Monday, April 2, 2012

Is It Spring Yet?

Okay, I know in less than two months I will totally regret ever saying this, but seriously, it’s still cold here. Almost a full week into April and my town has no cherry blossoms to display. As everyone here will tell you, April 1st = cherry blossoms. Perhaps if the weather continues at this rate it will be a cool summer. Wishful thinking I know.

It’s hard to grasp that I have less than four months left in Japan. I swear, just yesterday I arrived. So, here is my March recap.

Snow golf! There was about 2 inches of snow and...the show must go on. If you golfers were wondering, you get a free drop if you ball comes to rest in a patch of snow. Crazy, I know. Despite playing in what looked like Santa’s backyard, I believe I played well this day.

Just because I’m from America, they hate me....In Japan, you will find all-black buses, they are called, “right-wing conservatives” when translated into English; however that doesn’t do them justice. These groups have many beliefs but a main one is that Japan should only be inhabited by Japanese people. Not American, not Korean, and definitely not Chinese. It’s amusing, and somewhat sad, to think how the third largest GDP in the world can be so incredibly backwards sometimes. (The other day I was asked if I owned a refrigerator. Come on!) Back to the story, I took this picture when I had just gotten out of church. The church I attend is made up of about 90% “foreigners”. When I say “foreigners” I mean, people that aren’t of 100% Japanese descent. So...there was this bus, shouting who knows what and I’m laughing and thinking in my head that no matter how advanced we think the human race is, there are always people to surprise us with their ignorance. If only they would take their drive and passion and put it to much better use. Oh well, my rant for the day. 

At the end of February, I was greeted with a visitor! Hooray! After school on a Friday night I took the night bus to Tokyo and then headed to Kamakura. It’s about one hour southwest of Tokyo. I visited the Big Buddha (I visited the other Big Buddha in Nara last July). The sights were awesome, the weather was terrible (windy and rainy) until about 3pm. I visited Enoshima Island and walked around there. Then I visited the most famous temple in Kamakura.

After Kamakura, I headed 20 minutes back towards Tokyo and stopped off in Yokohama. I visited the Yokohama Chinatown and got some snacks and wandered to the harbor. As I was eating my recently purchased snacks, I noticed this huge ship that you could tour and I figured why not. It was pretty cool, it had many “jobs” but it was the first ship to shuttle people to Seattle (and it made a few stops in Portland) from Japan.

Finally I headed back to Tokyo and went to my favorite curry restaurant in Shinjuku. The pumpkin curry there is incredibly delicious (my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it). I checked into my hostel and at 9pm on a Saturday, I ventured to a local sento (public bath). It was quite a kick, just picture me and 5 other older Japanese women. We didn’t speak much but that was fine with me. Once I got back to the hostel I was dead tired (didn’t sleep much on the night bus). I got in contact with Daniel Redden, a friend who I went through the Japanese Magnet Program with. He was visiting Japan for a week because he planned on running in the Tokyo Marathon (and I had planned on watching him, but unfortunately he missed registration the day before due to a delayed flight and couldn’t run). On Sunday, I met up with Daniel and we got breakfast and did the touristy thing, looking at all of the sights. I had to go back to work on Monday, so Daniel and I parted ways, but we’d meet again in my neck of the woods later that week.


Oh Yamachan. This restaurant is famous in the Nagoya area. What’s the big deal you ask? The chicken wings. Ok, I’m not a big chicken wings fan in the first place, but they were good and I’d definitely go back.

This is another famous food from the Nagoya area. It’s called Misonikome and it’s udon noodles (the really thick Japanese noodles) with a red miso broth. It was made my this lovely lady who likes to call herself my “Japanese mother”. Her and her husband are awesome and they have taken me golfing, to restaurants, and to festivals. I can’t tell you how kind they are to me.


White Day. March 14th. In Japan, on Valentine’s Day the girls give the guys presents and the guys return the favor on White Day (odd right?) Well, Cooper (the other ALT that lives near me) and I followed the Japanese tradition, so on March 14th, we had a nice White Day celebration.


St. Patrick’s Day 2012. Wow. I didn’t think it would end up being a fun day but I was surprised how many people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Nagoya. We watched the parade wind through the Osu Kannon area and we even got a free shot of whiskey from some guy in the parade.

Later in the evening we went to a “Western bar” and oh my goodness, the foreign food galore. It was fantastic. I had a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich and although it didn’t compare to the US, it was awesome. We listened to some Irish music played by an Irish band and then headed over to another bar. At our second bar there was this St. Patrick’s trivia game and we ended up winning, so we each got a $20 gift certificate to the bar/restaurant. Finally we made our way to Club iD, which is a 5 story club that I’ve gone to plenty of times.

