Friday, December 15, 2006

Who's coming to town?

Xmas at Usagi Sho - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Santa Jason is coming to town! :)

This is me decked out in a fantastic Santa suit for an Xmas party at my tiny elementary school - Usagi Sho.

I only got to be Santa san twice this year, because I'm leaving tomorrow - yes - I'm heading home to America!!!

I took this next week off school - I'll miss 6 days all together - and I'm flying home to San Diego on Sunday and I won't be back until January 6th. Almost three full weeks of battery recharge with my whole family in town for the holidays. With my folks being in England and my brother being in Iraq for the past year, and of course with me in Japan, it's been a long time since we've all been together at the holidays - so I'm really excited to be heading home - my first time to leave Japan since March of 2005.

This might be my last post for a while, so I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic New Year!

Click on this pic to be taken to a bunch of random holiday pics I took this past week.

ho ho ho...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Xmas lesson with Araki eigo club

Xmas lesson with Araki eigo club - 6.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

ALTs - Click to see some examples of this very simple to make Holiday Card. I found the idea online at a good site for games for your classroom - i also got a great printable pattern for making snowflakes.

**Yes, I know this picture shows the card upside down, but it just looked even weirder when I flipped it over.

Monday, December 04, 2006

cooking French toast with Opt-A

cooking French toast with Opt-A - 5.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

click on this pic to go to my Flickr site to see pics of my 9th graders and my elementary school kids in one of my English clubs cooking French Toast.

I chose FT since I really enjoy eating it, it's easy to prepare and cook and most of the kids haven't eaten it before. I had some syrup my friend, Emily, had bought me when she was home in America, so that made it even better. The kids had fun, there was some English involved and we all ate well - Japanese bread is HUGE!

the "C" stands for culinary gourmet! (NOT!)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Japanese students singing Xmas song

Here are my kids in the Araki Sho eigo club singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."


Sept 06 trip - DAY THREE - Nara

Sept 06 trip - DAY THREE - Nara - 26.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

OK - here is the last batch of pics from my September trip to Kyoto.

This was Monday, September 18th - a national holiday in Japan - "Respect for the Aged Day."

Kazuki met me at my hotel for the 9am checkout, we stuffed my stuff in a train station locker and then set out for Nara, which is about an hour away from Kyoto by train.

You can read more about what we saw and why Nara is an important site by checking out all the pics on my Flickr site.

Seeing the "Daibutsu" (Great Buddha) at Todai-ji was perhaps the highlight of an overall amazing weekend. The sheer size was so impressive - I was truly in awe walking around it. Not sure why it impressed me so - perhaps I was thinking about how monumental it must have been for Buddhist pilgrims to see it back in the 800s or 900s, let alone for us jaded, modern-day tourists.

I'm not a religious person at all, but studying world religions in college, I'll admit Buddhism had an appeal for me - and seeing this fantastic monument was a moving experience for me - far more so than I ever thought it would be.

We didn't really have time to explore the rest of the park at Nara, but I'd like to go back again and walk around even more - maybe on a day when it's less hot outside and more comfortable to walk around.

Kazuki and I had some lunch and then jumped back on a train to Kyoto and then to Osaka, as I had to book my return bus ticket from Osaka. We had some tasty okonomiyaki at a small place in the Osaka eki and then it was on the bus for the 6 hour journey back to Izumo.

An excellent weekend of sight seeing!


Monday, November 27, 2006

walking jikoshokai with shogakusei

another video of my so-cute-it-hurts shogakusei and my friend, Emily, on our way to make Japanese sweets on an outing to Matsue organized by the Taisha town council.


Sept 06 trip - DAY TWO - Kyoto

xSept 06 trip - DAY TWO - Kyoto - 120.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are the pics from Day Two of my September Kyoto trip.

I won't go into too much detail here - I've added extensive notes below the individual pics on my Flickr site.

It was a great day - I got to see some of the most important sites, including Kiyomizudera and we had two great meals - Italian food for lunch and Chinese food for dinner.

Next up is Monday - and our trip out of Kyoto to nearby Nara.

more to come....


Friday, November 24, 2006

Sept 06 trip - DAY ONE - Kyoto

Sept 06 trip - DAY ONE - Kyoto - 26.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Hey Gang,

I'm finally getting around to uploading my Kyoto trip pics.

Up now are the pics from Day One - Saturday, September 16th.

