TF Top 10……Pepsi Japan Flavours

Following last weeks exhausting 83km bicycle ride amid temperatures reaching 34 degrees celsius I treated myself once back at home to a can of Cherry Coke which a student had given me a few days earlier. It took me back down memory lane as it was a drink I would occasionally drink during my childhood but hadn’t had since.

It’s fair to say that I do have a sweet tooth for such unhealthy carbonated beverages but the aforementioned drink was actually the first soda to have touched my lips for over two months as I decided to give them up at the end of May. However, that doesn’t mean Tokyo Fox can’t write about them, for here in Japan, there have been many weird and wonderful flavours of Pepsi cola down the years. It has been a while though since the soft drink giant released a new and interesting flavour but thankfully there is a fairly substantial back catalogue of flavours and designer cans (which I’ve been collating since early 2006 in a Facebook album) for us to look back at reminisce with fondness. So here, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox top 10……Pepsi Japan flavours.

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1. Pepsi Ice Cucumber – Perhaps the one that really revolutionised the idea of mixing cola with other flavours not used in soft drinks. Cucumber is considered to be a food which keeps you cool and so in the Summer of 2007 this oddity hit the shelves of the convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan.

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2. Pepsi Azuki – A small maroon-coloured bean used to make traditional Japanese snacks and desserts a bit sweeter. This one hit Japanese stores in October 2009 and the discount shops not long after that!

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3. Pepsi Shiso – Summer 2009 saw yet another limited release by way of shiso; that leaf thing which comes with sashimi.

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4. Pepsi Mont Blanc – This has nothing to do with the mountain but is pronounced as mon-bran over here and is a type of chestnut. Most definitely my least favourite flavoured Pepsi.

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5. Pepsi Pink – A blend of strawberry and milk amid that distinctive cola taste. This overly sweet one came out in November 2011.

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6. Pepsi Gold – This urine coloured one was the follow up to Pepsi Red and Pepsi Blue and was available back in 2006 and yours truly was expecting a host of other coloured flavours to continue, and though they did, it was the whacky ones at the top of this list which people remember years later. Caribbean Gold would see the light of day in July 2011 but didn’t seem to stick around for too long.

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7. Pepsi Baobab – What the hell is baobab said most people when this came out in May 2010. For the record, it comes from a tree native to southern Africa and Australia and it’s fruit supposedly tastes like wine gums! Baobab fruit is said to be higher in vitamin C than oranges and offers more calcium than a comparable quantity of cow’s milk so that must mean that this drink could only ever have been good for you!!

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8. Pepsi Blue Hawaii – This very sweet pineapple and lemon cola effort was released in the Summer of 2008 and was (perhaps) inspired by an Elvis Presley movie.

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9. Pepsi White – Over the years this has been released a couple of times with the last one being in the Winter of 2012. It’s that unmistakable mix of Pepsi and yoghurt!

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10. Pepsi Salty Watermelon – The last zany flavour which Pepsi launched back in July 2012. To my memory this one was actually better than it sounded!

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Bonus: Pepsi Black lemon – From June 2012 this one didn’t exactly take off. Lemon has never really been that popular when Coca Cola or Pepsi have released their respective Lemon and Twist style drinks and all this one did was say that it was black which is pretty much the usual colour anyway!

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Honorary Mentions: Pepsi Carnival, Pepsi Red, Pepsi Blue…

Overall, all of these probably did their job which was not to sell bucket loads (though that would have been nice for the manufacturers!) but to promote the Pepsi brand and hope that once customers had tried these novelty flavours they’d remember just how good the original was and return to buying that.

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Cycling The Godzilla Tokyo Trail…In One Day!

Following on from my Wolverine cycling trip, and with not too many other themed cycling ideas coming forth, I began to think about other filming location based rides. There was a clear winner which stamped all over the rest like no other and with the 2014 incarnation (directed by Gareth Edwards) finally getting released over here, it seemed like the timing was ideal for a Godzilla tour of Tokyo.

