RichardRichard's Weblog Diary 2003 Jan-May!

Doing is a strange life, from one night being put up in luxury hotels to the next sleeping on a park bench, from giving presentations to hundreds of people in Tokyo to visiting the smallest schools in Northern Japan, from working into the dawn hours in the freezing Genki House to songwriting by the beach in Thailand and even filming in Hollywood!

There was a lot going on last year so I decided to start my diary on the website. If you want to find out what's it's like behind the scenes or how & why I do what I do or even if you're just nosey or a bit bored, have a read! This is a bit of an experiment so please get in touch let me know what you think!

I'll update the diary as often as I can, so keep coming back!

Click here for my Latest Entries!


2003 May 31st - Saturday - Typhoon

Up at 7:30, off to the airport and the flight was cancelled!! The thing is that they call it a typhoon, but in Europe we just call this rain. In fact we call it drizzle.

So we had to wait till the 12 o'clock flight. If it was really bad weather I could understand it, but with the airlines in as bad shape as they are, then it seemed silly to me when it wasn't that bad at all.

But then again in England the trains stop when leaves fall on the tracks!

2003 May 30th - Friday - Video & Mail

Computers are fantastic! Over the last few years I've been amassing a huge bank of video clips that I want to get edited up into an "International Understanding" video for kids. It's basic things like going round shopping centers, or talking about valentine's day, but it's the sort of thing that's popular in Japan.

The problem is that I have so many tapes and I'm always on the road, so I never get chance to edit them up. But today I realised I have 40 gigs spare on my new hard disk. Which means all I have to do is to copy a few tapes on there. The cool thing is that all the scenes are titled and cut and given previews with Windows XP. So I simply go through and delete any bad takes and I now have a cool video bank of loads of loads of clips that are physically smaller than 3 mini DV tapes! This is crazy! Compared with how I had to edit the "Shidou Video" 2 years ago, things are just so much easier! So hopefully if I have a few free hours this week I'll get some demos done!

Mind you it took me till 5 in the morning to get all the videos on there!

2003 May 29th - Thursday - Back to normal and feedback

Back to normal today, and normal for now means full on back into the production of the picture card packs.

We also had a look at how to modify the speech for next week's "Making the most of JET" presentation at Tokyo. For the key note this week we added in a talk about the GE tour and a 101 things to do. But I think for next week we'll just go with the normal Genki Motivation Speech which proved so popular last year but which I didn't get time to do this year!

In any case it's pretty difficult to sum up people's comments about the speech, we went through the tapes and people just seemed to be having a riot all the way through! There were certainly a lot of points that got us rounds of applause (for example talking about why JETs need holidays!) And most of the feedback seems to be along this lines of "do more of A and less of B", then the next person says "do more of B and less of A", or people criticising us for being too serious, and the next person saying we weren't serious enough! But I guess comments like this are a good thing!

2003 May 28th - Wednesday - Goodbye to Kobe

I always enjoy Kobe, for the last two years we've just gate crashed it, but it was cool to actually have a speech this year. And just hanging out with everyone was brilliant, there are some really great friends there. So a nice drive back to Ehime.

2003 May 27th - Tuesday Kobe Day II

You know the thing that struck me most about this year's conference was just how positive people were. It was amazing, such a cool vibe. Loads of people came up to me saying how much they liked the speech and a lot gave a lot of very constructive advice. I really appreciated that. The main thing was the time factor, but most people said they got a kick out of it. The most popular thing that people were asking about was all the volunteer work abroad, especially my trip to Thailand last year. There are still places open this year for the final week in July, check out the website for details and tell them I sent you!

I also checked out the Kobe shogakko seminars, which were OK. If people are interested, on the website I could put my answers to the various questions that came up. Then another night partying - and thank you for all the really cool JETs who offered me places to crash for the night!

2003 May 26th - The Key Note Speech at the JET Programme Conference

A key note speech in front of 900 people sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education and the Council for Local Authorities for International Relations.

Today was a big day!

It was all mad rush to get ready after the info fair, but with hundreds of JETs plus representatives from CLAIR and the Ministry, the response we got was just huge. It was certainly different to the reaction I've seen to any other JET speech!

We started off with a bit of warming up, then Will took people through the 2000 tour to let people know a little about who we were. Then a quick go through what we think are the 3 keys to success in Japan, a bit about why JETs are here and the top 3 things that concern JETs. Overall there was a load of stuff, but as everyone was reacting and laughing way more than we expected, it meant the final Genki Speech, which is the main part of what we do, was a bit too rushed, I apologise for that! Next week we have a workshop in Tokyo, so with after a little bit of editing, please come along and get some inspiration!

It was also great to get some concrete proof that more JETs visit Elementary School than High School. For so long now I've been telling the people in charge this and all they say is that "no, only a few ALTs ever visit Elementary Schools". That's why we kept getting the video cameras out in the speech! So hopefully from now on Elem School JETs will get a lot more support, and respect!

What we tried to show is all the really amazing stuff that most JETs, are doing in their towns, and what any JET can achieve. Many people only hear about the moaners and complainers, because these are the only people with the time to moan and complain! But from our travels all over Japan the vast majority of JETs are doing the most amazing stuff but never let anyone know! So with our 101 Cool Things for a JET to do list we tried to showcase some of the real things JETs have done and really let JETs know that they have the best job in the World.

It's not ESID (Every Situation is Different) it truly is "ESIWYMI" - Every Situation Is What You Make It! It's just like any job in that what you get out is only limited by what you put in. As a role model for your kids your influence is just huge, and the job allows you to do the most amazing stuff to really get your students motivated. You guys are the people are who are making this happen!

Keep on trying, just like you are now, and you might not see the results tomorrow, but come back in 10 years and you'll see just what a huge impact you've had!

2003 May 25th - Bookstore in Kyoto

We only heard about this a couple of days ago! But as we were in the area we agreed to pop along and do a quick presentation. The surprising thing was that many of the teachers were Elementary School teachers. Usually it's private teachers who attend, but it was good to just be able to offer to visit the shogakkos for free. Cool. Then it was off to Kobe to get ready for the Big Day tomorrow!

2003 May 24th Saturday - Writing the Key Note Speech

I've done the Genki Speech at lots of different JET conferences, but this time we decided to include a "101 cool things a JET can do" list. Which although we had the material, setting it out into a fun presentation is quite tricky. But I think we made it!

Then on the overnight ferry to Kobe.

2003 May 23rd Friday - Visa and stuff

It's time to get my visa renewed, which is one of the slightly annoying aspects of living in a foreign country! But everything should be OK.

Spent the rest of the day printing out info stuff for the Kobe Recontracting conference and getting enough stock of picture cards to last through the next month when we'll be on the road for practically the whole time.

2003 May 22nd - Thursday - Meeting, Imabari, Home Office

Had a meeting first thing this morning (not too good a choice of time as I went to bed at 5AM!). It was with a two teachers who are just setting up a school in Matsuyama, of course teaching kids using Genki English. It's really good hearing their feedback about the materials (e.g. "I didn't like Mr Monkey at all, but I was surprised to find the kids did"!). That's actually one cool thing with the picture cards, nearly all the ALTs really hate the designs (I get a lot of comments on the survey page!) but Japanese teachers, and more importantly the kids, really like them!

Then it was off to Imabari to deliver the first set of picture card sets.

And I also had a phone call from a guy from the national research institute (it's affiliated with the Home Office and Department of Education) asking me to help with a symposium in August. Should be cool!

2003 May 21st - Wednesday - It's like a factory

The Genki House is pretty versatile, one minute it's a recording studio, the next it's a video studio and now it's a print shop! The reason we can offer the Picture Card packs for only 30,000 yen is because we make them ourselves! We now have 4 ( I had to go out and buy a new one today) high quality printers going 24 hours a day. But they'll make it a whole lot easier for busy teachers to get up and running!

Mind you, I always thought I was doing people a favour by having the cards as free downloads, but it's crazy the amount of time it takes to print and laminate them all yourself!

