An English mans prospective on the EU referendum



Hi everyone it me Matthew,


In this blog I want to talk about one of the major issues currently happening in the United Kingdom which happens to the EU referendum. But first let’s cover two important things: What is a referendum? And what is the European Union?


A referendum is basically a vote in which nearly everyone of voting age can take part and vote on an important issue. Unlike a normal election where someone has lots of different choices and candidates; in a referendum a voter is presented with a question and normally only has two options which mean "Yes" or "No". Whichever side gets more than half of all votes cast is considered to have won.


The European Union also known as the EU - is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries, which basically acts as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency which is used by 19 of the member countries and its own parliament which passes laws over a wide range of areas - including the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.


So what is actually happened? After massively increased domestic pressure caused by various world events and long running issues in the United Kingdom; Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union that will be held on Thursday 23rd June.


The question is always important in any referendum and this one is no different. The Electoral Commission successfully proposed the wording: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" The options for voters will be 'Remain a member of the European Union' and 'Leave the European Union'.


Why is the UK having a referendum on the EU? Well the last referendum on the issue of the EU was in 1975 shortly after the UK joined which was called the Common Market at the time. The country voted to stay in then but there have been growing calls from the public and politicians, for another vote because the EU has changed a lot over the past 40 years. With many more countries joining and the organisation extending its control over more aspects of daily lives the EU is very different now with what people voted on in 1975. Because of this it is also argued that anyone in the UK under the age of 60 has never really had a say on Britain’s relationship with the EU.


Why do people want to leave the EU? Lots of people believe that Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. As Britain is an island nation which historically has always felt disconnected from the main continent, many people want the country to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming to the country to work. This has always been a difficult issue as one of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country.


Many British people also object to the idea of an "ever closer union" and any goal to create a "United States of Europe", which lots of people believe is one of the ambitions of other main powers in Europe such as Germany.


Anyway, I do hope this has been somewhat interesting for you guys. Being British myself the issue of the EU has always been an emotional topic to tackle, similarly to the Scottish independence referendum the issue of the EU splits every part of British society and opinion polls indicate that the vote could be pretty evenly split. It’s quite an interesting time at the moment.



Valentine's Day Customs in the United States



Hello, everyone!

Although Winter is still upon us, the days are gradually getting warmer and brighter as we look toward the coming of Spring.

Not only does this season bring sunny days, but also a very special holiday for couples around the world. That's right - Valentine's Day! This year, February 14th fell on a Sunday, so many people were able to spend time at home with their loved ones. Did you do anything special on Valentine's Day this year?

In Japan, I've noticed that making and giving chocolate seems to be the most popular activity. Especially for young women, it is a chance to show love and appreciation for the important men in their life. Not only couples, but also coworkers and friends share good feelings on this day.

In the United States, where I am originally from, we have very different customs for celebrating this romantic holiday. For example, it is usually a special day for couples (married or dating). Men and women, young or old, look forward to this day each year. Here are some of the popular activities American couples do on Valentine's Day.

Exchanging Gifts

Like in Japan, chocolate is a very popular gift for your Valentine's sweetheart in the U.S. But chocolate isn't the only option - women look forward to getting flowers from their boyfriend or husband, as well. A special candy, "Candy Hearts" are printed with romantic messages and sold in cute Valentine's Day packages. Most importantly, men are expected to give gifts on this day, too - if you forget, you might end up in the doghouse!*

Date Night

Many couples make the evening particularly special by going on a date together. They may make reservations at a nice restaurant, then go to see a movie. Some couples enjoy playing sports together, or simply want to relax at home with snacks and a movie. How would you like to spend a romantic evening with your special someone?

Valentine's Day at School (Children)

Although Valentine's Day is usually for couples, children also enjoy exchanging candy and messages with their friends at school. Valentine's Cards with popular characters are passed around the classroom, while teachers often bring plenty of chocolate or sweets for everyone to share.

