akio ohnishi awarded prize for entrepreneurship

2017-01-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our friend and collaborator Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of VERSION2, Inc) received the Northern Entrepreneur Prize for 2016 from the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce in recognition of his outstanding achievement in starting and growing a software service company in Sapporo. Congratulations!

Scene from the award ceremony. Photo by the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce.

Excerpt of a brochure by the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce explaining why Akio Ohnishi deserves the award.

Clipping of news article that appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun.

automated dolls

2017-01-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The Yume Karakuri Ichiza (Fantasy Automated Troupe) performed at the Edo Tokyo Museum. We were mesmerized by the intricate and creative gizmos.

Automated dolls were popular attractions starting from the late Edo period. Crowds would pay to see the spring-driven robots.

The Edo Tokyo Museum recreates a period theater.

This doll brings cups of tea to you, and after you finish your drink, it takes empty cups back.

This doll nocks 4 arrows in succession, and shoots at 2 targets. It often hits them.

This doll writes 4 kanji and 2 pictures on a piece of paper placed in the frame. He is programmed using replaceable sets of 3 rotating wooden disks that control the hand movement in 3 dimensions.

The mechanical parts of automated dolls were made mostly of wood. Compared to metal gears, wooden gears tend to be bulky and imprecise. Springs were made of whale baleen. Whale baleen is now impossible to obtain, and the lack of material hinders the restoration of antique dolls. Modern automated dolls use brass springs. The non-mechanical parts -- faces, hands, hair, clothes, cabinets -- were made similarly to non-robotic dolls, just like hina dolls made today.

koto (a 13-string instrument) player that troupe leader Susumu Higashino has been building for several years. Her dress has been removed to reveal her mechanism.

Example of original baleen spring. Decay is evident.

The troupe leader Susumi Higashino was trained as a wood carver, and begun collecting antiques when he was a young man. He then spent decades discovering, restoring, and reconstructing automated dolls.

Some time ago, Susumi Higashino suffered an illness causing him to lose control of his right hand. He used his left hand to autograph his DVD for me.

The jacket from the DVD.

pseudo-japanese restaurant

2016-12-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We went to Gompachi, a pseudo-Japanese restaurant located in Nishi-Azabu, less than 2 kilometers east of Shibuya station in Tokyo.

The restaurant is said to have inspired the venue for fight scenes for the movie "Kill Bill". Former prime minister Jun-ichiro Koizumi entertained then-USA-president George W. Bush here.

The restaurant is good for laughs. Think Benihana of New York without the show, and set in fake mingei decor.

The food is neither fake nor outstanding. 2100 yen for the 2 of us.

hokudai elects new president

2016-12-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Hokudai elected Toyoharu Nawa as university president. Nawa is a professor of cement engineering, and currently is dean of the school of engineering. On 2017-04-01 Nawa replaces Keizo Yamaguchi, a math professor.

I am glad to see Yamaguchi gone. He is an embarrassment in both administrative leadership and public relations. Yamaguchi is a spineless yes-man for the Ministry of Education (he agreed to cut costs and personnel without seeking alternate funding), and a heartless no-man towards the local community (he banned barbecue parties and children from campus). I attended a keynote talk by him, and was appalled by his lack of vision and compassion.

I welcome Nawa, partly because of his corporate experience. He worked at Chichibu Cement before joining academia. Hopefully Nawa's real-world training will put Hokudai back on track.

Similarly to the United State's electoral college, Hokudai's president election is not decided by popular vote. All full-time instructors may vote, but the president is chosen by a closed panel of 13 individuals, who are not bound by the results of the faculty vote. This steering committee is akin to the privy council under the Meiji constitution, and is designed to protect the upper echelons of university administration.

Newspaper clipping from Hokkaido Shimbun 2016-12-14 online edition.

sapporo grand hotel art talks

2016-12-08 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Sapporo Grand Hotel hosts art exhibits and talks for free.

We love hearing from artists and craftspeople. Sorry no photography allowed during the lecture.

They offer hors d'oeuvres and drinks at a reception after the talk. Our university should hold similar cultural events!

We chose a quiet coffee table.

Our student Kayo works at one of the restaurants at the hotel.

library talk

2016-11-30 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Hokudai North Library invited us to give a workshop on learning phrases in context by using manga and books in L1 (a language you are familiar with) and their translations in L2 (a language you wish to learn).

