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Archive for the 'Working in Japan' Category

Giving Thanks and Sweets at Innovative

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi all! Motoko here.

It’s been a while since my last post! But today, I’d like to talk about one of the most popular events in Japan. It’s the day that we say “I love you” and “thanks” to the people we spend the most time with.

This day is Valentine’s Day, on February 14th. It originally came from European culture, didn’t it? And people usually give presents or flowers to the one they love on that day. I’m guessing that in your country, it’s the men who give presents to their partners. But in Japan, ladies give chocolate to men! It’s the only chance each year when ladies can declare their love to the men they love. They usually make or buy chocolates and give them to the men.

Recently, however, most people have been giving chocolates to their colleagues and friends. On Valentine’s Day at Innovative Language, the ladies brought sweets they had made or bought to the office. Also, Peter gave boxes of chocolate to each of our team members. The men and ladies in the office all enjoyed these sweets together. Though no one declared their love, it was a day for us to say “thanks for everything!” to each other.

So if Valentine’s Day is for men, did the men of Innovative Language do anything in return? Well, in Japan, this happens on White Day, which falls on March 14th. This is an event that is well known in Japan and also in South Korea. The men who received presents on Valentine’s Day return the favor to the lady they got the chocolate from. Some return the declaration of love to the lady too! And some give sweets and snacks to their friends in return. At the Innovative office, most of the men brought boxes of sweets for the ladies. The boxes said “Happy White Day! Only for Girls!!” (Unlike on Valentine’s Day!) The guys looked sad about this because they love chocolate!

What happens in your country on Valentine’s Day and White Day?

(Feb – Mar, 2013)





一方、男性社員はどうするでしょう。3月14日はホワイトデー。日本と韓国にもある行事です。男の人が女の人にバレンタインデーのおかえしをする日です。愛の告白の返事をする人もいます。「いつもありがとう」といってお菓子を友達にあげる人もいます。イノベーティブでは男性社員がお菓子を用意します。”Happy White day! Only for girls!!”とメッセージを書きます。(男性社員は食べることができないので、悲しそうでした。)



Evil Spirits Out, Good Fortune In at Innovative!

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi all, Motoko here!

Today I’d like to tell you about the Mamemaki (“bean-throwing”) event we held on Setsubun. Setsubun falls on March 3rd. On the Japanese traditional calendar, the day after Setsubun (March 4th) is the beginning of spring.

However, it’s still cold in the modern calendar!

According to the traditional calendar, Setsubun falls on the day between winter and spring. On that day, people hold a ceremony to throw beans – usually roasted soybeans – at their homes.

In ancient times, people believed that oni, a kind of evil spirit, would come to their house between the two seasons. To drive the oni out of their houses, they would throw beans.

These days, a person plays the role of oni in these ceremonies, and people throw beans at them. In the Innovative office, one of our male team members played oni (see photo), and the other staff threw beans at him, and wished for good luck for the company this year.

After throwing them, people collect and eat the beans. It is believed that eating them brings good health in the year that follows. People traditionally eat, or should eat, as many beans as their age. For example, a 20-year-old person eats 20 beans, and a 30-year-old person eats 30 beans. So if you are 40 or 50 years old, it must be tough to accomplish this feat! In reality, people usually just eat as many as they want; it can be more or less than their actual age.
(2013 Feb.)



今では、一人が鬼になって、ほかの人がまめをまきます。今年のイノベーティブでは男性社員(だんせい しゃいん)が鬼になりました。


Making Soba and Picking Peaches

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone, Motoko here! In the beginning of summer this year, the Innovative Language staff went on a day trip. Today I’d like to talk about that. We chose peach-picking for fun, and soba-making so that everyone could try a traditional Japanese food! We made soba in a wonderful nihon-kaoku, a traditional type of Japanese house.

Do you know what soba is? Soba is a famous type of noodle in Japan that is a greyish-brown color. It gets this color from a special type of flour called sobako that is used to make it. You dip the boiled soba into a dip called tsuyu made from fish broth, and eat it. Adding onions and wasabi to the tsuyu give it a more grown-up flavor. Soba comes in two types: cold zarusoba, and warm kakesoba, but this time we had zarusoba.

