Let’s go hiking this new year!

Posted on January 25, 2016 | genkijacs

It may be all cold and freezing, but that’s not going to stop our Tokyo Japanese language school students from hitting the mountains! Last weekend, some of our students in Tokyo school signed up to go mountain climbing with a Tabimore, a volunteer community group in Mitaka.

It was SOOO cold, but this did not dampen the spirits of GenkiJACS students. Let’s go!

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Arriving at the outskirts of Tokyo, foot of Mount Takao. And the hike begins!

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Stopping for a short break with hot tea and bento! Itadakimasu^^

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All recharged and ready to go!

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Finally hitting the summit!

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To visit the temple and pray for blessings for the new year ahead :)

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And of course, it is now time to relax! What better time to enjoy Onsen (hot spring) after a hike in winter?

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Genki Japanese Teachers write their New Year Kanji

Posted on January 17, 2016 | evankirby

Teachers at GenkiJACS' Tokyo Japanese school took some time last week to write 書き初め (kakizome, New Year calligraphy). This is a custom where people write a kanji for the year ahead, often representing something they want to focus on that year.

Japanese school kakizome

How many of the kanji can you read??

New Year at our Tokyo Japanese school

Posted on January 05, 2016 | evankirby

Happy New Year! Or rather, Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu! あけましておめでとうございます! We hope everyone has had some good rest and a chance to freshen up for the new year ahead! New year is probably one of the biggest and most important days in Japan. Also known as お正月 (Osho gatsu), Japanese celebrate this festival with a multitude of activities. Let’s have a look what the Tokyo students have experienced so far.

View from Tokyo Japanese school window

The tradition of going for 初詣 (Hatsu Moude), the first blessing of the year, symbolizes a smooth year ahead. The famous Hanazono Shrine next to the school is completely flooded with the hordes of visitors all queuing to get their first prayer. Some students tried joining the crowd as well!

Japanese students at shrine

Japanese students doing hatsumoude

Back in school, the teachers are all busy getting ready for some special new year lessons.

New Year cooking in Japan

Calligraphy items ready at Japanese school

More preparations going on.

Wonder what’s in for the students?

So finally after the lectures on Japanese culture and new year traditions, it’s finally time to dig in! Presenting to you the Osechi ryori (御節料理)! Each type of food has a special meaning behind it and having them at the start of the year signifies a good year ahead. Itadakimasu!

Students eating
Japanese school students eating new year food

And for the finale, we have our students and staff all write a Kanji for the upcoming year!

Calligraphy

More calligraphy

Even more calligraphy

Students practising calligraphy

Japanese student write new year kanji

Happy new year and share with us what you did!

New Year Special Classes in Japan!

Posted on January 05, 2016 | evankirby

It's tradition at Genki Japanese's schools in Tokyo and Fukuoka to have special Japanese culture classes on the first day of the new year, as new year is a very important time in Japan. And this year was no exception!

At our Fukuoka Japanese school, students learned about new year customs.
Japanese students learn about Japanese culture

Then they played games such as 福笑い (Fukuwarai), where a blindfolded person tries to make a face from parts, like a much harder pin the tail on the donkey.
Fukuwarai at Japanese school
Japanese games

Next was traditional Japanese new year food, お節料理 (osech ryouri).
Japanese traditional food

Finally, they capped off the day with a visit to a nearby shrine.
Japanese students at a shrine

It was a busy, but educational day!

Year-End Party, or 忘年会 (bounenkai)

Posted on December 23, 2015 | evankirby

End of year party photo

It's the time of the year for Japanese companies to have their year-end parties, or 忘年会 (bounenkai). The kanji for this literally mean "forget year meeting", and in theory that's part of what people are supposed to be doing - forgetting all the bad things that happened that year, so we're ready to approach the new year with new energy. But in practise it's usually just an excuse for a big party.

End year party at Genki Japanese

So that's what we did! Yesterday, December 22nd, GenkiJACS' Fukuoka Japanese school had our bounenkai at a nearby restaurant. About 70 people attended, and we put on a whole program of entertainment, from karaoke to cosplay to quizzes and more!

Genki Japanese School party

We hope we'll see you at our year-end party in 2016!

National holiday: the Emperor's Birthday!

Posted on December 21, 2015 | evankirby

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It's a national holiday in Japan tomorrow, but do you know what day is it? It's the birthday of Emperor Akihito, so as well as being a national holiday (yay! no school), so the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo will also be open for public access! Take this great opportunity to stroll through the forbidden grounds, wave the Hi no Maru (日の丸) with the crowd, and of course, use your great Japanese skills to listen to the Emperor's speech :D

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While part of Tokyo school’s Japanese Plus Culture course is visiting the Imperial Palace (皇居), the tour is pretty much limited to strolling around the moat and stone walls. Certainly the Eastern Imperial gardens are beautiful with its seasonal changes such as cherry blossoms in Spring and red leaves in Autumn, but visitors are not granted access to the inner grounds. However, twice every year, the Imperial Palace opens its gates to the public, once on the Emperor’s birthday and once during the New Year celebrations.

