Tuesday, May 27, 2008

JET Program Vlog #5 - Learning katakana カタカナ

If you're trying to learn Japanese, I provide a bunch of helpful links in the description box for this video on its YouTube page. check em out!

Do you dig my retro Star Wars poster in the background? Too cool! :D


Friday, May 23, 2008

JET Vlog #1 - Welcome to the JET Programme ようこそ

Here is the first video in a series I hope to post on my YouTube page about helping new people coming to Japan in the summer for their first year on the JET Programme.

I've gotten some good response to my first two videos in the series, and doing simple searches on YouTube shows that no one else is really offer this type of advice for newbies.

I'm about to post the 3rd video, and I hope to have a new one every 4 or 5 days. If you're a new JET, I hope you find these videos helpful for your preparations. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.



It's been an exciting Sumo tournament so far, and the last few days are coming up, leading up to the final matches on Sunday.

This video features Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu fighting against Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu.

Kotooshu is having a great tourney so far - still undefeated after 12 days. And he just beat the other yokozuna, Hakuho, today to put himself firmly in the driver's seat for his first Emperor's Cup.

I make videos about Sumo on my YouTube channel - so check those out if you want some English commentary.


Monday, May 19, 2008

McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare

The above video is a good example of why I'll be voting for Obama - god help us if another Republican gets elected in the U.S.

Friday, May 16, 2008


So this kid made a lot of headlines when he first hit the Japanese music scene.
His grandmother is Japanese, from Okinawa I think. So she used to listen to this style of Japanese ballad, called enka.
It's a popular style still, since about 20% of the Japanese population is over 65 years old.
It's unusual for a younger person to want to sing enka, and even stranger for a foreigner who is not a native Japanese speaker to want to try.
He's pretty good too - if you closed your eyes you wouldn't even know he's not Japanese.
His name is JERO, and this was his first single, called UmiYuki, which was released back in February of this year, where it entered the Japanese charts at #4.

more info here:


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Morning Musume - Sexy Boy

Here is an example of the all-girl version of J-pop that I mentioned in my post about Hey! Say! JUMP.

This group is a bit like latin boy-group Menudo, with an ever-changing line-up of singers.

According to Wikipedia, Morning Musume is Japan's Best Selling Female Group.

Musume (娘) in this context, means girl, although the literal meaning is "daughter." The group is particularly well-known for its ever fluctuating line-up, with "graduations" and auditions occurring nearly each year.

Enjoy the bubbly genkiness. :)


Nike commercial - Arsenal +

Here is one for the soccer boys (and girl) at Taisha that visit my site.

This is a great ad! Really inventive.

Maybe I should do a video from the ALT POV... :)


Friday, May 09, 2008

After school activities and visits

HS kids back at TJH for a visit - 5.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My Thursday (May 8th) was pretty uneventful. Coming back to school on Wednesday after a two day holiday at the beginning of the week, the kids all have standardized tests this week, so very few classes for me to teach.

I taught one class Wednesday, one class Thursday and will teach two classes today.

So I busy myself with studying Japanese and updating my blog. :)
I also work on my English board and prepare some for future lessons.

On Thursday, I noticed the kids were having PE outside, so I grabbed my camera and went outside to snap some pics....

3nen sei PE class - 3.jpg

Simple PE class of running laps around the school building and recording their time. The PE teachers are cool with me wandering about, chatting with the kids and snapping pics.

After school, I had planned to workout with the kendo team for the first time in a LONG time. So I brought a change of clothes and a Gatorade and a sweat towel. I keep my kendo sword at Taisha Chu, so I was all set.

The new 7th graders were a bit surprised to see me, but the older kids are used to me hanging out at their practices.
But it's been a while since I last worked out with them - probably 7 or 8 months since the last time.
And boy can I feel it today!
My arms are so sore!! ude - itai!!
We did simple stretches at first, and then moved on to stroke pratice, swinging our swords in rhythm to the team captain's count of ichi-ni-san-shi-go-roku-shichi-hachi (1-8).
This extension of my arms, with a weighted sword in my hands, is what made me sore today. It's been too long since I've done these motions, but it was good to get active again after a long winter of non-activity.
I then went into the training/weight room for some lifting, but didn't last too long - my arms already starting to hurt.
It was about 5pm by this time, but I wanted to walk around a bit before heading home, visiting the other clubs as they practice outdoors, like soccer, track & field and tennis.
So I wandered about, chatting with students here and there.

While walking back to the staff room I saw three of last year's 9th graders walking up to me - it was Yuta, Shota and Kazuto - three great kids from last year back from high school for a visit.

