Shougakko Japanese Class Doodles

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Clearly I learnt an awful lot of Japanese attending a 2年生 (2nd grade) Japanese class my shougakko this morning (≧∇≦)

10,000 Page Views! 一万 ページビュー

So earlier today Nihonomnom passed its 10000th 一万 page view.

I put quite a large amount of time into updating this blog each week so it’s really great to see people are actually reading my rambles.

Thankyou to all my frequent readers I really appreciate your comments and support, here’s to the next 10000 (^∇^)

Here To Stay (^∇^)

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Well until August 5th 2013 (^∇^)
Today I received, signed and promptly sent off my JET Program re-contracting documents. As I was an early arrival I was offered a short 3 month contract to bridge the gap and bring me in line with Group A arrivals contracts next year!

Now that I think about it, the idea of not re-contracting hadn’t even entered my mind. I certainly miss my friends and family, however honestly the only things I long for at the moment are a properly furnished apartment and a best friend here, the kind who’s thoughts run into mine!

Anyhow in short life in Kobe is awesome and it looks like I won’t be headed home anytime soon \(^o^)/

Sketch in Tits Park

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When I was hangin out in tits park (the congregation spot for the youth of Kobe) in Sannomiya last night, having a couple drinks with some friends, some random dude sketched a picture of me, thought it was pretty sweet! \(^o^)/

Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays in Japan)

So tsuyu 梅雨 (rainy season) has come and gone and natsu 夏 (summer) is upon us in Japan.
Along with it came the beginning of Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays), now you be mistaken to think ‘oh that awesome, as a teacher you don’t have to work for a couple months’
NO JUST NO!

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For both students and teachers, summer holidays mean something very different than their western counterpart.
This is in the same vein of thinking of how the Japanese seem to love to work 4 hours of overtime everyday and work the weekends. Thus in Japan all teachers and most students attend school on a daily basis even during summer break! At my JHS which students come to school for half days either in the morning or afternoon to train with their respective clubs. The teachers tend to spend half a day supervising club activities and the other half siting in front of their computers repetitively fanning themselves and mumbling atsu atsu (its hot), I presume this is what they regard as junbi 準備 (preparation time).

Fortunately as the token gaijin I’m pretty much exempt from working such ridiculous hours if I don’t want too.
That said I regard the opportunity to watch my students sports club tournaments on a Saturday more of a perk of the job than a chore.
However it does mean that during the summer there are several thousand ALTs across Japan, that find themselves sitting at work awkwardly twiddling their fingers for a couple months with nothing to do.

Now I think I’m particularly fortunate, as I work at a school where I can do pretty much anything I want. No matter how crazy they are my ideas are, they have yet to be shot down! My OTEs (other teachers of english) have been nothing but amazing at accommodating my imagination, which has a tendency to run wild at times.

In addition as one of my OTEs is in charge of the kendo club I have been watching them practice often and training with the ichi-nen sei on a daily basis. God I now understand how Japanese people are so skinny, these kids do like intense workouts for 4 hours a day on the school holidays!
It’s actually really fun training with the kids as it gives me a chance to interact with them in a situation were we are equals instead of sensei 先生 (teacher) and chuugakusei 中学生 (student).

Last week I spent had the week designing Halloween lessons and then 2 days making this epic Australian money poster.

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This week I’v shifted my ambitions to claiming some wall space in one of the hallways to make an ‘English wall’, to aid in such a pursuit I have recruited half the members of the kendo club to aid me in some arts and craft! Alas after raiding the stationary room I have been teaching aboriginal dot art, having students create me a giant collage in the shape of Australia and decorating didgeridoo’s.
Bwahahaha my own personal army of Japanese children (who are also all ni-dan 二段 at kendo), the first step to my goals of global conquest and pretty much what I always wanted \(^o^)/

Still at the end of the day I’m not complaining, I am rather enjoying all the free time that has been thrust upon me after having such a busy first 2 months.
If anything it has endowed me will all the time I could ever want to read, study, play on my phone and get to know my students (^_^)☆

Akashi 明石 Day Trip

Last Sunday I decided to embark on an epic day trip to Akashi 明石, which is the closest city west of Kobe (around 20km), to see the ruins of Akashi Castle 明石城 and check out the town.

