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Here are some photos and a little description of my school life. I get to school everyday at around 7:50. In the morning there is sometimes a meeting in the teacher staff room, if there isn't I just sip on coffee or prepare my lessons for the day during the homeroom time. After that, there is cleaning time. In the average day I teach 3 classes with the Japanese teachers. For lunch, I can either eat in the teacher's room, or carry it into a classroom and eat with the students. After school, sometimes I have meetings, prepare lessons, or go to club activities with the students. The club activities that I go to sometimes are tea ceremony, ikebana, table tennis, art club, and softball and basketball (although I went to the later only once!). I keep promising that I will make it to girl's soft tennis, but I haven't been able to yet. oops. I get out of school at around 4:40. On Friday I can leave at noon. (yay!)

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Food Project!

This is where I hope to upload photos of my day-to-day food in Japan. More to come soon!

Long time no post! So sorry!

Well today is my first day back to school after Golden Week, a string of work holidays here in Japan. While a lot of people journeyed far in Japan on their vacation, I stayed in Fukui ken and relaxed, enjoying the (finally!) sunny days!

On Sunday, I went to Katsuyama up north to see the Fukui Dinosaur Museum! Fukui is famous for it's dinosaur valley, and also the "Fukui Raptor".

Afterwards we (Alyza and I) met some friends for Thai Ramen and coffee, and then headed back home. It was such a nice day!

For the rest of Golden Week, I just relaxed, cleaned, sewed, and exercised. I am trying to get more into shape, but at this point I can't even run 20 minutes. But everyday I can make it a little further. :)

Hi there and super long time no update! Today I want to talk about a festival that I went to at Wakasa Jinguji Shrine to see the Wakasa-no-Omizu-okuri, or “Wakasa’s Water Sending” ceremony. It took place on March 2nd, and marks the beginning of the beginning of spring. The ceremony symbolizes the sending of water down a river from the shrine in Obama to a temple in Nara (near Kyoto). Once the water reaches Nara, the second half of the ceremony begins and it is officially “spring”. In Japan, there is no official first day of spring. It is instead a time of feeling and anticipation. There are about 2 or 3 weeks of limbo, where the seasons are changing.

After school on Tuesday, I went with Alyza in her car to a friend’s house, and then we made the hour long trip to the temple in Obama. The weather was really overcast (as it always is here!) and we were worried about rain, but everything turned out okay!

The woods near my home.

Sorry! ;)

Flooded rice fields.

Once we arrived at the temple, we took a shuttle bus to the front gate. There were hundreds of people there, waiting to see the festival. My friend and I bought torches, which are used in the ceremony. On each face of the torch, we wrote a wish. My four wishes are... secret! Maybe you can see some of them in the photos though.

Once we got our torches and were ready, we stood in part of a crowd outside of the temple waiting for the ceremonies to begin. Inside the shrine, hidden from our eyes, we could hear the monks chanting, rolling beads in their hands, and blowing conch shells in preparation for the ceremony. Man Japanese people like to take pictures. Pictures of nothing! People around us definitely took the same photo of NOTHING happening maybe 15 times each. It was blinding. But then, the ceremony started! Wooo!

Just a little intimidating!

The monks came out of the shrine and proceeded to light a giant torch, which they used to purify the shrine. Then they moved with the fire out into the clearing in front of the temple, danced some, and lit a giant pyre. I’m not going to lie, it was a little strange watching men who closely resembled KKK members dancing around a giant fire in the middle of a field at night. I felt a little uneasy. But then, the time came to light my torch, so it was all okay.

Once I pushed through a giant crowd of people all with flaming torches (excellent idea!), it was time to walk down to the water. The water was about a 20 minute walk away, and as we traveled the crowd dispersed more so it was a liiiitttttle safer. Except for my own torch, which periodically would drop a fancy flaming ball of death...

Finally, we reached the water! Yay! It was so beautiful! The monks were down by the riverbed, praying with the fire and letting the ashes from it drop into the river to be carried away....

Walking to the river

The festival was really beautiful, and I was so happy to have gone and to have seen such an ancient part of Japanese culture. Afterwards, I went to CoCo’s with Alyza and got a 300 yen plate of French toast. We smelled like burnt wood, and had ashes all over us. We are still waiting for it to be spring though....

More photos to be added later!

School Lunch: 食事 "Syokuzi"

Here is a brief description of school lunch at Shoryo and all the other schools I have been able to visit. Every day, school lunch is brought to the classrooms on rolling carts. The students dress in special serving uniforms including hair nets and face masks. The food is then divided and served. Lunch is eaten in the classroom every day.

