Let's enjoy English!


Friday is a special day in itself! You know why? Well ...

Friday is the last working day of the week (for most of us),

Friday is the beginning of a fun filled and relaxing weekend,

Friday on the 13th is considered to be the most spooky day of all,

Friday is the day we celebrate 'Good Friday',

Friday is the day that gets you into the holiday mood,

Friday is the day when new movies get released,

and of course,

Friday is the only day when we can say, TGIF -> "Thank God it's Friday"!

Have a wonderful day & night & weekend ~

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Morning or Mourning?


That was the ‘moon’ first thing this morning ~ before the sun came up. Yes, it surely was ‘chilly’ first thing this morning but at least the sun is up, so I am glad of that (totally different to yesterday's ‘grey’ Wednesday ~ don’t you think??)

Anyway, let’s talking about ‘morning’ and ‘mourning’ this morning ;-)

Sometimes I might get an email from a friend and they write:
“Good mourning Robin...”

I understand what they were wanting to say but you have to be careful when using this particular word, as it has a TOTALLY DIFFERENT meaning ...

“Good morning” -> yes, at the beginning of the day when you are greeting someone ~ we all know this one!

“I am mourning” or “I am in mourning” -> this is a time or a period of time when someone is feeling ‘grief’ due to the ‘loss’ or ‘death’ of someone. They may wear black or have an ‘armband’ that is black, showing that they are ‘in mourning’.

So when you see someone like this, give them a smile and some extra love ~

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Yes, we’re all too busy on many days - like me now, about to ‘run-out-the-door’. So what do you do then? Not study or practice that day -> NO! Read an English magazine about your favourite hobby on the train ~ sing along to your favourite songs ~ watch the News in English etc.

Simple little things like those will help your “Ahh, I must study today or ...!” pressure that you put on yourself, to be much easier and more relaxing and your English will start to be “more natural sounding” by doing these NATURAL things.

FUN with no pressure, and NATURAL are the best ways to go.

Talking about ‘going’, I’ve gotta run ---> see ya ...

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“Study headaches”

Do you get these?

Two easy ways to make sure your study/practice time is more ‘pleasant’ without any pain or aggravation...

1) Always make sure you have good lighting, as a grey room or somewhere with dark lighting will only put extra strain on your mind. That and if your glasses/contacts are the wrong strength of course (as you haven’t had them checked for a couple of years) will definitely be the start to a long marathon of headaches.

2) Make it FUN! Practice singing your favourite songs, watch your favourite TV programs or films, read books/magazines/web sites about your hobbies.

Yes, actual ‘studying’ is important but making the mind relaxed and open to absorb information about things you like is a great way to increase your learning ability.

HAVE SOME FUN ~ tra la la la laaaa, la la la laaaaa ...

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Monday blues ~

big clouds

As the weather is kinda cold and drizzly this morning, I thought I would brighten things up by letting you know something about your English level . . .


You are reading this everyday and dedicated to wanting to improve even more ~

Yes, comparing to people from other countries your level is much higher, reading and writing much better, and overall knowledge of English is probably superior to the average native speaker!


Yes, we can all do better (me too), so do keep an open mind to always learn, practice something everyday, be happy, be bold and be confident, as YOU CAN DO IT!

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“Rainy Blue”

If you thought of Hideaki Tokunaga, then yes, you were right! => I SAW HIM “LIVE” YESTERDAY = =>> WOW!!

If you like his music but you have not seen him ‘live’ yet, you really must make the effort to go and see him ~

Talking about concerts, have you ever had this experience before? -> Some bands that I have seen over the years - even very famous ones for example - after seeing them ‘live’, I wished I hadn’t spoiled the great music memory I had in my mind from listening to their records and CDs for a long time. But then, how many people have seen The Beach Boys or Frankie Valli live?

Another interesting thing happened during the concert -> 50 minutes into the 2 hour performance, we had a Shindo 4 earthquake! I was amazed at how relaxed Hideaki was and how well he calmed the 5,000 crowd.

Hideaki Tokunaga in an incredible entertainer ~ do get hold of some concert tickets and go and see him one day ~ you will be so very happy you did...!


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Do you know “Three day weekend” or “Bank holiday weekend” or

Yesterday was another National Holiday here in Japan ~ I hope you all had a nice time ~ what did you do? I was at a Sports/Fitness/Nutrition event at "Big Site".

In England when a holiday happens on the day before or after the weekend, we call it a “Three day weekend” or a “Bank holiday weekend”. There is one more term: “Bank Holiday Monday” ~ a lot of England’s three day weekends evolve around a ‘Monday’ (not as many Fridays), making it nice for everyone as they have a long weekend and a short working-week (unless you are the owner of the company ;-)

As the English system is oriented towards the working folk, even if the actual 'holiday’ is on a Saturday or Sunday, quite often a company will give its staff the day before or after off ~ ‘tis nice so people can spend more time with friends and family.

With that in mind, I hope you are having a nice weekend and spending valuable time with special people ~

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I am running-out-the-door to a Sports/Fitness/Nutrition event, so here is today’s short but USEFUL REMINDER ~

I hope you are dry and warm on this chilly and wet day ~ THAT is a very important aspect/situation to help when you are studying/learning/practicing ~ read on ...

I often mention this in my Blogs and Lessons -> the reason why I do that, is because it is so true!

When you sit down and think; “Uhhh, I have to do this :-( ” => in this situation your mind has already started to build a ‘wall’ slowing the amount of knowledge it will let in. But by being ‘warm’ and ‘dry’ and ‘relaxed’ and ‘feeling happy’ etc, the mind has no wall, and it is like a ‘sponge’ and is OPEN to absorb!

Use this situation and practice singing songs by artists you like and reading books/magazines/web sites about your favourite hobbies ~ these things will help you to learn more, as your mind is ‘happy’ to see and hear these things you already enjoy.