Adventure time! March 20th was a National Holiday in Japan, so Cooper (ALT friend) and I took a wild adventure about 60 miles away to a place called Magome. Why was it wild you ask? Oh, we took my little Japanese car. It was about 90 minutes each way, but it was a rather scenic drive as I had never been to that area of Gifu before. Magome is famous because it was part of the Nakasendo, the old road that led from Kyoto to Tokyo hundreds of years ago. Cooper and I walked a little bit of it, took some pictures, had some delicious lunch and called it a day.

Towards the end of March, my 6th graders graduated Elementary School and made the move to Junior High School. I would say the highlight of staying a second year was that I was able to see the students through an entire school year, April-March. Watching them graduate was definitely a tearjerker, but I was so proud that I got to teach them English in 6th grade.

I went to a festival that was held in Mitake with another girl I met earlier this year. I forgot what the festival was about, but we ate good food and saw some students of mine, and overall had a good time.

After golf one day during Spring Break, a lovely Japanese couple who I play golf with-eat dinner with- whatnot with, took me to Okazaki city in Aichi Prefecture. It was about 1 hour by car but at the time the cherry blossom trees there had started to spring.
And here are some random food pictures.....let the mouthwatering commence.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hello 2012. The Year of Twenty-Doz. January and February Recap.

Woah. It's March. Time for a January and February recap.

Some of my friends here in Japan have been referring to 2012 as “twenty-doz”, and well, it stuck with me. I had a great winter vacation in Hawaii and Japan. It was nice seeing my family and friends in such a beautiful place. I played some golf, did some paddle-boarding and kayaking, got attacked by waves in my one attempt at bogey-boarding, and other things. The twelve days went by very fast and before I knew it, I was trading shorts and sandals for layers upon layers of clothes and Ugg boots.

I came back to Japan earlier than previously planned because a student I’d been helping made it to the National Commercial High School English Speech Contest in Tokyo. I’m glad I went and although she didn’t make it into the top 12 (the finals), she did a great job and will always have the honor of representing her Prefecture in the contest. Only one student from each prefecture went (so 47 students). Before the speech contest, we went to Tokyo Sea (the California Adventures of Tokyo Disney Resort) and then the day after the contest, we spent the day sight seeing in Tokyo. The big highlight was going to Asakusa and visiting Sensou Temple and getting the best fortune! In Japan, during New Years, you go to a Temple and put in 100 yen (approximately $1) and shake a circular tube and out pops one stick with a number on it. You find that number (I got number 8) in rows of shelves and take the fortune (on a piece of paper) that corresponds to the number you drew. There are 5 or 7 different fortunes, I forget. But they range from best, to middle, to low, then bad, and worst. I was so happy because it means that this next year is going to be a great one. Mio, the student, she got the second worst fortune, so she had to tie her fortune on string that is near the temple in order for the fortune not to come true. After the temple we headed back to Mitake and that was the end of my winter vacation.

At the Speech Contest

Curry Dinner

Sensou Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

Tying the Fortune

Wahoo. The best fortune!

Say Cheeeeeeeese

In the middle of January, I went to Northern Gifu to visit some friends. We went snowboarding and it was wonderful to get back on the mountain. I definitely miss skiing and I’ll be glad when I can go skiing more often back in America.

Also in January....
I had the customary zenzai on January 11th. It’s a sweet, red bean soup with squares of mochi, sticky rice in it.

I visited the Nagoya Aquarium. Really cool, but what I’d consider expensive for an entrance fee (almost $30).

It snowed loads and loads over my prefecture but hardly touched my area. After this dusting I was pretty happy.

Had my last “ALT Skills Development Conference”. Twice a year, the ALTs from Gifu Prefecture meet and we have a conference on teaching English. After the conference, I had my first sake bomb. Japanese beer + sake + chopsticks + pounding of fists on the table = sake bomb. Also I had to include a picture with the ALT who lives in the city next to mine.

In February, I....
Ate every part of a chicken. Liver, heart, you name it, I ate it. Surprisingly good once you stopped thinking about what you were putting into your mouth.

I went snowboarding in Northern Gifu again.

Visited the red bridge in Takayama City again.

Got the stomach flu and had my first sick day ever. Also, my first doctors appointment.

Visited the train museum in Nagoya that recently opened.