Sunday, October 29, 2006

2006 Taisha Chu Taiikusai - part 2

2006 Taisha Chu Taiikusai - 102.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So after reading the explanation below, you can click on this pick and be taken to the other end of these 9 pages of 159 pics and then work your way "forward" thru them.

Sports Day is a great and fun day for the students, and I had a great time this year! I was much more involved, being assigned a team to root for and dress up for, and even getting to play my own game with the students.

We got lucky - it looked like rain, but remained dry all day and I eventually got really sunburned as no one had any sunscreen to lend me. The kids worked really hard and had a great time competing and dancing and singing.

I have video of two of the groups doing their routines, and I'll try and get those posted to my YouTube site soon.


2006 Taisha Chu Taiikusai - an explanation

2006 Taisha Chu Taiikusai - 94.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

OK - here is the simple story - click on this pic and be taken to my Flickr site where I've uploaded 159 pics of my Jr High's Sports Day festival. That's about 9 pages of pics to look thru.

Here's the somewhat more involved explanation for those that care:

First - a technical disclaimer:
knowing I would have to upload 159 pictures, I decided to try out one of Flickr's upload tools - since the normal procedure only allows you to upload 6 pictures at a time - a process that would have taken me hours for 159 pics.
After downloading the uploader (how's that for a sentence?) - i told it which pics I wanted to send to Flickr, and off it went - the whole process only took about 10 minutes. Great - right?

Well, yes - mostly. The only glitch is that instead of simply uploading the pics in numerical order, it uploaded them is a weird type of alphabetic/numeric order. That is - all the pics starting with the number 9 got uploaded together, all those starting with 8 together, etc. Meaning that picture #9 is grouped with pictures #90-99, instead of being in order after pic #8 and before pic #10. And the pics numbered #200+ come after pics #20-29, and then we get the pics labeled #100+. So things are a little random as far as the order goes. But I've labeled many of the pics, so that should help. And I'm sure I can figure out ways around this uploading style to avoid problems like this in the future.

So click here and you'll be taken to the "beginning" of the 9 pages, and mostly be working your way back thru the day in reverse chronilogaical order. I'll post a pic ABOVE this one that will allow you to start at the other end of the pages and work your way forward.


This weekend

Hello All,

Had a good weekend so far - how was yours?

Yesterday I went to a local English school for a small Halloween party. It was fun and the students had a good time. Then I tutored my two shogakusei in the evening, and then watched American TV I've downloaded from iTunes. Good Stuff! Currently I'm watching all the following shows:

Battlestar Galactica
Prison Break
Studio 60

and I'm also trying out two other shows:

Heroes & The Nine (both look promising).

Then on Sunday (today) I met three friends, Angelo, Ewan & Mark, up near where I live in Taisha for a Soba noodle tasting festival. I've gone every year, and it's always tasty! This year we were blessed with fantastic weather (it had rained a bit last year), so I walked up to the site, about 20 minutes from my house on foot, and we sat in the sun and ate both cold soba and hot soba. Oishikatta desu!

Tonight I have to clean my apartment, which has gotten somewhat cluttered; with all the traveling I've been doing lately and as busy as I've been at work, I haven't had the time or energy to keep my place at Jason-level tidiness. But I'll rectify that today.

So I should have pictures up soon showing my great weekend last weekend in Osaka and Kyoto. USJ was a blast! Had great fun! And Himeji Castle was impressive as well.

Look for more updates soon.

Hope all is well.

San Nen Sei jikoshokai (self-introductions) {movie}

Here is a short minute-long clip of some of my best 9th grade students introducing themselves on camera. The sound sync seems a bit off, but sometimes if you play it a 2nd time it gets better.

Click on the "YouTube" icon to be taken to my YouTube page and you can see the other two groups do their jikoshokai.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Halloween lesson with Shogakusei (video)

Here is a quick clip of my 5th graders at Taisha Sho after we had a Halloween lesson. You get a quick glimpse of me in my Merlin/Gandalf/Dumbledore sensei costume.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Osaka & Himeji

Hello All,

I'm off this weekend on another sightseeing tour of Japan. I'm determined to see a good deal more of this country before I leave.

So this weekend, I'm visiting Osaka and USJ (Universal Studios Japan) with friends on Saturday, seeing a fall festival in Kyoto on Sunday, and then going to the famous Himeji Castle on Monday (taking that day off work).

Should be a fun weekend, and let's hope that the weather stays nice - dry and cool.

So more pictures next week - a truly massive update of over 100 pictures from Taisha Chu's Sports Day is next up and I've got some more funny video clips on the way too.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sports Day prep

Sports Day prep (First day of new term) - 12
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

click on this pic to be taken to the begining of a massive update of about 60 pics.

I tried to take pictures over the course of about two weeks detailing many of the aspects of my students getting ready for their annual Sports Day.
You can read more about it in the captions under the individual pics.