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The perfect student robot ...

There she stood, this 6 or 7 year old little girl ~

Standing perfectly upright, facing at a 45% angle in the direction that the fast-paced train was moving, school hat and uniform perfectly aligned (of course no creases anywhere), back pack perfectly on her shoulders - not too heavy and not too light.

With a straight and calm face she gently lifted the cover of her cell phone holder (perfectly positioned on her left shoulder) to gaze at the time, then smoothly returned the phone and calmly and perfectly closed the cover. She re-opened her book ~ held at arms-length (of course) ~ and returned to reading.

A few minutes later, gently closing the book cover, she gazed outside, then once more checked the time in ‘perfect fashion’ to realise that the train would be arriving at the station in 2 minutes time.

With tender and caring arms, she held her book close to her chest with crossed-arms and eloquently made her way to the door in preparation to exit the train.

The doors started to open and with perfect timing when the width was perfect for her perfect body to perfectly fit through, she gently bowed and exited the train.

WOW! Everything was as if I was seeing the next Japanese Royal Family Princess in-training.

But was she ‘real’ or a ‘robot’ ?

Give me your thoughts ...
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Why Shinjuku? And why the South entrance???

This is something to laugh about, so I just had to share it ...

Well, it was on a cold and blustery morning (I mean today ;-) that I had to be down in Yoyogi for a morning seminar/meeting -> I say ‘down’, as I am up in Saitama at the moment. I would have normally walked to the station (20 minutes) but this morning the wind was pretty chilly, and I was not wanting to freeze my butt off before I caught the train! So I gave in and called for a taxi -> here is the first funny part of the day:

When I am booking the cab/taxi, the person on the other end of the phone is asking how to write ‘Robin’ in “Kanji”, so he can find me in the system ~ ha ha ha ;-)
Then when I saw the taxi I went to get in, the driver asks if my name was ****** (I didn’t quite catch the unusual name) and I said ‘Yes’, as I had called for a taxi from that company.
Only to find that there was an announcement on the taxi driver’s radio saying “Please be careful as two different customers both called for a taxi from the same area - one is called ‘Robin’ and the other ‘********’ “ --> by which time we were already on the way to the station ;-)

The third funny thing was that another gentleman (he is from America), who was at the meeting bumped into me in front of the station before going home. He looked confused and so I asked where he was going (there was a regular station and an underground station there) ~ I said I was returning home on the underground (the same way I came).

He said he was going to Omiya and I mentioned that I was ‘passing through’ there. So he said let’s catch the train to Shinjuku and go from there, as it is very quick and easy. I explained that I did not know this ‘train line’ so was unsure but he said we can go together and chat some more on the train ~ so the decision was made to catch the Odakyu Line ...

After we entered the station and I swiped my ‘Suica’ card (that system is so convenient!), he said he was going to change clothes (as he didn’t want to be in his suit any longer than he had to), so please wait for him to change ...

One train goes by . . .

Two trains go by . . .

Three trains go by ~ I’m still waiting . . .

Four trains go by . . .

By this time I am starting to grow a beard waiting for him!!

I go to try to find him in the toilet -> NOTHING!?! Where on earth did he disappear to??

So I finally hop on the next train and head towards home ~

Like I said, I have never been on the Odakyu Line before. Plus, its last stop is Shinjuku (where I don’t really want to be) but at the South exit => WHERE ON EARTH IS THE SHINJUKU SOUTH EXIT? I didn’t even know such an exit existed!

I called my friend to ask how to get back there ~ and a very amazed friend asked “What are you doing in Shinjuku?” I said 'it is a looong story and will explain later' ~

The moral of the story is -> never trust a Gaijin who wants to change his suit before going somewhere, as you will never see him again!

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It was so funny ~

11-18-2012 Meiji Jingu wedding
I wanted to share this with you ~>

After that incredible experience of actually going inside the inner-core areas of Meiji Jingu, there was something else also extraordinary that happened at the Meiji Kinenkan afterwards...

First of all, you have just GOT TO SEE the gorgeous chandelier that is the main attraction-point as soon as you enter the building! The interior decorations and long staircase are what you would imagine you would see at the Cinderella Ball ~ very spectacular (see photo).

chandelier 1
chandelier 2

However another funny thing happened during the party/dinner ~

Not meaning it in a bad way -> most men just wear black suits or tuxedos to weddings (and funerals, and change ties according to the occasion). This is convenient but does not compare to the glamourous and colourful kimonos and dresses that women often wear.

Those that know me (I like to be a little colourful at times) know that that is not the normal attire I choose, however just arriving back recently means I do not have my normal selection of suits and shirts and ties to play with. But since a Wedding is a ‘celebration’, I personally do not think that “black” is an appropriate colour (my thought/opinion), so I wore something a little lighter (see photo).
11-18-2012 Meiji Jingu wedding

The funny experience was a game ~ people wrote on ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ paper who they thought were the best-dressed people...

As it is the the bride and groom's special day, of course I choose them as the best dressers!!

However, when they started to read the results and called out; “the man with a grey suit (hmmm, I think I am the only one in grey), wearing a burgundy/red shirt (hmmm, I am the only one in that colour), with a Mickey Mouse tie (that is definitely me!)”

I stood up, put on my jacket and walked to the front to receive my prize. They then read the best female dresser: “the young lady wearing a black-lace dress, sparkly-buttoned sweater, with a white bow-tie and cute ribbon in her hair” ~> a VERY embarrassed 8 year old girl came to the front. Prior to being called out, she was running around singing and laughing and having fun with everyone but as soon as she realized it was her, she totally ‘hardened-up’ and didn’t want to move ~ SO SWEET!


