Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Tokyo - After Story 3

Continued from Tokyo - After Story. [ read first ]
And Tokyo - After Story 2. [ read second ]

Monday morning dawned bright and crisp, which eventually denigrated into blustering winds and rain by the evening. I thought I had learned my umbrella lesson, but choosing to leave my umbrella in Kochi, with the intent to buy one in Tokyo, proved to be foolish in the end.

The three of us -- me, Mikey and Joe -- went downtown to have breakfast at an American-style cafe. Mmm, bagels. We took the subway* to Akihabara, the electronic and gaming capital of Tokyo. Electronics, gaming and porn. Lots of porn. :x More on that later.

We spent most of the day in Tokyo's renowned electronics central, gaping at the abundance of technology, dodging pornography (and not just hentai: cartoon porn -- my subconsciously-filtered peripheral vision registered various degrees of this incessant swill) and pumping 100-yen pieces into arcade game machines. Street Fighter IV is pretty darn awesome. Joe got his butt handed to him by a Japanese businessman, but it was all part of the fun. These Japanese are born with control sticks in their hands and kung-fu-like reflexes at their fingertips.

I bought a Nintendo DSi, along with some dictionary software, an English version of Final Fantasy III (yes!) and a carry case. Joe and Mikey made their own videogame-type purchases throughout this oh-so-nerdy day.

There was one store that we entered that had one floor of videogames -- and six floors of R18 content. Suffice to say after looking at the floor plan outside the shop, we were astonished. There was even a basement level labelled R18, which meant that the games floor was sandwiched between all this lurid content. We continued on our way, no (or at least, very little) harm done.

Yes, Akihabara has a reputation for its amount of videogames and technological goodness. But it also has its dangers in the form of seductive temptation, best avoided where possible. You have been warned.

We went to Asakusa around mid-afternoon -- when the temperature had dropped even more and we were all wishing we had brought at least our jackets. The temple that we eventually found (after one wrong stop, exit and re-entry at the subway) was very cool -- especially with its abundance of various stalls leading to the temple proper. Lots of merchandise, different foods and many people wandering up and down. The market atmosphere was both palatable and a refreshing change from the buzzing and whirring that comprised the greater part of our adventurous day.

Dumping our procured goods at the hotel, we took off for downtown Ginza** in the cold precipitation. Our goal: Freshness Burger. My friend Yuichi had recommended it to me. And now, I am recommending that you avoid it. Freshness Burger -- nay, all Japanese burgers, are terrible. I haven't dared try McDonalds here, but from what I can tell, the Japanese have embraced something Western that they just don't understand. That people go to these places to eat amazes me, but then, maybe when it comes to Western food they are content to settle for mediocre, tasteless crap.

Matt, please send me Burger Fuel. Thanks. :p

So, after imbibing the average mush that was Freshness Burger (ok, so the onion rings were better than a slap to the face with a wet salmon, but even those could have been improved in multiple ways), we leapt back out into the cold, wet night and limped back to the hotel. Ya, t'was a long, footsore day of sights, sounds and dodging-of-porn that will be remembered, and cherished, for many years to come.

It might be cold back here in Kochi but I have a heater, I'm in a familiar environment, and I have our Kyoto trip this coming weekend to look forward to. I would go into detail about our return trip from Tokyo, but it would be extra words -- and who wants to read those? o.O

Palace Hotel > Taxi > Monorail > Haneda airport > Kochi airport > ATM outside Hirome Ichiba (Obiyamachi) > Masala Indian restaurant > Yamada Denki > Starbucks > driiiivin' hoooome. XD

Christmas is in two days. In the meantime, I need to recover from our Tokyo ordeal. And I'm not just talking about the dance that was ducking and diving between rows of porn amidst retro Nintendo systems. We are all weary and would appreciate our respective beauty sleeps.

Tomorrow, I can do anything I like -- and that includes sleeping until lunch-time. Tonight, I just need to find enough warmth to keep me alive until tomorrow. >.<



* Cultural Note: Don't enter the carriage that has a large pink sign reading "Women only". Two large Americans and a scruffy-haired Kiwi boy don't fit in well. At least we weren't hissed, or woman-handled, off the train. >.> So yeah, apparently Japan has such a problem with sexual harassment on the subway that there are special, women-only carriages reserved on some trains. Why does Japan have this problem? Go to Akihabara. See the porn. Understand.

** Observation Note: Tokyo boasts an abundance of gorgeous Japanese girls. Perhaps my unavoidable secludedness will change next year and I will eventually find a girlfriend around these parts. One can always hope -- and ask his readers if they know anyone who knows someone who knows a cute, single girl in the Shimanto-cho area -- and if that cute, single girl could then be passed this handsome, witty, humble writer's contact details.

One can only try, ne. A Japanese girlfriend is just what I need for friendly language exchange. ;)

Tokyo - After Story 2

Continued from Tokyo - After Story. [ read first ]

Eventually, the three of us made it to our hotel in Ginza*, central Tokyo: the Palace Hotel. It is situated right by the Imperial Palace and within walking distance of downtown Ginza and Otemachi station -- a station that connects with quite a few others (four different lines).

We went into Ginza to explore for a bit and had ramen for dinner. We wandered around a bit more after eating. The festive lights make the place look pretty amazing.

That's another thing people may not know about Japan. They have embraced the festivity of Christmas. Kids love getting gifts and everyone loves Christmas trees, Santa hats and lit-up Christmas displays. It's not overlooked in the sense that it is a festival and everyone gets into it, but there are differences. Telling the Christmas story is important for people to understand why we celebrate it, and that there is more to it than pretty lights and a festive air.

On Sunday morning, I met up with a friend of mine whom I had never met. We have known each other for around nine years, having met on the Internet. He is now based in Yokohama (US Navy boy), and we had both wanted to come to Japan for a long time.

We spent the day going to different places via the subway and just chilling out in Tokyo. After some time in Shibuya, where I bought some new earphones for my MP3 player, we went to Kaminacho station and walked to the Tokyo Tower. Its 50th Anniversary is this year, and there was a giant "50" on each of two sides of the tower, about halfway up -- the other two sides each displayed a large, multi-coloured "Tokyo".

Wow. Tokyo Tower is pretty amazing at night. I'll try and get some edited pictures from Zach when he has had the time to sort through all of his snapping from that day. Seeing the city from the observation deck was also pretty amazing.

After checking out the city from atop the monstrous, Eiffel-like structure, we headed to Roppongi for dinner at an American spare ribs restaurant. Roppongi is known for both its overwhelming gaijin (foreigner) presence and its seedy underbelly. At least, that's how I see all of the immorality awash in both that area and nearby Shibuya. Night clubs and entertainment of various forms beckon many a military man (and, no doubt, woman).

And that was Saturday. Zach and I parted ways at Tokyo central station -- or maybe it was the next one up. Either way, I got back to the hotel without any hassle -- despite my lack of directional and navigational skills.

Go to Part Three


* Historical note: 'Ginza' means 'silver mint', as that was the central economic function in this area of Tokyo until the 17th Century, when a devastating fire forced the surrounding area to be rebuilt.

Tokyo - After Story

It has been about a week since my last pathetic attempt at a blog entry. The Christmas season coupled with the amount of time I spend playing World of Warcraft and everything in-between -- including that thing called school -- have all added to the lack of motivation to acquire the time necessary to produce more frequent blog entries.

Once a week may cut it for some but I've let myself lapse into a terribly casual attitude when it comes to the literary pastimes of both reading and writing. If I wanted to be serious about writing -- and not just with regard to blog entries -- then I would write more than a simple diary entry every day and would focus on not only improving my writing skills but pursuing other ventures that required written submission.

It would be great if a lot more happened around here than currently does, but since I am not actively involved in any extra-curricular activities, the days and weeks slip by without any interesting anecdotes springing up. I hope to change that next year. Say, that could be one of my New Year's resolutions! --More on that in a future entry--

Picking up where I left off -- exciting content inclusive -- I am halfway through my Christmas break. This break will be broken by having to work this coming Christmas day, but so far it has been more of an adventure than the mundane existence thus far in Kochi. Yet another thing that must be changed in this coming year.

World of Warcraft, television series and anime aside, I'm going to delve into the past week of my life here in Japan and expose all of the readers of this blog to more than simply: 'I went to school and assisted the language teacher in three classes of regular, uneventful exposition'.

Wednesday saw me teaching at Iejigawa shougakkou. A shougakkou is primary school level, remember. The kids were all together and we had fun playing Christmas games in the gym.

I have been struggling through my Japanese study in my free time. Thursdays are a good time to do this, as Mizobuchi sensei is always happy to help me to understand Japanese more and to learn a bit more about kanji, if not kanji characters themselves.

