Thursday, December 30, 2010

Santa San and No Senbonzuki?!

Peter Here,

Because of having to work, I think I might be the first Intern to have not completed the Senbonzuki (1,000 punch) practice. I must say, I’m more than a little sad about it, as I was really looking forward to the challenge. However, such is life in Japan- if you are contracted to work, there’s little you can do (enter that handy “shooganai” – ‘it can’t be helped’ - phrase again).

Instead of training, it was the final English class for ICE in Nerima on Thursday 23rd December. We had a party for all the kids where we played English games and ate lots of unhealthy cakes and sweets (it is the season after all!).

I was asked to prepare the games, so I made a bingo sheet based upon the vocabulary I taught this year, then Pictionary (drawing what is on a flash card for others to guess), and finally Twister. Even though I missed training because of it, I had a very good time and Oguchi Sensei and my adult student Kondo san even gave me presents! It was very unexpected!

The Shiramizu English Club party was the next day-Christmas Eve! All English students were invited, but some couldn’t come because of school (it’s almost unthinkable to me that some kids are still at school on Christmas eve, and even Christmas Day!), but there were enough there to have fun!

First up was an English lesson – this was a bit difficult because of the difference in abilities between the kid's ages, but after changing the lesson into a learning game, they soon all became interested. Well, at least as interested as kids get when being taught at a party!

Second was ‘Magician Arakawa’, performing mighty feats of magic under a lot of pressure from a tough crowd!

After a small break of food and ball games, we had another special guest... Black Belt Santa San! Before giving the kids presents for being good he reminded everyone of the virtues of studying and practising hard. Obviously his schedule was very busy for the day so it was a quick visit. It was a shame Arakawa Sensei was somehow occupied while here was here though!

In the evening, Arakawa Sensei, his family and I went out to a steak house for dinner- this has happened with almost every Intern on Christmas Eve since Mark was the intern, so I’m glad to have kept the tradition. It was also great to just talk and relax and ask Masatoshi about what he wants for Christmas, and what Sensei’s plans were for Christmas and the New Year.

With my work duties done for the year, the rest of 2010 was spent relaxing, training when I can and making sure my toe recovers as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmastime goodies!

Peter Here,

My old sparring mitts had finally fallen apart after their long years of service, so I asked Arakawa Sensei to order me some new ones. At the same time, I thought I would invest in the Shiramizu Karate Team wear; I had wanted the jacket for quite a while!

So now, they’ve finally all arrived. The quality is great, and the jacket and pants are really warm. With all this Adidas equipment and clothing, you start to feel more professional about your karate, or at least a little bit sponsored- even if you’re not!

I’m also glad that I’ll finally not get any problems about my mitts in tournaments. Because of the helmets used in Japanese competitions, all mitts must have a thumb sleeve to keep the thumb in the glove (which doesn’t exist on the UK mitts- this was a major problem to some of the England Wadokai team at the World Cup and Nationals) to stop potential injuries. These will not be necessary when I go back to England, but at least then I can just tuck the sleeves in.

I do like getting new things though!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Peter here,

It seems that I was tempting fate with my blog entry about getting hit, for I was injured with a dislocated little toe on Friday 10th December and was told to rest for 5 weeks.

I was training with the junior high school high-performance class and pushing ourselves in jyu kumite (free sparring). The eldest kids and I were together and was sparring with Rikito (who was giving me the customary pasting he usually does) when I felt my little toe ache a little after a badly timed sweep. It was only when I looked down when we finished that I saw that my little toe was pointing sideways.

Arakawa Sensei told me to immediately get to the local hospital, which I did with Rikito showing me the way to go.

In Japan, hospitals (byooin, or 病院) can be very small as well as like the large buildings that exist in the UK. I suppose we call the smaller ones ‘health centres’, but the Japanese make little distinction between the two.

After confirming that it wasn’t broken (hurrah!), the doctor then tried to relocate the toe (ouch!), with no success. We were told to go to a larger hospital in Miyashiro for an X-Ray and a further attempt at relocation. Arakawa Sensei took me to the hospital the next morning, where two further very painful attempts were made to put the toe back, before admitting that I may need to go to an even bigger hospital in Shin-Shiraoka.

