Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Six Month Anniversary

To celebrate our sixth month in business, we decided to purchase a new banner, bumper sticker, and advertising sign. What do you think? Erika designed everything. Considering how busy she has been, I think she did a sensational job. We purchased the copyrights to the owl and Erika took care of the rest. Our flyers, business cards, and website have the same insignia. The business continues to gradually grow. Stay tuned for more updates…       George

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Neighborhood

I added Photobucket to the blog. I’ll try to update these photos as the seasons change. These are some photos I recently took while walking the dogs around the neighborhood. Tsukahara is divided into two neighborhoods. The original neighborhood is where all of the old-timers live. I don’t know how long Tsukahara has been around. Judging from the shrines and temples, I would guess a long time.
The newer area of Tsukahara is designated, “Tsukahara Highlands.” It hasn’t been around very long. I’m guessing 20 years or so. The highlands are a compilation of people who left the cities to find peace and quiet. Many of these people have homes that are also small businesses. It’s a difficult way to make a living because Tsukahara has relatively few visitors compared to nearby Beppu and Yufuin.

I read a recent article mentioning that Tsukahara is the 7th most desirable place to live in Japan. I think the air and water quality have a lot to do with it. The population of Tsukahara is around 365. A stranger would have difficulty finding 365 people, as they seem to be well hidden.   George





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tsukahara Hot Springs Part 2

Here's a few photos that I forgot to include in the last post.

Beppu Bay

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tsukahara Hot Springs

On Sunday, Erika and I decided that all work and no play make a teacher tired and boring. The cure for that was simple...let's go somewhere! We heard from a neighbor that Tsukahara Hot Springs had a trail that we could take dogs on. After 15 minutes of casual driving, we reached our destination. The YouTube video should give you a better idea of how close the hot springs are to our home.

It was about 80 degrees, but a thunderstorm was rapidly forming. The hike up Mt. Garan took about 45 minutes. The video shows Mt.Tsurumi, Mt. Yufu, and Monkey Mountain. Unfortunately, the cloud cover only allowed a peek at Beppu Bay, Oita City, and Beppu. We'll climb this trail again in the near future. I'll try to get a better video of the spectacular view. The coolest thing about the entire trip was that we left at 8am and returned home before 10am. We felt completely rejuvenated and ready to enjoy the rest of a glorious weekend.     George

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Erika’s Update

I’m sure you have been wondering what Erika has been doing. It doesn’t seem like me to be quiet for such a long time. I’m happily alive!!! I’ve been extremely busy, but I have still some capacity to accept you as a guest if you stay with us in Tsukahara. To prepare for a visit, you need to learn how to use a hammer and split wood. According to George, there are only two things that I’m better at than he is; cooking and stacking wood. Although we’ve been busy, we try to take a moment to sit outside, enjoy the view, and eat our meal. We feel like we are on vacation. We don’t have to get in a car, take a cruise, or go to the airport to have a vacation. The best thing about living here is the freedom to take a vacation at a moment’s notice. I guess George has trained me well enough so that I feel our best vacation is on our own property. The temperature, wind, and air quality are so different compared to where our school is located. Actually, Yufuin which is only 15 minutes away has weather that is dramatically different from ours. Even if it’s late, after teaching at Y.E.S., I try to go back to Tsukahara. All of us, including the doggies, can sleep better there.
George laughed at my garden, but I harvested some tomatoes. I was very successful using bamboo poles to keep the deer from my tomatoes. Unfortunately, the rabbits and crows ate some of my prized produce. I planted two packages of lettuce seeds hoping to capitalize on my success. The bugs ate all of them. What did I learn from that experience? We live with nature so I have to be a little bit more modest.
I split and stacked all the wood for next winter by myself. My hands are hurting, but I enjoy being cheap. George has cooperated, but it’s hard for him to be as cheap as me. I find that I have problems with him peeking and wandering through the fridge while keeping the fridge door open. He also likes to keep the window open while taking a shower, allowing the warm air to escape. We have rarely argued since we moved here. Rarely do we have time to spend quietly together. Most of the time, we are busy working or making lesson plans and activities. If we do have a moment together, we usually spend it discussing our business plans or the dogs. We’ll sit on the deck and enjoy the peace and quiet. When George was encouraging me to move to Japan, he told me that making lots of money was not as important as choosing where to live. Maybe I gradually understand……but, I miss having all the material comforts of life!!!  Sometimes…                 Erika

Wednesday, September 5, 2012






Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Semester

A new semester has begun. In Japan, the month of September is filled with sporting activities for the students. I was told to expect to have many English classes cancelled. I guess it’s no surprise to hear that sports have precedent over English. This brings up a topic I discussed with a veteran A.L.T. over the summer holiday. He has been in the Yufuin area for the past 5 years. Usually an A.L.T. will teach for a year or two, and then move back to their home country. Anyway, when he was hired, it was assumed that his job would be obsolete after 2 to 3 years. At that time, it was assumed that the main teachers would have a firm grasp of the English language. Thus, the main teachers would not require the assistance of an A.L.T. The assumption has been proven wrong. It has been 6 years since the plan was first implemented. The main teachers are still light years away from being left alone in front of an English class.

I asked the veteran A.L.T., “Why are the teachers having so much difficulty with English?” His reply had to do with senior teachers being unable to cope with change. He also mentioned that their hearts were not in it. He used a personal example. “When I first came to Japan, I was unable to speak the language. I had to get around, pay bills, and live my everyday life. This forced me to learn the language.”

“I see what you mean,” I replied. “I have a similar situation in that I have Erika to hold my hand whenever I face a difficult conversational situation. It’s much easier to rely on her than to take the initiative to learn the language. The main teachers have the A.L.T.’s to hold their hands. So what’s the solution?”

“The solution will take time. The older teachers will have to retire. The newer teachers are required to have an English license. The entire education system will require a change in attitude. They need to have a real reason for teaching/ learning English. Right now, the reason is because Japan wants to be international. If you asked someone from the Department of Education what that means to be international, the answer is vague. Until the teacher has a firm idea and purpose for teaching English, their hearts will not be in it and the program will not succeed.”

“Well, that’s good for us, but that’s bad for the students,” I replied. “Japan is very good at copying ideas, but they fail miserably when it comes to being creative. It would take a creative mind to challenge and persuade the educators to change. I don’t see that happening anytime, soon.” The veteran A.L.T nodded his head in agreement.    George