We expected a tiny audience of somewhere around 3, which was the number of people who told us they might come. 34 people showed up -- a mix of faculty, administrative staff, and grad and undergrad students. Noriko and I were ecstatic.
Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 12.59.13

The workshop took 97 minutes, consisting of (1) 5 minutes of introduction by the library staff, (2) 10 minutes of lecture by me explaining the merits of reading identical material in L1 and L2, (3) 10 minutes of lecture by me explaining how manga and anime are appreciated in America and Europe, (4) 27 minutes of hands-on activity by students under my guidance, (5) 30 minutes of hands-on activity by students divided into groups (each table received different language material), and (6) 15 minutes of sharing results from each group of students.
Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 12.59.30

Students first found corresponding phrases in L1 and L2, then used the L2 phrases to construct new messages, and lastly shared their results with the other participants.
Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 13.00.12

Many thanks to Kyoko Jo and Yuji Nonaka for organizing the event! In the picture below, they are standing 3rd and 2nd from the far right.
Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 12.58.35

JALT conference

2016-11-26 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Our research-and-education team gave poster presentations at the JALT (Japan association of language teachers) conference in Nagoya city.

The poster area was heavily attended, partly because our poster session took place immediately after the opening keynote presentation.

Naomi Suzaki explained how our students learn pronunciation of English language by singing songs.

Ivy Lin explained how our students learn vocabulary, particularly collocations (multiple words occurring together at high likelihood).

night before supermoon

2016-11-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Early this morning, the moon shone brightly into our apartment. Tonight is a super moon. Maybe the weather will hold.

Hand-held photo of the moon. Sorry about the blurring. Too lazy to set up a tripod in the bedroom at 03:00.

library talk

2016-11-11 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Hokudai north library invited me to give a workshop on reading in 2 languages. The talk is on 2016-11-30 from 18:15 to 19:45 in the north library, 3rd floor group study zone.

The idea is that by reading your favorite manga or books in L1 (the language you already know) and L2 (the language you want to learn), you can read the books you love in L2, and learn phrases without looking up words in the dictionary. Manga gives graphical context, which provides the nuances of social relationships that are so important to the Japanese psyche. Manga (and to a limited extent novels) provide spoken language expressions in written form.

I intend to ask students to find corresponding phrases, and create short sentences using those phrases.

A pair of slides from my talk. These slides are shown to students at the beginning of my workshop as a warm-up task. The tasks increase in complexity during the 70-minute workshop. The artwork below is from Osamu Tezuka's "Black Jack", a classic medical drama which was serialized when I was in middle school.
Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 05.02.23

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 05.03.29

They made a flyer with a rather embarrassing picture of me. Here's a 2nd galley proof after I asked them to change a few minor portions of text.

IEEE talk

2016-08-31 BEAVERTON, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I attended a talk on cloud radio access networks. The talk was sponsored by the Oregon chapter of the IEEE.

The Tektronix complex is near Nike World Headquarters. Roads in Oregon are often difficult to navigate because they are intentionally twisted. We spent several minutes looking for Building 38.

The Tektronix auditorium is spacious.

The IEEE server generous portions of pizza. We don't eat as much as we used to.

full moon

2016-08-18 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The moon was full and bright tonight.

I was too lazy to set up my tripod in our family room. I took this picture by holding my camera in my hand.

perseid meteor shower

2016-08-12 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We spent over an hour in our back yard at night gazing at the Perseid meteor shower. We ourselves saw about 30 meteors, some quite bright and spectacular. The skies were clear, the wind was calm, and the moon was out of our view.

We have no pictures of the skies because our camera is not sensitive enough.

radio program

2016-06-22 (UPDATED FROM 2016-05-23) SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Update: on 2016-06-22 the transcript of the radio program came online, along with an audio recording.

My friends Akio Ohnishi, Hiroya Tanaka and I appeared on a local radio program on
station Air-G (FM 80.4 MHz facebook twitter). This was the first time I appeared on commercial radio.

I've been on the air on amateur radio and aviation radio. Commercial radio is quite a different experience, mostly because it is broadcast on a schedule as opposed to being a two-way conversation that can continue as long as desired.

The program we appeared in is a 10-to-15-minute segment called "School strike" (
website twitter) contained within a 105-minute live show called "GTR" (website). "School strike" sounds like teachers demanding better working conditions (which I would agree with for my colleagues' sakes) but the radio station means "strike zone" or "dead center" of topics related to education in the Sapporo area. Most listeners are middle school and high school kids, their parents, and their teachers. They are eager to learn what tertiary education offers them.

