-08-16.01.Polar bear.jpg 2015-08-16.02.Red panda.jpg 2015-08-16.03.Monkey.jpg 2015-08-16.04.Betsy-Dex.jpg 2015-08-17.01.Furano Youth Hostel.jpg

Shikotsuko National Park

Our final two nights were at the Shikotsuko Youth Hostel in the center of Shikotsu-Tōya National Park. To quote Wikivoyage, Shikotsu-Tōya National Park (支笏洞爺国立公園) is a national park (983 km2) in the central part of the island of Hokkaido, Japan. There are many lakes and active volcanoes in the park. Showa-Shin-zan, Usa-zan, and Tarumae-zan are the more well known among the active volcanoes. These volcanoes are also responsible for some popular onsens. We went hiking for the afternoon of the first day. It was cloudy but not raining. We had a good walk but no big views.

2015-08-17.02.Shikotsuko.jpg 2015-08-17.03.Sign.jpg 2015-08-17.04.Shikotsuko.jpg 2015-08-17.05.Shikotsuko.jpg 2015-08-17.06.Shikotsuko.jpg 2015-08-17.07.Higashiyama.jpg 2015-08-17.08.Higashiyama-Betsy.jpg 2015-08-17.09.Stew.jpg 2015-08-17.10.Shikotsuko Youth Hostel.jpg 2015-08-18.01.Miso soup.jpg 2015-08-18.02.Pickles.jpg 2015-08-18.03.Rice.jpg


On the morning of the second day, the weather was uncooperative. Rain. Heavy rain. Dex asked where the nearest Starbucks was, and I said it was in Sapporo to the north. In hindsight, that might not be true. It might be in Tomakomai to the south. But I didn't know that then, and anyway there are more things to do in bad weather in Sapporo, so we went there. We didn't go to Starbucks but instead to a different coffee shop that isn't part of an international chain. This was partly accidental and partly intentional, seeing as how the parking spot we found was right next to this other little place. The coffee was good. After that, we went to the Sapporo Beer Museum for the tour and samples. In the afternoon, we headed over to the Shiroi Koibito Park, a chocolate and cookie museum complex. It's a big place where you can see candy and cookies being made, look at hot chocolate cups from two centuries ago, and buy tasty souvenirs for friends and family back home. Also, we ate chocolate and cake and candy. All-in-all a nice stop for an indoor day.

2015-08-18.04.Fountain.jpg 2015-08-18.05.Cookies.jpg 2015-08-18.06.Cookies.jpg 2015-08-18.07.Cookies.jpg 2015-08-18.08.Roll cake.jpg 2015-08-18.09.Beer.jpg 2015-08-18.10.Bath.jpg 2015-08-18.11.Bath.jpg 2015-08-18.12.Bath.jpg 2015-08-18.13.Dinner.jpg 2015-08-18.14.Dinner.jpg

On the last morning, I took Betsy and Dexy to the airport in Chitose. They fly Chitose to Narita to Minneapolis to Grand Forks. For me it's a ferry ride to Sendai and then a drive back to David's place in Tochigi. This was a good trip, and I may come to Hokkaido again.

Flower Flashcards


Here are flashcards for flowers. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the English and Latin on the back. The suggested use is to look at a picture and say the English name for the flower. The Latin is there for reference and in case somebody wants to translate the cards into a different language. The pictures are all in the Public Domain downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. I got the list of flowers itself from Wikimedia Commons too.

Here's the 37-card package for Anki.

2015-07-09.01.Aster.jpgasterSymphyotrichum novae-angliae
2015-07-09.04.Carnation.jpgcarnationDianthus deltoides
2015-07-09.03.Chamomile.jpgchamomileMatricaria recutita
2015-07-09.09.Crocus.jpgcrocusCrocus vernus
2015-07-09.12.Daffodil.jpgdaffodilNarcissus cultivars
2015-07-09.10.Dahlia.jpgdahliaDahlia cultivars
2015-07-09.11.Daisy.pngdaisyErigeron annuus
2015-07-09.16.Hollyhock.jpghollyhockAlcea rosea
2015-07-09.35.Impatiens.jpgimpatiensImpatiens glandulifera
2015-07-09.36.Iris.jpgirisIris planifolia
2015-07-09.37.Lilac.jpglilacSyringa vulgaris cultivars
2015-07-09.18.Lily.jpglilyLilium regale
2015-07-09.06.Lotus.jpglotusNelumbo nucifera
2015-07-09.19.Lupin.jpglupinLupinus polyphyllus
2015-07-09.20.Orchid.jpgorchidPhalaenopsis cultivars
2015-07-09.21.Pansy.jpgpansyViola cultivars
2015-07-09.23.Peony.jpgpeonyPaeonia lactiflora cultivar
2015-07-09.24.Large Periwinkle.jpglarge periwinkleVinca major
2015-07-09.25.Petunia.jpgpetuniaPetunia × atkinsiana
2015-07-09.26.Poinsettia.jpgpoinsettiaEuphorbia pulcherrima
2015-07-09.28.Primrose.jpgprimroseOenothera rhombipetala
2015-07-09.29.Rose.jpgroseRosa cultivars
2015-07-09.30.Snowdrop.jpgsnowdropGalanthus nivalis
2015-07-09.07.Sunflower.jpgsunflowerHelianthus annuus
2015-07-09.32.Sweet violet.jpgsweet violetViola odorata
2015-07-09.31.Tulip.jpgtulipTulipa gesneriana
2015-07-09.34.Globe thistle.jpgglobe thistleEchinops rito
2015-07-09.33.Water lily.jpgwater lilyNymphaea


School Flashcards


Here are flashcards for school words. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. To a large degree, the kinds of things you find in a school are the kinds of things you find in your house. As such, this deck is unavoidably arbitrary in nature. Regardless, these words are all words worth knowing. If you don't already know them, now is a fine time to learn.

Here's the fifty-card package for Anki.

School/colored pencils.svgcolored pencils色鉛筆いろえんぴつ
School/copy machine.svgcopy machine
School/fire alarm.svgfire alarm火災報知機かさいほうちき
School/hole punch.svghole punchパンチパンチ
School/loose leaf paper.svgloose leaf paperルーズリーフルーズリーフ
School/paper clip.svgpaper clipクリップクリップ
School/pay phone.svgpublic telephone公衆電話こうしゅうでんわ
School/pencil case.svgpencil caseペンケースペンケース
School/permanent marker.svgpermanent marker油性マジックゆせいマジック
School/red pen.svgred pen赤ペンあかペン
School/ring binder.svgring binderリングバインダーリングバインダー
School/school bus.svgschool busスクールバススクールバス
School/school lunch.svgschool lunch給食きゅうしょく
School/security camera.svgsecurity camera防犯カメラぼうはんカメラ
School/swimming pool.svgswimming poolプールプール


Debian on Thinkpad E450


I just bought a Lenovo ThinkPad E450 and installed Debian Sid on it. Here are the system details.

2015-07-01.20.E450.jpg 2015-07-03.07.E450.jpg 2015-07-03.05.Back.jpg 2015-07-03.02.Right.jpg 2015-07-03.03.Front.jpg 2015-07-03.04.Left.jpg 2015-07-01.22.Keyboard.jpg 2015-07-03.06.Keyboard.jpg 2015-07-03.08.Keyboard.jpg 2015-07-03.09.Kana.jpg 2015-07-03.10.Kanji.jpg

System Information

The machine came with Windows but I installed Debian without wasting any time.

$ uname -a Linux e450 4.0.0-2-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 4.0.5-1 (2015-06-16) x86_64 GNU/Linux

$ lsb_release -a No LSB modules are available. Distributor ID: Debian Description: Debian GNU/Linux unstable (sid) Release: unstable Codename: sid

The E450 supports up to 16GB of RAM. Mine came with 4GB, and I added 8GB more. Because of the case design on this machine, adding memory and changing the hard drive are easy.

$ free total used free shared buff/cache available Mem: 12224716 614820 10481188 139512 1128708 11223604 Swap: 12500988 0 12500988

$ free --human total used free shared buff/cache available Mem: 11G 662M 9.9G 75M 1.1G 10G Swap: 11G 0B 11G

$ sudo dmidecode --type 17 # dmidecode 2.12 # SMBIOS entry point at 0xbcdfe000 SMBIOS 2.7 present. Handle 0x0009, DMI type 17, 34 bytes Memory Device Array Handle: 0x0008 Error Information Handle: Not Provided Total Width: 64 bits Data Width: 64 bits Size: 4096 MB Form Factor: SODIMM Set: None Locator: ChannelA-DIMM0 Bank Locator: BANK 0 Type: DDR3 Type Detail: Synchronous Speed: 1600 MHz Manufacturer: Hynix/Hyundai Serial Number: 39101668 Asset Tag: None Part Number: HMT451S6BFR8A-PB Rank: Unknown Configured Clock Speed: 1600 MHz Handle 0x000A, DMI type 17, 34 bytes Memory Device Array Handle: 0x0008 Error Information Handle: Not Provided Total Width: 64 bits Data Width: 64 bits Size: 8192 MB Form Factor: SODIMM Set: None Locator: ChannelB-DIMM0 Bank Locator: BANK 2 Type: DDR3 Type Detail: Synchronous Speed: 1600 MHz Manufacturer: Transcend Serial Number: 00101321 Asset Tag: None Part Number: TS1GSK64W6H Rank: Unknown Configured Clock Speed: 1600 MHz

$ cat /proc/meminfo MemTotal: 12224716 kB MemFree: 10587224 kB MemAvailable: 11520696 kB Buffers: 124208 kB Cached: 900928 kB SwapCached: 0 kB Active: 769140 kB Inactive: 520132 kB Active(anon): 264980 kB Inactive(anon): 66840 kB Active(file): 504160 kB Inactive(file): 453292 kB Unevictable: 32 kB Mlocked: 32 kB SwapTotal: 12500988 kB SwapFree: 12500988 kB Dirty: 52 kB Writeback: 0 kB AnonPages: 264164 kB Mapped: 111212 kB Shmem: 67688 kB Slab: 257660 kB SReclaimable: 229424 kB SUnreclaim: 28236 kB KernelStack: 4192 kB PageTables: 16792 kB NFS_Unstable: 0 kB Bounce: 0 kB WritebackTmp: 0 kB CommitLimit: 18613344 kB Committed_AS: 1203404 kB VmallocTotal: 34359738367 kB VmallocUsed: 377712 kB VmallocChunk: 34359248764 kB HardwareCorrupted: 0 kB AnonHugePages: 0 kB HugePages_Total: 0 HugePages_Free: 0 HugePages_Rsvd: 0 HugePages_Surp: 0 Hugepagesize: 2048 kB DirectMap4k: 89720 kB DirectMap2M: 2971648 kB DirectMap1G: 9437184 kB


The machine shipped with a 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive. I swapped that out in favor of a Samsung SSD 840 EVO, a 250GB SSD. Solid state hard drives are wonderful. My machine boots up in about three seconds.

$ df --human-readable Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on udev 10M 0 10M 0% /dev tmpfs 2.4G 9.2M 2.4G 1% /run /dev/dm-1 217G 100G 107G 49% / tmpfs 5.9G 72K 5.9G 1% /dev/shm tmpfs 5.0M 4.0K 5.0M 1% /run/lock tmpfs 5.9G 0 5.9G 0% /sys/fs/cgroup /dev/sda2 237M 77M 148M 35% /boot /dev/sda1 511M 132K 511M 1% /boot/efi tmpfs 1.2G 4.0K 1.2G 1% /run/user/118 tmpfs 1.2G 24K 1.2G 1% /run/user/1000

$ lsblk NAME MAJ:MIN RM SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT sda 8:0 0 232.9G 0 disk ├─sda1 8:1 0 512M 0 part /boot/efi ├─sda2 8:2 0 244M 0 part /boot └─sda3 8:3 0 232.2G 0 part └─sda3_crypt 254:0 0 232.1G 0 crypt ├─e540--vg-root 254:1 0 220.2G 0 lvm / └─e540--vg-swap_1 254:2 0 11.9G 0 lvm [SWAP]


The version of the E450 I have runs at 2.20GHz. It's a four-core 64 bit processor.

$ lscpu Architecture: x86_64 CPU op-mode(s): 32-bit, 64-bit Byte Order: Little Endian CPU(s): 4 On-line CPU(s) list: 0-3 Thread(s) per core: 2 Core(s) per socket: 2 Socket(s): 1 NUMA node(s): 1 Vendor ID: GenuineIntel CPU family: 6 Model: 61 Model name: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz Stepping: 4 CPU MHz: 2169.750 CPU max MHz: 2700.0000 CPU min MHz: 500.0000 BogoMIPS: 4389.41 Virtualization: VT-x L1d cache: 32K L1i cache: 32K L2 cache: 256K L3 cache: 3072K NUMA node0 CPU(s): 0-3

cat /proc/cpuinfo processor : 0 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 61 model name : Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz stepping : 4 microcode : 0x16 cpu MHz : 1902.914 cache size : 3072 KB physical id : 0 siblings : 4 core id : 0 cpu cores : 2 apicid : 0 initial apicid : 0 fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 20 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf eagerfpu pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch ida arat epb pln pts dtherm tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid rdseed adx smap xsaveopt bugs : bogomips : 4389.41 clflush size : 64 cache_alignment : 64 address sizes : 39 bits physical, 48 bits virtual power management: processor : 1 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 61 model name : Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz stepping : 4 microcode : 0x16 cpu MHz : 1911.679 cache size : 3072 KB physical id : 0 siblings : 4 core id : 0 cpu cores : 2 apicid : 1 initial apicid : 1 fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 20 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf eagerfpu pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch ida arat epb pln pts dtherm tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid rdseed adx smap xsaveopt bugs : bogomips : 4389.41 clflush size : 64 cache_alignment : 64 address sizes : 39 bits physical, 48 bits virtual power management: processor : 2 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 61 model name : Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz stepping : 4 microcode : 0x16 cpu MHz : 1800.304 cache size : 3072 KB physical id : 0 siblings : 4 core id : 1 cpu cores : 2 apicid : 2 initial apicid : 2 fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 20 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf eagerfpu pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch ida arat epb pln pts dtherm tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid rdseed adx smap xsaveopt bugs : bogomips : 4389.41 clflush size : 64 cache_alignment : 64 address sizes : 39 bits physical, 48 bits virtual power management: processor : 3 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 61 model name : Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz stepping : 4 microcode : 0x16 cpu MHz : 1800.304 cache size : 3072 KB physical id : 0 siblings : 4 core id : 1 cpu cores : 2 apicid : 3 initial apicid : 3 fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 20 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf eagerfpu pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch ida arat epb pln pts dtherm tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid rdseed adx smap xsaveopt bugs : bogomips : 4389.41 clflush size : 64 cache_alignment : 64 address sizes : 39 bits physical, 48 bits virtual power management:

Most of the hardware works with a default Debian installation.