As I have become quite the avid cycler, of course I undertook the trip via bike.
Since I live in Gakuentoshi which is a western suburb of Kobe the round trip was only about 25km or so with sightseeing stops which was nothing major for my iron buttocks XD

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My first stop was Akashikoen 明石公園, the center of which stands the ruins of Akashi Castle 明石城.
This castle was constructed by Ogasawara Tadazane as his own castle from 1617 to 1619 to watch over the western lords.
The castle was built in Akashi, which was an important strategic point between Osaka and western Japan, where many major tozama daimyo had their feudal estates. Akashi Castle was expected to play the role of a key staging point to stop a hypothetical invasion of Osaka.
The castle was deconstructed by the Meiji Government in 1874, however two yagura 櫓 (watchtowers) and a small portion of wall still remain standing today.

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This monk statue and partial moat stand at the entrance to the former castle.

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Here’s a picture of yours truly hott and sweaty after riding a good 10km, taken the style of a 15 yr old girl in front of the castle ruins.

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The park itself is also very scenic and pretty, although filled with steep slopes and steps was a great cross country bike ride, thank god I have a mountain bike!

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This little tea house is used for sadou 茶道 (tea ceremony), however as they weren’t running on that Sunday there were a couple ojii-chans chilling under its balcony enjoying the shade.

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Finally there was this awesome robotic taiko drummer who switched between drumming and doing a fan dance.
どもありがとうmr.robato!!

Such plentiful adventures began to take their toll on my stamina, so I headed out of Akashikoen towards Akashi Station 明石駅 in search of edibles.

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What I stumbled upon was an awesome Tako themed shopping arcade called Uontana 魚の棚 (literally: fish-shelf) where local fishermen sell seafood (primarily tako) that was caught nearby. As I have quite the affinity for anything tako related (hence my name) I was certainly in my element \(^o^)/

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The specialty of Akashi is a Akashiyaki 明石たこ焼き a variety of Takoyaki たこ焼き (octopus filled dumplings). When I came across this shop, it seemed criminal not to stop for some in the city that is famous for it!! Especially since they were a bargain at only 480¥ for 15 pieces!! Nomnomnom (^∇^)
Although similar, akashiyaki contains a higher amount of eggs resulting in a texture softer texture than takoyaki. They are eaten by first brushing them with Takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) before being
and will be dipped into a broth of dashi出汁.
When visiting Akashi however if would like to order a round of Akashiyaki, keep in mind locals refer to it simply as tamagoyaki 玉子焼き (grilled egg).

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Here are a couple more pictures of sights around Akashi city, it’s crazy how Japan can change straight from urban sprawl to harbor at an instant. I knew the ocean was nearby soon as I entered the city since there was a subtle saltiness to the air. The last photo however I found quite comical, I was nothing short of amazed watching families relaxing on the seashore at a beach that was completely covered in cement!
The Japanese seem to have an affinity for covering most of their coastline in asphalt.

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Before heading off home however I did make my way to a real beach (as real as beaches get in Japan at least XD).
Maiko beach is quite nice as it overlooks Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge 明石海峡大橋 (also known as Pearl Bridge), the worlds longest suspension bridge. Despite the crowds and visible cargo ships on the horizon, it really was the perfect place to relax with a beer before embarking on the epic bike ride to return home :).

Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays in Japan)

So tsuyu 梅雨 (rainy season) has come and gone and natsu 夏 (summer) is upon us in Japan.
Along with it came the beginning of Natsuyasumi 夏休み (Summer Holidays), now you be mistaken to think ‘oh that awesome, as a teacher you don’t have to work for a couple months’
NO JUST NO!

20120805-162259.jpg

For both students and teachers, summer holidays mean something very different than their western counterpart.
This is in the same vein of thinking of how the Japanese seem to love to work 4 hours of overtime everyday and work the weekends. Thus in Japan all teachers and most students attend school on a daily basis even during summer break! At my JHS which students come to school for half days either in the morning or afternoon to train with their respective clubs. The teachers tend to spend half a day supervising club activities and the other half siting in front of their computers repetitively fanning themselves and mumbling atsu atsu (its hot), I presume this is what they regard as junbi 準備 (preparation time).

Fortunately as the token gaijin I’m pretty much exempt from working such ridiculous hours if I don’t want too.
That said I regard the opportunity to watch my students sports club tournaments on a Saturday more of a perk of the job than a chore.
However it does mean that during the summer there are several thousand ALTs across Japan, that find themselves sitting at work awkwardly twiddling their fingers for a couple months with nothing to do.

Now I think I’m particularly fortunate, as I work at a school where I can do pretty much anything I want. No matter how crazy they are my ideas are, they have yet to be shot down! My OTEs (other teachers of english) have been nothing but amazing at accommodating my imagination, which has a tendency to run wild at times.