2003 May 20th - Tuesday - Picture Card Pack is ready to go!

The printed, laminated picture card set is ready to go! You can find the info here. Basically it's nearly 200 pictures from nearly all the Genki English themes printed out back-to-back as 100 A4 cards and then laminated! Lots of people have been asking for them (basically as it takes soooo long to print them out yourself) and it's a huge time saver! So if you want to get the best from Genki English without the hassle, simply order the set now!

And I also found out today that we're going to be teaching 6,000 kids in our week in Ishikawa next month. That should be fun!

2003 May 19th - Chusan Shogakkou in Okayama - lots of press and cool teachers!

Woke up this morning at a time humans are not supposed to wake and carrying a weight of luggage that humans are not supposed to carry I got on the Shinkansen from Fukuoka to Okayama. Which is actually rather a cool way to travel.

Then a show for 600 kids at an Elementary School in Okayama City, and the kids were really great! The teachers were also really genki and had invited a ton of press including newspapers and several TV stations! So if you look in the Okayama papers tomorrow, we should be in there!

Then in the afternoon a teacher training seminar. That was also really good. Sometimes at elementary schools the teachers are pretty clueless, but today they were great, starting from the beginning but really getting into stuff and wanting to learn loads. In Okayama, like many large cities, they don't send their ALTs to shogakkou and the teachers have to teach on their own. But they were great today and came from schools all over. Next time it'll be cool to do a full day workshop just for the teachers.

So a nice days' work well done. And now the drive home!

2003 May 18th Sunday - Otona Demo Dekiru

I put details of the "otona demo dekiru" show on the Japanese version of the website. So if you know anyone who'd like a really cool speech at a conference, study group or to motivate a group of adults learners, get in touch!

2003 May 17th Saturday - In the sunshine

Took my computer outside to the park today, very nice!

2003 May 16th Friday - Pet Exchange Project

Well, the response to yesterday's exchange project was pretty fantastic so I couldn't get to sleep last night for thinking of which other projects I could put on the site straight away! And the best one is the cool "Pet Exchange Project" - mind you I have to think of a better name as it's not the pets you exchange, just the photos! These things are really great and are what this education is all about, it's not a case of teaching English, it's a case of getting the kids in touch with kids from all over the World to learn about what makes them different, and more importantly, what makes them the same!

Now I have to get all the rest of these lessons put on the net!

2003 May 15th - Thursday - International Understanding Exchange Project

In one of the emails I wrote last night I ended up writing out practically a whole lesson plan for a really cool project where kids exchange school menus with other kids across the globe. This fits in really well the with "international understanding" aspect of lessons in Japan and it's one of those many things that I've been wanting to put on the site, but never got round to it!

So I wrote it all up today and hopefully this will now nicely fill in the gaps in the curriculum for elementary schools, i.e. now I have the International Understanding feature, it's a real use of English and it's great for those 6th grade classes who are way too "cool" for anything else!

2003 May 14th Wednesday 2003

Sent out the English newsletter, did a lot of emails and my expenses for the month. Air fares in Japan are just silly, I could have flown twice around the World the price that I paid for internal flights last month!

2003 May 13th 2003 - Bits and bobs

Back to normal work, got the English newsletter ready for tomorrow, updated some new bits on the website, designed a new flyer for the "Superpack" and spent most of the time replying to emails! It's quite funny how things come and go in waves, a few weeks ago everyone was asking about phonics, this week it's nearly all about Elementary School. Most of the questions were about friction with classroom teachers, and what types of lessons to do. So I decided to upload the official guidelines, one read of these and everyone should know everything they need!

Anyway, it's 3 AM now, so I'm off to bed!

2003 May 12th - Huis Ten Bosch

As I was in Nagasaki, I figured I'd call in at the Dutch "Theme Park" Huis Ten Bosch on the way back. And despite the fact that they recently had major financial troubles, it is a really cool place!!

Rather than a "theme park" it's better to think of it just as a great town to walk around in! It was so cool seeing all the European buildings, squares and canal that are so nice to look at! Japanese buildings and towns are just plain ugly with phone lines and cables everywhere and a dominate colour of dull grey! But at Huis Ten Bosch everywhere is just so nice, with grass and flowers, open spaces (and windmills). It's like being in Europe but without having to worry about being mugged!!

So if you get the chance I'd really recommend a visit for a nice, relaxing day out! In fact I wouldn't mind living there!

Then back to Fukuoka and a few hours of computer work. But still, a very nice day!

2003 May 11th - Nagasaki!

In the shows one of the things I often say is "Come on, be a bit louder, such and such a place was miles louder last week!" and then people often ask me, "Well, where are the best shows you've done?". And the answer is that the best Elementary School shows in Japan were in Nagasaki!!

So today was back again, this time not for a show, but for a JALT seminar. That was quite good and most people were genki and asking good questions (such as "Why do you teach "how old are you?", isn't it impolite?"). However at the beginning I asked what language people wanted and they said "we want English practice"! That was like a red rag to me! If it was my job to teach English or if I was talking to someone in my local town then that's fine, but when I've paid money myself to travel all the way down there to do a free teacher training seminar to try and get the Elementary School teachers equipped to teach, I don't want people asking me to give them a free English class!! That's what Nova or Geos are for!

So I started in English (mainly because there were ALTs there), and many of the Japanese teachers just started glazing over. But as soon as I switched to Japanese their ears pricked up, their eyes became bright and they really started paying attention! So my rule holds, always do everything in Japanese unless it's to native speakers! (Sorry if I sound a bit arrogant saying this, but I see my job as getting Japanese English Education on track and being effective and I can't really do that if people can't understand what I'm saying and with limited time I can't always slow things down to a snail's pace!)

Anyway, the rest of the seminar was fine and there were lots of smiley faces and excellent questions. A few people didn't seem to like the activity of the "How old are you?" song, but as usual I explained that for teaching kids it works really, really well and the fact that 3 minutes a day aerobic exercise is more likely to make you live longer than kill you off!! (Mind you I should get some hard data on this!!).

Afterwards it was a cool chat with a few of the teachers. Tim Allan, the "boss" of Nagasaki JALT is really cool, has some great ideas and really wants to push things along, so hopefully Genki English will be back soon! Nagasaki is a really cool place!

2003 May 10th - Saturday and my computer back!

I got my computer back!! It's ridiculous that I was only without it for 2 days but I still get emails from people complaining I haven't answered them quick enough!! So a lot of this morning was spent ploughing through the last few days emails.

Then I had to go through and make the master print copy of the new picture card set. It's basically all the picture cards from the 4 CDs printed out, laminated and sold as a set. If the tests and things go OK it should be out soon. But there will initially only be a limited number of sets, so if you're interested, get in touch now!! I'd also be really interested in hearing in how much you would pay for such a set! We'll still keep the free downloads on the site, but the idea is that you can buy the set from us to save yourself a lot of time!!

I also put in cards for the Colours song and Where are you from?.

2003 May 9th - The official Elementary School Guidelines

There was nothing much to do today so I went shopping. One thing I did do was to check the latest elementary school teaching guidelines. They are published every year and as over the last few weeks quite a few companies have been pushing quite a few things that I don't think quite fit with the guidelines, I wanted to see if they had changed in April.

No they haven't!! If you want to know what they say, have a look at my article about "What we should be teaching at Japanese Elementary Schools"

If you read the guidelines then it sounds just like they are describing Genki English - "suitable songs, games, simple greetings, skits" etc! Which is no surprise as they are the base I used to use in my lessons. They also contain such cool gems as saying that Elementary School English shouldn't be like Junior High School English and that the kids should have "hands-on experience orientated activities" which use speaking and listening. Cool. You can find the full (one page!) guidelines in the original Japanese here.

2003 May 8th Thursday - Bye, bye computer

If eventually got them to reduce the repair time of my computer from 3 weeks to "between 2 days and a week" - I hope it's two days!!

So had to spend the day getting all my urgent emails and files done and out of the way, including the next couple of week's newspaper articles.

Then they took my computer and it was so weird in the evening, I couldn't do any work!! I usually have so much to do that I'm always feeling guilty for not working all the time, but today I just couldn't. So I watched Friends on TV.