Sports Day, called Taiikusai or Undokai in Japanese, is a big deal here - with each 9th grade class being assigned a color and those color teams competing against each other in Sporting events as well as a team sing-a-long and team dance routine, complete with costumes. The entire school is involved, and the event takes up an entire, exhausting day.

I got in on the act this year by making up my own game for the kids to play - the "Catch the Ball" game! Basically I threw an American football at two students and if one of them caught it they got 10 points for their team.

Soon to follow will be an even more massive update with pictures from the actual event.

Enjoy the pics!

proud member of the third place Blue Team!

Monday, October 16, 2006

2006 Shimane Orientation for new JETs

2006 Shimane Orientation for new JETs - 13
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

more random pics from last summer are up on my site.

I won't go into too much detail here since I've added descriptions to most of the individual photos, but you'll see pics of:

1- Shimane Orientation for the new JETs
a two-day event we have in late August to get the new ALTs and CIRs ready for work and the coming months

2 - teaching at a day care
I spent one afternoon with the brand new Izumo ALTs at a Taisha town day care this past summer, playing games and reading books to the kids in the sweltering heat.

3 - really random pics like of the thermometer in my house and my kids doing an excellent job on an extra credit project.


Summer Diary English board

Summer Diary eigo board - 5
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I've posted a few random pics - so click thru to my Flickr account and check em out.

First up are some pics of the wall outside my main English classroom on the 2nd floor of my Jr High.
I decorate this wall with all kinds of stuff all-year-round, but recently I put up a bunch of pictures I took over the summer break and this display has proved to be very popular with the students, since it consists mostly of pictures of them.
So I'll continue this trend and work this week on a new display of pics from their all-school Sports Day back in September.

After that there are some pics of my friend Ang's Sports Day at her school - Taisha High School. I went by and hung out at her sports day for about two hours - it was fun to watch how they do things at the high school level and I got to see some of my former students who are now at her school.

more pics to come this week - so stay tuned!


Sam & Tyler's bday karaoke

Sam & Tyler's bday karaoke - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

If the JET community (and increasingly the NOVA community as well) in Izumo has a favorite bar, then it's the one called Number One - we go there a lot.

It has a huge main room, much bigger than they almost ever need, so it's ideal for large gatherings. It's not quite a "gaijin bar" like Kayas or Filaments in Matsue, since we don't go there nightly, but it's the one bar we all know and enjoy.

They have a friendly staff and an "open mike" style karaoke set-up, so even tho I almost never drink alcohol, I still go along for the karaoke.

We had such a gathering a little while ago to celebrate the birthday of two new ALTs - Tyler and Sam. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, so we all gathered at Number 1 and did the nomihodai - or all you can drink special. And we sang a bunch of karaoke.

Now some JETs will tell you that their enjoyment of karaoke is in direct proportion to how drunk they are - but I enjoy it sober. I'm weird like that. :P

I never thought I was a good singer, but I've found a few songs that I guess fit my vocal range/style and since I'm comfortable singing them, I guess it comes across as skill and/or confidence, because I often get small compliments on my singing. I think the key is to just go for it and sing full voice - I always sound better at full volume I think. And even though I do annoy my neighbors with my occasional shower singing, I rarely get a chance to just belt out a tune except at karaoke. (Although I do sing rather loudly in my car when I'm driving - I'm sure to the bewilderment of the Japanese drivers around me)

But now my only problem is I keep singing the same songs over and over. I've been here for more than two years now, and my frequent karaoke partners, like the JETs in Izumo, must be so tired of me singing "New York, New York" and "Take Me Home (Country Roads)" and "Johnny B. Goode" by now. I try and sing some new songs, but the karaoke selection in Izumo is limited when it comes to songs in English. I recently went to Kyoto and sang karaoke and was amazed at how many more songs they had to choose from.

And I sing mostly "oldies" I guess - altho I do break out a Radiohead or Oasis song on occasion, I don't often sing anything from say 2000 to now - I just am a little out of the loop on current Western music and hip/hop is not my style. And I actually have a modicum of respect for the guys that can really rap - I've seen it attempted countless times in karaoke bars by amateurs - and it's really hard to do and pull off. So even tho I enjoy some rap I stay away from it at karaoke bars (with the exception of "Baby's Got Back" - it's a guaranteed sing-a-long, but such a long song).

And I would like to be able to sing some Japanese songs, but the text goes by way too fast for me to keep up. They make it somewhat easier for us novice Nihongo learners by adding furigana (the small hiragana letters put atop the harder to decipher kanji characters) to the lyrics, but it still goes by too fast for me to read and sing-along to. So I join in on the chorus of songs I know if they are requested by other singers more adept at Japanese than me.

So the next time you're in Izumo, let's head out to a karaoke bar (or the cool karaoke box place we have here called "Salsa") and get to singing!

-Jason "Mack the Knife" Harris

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Playing Janken with my 8th graders

ok - my last little bit of fun with my digital camera movie function - a 2 min clip of my 8th graders playing a janken game in class. Read more about the vid on

See you,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

my Japanese students playing TtR

Having more fun with my movie function on my digital camera...

