Friday, December 5, 2008

Video part 3

Just wanted to post this video, its the third and final part in a series I made about coming to Japan. This video highlights some of the memorable moments over the past few months I've been here, going to Tokyo and meeting friends and drinking beer at Oktoberfest, school festivals and karaoke. Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mochi Madness

For the second time since I arrived, I was invited to one of the local Elementary schools today, where instead of my typical English introductory lesson I helped make Japanese “Mochi” with the 5th graders. Mochi is essentially lots of rice that has been beaten with a big wooden mallet until it becomes uniform and sticky, at which point it is dropped into a bowl and caked with various (usually sweet) seasonings. After the rice-beating session (which lasted about an hour) I went and played hand baseball with some of the students. We finally got to eating the mochi after the game—it was a mochi feast. I got a whole plate full of the stuff, and of course lots of vegetables and soup. Believe it or not I'm actually eating a lot better since having come here, I'm pretty sure I've dropped a bit of weight. Although the food was very good, I was so full at the end that it made me regret having eaten so much as when I returned to the junior high school I had the school lunch (curry rice, one of my favorite dishes here, coincidentally). I felt like I was going to explode.

It was a fun day, and I'm looking forward to going to Tokyo tomorrow with many of the other teachers on our teachers trip. Apparently Circ du Soleil and a Vermeer exhibition are on the books at the moment, and I will also enjoy seeing my good friend Hiro again after a year. Sorry no photos or videos this time, there will be some next time though!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another normal Day

Today started off like any other day here, my apartment was a bit cold now that winter is approaching, so I turned on the heater, then I ate some breakfast and left for work. I taught my classes and then at the end of lunchtime, one of the other teachers informed me that none other than Prince Charles of Wales, the future King of England, was in Shinano. At first I thought she was joking around but she showed my a picture she had snapped earlier in the day. I quickly asked around and found that one of my fellow English teachers was interested in seeing him as well, so we hopped in her car and sped off to the tea house where he was going to be. We didn't know if we'd make it but we did. Regrettably, I didn't get to shake his hand although I imagine I'll be pictured somewhere in the English newspapers in the next few days as the incredibly tall person standing in the sea of Japanese people, as the Prince was right in front of me at many points during his brief visit. Here are the photos!
Yeah it was pretty crazy, definitely worth missing an hour of work! In other news, I'll be heading home for Christmas for a couple of weeks, and thanks to the strong Yen I'll have lots of money! See you all soon!

And here is a picture I took yesterday looking over Shinano, very pretty and for good measure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Culture Festival

This weekend was Shinano Junior high School's annual culture festival. In Japan most all schools have some kind of culture festival around this time of year, although apparently most every school in Nagano prefecture had their culture festivals this weekend as well. There isn't really an American equivalent of the school culture festival, its kind of a combination between talent show and a sports meet. The first day we saw skits the students put together and a class jump roping contest, in which about 5 teams of 20 students all jumped together under a huge single rope. There was also a teacher's work exhibition, where all the teachers showed projects they had completed (My thesis was on display). Day two was a music day, all the sections in all the grades (in Japan the different grades are divided into sections, for instance the seventh graders have three sections, 2-1, 2-2 and 2-3) sung different songs they had prepared. The teachers also prepared a piece and we sung it, it was a traditional Japanese love song (I played the keyboard harmonica). Finally, the whole school sung a very moving piece together. It is humbling to think how much work went into organizing the event. For the past month I heard singing everyday from all directions, saw teachers working late everyday, and finally saw the fruits of their labor. It was a wonderful experience I look forward to seeing and participating in more culture festivals in the future.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Second video!

Here's part 2, Tokyo Orientation. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

First video!

This is the first of three videos I'm making showing the first few weeks of my experience here, starting from about 20 minutes after I said goodbye in Denver all the way to last week. Please enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back from the Black

I finally got my internet set up and although it was long it was worth the wait. Nothing like pulling over a gig so far off Bittorrent in under three hours (100mbps Fiber optic connection!)

Anyway, a ton has been going on here since I arrived. Needless to say I'm going to have to split the entries of my firest month here into at least three posts, but I will say that so far I have been having a wonderful time here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sing into Spring JET Party

This post is a week late but 2 Saturday's ago I went to an event hosted by the Rocky Mountain JET Alumni Association in Boulder, where we got free sushi and Karaoke. The event was the annual Sing into Spring Karaoke evening. There were about 40 or so people there, many of whom were current and past JETs. It was a lot of fun meeting everyone, especially my fellow JETs out of Denver who will be leaving with me on the 26th of July. I am having trouble adding pictures into the post this time so I made a video compilation for the evening (I apologize for the blurry photos and other issues with the video, I made it really quickly). Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inaugural Post

Well, it has been a long six months since applying to this internationally-recognized teaching program called JET, and it has been a wild ride so far. After waiting first for months to find out whether I had been given an interview with JET, and then waiting again for months after that to find out whether I had been accepted, and finally to now, after having waited since about mid February to find out my placement, I now know my destination in Japan. I found out last Monday that I would be heading to the town of Shinano in the mountainous prefecture of Nagano (Nagano, as many will remember, was the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics). Nagano is located in central Japan.

Shinano town (in Japanese, Shinano-machi) is a small town of about 9,000 north of the capital city of Nagano. It is surrounded by mountains and lakes (well, a lake). Shinano has many claims to fame (believe it or not), among them being a fairly popular year-round resort/gateway town. Canadian missionaries looking for a summer holiday spot apparently were among the first to settle the area which is now Shinano. They came and built cottages around lake Nojiri (the town's lake) which to this day still remain around the lake. The town has become a popular destination for both foreign and local summer vacationers looking for a respite from the summer heat of the rest of Japan. There are also many ski resorts nearby, boasting some of the best skiing in Japan. Needless to say, I am very excited to come to this town. When I applied to the JET program last September I had requested the north island Hokkaido, followed by the other Northwestern prefectures, simply because I wanted to be able to ski in the winter. So even though I didn't get any of my preferences, it looks like I lucked out bigtime because Shinano has everything I wanted (small, rural, near ski resorts), and to top it off, there is even a lake in the town where you can go water skiing and wakeboarding in the summer. Additionally, I am only about 3 hours train ride to Tokyo and Osaka, and even though I don't really like big cities, it is nice to be relatively close to major urban areas.

Here are a few links to videos produced by the town, and if you can overlook the corny music, I think you'll get a better idea of the place I'm going to be hopefully spending the next few years of my life.

As for where I am going to be working, I cannot say for sure, but from the research I've done it looks like I will be teaching at the local Junior High School, and possibly some of the nearby elementary schools. I've talked a bit with the person who was teaching in my position before me (my predecessor) but unfortunately haven't found out that much about the specifics. I have been told that I will be receiving a package from the town in a few weeks detailing my work contract and what not, so I'll wait until then to press my predecessor for more details.

More to come soon!