The news at that hospital wasn’t good. After a two-hour wait (and being wonderfully ferried about and tended to by Uchida-san, Yamazaki-sensei and Arakawa Sensei) I was told that I may need an operation to put the toe back, which would cost 130,000 yen! But when we returned to the Sugito hospital, the doctor there was very sceptical of the operation, thinking the doctor was a little ‘op happy’. Also, talking it through with Richard, we all agreed that we will wait and see for at least a few weeks before signing anything about an operation.

On the plus side, I have learned two new phrases: “Koyubi dakkyu shimashita”, which is “I dislocated my little toe”; the other is “shooganai”, or “it can’t be helped”.

So, every cloud, eh!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

JKF National Tournament and Bonenkai

Peter Here,

The Winter chill settled into Tokyo on a bright Sunday 12th December morning, where Arakawa Sensei took his family and me to see the JFK Japanese Zenkoku Taikai (National Championships).

The JKF Tournament is a massive event (the finals of which is televised a week later), which is the climax of many prefecture, regional, company and university competitions, so to get here you must be really good.

Before setting out though, we first visited Masatoshi’s school, where there was an art fair and Masatoshi’s Karate Monkey had won a gold award, which we all marvelled at. Although this was a ‘best of school’ fair, it still amazes me just how good and advanced some kids can be in their field in comparison to back home, and we had a good look around the other displays before setting off to the Nippon Budokan to watch the tournament.

Richard and his international students were already there and quickly gave me a catch-up. Next was Kata, and Richard’s tournament game, which is to guess who wins each kata round before the judges raise their flags (with bonus bragging rights if you guess the correct amount of flags too). I joined in too, but as he has played the game much longer than I have Richard ran out comfortable winner.

Watching the amount of support (the audience, the recording crew, the support for the atheltes too) that the National competition has in Japan is really heart warming, and an inspiration to try and get even more support for the sport back home.

Sadly we could not watch the end of the competition because we had to get back to Kuki for the Shiramizu Bonenkai. As every Intern has written, a bonenkai is a large party to celebrate (or ‘forget’ as the name suggests) the passing of the year. This is done using a lot of speeches, food, and of course the natural amnesia aid, alcohol!

Everyone arrived in good spirits, and after settling down in their tiered positions (in such an event, seating positions are very important- with the most senior person right at the top of the banquet) we all ate and drank and listened to each other’s speeches. I had prepared one with the help Setsuko - one of my English Students - however in my ambition to make a good impression I think I made it far too long for the rapidly diminishing attention spans of the alcohol-fuelled revellers. Other people, such as Suzuki Sensei and Uchida-san, are amazing speakers and can really get everyone laughing.

The Bonenkai also had entertainment, firstly in the form of Bingo! Everyone was given a card, and a wealth of presents were available to select from. Naturally the first winners had the better pick. Gradually everyone had their numbers called, including me. What did I get? Some underpants that said ‘stinky’ and a lovely mask:

After this, Mikya performed on the guitar, singing in English as well. Very impressive! Then, a performing monkey came out and played keyboard, that monkey being me. I didn’t play very well, the nomi-hodai (all you can drink) starting to take it’s toll on my fingers a little, but people seemed to enjoy it enough. Perhaps that was because of the nomi-hodai too!

Although this was the last social event on the Shiramizu calendar, training continued right up until 23rd, with the customary 1000 punch drill.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Internship application period extended until January 15, 2011

We are still looking for the right person for the next internship, starting April 1, 2011.

The application deadline has been extended until January 15, 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sen-no-sen arimasen

Peter Here,

This week we have been working on 'Sen-no-Sen', which is essentially the interrupting of your opponent's intention to attack just before he starts it.

Not wanting to sugar coat it or anything, but I don't think anyone in Shiramizu could be worse at this than I am. It's just something that doesn't happen at the moment as I think too much about fighting options, what I could or couldn't do. 'hmm, maybe I could.. Oh dang, too late- he's just scored.'

So because of that I was really trying to focus in on the training routines this week.

One of the most basic (and most often used) techniques is the gyakuzuki counter punch. Especially in the typically more linear style of Japanese karate fighting, the punch is launched just before the opponent begins his technique so it lands first, but with the opponent's aggressive momentum helping your cause. In Japan, I've also learned that dropping the body level can also help with the speed of the hip rotation with the added bonus of getting your head out of danger. This works as long as you keep your posture upright, as if you lean forward 'into' your counter you run a high risk of being hit harder by the opponent. What I need to focus on however is that I keep my posture upright in the counter and that the distancing between myself and the opponent is correct.