My friend, Kazuki, whom I met over the internet, met me at the bus station at around 2pm and we used the rest of the day to see a few of the sites around Kyoto before spending the entire day on Sunday sightseeing.

We went to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, a famous picture-postcard spot surrounded by a wonderful garden.

We also had a great meal at an Irish Pub in the Gion district called Taggs (is that right Kazuki?). The assortment of restaurants is astonishing in Kyoto - especially compared to the meager selection out in Shimane.

And then we went to a cultural play, presenting many different cultural arts in one variety show. We walked through the famous Geisha district to get to the theatre, but we didn't spot any geisha walking about.

It was a good first day, despite the heat. Sunday would prove to be an even better day, but exhausting. I'll post those pics soon.

Oh, and on a weird side note, I fell down after getting out of the subway on the way to the hotel at the beginning of the day and ripped my favorite black jeans and bloodied up my knee. Not a good start, but it was ok.

Enjoy the pics!

Andi Watson

Originally uploaded by andi watson.

One of my favorite comic artists and graphic novelists - Andi Watson - has a Flickr page where he lets his fans behind the scenes, with glimpses into his sketchbook and ongoing projects.

He's incredibly talented and the nicest guy - every year at the big San Diego Con I would get him to sketch something for me. He can do all genres, but he excels at everyday people in everyday situations. But I also like his fun stuff, like these sketches of Buffy characters using the "super-deformed" style popular here in Japan.

You can find his graphic novels on Amazon, just search his name. I've even posted reviews there for a few of his books.

And click on this link to see more from his sketchbook.

He uses few lines and his work is often presented in black & white, but his sense of style is amazing, and his composition and use of negative space is fantastic.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

USJ in Osaka - Oct '06

USJ in Osaka - Oct '06 - 26.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

so I'm still jumping around time-wise - these pics are from less than a month ago...

I met my friend, Kazuki, in Kyoto, and along with two of her friends, Taka san and Yuka chan, we joined a group from Izumo at USJ (Universal Studios Japan) for a day of fun and sun.

It was a great time, and I hope we can go again. I love theme parks, and have been to the Universal Studios in California many times, so it was cool to compare the two.

It's a fun day out and so easy to get to by train - i highly recommend it if you haven't been yet.

Enjoy the pics!

2006 Speech Contests

2006 L. Hearn Speech Contest - 3.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Click on this pic to be taken to 2 pages of pics of my kids in three specch contests: Lafcadio Hearn in Matsue, Hokuryo High School in Izumo and Gotsu HS in Gotsu.

Last year Taisha Chu had quite a successful speech season, winning at least one prize at each contest we went to. And one of my students won a prize at the first contest of this year, so that meant 4 contests in a row with at least one winner. But the streak was broken at Hokuryo and unfortuantely not reversed at Gotsu, with no winners at either of those contests this year.

Hearn is the hardest contest we go to each year - the selections are about 2 pages that the kids have to memorize and the English is somewhat antiquated and stilted at times - Hearn was an Irish writer who lived in Shimane over 100 years ago and wrote stories about his life in Japan and he also translated many Japanese myths into English.
Mami won a prize for her recitation of "Butterflies" which I've one student perform each of my 3 years, and Wakiko did a terrific job with her recitation of "Ubazakura" but didn't make the winner's circle this year. She loves English though and I know she'll try again in High School.

Mami became my "champion" student in a way - she entered two contests with me and won a prize both times, the only student I have to do that.

The other pics include new students trying their first contest this year. I was truly and deeply impressed with how hard two of my soccer boys, Junpei and Tsuyoshi, worked on their speeches and how much they improved. From barely being able to read their selections to getting up in front of an audience and delivering their speechs in loud voices with gestures, full of self-confidence - I was truly proud of them and realized that the journey is more important than wether they get a prize or not. The satisfaction is in the doing.
Yuna also did tremendously well for an ichi nen sei student, and I think she had a fun time, so she'll be back for more.

Both Saki and Ayaka got sick during our rehearsal time, so neither was able to fully deliver, but both did fine and I think both gained from the experience. It's tough, because I ask my speech kids to do a little bit of "acting" to really sell their speeches, but both of these girls, despite being genki and friendly, were reluctant to go the extra steps and constant cries of "hazukashii" (embarrassing) were heard. But both did a fine job with pronunciation and I think their English improved as a result of their involvement.

I urge any of you ALTs reading this to get involved with your kids in Speech Contests! It's a great way to spend time with your kids and get to know a few of them a little better.