At 20:30 local time we were shown to a spacious recording studio. The announcer D J Ryota asked us questions and we took turns answering to the best of our ability. We adjourned at 20:47. Tonight's segment lasted a few minutes longer than usual, I believe.

The following 2 pictures are screenshots of the radio station's tweets.

Right to left: D J Ryota (wearing a white cap), Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of Version2, Inc
website facebook), Hiroya Tanaka (professor of English language at Hokkai Gakuen University website), and me. Hidden behind the orange artificial flower on the desk is Sirokuro Puppy (the mascot of my online learning courseware).

After our segment the program went to music and the microphones in the recording studio were turned off. We took souvenir pictures. Mine features Sirokuro Puppy and the uniform for Paddy (website twitter), the ultimate frisbee men's and women's teams that I am the faculty advisor for at Hokkaido University. One man and two women from our teams were chosen to represent Japan in the world championships! Only 24 for each gender are selected.


2016-06-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Birthday!

Today marks the 2-year anniversary of my trumpet playing. Hmm, progress is slow!

Noriko and Kero gave me a trumpet keychain.

yosakoi soran matsuri

2016-06-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Yosakoi Soran Matsuri takes place every June. Young adults, including many of our students, perform choreographed dances in groups averaging 100 people each.

Modernized Japanese attire is the norm. Hairstyle for women is often a pineapple bun. Maybe it is easier to dance.

Grandstands line the streets. Some are free, others not. Friends and families of each team walk with their dancers across town.

The weather was clear, and to use aviation terms, ceiling unlimited, winds 090 at 20 gusting to 50 (blowing from the east at 10 to 25 meters per second). We were almost swept off our feet. Yet the dancers were steaming with sweat.

This year 280 teams participated, some coming from far away. Each team performs numerous times at 20 venues downtown.

CALL-Plus workshop

2013-10-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The CALL-Plus Workshop, a workshop for language teachers, will be held on 2013-11-16 from 10:00 to 17:00 at Sapporo Gakuin University. All teachers of foreign languages are welcome. This year’s theme is flipped learning. Don Hinkelman and I will critique and illustrate the flip model in our joint keynote titled "Flip the Classroom: Gimmick or Revolution?”



nitobe college talk 3

2013-10-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A Hokudai alumna will give a talk titled “Leadership in global society” on 2013-11-01 from 18:15 to 19:15 in the liberal arts building, lecture hall N1. The talk is in the Japanese language.



nitobe college talk 2

2013-10-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A Hokudai alumnus will give a talk titled “Mind, skill, quality for a global life” on 2013-10-25 from 18:15 to 19:15 in the liberal arts building, lecture hall N1. The talk is in the Japanese language. Download the flyer.



candle night

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Enjoy candle light, live music, and a photograph exhibit at Candle Night on 2013-10-18 from 17:00 to 20:00 near the Enyu Gakusha building. This event is held annually near Hokudai's main gate; however probably due to construction at the main gate, the event will take place near the Kita-18jo gate.

baby galaxies

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The science school will host a talk in the English language by Dr John Wise (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA) titled "Baby galaxies: the first steps toward the Milky Way” on 2013-10-16 from 17:00 to 18:00 at the science school, building 2, entrance hall.

talks by guest speakers

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Guest speakers give talks in my class. Everybody is welcome.

The first guest speaker of the semester is Momoko Miyamoto, who will talk about her adventures in Germany. Her talk is on 2013-10-16 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times) in the liberal arts building, room E215.

Camp Makomanai

2013-05-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Camp Makomanai (a Japanese army base in south Sapporo city) opened its doors to the public for a day of performances and exhibits.

Camp Mamokamai is home to the JGSDF 11th Brigade. The brigade is composed mostly of infantry and artillery. I received some of my own training here.

Servicemen entertain visitors with taiko drums. This band has only men, but there are many women drummers too.

Almost all aircraft in the Japanese army are helicopters. The air force has fighters and transports but no bombers. The navy has anti-submarine surveillance aircraft.

In a mock battle, armored personnel carriers (the 8-wheeler in the middle) of the 18th infantry regiment advances towards the enemy under cover of suppression fire by the 11th artillery (the tracked vehicles with guns). Self-propelled howitzers are not tanks. Howitzers fire upwards (that is, at high trajectories) to reach targets beyond line of sight.

Most of the static displays (that is, exhibits that are for looking at) consisted of equipment used in disaster relief. The photo below is a triage center.

A decontamination tent. The army seriously prepares for nuclear, biological, and chemical attack.

Inside the decontamination tent, there are low-pressure and high-pressure sprays for removing hazardous materials.