A drill is set with both attacker and counter-attacker in an uncomfortably close mawai (distance), with the attacker trying to launch a front jab without 'telegraphing' movement (telegraphing is preparing the shot in a way that gives away your intention to attack, such as pulling back the punching arm or excessive bending of the knees). The counter attacker must 'sense' when this is about to happen, then launch and land the counter punch.

As I said before, this is very difficult for me, so I ended up falling over a couple of times being overly twitchy or not registering the attack enough. It will take me a while to get this, but I am hoping I will have improved enough for the next tournament in January.

Arakawa Sensei also says this is good practice for me as I kick too much. Not only that, but it's a good sign that I have run out of an attack plan so I try and earn the larger points. Because of this, it's been really good to try and use my hands more to improve my armory. My reach is ok, so it is the timing and confidence that I need to work on.

Practise, practise, practise.

Kata Focus: Seishan Problems

Peter here,

This week's kata problem focus has been on Seishan, particularly the shiko-dachi section.

Intern alumni Louise Fisk showing good form!

Having finally got my shiko-dachi to a less embarrassing level, I'm now working on the kick-through-to-gedan notsukkomi part. Typically for me, the problem is with keeping the centre line when kicking out and because of this I tend to thrust too much and 'fall into' the no-tsukkomi position rather than pull back and quickly place my foot down into kamae. Uehara Sensei has consistently lamented this part of my kata, so I have been determined to put it right.

In my Training diary, I try and keep as much of it in diagrams as possible as it visually reminds me what I have to do (they aren't technically excellent sketches as they more of a visual prod than figurative examples), so the example below is the difference in the position that I should be in (top, far right) and the position I have been in so far (bottom, far right).

The important part is to stop the hips thrusting out, as you can't then return to a safe position before placing your next stance.

The problem is that I use the momentum of the thrust to get the kick out as quickly as possible, but sacrifice form because of it. Richard has pointed out to me in the past that I tend to 'scoop' my kicks too much (this happens in Chinto as well) and it slows me down, so I've been working on this too. The unfortunate part of this is that now I'm not in the proper body position when I place down in no-tsukkomi- my body faces forward instead of turned. However I'm sure with enough practise the creases will be ironed out!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fear in the place of Form

Peter Here;

Last week I was kicked hard in the mouth during training, and it split my lips open. the force wasn't intended, and the risk is part of the chances you take when you practise a contact sport or budo art like Karate. In fact, I am actually quite happy it happened, and I'll explain why.

The simple thing is, I have been afraid of getting hit and it tends to show in my form whenever I feel I am facing a stronger opponent. Arakawa Sensei notes that my weight is on my back foot and I turn my head far too much (he even penalises me in training because of it), and the fear ruins my kamae and speed.

But what is it about being hit that I am afraid of? Part of it is that I am afraid of the damage it could cause. I have been injured heavily a couple of times before but then I have to accept that this can happen to anyone who does this kind of sport. But the main reason is just the fear of how much it could hurt at the time of impact.

The problem with fear is that it makes a wonderful magnifying glass, taking any worry or concern and then multiplying it many times until it becomes irrational. One hit could really hurt a lot, my fear told me.

Particularly with lower grades and members who 'cross train' in popular full-contact sports in the UK, people are more likely to hit harder than karate students in Japan. This could be due to physiological reasons (they are generally bigger people), lack of controlled contact training, or just the belief that other students can 'take the hits' and that it is character building (this kind of 'Kibishi' or 'hard training' has it's place, but there must always be control, particularly in WKF Sport Karate- it is not MMA or Kyokushinkai)

So, when I was hit in the mouth, although it hurt a lot it didn't hurt as much as I was worried it could. The magnifying glass was, if not broken, at least a little chipped.

Now I can focus more on my form for the next tournament!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Peter Here,

I love Christmas. It's my favourite time of the year without any doubt, even though I am more of a warm weather person. But while Japan seems to be treating me well by not subjecting me to freezing weather as yet, I have been curious to find out how Japanese people and families celebrate this time of year, as they do have the festive day- but not the Christian historical background.

While eating together at the Flying Garden after training on Wednesday, I asked Arakawa Sensei and Suzuki Sensei how they spend their Christmas, and what they eat on the day. It turns out that Japan's Christmas is more focused on couples and young children than in the West, but they still love eating the Christmas chicken and Christmas Cake (Strawberry Sponge Cake to be precise). Some people have the occasional potatoes and some trimmings, but both Sensei looked a little taken back when I explained to them exactly *how* much a regular UK family chomps through on the big day (and subsequent days too). I also let them know that I wasn't a particular fan of Christmas Pudding (although I had to describe it as 'cake', as pudding is completely different here), because it was a little to rich for me. They assured me that the Japanese Christmas Cake is much nicer, so I look forward to trying that out!

