Level 1 Blog - Best of the Year

This week at the Yakuin and Akasaka schools we are going to talk about our best experiences in 2016. Here are some of the questions that we are going to practice and my own answers.

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What’s the best drama you watched this year?

I didn’t watch many dramas this year but the best drama  I watched this year was “Stranger Things” on Netflix. I’m looking forward to the next season.




What’s the best film you watched at the cinema this year?

The best film I watched at the cinema this year was maybe Zootopia. I watched it with my daughter and it was smart,cute and funny!




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What’s the best book you read this year?

The best book I read this year was the “Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro.I read it in three days at a beautiful hotel in Vietnam. It was a very interesting book.








What’s the best place you went this year?

The best place I went to this year was Vietnam. I went there in November with my family and we stayed at a very beautiful hotel. I’m going to write a future blog about my travel there.





What’s the best experience you had this year?

Well that’s easy. The best experience I had this year was the birth of my son Alexander. He is a really cute guy!

How about you? What were your best films, dramas, books and experiences of last year? I am looking forward to hearing them in our classes.

See you soon,


Tim’s Blog - Christmas Films クリスマスの映画

I think that most of you have realised by now how much we at Kensington like Christmas. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is watching Christmas-themed or Christmas-set films.


This year I am planning to spend the festive season watching a selection of such films together with the non-Christmas related Star Wars Episodes IV,V and VI in an effort to initiate my daughter to the Star Wars universe so she may agree to watch Episode VII in the cinema with me. Never was a crazy Star Wars fan but I can remember how fascinated I was when I watched the earlier films when I was a young boy. If I could recreate a small part of that magic for my daughter, that would make me a very happy dad indeed.


Following are some of my favourite Christmas films. They are all related to Christmas with the exception of “The Great Escape” which is neither Christmas-themed nor Christmas-set but is very usually aired at Christmas in the UK.


The reviews are taken from “The Rotten Tomatoes”


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

“The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It's a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.”



Elf (2003)

“A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.”



About a Boy (2002)

“A winning comedy that benefits from Hugh Grant's boyish charms.”



A Christmas Carol (1984)

“A great and eternally heart-warming film that can stand an appreciative viewing every year through every decade.”



The Great Escape (1963)

“With its impeccably slow-building story and a cast for the ages, The Great Escape is an all-time action classic.”



Merry Christmas to everyone!!



Tim’s Best of the Year - ティムのベスト・オヴ・ザ・イヤー

Everyone that knows me knows that I love making lists and with the end of the year coming, it’s a perfect time for a “Best of the Year” list.


Best Film I watched this Year


Truth is that I couldn’t really watch many films this year and most of the films that I could watch needed to be family friendly to protect my daughter from any possible traumatic experiences. I did manage to watch a few good films though some of which were “Mad Max”, “Inside Out”, “Whiplash”, “Birdman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” but the best film I watched in 2015 was “Interstellar”, a gripping, incredibly ambitious Science Fiction film that I think will be regarded as a masterpiece for decades to come.

実のところ、今年はそれほどたくさん映画を見られず、見たものはほとんど、娘が怖い思いをしないようにと、家族向けのものにならざるを得ませんでした。しかしながら、いいものも何とか数本は見ることができました。『マッド・マックス』 『インサイド・ヘッド』『セッション』『バードマン あるいは無知がもたらす予期せぬ奇跡』『ガーディアンズ・オブ・ギャラクシー』などです。でも2015年で一番よかったのは『インターステラー』。心をわしづかみにする、非常に野心的なSF映画で、今後数十年にわたって、名作とされることでしょう。

Best Album I listened to this Year


Unfortunately I couldn’t really listen to much new music either this year, though I was able to revisit some classic albums I hadn’t heard for ages such as Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”.  In regards to new music I listened to this year there was one album that really stood out, and that was D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah”.


Best Book of the Year


This one is pretty hard. I always try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction and I’ve read some wonderful books in both categories so far this year. The best non-fiction book I read was the “Steve Jobs” biography by Walter Isaacson and the runner-ups were “Creativity, Inc” by Ed Catmull, a book about how Pixar cultivates and sustains an environment of creativity, and “The War that ended Peace” by Margaret MacMillan, a book about how Europe stumbled onto the First World War.

これはかなり難しいですね。いつもフィクションとノンフィクションをとり混ぜて読むようにしていまして、今年はこれまでにどちらのいい本も読みました。一番よかったノンフィクションは、ウォルター・アイザックソンによる伝記 『スティーブ・ジョブズ』、次によかったのは、エドウィン・キャットマル『ピクサー流 想像するちからー小さな可能性から大きな価値を生み出す方法』、それと、マーガレット・マクミラン『平和を終わらせた戦争』、これは、ヨーロッパの、第一次世界大戦によるつまずきを描いたものです。

As for fiction the best book I read this year was “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, an almost 1000 page novel exploring themes of loss, grief, friendship and the timelessness of art. I absolutely loved every page of it. Runner up is “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht.


