Monday, November 28, 2005

My brother, Paul

My younger brother, Paul, shipped out for Kuwait and eventually Iraq today.

Paul joined up about one year ago, and went through basic training and then journalism school - so now he'll be attached to various units reporting stories and taking pictures. It makes me feel a bit better knowing that he'll be using a camera more than a gun while over there, but it doesn't ease the worry.

You can follow Paul's adventures at his blog, which you can see by clicking Here.

One interesting thing Paul told me during our last phone conversation for a while yesterday was that the U.S. military in Iraq is not allowed to have any alcohol - no beer, no nothing. Being a muslim country, it's simply against the rules and he said it's strictly enforced. I'm sure my brother, who really enjoys wine, and many of his fellow soldiers will be going through their own version of detox in the coming weeks. He should have internet access though, so I'm hoping that we'll get regular updates letting us know that he is safe.

I'm not a religious person at all, but I pray for Paul's safe return, and moreover I hope the same person that left today comes back to us in one year's time. Be safe brother - we love you.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

2005 Gotsu Speech Contest - winners!

2005 Gotsu Speech Contest - winners!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I've been really busy this month and it all culminates with my taking the JLPT next weekend in Hiroshima. But I've managed to upload a few recent pics.

This one shows Honda sensei, Wakiko, Susumu and me after the trophy presentation at the Gotsu HS Speech Contest.

Wakiko, an 8th grader, won first prize (out of 28 student contestants) for her recitation of a selection from "Harry Potter" and Susumu, also an 8th grader, who recited a funny story about a barber shop, is holding the team trophy what he won with Wakiko naming Taisha Chu as the top school at the competition.

It was a great end to my speech contest "season" - and my kids did awesome! I had at least one prize winner at each competition we entered.

To celebrate I took all 7 kids and Yamamoto sensei, the faculty sponsor, out for ice cream and drinks last week. See a picture of all of us and more random pics by clicking on this pic.

should be studying at this very moment

Sumo in Fukuoka, Kyushu

Sumo in Fukuoka, Kyushu - 7
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I posted about 18 pics from my recent trip to Fukuoka - a large city on the southern island of Kyuushu. My friends - Rusty, Satoko & Mark - and I went primarily to see live Sumo wrestling.

But Fukuoka is a great city - lots of Western shops and restaurants - i was able to buy Western magazines in English and we even had really good Mexican food one night.

So click on this pic and you'll be taken to all the pics on my Flickr acct. I'll try and label them soon.

This pic shows the champion (Yokozuna) from Mongolia named Asashoryu. Just yesterday he won his match and in doing so he set 3 MAJOR Sumo records - most wins in a single year with 83 (out of a possible 90), 7 consecutive tournament wins (never done before) and he won all 6 tournaments in one calendar year (A Grand Slam - also never done before). He has dominated the sport ever since I arrived in Japan and I've become quite a fan. But he has a great rivalry with a fellow foreign wrestler named Kotooshu - a huge 2.04 meter Bulgarian who was the only rekishi (wrestler) to beat Asashoryu this tourney.

BTW - the kanji Asashoryu uses for his name translates to "Morning Blue Dragon" which I just think is way cool. I bought this print of his hand print and a calendar with him at the souvenir stand - what can I say - I'm a fan. We waited "backstage" after the day's matches had ended and we got to see Asa come out of the training room - i was able to snap a few pics but with my regular film camera. I can't wait to see how they came out.

believe it or not - too small to be a sumo wrestler

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hokuryo speech contest

Hokuryo speech contest - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I know I'm still way behind with updates.... sorry!

Here is a pic from just this past Saturday.

I had three of my JH students competing in an English Recitation contest at a local, private High School - Hokuryo HS in Izumo.

That's Yamamoto sensei on the left, then Yuki, Maki & Mami and me.

Of the 37 junior high students competing, 9 win prizes and Yuki and Mami were two of those - Yuki winning a 2nd place plaque and Mami winning a third place plaque. My girls rock!

More pics & updates soon, and there are more to see at my Flickr site - just click on this pic.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Araki sho Eigo Club - Halloween

Araki sho Eigo Club - Halloween - 6
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I know this blog is seriously out of date and in dire need of an update. I've been super busy lately, but I should have some time in the coming week to update the trivia and post a few more pics.

Don't give up on me! :)

Here is a great pic of me and my English Club kids from Araki Elementary. You'll notice that they made their costumes out of black garbage bags, and 4th grader Shinya on the end even made himself a cool hat, kinda like mine for my Merlin costume.

I grew my beard for the whole month of October just to have it for this week of Halloween lessons, but while it grows white, it doesn't really grow THAT white, so it didn't really work as the fake one I had last year. Alas, that one fell apart and it's hard to replace here since they don't have Halloween in Japan. I'll try and pick one up when the Santa costumes come out for Xmas season.

We got to go trick or treating around the school and I taught the kids a bit about Halloween traditions and we played a fun game using English. More pics are on my Flickr acct accessible by clicking on this pic.

Hope all is well.


Usagi Shogakko - Halloween puzzle project

Usagi Shogakko - October 2005 - 12
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I went to my smallest elementary school - Usagi Sho - last week and we worked on a project to make a puzzle. We all started out with a blank square of wood about 18" x 18" with a center main piece cut out that would make the puzzle pieces. I went for a Halloween theme.

I decorated the outside rim with various Halloween themed images - altho some suffered from the thickness of the paint and brushes I was using, but you can see what I was going for at least.

You can follow the progression of the project to the finished piece. This was a great day and typical of the cool activities this small school is able to do because they only have 8 students. I have a great time every time I visit.

main piece

Usagi Shogakko - October 2005 - 6
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I decided to paint the middle section as a Jack O'Lantern as it's a round shape and an image that the Japanese students are somewhat unfamiliar with as they don't have Halloween in Japan and they don't have large, orange pumpkins either. (The pumpkins here are about the size of a cantaloupe and green)

I painted my name and the date on the back - you can click on any pic here and you'll see it at my online Flickr account.