So, the Japanese celebrate Christmas in purely a commercial form, but it is intriguing to see how similar it still is to the way we celebrate at home. I myself am 'agnostic' so Christmas doesn't hold any religious meaning for me. However, it must be said that the traditions brought over (the tree, decorations, big feast, giving of gifts) are more in line of the pagan winter festival than the traditions left out (carol services, Nativity plays, midnight mass, etc.).

One thing that can be said though- Japanese LOVE decorations. Some restaurants are already sparkling with tinsel, some houses are already ramping up their electricity bill with house lights, and generally the shops are all celebrating like they do in the UK; by trying to sell things!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Full Day Ahead: Aikido, Gardens and Odaiba

Peter Here,

One of the many things I wanted to do while I was in Japan was to try another martial art, preferably a traditional one. Despite Oinuma-san's suggestion that I try sumo (I'm NOT fat!!), my friend Makiko is a 1st Kyu in Aikikai Aikido. As her dojo was in Kasukabe, she suggested that I come along for a session and see what I think. Aikikai Aikido is run by Haruyoshi Horikoshi (堀越春芳) Sensei, 7th dan, who has travelled to countries such as USA, Brazil and Australia teaching Aikido. We had a wonderful conversation prior to training, and his english, although a bit limited comparing to Arakawa Sensei, was eloquent, friendly and very polite. The website for the dojo is here (japanese only).

I had a great time, and it was enlightening to see how different and similar the principles are. Aiumi-ashi is used, as is Irimi, but other steps are introduced too, controlling your opponent by seizing their grab and turning your body to give you the more powerful position. They also practised Jo and Bokken Kihon, which was a first for me.

I also went there with a view to seeing what I could use for my karate practice; the slower pace meant I can be more aware of how my body is moving, so that I may speed that up for the more explosive karate movements. Center-line, balance and natural movement are all central concepts of both styles so I can see a happy marriage between the two.

Horikoshi Sensei was very welcoming, and I managed to introduce myself to everyone properly and have a little conversation too. I look forward to going there again!

After class, Makiko and I went on a sightseeing spree. After not seeing much of the Hamarikyu gardens last week with Oinuma-san I wanted to go back there again and explore it more. I was very glad I did, it is a splendid garden and incredibly beautiful; all the pictures in my camera couldn't do it justice.

After wandering around the gardens for two hours, we then headed for Odaiba. Odaiba, once a man-made fort island made in the Edo era, is a fantastic shopping and entertainment district. Heavily westernised, the view and buildings would not look out of place in America. Indeed, there is even a minature Statue of Liberty there!

However, the peace and quiet, and the walk along the man-made beach always contains the uniquely Japanese sense of safety in the city. More information on Odaiba can be found here:

We took in the sights (including a Christmas aquarium!), took a lot of pictures then headed back home on the Spacia train from Asakusa (an express train more like the type in England but better run and more relaxing, which you pay an additional fee to board on top of the distance fare). After all that walking we thought we deserved a little comfort!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An international Evening: Sakayuri Sensei's international party

Peter Here,

I always love meeting new people from many different countries and backgrounds, so when Arakawa Sensei told me about Sakayuri's International Party on Saturday, November 20th, I leapt at the chance. It was a group of 9 people including me, but only one other was a native English speaker; the rest were from Taiwan and China. This meant that the only way to communicate was through Japanese!

We started off slowly, a mixture of shyness and unfamiliarity slowing the conversation a little, but after a quick trip to the local Supermarket (Mami-mart, or 'まみマ-ト') for supplies and alcohol, we started to loosen up a little and soon everyone was happily talking.

People were a mixture of university graduates, undergraduates and language students on a work programme, and it was interesting to hear how different everyone's story was to mine; after hearing many people give their reasons to why they are in Japan it always strikes me as how unique and special the internship is.

