Kobe JET Leavers Video 2014

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It’s that time of year where our old JET’s are leaving our community to make way for the new arrivals coming in August.

Annually we hold a large event to farewell our friends prior to their departure and this year I was on the leavers party organizing committee. We decided upon a venue in Harborland called Cafe Fish, a wedding reception that could hold the 100 or so guests of the evening.

The party is always an emotional event, this year in particular it is with a heavy heart we are saying our farewells to many of the great pillars of our community. Although we encountered a few hiccups along the way, more or less I would consider the event a great success.

A tradition alongside the party is the screening of a farewell video during the midway point of the event, I took it upon myself to make the video this year. It was a labour of love taking months of effort accumulating over 1000 photos and editing them together. I am very proud of the results, and it was with great relief to see it well received on the evening.

Without further a due, please enjoy the 2014 Kobe JET Leavers Video.

If you’re interested the leavers videos from 2012 can be found HERE and and 2013 HERE 🙂

Enjoy

Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ)

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Kobe Luminarie 神戸ルミナリエ has been a grand event held in Sannomiya the central district of Kobe, for around 2 weeks every December since 1995.

The lights were donated by the Italian government to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake which had devastated much of Kobe that year, resulting in the deaths of around 4600 residents.

The display includes around 200,000 hand painted lights which have been lit every year as a tourist attraction to draw people back to Kobe after the disaster. In addition the event acts as a fundraiser to help cover the 100 billion dollars of damages that were caused by the Earthquake.

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Unfortunately I missed out of seeing the lights last year,as the event conflicted with my return to Australia over the Christmas break. This year however I was lucky enough to check it out with my good mate Pete!

Around this time of the year, glancing at my Facebook feed, it seems like pretty much every JET in Kobe seems to head over at some point, take the exact same photos and upload an album of them :p

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Protip: If you are attending this event, don’t be a stooge and line up with the masses!
Especially on the weekends people will wait for hours and hours just to walk down the shopping street!
The thing about Japan is the average person here doesn’t really break the rules, so there is little to no security at things like this. If you simply just walk along parallel to the enormous lines of people, there is really nothing stoping the clever of us from just slipping into the river of people at the entrance of the event.

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Kobe JET Scavenger Hunt 2013 (SCUNT)

On the evening of June 1st 2013, dozens of costumed, slightly inebriated Kobe JETs descended upon Sannomiya for another year of mayhem!

For this was the night of the annual Kobe JET Scavenger Hunt (The SCUNT)!

For those have been with me for the long haul the 2012 SCUNT was one of the first things I did when I arrived in Japan a year back, if you wanna take a peak I blogged about last years https://nihonomnom.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/kobe-2012-scavenger-hunt-scunt/

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The basics of the the game are as follows.
Prior to the event ALTs can put together teams of up to 8 people with a theme of some description, as points are awarded for ‘best’ dressed’ crazy costumes are a must.
Teams assemble at ‘tits park’ at 7PM of the night of the event and are given a list of clues to solve ‘the mystery’ by interviewing ALTs playing on the ‘home team’. As one successfully interviews ‘suspects’ they receive more and more clues, meanwhile additional points can be scored for taking specific ‘crazy photos’.

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Anyhow this years events theme was ‘Digital Kobe’. The following letter was the letter we received prior to its commencement.

Greetings,

First, on behalf of Aztechnology, I would like to thank you for volunteering for this peculiar mission. As you may or may not know, we function as the technological intelligence and advancement sector under the US Air Force. We create anything and everything from programs to Nano technology.

Recently, we’ve had a disturbance in our Master Server; –programs have started to malfunction or disappear. Then about 2 days ago a virus appeared in the system. It started rapidly corrupting files. We aren’t sure who’s behind it but whoever it is hides their tracks very well.Our biggest concern is our multi-billion dollar AI program N.A.V.I (Neural Artificial Visual Interface). For some strange reason she’s appearing and disappearing from the system as if she’s hiding. When we can access her she functions fine. So we are sending you and your teams into the server. Projecting human forms into the digital world is still a little new to us. However, we’re sure you’ll be fine.

