Sunday, August 19, 2007
Kilns and Takeda
My first weekend in Yamanashi. Oh, the memories. I'll be splitting up my first weekend show and tell into two posts, cause I did a lot and have a bunch of pictures.

So, on Saturday morning, me and Tiffany went to a pottery class for young local Yamanashi teachers. Best way to describe it I guess would be like a social for all the young teachers to get together and meet each other. Anyway, my JTE invited us after we gave her our omiyage (souvenirs from our home states basically). Not sure if the invite was because of the gifts or not, but either way, we took her up on the offer.

The pottery studio was in Enzan, a town that borders Yamanashi city, and close to impossible to find. I have NO IDEA how anyone would be able to find their way to this place. However, as someone who can't figure out how anyone knows where anything in in Japan (come on, they have few if any street names that twist and turn and make no sense whatsoever) I might be biased. Even my JTE had to ask a random guy on the side of the road where is was though, so my assessment might not be too far off.

We got there, found seats and then listened to the owner of the studio (who, we found out after class, has been doing pottery for more than 30 years) describe what to do. I personally had no idea what in the world he was saying. Luckily I'd taken pottery when I was in high school, and pretty much knew the basics to making a pot.

Here are all the pots made at our table. Mine is the egg shaped on, Tiffany's is the squarish one, and my JTE's is the one in front.

After the class, my JTE surprised us by taking us to a popular local temple, the Erinji Temple. It was founded in 1330 A.D. What's currently there today was built in 1910 after the the temple was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1905. The Erinji Temple is noted for it's monument of Takeda Shingen. Born in Kofu in 1521, Takeda fought and won several battles during the feudal period. The monument was erected in 1673. The temple also houses a famous garden. And as it was my first ever visit to a temple, I obviously took a ton of pictures so.....

One of the most interesting features of the temple is a long wooden corridor where, when you walk, your footsteps sound like singing birds. I tried to get a recording of the sound ( was that interesting) but it didn't work. So here is a picture instead.

After touring through the temple, my JTE explained that the reason it was so popular at the moment was because of a popular day time TV drama about Takeda. She also pointed out some kanji (the first ones I've learned!) that related to Takeda and are seen quite often around Yamanashi.

The top right is wind, below that if forest, top left is fire, and then mountain (which is part of the kanji that make up's the Yama part). They have something to do with Takeda's battle plan or warrior strategy......or something like that.

After a busy day, it was time for the Group A YETI welcome party in Kofu. Had some Italian and then went to The Vault (a bar that caters to foreigners). Everything was great. Got to meet all the rest of group A and several of the old JETs. Only downer was that I had to catch the train back home by 11:02, so my evening was cut short. All in all, a great day. Next up: Sunday in Kofu
posted by am at 5:39 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Introducing the Fuefukigawa Fruit Park
The Fruit Park is pretty much they only thing in town you could consider a tourist destination which is probably why it's where mine and Tiffany's supervisor took us to look around. It's basically an area where several different fruits are grown, including several non-native fruits that are housed in two large greenhouses. There is also a fruit museum, onsen (natural hot springs/bath house), hotel, and a small water park. It also has a gorgeous view of the Kofu basin and my town. The view was even recently voted one of the top 3 night views in all of Japan.

Nothing hugely exciting happened, but is was an enjoyable day. I took a bunch of pictures, so here are a select few.

(This picture is of the Yamanashi flag. Sort of like each state has a flag in the US, each prefecture in Japan has one as well)

Here is the Fruit Park Website (all Japanese) if you'd like to know more about it. Up Next: First Weekend Madness
posted by am at 4:52 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Around Town
Sorry for my lack of updates. I lost the internet for a while, but it's back now, so let the updates begin!

After getting settled into my apartment and going shopping a few times, it was time to hit up the town and go exploring. There is actually quite a bit in walking distance of my apartment and with a train station right across the street, I have easy access to everything I could possibly want or need. In easy walking distance there is a really nice bakery (seems very popular, even with people a few towns away), pizza place, several grocery stores, a 7-11, music store, department store, 100 yen store, gaming shop (might be getting a DS soon), several small style restaurants, etc, etc. There is even a bowling alley and golf driving range! So basically, a lot of stuff. There are also a bunch of private vineyards for grapes near me as well. Here are a few pics of my street and 'backyard'.

