Christmas Pug Board

20121201-午後023522.jpg

I have a certain affinity for pugs, perhaps because I’m missing my one Fuki-san that I left back in Australia. I frequently sneak pugs into my lesson plans and all my students know the Fuji’s name.
This is the Christmas version of my English board featuring ‘Fuji-clause’ seems to be a hit with my kids!! ^_^

A Mochitsuki Present

2010 03 Mar 240

Today was mochitsuki (mochi making day) at my chuugakkou 中学校 (Junior High School). In what was literally the most touching thing that has happened to me since I arrived in Japan, a couple of my 2年生 (8th grade) students gave me some handmade mochi they made especially for me.
Apparently they had noticed how much my Japanese has improved since I arrived and they wanted to express their gratitude towards me for studying hard everyday so I could speak with them!

First Week In Kobe Wrap Up

So I have now been living in Kobe-shi for little over a week now and honestly I have been meccha busy ever since I stepped foot off the plane last Wednesday. Either I have been insanely busy setting up my new life here or socializing (read: getting drunk) at every opportunity.

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning, now my journey from Melbourne to Kobe was a tad less amazing than I had hoped, perhaps having something to do with the sheer amount of baggage I decided to lug half way across the world which amounted to over 2/3rds my body weight.

The story of the flights over make for less than interesting reading so I will skip straight to the arrival, now before I left I was given a schedule that had me spending a day in Tokyo after my arrival, soon as I passed through customs I discovered this was not the case and was quickly ushered by a CLAIR employee onto a train, only stoping briefly at a counter to have my baggage posted to me. This was my first experience with logic head-butting with Japanese rationale, basically it would take 36 hours or so for my baggage to reach me being couriered from Narita to Kobe and I would have to pay for the inconvenience. I left room in my bag to stuff a good 10kg of heavy stuff I had in my carry on so this ‘service’ would be little more than a grand inconvenience so I stuck to my guns and eventually she let me take my baggage with me, god I have no idea how I would have got through my first 2 days if I had let them take it……. Like sure I get why you post your baggage if you’re going to Tokyo Orientation but seriously I only had to lug it a couple hundred metres through Tokyo Station to the Shinkansen and that was pretty much it. At the end of the day I guess in Japan you pick your battles and 99% of the time the best course of action is to just smile, nod and accept things are just done here the way they are.

 

So after an enduring 20 hour or so trip (yeah I know I can’t bitch as it’s a slap on the wrist compared to a lot of the rest of ya) I was brought to the KIC where I spent 2 hours being orientated and signing documents before finally I was taken by one of my CIR’s to my apartment.

Although I think this really warrant its own post but upon stepping in my apartment for the first time I was very taken aback, impressed even! As I was expecting little more than a tiny 1DK and all I’d heard prior to arrival is that my particular building is renowned for being particularly small! This is of course not to say that it is huge but regardless its more than adequate and really already feels like home. As it came more or less bare I have tried my best to furnish it with what little funds I brought over, Daiso (my nearest 100 yen store) has really filled in the gaps as they sell pretty much most home wares one would need, hence why I have sunk in a good man (万) there in the past week XD.

Despite my urgent need for large purchases such as an air conditioner, microwave oven, washing machine, bike, cabinets and bed (yes the novelty of a futon has already worn off >_<) just to name a few I have decided to leave my apartment fairly Spartan for a couple more weeks. As I was a JET who arrived at a very unique time I am fortunate enough that about 20% of my peers will be departing in about 6 weeks’ time. What this means for me is that there are many opportunities to inherit much of the departing JET’s stuff at a fraction of what It would cost to buy it new and before the bulk of the new JET’s come in, as most are looking to pack away their lives whilst I am trying to set mine up, so it’s really a WIN-WIN situation ^_^

Everyone I have met in Gakuentoshi thus far has been amazingly hospitable and have really made the transition into an entirely new country as painless as possible. On my first night a couple of the girls from my building brought me a little welcoming kit with a couple things I might need in the immediate future then spent the evening taking me shopping and showing me round the neighbourhood, the next evening they all threw me a little potluck welcoming dinner where I got to meet a couple more of my new neighbours. Honestly though it all the little things like that that have made me really feel at home ^_^

The following two days prior to the weekend of insanity, were spent orientating me as fast as possible (I had 2 ½ days of this as opposed to the 7days plus Tokyo orientation most new JETS get), basically I had a plethora of information thrust into me quick and nasty, was taken to get my Alien Resident Card, had my gas water turned on, got my Keitei (iPhone 4s), had my bank account set up and was shown where my school was, needless to say it was hectic. I made the situation just that much worse by forgetting my passport when I was taken to the Prefectural Ward office to get my Alien Card (which was a good hour’s trip there and back which we then had to do twice), to be fair however it was only mentioned that I should bring it once the day before just after I had stepped off the Shinkansen from Tokyo.