We were given prizes and then asked to do a ‘model walk’ up and down the centre of the room ~ so playing along in the ‘mode’ of things, I took off my jacket, slung it over my shoulder and I made “the walk” up and down the room.

We both got cheers from the audience and then the official photographer took pictures of me and the little girl -> she was still very tense but did her ‘peace sign’, so I got down on my knees and joined-in ~ at least that made her smile

What a fun time!

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An experience of a lifetime ~

Inside Meiji Jingu

Well, I am very sure that you have visited Meiji Jingu on one or more occasions in your life ~ hey, I’m not Japanese and I have been there five times!
As you have already guessed from me moving back here, I love the history and culture (and language and food and countryside and ... ) of Japan, and enjoy visiting unique places like Nikko and Kyoto. So this sixth visit to Meiji Jingu was very special for me (even more so for my friends who were married there)!

If you are unaware, there is a ‘separate entrance’ before the main gate that takes you into the side part of the building (actually even before that -> something also ‘unreal’ was driving inside the Shrine perimeter, as I have only ever walked before).

The ‘waiting areas’ for the family and friends were in the ‘normal’ Japanese style but once everyone had arrived and the bride and groom (in traditional Japanese kimonos) had finished their preparations, we walked through the inside of the Shrine (that can be seen from the outside) into the internal, internal parts of Meiji Jingu that one is unaware of exists.

WOW! Such a beautiful olde-style building/Shrine and gardens and rooms and more rooms that the ‘regular eye’ does not get to see or experience. (There were a couple of official ‘Shrine photographers’ taking pictures, so I thought it must be okay for me to do that, too ~ I am an avid photographer.)
This was amazing to be able to take photos from the ‘inside looking out’, instead of the other way around ~ so I am quietly taking photos with my two cameras. - -> However, at one point, I got a tap on the shoulder by one of the Meiji Helpers and was told “No!” -> in a polite but very firm voice!

After the ‘ceremony’, we walked back through the Shrine area into the guest-building for the ‘official wedding photographs’.

Yes, it was dark by then, yes it was cold and yes it was raining too, but the smell of the wood in the Shrine and the sound of the rain hitting the roof and the reflection of the outside lights on the wet ground, made the whole experience even more like a traditional wedding that happened a couple of hundred years ago ~ AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!

The wedding party/dinner was at the Meiji Kinenkan -> this is another glorious place; lovely gardens, an incredible chandelier next to a long flight of stairs (spectacular photo shots) and some absolutely delicious food, made this such a fantastic day for everyone.

Now THAT is the way to get married!

Would love to hear comments and your wedding stories ...

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Stratford-upon-Avon & Shakespeare ~

As I was at the historic Meiji Jingu yesterday for a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, I thought it only right to share some of England's traditional history of the famous William Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon...

Neither of these should need much explanation, as everyone knows of Willimam Shakespeare and his incredible writings. Some people may not though, know that he was born in a small ~ but very quaint ~ village called Stratford-upon-Avon. Here you will see the true olde style of English history at its best.

Here’s a bit of a history lesson for you:

Stratford has Anglo-Saxon origins, and grew up as a market town in medieval times. The original charters of the town were granted in 1196, making Stratford officially over 900 years old! The name is a fusion of the Old English strǣt, meaning "street", and ford, meaning that a Roman road ‘forded’ the River Avon at the site of the town.

I bet you didn’t know that ~ now you do ;-)

Using the Stratford district as a base, you can enjoy the delights not only of Shakespeare's hometown, but also the nearby surrounding shire counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Enjoy Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds to the south, Worcester and the Malverns to the west, Warwick Castle and Henley in Arden to the north, and all within an hour's journey of Stratford itself. This is definitely one of those places you should and need to stay at, in order to fully experience True England!
I hope you enjoyed this week ~ definitely add any of these destinations to your holiday plans and you will have a wonderful, wonderful time ~


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A quick trip to Liverpool ~

From York let’s make a quick visit to one of England’s most popular destinations, as I have to be back here to go to Meiji Jingu later for a wedding (no, not mine ;-)

So, go almost directly west to the other side of the country to Liverpool.

Not only is it famous for being the birthplace of The Beatles, but Liverpool has more museums, theatres and galleries than any other UK city outside of London!

The city was even nominated European Capital of Culture in 2008. Visit the former homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Penny Lane and the Beatles Story.

If nightlife is your thing, head to the famous Albert Dock with its tempting selection of cafes, pubs and restaurants ~ there’s a LOT going on ~ have fun, as I’m heading back for a day-trip to Japan (look forward to tomorrow’s spot - you don’t want to miss it) ...

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Let's visit the olde days of York ~

York is one of the most preserved historical cities in England. She is a prosperous and bustling city with a multi-layered history going back at least 2000 years. Visitors can experience life from Roman, Anglian, Viking, Medieval, Elizabethan and Victorian times to mention just a few. Much of the historic architecture from Medieval times onwards still survives.

York also has an excellent collection of exclusive hidden gems that you won’t find anywhere else...

The 'Jewel in the Crown' of York is its fabulous Minster - a huge cathedral which took 252 years to build. With its picturesque city walls, its four stone gateways (or 'bars') and its trendy shops and pubs, York really is the perfect place to live and visit.

York Minster is one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals in the world and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. York Minster has dominated the York skyline for hundreds of years. Take a tour of The Minster and see the famous stained glass windows, the Rose Window, Ceiling Bosses and Undercroft. You can even walk up the narrow spiral staircase of hundreds of steps to the top (if you are feeling fit), to be rewarded by stunning views of the rooftops of York.

The Shambles:
One must also visit the preserved medieval buildings and streets, called ‘the Shambles’, which is believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe.

This old Medieval street is in the centre of York and is a must see and experience this time-gone-by era. The Shambles won the award for Britain's Most Picturesque Street 2010. The Google Street Team took votes for nominated streets across Britain. Categories included best for food, best for shopping and most picturesque. Google received tens of thousands of internet votes and the traders and team at York's Shambles were honored to receive this award.