For Single People

Of course, not everyone has a partner on Valentine's Day, so single people have recently designed their own holiday. It's called "Singles Awareness Day" (or SAD). In my opinion, though, you don't need to be in a relationship to enjoy Valentine's Day. If you are alone, then why not spend the day celebrating yourself! Get a massage, watch your favorite movies, and eat a lot of chocolate, too! (Here's a tip - Chocolate is half-price the day after Valentine's Day!!!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the holiday this year, and let's look forward to White Day in March!

See you soon,
Michelle <3

*"You'll end up in the doghouse" - This expression is used when a wife is so angry at her husband that she doesn't make him feel welcome in their home. He might as well be sleeping in the dog's house outside.


Present for myself



Happy to 2016 to everyone!

It's Karina here and I'd like to update you on my recent purchase. Every time the New Year comes I believe we should do something good for others and for ourselves. It's a great time to buy or do something you've been wanting for a long time. This year wasn't an exception for me.

My plan for this year is to master Japanese cuisine and to learn everything about Japanese ingredients, traditional meal and how it was changing throughout Japanese history. So I bought this amazing book. It's not just a book with recipes but contains lots of important and interesting information about everything that I wished to know.

I wish that in a coming year you will achieve everything you've planned and stay healthy and happy.

PS It's not to late to make a present for yourself yet ;)






Hello Everyone again!

2015 is gone by now and we're still on the Eve of 2016, yet we're already back to work, caught up by our usual routine. Before we all get lost in the cold of January, stressed by our unrealistic resolutions for the new year or worried about our colossal expenses of the last year's celebration... I suggest we take a moment to share the good moments we spent during the vacations.

For my part, I chose to visit the beautiful region of Kansai 関西地方. In order to get to my destination, I took the local train from Tokuyama to Shin-Osaka despite the wise advice of one of my student - that allowed me to enjoy a nice view from the train's window, but I must admit that the shinkansen would have been a lot more comfortable. 

I did, however, enjoy my trip and the train ride and the time I've spent in the Kansai region, especially Kyoto.

The view of the city from Kyoto Station was spectacular.


I also had the opportunity to try the famous soba meal - delicious!
有名なお蕎麦もいただきました! おいしいです!

Another view of Kyoto

Every single place offered a nice opportunity to take a great shot




Hello everyone!

As a new teacher to SES, I thought it would be a great idea to share my first impressions of the "land of the rising sun". Since I arrived here a few weeks ago, I cannot say that I have seen much of the whole country. However, I am pleased to share my first impressions of Japan.

Of course, one always starts visiting the cities and attractions nearby. For me, that was the city of Hiroshima - the cityscape was taken from the top of Hiroshima castle.


Then, I walked through the Shukkeien Park. It was peaceful, harmonious and so well maintained. 


There, we could see a lot of carps. No wonder why they have fascinated photographers and artists for years.


Obviously, I had to make a small trip to the famous Island of Miyajima and climb up the hill.


I hope you enjoy the pictures and that you are having a nice time. What is your favourite place to visit? Would you recommend me some spots?


~アイルランド(ゲール語:エアル)~ (トレイシー講師)


(Gaelic name for Ireland)

Hey y'all! It's Tracey! I hope that everyone had a great Obon holiday. What did you do? Where did you go? Wanna know what I did? I went to Ireland! :-) I spent 4 wonderful days traveling the " Emerald Isle "and I loved every minute of it. Shall I tell you all about it?
Before my four day tour began, I landed in Dublin with only enough time to eat dinner and sleep. I did not go sightseeing but it was ok because the main purpose of my trip was to discover the Irish countryside. I stayed in a hostel for the first time. It was an interesting experience but I think that I'll stick with hotels. :-) Here's a brief look into my trip.

