Monday, March 23, 2009

The School Year Rolls to an End

This past week Elementary schools and Junior Highs had graduation ceremonies. Unfortunately I was scheduled at ES when the JH had its graduation and JH when the ES has its graduation. I didn't get to see any ceremonies! I was a bit bummed but nothing I could do. Here's a pic of what it looked like after I help set up at one of my schools.

This weekend was a three day weekend, due to Vernal Equinox day (So random?) Friday was a holiday. So Thursday night I went out with everyone (other ALT friends) to sing at karaoke. When we got there I found out that the same night alot of schools had an Enkai 宴会(or year end party) the same night. So there were many schools celebrating at Karaoke (their after party).

Two of my schools were there so I joined them and sang. There aren't many Japanese songs I can sing well so I ended up singing a Dragonball Z song hahah. Also sang some Enka (old Japanese sorrowful song popular with babyboomers). Here's me doing a kamehameha with my teachers from Azuma Elem. haha.

Since I had Friday off I wanted to take advantage of it, so I went to Tokyo to meet some friends. I got to Shibuya a bit earlier than everyone else so I walked around and saw some protest. I wasn't sure what it was for but I took a quick video of it.

After that I went to Tower Records and browsed some music there. I ended up buying a CD by a group called Jabberloop. They are a Jazz group, kind of uptempo quick Jazz. I've never been to a concert in my life, maybe I'll go to one in Tokyo sometime, I just need to find someone to go with. Here's a video from their website.

Anyways, at around 4 I met with Hiromi and Kumainu (his nickname, he comes from Kumamoto and likes dogs (inu in Japanese) We went to a place called Daikanyama 代官山. It is a pretty upscale place and they said if it had to be compared with something it would be like SoHo in New York. We went to a cafe and ate outside, unfortunately it was really windy but it was still nice out.

While there we did some shopping but I didn't buy anything because of course everything was overpriced. I saw some coats I liked but its getting warm so I didn't want to get them. I also some some ridiculous "fashion" shirts and pants , but its not really my style haha. Later that night we went to a mexican food restaurant. Japan really really lacks in its Mexican food department, they have alot of room for improvement.
The food was good, but slightly over priced and not enough.

After that we headed back to Shibuya (place in Tokyo where we met) and played darts in a bar. It was Kumainu's first time playing. I taught him how to play 301 and somehow he won hah. After the dart place we went to an Izakaya called Elephant. It's a south east asian restaurant and its huge inside. To be that big in Shibuya (like times square in NY) must be expensive. I think its the biggest place I've seen in Shibuya.

Hiromi in front of the big statue in the restaurant

After that we decided to head back. We didn't think we'd make it back to Chiba (where hiromi lives) in time. We thought we'd miss the last train but luckily we made it. The problem is we passed her stop so we had to take a taxi anyways back to her house haha.

The next day I got an invite from Mayu (a friend I met last week at Utsunomyia). She wanted to go shopping in Koshigaya where there's a huge shopping center. It's one of the biggest in all of Japan. I wanted to get a good picture of it but it was impossible to get it all in one shot. We shopped for a bit and went to some cafes. She wanted to go to certain cafe but we made a mistake and went in the wrong one. She paid for the drinks because she felt silly for making the mistake. After we found the one she wanted to go to. I told her to point to the drink she wanted at the right cafe, for a laugh. After shopping some more the only thing I ended up buying is this An Pan Man mask. (An pan man is a superhero, but also a delicious snack). I'll wear the mask to school one day and tell everyone to call me An Pan Sensei. Around 4 Mayu said she wanted to see a movie, but for a couple reasons I decided against it. Then she offered to drive me home. I thought it would be fine. We got back to Sano around 6:30 or 7 and we got Ramen for dinner. She had to go back home because her sister wanted to go someplace. After that I biked home and got ready for the party that night.

A friend of mine here named Buck is going to move to Hokkaido (the northern most island in Japan) really soon, so he had a farewell party. It started at 9 and was nomihodai (open bar) until 11. Here Buck is giving a speech.
Me and some random guy who didn't even know Buck haha.

After the bar closed we tried to go to an Izakaya, but it was full. While we were waiting Carrie was messing around and fell and broke her ankle. Now she has to get surgury on thursday to repair it and will have to be in a cast for a month. High heels are dangerous, another reason I'm glad I'm a man.

Anyways, after that a bunch of people were at some dance club so we decided to join them. I didn't know any dance clubs existed in Sano but apparently over near the Outlet mall there is a place. It was really small and we were pretty much the whole party but that was ok. I ended up getting home around 3 am. Needless to say I just stayed in and relaxed on Sunday.