I say struggle, because the language study is going very slowly and is incredibly frustrating just about every time I do a module. I find it incredibly difficult to not only retain what I learn, but to grasp what I am learning in such a way that it makes sense and I will be able to apply it to anything but the few examples given.

I finished the second book of this CLAIR course, did the test and posted it away. Book three arrived that same day and I did Monday's module on Friday, to try and stay on top of it all. I don't intend to do much, if any Japanese study while on holiday -- and while in Tokyo this weekend, I didn't because I hadn't even taken my book with me.

On Friday, I taught three classes at Wakaigawa shougakkou. Once again, I did Christmas things with the kids: cutting out and colouring in snowflakes (Winter and Christmas are synonomous in the Northern Hemisphere); and playing a game where the kids were blindfolded (using my Santa hatTM) and had to draw a Christmas picture -- from a selection of my A4 Christmas cards: Santa, a reindeer and a snowman (yuki-daruma, in Japanese).

After work, I packed my stuff and Michael and I drove to Kochi to stay in a hotel overnight. We both went to bed reasonably early, in preparation for our morning flight.

We flew up to Tokyo. We took a shuttle bus from Haneda (the domestic airport) to Narita, to meet Michael's brother, Joseph. We had to wait for a long time. At Kochi airport we actually met another ALT from our greater area, Kalan, and we had lunch with him at Narita, since we were on the same flight to Haneda.

Go to Part Two.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Closer to Christmas

I continue to study Japanese.

My mage reached level 80: Wowbrief.

Last Wednesday, we practised a Christmas story play and some songs in English, Japanese and Korean.

On Friday, we went to Piya old folks' home in Okitsu, just past Kubokawa. We performed the play we had practised and sang Christmas songs. I dressed up as Santa and we all gave out small packages of snacks.

I am behind a little on my anime watching: Naruto and Bleach. I can catch up some time before the weekend.

On Saturday, we attended a children's Christmas festival here in Taisho. We sang Christmas songs with them and performed the Nativity play again.

Michael and I -- well, me, really -- edited his Hanatori festival footage and uploaded it to Youtube. We had dinner at Yamagoya.

Lazy day yesterday. And no school today. ;)


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Winter Cometh

So it's December.

It's getting colder.

School... is normal.

We -- Candice, Laurel, Nare, Michael, Laurel's Pastor, and I -- are going to an Old Folks' home next week. We will be singing Christmas songs and will relay the Christmas story to them in a short drama. I have one line, as the innkeeper, which shouldn't be too hard to memorise. It's mostly "gomen-nasai" (I'm sorry) and stuff like that.

So Christmas is getting closer. There are a few events like this visiting the old peeps, such as enkai (work parties) and kids' events. I'll be sure to mention things more specifically as they happen throughout this month.

My Japanese study continues. I do each module each weekday, so have been keeping up. It does go over my head at times and I forget a lot of what I practise, but maybe one day things will make sense. I'm sure there will be times that certain things will come back to me unexpectedly.


Saturday, 22 November 2008

At Last, A Heater

Thursday was pretty normal, save for the fact that I was asked to stay longer after school finished, so didn't get back to the office until late. Late = dark. Dark = cold. Cold = ... cold. >.>

So yeah, it has been cold these last few evenings and mornings. I suspect that Winter is worse.

Friday's classes at Kitanokawa shougakkou were really good. The kids enjoyed them and I enjoyed them -- and, I suspect, the respective teachers enjoyed them too. ;)

Today, Michael and I went into Kochi city. I bought some new clothes -- a jacket and a long-sleeved top for Winter. I also got a couple of new pairs of thick socks.

After shopping at the mall, we drove over to Yamada Denki and I bought a little heater. I've got it on now, heating up my lounge. I guess it's only a matter of time before I see whether it is effective or not.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way home and I bought another bath towel, hand towel and a bath mat. Having three sets of such items will be handy in the long run.

So now I am at home, waiting for my wee heater to heat this place up. Tomorrow is the Shouwa junior high cultural festival -- like a gala, of sorts, replete with speeches in the afternoon, in good Japanese style.

Go little heater, pour your welcome heat into this icy tomb and thaw these numb extremities. :o


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winter is Coming, Friends

The dentist left a hole in the back of my poorly constructed crown, after drilling out the temporary filler they had put in last week. I was also prescribed some antibiotics for a two day period. I think the infection has all but cleared up now. At least whatever was causing the pain has gone.

Next visit, they will finish digging to the limit of my incisor's root, then it's just a matter of removing this old crown and replacing it with a new resin crown. In future I hope to get ceramic or porcelain crowns that sit over a permanent screw, but for now these resin fillers will do.

Straightened teeth would be nice too, and I hope that after I get my wisdom teeth (finally) removed, this will also become a reality -- eventually.

The meeting on Monday went well. Appropriately, it was at 2.30. XD It was very casual and I was able to just talk about my teaching experience and living experience so far. No problems. But I would like to get a car pretty soon. Can't rely on Michael all the time. ;)

My folks have been talking to me on Skype every two or three days. They are in the middle of making a huge decision regarding my dad's current high school teaching position. So recently I've been praying about more than just my own health and wellbeing here in Japan. :p

Last night we had our fortnightly prayer and Bible study meeting on Skype. Good for spiritual nourishment and personal encouragement, especially since I am currently not plugged into a church here -- a fact that I hope will change in the near future.

We -- Laurel, Candice and I -- had kindergarten this morning. Always a good time there. The kids have fun singing and dancing and getting involved with whatever activities are provided for them. Candice talked about Thanksgiving and the kids made hand-turkeys (trace your hand and draw and colour in a turkey). We also sang Silent Night and Jingle Bells (jingeru beru :p), as a warm-up for Christmas and practice for the Christmas party that we have happening next month.

It's very cold today. Yesterday was pretty cold but today it was also raining. It is good to be inside. When I went home for lunch, I was breathing frost into the cool air in my apartment. I'm wearing two pairs of socks and have had to wear a fourth layer -- my jacket -- outside. Am I looking forward to Winter? Not for the temperature, that's for sure. Time to get a heater. ><>.>

On the WoW front, well... read my Wowbrief blog if you're interested. I know I am. :p

S'all y'all. :o


ps. Been sneezing and sniffing all day. Quite unpleasant, but Kiwis don't give in to little sniffles. Man up and power through it, imo. ;)

Monday, 17 November 2008

Toothache, Lich King, Meeting

On Thursday afternoon, Towa (Shouwa and Tokawa) had their inter-schools music festival. I attended it and stayed for most of the time, seeing the elementary and junior high levels both present songs in choir and conduct instrumental performances.

Earlier that day I had practised kanji. Along with the Japanese lessons I am working through is the opportunity to learn kanji. I think that if I practise enough, I will be able to remember a few.

I was at 窪川小学校 (K-town shougakkou) on Friday. I took two large classes of fifth year kids. Half of each class was spent in the classroom going over numbers and months, and then the other half was outside, where I played games with them (involving numbers).

My weekend was spent in agony, as I had a toothache. I am going to go see the dentist this morning. Hopefully he will put me on antibiotics, as I think I contracted an infection of some sort in my gum -- possibly from my previous visit, which was last Wednesday, after work.

I also spent most of my weekend playing World of Warcraft -- Wrath of the Lich King was released a few days ago. I have been taking it pretty easy, slowly levelling my mage in the new continent and just taking in everything that has been added. I played my warrior a lot, too, getting her to level 60 and venturing into Outland, the last expansion's added area. More at my blog.

Aside from the dentist, I don't have much to do this morning, save for my last Japanese study instalment. I will do this first book's test at some point this week, too, and send that in for assessment.

This afternoon, we have individual meetings with our prefectural advisor (PA) over in K-town. Mine is at 2.30pm. It's a chance to have any questions answered and to give feedback on our time spent here so far. These meetings are annual.

That's all for now. I hope never again to have to go through the excruciating pain that I experienced these past two days. And I hope that my visit to the dentist will remedy what my last visit invoked.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Musical Scores

Yesterday saw me teaching only two of the three regular classes at Tokawa Chuugakkou. This gave me the afternoon free to come back to the office and do what I do whilst sitting at my computer here.

Last night, my high-backed pneumatic swivel chair arrived. It is very comfortable and will make spending time at my laptop and watching my beautiful LCD TV that much better, not to mention encouraging correct posture both in terms of my back and my hands upon the keys.

As World of Warcraft is still such a big part of my personal life (up until the day that I find a woman -- or she finds me -- or happenstance dictates that we both find each other at the same time, heralding trumpet calls, shooting stars and planetary realignments that alter the cosmos as we know it), I must take this time to post a link to my latest Wowbrief blog entry.

The latest instalment for this MMO that boasts 11 million subscribers worldwide will be active in less than two days. WoW-players, hold onto your hats because the Blizzard is getting stronger!