$ lsusb Bus 003 Device 002: ID 8087:8001 Intel Corp. Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub Bus 001 Device 004: ID 1bcf:2c70 Sunplus Innovation Technology Inc. Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0489:e079 Foxconn / Hon Hai Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

$ lsmod Module Size Used by ctr 16384 3 ccm 20480 3 arc4 16384 2 bnep 20480 2 nfsd 286720 2 auth_rpcgss 57344 1 nfsd oid_registry 16384 1 auth_rpcgss nfs_acl 16384 1 nfsd nfs 204800 0 lockd 90112 2 nfs,nfsd grace 16384 2 nfsd,lockd fscache 53248 1 nfs sunrpc 270336 6 nfs,nfsd,auth_rpcgss,lockd,nfs_acl snd_hda_codec_hdmi 53248 1 joydev 20480 0 carl9170 86016 0 ath 28672 1 carl9170 mac80211 557056 1 carl9170 cfg80211 454656 3 ath,mac80211,carl9170 nls_utf8 16384 1 nls_cp437 20480 1 vfat 20480 1 fat 65536 1 vfat iTCO_wdt 16384 0 iTCO_vendor_support 16384 1 iTCO_wdt x86_pkg_temp_thermal 16384 0 intel_powerclamp 20480 0 intel_rapl 20480 0 iosf_mbi 16384 1 intel_rapl coretemp 16384 0 kvm 425984 0 efi_pstore 16384 1 uvcvideo 86016 0 i915 1015808 3 evdev 24576 22 psmouse 110592 0 snd_hda_codec_conexant 24576 1 videobuf2_vmalloc 16384 1 uvcvideo serio_raw 16384 0 snd_hda_codec_generic 65536 1 snd_hda_codec_conexant pcspkr 16384 0 btusb 40960 0 efivars 20480 1 efi_pstore videobuf2_memops 16384 1 videobuf2_vmalloc videobuf2_core 40960 1 uvcvideo v4l2_common 16384 1 videobuf2_core bluetooth 425984 21 bnep,btusb rtsx_pci_ms 20480 0 videodev 131072 3 uvcvideo,v4l2_common,videobuf2_core media 20480 2 uvcvideo,videodev sg 32768 0 memstick 16384 1 rtsx_pci_ms snd_hda_intel 28672 9 lpc_ich 24576 0 i2c_i801 20480 0 drm_kms_helper 102400 1 i915 snd_hda_controller 28672 1 snd_hda_intel snd_hda_codec 110592 5 snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_codec_conexant,snd_hda_codec_generic,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_controller snd_hwdep 16384 1 snd_hda_codec thinkpad_acpi 69632 1 snd_pcm 90112 4 snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_codec,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_controller drm 274432 4 i915,drm_kms_helper snd_timer 28672 1 snd_pcm nvram 16384 1 thinkpad_acpi snd 69632 27 snd_hwdep,snd_timer,snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_codec_conexant,snd_pcm,snd_hda_codec_generic,snd_hda_codec,snd_hda_intel,thinkpad_acpi mei_me 20480 0 tpm_tis 20480 0 wmi 20480 0 mei 77824 1 mei_me i2c_algo_bit 16384 1 i915 tpm 32768 1 tpm_tis rfkill 20480 5 cfg80211,thinkpad_acpi,bluetooth ac 16384 0 battery 16384 0 video 20480 1 i915 soundcore 16384 2 snd,snd_hda_codec shpchp 32768 0 button 16384 1 i915 processor 28672 0 parport_pc 28672 0 ppdev 20480 0 lp 20480 0 parport 36864 3 lp,ppdev,parport_pc efivarfs 16384 1 autofs4 36864 2 ext4 499712 2 crc16 16384 2 ext4,bluetooth mbcache 20480 1 ext4 jbd2 86016 1 ext4 algif_skcipher 20480 0 af_alg 16384 1 algif_skcipher dm_crypt 28672 1 dm_mod 94208 9 dm_crypt sd_mod 45056 4 rtsx_pci_sdmmc 24576 0 mmc_core 110592 1 rtsx_pci_sdmmc crct10dif_pclmul 16384 0 crc32_pclmul 16384 0 crc32c_intel 24576 0 ghash_clmulni_intel 16384 0 aesni_intel 167936 8 aes_x86_64 20480 1 aesni_intel lrw 16384 1 aesni_intel gf128mul 16384 1 lrw glue_helper 16384 1 aesni_intel ablk_helper 16384 1 aesni_intel cryptd 20480 4 ghash_clmulni_intel,aesni_intel,ablk_helper ahci 36864 3 libahci 28672 1 ahci libata 180224 2 ahci,libahci scsi_mod 200704 3 sg,libata,sd_mod e1000e 217088 0 xhci_pci 16384 0 ehci_pci 16384 0 ptp 20480 1 e1000e pps_core 20480 1 ptp ehci_hcd 77824 1 ehci_pci xhci_hcd 155648 1 xhci_pci rtsx_pci 40960 2 rtsx_pci_ms,rtsx_pci_sdmmc mfd_core 16384 2 lpc_ich,rtsx_pci usbcore 200704 7 btusb,uvcvideo,carl9170,ehci_hcd,ehci_pci,xhci_hcd,xhci_pci usb_common 16384 1 usbcore thermal 20480 0 thermal_sys 32768 5 video,intel_powerclamp,thermal,processor,x86_pkg_temp_thermal

$ lspci -nn 00:00.0 Host bridge [0600]: Intel Corporation Broadwell-U Host Bridge -OPI [8086:1604] (rev 09) 00:02.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: Intel Corporation Broadwell-U Integrated Graphics [8086:1616] (rev 09) 00:03.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation Broadwell-U Audio Controller [8086:160c] (rev 09) 00:14.0 USB controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP USB xHCI Controller [8086:9cb1] (rev 03) 00:16.0 Communication controller [0780]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP MEI Controller #1 [8086:9cba] (rev 03) 00:19.0 Ethernet controller [0200]: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection (3) I218-V [8086:15a3] (rev 03) 00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP High Definition Audio Controller [8086:9ca0] (rev 03) 00:1c.0 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #1 [8086:9c90] (rev e3) 00:1c.2 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #3 [8086:9c94] (rev e3) 00:1c.5 PCI bridge [0604]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #6 [8086:9c9a] (rev e3) 00:1d.0 USB controller [0c03]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP USB EHCI Controller [8086:9ca6] (rev 03) 00:1f.0 ISA bridge [0601]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP LPC Controller [8086:9cc3] (rev 03) 00:1f.2 SATA controller [0106]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP SATA Controller [AHCI Mode] [8086:9c83] (rev 03) 00:1f.3 SMBus [0c05]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP SMBus Controller [8086:9ca2] (rev 03) 00:1f.6 Signal processing controller [1180]: Intel Corporation Wildcat Point-LP Thermal Management Controller [8086:9ca4] (rev 03) 04:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation Device [14e4:43ae] (rev 02) 05:00.0 Unassigned class [ff00]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTS5227 PCI Express Card Reader [10ec:5227] (rev 01)


Unfortunately, the WiFi & Bluetooth card, the Broadcom 43162, is not supported. Some of the cards that ship with the E450 are supported, but apparently not all of them. People have reported elsewhere that they haven't found working drivers.

$ lspci -nnk | grep -iA1 Network 04:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation Device [14e4:43ae] (rev 02) Subsystem: Lenovo Device [17aa:0622]

There is nothing to be done about that right now, alas. In my drawer I had an NEC Aterm WL300NU-AG USB WiFi card sitting unused. It's bulky and slightly impractical, but it works perfectly well.


Country Maps


For my students who are planning to go abroad, we want to print out and put up some maps of the destination countries in the classroom. Here are the maps. For the world maps, I quarter them, print them out in A3 size, and tape them together. It would be simpler to order a large nice-looking world map, if you have the money. For single-country maps, a single A4 sheet is all we need.


World Map.svg
2015-06-26.10.World Map.UL.png 2015-06-26.11.World Map.UR.png 2015-06-26.12.World Map.LL.png 2015-06-26.13.World Map.LR.png
2015-06-26.20.World Map.png
2015-06-26.21.World Map.UL.png 2015-06-26.22.World Map.UR.png 2015-06-26.23.World Map.LL.png 2015-06-26.24.World Map.LR.png


2015-07-01.01.Australia.png 2017-07-05.03.Canada.png 2017-07-05.01.Czech.png 2016-06-15.02.France.jpg 2015-07-01.10.Finland.jpg 2016-06-15.03.Germany.png 2016-06-15.01.Hungary.png 2016-06-15.05.Italy.png 2016-06-15.06.Jordan.png 2015-07-01.02.New Zealand.png 2016-06-15.07.South Korea.png 2017-07-05.02.Spain.png 2016-06-15.04.Sweden.png 2015-07-01.05.USA.png 2015-07-01.11.USA.png

Visa Extension


It's time to renew my work visa again. The last time was in 2012, and the process is essentially the same. Here is the official documentation here and here by the Ministry of Justice.



There is a bunch of paperwork. If you've done this before, you'll know the routine. Do it early, visit various offices to get everything you need, and check it again to see what you forgot. They might not require some of these forms, but it's better to bring them anyway.

Unnecessary Documents

It's not obvious what is needed. Here are some things they wanted in the past that they didn't want this year. Because the required documents are not clearly delineated in the law, vary over the years, and vary based on the mood of the person at the counter, there's no way of knowing what you'll need on any given visit. The good news is that if you're missing a document, you can mail it in later without negative ramifications.


Tachikawa Immigration Office

The nearest immigration office is the Tachikawa Branch of the Tokyo Immigration Office (東京入国管理局 立川出張所; tokyo nyukoku kanri kyoku tachikawa shuchojo). The phone number is 042-528-7179, and the address is 〒186-0001 東京都国立市北3-31-2 立川法務総合庁舎. The lat/long is 35.703515, 139.429915. It's open Monday-Friday 9AM-4PM.

2015-06-29.01.Tachikawa.png 2015-06-29.02.Tachikawa.png 2012-08-21.2626.tachikawa.jpg 2012-08-21.2625.tachikawa.jpg

Day One

This was a day to read a book. I took the train, took the bus, got to the office, and grabbed a number from the machine. There were forty people ahead of me in the queue, which was relatively low. By the time I left, the queue had grown to fifty-nine! To be precise, there are two queues. The first is for people dropping off their application. This is what I was in, and this is the long one. The second is for people whose applications have been processed and is generally much shorter. Anyway, I sat down on the bench to wait, read a book, studied Japanese, and drank a can of coffee. Three hours later, the person at the window called my number, and I went over there with my documents.

The man took my application, my other application, and looked at my passport and Residence Card. He then asked what was up with my second application, and I explained to him the situation just like it was, where I have two contracts for one job (why?) and how it's the same as it was the last time I renewed my visa. Then he asked for a copy of my contract with my company, told me to write my address on a postcard, and said they'll send me the postcard when the new card comes.

Day Two

The postcard came about two weeks after I applied. The things you need are listed on the postcard.

I went down the to the visa office with my soon-to-expire Residence Card, my passport, and the postcard. After grabbing a number I walked down to the local post office to purchase the ¥4000 payment stamp. You can buy the stamp at any post office — show the post card to the postal workers and they'll sell you what you need. There's nothing special about the post office near the immigration office; any post office is fine. I just wanted something to do instead of sitting on the bench and waiting. After I got the stamp, I returned to the Immigration Bureau, sat down, and waited. Cellphone reception in the waiting area is spotty. The best reception is found at the front near the windows. After thirty minutes, the man called me over. He gave me a form, told me to write my name and put the stamp on it. He took my old Residence Card, punched a hole in it, and returned it. He put a sticker in my passport that says I'm approved to do part-time work. Then he gave me my new Residence Card and said thank you.

The new card has a term of three years, and my part time work approval permit is good for two. Success!

Health Flashcards


Here are flashcards for health and medicine words. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. The other day I tore my calf muscle playing basketball. One thing that's obvious in hindsight is that medical words, like most technical terms, are not part of common daily conversation. If you don't specifically study them, you won't know them when you need them. So, here's a deck of cards to help with the task.

Here's the fifty-card package for Anki.

Health/calf.svgcalf muscle
Health/eye chart.svgeye chart視力表しりょくひょう
Health/eye doctor.svgeye doctor
Health/eye exam.svgeye exam
eyesight test
Health/first aid kit.svgfirst aid kit救急箱きゅうきゅうばこ
Health/give blood.svggive blood献血けんけつ
Health/ice pack.svgice pack保冷剤ほれいざい
Health/jumping rope.svgjumping rope縄跳びなわとび
tissue paper
Health/mortar and pestle.svgmortar and pestle乳鉢・乳棒にゅうばち・にゅうぼう
magnetic resonance imaging
Health/no smoking.svgno smoking禁煙きんえん
Health/red cross.svgred cross赤十字せきじゅうじ
Health/rib cage.svgrib cageあばら
bathroom scale
medical thermometer
Health/weight lifting.svgweight lifting
weight training




Here are some cool SVG graphs I made for Mathematics Done in English and Science Done in English. They're all generated using Python scripts and matplotlib. One cool thing about SVG is that we get images that work at all scales. The file size is small, but the image looks crisp even if it occupies an entire page. That's half the point of SVG, after all.

Both the images and the code that was used to generate them are displayed. Everything is freely licensed, so take it and run with it. There are pie graphs, bar graphs, line graphs, and scatter plots. Some of the labels use unicode. One of the pie graphs is exploded. One of the line graphs has a spline in it. Take a look and see what you think.