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out, since it's been ages since I've painted anything, but I really enjoyed doing it - I've always enjoyed art but never felt I had much capacity for it. And I once drew a pumpkin that my old girlfriend swore I couldn't possibly have drawn, making this drawing even more personally satisfying. :)

cut into pieces

Usagi Shogakko - October 2005 - 4
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Then I had to use a special saw to cut the middle board into puzzle pieces - I think I ended up with about 14 pieces. They had about 4 saws set up for the kids and teachers to use and a local carpenter and furniture maker came in for the day to help us and supervise the cutting.


Usagi Shogakko - October 2005 - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

All put together, the puzzle looks like this. I let the kids at Usagi Sho keep it even tho they wanted me to take it with me. I'll try and upload some pics I have of their puzzles - some great art.

-Jason the Artiste

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Word verification on comments

Hello All,

I've been getting "blog spam" a lot lately. Seems some crafty and evil internet types have figured out how to leave random ads and links disguised as comments on blogs. So Blogger has a system, where if you want to leave a comment, you have to type in a list of letters and/or numbers to verify that you're a real human leaving the comment. Just one extra step.

So PLEASE still leave comments if you're so inclined - I love reading them. But if you leave them anonymously, please sign with your name or initials so I know who left the comment.

More pics and updates soon.

C ya,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Oct. 5th

Which actor's resume includes stints as a coffin polisher, a milkman, and a nude model for artists?

A. Ewan MacGregor
B. Sean Connery
C. Robert Wagner
D. Harrison Ford

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
James Doohan, who played chief engineer Scotty

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Double Peace

Double Peace
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Double peace beats single peace anyday! :)

Some more random recent photos here and below.

Yuki over on the right is practicing for a speech contest with me right now. She's like the funniest person normally, but when she tries to speak English she gets all shy. But she'll get over that and do just fine. Her mom is a elementary teacher at one of my shogakko - cool mom, cool kid. :)

This pic was snapped during gym class - i wander about sometimes when I don't have an English class and wave at the kids or just watch. This day the kids were running laps around the school, so some time waiting for their turn - a perfect opportunity to snap some pics, except that as soon as they see the camera they go into instant pose mode - whipping out the peace sign. I can't resist apparently - why fight it?

Great thing happened today - i was out snapping pics of the "greeter girls" - student officers who stand in front of the large genkan (school entrance where they take off their outdoor shoes) in the morning and greet all the other arriving studetns with a cheery "Ohayo Gozaimasu!" (good morning) - and I noticed that some other students were also out (despite the drizzling rain) collecting money for Tsunami relief fund. I donated 1000yen (the only money I had on me at the time), but then I noticed that one kid came up with a small bag full of 1 yen coins (the equivalent of a bag of pennies). Eureka! I've been dying to find a constructive way to unload myself of the hundreds of 1 yen coins I've accumulated over my first year here. Tomorrow, they are getting some more money from me - a not-so-small bag of 1 yen coins! :)

paper airplanes

paper airplanes
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Do you remember when you got to make paper airplanes in class and it was an educational activity!? :)

Last year I introduced a game where the kids write their name and something they like (ie - "My name is Jason. I like pizza.") on a sheet of paper and then we folded it into a paper airplane and launched them all at once. Every kid picked a new one up and then one at a time they introduced their classmates: "This is Jason. He likes Pizza." Went over really well.

So this 3rd grade teacher morphed my idea and had the kids draw vegetables (the day's vocab topic) on their paper, fold and launch them as paper airplanes, and then they had to come up to me and I'd ask, "What do you want?" and they'd look at their paper and say "I like carrot." (The Japanese almost never pluralize nouns - it's a tough thing to get them used to)

Went over pretty well. Of course there were some vegetables they drew that I couldn't recognize and/or I had no idea how to translate the name of a few - still don't know the Japanese word for eggplant.
And you say "Oh, that's an eggplant" to a kid and he looks at you like you're crazy - It's not an "egg" it's a vegetable you silly person.

roku nen sei girls at Taisha Sho

roku nen sei girls at Taisha Sho
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Some of the 6th grade girls at my closest elementary school. Nagami sensei is kinda visible in the back - acting the clown as always - he's one of my favorite teachers - a great guy, a good teacher and he always tries to speak to me in English, and his English is really good.

Always a pleasure to teach the two 6th grade classes at Taisha Sho.


roku nen sei boys at Taisha Sho

roku nen sei boys at Taisha Sho
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Whenever I describe my elem students as "Supaa Genki" - the Japanese teachers laugh. "Supaa" (super) is a common adjective here and genki means high-spirited and lively. A very apt desciption of most of my shogakko kids.

These kids should enjoy life while they can, cuz come next April they'll all be entering the soul-crushing machine known as Junior High. :P


san nen sei at Taisha Sho

san nen sei at Taisha Sho
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Simply too cute!

3rd grader at my closest elementary school.


Trivia - Tuesday, Oct. 4th

Which Star Trek actor lost a finger while fighting on D-day for the Royal Canadian Artillery?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Monday, October 03, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Oct. 3rd

What was the name of Gargamel's cat on The Smurfs?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Polyester

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Oct. 1st & 2nd

Which John Waters film came with an "Odorama" scratch-and-sniff card that was distributed to the audience?

A. Pink Flamingos
B. Hairspray
C. Polyester
D. Mondo Trasho

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
False. His real name is Arnold George Dorsey.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 30th

True or False: Engelbert Humperdinck is the singer's real name.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Quentin Tarantino

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - girls group 1

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So today was the last day of my optional (elective) English class with my 9th graders at Taisha JH for this term. Even tho there are three terms in a Japanese school year, they only switch electives once, so I get two classes per school year. This was my first class of this school year.

We have a lot of fun in this class, as it's the class where we don't have a textbook to follow or any set goals - just use English and have fun.

These are the kids I tend to get to know a bit better than some of their 9th grade classmates. And I had great kids in this class. You might recognize Asuka and Mai, my two speech contest students, in the front of this picture. I'll post the rest of the names soon.

This isn't an honors class, but the kids tend to be more interested in English and willing to speak and use English a bit more than they do in regular class. Since I get to design and plan all the lessons, we tend to have a lot of fun, but I hope they learn a little along the way as well.

In October I'll get a new class that will stay with me until graduation next March. I hope they're as good as this class was.

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - group 2

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I had a great class this term. Lots of students who were interested in English and willing to try whatever wacky game or project I could think up.