Eikaiwa (English Conversation) teachers appear to come to Japan because they have little keeping them in their own, or the lure of the high-paid teaching tempts them in. But I see that a lot of these people don't have anything to aim for, to try and attain here. University or language study students do have that, but their life is experienced more in a microcosm inside Japan, rather than being given the ability to be more involved in Japanese Life. The Internship offers a goal in itself and gives plenty of opportunity to achieve personal targets, such as tournament results or grading, but further to this it is all done in a totally open and supportive atmosphere. You are involved in Japan, not closed off from it, which helps make new friends and immerse yourself in the culture. It truly is something great.

Because many of the guests were with home stay families in nearby Miyashiro City the party didn't run too late, but enough was drunk and eaten to make sure everyone had a great time and left full of food and conversation!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Parklife: Kindergarten park-safari in Iwatsuki

Peter Here,

As well as teaching in the 'peek-a-boo' English lessons at Lolipop Kindergarten on Friday the 19th, I was very lucky to be taken on a school trip with the 'nen-cho' (oldest year, 5-6yr olds) classes to Iwatsuki Koen (Park).

The park was beautiful, with a zig-zag red bridge across a large pond. If there was a stereotypical image in my mind of how countryside Japan would look, it would be this.

We trekked through the narrow lanes, into a clearing and then played 'exploring' through bamboo thickets and hide-and-seek. It was brilliant, as it took me right back to my Scouting days, and gave me a chance to quiz the kids on what the words for trees, leaves, animals and such were in English, without reaching for my flashcards. Then they were asking me what other objects were too in Japanese. Some of them were even asking me without prompting! Between us we learned both English and Japanese for Pebble (小石, Koishi- which literally means 'little stone, or Ishi 石), Cedar (杉材, Sugi-zai), Leaf, (葉, Happa), Spider (蜘蛛, Kumo) and lots of others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jishuren: personal training

Peter Here,

The Shiramizu Karate ethic is always that of hard work in practices, and then self practice to perfect what you've been told in class. In some UK clubs certainly students learn at class, go home and then come back to the next class and learn some more, without any practice at home.

If you did this with a musical instrument, imagine how long it would take you to be any good at it! Why is karate any different?

So, especially for higher grades, I think it is very important to not just go to scheduled lessons (of which there a few), but also train on my own as well. Particularly since the big tournaments have past the intense kumite/cardio workouts are less, so I tend to go for a run and exercise in the apartment to keep the stamina up and then use the dojo between classes on a Monday, with lessons Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I do feel guilty that I should train on my own there more though! Judging by my last two tournament results, I definitely need it...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Exploring Tokyo: a day out with Oinuma-san and Family, 14th November

Peter here;

I was treated to a wonderful day out with Oinuma-san and his family on Sunday, November 14th, as we headed to Tsukiji Fish Market, the Monjia Street festival and the Edo Tokyo Museum.

We got to Tsukiji by train via Asakusa and took a 'Water Bus', which looked charmingly Art Deco and arrived at the 'Water Gate' of the Hamarikyu Gardens; an Edo-period Japanese garden formed on a man-made island. We only walked past the gardens, but what I did see looked very beautiful, and I made a mental note to come back again.

Tsukiji Fish Market is traditionally best seen in the very early morning (because that is when all the fish arrives and is sold), which wasn't practical given the young age of Oinuma-san's family, but the market place was still brimming with life well into 11am, where we toured the stalls and stopped in for some very fresh sushi. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was the best sushi I've had yet!

While it was very tempting to eat the market bare, we were heading to Monjia Street to taste their food too!

I found a small website article on Monjia Street to tell you more about it:
"Monjayaki and Tsukudani are the most typical of Tokyo's "shitamachi" fare. Tsukishima is said to have more than 70 monjayaki shops and on weekends is thronged with people from Tokyo and even the suburbrs[sic] who come to savor the local delicacies. Tsukudani, prepared by stewing seafood in soy sauce and sugar, is also a typical type of Japanese keepable dish and was born in Tsukuda in the Edo era. There are still shops that preserve the secret recipe, attracting an endless stream of people who come from far off in seach of this treat."

When we went it was a festival day, so we were greeted by lots of music and a carnival atmosphere, accompanied by street dancers wearing either an awful lot or, er, not very much...

I would like to live here!

The Edo Tokyo Museum was a short train ride away. I wasn't expecting the size of the building though, it was massive!

Inside was amazing too, and seeing Edo-style buildings and models was a really joy- I love this style of architecture and it's fired me up for going to seek out more!

There was plenty of hands-on things to do as well, so thankfully the kids were just as entertained: particularly the grown-up ones...

Night soil buckets!

