Hokubu Bonnenkai, Family Visit, Christmas, Trip to USJ, and New Years in Japan

This is SO late, but I’ve been really busy lately and haven’t had time to write blog posts as often. I’ve managed to bust out a couple posts already, so now I just have to actually POST them. This one will cover five big things that happened in December; my school’s bonnenkai (end of the year party), a visit to my good friend’s house in Ko, my trip to Tokyo, my trip to USJ with Jami and Derek and what I ended up doing for New Year’s (since my initial plans fell through due to me being sick). I had more pictures, but my phone was replaced a couple weeks ago and I forgot to write down the Japanese specific account I had for it; soooooo lost all those pictures >.<

Parties are a big thing here in Japan, especially if you work in a group environment setting. I’ve been to… two so far since being here that were set up by my JHS. First one was way back in September and the second one was in October. This one, however, was a bit more special… and a bit more expensive. The Bonnenkai (End of the Year party) is one of two biggest events for JHS teachers in Japan. They go all out for this dinner. We were put up in a really fancy hotel, had an impressive array of set dishes brought out to us (though I really struggled since the majority of it was seafood) and played games to pass the time. Even though the food was mainly seafood, I pride myself in being able to eat all of it, even if it took me five minutes of chewing and copious sips of tea to swallow. I was seated with the Special Education teachers (which was nice because usually I’m sitting by the same people).

We had a quiz show PowerPoint and I couldn’t really answer many of the questions because 1) I only understood 25% of what the questions was asking/hints given and 2) couldn’t form an intelligent answer in time. I knew that all the questions/hints revolved around things that had happened in the past  year. But having only been here since August, it was a bit hard for me to contribute. I think that the teachers who set up the enkai remembered this would be an issue for me (I had also stated in my staff introduction that I have an easier time understanding Japanese when I hear it rather than being able to speak quickly) because the last one was insanely easy. So easy, I was actually afraid to answer it; I was pretty sure I would still get it wrong. The hint was: “フレシュメンバー” This reads as “Fresh Member”. I had a feeling they were talking about me because no one wanted to answer the question. So I raised my hand and the mic was passed to me and I said super quiet, “私?”Which reads as “Me?”

Thunderous applause.

And impromptu speech. Luckily! They asked me to give it in English and F-sensei just translated for me.

I really do appreciate how the teachers try to make me feel involved and part of the group, even if it’s only at these things. It’s a bit more of an issue at school for some reason. But anywho, we moved onto a more difficult quiz based off of the top 10 moments of the year. At the second question, I had raised my hand to high five one of the teachers sitting next to me for a picture and the host took this as I wanted to answer the question and so he said “ああ!ミランダさん!はい、どうぞ!” –> “Oh! Miranda! Yes, please answer!”

Yeah no.

I shook my head and said it was a mistake and I could steadily feel my cheeks turning red from the attention >.< He moved onto the next person, but because of this, it was now a joke to call on me after each hint/question was given. One the last one, I tried to answer with the help of F-sensei, and I could tell that the teachers were impressed I tried even though I wasn’t anywhere close to what they were aiming for.

Bingo is a huge thing here. I can’t even begin to explain how excited my students get when we play bingo. Part of our fee to attend included paying for prizes; some of which were super nice, other were not (joke gifts).  I managed to bingo somewhat early on, but my gift wasn’t one of the better ones; it was still good, but it wasn’t the cool Beats by Dre headphones that the 1st year Japanese teacher won *shakes fist*


We had a nijikai (second party) afterwards and I was talked into joining since it was karaoke. I hadn’t prepared for it (or practiced for that matter), so I was worried about how much I could actually do. I promised to sing at least one song, but explained that I do enjoy listening to others more than singing myself. Halfway through I sang “Kyptonite” by Three Doors Down cause it’s one of the few songs I know completely and at a range I feel comfortable singing. I then surprised all of them by joining in with two other teachers to sing a Disney song in Japanese. I had to trail in and out for a few chords, but they were going nuts.

On 12/23, I went to visit my friend Misaki and her family in Ko (a town outside of Toyohashi). I met Misaki during my first year at Pacific University; she ended up coming to visit Alaska that winter and when I was in Japan my first time around, her family would invite me over every couple of months. They’ve taken me to Mie, spent my first New Year’s in Japan with me, celebrated my birthday with a yakiniku picnic and even helped me get to the airport at 4 in the morning to go back to America. They’ve been there a lot for me, so I always try to make time for them. I finally got to visit them this time around!

We spent a bit of time chatting and catching up; a real test of my Japanese there, but they know my listening comprehension is better than my spoken ability, so they’re pretty patient when it takes me a bit longer to respond to their questions. We ended up making a trip to the super market to get supplies for dinner. When I visit them, they tend to go all out. I love Kaa-san’s (what I call Misaki’s mother, endearing way to say Mom) kaaraage so we decided to make that! Along with some pineapple kinton (pineapple sweet potato mash mix) and some yummy rice mix. When I visit their house… it’s not a matter of whether or not I’ll eat their food; it’s more like, how much food they have me eat because they want me to eat more. I’ve loved everything I’ve eaten there in the past, but the issue comes when I’m full and trying to save room for whatever desert they have set aside (in this case chocolate fondue) and they keep pushing more food on me XD While having the fondue, we watched this show called “Karaoke Battle”. I’d never seen it before, but I really liked it! We made our own game of guessing their score before it was revealed. Apparently I have an ear for this show because I was always the closest. They drove me to Toyohashi station to catch the train back to Hamamatsu (I had work the next day).