You have 3 missions:

1.) Find out who’s behind this. Programs ALWAYS leave a bit of their coding somewhere; search for them. Also some of our programs are still functional but not accessible from here. Find those programs and get whatever information you could get from them before they are corrupted or officially off-line.

2.) Find NAVI, each group that finds her and take a “Screen Cap” saves part of her data.

3.) Find the virus dubbed “the Black Plague. We don’t expect you to terminate him but by taking a screen cap you will isolate him in an area for about 10 minutes.

I’ve created a anti-virus who will be your point of contact in the digital world. Her name is H.A.V.O.K (Hatter’s Anti-Viral Optimal Killer – Yes! We like acronyms !) Sadly, she was created in a rush and full of bugs. A patch was created for her so she won’t mistake you for viruses.

I’ve already created a direct link to your team captains. I’ll try to keep you informed about what’s happening out here.

Safe journey and good luck

Signed

J. Hatter
Chief Technician

So basically this years ‘interviewees’ were actually all computer programs. Each had a unique interface and teams had to use the proper technical commands to effectively extract information regarding ‘The Black Plague’.

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The ever amazing organizer JoJo

Alas with the following information at hand we set upon our task, meanwhile Chief Technician J. Hatter frequently sent updates via a Captains thread regarding the status of the viruses infection and whereabout!

Now on to my team!!!
This year I wanted to put my own crew together and so I set about rounding up the creative types from Gakuentoshi uniting us under the banner of the greatest cartoon ever made!
What time is it? Adventure Time!!
(Really Richie and I just wanted to be Finn and Jake as we find their characters very ‘relatable’)

Meet the crew!

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Finn and Fiona

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BMO and Lumpy Space Princess

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Princess Bubblegum and The Ice King

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Jake the Dog

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And last but not least Marshal Lee

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For those of you who don’t know what Adventure Time is…… for shame!
It is an amazing cartoon that resinates with demographic decades above its target market, allowing 20/30 somethings a nostalgic adventure into their childhood imaginations and so has gained has a colossal fan base (myself included)!


Here is the video of this years event with the results. Our team came in 3rd place however we would have got the most points for photo objectives ^^
We also won best video for our hilarious Harlem Shake!!! (Feat. Drunk Salary men)

And now onto the photos!!

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Being naughty on the train on the way there.

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Hugging a stranger.

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Kumi-taiso #1

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Kumi-taiso #2

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Kumi-taiso #3

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Vitruvian Man

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Under an umbrella

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Eating an onigiri

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Totem pole

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In a guillotine

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Man on a scaffold

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Torii barricade

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Invisible bike

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In water

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Fighting

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Chugging a can if drink in front of a combini

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Power Ranger posing

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Biggest phallus

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Hengao-ing

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Face covered in paper

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On a pachinko machine

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On one team mate

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In the air

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2 girls one pockey

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In a locker

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Does this make me any less of a man

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It’s a new fashionable hat

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Between to pillars

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Twin elephants

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This is why we can’t have nice things

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Call me maybe

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In an elevator

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Pig chef

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The iron throne

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You call that dancing, this is dancing

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A boy peeing

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This is going to hurt

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Heaviest breasts

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I am superman

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Kissing a rival team

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Haduken

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Nanpa-IMF an ojiichan

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Happi coats

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Inappropriate use of nameko

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Dancing with a stranger

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Kibasen with strangers

Of course there were another 8 teams we were racing against, check out some of their awesome costumes.

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ALT: Arkham League of Terror

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Hula hula nuku nuku apua’a

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Kitchen Invaders

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And of course a special mention to the ‘the Black Plague’ Jarryd!!

Catch ya next year kids……

Life As a Kobe JET – One Year On

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Preface: This is going to be a long and honest post about life as a Kobe-JET one year down the road, it ain’t gona sugar coat it but I hope I can accurately portray where I’m at in life.

