Thursday, May 31, 2007


Just a quick post - I got a free ticket to see these guys on Sunday...5th row...すごいamazing, yo! I've been in 神戸  Kobe for a conference this week - back at school tomorrow, so if it doesn't rain I'll lug my computer to school and make another post to let you know what I've been up to. I've got to hit the sack - I've got the Nagasaki Sports Days, and don't have a day off till next Tuesday - また!
PS - thanks for the care package, Cara!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's a giant chicken, I tell you, a giant chicken!

(No picture this post - you just have to use your imagination with this one, or see an old episode of "Animaniacs")
OK - alright - you can have a picture, then. Doing a websearch for a "giant chicken" was just too much fun.

Right then. So you know how sometimes teachers "mess up" on purpose to check to make sure students are paying attention? That's what I was doing in Tuesday's post.
I believe it was my dear friend, Mr. W, another ex-JET, who called me on the picture falsely labeled a "tori" - which is really "chicken" in Japanese. "Torii" is a shrine gate. (Mr. Anonymous clarified this in one of the comments for that post - I figure it was Mr. W or Jon, and Jon's usually brave enough to sign his name) So thanks for clearing that up for us. So here's how I responded to that comment (in case you haven't been reading the comments)
OH, come ON! It's a giant chicken! Haven't you heard that one? Forgive me for not checking up on my source (a Japanese person) who wrote - in romaji - "tori" for me when I asked what this was. I just thought it was funny that it was the same as "chicken".

So - I stand corrected. Please make sure to continue commenting on grammar, factual, or just generally insane absurdities I'm inclined to just makes this less of a one-sided dialogue here. And I could really use the practice in English...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rajio Taisou

...which literally means "radio exercise," and it's broadcast by NHK every morning. From what I understand, it is an exercise routine that the Japanese learn when in elementary school, and they do it before sports functions, at camps, and at some companies. Here is a picture of the group doing it at the ichinensei "boot camp", but I also did it before the town sports day in Takaki and at the volleyball match I did last month. It's very funny, since the music is classically ridiculous to my western ears, and no one really stretches properly. It's still great fun, though. It's one of those "catchy" ridiculous things - you find yourself humming the song long after it's stopped. That is of course why I'll let YOU do the web search to find the song - so you can't blame your insomnia on me :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Well, once again at Unzen here. A walk around the lake led to this little spot. These arches, "tori" (there's no plural in Japanese - which does make it a little easier... or more difficult to understand, depending on your point of view) - so, these "tori" are all over the place here. It's really neat - they're like appetizers for something delicious up the path from there. OK, well in this case maybe it wasn't so "delicious" - what awaited me was this carving in some rocks. And it was more mossy and mushy up there around the rocks.
Which reminds me - today I tried to see what "mushy" was in Japanese (my shrimp tempura got a little mushy in my soba). After the copy room lady asked the English teacher who consulted the biology teacher, and was then overheard by the two vice principals who joined in, I came to the conclusion that some things really do just get lost in the translation. (the closest I got was "kusaru/kunaru" = go bad, rotten or "bishomere(no)" = soggy)
Anyway, the carving there is of a - alright - you've got me - I've got no idea. But it looked more Incan than Japanese to me. If I figure it out, I'll let you know. At least this "garden feature" was more PG and hopefully none of the corporate filters will be censoring it the way, don't forget to read the comments to the posts!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Give those SoftBank Hawks a hand...

When I was in Fukuoka, I went to "Hawks Town" - an arcade and shopping area near the SoftBank Hawks' Baseball stadium. It reminded me of Sawgrass Mills near the Panther stadium. Along the outer perimeter of the stadium were these interactive sculptures, where you could go by and 'shake' the players' hands.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Happy little flowers