This week I only teach today (Monday) and Tuesday, then spring break starts. I was going to hang out with Chris alot over spring break, but he missed his flight back to Japan and is stuck in America for another week and a half. Now that he's not coming back for a while I'm not sure what to do over the break. I might try to go somewhere but I don't really know yet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

All nighter in Utsunomiya

The past weekend has been pretty fun. Friday night I didn’t do much because I had to wake up early on Saturday. I woke up at 7:20 so I could go play Ultimate Frisbee in Utsunomiya. It was raining a little bit, but usually you can still play Frisbee in light rain. I didn’t think practice would be canceled so I got my rain gear on and headed for the station. Once I finally got to the station I got a text message saying practice was canceled. Luckily I got the message before I got on the train.

I was pretty bummed since I purposefully didn’t do anything Friday night so I could wake up early on Saturday to play but didn’t get to. Then biked 20 minutes in rain for nothing haha. Once I got the text I didn’t know what to do. I kind of just wandered on my bike in the rain for a bit. Then I figured I should get some breakfast so I went to my local grocery store to get food from their bakery. Once I got there I noticed they didn’t open until 9:00 and it was 8:40. So I went home and dropped off my backpack. I went back to the bakery at 9:00 but they had nothing out. I didn’t understand it, they are a bakery and don’t have anything out when the store opens .. whaaat!?

Anyways I ran into 3 of my students at the bakery. I tried to ask them if there was another bakery near by but they didn’t understand me, even though I spoke in Japanese.After that I just went to a convenience store to get some breakfast food. The 3 students that I saw in the grocery store were now following me to try to find out where I live. I don’t really know why they are obsessed with finding out where I live. I bought some stuff and ate it in front of the store and the kids just kept asking me questions.

After that I went home and relaxed a bit. Carrie wanted to go shopping and I decided to tag along. We went to the Sano Outlets. I ended up buying a couple shirts from the Gap, and a track suit from Nike. All the teachers here wear track suits, which I think some do in America but not as much.

After buying the stuff I headed back to drop it off. Then I went back to the station to go to Utsunomiya to watch some friends (who are in a band) play live. It was a really good show and since I’m friends with most of the band members I really wanted to go up on stage and sing with them but of course I didn’t haha. Here's the pictures from the night: Facebook

Vice Lords of Valhalla

After the show

Soon thereafter there was a JET party at a bar called Birdland. I met a bunch of other ALTs in Tochigi (My prefecture) and some other Japanese people who were friends with some of the people there. It was fun because it was a good crowd, they had an open bar and they had a dance floor. After the bar closed down we went to Karaoke but had a big group, so we split up. We left karaoke and went to McDonalds, to eat and waste time. In Japan if you miss the last train (usually between 9 and 12) you get stuck places until first train (at 5). So we wasted time in McDonalds, then went to a different Karaoke place. We sang for 5 hours until first train came. We took it back and I finally made it home around 6:30 or so. Group pic minus me cause I took it lol.

Sunrise on the way back

After trying to sleep for a few hours I got up and just had a lazy Sunday. Studied and cleaned my house, did laundry, and relaxed/recovered.

Next weekend I think I’m going to Yokohama, but I’m not sure. It’s a 3 day weekend, we have Friday off. Then the week after that I only have 2 days of teaching then spring break YAY!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Kanji statistics

The 2043 seen cards in this deck contain:

  • 2043 total unique kanji.
  • Jouyou: 1945 of 1945 (100.0%).
  • Jinmeiyou: 60 of 287 (20.9%).
  • 38 non-jouyou kanji.

Jouyou levels:

  • Grade 1: 80 of 80 (100.0%).
  • Grade 2: 160 of 160 (100.0%).
  • Grade 3: 200 of 200 (100.0%).
  • Grade 4: 200 of 200 (100.0%).
  • Grade 5: 185 of 185 (100.0%).
  • Grade 6: 181 of 181 (100.0%).
  • JuniorHS: 939 of 939 (100.0%.
I just finished learning what most Japanese people take 9 years to do in roughly 5 months. I'd say that's pretty good. I still have a little under 1000 kanji to learn totally 3007, but I'll do that as I'm inputting sentences. I have 10,000 sentences to input now, but now is when my Japanese really will start to improve.