Soba is made from sobako and flour. First, you mix the two types of flour into a large bowl called a hachi. You can use chopsticks, but it seems like it’s more common to use your hands. Next, you add water. Then comes the hard part – you have to then knead the soba dough a lot. The teacher made it look easy, but it requires a lot of strength since the dough is not that soft. Apparently, the action of kneading the dough is an important step to making delicious soba. Once you’re done kneading, you flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Then, you place the soba on a wooden board called a komaita, and cut it with a special knife called a bocho. If you cut it thinly, you get great soba. If you cut it thickly, you get soba that looks like udon. (Which still tastes good…it just might be a little hard.)

Everyone worked hard at making soba, getting themselves covered with flour in the process. After making it, we boiled it and ate it ourselves. Because the noodles are raw, they take only a minute and a half to cook. Soon after boiling them, you do what’s called shimeru in Japanese. Shimeru refers to rinsing the noodles with cold water so that they don’t get too soft. When you do this, it gives the noodles a nice chewy texture. This isn’t done with Italian pasta!

Then we got on the bus to go peach-picking. Is it common to go fruit-picking in your country? In Japan, there are a lot of opportunities for fruit-picking that change with the seasons. Cherry-picking, peach-picking, grape-picking, and pear-picking are some of the well-known ones. You go to the field to pick and eat a lot – depending on the place, there may be a limit to how much you can eat. The place we went had an all-you-can-eat deal that lasted for 40 minutes. For 40 minutes, you can pick and eat as much as you want. Apparently, the good peaches are at the ends of the branches, so everyone tried hard to get the highest ones.

The person who ate the most was a family member of one our Innovative Language staff. They ate seven peaches in 40 minutes! As for me, I ate three. The peaches I chose were big, so even after just three, I was really full!

Readers, you should definitely try your hand at making Japanese food – not just eating it. I had never made soba before, and I’m Japanese! It’s sure to be a memorable experience.









A Trip to the Baseball Game

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi all, Motoko here.

Today I’d like to tell you about the baseball game the Innovative Language team went to at the end of September. But before I do, which sports are popular in your country? And do you know which sports are popular in Japan?

The answer is: soccer and baseball.

Soccer came to Japan because it was popular in Europe. Baseball, on the other hand, can be written in kanji (野球), and that’s because it was introduced to Japan much earlier than soccer was. In fact, it came to Japan in 1872. It is said that it started when an American man taught some Japanese college students how to play baseball.

Of course, playing baseball is quite popular, but also people young and old love watching it. Stadium tickets come in two types; one is “reserved seating” where you can choose where you’d like to sit ahead of time. Another is “non-reserved seating”, where you can choose where to sit on game day. The second kind is cheaper. Spectators drink beer, eat snacks, and watch the game. Throughout the game, staff (mostly ladies) carry beer tanks through the crowd, so you can easily get more beer without leaving your seat!

The game was held at Meiji Jingu stadium, which is close to Shibuya. The seating areas are divided among the two teams. In this stadium, the seats on the first-base side were for Yakult Swallows supporters, and the seats on the third-base side were for the opponent’s (Chunichi Dragons), supporters. So, if you’re cheering for the Swallows, you need to have a seat on the first-base side.

Speaking of cheering for the teams, we found some unique supporters’ gear to help us do just that. Some people had pairs of miniature plastic megaphones and made loud noises by beating them together. Other people had little umbrellas and danced with the cheering groups. Each baseball team has their own mascot. Tsubakuro is the mascot of the Yakult Swallows – “swallow” is tsubame in Japanese. Actually, the first baseball team ever to have a mascot was from Japan. Did you know that?

(Sep, 2012)






野球をするのはもちろん人気ですが、見るのは老若男女(ろうにゃく なんにょ)問わず(とわず)人気です。チケットには席の場所を決めることができる「指定席(していせき)」と当日に席を選ぶ「自由席」があります。自由席の方が安いです。みんな、ビールを飲んで、ごはんを食べて、試合(しあい)を見ます。試合中に男の人や女の人がビールを売りにきますから、おかわりもしやすいです。
今回は明治神宮球場(めいじ じんぐう きゅうじょう)というスタジアムに行きました。渋谷(しぶや)に近い野球場(やきゅうじょう)ですね。ここでは1塁側(るいがわ)が「ヤクルトスワローズ」の席、3塁側(るいがわ)が「中日ドラゴンズ」の席とわかれて座ります。つまり、ヤクルトを応援(おうえん)する人は1塁側に座って応援します。
(2012年9月末) Tokyo Office Visit

Today, we bring you a blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone! Motoko here.