If your area becomes a disaster zone, then you might live in tents like these. They are roomier than backpacking tents.

The Japanese army provides furo baths to keep civilians happy. In America, you get coffee.

The tent walls have been removed to show the interior. The inside looks just like a regular public bath.

Lots of water is needed. I often suspect that most of army cargo is water. But soldiers aren’t allowed to drink it: “Save it for your buddy.” I got used to not drinking water during exercises. American soldiers drink all they want.

Soldiers meticulously protect visitors from sharp objects. Here’s a tent peg covered in a plastic bottle.

During break time, a soldier does chin ups by the barracks.

ultimate team paddy

2013-04-10 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- What I used to call “frisbees” are correctly called “flying discs” because “frisbee” is a trademark. Many games are played with flying discs. “Ultimate” (formerly “ultimate frisbee”) is one of them.

I’ve been the academic advisor of Hokudai’s ultimate team “Paddy” since they formed 4 years ago. They’ve grown to have both a men’s and women’s team. One of our men was selected as a player of the team representing Japan. He will compete this summer in an international match being held inToronto, Canada.

Paddy seeks new members regardless of experience. Watch the team trailer.



We went to a concert by the Hokkaido University Symphony Orchestra. My colleague (a linguist and trombonist) is the orchestra’s advisor, and many of our students perform.

siberian railway

Our friend Annuska Rodrigues Bento visited us from Belgium via the Trans-Siberian Railway. She gave a talk about her travels to our students. Her trip took 10 days. Does that sound long to you? I think that it’s too short, especially when you consider that there’s so much to see along the way.

study abroad fair on 2012-05-19

STEP (the people who run the Eiken tests) is holding a study-abroad fair on Hokudai campus. Read more info and register.

visitors welcome!

You are cordially invited to join my classes. My classes are always open to visitors. No appointment necessary.

In my usual classes, my students walk around talking with TAs most of the time -- I usually have between 5 and 8 TAs. Probably the best instructor-student ratio on campus.

Yuka gives a talk on her exchange student experience:
2012-01-11 wed[124] and 2012-01-12 thu1

Yoshia gives a talk on his overseas experiences; we do sushi conversations:
2012-01-18 wed[124] and 2012-01-19 thu1

Finally, we must have finals:
2012-01-25 wed[124] and 2012-01-26 thu1

goh's talk at the otaru university of commerce

On 2011-10-24 I gave a talk at the Otaru University of Commerce. Professor Shawn Clankie invited me to Shodai, introduced me to the audience, and videotaped my talk. Watch my talk on YouTube.

trick or treat?

Enjoy this Halloween card!

free cloud storage

For a limited time, is offering 50 gigabytes of cloud storage for free. Sign up now to take advantage of this promotion. Maximum filesize is 100 megabytes per file. (You can store larger files if you pay.) I am not affiliated with

study abroad program

Several partner universities of Hokudai will give talks on study abroad programs for sustainable development on 2011-10-27 from 13:00 to 15:30, at Hokudai’s International Student Center (留学生センター).


International Student Center (留学生センター) advises and accepts applications for Hokudai’s Study Abroad Programs (exchange student programs). Deadline for programs next year is 2011-10-31. Programs vary in destination and duration. For details, visit:
→ Japanese
→ 平成24年度交換留学生の募集について

Hokkaido International School fall festival

The Hokkaido International School (HIS) is holding its annual Fall Festival on 2011-10-29 from 10:00 to 14:00. There will be trick-or-treating at the school for kids, and food stalls for everybody. HIS is located about 5 minutes east of the Sumikawa subway station.


By the way, HIS is opening
a new school in Niseko, probably reflecting the growing international community there.

my talk at Sapporo Gakuin University

On 2011-10-15 at Sapporo Gakuin University, I am giving a talk titled “Designing online learning experiences for audio-visual language learning”. Many thanks to our students who participated in English Online during 2011 spring semester, and who granted me permission to analyze their learning outcomes as part of my talk.
Talk details

international friends through SACLA

SACLA (Sharing All Cultures and Languages) is a Hokudai student organization that socializes internationally. SACLA’s international lunches won Hokudai’s 元気 energetic project award in 2010. Contact them for times and places of their international lunches. (Last year, they met on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 12:50 at the International Student Center (留学生センター) 1st floor lobby.) They also engage in sports, cookouts, and volunteering.