We finished the day tired and happy, with a long sleep on the Asakusa line back to Sugito. A big thank you to Oinuma-san and his family for such a wonderful day!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Internship applications now being accepted for 2011!

Spread the news!

We are still accepting applications for our 9th intern at the Shiramizu Karate Club in Japan.

The application deadline for those wishing to be Intern #9 is January 15, 2011.

The 9th internship will run from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012, with the possibility of an extension.

The intern teaches English at various locations to earn money while training at the dojo almost everyday. Each month they participate in tournaments, seminars and other events. In addition, they assist with foreign guests, contribute to the 'Intern Blog' and help out wherever possible in the dojo. Interns also study Japanese at community center language classes run by volunteers. Lastly, they are responsible for training the next intern over a two-week shadowing period at the end of their own internship.

Shiramizu is located in Sugito City, Saitama Prefecture, which is an hour north by train from central Tokyo. It is a full-time dojo with over 450 members run by the popular Takamasa Arakawa Sensei. Shiramizu is one of the most active karate dojos in Japan, and it has warmly accepted previous interns who have all had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

There is a small furnished apartment for the intern near the dojo. The income earned from teaching English covers all basic living expenses. Interns are encouraged to use their free time to expand the list of English classes and private lessons while utilizing the dojo for personal training.

A few Shiramizu members meet the new intern at the airport (Narita or Haneda) upon their arrival to Japan and they'll also see them off at the airport at the end of their stay.

While the internship accepts applications from anyone regardless of karate experience or style, JKF Wadokai members will be given preference. In previous years, several non-Wadokai members have been selected.

We are looking for someone who exudes positive enthusiasm, who would like to get involved in as much as possible here and who is going to enhance the internship program further.

Upon completion of the internship, we are hoping to see the graduate continue to further their karate development upon returning to their home country, hopefully working towards being an instructor themselves.

All applicants should understand that if selected they must be able to commit to the full internship time period of 12 months, no exceptions.

Applicants must possess a native level English ability since the selected intern will work as a professional English teacher.

Minimum requirements:

Age: Between 20-30 years old (the legal adult age in Japan is 20yrs old therefore the internship is set from age 20).

Education: Minimum English-as-the-main-language high school graduate. An applicant with some post-secondary education of any type is preferred, while recent university/college graduates are ideal.

English language teacher training is an asset. If an applicant has none, then at least they should be willing to take a short (1-2 days) ESL/EFL instructor's course in their hometown at their own expense prior to coming to Japan.

Work experience: Experience working with children. Actual English teaching or tutoring and /or coaching sports experience is a bonus.

Karate experience: Any level of karate experience is ok. As mentioned previously, when two applications are similar, Wadokai members will be given preference.

Non-black belt holders should feel encouraged to apply because being a black belt holder is not a requirement.

If the selected applicant for the internship is from another karate style, they may of course feel free to attend another dojo of the same style in Japan, but they have to commit to going to the Shiramizu dojo to train twice a week to maintain the internship program's interaction with Shiramizu members.

There are about 6 main tournaments in the year the intern will be registered for through Shiramizu. Participating in tournaments and seminars is part of the internship experience.

Previously visited Japan: Due to Japan being quite different from other countries, it will be an asset for applicants who have visited or lived in Japan.

Visa: There are two options.

1) If the selected applicant is from a country in the
working holiday program (English-speaking countries are Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland), then that visa will be used, the person has never had a working holiday visa before. The Shiramizu Director will guide the selected applicant through the application process which they apply for by themselves to their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate in their home country where their passport is issued.

2) If the selected applicant is not from a country in the working holiday program (for example, the USA or South Africa), or they have already had a working holiday visa, then Shiramizu will apply for a
cultural visa (bunka katsudo visa) for the new intern and upon receiving a cultural visa letter of eligibility from Japanese immigration, the dojo will mail this document to the applicant to take to their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate. Then that embassy/consulate will make the final determination whether or not to issue the visa, and if everything is ok, it will be stamped into their passport prior to coming to Japan.

Both visas take a few days to weeks to process. Upon being stamped into the applicant's passport, the applicant needs to enter Japan within 3 months to activate the visa or it will expire.

Of course, applicants with legal status already in Japan may also apply.