2003 May 7th - Wednesday, on the phone and mini drives

Spent far too long on the phone this morning arguing with the Yodabashi camera people about how they should be more helpful! It's good experience for me doing Genki English - customer service is the key!

I also bought the most smallest, tiniest hard drive to back my computer up. This is one of the great things being in Japan, we get to see all the cool tech stuff before anyone else. And now with hard drives this small it should make it a lot easy to get the TV show edited up - no more faffing around with tapes, I just put everything on 2 or 3 tiny little drives!!

2003 May 6th - Tuesday - Don't shop at Yodabashi Camera!

My computer's broken. Hmm. The screen's gone all funny so I took it back to the shop, Yodabashi Camera, to get it repaired. It's less than a year old but they said they'd have to send it away for 3 weeks to get it fixed. "That's not too bad, can I move my files over to the replacement computer" I asked. "No, there is no replacement computer" they said. They wouldn't flipping well give me a replacement computer whilst mine is being repaired!! I asked how I was supposed to work with no computer and the reply was "dunno". What fantastic customer service eh!! Eventually they said they'd let me have one so I went to buy a 20,000 yen hard disk to back up my files on. Then suddenly they said they couldn't lend me one!! I was furious!!! This is ridiculous, Genki English have spent a fortune with them over the last year ( 2 computers, a camera and loads of software) but they insist I just take 3 weeks off work while they fix my machine!! Ridiculous!

So I'm waiting for the shop manager to ring me tomorrow. This isn't the first time we've had problems with them, so my advice; don't shop at Yodabashi Camera, their service is appalling!!.

(Oh and if there is no diary or updates to the site for the next few weeks, please send them your complaints!)

May 5th - Amazing Genki Day

This morning I met up with two of the teachers from yesterday's seminar and went through a load of ideas!! One of the things we were looking at was creating a 1st to 6th year curriculum, something that simply doesn't exist at the moment. The current curriculum I have on the site is great for the first few years of study (maybe as many as 4 if you spend two weeks on each topic) but I really need to get my "international exchange" type lessons for 5th and 6th graders up on the site.

I was then supposed to fly down to Kyushu, but got a last minute email from Curtis Kelly in Kyoto. He's doing a research project about a teacher training website for elementary school teachers. So I hopped on the shinkansen and popped in for a chat. Again that was really cool, it's always good to talk to people who are full of ideas and the drive to put them into action! The project seems really good, but both yesterday and today I've really appreciated the 3 years I had every week, week in week out, teaching in Elementary School, something that many of the experts around at the moment seem not to have had.

So after a good chat I was in the very rare situation of having a little time to kill before my train. It's the last day of Golden Week today- the worst time to travel in Japan and I only just managed to get the last ticket on the last shinkansen to Fukuoka. So whilst I was in Kyoto I figured I'd do a bit of sight seeing!! That was quite good in that instead of the pollution and cars, I got to see the nice side of Kyoto.

So it was a great day today, all about Shogakkou English with a lot of Genki people and lots of great ideas to think about!!

May 4th - Genki Richard vs. Matsuka Sensei!

The premise for today's seminar was that anyone can attend a teacher training presentation, but this time the organiser wanted a "prize fight" with each "contender" giving a 90 minute presentation and then a head to head discussion panel in the afternoon.

Everything went off very well, and I think most people were quite surprised to hear me back up the Genki English practices with a load of theory. But to be honest there wasn't that much difference between my thoughts on Elementary School English and Matsuka Sensei's!! She has really has thought about this and isn't simply trying to push private teaching techniques in elementary school but is looking for a really suitable way to introduce English. Cool.

The two points we did disagree on were use of English in the classroom (she believes Japanese teachers should only use English in the classroom, I think this is neither desirable nor at all possible in practise) and use of ALTs.

The discussion was good but as most of the participants were private teachers wanting to teach in Elementary School, as opposed to classroom teachers, the questions were more of the "what should we do about ABCs" rather than the more important issues such as the problem of what happens when the kids get to Junior High School. But the teachers had all given up their holiday to attend so full marks to them.

The most striking thing about all this is that nobody even acknowledges the amazing work that ALTs do in Elementary School. Most people seem to not even know that ALTs even teach there!! From my experience the most of the best lessons are being done by ALTs around the country, and I think we all have to work harder to show the "powers that be" just how good your students are getting!! If anyone has any thoughts on how to do this I'd love to hear them!

May 3rd Saturday - Off to Nagoya

Got up early and on the plane to Nagoya. Then it was a meeting with the teachers who are organising our Kids Show and Teachers Seminar in Nagoya in August. That was really good, and we also went through some of the ways I can make the presentations better. For example they were saying they would like handouts, which is quite funny really as the reason I started the website in the first place was so that I didn't have to hand out loads of material, but just the URL of the site!! But if that's what people want I'll do my best to help out!

So anyway, if you are anywhere near Nagoya, then bring all your Elementary School age students on August 26th to our kids show, and if you're a teacher be sure to attend out 4 hour seminar on August 27th with loads of games and teaching hints and tips!

Then in evening I met up with Sugiura Sensei, the organiser of tomorrow's event, and Yoko Matsuka from Matsuka Phonics Institute, for a good little chat!

May 2nd 2003 Friday - Picture Cards - may have found a way!

In between loads of phone calls, we spent the day doing experiments on how best to produce the picture cards in a printable format. The thing is that it takes 11 hours (yes 11 hours!!) to print out the whole set!! Plus the laminating time and it begins to get quite silly! Now I know why no other companies sell packs of laminated picture cards.

But at around 1 this morning I think we found the answer!! So hopefully soon you'll be able to purchase sets of picture cards, which should make life a lot easier for a lot of teachers!

May 1st 2003 - Thursday

Lots of people have been asking about the picture cards and where to buy the full set. We've been asking around for some prices but to get them printed is crazily expensive!! There's got to be a cheaper way!!

Spent the rest of the time doing normal work stuff and preparing for my trip to Nagoya...

April 30th 2003- Back to normal

Drove through to Imabari today and took the scenic route through my old town, Tamagawa. I am really glad that I was sent here, Shikoku is a great place!

Anyway it was back to normal behind the scenes stuff, doing paperwork, checking stock etc.. But it's not too bad in the nice weather!

April 29th 2003 - Back to Ehime

This last week has been really good, it's been lots of fun and we've managed to convince a lot more people to be genki!! Today I thought it was going to be back down to Earth, but I'm actually writing this in the ANA Lounge at Haneda airport! With all the flying we did last year we've qualified to get access with all the free drinks, nice big seats and a great view of the runways!! So one last round of luxury before heading back to the real world and the Genki House! As one of the members of "Bros" once said, "It's a terrible thing being famous but skint", but at least it's great when someone else pays!!

April 28th 2003 - Nellie's, David Paul and some other good news!

This morning we popped in to see the people from Nellie's bookstore in Tokyo, and if all goes well hopefully soon Genki English Superpacks will be available to buy there!

We had a look around their store and they have some great stuff. I also bought a copy of David Paul's "Teaching English to Children in Asia". That's quite a good book and although I disagree with quite a few points, he does a good job of putting forward most sides of the various arguments and I think that he probably was deliberately trying to be a bit controversial and start up some new discussions! So full marks to him for making a good solid effort to try and move Children's English education to the next level! Mind you I could have been biased by the fact he has a nice big link to Genki English in the back of the book! But yeah, books like his, discussions and lots of solid research will really make a difference in the long run!

Then in the afternoon it was off to Shibuya (with all the masses of people there) to have some talks about a really, really exciting new project. But I can't tell you about it yet, but let's just say that you might be seeing a lot more of Genki English in the future!!!

April 27th 2003 -Tokyo International Bookfair : Everything Goes Genki!

When I was writing the Kids English course (click to see the new English description page!), the books and the songs, I tried to make them so that kids would really find them fun and like using them. But today and yesterday I was just shocked by how many parents came up to me saying just how much their kids really, really love the stuff!! They were saying they watch the videos everyday, want the story books read at night and play the songs in the car. And on the stand we had huge TVs playing the Kids English songs and there were kids sat their totally engrossed for ages and ages! Wow!

