Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kofu Trip 甲府の旅行

Ok it’s about time for an update hah. Over the past weekend I went to Kofu to visit James and see Chris.

On Friday night I just stayed in and studied like a nerd but that’s ok because I planned on getting up early on Saturday.

Saturday morning I woke up and did the usual wake up routine then headed out for Kofu. It took me about 4 hours to get there by train. It took me maybe 5 different train lines to get there. On the way there I saw a lot of Japanese country side, which was pretty cool.

I got there around 12:30/1:00pm and met up with Chris. James had to work until 7 or 8 that night, so Chris and I did some exploring on our own. We went to all the main shrines and a few other cool spots there. I also bought a flag there. The flag is an abbreviation for a saying that comes from the feudal warlord who ruled over Kofu back in the day Takeda 武田. It means, Be as fierce as a hurricane, steady as a forest, spread like wildfire, and be as steadfast as a mountain. It’s a really cool saying, so I had to buy the flag. Here are the pictures from the day in the link: Facebook I also uploaded videos too. Check them out.

And here are a few of my favorites from the day.

The bad ass saying

Prayer Boards
Kofu is really close to Mt. Fuji!

Later that night James finally made it back. After that we got some dinner. We decided to get some food at a Yakitori焼き鳥 place. On the way there two Japanese Jehovah Witnesses passed us on bikes and said “Sup Dawg” to us haha. It was hilarious.

At the Yakitori place I tried cow tongue 牛タンfor the first time, and it is actually pretty good. I also had some chicken cartilage or at least that’s what I think it was haha. The shop owner hooked us up with some free food too which was really nice. After that we ordered him a beer. And then to trump us he gave us something free that wasn’t even on the menu. The food was really good there, if I go back to Kofu I’m gonna have to go there again.

After the yakitori place we went and sang some karaoke. It was pretty fun, and we ordered a lot of drinks haha because it was all you can drink. We almost called it a night and headed back but we weren’t satisfied.

Then we went to a nightclub. The place was kind of small but James knew the owner. We hung out with the locals and danced. It was a good time. Then on our way home we passed a Yoshinoya, so of course we had to get some food there. We met some Australian girl there it was pretty funny. Finally we made it back around 4:30am.

The people in Kofu are a bit different from people in Tochigi (where I live). They tend to speak their mind a bit more which is good in my opinion. Apparently it is the poorest prefecture in all of Japan. I don’t think it shows, but there were a few ghetto people there haha.

Sunday morning we met up with one of James’ friends from a few years back Jade. He came over and then we went and got some breakfast at Saizeria (A Japanese Italian food place haha) After that I had to head back because I had a 4 hour trip home. I finally got back around 8 or so. Thanks to James for having me and Chris for coming over from Kyoto.

This week so far has been pretty normal. On Saturday I think I’ll go to Utsunomiya to play Ultimate Frisbee and then on Sunday I think I’m going with Carrie and Adrian to Yokohama.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

大谷Oya さいたまSaitama and a Rant!

Wednesday was a National holiday here so I took advantage of it. Adrian, Carrie, and I went to Oya (大谷 ) a place that’s about 20 minutes by bus or so north of Utsunomiya. It was an interesting place.

I took some of the info from a pamphlet they handed out, I asked for the English version because I still suck at Japanese. Here’s some of the info:

Oya temple is the 19th of 33 sacred places in the Kanto district. Carved on the rock walls here are 10 Buddha images. An excavation of the cave (with the 10 Buddha images) discovered relics from the Jomon and Yayoi eras (Between 2,000 and 10,000 years ago)
The oldest earthenware in Japan was dug out of the ground here.

The temple itself is about 5 miles northwest of Utsunomiya station. I was said to be founded in 810. At the entrance is a Heiwa Kannon carving which is about 88 feet tall and was carved shortly after WWII, and dedicated to those who died and for world peace.

Fun trip all in all, but we didn’t get to go underground and see all that the place offered. Here are some pictures though of what we did see. Here are some pics: Click to make them bigger.

Here's a link to all of them Facebook

Also on Saturday I went to Saitama to watch Utsunomiya play in a Frisbee Tournament. I took some videos then edited them together to make this:

It was a lot of fun, but it just made me want to play really bad. I miss Buzz (my old team from college).

Ok with that out of the way now I can start my RANT! Since I can’t remember the last time I ranted about something I need to and get this off my chest. It’s kind of long, that’s why I put the important stuff above this, also reading it is optional…..

