Tuesday, September 26, 2006

learning traditional Japanese dance

learning traditional Japanese dance - 21
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I was at a JET party recently and I got cornered by my friend and fellow ALT, Fiona, and she asked, "Jason, when are you going to post those pics from this summer's language course we did together?"
I've been so behind with pics, but hopefully this batch will apease Fiona - she's like the Hulk - you don't want to make her angry! - and the other ALTs who studied Japanese with me this past summer in Matsue.

A few times they tried to teach us a little about Japanese culture, so this day they made everyone get dressed up in yukata and dance with fans for an hour or so. I know this sounds cynical and harsh, but I find these "culture" moments an incredible waste of time. None of us are brand new ALTs - all of us in attendance had lived in Japan at least one full year at this point (two full years in my case) so we'd all had plenty of opportunites to seek out and experience Japanese culture. This one in particular had no connection to learning the language - at least the two other culture activities were about kanji and using Japanese.

Anyway- i happily snapped plenty of pics for all the ALTs, and they did all look cool in their yukata. I look particularly bad in this type of garment, especially when they don't have one even approaching my size, so I declined getting dressed up - it was more fun to watch anyways.

So ok, click on this pic for plenty more of "foreigners in Japanese clothes."

grumpy old man?

skit rehearsal at the Summer Language Course

skit rehearsal - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Me and about 18 other ALTs from Shimane studied Japanese for 10 days this past summer.

here is a pic of me and my partner, Taisha HS ALT Ang, rehearsing our final skit. I was playing a convenience store clerk and she was a customer looking for directions. I try to pick her up at the end of the conversation and we had a choose your own ending for the audience - does Ang agree to let me come along to the summer festival she is looking for or reject me? Maybe I've watched too many special edition DVDs... :)

The course was ok, but the teachers were volunteers and spoke little English, either by choice or by necessity - a choice I don't quite agree with given the level of the learners involved. While I agree it's helpful to struggle to ask questions in the language you're learning, at some point you need explanations in English, and these explanations were not provided. Still, I did learn some new things, and I enjoyed hanging out with my fellow ALTs from all over Shimane.

click on this pic for more from our learning adventure at the kenshukan in Matsue in late July and early August of this year.

Monday, September 25, 2006

July 4th - a full day @ Taisha Sho

July 4th - a full day @ Taisha Sho - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So while many of you had the day off on July 4th (at least my American friends), I spent the whole day at one of my local elementary schools - Taisha Shogakko.

Periods one and two were spent with the two classes of 4th graders and periods three and four were spent with the two classes of 5th graders. Then lunch with the kids, and after lunch one of my best Shogakko sensei - Nagami sensei - had a demonstration class with his class of 3rd graders. Other teachers from around Taisha came to observe him teach an English lesson, and I was invited to watch as well, and then those teachers had a meeting to discuss the class. Even though their discussion was in Japanese, I had to sit in and throw in comments from time-to-time.

So that was my full day from 8am to 4:30pm.

We played a chant/clap game in the 5th grade classes to help the kids learn family names, like brother, sister, mother, etc.

and in the fourth grade classes we played "What time is it Mr Wolf?", a fun game to learn numbers and telling time. It was a nice day so we could play outside on the grass - a bonus. And some of the kids had just been swimming when they came into my class. They have way more fun in shogakko than in my Jr High. :)

click on this pic to see many more from the day.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

my Kyoto weekend - some preliminary pics

Sept 06 trip - DAY TWO - Kyoto - 45
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Hey Gang,

I had a GREAT time in Kyoto last weekend - and I took a TON of pics - so I hope to have a bunch of them online soon. I posted a few teaser pics for now - some of the most famous sites - including the entrance to Kiyomizudera - the temple of pure water - pictured at left.

So click on this pic for a few more from my great 3-day-weekend in Kyoto and Nara, and I'll get the rest online soon.

Peace be with you,

The Taisha HS Dance Team

2006 Taisha Summer Festival (Goen Matsuri) - 25
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I bumped into two of my former students, Atsumi and Anna, who were both san nen sei at my Jr High when I arrived in Taisha in 2004.

I had seen them just recently at the Taisha summer festival, when they performed with the Taisha High School Dance Team - and I promised them I would add the picture to my site. Well, it's been a few weeks, but I finally got around to adding the pic - and hopefully soon I'll add the rest of my pics from that really fun day.

Atsumi, in the front row on the far left, is the older sister of one of my favorite kids from this year's san nen sei class - Brass Band member Hiromi. Both great kids!

Friday, September 15, 2006

off to Kyoto

Hello All -

Didn't have a chance to get anymore updates on here this week, and tomorrow I am off to Kyoto for the 3-day weekend.

I finally got a memory card for my camera, so I can now take about 250 pictures at a higher quality setting before I have to download my camera to my laptop. SWEET!

But.... even tho I have lived in Japan for two years now, this is my first trip to Kyoto. But wouldn't you know it - a typhoon is headed toward Japan and we're supposed to have a wet weekend! :(

Hopefully I'll still get to take lots of pictures! More on my trip soon!

And I get to use my cool new iPod on the 6 hour bus ride there and back! So nice!

Hope you have a good weekend too!


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Eating Lunch with 1-3 class

Eating Lunch w: 1-3 class - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Lunch at a Japanese Jr High usually occurs in the individual classes - altho I've heard about really small school, with less than 50 kids, where all the students eat together.

So at Taisha Chu, the lunch arrives via truck and is brought into a holding room, where students from each class go to get the various tubs and trays and food for that day's kyushoku (school lunch).

