National Teddy Bear Day


Teddy Bear Day is celebrated on the 9th September every year. This is a day to appreciate the companionship that your Teddy Bear gives you. So, bring out your beloved bear and give it a hug.

The teddy bear is one of the most popular toys for children, and holds a special place in many adults’ hearts, too. This lovable stuffed animal has a day all of its own, National Teddy Bear Day.

This day is an ideal time to get together with others for a teddy bear’s favorite activity, having a picnic, as immortalized in the classic song, ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic.’ This was written in 1907, shortly after teddy bears were first manufactured in Europe and America.

The American toy bears were named Teddy, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had refused to shoot a small captured bear on a hunting trip.

Many teddy bears have become famous over the years, including Paddington Bear, which is my favourite, Rupert Bear, Pudsey Bear and, of course, Winnie the Pooh.



Can you name any famous bears?


The first day of fall marks the autumn equinox, which is different from a solstice


Information from Ayana Archie

Fall starts on a day officially known as the autumn equinox.
Both equinoxes and solstices only happen twice a year — the first days of fall and spring are equinoxes, while the first days of summer and winter are solstices.
How are they different?

What is an equinox?
On the day of an equinox, the Earth is tilting neither toward or away from the sun, and therefore receives almost an equal amount of daylight and darkness, according to the National Weather Service.
At places along the equator, the sun is directly overhead at about noon on these days. Day and night appear to be equal due to the bending of the sun’s rays, which makes the sun appear above the horizon when it is actually below it.
During an equinox, days are slightly longer in places with higher latitudes. At the equator, daylight may last for about 12 hours and seven minutes. But at a place with 60 degrees of latitude, such as Alaska’s Kayak Island, a day is about 12 hours and 16 minutes.

What is a solstice?
On the day of a solstice, the Earth is at its maximum tilt, 23.5 degrees, either toward or away from the sun.
During a summer solstice, the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere and is tilting toward the sun, causing the longest day of the year. It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Earth is tilting away from the sun.
Likewise, a winter solstice happens in the Northern Hemisphere when the hemisphere is tilting away from the sun, making it the day with the least amount of sunlight. The sun is above the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere, making it summer there.


Changed My Mind


When I was growing up sometimes for dinner my mom served Brussels sprouts. I hated them. They were a small bitter slimy cabbage like vegetable. I refused to eat them. I tried to give them to the dog, but he just walked away. My mom being smarter than my six-year self, suggested that if I ate them I could  get to watch thirty extra minutes of cartoons that night.  “I changed my mind”, as I grudgingly gobbled them down and drinking two full glasses of milk in the process.

In todays world there are a lot of things going wrong. The weather, economy and many other things are all bad according to the media. But how about if we just changed our minds. A lot recently has been talked about “mental health”. But sometimes this has become negative as it focuses on selfishness and what I feel. How about just focusing on the positives like being thankful for the things in our lives, and thinking of others. I was taught to reflect on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  We can transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds to do what is good.


Festive Summer Traditions From Around The World


The Best Summer Celebrations Across The Planet


In Fairbanks, Alaska, which is far enough north that it experiences a period of complete daylight during the summer, you can experience the Midnight Sun Game, a late-night baseball game that’s been held for more than a century. The tradition began in 1906 as a bet between two bars following a big fire that ravaged downtown Fairbanks.



Australia might be the country that’s most famous for its barbecue culture (or should we say: barbie), but Aussies have a thing for picnics during the summer — so much so that the first Monday of August has become a government-sanctioned picnic holiday in Northern Australia. This day was first designated to celebrate the emancipation of Chinese railway workers in Australia.



Various towns throughout Spain observe midsummer with bonfires and fireworks, but the most famous and idiosyncratic of Spain’s summer celebrations is La Tomatina, which is when people in the town of Buñol get a little rowdy and pelt each other with tomatoes. Held in August, La Tomatina often attracts tens of thousands of participants who are willing to wear the season’s juiciest produce literally on their sleeves.



Are You Speaking English?


Did you know that English speakers sometimes have difficulty understanding each other? Having worked with and gotten to know people from different English-speaking countries while living here in Japan, I have been exposed to a few of the many English dialects. English dialects differ between countries and also regions within countries just like in Japan. English dialects differ in pronunciation, word usage, grammar and spelling. To those not accustomed to a certain dialect, it can seem like the other person is not speaking correct English or in some cases, English at all. This happened to me when I took my first trip out of the U.S. I went to the U.K. with my family to visit some relatives who live near London. At the airport in London, an airport worker asked me, “Are you here on holiday?” To this I answered, “No, I’m here on vacation.” The airport worker chuckled, and my father quickly informed me that “holiday” meant “vacation” in the U.K. So, what caused the confusion? It was a different understanding of the word “holiday”. Below is a chart that explains the differences.                                                                                         Erik


                                   What to use? Holiday or Vacation

 Holiday in the USA                                                 Holiday in the UK

 A single day when banks, schools                            A time when we do not go to school

 and offices are closed.                                            or work, and can travel or relax.

The holidays                                                           Vacation in the UK

The time that includes Christmas,                             A period of the year when universities

Hanukkah and the New Year.                                    are officially closed for the students.