From earlier this week:

I love being ridiculous:

I wish I had a video camera in school sometimes. I was teaching kids how to say:
A: "Where do you live?"
B: "I live in Akasaka-cho."
We were using this CD to learn, where it has a beat in the background and I say the words to the beat. I had the kids rapping. Inbetween sentences I would say "HEYYYY" "HOOO"! Freestyle a little then get back to the lesson. And what makes it hilarious is that the teacher went with me and started acting like a DJ. He held is hand up to his ear and started scratching like a record was infront of him hahahah. It's classes like these that remind me why I love this job.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Uneventful Weekend, Student's Graduation Soon!

Another month has come and gone.... I can't believe it's already March. Even though February is the shortest month, every new month that comes here feels like it goes faster and faster. If I didn't extend my contract I'd already be going home in less than a month. Right now I'm glad I did because if I left this month it would feel way to short.

Over the past weekend, not much at all happened. Saturday I should have gone to play Frisbee in Utsunomiya, but I woke up late and ended up not going. The weather was cloudy in the morning and it was really cold, so I figured it would end up being rainy. Of course since I didn't go it turned out to be a pretty warm and sunny day. I didn't want to let the day go to waste so I biked to Tatebayashi (a relatively close city.) I went to the train station and picked up a map. Looked around to see what was interesting and found this huge park with a lake. Its called Azalea Hill Park、つつじが岡公園. Apparently in May its really beautiful because the lake there has tons of Carp flag/kites over it. Also all the flowers are blooming. Here's a pic of what it looks like in May.

And here's the pic I took (In Feburary) Here's the river that leads to the lake
A small part of the lake

After checking out Tatebayashi, I biked home. On Sunday I was supposed to go with Carrie and Adrian to Yokohama. I would have been my 2nd time there. Carrie ended up cancelling because she had to help someone. I don't blame her because I know the situation and I'm glad she helped that person. So again, I had a free day where I didn't have any plans. I decided to go bike to the Sano Outlets and buy a new pair of shoes because I really needed some. I went into a bunch of stores, and really wanted to get a pair of this brand here called "Dragon Beard". Mostly because the brand name, but I think they're cool looking and different. I mean look at them, they are pretty serious.

Anways at the store, I couldn't find any that I really liked as far as color and style went... So I went to the outlets and went to Nike, Adidas, Reebok and a few other places. I ended up getting these Skechers:
I like the style and they are comfortable. I can also wear them with pretty much anything. Dress them up, or down. I also wanted to find some more clothes, but didn't do much searching but it's ok. I like the dark color to because they last longer.

On a different note:

This month will be the last time I teach 6th grade students at my Elementary schools (Besides Azuma since I teach at the JHS too.)

On Monday I taught my "last time" at Azuma Elementary. It isn't really my last time, but since the school year is ending it is techincally the "last time" of this school year. In the 6th grade I gave all the students a hug ahha. Even though I'll be seeing them at Azuma Junior High next year. I really like both Azuma ES and JHS, everyone is so nice.

On Tuesday I taught at Azuma JHS, and during 3rd-4th periods we had graduation practice. It's so structured here and serious. I ended up talking to Sakurai sensei for a long time. It was interesting to watch though. Schools here don't have school colors, or mascots like in America. I feel like it takes away from the pride aspect of the school maybe. Tuesday was fun though. After classes were over the students brought the teachers up to the assembly room and gave all the teachers a big thank you card. I was told what it was in Japanese, but I didn't write it down so I forgot, but I'll ask again. Azuma is pretty small so theres only 22 kids graduating. They all signed it and wrote a little something for me. Here's a picture of it.
If you click on it, you can read it. I even got a picture of Dragonball and Naruto! It is pretty much all in Japanese sorry for those of you who can't read it, I translated the few words on there I didn't know. Most of the students said things like this:
"Although our time together was short, I had a great time in your class."
"You're classes we're always interesting and fun."
"I'm greatful for your kindness"
"After seeing you teach, I can see you're really energetic. I really want to become an energetic person like you someday."
One student wrote in English: "I hope to see you again!" And I do hope I see them again. I think that'd be so cool if in a few years some of my old students contact me.

Hearing all this made me pretty happy. Its good to know that I'm doing a good job and students enjoy my classes.

Today I taught at Tenmyo, 5th and 6th grade. At recess I played tag with the kids they loved it. They also had a little celebration for the 6th grade graduation. We played games like old maid and this huge rock scissors paper game, it was fun.

Tomorrow is my "last time" of the school year at Funatsugawa. I want to make a short speech but I don't know if I'll have time.

On yet another note:
I've reached 1800 Kanji. Only 242 left before I'm done with the book. I wanted to finish months ago, but I didn't so all I can do is keep working. I'm trying to do a lesson a day so I can finish in 10 days or so, but we'll see what happens. I'LL DO MY BEST!