Monday, October 29, 2007
Another Day, Another School Festival
All three of my elementary schools had sports festival on the same day, which meant I could only attend one. So, I ended up being at my base school's sports day. But even though I didn't get to attend the others, I made a point of watching their practices and helping out in any way I could be making signs and helping put up tents and what not.




So elementary school sports festivals work about the same way as the JHS sports festivals. Relays, tug of war, and all that good stuff. But there is a bit more creativity with it in elementary school and a lot more coordinated dancing and singing. The local kindergarten kiddies also participate in an event and there was even an event for kids and their family members (took forever to do though....too many families). My favorite events include the 'big ball' relay, and the 'crazy things' relay which consists of racing while doing a variety of weird things such as riding a unicycle, running on stilts, eating a marshmallow, and rolling in a cardboard box. Good times!



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posted by am at 4:48 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Lake Party
The biggest tourist destination in my prefecture would have to be Fuji and the Five Lakes area. Well, the weekend after my sports fest adventures, I headed down to one of the Five Lakes. Lake Kawaguchi, to be exact, for what's know as the 'Lake Party'. Apparently it's the biggest bash in the ken, but this year it was canceled and then uncanceled, which meant that a lot of people made other plans and thus it was a bit more intimate.

I arrived kinda late due to something I can no longer remember, but the party was still kicking when I arrived. It was like a typical camping trip, but with better food, a DJ, and some fire dancing! Managed to find someone with an extra tent as well so I didn't have to rent a bungalow. My ride to the party, Fred, just slept in his car. He had it all decked out and ready to go! And it was quite an adventure trying to put up the tent that I had never seen while a little tipsy! It was a great party and I got to meet several of the older JETs in the area and a few non-JET ALTs as well.






The next morning I went down by the lake to enjoy the view and I was going to take some pictures, but discovered my camera was broken. Every time I would try to take a picture, it would just come out black. So yeah, no good Fuji pics. Here's one pic I managed to snag of the lake on my cellphone as we were driving away, one of a duck building, and one of a distant and cloudy Mt. Fuji.


After packing up, we didn't head straight home, but rather went to a famous udon place in Fujiyoshida. There was like an hour long line outside this really tiny restaurant and while the udon was good, I prefer my own area's specialty, hoto. Mmmmmm.....hoto.


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posted by am at 7:39 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
My First School Festival
Most every school in Japan holds various events throughout the year known as festivals. They could be sports festivals, cultural festivals, pretty much any type of festival. The first school festival I went to ended up not even being for one of my own schools. I was invited by a local JET to attend his JHS's sports and cultural festival and I decided to check it out.

It was held over two days. Saturday was the sports festival and Sunday was the cultural festival. we arrived early on Saturday and the first scheduled event was the opening ceremonies. So we headed over to the gym and the first thing I noticed was the band practicing in the back of the gym. They were really good! Then we tried to figure out where we were supposed to sit and they ended up putting us in this row of chairs along the side of all the rest of the chairs, that NO ONE but the two of us ended up sitting in. The rest of the teachers were sitting with their homeroom classes. So yeah, that was a bit awkward, but at least we had a good view!


Opening ceremonies were interesting. Lots of speeches by what I'm sure are important people, then the kids did some skits and showed off their class flags and banners. Then each class did a little chant/song type thing and at the end of the whole shindig, they revealed this massive painting that was made up of a bunch of smaller paintings that each kid worked on. It was huge and rather impressive. Then it was off to the races!




There are four different colored teams split among the 3 different grade levels and they compete in a variety of both traditional and zany track and field events. They also do several traditional dance performances and some marching type things throughout the day as well. Events included: normal relays, pull people around on a tire relays, tug of war, huge group jump roping, the 'grab a pole' event, and the 'climb a pole' event. My favorite event was the tug of war. The rope was as thick as my arm and spanned what would have been the length of a football field.









We took a break for lunch around noon. I had brought my own lunch to eat, but the school, as they knew I was coming, kindly provided me with the same spread that all the teachers got, which was sushi, soup, and some fruit for desert. It was really nice of them, and quite tasty!