Although I can hardly believe it myself it today marks a year since I set foot in this great city of Kobe for the first time. In fact this week the new guy arrived who is my shoes this year, as the strangely timed May arrival!

As many may well know, moving to the other side of the world presents its own unique set of hurdles to overcome. That said, since arriving I have truly had the most amazing year of my life, exploring and learning about Japan it’s culture and language.

I know in my heart, I have met some of the most phenomenal individuals the world has to offer here. And it’s as true now as the first day I ever said it, ‘in Kobe strangers are your friends and your friends, are family’.

This days coming has been something I have thought upon greatly as of late, in a sense I feel like I have finally come full circle. But let me elaborate…..

After having to say goodbye to a very dear friend of mine who broke contract last week, it really hit home for me that everyone I know here is going to leave one day. Really no matter how deep and profound the relationships we form here, they are essentially all to a large degree, temporary (-。-;

Anyhow much unlike my previous milestone wrap up posts, this one I am writing with a new found level head, hopefully this one will be a tad more objective.

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Personal Development

So I have been through a roller-coaster of emotions and phases since arriving in Japan, I guess the one biggest mistake I ever made in this place was trying to recreate myself into someone who I wasn’t, when moving to a new place it can be tempting to be someone new. However I now know that such a course of action is simply foolish and in the words of Oscar Wilde,

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Anyhow towards the beginning of the year I fell into a deep hole, in retrospect I went a little paranoid and crazy, convinced everyone was out to get me. It wasn’t until a my buddies helped me recognize the errors in my ways, that suddenly everything really turned around for me. Now I definitely see myself on the right path, just trying to be the best me I can be, basically the kind of person who exhibits the kind of genuine traits I find endearing in others ❤

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I’ve had my fair share of difficulties in discovering where I belong in our amazing community here, always branding myself as a square in a round hole. A year on  I truly feel as if I have come full circle in discovering who I am and who I want to be, what I know about this place is that it will make you a better version of yourself if you let it.

Perhaps just growing up in general and developing a much deeper sense of empathy for others is something that just comes naturally when you live all on your own for the first time in your life, that said you’re never truly alone here. I have the support of my family back home and the plethora of amazing fellow ALTs that live and work alongside me.

At the end of the day being a JET placed in Kobe is pretty much the equivalent if winning the placement lottery, there is just no where else like it in Japan and a year down the road it is very clear just why we have the highest JET retention rate throughout the entire program.
I like to believe that by now I have become a seasoned ALT, no longer naive and starry eyed. I certainly don’t know what the future has in store, or how I just might be feeling this time next year. However if the next 4 years are even remotely similar to the one I have just been through, I think I may be one of those people who just won’t go home and end up staying the entire 5 years!

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When I think back to my life pre-JET, I wasn’t a happy person, mostly discontent with my  situation in general. I can honestly say that the person I was a year ago is dead an buried, it’s almost like I had to leave my home to finally see what I had and appreciate all the support my family had always given me.
If asked if I am ever homesick, my answer is always a very firm no, the only thing I miss about my country is my family, I believe if they weren’t there I would surely never return. I certainly don’t want to imply that Japan is magical and perfect in any way, however Australia is simply not a place I can ever remember fondly, if anything the places in my mind that I nostalgically look back at are in South East Asia 😄

And no it’s not that I am some Japan fanboy (in fact anyone who has ever actually live here will learn 95% of what the outside world thinks Japan is, is wrong XD). The main thing I love about my life here is that it supports me in my thirst for knowledge, being the kind of person who can’t stand sitting idle I felt completely lost after finishing university and suddenly finding myself with no outlet to direct my quizzical nature.

Back home I felt like my progress had come to a standstill but since coming to Japan every day here I learn at least a dozen new things, whether it be Japanese language/cultural knowledge, perusing hobbies or even to discovering things about myself.