And then with the presentations we were asked to move things up a gear. Yesterday we apparently matched the next stand who had a famous author presenting, but today they wanted more! There wasn't much I could do with the Kids English materials themselves as they do take a while to learn, and we couldn't quite match the outfits that the girls were wearing on the Adobe stand, but with the Genki English songs it's really easy to get people genki!! So we cranked up the volume and blasted out "Rock, Paper, Scissors" and the audience just loved it!! There were so many passers by crowded round the stand and really getting into it! Then to finish I had the "dekiru, dekiru, dekiru - you can do it" speech and the atmosphere was electric. If we'd have had Superpacks on display they would have just walked off the shelves!!

What a great few days, all the hard work behind the scenes actually making the stuff and today I got to see all the smiles on the faces of the people who really, really get into it and use it everyday! Great! And from now there are just so many more cool possibilities out there!

April 26th2003 - Saturday - Kids English Live!

Today we were at the Tokyo Bookfair to actually give some presentations. But as the presentations were for our "Kids English" series then instead of the usual T-shirts, it was suit day!! The presentations were also a little strange, we were given a script which we read at first, but then along with the MC just started ad libbing stuff and making it a lot more funky, and a lot more like normal Genki English!!

Then in the evening it was another big meeting about how things should go from here, and this is something that I really like, getting all excited about new projects and motivating people!! That's what it's all about, whether it's teaching kids in a classroom or doing a show at an International Bookfair it's all about getting people Genki, knowing that they can do anything and just getting everyone motivated!!

April 25th 2003 - Friday

Morning was the Tokyo Bookfair checking out new English materials (still nothing really suitable for Elementary School which I guess is good for Genki English in a way!) then in the afternoon some really interesting meetings!! Things are looking good.

April 24th 2003- Tokyo Bookfair - VIP

Today was a bit weird as we weren't at the Tokyo Bookfair to actual do anything, but just as Genki English to wonder round and meet lots of people. But it was cool, and everyone was very surprised when they saw the stand that's been made for our "Kids English" series!

Then in the evening it got silly again as we were invited to the VIP reception. That was full of very posh people (if you can have such a thing in Japan) like heads of bookstores and presidents of publishing companies, not to mention several Ambassadors! Then there was I, the youngest person in the room, wearing a Genki English T-shirt!! Weird city!

The wine and food were good though!!

April 23rd- Back to Dreamland

After spending the day doing normal Genki English stuff (like printing things out and doing maintenance of the site) in the evening it was off to the Tokyo "Big Sight" for the Tokyo Bookfair Rehearsals.

Now this is where it starts getting silly! The is the Tokyo International Bookfair, one of the biggest book shows in the World. So what's the first thing you see when you walk in the doors?? A massive, huge stand featuring stuff written by Genki English!! And to get in we were given gold VIP passes with "Author" splashed all over them. Crazy. There are also 2 very cute MCs and they are even talking about having "Events Girls" on the stand.

This is not the real world!! But it could be fun!!

April 22nd Tuesday - The best plans!

Today was the planning meeting for the Tokyo Bookfair presentations. I didn't quite realise just how big a deal it is! We also spent 6 hours discussing how to present our new Kids English series. We often have a hard time getting people to understand that we don't actually teach kids, we teach other people how to teach kids. My point of view is that if I teach 100 kids, then I've taught 100 kids. But if I teach 100 teachers, I've taught 1,000s of kids!!

Anyway, so the bookstores were wanting us to jump around on stage in a "kids show" type of thing to PR "Kids English". Of course we weren't going to do that - guaranteeing a "show" for 40+ screaming 1,2 or 3 year olds is pretty impossible!! We wanted to show the parents just what a good series it is and get them genki about teaching their own kids. So after 6 hours we came up with a brilliant plan. We teach the parents how to use Kids English and then they teach their own children straight afterwards using the Kids English materials! We'll wonder round the room checking how people are going, but it'll give parents all the confidence and techniques they need to teach their own kids, which is just what we wrote Kids English for! Cool!! And now it's easy to explain the difference between Kids English and Genki English. Kids English teaches parents how to teach kids, Genki English teaches teachers how to teach kids!! Brilliant, and now all that's sorted we can start the big national tour!! What a relief!

April 21st Monday - Earthquakes and Tokyo

Today was one of those two or three days a year when I get awoken by an Earthquake. Luckily this one wasn't serious, and just registered in the "oh, wonder if it'll get any bigger" category. So wide awake, but freezing cold, it was time to get ready and head back down to Tokyo. Had a meeting in the evening, with a nice free dinner!!

April 20th Sunday - Ibaraki JALT & Super Genki Man

Well, it was worth the trip! It was great staying at a very cool friend's house, and then the Ibaraki JALT (it stands for the Japan Association of Language Teachers) people were really cool! When I was an ALT I never really had a good image of JALT , but both the other week in Saitama, and here in Ibaraki everyone was really friendly, was listening and participating in the events and really being totally supportive! Thanks everyone! The organiser seemed like a normal everyday university lecturer, but once in the seminar he turned into Mr Super Genki Man - brilliant!! It was also great to present to student teachers and two of the genkiest ALTs I've ever seen!!

April 19th Saturday - Getting to Ibaraki

The last few weeks have been great as I've had hardly any travelling to do and hence have had chance to produce a whole load of new stuff, a lot of which I'm sure you've noticed on the website. It might not look like much on the diary, but I've got a tonne of new ideas, have produce lots of new things, have helped lots of people out over email and have organised loads of events, not to mention the "secret" projects that I can't let out let!!

But today was the start of another set of tours and for the first time I realised how much time travelling takes!! I left today at 11 and I'll get there at 8!! Although I'm writing this on the bus up to Ibaraki, it's not exactly conducive to coming up with great new ideas or projects!! Plus the fact that unlike the last couple of weeks I can't work all night, grab a few hours sleep in the morning and then take my computer out to the park or coffee shop or whatever. But the tours are necessary to get the word out to people!! And as one person said on the Japanese message board the other day "The website is great, but it's not till you actually see and try out the activities yourself that you realise just how great Genki English is!"

But at least the weather is great!!

April 18th Friday - Phonics?

People have been asking about phonics ideas a lot recently so I've been looking at doing some more phonics stuff. I uploaded the new version of the phonics page (the most popular page on the site!) with better quality sound, and something I've been wanting to do for ages - I've changed the "X" word from "x-ray" to "X-box"!! And I've got a really cool idea for a new phonics product....

April 17th Thursday

Had to recheck the new master CD that I redid on Tuesday. Basically I get a master copy from the CD factory and I have to make sure it's perfect. Any tiny little mistakes and it all has to be done again! Which can get quite annoying and very stressful, especially since I've been through the same stuff loads of times before! But it's gotta be done!

Also had a look having the picture cards in a printed form for sale. Although we give them away free on the site it could cost as much as 50,000 yen to print them all out and laminate them yourself! Lots of people have also been asking for printed versions as they don't have the time to print them out. There's got to be a way to help these people out and produce a printed set!

April 16th Wednesday

Doing computer stuff! Lots of new ideas! And also the website got visited by 2498 people (or around 86,000 "hits") today. Pretty good!

April 15th Tuesday

Uploaded all the new Japanese stuff to the website and figured I might as well send out a special newsletter as there was so much new stuff on there! Did some music work for the new JHS CD as well.

April 14th Monday

Busy doing general computer stuff and also having to remaster yesterday's CDROM to have a readme file for the Mac.

April 13th Sunday - Japanese day!

I'm glad Kinkos is open 24 hours because at 2 this morning (when my computer battery had died from doing all the web chats!) I had to go and check the mac version of a new CDROM. Mind you Macs aren't half awkward, but I think the CD should be OK!