I gave them a little surprise party today with some drinks and snacks. The girls descended like a hungry pack of vultures, leaving almost no food for the boys who hung back, since they were the minority in this class (in a school where there are more boys than girls overall). They don't often get outside food and drink at school, so they all had a fun time eating and drinking and finishing up their term project, which was a book with 7 pages all about them, but written in English. I let them keep the books, so I hope they hold on to it, and show it to their parents and maybe in a few years find it in a drawer and remember what it was like to be a 9th grader.

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - group 3

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 5
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Not sure why I picked this stairway. I told them to do the famous pose from Titanic, but those pictures didn't turn out as good as the ones where I just let them be themselves, peace symbols and all.

We also took photos with one girl on each of the stairs - sort of a Beatles pose - but these group shots still were the best.

My 9th grade girls kick your 9th grade girls' asses!


Sentaku Eigo 2005 class

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 9
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are the boys. I had 32 students this time around, but only 9 boys. Last year, it was the reverse, with about 8 girls in a class of 30.

The boys at this age tend to be more soft-spoken and a little less genki than the girls in terms of participating in class, but I think they had fun in class and all of them were keenly interested in the Wallace and Gromit animated short I showed in class today while they finished up their term projects.

I'll post names when I have access to my roster, cuz I don't want to get any wrong.

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 29th

Who gave the famous "Top Gun" speech in the 1994 film Sleep With Me?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Don's Plum

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 28th

Which 2001 film starring Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio was never released in the United States?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Mamas and the Papas' California Dreamin'

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 27th

What '60s hit was prominently featured in the film Chungking Express?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Marvin Gaye's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Monday, September 26, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 26th

What was the first video ever shown on VH-1?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 24th & 25th

Which talk show host made an auspicious acting debut in the Steven Spielberg film The Color Purple?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
La Belle Aurore

Friday, September 23, 2005

Updates and more pics coming

Lafcadio Hearn Speech Contest - Matsue - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I thought I should post a few random pics just to let you know that I'm trying to update this blog and add some new pics and posts. It's been a busy month now that school is back underway, but I should have some time this weekend to get the trivia up-to-date and post some more pics.

This pic is from the Lafcadio Hearn Speech Contest, which was held in Matsue on Sept. 17th. I had two 9th grade girls from my JH competing, and the girl on the left (Asuka) did really well and won a prize. Mai also did really well, but she speaks English with a heavy accent that no amount of coaching on my part can remove. She had to say phrases like "religious life" and "very large white butterfly" in her speech and try as we might, they never did get natural sounding.
But we had fun practicing and I have two more speech contests coming up in November.

More soon, so check back next week...


skirt comparrison

skirt comparrison
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I took this photo at a recent school assembly at my Junior High school. I think it illustrates the various skirt lengths worn by the female students.

The girl on the far right has the longest skirt and is a 7th grader - all the girls in the 7th grade wear their skirts below the knee.

The girl in the middle is a ninth grader. How can you tell? Her skirt is way above her knee and only 9th grade girls are "allowed" to wear their skirts this short. If a girl in the 8th grade or 7th grade tried to wear her skirt this short, she would get beat up according to some 9th grade girls I asked about this whole various skirt length thing.

The girl on the far left is also a 9th grader, but she's wearing her skirt at a more modest height, which is acceptable but clues the observer into the fact that she is not so much in the "popular" crowd. I guess when you're all wearing the same clothes and thus can't differentiate yourself with your fashion choices, the popular girls will still find a way to separate themsleves from the rest of the crowd.

Japan is an odd country, but a fascinating one....

Trivia - Friday, Sept 23rd

What was the name of Rick's Paris cafe in Casablanca?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. It did not include a laugh track. (Also, the show was mostly in Black and White and featured on camera interviews with the cast in character - great episode)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 22nd

What was unique about the episode of M*A*S*H called "The Interview"?

A. It did not include a laugh track
B. Alan Alda did not appear in the episode
C. It was an hour long
D. It appeared outside the show's regular season

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Julian Schnabel

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 21st

Which modern artist made the transition from painting and sculpting to film in 1996 with the movie Basquiat?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The phrase indicates the moment when a TV show loses its edge; the expression comes from an episode of Happy Days when the Fonz attempts a waterski jump over a shark.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 20th

Where did the expression "jump the shark" come from?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. J.K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter books in case you've been living in a cave)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 19th

Which author has sold millions of books, but was actually on welfare for about a year while writing her first book?

A. Toni Morrison
B. Jhumpa Lahiri
C. J.K. Rowling
D. Anne Rice

**I really like Jhumpa Lahiri's books - I highly recommend them!**

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Red, white and black only

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 17th & 18th

What colors do the members of The White Stripes always wear?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Tenacious D

Friday, September 16, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 16th

Which acoustic metal/comedy duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass refers to itself as "the greatest band on the earth"?

**BONUS Points if you can tell me where they got the name for the band**

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Joe Strummer

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 15th

Which lead singer of the activist punk band The Clash was actually the son of a diplomat?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
My Fair Lady

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 14th

Rex Harrison won a Tony, then later an Oscar for playing the same role in the Broadway and film productions of ________________.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Oona O'Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 13th

Charlie Chaplin's fourth marriage was to a woman thirty-nine years his junior; they had eight children together. Who was she, and who was her father?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Toronto, Canada

Monday, September 12, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 12th

Where is the largest North American film festival held every autumn?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
B.B. King

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 10th & 11th

Which music legend is nicknamed "The Ambassador of the Blues"?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
She was a model for such products as Breck and Clairol.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 9th

What was Martha Stewart's first career?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
D. John Forsythe

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 8th

Who was the voice of Charlie in the TV series Charlie's Angels?

A. Tom Selleck
B. Bruce Boxleitner
C. Michael Landon
D. John Forsythe

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Manoel de Oliveira

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 7th

Which Portuguese director wrote and directed his latest film, Un film parle, at the astonshing age of ninety-five?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 6th

Which 1997 Natalie Merchant album was recorded in a series of "workshop" sessions with more than thirty different artists collaborating in the final product?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A Thermos

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 5th

What item is Steve Martin "picking out" via song for Bernadette Peters in the 1979 film The Jerk?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
James Brolin & Morgan Fairchild

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 3rd & 4th

In the film Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Pee-Wee's adventures are made into a film within the film. Who are the stars of it?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control - hunt it down and rent it!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

learning my kids' names

Chugoku region JH brass band competition - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

OK - so I started my 2nd year of teaching here on Thursday when school resumed at my basr Jr. High.