Overseas study opportunities

A free seminar explaining overseas study opportunities will be held on 2010-11-06 from 11:00 to 15:00 at the Sapporo International House near Hokkai Gakuen University. See their poster or webpage.

happy halloween

A friend sent me this nice Halloween card. Noriko and I will wear something for our fri2 class on 2010-10-29. Come to E309.

ultimate team

I’m a faculty advisor for Hokudai’s ultimate team. “Ultimate” used to be called “ultimate frisbee” but the word “frisbee” was dropped because it is a trademark.

The team welcomes new members. No experience necessary! Everybody welcome. Check out the team website at Paddy, named after the pet dog of one of the founding members.

SACLA activities

SACLA (Sharing All Cultures and Languages) is a Hokudai student organization that socializes internationally. SACLA’s international lunches won Hokudai’s 元気 energetic project award this year. Lunches are on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 12:50 at the International Student Center (留学生センター) 1st floor lobby. Bring your own lunch.

Werner Stuflesser talk

What language do Italians speak? Italian, of course. But some Italians are native speakers of German. The extreme north part of Italy was annexed from Austria after World War I. My friend comes from that region -- Tyrol, famous for skiing -- and she speaks five languages (German, Italian, English, French, and Dutch).

In her region, there is a research institute called EURAC (European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, Its director, Werner Stuflesser, is visiting Hokudai and giving a talk. The talk is in English and will be translated into Japanese.

Take this opportunity to experience simultaneous interpretation, and to learn how multilingual communities work together to live together.

Werner Stuflesser, EURAC
Supranational Frameworks, Standardisation, Networking: Organised Diversity Management in Europe, Japan, and Africa
Time and place:
2010-06-26, 15:00 to 17:00, Hokudai Enyuugakusha

For details, read the announcement in Japanese: announcement, PDF.

spring flowers

I found a patch of crocuses blooming behind the tiny cozy garden behind NItobe Inazo’s statue. They disappeared a week later. Which reminds me that the best opportunities are fleeting.

SACLA international lunch and events

SACLA (Sharing All Cultures and Languages) is a Hokudai student organization that socializes internationally. They are holding 3 sessions to recruit new members: (a) 2010-04-13 Tuesday 19:00, at the Clark building 3rd floor international room, over (b) 2010-04-22 Thursday 19:00, at the Clark building 3rd floor international room, over and (c) 2010-04-30 Friday 18:00, liberal arts building E, room E201 over. View more information on their blog.

SACLA holds international lunches. This semester, they started on 2010-04-14 Wednesday. They meet from 12:10 to 12:50 at the International Student Center (留学生センター) 1st floor lobby. Bring your own lunch.

undergraduate internships

Internships are highly desirable, in some cases practically mandatory, to secure your dream job. The Hokudai career center is offering internships to undergraduate students. To be considered for this competitive opportunity, attend 1 of 2 identical workshops: (a) 2010-04-14 Wednesday from 18:30 to 20:30, Clark Building, main lecture hall (クラーク会館、講堂)(水産学部への中継あり、大講義室) over, and (b) 2010-04-16 Friday from 16:30 to 18:30, the Information Technology Education building, 3rd floor lecture hall (情報教育館3階多目的中講義室) over.

children's theater performance

The Missoula Children’s Theatre will perform The Wizard of Oz on 2010-04-02 and 2010-04-03 at the Hokkaido International School. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a play, visit a school, and meet people.

This is a great opportunity to spend a few hours and meet people.

The following announcement is copied from the Hokkaido Insider, a free email newsletter that (among other things) notifies readers of public and private events taking place in Hokkaido.

Once again Hokkaido International School will be hosting Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT). MCT is America’s largest touring children’s theater. It has been touring for more than 30 years from Montana to Japan. This will be MCT’s 15th year at Hokkaido International School. This year we are excited to be welcoming Lynda Mondragon and Jeffrey Staso who will be directing the HIS children in a musical rendition of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Mark your calendars and plan to come out and enjoy a fresh look at an age-old favorite. The play will be performed entirely in English.

Hokkaido International School
Gymnasium, 4th floor
1-55, 5-jo 19-chome,
Hiragishi, Tokyohira-ku
Sapporo 062-0935
Nearest subway station: Sumikawa Station on the Nanboku Line

Performance One: April 2, 7:00 pm in the H.I.S. Gymnasium
Performance Two: April 3, 3:00 pm in the H.I.S. Gymnasium

** Ticket prices are ¥500 per person. Children age 5 and under are free.
Tickets are available at the door or may be purchased from any HIS Elementary school family.

Any questions? Please contact Sherrie Oda at HIS (011) 816-5000.