Lunch always has some starch (it alternates between a loaf of bread and rice), a side dish (soup or salad) and a main dish (sometimes another soup, some fish or chicken). Lunch is also served with a glass bottle of whole milk.

Here's a photo of a recent lunch:
Note the double starch of ramen noodles and bread! That happens often!

Lunch is served only with chopsticks, and sometimes it's really difficult to get by fork-less. Also, it is Japanese etiquette to eat everything given to you, so it means those terrible days when there is hot dog soup, or those whole fried pregnant baby fish, there is no way to get out of it without being rude.

Anyway, there is my little comment about school lunch. What do you think? Could you survive?

Christmas Time

Hello! Long time no post! It is December now and everyone is gearing up for Christmas here in Japan. Wait. You didn`t know that they celebrated Christmas in Japan? Oh, well in that case, let me tell you all about it!

Because there isn`t the decorating landmark of Thanksgiving here, I saw some of my first Christmas decorations a little before Halloween. There are lights in the covered walkways, Christmas music (both in English and Japanese) and there are huuuuge beautiful Christmas trees outside of the major department stores.

Some Japanese Christmas music. Sound familiar?

Here, Christmas is a family holiday. The family stays in, has dinner, and exchanges some gifts. The essentials at Christmas dinner in Japan are Christmas Cake and Fried Chicken Legs. The students here are so surprised when I tell them it`s not really like that in America, but whatever. They can do what they like!

Some Christmas Cakes

A place that specially advertises Christmas Chicken is MOS Burger (Mountain Ocean Sun Burger). I am kind of a fan of them, and I like their coffee. Here is a link to the full menu:

Christmas is also an important dating holiday here, and while I am not going to see it this year, I have heard that on Christmas day you can see many couples going out and having dinner together! How sweet!

In school, I am teaching the students about Christmas Eve rituals, such as leaving out cookies and milk for Santa and the concept of a naughty and nice list. They are really amused by it all. haha. Anyway, I really can`t wait to get back home and see Christmas the American way! (yehaw) 13 days! See you guys really soon!

Letters from my students!

Today was a bit slow at work, so I scanned some letters some of my students had given to me as part of a letter exchange. The letters are from second and third year students (the equivalent of American 8th and 9th graders). So far, only the girls have written me...the boys are too shy! But I am happy when any student tries to reach out and communicate :) Anyway, please enjoy!

To see the letters, please click here!Collapse )

Tsukimi Festival

A little while ago, I was invited by my school's tea ceremony club, or sadou club, to participate in the Tsukimi tea ceremony at Keihi Shrine. Wait. Let's back up. From the beginning, what the hell is Tsukimi?

Tsukimi can be a lot of things, but they all refer to a full moon. In this case "Tsukimi (full moon) Matsuri (Festival)" is a quiet holiday normally in September or October which is celebrated by observing the moon. The Japanese believe that on the day of the Tsukimi Festival, the moon is the largest and brightest out of the whole year. Japanese typically celebrate by setting out "tsukimi dangou", or "moon dumplings". Beside these, they sit a palm or some type of grass to symbolize the fall harvest.


Tsukimi imagry is often of the moon dumplings and the grasses in a vase. However, a rabbit is also a prevalent symbol. This is because while westerners see "the man in the moon", the Japanese and other Asian cultures see "the moon rabbit". The moon rabbit is a formation of craters in the moon, which to the Japanese looks like a rabbit, pounding mochi (mochi is the material the moon dumplings are made of). The moon rabbit is prevalent in Japanese folklore, so it is common to see it on fabric prints and other household items (just another reason why things here are so cute)!


Another use of the word "tsukimi" is in cooking. Something is described as "tsukimi" style when it has a sunny side up egg on top of it. It is named this because the egg yolk resembles the full moon! Probably one of the most famous examples of this is McDonald's "Tsukimi Burger"! The Tsukimi Burger is a seasonal item available for only around one month and is a burger with....you guessed it....a sunny side up egg on top. Looks yummy, but I don't think I could tame it!

The Tsukimi Burger!

Now that the lesson is over (whew!)
On the night of Tsukimi Matsuri I went to the large shrine in my city to have tea and sweets at a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It was very beautiful. I did not take any photos, but here are some I found online that demonstrate what it was like:


It was really a wonderful night, and I was so happy to experience it. More than anything it was peaceful...and with things always being so hectic it was wonderful to sit back, relax and enjoy the full moon. :)

Tsuruga Festival

Hello and long time no post! In this post I will talk about Tsuruga Festival, which passed a little while ago, but it still fresh in my mind! Tsuruga festival is kind of a birthday celebration for the large shrine that is in my city (Kehi Shrine). Tsuruga festival is a carnival like street festival that lasts for around one week. On each day, they have a different activity. The large activities were a taiko concert, carrying "mikoshi", or Japanese shrines and floats, through the street, and a large parade. The type of food available at the festival was generally "on a stick". Some examples include takoyaki (octopus bread balls), fried chicken, okonomiyaki (omelet with cracked egg on top, smothered in fish flakes and on a stick!). There were also desserts, like cool pine (a pineapple slice on a stick) and crepes.