Notice I didn't say "classes" resumed becuase there weren't any the first two days - the students are all busy preparing for Sports Day, which is next Friday, the 9th. (Which happens to be my parent's wedding anniversary - Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!)

I don't think there will be many classes all next week either, as Sports Day takes precedent over education apparently. I'll discuss Sports Day more when I have pics of the event and give you the low down on what goes on.

It's funny that right now there is a lot of moaning about the amount of time Japanese kids spend in school, as their performance on international tests in math and science has suffered in the past few years and Japan is no longer in the top 5 nations in each category.
In 1999, they shortened the school week to five days, so no more Saturday school. Which means the number of hours given to any one subject, like English for instance, was cut back. For example, my JH kids are required to attend 4 hours of English instruction per week - so that means 4 one-hour classes a week with one day of no English. Some schools only require 3 hours per week.

The ironic thing about all this to anyone that has worked at a Japanese Junior High is twofold:
1) the students are at school ALL THE TIME! I see more of my students than some of their parents do I'm sure. They come in at the weekend anyway to participate in club activities and school functions - my kendo kids, for instance, practiced EVERY DAY during SUMMER VACATION. That includes Sundays. But the kids are not in classes, so it's technically not the same.
2) My school, like almost all in Japan, takes time out from education to do activities with the students for whole days or even multiple days. We had one day where the kids just drew all day - a field trip to some scenic spot, draw, eat a picnic, draw some more, go home (or more accurately - go to club activity). We have a day where all the classes in the school sing for all the other classes. We have a cultural festival, various ceremonies in the gym that take up half or whole days, and the aforementioned Sports Day, which is eating up like 7 days of classes. I could go on, but I think you get the point - the Japanese whine about test scores, but don't bat an eye about letting the kids get out of classes for other activities.

Now, I'm not saying that the kids shouldn't have their fun - I'm all for field trips and cultural actvities. But in America, these would be prepared for by the students who elected to participate and those preparations would take place AFTER school. But it seems that it's more OK to eliminate classes than it is to eliminate judo practice or baseball practice or chorus practice. Different ways of doing things, I know, but that doesn't mean that the Japanese way is the most efficient way.

But, I digress...

I meant to post here about learning my kids' names. I have lots of spare time right now, since there are no classes to teach, so I decided I would try and study Japanese and attempt to learn my students' names in my down time. This week I'm getting a "face" book of all my JH students - with their picture and name. I'll have to have help translating - but it's a start.
I've taken so many pictures of my kids and I started to label them on my laptop with their names so I can start putting a name with the face.
You should see the way my kids light up if instead of saying "Hello" as we pass in the halls, I say "Hello, Yuki" and use their individual first name.

But its a daunting process as my kids tend to have very similar sounding names or simply the same name - which is no differnt than the many Johns, Matts, James, Brittanys, Jennifers, etc I would have in an American school. But it's harder somehow.
Partly because they rarely use their first names in school, except with their close friends. But wanting to instill a Western practice I've been determined to have them address me as Jason and me in turn address them by their first name.

Anyway - this brings me to the picture above. If it wasn't hard enough all ready, my JH has a number of twins and even a set of triplets, the three sisters pictured above. They are 8th graders, which means I'll be seeing them for the rest of my time here, even if I stay a third year. So not only do I have to learn their names - Shiho, Saki & Risa - i have to learn to tell them apart. :)
My band teacher tells them apart because they each play a different instrument. Now if I can just them to carry their instrument around with them to English class... :)

L to R - front row:
Ayaka Y., Nahoko M., Shiho T., Saki T.
back row:
Kanaka, Risa T., Yuki O., Hiromi F.

More pics soon.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 2nd

Which 1997 Errol Morris documentary featured interviews with a lion tamer and a topiary gardener, among others?

The answer to today's question is one of my absolute favorite films of the past ten years. Morris is a gifted documentarian and holds a place among my all-time favourtie directors alongside Spielberg, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Fincher, Miyazaki & Scorcese.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
"TV Funhouse"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 1st

What is the name of the Robert Smigel series of cartoon shorts, which air regularly on Saturday Night Live?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Tracey Ullman Show

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 31st

The Simpsons first appeared in short cartoons featured in which show in 1987?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Rosemary Harris and Jennifer Ehle. Jennifer won the award.

JLPT application is in the mail

I sent off my application today to take the level 3 test of Japanese language proficiency.

The test is Sunday, December 4th, so I have about 3 months to study and prepare.

All together, with the application fee, paying for a passport photo for the app, special mail delivery fee and the fee for the application form itself I've already paid about 7000yen ($70) to take this test, so I'm determined to make an effort to study for it and not procrastinate as I often did in college.

I also have to drive out to somewhere in Hiroshima ken to take the test that Sunday, but I should have Mark and Rusty with me, as we all decided to try for level 3 together.

So it'll be study, study, study in my free time for the next three months - but the big benefit is that hopefully my Japanese conversational ability will improve and I'll find it easier to talk with my co-workers and Japanese people.


Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, & Mark D. - karaoke

Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, & Mark D. - karaoke
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Sunday night, the 28th, a bunch of the Izumo area JETs gathered for dinner at CoCo Ichi - my favorite curry place and then a night of singing karaoke at Salsa - a local karaoke joint where you rent a private room by the hour and turn it up to 11.

Here is Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, and The Don all enraptured as Gemma and The Don put their UK upbringing to good use belting out a wonderful rendition of Blur's "Parklife."

more karaoke pics on my online photo album at Flickr and I hope to blog the rest soon.

Does a mean verson of "Johnny B. Goode"

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 30th

The 2000 Tony Awards featured a unique competition in the Best Actress in a Play category: both a mother and a daughter were nominated for the award. Who were they?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Star Trek - the original series for you Trekkers out there

Monday, August 29, 2005

Taisha JH band girls

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Last Sunday, the 21st, I went to the really nice music hall here in Taisha for a concert by my Junior High band and a few of my elementary schools.