This is also interesting to know ~ York’s Railway Museum is the largest in the world with the only Japanese Bullet train outside of Japan!

There are numerous buildings that date back to the 11th Century, so your eyes are always in-view of lovely ancient architecture. If you are ‘into history’, Clifford’s Tower is an interesting site to see, as well ~ the Tower was built in the 11th Century on top of a man-made hill, and it is oval!

Okay, time is running out but one of the other ‘many spots’ I do recommend is; Ampleforth Abbey - it is the oldest working-Convent in the UK.

Whether you are looking for a tour of the Abbey, beautiful walks or simply time to reflect and have a lovely cup of tea, you are assured of a warm welcome. Visitors are welcome to spend the day at Ampleforth. (Admission to the Abbey and Grounds is free but donations are welcome to support the work of the Abbey and the Community).

Enjoy York ...

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WHERE SHALL WE GO TODAY? How about Bristol?

Bristol bridge

Today, Bristol is one of the UK’s best short-break destinations. You can see art, history and nature at the City Museum & Art Gallery, or take in a show at the opulent Bristol Old Vic Theatre. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a famous landmark, and the former ocean liner, the SS Great Britain, is now in dry dock in Bristol. Take a stroll through Bristol Zoo Gardens, buy some ethnic food at St Nicholas Market and enjoy the nightlife along Corn Street -> there’s something for everyone!

Like I just mentioned, some of the must sees are:

Bristol Zoo Gardens: With over 450 species of exotic and endangered animals spread over 12 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. Also offering lots of hands-on, up-close interaction ~ take a stroll with the monkeys through rope bridge Monkey Jungle or come to face-to-face with penguins ~ a lot of fun with the kids.

Clifton Suspension Bridge: The suspension bridge that rules them all – Brunel’s world famous design must be seen to believe it. The spectacular setting on the cliffs of Avon Gorge have made it the symbol of Bristol.

Cheddar Gorge: Underground cathedrals of stalactites and stalagmites, beautifully lit. Limestone cliffs tower 450 feet (137 m) above a gorge, now used mostly for maturing cheese (hence the name). Watch out for the water voles!

Bristol Old Vic: Gorgeous Georgian auditorium and the UK's oldest working theatre since 1766. An iconic treasure of the Old City quarter.

Bristol Hippodrome: The biggest venue in town. Puts on pretty much everything you can think of; musicals, ballet, opera, concerts, comedians, children’s shows and pantomimes.

St. Nicholas Market: A wonderfully bustling market just off the old Corn Exchange, with more farmers’ stalls, second-hand bookshops and vintage clothing stores than you could ever want.

The SS Great Britain: Stunning historic ship. Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s maritime masterpiece was the world’s first ocean-going iron ship. Now an accessible maritime museum, after a life as a luxury liner, troop ship and cargo vessel.

There’s always lots of ‘grub’ around (food) but ‘The Clifton Sausage’ is a quant place to eat: Hearty food snuggled at the heart of cosy Clifton Village. Furnished with pine tables, candles, warm yellow and sky blue walls for that ‘home-from-home’ feel. Serves classic, seasonal British cuisine -> hmmm, my tummy’s rumbling just talking about it!

Avon Valley Railway: The Avon Valley Railway offers not just a train ride but the opportunity to explore the delights of the river valley.

Other must-sees are: Cabot Circus, The Red Lodge, Christmas Steps, M Shed, Clevedon Court, Blaise Castle House Museum, Blaise Hamlet, The Matthew, Ashton Court, Clifton Observatory and Caves, Oakham Treasures, Bristol Cathedral and the list goes on and on...

There are lots and lots of places to see and enjoy when you are in Bristol ~ ‘tis definitely another ‘must go there’ place to visit ~

Tomorrow we’re off to famous YORK . . .

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Today, let’s go up north to Edinburgh ~

Edinburgh Castle

So let’s jump on a train or plane and head up to the north of Britain, to one of her many lovely towns and pop into Edinburgh...

I know that Edinburgh is old and was originally built on rugged-land but I was unaware that that ‘land’ used to be a volcano! Edinburgh Castle is a formidable fort that was built by David I on the extinct volcano. Originally built in 1130, the Castle represents over 800 years of Scottish history and is a World Heritage site. St Margaret's chapel was also built in 1130 and survives as the oldest building in Edinburgh.

Combining the bustle of the city with the atmospheric cobbled streets of the Old Town and the beautiful Georgian avenues of the New Town, the beauty of the coastline and the tranquillity of the surrounding countryside, Edinburgh and the Lothians offer a wonderful variety combining history, culture and adventure not to be missed.

Owing to its rugged settings and vast collection of Medieval and Georgian architecture, Edinburgh is often considered one of the most picturesque cities in Great Britain. Walk the Royal Mile, visit Edinburgh Castle, and above all experience the spirit of Scotland. Further this spirit (not by drinking whiskey - but that is okay, too) by visiting the Palace of Holyrood House and/or some of the museums to ‘feel’ the true history of this amazing place.

You really need to visit the Castle and see the views for yourself, as it is so hard to put the magnificent panoramas that you can see in every direction into words ~ seeing it with your own eyes is the only way to go!

When you look to the north on a clear day, you can see the mountains of The Kingdom of Fife in the distance and immediately below you are the famous Princes Street Gardens. Princes Street is unique in that the shops along its length are only on the north side of the street, so from them you have an uninterrupted view of the Castle. Beyond Princes Street is George Street, the most original of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town Streets. Continuing to the north of that, you have Queen Street which runs parallel to it. Beyond Queen Street the remaining New Town Preservation area, which is mostly residential, and the city can boast of having the most intact Georgian city in the whole of Europe, and has Unicef World Heritage Site status.