Here are some of my coolest 9th graders playing a very cool board game called Ticket to Ride and saying hi to my Mom and Dad.

30 seconds.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sada HS taiko team

Before going to Kyoto, I finally wised up and bought a memory card for my digital camera. So now I can take like 250 pics without having to upload to my laptop. But the other nifty benefit is that I can take about 8 minutes of video/movie footage as well. I never really used the movie feature on the camera before, but this past weekend, my friend Ang's taiko team, from the local high school out in Sada, performed in Taisha town, and Ang couldn't be there, so I thought I'd give the movie feature a shot.

Turned out fine, depsite my shaky camera work and inability to zoom. The clip here is only about 90 seconds long, but it gives you a taste for it.

I've decided to use YouTube for my vids - it's a great site, but they were just bought out by Google for some ungodly amount of money, so things may change.

I'll post the vid here, or you can search for me - my user name there is "myargonauts".


Monday, October 09, 2006

Meet some of the new Izumo JETs

at the 2006 Izumo summer festival - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

click on this pic to see other pics of the new kids in town.

Izumo, the somewhat large city about 10 minutes away from where I live in Taisha - had their summer matsuri (festival) on Saturday, August 12th. This year they held the event at the large sports park called Hamayama koen, and it was a good choice as they were able to block access to some of the roads and let people wander freely about, enjoying the food and dancing and fireworks, etc.

Some of the new JETs got "persuaded" by their supervisor, the ever-so-cool Mihara san, to dance a traditional dance in costume at the festival. And lo-and-behold, their team won a prize! It probably didn't hurt that the Mayor of Izumo was also on their team.

So here is Eric, an American, Angelo, a South African, and Ewan, who hails from Scotland, all dressed and painted for their part in the dance. They did their best to keep up, and it was fun to watch.

Well done lads!


2006 Taisha Summer Festival (Goen Matsuri)

2006 Taisha Summer Festival (Goen Matsuri) - 30
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Hello All -

Another batch of catch-up pics this time - this group dating back to Saturday, August 19th.

That Saturday was the day for the Taisha town summer festival, or Goen Matsuri.

It's a great little town festival, and I've enjoyed going for the past three years, this past year perhaps being my last opportunity to attend.
My first year was uneventful, as I was brand new in Taisha and just stumbled on the festival after work one afternoon. I walked around for about 30 mins and went home.
My second year was better, and it was the first day I met the then new ALT Ang, who has become a good friend. We walked around for a while, seeing many of my students and watching the parade.
This past year was the best yet, and I joined three new JETs - Judy, Hannah, and Pia - and we spent the better part of the day at the festival, taking in all it had to offer.

Despite constant refrains of "Jason sensei!", we managed to walk around and see the sites and pose for many pics with my kids, many of whom were dressed up in their summer yukata, a light summer kimono made of cotton that is popular attire at Japanese summer festivals.

My town holds a massive bingo game with great prizes, like DVD players and video game machines. It's funny tho, cuz many of the prizes are fruit, which is so expensive here it actually is a good prize, and alcohol, like a 24 case of beer - and you'll see 10 year olds go up and try to carry off a massive case of beer - very amusing.

And there is a parade, with some of my kids in the local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts making floats, and traditional dance performances, and music by young people with guitars. Lots of food and stuff to buy of course - i had a hot dog on a stick and some chicken nugget type things - both oishii (delicious).

It was great to see so many of my kids and seeing them out of their school uniforms was an unusual site. I also got to see kids that I taught who are now in High School so that was cool too.

It was a hot day, but a lot of fun was had by all, so click on this pic to be taken to more pics from that day.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Hannah, Judy & Pia @ IzumoTaisha

Hannah, Judy & Pia @ IT - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I met up with three new JETs on August 19th, in the early afternoon before the start of the Taisha Town Summer Festival (Goen Matsuri) later that same day.

We walked around Izumo Taisha shrine and then took in all the sites and smells of the town festival.

Pia, from Finland, and Judy, from California, are both new CIRs and work at the Izumo city hall. Hannah is a new ALT working at a Jr High in Izumo. Judy & Pia brought along one of their Japanese co-workers and she brought along her young son.

Since we saw many of my students all day long, I got the inevitable questions I get anytime my students see me with a female - is she your girlfriend? your wife?, and one student even asked if the Japanese boy in the stroller was my child!!!??!!.

We had a great time walking around the shrine, despite the heat, and then later in the day we got to sample all that the festival had to offer -

We ate vendor stall food, watched a parade, saw traditional and modern dance troupes, and even played a massive game of bingo.

And we saw MANY of my students, many of them dressed up in colorful summer yukata (pictures to be posted soon). In fact, the sound of Japanese young people saying "Jason da!" (It's Jason!) or "Jason sensei" became almost a running joke to Pia and Judy and Hannah since we heard it so often.

so, enjoy these pics and more to come very soon