Today, I am once again without Shougakkou classes. What this means is that my entire day is spent here in the office. Most of that time has been spent online, reading forums and leaving my comments and opinions on various themes scattered across a small part of the Internet. Some of my time will be spent studying Japanese and preparing for Friday's lessons.

This morning, Michael and I attended about 40 mins of a musical festival at Tanono Shougakkou. Schools -- both junior high and elementary -- have many students participating in this bonanza. Both choirs and orchestral proceedings flowed forth from the mouths and instruments of these well-practised kids. Nice desu.

Onward, towards lunch time; and a peaceful Wednesday afternoon spent sitting at my desk in the Taisho kominkan. :)


Monday, 10 November 2008

Chobitto Film Festival 2008

On Saturday, Michael and I went into Kochi city. We stopped in at Yamada Denki, where I picked up a 3m audio cable.

We headed out to Akaoka in the afternoon and arrived at the venue for the Chobitto Film Festival quite early. Not to worry, as a whole lot of JETs arrived by train, also early (a few had volunteered to help for the evening).

Eventually, we were able to go inside and choose a place to sit. It was held in a small -- very cool, Japanese-style -- theatre. There must have been around 200 people who attended.

We saw 15 films, 14 of which were eligible to be voted for. There were three intermissions, the last during which we were given the opportunity to vote for our favourite movies, allocating any number of points from a maximum of five to up to five movies.

I voted for four movies, assigning two points to the movie that ended up winning overall. It was called Rollin' and was both amusing and thematic, in that it showcased parts of Kochi. It didn't exactly capture the cultural essence of Kochi, but it sure did a good job of combining humour with sights.

All in all, it was a good evening. At the end, the top three filmmakers were awarded golden statuettes as prizes, and everyone that submitted a film was allowed to stand up on the stage and receive both a small gift and, of course, our applause.

The Filmmakers plus Banana Man (left)

It's a shame that we couldn't submit a movie this year, but seeing what people contributed gave us a better idea of what is appropriate and what appeals to such a broad audience.

Yesterday, I hooked up my speakers to my sub. Now I have an awesome setup, with a gorgeous screen and great sound. If I get a couch and two more speakers to place at the back of the room... :o

Booya. ;)

In the office today. Got a bit of a sniffle so maybe it's a good thing that I haven't been assigned to a school today. I have Tokawa shougakkou on Wednesday. I will plan the lesson this afternoon when I get back from lunch. :)


Friday, 7 November 2008


My TV arrived today. They came a little earlier than I had been told, so it was lucky that I stopped in at my place 40 mins before the scheduled delivery time. It is a Sony Bravia 26" HD LCD TV. Very nice, and it fits perfectly on my desk. XD

Today, I was teaching at Wakaigawa Elementary school. This was my third visit there. It is a small school and I like the kids and the teachers there. I ate lunch with them today before playing with some of the kids before leaving.

I have been stretching my Japanese both at school and a little bit in the office. Going through my CLAIR textbook is good. I am able to practise what I learn, even if not all of it sticks.

Slow progress is better than no progress!

I may watch a movie tonight on my new TV. However, I couldn't set the speakers up that I got, as the audio cable I got is too short. :(


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A New Month

At least one person filmed Friday's speeches, so at some point I will have the opportunity to see the students from both Shouwa and Tokawa who were involved.

My weekend isn't really worth mentioning, as nothing of note happened.

Yesterday, I went to Tokawa chu as usual. I only had two classes so was able to come back out to the office for the rest of the afternoon.

Today, Michael and I were both at the same school: a small place in Shiwa, which is about half an hour from K-town. We were both driven out and brought back.

The classes themselves were very small -- one had three students and the other, four. Our third lesson, after lunch, was just comprised of games in the gym with the seven kids.

Nothing else to report for the rest of this week. My new TV will arrive on Friday. I also bought an adjustable swivel chair today to use at my desk. It will be delivered on the 11th.


Friday, 31 October 2008

English Speeches

I spent time after school yesterday listening to the students of Shouwa Chuu go through their English speeches. I gave final pieces of advice as each group went through their speeches twice.

The competition is today, but unfortunately I have school so will not be able to attend. Disappointing, but I guess it was bad planning on the Education system's part.

I intend to take it easy this weekend. My 26" LCD doesn't arrive until next Friday so whether I go into either city or not this weekend will not change my desire to spend next weekend at home, making the most of my new setup. ;)

This morning, I need to plan for the classes I will be taking this afternoon. It's a good thing there are resources out there that I can draw upon. I haven't been given any guidelines for what I should be doing. Maybe encourage the kids to be creative rather than falling back on some game that they will only get sick of quickly?


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

My Anime List

The new anime season started a few weeks ago. I posted the anime I was watching a year ago and so will put up a quick summary of what I am watching now.

To start with, Naruto Shippuuden and Bleach are still going strong. Bleach finally got back to its core storyarc a couple of weeks ago. The episodes themselves have been somewhat repetitious and uninteresting, but there are moments of humour and there has been a little action. I just want to see the story through.

Naruto has been very emotional recently. Asuma was killed by some Akatsuki bastards. It was hard to hold back the tears. :o Incidentally, Asuma was the third Hokage's son. The third Hokage died during Orochimaru's attack on the hidden leaf village, Konoha, back during the original Naruto series a few years ago. Now we are going to get another funeral, I guess.

Clannad -- After Story is turning out to be just as good as the original series. It has even more humour in it and the animation is still just as gorgeous: very solid and colourful, and the characters are all nice looking.

Kidou Senshi (Mobile Suit) Gundam 00 2nd Season. Unfortunately, the third episode has not been subbed for this, so I am stuck waiting. This series is set four years after the events that transpired in the first season, where Celestial Being were trying to remove all war from the world. Setsuna's uber gundam, Exia, undergoes a major upgrade and there is a new threatening organisation: A-Laws (the Japanese say "ah" Laws). Oh, and Lockon's younger brother shows up -- and he looks just like Lockon Stratos! (Lockon died at the end of Gundam 00).

Rosario + Vampire Capu 2. "Capu chu" is the sound that Moka makes when she bites Tsukune's neck. This slightly ecchi anime is hilarious, if lacking a little in graphical quality.

ef - A Tale of Melodies. Still very artistic, both musically and graphically. It is set in both the past and present, the present being slightly after the parallel storylines of the original series. So far it is turning out to be as interesting as its predecessor.

New Series
To Aru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index). Index is a girl with perfect memorisation. She has memorised 103,000 (juuman sanzen) grimoires that the Church of England have locked away, but they take up 85% of her memory, so once each year she has to undergo a memory wipe so that her brain doesn't fill up and overflow, killing her.

So far it is proving to be pretty cool, with the mix of magic and technology (espers) in a city comprised almost entirely of students and the pursuit of study. The main protagonist is a young guy whose right hand anulls magic and esper attacks. He finds Index and swears to protect her from anyone that is pursuing her for the locked away grimoires.

I think that about sums up what is in my current listing. I hope that more episodes of Gundam 00 2nd will come out eventually. I want to continue through the storyline.

Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it before, don't come to Japan and claim to be "otaku". If I have mentioned it before, then you know it has negative connotations. At least here. So only use it at home, m'kay. ;)



Now that I have started on and am keeping up to date with this first textbook of the Clair beginners' course in Japanese, I am trying to speak Japanese where and when I can. I still don't understand much but I continue to learn and improve.

The book is divided into weeks and each week is divided into five sections. This means that if I do one section each day of the week, I will stay on top of it all. Each section so far has been quite small and most of it is recap, but it gives me the opportunity to go over what I read more than once and to repeat the drills that are at the end of each section. Repetition stimulates memorisation.

One interesting thing I found out yesterday was regarding Japanese dates. I have mentioned before that when denoting the year, the Japanese use both the Gregorian calendar and their own Imperial system. Each period has its own name and each period starts anew at year one. (see: Comparisons).

Currently, we are in the 20th year of the heisei period. Therefore, in some instances, this year is called heisei nijuunen (nijuu = 20). In other cases it is nisenhachi (sen = 1,000).

What I found interesting was that last period was called the Shouwa period. I teach in the nearby town of Shouwa on Thursdays (same kanji as the Imperial period). The previous period was called Taisho (once again, exact same kanji). Wait a sec, I live in Taisho!

Before Taisho was the Meiji period. This is well-known by anyone that has looked into Japanese history, as a lot happened during the Meiji period, which was during the 19th century.

Pretty crazy that these two periods are named the same as the towns where I teach and live, huh.