As you can see - no pun intended - Edinburgh is definitely a place you will want to go to - see, feel, explore and experience the olden times of this historical place -> don’t forget your camera and an extra memory stick ... !

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Let’s go to Bath ~

The Roman Baths

Bath is one of those ‘must go’ places when you visit England. It is situated 97 miles (156 km) west of London and 13 miles (21 km) south-east of Bristol (we’ll go here on another day...). With its Georgian architecture, stunning scenery, luxurious hotels and superb restaurants, you definitely have to go here ...

Bath was granted the “City status by Royal Charter” by Queen Elizabeth I back in 1590. Prior history says that Bath was first established by the Romans in the AD60s, after they arrived in Britain back in AD43. They built baths and a Temple around the valley area, using the hot spring water, making it a want-to-be-there place for the soldiers.

Yesterday’s and today’s Bath ...

The City of Bath was inscribed as a ‘World Heritage Site’ in 1987 (Bath has the distinction of being the only entire city in the UK to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, reflecting the number of perfectly preserved Georgian buildings, 5000 of which are listed). Not only nourished by natural hot springs, Bath offers a unique experience with stunning architecture - see the Roman baths and other Roman remains, the Georgian terraces including the famous Royal Crescent and Circus, and the 15th century abbey, great shopping and iconic attractions.

I love the baths there - old and new -> visit the old baths and see how they were used by the Romans, and you can actually go in the New Spa in town with its natural hot spring water. There are some fabulous places to shop and eat at, too. You can also visit (even stay) in some of the old, old Georgian townhouses - this is quite a luxurious experience!

Because a girl died of amoebic meningitis in 1979 after swimming in the Roman Baths, they were closed. The water was tested and a species of amoeba, Naegleria fowlerii, was found. This meant that the Baths could not be reopened.

The city wanted to have functioning hot spring baths and eventually, the opportunity came to get some of the money from the Millennium Fund ~ £45 million to be precise. It is called the Thermae Bath Spa. They are mostly housed in a very modern glass building, offering bathing in the natural thermal waters and a range of various spa-facilities. 

In spite of its inauspicious (unlucky) start, the Thermae has won several awards including the Best Spa 2007, beating five other world-renowned spas on the shortlist, including Champneys and the Banyan Tree in Phuket, and the Silver award for 'Best Tourism Experience' 2007 in the South West Tourism Awards, so it really IS worth going to...!

While you are in town, do go to Bath Abbey -> not only is the outside architecture astounding but the inside design and layout is so beautiful!

Like with London, Bath has too many museums and stores and great places to mention, YOU JUST HAVE TO GO THERE AND SEE THIS AMAZING TOWN FOR YOURSELF ~

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London calling ~

Why is it that so many people think it ‘always rain in England’ -> that is not true! Also, the tale of “Foggy London ~ 霧のロンドン” -> personally, I have never seen fog when I have been to or stayed in London. Yes, there may be ‘cloudy’, and even ‘rainy’ days like today here in Tokyo, as the country is an island (fairly small in size) surrounded by warm and cold waters, so that kind of thing happens.

Let’s continue with London...

It is certainly one of the most popular travel destinations in the world ~ data says they have over 26 million visitors a year ~ THAT is a lot ~ that is 71,233 new visitors everyday!

OK, here are some myths that you need-to-know, so your visit will be even more enjoyable...

1) London is too expensive for the average person to visit
Yes, London is pricey - but heck, so are New York, Berlin, San Fransisco and Paris! In every major city in the world, there is the ‘normal’ way to go or the ‘cheap’ way to go.

Yes, you need to do your homework and search out specials before you go and whilst you are there. (When booking online, you can often find much cheaper flights when they include accommodation.) Also, don’t forget that the London buses go everywhere, so you won’t need to take the pricier Tube all the time.

And as with many major cities, there are certain days that museums' admission fees are free or reduced in price ~ so check those days beforehand.

2) It’s always cold, rainy and damp
Yes, the weather in London can be a bit dreary but the earlier-mentioned myth of constant clouds, rain and snow is not the whole truth about London’s weather. The reality is that London can and does have decent weather.

Yes, having a light jacket with you for the nights (even in the summer months) is a good idea, as it can get a little ‘nippy’ on occasion. So don’t let the false idea that it’s constantly raining keep you away.

3) The people are standoff-ish and very “British”
Yes, British people are British - of course, that’s where we come from - ha ha. But a lot of us can be super funny and very open - not all folks are standoff-ish.

An important thing to remember about travel in general, is that we’re all a lot more alike than we think. Most people are going to be open and helpful to visitors ~ that’s the way people are! Getting into conversations with people in pubs, who either grew up in London or have lived there for a long time, is a great way to see their animated discussions and sparkling wit ~ you are more than likely going to end up doubled over laughing at some point.

4) Londoners only drink tea
If coffee is your ‘thing’, you will have absolutely no problem finding it in London. (Yes, a regular Cafe will of course have a ‘cuppa tea’ but actually, you may have more of an issue finding traditional British black tea with cream outside of going to “High Tea” in Kensington Gardens and other top-end places throughout the city.) Try and take two steps without spotting a Costa, Caffe Nero, or everyone’s favorite worldwide chain, Starbucks.

5) The British have bad teeth
OK, mine are not your ‘perfect set of teeth’ but we can blame Austin Powers for making this notion popular ~ with all the jokes about British teeth that preceded the movie.

Contrary to the rumors, British teeth are usually fine, with people in London probably more concerned about their teeth than outside of the city.

6) British food is awful
Even though this myth is now on its death bed, some people still think British food is awful ~> this is why I think they’re wrong...