On the day of it’s long awaited release in Japan (July 25th); two months after the rest of the world got to see it, I decided to cycle round a mix of Gojira-themed statues, shops and filming locations amid scorching temperatures that reached 34 degrees celsius! Having left the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Shinjuku-ku at 6:45 am the first destination was the National Diet Building (1-7-1 Nagata-cho) but it took me longer than expected to get there as I missed the turn-off and ended up in Akihabara! It wouldn’t be the last time I got lost and this was mainly due to a mix of having poor sense of direction and not wanting to use my phone as the Runkeeper App drains the battery enough on its own without me checking other things on it! Even though it was only 7:30 am the heat was pretty intense and I was dripping with sweat as I lined up the camera for the first shot of the day at the home of the national parliament of Japan.

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The next few locations were ticked off pretty quickly but not quite as fast as Godzilla ripped through them all in the 1954 original! The tiny Godzilla statue (1-2-2 Yurakucho) has been no stranger to my cycling tours over the years and it didn’t take too long to find it next to First Kitchen and in front of the Toho Hibiya Building, a 77-metre highrise built in 1987 that has served as the headquarters of Toho Co., Ltd since 2005.

Round the corner from there is New Marion Building (2-5-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku).  This building houses some movie theatres inside and it gets smashed up on 61 minutes.

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Wako Department store (4-5-11 Ginza) is not too much further on down the road and its clock was ripped off by Godzilla on 59 minutes during his nighttime rampage.

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On 59 minutes Matsuzukaya Department Store (6-10-1 Ginza) is torched and it appears that the monster lizard might have done likewise yet again as in its place is just a load of rubble which was a big shame and confused me for a while as I wasn’t certain that it was the correct address. The store first opened in 1924 but it seems that it closed a year ago to undergo a four-year modernisation. Below are the pictures showing it then and now.

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Next up was Kachidoki Bridge (63 mins) which stretches across Sumidagawa River and is destroyed by the beast during his 15 minutes of terror before returning to the ocean.

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Tokyo Tower (4-2-8 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku) has felt the brunt of many kaiju battles over the years. As for Gojira film appearances, it was the ‘Godzilla: Final Wars‘ (2004) movie where it somehow managed to survive a big explosion quite well while the rest of Tokyo was nothing but a sea of crumbling, burning ruins. For once I got lucky with my instincts in getting from A to B on this one.

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I made a brieft stop at Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi en-route to my next location, though not to eat! Whilst researching this project I surfed the net to see where there were King Kong statues in Tokyo and it came up with a few but I didn’t have too much luck as I couldn’t find the one I’ve seen in Ginza before and the one outside this American-style hamburger joint was no more! Still time for the colossal gorilla-like star of ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla‘ (1962) to make an appearance on this cycling adventure though!

Absolutely no-one was at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi when I got there which was nice and quite different to the previous week when I visited it on my return from Gojira-koen in Yokosuka though that was probably due to it being early (09:15) in the morning! There will be an evening light show every 30 minutes from 6 pm onwards until August 21st  featuring smoke and roaring noises coming from the 6.6 metre high model figure.

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Having come out of the water at Tokyo Bay Godzilla promptly destroyed Shinagawa Station on 43 mins. Quite incredible to think it was still only 10am when I arrived at this station following a three mile ride from the previous locale where sweat running into my eyes became something of a problem. I even had to stop a couple of times as the stinging sensation meant it was too dangerous to continue cycling.

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Monster Japan USA Toy shop in Ebisu is not exactly stocked with too many Godzilla products but there were a few amid the many, many Star Wars, Spiderman, Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goods. There were also a few posters for the new film on the stairs leading up to the shop and the fact that it’s called ‘Monster’ warrants its deserved place on this route! Eagle-eyed readers may notice that its closed in my picture (opening hours are 12:30 till 20:30) but I regularly visit the shop when I work in Ebisu which is when I took the picture of the product below.

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On to Shibuya after that to take the road leading to Sangenjaya where I made a brief stop in the Taishido 5-chome area to photography the giant King Kong which hangs above the Family Mart convenience store. King Kong featured in the aforementioned 1962 movie which saw the two legendary monster’s of Godzilla and King Kong face-off against each other in full-on colour action.

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After that it was the longest ride as I made my way down Setagaya-dori going past many stations I’ve never heard of on the Tokyu Setagaya and Keio lines! Once I’d found one station on the latter it was quite straight-forward (literally!) just following the tracks until I ended up at Seijogakuenmae. Since I first visited Toho Studios  back in November 2010 the Toho Studios (1-4-1 Seijo, Setagaya-ku) have added a huge Godzilla portrait on to the side of one of its buildings which was a most welcome bonus sight for me. There’s a six foot tall Godzilla statue just in front of the reception window at the studios.