Of course it helps to have an enthusiastic JTE helping or leading the way, so I need to acknowledge my speech champion - Yamamoto sensei, who lead the way last year and this year and really gave of her time to help the kids do well.

If my transfer to a High School goes thru, I hope I can continue to help kids with speech contests at that level.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Araki Eigo club Halloween

I just added 4 more short videos, including this one, of Halloween activities at one of my elementary schools - Araki Shogakko.


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


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

learning traditional Japanese dance

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

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

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

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

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

grumpy old man?

skit rehearsal at the Summer Language Course

skit rehearsal - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 25, 2006

July 4th - a full day @ Taisha Sho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 21, 2006

my Kyoto weekend - some preliminary pics

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

Hey Gang,

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

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

Peace be with you,

The Taisha HS Dance Team

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2006

off to Kyoto

Hello All -

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you have a good weekend too!


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Eating Lunch with 1-3 class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click on this pic for more pics from this day.


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

Thursday, September 07, 2006

cards for the Blue Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sports Day prep

Sports Day prep
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

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

So hopefully updates galore will be forthcoming.

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

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

More to come soon - i promise! :)


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kendo practice tourney at Taisha Jr High

Kendo practice tourney @ TJH - 29
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The boys kendo team from my school, Taisha Jr High, recently won the Shimane regional competition and will now go on to represent Shimane at the Chugoku regional competition. Go Team!

Click here for some pictures of a practice tournament my school hosted back in July to help the kids practice for the Shimane tournament.

I still pracitce with the team, but not as much as I used to. I usually don't get fully suited out - but I will a few more times before I leave next year. The players in this picture are girls from another school. My team has 5 female players, and about 16 male players spread out over the 3 grade levels.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Shout out to my buddy Chris

I'm getting old folks - nothing I can do about it - it's just happening.

Next year will be my 20 year High School reunion! Where did those 20 years go??

Luckily, I have stayed in touch with a few friends from Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar, CA, where I graduated in 1987.

One of those friends is my buddy Chris, who now lives near Los Angeles and works for Mickey Mouse.

Chris is perhaps the most creatively talented person I have ever known - and right now he's using a small part of his creative energy to build an eclectic blog site you can access by clicking Here.

It's a cool website highlighting interesting mixes of music created by Chris and old albums he's finding online and making available via the new net sharing downloading sites.

Chris was (and probably stil is) a rapid Old School, Kirk & Spock Star Trek fan, so I found this video online and I want to share it with him and all of you: Click Here (this link is for Quick Time)
go Here if you don't have QT and select the Jay Leno performance from Oct 22nd.

A digression: I can safely say I am the biggest Joe Jackson fan in Japan. Well, there are some extreme Japanese fans out there, so maybe I can safely say I am the biggest gaijin Joe Jackson fan in Japan. He was and still is an incredible musician and songwriter, a great live performer, and he is everything that was cool in the 80s for me.

I must say as well that one of the best CDs I've bought in the past few years has been William Shatner's album entitled "Has Been."
It's a collaboration with Ben Folds and features some interesting guest stars, and I've been playing it a lot lately - iTunes also has a live version of the song "It Hasn't Happened Yet" that you can download for $1 that is even better than the version on the CD.

So check out Chris' site and click on the links for some cool music and videos.

What do you think you'll be doing when your 20year reunion comes up? Will you go?


Trivia for week of August 14th

Wow - it's been a while since I've updated trivia. Sorry if you've been coming for a new question and not seeing one.

Here is this week's question followed by the answer for the question I asked way back on July 10th.

In which Bruce Springsteen video can a young Courteney Cox be seen dancing with The Boss?

July 10th's Answer (highlight line below):
Barbara Harris & Jodie Foster

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ichi Nen Sei girls - basketball sports day - 2

Ichi Nen Sei girls - basketball sports day - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

What's interesting for me to watch is how the girls bond now that they are Jr High students. They seem to form friendships with the students in their new class and/or in their new club. Meaning that what elementary school they came from seems less important than if they are in the band together or on the volleyball team together or in class 1-2 or 1-5 together. Which makes sense since they will spend so much time with that particular group of students.

For instance, this picture represents girls from 3 of my local elementary schools who are all now in the same class at my Jr High.

And I'm already starting to get sentimental about these picture oportunities, despite the fact that I have an entire year to go before I leave Taisha. I know now that every event I attend will be my last - my last Sports Day, my last speech contests, my last time being Santa at the local Kindergartens, my last graduation, etc.