London offers every type of world cuisine you could possibly imagine, and most ‘traditional’ pubs now often serve either Thai or Indian curry rather than “bangers & mash” or “fish ‘n chips”.

It’s also easy to get quick and healthy take-aways in places such as Pret A Manger, Wagamama (Japanese/Asian chain-ten), Marks and Spencer, and Whole Foods. There are numerous open-air meat, fruit, and vegetable markets abound, you will always find great bread in the bakeries, and even
plenty of vegetarian and vegan-options throughout the city, so get out and fill your tummy with some yummy British food ~

Comments welcome & see you tomorrow ...

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Sunday lesson ~

Students of English literature will instantly recognise classic titles like 'Heart of Darkness', 'Lolita' and 'Things Fall Apart'. Did you know this though? -> These and countless other famous works of English literature were written by authors whose first language was not English!

Joseph Conrad was from Poland and only learned English in adulthood but his books are still studied, a hundred years after they were written. There have been many film adaptations of his books, such as Francis Ford Coppola's film 'Apocalypse Now', based on 'Heart of Darkness'. 

Russian Vladimir Nabakov was always dissatisfied with his most notable (and controversial) novel, 'Lolita', because of the “imperfection” of his English but throughout the English-speaking world, it is celebrated for its delicate mastery of the language: exquisite descriptions, subtle word-play and alliterations. 

Chinua Achebe is hailed as the father of African English literature. His first novel, 'Things Fall Apart' describes the history and culture of his native country Nigeria, and inspired other African writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to write in English to speak out against English colonialism.

There are now more non-native speakers of English than native speakers, so it should hardly come as a surprise that speakers of other languages are growing in prominence as writers of English. Generations of English children were raised reading the work of best-selling children's writer Roald Dahl, who himself, spoke Norwegian at home as a child. Japanese Haruki Murakami had been intrigued by Western culture since he was a child and now contributes to it with his writing. 

A look at the winners of the Man Booker Prize, awarded annually to the best example of English literature from a Commonwealth country, shows that it is not dominated by British, Canadian or Australian writers. Winners include V.S. Naipaul from Trinidad, ('In a Free State'), Nigerian Ben Okri ('The Famished Road'), Japanese Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day') and four Indian authors, Kiran Desai ('The Inheritance of Loss'), Aravind Adiga ('The White Tiger'), Arundhati Roy (the breathtakingly beautiful 'The God of Small Things'), and Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children', which was also given the highest award, The Booker of Bookers. 

Non-native writers do not simply borrow English and use it clumsily to tell their tales, nor do they attempt to use it in the same way that native speakers do. In the words of Chinua Achebe, they are “expanding the frontiers of English"; shaping and growing the language to describe other cultures, and making valuable, lasting contributions to its canon of literature. Without these pioneers, English would be far less rich, diverse and colourful.

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Saturday at last!

So you are exhausted from a busy week and wish you could stay in bed all day. But you know you shouldn't waste time – you ought to get up and study English. If only there was a way to do both … 

But there is! In fact, there are a number of ways to practice and study English while laying in bed:

Turn up the radio
If your city has a fun English or bilingual radio show, put it on in the morning to help you wake up. The cheerful voices and music will get your day off to a great start. Listen to the DJ introduce the songs and try to understand what he/she says. Remember that learning English doesn't have to be boring ~ finding fun and practical ways to improve your listening is a great key to staying motivated. If you do it often, one day you might wake up to excellent listening skills!

Lose yourself in a book
Nothing beats kicking back (relaxing) in bed with a good book. The key is that you've got to enjoy what you read! Whether it's a best-selling novel or an exciting comic book, read something at your level that interests you. Articles or books that are too dry or too difficult will put you back to sleep! By reading something enjoyable, you are having fun as well as inputting thousands of correct English sentences into your brain. Remember to keep a dictionary and notebook on your bed-side table to look up and record difficult words and passages.

Go to class
Next time you don't feel like getting out of bed, grab a laptop and go to class in your pajamas!
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Friday’s here ~

Do you break out into a sweat when you have to read in English? Staring at a page full of unfamiliar words can be overwhelming, even for the most confident of readers. Here are five useful tips that can help make reading a rewarding experience ...

Be prepared
Never rush straight into reading ~ before you begin, look at the title and any pictures there are. This will give you a good idea of the topic. Think about what you already know. Next, predict what the reading will be about. Next, think about what you want to learn and write down any questions you may have. Preparing yourself for reading in this way will get you started before the first page is even turned.

At first sight
Now that you have a general idea of the topic, you can begin. Read the entire text over once without stopping ~ don't worry about the details just yet. In the beginning, all you should be trying to do is get a feeling for the main idea. This is called skimming. When you're done, think about how much you've understood and remembered.

It's all in the details
Remember those questions you wrote down before? Now it's time to find the answers. Read the text again, but this time, read it slowly and carefully. Look for any words or phrases that relate to your questions. This is called scanning. If you come across anything else that is interesting and important, then underline that, too. Once you're finished, you should have a fuller understanding of the text.

Words, words, words!
You don't have to understand every single word to understand the text. Pick out key words or phrases you don't know and write them down ~ but don't reach for the dictionary just yet! Try to guess the word's meaning from context - the words or phrases around it. After you've taken a guess, go ahead and use the dictionary to see how close you were. You might be pleasantly surprised!

The Final reading
By this time, you should be pretty familiar with the text. Read it one more time. You can now focus on any unusual grammar structures or sentence styles. When you've finished, sit back and think about everything you've just learned. That wasn't so difficult, was it?

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Thursday chat ~

Maybe you have been planning to study English or maybe you just want to improve your skills. But you keep putting it off, as it takes so much work and you don't have the time. Or do you? What if it was possible to improve your English in just three minutes a day? Would you believe it? Would you do it?

