Ed and Becca’s Farewell party @ the Clapham Inn, Ashiya

What can we say? It was an absolutely brilliant party!

A great venue, fantastic food and drink, a happy and friendly atmosphere, lovely people and an excellent time had by all!

We were so happy to see so many imagine students of the past and present and it was nice to catch up and have a chat with everyone (we were so impressed with how much English was spoken – well done!). We ate fish and chips and shepherd’s pie which was a first for many people – good English grub! We received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers each and some lovely presents and, best of all, an album filled with messages from our friends at imagine. We read them when we got home and were so touched by the kind and generous things people wrote.

I started a blog recently which is about leaving Japan and all the things I will miss. I hope it conveys my strong connection to this country and many of the people I have met while living here. One of the posts is about the Clapham Inn itself so please check it out!

nippontouk : a diary of sorts

We will miss everyone so much but we hope we will see you again the UK – the kettle will be on and the biscuits will be ready!

Take care and all the very best,

xBecca & Ed

‘starlight’ Launch party – March 2012

Imagine’s latest exhibition got off to a flying start with one of our busiest launch parties to date. Lots of old friends, Imagine members and friends of the artist came to admire Keiko Asano’s thought-provoking portraits, drawings and flower paintings. It was also a good opportunity for Imagine members to get to know Casey, who has taken over the yoga classes, as well as Brandon and Lulu, Imagine’s new English teachers.

Delicious food was provided by Itsuki Bakery, alongside a tasty vegan dip made by Kochan.

Watch this space for information about upcoming parties and events.

Imagine teacher’s prize-winning lesson

Imagine teacher Becca has won a prize for writing a lesson plan. Macmillan, a major publisher of English-language teaching resources, held a competition for English teachers to submit a lesson plan for their material covering differences between British and American English. We are very proud to announce that Becca’s plan was the co-winner of the prize. Her lesson plan can now be downloaded and used by English teachers all over the world. Well done Becca!

What’s your English | Baba Brinkman vs Professor Elemental Rap Battle Video


大手英語教材出版社マクミラン社主催の英語教師向けに行われたコンペにて、イマジン語学スタジオの講師 Becca が賞を取りました。Becca が考案したレッスン内容は、アメリカ英語とイギリス英語の違いについてです。光栄にも、先日そのレッスンが受賞したと連絡をいただきました。これにより、世界中の英語教師によりダウンロードされ、使われています。Becca おめでとう。

What’s your English | Baba Brinkman vs Professor Elemental Rap Battle Video

‘woolgathering’ Launch party – December 2011

Our latest exhibition, Yuko Maruoka’s ‘woolgathering’, consists of beautiful stoles and socks made from wool, illustrations and, of course, many dangling sheep. The artist has succeeded in transforming Imagine Language Studio into a warm haven – the perfect place to escape the chilly winter. The launch party for the exhibition drew many people, both Imagine members and friends of the artist and ourselves. Delicious bread was on hand thanks to Itsuki Bakery, and everyone enjoyed a pre-Christmas get-together drink and chat.

The expression ‘woolgathering’ can be used to mean ‘indulgence in idle fancies’ – which nicely sums up the mood here, as we come to the end of 2011 and look forward to another successful year in 2012.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Imagine!

Check this website for information about our next exhibition, which will begin in March 2012.

Kobe Marathon

Sunday November 20th 2011 saw Kobe hold its first full marathon. Around twenty thousand people took part in the race, which started on Flower Road, reached as far as the Akashi bridge and made its way back into central Kobe, finally coming to a finish on Port Island. Along the way the runners passed many key landmarks, including Chinatown, Tetsu-jin, Suma beach and Meriken Park.

Despite heavy rain the day before, the weather was perfect: the sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot, and there was enough of a breeze for the flags on the many boats, which seemed to have come into shore to lend their support, to be clearly visible. The route was mostly flat. In parts it was very narrow, causing congestion for the runners, while other stretches were a lot more open. All along the route there was beautiful scenery and, more importantly, the ceaseless support and encouragement of the people of Kobe. So many came out to cheer, many offering high-fives, drinks and snacks to the weary runners, that it was clearly about more than just a race. This marathon presented them with an opportunity to demonstrate their civic pride, and the people who cheered the runners on with endless shouts of ‘Ganbare!’ and ‘Fight!’ succeeded in showing their city in its best light: passionate and welcoming.

The runners themselves were extremely appreciative of the support they received and did the best they could. Elite athletes led the field and behind them were thousands of others. From the serious runner chasing a personal best, to the fun-runner doing for it for pride or to raise money for charity, everyone had the same objective: get to the finish line!

