Interview: Mason becomes binding agent between Japan, UK Part 1

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. mason / ˈmeɪ sən / (n) – a person who works and builds with stones, bricks, tiles, etc.

    The masons did a great job building the massive bridge.

  2. painstaking / ˈpeɪnzˌteɪ kɪŋ / (adj) – involving great care or effort

    They planned every detail of their wedding with painstaking effort.

  3. embrace / ɛmˈbreɪs / (v) – to gladly and completely accept someone or something

    The young woman fully embraced her new role as a mother.

  4. attribute / əˈtrɪb yut / (v) – to think or say that something is caused by another thing

    Pia attributes her clear skin to her healthy diet.

  5. be geared for (something) / bi gɪərd fər / (phrasal) – to be designed or organized to suit a particular purpose or group of people

    The test is geared for people who want to measure their English speaking skills.


Read the text below.

Teruki Kamiya uses his English language skills as a bridge, connecting ishizumi (Japanese stonework) masons and other artisans in his native Japan with the expertise of dry stone walling artisans in the U.K. His passion is to share his love of dry stone walling, which involves constructing walls and other structures without any binding agent, with people in Japan.

Kamiya first traveled to England in 2008 after encountering dry stone walling techniques as an ishizumi mason and landscape gardener, becoming the first Asian to study at the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA). After weeks of painstaking effort in the classroom and on sites across the country, he sat and passed the beginner’s qualification.

Though all instruction was in English, he embraced the experience.

“As the first Asian to go to the U.K. to get a DSWA qualification, I was nervous, but because I could speak English, I got to know the British people right away,” he says.

Kamiya attributes his ability to a fondness for speaking English.

“I had a native English teacher who taught enjoyable content, not English geared for taking exams,” he says, recalling his positive experiences at an English conversation school during his elementary, junior high and high school years. (Kathryn Wortley)

To be continued…

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Kamiya likes speaking English because he had a teacher who taught enjoyable content, not English geared for taking exams. Do you think your country places too much importance on learning English for tests? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What are some common negative experiences when studying English at school? Why? Discuss.
  • What can teachers do to make sure students have positive experiences when studying English at school? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • If you could go abroad and take a class on anything, where would you go and what class would you take? Why? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, what’s the most difficult thing about taking a class that’s taught in a foreign language? Why? Discuss.
  • What advice would you give someone who needs to take a class that’s taught in a foreign language? Why? Discuss.