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I guess I should mention that miniature sets were used to replicate Tokyo city whilst a man wore a rubber suit and stomped all over the three metre high set-pieces. That was of course all done in these studios which are Japan’s largest and most famous film studios famed for making TV programmes and films such as the ‘Seven Samurai‘ (1954); one of the greatest and most influential Japanese films ever!

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Seijo to Koenji pretty much rounded things off and was by far the worst part of the journey as I got lost once and was naturally very tired and just wanted it to all be over and done with! Shops don’t like to open too early in Tokyo (but they sure stay open till late!) so when I eventually got to my final destination I was a little disappointed to find that Gojira-ya (Koenji Minami 3-67-1) still wasn’t open at 1:15 pm! Luckily, I had been in Koenji the weekend before and had searched out the place. It’s on the opposite side of the tracks to the Star Wars shop meaning it’s on the south side where it can be found beneath the tracks.

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I still had to cycle another 3.5 miles from Koenji to get back home and recover. I was way too exhausted to actually go and see the new Godzilla film yesterday evening but I will go and see it very soon and a review may get posted over on Tokyo Fox‘s sister site ‘Beyond The Movies‘ if I feel its worthy of it!

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Distance: 82.8 km   Time: 6.43 hrs   Calories Burned: 2753

You can read my review of ‘Godzilla‘ (1954) here.

You can see my other themed cycling adventures by clicking here.

Posted in Cycling, Japan Filming Locations, Movie Locations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Screen #5 – Thailand

This south-east Asian country has long been used in films but more often that not its just been used to replicate other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, as was revealed in On Screen #1. This Tokyo Fox series though focuses primarily on how each country is portrayed on screen whether it be real or faked.

The readily available mix of exotic jungles, beautiful beach settings, elephants, low production costs and relatively experienced film crew members make Thailand an attractive proposition for foreign production companies.

Possibly the most famous time when Thailand played itself on the big screen was for the Danny Boyle adaptation of the classic (albeit a little over-rated in my opinion) Alex Garland book ‘The Beach‘ (2000). Leonardo DiCaprio and co were filmed at Khao Yai National Park, Krabi and of course Maya Bay in Phuket which was the secret beach. More details of the exact locations can be seen here.

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Over his 50 years in cinema, James Bond has gone round the world taking in a vast array of places and of course that has included Thailand albeit on quite a small scale. Ratchdamnoen Boxing Stadium, Muang Boran and the Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok featured in the ninth film in the 007 series; ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ (1979), which starred Roger Moore and Britt Ekland. More famously Khao Ping Gan a.k.a. James Bond Island was used as Scaramanga’s lair.

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The Bridge On The River Kwai‘ (1957) starring Obi-Wan Kenobi, erm, I mean Alec Guinness may be all about the building of the bridge in Katchanburi area but in reality it was filmed in Sri Lanka and the contraption seen on screen is far more impressive than the actual bridge in Thailand.

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Far more recently ‘Only God Forgives‘ (2013) features plenty of Thailand in this dark tale of murder and vengeance featuring Ryan Gosling as a man who runs a Thai boxing club as a disguise for a drug business but when his brother murders a prostitute and is thus killed a series of further killings take place in Bangkok.

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Technically ‘The Railway Man‘ was also a 2013 movie due to it debuting at some film festivals not that it really got its worldwide release till this year. Based on Eric Lomax’s novel of the same name, Colin Firth plays a former British Army officer, who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labour camp during WW II. That camp was filmed at Ipswich in Queensland, Australia. On discovering that the young Japanese officer who haunted him is still alive Eric travels to Thailand to confront his tormentor. This is when Thailand for real is seen with Bangsue train yard in Bangkok used for scenes where thousands of Allied prisoners were forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. The Death Railway and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery were used for brief shots.

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Of course, Thailand has been a popular destination for western productions over the years and other films of note to have been shot there include ‘The Big Boss‘ (1971), ‘Duel Of Fists‘ (1971), ‘Year Of The Dragon‘ (1985), ‘Kickboxer‘ (1989) and ‘Alexander‘ (2004).  ‘American Gangster‘ (2007) has a few scenes in “Bangkok” which in reality were shot in Chiang Mai with drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) smuggling heroin in the late 1960’s via the coffins of seven American Vietnam War soldiers.