I can't remember which team won, but I didn't really care. Everyone, including me, was having a good time and that's what really matters. The next day was less about competition and more just having a good time and lighting stuff on fire. I didn't go to the morning ceremonies and presentations on Sunday, but heard it was more skits/songs. The other JET even had to do something on stage, which I'm sorry I missed. I arrived right before they were going to light the bonfires. Each class built a huge pyre and then the lit them on fire using some sort of gun power. There was a line of it going to the pyres and you got to watch this really loud and bright flash zoom towards the pyre and catch it on fire. It was really fun to watch.



Then, all the students did folk dancing around the 3 giant fires. Well, not just the students, I got dragged into it as well, but it was fun. Felt bad for some of the boys who had to dance with me. Lets just say I got some strange looks. Then, after the dancing there were some speeches and then fireworks, as no festival is complete without them!

Above and beyond attending the festivals, on Saturday night, I went up to the northern part of my city for a little welcome to the area/house warming bash with almost all the JETs in my city. We just stayed up, chatting and drinking. The apartment we were in was huge and had the most awesome bathroom I've seen since living in Japan! I was so jealous, but then it is sort of in the middle of nowhere compared to where my apartment is, so I got over it. Everyone stayed the night and then we headed home the next morning. And that was my weekend.

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posted by am at 5:58 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Typhoons, Floods, and Earthquakes, oh my!
So, I've been through one Typhoon and one Earthquake since I've lived here. Typhoon was just a bunch of wind and rain. Not something you'd want to be outside for, but not killer. Kids got to go home early that day because of it so my classes were canceled, but I, along with all the other teachers, had to stay. It did cause the river I live quite a ways away from to flood, but that happens in Colorado too when it rains a lot. No biggie. And the earthquake? (was about a 3 on the Japanese magnitude scale and started as a 5 in the prefecture to the south) I slept through it. Ha! Slept through my first earthquake.....how sad.


Anyway, in keeping with the natural disasters theme, I also had an earthquake drill at one of my schools. Basically, I grab a hard hat and go putter about on the giant dirt field/play area in front of the school. All the kids do the same, but they put their little chair cushions on top of their heads, instead of the hard hat that all the teachers get. It was fun watching them run around in their weird cushion hat things. So cute!


Up Next: JHS

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posted by am at 8:00 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Private Tutoring
So, when I got my internet set up, the IT guy from the BOE stayed after the maintenance people left and we sat around chatting for a bit. He showed me a bunch of pictures of him and his friends around town and of his cat and I showed him some of my pictures from home. Before he left, he asked if I'd do some private tutoring with him sometime in the future, and as he's a nice guy I said sure so we set up a time and date. Just a sit and chat type deal rather than an actual study and learn type of thing.

I was a bit nervous cause I've never really done anything like this before and he speaks very little English, while I speak pretty much no Japanese. Ended up working out well though, cause Fred, who knows quite a bit of Japanese (but who always denies this fact), stopped by to use the internet at that time and the three of us sat around chatting.


And the second time we arranged a get together? Janet, who is pretty much fluent in Japanese, stopped by to use the internet (yeah, my bite size apartment was pretty much an internet cafe for a bit while everyone else was waiting to get their internet setup) and again we ended up chatting in a group.

At that point, we pretty much decided that meeting alone was a bad idea due to communication problems, so the next meetup was at Janet's to watch a movie. Me and IT guy stopped to pick up the movie, which was an interesting experience in itself as neither of us are very decisive. So after a good 45min. at the video store with finally went to Janet's apartment and then didn't even watch the movie cause we were to busy chatting! In fact, I can't even remember the movie we picked!

There wasn't really a follow up meeting cause the IT guy eventually started hagging out with Miki and they seem to hang out on a regular basis now. It's for the best because Miki knows a good amount of Japanese and can use their get togethers to help improve his language skills and vice versa.

Up Next: Natural Disasters

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posted by am at 7:47 AM | Permalink | 0 comments