This week I've put a load of new material on the website, which is cool. The downside is that I have to then translate everything into Japanese!! The problem is that because of the way I write, and the very different needs of Japanese teachers compared with native English speakers, then it's impossible to get someone to translate it for me (and anyway it would cost a fortune!) so I have to do it myself. I then go over it with a few people to pull up any mistakes in my Japanese, or to make a few points clearer. But it still takes ages..... and as it's not making anything "new" as such, it can be a bit of a hassle, but it helps people out so has to be done!

But anyway, after a lot of hard work I think all the Japanese translations are up (including all the new games) and the site is again back to being 99% bilingual!

April 12th Saturday - Webcams!

With just about everyone else in the World, I've been using instant messaging a load recently. It's great for work and also for keeping in touch with my family. Anyway, today I figure I'd try a webcam so I can do video chat. And the crazy thing is that it works!

So I took my computer down to the port and had a chat with my Mum, showing her the ships in the harbour and all the Carp Streamers that are up for Boys Day next month! It's so cool that I can be sat there with a normal laptop and be transmitting video to the UK! So my Mum was saying, "oh that looks interesting, go and have a closer look!". Then in the evening I went out to the river to show the ramen stalls and the Cherry Blossoms. She thought it was great, and so did all the passers by who kept posing for the camera, and then being shocked to hear people in England were watching them!!

Mind you I don't know which is the cooler, the fact that I can transmit live video to the UK or the fact that I can walk around at night with a laptop and camera and not be afraid of anyone stealing it off me!!

April 11th Friday

More work on the website.

April 10th 2003 Thursday - Kawaii & Music

The "kawaii eigo" is one of the most popular areas of the site, basically because it's full of stuff to for kids to play around on! So today I gave it a bit of a spring clean and put in all the new sections from the site (including the "How old are you?" mini lesson!). I also put up the new "singing songs" pages, i.e. if you want to have a listen to all the songs click here for CDROM vol. I , CDROM vol. II, CDROM vol. III, or CDROM vol. IV - they are pretty groovy!

I've also been trying to find some decent "copyright free" music for the new Junior High School CDROM. But it's so difficult to find anything decent (let me know if you know any decent places!) So I'm actually thinking that it might be quicker to just write all the music myself!! Mind you, finding time to write an hours worth of top notch songs will be quite tricky!

April 9th 2003 Wednesday - Cool NHK?

As you may know, I'm not much of a fan of most of the "English Conversation" programmes we have on TV in Japan. But NHK have a new one that is really, really good! It's on BS at around 10:45 on an evening and takes an ABC TV news report from today, plays around with it, puts in subtitles and picks out the useful phrases. I think this is pretty fantastic, a real use of real English that's really up to date!

I spent the day speeding up the website by rearranging the features to make it a lot easier to use. I was also looking at some stuff for one of our new projects, a way to make Junior High School Genki!!

April 8th 2003 Tuesday - Amazing stuff!

People send me some amazing stuff! Last year I was sent a video of a teacher teaching the "What's your name?" song in the mountains of Tibet, which was just so amazing. And today I received some photos of teachers using the CDs to teach indigenous language speaking children in Australia. Wow. It is so unbelievable to imagine that by sitting here, writing the songs and webpage that kids from completely different places are learning and having fun using the stuff I've written! But it certainly makes the very late nights (till 3 this morning!) worthwhile and motivates me to do more and make even better things (have a look at the posters/progress sheets I uploaded today!!) Thanks everyone!

It's also good today to see the Spring holidays have finished - the number of visitors has gone through the roof! But everybody is welcome!

April 7th 2003 Monday - Newsweek magazine: the war &

Now this is very weird and quite freaky. Check out the Japanese version of Newsweek magazine. It's full of quite horrific pictures and stories about the war. But turn to page 49 and you have an article featuring The is quite strange (and a little unnerving)

April 6th - " Games DVD" filming in Fukuoka!

Loads of people use the games on the site, but there are loads more who don't really "get it" until they actually see it played in front of their eyes! So to help with this we're looking at producing a DVD of loads of the games! It'll be like a "super version of the website on steroids" with video explanations of all the games in English and Japanese. So even if you (or your team teaching partners) are too busy, even if you have only 1 minute free, you'll be able to get a groovy game!

We filmed it in Fukuoka. The reason? Because they were one of the best groups we presented to last time!

They were great (as expected) and we went through over 30 very Genki games! There were quite a few that I hadn't played in a while and was presently surprised at how well they went! It was also good to see everyone getting into the worksheet games - cool!

Mind you the thing that struck me the most was that teaching without the Genki English songs is so difficult!! We hadn't much time so had to whizz through the games, but using the songs would have made it so much easier!!

April 5th - Parents and Continuity!

Two of the keys to success of Elementary School English, according to the EU, are "parental involvement" and "continuation". It's to help with these that I spent the day designing a series of "progress" sheets for each Genki English theme.
Very often when teachers (or ALTs) change at the end of the year there is no record of what the kids have studied. This often leads to duplication of material which then leads to lack of motivation on the part of the kids! Keeping a folder with each of the lessons studied makes it easy to see what the kids have done, what they need to do and what they need to review!
One related problem that is often encountered is that students and their parents don't realise, or can't remember, all the English they've learnt. So I recommend that each child has an A4 folder (they're cheapest at the 100 yen store) and at the end of each lesson you hand out the sheet for that lesson. The kids can then take these home to show their parents (who can then support the work at home) and they can see themselves how much English they can actually say and how good a teacher you are! Each sheet has space for a date and signature to make it more personal for the kids which equals extra motivation!
Also, keeping a record on the wall of the class shows the kids how much progress they have made and you'll probably find that at lunchtime and in their break time they'll test each other to see how many of the words they remember!!Hopefully everything will be uploaded next week! That's the great thing about the net, I get an idea, produce it and it's helping teachers in classrooms within a few days!

April 4th - Friday - Doomed?

Spent some time today helping Joel Bacha with his Masters Project. Joel isn't just the author of the very well respected "Teachers & Kids" book, he's currently studying Japanese Elementary School English Education for his masters! It is interesting going through all the research that's been going on into Elementary School Language education. Mind you, if you ask most people in Japan they don't even know such research exists!! And to be honest if you look at the conclusions people have been making and then look at the Japanese system, you'd think it'd be doomed to failure! But... I reckon it CAN work! Training is the key and provided we can get that training to enough teachers the results are really fantastic! The internet works wonders and along with our free visits to elementary schools, things are moving! Want to help? Spread the word about and invite us to your schools!!

April 3rd - Thursday - making the most of it

For some strange reason I woke up at 5 this morning! So I made the most of it, wrote 2 newspaper columns, English and Japanese newsletters and after a very polite email I put up 3 new games on the site! Spent the rest of the day doing the translations!

April 2nd - 100 yen

Spent the day producing Saturday's " Games DVD" which basically meant going round lots of 100 yen stores picking up inflatable toys and bits and pieces! If you want to make your own games, take a trip to your local 100 yen (or dollar or pound) store and make up some ideas! Giant inflatables really make fun games!

Then in the evening met up with the organisers for a quick chat, it's always nice to speak to people who are so Genki!!

March 30 - April 1st

Working on the new software project!

March 29th - Matsuyama Orphanage - Saturday

As most of you know, in Japan Genki English is all about getting the Japanese English system working in Elementary Schools. So that not just the kids who can afford private schools, but all the kids can learn in a fun and effective way. So along with all the glitz and glamour of our Hollywood filmed stuff like our "Kids English" series, we do a tonne of voluntary stuff. Hence the situation of being very famous but not very rich - we sell a heck of a lot of CDs but nearly all that money goes back out!! But anyway, that means we can visit your Elementary Schools for free and today was the turn of our local orphanage.

But these kids were streetwise and hard (well, comparatively so for Japan)!! It took a lot of effort to win them round, but once we did, they were pretty cool kids!! After an hour we were shattered, but luckily, just like last week in Shimane, there were some really cool JETs who'd given up their morning to come and play and teach the kids! Great stuff!

March 23rd - 28th - Filming Genki English DVDs!

