Graduation season has rolled around again here in Japan. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about graduations on here offhand, but today was the graduation at my elementary school. Back home, the idea of graduation from elementary school seems silly, but here in Japan it’s a big rite of passage. As part of the ceremony at my elementary school, the students make a short speech after they get their diplomas, thanking their parents for raising them up that point. After that, they go to meet their parents in the audience and hand off the diploma, a gift from the PTA (which has been a Japanese-English dictionary every year that I’ve been here), and a small bouquet of flowers they receive so that they can go back to their seats and do their part in the rest of the ceremony unencumbered. Continue reading
A game developer recently asked me if I had any travel tips for Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Since I recently went on a trip to those three places with my mother and have been to Kyoto twice now for BitSummit, I was able to write up quite a bit of advice. Since I went to the trouble of writing it all out, I figured I’d blog it so I won’t find myself writing it all out twice.
I had my first elementary school classes since winter break today. The 6th grade class went well, but the 5th grade class went amazingly. Today we started a new chapter, which has 26 vocabulary words, so I made today a lazy play-with-words day, and one of the boys made it even better. Continue reading
Okay, the students didn’t say that. I’m making titles up now. But I see no reason not to continue the grammatically incorrect titling. Besides, I’m about to talk about the students’ singing. With a bit about their music education in general.
This is the second post I’ve written about this year’s school festival. If you want to read the first, it’s over here.
It’s been a while since I posted anything here. I’ve been busy — I’m now writing articles for IndieGames.com regularly, I went to Tokyo Game Show (the first event of its kind I’ve ever been to), I came back from Tokyo Game Show with a cold which caused minimal discomfort but a fever that kept me out of work for 3 days, and this past Sunday my junior high school had its annual school festival. This is the first time I’ve been to one of my school’s festivals without having been around for most of the weeks of practice since right after I first got here, which made it an event of mixed feelings. A big part of the reason I missed so much of the prep time was Tokyo Game Show and the cold it gave me, but I’m also not at all sorry for going to Tokyo Game Show.
Anyway, read on if you want to find out about all the neat stuff my students did for their festival. Here’s a list of the general flow of the day, with details starting after the break. This will be the first of multiple posts.
- Free performances by grade
- Choir performances by grade
- PTA Choir performance
- Random performances (optional)
- Dance performances (all grades)
- Play performance (all grades)
I saw Iron Man 3 at the theater last weekend. It was a good movie, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about an ad before the movie which starred this fine gentleman:
One of the trailers was for the upcoming G.I. Joe movie. Once the trailer had ended, there was a commercial for G.I. Joe pens. I didn’t pay much attention to the details of this Amazing Pen Offer, but it was very Japanese. So very Japanese that they used a clip of Bruce Willis saying “Nice,” in the movie, subtitled in a bubbly pink font with a heart at the end. Continue reading
The Cheeky Child
At the beginning of every one of my classes (at all levels of education from preschool to high school), I ask each student, “How are you?” This would take too much time if I had more students, but as things stand it’s a good, regular way to start the class. The fact that all the students know it also gives me a way to use English with them every time I see them around town. Unless a kid is obstinate and doesn’t want to respond — which happens sometimes — I’m guaranteed to be able to toss some English back and forth with every kid in town.
Rather than just teach them the stock “I’m fine. (And you?)”, I teach them to respond with things like, “I’m happy,” or “I’m hot.” I got this idea from the 5th grade textbooks. It seemed like a good idea, because rather than just teaching them that sentence A in English is the same as sentence B in Japanese, the interaction between question and answer must be explained. In Japanese, if you ask the equivalent of “How are you?”, what you’re really asking is “Are you healthy/energetic?”, to which the other person answers in the affirmative or the negative. Skipping the stock response and pointing out that you can really answer in any number of ways sets the students up to realize that learning a foreign language is more than just substituting the words in one language for the words in another language.
Several weeks ago, Googly Ears made me really proud by connecting a couple of random dots on her own. One day, during recess, I asked her how she was doing. Continue reading
Up until now, I’ve been keeping my JET Program blog posts on a separate blog. I want to blog more regularly, but have no desire to devote the time necessary to keep two blogs up at once, so I’m merging it into this blog. The now defunct blog is here.
Since the Japanese are more concerned about online identity protection and I work with kids in particular, all Japanese persons I mention are given nicknames.
Yesterday, it was very windy. That was great. It’s been upwards of and sometimes around 30 degrees celsius here in Nakagawa for the past 2-3 weeks, well past the usual point where the weather breaks and things start to cool off. It was still hot, but the wind made things bearable. Overjoyed, I left my house in the morning — by bike, as usual — and greeted the elementary school students as I passed them on my way to work*.
Taikyuu responded to my greeting with a worried look and worried words.
Taikyuu: It’s dangerous, Lena-sensei!
Me: (stopping, not sure I’d heard correctly) What?
Taikyuu: It’s dangerous! The wind is strong. Please be careful.
I assured him that I would be careful and carried on. This isn’t the first such exchange we’ve had. though it’s the first time he’s warned me about the wind. He’s a good kid, he knows me better than most of the other students in town since we both do taiko, and he seems to have become quite attached to me (which is really nice, actually). He tends to get really worried when he sees me doing something that isn’t wholly safe, though.
I thought he was being a bit silly, but my bike and I almost got blown sideways later that day. Continue reading
The formula for the area of a circle is pi times the square of its radius. The Japanese government has evacuated an area around the Fukushima power plants with a radius of 40km, or 5,024km sq. Right after the power plants went critical, the US government strongly recommended (at around 3 AM) that any of its citizens within 80km leave immediately. The U.S. evacuation circle therefore has an area of 20,096km sq. That’s a discrepancy 15,072km sq.in size.
This discrepancy is the reason that this year’s U.S. JETs haven’t been told their placements yet. We were supposed to have been informed in May, but some placements fall into this gray area. The Japanese and U.S. governments are discussing what to do about it, and we are not expected to find out placement assignments until right around the solstice.
If you’re wondering why they don’t just ask the JETs who are supposed to be placed in that zone whether or not they’re willing and then swap them out if they aren’t, then know that you aren’t alone. I don’t know what sort of logistical or diplomatic factors are affecting the decision behind the scenes, but I do know that if asked to go into that 15,072km sq. gray area, I would say yes. How many of the people living there have anywhere else to go, even if they want to leave their homes? They are surely under constant stress and need all the support they can get. Even though the area around the Fukushima power plants is one of the most dangerous in the world right now, I would be willing to share their risks in the hope that my presence there as a foreigner come of my own free will might improve morale.
Of course, I’m lucky enough to have family and friends who are willing to put aside their fears for my safety and support my decision, whatever that may be. I don’t have a spouse or children to consider and I don’t want children, which makes it easier for me to consider living someplace feared to be so radioactive it could render me infertile and give me superpowers.
Either way, I don’t know if I’m one of the people slated for that area and have no way to find out. All I can do is wait… now with 15,072km sq. more anticipation. Looking at the JET Programme forums, though, it seems that I’ve been more patient than most.