 Vacation in the USA

 A time when we do not go to school

 or work and can travel or relax

A sport for summer


Water polo. Have you heard of it?Hopefully you have as it’s a great game for summer and it was one of the sports played in Fukuoka during the World Aquatics Championships last month. Water, swimming, a ball and fun. You could call it team-handball in a pool, I suppose. On a professional level it is extremely demanding as it is played in a pool that’s about 2 meter-deep, so the players’ feet never touch the bottom. The players are strong, powerful, great swimmers with exceptional endurance as the game is played over four quarters, each lasting 8 minutes. It doesn’t sound too long until you realize that they constantly thread water to stay afloat, while swimming, shooting, passing and fighting off opponents. Japan is getting better at it, both the men’s and the women’s team. The men’s team moved from 14th in 2008 to 9th in 2023 and the women rose from 17th in 2008 to 8th in 2023 in world ranking. No small feat when playing against the best teams in the world, such as Hungary, Spain, and Serbia on the men’s side and Hungary, the US and Spain on the women’s side  (current world ranking). Why don’t you watch some games the Japanese teams played, on Youtube for instance, and see if it something that would interest you. And if you can, try to watch underwater footage to see the incredible, and often very painful, action that goes on below the surface.                                    Alex

Summer in England. Norfolk beaches.


Norfolk, on the east coast of England, is a great place to enjoy the long and sometimes hot days of the great British summer. The gentle undulating ground is very fertile and therefore rich in plant and wildlife. You will see many wild flowers, ancient woodland and some rare species of butterfly and birds.

Norfolk’s beaches are a great place at any time of the year, but especially in summer. There are miles upon miles of golden sandy beaches for you to discover. In fact, it’s one of the few places in England, that you can still find a quiet secluded beach, even in August!

Norfolk has some of the best and most beautiful beaches in England and are little known about. Here are some hidden gems.


Titchwell, which is actually best known as a RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) nature reserve.

Scolt Head Island, is a National Nature Reserve. An island of this type is called a sandbar. It’s 4 miles long and near mud flats, wide sandy beaches, salt marshes and sear grass.


Snettisham, is a beach that is very near to King Charles III summer house in Sandringham. You can have beautiful walks along this beach.

Cart Gap, a quiet beach but with great facilities.

Weybourne Hope, this is a pebble beach so there is no sand. However, you can still have a nice experience walking along the beach and on the clifftops. It is a very peaceful beach. Fishing is popular here, especially you can see fisherman bringing in mackerel.

Other beaches along England’s Norfolk coast.


Watermelon Culture Shock


Whenever we encounter a new culture, there is the possibility that we may have some culture shock. Culture shock is the feeling of confusion, disappointment, or surprise about something when someone visits a country or place that they do not know. When I first came to Japan, I had a number of culture shock moments, but there is one that comes to my mind whenever I think about buying a watermelon.

In the summer of my first year in Japan, I was invited to a barbeque and was asked to either bring drinks, a watermelon or paper plates, napkins, chopsticks, etc. I thought it would be easiest to get the watermelon, so I volunteer to pick one up. On the day of the barbeque, I went to the supermarket and found myself wishing I had not volunteered to buy one. I was having culture shock. The watermelon I needed to buy was ¥3,000 (this was in 1998). I couldn’t believe it. ¥3,000 for a watermelon! Watermelons are supposed to be cheap. I was expecting to pay around ¥500 as they were less than $5 in my hometown in the U.S. at that time. Despite not wanting to, I bought the watermelon. The barbeque was a lot of fun, but in the back of my mind, I was still having culture shock over how much I spent on that watermelon.                                    Erik




Grab your flip-flops, a towel and a bottle of sunscreen  and head out to the beach. You don’t need much more to enjoy the best beaches on the East Coast; they’re some of the best beaches in America. Just keep an eye on the kids and let them build sandcastles while you throw out a line to fish or lounge under your hat with the latest bestseller. While these Atlantic beaches are family-friendly, they also have lots of adult appeal. Some offer galleries and eateries to explore, others shopping at high-end shops and enjoying fine dining. According to these are the 10 most beautiful east coast beaches:

10 Flagler Beach, Florida

9 Surfside Beach, Nantucket, Massachusetts

8 Huntington Beach, South Carolina

7 Ocean City Beach, Maryland.

6 Race Point Beach In Cape Cod, Massachusetts

5 Ocracoke Lifeguard Beach, North Carolina

4 Siesta Beach, Florida

3 Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

2 Bethany Beach, Delaware

1 Cape May Beach, New Jersey

But I don’t think any of them match to the beauty of Tybee Island, Georgia where I lived for a couple of summers during high school. Remember, life’s too short to not enjoy the beach.




Grand Living


Grand Living.

It must be nice to be a king. Or a queen.

Would you like to try? You can and you don’t even need to be “blue blood”.

All you need is a couple of free days and a ticket to “Old-Europe” to feel like a royal, even if only for a day or two. East-European country-sides are dotted with nobles’ castles converted into hotels where the experience is luxurious yet charming, elegant and historic at the same time. You can truly enjoy beautiful architecture, antique furnishings and feasts fit for a king or queen. And if you are really lucky you might even meet with one of the pervious owners’ ghost in the corridors after midnight There are many styles from baroque to renaissance, from hunting castle to elegant palace. So, save up a bit of money, choose a style of your liking and you can experience what must have been a truly grand living all those centuries ago.

Yes, these are all hotels, which do you fancy?

As for me, I’m going to stay in the castle in the top left corner this summer. Do you envy me?      Alex