One of the things that I've always wanted to do was to have a series of videos for each of the Genki English themes that teachers could put on in class and it would really take away a lot of the stress that Elementary School teachers have at the moment. They'd leave the pronunciation upto us and they'd deal with what they do best, motivating and helping the kids get the most from the lesson.

So quite a bit of this week was spent in the Matsuyama central park filming for these videos. It was a little bit weird just "teaching" to the camera, but after a few minutes of jumping around and getting people to start talking nice and loud, there were a group of kids around doing just that - well at least we know it works!

March 22nd Shimane Kids Show

It was warm this morning f- yeah!! In Japan it usually stays like this for all of one week, then it suddenly jumps from having to have heaters on, to desperately needing the air conditioning. So I was already to leave my big coat, jumpers and long trousers and head of to Shimane in my shorts and T-shirts.

I am so glad I didn't !! It was freezing! And they even still had snow on the ground!!

But the reception from the local JETs was great and more than made up for things, but I think that maybe partying the night before the presentation probably wasn't the best thing to do! But the kids were cool and really got into the show, the parents who we did a seminar for really got into things and asked great questions and it was especially brilliant seeing JETs giving up their time off to really make a difference in this very small town. Thanks everyone, you were great!

March 17th - 21st

I was supposed to spend most of this week working on my latest project (more about that later!), but ended up spending most of my time answering emails and organising shows! Which is no bad thing, I suppose. We now have quite a few big events planned which should be pretty good!

March 16th Omiya JALT - Great!

Today was really, really great! We had a presentation at JALT with loads of teachers who really knew what they were talking about and it was cool to take things up a level from the "beginners" presentations we've been doing lately.
The presentation was billed as a "commercial presentation" (i.e. they didn't pay us anything!!), so instead of the usual mix of games, ideas and songs, we just ploughed through a load of Genki English songs. And they just responded brilliantly, doing the gestures and actions, asking some really cool questions and even coming up with new ideas! Brilliant, one of the best workshops in a long time! Thanks everyone!

If you'd like to see what they thought, have a look at their online review!!

March 15th - "Kids English" in Tokyo!

Today was again another chance to show people our new "Kids English" series for 0-6 year olds. When we first agreed to help with these presentations, one thing I did insist on is that it's much better if we can just talk to the parents and not the kids. This may seem a little heartless, but unlike the Genki English songs, which are designed to get big groups of kids learning quickly, Kids English is designed for little kids to use 10 mins a day a get good over time. So it's not really suitable for getting big groups of 2 year olds under control!!!

But I gave in and decided to do a "mini-show" before addressing the parents. And it did work quite well, singing the "Wash your..." and "It's my birthday!" songs. Cool.
Then a speech to the parents and finally a lot of chats to people.

March 14th - Meetings!

Flew up to Tokyo and got the bus to Shinjuku, a bit of a mistake as I didn't have any shopping time before the afternoon meetings preparing for tomorrow.
Things seem to be going well though, and the new Kids English series is going to be advertised in a load of magazines, including Newsweek! Can't be bad!

March 13th - On TV again, although a little strange!

It's getting quite good this "watching out for TV" thing! Today was actually a bit special as the programme was a huge Japanese drama called "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari" ( a bit like the UK's "Coronation Street" I reckon) . The first bit of the scene was good with the grandfather congratulating his granddaughter on studying English - she was of course using Genki English picture books!! "Yeah ,because I want to grow up to be a Doctor like my Dad" was her reply - cool, nice to see the Genki English ideas of motivation and being able to be anything you want taking effect!!

But then it went a bit funny as she started having an argument with her Mum about which Elementary School she should enter. All a bit strange!

March 11th - 12th - Curriculum Up!

Yeah! After what has been another mammoth challenge I finally got all the lesson plan pages up on the site! Now there is a core set of pages that have clip art, suggested games, song lyrics, teaching suggestions and best of all a teaching guide video for each of the Elementary School English themes!! It such a huge improvement that I've placed as one of the top 3 sections on the website (pushing the "Talking Pages" to a lower position, in response to everyone's replies on the survey!!). Hope you like!

It really marks a shift away from recommending lessons based on games (which are good) to ones based on songs, which are just so much more easier to teach and are much more effective! Hopefully you'll be able to see the improvements in your classrooms soon!

The next step will be example videos of all the songs in action (so you can see it for yourself) and then "Mini-lessons" for the kids online for CDs1,2&3. The reaction to the mini lessons on CD4 has been huge so I'll have the others online soon and you'll be able to use your CDs 1, 2 or 3 to access them on the website!

Monday 10th March - As seen on TV

I usually never see when we're on TV, I'm either busy doing something else or it's a live broadcast. But it was cool today to sit back and think "Flippin' 'eck, I really am on TV!".

As usual, visitors to the website went through the roof just as it finished, and so did all the emails I received! That's cool and it's always cool to help people out, but there was one line in the documentary that said "Richard answers each and every email". So I also had my fair share of mega long life story emails that have nothing to do with teaching English and a line at the end saying "it says on TV you answer every mail so make sure you write back" hmmm. But anyway, thank you for everyone's messages of support and questions and comments! It's questions, comments (and people finding mistakes!) like this that help me keep on improving the website!

Wednesday 5th March - 9th March

No presentations this week, so it was time to get back to the website updates. I'm bringing the songs, clip art and curriculum pages together into one coherent set of lesson plans. Hopefully the first version will be up next week!

Tuesday 4th March - Ehime!!

OK, I got my day off today! And it was freezing cold, so just as well!

Monday March 3rd - Hayashima Elementary School

It's been ages since we've been in a real school, and after a month of hotels, bookstores and conference centers, today it was back down to earth with a freeeeeeeezing cold school gym!!! I can't believe how cold it was! It's also strange that the last time we came to Okayama, I thought it was quite "big city". But after a month in Tokyo/Osaka/Fukuoka etc. I realised that it is quite "inaka" - the countryside!

But that's quite cool!

Anyway, we had a great show for 650 kids. And they were flippin' LOUD!! They were so loud in fact that we had to keep turning the sound system up so we could hear the music and keep in time. And they kept getting louder. So we turned the system up. They got louder. And eventually we blew up the sound system!!! (sorry!)

So it was the second half of the show with no Genki English CDs!!! Now that was hard! I don't know how people go on without the songs, they just make things soooo much easier, and without them it's nearly impossible!!

But thanks to the genkiness of the kids, we pulled it off!

Then it was a teachers seminar. This school is in the enviable situation of not only having 2 JETs visit, but they also have several regular Japanese English teachers. But it was still the usual "get the kids genki and believe you can do it" presentation, which they really caught hold of (except the Kouchou who kept saying "i don't speak English and can't do it" - man, learn to lead by example will you!). Along with ideas for games, curriculum building etc. we were also asked about writing and how to teach it, the answer? Don't! There isn't time in Elementary School! However they were looking for ideas for the 6th graders, so the internet/email exchange projects I went through seemed to go down well. For 6th graders, writing can seem the "easy way out", but it's not worth it, and not in accordance with the guidelines anyway! Try some real international understanding ideas, they're really what this education is all about!

But the teachers were really cool and we had a great seminar. So then it was over the bridge to shikoku, and for the first time in a long time, back to our base of Ehime!

Which I thought would mean some time off, but no...... it was straight into a meeting with our accountant about this years taxes.... fun, fun, fun!

March 2nd Okayama Maruzen

The last time we were at Maruzen in Okayama was November, but it seems like yesterday!! Anyway, we had another two presentations today and it was pretty cool that a lot of the people were new to! It's also really cool to be able to use the "explanation CD" to help with the presentations!

Unlike the morning group, the afternoon group was quite small, which was cool as we could answer more questions and give a more "friendly" presentation.

Then afterwards it was the very rare situation of not having to travel and not having an "after event party", so I could have a sit down and relax for a bit! But not for long as I still had a load of computer stuff to do! (Still catching up on my email!)

March 1st Saturday - (Nagoya/Okayama) - Need an ALT?

Popped in to see the people at Altia Central. They seemed pretty impressed with your job applications and I was pretty impressed that they give people bonuses for passing the Japanese proficiency test!!