In addition as one of my OTEs is in charge of the kendo club I have been watching them practice often and training with the ichi-nen sei on a daily basis. God I now understand how Japanese people are so skinny, these kids do like intense workouts for 4 hours a day on the school holidays!
It’s actually really fun training with the kids as it gives me a chance to interact with them in a situation were we are equals instead of sensei 先生 (teacher) and chuugakusei 中学生 (student).

Last week I spent had the week designing Halloween lessons and then 2 days making this epic Australian money poster.

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This week I’v shifted my ambitions to claiming some wall space in one of the hallways to make an ‘English wall’, to aid in such a pursuit I have recruited half the members of the kendo club to aid me in some arts and craft! Alas after raiding the stationary room I have been teaching aboriginal dot art, having students create me a giant collage in the shape of Australia and decorating didgeridoo’s.
Bwahahaha my own personal army of Japanese children (who are also all ni-dan 二段 at kendo), the first step to my goals of global conquest and pretty much what I always wanted \(^o^)/

Still at the end of the day I’m not complaining, I am rather enjoying all the free time that has been thrust upon me after having such a busy first 2 months.
If anything it has endowed me will all the time I could ever want to read, study, play on my phone and get to know my students (^_^)☆

Kobe Center-Gai Ice Sculpture

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As I was strolling around Sannomiya Centre Gai (三宮 センタ街) last Sunday afternoon wasting money as usual, I came across this awesome display made entirely out of ice that could touch.

Needless to say as hungover and hott as I was I gave it a hug much to the puzzled looks of those around me XD

Still it’s nice that you can find stuff like this around Kobe ヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ

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JET Packing for Japan – What to Bring

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No not that kind of Jetpack…….

So now that I have been residing in Japan for around 2 months I feel I have the insight to critically asses exactly what I bought over with me.
As many of you 2012 arrivals will soon be entering the packing phase of pre-departure, I thought I would share my list that I compiled from advice I obtained around the interwebs and my own experiences.

Definitely Bring!!!!
-A laptop (you don’t wanna deal with getting one here when you first arrive)
-A good digital camera (caz your gona wanna capture these memories! I recommend a DSLR and if you go down this path also bring an ultra compact if you ever go somewhere where is not practical to bring a DSLR)
-5 tube of toothpaste
-5 roll on deodorants
(both of these things you will have an enormous amount of difficulty find an equivalent of in Japan)
-One suit! (you will only wear this for your first week as Japan is all about coolbiz at the moment)
-1 pair of slacks
-5 business shirts
-10 T-shirts/Shirts
-2 pairs of jeans
-A couple pairs of shoes (1 formal, 2 casual, 1 pair of runners)
-7 pairs of socks and undies
-3 Polo shirts/Shorts/Tracksuit pants (If your teaching shougakko)
-Prizes and teaching material from your home country (these will make your jikoushoukai sparkle)
-Omiyage!!!! Don’t forget this shit, will do wonders to lube up your relationship with a grumpy Kyoto-sensei)

*Just a note im Japanese sized in most respects so i can buy clothes here cheaply and easily, however if your chunky forget about it. I was a small-medium back home, here I am large!

Consider Bringing!!!
-Electric shaver!! I’m a kinda perpetually fuzzy kinda guy anyhow but I bought a close shaving one and the facial hair grooming kind which is hella useful for prolonging trips to the hairdressers.
-Hard drives full of TV shows and movies (I personally brought 6TB of shows but I’ve been to busy to watch em, if I was lonely in the inaka it would probs be a different story however)
-Non-Prescription medications, you can find everything here but just keep in mind that they may look and be packaged vastly differently, also the dosage is often different (when I was on pain meds I just ate 50% above the recommended dose as Japanese people are likely smaller than you and need less).
If you don’t speak any Japanese it can often be a challenge to get what you need from a pharmacist. So maybe bring some ibuprofen and you’ll be sweet (yea you can get it here and it’s cheap).

Do NOT Bring!!!
-Food!!! This is retarded, especially in big city’s like Kobe, I can get nearly everything (at a price though) at Costco and Jupiter.
-More than 1 book! Seriously there chunky and not that hard to find.
-Japanese textbooks, again there heavy and you can get genki 1 for 3000¥!! Yasui ne!!

