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16 News A lifelong friendship

chopsticks, and lots of other traditional Japanese things because I want to create an authentic Japanese experience for my students. “My classes aren’t only about

(Left) Ashley Williams: Opening new Japanese Beginners Course in Camarthenshire (Right) Takeshi Koike: Teaches Welsh in Japan

DURING a trip to Greece in

1984, Ashley Williams of Llabwenog met Noriko Suneya, a stewardess for Japan Airlines. The then 12-year- old became pen friends with Noriko and the cultural exchange continued for the next few years. This made a lasting impression on Ashley, who was then determined to visit Japan. Ashley went on to study History

at St David’s University College, Lampeter, from 1990-1993, and it was here that he first met a Japanese exchange student named Takeshi Koike. Takeshi was so enthused by the culture and had immersed himself in the native language to such an extent that he was already a fluent Welsh speaker by the time he returned to Japan at the end of his one-year exchange programme in 1992. Takeshi has not lost his love for

Wales or Welsh: “Now I am a university lecturer at Daito Bunka University, Tokyo, Japan. Apart from courses on English Linguistics and the History of English, I teach a course named ‘Wales: The Culture and the Language’. During the first half of my lectures, I talk about various aspects of Welsh culture (the red dragon, the flag, Dewi Sant, how to make bara brith, sport (especially rugby), just to name a few); and the other half is spent on the language, using a textbook, Ue-ruzu go no Kihon: Basics of Welsh, which I wrote myself with my colleague, Nagata Yoshifumi. This year I have some 80 students. It’s quite amazing to hear 80 students pronouncing, in chorus, ‘p’nawn da, shwdych chi?’ in the middle of Tokyo! They always say it’s a difficult language compared with English. Nevertheless, they seem to enjoy learning it.” Following a friendship formed

at Lampeter University, Ashley and Takeshi remained in touch, and when Ashley got a job teaching English in Japan in 1994, Takeshi picked him up from Narita airport and taught him some Japanese phrases to get him started. After that, Ashley emulated his friend by immersing himself in the native language, becoming fluent in Japanese within a couple of years. He

taught English at several secondary schools before going on to teach English and critical thinking at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo for eleven years. During his free time in Japan,

Ashley was the lead singer for a popular rock and punk band. He also developed a love for bonsai. Now back in Wales, Ashley

is currently teaching Japanese at Aberystwyth University and, from next month, he will be teaching Japanese classes at Carmarthen Community Education Centre and Llanelli Coleshill Community Centre. The dates and times of the Japanese Beginners One course are as follows: Carmarthen: Beginning on October

4. Tuesdays - 6pm – 8pm. Thursdays - 11am – 1pm. Llanelli: Beginning October 3.

Mondays - 6pm – 8.30pm. Tuesdays - 11am – 1.30pm. Upon successful completion of the

20 hour course, students will receive 10 credits towards an Aberystwyth University Certificate of Higher Education in Modern Languages. Course fees are £100 or £80 for students who pay in full before September 28. For further details and an enrolment form, call Aberystwith University School of Education and Lifelong Learning on 01970 621 580. Ashley says: ‘It’s not just a

conversation class: we study Japanese grammar, reading and writing, but in the Beginners’ Class we’ll only be using Hiragana – the most basic of the Japanese scripts. Japanese ‘letters’ (syllables) can only be pronounced one way so it’s simple, once you know how. Chinese is much tougher because it’s tonal – not phonetic, like Japanese. Also, Japanese grammar is really easy compared to European languages: for example, there’s no masculine or feminine, no plural, no articles (‘a’ or ‘the’), fewer tenses, and there are only a few irregular verbs, so it really isn’t as difficult as most people may perceive.” He continued: “I bring Japanese

things to class like a real silk kimono, other Japanese clothes, fans, umbrellas,

language; I also talk about my life in Japan – my experiences and insights after 17 years living there. At the end of the day, I want my students to have a meaningful and authentic cultural experience, and I want to help them develop the ability and confidence to strike up a conversation in Japanese, either with a Japanese waiter in a sushi restaurant in Llanelli, Swansea or Cardiff, or – even better – with Japanese people in Japan itself, if and when they get a chance to go there.” Takeshi and Ashley are still close

friends to this day. Ashley is also very close to Takeshi’s aunt and uncle, Akie and Shoji Ishii, who have, since his very first week in Japan, always treated Ashley like a son. They came to visit Ashley in Wales in June of this year, and really enjoyed their time here. Ashley bought them Welsh football shirts, and they went out to pubs to watch some of Wales’s matches in the Euros. When they went back to Japan, Akie and Shoji got up in the middle of the night to watch both the Belgium and the Portugal games, wearing their football shirts and cheering for Wales from their living room in Tokyo. Ashley has always been a

passionate Welsh rugby supporter: “My granddad was a steward at Cardiff Arms Park when I was a kid. I’ve still got a programme signed by JPR, Phil Bennett, Gareth Edwards, and the rest of the gang, and my granddad once organised for me to kick a ball over the posts. I’ve lived all over the world, but I’ve never let the time difference stop me getting out of bed and putting my red shirt on. For example, in the autumn of 2011, at three in the morning, I was the only Welshman in a bar in Buenos Aires, surrounded by Frenchmen. It was one of the toughest nights of my life!” Ashley is going to the Principality