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I can’t say that I was too taken in by ‘The Hangover‘ when it came out in 2009. I thought it was ok but couldn’t understand why so many people loved it and sadly that affection resulted in its 2011 sequel (not to mention a third one last year!) which saw the guys going to Thailand for a wedding.

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Another sequel to arrive in Thailand was ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘ (2004) which featured some romantic sea cruising which was shot at the 200-year-old Muslim village on stilts at Ko Panyee in Phang Nga Bay. Nai Yang Beach and Phuket Airport were also used for some scenes. The crew built a Thai-style restaurant from scratch for the scene where Bridget was momentarily swept away during a romantic dinner with Daniel Cleaver.

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The Impossible‘ (2012) deals with a British family’s story about the ordeal they suffered during the terrible 2004 tsunami which hit Phuket. This film emphasises a feel good plot within the the context of mass devastation. It was filmed in part in Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak but most of it was shot in Alicante, Spain.

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At the end of the day though, filming on location in Thailand isn’t always so easy due to a variety of reasons and one such example of that is ‘Anna & The King‘ (1999) which, due to the protests of historical inaccuracy from the Thai Film Board, had to be filmed in Malaysia. Protracted negotiations and rewrites resulted in 20th Century Fox finally moving the production, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat, to the likes of Penang (Bangkok harbour and some street scenes), Ipoh, Perak, Parit, Papan, Langkawi and Selangor. Many, many decades before that ‘Anna & The King Of Siam’ (1946) and ‘The King & I‘ (1946) were banned from filming in Thailand for the same reasons and so alternative locations were found.

You can see previous On Screen articles by clicking on the links below:

On Screen #1 – Vietnam (Click here)

On Screen #2 – Istanbul (Click here)

On Screen #3 – Myanmar (Burma) (Click here)

On Screen #4 – Brazil (Click here)

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Tokyo Daytripper: Gojira-Koen (Godzilla Park)

In anticipation of a forthcoming Godzilla-themed cycling tour of Tokyo ahead of the very late Japan release (two months after the rest of the world!) of the 2014 movie, I was searching the internet last weekend to see if there were any other places I could use to bulk out the various Gojira-related locations. To be honest, I was only expecting to find a few shops or signs to add to the various statues, toy stores and filming locations I already know about. However, whilst searching Armand Vaquer’s blog (he is the author of ‘The Monster Movie Fan’s Guide to Japan‘) I was quite surprised to discover that there is a huge Godzilla statue in Kanagawa prefecture which also doubles up as a kids slide and from that moment I had to go and see it as soon as possible.

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Gojira-koen is just a nickname for its real name is Kurihama Hana-no-kuni (Kurihama Flower World) and in October 1999, a Godzilla slide was erected on its hilltop in the city of Yokosuka which is famed as being the home of the US Navy base and is also the gateway to the uninhabited Sarushima a.k.a. Monkey Island. The park is free to enter and is a ten minute walk from Keikyu-Kurihama Station; 40 minutes away from Yokohama. On arrival at the park’s entrance, its another 10 minute walk up a quite steep path which winds round the lush, green scenery but once you get a glimpse of the statue towering above you, all efforts taken in reaching it will be forgotten.

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Over 100,000 individuals and 200+ companies in the local community contributed to the cause of bringing this 8.75 metre statue to the area and all their names are listed at the base of the slide. It’s magnificent body is made of tempered plastic and weighs five tonnes and when I went I had the whole thing all to myself. Sadly for me (but fortunately for you dear reader!) my digital camera memory card was playing up and my phone camera colours have messed up recently so I was one of those w*nkers using a tablet as a camera! All in all that means I couldn’t use my digital camera which meant no tripod use and therefore no pictures taken with me in them on the timer.

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With the wires and pylons above the gigantic amphibious bipedal dinosaur, it actually makes the whole experience seem more authentic and similar to when he was awoken by hydrogen bomb testing and came ashore to prey on humans, tearing down the Tokyo city landscape in the process.

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So what about the actual slide I hear you ask! Well I decided to brave it in the name of my extensive research even though there’s a notice saying that it’s only for kids under 12! I saw a much, much older man go on it though so thought why not! Just ten steps take you up inside the monster and then you can slide for joy down its tail! Actually, its rather lame, even for kids as the one child I witnessed going down it moved so slowly that he instantly walked off to the far more exciting slide which lies right behind Godzilla.