It was nice to see them and catch up, altho it's only been a few months since they graduated.
Yuta has switched from playing tennis in Jr High to playing volleyball at Taisha HS.
Kazuto and Shota are still playing baseball and now go to Shougyou HS over in Izumo.

I was ready to go in and change to head home, when more groups of last year's kids started arriving - I guess it was "visit your old Jr High day" - so I stuck around to chat and take pics for about another hour.
Even tho it's only been a few months since I've seen them, they all look older in their high school uniforms.
It's also interesting what club they choose in HS - some stick with the same sport or activity, like brass band, that they did in Jr High. Others change or stop doing club activities all together to concentrate on studying.

So my Thursday was a boring day that ended well. I went home pretty tired and just made a quick pizza for dinner before watching some YouTube and the BBC version of Robin Hood that I'd downloaded off of iTunes.

This weekend is kinda busy for me - I'll come to Taisha Chu on Saturday morning to watch the baseball team take on Taki Chu, then head out for lunch with some Japanese friends, then I have tutoring in the evening. Sunday I'll watch a kendo tournament here at Taisha Jr High and then relax in the evening. Next week I'm at Hamayama Chu for the week.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Toccata et Fugue in D Minor on a Bottle Organ

One of the reasons I love YouTube (I'm so addicted!!) is that you have a chance to see nutty videos like this.

I just want to know if they are glass bottles or PET bottles (plastic).


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sports tests and bento lunch

One of my coolest action snaps ever!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

A few weeks ago at Taisha Chu we had the annual Sports Test for all three grades - a battery of tests that every students takes to measure their physical fitness.

I was able to head over to the gym on two of the days to snap pics of the 1nen sei and the 3nen sei.
They have to do a variety of things - sit-ups, line sprints, standing broad jump, a grip test, and some kind of flexibility test using a sitting device that looks like this...

1nen sei Sports Test - 11.jpg

My new 7th graders are not shy around me at all - they've all known me since they were 3rd graders in elementary school.

1nen sei Sports Test - 19.jpg

It's great to already have a grasp on their personalities and habits, even if I don't know all their names yet. They should be a great class of kids.

It's a different story over at Hamayama JH, where I only know about half of the new 7th graders, and even the half that I do know, I only just met last September.
So Taisha still feels like "home", but I'm enjoying my time at Hamayama more and more.

We didn't have school lunch the same day the 3nen sei (9th graders) had their sports test, so I walked around at lunch and snapped some pics of the kids eating their bento lunches outside in the nice weather.

bento lunchtime at TJH - 8.jpg

So click on any of the above pics for more from these few days. And the pic at the very top of this post was a happy accident - I had changed the setting on my camera and was testing it out when I got this snap of one of the 7th grade boys flying through the air. cool shot! Of course, I wouldn't know how to replicate taking this shot if I tried, but I like the effect of having the background slightly blurry while the subject is in focus.


Osaka Trip - March 2008 - videos to watch

I've been posting a series of videos on my YouTube channel (in 日本語 or in English )that follow me on my recent trip to Osaka to watch live sumo.

This video is at the beginning of my journey, on the train from Izumo to Okayama.

So check it out, and there are about 8 others to watch if you'd like - me on the streets of Osaka, in my hotel, at the Sumo arena, and on the shinkansen or bullet train.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Saturday - April 26th - Volleyball and Track & Field

The whole Taisha team!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I spent Saturday, the 26th, in nearby Matsue and Kashima, watching and cheering for two of the clubs at my schools - Volleyball and Track & Field.

Volleyball was in the morning, and unfortuantely, I only got to watch my Taisha girls play once, and they were eliminated - after having also lost their first match of the day.

The girls from Hamayama JH - seen below....

HJH Volleyball in Kashima - 2.jpg

Did a little better - winning their first match, but losing their second, meaning they were also eliminated from further playing.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around to get some pictures of Hamayama's team, since I had to rush off to watch Track & Field over at the Sports Park in Matsue. I had wanted to take a group pic of the HJH girls before their first match, but they asked if I'd wait, since they prefer their red uniforms to the ones they were wearing at the time - their green uniforms. So I'll have to catch them at the next tournament.

I did get some great group pics of my Taisha girls tho, including shots of me with the 9th graders....

Jason and the 3nen sei

and fun shots of the five 8th graders on the team...

TJH Volleyball in Kashima - 6.jpg

I really love cheering at Volleyball matches, as I get to be loud and genki and no one seems to mind. And the girls on each team at both my Jr High schools are great kids - always appreciative of me showing up to cheer them on.

It's great that I can support both schools when I go to their regional tournaments, but tough when they have to play against each other.

Kashima is about 15 minutes north of Matsue, and about an hour by car from Taisha, but they have a nice sports facility there, and I don't mind the driving - I actually enjoy the drive - it's scenic and I can listen to my CDs and just chill out a bit.