One of those runners was me. It was my first full marathon, and I have spent the past few months training and preparing for it. I am used to running by myself – in fact, its solitude is one of the reasons I like running so much – so to suddenly become one of twenty thousand others, all of us going in the same direction and starting at roughly the same time, was an unusual experience for me. The training had been difficult: there were interruptions caused by colds, ear infections and knee injuries. But by the day of the race, I was ready. During the first half of the marathon, as we headed out towards Akashi bridge, I often felt a little frustrated. We were packed so tightly in the narrow lane that there was little chance for me to break out and run at my own pace. The middle stretch, as we came back towards Suma from the bridge, was better and I was able to run at the speed I had been preparing for. At the 30km mark things became much tougher. There was plenty of space now, but I was finding it harder than I had imagined and my knee was starting to give me trouble. There were times after that when I really thought I would have to give up, and I certainly ran a lot slower than I had been planning ? even having to walk at times. However, I am very relieved to say that I managed to get to the finish line in one piece. I completed the marathon in four hours and twenty-four minutes. A little slower than I had hoped, but not too bad, and considering how tough I found the last ten kilometres, I am relieved to have finished at all.

I’m not sure at the moment if I will ever run a full marathon again; one of the things which kept me going towards the end was telling myself that if I finished this time, I would never have to do it again. I will however continue to run whenever I can (and hope to take part in Ashiya’s fun run once more), and I will always remember having taken part in Kobe’s first marathon ? a wonderful experience.

Also, many congratulations to Imagine member Kazu Okuno, who also ran his first full marathon that day. Well done Kazu!

The Return of the Tourists

Two months ago I wrote about the decline in the number of tourists visiting Japan as a result of March’s earthquake and tsunami. I’m happy to report that already things seem to be improving. There is increasing awareness in foreign countries that many parts of Japan, including those places popular with tourists such as Kyoto, Okinawa and Hokkaido, were not affected by the natural disasters at all, and nor did they receive any effects of radiation from Fukushima. As a result, more and more foreign visitors are starting to come back to Japan. In fact, in a survey by the British newspaper The Guardian, Japan was voted as readers’ favourite long-haul destination. For more details about the survey, and why foreigners are again choosing Japan for their holidays, you can read the whole article here:

Returning Japanese | Travel | The Guardian

Reasons to visit Japan

This has been a very difficult year for Japan’s tourism industry. Since the earthquake and tsunami struck in March, the number of foreign visitors has fallen by 50 percent, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. With the crisis at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima not yet resolved, it is hard to convince travellers that now is a good time to make the trip to Japan. And yet, it is important to emphasise the positives, and encourage foreigners to look beyond this year’s problems and see Japan for the beautiful and special country that it continues to be. Ben Humphreys, a former colleague of mine, has written an article for The Mainichi Daily News (the English-language edition of Mainichi Shinbun), doing just that. Entitled “Eight reasons to travel to Japan”, Ben’s article explains what a foreign visitor can expect on a trip to Japan and why he loves the country so much:

Eight reasons to travel to Japan – The Mainichi Daily News

‘GOLD SEES BLUE’ launch party June 2011

The launch party for our latest exhibition went extremely well. Despite the rain, many people came, including a lot of imagine* members. The artist, Kazuhito Tanaka, was on hand to discuss his work and to show the gold-leaf filter he uses to achieve the dreamlike effect of his photographs. We were also very pleased to welcome back Itsuki Bakery. As always, his delicious food proved a sell-out success.

Check this website for information about our next exhibition, which will begin in September 2011.

What makes a man a gentleman?

The meaning of the word ‘gentleman’ has changed over time. In its original sense, it referred to man of high rank or nobility, and for many years to be a gentleman was to be someone who had their own coat of arms (see image below). In the Victorian era the concept was opened up a little, and the word was applied to ‘a well-educated man of good family and distinction’.

In modern times, we are judged less on our background and family, and more on our actions and behaviour. The choices we make and the things we do say more about our character than the family we were born into or the school we attended. And so, in 2011, what makes a gentleman? The English writer, Edward Docx, has created a list of 50 things which he believes comprise a ‘New Gentle Man’. They include such points as [The modern man...] ‘Always pays on the first date,’ and, ‘Never Googles to prove a point.’ Some of his criteria are clearly only applicable to westerners (surely everyone in Japan ‘Will know the correct way to eat sushi and is adroit with chopsticks,’ not just Japanese gentlemen), but taken as a whole, Docx’s list is as good a guide as any to an attitude that puts modesty and manners ahead of pride and vanity.

So gentlemen! Take a look at his list and find out your score:
Picador Blogs, Picador: prize-winning fiction, history, memoir and poetry

I got 40 out of 50, although I was being kind to myself on a few of them. Also, I would love to know of any other points which you think should be included.

Halfway there

After enjoying last year’s Ashiya International Fun Run, I decided to do it again this year. Only this time I joined the half marathon – more than double the distance of last year’s race. It was a daunting proposition and I was feeling pretty nervous before the race began. It was a very hot day, and everyone around me seemed to be fitter, stronger, and frankly younger, than me. However, as soon as we got going things went very smoothly and by sticking to a regular pace and not worrying about what everyone else was doing, I was able to get round in a surprisingly good time: 1 hour 54 minutes!

Having done better than expected, there’s only one more distance left to try: all 42 km of a full marathon. Kobe marathon will be held in November, and all going well, I will be there!