Things that with hindsight I would have done differently……
Sadly enough I find that my biggest regret is my laptop, now I bought a top of the line 3000$ gaming laptop that with the charger and what not comes in at around 6kg.
This was a mistake, again it might be an ESID thing but my JHS not just allows me to bring my laptop to school but expects me to! A week into lugging this beast too and from school I realized the error in my ways….. For starters I have little to no time for gaming in my day to day life. This may be due to the fact that I’m in Kobe and there are more interesting things to do than play on the computer, and perhaps come winter I may be eating my words when I’m cold and bored in my lil apartment, surely if I didn’t have to lug it and I was bored in the inaka all the time my opinion on the laptop issue may have been different but at the moment i just wish every day I brought a lighter PC!!
I also wish I had brought all the prizes I could carry (well in a way I did), to the Aussies those little clip on koalas are worth their weight in gold! Everywhere I go in my JHS I’m followed by girls perpetually whining ‘koala please’, god even kocho-sensei lost her shit over them and has half a dozen hanging off her bamboo feature in her office!
More shampoo and conditioner!!! Somehow this stuff found its way out of my bag during the weight culling period after I noticed I was attempting to bring my weight in luggage, I’m yet to find a Japanese brand I like……

So now onto how exactly the big day of departure is going to go down. Are you from a land down under? Then read on!!! If not well you can read on if it pleases you however the usefulness of the following information will be less than amazing. Anyhow Australians you will be sent over to Tokyo via a Qantas flight economy class, what does this mean for you?

Well your checked in luggage will be limited to one suitcase with a maximum of 23kg bringing a heavier suitcase than this will award you the magical prize of a 50$ heavy surcharge, bring more than one suitcase and you will be given of the honour of winning the major prize of a 150$ extra piece surcharge!!!! Pre-departure make sure your life is packed up into a nice little parcel within these guidelines for checked baggage on the Qantas website unless your looking to set the new high-score for idiocy.

For more information on how much you can with you on the plane refer to the Qantas carry on guidelines, however as a general rule you can really sneak a couple extra kilos on with you if your clever, I personally will be bringing my DSLR case with body and 2 lenses, a backpack loaded to the top and my behemoth of a laptop (its like 7kg with the charger and addition hard drives)

For more good advice on exactly what exactly what should and should not find its way into your suitcase check out this post by Surviving in Japan

A Little About Kobe-shi

So I thought i might go a little into the details of the city where I shall be living for the next couple years…….

Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and Japan’s fifth largest city. And although Kobe-shi is right on the other end of the country from Tokyo, there are many other notable cities right around the corner (figuratively) that I cant wait to explore!!! Notably including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Himeji and Okayama!

So if you have ever heard of Kobe before (the city, not the dude who annoyingly comes up every single time I try to google Kobe) it would probably be due to the acclaimed Kobe beef that is raised according to strict tradition in Hyogo. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. I suspect I shall be noming an awful lot of it in the coming months and It looks something like this .

The other thing Kobe is famous in the international community for is the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Kobe in January 1995, killing more than 6,400 people and destroying much of the city. In the years since, Kobe has risen from the ashes with few signs of the destruction in its past.

Kobe has served Japan as one of Japan’s most important port town for centuries due to the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea and was one of the first ports to begin accepting foreign traders in 1868 following Japan’s 200 years of isolation during the Edo period. Here is the official Kobe-shi Flag.

JET placed in Kobe generally live in 3 suburban locations: Gakuen Toshi, Hanayama, and Port Island.  Luckily it seems that I will be placed in Gakuen Toshi (学園都市), which is located in the western ward Nishi-ku (西区) of Kobe. It’s a university district which lies on the Seishin-Yamate Subway line, and is only 25 minutes on the train  away from Sannomiya (三宮) (the centre of Kobe).

Apparently JET’s placed in this area live in the same building complexes in either 1DK or 2DK rooms, and one of the best parts of being placed in Kobe is that the BOE pays for half your rent and I am told to expect between ¥30,000~38,000/month (Subsidized from between \50,000~70,000) with no key or deposit money required, sweet huh!

I will be based at a JHC (as most Kobe JET’s are) which is only about 5km from my apartment, another added bonus being that the BOE also pays for my transportation expenses to and from work!!!

Equally famous is Kobe’s wonderful nightlife, crammed into a small, navigable, and rather intimate quarter of neon lights, cozy bars, lively pubs, and sophisticated nightclubs. I have been told that there is a place near Sannomiya Station called The Hub which is the general JET favourite meeting place on a Friday night to plan the evenings misadventures. As you can see its a city that’s certainly on the pretty side of things ^_____^