Listen to dialogue on the BBC radio station
If you want to improve your comprehension and pronunciation, nothing compares to hearing native English speakers speaking English! Everyday you'll get new dialogue on different topics presented by native English speakers.

Learn new vocabulary
Write down keywords related to the topics you listen to. Repeat the words until your pronunciation is perfect!

Conversation Class
Of course, the more you practice English, the faster you'll improve. After you learn the new words, talk about them with a native English-speaking teacher and other students/friends on your same skill level. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and off you go ~ ~ ~

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Wednesday talk ~

If your working hours make it difficult or if you have to travel regularly for work or are busy raising a family, you can use the flexibility of online classes to study when you have free time, and not have to worry about missing the old-style formal classroom lessons.

This great flexibility, live conversation classes 24-hours a day and a range of high-quality learning materials are some of the main reasons why learning on-line is now so popular ~ all around the world. As an example, when I was still living in Florida, I had a Japanese gentleman who wanted lessons, and he was living in Qatar -> how amazing is that combination!

Something else that I often suggest to my students (and readers), is that you can also practice your English by watching films/movies with subtitles or transcripts of the dialogue, watch TV, listen to the BBC radio station or just sing along to your favourite music CDs. When you are not feeling up to a formal lesson, how about you trying out a language game or read your daily horoscope, or even enter a contest to test your English!

There are vast amounts of opportunities for you to learn and practice everyday that are just a click away ~ so, study with your teacher and practice, practice, practice. Remember that “Nothing changes, if nothing Changes”, so just get it together and do it...!

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Tuesday tips ~

I'm off to an old 'Longevity' village in Yamanashi for the day, so here are a few quick tips for you...

1. Focus on your interests
Read about your hobbies in English or if acting is your thing, join an English drama group. You'll feel more energized to study something you enjoy!

2. Use the shower

Why not use this alone time to practice speaking and going over the events of your day in English? Speaking is very important in learning a language. Reading aloud is also helpful, but the shower might not be the best time for this - ha ha!

3. Review before bedtime

Spend just a few short minutes quickly reviewing important information before you go to sleep. Studies have shown that your brain processes information that is fresh in your mind while you sleep, so this is a great ‘study/processing time’.

4. Don't get discouraged

Sometimes it may seem as though you are not making progress, when in fact you are. Don't give up and you will surely see the benefits in the end.

Remember that “Nothing changes, if nothing changes!”

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Monday ideas ~

1. Study in short doses ~ I have mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again -> it is more effective to study a little each day rather than for several hours just once a week. This also means learning doesn't have to take up a huge chunk of time, as just twenty minutes a day can reap rewards over time.

2. Be flexible ~ 
Even without lots of time, it is still important to structure a study plan into your schedule and measuring your progress.

3. Find a study partner
 ~ While it is best to find a native English speaker, you can also practice with a friend during a meal or at break time. Simply agree to only use English.

4. Do your daily tasks in English
 ~ Write your shopping lists, read the news or set your Internet browser home-page to an English language site. A large vocabulary is best built slowly with everyday practice.

5. Make flash-cards ~ 
Write down English words on small note cards and place them around your room. You may want to label things in English or just set them out as a reminder ~ everything helps.

6. Use your downtime to practice
 ~ This can be as easy as listening to cassettes in your car, reading an English book during your break or reviewing flash-cards on the bus. A work commute is a particularly good time to study.

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The BEST Travel Spots in England 7

The largest Ferris wheel in Europe and the most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, London Eye is by no means an alternative to a walking or double-decker tour around the capital. It is a compulsory part of your London experience, one that proves the city looks as magical from up high as it is on ground level. Make yourself comfortable in a transparent capsule, prepare for staggering vistas, hold your breath and up we go!

Built in 122 AD by the Emperor Hadrian to protect his colony in England from the advancing Pictish tribes in Scotland, the amazing wall stretches for 87 miles (140 km) across the north of England through the counties of Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Although only remains of it are still visible it is one of the greatest monuments of Roman origin in northern Europe. And there is far more to Hadrian's Wall than just a wall! The best way to appreciate it, and the scenic countryside around it, is surely to walk it, following in the footsteps of the Legionnaires. Forts, temples and turrets appear all along its line so don't hesitate to let the path lead you through the unique Roman heritage.

If you're familiar with with any of Jane Austen's novels, you more or less know what ambiance to expect in Bath. Atmospheric squares, cobble-stoned streets, impressive facades, charming hotels and a scent of romance hovering in the air define the intoxicating quality of this once Roman city, today a World Heritage Site. Exceptionally easy to navigate on foot, Bath takes you from the magnificent Royal Crescent through fine theaters and museums to the unbelievably well-preserved Roman Baths complex, a shiny pearl in the town's imperial crown. Sadly, you are not allowed to take a bath yourself but you will surely manage to get a taste of the days gone by.

I hope you enjoyed this week's travel experiences ~ they are EVEN BETTER when you see them first-hand ~ have a great Sunday ...

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The BEST Travel Spots in England 6

I was born near here, so this is one of my favourite spots to go to! There are numerous reasons to explore the Lake District. Not only is it postcard perfect with its colour-clothed wooded hills and shimmering lake waters but also an ideal place to stretch your legs and have some hiking workout. Opt for the Scafell Pike, at 3210 ft the highest mountain in England, or Helvellyn which can be a distinct challenge, too. For those of less adventurous climbers, the region offers countless trails for fine walking which both cross the fells and run through the valleys. Enjoy the pleasure of boat cruises (16 lakes to choose from), the Dove Cottage where the famed William Wordsworth lived or the museum of Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit tales. You will have an unforgettable time here!