I really hope this year is my best yet!

an old softie

Ichi Nen Sei girls - basketball sports day

Ichi Nen Sei girls - basketball sports day - 20
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

click this pic for a bunch more of my 7th grade girls playing basketball and my 7th grade boys playing soccer on their class sports day in July.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer '06 regional T&F meet

Summer '06 regional T&F meet - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I joined some of my Track and Field kids out at Hamayama park on Wednesday morning to watch them try and qualify for the Chugoku regionals. Tuesday was the running events, and today was the field events, including two of my kids in the high jump - Wakiko and Yuma - both 9th graders.

It was really hot! So I have a hat (which says Taisha 'natch), a sweat towel, and off camera I'm holding a fan. Gotta be prepared!

Wakiko & Yuma both missed qualifying, but they did their best.

taking the new ALTs to Hinomisaki

taking the new ALTs to Hinomisaki - 11
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So the new Izumo area ALTs have arrived and we got a bunch of new people this year.

Without going into too many details that would only interest a fellow ALT - Izumo increased its amount of teachers so that each of the 6 Izumo area Jr Highs now has its own ALT.

Lisa left, so that leaves third-year Rusty and second-year Chris to be joined by (left to right) Angelo from South Africa, Eric E. from America, Ewan from Scotland and Hannah from Wales.

We also got two new ALTs (Eric N. & Ivy - both Americans) out in Hirata, which is about 20 minutes away but technically part of Izumo now, a new ALT out in Sada (Sam from New Zealand), a married couple taking over Zach's High Schools and two new CIRs - Pia (from Finland) and Judy (from California).

So lots of new folks in and around Izumo. I spent a few days acting as tour guide to some of the local sites like Izumo Taisha shrine and the lighthouse at Hinomisaki.

They all seem like decent folk and I look forward to getting to know each of them over the coming year.

Enjoy the pics!

Ni Nen Sei Sports Day - Girls' Basketball

Ni Nen Sei Sports Day - Girls' Basketball - 7
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Click on this pic to see a whole bunch of pictures of my 8th grade girls playing basketball in a super hot gym.

The boys got to play soccer outside where it was equally hot, but at least there was a little breeze.

Our main gym is on the 2nd floor (the kendo and judo dojo are underneath on the first floor) and I made a joke with my kendo coach (seated in the background of this pic) when a ball went out onto the balcony that it went over the railing and smashed the window of his car parked below. He was not entirely amused.
But the next day he was calling me a "gifted fortune teller" since that exact thing happened when the 7th grade girls were playing and he had to have his car towed to a nearby glass shop to get the windshield replaced. I felt really bad, but you can't say I didn't warn him sortof.

Every year the 8th grade class takes a 3-day field trip to Osaka and Kyoto in September. Last year I asked to go, but they basically made up excuses why I couldn't. This year tho I'm sitting with the 8th grade teachers for the first time, so it'll be interesting to see if they invite me to go along. I would like to go since the kids get to go to USJ (Universal Studios Japan) in Osaka and I would have a blast riding the Spider-Man and Jurassic Park rides with them.

Anyway - I hope to post a bunch of pics in the next few days, but I'm jumping all around time wise.


Monday, August 07, 2006

class picture day with 3-4 class at IzumoTaisha

class picture day w: 3-4 class - 12
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I tagged along with 3-4 class as they walked up to our local shrine - IzumoTaisha - for their class picture for the san nen sei yearbook they'll all get when they graduate in March.

It was July 11th and it was HOT, but the kids never mind getting out of school for a few hours, even if it means having to pose in the hot sun for pictures.

As you can see, IT makes a pretty nifty backdrop for a class pic. The other 4 homerooms in the 9th grade go to various locations around Taisha, like the old JR station and the Winery, but I think IT is one of the best locations.

You can also see that boys outnumber girls in this class - which is true across the board in my Jr high classes.

Click on this pic for more pics from the day.

Class 3-3 Pencil Cases

Class 3-3 Pencil Cases - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

more fun pencil cases - this time from class 3-3.

I hope to upload MANY pictures this week, so check back from time to time for more fun pics.