Today, I took a couple of classes at Iejigawa (another town with the kanji / word for river at the end). The first class was unorganised -- ichi-ninensei (1st and 2nd graders). I think there was a communication problem because I didn't realise I was supposed to have planned something. It sort of worked out as we went through aisatsu (greetings) with the children pretending to be doubutsu (animals). I also incorporated a game with Halloween shashin (pictures) to fill in the rest of the time.

I was given an entire period to plan for the second lesson, which was with the san-rokunensei (3rd to 6th graders). I made up two large sheets with the alphabet on them (nice and colourful).

The first part of the lesson was briefly recapping aisatsu (good morning, etc) with the kids. We then played Vanishing Man with the same Halloween pics I used with the ichi-ninensei. After that, I played a running around game that had four of the pictures in four places. The kids had to run to the correct picture when it was called and then get back to the middle to touch a jack-o-lantern bucket. The last one to run to the correct picture and back was out.

You can't go wrong if you make kids run, lol.

We planned my next visit, which isn't until the start of December. This time I will be organised!


Saturday, 25 October 2008

From the Mountains to the Rivers

On Thursday, I was asked to stay late -- almost until 5pm -- to assist a few students with their English speeches. I mostly helped with pronunciation and encouraged them to continue practising, so that they might memorise perfectly each part they have to recite in the speech competition next month.

Small things like this are no problem. To have to stay later at school from time to time, or having to stick around in the office past 4.30pm poses no issue whatsoever. Going over and above what your "contract states" is a part of being a respectable person. I hope that any extra involvement with students at either of the chuugakkou will reflect positively on my desire to see them all excel at English.

Yesterday, I went to Kitanokawa shougakkou (elementary school). Kita is Japanese for north -- the kanji used is easily recognisable. Kawa means river. Around here, a lot of places have kawa or gawa (a variant of kawa) in them. The Shimanto river (shimanto-gawa) is well known to a lot of people in Japan, and is regarded as one of the most pristine rivers.

The more I learn about various words, such as mountain and river, the more placenames make sense. Perhaps one day I will be able to read the recommended 2,000 kanji. ^^

My class with the gonensei and rokunensei (5th and 6th graders) wasn't that great. Even with a Japanese explanation of Vanishing Man, it still took me 5-10 mins to clarify how this simple game worked. I had Japanese instructions specialy written up to avoid such frustration but they didn't seem to make much difference. I don't get why people find such a simple game so hard to grasp. Possibly a cultural difference?

My class with the ichinensei (1st graders) however, was nice. We went over jikoshoukai (introductions), especially focusing on "How are you?"; "I am good / great / sad / cold...". the kids enjoyed the English input and the teacher really cares about the kids. I also gave them some Halloween colouring in pictures, which they appreciated.

Halloween is a pretty big thing in Japan. They have adopted the Americans' take on this festival that is steeped in a jaded past. Regardless of how much people try to explain away the druidic, dark nature of the origins of this hollow celebration, it does have a real beginning; even if a part of that beginning has Christian roots (such as trick or treating). But even this has been turned into simply a commercial endeavour.

Making a big deal of the dangers of Halloween and highlighting the reality of spiritual forces won't change the public view of it as a harmless time of fun. It is a choice not to involve yourself in accepting the rituals associated with the festival. But to do so for the sake of kids is, I think, an obligation. As Japan accepts Halloween, I don't feel that there is any harm in entertaining the idea from a purely symbolic standpoint. Degree of involvement is a choice.

Spiritual forces are a reality and it would be well to remember that there are strongholds in this world, and powers that only seek to harm. So long as we are mindful of what is there and refuse to embrace the spirit behind any form of darkness, things like Halloween and what they may represent are not a threat to spiritual growth or the foundations of your faith.

I don't agree with Halloween; I don't agree with the desensitised concept of witchcraft, spiritualism and medium interaction. What I can't argue against is the harmlessness of innocent children wishing to just enjoy themselves with something different. There are other ways to celebrate this time of the year, not all of them a blind acceptance of something with sinister roots.

Halloween has changed from its original meaning to something very commercial anyway. That's not to say that because it has changed its meaning it no longer has a spirit attached to it. There is definitely no way that a Christian should accept such a celebration in its base form. However, even looking past the scary themes and seeing it as simply another excuse to sell goods and candy, there is still a pervasive tone of spiritual disharmony.

A truly hallowed evening is much more preferable to one where ghosts and ghouls are turned into costumes and the powers of magic become simple gimmicks.

I didn't mean for this post to turn into a rant against Halloween. I may never accept it as a decent celebration -- anything that takes what is real and dangerous and turns it into harmless fun is blinding participants to the fact that there is a reality of danger and there are elements and forces in this world that should never be interacted with -- but I can still retain my beliefs, have my opinions and play along on a harmless level for the sake of those whose awareness does not encompass more than the physically obvious.

On Friday afternoon, I took nenkyu (time off) to sort out some books in the JCF library. As the Jet Christian Fellowship librarian, it is my job to ensure that the books are kept track of and that everything is categorised. I updated the booklist and will have it uploaded to the website so that members can request books to be sent out to them.

Michael and I are probably going into Kochi city tomorrow. I keep intending to get my hair cut, but never find the right opportunity to do so. I'm torn between growing it long for Winter and cutting it all off so it isn't in my face. At least a trim would neaten it up; I just have to find the right establishment I can trust to take care of it.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Kindergarten Picnic Lunch

Laurel, Candice and I joined my town's kindergarten for a treasure hunt / picnic this morning. The kids were divided into three groups and each group took a different route, gathering map pieces along the way. We ended up at a historical building, where they were told a story. After that, we walked to a nearby temple, where the priest did a dance to some taiko drumming. The kids were then able to have turns joining in. I tried my hand at the drumming. ;)

We had an early lunch, then walked to the shougakkou (elementary school). There was a treasure chest sitting in the middle of the playground. After opening it to find snacks inside, I carried it all the way back to the kindergarten amidst the procession of kids. The snacks were then distributed. Exciting stuff when you are four or five.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the morning. Japanese kids are so cute. :o

Spent the rest of the day researching LCD TVs and reading forums.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

As Promised

I had Tuesday off, but didn't do anything very productive. The rest of the week was just teaching, as usual. Friday was nice. I went back to Wakaigawa shogakkou (elementary school), which has very small classes. It was a little more successful than my first time there; especially with the youngest kids, whom I had make name tags. I believe it went well.

This weekend, Michael and I went to both cities. On Saturday, we travelled up to Kochi. I bought a 4Gb Toshiba Gigabeat MP3/Video player. We watched a movie at the Aeon (pronounced "eon") mall cinema, Eagle Eye. We both thought it was a good movie. I guess I just like action movies.

We had dinner in Kochi and travelled back to Taisho quite a bit later than we have before when we have gone to Kochi city.

Today, we went over to Nakamura. We looked around at a few places and had lunch at a cafe.

We stopped in K-town (Kubokawa) on our way home. I bought a desk, which I had delivered to my place. It arrived about half an hour ago. I need to get a better chair, but this dining chair will suffice until I find a suitable replacement.

As promised, following are some photos from the Tokyo Game Show. Because taking pictures and video of any of the stalls was forbidden, the images that I captured capture more of the spirit of the show than any of the games. So to speak. ;)

I will edit the small amount of video that I took and upload it to YouTube at some point.

Final Fantasy Dissidia for PSP

How colourful

Christmas came early?


Orange is in this year

What poster?

Sega girl+cat

What can I say...


Rawr, look at my book


Argh, the light!

I told you orange was in

Girls play too

We come in threes

In threes we come

Anyone wanna buy a phone?

Arigato Gozaimasu

Cute ^^


Saturday, 11 October 2008

A Day in Review

Tokyo Game Show: Saturday, 11 October 2008

The day dawned bright and... wait, that's not right. It was drizzling this morning; albeit somewhat lightly and sporadically.

And thus the saga begins.

I took a bus from outside the Toyoko Inn, Makuhari, where I am staying this weekend. Makuhari Messe, the location of the Tokyo Game Show, is just over ten minutes from the hotel.

Arriving at the venue, I joined the sea of people that appeared to be headed in the right direction. More of an undulating snake than a sea, we wended our way -- multiple ningen abreast -- around the Messe centre and towards the entrance. I snagged a ticket on the way past the ticket booths. It appeared that my fellow snaking patrons already possessed this all important document that would allow entry into the Makuhari Messe core.

After a brief security check (they didn't find the pipe bombs stashed in my backpack), I eventually made it inside. I'm pretty sure I was the only gaijin sporting an umbrella, too. Speaking of foreigners: I'm sure that 99% of gaijin at the event were American. Go figure.