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Social Life

After having talked up the profound influence the people here have had on my life, I thought I would go into the kind of stuff we get up to. So what makes up a normal week as a Kobe JET, we generally all work Monday to Friday so generally nothing crazyyyyyy happens on school nights. However that not to say that you have to just go home after work, this year especially I have found myself so busy with events on school nights that I hardly even get enough me time! During the winter its so cold that we might to things like get together for oden or nabe parties a couple days a week, movie nights, group study sessions or just hanging out together.

People do tend to become hermits during the colder months to a degree though (myself included) only because its kinda hard to be genki when your apartment is perpetually under 10 degrees! Once it warms up people tend to be more enthusiastic about doing stuff after school, even looking at the last couple weeks for example, I have been shopping in Sannomiya a couple times after school, gone out for dinner with friends and even gotten really on occasion at house parties and bars!

The weekends are where the magic happens though, it is extremely rare for one to come around where we don’t have plans before hand, whether they be little weekend holidays, drinking parties, nights out on the town or days out adventuring! We can generally travel quite cheaply in Japan and one thing I really have noticed that when I tell Japanese people to even a hand-full of the places I have been to in Japan they are always like ‘wow you have been more places that Japanese’.

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Quite often we will pack overnight bags, just jump on a train and spend the entire of the weekend somewhere, particularly if we have a long weekend, naming all the things I have done in the past year would be extremely difficult so I’ll list a couple normalish kinda trips that come to mind.  So in the past year I have partied in Fukuoka, stayed in a ryokan at Koya-san, participated in the Iga Ueno Ninja Festival, explored abandoned train tunnels, watched autumn leaves in Kyoto, cycled around Awaji island, swam in Nunobiki waterfall and spent all night in Osaka dressed in a ‘sushi costume’ for Halloween.

Those are all examples of some of the more unique kinda stuff we get up to, generally a more normal weekend would consist of all the social kids getting together at the HUB on Friday night for happy hour. If there is nothing special planned that particular evening, we will break up into our respective groups and head off to maybe get dinner/do karaoke/do a nomihoudai. Saturday nights are generally a greater affair, I would say more often than not if there is nothing else on I can easily throw together a group of people to come to Osaka for a drinking party.

There is a company called WhyNot that have ‘international parties’ across Kansai, there will always be one on every Saturday night at a nightclub somewhere around the Nanba/Shinsaibasi area of Osaka. Basically Japanese people go to these things to meet foreigners, we go there because we can get wasted with a 3 hour all you can drink party that only costs us 2000円!

So one thing about being a Kobe JET is that we really live in a gaijin bubble of sorts. There are so many of us in the community that if you want to hardly associate with any Japanese people, you really don’t have to. Regardless of how much I love my friends here, it really seems quite arrogant and a complete waste to live in a country and not get to know its people. By simply taking a look at a couple of the photos in this post one thing is certain, we are never alone ❤

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The Workplace & Teaching

It’s been a long road to becoming the teacher I am today, I came here as a business graduate with zero knowledge of teaching and even without a like of children in general.
Oh how far I have come, I teach at one JHS and 2 nearby ES of whom’s students feed into my base school.
When I arrived I was paired with a first year OTE who spoke very poor English. For the most part of last year, due to both my and her inexperience with the job, in retrospect I feel that a lot of the time we deliver less than stellar lessons. One of the major points was that I felt the students never respected her, many boys often straight up refused to work and instead would spend half the class yelling out sexual things to her. It was quite sad when I conducted standardized testing across the year level, as her class’s average scores were on average 30% lower than the others which the other English teacher taught.
Now I don’t like playing the bad guy, I much prefer building genuine relationships with my students. Having them want to learn rather than me constantly struggling just to keep them quiet and on topic is all I ever wanted.

