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Making Soba and Picking Peaches

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, JapanesePod101.com lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone, Motoko here!

In the beginning of summer this year, the Innovative Language staff went on a day trip. Today I’d like to talk about that. We chose peach-picking for fun, and soba-making so that everyone could try a traditional Japanese food! We made soba in a wonderful nihon-kaoku, a traditional type of Japanese house.

Do you know what soba is? Soba is a famous type of noodle in Japan that is a greyish-brown color. It gets this color from a special type of flour called sobako that is used to make it. You dip the boiled soba into a dip called tsuyu made from fish broth, and eat it. Adding onions and wasabi to the tsuyu give it a more grown-up flavor. Soba comes in two types: cold zarusoba, and warm kakesoba, but this time we had zarusoba.

Soba is made from sobako and flour. First, you mix the two types of flour into a large bowl called a hachi. You can use chopsticks, but it seems like it’s more common to use your hands. Next, you add water. Then comes the hard part – you have to then knead the soba dough a lot. The teacher made it look easy, but it requires a lot of strength since the dough is not that soft. Apparently, the action of kneading the dough is an important step to making delicious soba. Once you’re done kneading, you flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Then, you place the soba on a wooden board called a komaita, and cut it with a special knife called a bocho. If you cut it thinly, you get great soba. If you cut it thickly, you get soba that looks like udon. (Which still tastes good…it just might be a little hard.)

Everyone worked hard at making soba, getting themselves covered with flour in the process. After making it, we boiled it and ate it ourselves. Because the noodles are raw, they take only a minute and a half to cook. Soon after boiling them, you do what’s called shimeru in Japanese. Shimeru refers to rinsing the noodles with cold water so that they don’t get too soft. When you do this, it gives the noodles a nice chewy texture. This isn’t done with Italian pasta!

Then we got on the bus to go peach-picking. Is it common to go fruit-picking in your country? In Japan, there are a lot of opportunities for fruit-picking that change with the seasons. Cherry-picking, peach-picking, grape-picking, and pear-picking are some of the well-known ones. You go to the field to pick and eat a lot – depending on the place, there may be a limit to how much you can eat. The place we went had an all-you-can-eat deal that lasted for 40 minutes. For 40 minutes, you can pick and eat as much as you want. Apparently, the good peaches are at the ends of the branches, so everyone tried hard to get the highest ones.

The person who ate the most was a family member of one our Innovative Language staff. They ate seven peaches in 40 minutes! As for me, I ate three. The peaches I chose were big, so even after just three, I was really full!

Readers, you should definitely try your hand at making Japanese food – not just eating it. I had never made soba before, and I’m Japanese! It’s sure to be a memorable experience.

A Trip to the Baseball Game

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, JapanesePod101.com lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi all, Motoko here.

Today I’d like to tell you about the baseball game the Innovative Language team went to at the end of September. But before I do, which sports are popular in your country? And do you know which sports are popular in Japan?

The answer is: soccer and baseball.

Soccer came to Japan because it was popular in Europe. Baseball, on the other hand, can be written in kanji (野球), and that’s because it was introduced to Japan much earlier than soccer was. In fact, it came to Japan in 1872. It is said that it started when an American man taught some Japanese college students how to play baseball.

Of course, playing baseball is quite popular, but also people young and old love watching it. Stadium tickets come in two types; one is “reserved seating” where you can choose where you’d like to sit ahead of time. Another is “non-reserved seating”, where you can choose where to sit on game day. The second kind is cheaper. Spectators drink beer, eat snacks, and watch the game. Throughout the game, staff (mostly ladies) carry beer tanks through the crowd, so you can easily get more beer without leaving your seat!

The game was held at Meiji Jingu stadium, which is close to Shibuya. The seating areas are divided among the two teams. In this stadium, the seats on the first-base side were for Yakult Swallows supporters, and the seats on the third-base side were for the opponent’s (Chunichi Dragons), supporters. So, if you’re cheering for the Swallows, you need to have a seat on the first-base side.