Anyway, upon entering, one is overwhelmed with the mass of people moving aimlessly around. It is an incredible atmosphere, with sound permeating the air, myriad stalls set up across the expanse, and hot Japanese girls dressed in their various, company colours. That each "uniform" consisted of short skirts, even shorter tops and knee-high boots did not surprise me one bit. Neither did the fact that the girls wearing such sexy attire had very attractive bodies. In troth. Pictures to come. XD

Speaking of pictures, it was forbidden to take any form of media at any of the stalls and displays. Anything that pertained to games yet to be released had signs that signified you were not allowed to take photos or video. I was reprimanded twice for attempting to film "off-limit" footage. :p

I spent the better part of the morning absorbing as much as I could in this sea of gaming goodness. Waiting in queues to try out games probably took a good deal of my time throughout the day.

I saw the stall for the upcoming PS3 / Xbox 360 first person action game, Mirror's Edge. It looks like a good game, from what I've seen in the previews. Now it was my chance to have some hands on -- albeit limited time. After waiting in the queue for some time, I finally had the PS3 controller in hand. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow me to invert the Y-axis, so I spent a good deal of my play-time looking at either the sky or the ground (and falling to my death), as I tried to adjust my brain to what I would consider to be a backwards Y-axis control.

Despite the setback, and my seeming n00bness, I did complete the demo. It was something I had seen before, but to experience it firsthand gave me a better assessment of the game. It will be pretty cool to play, from the looks of things; quite a bit different from the average "shooter". If I do get a console (or consoles), I am not sure that it would be a definite purchase. But it would be fun to play through, all the same.

Next, I stood in line to tear up the streets in Need for Speed Undercover. It was quite a long wait to finally get that PS3 controller in my hand. I won't say it was definitely worth the wait, as this game is very similar to Most Wanted (even the graphics are not much better, unfortunately). However, it was fun, as the NFS games tend to be -- and they have added car damage. I completed the objective my second time through: cause $15K damage to public property and then evade the cops. Not bad for an out of practice racer.

After some wandering around, just absorbing the sites and sounds, I felt hunger pangs draw me towards the food area. Somehow, the table I was standing at to eat ended up consisting all of foreigners. So I took it upon myself thence to hang out with a couple of American college students for a while.

We checked out the Playstation centre. There were some pretty cool looking game previews that were shown on the big screen, before a presentation of Little Big Planet (incidentally, a game that does not appeal to me at all). White Knight looks pretty cool. Too bad I didn't see a preview of FFXIII. That is perhaps one of my most anticipated current-gen games.

After looking around some more, I wandered off by myself to check out Square Enix properly. There was mostly DS crap happening on the screen, but I was drawn in by the remake of Chrono Trigger. Natsukashii! The artwork at the Chrono Trigger stand is so obviously Toriyama. Dragonball similarities abound.

I had seen the preview for the 360 game, The Last Remnant, a couple of times during the day, so decided that I should give the game some hands on. Its queue was by far the longest wait -- probably because each group was given 15 minutes of play-time with the game.

When I finally sat down to play, of course I was completely lost -- the important stuff is all in Japanese. Had I been able to grasp the fight scheme I may have done better my first time around -- but I went and got my party wiped when I tried taking on some dragon-like beasties.

Aesthetically, the game is pretty swish. It looks very polished, and from what I can gather of the story, it seems to have quite a bit of depth. The fighting system is different from anything I have encountered in an RPG. Thankfully, it is turn-based. However, I had no idea what was going on when it came to the fights. I know that the game would have been easier in English, but even then it would have been rather overwhelming, considering how much seemed to be going on at once. There appeared to be quite a lack of fight control; but it could just be my failing to grasp how to play.

The occasional need to press one of the controller's buttons during one of your characters' attack sequences is a nice touch. This game will be well worth checking out; and I'm sure that starting from the beginning, you would be eased into its battle sequence style a lot more gradually.

Wandering around again, I realised that it was nearing the end of the day. I zoned in on a few spots that were interesting: the Sega area; a display about a Wii Naruto game (with characters from the current story arc! Video to come); and the hot Japanese girls that were all over the place were kind enough to pose for a few photos (more often than not, there were already multiple people taking photos of them).

I will upload photos and video when I get back home. For now, that is the end of my day in review. It was an amazing experience. Very tiring, but worth flying up here to Chiba to see with my own two eyes. I definitely want to buy at least a PS3, but also probably a 360 (eventually). It is time I got back into console gaming; and appealing console games there are -- and will be -- in abundance!


Friday, 10 October 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

This weekend:

Tokyo Game Show 2008!


Friday, 3 October 2008

A Week in Review

On Monday, I had no school, so I got some errands done. I also made a ninja mask from some cloth I got in K-town. We will film our short movie this Saturday.

Tuesday was wet. I spent the day at Tokawa chuugakkou (junior high).

I have been watching the new seasons of Stargate Atlantis and Smallville, as well as playing a lot of WoW and watching anime (staying up to date with Naruto and Bleach, and watching slightly older, finished anime such as Full Metal Alchemist). The new season starts next week, so I will begin watching three or four more series while they are still airing on tv.

On Wednesday, Candice and I were both posted at Iejigawa shougakkou (elementary). We did introductions and played a few games with the kids. I had lunch in K-town and came back out to the office in Taisho for the rest of the working day.

Yesterday was a regular day at Shouwa chuugakkou. I must say, I like teaching there more than I do at Tokawa. Phil told me that he felt the same way. I think it is a combination of environment, students and staff. Nothing wrong with Tokawa -- most of the students are good in class and the teachers are friendly -- but it just feels brighter at Shouwa and I feel that I have a lot more involvement in the classroom.

Today, I was at Kubokawa shougakkou. It is quite a large school. I took two classes of yonnensei (fourth graders), both of which had about 25 kids. After my introduction in the first class, I played Bullrush and Stuck in the Mud with the kids outside. With the second class, we played Midnight outside. The games worked really well once they understood them, and I know that they all had a lot of fun.

Now it's the weekend. We plan on filming all of the scenes for our movie tomorrow, and I will probably spend Sunday learning how to edit both film and music. We will also need to record the dialogue separately from the film and edit that in, as well. If it doesn't work out, we will flag entering it into the contest and just complete it for the sake of doing a comedic short film. It's all good practice. :)


Friday, 26 September 2008

A Blog, A Korean and A Struggle

Watching last night's Naruto episode tonight, the comment in the opening credits led me to this site. It's interesting -- though not as interesting as this blog. I just wish my blog looked a whole lot flashier than it does. Perhaps in time I will tweak it and edit the overall style.

Wednesday was more or less a day off. I spent the day in the office, of course, but I didn't have any school. I passed the day without too much boredom. At least my "boss" on Mob Wars is getting stronger (and wealthier). I also met a Korean lady who is here -- teaching Korean, I assume. Her Japanese is really good. I was able to exchange a few words in Korean; she was pleasantly surprised to hear her native tongue being spoken (albeit somewhat poorly).

Yesterday was the usual Showa Chuugakkou (junior high school). I had three classes for the first time since starting to teach there. For the ichinensei and ninensei (first and second graders) I did my obligatory introduction, complete with shitsumon (questions).

All of my classes went well; it was a good day at school. With the sannensei (third graders), I had made up a Word-find and some Fill-in-the-blanks sheets. We also played a game called Keep Asking Questions because there was time to spare at the end of the lesson.

Today, I went to Showa Shougakkou (elementary school). I did my introduction in two classes. The younger kids had a lot of questions that took up the remainder of the lesson time. The older kids weren't quite so responsive -- until I played hang-man with them, then they all got into it; especially when each person that guessed the last letter was allowed to do a word of their choosing. All in all, it was a good time.

This weekend, I have no big plans. Michael and I were contemplating heading into Kochi city, but neither of us really feels up to it; especially considering all the travelling we did last weekend.

So I will probably sit at home and play WoW all day -- after cleaning my apartment. At least I can stay up indefinitely tonight and sleep in tomorrow. :p

I eventually want to get a large desk and a comfortable chair for my apartment; an MP3 player for listening to music more conveniently as I travel between here and each school; and will need to somehow pre-order the WotLK expansion. :/

It would be nice to have a bit more to do around here, or at least have ideas about what else I could do with my free time. I'm sure that in time -- especially when I have my own car and can travel to either city at my own leisure -- I will meet new people, make new friends and go out and do stuff.

The language is still a huge barrier for me, but I don't really _need_ to be able to speak Japanese -- at least not to stay alive, or anything equally as important. It can get frustrating when I am unable to express myself -- or if I do express myself to be met with blank looks (since I usually resort to an outburst of English -- 'tis the writer in me; I cannot help it at times!).

Well, one day I will look back and wonder what it was like not being able to communicate in Japanese. For now, I am not a Japanese speaker and I even struggle with the simple things. There is so much to learn and so much to remember, that at times it seems to be quite overwhelming. I guess the key is not to think about how much you don't know, but to strengthen what you do know.

