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World News

March, 2011

Shanghai China, 2011 Spring Festival, Chinese Year of the Rabbit (兔 , Rabbit is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac ); Stephen relocated to Shanghai and began his sabbatical studying Mandarin and teaching conversation English. Stephen is no stranger to Asia, having visited the Far East over a dozen times during his lifetime.

Stephen’s fascination with Asia began in 1984 when he first visited Japan as a young artist. For seven joyous weeks, Stephen toured Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka and experienced Japanese culture while performing with American Ballet Theatre. During this incredible journey, Stephen fell in love with Japan and knew in his heart that one day he would live in the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

Twenty five years later, Stephen’s dream finally came true. While vacationing in Japan to experience Hanami (cherry blossom season), Stephen was offered a job teaching English in Japan. Hanami (花見, literally “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, “flowers” in this case almost always meaning sakura (桜 or 櫻, cherry blossoms) or ume (梅 plum blossoms).

Each spring, from the end of March to early May, sakura and ume bloom all over Japan. The blossom forecast sakurazensen (桜前線, literally “cherry blossom front”) is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the cherished blooming trees.

While living in Japan, Stephen Sensei (teacher) taught at Hop, Step, Jump Language School, teaching all levels of conversation English to all ages of children and adults. Hop, Step, Jump Language School is located in Gifu-City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan, at the base of Mt. Kinka. Mt. Kinka is home to the historic Gifu Castle, established over 800 years ago in 1191. Gifu-City is extremely rich in Japanese art and tradition.

One of the oldest traditions in Japan is Gifu Nagaragawa no Ukai (ぎふ長良川の鵜飼, literally Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River) is a 1,300-year-old tradition where Ush? (鵜匠, literally fishing masters) use Japanese Cormorants to catch fish, primarily ayu (sweetfish). Because of the great skills of the fishing masters, they have received the official title of “Cormorant Fishermen of the Imperial Household Agency,” a hereditary title that is passed on from father to son.

For much of history, mankind has used animals to aid in hunting and gathering. The use of cormorants for fishing on the Nagara River began over 13 centuries ago, originating as a way for people to feed their families. The birds have become such a part of Japanese lore, that they have given rise to the expression unomi (鵜呑み), which means to “swallow whole like a cormorant” or “accept without questions,” because the birds can swallow fish whole without choking. For photos and more information, please visit Professor Hook’s photo Gallery along with Gifu, Japan’s detailed website:

H?ry?-ji (法隆寺, literally Temple of the Flourishing Law) is a Buddhist temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Its full name is H?ry? Gakumonji (法隆学問寺), or Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law, the complex serves as both a seminary and monastery. The temple's pagoda is widely acknowledged to be one of the oldest wooden buildings existing in the world, underscoring H?ry?-ji's place as one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. The temple was founded in 607 AD by the much-revered Prince Shotoku, who is credited with first promoting Buddhism in Japan. Buddhism had arrived in Japan only 50 years before the temple was built. The main purpose of the temple was to properly house a statue of the Medicine Buddha. The original temple burned down in 670, but was gradually rebuilt until the early 8th century. Several buildings still survive from this early rebuilding period, making Horyuji the oldest surviving Buddhist temple in Japan. Horyuji is of great historical importance: it was from here that Buddhism blossomed and spread throughout Japan. The atmosphere at Horyuji is serene and authentically ancient. The Japanese government lists several of its structures, sculptures and artifacts as National Treasures.

In the fall of 2010, while visiting China to experience the Shanghai Expo, Stephen was offered a teaching position with Web International English School. Web International is one of China’s largest English schools with over 60 training centers all over China. Stephen is based in Xujiahui, Web International’s flagship location in downtown Shanghai. Stephen joined the team of international language teachers, teaching conversation as well as business English. Stephen Laoshi (teacher) is honored to teach at such a prestigious school and loves his new life in China.

Prior to moving to Asia to teach English, Professor Hook was Ballet Master at Palomar College, San Marcos, California. For over five years Stephen lectured in Choreography, Dance History, as well as all levels of Classical Ballet. Although Stephen is now a full time English teacher, his passion will forever be Classical Ballet. During the past few years, Stephen has been building a relationship with Cindy Zhou of the Shanghai Ballet School. Stephen and Ballet Mistress Cindy Zhou are discussing future collaboration with his Alma Mata Palomar College, in the United States.

Thank you for supporting Stephen over the years, please check our website periodically for further updates.

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