#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates population graphs for the 2014 foreign resident population of Japan. # The population is broken down by country. Data is from Wikipedia. # # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("China", 648734), ("South Korea", 508561), ("Philippines", 213923), ("Brazil", 177953), ("Vietnam", 85499), ("U.S.A.", 50515), ("Peru", 48263), ("Thailand", 42270), ("Taiwan", 36965), ("Nepal", 36107), ("Indonesia", 28649), ] countries = [country for (country, population) in data] populations = [population for (country, population) in data] listed_population = 0 for population in populations: listed_population += population total_population = 2086603 unlisted_population = total_population - listed_population populations.append(unlisted_population) countries.append("Other") # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(countries)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(9,2.5)), populations, width, color='m') pyplot.title('2014 Foreign Resident Population of Japan') pyplot.ylabel('People') pyplot.xlabel('Nationality') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, countries, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('34.Nationality.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 10.Bar Graph.1.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a generic bar graph. # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ (0, 3.0), (20, 2.5), (40, 4.5), (60, 1.0), (80, 2.0), ] xs = [x for (x, y) in data] ys = [y for (x, y) in data] pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(3,2)) pyplot.scatter(xs, ys, color='r', s=80, marker=(5,1)) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 10.Bar Graph.1.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 10.Bar Graph.2.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a generic bar graph. # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ (5, 2), (6, 4), (7, 8), (8, 16), (9, 32), ] xs = [x for (x, y) in data] ys = [y for (x, y) in data] pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(3,2)) pyplot.scatter(xs, ys, color='b', s=80, marker='>') pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 10.Bar Graph.2.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 11.Birthdays by Day.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing birthdays by day of the week. # Data is from the U.S. CDC for the year 2010. # For simplicity, I have rounded it here. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Sun", 7110), ("Mon", 11662), ("Tue", 12821), ("Wed", 12629), ("Thu", 12493), ("Fri", 11960), ("Sat", 8007), ] days = [day for (day, count) in data] births = [count for (day, count) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(days)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,2)), births, width, color='g') pyplot.title('2010 U.S.A. Average Daily Births') pyplot.ylabel('Births') pyplot.xlabel('Day') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, days, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 11.Birthdays by Day.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Bar.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing the population of each continent. # The data was posted on World Population Statistics for the year 2013. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Asia", 4140000000), ("Africa", 995000000), ("Europe", 739000000), ("North America", 529000000), ("South America", 386000000), ("Australia", 36000000), ("Antarctica", 4000), ] continents = [continent for (continent, population) in data] populations = [population for (continent, population) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a graph. x = numpy.arange(len(continents)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)), populations, width, color='g') pyplot.title('2013 World Population') pyplot.ylabel('People') pyplot.xlabel('Continent') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, continents, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Bar.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Line.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a line graph showing the population of Kuwait. # The 1970-2012 data is from Wikipedia. # The 2012 data is from Mubasher. # The 2013 data is from the Gulf Research Center. # The 2014 data is from IndexMundi. # # Data is in one year increments, 1970-2015. # # # # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ (1970, 753000), (1971, 811000), (1972, 870000), (1973, 931000), (1974, 992000), (1975, 1054000), (1976, 1116000), (1977, 1179000), (1978, 1243000), (1979, 1309000), (1980, 1377000), (1981, 1446000), (1982, 1514000), (1983, 1584000), (1984, 1660000), (1985, 1742000), (1986, 1836000), (1987, 1937000), (1988, 2028000), (1989, 2084000), (1990, 2088000), (1991, 2031000), (1992, 1924000), (1993, 1796000), (1994, 1688000), (1995, 1628000), (1996, 1628000), (1997, 1679000), (1998, 1764000), (1999, 1857000), (2000, 1941000), (2001, 2010000), (2002, 2070000), (2003, 2127000), (2004, 2189000), (2005, 2264000), (2006, 2351000), (2007, 2448000), (2008, 2548000), (2009, 2778000), (2010, 2933000), (2011, 3099000), (2012, 3824000), (2013, 3891933), (2014, 3996899), ] years = [year for (year, population) in data] populations = [population for (year, population) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(years)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)) pyplot.plot(years, populations, color='r') pyplot.title('Population of Kuwait 1970-2015') pyplot.ylabel('People') pyplot.xlabel('Year') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='both') pyplot.subplot(111).set_ylim([0, 4200000]) pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Line.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Pie.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing the population of each continent. # The data was posted on World Population Statistics for the year 2013. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Asia", 4140000000), ("Africa", 995000000), ("Europe", 739000000), ("North America", 529000000), ("South America", 386000000), ("Australia", 36000000), ("Antarctica", 4000), ] continents = [continent for (continent, population) in data] populations = [population for (continent, population) in data] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(9,4)) pyplot.axes(aspect=1) pyplot.title('2013 World Population') patches = pyplot.pie(populations)[0] # Adds hatching to each piece of the pie. # Unfortunately, hatching is not supported in LibreOffice 4.4.4. # #for patch, pattern in zip(patches, patterns): # patch.set_hatch(pattern) pyplot.legend(populations, labels=continents, loc="upper left") pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Pie.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Scatter.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a scatter plot of annual rainfall in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. # Data is from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. # Data is in annual increments, 2000-2014. # # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ (2000, 454.6), (2001, 681.8), (2002, 465.4), (2003, 642.8), (2004, 579.4), (2005, 670.2), (2006, 346.6), (2007, 549.8), (2008, 407.2), (2009, 865.0), (2010, 524.0), (2011, 690.6), (2012, 476.6), (2013, 609.8), (2014, 484.2), ] years = [year for (year, rainfall) in data] rainfalls = [rainfall for (year, rainfall) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(years)) + 0.25 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)) pyplot.scatter(years, rainfalls, color='b') pyplot.title('Hobart Annual Rainfall 2000-2014') pyplot.ylabel('Millimeters of rain') pyplot.xlabel('Year') pyplot.subplot(111).set_ylim([0, 1000]) pyplot.subplot(111).set_xlim([1999, 2015]) pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='both') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Global Graphs.Scatter.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Bar.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing the most popular football (soccer) teams. # Data is from Fanatix and was tabulated in 2013. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Juventus", 20000000), ("Bayern Munich", 24000000), ("Inter Milan", 49000000), ("Liverpool", 71000000), ("AC Milan", 99000000), ("Arsenal", 113000000), ("Chelsea", 135000000), ("Real Madrid", 174000000), ("Barcelona", 270000000), ("Manchester United", 354000000), ] teams = [team for (team, fanbase) in data] fanbases = [fanbase for (team, fanbase) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(x, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(x)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. y = numpy.arange(len(teams)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(3,5)) pyplot.barh(y, fanbases, width, color='r') pyplot.title('Most Popular Football Clubs 2013') pyplot.ylabel('Team') pyplot.xlabel('Fans') yticks = pyplot.yticks(y + width/2.0, teams) pyplot.xticks(rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).xaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='x') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Bar.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Line.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy from scipy import interpolate # This generates a line graph showing temperature in Antarctica. # The data spans a week in June, 2015 and is drawn from OpenWeatherMap. # For each day there are two temperatures. # The weather station lat/long is 16.41, -78.16. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("6/16", 0, -59.6), ("6/16", 1, -58.6), ("6/17", 2, -54.7), ("6/17", 3, -54.4), ("6/18", 4, -57.1), ("6/18", 5, -54.3), ("6/19", 6, -50.4), ("6/19", 7, -52.3), ("6/20", 8, -57.1), ("6/20", 9, -56.9), ] days = [day for (day, count, temperature) in data] counts = [count for (day, count, temperature) in data] temperatures = [temperature for (day, count, temperature) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a scatter plot. x = numpy.arange(len(days)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)) pyplot.scatter(counts, temperatures, color='r', marker='s') # Make a smooth line tracing the scatter plot. xnew = numpy.linspace(0, 9, 300) power_smooth = interpolate.spline(counts, temperatures, xnew) pyplot.plot(xnew, power_smooth, color='r') pyplot.title('Antarctica Temperature in June 2015') pyplot.ylabel(u'Temperature (\u00b0C)') pyplot.xlabel('Date') pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='both') pyplot.subplot(111).set_xlim([0, 9]) pyplot.xticks(range(len(days)), days) pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Line.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Pie.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing the four most popular pies in the U.S. # The data is from a 2008 survey. The original survey had more answers. # Here I use only the top four values. # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("apple", 32), ("pumpkin", 26), (u"chocolate cr\u00e8me", 23), ("cherry", 19), ] pies = [pie for (pie, percent) in data] percents = [percent for (pie, percent) in data] # Make a pie graph. colors = ['gold', 'g', 'r', 'c'] pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)) pyplot.axes(aspect=1) pyplot.title('America\'s Favorite Pies in 2008') pyplot.pie(percents, labels=pies, autopct='%1.f%%', colors=colors) pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Large Numbers.Pie.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Pets in the UK.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing the five most popular pets in the U.K. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("dogs", 7300000), ("cats", 7200000), ("rabbits", 1400000), ("birds", 800000), ("hamsters", 500000), ] pets = [pet for (pet, population) in data] populations = [population for (pet, population) in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(pets)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(4,2)), populations, width, color='m') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, pets, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Pets in the UK.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Ice Cream.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python import matplotlib from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing favorite ice cream flavors. # The data is from a 2013 survey in the United States. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 dedication. # # data = [ ("Other", 32), ("Chocolate", 14), ("Vanilla", 13), ("Cookie Dough /\nCookies & Cream", 11), ("Butter Pecan", 10), ("Mint Chocolate Chip", 8), ("Strawberry", 6), ("Rocky Road", 6), ] flavors = [d[0] for d in data] percents = [d[1] for d in data] colors = ['lightblue', 'tan', 'w', 'gray', 'yellow', 'green', 'lightpink', 'red'] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.axes([0.25, 0.25, 0.5, 0.5], aspect=1) pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(4,4)) pyplot.title('Favorite U.S. Ice Cream Flavors (2013)') pyplot.pie(percents, autopct='%1.f%%', pctdistance=0.8, labels=flavors, colors=colors, startangle=-10) pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Ice Cream.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.U.S. Historical Population.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a line graph showing the population of the U.S. # # Data spans 1790-2015 and is from the U.S. Census. # # 1790-1890: # 1900-present: # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 dedication. # # data = [ (1790, 3929214), (1800, 5308483), (1810, 7239881), (1820, 9638453), (1830, 12860702), (1840, 17063353), (1850, 23191876), (1860, 31443321), (1870, 38558371), (1880, 50189209), (1890, 62979766), (1900, 76090000), (1901, 77580000), (1902, 79160000), (1903, 80630000), (1904, 82170000), (1905, 83820000), (1906, 85450000), (1907, 87010000), (1908, 88710000), (1909, 90490000), (1910, 92410000), (1911, 93860000), (1912, 95340000), (1913, 97230000), (1914, 99110000), (1915, 100550000), (1916, 101960000), (1917, 103270000), (1918, 103210000), (1919, 104510000), (1920, 106460000), (1921, 108540000), (1922, 110050000), (1923, 111950000), (1924, 114110000), (1925, 115830000), (1926, 117400000), (1927, 119040000), (1928, 120510000), (1929, 121770000), (1930, 123080000), (1931, 124040000), (1932, 124840000), (1933, 125580000), (1934, 126370000), (1935, 127250000), (1936, 128050000), (1937, 128820000), (1938, 129820000), (1939, 130880000), (1940, 132120000), (1941, 133400000), (1942, 134860000), (1943, 136740000), (1944, 138400000), (1945, 139930000), (1946, 141390000), (1947, 144130000), (1948, 146630000), (1949, 149190000), (1950, 152270000), (1951, 154880000), (1952, 157550000), (1953, 160180000), (1954, 163030000), (1955, 165930000), (1956, 168900000), (1957, 171980000), (1958, 174880000), (1959, 177830000), (1960, 180670000), (1961, 183690000), (1962, 186540000), (1963, 189240000), (1964, 191890000), (1965, 194300000), (1966, 196560000), (1967, 198710000), (1968, 200710000), (1969, 202680000), (1970, 205050000), (1971, 207660000), (1972, 209900000), (1973, 211910000), (1974, 213850000), (1975, 215970000), (1976, 218040000), (1977, 220240000), (1978, 222580000), (1979, 225060000), (1980, 227220000), (1981, 229470000), (1982, 231660000), (1983, 233790000), (1984, 235820000), (1985, 237920000), (1986, 240130000), (1987, 242290000), (1988, 244500000), (1989, 246820000), (1990, 249620000), (1991, 252980000), (1992, 256510000), (1993, 259920000), (1994, 263130000), (1995, 266280000), (1996, 269390000), (1997, 272650000), (1998, 275850000), (1999, 279040000), (2000, 282160000), (2001, 284970000), (2002, 287630000), (2003, 290110000), (2004, 292810000), (2005, 295520000), (2006, 298380000), (2007, 301230000), (2008, 304090000), (2009, 306770000), (2010, 308110000), (2011, 310500000), (2012, 312860000), (2013, 315180000), (2014, 317680000), (2015, 320220000), ] years = [d[0] for d in data] populations = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(years)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(7,4)) pyplot.plot(years, populations, color='b') pyplot.title('U.S. Historical Population 1900-2015') pyplot.ylabel('People') pyplot.xlabel('Year') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='both') pyplot.subplot(111).set_ylim([0, 350000000]) pyplot.subplot(111).set_xlim([1790, 2015]) pyplot.xticks(numpy.arange(1800, 2001, 20)) pyplot.savefig('Chapter 7.U.S. Historical Population.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 12.Pizza by Meal.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing what meal of the day people ate pizza. # The data was generated about the U.S.A. by the U.S.D.A. from 2007-2010. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Breakfast", 2), ("Lunch", 28), ("Dinner", 59), ("Snack", 11), ] meals = [meal for (meal, percent) in data] percents = [percent for (meal, percent) in data] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,8)) pyplot.axes(aspect=1) explode = (0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 0.1) pyplot.pie(percents, explode=explode, autopct='%1.1f%%', shadow=True, pctdistance=1.15) pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 12.Pizza by Meal.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Part 4 Test.Bar.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a graph for the monthly temperature in Fargo, ND. # Data is from the CIA World Factbook. Temperatures are in Celcius. # # # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("January", -14.5), ("February", -11.1), ("March", -3.4), ("April", 6.1), ("May", 13.4), ("June", 18.6), ("July", 21.7), ("August", 20.4), ("September", 14.3), ("October", 7.6), ("November", -2.2), ("December", -11.3 ), ] months = [month for (month, temperature) in data] temperatures = [temperature for (month, temperature) in data] # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(months)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(9,4)), temperatures, width, color='b') pyplot.title('Average Temperature in Fargo') pyplot.ylabel(u'Temperature (\u00b0C)') pyplot.xlabel('Month') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, months, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Part 4 Test.Bar.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Part 4 Test.Pie.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing the most popular hamburger shops # in Japan. The data is from a 2014 survey. # # 1/ # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Mos Burger", 45), ("McDonald's", 37), ("Freshness Burger", 4), ("Lotteria", 4), ("Burger King", 3), ("Other", 7) ] pies = [pie for (pie, percent) in data] percents = [percent for (pie, percent) in data] # Make a pie graph. colors = ['gold', 'lightgreen', 'r', 'orange', 'c', 'plum'] pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,6)) pyplot.axes(aspect=1) pyplot.title('Japan\'s Best Fast Food Burgers 2014') pyplot.pie(percents, labels=pies, autopct='%1.f%%', colors=colors, pctdistance=0.8) pyplot.savefig('Part 4 Test.Pie.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Part 4.Coffee.Bar.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing coffee consumption. # # SVG files are produced using matplotlib. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # The resultant SVG file is released under the same license. # # data = [ ("Monday", 3), ("Tuesday", 5), ("Wednesday", 2), ("Thursday", 2), ("Friday", 6), ("Saturday", 3), ("Sunday", 4), ] days = [d[0] for d in data] cups = [d[1] for d in data] # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(days)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,3)), cups, width, color='g') pyplot.title('One Week') pyplot.ylabel('Cups') pyplot.xlabel('Days') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, days, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.subplot(111).set_ylim([0, 7]) pyplot.savefig('Part 4.Coffee.Bar.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Part 4.Coffee.Pie.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing coffee consumption. # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("Black", 15), ("Sugar", 5), ("Cream", 1), ("Both", 4), ] flavors = [d[0] for d in data] cups = [d[1] for d in data] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(6,4)) pyplot.axes(aspect=1) pyplot.title('Weekly Consumption') colors = ['#a5f48b', '#f4f28b', '#fad1d1', '#d1d5fa'] pyplot.pie(cups, labels=flavors, colors=colors) pyplot.savefig('Part 4.Coffee.Pie.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 1.Species.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates population graphs for the numbers of species in the world. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("Vertebrates", 66178), ("Invertebrates", 1305250), ("Plants", 307674), ("Others", 51623), ] categories = [d[0] for d in data] counts = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(categories)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(2.5,1.8)), counts, width, color='m') pyplot.title('Known species') pyplot.ylabel('Species count', fontsize=10) xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, categories, rotation=90, fontsize=10) pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 1.Species.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 1.Invertebrates.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates population graphs for the numbers of invertebrate species in the world. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("Insects", 1000000), ("Spiders &\nScorpions", 102248), ("Mollusks", 85000), ("Crustaceans", 47000), ("Corals", 2175), ("Others", 68827), ] categories = [d[0] for d in data] counts = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(categories)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(2.5,1.8)), counts, width, color='g') pyplot.title('Known invertebrates') pyplot.ylabel('Species count', fontsize=10) xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, categories, rotation=90, fontsize=10) pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.subplot(111).set_ylim([0, 1050000]) pyplot.savefig('Chapter 1.Invertebrates.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 1.Vertebrates.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates population graphs for the numbers of vertebrate species in the world. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("Mammals", 5513), ("Birds", 10425), ("Reptiles", 10038), ("Amphibians", 7302), ("Fish", 32900) ] categories = [d[0] for d in data] counts = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(categories)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(2.5,1.8)), counts, width, color='r') pyplot.title('Known vertebrates') pyplot.ylabel('Species count', fontsize=10) xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, categories, rotation=90, fontsize=10) pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 1.Vertebrates.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 8.Day.Descriptions.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing how college students spend their days. # The data is from the American Time Use Survey. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("Sleeping", 8.6), ("Leisure & sports", 4.0), ("Work", 2.5), ("Eating & drinking", 1.0), ("Education", 3.3), ("Grooming", 0.8), ("Traveling", 1.4), ("Other", 2.4) ] activities = [d[0] for d in data] times = [d[1] for d in data] # Converts a percent of a day to an hour value. def percent_to_time(percent): return round(percent * 24.0 / 100.0, 1) colors = ['yellow', 'lime', 'red', 'orange', 'cyan', 'magenta', 'silver', 'cornflowerblue'] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(4.5,4.5)) pyplot.title("The Average U.S. University Student's Day") pyplot.pie(times, labels=activities, autopct=percent_to_time, colors=colors, pctdistance=0.9, startangle=70) pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 8.Day.Descriptions.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 8.Day.Letters.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a pie graph showing how college students spend their days. # The data is from the American Time Use Survey. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("A", 8.6), ("B", 4.0), ("C", 2.5), ("D", 1.0), ("E", 3.3), ("F", 0.8), ("G", 1.4), ("H", 2.4) ] activities = [d[0] for d in data] times = [d[1] for d in data] # Converts a percent of a day to an hour value. def percent_to_time(percent): return round(percent * 24.0 / 100.0, 1) colors = ['yellow', 'lime', 'red', 'orange', 'cyan', 'magenta', 'silver', 'cornflowerblue'] # Make a pie graph. pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(4.5,4.5)) pyplot.title("The Average U.S. University Student's Day") pyplot.pie(times, labels=activities, autopct=percent_to_time, colors=colors, pctdistance=0.9, startangle=70) pyplot.axis('equal') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 8.Day.Letters.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 7.Japan Electricity Production.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a line graph showing the Japan's electricity production. # Data from the EIA. # # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license. # # nuclear = [ (1980, 79), (1981, 83), (1982, 95), (1983, 105), (1984, 127), (1985, 150), (1986, 159), (1987, 189), (1988, 174), (1989, 175), (1990, 192), (1991, 203), (1992, 212), (1993, 237), (1994, 256), (1995, 277), (1996, 287), (1997, 306), (1998, 316), (1999, 301), (2000, 306), (2001, 304), (2002, 280), (2003, 228), (2004, 268), (2005, 281), (2006, 292), (2007, 267), (2008, 241), (2009, 263), (2010, 280), (2011, 156), (2012, 17), (2013, 14), (2014, 0), ] non_hydro_renewable = [ (1980, 1.1), (1981, 0.8), (1982, 9.7), (1983, 11), (1984, 12), (1985, 13), (1986, 14), (1987, 15), (1988, 16), (1989, 17), (1990, 12), (1991, 13), (1992, 13), (1993, 13), (1994, 14), (1995, 16), (1996, 17), (1997, 19), (1998, 19), (1999, 19), (2000, 19), (2001, 19), (2002, 21), (2003, 23), (2004, 24), (2005, 29), (2006, 29), (2007, 31), (2008, 27), (2009, 27), (2010, 41), (2011, 43), (2012, 56), (2013, 55), (2014, 68), ] hydro = [ (1980, 88), (1981, 87), (1982, 81), (1983, 83), (1984, 73), (1985, 82), (1986, 80), (1987, 74), (1988, 90), (1989, 91), (1990, 88), (1991, 97), (1992, 82), (1993, 95), (1994, 67), (1995, 81), (1996, 80), (1997, 89), (1998, 92), (1999, 86), (2000, 86), (2001, 83), (2002, 82), (2003, 94), (2004, 93), (2005, 76), (2006, 87), (2007, 73), (2008, 76), (2009, 76), (2010, 81), (2011, 82), (2012, 75), (2013, 77), (2014, 81) ] fossil_fuels = [ (1980, 382), (1981, 378), (1982, 368), (1983, 388), (1984, 408), (1985, 395), (1986, 393), (1987, 420), (1988, 449), (1989, 484), (1990, 524), (1991, 533), (1992, 546), (1993, 517), (1994, 580), (1995, 568), (1996, 577), (1997, 578), (1998, 571), (1999, 596), (2000, 583), (2001, 570), (2002, 611), (2003, 640), (2004, 627), (2005, 639), (2006, 634), (2007, 711), (2008, 668), (2009, 616), (2010, 685), (2011, 795), (2012, 863), (2013, 862), (2014, 833), ] years = [d[0] for d in nuclear] p_nuclear = [d[1] for d in nuclear] p_non_hydro_renewable = [d[1] for d in non_hydro_renewable] p_hydro = [d[1] for d in hydro] p_fossil_fuels = [d[1] for d in fossil_fuels] # Make a line graph. linewidth = 2.0 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(9,5)) pyplot.plot(years, p_fossil_fuels, label="coal & natural gas", linewidth=linewidth) pyplot.plot(years, p_nuclear, label="nuclear", linewidth=linewidth) pyplot.plot(years, p_hydro, label="hydroelectric", linewidth=linewidth) pyplot.plot(years, p_non_hydro_renewable, label="renewable (except hydro)", linewidth=linewidth) pyplot.title('Japan Electricity Production') pyplot.ylabel('Electricity (TWh)') pyplot.xlabel('Year') pyplot.legend(loc=0, prop={'size':12}) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='both') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 7.Japan Electricity Production.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 7.Japan Electricity Production 2014.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing Japan's electricity production in 2014. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license. # # # Renewable energy production in TWh. biofuels = 28.928 waste = 6.595 geothermal = 2.577 wind = 5.038 renewable = biofuels + waste + geothermal + wind # Energy production in TWh. data = [ ("Gas", 420.825), ("Coal", 348.830), ("Oil", 116.435), ("Hydro", 86.942), ("Renewable\n(non-solar)", renewable), ("Solar", 24.506), ] sources = [d[0] for d in data] amounts = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(x, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(x)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(sources)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(4.5,5)) pyplot.title("Japan Electricity Production 2014"), amounts, width, color='r') pyplot.xlabel('Source') pyplot.ylabel('Electricity (TWh)') yticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, sources) pyplot.xticks(rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 7.Japan Electricity Production 2014.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 6.Birth Times.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing births by time of day. # Data is from the U.S. CDC for the year 2013. # For simplicity, I have rounded it here. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("6 a.m.", 2.9), ("7 a.m.", 4.5), ("8 a.m.", 6.3), ("9 a.m.", 5.0), ("10 a.m.", 5.0), ("11 a.m.", 5.0), ("noon", 6.0), ("1 p.m.", 5.7), ("2 p.m.", 5.1), ("3 p.m.", 4.9), ("4 p.m.", 4.9), ("5 p.m.", 5.0), ("6 p.m.", 4.5), ("7 p.m.", 4.0), ("8 p.m.", 4.0), ("9 p.m.", 3.7), ("10 p.m.", 3.5), ("11 p.m.", 3.3), ("midnight", 2.9), ("1 a.m.", 2.9), ("2 a.m.", 2.8), ("3 a.m.", 2.7), ("4 a.m.", 2.7), ("5 a.m.", 2.8), ] times = [d[0] for d in data] births = [d[1] for d in data] # Make a graph. x = numpy.arange(len(times)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,4.5)), births, width, color='orange') pyplot.title('2013 U.S.A. Birth Times') pyplot.ylabel('Percent of Births') pyplot.xlabel('Time of Day') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, times, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.subplot(111).set_xlim([0, 24]) pyplot.savefig('Chapter 6.Birth Times.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 6.Births by Month.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing births per month. # Data is from the National Center for Health Statistics, 1995-2002. # For simplicity, I have rounded it here. # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license. # # data = [ ("January", 2582009), ("February", 2409565), ("March", 2645413), ("April", 2537816), ("May", 2673858), ("June", 2629368), ("July", 2788695), ("August", 2813582), ("September", 2740831), ("October", 2694594), ("November", 2532156), ("December", 2631533), ] months = [d[0] for d in data] births = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(y, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(y)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(months)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(8,4.5)), births, width, color='g') pyplot.title('U.S.A. Births by Month 1995-2002') pyplot.figtext(0.5, -0.22, 'Data from the National Center for Health Statistics.', horizontalalignment='center', verticalalignment='bottom', style='italic') pyplot.ylabel('Births') pyplot.xlabel('Month') xticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, months, rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 6.Births by Month.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Graphs/Chapter 7.US Electricity Production 2015.svg