In time, I will improve. And in time, I'm sure my memory will develop more so that I won't have to hear something a hundred times and still not know what it is.



Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Back From Okayama

I just got back from a three day holiday in Okayama prefecture.

I'm sorry about no update for a while. I've mostly just had school as usual. On Thursday last week, I once again only had the sannensei class and no others, at Shouwa chuugakkou (junior high school).

On Friday, I went to Ino city to have an interview for getting my Japanese driver license. I have an eye test coming up, probably some time this week. After that, I should get my license and will be able to put away my IDP (international driving permit).

On Friday night, Michael and I drove into Kochi city to stay at a hotel. We started out early on Saturday morning, driving north and crossing the land-bridge that connects Shikoku with Honshu, the main island of Japan. It's an impressive structure.

We made a few wrong turns but eventually made it to Okayama city, and then to Tsuyama city, where we met up with Philip, my predecessor. He took a new non-JET job up in that prefecture.

We went swimming in Tsuyama, at a public pool. There was a tube-type waterslide, which was pretty cool, and a couple of saunas. We met another 2008 JET, a friend of Phil's who is teaching at Tsuyama high schools. He is an American named Evan.

The four of us went to Aeon mall (smaller than the Kochi-shi one) and then went somewhere for dinner, where we sat around for a while talking.

After dropping Evan home, we went back to Phil's and I set my laptop up.

Sunday wasn't the most pleasant day, in terms of weather, but we still walked around a little in the morning. We had Italian for lunch and checked out a small breakdancing competition in the city.

Back at Phil's again, I played World of Warcraft and talked to some of my family on Skype -- complete with video -- which was nice because they happened to be around at my brother's house.

We had sushi for dinner at a kaitenzushi (pick and choose sushi on a conveyor). I played more World of Warcraft when we got back. Such a productive time in Japan!

Mikey and I left for Okayama city on Monday morning. We found our hotel, parked, and walked to a Japanese garden to check that out before lunch. We checked into the hotel before lunch and then went to a large shopping arcade. We had lunch and I bought a few things from various places.

We visited Okayama Castle, and Michael took some photos.

The rest of our evening, aside from dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, was spent in the hotel. Technically, the restaurant was below the hotel, so we didn't actually leave the premises.

This morning, we got up early again, packed everything up, and travelled back down here to Taisho. It has been a long day and I am sure that Michael is as tired as I am, if not more so.

My first holiday in Japan is over and I am back in the office tomorrow. I haven't looked at my schedule for the week, but I'm hoping I have either tomorrow or Friday off, in terms of school visits. ;)


Friday, 12 September 2008

The Introductions Continue

Yesterday, there was another sports day practice at Shouwa chuugakkou (junior high school). I spent some of the morning outside watching (and holding one end of the finish line ribbon for sprints and relays), and the rest of the day until sixth period watching Naruto and Bleach on my laptop. :p

For sixth period, we discussed an excerpt from a NZ movie, The Whale Rider.

Today, I went to Tokawa shougakkou (elementary school) again. That's twice in the same week. For the 1-2 year students I went over aisatsu (greetings). We talked about responses to "How are you?" -- eg. Hot, Tired, Happy. It seems that a lot of them were happy, XD. We also discussed fruit, with pictures, and then I had them play Fruit Basket, where they all stand in a circle and run around once to get in the middle when their fruit is called.

For the 3-4 year students, I did my obligatory introduction, complete with shashin (photos). I began talking about and explaining the NZ school system, such as Summer holidays and a typical day, but because I don't speak Japanese, and the two teachers present didn't speak English it got quite awkward. So I broke out hangman and the students enjoyed themselves. :)

Surprisingly, they were able to get "throw" before hanging their man, but had been unable to get "cat" and "sit" before that. Go figure. :/

Going to Nakamura tomorrow for a couple of things. One is a free Japanese lesson, which should be interesting.

Yay for Friday. ;)


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Got Milk?

Yesterday, I took my laptop to Tokawa chuugakkou (junior high). Unfortunately, the Internet there runs through a proxy, so most websites are blocked. I ended up watching Naruto when I wasn't in class or helping Igei sensei to prepare for the lessons.

Today, Candice and I both joined Michael at Kitanokawa shougakkou (elementary school). Once again, spending time with kids is enjoyable. We talked about food with the 2nd graders, the body with 3rd graders and "what is this / that?" with the 5th and 6th graders, using visual aids (animals, colours and food). I ate lunch with the sannensei (third graders).

A few things to note about schools, in terms of interesting differences:
  • Children don't bring a packed lunch to school; they all eat the same meal prepared at school and served in each classroom by children that are on lunch duty.
  • The servers wear caps and masks while handling food -- the youngest children are very cute all dressed up as they do their duty.
  • They have milk at school every day. I guess Japanese people like milk or see the benefit of giving kids milk.
  • After lunch, just about everything is put in the correct place for washing or recycling. Milk cartons, cheese wrappers, and even straws are collected.
  • Also after lunch, the children brush their teeth. Bodily care and material recyling are both big here.
Matta ([I will write] again).


Monday, 8 September 2008

Happy Happy Joy

On Friday evening, my laptop arrived. I had trouble setting the Internet up, so two people from the office came around to assist me: Hayashi-san and Sasaki-san. I had everything going by mid evening, and so was able to go online this past weekend. Suffice to say, I played a bit of WoW and downloaded a lot of movies and anime, lol.

On Saturday, Michael and I went into Kochi city. We looked at various things. Projectors are pretty expensive! I'm not sure if I will get one after all. I'd still like to get a PS3, if only to play Blu-ray discs (and Final Fantasy XIII when it comes out!).

Sunday, I just spent at home. When I have my own car I will be able to go into the city to attend church. Right now, things are usually inconvenient in that regard. When I am able to regularly attend church on Sundays it will be quite expensive, too.

This morning, I had two classes at Tokawa shougakkou (elementary school). It is next door to the junior high that I teach at on Tuesdays. Kids can think of so many questions. It makes for an interesting lesson! I got asked everything from what Japanese food I hate to what sort of fish I caught in New Zealand when I went fishing. I really enjoyed it, despite feeling quite tired.

The main reason I have felt tired today is that I went to bed late last night. I got off Wow pretty late and then watched a movie as well. :o

Tomorrow, it will be my first real lesson at Tokawa chuugakkou. Igei sensei and I will prepare the lessons first thing in the morning. I get up at 6am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to give me time in the morning before heading to the junior high schools for an 8am start. Classes start a little later than that, and I never have a first period English lesson to take, but the teachers at both schools still want me there for the morning meetings -- and to prepare for the day's classes.

I finish pretty soon. No more hanging around in the office for me (well, maybe once a week, for that necessary "face time"). I can go home and relax (ie. play games and watch movie and anime).


Friday, 5 September 2008


Yesterday was my first day at Showa chugakkou (middle school). They had a sports day -- more of a sports preparation day -- so I didn't have class until the afternoon; and then, only one. For the first part of the day, I sat in on Mizobuchi-sensei's ichinensei (first grade) homeroom class, as they discussed stuff for sports day. He is the English teacher. His students are all girls. The entire population of the school is only 32 students: 13 boys, 19 girls.

Some time was spent in the gym. I'm not sure exactly what the point of sports day preparation and discussion is, but the students sure seemed to be occupied.

Sixth period was my only class for the day. I took the sannensei (third grade students). I went through my introduction, with photos and pictures, and then had them ask me questions. I also asked them each individual questions. That class has five boys and four girls.

Today, I went to Wakaigawa shougakkou (elementary school). It is another small school -- just 13 students. I took the 5th-6th grade students in the second period, then the 3rd-4th graders and the 1st-2nd graders in the third and fourth periods respectively. None of the teachers could speak English (the principal knew a little, and he took the senior class), so it made my day interesting. My introduction to each class was good Japanese practise.

The 3rd-4th grade class asked me a lot of questions about animals in New Zealand. The 5th-6th graders asked me what I liked and I asked them what they liked (food, colours, etc). I love how much more responsive kids are than teenagers, even if they can only ask questions in Japanese. I think that communicating will get easier as I learn more Japanese. Today's experience really stretched my Japanese language skills. I didn't understand a lot of the time, but I lived. :)

The most interesting class was the little ones. There was one 1st grader -- a cute little boy -- and one 2nd grader: a girl. They ended up just showing me a few of the toys in the classroom, after my introduction and a couple of questions.

I played with the kids between classes and also after eating lunch with them. The teachers also eat lunch with the students, as there are so few. It was fun to play with the kids. I showed them how to play bat down. There was one boy, Ryo, who was about eight. He had a lot of energy, both in the classroom and in the gym, running around. He reminded me of my nephew Reuben. XD

Mikey and I are going into Kochi city tomorrow. I am really tired right now and have a headache. I think I will rest when I get home.