Day 1
The day started as I met my tour group at 6:40 am at Dublin Hueston Station. We were scheduled to depart on the 7:00 am train. I was tired after flying for 15 hours the day before, but I was excited too! Once we boarded the train, we headed in a south westerly direction through the countryside of County Kildare, County Tipperary and County Cork. There was a dining car on the train and it was here that I ate my first full Irish breakfast (minus the eggs ..Yuck!). It was delicious! On the first day I went to Blarney Castle (and kissed The Blarney Stone) and the city of Cobh, where I visited St. Colman's Cathedral and the Cobh Heritage Center.

Next stop ... Killarney!

Irish Rail

Traditional Irish Breakfast
Blarney Castle
Kissing The Blarney Stone
 Colorful Houses In Cobh

St. Colman's Cathedral

Day 2
After a great night's sleep and another full Irish breakfast, I began my adventure traveling the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a 179 km long circular route in County Kerry. Every stop that we made along the way was beautiful and spectacular! It It was a great day.

Back to Killarney I go!

Dingle Bay

Kells Sheep Centre


Day 3
After dinner with the wonderful people I met on my tour, a great night in a local pub hanging with the natives, and ANOTHER full Irish breakfast, I was picked up from my hotel early to begin the next adventure. On the agenda was Bunratty Castle , the city of Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher, and The Burren. Day 3 was a good day.

Next stop ... Galway!

Bunratty Castle
The Cliffs Of Moher
The Cliffs Of Moher
The Burren
Galway (Eyre Square)

Day 4
Alas, it was the last day of the Grand Atlantic Tour. As I walked to the train station, I took a few last minute pictures before I met my tour group. We headed out to Connemara, one of Ireland's Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) regions , to view the rugged countryside. The highlight of the day was visiting Kylemore Abbey (and the Victorian Walled Gardens), a Benedictine monastery that was originally a private home built in the 19th century. Our tour then headed back to Galway where I caught the train to Dublin. Like the beginning of my trip, once I arrived in Dublin there was only enough time to eat and sleep (in the same hostel ...) before catching my flight back to Japan the next morning. Although my time in Ireland was short, it was very rewarding. I only dreamed of seeing Ireland before but fortunately, my dream came true. Even though my visit was temporary, the memories will last forever.

Slán ...
(Goodbye in Irish)

Kylemore Abbey
Victorian Walled Gardens


Matthews Tokyo Obon



Hi everyone.

This was my first Obon in Japan and also my first chance to get away from Yamaguchi. Hofu is a great city to live in, clean, quiet and the people are friendly but it’s very normal; so I decided to head to Tokyo to find as many weird and wacky things as possible and to meet some friends.
During this visit I focused on the Shibuya, Minato and Chiyoda areas of the city. Visiting such attractions as Akihabara, the Imperial gardens, the Yasukuni Shrine and Harajuku.

Harajuku is a great area of Tokyo, there are lots of interesting shops that sell lots of different niche products and the people and the environment are very friendly. I was lucky to see a big group of Harajuku girls they were very colourful and stood out against the crowd, in my opinion to spend that much time making yourself look that colourful is impressive.   


Considering that the bright, noise streets of Harajuku are only about 10 meters from its entrance it seems hard to believe that the Meiji Shrine is as quiet as it is. The shrines grounds are one of my favorite places in Tokyo clean, quiet and very green it is quite easy to forget that you are in the largest city in the world when you’re walking the tree lined paths of the shrine. One of my biggest regrets of the trip to Tokyo was that I didn't get to spend more time at the shrine but considering it took me about 2 hours to walk around the circumference of the grounds and I only just managed to leave before they locked the gates for the night, I think I can be forgiven.

Chiyoda is an impressive area, although I visited the area in 2010 I still find the Imperial Gardens an incredibly impressive sight. The contrast between the tall narrow spaces of the Tokyo streets and the wide open spaces of the Imperial Gardens is impressive enough in its own right but to have that reality thrust upon you by the very defined boarder between the two makes the whole experience almost surreal.

All in all whilst I had a great time in Tokyo and met some lovely people I and my wallet is glad to be back in Hofu. The big city is very nice to visit but I think I would have some reservations about living there.