I've been taking tons of pictures lately too. I just passed the 4000 picture mark - i can't even begin to think about what that would have cost me if I'd had to get all that film developed and printed. Thank god for digital cameras! :)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

2006 Leaver's Party in Sada

2006 Leaver's Party in Sada - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The end of July/beginning of August is the time when we say goodbye to JETs who are leaving the programme and heading home and say hello to the fresh recruits who arrive in Shimane from Tokyo Orientation stunned at how hot it is in Japan in August.

We had a nice party for the JETs who are leaving at Sada Forrest Park. BBQ food and a cool slideshow by AJET President Ben and the AJET Awards.

I was given the award for "SuperJET" - mostly due to my presentation in Kobe I would guess. It was nice to get an award from my peers, so thanks to those who voted for me. :)

We had this discussion on the Shimane JETs webboard a few months ago - while I think I would feel OK classifying myself as a Super ALT, I don't think I quite make the grade as a "Super JET." I do my best to attend JET functions and I try to get to know as many JETs as possible, but I'm not as active in weekend activities as many other JETs.
But I think I'm pretty kick-ass as an ALT - the job part of being a JET. I need to work on the "Fun" part of being a JET a bit more and socialize a bit more since it's my last year now and I've got the teaching part wired.

Click on the pic for more pics from the night.


roku nen sei and Mayuko & Mihoko

roku nen sei and Mayuko & Mihoko
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are some of the 6th graders at one of my Elementary schools - Taisha Sho. Also in the pic are the two women who now teach "Super English" classes with the 6th graders every week - Mayuko & Mihoko.

These girls will graduate next March and then join me at Taisha Chu next April - my last class of new ichi nen sei before I leave Taisha next July.

Super English is the name for the program now in every elementary school in the Izumo area, where local people come in and teach supplementary English lessons 3 times a week with only the 6th graders in an attempt to get them more prepared for 7th grade English. It's been happening in some Izumo schools for a few years now, but this is the first year they're trying it at my schools in the Taisha area. I've only participated in Super English lessons at Taisha Sho, but I think I'll be asked to join in at Araki and Yokan Sho as well.

I've heard mixed reports from other ALTs about the merits of this program, and I'll refrain from any comment yet since it's just started in my area. But more English can only be a good thing in my opinion. And the kids at Taisha Sho are lucky because Mihoko and Mayuko are young and fun and speak pretty good English.

This day we studied the alphabet letters - and played my made-up game called "Romaji Bingo." It's usually a big hit with my classes and the Spongebob stickers as prizes certainly don't hurt. :)


Friday, July 21, 2006

Fun @ Yokan Sho

Fun @ Yokan Sho - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

On Wednesday, July 12th, I spent the entire day at one of my elementary schools - Yokan Sho.

They had scheduled me to teach 5 periods in a row and then have English club 6th period, but I told them that is just too much genki - these kids wear me out, so I had them reschedule slightly to give me one rest period.

Still, I taught 3 classes, had a rest period, ate lunch with the kids, taught one more class and then had English club. It was a full day, and it was HOT that day - I think I changed clothes 3 times.

And to top it all off, when I was done, I jumped in my car (God, how I love having a car now) and sped off to a local High School to judge a speech contest as a favor for another ALT.

You find the energy cuz you feed off the kids - they are so happy to see you and have such fun in the lessons it does make the time go by quickly.

Funny thing at lunch - the 5th graders who I ate with that day group their desks into little circles at lunch time, so one kids from each group did JANKEN to see which group I would sit with. The group that won didn't talk to me AT ALL the entire time - they just ate and grunted when I tried to ask a few questions... haha. Oh well - you get unconditional love on the one hand and you're shunned by 10 year olds on the other. All is a day's work for Super JET.

Oh yeah - I am now officially a Super JET. I got an award to prove it and everything. More details about that soon. You gotta leave your readers wanting more... :P


Yasugi Trivia Night

Yasugi Trivia Night - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Linda - the CIR out in Yasugi, hosted a Trivia Night, so I dragged Irish Mark, and Ang and Ang brought two of her Japanese friends along and we went for a night of questions to stump our collective brains. Had much fun! And we crushed the competition... LOL

Yokan Eigo Club 2006-2007

Yokan Eigo Club 2006-2007
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is my whole English Club at Yokan Shogakko this year.
All girls this time - two 4th graders, three 5th graders and one 6th grader.
from left: Ayane, Shiori, Kanoko, Shiori, Yuka and Wakako.
They've been a fun bunch so far - we meet about once a month for one hour of English fun.

Hirata HS - Gemma's ESS club - group

Hirata HS - Gemma's ESS club - 4
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The whole genki club. I'm sure their speeches were wonderful!