On Monday, I am going to Tokawa shougakkou. I will try and be a little more prepared this time, but without my own computer this might be difficult. I should be getting my laptop on Monday. I can't wait!


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

School's In Session

My first taste of teaching was yesterday. I had three classes at the Tokawa chugakkou (middle school), one for each year. The largest class had 15 students in it. Each lesson consisted mostly of my own introduction, followed by questions and student introductions. I look forward to all of the English that we will attempt to impart to these malleable minds.

This morning, Michael and I attended the local shougakkou (primary school) here in Taisho. Kids are definitely more fun than teenagers in the classroom. They are more responsive, even if they don't understand English and have trouble remembering what they have "learned" -- or trouble with English pronunciation.

That's about all that's going on. We have plans to go to Kochi city on Saturday and will probably look into starting to film our short movie next week for the Chobitto Film Festival. Also, I should be getting a personalised kanji hanko (stamp) made for me. The closest to my name in Japanese is "tei mu". There is a kanji pronounced "Tei" that means "Emperor" and one pronounced "mu" that means "dream". So Tei-mu, Emperor's Dream, will be my very own kanji stamp.

Back to Mob wars. ;)


Monday, 1 September 2008

Ashita Hajimaru

On Saturday, as planned, we went over to Nakamura. We had ramen for dinner and walked to the festival across the river. The fireworks were insane. I uploaded what I filmed to YouTube, but I ran out of room on my memory card and missed the last part, which was incredible.

Yesterday, Michael and I looked for a waterfall that he had mentioned to me. We drove into the hills near Towa, trying to find our way. We ended up at an interesting track, which we walked up for a while. It was good exercise and nice to be out in the bush. After we got back in the car, we backtracked a bit and went up another road. We eventually found the waterfall. Pictures to come.

We decided to continue driving up past the track that led down to the waterfall, stopping at the summit of the hill. We walked down another track, which presented us with a breathtaking sight of the surrounding hills.

Mission complete, we drove back to Taisho, which took about an hour. After dinner, we watched a movie at Michael's house. Weekend complete.

I spent part of today preparing my introduction (complete with pictures) for the schools I will be teaching at.

Tomorrow marks the start of my vocation as a JET. I will be teaching at the Tokawa shugakkou (middle school / junior high). I'm looking forward to finally getting into it, but am a little apprehensive about what to expect. ^^


Saturday, 30 August 2008

Kochi Revisited

On Wednesday afternoon, I visited the Tokawa chugakkou (junior high) to meet with the JTE there. I spent a bit more time there than I did at the chugakkou on Tuesday. The biggest thing for me right now is preparing my introduction for the schools I will be visiting over the next few weeks, including A3-size photos of New Zealand and my family.

Thursday was just a regular day spent in the office. I watched a whole lot of World of Warcraft-related clips at Michael's house that night while he played Metal Gear Solid 4 on his PS3.

Yesterday, Nakawaki-san took Candice and I into Kochi city. We got our re-entry permits from thte Immigration office before having lunch at Hirome ichiba (market). A re-entry permit is used for when you leave the country and need to get back in. I guess it just makes it easier for Immigration, but it sure cost a bit: 6,000 yen for three stamps, which I assume means you can re-enter Japan three times.

After lunch, we went to JAF, where we had our respective driver's licenses translated. While we waited for them to process them, we went to Aeon mall to do some kaimono (shopping). I got a small suitcase -- carry-on size -- for when I travel around. I also got a hot water urn (with electronic dispensing) and a few things from the hyaku-en (100 yen) store.

After we retrieved our licenses and got the documentation from JAF, we left Kochi city. We stopped at a furniture and general merchandise store not too far outside the city. I bought a new pillow, which was really nice to sleep on last night.

In K-town (Kubokawa), I picked up a loan phone to use while my keitai (cellphone) is being repaired. They say that it is not an LCD leak but looks like another problem. Whatever the issue, I just hope that they repair it free of charge, since it was a brand new phone and is obviously a manufacturing fault.

Nakawaki-san and I got back to the office in Taisho very late. It was raining. I made dinner after I got dropped home (carrying all my stuff from Kochi up to my apartment), and also baked a chocolate cake. I had to put it through my rice cooker twice. I'm not sure if there is a different setting for baking in it because I can't read the kanji, but just doing a standard cycle twice seemed to work. The cake tastes nice.

This afternoon, Michael, Candice, Laurel and I are will be going into Nakamura (Shimanto city). There is apparently a small festival tonight, with hanabi (fireworks). Apparently the fireworks display will be more intense than the one we had here last Sunday, so I am really looking forward to that!

On a somewhat sour note, my laptop is not expected to arrive until Monday the 8th, so I have to wait for more than a week until I will be able to go online at home. My Internet, however, will be connected this coming Monday, so I won't have to wait for that to get hooked up -- I just won't be able to use it for a week. :(


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Ayu Matsuri Fireworks Display

I uploaded the longest recording of Sunday's fireworks display to YouTube. You can view it below:

"In my town in Japan, we recently had a fish festival, called the Ayu Matsuri. At the end of the night, we all watched fireworks from the nearby bridge. This is the end of what was an amazing 20 min display of variegated colour accompanied by riotous sound that ricocheted off the surrounding hills like gunshots. I captured this on my phone."

I may put more movies up soon.


Phone and Schools

It turns out that my phone doesn't have a leaking LCD. However, in order to repair it, Docomo have to send it on somewhere else. I will not have a temporary phone until tomorrow, either, so will have been without a phone for three days.

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Showa chugakkou (middle school) to meet with the JTE -- Japanese Teacher of English. We discussed lesson plans and my attending a school assembly next Thursday to introduce myself to the students.

I also visited the dentist yesterday and he replaced one of my two caps. It's quite uncomfortable today, but I think that is mostly because they got a bit rough near the end while polishing the new resin cap, so it has made my jaw and gums sore. I need to find out where to get painkillers around here.

Last night, Michael and I cooked okonomiyaki for dinner. We also wrote the dialogue for our intended short film for the upcoming film festival. It has yet to be translated, but we have a fair idea of a number of the Japanese phrases that we will use -- think: offensive and silly. I look forward to filming it!

Today, I have the same deal at the Tokawa chugakkou. I will discuss school resources, the textbooks and work to be covered, and a schedule of school events. The kominkan (Board of Education) have given me a van to drive around in. I will be using it to attend each school that I teach at. The chugakkou are regular, weekly attendances. Michael and I will be going to various shougakkou and the odd kindergarten throughout each month, rotating through most around this area.

Next week, it all starts!

I have paid for my laptop, so now now it's just a matter of time until I get it. I have to wait until next week to have my Internet connected though. I think this is happening on 1st September.

That's all for now. I am going to Kochi on Friday, as is Candice. We are going to sort out our re-entry permits, and I will be translating my Kiwi license at the JAF, in order to apply for my Japanese license. Might as well fit in a bit of kaimono (shopping) while I'm at it.

Well, back to the Internet surfing. ;)


Monday, 25 August 2008

Ayu Matsuri

On Saturday, Michael and I went into Kochi city. I got a mouse, a gaming headset, some new sunglasses, and other bits and pieces. We stopped in K-town on the way home and had tea with Laurel, the CIR of the Kubokawa komen-kan (Board of Education). The rest of the evening involved YouTube and Turok on the PS3.

I attended a small AoG church in K-town on Sunday. Aside from the pastor and his wife, and me and Laurel, there was only one other person there! We had lunch with Candice -- okonomiyaki! -- and took a mid-afternoon, open carriage train to Taisho. The Ayu matsuri (festival) was happening just outside my town. Mark and Martin from nakamura had driven over this way to attend it, so there were six of us in total (Michael was already there).

The Ayu is a fish that swims in the Shimanto gawa (river). I tried one cooked on a stick, coated with salt. It was ok. We saw some taiko (Japanese drumming) and some yosakoi dancing (like at the matsuri in Kochi city the other weekend).

We spent a little time at Mikey's apartment and went back down to the river to wait for hanabi (fireworks). When it was dark, we went up onto the bridge. They shut down all the lights at 8.30pm and the display began. It was the most amazing fireworks display I have ever seen. The sound was richocheting off the surrounding hills like gunshots and the sky was lit up with explosions and sprinkles of colour. Near the end, some hanabi that were strung across the kawa (river) were let off and produced a golden waterfall of fire that was kirei (pretty).

I managed to capture a bit of the hanabi on my phone and other people took some movies and pictures. I have been unable to access what is on my micro-SD card for some reason, but when I have my laptop, I will upload the best i-motion movie to YouTube.