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The slide can be found in an area called Adventure Land and is clearly marked on all the maps. There is a sign saying not to climb on the giant lizard.

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By the entrance/exit gate there is a small shop possessing a Godzilla picture on the wall but sadly there’s no other kaiju-related merchandise in the store.

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Back in Tokyo later that afternoon I took a quick detour to Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi where a 6.6 metre high model of Godzilla has been unveiled to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first ‘Gojira’ movie in 1954. It’s a pretty cool design and is supposed to look like he’s merging from the multipurpose commercial complex’s garden. I was only there in the daytime but until August 21st there will be an evening light show every 30 minutes from 6 pm onwards featuring smoke and roaring noises.

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Just to complete the collection, below are the other two Tokyo-based Godzilla statues; the tiny statue in Yurakucho and the one outside Toho Studios in Seijogakuenmae.

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Godzilla‘ (2014) is released in Japan on July 25th.

You can read other Godzilla-related stories by clicking on the links below:

1954 film review      Tokyo filming locations      Trip to Toho Studios 

 

Posted in Films, Quirky Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teaching IELTS Classes At A Local University

Thanks to an ever growing network of connections I occasionally get offered temporary or part time teaching projects which I often turn down as five (sometimes six!) regular days work each week is more than enough for me. However, one came up a few months back which caught my eye and that was to teach an IELTS course at a University in Kichijoji.

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Given the news at the start of May that TOEIC or TOEFL (both have the same license) will no longer be accepted by the British Government’s home office for students who want to get a visa to study at a university in the UK. This followed a BBC documentary in February which found that some test centres were helping students to cheat. After those revelations it was announced that students wanting to study at UK universities will need to take a different exam, such as the International English Language Testing System more commonly known as IELTS.

With this exam being seen as the future I thought that, having only taught it a handful of times over the years, it might be useful to gain some knowledge of what the exam actually consists of and for that I really must thank my colleague Alex Case (of Tefltastic blog fame) who not only helped me with advice but also provided me with materials galore via the aforementioned website which is a must-see site possessing a minefield of information for any teacher looking for free, additional resources to aid their lessons.

It’s been a pretty hectic Summer thus far with lots going on. There’s been the World Cup (with games going on constantly through the night), my wife’s family dog Momiji stayed  with us for three weeks, I had to sort out a load of stuff so that I could get married and much, much more though to be fair I did have some days off my regular job in that time.

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Although provided with a book, I was basically left to my own devices to come up with some speaking and writing lessons for a class of nine students wanting/hoping/thinking of going overseas to study at some point in the future. So, throughout June and July I have spent my Friday evenings doing these IELTS classes and I have to say that I have really enjoyed it and the feeling of putting together my own original lessons has been very satisfying. As much as I like my regular job it typically only involves teaching classes of three or four so it was nice and felt good to teach a sizeable class (yeah still small by high school standards!) and use the teaching skills and ideas that I gained when I did my TESOL course many years ago. This involved lots of pair work or working in three’s (when all nine turned up) with all of them regularly changing partners as is Tefl style!

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My task was to teach them the speaking and writing parts which was a very rewarding experience for me as first and foremost I knew very little about them beforehand. I wasn’t really planning to use my trademark music in the lessons but as there was a CD player in the classroom I thought it’d be rude not to!

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An IELTS exam is around two hours 45 minutes yet the speaking part only lasts around 11-15 minutes. Despite this, speaking probably formed the major part of our lessons with the first section including your basic questions about free time, studies, family, travel, future plans, food & drink and so on which are basically just designed to relax the student of nerves and ease them into what lies ahead!

After four minutes of those questions it’s on to Part II which involves giving a 1-2 minute speech (with a minutes preparation time) on a given topic. The card they read off includes four bullet points on what they should talk about and this was practiced a fair bit throughout the lessons under strict exam conditions. In the latter lessons I jazzed it up a bit by doing a white-brick-black-brick true-false opinion activity which was to help them see things from an opposing point of view. The speaking partner is secretly given a white or black lego brick just before they read their card and begin preparing for their speech 60 seconds later. This seemingly went down very well, especially the bit at the end where the listening partner guessed if what they had heard was a true or false opinion.

The third section really begins to push things a bit harder as the examiner and candidate have a discussion about more abstract themes, typically relating to socio-economic and environmental themes.