Today’s blog is about the concept of off-kai. At the beginning of this month, two listeners came to visit us at the office. Apparently we often used to have listeners come and visit us, but for me it was the first time, so I was really excited.

Christophe was from Switzerland, and said that he tries to come to Japan at least once a year. It was really clear to me that he loves Japan! This time he visited our Tokyo office with his friend, who is also a listener. This friend is currently employed at a Japanese company! Isn’t that impressive?

By the way, have you ever heard of the Japanese word off-kai ? Off-kai is used to describe a meeting in real life between people who have got to know each other over the internet. For example, if you were to go to Disneyland with someone you had met over Facebook, then that would be an off-kai. We call being connected to the internet being ‘online’, right? Well, in this case because the internet is not involved, it’s ‘offline’. An ‘offline’ (off) meeting (kai ) = off-kai. Japanese people really like to abbreviate words, don’t they?

We took a commemorative photo together with another host, Jessi.

If you ever come to Japan, please definitely drop in to our Tokyo office for a visit!

「オフライン」の会 = オフ会

Our ‘Farewell, Pim! Welcome Back, Kim!’ Tea Party

Today, we bring you a blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

On the 17th of April here at Innovative Language Learning, we had an afternoon tea party.

Although Kim (a member of our Business Development Team) moved to Hong Kong, last week she came back to Japan for a brief visit, so it was her ‘welcome back’ party. Meanwhile, Pim (host of is going back to her home country to have her baby, so it was her ‘farewell’ party.

We all ate pastries, chatted, and enjoyed ourselves.


There was a choice of pastries: strawberry, green tea, custard… It was really hard to choose!


By the way, everyone, do you know what a shikishi is?

It’s a plain piece of card that measures roughly 20cm by 20cm. Actually, because it’s quite thick – about 3mm – it might be better to call it a board. It usually has a piece of Japanese paper pasted to one side of it. In Japan, when there’s a celebratory occasion, or someone is leaving, everyone writes a message on this piece of card. At ILL, too, when someone has something to celebrate or a staff member is leaving the company, we present them with a shikishi.

First of all, we write the name of the person in the middle. This time, it’s Pim. Then, so that the person we’re giving it to doesn’t see it while we’re writing on it, we put it inside the Secret File.


Everyone in the office then takes it in turns to write a message along the lines of ‘Congratulations!’ or ‘See you!’ before passing the card to the next person. Of course the company president also writes a personal message.


When everyone’s finished writing their messages, we decorate the card and make it cute and colourful.


Finally, we give it to Pim! She seemed really pleased with it.

Bonus : The True Face of ILL


ピムさんまたね&キムさんお帰りなさい ティーパ-ティ








【おまけ】 ILLの本性

The Best Japanese Phrases – Learn Your Japanese Teacher’s Favorite Phrases

This lesson Will teach you some of the most commonly used and most hopeful expressions in Japanese.

sō ieba (そういえば)

  • “speaking of which” or “now that you mention it, and you use it when you are reminded of something and want to talk about it.

toriaezu (とりあえず)

  • A handy phrase that means, “in the meantime” or “for now.”
  • Use it to talk about some kind of action you take or decision you make “in the meantime” because for now, you feel like it’s better than doing nothing.

ryōkai desu (了解です)

  • Ryōkai is a word that means “comprehension” or “consent.” It is often used as an exclamation in the following ways: by itself (ryōkai!), with the copula desu (ryōkai desu!), and with the past tense verb shimashita (ryōkai shimashita!).
  • These are all used to show that you have understood and will comply with what someone has told you.

tekitō ni (適当に)

  •  an adjective that literally means “suitable” or “relevant.” When the particle ni (に) is added, however, it becomes an adverb.
  • the original meaning was that the action was done properly, but recently it has started to mean that the action was done “half-heartedly” or “without much care.”

tashika ni (確かに)

  • The phrase tashika ni (確かに) is often used as aizuchi, interjections that we say in response to someone who is speaking, When you use tashika ni after something that someone has said, it means that you agree with them on that point, even if you don’t agree with them on other things.

“Top Five Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes in Japanese “

In this lesson, we’ll offer tips to help you overcome some common errors that learners of Japanese make.

Don’t Attach -san to Your Own Name!

  • One of the first things English speakers learn in Japanese is name suffixes used when addressing other people. The most common one is -san, which we attach to people’s first or last names to show respect.
  • Because we use -san to show respect for others, you should never use it to refer to yourself.