I have to go to K-town today to swap my phone. It has a leak in the LCD that has been spreading. It is definitely an OBF (out of box failure). I just hope that they will replace it due to its manufacturing fault as they would in New Zealand.

I have a meeting at the Showa chugakkou (middle school) and a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon. Wednesday, I have a meeting at the Tokawa chugakkou. And on Thursday, I will be going into the city for some re-entry permits and to have my license translated for applying for a Japanese one.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

WTB Fish

Yesterday, my home phone was connected. I am unable to get Internet just yet, but will hopefully get through this afternoon to the ISP I will be going with, Purara (don't ask, I don't understand its name either), and will book a time when they can activate a connection. I will need a laptop to go on the net at home, anyway -- and as we all know, I still haven't got one.

I was also able to swap a few of my appliances for better ones: microwave, fridge, gas cooker (and a fish cooker thing), tv; and I finally got a vacuum cleaner. I also got a heated carpet which I've put away until Winter -- it will be incredibly welcome at that time.

I spent time after work cleaning out the fridge. After that, Michael had a birthday dinner at Yamagoya (Maiko's izakaya). He turned 25. The only other person there was a lady, Mika, whom I believe is a teacher at a school here in Taisho. She speaks English.

This morning, I will be going shopping in K-town. This afternoon I have been invited to go swimming in the river with a few people, but I will have to think about it, as I really don't feel like swimming.

Next week is the Ayu festival. Ayu is a type of fish that swims in the river here. I took a photo on the weekend of the little banners that have been set up around town -- but as I have been unable to upload any photos yet, I can't show them until such a time as I am able to.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Search Continues

I continue to look for a suitable laptop. I believe that I have found the ideal one, but I still have to either find an appropriate retailer or somehow order online when I don't have my own credit card. :o

Mikey got back from his vacation in Fukuoka and brought me back omiyage (souvenir / gift) -- some tiger towels. I will put up a photo when I have my laptop and can sort through all of my Japan photos to date. XD

I went through a whole lot of questions with my supervisor yesterday, which clears up a few things and gives me more insight into what is happening or is supposed to be happening. This afternoon, a telephone company contractor is coming around to my place to activate the phone line. Unfortunately, I can't get a nintaweb connection until I have my laptop. :/

I'm meeting up with the ELT of the Showa chuugakkou (middle school) next Tuesday, and the ELT of the Tokawa one on Wednesday. And at some point next week I should be going into Kochi city to get re-entry permits, apply for my Japanese driver license and possibly get a laptop (if I haven't amazingly got one already by then).

It's Mikey's 25th birthday today, so a few of us will be going out for dinner to celebrate that. I'm thankful that tonight won't be as dreary as my last two evenings, where all I had to occupy me were Olympic events, nihongo no benkyousuru (Japanese study) and some Japanese drama. I look forward to having a laptop for those evenings that I don't have anywhere specific to be or anything interesting to do.

Did I mention that I wish I had a laptop?

NB. Do not come to Japan on the JET programme without one. I was a silly, lazy student who couldn't afford a laptop computer before I came, and now look at where I'm at. Not fun. Don't do it.



Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Blog Subscription

Now, you can subscribe to this blog. I added a subscription link to the top of the menu that allows you to receive the RSS feed of blog posts made here.


Monday, 18 August 2008

Free Lunch

There's no such thing, right? Well, so long as you're honest there isn't. When I bought my lunch today, the checkout operator didn't zap my obento (boxed lunch). I tend to get a sushi-type obento (three kim-bap type rolls, three egg ones and a large one of rice wrapped in something tasty) and one of just meat (today, it was small, rounded hamburger patties). It makes for a filling lunch that covers pretty much every food group. XD

I realised she hadn't charged me for those items after leaving the store and determined to go back to make amends after I'd eaten my healthy Japanese lunch. I wasn't sure how to say "no charge", so I decided to look up the verb "to pay", intending to say that I paid nothing for my lunch. I also looked up the ending for past tense, which I haven't covered quite yet in my text book -- I am going through it very slowly. I just started on lesson four, which covers past tense, but haven't got past the vocab list yet. :o

I gathered all of my gaijin courage on my way back to the office and stopped in at the food store. In my simple Japanese, I spoke to the lady who had served me. I told her that I had bought some food and that I had paid zero yen for it. She was surprised. I don't know what she said, but it was probably something like, "Are you sure?". I handed over the money that I owed, repeating that I had paid nothing and would she please accept it. I also brought the barcodes to make her job easy, and so she zapped them both and there were happy parties on both sides. ^^

It wasn't just the fact that I went back and paid for what amounted from a mistake; it was my using Japanese in a real situation that made me feel good. I am an honest person, and so it was a no brainer that I pay for my lunch. However, this has boosted my courage in speaking out and attempting to communicate more with the locals.

Incidentally, I exchanged a few words with my supervisor earlier, about going through a whole lot of questions. Remember that he speaks almost no English, so it is a good opportunity for me to flex my language skills whenever I talk to him. I asked if we could go through them after lunch, but he said he had a full schedule. We decided that we would go through everything tomorrow, upon my suggestion.

My Japanese language skills are still so simple. I hope that I will have more opportunities this week to attempt to express myself in various ways. I will continue working through my text book and trying to build more of a vocabulary.


I Come Bearing Omiyage

Not really. But I am back from quite a busy end of the week. Were I able to, I'd have posted an update over the weekend. Because as it is, I still have nothing to do at my apartment and so my weekend itself is barely worth mentioning.

On Wednesday, I went to K-town to get my pensioner booklet -- all workers in Japan automatically have a compulsory fee deducted towards their pension -- you can reclaim the first three years' worth back if you leave the country; my health insurance card -- the government of Japan pays 70% of health costs here; my keitai -- cellphone -- I got the latest Sharp, the SH906iTV -- unfortunately, I don't have my email set up or have an understanding yet of the contract I have signed into :/; and my alien registration card, which must be carried with me at all times whilst in Japan.

I stayed overnight at Candice's so that we could take the train to Kochi City in the morning. We wandered around Obiyamachi and had lunch at Hirome before the prefectural orientation started. It was good to see people again whom we hadn't seen since being in Tokyo.

Most people that were staying in the city were staying at the Kochi No. 1 Hotel. We all got checked in and then met in the foyer to go to a beer garden, for all you can eat and drink. I just saw it as paying towards other people's booze, because I sure didn't eat 3,400 yen worth of food. Either way, it was a good time.

After the beer garden, most of us went to a bar in Obiyamachi. It was a new environment for me. I went for conformity's sake. I managed to last until 12am when I decided that sitting around doing nothing wasn't enjoyable and I could make an inconspicuous exit -- which I did.

Friday was a long day. We covered everything from what to do in a distaster to things to do throughout our prefecture. There are a lot of places to visit here and there will be a lot of stuff happening over the next year. All in all, the biggest thing I took from the orientation was a list of questions to direct towards my supervisor and the schools that I will be teaching at.

After orientation, I grabbed one of the CIRs, Simon, and we walked towards the station, then turned East. My intention was to find a computer store. We asked in a music store for directions to the store I had heard about, and continued walking. Simon's Japanese is fluent and it amazed me each time he talked to a Japanese person. I want to be fluent one day!

Well, we continued walking for a long time, wondering where this place was, when we decided to stop at a ramen restaurant. They told us that we had passed it by about half an hour! What n00bs we felt like. Anyway, we got a taxi back to the store and I ended up not being able to get a suitable laptop at the time. However, the clerk gave me a catalogue of Windows laptops, which I looked over later.

I felt bad about dragging Simon all over Kochi like that, but at least we both got some exercise. The taxi driver was also kind enough to stop the meter while we were inside the store and took us to the station after our little stop. I met Candice at the station and we took the express to K-town. I decided to stay over at her place again on Friday night and take the train home in the morning.

On Saturday morning, I wandered around K-town a bit. I got some drawing supplies from Ryubi and sat around at the station for a while until my train departed for Taisho.

After getting home, I cleaned my apartment and then just spent the rest of the day resting, watching tv and drawing.

Sunday was just as uneventful as Saturday. I really wish that I'd been able to get a laptop, but here I am on Monday morning, happy to be alive. ^^ I walked around on Sunday, having slept in (I didn't go to church because the train was too early -- I will try and get a ride in future, but Michael is still away on holiday in Fukuoka), and took some photos. I promise that I will put all of my photos up when I am able to.

I visited Maiko at the izakaya last night to pass some time. I also did a little more drawing, some Japanese study and watched more Olympics on tv. Usain Bolt is fast!

Now it's Monday. I need to get all of these questions answered by my supervisor, and I need to find out the prices of these laptops, then possibly order one so that I can go to Kochi and get it as soon as possible.

I hope that this week will be a lot more productive than the previous few slow days in the last two weeks.