Today I taught at Ueno Elementary. It was somewhat depressing. I taught 6th grade, and it was pretty awful. It’s rare that I have a bad day as a teacher here but today was one of them. First of all the lesson plan was pretty boring to begin with. Second, the students weren’t energetic at all, and some even slept or basically refused to participate. I’ve had shy kids before, but never have the students outright slept in class.

Some of the 6th Grade teachers at Ueno, I can tell, really could care less about English, which in my opinion is totally fine so long as they are nice about it. I agree it’s really unfair that the kids are forced to learn English and don’t have a choice. This is Japan and you shouldn’t have to speak English.

I think some of the students, once they reach 6th grade realize since they aren’t tested on it, so they don’t worry about remembering anything. I’m glad at least the teachers show courtesy and are nice, but it’s really really difficult to teach when they teacher and students in the class could care less. I think that because they are forced to do it they are less attracted to it. I think it should be an elective, and they should get to choose from a few languages not just English.

Today was the first time I ended a class early on purpose. I ended one class 10 minutes early because it was just that bad. The students didn’t care, the teacher didn’t care, so I didn’t want to care either. I know you can’t force excitement but at least you could show some respect and pretend to be a little interested. Today was one of those days I wish I was fluent in Japanese because I would give a quick speech about life and education.

Something else that bothers me is that the 6th grade teachers and students repeatedly called the wrong name, they accidentally call me Adrian (the previous ALT) and it gets annoying. I know we’re a similar height haha and we’re both nice guys but come on. Is it that hard to remember my name, I’ve been teaching here for 5 months. It’s pretty insulting and makes me question, why come here if they can’t even remember my name.

It’s really unfortunate that a few always ruin it for the majority. That’s the way it is in society and even my small world. My Maru Batsu toy (O/X indicating correct or incorrect response which students love) that was a gift from a friend was broken by a group of 5th graders because they wanted to play with it and after I said no they tried to take it from me.

The 6th grade at Ueno makes me dislike teaching here, but every other grade really has no problems. I love teaching 1st and 2nd grade so much. The kids are eager to learn, and all the teachers are super nice.

Something happens to the kids after 3rd/4th grade here. It seems like in a few short years they lose interest in learning English, they become socially awkward, and so shy that to try anything seems impossible. Instead of being themselves they think it’s so important to just do nothing and save face. I admit I had the same problem for a short time but I got over it quickly. I hope they do too. I just wish I could tell them to be themselves, try, and if you make a mistake don’t worry about it… and then actually they take my advice.

Anyways that ends my rant I hope you enjoyed it and have a lovely comment for me hahaha.

Monday, February 09, 2009

台場 Odaiba

On Friday I just stayed in and did some studying. Saturday I went to Tokyo to meet with some people I talk to regularly on Skype. We met in Shimbashi and then went to Odaiba. We just enjoyed the weather and walked around. In Odaiba there is a fake statue of liberty, its pretty funny because it’s so small compared to the real thing. We walked through a few shopping malls, but I didn’t buy anything. Then we went to the Fuji-TV headquarters. It was pretty interesting and it was a nice view. I have a bunch of pics, check em out by clicking here.

Found some weird people doing something, so I had to take a picture with them.

Not as big as the real one.

Took a pic of rainbow bridge from odaiba with my night setting, so it looks more like dusk.

Black and White one

Group shot from Fuji-Television Headquarters

Later that night we went to an izakaya overlooking the water. It was a really nice place. The food was good and it was a good view. I paid for most of the meal, I would have paid for all of it but they wouldn’t let me, oh well. I also got an early valentines “joke” gift oh la-la from Hiromi. On Sunday I headed back home after getting breakfast at a nice bakery in Chiba. カレーパン(Curry bread, it’s like a doughnut with curry in it) is definitely one of my favorite Japanese breakfast foods hah.

Group Shot at the Izakaya we ate at.

Today I taught at Ueno. I taught 3rd grade. The lesson plan was a little confusing but I got through it. The kids were all really energetic today. I had lunch with 3-3 (Asuka飛鳥先生 class. During lunch some J-Pop and J-Rap music came on, it was hilarious. I started dancing a little and the kids were cracking up. I had them doing some of the dances I was doing. I was getting really goofy with my dances and one of the kids asked if I was drunk. I had a lot of fun at recess, I played dodgeball. Some girls from the class I ate lunch with tried to teach me a couple dances, it was pretty funny.