Here are the flute players acting silly and asking me to take their picture. Wakiko, in the back left, always makes a funny face everytime I snap a pic with her in it. Her mom, Odagawa sensei, is one of the teachers at one of my elem schools, so I'm always showing her funny pics of her daughter.

My school has a pretty good music program, and the kids in the band have been coming in everyday during their summer break to practice for an upcoming competition.
We also have a pretty good chorus club at my JH, but that club is exclusively girls.

Taisha JH Band - 8th and 9th graders

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 4
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is the main Taisha JH band, composed of ni nen sei and san nen sei.

They are really good and recently won a competition where they came in first place in all of Shimane ken - the equivalent of getting first place in a state finals in the US. So now they go off and represent Shimane in a region wide competition against the other kens in the Chugoku region - Okayama, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and Tottori. Ganbatte!

Sakamoto sensei is their leader and conductor and he's a really cool guy - the only Japanese person I know with an iPod! :)

They played two songs this day - one is a short piece that all the bands in the upcoming competition will have to play and then one of their choosing - the 2nd piece is involved and complicated with starts and stops and many instruments, including those long bells in the foreground on the left and even a harp and a gong.
Funny thing is at the end of the song, it incorporates a bit of an old American song called "This Old Man" - maybe that's the title. You know it tho - "This old man, he play two, he play knick-knack on my shoe, with a knick-knack-paddy-whack give a dog a bone, this old man came rolling home."
So I hum along everytime they play it.

Taisha JH Band - ichi nen sei

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 5
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is a shot of the 7th grade band, with one of my JTEs, Moriyama sensei, at the helm.

It's a smaller unit than the main band composed of the 8th and 9th graders, but good practice before they "step up" to the main school band in their 8th grade year.

Unlike in American schools, our school bands don't march or play at school sporting events, altho they do occasionally play at school assemblies. And the bands are strictly Brass Bands - no string instruments like violins, so not an orchestra.

Taisha Sho - band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 7
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

In addition to my Junior High band, there were bands from three of my local elementary schools as well.

Here is the band from Taisha Elementary School, which is my largest elem school with about 400 students.

The conductor of their band, who is hard to see in this pic because she is wearing black and bowing, is not a regular teacher at the school, but someone they bring in special to teach the music students.

Only the 4th thru 6th graders are able to join the band and it's a much smaller ensemble than the band they'll join at Taisha Jr High if they continue to study music.

The Taisha Sho band members simply wore their school uniforms onstage, unlike the other two elem schools that follow.

Yokan Sho band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 10
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is the band from Yokan Elementary School. They went for the color coordinated blue t-shirts and looked great. Odagawa sensei, who is band conductor, is also the teacher in charge of the small English club at Yokan - she's a cool lady!
Yokan is my 3rd largest Elem and has about 175 students.

Araki Sho band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

And here is the band from Araki Elementary School. Araki is my 2nd largest elem with about 350 kids.

Araki Sho singing

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 9
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are all the kids in the Araki Elementary band singing just before they started to play their song. They look very colorful in their multi-colored t-shirts, which must have been worn by design but not speficially purchased as a "band uniform" per se.

Trivia - Monday, August 29th

Ewoks were to Return of the Jedi what Tribbles were to what TV series?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 27th & 28th

Today's trivia question is dedicated to my friend and fellow ALT - Mark D.

Complete this line from The Matrix: "There is no _________."

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. P. Diddy

Friday, August 26, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 26th

Which controversial rap impresario ran the 2003 New York Marathon and raised $2 million for the city's children?

A. P. Diddy
B. Jay-Z
C. 50 Cent
D. Eminem

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 25th

Robert Altman's 2003 film The Company includes professional ballet dancers from which corps?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
His great-great-grand-uncle is Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick. Moby's real name is Richard Melville Hall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Taisha Summer Festival

looking down main st.
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

On Monday, the 15th, Taisha - my small town - had its annual summer festival to celebrate the Obon holidays.

Here is a shot looking down the main street from the grounds of IzumoTaisha Shrine. You can see they blocked off the whole street all the way down to the large, gray concrete torii gate at the other end. Lots of people from my community turned out for the event, including many of my students.

I remember briefly stopping by this event after work last year, but I only looked around for about 30 minutes and then went home. I hadn't started teaching at that point last year and I was just an anonymous Westerner at that point.

This year, I stopped and chatted with tons of people and was stopped constantly by students. It was great to see so many of them out and enjoying themselves and not wearing their school uniform. :)

I was showing a new ALT from England around named Anna. She will be teaching at Taisha High School, so it was a good introduction to the community. EVERY student that stopped to chat with us - the first thing out of their mouth was "kanajo?"
Kanajo is Japanese for "girlfriend" - my kids are such gossip hounds!

The group of female JH students across the street in this pic started yelling "Jason-san!" before they even started to cross - I guess they missed seeing me during the summer break.

So many of my female students looked fantastic in their summer kimonos, but I didn't see any of my boys in their summer yukatas.

It was a really fun evening - I hope I get to go again next year.


dancing & music at Taisha summer festival

dancing & music at Taisha summer festival
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

They had food stalls all up and down the main street and on the grounds of IzumoTaisha shrine. They had bands performing and a dance troupe. It was a fun day and a great chance to interact with my community.

4 Taisha JH ichi nen sei

4 Taisha JH ichi nen sei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 of my 7th grade girls, two wearing kimonos. The girl on the far right always starts laughing every time I approach and start chatting - really cute and funny.

4 ni nen sei Taisha Chugakusei

4 ni nen sei Taisha Chugakusei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 of my 8th grade girls, decked out in their finest kimonos.

4 Taisha JH san nen sei

4 Taisha JH san nen sei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are more of my 9th graders, some in kimonos. My 9th grade girls this year are a great bunch of kids and are much more willing to stop and chat with me than my 9th grade boys.

cubscouts & bluebirds?

cubscouts & bluebirds?
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I got to see many of my students pulling floats and participating in the parade. Here are some of my elementary kids dressed up in scouting uniforms - I had no idea that boy scout and girl scout type troupes existed here.

three of my Taisha Elementary kids

three of my Taisha Elementary kids
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Karin, the girl in the middle in the kimono, is the 5th grade student I tutor privately on the weekends.