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The writing parts were a little more demanding of me as you can’t exactly spend the majority of the lesson actually having them write. Instead, it was more about useful phrases, exam techniques, tips, lesson plans and identifying and correcting typical Japanese errors. Of course all these activities were conducted in ways which gave the students the most amount of speaking opportunities possible.

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Basically, the writing part is an hour long and involves two tasks for the candidates. The second one is to write an essay often comprised of looking at cost-benefit analysis of the aforementioned socio-economic or environmental issues but first of all (though they are free to do in any order they like) they have to describe a diagram, graph, process or chart using all manner of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and phrases. Comparing and contrasting information also plays an important part which presented me with the perfect opportunity to get some Top Trumps card activity into proceedings as a quick warmer activity.

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Teaching this IELTS course has not only been of use to the students but me too and, with this experience under my belt as well as a wealth of resources I will actually be happy to see those five letters (that’s IELTS by the way!) on my schedule from now on. The students were really nice and they did everything I asked of them. This course was just a taster of the full IELTS experience but hopefully they will all go on to take the exam and get the required results to achieve their goals of studying abroad.

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Tokyo Fox’s World Cup 2014 Overview

Brazil 2014 promised to take this big world event to a country which really is the heartbeat of the World Cup and though it was fairly disastrous for England (and Japan) the tournament was much better than four years ago in South Africa. With Russia and Qatar both controversially hosting the respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s things are sure to change!

Though still huge, there’s personally been a law of diminishing returns regarding the last couple of tournaments which is due to a mix of me getting older, international football losing a bit of its spark (whilst the Premier League and Champions League continue to flourish), the continued decline of the England team and the fact that this time I’ve had to juggle a couple of jobs with watching the games through the night! Before it all kicked off I watched YouTube highlights and my dvd’s of all the World Cup’s in my experience (Mexico 86 onwards) in order to whet my appetite and my excitement continued through the group stages as a record breaking amount of goals were scored. It did slow down a bit after that in the knock-out games but a run of late goals kept things ticking over.

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The game of the tournament was undoubtedly Germany’s 7-1 mauling of the Neymar-free hosts in the first semi final and in years to come it will probably be this match which people will remember as the game where they won the World Cup! Having had all their group games up in the intense and ridiculous heat of the north followed by a match in the cold south, they did amazingly well to rise above these challenges and were deserved champions in the end. It was a rather lacklustre final (as always) at times with some below-par shooting before a fantastically well-taken goal from substitute Mario Götze won it in the 23rd minute of extra time. The way he chested it down and fired it in from such an angle was a goal worthy of winning the big prize.

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It’s just a shame that the night before that semi I had an 11th hour change of heart and set my alarm for half time rather than kick off as I was tired and thought nothing much would happen in the first half! I well and truly got that one wrong but even the second half was way, way better than what was served up 24 hours later in the Holland v Argentina game. Even the penalty shoot out was pretty dull and anti-climactic unlike the previous Dutch game against surprise package Costa Rica where coach Louis van Gaal got highly praised for his goalkeeper change just seconds before the end of extra time with a penalty shoot out just around the corner. It worked out well for the Dutch but wasn’t exactly original as Martin O’Neill did the same for Leicester back in 1996 in the Play Off Final. It was a masterstroke on that glorious day too as the switch affected the oppositions concentration and Steve Claridge hit a last minute winner but I digress!

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So back to the World Cup and it’s probably fair to say that expectations were fairly low for us England supporters as the event kicked off in June. I thought we showed a bit of promise in the first match against Italy and were a little unlucky to not come away with a point. You could say likewise for the Uruguay game too but Suarez is a predator (in more ways than one!) and punished us by showing how to finish when he got his chances. Of course his World Cup ended in shame as he was banned from all football activity for four months following yet another biting incident. However, this hasn’t managed to deter him from signing for Barcelona!

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It was the earliest exit England have ever made although previous holders Spain’s hopes of a fourth consecutive triumph (two European Championships and one World Cup) ended before that although that was due to the fixture list and was certainly no consolation. Neither was it when fellow European giants Italy and Portugal also failed to make it beyond the group stages.

Japan didn’t fare much better and their exit was a huge disappointment given the expectations by many that they could maybe reach the quarter finals for the first time ever. They started well enough with Honda putting them 1-0 up against the Ivory Coast but no sooner had Didier Drogba been introduced and the tide turned as the Africans netted two similar goals one after another to take the points.

