Hi, I’m Gary. I’m writing this from Kyoto, my adopted home town since soon after I moved to Japan from Los Angeles back in 1997.
If you’re looking for practical, in depth in formation about how to teach English in Japan, things to do in Kyoto, or are looking for info about Japanese textiles or other aspects of Japanese culture and customs, I hope you’ll enjoy spending time here. Here’s a summary of what you can expect to find:
How to teach English in Japan
I’m a veteran English teacher with extensive and varied experience. I got my start at one of the big chain eikaiwa English conversation schools, and I’ve also taught at public elementary and junior high schools. I have also organized private and group lessons on my own, served as head teacher at a small privately owned conversation school, owned a franchise English conversation school and taught at university.
Teaching in particular and Japan in general have given me so much more than I had any right to hope for when I first started out, and this blog is my way of sharing and reflecting on my experiences.
After teaching here for a couple years on the strength of my BA degree and native speaker status, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree in ESL. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself in ways that go way beyond the typical career advancement aspects of such endeavors.
My writing here focuses on in depth reflections on my own classroom experiences and the lessons I’ve drawn from them, not on specific job hunting tips and leads.
After all, as important as finding a job is, being ineffective in the classroom and finding yourself ill prepared to sustain your own interest and that of your students will serve no one well and won’t bode well for your professional future.
Are you wondering what it’s really like to teach English in Japan and would like a taste of what really goes on in a classroom? Or are you already in the thick of it and find yourself needing something more than there sources and strategies you have at your disposal?
What you’ll find here, illustrated by specific situations I’ve encountered at eikaiwa conversation schools and universities, is an underlying approach that can remove the nagging burden that many teachers carry, the weight that comes from always searching for the next lesson or activity that will entertain and engage their students.
Yes, you’ll also find detailed descriptions of specific activities that I developed that you can try out yourself. but you’ll also come to see how the right approach can make lesson planning and implementation flow with an ease that makes teaching a true pleasure, and you’ll find yourself creating your own lessons with a new sense of confidence, ease and purpose.
Japanese culture and traditions
You might have noticed that a certain amount of entrepreneurial energy flows through the above list of teaching positions I’ve held. I’ve always had an independent spirit, and so I naturally gravitated toward teaching in contexts that gave me greater control over what and who I taught.
I eventually combined this predilection for doing my own thing with my budding interest in Japanese textiles and other traditions, and built the Kyoto Collection brand on introducing customers outside Japan to my favorite Japanese fabrics, including tenugui and furoshiki cloths as well as vintage kimono.
I’ve curtailed much of my online business lately and am turning my focus on this site to writing about my experiences and passions rather than my products. So you’ll also find articles here about Japanese fabric and other assorted esoteric stuff that I get curious about, like daruma dolls and Japanese cat names. I also love learning language as well as teaching it, and I blog about my Japanese language studies at nihongonavigator.com.
Things to do in Kyoto
There’s a reason I’ve lived in Kyoto all these years-Thanks to the people and the layout of the city it’s felt like home since the moment I arrived, and I’ll simply never get tired of its many and varied charms.
I’ve had the pleasure of helping my friend Nancy at kyotokimono.com organize Kyoto textile tours over the years, as well as giving friends and family who visit a taste of my Kyoto.
That Kyoto is experiencing a boom in popularity among visitors is well reported. What’s less talked about is why it has been and remains such a wonderful place to live.
I hope to give you a sense of this side of Kyoto from an admittedly opinionated local’s perspective, so that even if you come for a short stay you’ll get a feel for the rhythms and pulse of the city.
Walking and cycling around as I do, I’m still so often delighted by simple serendipitous moments and encounters. And I hope that in this Kyoto Collection that I’m cobbling together, you’ll find something that strikes you the same way.