Can't have a parade in Japan without Ultraman

Can't have a parade in Japan without Ultraman
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Ultraman is a live-action superhero on TV here in Japan. I think he's the one in red, and the guy in blue is his friend. The guy in gray is some kind of lobster villian. The kids were digging it.

Hip-Hop hits Taisha

Hip-Hop hits Taisha
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Most of the dancing in the parade was traditional Japanese dances, but this group of young women were dancing to some hip-hop beats and gyrating up a storm.

4 Taisha HS students

4 Taisha HS students
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 girls who were 9th graders last year at my JH. Very pretty kimonos.

cool float

cool float
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

lots of cool floats in the parade - I liked the sail on this one

Trivia - Wednesday, August 24th

How did the musician Moby get his nickhame? What is his real name?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 23rd

Which one-hit wonder claimed in 1982, "I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me"?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Da Vinci Code

Monday, August 22, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 22nd

Which popular Dan Brown novel from 2003 alluded to purported conspiracies within the Christian church to downplay the importance of Mary Magdalene and other Bibilical-era women?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Sri Lanka

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 20th & 21st

Where was the Duran Duran video for "Hungry Like the Wolf" shot?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Six Taisha JH 7th graders & me

6 Taisha 7th graders & me
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is a little preview of some of the pics coming up. New ALT, Anna, took this photo of me and six of my ichi nen sei students all decked out in their summer kimonos for the local Taisha town summer festival.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 19th

The TV series Alice was based on what Academy Award-winning film?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Nathan Lane & Matthew Broderick

Thursday, August 18, 2005

on vacation

I'm on vacation this week, but I should have time to post some pictures soon, so check back later this week.

Hope all is well.


Trivia - Thursday, August 18th

Which two actors were so popular in the 2001 revival of the Broadway musical The Producers that they came back to the stage for an additional run in 2004?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Pedro Almodovar

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 17th

Before coming to America, Antonio Banderas was already a star in Europe for appearing in numerous films by which director?

A. Jean-Jacques Beineix
B. Pedro Almodovar
C. Fina Torres
D. Alejandro Amenabar

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Dogma 95

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 16th

In 1995, a group of Scandinavian filmmakers came up with a "Vow of Chastity" for their future filmmaking endeavors that included strict adherences to on-location shooting, handheld camera work, and natural lighting. What was this manifesto widely known as?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Better Off Dead

Monday, August 15, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 15th

In which John Cusack film is he dogged by a newspaper boy reclaiming two dollars?

A. Say Anything...
B. Better Off Dead
C. One Crazy Summer
D. The Sure Thing

All of the above films are among my favorites - Cusack's early work is REALLY good, and I think he's gone on to be one of our best adult actors as well. The Sure Thing, directed by Rob Reiner, and Say Anything, directed by Cameron Crowe, are both in my top 25 films of all time.

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
A gold watch

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, August 13th & 14th

In the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, what object does Christopher Walken's character manage to keep hidden while in a POW camp during the Vietnam War?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
It was stripped of producer Phil Spector's orchestral flourishes and retitled "Let It Be...Naked."

Friday, August 12, 2005

recent happenings

So much going on lately, that I haven't updated in a while.

My Japanese studying has really kicked into high gear recently, as I've been attacking the vocab and kanji I'll need to know for the level 3 JLPT with a zeal I haven't had since college.
I do feel that my Japanese is getting better and I'm hoping that by the end of the year I'll be able to hold more conversations with my co-workers in Japanese where I use actual complete sentences! :)
Recently, a new ALT who just arrived told me that I really use my hands a lot when I talk - and I realized it's from all the quasi-sign language I employ whenever I speak with Japanese people, hoping that my hand gestures will compensate for my inablilty to adequately express myself in Japanese.

Speaking of new ALTs, we've got a few in my area, including Chris, who's from Georgia and is 23, and Titia, who's from Ohio and also 23, and Angharad, who is from England. I'll post pics soon, as I took Chris & Titia to IzumoTaisha shrine this week and I'm taking Angharad on Monday.

I haven't been able to work out with the kendo team as much this week, due to other morning activities, but I hope to get back on schedule with them soon.

Kendo has reached a bit of a plateau for me, as far as practicing with my Junior High team. I go in, and participate in the warm-up activites, and then go off to the side of the dojo where I work out alone while the team does group or pair activites leading up to small matches. I really can't impose and ask to join in the actual one-on-one fighting for a few reasons:
1 - I'm not really as good as the kids on my team - they've all been doing kendo way longer than me - and I'd most likely be a negative stimulant to their ability. Think of it like this - if I was hanging out with the tennis team or the baseball team, I wouldn' expect to have a turn at bat or play in a match - the kids need to practice against each other and not have to worry about some old guy who wants to play. :)
2 - I still can't understand all the directions the coach is giving in Japanese, so I have to watch the other players for a minute before I understand what the next drill or practice is.

So I practice by myself for about 30 minutes and then usually go lift weights for about 30 minutes. All the solo practice has honed my attacking skills, but my defensive skills are lacking, simply because I rarely get to practice against another living person who will hit me back.

Kendo has been a great experince so far, but I think when my san nen sei "retire" later this year, I may retire as well. Maybe I could find an adult class or kendo club that would take me, and then get more one-on-one instruction and guidance, but I really am not going to learn that much more from my Junior High participation.

All the working out has had its benefits. When I went for a recent medical check up (which is a story in itself), I got to see how much I weigh for the first time since arriving last year. The scale in the nurses office at my JH only goes up to 100 kilos (220 lbs) so I could never see where I was at.
I'm at 120.2 kilos or about 264 lbs. I came to Japan last year weighing around 280, so I've lost about 15 pounds. Feels good and I hope to lose even more. I'm also in better shape due to kendo and bike riding. The other morning at kendo we had to do "500 stroke" practice, which is where we take our sword and pretend to hit our opponents head 100 times in quick succession. We did this 5 times. By the end I was a little sore, because I'd chosen a heavier sword, made of solid wood, as opposed to my regular shinai which is made of bamboo strips bound together by strips of leather. The next day I was really sore - but I have muscle definition for the first time in years, so that's cool.