I got my Christmas gift from my parents on Christmas day! I wasn’t able to open it until after work since I had to have it redelivered, but I got a PS3! I had one on my general wish list on amazon (the one I share with my family around holidays and birthdays); I wasn’t expecting to get one, especially since I just had it on there to keep track of the price, but… I got one! And it’s been great in helping curb my need to spend money (to an extent).

I actually had to work on Christmas; it’s not considered a holiday here. I really didn’t mind. Since there’s no class, I have time to bust out lesson plans uninterrupted; and I can listen to music while I work. I also made small bags of chocolate for all the teachers in my JHS as well as wrote all of them New Year’s cards in Japanese; I even wrote the kanji in their names and some of my teachers have really, REALLY difficult kanji. They seemed to appreciate my effort.

I went to Tokyo from 12/25 to 12/27. Originally it was only for BFN’s Hard Mode Winter Tour Finale on the 27th, but I ended up extending it to spend time with friends. Had dinner with a friend on Christmas, hung out with another friend on her birthday, caught up with another friend that night, and Sunday before the live, I got brunch with the same person I had dinner with on Christmas. I had biscuits and gravy O_O It was so legit too! I won’t go into too much detail regarding BFN’s finale since I actually do talk about it in one of the upcoming posts.

Originally, I was supposed to work on 12/28, but I was asked to take paid leave as no one was going to be at the school. So I used the day to deep clean my apartment and relax until my trip to Osaka. I wanted to play my PS3, but I knew that if I started playing I wouldn’t stop and I’d miss the train to Nagoya.

12/29 was all about USJ (Universal Studios Japan); I went with Jami and Derek and it was a blast! It was super crowded, but we managed to secure a spot in the Harry Potter Park. While waiting for our time to go in, we did the Jurassic Park ride and Back Draft. I’ve never been on the Jurassic Ride before… I didn’t know what it entailed either. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love roller coasters. I really do like them, but when it comes to a constant drop where I go airborne for a short amount of time… I do not like that at all. So… when we started getting pulled up… I knew that we were gonna drop and I didn’t like the distance it was going to be.

I was not amused in the slightest with that drop. And yes, I did go airborne.

We walked around a bit more until it was time to go to the Harry Potter Park (really the only reason I wanted to visit USJ in the first place). When we finally went in, my excitement was everywhere. I was like a kid in a candy store (and I was quite literally when we made it to Honeyduke’s!) Derek and Jami were such troopers; I was taking pictures of anything and everything. We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks and I finally had Butterbeer! I had the hot stuff, but I wish I had done the cold one. Apparently there’s a big difference between the two. Afterwards, we went around looking at the shops and taking pictures. Ended up buying Lupin’s wand! I wanted to go on the ride, but there was a 4 hour wait for it and yeah… no. I didn’t want to ride it THAT badly. Finally got my Ravenclaw scarf though!

We left after that and decided to get dinner a bit early; Jami and I had invited our friend Anna to dinner earlier in the month, so we waited for her to arrive. We all went to the same university together when we were in Japan. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Café and ended up staying there for a while just talking. Haven’t done that in a while. Jami and I had to leave by a certain time though because we needed to return to Nagoya. I actually passed out on the Shinknsen because I was so tired! I never do that XD

I had pictures to post, but as I stated in the beginning, I lost them all when my phone was replaced. I will be visiting it again in August, so hold out until then for photos.

Now, my original plans for New Year’s involved a concert in Tokyo at Ikebukuro Edge, but I felt really ill and I didn’t want to make it worse by traveling. So I stayed behind while Kim went ahead. I was able to resell my ticket to someone who wanted to go though, so I’m glad she was able to enjoy it in my stead.

Instead, I stayed in and watched a bit of Kohaku with A and P. Kohaku is a singing competition that’s done during New Year’s; there’s the white team and the red team. I believe the white team is the Boy’s Team and the red team is the Girl’s team. But that might be reversed. From what I’ve been told the boys win most of the time XD We also visited a nearby shrine to rid ourselves of the bad juju from the previous year, pray for a good New Year and draw omikuji lots (fortunes). I got an upper middle fortune; better than the one I did last time!

Also had photo for this, but again… they were lost >.<

Phew! And there we have it! Sorry that it took me so long to write about it! I’ve gotten so bad at this blog thing! I will probably have a more recent post up either later today or within the next couple days.


About mandipanda13

I love Visual Kei and almost everything about Japan! If you're wondering what the small percentage of dislike is consisted of I'll sum it up in a few short words: COCKROACHES AND HUMIDITY. Alaska has neither of them; hence, no likey.
This entry was posted in ALT Life, Japan, JET Program and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hokubu Bonnenkai, Family Visit, Christmas, Trip to USJ, and New Years in Japan

  1. Kira says:

    loved reading this post! thank you for sharing your experiences ^_^


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s