Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin.

I really like to integrate reading skills into writing skills. After all, what you read, no matter what, so long as it is written by someone whose English is better than yours, is a good example of writing. It will not pay off if you just enjoy reading it. There should be quite a few principles by which it is written. We should apply them to our writing.

TOEFL is a test that measures our ability to do all the above. If you look at the writing scoring guide, all the criteria, including very basic ones like spelling errors, apply to reading. “Spelling? What does that have to do with reading?” If you have a question like this, I can tell you that I have seen countless numbers of  test-takers who misunderstood the passage because they confused two different words like “nothing” and “noting”.

When you are reading, therefore, you are practicing writing, and vice versa. Efficient learners study both at the same time.



Good old traditions

One important event for us parents this week was the rice cake-making ceremony at my son’s kindergarten. We were asked to help kids make rice cake (well, to tell the truth, we made it for them, and they ate it for lunch). For parents like me, it was quite exciting, too. I just wondered when was the last time I pounded glutinous rice like this? It should be more than 40-odd years back, when I was also in kindergarten. Even in those days, at home we used a rice cake (mochi) maker.

Machines and technologies do a lot of chores for us, but while the task is being done, what do we do? Probably, we use another machine to get other jobs done. With a smart phone in one hand, we listen to music, check email messages, play online games, and most importantly, log onto SNSs. School, in the 21st century, means a lot in keeping our good old traditions from vanishing into thin air.


My children do not watch the TV shows that we (their parents) prefer. It is usually the parents who yield, so we end up watching Doc McStuffin, Handy Manny, and other Disney shows. Yesterday was just about the same day, so I was ready enough to turn the channel when I turned on the TV. However, my son, as well as my daughter, suddenly got glued onto the show. It was “the first errand I ran.” Parents ask their child to run an errand and s/he achieves the goal without parental guide or assistance. Children have to cross the street or buy items from supermarket all by themselves, so this type of reality show would be impossible in other countries where safety and security are not considered given.

The child we accidentally started to watch had lost most of the money because she had bought many other things than was asked. But now, she has to buy something additional. My son got excited and said, “She’s got no money! Oh! boy Oh…Wait! I could use a credit card! Yes, that will solve the problem. Got to let her know!”

He was really into it.

The show may cater to those parents who raise or have raised children of the similar age, but it is the children that showed more interest. They can fully empathize with those kids on the show. Empathy does work.


Somewhere between work and pleasure

Many of my friends know that I start to work at 3:00 in summer, and 4:00 in winter. Today at 5:30 a.m. my work was again interrupted by my three-year-old daughter. She got out of bed, crying, and was at my door when I realized she was standing there. Said she couldn’t sleep without me by her side. I carried her to the bed, put her to sleep, and then got back to work. But that didn’t last five minutes. She was there again, crying. We repeated this exchange a couple of times and then, I gave up. I lied on the bed beside her for an hour. She seemed so peaceful and secure.

Seems to be a big waste of precious morning hours? Not in the least. On the contrary, I treasure every moment of this kind of happening. Sooner or later, she will not need me any way (instead she will ask her boyfriend to do the same, I wonder). Until that day comes, I will do my best to enjoy parenting. I don’t think I am a doting father who can spoil his daughter. It’s just that I have fun with parenting. It is sure to contribute to my English ability, too. Without my children, I wouldn’t even try writing something to this effect. That alone is a great plus.

Is that the same burger that I had yesterday?

The pricing policy of Kindle should be added to the seven wonders in the world, making it eight.

I once (or twice or more) wrote about this book.

Sales promotion was not the only intention that I had. I really wanted more TOEFL test-takers to read this book and prepare themselves for the test. It has quite a few topics that are very frequently asked in the actual TOEFL test. The more knowledge you have of certain academic fields, the more chance you stand of understanding the lectures that would otherwise be so new to you that you would be at a loss trying to understand them, much less talk about them.

That’s not everything, and this I find very problematic.

The price was set at 800 yen when I introduced this book on my blog and Facebook page. I can now assume it sold better than before, because it is now 1,800 yen – a whopping 225% higher! According to some websites that I found, they set a higher price because they empirically know that once a book starts to sell, it will keep selling well even if the price is higher.

Too bad.

Does that affect how much I will get from the publisher? I was totally unaware of it because I didn’t care (Who in the world that cares about royalties writes a book on the TOEFL, which is taken by not more than 80,000 Japanese people?)

Anyway, I just wondered. Today you ate a burger that cost you $8. Tomorrow, you will try the same burger at the same fast food chain, but the price is $18. You will not take it for the day, and the next day, and the following day… until you forget you have actually eaten it before.



Sweet Bean Paste

I haven’t gone back to my hometown for a long period of time. The last time I came home was only a short stay just to attend my father’s funeral. Except for that, I haven’t gone back for as long as … well, I can’t remember. I am just too used to living as a Tokyoite to consider myself someone from a different part of the country. On New Year’s holidays, however, there is one traditional dish that I cannot help fondly remembering: Ozoni. It is a soup with rice cake in it and eaten for the first couple of days of the year for breakfast (or lunch). And not surprisingly, as is often the case with tradition, there are as many kinds of Ozoni as there are regions and prefectures.

The one from my hometown looks weird.

Here it is. (from


Sweet bean paste (anko) is in the rice cake, which is the main ingredient for this white-miso (soybean paste) soup. Sweet bean paste is literally sweet, but the miso soup is a bit salty with a little umami. As you eat on, the entire color will be dominated by this dark bean paste (which is described as gross by some people, but I won’t). I cannot judge its taste myself. It’s just that I am used to it.

It was just several years after I came up to Tokyo when I realized the above was not the standard in Tokyo. Many people here even refused to imagine what it was like to have anko in the miso soup. I wouldn’t either if I were a real Tokyoite. But I like it anyway, probably because the rice cake is stuffed not just with anko but with my childhood.