OK - it's now lunch time and my yummy plate of yakisoba awaits. More soon.


Trivia - Friday, August 12th

How was the Beatles' 2003 rerelease of "Let It Be" different from the original recording?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 11th

What was the name of the man-eating plant owned by Morticia Addams on the TV series The Addams Family?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Citizen Kane

The thing about Kane is that I don't think many people in their 20s and 30s have seen it - perhaps because it is in Black & White, or because it was made in the 40s and seems "old" - but it is an amazingly vital and impressive film, even in the 21st century. Rent it soon and watch it if you've never seen it - or rent it and watch it again if it's been a while - it rewards repeat viewings.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 10th

Which film did the American Film Institute vote the no. 1 film of all time in 1998?

A. Gone with the Wind
B. The Wizard of Oz
C. Citizen Kane
D. Lawrence of Arabia

You really owe it to yourself to make sure you see ALL of the films listed above -all of them are great films - and I thought they made Casablanca number one, but it's not even one of the choices.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Wilmington, Delaware

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 9th

In what unlikely city does David Fincher's 1999 film Fight Club appear to take place?

A. Phoenix, Arizona
B. Newark, New Jersey
C. Wilmington, Delaware
D. Jacksonville, Florida

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge

Monday, August 08, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 8th

What three films make up Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
They lived on 358 Chauncey Street in Brooklyn; this was actually Jackie Gleason's address while growing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, although the show is set in Bensonhurst.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hiroshima Peace Park (Heiwa Koen)

Hiroshima Peace Park - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005 marks the 60 year anniversary of the day when the American military dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima.

There was a huge gathering of people in Hiroshima today and while I couldn't attend, I watched some footage on the news that showed the huge crowds attending the memorial service and peace concert held at the site of the original epicenter of the blast.

Touring the peace musuem near the park last May was one of the most moving experiences I've had in Japan, one filled with tremendous sadness and anger and at the end a glimmer of hope. Hiroshima has rebuilt itself into a magnificent city and flowers and trees and grass grow at the site where scientists had predicted that nothing would grow for decades.

There will be similar ceremonies happening in Nagasaki on Tuesday the 9th to mark the 60th anniversary of another bomb being dropped on that city.

I haven't been to Nagasaki yet, but I hope to go later this year.

Peace -

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

"No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded." -Margaret
Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

A-bomb Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Park - 12
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I have a shot of this monument looking straight on in my blog here in the May archive. As you look through it you can see the eternal flame, that will remain lit as long as nuclear wepaons remain in the world and the Atomic Dome in the distance.

It's a small and simple memorial, and the stone box in the center holds the names of all those that have died from the initial blast and the radiation it brought. They add names each year on August 6th of all those elderly Japanese that have passed away in the past year but were in Hiroshima the day of the blast. Not many survivors are left.

Hiroshima - The Atomic Dome

Hiroshima Peace Park - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

One of the few structures near the epicenter of the blast to remain standing, The Atomic Dome is now a national landmark and one of the most visible reminders of the devestation caused by the atomic blast.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 6th & 7th

Where do Ralph and Alice Kramden live on the TV show The Honeymooners?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
He had a severe headache that turned out to be a brain aneurysm.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 5th

Why did REM drummer Bill Berry leave the stage during a 1995 concert in Switzerland?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Tropicana Club

I would have gotten yesterday's answer wrong - I thought the club was called "Club Babaloo."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 4th

On the TV show I Love Lucy, what was the name of the club where Desi Arnaz worked?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Tim Robbins

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 3rd

The son of a folk singer from the '60s group the Highwaymen, which actor-director cowrote all the folk songs for his film Bob Roberts with his brother?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 2nd

The group Toto had a hit in 1982 with a song celebrating which continent?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. "Left Eye"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 1st

The late Lisa Lopes of the group TLC was better known by what nickname?

A. "Left Eye"
B. "T-Boz"
C. "Lana"
D. "Lil' Lisa"

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, July 30th & 31st

Which extremely successful animation studio started out as the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, Ltd. but was established as an independent company in 1986?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Lawrence of Arabia

Friday, July 29, 2005

Utani & me - farewell enkai

Utani & me - farewell enkai
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Yesterday marked my one year anniversary since I came to Japan. My supervisor for my whole first year was a great guy named Utani-san. He got a new job last week with another division of the Government office in Izumo City, so he packed up his desk on Wednesday and that night we had a farewell party for him.

It's not like I'll never see him again - Izumo City now technically is in charge of Taisha too, since the two cities merged last April, but I will miss having him as my supervisor. He only spoke a little English, but he tried really hard and was an immense help this time last year when I was fresh off the plane from Tokyo.
And he's a cool guy - young and energetic and always trying to be helpful. He got married at IzumoTaisha shrine last October, but he still likes to go out and have a drink and sing karaoke.

He now works in an office I'll go to occasionally when I'm over in Izumo, so I'll see him from time to time. He wanted me to make tacos for him and his wife, so hopefully I'll still get a chance to do that.

My new supervisor is a very nice woman named Hirosawa-san, but she speaks even less English than Utani-san, so I'm guessing most of our conversations will be in Japanese.

The farewell party was a small gathering of about 8 people from just the Taisha office all crammed into a very small, 10x5 room where we sat on the floor and drank and ate for about 3 hours. My biggest problem with these small spaces parties is that almost everyone at the party smoked, so by the end of the night the cigarette smoke was really getting to me.
For the nijikai - 2nd party or after party - we all trundled off to a local bar that has karaoke. After having spent 3 hours barely speaking (since no one at the party really speaks English) I wasn't too enthusiastic about spending even more time with the same group as they continued to drink. But karaoke has a strange way of breaking down barriers and it wasn't long before I was singing Simon & Garfunkel duets in English with my BoE boss and changing the words of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" to "Utani be good" and serenading the bar owner with my throaty rendition of Sinatra's "New York, New York."

So we said our goodbyes to Utani san, but no one was too sad as we all know we'll still see him.

As for being here a year already - it's a cliche, but the time has gone by really fast. Not ALL of the time, but most of it. I am looking forward to another year, cuz this time I'll know what to expect 70% of the time when they tell me this event or that event is coming up.