#!/usr/bin/env python from matplotlib import pyplot from matplotlib import ticker from matplotlib import numpy # This generates a bar graph showing the U.S.'s electricity production in 2015. # # # # # This file was written by Douglas Perkins. # It is released under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license. # # # Renewable energy production in TWh. petroleum_liquids = 17.456 petroleum_coke = 10.987 petroleum = petroleum_liquids + petroleum_coke # Energy production in TWh. data = [ ("Coal", 1356.057), ("Gas", 1335.068), ("Nuclear", 797.178), ("Renewable\n(non-solar)", 271.885), ("Hydro", 251.168), ("Solar", 37.371), ("Oil", petroleum), ] sources = [d[0] for d in data] amounts = [d[1] for d in data] # A formatter to display comma-separated numbers on the y axis. def comma_func(x, pos): s = '{:0,d}'.format(int(x)) return s comma_format = ticker.FuncFormatter(comma_func) # Make a bar graph. x = numpy.arange(len(sources)) + 0.25 width = 0.5 pyplot.figure(num=1, figsize=(9,3)) pyplot.title("U.S. Electricity Production 2015"), amounts, width, color='gold') pyplot.xlabel('Source') pyplot.ylabel('Electricity (TWh)') yticks = pyplot.xticks(x + width/2.0, sources) pyplot.xticks(rotation='vertical') pyplot.subplot(111).yaxis.set_major_formatter(comma_format) pyplot.subplot(111).grid(b=True, axis='y') pyplot.savefig('Chapter 7.US Electricity Production 2015.svg', format='svg', bbox_inches='tight')

Tea Ceremony


In May, the students at my school in the international studies track (my homeroom) had several lessons on the tea ceremony as part of their comparative culture class. Here are some pictures, mostly of the sweets that are served along with the tea.

Day One

2015-05-02.03.Wagashi.jpg 2015-05-02.04.Wagashi.jpg 2015-05-02.05.Wagashi.jpg 2015-05-02.06.Wagashi.jpg 2015-05-02.12.Wagashi.jpg 2015-05-02.13.Sign.jpg 2015-05-02.14.Tea.jpg

Day Two

The tea ceremony involves a lot of sitting in seiza, with your legs folded under your body and your knees forward. That can get painful if you do it for too long. Oh well!

2015-05-16.04.Water.jpg 2015-05-16.05.Flowers.jpg 2015-05-16.06.Sweet.jpg 2015-05-16.07.Sweet.jpg 2015-05-16.08.Sweet.jpg


There's a wagashi store not far from my house. I bought some sweets, took some pictures, and then ate them. Many of the sweets served at the tea ceremony are filled with red bean paste. Each sweet is crafted to look like a plant, and everything is seasonal.

2015-06-13.10.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.11.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.12.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.13.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.14.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.15.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.16.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.17.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.18.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.19.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.20.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.21.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.23.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.24.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-13.22.Wagashi.jpg

More Sweets

A second wagashi store is located between my house and the train station. Here are some sweets from that shop.