Japanese carnival games are a little different from American ones. There are some games that are the same, like "throw the ball and knock off the blocks. "Fish scooping" is a popular traditional Japanese game. In it, children take a ring filled with a sheet of rice paper. They scoop up as many gold fish as they can until the rice paper breaks. All of the fish the child manages to take they can take home! This game is made easier by playing with superballs or small toys instead of fish. Here is a short video showing how to play.

In addition to eating lots of yummy food, on the main Saturday of the festival, I dressed in a yukata! Yukata is a form of summer kimono worn by men and women for activities such as festivals and firework viewing. I learned how to wear my yukata (which actually took a very long time....maybe 2 hours!) and then enjoyed Tsuruga festival and the parade. Here are some photos from the Saturday that I wore a yukata!

Please click here to see photos!Collapse )

Life at Shoryo

Hello everyone from Shoryo!

I have about an hour to kill before my next lesson, so here is the low down on what is going on around here! School starts at around 8 am. In the morning, students have homeroom time and reading time. Then, there is “cleaning time”. In Japanese schools, there is no position of “janitor”. Instead the students take 30 minutes each morning and scrub the school themselves. The vice principal checks each area to see that it is properly cleaned and there is no dust. Japanese schools are very clean. Inside students and teachers wear special shoes meant only to be worn inside. This keeps mud and dirt out. Because students are responsible for their own mess, they are very clean and tidy.

Classes are 50 minutes long each. There is no cafeteria. Instead, large serving dishes are brought to each classroom and students serve themselves. School lasts until around 3:30, but most students do not leave school until around 6 or 6:30 because they are involved in club activities. Japanese club activities include things like baseball, school band, basketball, art club, tea ceremony, flower arranging, judo and sword fighting (kendo). Once a student signs up, practice is every day for long periods of time. Therefore, I think every Japanese student is very dedicated to bettering themselves.

Japanese students study very hard and I am very proud to be their English teacher. However, English is a very tricky language to master. The students only begin to learn English in a structured environment in middle school, and on top of that are very shy and afraid to express themselves in English sometimes. I am trying to think of activities that will interest the whole class, but it is difficult to keep everyone involved and interested. I am not sure if behavior of students is better here. Some students are very attentive, but a lot of students will talk in class. Also, a lot of students are asleep in class…maybe 1 student in every class will be asleep. I have heard that this is because of the really hard work students do here and the busy schedule. Depression is also a big problem among students though, and child suicide is, sadly, very common.

For lunch today there were scraps of beef that were boiled and a salad. I traded my beef with a male teacher and got a second salad. With every meal there is either rice or bread and a bottle of milk. Everyday I make sure to eat something for breakfast. Today I had a banana and toast with a slice of cheese on it (open face grilled cheese? I don’t know. It’s something I picked up on doing living in England). When I get off school, I stop in the convenience store outside of my house and buy a small container of orange juice and a snack. I then go to my house and cook dinner. Last night for dinner I had mixed vegetable yakisoba. The night before I had a small pizza from the grocery store (it wasn’t very good) and the night before I had salmon in a garlic, rosemary and lemon sauce and steamed carrots. I am not sure what I will cook tonight, but maybe I will go out and buy some more fish, as it is relatively cheap here.

These past few days I have been very very tired. I do not think I am depressed, but rather exhausted from starting school and the stress associated with it. The differences in school here are sometimes really startling. For example, today I taught a class after the students had physical education. They came into the classroom as I was setting up my projector and they started undressing down to their underwear and changing from the gym uniform back into school clothes in the classroom. I left the room really quickly, embarrassed, and asked one of the teachers walking by if it was ok for me to be there when the students change. He laughed at me, and said it was fine….it was very strange though. Ahhh, western shame!

Another thing that is interesting is that students are very touchy feely. They will often ask for me to bend down and show them my eyes, or to touch my hair. A lot of the time students will grab my arm or hug me. It is nice and no one has been rude, but it takes time to get used to it I think!

After school today I will do art club for a little, and then go home and sleep (I am so tired!) Thursday and Friday I am off school because there is a big festival in the city, so I am truly happy for that and intend on resting!