You don't come here for sightseeing or to learn about the history of Royalty, either. You come here to have fun, and if there's any learning to it, it is about the central position of Soho in the capital's nightlife and its major role in the development of British culture. When the great part of London falls into the arms of Morpheus, Soho becomes even busier than during the day. Although its international fame used to be mainly generated by the thriving sex industry, today the district boasts a strong position in the fields of art, theater and live music, with only a negligible handful of infamous remnants. Anyway, be it karaoke contests, lavish dining, stage comedy shows, all-night clubbing, or celeb-spotting, whatever culture-related you feel like doing, you have it all here.

Recognized internationally for its military and naval connections, the London Borough of Greenwich, provides quite a number of attractions to holiday-makers, day-trippers and Londoners alike. Greenwich lush green area is a perfect Sunday walk with the Cutty Sark Clipper Ship (note, much of it has been lost in the fire of March, 2007), the Greenwich Market, the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum on the way. And once you put the right measure, that is the Prime Meridian of the world, to your watch and set it the way it should be, have a leisurely pleasure strolling the Greenwich Royal Park.

With one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, York is a place where the old harmonizes with the new and the unique can be discovered among the commonplace. Millions of people have strolled through 1900 years of history on York's impressive city walls, raised their heads to gaze at the overhanging timber-framed buildings that line The Shambles (a perfectly preserved medieval street), taken a boat ride on the River Ouse and climbed Clifford's Tower. Also, most of them would never leave the city without paying a visit to the York Minster - a magnificent Gothic Cathedral that few in Europe can really rival.

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The BEST Travel Spots in England 5

If you shall ever seek a better understanding of the flora around you, don't hesitate to enter the Eden. It might be your only chance to ever get so close to the Creator! Seriously, nested in a former china clay pit at Bodelva, Cornwall, the amazing botanical enterprise is far more than just a green theme park. Consisting of three huge plastic biomes brimming with countless plants of global origin, the project's aim is to enable visitors to understand the crucial relationship between plants, people and nature resources. Just follow a path round the biomes stopping over to hear talks about the plants, use the interactive displays for even more detailed information or explore the 10 hectares of surrounding landscaped rockeries and gardens. That's what you call a lesson on botany!

Nested in east central Manchester, right next to the Gay Village, it is one of the most bustling and colourful areas of the city. An eye-pleaser for architecture buffs, a never-ending story for the Orient lovers, and a garden of Eden for the hungry. If the English staple diet is not to your taste, you'll find delight among myriad traditional restaurants that lure you with mouth-watering smells and their quaint Asian decor. For a real added value, come over towards the end of January to witness the Chinese New Year celebrations, with the Golden Dragon parade and lavish fireworks as focal points on the agenda. You don't just visit this China-away-from-China experience; you live it!

With a history stretching back to 1209 (making it the second oldest university in Britain after Oxford), some splendid architecture, an impeccable academic reputation best expressed in the number of distinguished graduates, a wealth of lore, and a romantic location, Cambridge is a legend not to be missed en route around England. Newton, Darwin, Rushdie and Plath - they all stomped the university grounds that, contrary to what is believed, do not invite the creme de la creme exclusively. And there is this irresistible charm of the city that host the 31 affiliated colleges. Compact, cosmopolitan, and exceptionally welcoming, Cambridge rewards its visitors with glorious architecture to gaze at, myriad locales to stay overnight, plenty of options to dine, and a graceful atmosphere to breath in.

If the only thing you associate with chalk is an old, squeaky blackboard, it's going to change once you've met the Seven Sisters. Situated in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Country Park comprises of 280 hectares of chalk cliffs with their grassy edges falling vertically into the meandering river. Home to what's been hailed as one of Britain's finest unspoilt coastlines, this hypnotizing spot is a paradise for all sorts of outdoor endeavors, and the staggering diversity of its landscape, as well as the compelling tranquility will keep you coming back for more.

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The BEST Travel Spots in England 4

Shrouded in the mists floating over the River Avon, Warwick Castle still echoes the torture, passion and power of the Norman Conquest, tells fascinating stories of its inhabitants and visitor, sucks you in its medieval routines, from preparations for sieges and Victorian parties to cleaning the lavishly decorated State Rooms and grooming the 60 acres of landscaped ground. Explore its beautiful gardens, learn how heavy a sword can be, and have a look at the famous trebuchet, a catapult claimed to be the largest in the world -> and it's still in operation!

Apart from the fact that it's the birthplace of world's greatest dramatist and a primary source of his inspiration, Stratford-upon-Avon is too, one of the most adorable places in the whole England. Set in the charming countryside of Warwickshire, steeped in culture and history, clad with flowers and brimming with picture perfect little houses, the town adds a magical quality to the most down-to-earth activities like dining or shopping. A romantic (though crowded) hideaway for Romeos and Juliettes, a hotspot for theatergoers, and a galore for historians. Stratford is the ultimate place to sample Olde England at its tastiest.

If an institution is hailed one of the best and biggest museum in the world, it is obviously obliging, and you may be sure that the British Museum does not fall short of expectations. With its stunning collections in excess of 7 million objects originating from all continents, it is able to feed you with a comprehensive account of human history and culture. Do prepare for surprises, a lot of aesthetic awe, and a little shock. After all, you may have mixed feelings when you realize that Ginger, a famous mummified corpse on display, was once a living, breathing Egyptian -> Creepy!

Westminster Abbey is where a journey into the glorious past of British Royalty can be enjoyed. Rising high and proud just to the west of the Houses of Parliament, this living church has seen spectacular coronation ceremonies and burials of the most prominent figures, including "Bloody" Mary and Charles Darwin. Literature buffs will certainly appreciate the Poet's Corner brimming with memorials to the likes of Shakespeare or Dickens, and art enthusiasts will take delight in gazing at magnificent stained-glass windows. More than a 1000 years worth of treasures enshrined in a spectacular Gothic framework make Westminster Abbey along the Palace and the neighboring Big Ben an undeniable tourist hotspot that should not be missed on any account.

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