Hirata HS - Gemma's ESS club

Hirata HS - Gemma's ESS club - 11
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I try to help out other JETs as much as I can, and I sometimes ask them to return the favor by helping me with events here in Taisha. We all like seeing each other and lending a hand, but sometimes the Japanese educational bureaucracy gets in the way.

Anyway, my fellow ALT Gemma was having a small speech contest for just the high school students in her ESS club. I said I'd come along to help judge.

Well, that day was a heckuva day and I ended up getting a bit lost on the way, so I arrived a wee bit late - ok it was over an hour late, and I missed all the speeches. :(

But Gemma had me up on stage with Cat and Heidi to help give out the awards and prizes and we had fun afterwards mingling and eating and Gemma even made us line dance.

It was a fun afternoon.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

CHESS 2006

CHESS 2006 - Day TWO - 50
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Once again this year I participated in a 3-day camp for High School students here in Shimane. The camp is called CHESS (Camp for High School English Students of Shimane) and it's been taking place in my prefecture for about 15 years now.

Last year we had about 80 students and we gathered at a facility in Gotsu, but this year we had less students, about 60, and we gathered at a different facility near Mt. Sanbe.

The other change for me from last year was my assignment - last year I was an assitant group leader, sheperding a group of 7 students around for the 3 days, helping them prepare a skit to perform on the final day. That was cool, cuz I got to bond with that small group of kids.

This year, I was put in charge of a workshop - The Tricky Mysteries (Trivia) workshop, so I got to see all ten groups over the course of 5 workshops. This was also fun, as I love trivia and it was fun to see all the groups competing. Also, it gave me a little more free time to simply interact with all the kids, as I had none of the pressure of trying to get the skit ready for Sunday.

Oh yeah, the camp was on a Friday thru Sunday this year, which was a change from the midweek schedule last year.
And the final day of the camp was also the day of my Mom's birthday, the Wimbledon tennis final and the World Cup soccer final. It was a busy weekend! :)

So click on this picture and you'll be taken to my online site which has about 70 or 80 pics from CHESS this year.

The coolest thing for me at CHESS is getting to actually have conversations in ENglish with students. Most of the kids who come to the camp really like English, and since they're older than the students I teach at Jr High or Elementary school, they can actually talk to you in English - which is so Cool!

And I got to see some of my former Jr High students who are now in High School.

Anyway - it was three days of heat, mosquitos, "viking-style" meals, one cold shower, late nights and I loved it all - one of the best work-related activities I do ALL year. Can't wait to go again next year for my final time.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The 2006 Chugokku Cup

The 2006 Chugokku Cup - 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The Shimane JETs have their own soccer team - The Shimane Samurai Superstars. They have a mens' team and a womens' team and they play other adult teams for fun.

This was a tournament largely put together by Shimane ALT Cleve and held this year on Saturday, June 17th, at the amazing Hamayama Park sports facility in my town, Taisha.

Cleve asked me to help out in the announcer's booth for the day and I happy to oblige.

I got to watch some fun soccer and cheer on my friends, who are decked out in red in this pic.

Chugokku is the region of Japan than Shimane prefecture is in, so teams came from adjacent prefectures such as Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and Okayama. There were also a few teams of Japanese players from the area. The Shimane team made it to the final match only to be beaten by one of the Japanese teams in a tight match with the score of 3-2.

click on this pic for more photos from the day.

-Jason Cosell

Monday, July 10, 2006

T&F club - macho pose

T&F club - macho pose
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is me with the Track and Field club members who are 9th graders.

This was taken on Tuesday, June 20th, at the conclusion of the tournament. My kids did allright, but didn't take home any of the big team prizes.

I went back out to support them after school that day, and luckily didn't get any of the sunburn I got when i was with them all day the previous Sunday.

special Track & Field socks!

06:06 Track & Field at Hamayama Park - 14
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I spent most of Sunday, June 18th, out at Hamayama park watching my JH's track and field team compete against other area teams.

I had a great time talking to the kids and cheering on the runners and jumpers.

This pic is of the silly and funny socks all the girls on the team seem to wear. Click on any pic to see many more that day.


Trivia for week of July 10th

Jamie Lee Curtis was praised for her performance in the 2003 remake of the film Freaky Friday. Who starred in the 1976 original?