2015-06-29.07.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.08.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.09.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.10.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.11.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.12.Wagashi.jpg 2015-06-29.13.Wagashi.jpg 2015-07-22.01.Himawari.jpg 2015-07-22.02.Himawari.jpg 2015-07-22.03.Kingyo.jpg 2015-07-22.04.Kingyo.jpg 2015-07-22.05.Seiryu.jpg 2015-07-22.06.Seiryu.jpg 2015-07-22.07.Hoozuki.jpg 2015-07-22.08.Hoozuki.jpg 2015-07-22.09.Hoozuki.jpg 2015-07-22.10.Wagashi.jpg


2017-10-28.02.Tea.jpg 2017-11-04.01.Tea.jpg 2017-11-04.06.Tea.jpg 2017-11-04.07.Wagashi.jpg 2017-11-04.09.Tea.jpg


20180517.3.Tea.jpg 20180531.4.Tea.jpg 20180531.5.Tea.jpg

First Happyokai


Today was the annual First Happyokai, a dance recital for teachers and students of my dance studio. The venue was the Shinjuku Bunka Center (新宿文化センター) in Tokyo. Here are some pictures.




2015-05-17.15.Dance.jpg 2015-05-22.02.Risa.jpg 2015-05-22.03.Risa.jpg 2015-05-05.03.Dance.jpg 2015-05-10.01.Shino.jpg 2015-05-10.02.Miku-Ayaka.jpg 2015-05-13.01.Ayu.jpg 2015-05-13.03.Shino.jpg 2015-05-17.16.Dance.jpg 2015-05-05.02.Doug-Koma-Risa.jpg


2015-05-17.03.Shinjuku Bunka Center.jpg 2015-05-23.04.Theater.jpg 2015-05-17.04.Shinjuku Bunka Center.jpg 2015-05-23.39.Stage.jpg

Dance Numbers

2015-05-23.11.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.12.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.43.Number.jpg 2015-05-23.44.Number.jpg 2015-05-23.45.Number.jpg 2015-05-23.46.Number.jpg 2015-05-23.47.Number.jpg

Curtain Call

2015-05-23.10.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.13.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.14.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.15.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.16.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.17.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.05.Finale.jpg 2015-05-23.24.Finale.jpg


2015-05-23.21.Group.jpg 2015-05-23.22.Group.jpg 2015-05-23.02.Yoko.jpg 2015-05-23.03.Chisato-Hikaru-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.18.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.19.Ayaka-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.20.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.30.Chisato-Hikaru-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.31.Hikaru-Chisato-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.32.Dance.jpg 2015-05-23.33.Miku-Haruka.jpg 2015-05-23.34.Kayo-Sayaka.jpg 2015-05-23.35.Kaori.jpg 2015-05-23.36.Kayo-Kanji.jpg 2015-05-23.37.Risa.jpg 2015-05-23.38.Risa.jpg 2015-05-23.40.Miku-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.41.Momoka-Risa.jpg 2015-05-23.42.Momoka-Risa.jpg 2015-05-23.48.Chisato-Doug-Hikaru.jpg 2015-05-23.49.Risa-Doug.jpg 2015-05-23.25.Hands.jpg 2015-05-23.01.Hand.jpg 2015-05-23.23.Hands.jpg

Kanji for Anki


Here are a collection of elementary and junior high school kanji study decks for Anki.

1st gradeapkg80
2nd gradeapkg160
3rd gradeapkg200
4th gradeapkg200
5th gradeapkg185
6th gradeapkg181
Junior high schoolapkg1130


If you would like to generate your own decks similar to these, take a look at kanjiforanki. It's an open source Ruby script, and if you are familiar with Ruby it should be easy to adjust as you like.

The above files depend on data from kanjidic2, edict, both from WWWJDIC, and a word frequency list by Lane McDonald. My work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

New Mexico


For spring break I went to Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico to visit family. Here are some pictures from New Mexico. The last time I visited was in 2008.

2015-03-26.01.1.New Mexico.png 2015-03-26.01.2.Los Alamos.png 2015-03-26.02.Family.jpg 2015-03-27.01.Playground.jpg 2015-03-27.02.Playground.jpg 2015-03-27.03.Playground.jpg 2015-03-27.04.House.jpg 2015-03-27.05.Street.jpg 2015-03-27.06.House.jpg 2015-03-27.07.House.jpg 2015-03-27.08.Kitchen.jpg 2015-03-27.09.Window.jpg

Rock Climbing

My brother, father, and mother are avid rock climbers. They can climb all sorts of hard shit. I can't, but they don't mind setting up some relatively easy stuff. Cool! Also, my parents are in their sixties but will happily rock climb all day. How cool is that?

2015-03-27.11.Las Conchas.jpg 2015-03-27.12.Las Conchas.jpg 2015-03-27.13.Dex.jpg 2015-03-27.14.Betsy.jpg 2015-03-27.15.Dex-Betsy.jpg 2015-03-27.16.Dex-Betsy.jpg 2015-03-27.17.Dex.jpg 2015-03-27.18.George.jpg 2015-03-27.19.Dex.jpg 2015-03-27.20.George.jpg 2015-03-27.21.George.jpg 2015-03-27.22.Betsy.jpg 2015-03-27.23.Dinner.jpg 2015-03-28.01.Cora.jpg 2015-03-28.02.Dex.jpg


I love Mexican food. In Tokyo you can find lots of foreign food, but it's very hard to find passable Mexican food. I tried, and it took me three years to find a restaurant worth visiting twice: Junkadelic. In the five years since then, I found another decent place: Happy-Go-Lucky. Imagine that — Tokyo is a city of, what, thirteen million people, yet there are only a handful of decent Mexican restaurants. To my knowledge, anyhow. Surprisingly, there are more decent Mexican restaurants than there are decent hamburger shops. Right now I only know of one decent hamburger restaurant in Tokyo: Martiniburger. New Mexico is a good place for Mexican food, and I took advantage by eating as much of it as possible.

2015-03-28.03.Cora.jpg 2015-03-28.04.Nachos.jpg 2015-03-28.05.Mexican.jpg 2015-03-28.06.Taco.jpg 2015-03-28.07.Mexican.jpg 2015-03-28.08.Sopapillas.jpg 2015-03-28.09.Dessert.jpg 2015-03-29.01.New Mexico.jpg 2015-03-29.02.Market.jpg 2015-03-29.03.Market.jpg 2015-03-29.04.Jackalope.jpg 2015-03-29.05.Prairie dog.jpg 2015-03-29.06.Prairie dog.jpg 2015-03-29.07.Prairie dog.jpg 2015-03-29.08.Jackalope.jpg 2015-03-29.09.Jackalope.jpg 2015-03-29.10.Fountain.jpg 2015-03-29.11.Art.jpg 2015-03-29.12.Walkway.jpg 2015-03-29.13.Rock.jpg 2015-03-29.14.Rock.jpg 2015-03-29.15.Sandwich.jpg 2015-03-29.16.Tacos.jpg 2015-03-29.17.Veggie steak.jpg 2015-03-29.18.Station.jpg 2015-03-29.19.Train.jpg 2015-03-29.20.Train.jpg 2015-03-29.21.Walking.jpg 2015-03-29.22.Walking.jpg 2015-03-30.01.Hyde State Park.jpg 2015-03-30.02.Los Alamos.jpg 2015-03-30.03.Car.jpg 2015-03-30.04.Mountains.jpg 2015-03-30.05.Cliff.jpg 2015-03-30.06.Cliff.jpg

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

It's a scenic three hour drive from Los Alamos to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Chaco has awesome thousand-year-old Native American ruins. It also has a giant cliff and you can walk up top, stroll around, and take panoramic photos if you like.

2015-03-31.01.Valles Caldera.jpg 2015-03-31.02.Trees.jpg 2015-03-31.03.Highway.jpg 2015-03-31.04.Road.jpg 2015-03-31.05.Cow.jpg 2015-03-31.06.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.07.Chaco.jpg

For all the wild beauty of Chaco Canyon's high-desert landscape, its long winters, short growing seasons, and marginal rainfall create an unlikely place for a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture to take root and flourish. Yet this valley was the center of a thriving culture a thousand years ago. The monumental scale of its architecture, the complexity of its community life, the high level of its community social organization, and its far-reaching commerce created a cultural vision unlike any other seen before or since.

The cultural flowering of the Chacoan people began in the mid 800s and lasted more than 300 years. We can see it clearly in the grand scale of the architecture. Using masonry techniques unique for their time, they constructed massive stone buildings (Great Houses) of multiple stories containing hundreds of rooms much larger than any they had previously built. The buildings were planned from the start, in contrast to the usual practiced of adding rooms to existing structures as needed. Constructions on some of these buildings spanned decades and even centuries. Although each is unique, all great houses share architectural features that make them recognizable as Chacoan.

The Center of Chacoan Culture. National Park Service. 2015-04-05.

2015-03-31.08.Hungo Pavi.jpg 2015-03-31.09.Pueblo Bonito.jpg 2015-03-31.10.Pueblo Bonito.jpg 2015-03-31.11.Grave.jpg 2015-03-31.12.Pueblo Bonito.jpg 2015-03-31.14.1.Kin Kletso.jpg 2015-03-31.13.Kin Kletso.jpg 2015-03-31.14.2.Pueblo Alto Trail.jpg 2015-03-31.16.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.15.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.17.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.18.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.19.Chaco.jpg 2015-03-31.22.Sky.jpg 2015-03-31.20.Sky.jpg 2015-03-31.23.Road.jpg 2015-03-31.24.Chaco.png


On my last full day in the country I went hiking. George dropped me off ten miles north of town and I walked back. Later, we had a cheeseburger and nachos. It was a satisfying day.

2015-04-01.01.Hiking.jpg 2015-04-01.02.Hiking.jpg 2015-04-01.03.Hiking.jpg 2015-04-01.04.Hiking.jpg 2015-04-01.05.Hiking.jpg 2015-04-01.06.Nachos.jpg 2015-04-01.07.Cheeseburger.jpg 2015-04-02.01.Breakfast.jpg

Git on Debian


In February I got Git working on Dreamhost, and today I got it working on Debian Sid. The command line always worked. What's new (for me) is pushing and pulling over HTTPS. This assumes one already has Nginx working with SSL and password-based authentication. This also assumes git works properly over the command line. I found several sites with hints on how to put things together.



My web server is Nginx. To handle CGI, we need fcgiwrap. It does not require any special configuration. No configuration! That's neat, isn't it. Nginx passes the relevant data to fcgiwrap, and fcgiwrap knows how to handle it.

# apt-get install fcgiwrap ...


I have some repositories in /media/ext/git. These are repositories just for storing data. They were created using git clone --bare. To modify data, I have separate repositories in my home directory. It's good practice not to develop and push to the same repository. Both nginx and fcgiwrap run as the user www-data, and we need the correct permissions on our repositories.

# cd /media/ext # ls git mdie.git swyt.git # chown -R www-data:www-data git


I create a file called git in /etc/nginx/sites-available and then make a symlink to it from /etc/nginx/sites-enabled.

# cd /etc/nginx/sites-available # vim git ... # cd ../sites-enabled # ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/git # service nginx restart

The bulk of the configuration work is in /etc/nginx/sites-available/git.

server { listen 443 ssl; listen [::]:443 ssl; server_name; ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/local/wildcard.japan.crt; ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/local/wildcard.japan.key; ssl_client_certificate /etc/ssl/local/ca.pem; ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2; ssl_ciphers HIGH:!aNULL:!MD5; ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on; client_max_body_size 500M; auth_basic "Restricted Files"; auth_basic_user_file /etc/ssl/local/htpasswd; root /media/ext/git; location / { autoindex on; autoindex_exact_size off; } location ~ /(.*) { include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params; fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $uri; fastcgi_param REMOTE_USER $remote_user; fastcgi_param GIT_HTTP_EXPORT_ALL ""; fastcgi_param GIT_PROJECT_ROOT /media/ext/git; fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /usr/lib/git-core/git-http-backend; fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/fcgiwrap.socket; } }

I can now clone from my repository.

$ cd ~ $ git clone Cloning into 'mdie'... Username for '': Password for '': remote: Counting objects: 25, done. remote: Compressing objects: 100% (24/24), done. remote: Total 25 (delta 5), reused 0 (delta 0) Unpacking objects: 100% (25/25), done. Checking connectivity... done.




For spring break I went to Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico to visit family. Here are some pictures from Tennessee.

2015-03-24.01.Tennessee.png 2015-03-24.02.Oak Ridge.png 2015-03-24.10.Cross-stitch.jpg 2015-03-24.11.Study.jpg 2015-03-24.12.Dining room.jpg 2015-03-24.13.Hank-Mutti-Betsy.jpg 2015-03-24.14.Flower.jpg 2015-03-24.15.House.jpg 2015-03-24.16.House.jpg 2015-03-24.17.Mallard.jpg 2015-03-24.18.Mallard.jpg 2015-03-24.19.Goose.jpg 2015-03-24.20.Morris Dam.jpg 2015-03-24.21.Morris Dam.jpg 2015-03-24.22.Morris Dam.jpg 2015-03-24.23.Dinner.jpg 2015-03-24.24.Ice cream.jpg 2015-03-24.25.Cookies.jpg 2015-03-25.01.Church.jpg 2015-03-25.02.Church.jpg 2015-03-25.03.Church.jpg 2015-03-25.04.Church.jpg 2015-03-25.05.Church.jpg 2015-03-25.06.Dinner.jpg 2015-03-25.07.Salad.jpg 2015-03-25.08.Flowers.jpg

The last time I visited was in 2010. Everyone is a few years older now but they don't show the signs too much. My grandfather was in the hospital last fall, but he's back home now and doing relatively fine.

Japanese Labor Law


You might have an image of Japan as a highly productive society where millions white collar workers work long hours but in doing so achieve high productivity, thereby creating a stable income for their families and a high level of production at the office. If that's your image, you should change it to something more realistic. In the first place, Parkinson's law and Brooks's law say you're partly wrong.

It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend an entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.

— C. Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson's Law (1955).
Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later... Nine women can't make a baby in one month.

— Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month (1975).


Brooks was talking specifically about software projects, but Parkinson was speaking generally. Most of the time, we work eight hours a day. Three or four of those hours are spent teaching, two or three are spent preparing for lessons and grading, and perhaps one hour a day is spent in meetings. This varies from person to person and year to year. On top of our forty hours a week teaching, some teachers are assigned clubs to supervise. Clubs meet after school several times a week. Supposing a club meets five times a week and takes two hours, forty hours becomes fifty. Some teachers — not me — stay late in the evening after their clubs are finished to grade papers, write tests, and do other desk work. Students come to school six days a week, and teachers only work five days a week, but if there's an event happening on your normal day off, you have to work. Most of the time we don't actually get a replacement holiday. In theory, we should get one, but if you were to ask when that day is, the school would tell you that it's during winter vacation, spring vacation, or summer vacation. This sounds unreasonable at first glance, but we knew the working conditions going in, and during winter, spring, and summer vacation, we get a lot of time off, so maybe it's OK.

