Tool #50: TokyoMango: Blog

Lisa is bilingual
Lisa is bilingual

Lisa Katayama is a successful young writer for tech magazines like Wired. In her blog she shows interesting sides of Japan with unusual products. If I ever need something interesting to discuss in class, I can usually find it here in a matter of seconds. She also has a book out.

Tool #3 Rikai Translator

Rikai is free
Rikai is free

I constantly tell my students they should use their dictionaries as little as possible. They are ultimately frustrating. Far better to find material that students feel is comfortable, where they know about 95% of the words, so they don’t have to use the dictionary, and can still guess the meanings of the other 5% of the words.

But when one is surfing the web, at times, you need quick access to a dictionary because the web is not like a graded reader. The best I’ve found is Rikai translator.

Tokyo: smelliest place on earth lets people warn others of smelly places lets people warn others of smelly places

According to the new Social Networking  website that relies on Google Maps to point out smelly places in the world, Tokyo must be the smelliest place on earth.

That is, until you realize that the site is in Japanese, and that it is almost brand new. Of course, those of us that live in Tokyo, and have good noses, would be the first to post sites. Each flag is color coded, depending on the type of smell.

Google Maps is being used for numerous applications. For example, in San Francisco, they link together the location of searches on mobile phones for key words like flu or disease to try to map out a progression of a breakout and where it might be headed.

Only would the Japanese think of applying it to avoid smells.

Ministry of Education back tracks

On the backs of babes.

backpack200-bbIt seems since the scores are falling in international tests, and Japanese kids aren’t learning stuff you can test as much, there is a panic to find a solution.

About 10 years ago there was a move to restrict time at school because kids were not very well-rounded. They tend not to play together, or learn about cultural activities. To increase “humanity” among the kids, they were given most Saturdays off (yes, they used to go most Saturdays). The number of school days dropped from about 240 to 210 (the US has about 180).

The drop in scores on these international tests didn’t start appearing until about 5 years after the change. Of course, the first thought on the cause of the drop was the changed schedule. No solid indication of causation here, but everyone thought something must be done.

So what did the Ministry of Education come up with? Reinstate Saturdays, and double the page count of the textbooks. You see, the system here in Japan is incredibly centralized. There is a week-to-week curriculum that everyone in K-12 follows. So a kid could move from Hokkaido down to Kyushu over the weekend, and pick up exactly where he left off. (The textbooks might be different, the content is the same.)

So now the kids will be carrying much heavier backpacks, and the publishers fat and happy. There is a constant outcry when new textbooks are brought out, because of their (non) treatment of WW2 and things like the Rape of Nanjing. Now they will have twice as much room, but we can be fairly certain there won’t be twice as much content.

Life is what happens…

While you are waiting to be successful. Watch this short clip of Alan Watts, a 1960’s “guru” of eastern religions, recorded with visuals made and produced by the makers of South Park. Very Curious.