cosmo time vo.3
Hello everyone, it’s Billy, back again writing the monthly newsletters. Te month of April brings us important events from both overseas and within Japanese borders.
To start, we have April Fools’ Day, or “Poisson d’Avril” in French.
April Fools’ day occurs every year on April 1st, but it’s not a national holiday in any countries. Although they may diﬀer in nature, the playing of practical jokes is the core practice of this tradition. Many European countries have unique customs and sayings regarding April Fools’ which date back hundreds of years. One such tradition, which takes place in France and Italy, is taping a paper fsh to the back of another person who isn’t paying attention. In fact, “Poisson d’Avril” in French means “April fish.” While it may not be common knowledge now, in the past, April Fools’ jokes were only supposed to last until midday on April 1st. After midday, if you tried to play a joke on someone, you were the one who was considered to be the fool.
Te end of March and the beginning of April in Japan brings us cherry blossoms and
fower-viewing parties. Te tradition of these parties, or hanami as they are called in Japanese, have a history going all the way back to the Nara period, when the popular fower of the time was not the sakura, or cherry blossom, but actually the plum blossom, called ume in Japanese. According to Wikipedia, the most popular variety of cherry blossom in Japan is the Somei Yoshino, which only dates back to the late Edo and early Meiji period. Nevertheless, there are over two hundred varieties of cherry blossoms cultivated in Japan with a variety of colours and even blooming times.
Many countries overseas also celebrate cherry blossoms in the Spring. Many of the trees for these celebrations were either planted by Japanese communities in those countries, as is the case with several sites in Brazil, or were gifts of the Japanese government, like the collection of trees found in Washington, D.C.
How do you like to celebrate when the cherry blossoms are in bloom? Where do you think people in Japan can fnd the most beautiful place to see them?
Most importantly, what drink do you recommend for viewing the fowers?
cosmo time vo.2
March 2014 (2)
People don’t fail at improving their English because English is difficult. People fail atimproving their English because they stop trying. They give up. Studying a foreign language is no different than any other activity; the more you do it, the better you become. We all wish there was a secret, easy road to our goals - losing weight without changing how we eat, getting a nice body without exercise, becoming great at a sport or instrument without spending much time practicing. Of course, none of this is possible and we all know this. The problem is that we’re surrounded by slick, flashy advertisements everywhere that tell us otherwise. What is the common feature among all these advertisements? They are all produced by companies that want your money.
This problem persists in English education in Japan because of Eikaiwa companies. They understand that people want to improve their English with as little effort as possible, just like they want to lose weight without exercising. Most Eikaiwa market themselves as “fun” or “friendly,” and hire celebrities to improve their image. When you visit these schools and speak to the managers, they never tell you, “You’re going to have to work really hard to achieve your goal.” They tell you, “That’s great! You should come study with us. You’ll learn a lot and have fun!” Their job is to get you to sign the longest, most expensive contract possible and recommend that you buy expensive, overpriced self-study materials. What do you think is most important to them–your education or your money?
“If that’s true, what can I do? Where can I study?” I’m not telling you not to study at Eikaiwa schools. I’m telling you to be realistic about your goals. Why do you want to study? How much time do you have to study? If your goal is to learn fifty new words each week, but you only have five minutes to study every day, then your goal isn’t realistic considering how busy you are. Any teacher who you can trust should sit down with you and help you make a plan for how to study and be honest with you regarding what should be possible and impossible for you within that plan. There is a well-known expression, “Good medicine tastes bitter.” Sometimes you need someone to tell you “What you want to do isn’t easy. It will take a long time and a lot of hard work.” That doesn’t mean, “You should give up,” but rather, “You can do it if you don’t give up.” When you are lied to and told, “Sure, it will be easy and fun!” that is when, months later, you’ll think, “This isn’t easy and I don’t feel like I’m improving. I guess I’m bad at English.” Then you give up.