Stadium to watch Wales V Japan in November. When asked which side he will be supporting, he gave a diplomatic response: “Plenty of tries from both sides, ending in a draw - that would suit me fine! If it was the World Cup, that would be different, but it’s an autumn international: may the best team win!” Ashley misses so many things

about Japan, not least his friends and the food. However, for family reasons, Ashley has decided not to return to Japan, except to visit. He commented: “The next best

thing for me is bringing my love of Japanese language and culture to people living in Wales. It’s the perfect job for me. With the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan in 2019, and Tokyo hosting the next Olympics in 2020, Japan will be in the news a lot from now on. If my students travelled to Japan for one of these events, and managed to communicate in Japanese while they were there, I’d be over the moon.”


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Mass ticket giveaway in Cardiff Central

TO SUPPORT those affected

by the Severn Rail Tunnel Closure, National Express is adding tens of thousands of extra seats, and a bespoke new Cardiff to Bristol coach service is also being introduced. Over the course of the disruption

(Monday, September 12 - Friday, October 21), the UK’s largest coach operator is laying on the new dedicated coach service, adding 48,000 extra seats to its existing network. A mass-ticket giveaway was

launched on Monday (Sept 12) to support rail travellers affected by the closure of the Severn Tunnel. This special event saw Cardiff Central railway station transformed into the Wild West during the rush hour, where five thousand half price and five hundred free tickets were handed out.

A rodeo ride was also at the event,

where travellers were encouraged to compete to see who could stay on the longest for the chance to win prizes. The closure of the Severn

Tunnel will impact a number of train travellers, especially those journeying from South Wales to Bristol, London, Heathrow and Gatwick. Disruptions, journey times made longer by 45 minutes and replacement buses on some services are among the difficulties the tunnel’s closure will present to travellers. This initiative coincides with the release of the Hollywood remake of ‘The Magnificent Seven’, and is designed to support travellers affected by the Severn Tunnel’s closure. People travelling by coach are

always guaranteed a seat, but amid the tunnel’s closure, they can now enjoy regular direct services as well. The summer of 2016 saw many

rail disruptions across the UK, and Monday’s Wild West event was the latest example of National

Express’ determination to assist affected travellers, closely following London’s ‘Not Such A Drag’ campaign, which aims to champion the coach company’s belief that travel should be hassle-free. Managing Director of National

Express UK Coach, Tom Stables, said: “We believe travel should be hassle- free and that’s why we’re offering hundreds of free and thousands of discounted seats to support people in South Wales. Additionally, and to help passengers further, we will be launching a brand new service between Cardiff and Bristol for the duration of the tunnel closure. We offer a regular, reliable and punctual service with a guaranteed seat and we’re really looking forward to welcoming people on board.” As well as increasing the

capacity for journeys from Cardiff to Bristol, Heathrow, Gatwick and London, National Express have also launched a brand new service during the period of the rail disruption to help commuters and leisure travellers travelling between Cardiff and Bristol. This new initiative was launched on Monday (Sept 12), travelling 16 times a day between the two cities. The first service from Cardiff departs at 5.15am and the final coach departs at 8.30pm. A return fare costs £15. National Express customers

benefit from unbeatable year-round value with season tickets from Cardiff to London costing up to 57% less than rail (based on a seven day multi-ride National Express ticket versus a seven day rail pass), and tickets, which start at £5 one-way, remaining affordable right up until the day of travel – allowing people to be more spontaneous with their travel choices. For more information, visit

Ffarmers seeks postmaster DARRELL GARWOOD, sub-

postmaster at Ffarmers in North Carmarthenshire since March 2011, is retiring, but before he goes he is recruiting a replacement. “It’s an ideal job for someone

who has maybe retired, but is fit and active and wants to be useful in the community,” he said. “I’d like to find someone able to take over by October 2017. You have to allow a bit of time because the Post Office interviews applicants, Criminal Records Bureau checks have to be done, and new sub- postmasters have to be trained.”

Sub-postmasters - who can of

course be women as well as men - are officially self-employed and receive a fixed payment plus income from Post Office services they sell. “It’s not a great deal of money,” said Mr Garwood, “but it’s a rewarding role in the community.” Ffarmers Post Office is housed

in the village hall and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9am and 12.30pm. Applicants should phone Mr

Garwood on 01558 650211, or email

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