Final application procedure: While highly unlikely, due to the chance the selected applicant may be denied a visa for some unknown reason (i.e. inability to acquire a passport in time or criminal record in their home country), a runner-up for the internship will also be selected and informed of their runner-up status. The first selected applicant must apply for their visa just under the 3 month mark prior to coming to Japan, so that if they are denied, the runner-up can be informed with enough time to prepare to apply for a visa while getting their things in order to come to Japan.

This procedure makes it fair for everyone applying, while also keeping the internship going. This internship has many responsibilities, for example the various English teaching commitments, so it is important the internship program doesn't fail to keep these commitments going.

Therefore, if you are seriously interested in this internship, please follow these instructions.

Please note that all correspondence with our office will be considered as part of the application

process. Also, should someone be selected as the runner-up or make the short-list, it is important

to understand that should this person apply again the year after, their application ranking will be

higher as determined by the selection committee.

We require;

1. A one-page cover letter. This cover letter must emphasize how you fit the requirements of

this position and what it will mean to you to become an intern.

2. A one-page resume. Please list educational achievements from high school onwards,

experience working with children, any teaching ESL certification, relevant skills for this

internship and any karate experience. Plus please include two references listed on the

bottom of the page including telephone and email contact information.

3. A ‘passport-style’ head and shoulders photograph. This is standard for all job applications

in Japan and it can simply be taken with one’s own personal digital camera. This

photograph will be used to announce the selected intern to the dojo and English schools.

Please only send small file size documents! For example, do not send any large picture files!

The use of proper English is reviewed for all aspects of this application!


A short-list of selected applicants will be contacted for a telephone interview, or an in-person

interview for those in Japan. The selected intern and the runner-up will be announced prior to

January 25, 2011.

We look forward to hearing from interested applicants. The sooner people apply, the sooner interviews and reference checks can be done.

The selected applicant will receive a detailed handout prior to arriving in Japan explaining everything related to the internship.


Richard, Internship Director

email: karateintern at gmail dot com

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just keep smiling: Kasukabe Jazz Day, November 6th

Peter Here,

Something to learn in Japan is that, even if you are at death's door with a common cold ('風邪', or 'Kaze'), if you make a commitment to do something then by gum you should do it. This is why, even though my head was full of coldy nonsense, I co-MC'd the Kasukabe Jazz Day on 6th November.

A little background to this situation is that I go to Kasukabe every Thursday to meet some Japanese and Gaijin friends that I've made. This is essentially my Japanese lesson every week, it is in a very relaxed atmosphere and a beer or two helps the language come along nicely. I've even advanced my Kana thanks to these guys! One person that I met of an evening in October was the organiser of the Jazz Day event (Maezawa-sama), and happened to ask whetherI liked Jazz music. As I had just finished a rendition of Frank Sinatra's 'I get a kick out of you' on the Karaoke machine, I said that I loved Jazz music. It was then decided that I would MC this event (maybe nodding and smiling at this point did not help).

I turned up at 10am, to find the park area (Yondaikoen, the 4th park) filled with seats for 1,500 people and a massive stage, accompanied by equipment for recording and live web streaming. I had underestimated the size of this event by some way! Four bands were playing: Swing Bears (スイングベアーズ), BSU Jazz Orchestra (ビッグスイング フェイス・ジャズオーケストラ), Dream Swing Kingdom (ドリーム スイング キングダム), and Crystal Jazz Latino (クリスタルジャズ・ラティーノ).

It was my role, along with my co-
MC (who was dressed in Cosplay to help attract the event) to introduce the bands in English as well as provide a little 'Gaijin genkiness' to the day. As it happened I wasn't doing much talking at all, and was practically wheeled in just to say the name of the band in the perfect English accent. It made me feel a little bit like a token gesture, but it was fun all the same. Furthermore, as my throat was caked in cold I'm not sure how much I would've been able to talk anyway.

The bands were fantastic, with several big numbers that everyone recognised. Stalls of smoking Yakitori (skewered meat), fresh coffee, beers, roasted nuts and soba noodles scented the air with a festival aroma (apparently- my nostrils weren't working), and the trees themselves were exploding in turning leaves ('Koyo'). It was a beautiful day, and even though I felt like dying at times inside, it was hard not to have a smile on my face- especially with so many friendly people about.

After the last band had played their encore and everyone started to leave, I talked to one of the band conductors and Maezawa-sama about the day. As I was nodding and smiling to the conversation (I was understanding it, honest), it was agreed that for the next Jazz Day (April next year), I will actually sing two songs on stage with the band; 'Sinatra's I Get A Kick Out of You', and one other.