Best Food of the Year


Food. I love good food. And Japan is a paradise for good food. This year I ate some marvellous Vietnamese food in our hotel in Vietnam, I ate great food at reasonable prices at my favourite Italian near my house, enjoyed eating at various of Fukuoka’s great restaurants, a number of delicious hotpot dishes at home but the undisputed champion of this category is the Kaiseki restaurant we went to in Shiga. The best place I have eaten in my life. Every single dish was delicious. This is the website http://kiyomoto.to.


How about you? What were your best of the year? Please feel free to share with us at Kensington as our last classes for the year are approaching.




Dvd Borrowing


We, at Windsor, are very excited to announce that from now on, you will be able to borrow DVDs from our library! We decided to start a DVD collection for our students so you can improve your listening skills and possibly your cultural (pop culture) knowledge.


The first DVDs we bought for you are the first season of a very very famous American sitcom called “Friends”. “Friends” aired for ten years from 1994 and became a huge success because of its very likeable leads, its pretty good writing and the good chemistry between the young stars. I think it is almost impossible to find a Western person over 20 that has never heard of “Friends”.


The reason we chose it as our first DVD set is that as a sitcom, though the situations can sometimes be quite unrealistic, the English used is mostly everyday English that may be not so hard to understand. Additionally. “Friends”, as one of the most successful shows in TV history, did have a significant cultural impact.


When watching TV dramas or films trying to understand the whole thing at one go is almost impossible for all but the most advanced of students, so it is best to concentrate on each scene separately, and while your studying method may vary, we’d recommend a combination of the following:


  • First, watch the whole episode with Japanese subtitles, so you can understand the premise.


  • Second, watch the scenes that interest you without any subtitles so you test how much of the English you can catch / understand. (Try to concentrate as much as you can on listening)


  • Thirdly, watch it with English subtitles and try to repeat the language (it may be a good idea to concentrate on language that you think is useful)


  • Finally, write down any expressions/vocabulary that you don’t understand and check them on the internet or on a dictionary or ask us at Kensington!


The steps above are just an idea, you can flip or add steps; basically you can use the DVDs anyway you wish, but please remember to concentrate on listening; if you just sit back watching a film or a TV drama with Japanese subtitles without concentrating on the audio then it has probably zero effect on your English ability.


You can find the transcripts of all the “Friends” episodes here:



We are planning to get many more DVDs for you to enjoy and study. Remember that you need to become a member of the library to use its services and there are two ways to do so:


  • Pay for lifetime at a  cost of 2000yen.


  • Buy extra tickets which not only are at an excellent price but also include library membership.



Easy English Blog - ティム先生の福岡暮らし



I have lived in Fukuoka for about 14 years now and since I always believed that where I lay my feet at night is home, Fukuoka has been my home for 14 years. I love it here, I love the food, the people and the proximity to the sea and the mountains. Here is a brief history of the different places in Fukuoka that I have lived.


When I first came to Fukuoka I lived in Chikugo (near Kurume) for 6 months with my wife’s family. Chikugo was OK I guess and my wife’s parents were extremely kind and generous to me, as so many nice Japanese people I have met over the years, but having lived most of my life in rather big cities, I found it a little boring.


So we moved to Fukuoka city and more specifically, Otemon, near Ohori park. We lived there for a few years and the location was really nice(especially for accessing the park and a nice yakitori shop just across the road), but there was another building built just a couple of metres from our window, which completely shut our sunshine off. Also the bike riders at night were quite bothersome so time to move again.


Next stop Daimyo!! Excellent location, so convenient that we can just access so many restaurants and bars just minutes on foot away from our house. Drawbacks included drunks every weekend and that was definitely not a place to start a family.

次に落ち着いたのは大名!! とてもいい場所です。非常に便利ですし、レストランやバーが歩いて数分のところにたくさんあります。ですが、週末ごとに酔っ払いの人が出るといった問題もあって、ここで子供を生んで育てるというわけには、絶対に行きませんでした。

Now we are happily living in Yakuin. Excellent location, nice restaurants nearby, minutes away from Tenjin, very very very quiet, especially compared with Daimyo or Otemon. Only drawback is that there aren’t any nice parks within walking distance. Yakuin has proved to be an excellent place to start my family and we have been happily living here since.


How about you? Where do you live?




As people that know me have come to understand very well, and probably you don’t, I really like making lists of things. Usually my lists and efforts to compile them are largely ignored by the general population but I think my blog provides me with an excellent medium to continue my good work.  I’m generally very keen on films so it probably makes sense to start with a list of my favourite films.


5) There’s something about Mary


This is my favourite comedy. I think comedy is incredibly hard to do right. There are countless great action films, thrillers or science fiction films, but there are very very few great comedies. “There’s something about Mary” is one of them I believe. I’ve watched it a million times and still find it hilarious. Matt Dillon gave a comedic performance for the ages.

お気に入りのコメディです。コメディは、うまくやるのがものすごく難しいものだと思います。 アクション・スリラー・SFの秀作は数え切れないほどありますが、コメディの傑作というのは本当に極めて少ないです。「メリーに首ったけ」は、そうした傑作の1つでしょう。何度も何度も観ていますが、今でもまだ面白いと思えます。マット・ディロンがコメディアンとして稀代の名演技を披露しています。

4) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou


I could pick any Wes Anderson film really. I love the guy, I love his work, his vision his refusal to do things by the standards set by others. There is in my mind one word that defines his films and that’s  “quirky” but there is much, so much more to them than just quirk. Layer over layer of human emotions and vulnerabilities exposed in his uncompromising visual style. In my mind the most visionary of today’s directors.

