The Return (お帰り)

I distinctly remember the rain on my last day in Japan, May 13th, 2013. After a few weeks of lounging around Kris’ spacious Kamigaya apartment, it was time to finally say a sad farewell. It wasn’t all terrible; I was Malaysia bound, with 8 weeks of travel ahead of me. Nonetheless, I will never forget saying “Goodbye” for the last time at Haneda airport.

In June of 2016 I finally returned. After years of dreaming I would someday return and practicing my Japanese, I made it back.

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Japanese Fall Festivals

Between late September and mid-November, at schools all over Japan, Culture Festivals are held. Each school has their own spin on festivals, some doing bazaars, others (like mine) doing chorus contests.

At one school, the agenda was all singing, with a morning of competition (I’ll explain that in a minute) and the afternoon as an open mic sort of thing. Students put together dance routines, preformed as bands, or just did abstract performances. It was entertaining to say the least. The last number, was a band comprised entirely of teachers, with the head English teacher as singer. Naturally, he sang all 80’s rock music.  Continue reading

A Note on Translation

I’ve found that, here in Japan among my ALT friends, “finding yourself” is a reoccurring theme. I’m not sure how much closer I am to that goal, but I’ve already learned so much in the 6 months I’ve been here. I’ve also learned a lot from what others have figured out in their time here. Probably the biggest lesson learned so far is how to live in the now. I realize this is a bit of a cliché, but I find it a rather rare trait. So many people are too pre-occupied with tomorrow and yesterday, they are missing things happening right in front of them. I know I’m guilty of this, regularly.  Continue reading

Interactive Forum

The whole of Ibaraki has begun practicing for what is known as the Interactive Forum competition. It’s basically 3 minutes of English conversation between 2 or 3 Japanese students. Every day at lunch, and for one hour after school, we practice. I’ve been promised compensatory time-off, but I’ll let you know when that actually happens. So far, no luck. Continue reading

Shopping Spree in Tokyo

We finally got paid. What was the first thing we did? Karaoke, then shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya. Obviously.

I bought some much needed work clothes… and some play clothes too. Our friend Kris (remember him?) showed us the back alleys of Harajuku. It’s off the beaten path, with plenty of affordable, often more fashionable shops. Some of them carry second-hand items, but you would never know it. The Japanese are known for a) shopping a lot and b) taking really good care of their clothes. Most of the second-hand stores had items I would still consider new. Continue reading

Barbecue!

Saturday, many of the local ALTs got together for a good, old fashioned BBQ. The Japanese love to barbecue, but they do it slightly different. So, since it was Memorial day weekend and all that, we decided to skirt the social-norm for once, and have a nice, western-style BBQ. On the menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Hamburgers in hotdog buns (when we ran out of burger buns), shish-kebobs, and, of course, yakisoba. Yea, we got as close to Western as we could with it. Continue reading

A Day in the Life

As life slows to a crawl here in Koga, things have become quite regular for me. I figured it’s time for the quintessential travel blogger post: a day in the life of yours truly. I’ll try to remember to add all the quirks of daily life. We’ll go with a Monday. Usually I wake up bright and early at 6am to the song “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. Then, I hit the snooze, twice. I’ve been on the planet long enough to know that it’s going to take more than one alarm. At 6:30am, a second alarm goes off with the song “Parks on Fire” by Trifonic. This song has considerably more edge to it, and impossible to sleep through. Thus, my day begins. Continue reading

Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク)- First Half

More vibrant fish

I didn’t realize that it’s been more than a week since my last post! I am so sorry! I normally try to keep it at a steady two per week. Not only did I fail last week, but I will fail again this week! It’s Golden Week all over Japan. Basically, it’s a bunch of national holidays that happen to fall within a week of each other. The good part is you get a bunch of paid holidays. The bad part is you have to go to work on the days that aren’t holidays. For me that was Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Fortunately, I went into school on Tuesday and they said it was a School district-wide holiday. Then they said to please go home. I didn’t argue. The first half of Golden Week (last weekend) was spent in Mito! For the full adventure, read on.  Continue reading

Apartment Tour

Alright, this is a video of my (tiny) apartment here in Koga! It’s pretty short and quite informative. It was shot when I first got here, so my room looks a bit more complete now, with decorations, flowers and the like. Either way, you get the idea. Please don’t mind the mess!
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Mono no Aware (物の哀れ)

This past weekend was all about “mono no aware.” This idea is a very important part of Japanese culture, and the aspect that I respect the most. It literally translates to “a pathos of things.” Basically, appreciate the things in life that are fleeting or impermanent. The best example I can give is cherry blossoms. They bloom once a year and only last about a week. That is why hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is so popular here. The Japanese have a festival for nearly everything that is notoriously short-lived.They have plum festivals, peach festival, cherry blossom festivals, and even snow festivals. It’s always about taking the time to enjoy life, because it is truly, very brief. So, I invite you to try “mono no aware.” This weekend, gather a group of friends an family, take out a picnic blanket, and go celebrate the most beautiful, yet brief, part of spring in your town. This idea stretches beyond physical things, but you get the jest of it. Continue reading