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Their next match showed Japan’s inability to turn possession into goalscoring opportunities against a phenomenally tough defence as they failed to break down a 10 men Greek team. Though there was a glimmer of hope at half time against Colombia that faded away as soon as play resumed and a team, with one of the stars of the World Cup in Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, ran out easy winners in the end.

As well as following the (mis)fortunes of England and Japan I also had a keen eye on Algeria as they possessed the only representative Leicester had at the World Cup. He started against Belgium in their opener but sadly was an un-used substitute for the games after that but watching the Desert Foxes was quite joyful and the tournament was successful for them as they pushed the Germans all the way in their second round game. Of the so-called lesser-sides though it was Costa Rica who were the biggest triumph reaching the quarter finals following victories in the group stage over both Uruguay and Italy. Maybe England managing to draw with them and keep a clean sheet was actually a good result for us! Oh how far we’ve fallen!

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Now, I didn’t see every game but probably managed to watch over half of them live and the teams that were the most entertaining to watch were Chile, Colombia, Germany and as much as it pains me to say it, the USA were quite a delight to watch and though they had no star names among their ranks they showed, as did champions Germany, what a good solid bit of teamwork can do. It’s not always the case that the best team wins the tournament but thankfully on this occasion, Germany were the outstanding team and rightful winners.

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You can read my previous World Cup overviews by clicking on the links below:

Tokyo Fox World Cup 2010 Overview (Click here)

Tokyo Fox World Cup 20o6 Overview (Click here)

 

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Dining Out: Park Hyatt Hotel, Shinjuku

It took me a while (many, many years!!) to get round to going to this hotel in Nishi-Shinjuku but my wedding day on July 7th (a.k.a. Tanabata) seemed the perfect opportunity to dine out on the 52nd floor of this hotel in the New York Bar & Grill. Back in 2009, my friend Michael and I did a tour of ‘Lost In Translation‘ filming locations which did actually result in us entering the hotel and going up to the top floor but we had already eaten elsewhere so didn’t dare poke our heads in to see what it was really like.

On a day of four taxi rides (more than I’ve done in all my years in Japan!) we left the Shinjuku City Hall, where we signed our marriage papers, and drove on to the Park Hyatt in the rain where a couple of elevator rides took us up to our intended destination. We were taken over to our window seats and given the lunch menu’s which I was already familiar with having checked them in advance.

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It’s a set price of 5000 yen for lunch including a salad and dessert buffet bar on the very table where Bill Murray met Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost In Tranlsation‘ (2003). It also featured in ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown‘ (S02E07) on CNN last year and by coincidence those two entries constantly deliver the big ratings hits on Tokyo Fox!

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The lunch menu includes a choice of one of the following; grilled Australian beef sirloin, grilled seasonal fish, seared chicken breast, grilled Australian lamb, braised kirishima pork belly, penne regatta gragnano. All of these dishes are naturally given far more glamorous names for I have just written down the basics here.

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Please note that the 5000 yen quoted does not include the 13% service charge meaning that it is actually 6,179 yen per person and with drinks added on top of that, the price can soon get out of control! For the record, one beer of Asahi draft was 1188 yen but maybe a blog entry about one’s wedding day is not really the place to be moaning about money!!

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Once we’d finished our main course we changed seats (seemingly the norm) and moved on over to the lounge area to enjoy the dessert buffet amid a different setting and view. This was really awesome and there were so many ice-creams, cheese cakes, cookies and other such delicious sugary delights on offer which I’d love to have sampled more of but having been on a fairly strict diet for six weeks prior to this my stomach couldn’t handle as much as in the past.

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A short while later, one of the waiters brought a special congratulations (or “Congratulation” in their case!) ice cream dessert over with sparklers and candles which we then blew out. I had actually forgotten about this but when I booked the table in advance (which is necessary if you want a window seat) I did mention that we were going there after getting married so that was a nice extra touch to proceedings.

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We were both overly impressed with this place. The salad and dessert bar would probably justify the price on its own so to have a delicious main on top of that was good value too. The New York Bar & Grill is a great place for that special occasion, film location buffs or just for anyone wanting to treat themselves to some fine food on a dramatic perch complete with stunning views of the city.

The Park Hyatt is located at 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Lunch is daily from 11.30am till 2.30pm. 
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