The kids take turns being the food fetchers and the food servers, and they have to wear these masks and aprons, but no gloves.

Everyone in the entire school, including the teachers, eat the same thing - and always milk, and only milk, to drink.

So I sometimes eat with the kids in their classroom instead of in the staff room. If I'm at an Elementary school, I always eat with the kids, but at Jr High they really don't care as much that I'm in there, since they only have about 15 minutes to eat after all the serving is completed. But class 1-3's homeroom teacher is also my JTE Moriyama sensei, so she askes me to join from time to time. I can chat a little with the kids in between bites, but mostly in Japanese since they don't really want to speak English when they're relaxing - that's too much like work.

Of course, since I don't eat fish and lots of other Japanese foods, somedays I eat very little off my tray, which kinda makes me feel bad, since the kids are taught to clean their trays - but I can usually get away with it by saying the magic English word they all know: "Diet."

click on this pic for more pics from this day.


Next up is pics from my full day at Taisha Sho on July 4th, and then I hope to move up to more recent pics like the Taisha summer festival and then, eventually, yesterday's Sports Day, which was a blast!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

cards for the Blue Team

cards for the Blue Team
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So I've had lots of time on my hands at school this week. They've had virtually no classes since Monday and are letting the kids prepare for Sports Day on Friday everyday this week. They work so hard on it all, and it rained today, so I really hope it's nice on Friday and we don't have to postpone until Saturday.

With my time today I made the nifty cards you see here. I've been assigned to the Blue Team - so I got some blue construction paper, used pictures from a Marvel Comics page-a-day calendar I have and some Spongebob stationary I have, and made each student in the 3-2 San Nen Sei class (the blue team main class) a "Ganbatte" card.

I bought two bags of Kit Kats (which come in bags of 17 bars??) last night, so i was able to give each kid a card and a Kit Kat after school today and told them to do their best on Friday.

It was funny today - i was practicing the "Catch the Ball" game I'm doing and one of my JTEs asked me what I was gonna wear while throwing the ball. I said, "Well, I'll be wearing all Blue since I'm on the Blue Team this year." She said in the best indirect manner of the Japanese that it would be good if I could change clothes for the game since all the teams are involved and I'm not a member of the Blue Team while I'm doing the game. OOOKKKK - makes sense actually, but it's just something that I would never have thought about.

The other cool thing that happened today was I had a great impromptu chat with 4 of my san nen sei girls after lunch.

I was sitting on the wall by the dirt field watching my blue team go thru their dance routine, and Hiromi and Hiromi (yes -two girls named Hiromi) from the Green team came over and sat with me. We watched together for a while and started to chat about this and that. I had just seen Hiromi's older sister, Atsumi (who was my student when I first arrived in 2004), in a local eatery on Monday night, so we talked about that, and i asked the other Hiromi if she was "retired" from the Gymnastics club yet. We talked a little about last year's sports day and I asked them who was going to win this year and of course they said the Green Team. I asked them if they were a little sad since this is their last Sports Day as Jr High students and they both said yes, but also excited. I told Hiromi that this was my last Sports Day too, since I'll leave in July next year, and even though she won't even be a student at Taisha Chu next September, she looked visibly upset. I was a little touched that she was concerned and we chatted about whether I'll return to America or stay in Japan. A few other girls had drifited over, including Risa and Mizuki. So we chatted a little more before they had to go off and practice some more.

None of that probably seems that interesting to you, but I got home tonight and was looking at my pictures from the day (I've already taken like 100 pics and it's not even the real event yet) and I realized how cool it is that I can chat with the kids like that now.

You have to understand that two years ago, when I was a brand new ALT, the kids certainly wouldn't have been at ease speaking to me and I simply didn't have the Japanese language skills to hold anything approaching a conversation. You see, the entire chat I just described took place almost entirely in Japanese. I know, I know - I'm supposed to be here to promote learning English - but the simple fact is that most Jr High kids can't speak at all beyond a few set phrases and some very simple greetings.
So I've worked these past two years to get better at speaking Japanese simply so days like today can take place. It's incredibly satisying to actually be able to connect with the kids - and I'm still not even close to where I'd like to be speaking wise.

I look at pictures from two years ago, and the kids were just as genki and cute, but they are by and large just faces I briefly knew. I look at pictures of my kids now and I see beyond the face - i know that kid's name and his or her personality and so much more about them as people now.

So the simple act of sitting on a wall and chatting with a bunch of rural 14-year-olds was the highlight of my day.

I can't wait for Friday. Go BLUE TEAM!!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sports Day prep

Sports Day prep
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I know, I know - It's been a while since I've updated the site. Sorry.
I ended up have a really busy summer in some ways - and I took a TON of pictures - of summer events, the new ALTS, my students, all kinds of stuff.

So hopefully updates galore will be forthcoming.

Right now I'm helping my kids get ready for their annual Sports Day, which is this Friday at Taisha JH.
Here you can see one of the classes practicing the dance they will perform.
It's an incredibly big deal here and the soon-to-graduate 9th graders take it VERY seriously.

I decided I wanted to be more a part of it this year - my final year. So I suggested to the teacher in charge of the event, who happens to be a JTE, that I could play a game with the kids using an American football and a frisbee. He went for it, so now I am part of Sports Day. PLUS, they assigned me to a team this year - so I am part of the BLUE team - have to wear all blue that day and cheer them on against the Green, Pink, Red and Yellow teams.

More to come soon - i promise! :)