Tomorrow I’m at Ueno again, except I’m teaching 4th grade. Wednesday is a national holiday here, “National Founders Day”. 建国記念の日 so I’m off from school. I don’t have any plans yet but I should do something. If it’s a nice day I’ll go somewhere if not maybe I’ll try to make some bagels or soft pretzels since I’ve been wanting to forever.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Sorry for the delay in posts I had to make sure everyone could see the blog.

Anyways my life over the past week or so....

Over the weekend I kind of just relaxed. I went and sang Karaoke with some friends on Saturday night. It was kind of fun. I had a couple good duets with Carrie hahah.

Sunday I did alot of clothes shopping because I'm wayyyyy overdue when it comes to refreshing my wardrobe. I still have tons of stuff from high school which is a bit ridiculous. It's probably because I don't like spending money on clothes when what I already have works fine, but since its been so long I really need it. Alot of my clothes are clothes other people have bought for me, but I feel like my clothes should represent my tastes, so I need to make it my own. I spent around $130 on clothes which isn't that much for everything that I got. Most of the clothes I got are drying now because I wore them but I'll edit this post later and post pics of what I bought.

All in all I bought a Nike Trainer Jacket, a nice brown long sleeve shirt that came with an undershirt that is super Japanese style with the chest open (that I won't wear) I didn't have the option to buy just the brown long sleeve or I would of. I also bought a nice white and black striped dress shirt, 2 pairs of grey dress pants (since I don't have any grey dress pants and they go with alot of stuff I already have), and a weird Japanese jacket that came with snow pants. The weird Japanese Jacket I was told (after I bought it) that yakuza (who are new to the gang or Chibi yakuza ちびやくざ) wear that kind of jacket. That makes it hilarious, but I have yet to wear it in public yet. The jacket and pants together were only 1700円 or 17 dollars.

On Tuesday night I went with Teraoka-sensei to have some ramen. She took me to one of her favorite places in the far north west of Sano (which is a city famous for its ramen). It's called おぐら屋 (Ogura-ya) I was expecting a small little Mom and Pop shop, but it looked big. It was really delicious ramen, I should of brought my camera and taken a picture. I got a copy of the menu. It sucks that it's so far away, (it would take me probably 45 mins by bike to get there) or else I would go there more often. I probably won't go unless someone with a car takes me, or maybe by bike once the weather gets nice again. I found the website and here's what it looks like and what the ramen looks like:

Big place in the middle of no where

Delicious Ramen 美味しいラーメン

We also split some Gyoza. 餃子 (Like Dumplings)

On Wednesday I taught at Azuma ES. I really like Azuma for some reason. I get along with all the teachers pretty well, and its relatively easy to communicate with them. I wish I could hang out with some of them after school or on a weekend sometime but they're always busy. I had my first teacher "group lesson" there. I taught the teachers some basic English they could use when preparing lessons with me. I also taught them whatever they requested. It was kind of weird because it felt too formal, I felt unprepared and besides my hearing my pronounciation the head of English could have easily taught them everything I did. It was kind of good to teach them some things they should probably know. I can't really talk much about what they should know, because after all I'm living in a country where I can barely speak even basic Japanese. Of course my Japanese has improved and I've learned over 1250 Kanji, but until I can have conversations without using any English I won't be satisfied.

Today I taught at Funatsugawa ES. It was pretty fun. Its such a small school but I go there so rarely I still don't feel fully comfortable there. Everytime I go there, the lunch always is stuff I don't like haha, they must think I like nothing. The people are all so nice, and the students are pretty smart. Of course the 5th and 6th grade are super socially awkward (more so than my other schools), but I guess that's expected at that age.

Tomorrow I teach at Azuma JHS, which I'm looking forward to. I like teaching there because it's a nice break from teaching at Elementary. I'm really happy I chose the teaching path I did (with a mixture of both Junior High and Elementary). I don't think I'd be as happy if I took just one or the other. One of the weird things about living here is from time to time I complain, but then after looking at the big picture I realize that if I had a choice I'd make things exactly the way they are. Luckily the path I chose was the one that didn't require a car, its in the middle of all 5 of my schools, its close to 3 train stations and the Sano Outlets.

This weekend I'm going to Tokyo to see two friends that I actually met on Skype. One of which I'll be meeting for the first time. We're going to meet up around lunch time and do a little sight seeing then go to Odaiba for dinner. I'll probably spend the night in Chiba with a friend and come back on Sunday.

Oh also it feels like January was the fastest month I've had yet. Time flies here. My job makes me realize how ridiculous it is to only have 4 weekends in a month.