After Vball I drove over to watch T&F, but most of it was over by the time I got there. I did get to see the girls and boys 4x100 relay - none of my schools did that well.
It was incredibly windy, and just sitting under the tent with the team was a challenge in the high winds.

So that was basically my Saturday from 9am to about 5pm - but I love spending time like that with my kids - away from the classroom and in their chosen environment, where we can have casual conversations in mostly Japanese with a little English thrown in.
June is the big month for tournaments, with the regional, prefecture-wide competitions happening that will determine which schools go on to the next level. Good luck to all my teams!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

New Dark Knight Trailer

The #1 film I'm looking forward to this year!

Looks amazing!

Here's a quick rundown of Japanese release dates for some of the big summer movies:

June 21st - Indiana Jones 4
July 5 - Speed Racer
July 12 - The Incredible Hulk
August 9 - The Dark Knight
Sept 20 - Iron Man

can't wait to see each one.


In case you're curious what kind of music is popular in Japan right now, here is a good example.

Of course, groups playing instruments are popular too, as is Japan's version of Hip-Hop, but this style of heavily produced J-pop is VERY popular, especially with my students, who are at that less discerning age of 8-14.

This particular group is very N*Sync like with most of their videos being heavily dance orientated, so this video is a bit of a departure.
The basic formula is repeated over and over again here - gather together a bunch of attractive under-18s and teach them some moves and dress them in the latest styles and have them "sing" some bland song about love or dreams, etc.
It's done with girl groups as well of course, with Morning Musume being one famous example. (MM is a group of about 12 girls, age 10-16 who sing and dance choreographed numbers - Musume means daughter in Japanese)

This music is not to my liking, but I end up listening since my kids like it so much. I'll often ask my students who their favorite singer is, and they'll respond with the name of one of the boys from this group or NEWS or any of the many similar boy-idol groups promoted by Johnny's Jiumsho - a huge talent agency here in Japan.

Anyway - this single comes out in about 3 weeks and I'm sure I'll be hearing it tons at my schools.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Trailer 2

Oh Yes!!!!!

Opens June 21st in Japan!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Drawing Day with my students from Taisha JH

Drawing Day at Old Taisha Station with 3nen sei - 87.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Hello Everyone -

HUGE picture update! I've uploaded like 9 new pages of pictures, all of them taken last week during an annual event at Taisha Chu - Drawing Day.

I usually go with the 3nen sei (9th graders) to IzumoTaisha shrine, but we'd had bad weather the previous week, meaning that our Drawing Day was delayed, and IzumoTaisha is in the middle of an important festival now (more on that in a minute), so the 9th graders and I went to Old Taisha Station instead. Not quite as nice as spreading out over the grounds of the shrine, but a new backdrop for my pictures, so that's cool.

Click on the above pic to be taken to about 90 more from that afternoon of Drawing Day fun.

I also briefly hung out with the 8th graders (2nen sei)...

Drawing Day with 2nen sei - 3.jpg

and also the brand new 7th graders (1nen sei)...

Drawing Day with 1nen sei - 11.jpg

so there are pics of them as well.
I really couldn't ask for better kids and we had nice weather this day, so a good time was had by all.

As usual, my sunglasses were a big hit, with all the students, both boys and girls, asking to try them on. You'd think that no Japanese adults ever wear sunglasses... Of course, none of the teachers on a school trip will wear sunglasses, but still....

The other thing that happened at the end of the day was related to IzumoTaisha shrine.

Once every 60years, they perform a ritual at the shrine that only takes place every 60 years... err...ummmm... ok - you got me - I have no real idea what all the fuss was about, but it has something to do with the spirits getting a new place to live and transferring their essence to a new building - or something.

Anyway - it's good timing for me, since it only happens every 60 years, which means it won't happen again until 2068.
The main benefit for the public is that they open the very inner sanctum of the shrine to the public for a few days each weekend in April and May - usually you're only allowed to approach the inner hall on the three days following New Year's Day, but for these special days they're actually letting you go inside.

So it's a big deal. The town of Taisha made commemorative hats for EVERY family in the town. And there was a torch relay thru the town - maybe it was sacred fire. I really should know more about this stuff.

Anyway - all the kids in my school put on their commemorative caps and we lined the main road leading to the entrance of the shrine and all clapped as the last leg of the torch passed by.
I have some video of it and I'll post it soon.
I also snapped a few pics....

60 year ritual at IzumoTaisha - 13.jpg

Lastly - my YouTube channel is chugging along quite nicely. I'm going to start making some Vlogs for the new JETs who will be coming to Japan in July and August.

The video below was shot on Drawing Day. Enjoy!