Speaking of cheering for the teams, we found some unique supporters’ gear to help us do just that. Some people had pairs of miniature plastic megaphones and made loud noises by beating them together. Other people had little umbrellas and danced with the cheering groups. Each baseball team has their own mascot. Tsubakuro is the mascot of the Yakult Swallows – “swallow” is tsubame in Japanese. Actually, the first baseball team ever to have a mascot was from Japan. Did you know that?

(Sep, 2012)

Japanesepod101.com Tokyo Office Visit Part 2

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, JapanesePod101.com lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone, Motoko here!

Today I’d like to tell you about another listener meetup we had.

The other day, we had two JapanesePod101.com listeners come to visit us. One was from Canada, and the other was from France. It was the second meetup for me, but I still felt nervous beforehand!

Andre from Canada, and Becher from France paid us a visit.

They met each other through their Japanese studies, and this was their first trip together – they were staying in Japan for two weeks. They told us that right before they came to the office, they had been shopping around in Akihabara, and also mentioned that they had visited Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and had even climbed Mt. Fuji! I’ve never climbed Mt. Fuji, by the way. I was surprised to learn that they had gotten around to it before me!

They were both very friendly, and seemed excited about coming to Japan as well as visiting the Innovative Language office. Our office is not that big, and we have a small recording booth in the corner of the room. They seemed surprised at how compact it all was.

They also mentioned how hot Japan still was even though it was September. September is the first month of fall, but it’s still quite hot in Tokyo. There were even some days where the temperature reached 30 degrees  it might be an effect of global warming.

Andre said that he would make sure that his next trip was in winter. Not a bad idea!

The Innovative Language staff will be waiting for you the next time you come to Japan!(Sep, 2012)

Japanesepod101.com Tokyo Office Visit

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Hi everyone! Motoko here.

At the beginning of this month, two JapanesePod101.com listeners came to visit us at the office. Apparently we often used to have listeners come and visit us, but for me it was the first time, so I was really excited.

Christophe(SP?) was from Switzerland, and said that he tried to come to Japan at least once a year. It was really clear to me that he loves Japan! This time he visited our Tokyo office with his friend, who is also a JapanesePod101.com listener. This friend is currently employed at a Japanese company! Isn’t that impressive?

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We took a commemorative photo together with another member of staff, Jessi.

If you ever come to Japan, please definitely drop in to our Tokyo office for a visit!

Our ‘Farewell, Pim! Welcome Back, Kim!’ Tea Party

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Today, we bring you a blog post from Motoko, JapanesePod101.com lesson creator, host and InnovativeLanguage.com Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

On the 17th of April here at Innovative Language Learning, we had an afternoon tea party.

Although Kim (a member of our Business Development Team) moved to Hong Kong, last week she came back to Japan for a brief visit, so it was her ‘welcome back’ party. Meanwhile, Pim (host of ThaiPod101.com) is going back to her home country to have her baby, so it was her ‘farewell’ party.

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We all ate pastries, chatted, and enjoyed ourselves.

There was a choice of pastries: strawberry, green tea, custard… It was really hard to choose!

By the way, everyone, do you know what a shikishi is?

It’s a plain piece of card that measures roughly 20cm by 20cm. Actually, because it’s quite thick – about 3mm – it might be better to call it a board. It usually has a piece of Japanese paper pasted to one side of it. In Japan, when there’s a celebratory occasion, or someone is leaving, everyone writes a message on this piece of card. At ILL, too, when someone has something to celebrate or a staff member is leaving the company, we present them with a shikishi.

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First of all, we write the name of the person in the middle. This time, it’s Pim. Then, so that the person we’re giving it to doesn’t see it while we’re writing on it, we put it inside the Secret File.

Everyone in the office then takes it in turns to write a message along the lines of ‘Congratulations!’ or ‘See you!’ before passing the card to the next person. Of course the company president also writes a personal message.

When everyone’s finished writing their messages, we decorate the card and make it cute and colorful.

Finally, we give it to Pim! She seemed really pleased with it. We’re going to miss you Pim!

Bonus : The True Face of ILL

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