Just another random shot from Unzen. I have really enjoyed seeing all the different flowers at different times of the year (I think they call this phenomenon "seasons"? New to me, since all I knew in soFla was hurricane season and, well, Not). Apparently the Japanese like flowers, too. As I walked around Unzen, I saw these little flower pots all over, but they were all different (and didn't seem too "professionally/systematically" done). I can only assume that there was a flower/decorating contest going on. I saw another one with Thomas the Train and his friends, but as you can see in the photo, this artist went with a Disney theme. I included the car in there for scale - notice how it DWARFS the figures in the flower box...
(ok - I'm leaving now so you don't have to endure any more lame attempts to be punny)
(By the way - I put up a photo of me in close proximity of a giant stone phallus, and NO ONE says a word? Is anyone still out there?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Heaven and Jigoku

For the record, right now I feel like I'm in a really weird time warp - well, maybe ripple. I worked here till late on Friday and stayed up too late watching a movie with some other ALTs. Early Saturday morning the apt peeps had a clean up day around the apt (apparently we don't have a groundskeeper - though there isn't much "gound" to keep!), and then I helped some of the ALTs move to a new apt. That night the weather was bad so I stayed in, and worked all day Sunday (the students had exams and then there was a big parent meeting). Yeah, another Sunday and holiday when it was business as usual. I had Monday off, and went for a hike since the weather was so nice. Hit south Nag and picked up some necessary bike stuff from Taniguchi san, and then hopped on a ferry and headed over to Ioujima (not IWoJima) where there's a really nice onsen. Now I'm back work again, and I think it's Tuesday. Not sure why I should be confused, but I guess I just can't get used to having to work on weekends and holidays. The Japanese around me don't seem to be affected. How do they do that?
Anyway, the above is a photo from across the lake looking back at the little town of Unzen. Too be honest, it looks much better from a distance; sadly, most of the lakeside buildings and residences are quite vacant and/or dilapidated - mottainai, yo. If you had real estate like that - on a lake, in the mountains- in the US - I daresay it would be stunning and lively. I don't understand why the Japanese don't take advantage of some of their beautiful resources. The natural areas around Unzen are amazing, though. The other photo is of a "jigoku" - "hell" - the birthplace of the hotsprings and where the onsens get their hot water. Very surreal walking around. I'll be honest, though - it kind of reminded me of Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World!
OK - back to work now...

Friday, May 11, 2007

TOO much of a good thing?

OK - a little break from the camp photos - here's something from the "social" part of my life that I'm trying to HARD to cultivate! (oh, no!) Sorry - it's 6:45pm on Friday night, and even if I leave now, I think at least half of the staff will still be here at least another hour or two (!). But I'm wrecked, I'm outta here soon...
Last week was "Golden Week" and I actually had a few days completely off - when I didn't have to come to the office at all! We had smashing good weather on Wednesday & Thursday, so I headed over to Unzen to hike around and enjoy a nice onsen bath. So - here is what I found on one of my hikes - this lovely shrine - I can only guess - devoted to fertility. There was an accompanying one of its female counterpart appropriately tucked away in a little cave nearby. Once again, kanji/nihongo wo yomemasen, yo - and sorekara - I really have no idea what this was about. The other picture is of a random gaijin siting at the foot spa outside one of the hotels. It's really cool - well, HOT, actually - after hiking around, you can just take off your shoes, roll up your pants, and enjoy a soak for free. If you walk around in this one, the river stones on the bottom massage your feet. Velly nice.
I'm also excited because when I was hiking around Unzen, I found a really nice campsite on a lake. Since I just invested in a decent pack and tent, I can't wait to get back out there and try them out.
OK, desu - time to go home - it's now 7 - ack. Oh - and NO, this is not anyone I'm dating (his loss, ne?) No - he's just an - go figure! - English teacher who lives in Nagasaki. But it was nice to be able to speak English :)

Don't forget you can always click on a photo to enlarge, but, then again, sometimes too much of a good thing really is - TOO much of a good thing, yo!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


More pictures from camp. So there was a lot of marching and singing (the SAME song - over and over). But look - here's the crazy ALT mixin it up a little (they're still kids - they should be allowed to have SOME fun, ne?) Here we are in the room playing "HA!" before our baths. I wasn't sure how the whole physical contact aspect of the game would work with Japanese kids, but the girls thought it was hilarious :)

And some of you ask about the Japanese food? Well, obviously we're enjoying it very much (especially when we're starving after hiking up a mountain!).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Jump JUMP!