cosmo time vo.1
March 2014 (1)
March 17th every year brings Saint Patrick’s Day, a holiday which has been celebrated since the seventeenth century. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was celebrated in Japan in 1992 and was organised by The Irish Network Japan (http://inj.or.jp/en). The world’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade takes place each year in New York City, where 150,000 marchers participate, making it the world’s largest civilian parade. I’d like to turn the Cosmo Times over this month to Jerry, one of the teachers here, who is from Ireland, to talk about his St. Patrick’s Day experiences:
I have very happy childhood memories of the excitement surrounding Saint Patrick’s Day. At elementary school the teachers always ensured that my fellow students and I had a great sense of expectation for the coming holiday. Our interest in Saint Patrick was ensured after we heard enthralling stories of his capture by pirate raiders and his supposed legacy of ridding Ireland of venomous snakes! The teachers also made sure we all understood the importance of the little clover flower called the shamrock. The three leaves that together make one shamrock flower are especially significant as they were apparently used by Saint Patrick when he was teaching Irish pagans about the divine trinity of God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit. To this day, the shamrock and the Irish traditional harp are the national symbols of Ireland. In preparation for Saint Patrick’s Day we decorated our classroom green and gold, made festive craft-work and designed a Saint Patrick’s Day card for our parents. Many children in my school were members of groups that performed traditional Irish music or Irish dancing. For these young performers Saint Patrick’s Day was especially exciting as it was a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents in the local parade. Although the local parade was usually quite small, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable event and a great way to bring people of all ages from the community together.
My first Saint Patrick’s Day experience in a foreign country was in 2011 when I was living in Australia. Seeing as Australia has such a huge Irish diaspora living there, I had high expectations of the size and quality of the parade and festivities. Covered from head to toe in Emerald green, with my high Leprechaun hat and an Irish Tricolour flag proudly draped around my shoulders, I was ready to join the large parade that was scheduled to take place in the centre of Sydney. Unfortunately however, due to the typical Irish weather of heavy rain and wind, the parade was cancelled. I was all dressed up but had nowhere to go! We persevered however and went to Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub for a few pints of Guinness and a sing along to some well known ballad songs by popular Irish bands such as The Dubliners and The Pogues.
My second Saint Patrick’s Day experience in a foreign country was in 2013 when I joined the festivities in Osu in Nagoya city. Unfortunately, the Irish community living in Japan is only about 1,500 people and most of them are based in Tokyo and Osaka. Due to the extremely small number of Irish expats living in
Nagoya, I was quite unsure what to expect. My uncertainty did not dishearten me though and once again I wore my Emerald Irish colours with pride. To my surprise the Saint Patrick’s
Day festivities in Osu were great! I was happy to see that a large crowd that consisted of many Japanese, Irish and other foreigners from around the world, had all come out “wearing the green” to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Before the parade we all enjoyed listening to Japanese musicians who played traditional Irish music using banjos, violins and concertinas. I was most impressed to see Japanese children and teenagers wearing traditional Gaelic Irish dress while they awed the crowd with their wonderful Irish dancing. The parade itself was a success. The streets were beautifully decorated with green and gold balloons, Irish music filled the air, delicious food and drink was being served, there were fun games and activities for children and a happy Irishman dressed up as Saint Patrick walked around welcoming and greeting the people. The festivities also offered the very rare opportunity to see Irish Wolf-hounds which are the largest dogs in the world. After the parade we went to The Peat Bog Irish Pub near Nagoya Station to drink “Green Guinness” which was dyed green for the occasion! We raised our glasses and in typical Irish fashion we said the Gaelic Irish word “Sláinte" which translates to “good health” and basically means “Cheers” or “Kanpai”. If you are interested in learning a little more about the little Emerald isle, then I would strongly recommend you wear some green shamrock and join the party in Osu. You might have a great day......after all, everyone enjoys being Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day!!
So where to go this year to embrace my Gaelic heritage and proud Irish culture??! This March I plan to visit beautiful Osaka and join the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities there. If you see a jolly Irish Leprechaun on March 17th, please say “hello”.....it might be me...!! Slán go fóill mo chara (Bye for now friends),