It's OK, but it's not productive. Some people work long hours, but when you do that you get tired. When you're tired it takes you longer to do everything. I could try working twelve hour days, but I'd still only get as much done as I currently do with eight hour days. On top of that, if I worked twelve hours a day I wouldn't get to do any hobbies in the evening. I wouldn't be able to go jogging or dance or bake cookies. I've spoken with my friends, and most of us feel the same way: If we have to work too much, we do everything slower. That forces us to either do less or to do lower quality work, both of which suck for everyone.

The kind of setup I describe is not specific to my school. Many other private and public schools in Japan operate in a similar fashion. Public schools are on average a little better because they are more heavily regulated and because teachers routinely transfer between schools, which prevents administrators from making underhanded policies or unwritten rules.

I mention all of this because motivation is important. When I talk or write about Japanese labor law, I'm doing so not out of laziness but rather because I want to do a good job. Labor law is directly designed to protect workers, but indirectly it's there to make everyone's lives better. When workers work reasonable hours, they are happier and do better work, and this benefits society at large.


Foreign Workers Handbook

The Labor Consultation Center is a branch of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs department in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The center provides consultation for all employees in Tokyo who have legal and contractual questions relating to labor situations and laws. The center has produced a great document, the Foreign Workers Handbook that summarizes important parts of labor law in both English and Japanese with the worker in mind. It's written so that regular workers can read it and see how the law is supposed to support them. Although the center only provides consultation for people who work in Tokyo, the document itself is about national labor law and is a useful reference for anyone working anywhere in Japan.

The Labor Standards Law which stipulates working conditions, states that no employer shall discriminate against or favor any employee by reason of nationality or other status with regard to wages, working hours or other working conditions. The same may be said of related labor laws, for example, the Minimum Wages Law. Despite the existence of these laws, lack of knowledge of them causes many problems to arise. Most individuals do not fully recognize that these laws can be the means of solving or avoiding problems. Thus, this handbook was prepared to prevent labor problems and assist foreign workers to understand their workers’ rights in this country. This book explains about essential legal matters, as well as related labor laws, procedures for residing and taxes concerning working in Japan. It's our sincere desire that readers will find this handbook useful.

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).


Contract Hire

Many of us are hired on one-year contracts that may be renewed several times. If you are, in most cases you can't be fired mid-contract. When your contract expires, you might not get a new one. However, your employer has to tell you about this 30 days in advance, and if you ask, they have to tell you why.

Employers are to clearly state the renewal or cancellation of contracts, and the criterion for contract renewal. Employers are to give at least 30 days prior notice when terminating contracts for employees who have been employed for over one year on a contract for a specified period. When employees request a clear statement on the reason(s) for the termination of their employment, employers must comply promptly in writing.

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).

A person on a 1-year contract should in principle be dismissed only at the end of the contract. In contrast, a permanent hire employee might receive less warning if they are going to be laid off. Since permanent hire employees have no natural end date, employers have greater freedom to fire them mid-year.

An employer is not allowed to dismiss employees with a fixed period of contract before the contract expires, except for in cases with an unavoidable reason (Section 1 of Article 17, Labor Contract Act), or when a company goes bankrupt (Article 631, Civil Law).

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).

This only applies to dismissal based on business or economic reasons. In contrast, if you can't follow the workplace rules or do your job, you might be dismissed at any time, regardless of the duration of your employment.


Rules of Employment

When you start working at a job, you should receive a copy of the rules of employment. If you're not good at reading Japanese, your employer should make efforts to help you understand the contents of it. Even if they don't, you should figure out what it says by using a dictionary or asking a friend. Verbal agreements are a bad idea, because there's no record of who said what, and both employers and employees can be forgetful or deceitful. It's better to have everything on paper.

Rules of employment stipulate working conditions and office regulations. Any company which employs ten or more workers on a steady basis must set such rules of employment (Article 89), and submit them to the Labor Standards Inspection Office. A company is also required to make these rules known to the employees (Article 106). It is therefore desirable for employers to do so in a language that their employees understand, if they do not understand Japanese. Rules of employment shall not infringe any law and any collective agreement. A labor contract, in which the working conditions are inferior to the rules of employment standards, shall be invalid. In such a case, the parts of the contract, which are invalid, shall be governed by the standards stipulated in rules of employment (Article 92, Labor Standards Law/Article 12, Labor Contract Law).

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).

The rules of employment must state when work starts and ends, rules or policies about days off and paid leave, matters pertaining to salary, and retirement information. This can be important. Last month, a friend of mine was asked to come to work forty-five minutes early to supervise some early-morning study sessions. He was not paid for this extra work, he didn't receive any replacement time off, and that type of work is not what he was contracted to do. This unpaid overtime work seemed weird back then, and knowing what we know now, it was clearly inappropriate. It has since been decided that this type of overtime work will not happen again.


Paid Leave

You are entitled to paid leave and you can take it throughout the year.

The Labor Standards Law stipulates the annual paid leave system so that employees may take leave at any time and enjoy a pleasant life. "An employer shall grant annual paid leave of 10 working days, either consecutive or divided up into portions, to an employee who has been employed continuously for 6 months calculated from the day of hiring and who has reported for work on at least 80% of the total working days" (Article 39). Part-timers can also take annual paid leave depending on the number of their working days, even if their fixed working days are relatively few.

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).

If you request paid leave your employer cannot refuse. They can move your paid leave to a different date if it "would interfere with the normal operation of the enterprise". That sounds like they can make you take all of your paid leave over summer vacation, but this is not true. Paid leave can be used throughout the year. If you have a preplanned annual paid leave system — and if it's not in your terms of employment or contract, you don't have one — then employers can restrict most of your paid leave to fixed terms. Even in these situations, you can use five of your paid leave days any time of the year.

An employee may request paid leave anytime but may be asked by his or her employer to change the date(s) of the leave if his or her absence in the requested period would interfere with the normal operation of the enterprise. Paid holidays can be taken within 2 years from when it was allowed, but an employee can not take it after the day of his/her resignation.

— Foreign Workers Handbook (2011).

What counts as "interfering with normal business operation" is a legal question, and courts have apparently relied on many situation-specific details when ruling on these cases. One thing we know is that attempts to force the use of paid leave into fixed blocks on the calendar are not legal. If you want to take a normal workday off, and there's nothing special happening then, your employer should consent. Employers might try to discourage this. I'm a teacher, and administrators at my school would find it mildly inconvenient if I were absent on a day I normally teach. Someone would have to substitute for my classes, and that person might not know the students, pace, or materials very well. Fortunately, labor law says it doesn't matter what your boss finds inconvenient. Paid leave is for employees to use, not for employers to dictate.

Requesting Paid Leave

I screwed up last year when I asked for two days off. I asked a supervisor verbally if I could have a day off, the supervisor asked why, and after hearing my reason he said no. Twice. Later I researched the situation and learned why that should not have happened. But it did happen, partly because my supervisor did not consider the matter thoroughly, and partly because I didn't understand my rights as an employee.

Instead of asking verbally for the day off, I should have filled out a form requesting it. It's best to submit requests a long time in advance, and it's wise to keep a copy for yourself. When filling out the form, at least at my workplace, there's a box that asks the reason for taking paid leave. Since the reason you want to take paid leave is immaterial to whether your employer grants or denies it, you can leave the box blank or write something uninformative ("personal reasons"). Or you can write the details and see what happens, but that can bring its own set of troubles. A coworker of mine was once asked to rewrite a request for paid leave because they didn't feel his stated reason was "good enough" to justify the day off. He rewrote his request and got the day off, but the situation was weird. It doesn't matter what his reason was — the employer is not permitted to accept or decline requests based on such information.

This year, I requested paid leave again. First they said no. I asked why my reasons for taking paid leave mattered, when I would ever be able to use paid leave, and also for written documentation on the use of paid leave at my workplace. They reconsidered my request and said OK. This was nerve-wracking at the time, because I was making a stand against my boss's decision. Fortunately everyone was professional about it, and I feel pretty good about how we resolved things. One factor that helped is I only communicated my questions and concerns via email. It's easy to get riled up when talking about why you think you're getting screwed. That's best done at the bar with your friends, and not when talking with your bosses. Better to keep things in writing so everyone can stay calm and think clearly. My only regret here is that I didn't do the research and push the issue a year ago. Oh well.


Food Flashcards


Here are flashcards for food. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. Some of the foods are Japanese and some are western. Some Japanese food names don't really exist in English. If you look up あんころ餅 in the dictionary, it reads, Mochi wrapped with sweet bean jam. That's a nice description, but what it's not is a drop-in word replacement. Instead of using such a long description, I just leave the word as it is: ankoromochi. If you want to know what something is, search the web.

Here's the 100-card package for Anki.

bento lunch box
2016-02-15.08.Candy corn.jpgcandy cornキャンディーコーンキャンディーコーン
2016-02-15.09.Candy cane.jpgcandy caneキャンディケインキャンディケイン
2013-05-30.07.Carrot cake.jpgcarrot cakeキャロットケーキキャロットケーキ
2015-02-24.09.Chocolate bar.jpgchocolate barチョコバーチョコバー
2011-10-15.4744.chocolate_chips.jpgchocolate chipsチョコチップチョコチップ
2016-02-15.23.Creampan.jpgcream panクリームパンクリームパン
2015-02-24.28.Curryrice.jpgcurry and riceカレーライスカレーライス
2016-02-15.02.Duck soba.jpgduck soba鴨南蛮かもなんばん
2015-02-24.11.Fried chicken.jpgfried chicken唐揚げからあげ
2015-02-24.29.Fruit salad.jpgfruit saladフルーツサラダフルーツサラダ
2016-02-15.30.Gari.jpgpickled ginger
2016-02-15.33.Hinomaru bento.jpgHinomaru bento日の丸弁当ひのまるべんとう
2015-03-24.24.Ice cream.jpgice creamアイスアイス
2016-02-15.03.Katsu sando.jpgkatsu sandwichカツサンドカツサンド
2013-06-10.45.Meat pie.jpgmeat pieミートパイミートパイ
2015-02-24.30.Miso soup.jpgmiso soup味噌汁みそしる
2016-02-15.19.Mitarashi dango.jpgmitarashi dangoみたらし団子みたらしだんご
hot pot
steamed meat bun
2015-02-24.26.Orange juice.jpgorange juiceオレンジジュースオレンジジュース
2015-01-01.21.Pad Thai.jpgpad thaiパッタイパッタイ
2016-02-15.18.Pickled eggplant.jpgpickled eggplantなすの浅漬なすのあさづけ
pickled vegetables
2016-02-15.04.Umeboshi.jpgpickled plum梅干しうめぼし
2015-02-24.04.Potato chips.jpgpotato chipsポテトチップスポテトチップス
2014-01-06.02.Cake.jpgpound cakeパウンドケーキパウンドケーキ
2011-09-01.0000.rice_pudding.jpgrice puddingライスプディングライスプディング
2015-02-24.32.Salmon roe.jpgsalmon roeイクライクラ
2015-02-24.31.Sea urchin.jpgsea urchin雲丹うに
2015-08-14.02.Seafood curry.jpgseafood curryシーフードカレーシーフードカレー
2016-02-15.35.Goma dango.jpgsesame dango黒ごま団子くろごまだんご
2015-02-24.13.Skim milk.jpgskim milk脱脂乳
2016-02-15.05.Spinach salad.jpgspinach saladほうれん草のおひたしほうれんそうのおひたし
2015-01-04.04.Spring rolls.jpgspring rolls春巻きはるまき
2016-02-15.24.Imomanju.jpgsweet potato manjuいも饅頭いもまんじゅう
2015-02-24.18.Swiss cheese.jpgswiss cheeseスイスチーズスイスチーズ
octopus dumplings
2016-02-15.01.Tempura udon.jpgtempura udon天ぷらうどんてんぷらうどん
2015-12-28.09.Sazae.jpgTurban shellサザエサザエ
Japanese confectionery
grilled meat

Peanut Butter Cookies


This is a variation of a Shirley Sadler recipe for peanut butter cookies from Peanut butter cookies are an American classic. They're quick and easy to make.

Mix the butter, peanut butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir this into the first batter. Mix in chocolate chips (optionally). Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Roll the batter into 1 inch balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake. Cool and eat.

It's easy to over-cook these cookies. If you do, the cookies will get crispy when they cool. In that case, crush them and mix them in with your granola the next morning. Also, when you're flattening the dough balls with a fork, if the dough gets warm (i.e., room temperature), it will stick to the fork. In that case, either put it in the fridge to cool again, or do without the criss-cross lines. The cookies will taste good either way.


Foreign Resident Population


Here is some foreign resident population data on Japan. The graphs were produced using a Python script. Thanks to Ben Sturmfels for recommending the use of Matplotlib.

Population.1.svg Population.2.svg

YearForeign ResidentsGeneral PopulationPercent Foreigners
YearForeign ResidentsGeneral PopulationPercent Foreigners

What Is Counted

According to Wikipedia, "Foreign Army personnel, of which there have been up 430,000 from the US and 40,000 BCOF in the immediate post-war years, are not included in the Japanese statistics of foreigners, nor is such personnel subject to local immigration controls." This makes sense, because the Ministry of Justice does not have registration data on foreign military service members — there is no system or need for such people to register with the Japanese government. "Residents" are those who have a residence visa. By contrast, tourists have a "tourist" visa, and are thus not counted in this data. Non-citizens residing in Japan illegally are likewise not be included in this data, because they are not registered with the Ministry of Justice.


Ministry of Justice. 「国籍(出身地)別外国人登録者数の推移」
Ministry of Justice. 「国籍・地域別在留外国人数の推移」
Ministry of Justice. 「在留外国人統計(旧登録外国人統計)統計表】 在留外国人統計 【お知らせ】 国籍・地域別の在留外国人数については,国籍・地域を「無国籍」と集計しているものについて,その正確性に疑義があることから,現在,当該外国人の記録等を精査しているところですので留意願います(平成26年6月20日)。」


Total Population Data

It is easy to get data on the population of Japan as a whole because the United Nations gathers and formats the data for us. The numbers here are taken from UN Data, a handy website that lets one search for population by country and year, among other things. The same data is also found in the United Nations' Demographic Yearbook.

The numbers I use here count people living in Japan regardless of citizenship. Foreign military personnel stationed in Japan are not counted. The numbers originate with the Japanese government — in particular, with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications conducts a national census every five years, and they try to back calculate population data based on the results. For example, following the 2010 census, population figures for 2006-2009 were slightly revised.