They are a great bunch of people so we'll now also start asking BOEs if they'd like an ALTIA ALT. So if you know any Junior High or Elementary schools that are looking for quality ALTs then get in touch and we'll pass on your details.

They've also introduced many of the Genki English songs into their new curriculum, so that's another few thousand kids who'll be getting genki over the next few months! Cool.

Then after lots of pizza, it was off to Okayama on the Shinkansen (and the seemingly obligatory beers on the way!) and ready to get set up for tomorrow's presentation at Maruzen in Okayama. Last time was cool, let's see how we go with the super new polished presentation!

28th Friday - relaxing day in Nagoya

What a nice change to not have to rush off anywhere today!! The hotel I stayed in (the Sakae Hamilton) is great, with loads of space to work in. I did have a meeting in the morning, so headed off to Nagoya Station for that. So hopefully in September time we'll have a massive kids show and teaching seminar here in Nagoya. If you're in the area and could help with getting 100s of kids together then please get in touch!

Then I had to organise the press for Monday's show in Okayama, and spent the rest of the day tidying up the website. I now have all but one of the Japanese translations of my "kids com" articles on line. Have a look on the advice page.

27th Thursday (Tokyo - Nagoya ) Music stores!

If you're into keyboards or electronic music, Japan is the place to be! They have the latest things way ahead of everywhere else and a lot cheaper! But I've never found a big music store in Tokyo, until today! They are all in "Ocha no mizu" - hundreds and thousands of guitars and keyboards! So that was cool!

A quick meeting and then the Shinkansen to Nagoya and the hotel I stayed in two weeks ago when I first came back to Japan, but which now feels like years, and years ago!!!

26th Wednesday "Kids English" Premiere! Shinjuku

Today was the main launch of our "Kids English" series (if you speak Japanese, have a look at the webpage ) The plan was to invite a group of interested parents (it's a whole set of materials designed for parents to use at home with their kids) to the very posh Sumitomo Building in Shinjuku and show them how to use it and how special it is compared with other materials.

Unfortunately nearly everyone decided to bring their kids!! Needless to say trying to present a whole new way of learning English in the presence of 20 odd 2 and 3 year olds wasn't really possible!!! Next time we just need the parents, I think!!!

But the publishers (we publish all the stuff ourselves, but "Kids English" is published by a company called SSI) took us out for some well deserved beers afterwards so that was OK. There's also some interesting talk of publicity ideas, including getting our stuff featured in a TV soap opera (Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari) and even a chart release of a song!!

25th Tuesday (Tokyo) Shopping & Prep

The good thing about Tokyo is the computer shops! We've been having some trouble linking all the computers together, so decided to go and ask the shop where we bought them (Yodabashi Camera) to have a look and see if they could help. But they were the most unfriendly people I've ever met (maybe)!! So after me going on saying "Just a minute, we've bought two laptops and I don't know how much software here in the last year, at the very least we'd expect a bit of support!" they decided to give us a free copy of some Mac software, which should sort things out. Cool. Mind you I then went to ask about some music gear and they insisted they didn't have want I need in stock, eventhough I was stood right in front of it!! Hmmm

Then a meeting about tomorrow.

24th Monday (Odawara) - A day off!!!!

It was FREEEEZING today!!! It was so cold! The last few weeks have been quite good, but today it just went freezing!!! But luckily it was also a day off so I had chance for a really nice lie in!!

Then a bit of a chat about some more shows and off to Tokyo (again!)

23rd Sunday (Odawara) Private Kids Show! - Make some money?

For the first time in a long while we had a private kids show. The basic idea is that someone gets together a couple of hundred kids, we charge them 1,500 yen each to attend (very cheap for the best hour of English lessons they'll probably ever have!) and after taking out our expenses we split the profit 70/30 with the organiser. It's a great way to publicise your school whilst at the same time making a bit of money! And our 70% then goes to paying for our free visits to Elementary Schools and the website!

Anyway, there were a load of parents today and it was fantastic! The kids loved the songs and there were big smiles all round! Cool!

Then in the afternoon was a teacher training seminar. This was interesting as most of the people who came were people who'd seen us at Maruzen. I think they were a bit surprised at how serious we are about this teacher training, and how many good techniques we could give them in 2 hours. They even asked us back for a one day seminar in the Summer - cool!

We also had a homestay here and that was really nice, the whole family were just amazing - thank you!!

22nd Saturday (Tokyo) Big Finale!

Today was great as well! I don't know how they did it, but Maruzen managed to get just about every big name in children's English education to present on one day! There was Nakata Ritsuko (author of Let's Go and very famous), and also Keiko Abe-Ford (who invited us to Honolulu to do a seminar!), and we also got to meet Youko Matsuka from Matsuka Phonics. Great stuff!

The presentations were all really impressive and I'm sure the crowd learnt a heck of a lot! Then finally to close the whole thing off, it was the presentation with a huge finale with the "Thank you song"!

Then we had to do all the tidying up, stock checks etc. etc. i.e. all the unglamorous stuff!! All the other publishers seem to have armies of people to help, but we have to do it all ourselves!!

So a mega rush to get the Shinkansen down to Odawara and a meeting about tomorrow's shows!!

21st Feb Friday (Tokyo) - Posh stuff & Party Time!

Tomorrow is the last day of the Maruzen English Week, and so normally tomorrow night everyone would go our for a massive party. But we won't be here, so decided to call a few friends for a night out tonight. What started out as a small number quickly increased to a load of people, it's amazing how many people I now know in Tokyo!! So that was a pretty cool night!

Earlier in the day we'd had a presentation at Maruzen (the best yet) and also visited Monbusho and CLAIR (if anyone wants to see us at the JET re-contracting conferences, write and tell CLAIR hopefully we'll get the gig!). So overall very busy, but loads of fun!

20th Feb Thursday (Tokyo)

Had another presentation in Tokyo's Maruzen Bookstore. This time we only did material and the reaction was really good, especially to the new "Explanation Videos!".

19th Feb Wednesday (Tokyo) - Lots of ideas!

We're still at the Maruzen bookstore in Tokyo and it's great to be able to catch all the other presentations. If you have the time, it's well worth while popping down as you'll get some amazing ideas and it's all free!

First up today was Matsuka Phonics who have this great phonics video series, it's great! Then there were a new group of girls promoting their new book of games and CD (published by Longman) and that was really good. One great game they presented was that kids get into groups and each group has a map of the world and a dice with different weather pictures on the sides. They role the dice for certain cities on the map and draw what the weather is like in that city. Then the cool part comes at the end where you look at today's newspaper and see what the weather in those cities actually was! If the kids have the correct weather they get a point! Now how cool is that!! This also prompted me to put up a page about the weather webcam idea I put on the discussion board the other day.

But it can't all be chocolate as the presentation before us was another group who were simply horrendous!! It was supposed to be "team teaching", but it was like something out of a disastrous Junior High demo lesson from 10 years ago. The "ALT" was speaking only in English and the "JTE" was translating (bad thing number one - the JTE becomes a barrier between the kids and the ALT), and the actually material they did was so, so, so boring!

Needless to say getting the group Genki for our presentation was a major uphill struggle!!! It wasn't helped by the fact that we decided that today's "experiment" (we're here everyday so take risks on new presentation material to see what works and what doesn't) was to demonstrate 10 hours of lessons in 30 minutes!!! We got through 8 and the crowd did get Genki at the end, but that was really hard work!!!!

18th Feb (Tokyo) Tuesday - Maruzen + another year

Today we had a another presentation at the Maruzen bookstore, which was good.

Then we had a meeting with our editor from the "Asahi Shogakusei Shinbun". We have a weekly article in this newspaper and they've very kindly asked us to continue it for another year! Yeah!! We'll also hopefully be having a linked up page on the website, so you'll be able to use the articles in your lessons. Cool.

Tonight I also had a bit of time off so checked our some English TV (I recorded a load into my computer at Christmas - isn't that just amazing that computers can do that now!) and even produced a CD of some of my old songs - cool.