ウェス・アンダーソン監督の映画なら本当に何でも選べますね。 彼とその作品、ビジョン、他人の基準で動くことを拒否する姿勢が大好きです。彼の映画を言い表そうとして心に浮かぶのは、「奇抜」の一言ですが、その一言だけでは言い表せないものがもっとたくさん、彼の映画にはあります。彼の妥協のない撮り方・見せ方からあらわになる、人間の感情のひだともろさ。現代の監督達の中では最も先見性・独創性のある人だと思います。

3) Evil Dead 2


Hilarious. Can’t wait for my daughter to be over 14 or something so I can start watching it at home again.


2) The Godfather


A perfect film. Perfect direction, perfect screenplay, perfect delivery by perfect actors, perfect costumes, perfect score. A perfect process of memorable scenes. The best film ever made.


1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


A film that plays and feels like a dream. A film that deconstructs with you while playing videos from your childhood. I read somewhere that this is the movie playing around the clock in heaven and I totally agree. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe in heaven.) I can’t overstate how great I think this film is.


Special mentions:  Groundhog Day, Totoro.


Have you watched any of these films? Which films do you love?


Have a Great 2015!!! - ウィンザー英会話からよいお年を









My 5 favourite books


I love reading;  I try to read a little every day regardless how busy or tired I may be. I find it soothing, beneficial to my language and to my thinking. I also think it is of great benefit to language acquisition and that’s why I always recommend my students read in English as much as they can.


Now to get back to my list, my 5 favourite books are:


5) Life and Fate – Vasily Grossman

5) 人生と運命 — ワシーリー・グロスマン

A devastating depiction of Stalin’s Russia. The book covers countless different characters and offers a panoramic view of the Soviet society. I loved it’s realism and even though it was essentially a very dark tale with every act of heroism or kindness eventually crushed by the totalitarian state, it gripped me from start to finish.


A chronicle of the past century’s two evil engines of destruction-Soviet communism and German fascism-the novel is dark yet earns its right to depression. But it depresses in the way that all genuinely great art does-through an unflinching view of the truth, which includes all the awfulness of which human beings are capable and also the splendour to which in crises they can attain. A great book, a masterpiece, Life and Fate is a book only a Russian could write.

—Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

前世紀における破壊をもたらした、2つの邪悪な原動力 — ソビエト共産主義とドイツファシズム — の年代記であり、陰鬱ではあるものの、その陰鬱さを認められて然るべき小説である。しかし、その陰鬱さをもたらす手法は、本質的に偉大な作品全てがとるものであり — すなわち、真実への断固たる視線であり、真実とは人間が許容しうるだけのひどさのみならず、危機的状況の中で人間が獲得しうる、光り輝く素晴らしさをも全て包含するものである。秀作・名作である『人生と運命』は、ロシア人のみが著しうるものである。

— ジョゼフ・エプスタイン、ウォール・ストリート・ジャーナル

4) Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

4) キャッチ=22 — ジョーゼフ・ヘラー

Brilliantly and hilariously written, with all the humanity and moral strength of a man who understands war, Heller's novel is a modern classic that is rightly studied in schools throughout the world. 

—about education



It’s also the funniest novel I have ever read. A fierce damnation of the cruelty, selfishness and madness of war but also the only book I remember making me laugh out loud so many times. So many memorable characters in surreal situations, with the main character being one of my favourite fictional characters and whom I came to love so much as to actually consider naming my child after him. Unfortunately his name was Yossarian, I have a daughter and the very idea of it made my wife really really mad.


3) The remains of a day – Kazuo Ishiguro

3) 日の名残り — カズオ・イシグロ

Could one of the most quintessential British novels of our time have been written by a man named Kazuo Ishiguro? Well, it could and it did. Mr. Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki and moved with his family to Britain when he was 5. Is he British, is he Japanese? Who cares? he’s a damn fine writer and he wrote a damn fine book.


Kazuo Ishiguro's third novel, ''The Remains of the Day,'' is a dream of a book: a beguiling comedy of manners that evolves almost magically into a profound and heart-rending study of personality, class and culture.

—New York Times



2) Bring up the bodies – Hilary Mantel

2) 罪人を召し出せ — ヒラリー・マンテル

A book about the Tudors and a period of British history that I have very little interest in. I also happened to know how many of the characters’ stories would end (hint: not very well). However old and retold its subject was, this was one the freshest , most engaging and most marvellously written books I’ve ever read.


1) Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami

1) 世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド — 村上春樹

For last I left my favourite writer. I love Haruki Murakami and I could pick from a number of his books as my favourite but this one was the first of his books that I read and also just happens to be, in my humble opinion, one of his best.  A dreamy surreal book that is filled with strange characters, intelligent ideas  and dry wit.