As promised - here are the kids in the jump rope competition we had one night at camp. Imagine - a gym full of over 300 10th graders (after hiking and marching all day!). They jumped in classes of about 40, 3 classes at a time.
They weren't too good at first, but eventually all the classes found their rhythm...

I know I couldn't do this! This is why I just crawled around on the floor taking photos (crazy gaijin that I am - I figure if I'm doing something I REALLY shouldn't, eventually someone will come wave me down.)

PS - make sure you read the comments in each of the posts for a "behind the scenes" point of view. For those of you who were curious, Jon - who's been making several comments - was a Nagasaki JET last year, and has a pretty good understanding of what I'm going through...though I think, Jon, that though your social life must have been better, your school life sounds like it was a little more challenging??? Just getting you prepped for the life of a Florida school teacher, ne!
Which, by the way - if any of you school teachers are still reading this, I'm looking for reading comprehension question stems. (Of course I had files of these back home, but - ) Believe it or not, I can't seem to nail down standards for English reading and writing here...the teachers just keep reinventing the wheel everytime they make tests. (!!!) Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 07, 2007


7th period of the day...and all day I've been hearing the kids marching in their PE classes out on the field here at Kanko. "Ich'ni! Ich'ni!" ("One, Two...") I've got to say, when I first saw them doing it at the Sports Festival last year, it freaked me out a little. Very "militaristic" - but it didn't fill me with the same pride that seeing our American ROTC students marching does.
However, as with most things here, I wait. I'm patient. I bite my tongue, because most of the time there is a perfectly good explanation for things, and I just have to get a better look at the big picture before making judgements. One of the things I've marveled at here is the distinct lack of discipline issues. Sure I've gone from one extreme to the other (some might even give the apples and oranges excuse), but are kids really THAT different? Of course they have to test into this school, but teens are One thing I think might make part of this well disciplined behavior possible is the intense training that is done in the ichinensei "boot camp" that is then reinforced in PE classes and assemblies afterwards. As I mentioned before, the first year students and their teachers ALL go to a 3 day "boot camp" (I originally thought it was "camping" - with campfires and marshmellows...imagine my disappointment!). We stayed in dorms, and basically the kids marched, hiked, and sang the school song. One night we had a class jump rope competition - 38 students jumping rope (the same rope) at once! I'll put those shots up next.
Frankly it was a little tedious for me to sit and watch the marching and the singing, so as often as I could, I joined in when it wasn't too much of a distraction. The amazing thing I noticed, though, was I NEVER saw a behaviour problem (maybe it's the language barrier?), and all the students, despite the long hours of hiking and marching in the sun, keep a sunny disposition themselves. And the team spirit - was amazing. I guess a result of doing repetitive things together over and over again (and finally being judged on the group's performance) is falling in together as a team. And acting as a disciplined team (who even knows the school song!) isn't such a terrible thing. (It's sad that even after 12 years at Ely, I could probably sing the Kanko song - in Japanese - better than Ely's)
So - the whole marching bit still freaks me out a little, but when I look at the big picture, it seems to work in this system. Sure, they might want to be playing games rather then marching around in the hot sun, but it certainly doesn't seem to bother them much, and already I can hear them chanting and laughing outside at all their sports club activities now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

We have to hike THERE?

You can see why I was so tired...on the second day of the "boot camp" for the ichinensei, we hiked up to the top of that mountain there in the distance. Actually, I think my group thought it was a race. One of the teachers (who drove up the mountain) asked me if I was tired - we were the first ones up. Yeah, a little tired. But that's really not the excuse I have for not writing...I've just been pretty busy at work, and it's been raining a lot, so I don't bring my computer back and forth (it's touchy as it is). I've got to run now, though, since I actually have a couple of days off, and I've got to catch a train to Unzen (which is taller than that mountain in the distance there). Let you know how it goes.