Answer for week of June 26th (highlight line below):
"The Scientist"

Monday, July 03, 2006

Letters from Kaori & Yukako - 1

Letters from Kaori & Yukako - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I get cool hand-written letters from some of my kids - one of the benefits of low-tech Taisha living - most can't email me unless I owned a Japanese cell phone and I've refused to get one so far.

So they write me and include cool drawings and little stickers and sometimes they write in both Japanese and English, which is good practice for me, but a few of the really smart girls just write me in English. More than any omiyage I could buy in a shop, these letters and drawings are what I'll treasure when I leave Japan.


Brass Band @ Misen no Sato - cool chicks

Brass Band @ Misen no Sato - cool chicks
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My band chicks are the greatest girls. More than any other group of kids at my Jr High, they try to talk to me in English and chat about regular stuff - so much of my conversations with kids are still limited to "Boy, Jason, you sure are big" or "Do you have a girlfriend" or "Do they have rain in America?"

So I try my best to support them and go see them perform whenever I can. This day was a Sunday, but I went anyway, and I was the only staff member there other than the main band teacher - Sakamoto sensei.

Turns out the place was a retirement community, but that didn't stop my band from playing and dancing and singing to the "Matsui Ken Samba."


Yuki & Hiromi - "hen na kao"

Yuki & Hiromi - "hen na kao"
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Every month I now make three 4-page English newsletters at my Jr High. One for each grade level - 7th to 9th.
I include English word puzzles, interviews with teachers, contests and pictures.

Yuki and Hiromi have asked me to NOT use this picture in the 9th grade English newsletter. hmmm......


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Spider-Man 3 trailer!!

OK - I know it's a year away and maybe even longer before I get to see it here in Japan, but Sony has released the first trailer for the new Spider-Man film, due for May 2007.

You can watch it Here.

It's cool that director Sam Raimi is tackling the Venom storyline, a long-time favorite of fans of the comic book.

And it looks like we'll get an appearance by the Hobgoblin and The Sandman - two cool villians.

Can't wait!

Now if they'd just hurry up and release Superman Returns and X-Men 3 here!


Monday, June 26, 2006

Trivia for week of June 26th

Which nifty Coldplay video required lead singer Chris Martin to figure out how to sing his lyrics backward in order to fit to the narrative, which plays out in reverse as the video unspools?

Answer for week of June 5th (highlight line below):
Frank Sinatra

Day Two of Tennis @ Hamayama Park

Day Two of Tennis @ Hamayama Park - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

On June 13th and 14th, my Jr High basically shut down while members of the various sports teams at my school went off to compete in city wide competitions.

I'm not kidding about the shutting down part - that Tuesday and Wednesday, the kids that did have to come to school (the kids in the band or chorus or not in a club for instance) got to go home both days after third period, and there were no classes to teach as the first three periods were basically study hall periods.

What's funny is how much complaining you hear here about the declining academic performance of Japanese students and how they should go back to a 6-day school week, but then you have days like this where everything stops for sports. Hmmmm....

Anyway, these teams from my school were competing:
Kendo, judo, baseball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and track & field.

So I had to go to shogakko during the day both days, but after lunch I was free to go and cheer on my kids. Last year I didn't have my car yet, but this year I was mobile, so I headed over to the local sports ground (Hamayama Park) on Tuesday to watch Tennis, and then I caught the end of the volleyball competitions at another local Jr High.

It was really fun seeing my kids compete and cheering them on, since I was the only one shouting encouragment in English.

What's kinda sad is as I go to more and more of these special events, how little I see other ALTs. I know many don't have just one base school like I do, but some could make the effort and support their kids, cuz they love seeing us there.

On Wednesday it was more volleyball (we lost), a little soccer (we won), and the girls tennis finals (we won).
Track n Field was actually happening that Sunday, and I went to that too (pictures soon).

Click on the pic here for more pics of the various sports.

Go! Fight! Win!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My brother, Paul, in Iraq

My brother, Paul, in Iraq
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My younger brother, Paul, is a soldier in the American Army and currently he's serving his one-year rotation in Iraq.

He sent me this pic recently to show me how hot it is where he is. He said it's actually closer to 130.F, but the thermometer stops at 120.

I guess it's hard for me to complain now about getting sweaty after singing and dancing to "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes" with fifty-five 9-year-olds at one of my shogakko, that has no air-con, when Paul is out there with a 50-lbs pack and lugging an M-16.

Paul will hopefully be back in America in November and I'll get to see him when I go home to San Diego for Xmas.