Foreign Resident Population By Country

Most non-Japanese people living in Japan are from Asian countries. Here are two graphs displaying that information. The data used here was taken from Wikipedia: Demographics of Japan. The graphs were generated using two Python scripts (bar and pie).




Vegetable Flashcards


Here are flashcards for vegetables. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. The English text displayed varies between singular and plural. If a non-native English speaker were to use these cards to study the words in English, it makes the most sense for the words to accurately describe the pictures. For native speakers, this might seem unusual. On the other hand, native English speakers won't look the English very often, so the concern is minimal.

Both kanji and kana are displayed below. Interestingly, even if a word has kanji, people might prefer to write it in kana. In my experience, the Japanese words for carrot and cat, for example, are most commonly written in kana. The other day, one of my Japanese students couldn't read the kanji for elbow and knee on a quiz. Also mildly irritating is the fact that some words have two (or three!) different kanji writings. Why? Isn't one enough? In any case, my focus here is on pronunciation. Kanji are included for reference.

Some pictures are arbitrarily named. I call the picture of romaine lettuce lettuce, whereas I have separate pictures for cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes. I also have separate pictures for red bell peppers and green bell peppers, and because it seemed excessive, I didn't bother with yellow or orange bell peppers. If you don't like my decisions here, or if you think of more vegetables that ought to be on flashcards, roll your own deck, send me a copy, and everyone will be happy.

Here's the fifty-card package for Anki.

2015-02-25.14.Cherry tomatoes.jpgcherry tomatoesチェリートマト
2015-02-25.34.Chili peppers.jpgchili peppers唐辛子とうがらし
2015-02-25.46.Fiddlehead ferns.jpgfiddlehead fernsぜんまい

2015-02-25.36.Green peas.jpggreen peas豌豆えんどう
2015-02-25.09.Green pepper.jpggreen pepper
bell pepper
2015-02-25.29.Romaine lettuce.jpglettuceレタスレタス

2015-02-25.28.Red onions.jpgred onions赤玉葱あかたまねぎ
2015-02-25.10.Red pepper.jpgred pepper
bell pepper
2015-02-25.18.Snow peas.jpgsnow peasスナップエンドウスナップエンドウ
2015-02-25.07.Spring onions.jpgspring onions
green onions
2015-02-25.41.Sunflower seeds.jpgsunflower seedsひまわりの種ひまわりのたね
2015-02-25.35.Sweet potato.jpgsweet potato薩摩芋さつまいも
2015-02-25.27.White onion.jpgwhite onion玉葱たまねぎ

Fruit Flashcards


Here are flashcards for fruit. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. Food and drink are things you might have thought you'd learn on the fly. You can, but there is an information gap. When I try new foods in Japan people tell me what they're called, and that's nice, but I might never learn the English word. This can lead to pretentious-sounding utterances. Oh, well, I know how to say it in the native Japanese, but I'm not sure what it's called in English.

Here's the forty-card package for Anki.

2015-02-26.35.Dragon fruit.jpgdragon fruit
2015-02-26.40.Kousa dogwood fruit.jpgKousa dogwood fruitヤマボウシの果実ヤマボウシのかじつ

Mathematics Done in English


Next year my school is creating an International Studies program, which is a study track for high school students who plan on spending their junior year of high school abroad. One of the new courses we're offering is called Applied English. In that course, we will teach four months of math, four months of science, and two months of English. The math text is one that I'm writing now, Mathematics Done in English.

This textbook and related materials are under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. You can do most anything with it, as long as you cite the author (me) and source (i.e., this site). I think education materials should be free wherever possible. This makes it easy for teachers to share ideas and teach as effectively as possible. If this textbook is of interest or use to you, please talk, blog, or write about it.



Table of Contents


The files here are all connected with the ESL textbook, Mathematics Done in English, written by Douglas Perkins. The textbook and associated files that I've produced are all under the license as noted below. In a few cases, snippets of externally-copyrighted work are included. These are labeled as such. This information is brief, limited in scope, non-commercial, and included for nonprofit educational purposes. As such, its inclusion is fair use.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Part I: Numbers

It is common for students in Japan to have difficulty saying the numbers eleven and twelve. Also, pair such as thirteen/thirty and fourteen/forty can be a challenge. Both listening and speaking practice are needed. A lot of mathematics terminology in English is decipherable to Japanese students because the words appear in katakana in Japanese. Showing lots of examples is valuable.

Chapter One: Counting

One good way to practice arithmetic and numbers is to sum up the cards in a deck, saying the running total aloud. It takes about five minutes to do, is challenging enough to be interesting, and is good pronunciation practice.

Chapter Two: Chance

Coin tossing and dice rolling are great ways to learn about probability. If you have the coins and the dice, that is ideal. It's fun to play with four-sided, eight-sided, twenty-sided, and otherwise unusual dice, and they're available for a few dollars at any decent gaming shop.

One topic in this chapter is the game of roulette. Your students probably have not seen the game before, so you'll want to show a video explaining (part of) the game. There are many available, and here is one I like. To demonstrate playing the game, use a Flash website. Students are too young to gamble, and you might think teaching them how is bad. On the other hand, the odds of winning at roulette are bad. Calculate the expected return, and students will realize that playing this game for money is a losing proposition.

Chapter Three: Arithmetic

In any language there are often multiple ways to say the same thing. When we're studying a foreign language, it's important to be able to express things in at least one way and understand things stated in many ways. So, for example, you could say five over three or five divided by three, and both are perfectly acceptable. Some numbers are easier to say if you forget about the special cases. For example, one and a half is a little tricky, whereas three over two and one point five are relatively simple. The teacher should be sure to use multiple formulations for these numbers, so that students are familiar with them.

Chapter Four: Equations

In the previous chapter we began doing word problems, and the obvious extension of that is to do word problems with variables — that is, equations. Conceptually, this is not a great leap. One goal is for students to get used to doing math with both numbers and letters. Another is for students to get used to switching between written form (i.e., several sentences) and mathematical form (i.e., an equation).

Part II: Statistics

Although included here as a branch of mathematics, statistics rears its head in a myriad of subjects. This part of the textbook starts off with averages and ends with graph making and graph reading.

Chapter Five: School Statistics

The most obvious place to start calculating averages is in the classroom. Find out the mean shoe size, the median height, and the mode of the times when students wake up. In this chapter, students learn three notions of the average and how to calculate them.

The median of a list is the number that occurs in the middle. If you have an odd number of items in your list, like [ 1 , 2 , 5 ], the middle is obvious: 2. But if you have an even number of items, like [ 1 , 2 , 4 , 9], it's unclear what to do. In some cases people prefer you write the middle two numbers: [ 2, 4 ], and in other cases they prefer the mean of those two numbers: 3. Which of these is better depends on the circumstance, and both are acceptable here.

Chapter Six: Birthday Frequency

A simple analysis of birthdays suggests that there ought to be more January birthdays than February birthdays because there are 31 days in January but only 28 in February. Similarly, if a class has 14 members, we expect that on average two of them were born on a Friday, because there are seven days in a week. In this chapter, we first ask students to think about and solve these kinds of problems.

You might think that birthdays are distributed randomly. For example, you might expect that one in seven children in the country is born on a Sunday. Surprisingly, that's not true. There are obvious trends in when children are born. Some days of the week are more and less common, and some months are more and less common. It's interesting to think about why that might occur.

If you have a math savvy class, you can calculate the mean day of the month for birthdays. Let's ignore which month and focus on the day of the month. For example, if we have three students, one born on the 12th, one born on the 15th, and one born on the 18th, the mean is the 15th. Assuming that on average around the world birthdays are distributed randomly throughout the year, what is the mean birthday?

Chapter Seven: World Statistics

As an opening to world statistics, we look at the foreign resident population of Japan. It is a surprise to many, but the country with the largest number of foreign residents in Japan is China. Following that are several other Asian countries. The United States, the top non-Asian country, ranks at sixth.

Another good way of playing with statistics is to restate things in the negative. For example, consider the following two statements.

55% of students in this class are girls.
45% of students in this class are boys.

Those two statements are stating the same essential idea. Also consider the following three statements.

On average, cats are smaller than dogs.
On average dogs are larger than cats.
On average, cats are not larger than dogs.

These three are also quite similar. One might object that the final sentence is not logically equivalent to the two above it, but then again, the odds of average cat and dog sizes being precisely equal are quite low, so it should be considered reasonable enough. On a pedagogical level, one of the goals is to convert English statements about statistics into other English statements about statistics. This is a great way to learn about and practice both subjects simultaneously.

Chapter Eight: Measurement

Some countries use the metric system, but many only use the metric system for some things. Knowing a little about Fahrenheit and feet and inches is a good thing for internationally-minded students. It is not of critical importance to memorize exactly how to convert from miles to kilometers, or from centimeters to feet and inches, particularly when our students end up studying in several different countries that don't share the same units. That being said, the ability to do a conversion given the formula is of great value.


Many of the activities in the textbook benefit greatly from the teacher bringing a computer to class. That lets us show videos, listen to listening tracks, and use websites. If you have a Windows machine, the calculator SpeedCrunch is free, open source, and lets you show your calculations to the class clearly.

For playing video and audio, probably your computer's default media player can do the job. If you'd like to try a new one, VLC is a good choice. It's free, open source, and runs on all major operating systems. If you like, you can play audio and video files at reduced speed, which can be a nice way to spice up a listening activity.

The textbook, tests, homework, and most other materials were produced in LibreOffice. It's an office suite that's better than Microsoft Office in most ways. For editing SVG files, I use Inkscape. For editing photos and other pictures, I use the GIMP. These programs are all free and open source.


For general information on the textbook, see the author's website or contact the author on twitter.


2015-01-06.01.Dice.jpg 2015-01-06.02.Archimedes.jpg 2015-01-18.01.Classroom.jpg 2015-01-18.02.Calculator.jpg 2015-01-18.03.Calendar.jpg 2015-01-18.04.Roulette.jpg 2015-01-18.05.Heads.png 2015-01-18.06.Tails.jpg 2015-01-28.07.Coins.jpg 2015-01-29.01.Door.jpg 2015-01-29.02.Kansas.jpg 2015-01-29.03.Giza.jpg 2015-01-29.04.Telescopes.jpg 2015-01-29.05.Mondrian.jpg 2015-01-29.06.Skyscraper.jpg 2015-01-29.07.Mondrian.jpg 2015-01-29.08.Mondrian.jpg 2015-01-29.09.Mondrian.jpg 2015-01-29.10.Glass.jpg 2015-01-29.11.Clock.jpg 2015-02-04.01.Cupcakes.jpg 2015-02-04.02.Calculator.jpg 2015-02-11.01.Bridge.jpg 2015-02-15.01.Clock.jpg 2015-02-15.02.Thermometer.jpg 2015-02-15.03.Projector.jpg 2016-03-02.01.Cupcake.jpg 2016-03-02.02.Cupcake.jpg 2016-03-09.01.Telephone.jpg 2016-03-10.01.Tripod.jpg 2016-03-10.02.Pentagon.jpg 2016-05-18.01.Roulette.jpg 2016-05-18.02.Roulette.png 2016-05-18.03.Roulette.jpg 2016-05-18.04.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.05.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.06.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.07.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.08.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.09.Vegas.jpg 2016-05-18.10.Vegas.jpg 2016-06-28.01.Unicycle.jpg 2016-06-28.02.Bicycle.jpg 2016-06-28.03.Tricycle.jpg 2016-06-28.04.Binoculars.jpg 2016-06-28.05.Bifocals.jpg 2016-06-28.06.Triceratops.jpg 2016-06-28.07.Quad.jpg 2016-06-28.08.Pentagon.jpg 2016-06-28.09.Triangle.jpg 2016-06-28.10.Triplets.jpg 2017-02-20.01.Fractal.png 2017-05-23.01.Math.jpg

Math Flashcards


Here are flashcards with vocabulary relating to math, with a particular eye on geometry. The below images, all of which are in the Public Domain, are located here. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back.

Here's the fifty-card package for Anki.

Math/absolute value.pngabsolute value絶対値ぜったいち
Math/balance scale.pngbalance scale天秤てんびん
Math/equilateral triangle.svgequilateral triangle正三角形せいさんかくけい
Math/isosceles triangle.svgisosceles triangle二等辺三角形にとうへんさんかっけい
Math/percent sign.pngpercent signパーセント記号パーセントきごう
Math/pie graph.pngpie graph円グラフえんグラフ
Math/plus sign.pngplus signプラス記号プラスきごう
Math/right angle.svgright angle直角ちょっかく
Math/right triangle.svgright triangle直角三角形ちょっかくさんかっけい
Math/rubiks cube.pngRubik's Cubeルービックキューブルービックキューブ
Math/scientific calculator.pngscientific calculator関数電卓かんすうでんたく
Math/square root.pngsquare root平方根へいほうこん

Travel Flashcards


Here are flashcards with vocabulary relating to travel, directions, maps, and navigation. My original motivation for this deck was to learn the cardinal directions. Terms like "southeast" and "GPS unit" are practical but not particularly conversational. When you need the words, you need the words, but they don't show up on a daily basis. Some of the other terms, such as vehicle names, are quite common. The below images are located here. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back.

When I'm not sure which Japanese word to use, I often check on Wikipedia. Most of these words are there with the English and Japanese cross-linked. Presumably the editors there considered which Japanese word best corresponds to which English word, and if I don't have a strong view of what to go with, I go with theirs. Another good way to see what things are called is to look them up on Amazon Japan and see what the vendors there call them.

Here's the fifty-card package for Anki.

Travel/antarctic circle.jpgAntarctic Circle南極線なんきょくせん
Travel/arctic circle.jpgArctic Circle北極線ほっきょくせん
Travel/bus stop.pngbus stopバス停留所バスていりゅうじょ
Travel/car navigation.pngcar navigationカーナビカーナビ
Travel/double-decker bus.pngdouble-decker bus二階建てバスにかいだてバス
Travel/equator.jpgThe Equator赤道せきどう
Travel/gas station.pnggas stationガソリンスタンドガソリンスタンド
Travel/gps unit.pngGPS unitGPSナビGPSナビ
Travel/north america.pngNorth America北アメリカきたアメリカ
Travel/south america.pngSouth America南アメリカみなみアメリカ
Travel/southeast asia.pngSoutheast Asia東南アジアとうなんアジア
Travel/tow truck.pngtow truckレッカーレッカー
Travel/traffic light.pngtraffic light信号機しんごうき
Travel/tropic of cancer.jpgTropic of Cancer北回帰線きたかいきせん
Travel/tropic of capricorn.jpgTropic of Capricorn南回帰線みなみかいきせん

Sports Flashcards


Here are flashcards depicting sports, sports gear, or things that go along with sports. The below images are located here. Each flashcard has a picture on the front and the Japanese, phonetic reading, and English on the back. Equipment pictures can be confused with the sports themselves. For example, a picture of a soccer ball could be interpreted to mean "soccer" or "soccer ball". To avoid confusion, pictures that depict the sports themselves have both gear and people in them. Many of these words came to Japanese from English and the pronunciation is simply a katakana variant of the original word. In these cases, you'll learn the words very quickly, but because you are — or should be, if you aren't — using a spaced repetition system, you won't see those cards very much and your time won't be wasted.

