Weston Pier. The old one burnt down and they built a better one.
Earlier I spoke of a Japan Club that meets in a restaurant in Bristol. There is, however, a Japanese restaurant closer to my house, and that’s Yo Ji in Weston-Super-Mare.
Although it is actually the closest to Taunton, according to Siri (who is supposed to know about these things), it’s still a bit of a drive (30-40 minutes, and we go in my kind husband’s car). I guess that’s sort of a good thing – the last time I was there I went on a sushi binge and spent soooo much money!
I’m not really one to give extraordinarily helpful reviews of restaurants. I ordered food and they brought it and it was tasty. Also I can’t compare it to authentic Japanese food because I’ve never been there.
The bottom line is this: if you live in Somerset, there’s a Japanese restaurant in Weston-super-Mare. Go eat there. (Also check out the new pier, it’s pretty awesome.)
Living in Somerset as I do, and not having a car, I don’t get out that much.
However, occasionally there is something fun to do that I can access by train (after a gruelling 45 minute walk to Taunton Rail Station, that is). One of these things is Bristol Japan Club.
This group, which has been running for nearly 20 years now (serious dedication by the organiser!), is a chance for Japanese people and non-Japanese people who are interested in Japan to get together twice a month and generally hang out. Once a month they meet in a part of Bristol that is completely inaccessible to me; the other meeting is at a Japanese restaurant on Baldwin St (Obento), about 15 minutes’ walk from Bristol Temple Meads station. So I go to that one.
But what does one do there? What is it like? I get asked that semi-regularly. I’ve been about 3 times now, and each time it was different. Sometimes there are loads of people, sometimes not. Sometimes there are lots of Japanese people, other times mostly English or people from other countries that aren’t Japan.
Anyway, the food is good and everyone is very friendly (and being in the UK, pretty much everyone speaks English…it makes language practice difficult but also takes the pressure off meeting new people). If you live around here, maybe I’ll see you there!
I wrote a while back about the Japanese textbook Minna no Nihongo and how I was getting along with it. Update: I’m still getting a lot out of it. I’ve ordered the second book from America (so it should be here within the next 3 months or so) and, *ahem* “found” the companion audio tracks lying around unguarded on the internet. *ahem* (They’re very useful, if not exactly morally upright.)
But I didn’t say much about italki, the website through which I found my Japanese teacher. I was introduced to the site after I read this post by Benny the Irish polyglot months and months ago, but I didn’t act on it until recently. He gives a very thorough review of the site, so I recommend you read it if you would like to find out more.
I myself find italki extremely easy to use. And it’s great for me especially given my current circumstances: stuck in the backwaters of Somerset (it’s not actually that bad!) with no car and no driving license (okay, that actually is quite bad). It was fine when I was focusing on teaching myself. But even though I had been interested in taking Japanese lessons formally, I felt like I had no options. I know of one Japanese school in an inaccessible part of Bristol (one of the two nearest cities to here) – it would have been far too expensive just to get there each week, and I prefer private lessons anyway.
So, italki removed the barrier to finding a Japanese teacher. I tend to get a lot of funny looks when I explain that yes, I have a private Japanese teacher and yes, she lives in Japan. But it’s such a great situation for me. I don’t have to pay any extra time or money for transportation and I get to take private lessons from a native speaker (whose English, as it happens, is brilliant).
Anyway, that’s my opinion. I would like to arrange speaking practice sessions with people, but as of yet I lack the confidence for that. Baby steps, you know.