Those of you who are in Tokyo, it’s a great opportunity to drop by the Imperial Palace tomorrow, 23 December, the birthday of Emperor Akihito. The two nearest stations, Otemachi Station and Tokyo Station will be jammed packed (even more so than the usual rush hour crowd), filled with Japanese locals visiting to pay respect to their Emperor, tourists who can’t miss the opportunity to glimpse inside the Imperial Palace, as well as all the security personnel. Be warned, it’s going to be CROWDED, but since it’s Japan, it will still going to be pretty orderly and safe.

The only gates that will be opened to allow public access is the Nijubashi Gate. There will be make shift check points there where security personnel will inspect your belongings. For larger bags and suit cases, you will have to deposit them with the security office and only pick them up after your tour. We highly recommend you to have as little personal belongings on you as possible to avoid all the hassle. A small Japanese flag, or more commonly known as Hi no Maru (日の丸) will also be handed out to visitors.

Once you enter the usually closed off Nijubashi gates, you’ll be able to get a full view of the Fushimi Yagura guardhouse. This architecture was formally constructed as part of the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto, and was moved to Tokyo (then known as Edo) in the 1600s ordered by the Tokugawa government.

At the end of the walk, you will arrive at the Inner Gate in front of the Chowa Den Reception hall (長和殿) where the Emperor and the Imperial family will greet the public.
Here is the schedule for tomorrow:
First Appearance: Around 10:20 a.m.
Second Appearance: Around 11:00 a.m.
Third Appearance: Around 11:40 a.m.

More information can be found here and here (PDF).

If you’ve missed the visit on 23 December, the next one will be on 2 January, where the Emperor will give his new year speech.

New Plan for Fukuoka City: A Ropeway from Hakata Station!

Posted on December 17, 2015 | evankirby

Transport company JR Kyushu has unveiled a proposal for an elevated ropeway connecting Hakata Station, the main train station of the city and just a couple of minutes from our Fukuoka Japanese school branch, with the convention center and waterfront 2km away. Just in case you also weren't sure what a ropeway is, it's gondolas hanging from a "rope", often used to transport people up steep mountainsides and places like that. This would be the first ropeway in an urban area in Japan, and it's being proposed as a cheaper alternative to extending the subway.

To practice your reading skills, here is an article in Japanese about the plan. If it's a bit tough at your current level, there are extensions available for Chrome and Firefox that give you meanings and definitions for Japanese words on webpages you visit:
- Chrome: Rikaikun
- Firefox: Rikaichan

This year's kanji

Posted on December 15, 2015 | genkijacs

At the end of every year, one kanji is nominated to become the "symbol" of that year. This kanji embodies the spirit of the past year.

The official kanji of 2015 was announced yesterday: 「安」 (あん, "an")
This kanji appears in the words 安全 (あんぜん, "anzen" - safety, security), and 安心 (あんしん, "anshin" - peace of mind), and was chosen specifically because of the terrorist attacks on Paris in November.
Asahi newspaper says the kanji 安 was chosen because 2015 was a year during which "many people were wishing for safety and peace of mind".

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The official kanji of 2014 was 「税」 (ぜい, "zei" - tax), because of the 8% increase in Japan's consumption tax that kicked off last year.

Japanese student visa applications done!

Posted on December 14, 2015 | evankirby

We just got back from handing in the first batch of student visa applications to the Japanese Immigration authorities. Thanks to all the students who will be studying Japanese at our Fukuoka branch from next April, for helping us to get everything in on time and complete! We learned a lot from the application process this time, which will help us to do things even more smoothly next time.
In the typical fashion of governments everywhere, they'll look over the documents for the next couple of months, and give their final confirmation around the end of February.

GenkiJACS has been introducing students to other long-term Japanese schools for the last 7 years now, and none of our former students have ever been refused a student visa in Japan. So we're very confident that the applications of all the people for Japanese classes starting next April will be successful. Wish us (and the students) good luck!

And if you're thinking of joining our student visa course for next year, the next start date will be October 2016, for which the application deadline is the end of May. We look forward to seeing you in Fukuoka!

Fukuoka to start entrepreneur visa system!

Posted on November 23, 2015 | evankirby

Fukuoka City tokku

Fukuoka City was selected as one of the 国家戦略特区 (kokka senryaku tokku, National Strategic Special Zone) areas for Japan. This means the local government is allowed to apply for special local exemptions or changes to national law.

Fukuoka City is using this system to set up a "Startup Visa" system. Under this system, foreigners living either inside or outside of Japan can submit their plan for setting up a new business to Fukuoka City. If the city approves their business plan, they are given a 6-month visa to set up the company. Unlike a tourist visa or visa waiver, this allows the person to work and receive money, and also to make long-term contracts. They can also use the Tenjin Startup Cafe, as well as other facilities and services the city provides for new businesses. Before the 6-month visa expires, if the person wants to continue their business, they can then apply for the standard entrepreneur visa.

The system hasn't started as of this writing, but is expected to be made public before the end of 2015. We'll have more details when it is, but until then, better start writing your business plans, saving your money, and of course learning Japanese with the best Japanese language school we know!