However at the end all the chaos came the weekend!!! Friday night I was kidnaped and dragged to ‘The Hub’ which is the Friday night meet up spot for the ALT community here in Kobe. Where a little welcoming party was thrown for me and I met another plethora of new faces, the next 6-7 hours were spent hopping from one bar/combini to the next getting progressively drunker and drunker to the point where it all becomes a little hazy just how we missed the last train and ended up in a crazy pricy cab back to the burbs, needless to say I woke up Saturday morning feeling well orientated (read: so hungover I wanted to die). I dragged myself out of bed futon however as a city tour/mandate with the ever charismatic Jerome was awaiting me, I spent the day being shown the best Kobe has to offer before we decided to jump right into afternoon pre-drinks prior to a welcoming wine and cheese party he had organized for me at his apartment on Port Island that evening.

Awaking hating life for yet another morning after an evening of deliciousness I spent the day shopping in Sannomiya, before heading back to Gakuentoshi in the afternoon where I was taken to a newly opened Costco, which is only a 15 minute walk from my apartment.

The following are a couple photos from my Kobe adventures last Saturday.

Alas Monday morning came around with my first day of work, thankfully it was organized for me to spend a day shadowing a senior ALT at his school in Shin-Nagoya. Due to testing at his regular JHS unfortunately I was not able to visit so instead we went to a nearby Shougakko (Elementary School) where I spent the day playing with the kids, this was my first time exposed to the Japanese school system in almost a decade since I visited when I went on exchange in Highschool. Let’s just say it provided some interesting insight into the Japanese thought process. For example at lunch time suddenly all the children who were playing outside were suddenly ushered back into the building and the teachers were all crowded around right outside the staffroom door……. Now what was this grand threat, a sexual predator? a bomb threat? NOPE! It was 3 crows that were perched on some nearby streetlights, along with a couple of the male teachers, myself and the other ALT simply screamed at the birds and banged things until they flew away. Regardless this was reason enough to cancel PE classes for the next 3 periods. As I mentioned before, do I understand……. Well unless they have had situations before where a crow has swooped down and picked of an ichinensei (this is feasible I had one on my back like a koala for like 10 minutes and he was almost weightless) I don’t see what the commotion was about but the best course of action is to simply smile and nod regardless of how crazy things may seem using western rationale.

Once the threat of the evil Crows was deemed to be neutralized the sannensei were all gathered in the area to practice an Okinawan Taiko dance for the Bunka (Cultural Festival) I was invited to participate, although I really had little idea of what exactly I was doing it was insanely fun and the kids really looked like they enjoyed watching my less than accurate rendition of the dance.

The whole experience was really quite enriching for me and provided me with the confidence to jump right into team teaching when I headed to my own school but more on that later.

In short I have been nothing short of overwhelmed by the kindness and support I have received from the ALT community here in Kobe and am truly content with life at the moment, I really think I’m going to be happy here J

Next Time on Nihonomnom: The Annual Kobe Scavenger Hunt (SCUNT)

Don’t Say Oh Well

Yeah, I step outta my little country
I traveled seasons, took a longboat
And now I find myself in a small town
It’s so remote, I couldn’t trawl
So I kissed my mommy, I wanna sweet cheeks
And I told my dad I’m real glad that we’re friends
Said to my brother I’ll surely miss him
I’m coming back just don’t know when
Waited enough to find the truth
The pain, again then say oh well
Don’t say oh well
Departing Australia for foreign shores has been the most difficult thing I have every brought myself to do, and to those I am leaving behind, know you will be in my mind and in my heart, always
-ダニエル

Sayonara Australia!!

Alas the moment of my departure is imminent, the road up to this point has certainly been long and arduous. I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if not for the support of my family and friends that helped me every step of the way.

My flight leaving Melbourne departs this evening at 6:30pm this evening, Sydney bound with a connection to Tokyo’s Kansai International Airport in which I will be arriving at 6:05am on Wednesday 30th May!