17th Feb 2003 Monday (Tokyo)- Back to down to earth a bit!

After the relative luxury of the Oxford tour, it was back to normal today, staying in what must be the cheapest hotel in Tokyo - 2,500 yen a night!! But it's dry, clean and warm so that's what counts.

We have presentations at the Maruzen bookstore everyday this week. These presentations are great as people buy loads stuff and hence fund our free Elementary School seminars and this website, and as the groups are smaller we can try out a load of new ideas!! We're also totally open to requests of things you'd like to see, or things you're stuck with. So far I've been asked to do "I have a question" and "How much?" on Thursday. Have a look at the schedule if there's anything you'd like to see! We'll be hanging around in the store for most of the day, so you're more than welcome to pop along and have a chat!

Anyway, today's big new presentation was the premiere of our new Kids English series. I've even managed to get the webpage finished so if you speak Japanese, please have a look! Basically it's a massive series of picture books with narration CDs, songs, videos for kids to watch (filmed in LA), a groovy talking teddy bear and an absolute ton of other stuff, all with full on explanation books and videos. Today we played one of the picture books along with the excellent narration CD and some of the people looked like they were about to cry! It was really, really amazing. With the music, sound effects and the amazing voice of the actors it is just like being in a movie! Fantastic!

16th Feb 2003 Sunday - Massive Presentation in Osaka!

This is getting a bit crazy, all this jetting around everywhere!! But it's all fun! Today was cool as there were hundreds and hundreds of people there for the presentations! It was also really great to hear from so many teachers who use the Genki English songs and website, it's so nice to hear people's feedback and to know that I'm actually helping people out here.

The presentation itself was cool and the few kids that attended just loved the CD4 software!

So then it was time to get all packed up, say goodbye to all the Oxford University Press people who've been looking after us this week and onto the Shinkansen to Tokyo!

15th Feb 2003 - Huge Show in Fukuoka!

The penultimate day of this tour with Oxford University Press and it was well cool!! There are so many people I know in Kyushu, and you are all sooooo genki!! The presentation went down brilliantly, but we completely sold out of Super Packs!! Well, can't complain!! Let's hope Osaka is as good tomorrow!!

14th Feb 2003 (Fukuoka)

Had a meeting with the Maruzen people about tomorrow's show, everything seems cool! So the rest of the day was spent preparing and getting phone calls from the press about the weekend's shows!!

13th Feb 2003 (Fukuoka)

Not much today, just a lot of computer work and a lot of time on the phone to press people about the weekend! I managed to produce a printable hand out that explains how you can get us to visit your school. Did you know we can also do shows for private English schools? And if it's organised well, you can also make a nice profit from it! Have a look at the form.

One thing I'm working on now is bringing together the clip art, songs and curriculum pages into one coherent "lesson plans" section with everything you need for each theme. Hopefully it'll all be finished soon and it should make all our teaching a lot easier!

12th Feb (Fukuoka)- My Birthday!

It's my birthday today (got to update my self intro page to say I'm now 28!). Had quite a bit of work to do, but took the evening off to go for dinner and watch "Minority Report" at the pictures!

11th Feb Tuesday - First Presentation in Sendai!

During the 2000 tour we passed through Sendai and I thought it looked really quite good! Today was our first presentation here and I was expecting nobody to know us, but it turns out that quite a lot of people did!! So thanks to all the people from Yamagata and even Kyushu who came to see us!

The shows themselves were a lot smaller (only 100 people) and it was great to try the new stuff out in a more intimate setting - great!

I also got to see Carolyn Graham's presentation today, so is really good! If you've never tried her Jazz Chants, then I'd recommend you have a look, they do work very well!

Then on the plane to Kyushu!

10th Feb Monday (Tokyo)

Today was quite fun as the day was spent planning the presentations for our new "Kids English" series. The people who we wrote the programme with are organising some pretty big events, which should be really cool!

Then it was the Shinkansen up to Sendai, and a great curry for dinner!

9th Feb Even Bigger Presentation in Tokyo!

Now today was great! We had a presentation in front of 500 teachers in a huge theatre in Tokyo. They lapped up all the motivation techniques and the songs went down brilliantly. During the big finale of "What do you do?" the whole place was just rocking. We were way over capacity so many people having to stand at the back. Great stuff!

Then afterwards it was out to Karaoke with all the staff. A pretty cool day!

So if you're in Fukuoka, Osaka or Sendai, be sure to join this week's shows - they're free and you won't believe your eyes!

8th Feb Big Presentation in Nagoya

Today we were presenting with the Oxford University Press kids club to over 200 teachers! That was really good, they were a great crowd and also bought lots of CDs!! As usual it was also great talking to the people who use Genki English everyday. Recently I've been thinking about changing a few of the songs, and one I've been working on is a remix of "What are you doing?". But today I had a load of people coming up to me saying it was their favourite song! Apparently 5th graders like all the hip hop and scratching!

I also got to meet Carolyn Graham today, my namesake, but we're not related! This year is the 25th anniversary of her "Jazz Chants" series and it was a really good show she put on. It was also really great meeting up with all the people we know from Oxford Univ. Press.

Then with a load of baggage it was on the shinkansen to Tokyo to have another meeting about tomorrow! But it was fun. We also found a cool and cheap hotel near Tokyo station called the "Heimat" only 7,000 yen per night!

Tomorrow should be a big day!!

7th Feb (Nagoya)

After spending 2 months in the UK I don't understand anyone's English!!! This morning the staff at the hotel were trying to speak in English, but I had absolutely no idea what they were on about, "Please speak in Japanese!!" was the cry, and then I understood!

Had a chat with a friend in Canada, it's minus 25 degrees over there - poor people! But it's also snowing - lucky people!

Spent the day preparing for tomorrow's big show!

6th Feb Back to Japan!

Flew back to Japan today and was expecting it to be freezing!! But it was really quite nice, and here in Nagoya (where I'll be for the next couple of days) it's gorgeous sunshine! Great stuff! Mind you travelling around with 50kgs of luggage is not to be recommended, if you ever fly in Japan, send your baggage separately at a convenience store!

5th February - 14th January

Still busy in the UK uploading loads of stuff to the site (and preparing loads more for the next few months) and working on a few new special projects which you'll see in the next couple of months!

1st - 13th January 2003 - Happy New Year

It was nice over Christmas for the first time in 3 years to actually take some time off from Genki English!! So I had quite a nice time in Paris and a trip to London. Apart from my JET interview, I'd never been there and it was really cool!

So since the New Year, and for the next couple of weeks, I'm busy cleaning up loads of stuff on the webpage, and writing up a whole host of new material. Already you can find one new game, Timebomb and there are 3 or 4 more to come. There's also a groovy new Online Survey. Basically, I want to get as much feedback as I can about the site so I can make it easier to use, and find out what areas I should be writing new materials for! So if you have a few minutes, please have a look!

We've also produced a special "Explanation" CD-ROM with video explanations of all the gestures and actions for the songs. If you put your order in for the set of 4 CDs now, we'll actually send you a copy of this CD-ROM for free! So hurry up!

I've also been writing my articles for the "Asahi Syougakusei Shinbun" (see it every Friday!), and Genki English also made it into the UK press over the New Year!

In February we have a massive tour with Oxford University Press. There will be plenty of star names there including Carolyn Graham (no relation!), Setsuko Toyama and Nakata Ritsuko, and us! So if you want some quality hints and tips get along to the events:

Feb 8th at the Nagoya Meiji Seimei Hall
Feb 9th at the Tokyo Shokan Kaikan
Feb 11th at the Brother Bunka Center Sendai
Feb15th at the Fukuoka Jogakuin
And on Feb 16th Will will be hosting a presentation at the Maruzen bookstore in Tokyo, and I'll be doing the Oxford tour in Osaka at the Abeno YMCA.
Then from the 17th till the 22nd we'll have presentations everyday at the Maruzen bookstore in Tokyo!

So pretty busy to say the least, and in amongst that lot I'll hopefully find some time to celebrate my birthday on the 12th of February!

Click here for Richard's Diary 2002!

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