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Anyhow with the new school year came the ‘great teacher shuffle’, my terrible OTE was replaced with an extremely headstrong well seasoned one, who was specifically head-hunted by my former principal to work at my school and fix up our English program.
This woman is amazing, all of the worst students I had last year, under her iron fist are now engaged and enthusiastic.
I guess in a word I would say she is an enabler, always pushing the students and myself to put in 110%. Honestly this year I feel like I do 3x more work than I was doing last year, I hardly have a spare moment to myself as I’m always either teaching or planning awesome engaging lessons. I knew she was a keeper from the moment I planned my first lesson with her. Having grown accustomed to dumbing down every activity I continued to do so, as anything slightly challenging my old OTE would shoot down saying ‘that’s too hard for the students’.
I would always try to rationalize that the students are clever, and we should should always push them to do the best they can by using one of my favourite  analogy’s to no avail “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”.

Now when I noticed new amazing OTE constantly telling me ‘re-write  worksheet/grammar point and make them harder’ as the students can do it, my heart turned to putty.
Basically she motivates me to be the epic teacher I know I can be, although I work much harder now, I love everything about my job. My previously unmotivated students are now some of my best, when I ask a question I see every hand raise every time, now that is the difference a good teacher can make!

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Outside of the classroom, developing rapport with my coworkers has been a gradual thing, several of them speak very good English (yet are often hesitant to speak it) and some virtually none at all. Over the past year I have felt most generally warming up-to me, particularly since the new school year began and I gained the 2nd year sempai status. This year we also gained a new Kouchou Sensei 校長先生 (principal) who is a very eccentric and energy filled man. Although he speaks no English, I constantly make a great effort to communicate with him in Japanese as he has taken a liking to me, we are in fact engaged in an eternal gift off constantly showering each other in snacks 😄

All in all I love my job, I feel like I get better and better at it every day, I was born for this!

Studying Japanese

Now actually getting round to formally studying was something I procrastinated about for many months after arriving, in fact it wasn’t until around December when the JET Programme Japanese Language Course books from CLAIR arrived on my desk that I even had a crack at it.

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Now I started with the beginner course since I really had very little previous knowledge of Japanese at all, these books do get quite a lot of flack for being completely in romanji at the beginner level (which honestly is wayyyyyy too long), what I feel they did do however is teach the basics of Japanese grammar.

Previously I was pretty much just slapping the words together in any order that ‘felt’ right which left me sounding a little ‘special’. Now I would highly recommend this CLAIR series to beginners for one solid reason, each day you must complete 4 pages, each month you must complete one book as there is a test at the end of the month, for those without a teacher this is really the kick up the ass you need to get your study on.

Now unless your only want to learn how to pronounce Japanese and not read and write at all I suggest the ‘Tako technique’, basically what I did to supplement my study is rewrite every single sentence in all 6 books line by line from romanji to hirigana/katakana/kanji. Yes this will make each chapter take 2-3 times as long as it should, but lets just say that before I started these books I had a great deal of trouble reading the simplest of lines in kana, 6 months later I could read more or less at half the speed I can in English.

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I have since moved onto a series called 日本語チャレンジ (Nihongo Challenge) at the N4 level as I have applied for the JLPT N4 exam which is being held in a months time (just quietly I don’t have high hopes for a passing grade but I’m going to give it my best regardless). There are 3 separate textbooks available at each level of the series, I purchased all 3 かんじ(Kanji), ことば(Vocabulary) and Grammar(文法).

It’s been a gradual process but each and every day I am learning so much just from being immersed in the language. In my mind when I arrived I felt my my comprehension was foggy, each day that fog clears a little as I slowly slowly can understand more about the world and happenings around me. I have come a long way, but there’s a long way to go! 頑張ります!!!

TL;DR
– A year on I could not be any happier with my life.
– I have amazing friends from all over the world.
– Teaching has become one of my passions and feel I get better at it every day.
– Learning Japanese has been a progressive journey, but I’m getting there ^^

As a final note, to my loyal readers (you must be if you got this far).
Truly, Gratitude, Always.

The following is a picture year in review!