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. Alternative names include spaced rehearsal, expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, repetition scheduling, spaced retrieval and expanded retrieval. Although the principle is useful in many contexts, spaced repetition is commonly applied in contexts in which a learner must acquire a large number of items and retain them indefinitely in memory. It is therefore well suited for the problem of vocabulary acquisition in the course of second language learning, due to the size of the target language's inventory of open-class words.

Wikipedia. 2015-01-20.

There is almost always more than one way to say something. That's true in general, it's true for these words, and it's a really good thing. In our daily lives, we work around missing vocabulary on a regular basis without even realizing it. Foreign languages are the same, except that we feel the pressure directly. If I can say it in English, why in heck can't I say it in Japanese? When you know the word in one language but don't know it in the second, it can be frustrating. Keep in mind, though, that nothing magical happens in our native language, either. We're just better at circumventing vocabulary shortcomings in our native language because we've practiced a lot more.

This deck has fifty cards. Here's a package for Anki. There are plenty of sports I didn't include, in some cases because I didn't think of them and in other cases because I didn't quickly find pictures for them. There are always more words to learn, and I like to make decks of fifty or one hundred cards because those are friendly numbers. I encourage you to expand upon this deck. Add more sports and gear, and share your results with us. Picture flashcards are a great way to study. Making a decent deck takes a long time, but sharing it is quick, and everyone can benefit. The pictures here are all public domain.

Sports/bow and arrow.pngbow and arrow弓矢ゆみや
Sports/fishing rod.pngfishing rod釣竿つりざお
Sports/hiking boot.pnghiking boot登山靴とざんぐつ
Sports/hockey puck.pnghockey puckパックパック
Sports/ice skate.pngice skateスケートスケート
Sports/rock climbing.pngrock climbingロッククライミングロッククライミング
Sports/scuba diving.pngscuba divingスキューバダイビングスキューバダイビング
Sports/sleeping bag.pngsleeping bag寝袋
Sports/table tennis.pngtable tennis卓球たっきゅう
Sports/water skiing.pngwater skiing水上スキーすいじょうスキー
Sports/wind surfing.pngwind surfingウィンドサーフィンウィンドサーフィン

Song Lyrics


Here are some songs for my Japanese study list. As usual, the goal is to be able to look at the sentence in Japanese, say it aloud, and know what it means. Maybe later I'll try singing at karaoke or along with the students. Because the goal is learning to read the sentences, in the below songs I've cropped repeated lyrics. You can find subtitled versions of the videos on YouTube. After you learn to read the sentences, go find a video for singing practice.

Spirited Away.png

Always With Me

One of the seventh grade classes is singing Always With Me (いつも何度でも/いのちの名前) for my school's chorus contest this year. This song, written by Yuki Kimura, is on the Spirited Away movie soundtrack.

呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥でよんでいる むね の どこか おく でIt calls from deep in my heart.
いつも心踊る 夢を見たいいつも こころ おどる ゆめ を みたいI always want dreams that make my heart dance.
悲しみは 数えきれないけれどかなしみ は かぞえきれない けれどThough sadness is uncountable...
その向こうできっと あなたに会えるその むこう で きっと あなた に あえるSurely we can meet again on the other side.
繰り返すあやまちの そのたびひとはくりかえす あやまち の その たび ひと はPeople repeat their mistakes.
ただ青い空の 青さを知るただ あおい そら の あおさ を しるThey know the blue of a plain blue sky.
果てしなく 道は続いて見えるけれどはてしなく みち は つづいて みえる けれどThough it seems like the road is endless...
この両手は 光を抱けるこの りょうて は ひかり を いだけるI can embrace the light with both hands.
さよならのときの 静かな胸さよなら の とき の しずか な むねThe quiet heart when parting...
ゼロになるからだが 耳をすませるゼロ に なる からだ が みみ を すませるThe body goes to zero and the ear finishes.
生きている不思議 死んでいく不思議いきている ふしぎ しんでいく ふしぎThe mystery of living and of dying...
花も風も街も みんなおなじはな も かぜ も まち も みんな おなじFlowers, wind, and towns are all the same.
呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥でよんでいる むね の どこか おく でIt calls from deep in my heart.
いつも何度でも 夢を描こういつも なんど でも ゆめ を えがこうAlways with me, let's draw out dreams.
悲しみの数を 言い尽くすよりかなしみ の かず を いいつくす よりRather than counting sadness out loud...
同じくちびるで そっとうたおうおなじ くちびる で そっと うたおうSing softly with the same lips.
閉じていく思い出の そのなかにいつもとじていく おもいで の その なか に いつもEven in closing memories...
忘れたくない ささやきを聞くわすれたくない ささやき を きくWhispers I don't want to forget...
こなごなに砕かれた 鏡の上にもこなごな に くだかれた かがみ の うえ にもEven on shattered shards of mirrors...
新しい景色が 映されるあたらしい けしき が うつされるNew scenery is reflected.
はじまりの朝の静かな窓はじまり の あさ の しずか な まどThe quiet window at morning's start...
ゼロになるからだ 充たされてゆけゼロ に なる からだ みたされて ゆけThe body goes to zero and is satisfied.
海の彼方には もう探さないうみ の かなた には もう さがさないI won't search beyond the sea.
輝くものは いつもここにかがやく もの は いつも ここ にThe shining thing is always here.
わたしのなかに 見つけられたからわたし の なか に みつけられた からI can find it within myself.



Train-Train (トレイン・トレイン) is a piece of musical genius written and recorded by The Blue Hearts.

栄光に向って走るえいこう に むかって はしるI aim for glory.
あの列車に乗って行こうあの れっしゃ に のっていこうLet's ride that train.
はだしのままで飛び出してはだし の まま で とびだしてLet's jump on barefoot.
あの列車に乗って行こうあの れっしゃ に のっていこうLet's ride that train.
弱い者達が夕暮れよわい ものたち が ゆうぐれTonight, the weak people...
さらに弱い者をたたくさらに よわい もの を たたくFight against weakness.
その音が響きわたればその おと が ひびきわたればAs the sound reverberates...
ブルースは加速していくブルース は かそく していくThe blues pick up speed.
見えない自由がほしくてみえない じゆう が ほしくてI want that invisible freedom.
見えない銃を撃ちまくるみえない じゅう を うちまくるI want to fire that invisible gun.
本当の声を聞かせておくれよほんとう の こえ を きかせておくれ よLet me hear your real voice.
ここは天国じゃないんだここ は てんごく じゃない んだThis isn't heaven.
かと言って地獄でもないかと いって じごく でも ないBut it isn't hell, either.
いい奴ばかりじゃないけどいい やつ ばかり じゃない けどI'm not entirely a great guy.
悪い奴ばかりでもないわるい やつ ばかり でも ないBut I'm not entirely a bad guy, either.
ロマンチックな星空にロマンチック な ほしぞら にIn the romantic sky...
あなたを抱きしめていたいあなた を だきしめていたいI want to embrace you.
南風に吹かれながらみなみ かぜ に ふかれながらAs the southern wind blows...
シュールな夢を見ていたいシュール な ゆめ を みていたいI want to see a surreal dream.
TRAIN TRAIN 走って行けTRAIN TRAIN はしって ゆけTrain, train, running along...
TRAIN TRAIN どこまでもTRAIN TRAIN どこ まで もTrain, train, wherever it goes...
世界中にさだめられたせかいじゅう に さだめられたDetermined around the world...
どんな記念日なんかよりどんな きねんび なんか よりMore than any anniversaries...
あなたが生きている今日はあなた が いきている きょう はThe day you're living today...
どんなにすばらしいだろうどんな に すばらしい だろうHow wonderful it is.
世界中に建てられてるせかいじゅう に たてられてるBuilt around the world...
どんな記念碑なんかよりどんな きねんひ なんか よりMore than any monuments...
あなたが生きている今日はあなた が いきている きょう はThe day you're living today...
どんなに意味があるだろうどんな に いみ が ある だろうHow much meaning it has.
栄光に向って走るえいこう に むかって はしるI aim for glory.
あの列車に乗って行こうあの れっしゃ に のっていこうLet's ride that train.
はだしのままで飛び出してはだし の まま で とびだしてLet's jump on barefoot.
あの列車に乗って行こうあの れっしゃ に のっていこうLet's ride that train.
土砂降りの痛みのなかをどしゃぶり の いたみ の なか をCaught in a downpour of pain...
傘もささず走っていくかさ も ささず はしっていくI'll run without raising my umbrella.
いやらしさも汚ならしさもいやらしさ も きたならしさ もUnpleasantness and dirtiness...
むきだしにして走ってくむきだし に して はしってくI'll show it openly and run.
聖者なんてなれないよせいじゃ なんて なれない よWe aren't saints.
だけど生きてる方がいいだけど いきてる ほう が いいBut we should still live our lives.
だから僕は歌うんだよだから ぼく は うたう んだよThat's why I sing.
精一杯でかい声でせいいっぱい でかい こえ でWith the loudest voice I can...

Picture by Bull-Doser.


The original Great Teacher Onizuka TV series opened with the song Poison. The lyrics are upbeat, and the tune is rather nice. It's a good group number for karaoke, but if you're going to sing it at karaoke, you'd best practice a little beforehand, because the words come quick. If you want to sing Japanese karaoke, you need to learn kana. Most places subtitle some of the kanji with kana, and the best places subtitle all of them. The proper name of this song is POISON 〜言いたい事も言えないこんな世の中は〜. Takashi Sorimachi wrote and released it in 1998.

いつまでも信じていたいいつまでもしんじていたいAlways, I want to keep believing
最後まで思い続けたいさいごまでおもいつづけたいUntil the very end, I want to keep thinking
自分は生きる意味があるはずとじぶんはいきるいみがあるはずとThere must be some meaning to my life
冷めた目で笑いかけてるさめためでわらいかけてるSmiling with cold eyes
魂を侵された奴たましいをおかされたやつDo guys who had their souls violated
涙を流す痛みはあるのかい?なみだをながすいたみはあるのかい?Even feel the pain of shedding tears?
言いたいことも言えないこんな世の中じゃいいたいこともいえないこんなよのなかじゃIn this kind of world where you can't say what you want
俺は俺をだますことなく生きてゆくおれはおれをだますことなくいきてゆくI'll keep living without lying to myself
まっすぐ向き合う現実にまっすくむきあういまにNow facing it head on
誇りを持つためにほこりをもつためにIn order to keep our pride
戦う事も必要なのさたたかうこともひつようなのさWe have to fight
階段にすわりこんでかいだんにすわりこんでSitting on the stairs
終わらない夢の話をおわらないゆめのはなしをWe talked of unending dreams
夜が明けるまで語り続けてたよがあけるまでかたりつづけてたTalking until dawn
さりげなく季節は変わりさりげなくきせつはかわりThe seasons change unconcerned
無意識に視線を落としむいしきにしせんをおとし I unconsciously drop my gaze
流される事に慣れてゆくのかながされることになれてゆくのか Am I getting used to being swept away?
小さな夢も見れないこんな世の中じゃちいさなゆめもみれないこんなよのなかじゃIn this kind of world where you can't have even small dreams
自分らしさずっといつでも好きでいたいじぶんらしさずっといつでもすきでいたい I want to always and ever like who I am
自由に生きてく日々をじゆうにいきてくひびをThese days that I live with freedom
大切にしたいからたいせつにしたいからBecause I want to treasure
行きたい道を今歩きだすいきたいみちをいまあるきだすNow I'll walk whatever path I want
汚い嘘や言葉で操られたくないきたないうそやことばであやつられたくないI don't want to be manipulated by filthy lies and words
素直な気持ちから目をそらしたくないすなおなきもちからめをそらしたくない I don't want to turn away from my true feelings



空は青く澄み渡り 海を目指して歩くそら は あおく すみわたり うみ を めざして あるくUnder the perfectly clear blue sky, I walk towards the sea.
怖いものなんてない 僕らはもう一人じゃないこわい もの なんて ない ぼくら は もう ひとり じゃないNothing is scary; after all, we aren't alone.
大切な何かが壊れたあの夜にたいせつ な なにか が こわれた あの よる にSomething precious fell apart that night.
僕は星を探して一人で歩いていたぼく は ほし を さがして ひとり で あるいていたAlone, I walked in search of the stars.
ペルセウス座流星群 君も見てただろうかペルセウス さりゅうせいぐん きみ も みてた だろう かYou saw Perseus constellation and meteor shower too, right?
僕は元気でやってるよぼく は げんき で やってる よI'm doing well.
君は今「ドコ」にいるの?きみ は いま 「ドコ」 に いる の?Where are you now?
「方法」という悪魔にとり憑かれないで「ほうほう」 という あくま に より つかれない でDon't be possessed by the demon of "the way".
「目的」という大事なものを思い出して「もくてき」 という だいじ な もの を おもいだしてRemember the importance of the thing called "goal".
怖くても大丈夫 僕らはもう一人じゃないこわくて も だいじょうぶ ぼくら は もう ひとり じゃないWe're fine even if it's scary; we aren't alone.
僕は君を探して一人で歩いていたぼく は きみ を さがして ひとり で あるいていたAlone, I walked in search of you.
あの日から僕らは一人で海を目指すあの ひ から ぼくら は ひとり で うみ を めざすFrom that day, we've been aiming for the sea.
「約束のあの場所で必ずまた逢おう。」と「やくそく の あの ばしょ で かならず また あおう」 と"Let's meet some day at that promised place," we said.
「世間」という悪魔に惑わされないで「せけん」 という あくま に まどわされない でDon't be tricked by the demon of "society".
自分だけが決めた「答」を思い出してじぶん だけ が きめた 「こたえ」 を おもいだしてOnly you can choose what the "answer" is.
「煌めき」のような人生の中で「きらめき」 の よう な じんせい の なか でIn the midst of a sparkling life...