Honestly the last month has quite literally been the best of my entire life, never have I felt so loved and appreciated by those around me, which has made the decision to leave all that more difficult. I have been showered with gifts and good times by my friends, co-workers and especially my family, and have been thrown no less than four going away parties in the last week.

I would go so far to say I have lived more in these past few weeks than in the many months before, having being caught up in the daily grind these past few years. From the bottom of my heart I have been as truly happy and content with life, since I found out I was accepted into the 2012 JET Program and was heading to Kobe.

The packing up of everything I have ever owned and deciding what exactly makes the cut to be packed away to come along with me (made all the more-so difficult by the fact I have always been a compulsive hoarder) has been enduring process. Having been through the emotional roller-coaster that comes with leaving ones home that have ranged from joy to guilt to regret to contentment, one feeling that is prominent as ever, is that of being terminally Australian.

However reassuringly, unlike my grandparents that first came to these shores over half a century ago (a journey of which they have reminded me several times upon each of our meetings these past weeks) I leave knowing, that a home to be warmly welcomed back to will always be awaiting me in Melbourne, with my family and friends being little more than a Skype session away.

I would like to share a couple of the photos of the people and times that have made these last few weeks special.

So how long have I been waiting to do the cheesiest thing possible and play Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone upon my departure to Japan. About a year and a half or so, it pretty much clicked the first time I ever heard it that this was destined to be my JET song. If anything its an awesome replacement for the only other JET applicable departure song Leaving On A JET Plane.

Learn All The Things!

So just an update as so so very much has happened in the last few days.
As many of you may know I am very technologically inclined and as a result I have tracked down every little detail about my placement and what to expect before I would have found out anything bar the cities name if I hadn’t taken the initiative.
I did this by posting in the ITIL and official forums, tracking down the Kobe-shi CIRs and extensively networking on Facebook. For any new JETs heading over who are desperate for details regarding their placements, CLAIR tends to be very slack in releasing details (my situation is case and point) however i guarantee you there will be a plenty of current JETs that will be more than willing to help you to the best of their ability if you put yourself out there.
So on Tuesday I finally discovered the identity of my predecessor (by Facebook lurking until I came across him) I have been chatting with him since and he has been extremely kind as to reply with insight into the 3 pages or so of questions I sent him. Alas at last the plethora of queries I have had in the back of my head for the past few weeks have been answered. Turns out he did break contract early to work for private ALT dispatch company, so effectively I have him solely to thank for my amazing placement and early departure!
Schools
Regarding my teaching schedule and placement, seems that I am fortunate enough not to have my schools spread to widely or far from my apartment. I will be based at one large JHS on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, whilst my Tuesdays and Thursdays shall be spent visiting 2 nearby ES’s.
All 3 school are less than 5km away from my apartment so once I get settled in I might consider purchasing a mamachari and biking it (even if just from the station) as I think this would be a great opportunity to get some exercise and explore my local area on the way to and from school 🙂
Apartment
Although I am inheriting my predecessors schools, he is remaining in Kobe so I shall be moving into the apartment of an ALT who vacated a month ago, as a result I will be of those unlucky JETs that moves into an empty apartment bar the four F’s supplied by the Kobe BOE which are:
-Futon
-Fridge
-Fone
-Fan
Also since I only intend on bringing 100,000円 with me as the AUD-JPN exchange rate is less than amazing at the moment, my new home might be a bit on the spartan side of things for the first 2 months! At the end of the day when it comes down to spending my yennies on beer or furnishings obviously the apartment can wait 😛
After joining the Kobe FB group I have met a heap of super cool Kobe JET’s who will be my future neighbours in the apartments around me as I was told the which room i would be getting from one of the CIR’s. One such kind soul sent me some pictures of her apartment to give me some idea of what I’m getting into (as all the apartments are carbon copies) only that mine will be on the bare side of things. It’s only a 1DK so its not particularly huge but the fact that its located in Gakuentoshi, Kobe (debatably the best placement you could ever hope for as a JET) more than makes up for it. Anyhow here are a couple of them.
Basically I have just been blown away by the kindness and hospitality I have received from the JET community thus far and I haven’t even arrived yet!
I have high hopes for the next couple years, I stressed over placements so much prior to finding out I was headed to Kobe but something tells me I’m going to fit in just fine ^______^

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 ^_____^