Watch Your Politeness Level!

  • One of the unique aspects of Japanese is the varying politeness levels that change according to a number of factors: age and status of the speaker and listener, the speaker’s relationship with the listener, and so on.
  • It is important to remember to speak formally to one’s teachers, elders, and anyone else who follows under the category of senpai, those who are of higher status.

Watch Your Gender!

  • In the Japanese language, the speaker’s gender plays an important role in determining word choice, tone of voice, and the types of expressions used.
  • Non-native male speakers in particular should be careful about the kind of language and intonation they pick up from female teachers as well as female friends or girlfriends.

Learn Your Long Vowels Now!

  •  In Japanese, there is a big distinction between long vowels and short vowels. In fact, the distinction is so big that the length of a vowel can change the meaning of a word!

Watch Out for Similar Sounding Words!

  • Because there are a relatively small number of possible sounds in Japanese, many words are exactly the same or almost the same but with different meanings.

Top 5 Phrases Your Teacher Will Never Teach You

The focus of this lesson is teaching you some very common Japanese expressions you might not learn from a Japanese teacher.

  • (Sugoi) – An adjective meaning “wow,” “amazing,” or “great.” This word is commonly heard and is often used when one hears or sees something interesting or unusual.


  • (Baka) –  A noun meaning “idiot” or “fool.” When used as baka na (バカな), it becomes an adjective meaning “stupid.” This word can either be insulting or playful depending on how it is used.
  • When used in a serious manner, it can come across as a strong insult, so it’s better to exercise caution with this word.


  •  (Uso!) – literally means “lie,” but when used as an exclamation, it corresponds to “No way!” or “Really!?” in English.

Words used by young people:

  •  超(Chō) – a slangy adverb that usually comes before adjectives to emphasize them, making this word the equivalent of “very,” “so,” or “really.”
  • や ばい(Yabai) – a very slangy word that has a few different meanings. When used as an exclamation (yabai!), it usually indicates that something is wrong and roughly means “oh no!” or “shoot!”
  •  When used to describe something, it can have both a good meaning and a bad meaning depending on the context.
  • マ ジ(Maji) – similar to chō in that it often comes before adjectives to emphasize them. When used as “maji de?!”(マジで?!), it becomes an exclamation meaning “Really?!” or “Are you serious?!”
  •  す げー(Sugē) – a colloquial version of the above-mentioned sugoi. In young people’s speech (and particularly in young male speech), the “-oi” and “-ai” word endings turn into an “eh” sound.
  • あいづち (Aizuchi) – frequent interjections listeners make during a Japanese conversation that show the listener is paying attention to and understanding the speaker. They can include things such as:
  •  そうそう/だよね~(Sō sō/Da yo ne~) “Yeah” or “I know~” (expressing agreement)
  •  うんうん (un un) “Okay” or “Yeah”. Sometimes used just to show that you are listening.
  • へぇー(Hē) “Whoa!” or “Oh!”. This is often used to show that you are impressed or that you didn’t know something.

Top 5 Classroom Phrases in Japanese

In this lesson, we’ll teach you the top five useful classroom phrases in Japanese, and then some!

“Please say it.” / “Please repeat.”

  • Itte kudasai (言っ てください) means “please say it.” As a variation, you might also hear ripīto shite kudasai (リピートしてください), which means “please repeat (after me),” when teachers want you to repeat exactly what they have said.

“Please look.”

  •  Mite kudasai (見てください) means “please look,” and when an object comes before the phrase, it means “please look at (object).

“Please read.”

  •  Yonde kudasai (読んでください) means “please read.” You can expect to hear this phrase if a teacher wants you to practice reading some word, phrase, or passage.

“Please write it.”

  •  Kaite kudasai (書いてください) means “please write it.” Teachers may use this phrase when they want you to practice writing some hiragana, katakana, or even kanji!

“Do you understand?”

  •  The most direct translation is wakarimasu ka? (分かりますか?).
  • Other variations Japanese teachers often use include daijōbu desu ka? (大丈夫ですか?) and ii desu ka? (いいですか?) which both literally translate to “Is it/everything okay?”
  •  they might also ask shitsumon arimasu ka? (質問ありますか?), which means “Are there any questions?”

We hope that these phrases can help you get a head start in the classroom! please check out our other lesson series at for more great usefull phrases!!