Worked out with the kendo team today for the first time in about a month - so I know I'm gonna be sore tomorrow. But I have to get up early tomorrow even tho it's Saturday to attend a practice kendo match between my JH and two other Izumo JHs. After that we're gonna have a BBQ lunch - so that should be fun as long as it doesn't rain, which it has been doing all day today. Makes it a little less hot, but also makes it really humid. Lukcily my BoE, where I'm typing this, has Air Con, so I'll be relatively comfortable at work for the month of August before I return to my schools in September.

"I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps..."

Trivia - Friday, July 29th

Which classic 1962 film, although it clocks in at 216 minutes, has no women in speaking roles?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Upper East Side, in the 70s

Thursday, July 28, 2005

studying Kanji

So I've decided to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) in December of this year. The test has 4 levels of difficulty with level 4 being the easiest and level 1 requiring near fluency to pass.

I'm going to take the level 3 test, because I want to push myself a little to study this year and really improve my Japanese.

One of the hardest parts of learning Japanese is getting used to reading the kanji - the pictograms that represent whole words or parts of words and make up the bulk of written Japanese. If you are new to the Japanese language and want to know more about what a kanji is, Click Here.

So I found this website that lists all the JLPT kanji I'll need for the level 3 test and even has a random test function so I can quiz myself.

Here is the link:

It's a really good little site and I'm sure will be very helpful in the coming months as I study.

Curiously, altho they require knowledge of 80 basic kanji for the level 4 test, the level 3 test (which requires you to know 165 kanji) is not cumulative, as you'll only be tested on the 165 required for level 3. Luckily I know the 80 basic kanji from level 4 already, from my Japanese language courses at college, so I can simply concentrate on level 3.

Click Here for a direct link to the level 3 kanji.

If you're reading this and you have taken the JLPT before or have advice/tips about studying kanji, please leave me a comment - I'd love to hear what you know.

Here is a link to info on the JLPT.
And here is a LINK to specific info for this year's test, including the application process and deadline.

OK - I'm off to study. :)


Trivia - Thursday, July 28th

Where in New York City does Carrie live on Sex in the City?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Queensborough-59th Street Bridge

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, July 27th

Which oft-overlooked New York City landmark was promiently featured in the climax of 2002's Spider-Man?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Dave Eggers

Taki Beach - group shot

Taki Beach
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Last Sunday, the 24th, four of us from Izumo set out by train to the town of Taki, which has a really nice beach. Taki is easy to spot as you drive along the Shimane coast because of the distinctive windmills that dominate the local skyline.

Here is Satoko, Rusty, and Mark fresh from a swim. We arrived around 2pm, but had to leave at 4pm so we could get home in time to see the final bouts in the Nagoya sumo tournament (Our Boy, Asashoryu, won again!).

It was a fun day, and the beach is really nice. It's only about 20 minutes away by train, which costs about $6 for a roundtrip ticket.

This was the first Sunday after the start of summer vacation for school kids across Japan, so it was crowded with families and young people, but not near as crowded as the beaches can get back home in San Diego, California.

I got a little sun and relaxed a bit, so it was a good day and I'm sure we'll all go again soon.

Taki Beach - Rusty floating

Taki Beach
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is Rusty floating in the calm and very warm waters of the Japan Sea, off the coast of Shimane ken.

There are no waves to speak of at this beach, so most of the Japanese bathers had inflatable rafts or inner tubes to lazily float around on.

While I enjoy the waves at the beaches in San Diego, the water here was so warm you could go right in without hesitation. And there was a nice breeze blowing all afternoon that kept it from getting too hot.

Taki Beach - "The Don"

Taki Beach
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is our friend, and fellow Izumo ALT, Mark "The Don" DeFusco in a particularly Zen moment. Mark managed to make it all the way out to the concrete pylons in the background with Rusty, despite not being the world's best swimmer. It didn't hurt that he could touch bottom almost the whole way out there.

Taki Beach - me & the boys

Taki Beach
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Finally, here is one of me and a group of young Japanese guys that kind of adopted our little group and hung out with us that afternoon. I think they were initially attracted by the music I was playing on the portable CD player I brought along.

(Digression: I don't think Japanese people play their own music out loud in public places too much, as I was the only person on the beach with music playing that I saw. And I have to stop calling my portable CD player a "Boom Box" or "Jam Box" - i get snickers of derision from the younglings I hang out with every time I do)

We chatted a little, and at one point they decided to bury their friend in the sand and provide him with anatomically correct sand genetalia - slightly amusing in a frat boy sort of way. I was taking pics of the ocean, when the guy with the orange hair asked me to take a picture, so I snapped one of his group - but he meant for us to take one together - so they got behind me and I extended my arm and snapped this pic. Don't think they'll ever see it, but maybe he sensed that I would show it to other people and therefore spread this image of his visage far and wide.
I did give him my business card with my email and told him he could email me and I would send him the pic - to which he replied "Fuck You." He meant to say "Thank You", but got confused - he was peppering his little bit of English all afternoon with Fuck and Shit, I guess trying to impress me with his command of American slang.

I'm wearing my back-up sunglasses here and my Spider-Man movie hat, which fell in the water and got soaked. And my Superman t-shirt - i was a walking advertisement for American comics. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, July 26th

Which author's 2000 memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, dealt with his struggle to raise his younger brother following the sudden death of their parents?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
False: The original drummer was Pete Best.

The above answer to Monday's question begets an interesting bit of Beatles trivia - Ringo Starr is both the oldest and youngest Beatle. He is the oldest in age, but he joined the group last, thus being the most junior member.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Taisha Sho - "What do you want?"

Lunch time and classes at Taisha Sho - 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My digital camera has one annoying feature - it takes about a second after you hit the button for the camera to actually take the picture. I always seem to miss the precise moment I want to capture. But here is one example of getting it just right... This young boy at Taisha Elementary turned to look and his glasses were perfect - a future CPA perhaps??

I'll post a few random pics of my kids here just for fun - I'll miss seeing them everyday now that it is summer vacation.

Izumo Concert with Taisha JH band kids

Izumo Concert with Taisha JH band kids - 21
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

L to R: Sayako, Masako, Yuki, Marina, Chikako

My Band Girls ROCK!