Also, me and Tiffany (the JET who lives near me) found the cake shop where our JTEs got her birthday cakes. Its both a dessert shop and Italian restaurant (they make a wonderful parfait). We ended up eating lunch there and having a fun chat with one of the workers and a little old lady who was hanging out. They were both really nice and it was fun trying to communicate. The worker even gave us some free after dessert coffee.

Somehow, after every town walk through me and Tiffany have done, we've always found ourselves at the Yamanashi-shi station. Works out well though, cause it's hot walking around all day, so we just catch a train back home. Here's a pic of me on my first ever train ride in Japan.

That's all for now. Next up: The Fruits Park

*Just a current note: It's storming like CRAZY right now. The lightening is just going nuts but there is no rain (yet). Who needs fireworks shows when you can just look out your window and enjoy?*
posted by am at 8:40 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, August 5, 2007
The Road to Yamanashi
On Wednesday it was time to hit the road and head to Yamanashi. I said goodbye to my roommate and then hopped on the bus. The ride over was full of good conversation and a bit of excited nervousness. We made a pit stop half way through the ride and I decided to use the restroom. It was crazy! There was this board that lit up to show people whether the stalls were occupied or not. It just seemed to confuse everyone!

Anyway, one we finally arrived in Kofu, my supervisor and 2 JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) were waiting for myself and another JET. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed over to the BOE where we were introduced to the superintendent. After that, we headed to our apartments (me and the other JET both live in the same complex).

OMG is my apartment small! It's more like a hallway with a room attached. But it seems newish and the appliances are all in working order, so it's not horrible or anything, just small (which a common feature of most apartments in Japan). It also happens to be almost directly across the street from a train station, which is awesomely convenient! Here's a picture of it:

We went shopping after viewing the apartment and then the JTEs who where with us came back with little desert cakes as it was the other JETs birthday. It was really sweet of them and the cakes were incredibly cute!

Now that I've divulged a bit of my living situation, I'll explain my working situation a bit. As you may or may not recall, I was a bit nervous after finding out that I'd be working in elementary school as they don't have JTEs. Most of the time you work with individual homeroom teachers who don't speak English. However, our city is apparently pretty progressive on the elementary teaching front. I'll be teaching all my classes with one JTE (one of the ones I'd spent the day with) and we both travel to 3 different elementary schools in the area. One on M/T, one on W/R, and another on Friday. It works the same way for the other JET as well. My schools are about 15-25 min away by bike, but the BOE is looking into getting me a scooter so I don't have to bike so far. Yay!

Next up: Exploring the town
posted by am at 5:16 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Friday, August 3, 2007
Say bye to Tokyo

I've been in Yamanashi for a few days now. I've done so much since my last post that I'm breaking things up into multiple posts. This one will be a wrap up of my time spent in Tokyo and for some picture fun. The one above was taken on the bus from the airport to the hotel and the ones below are pictures of my hotel room, hotel room toilet (quite fun), and one of me in the fun hotel robe - which I now wish I'd taken with was comfy.

The rest of orientation is kind of a blur, more meetings and seminars. I went to the elementary school specific one and started to freak out a bit. Most elementary school ALTs have to work with homeroom teachers who usually speak little to no English when doing their lessons, but my situation works a bit differently. I'll explain in a latter post. Anyway, the only real meeting of note was the prefecture meeting where I met my fellow Yamanashi peeps and they gave us the low down on what will be happening over the next few weeks. The meeting happened to be on the 43rd floor of the hotel, so I took some pictures of the Tokyo skyline.

Freaked out a bit after that meeting too, as we have to figure out transportation to and from Kofu (the capital city of Yamanashi) for both our local orientation and an annual English teachers conference, SETY. They gave us a train schedule that was all in Japanese and were like, good luck guys!

Anyway, later that night was the YETI social gathering and we went out to eat at Asian Kitchen then did some karaoke. We've got some good people in this ken. I'm going to have a blast!

Well, that's all for now. More posts coming soon (I've done SO MUCH in the past few days!). Next up: the ride to Yamanashi and meeting my supervisor!
posted by am at 10:56 PM | Permalink | 0 comments