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My Very First Earthquake 私の最初の地震

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So this morning I was awoken at around 5:30am by a queer shaking and an emergency beeping sound coming from my phone. Disorientated from sleep the first thoughts that came to my mind to comprehend what was happening was either I was dreaming, seizuring or this is an earthquake!

Later this morning I discovered that it was in fact quite large at 6.0 magnitude striking at 5:33am near Awaji island in the Seto Inland Sea southwest Kobe, from where I live the quake was felt at around 3.5 magnitude.

The most amusing part of the ordeal was within 2 minutes of waking up, my phone began to echo said earthquake in an hour long constant stream of updates on facebook and texts threads, if there is anything that can wake up the entire Kobe JET community and get them on facebook at 5:30am on a Saturday morning, its a couple seconds of relatively gentle vibrating.

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On a more serious note however, Kobe is pretty much renowned for two things when mentioned to those who don’t live in Japan, Kobe beef and Great Hanshin earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1995, and levelled the city of Kobe where I live. Echoing this mornings tremors, its focus was was located 16 km beneath its epicentre on the northern end of Awaji Island, 20 km away from Kobe. All Kobe JETs are required to visit The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Museum as part of our orientation shortly after beginning our contracts so we all have an understanding of the seriousness of earthquakes in Japan and the steps taken to reduce their devastation  the following are a couple photos of just how much damage was done to Kobe almost 20 years ago.

JET Program 2013-2014 Recontracting!

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As of today it’s all official, I have past the recontracting interview, received all the paperwork and I will be here in Kobe for at least another 16 month (though to be honest probably a lot longer)!!! Here in Kobe it’s not such a big deal to stay here a long time, all you gotta pretty much do is be good at your job and an integral part of the JET community.
It seems insane that almost a year has passed since I arrived here in Japan and I have come a long long way!

Also I’ma take this opportunity to apologize for the reduced postings this year, I have recently begun taking my 日本語 study a lot more seriously which has been chewing up a lot of the free time I was previously putting towards this blog, alongside that its winter, unless you guys are interested in my tales of playing ps3 n eating nabe not that much has been going on. That said hang tight, nihonomnom is in no way dead! A dream of spring is coming!

I leave you with a picture I drew whilst bored at my desk, takoichigodaifuku たこ苺大福 the smallfolk of the imaginary kingdom of Takotopia. A grand realm which exists only in the confines of my head 😄

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Surprise Birthday Party!

So Friday night I was told by my most delicious of friends lady Barbie, that I was to come round for dinner, as we were going to plan a seminar for an upcoming skills development conference together.

Quite hungover from the birthday festivities of the night before and weary from teaching 5 classes Friday at my JHS, I was looking forward to sinking under the kotatsu and eating a big pot of nabe. Whilst not the most exciting of Friday night plans it was what I was craving.

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Now in retrospect there were many holes in the the fabricated ‘story’ which was used to lead me to her apartment, however so tired and trusting I didn’t think twice that things just didn’t quite add up until it was all over.

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Queerly the front door of the residence which i usually burst through Kramer style was locked and there was apparently a ‘black out’. Taking a couple steps through the door I almost had a heart attack at the sight of 30 of my friends crammed into the tiny apartment yelling ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY CUNT!’

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Here is an amazing onegiri takoyaki birthday cake おにぎりたこ焼きバースデーケーキ that was made for me by the ever amazing Ms Sandy!!
As it was Australia Day the morning after it was deemed that I had to drink the most foul of Australian beer, the ever gross VB.

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The following are photos of some of the amazing friends I have who attended and the evenings shenanigans.

Photographic evidence past 11pm has been lost due which oddly coincided with the beginning of kings cup…..
Also the evenings photos were taken our new up and comer Richard, a late arrival from Canada that we have been ‘orientating’ these past 2 weeks!

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Anyhow I am so grateful that I have found myself in the midst of such an amazing community here in Japan, Kobe I love you, I love you, I love you!

-Tako