Silver Week Part Two: Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Odaiba, Asakua, and Sky Tree

Right, no intro for this one, let’s just jump right into it.

The second day of Silver Week was spent in Harajuku and Ikebukuro. We didn’t exactly have a big plan for this day; it was mainly just for shopping. We split up for a little bit while waiting for the Disney Store to open. We had a plan to try to aim for Disney Sea since Disneyland was a no go on the day we originally wanted. So while waiting for the store to open, we got crepes, cause crepes are DELISH. You can’t not like crepes; you weirdo.

Finally the store was open and we ran to the floor where tickets could be bought. Well, turns out that you couldn’t buy tickets at that particular store. Only the one in Shibuya. Go freaking figure. So we split up again to shop and I managed to meet up with my friend Makoto! It had been a long time since I saw him last; it was nice to see him again! We window shopped and explored a candy store while A and J went off to Shibuya to figure out Disney Sea tickets. To make a long story short, we couldn’t get tickets; so we didn’t go.

After much putzing around Harajuku, we decided to go to Ikebukuro and investigate the big Animate store there. I split off for a little bit to tackle the Closet Child store nearby. I was shopping for more than just myself so it was going to take a little longer. When I did finally make it to Animate, I didn’t plan to buy much.  Most of the anime that I like is OLD and no one makes stuff for it anymore. Occasionally I’ll buy things for more recent anime, but I hadn’t planned on it this time around. Every time I visit Animate, I ask if they have anything for my all-time favorite anime, Yu Yu Hakusho. And every time I ask, I’m always given the same answer, “No, that’s too old of an anime.” Totally understandable, so I move on. Well, I didn’t even bother asking this time around and as I was walking down an aisle, I look up and BOOM.

Yu Yu Hakusho stuff. I made a beeline for it and even though it was only some clear files and keychains, it was SOMETHING. So I snagged some clear files and moved on. I would have gotten a keychain or two, but they were out of stock of my favorite characters.

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Third day was great! We went back to Ikebukuro in the early afternoon (gave ourselves a chance to sleep in and recoup) to visit a BUNNY CAFÉ. And no, you didn’t read that wrong. Those things exist. Actually, there are more dog and cat cafes, but bunny is the best. The one we went to was so nice! The owners actually spoke some English too! We had to wash and sanitize our hands and then put on aprons (cause them bunnies don’t care where they dump) and were given BUNNEHZ. SO MANY BUNNEHZ. I have so many pictures, it’s ridiculous. We were able to switch seats at one point and get a new set of bunnies to play with. We paid for an hour which flew by!

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We decided to hit up a Round 1 quickly to take some purikura together and we found a new game… a Tsum Tsum game O_O if you have an iPhone or android, you can play Disney Tsum Tsum. I recommend it because it’s so much fun! All three of us play it and so we decided to give this mega version a whirl! You could even win phone charm tsum tsums!

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Then we made our way to Odaiba. This is a pretty well-known area in Tokyo; it has a giant ferris wheel, Zepp Diver City, Rainbow Bridge, and lots more! J and A split off from me for a while since I hurt my foot earlier in the day and so I hung around the bridge viewing area. I was excited to see the bridge cause come one, it’s a RAINBOW bridge. But… it wasn’t rainbow. It was pink. PINK. With like, hints of green. Such a misleading name!

We looked around for a place to eat and settled on a nice looking yakiniku restaurant. Anyone who knows me knows that I love yakiniku. It’s something I do every time I got to Tokyo (if given the chance; day trips don’t count). This place was awwwwwesome. I wanna go again!

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We still had some time left after dinner so we made the trek over to the ferris wheel and I’m not gonna lie; I was pretty nervous. I’ve never been on a ferris wheel before, but it looked like fun. As we were making out way to the ferris wheel, I noticed that we were passing by Zepp Diver City; curious, I took a peak at who was performing that night (there were goods laid out and everything). Toooootallly forgot that Sadie had their finale live that night that signaled their hiatus. My bad ;-;

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Okay last day! What did we do… oh right! We went to Asakusa! I was looking forward to this the most because I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit this shrine. Pictures eeeeeeverywhere. We took to shopping strategically and only looking at stores on one side of the street; we hit the other side on our way out of the shrine. Sooo much festival food! I was in heaven! Choco bananas and kakigori EVERYWHERE! OM NOM NOM!

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Made our way to the Sky Tree; we decided to walk since it wasn’t that far away from where we already were. We explored the shopping area and grabbed some snacks and waited for our chance up on the Sky Tree. We didn’t have tickets for the tippy top of the Sky Tree, but tickets are tickets! And we got to go up in the evening so it was even more beautiful! I wish my pictures came out better!

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Overall, AWESOME vacation with some awesome people. I’m looking forward to the next time I get to travel! My next post will either be about Sports Day or my recent concert/instore event. I might save the later for a little later though. We’ll see!

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Posted in ALT Life, Japan, JET Program, Silver Week | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Silver Week Part One: Sports Day Psych, Enkai and Tokyo Disneyland

Yeah, Silver Week was so intense, it has to be broken down into two parts. I’m really doing this for your benefit; there’s a lot to cover O_O Alright…

Let’s do this.

So before Silver Week even began, I had to make it through Hokubu’s Sports Day. This is similar to America’s Field Day (or just Alaska if the lower 48 doesn’t do it) in about one way; physical exercise. However, Japan takes it to the next level. Here, they practice for each competition WEEKS in advance. Even months! When I came to the school in August, they were practicing for it already!

It was odd because I got to wear casual sporty clothing to school for the first time since I’ve been here. It was so strange walking to work in work out pants and a track jacket. Sadly, the it was cancelled. We had a torrential downpour hours before it was supposed to start. Which sucked because I got up super early to help out with assembling the tents and such. It started raining around 7:30 (I got there around 6:45) and so I had to run inside with a few other teachers and frantically pass out umbrellas to all the unfortunate ones stuck outside. We tried to wait the rain out by pushing the starting time to 9 instead of 8, buuuuut that didn’t work. So we tried pushing it to 10. Thaaaat didn’t work either. Now, coming from Alaska, I didn’t think rain was a big deal. I mean, puddle jumping could be a professional sport in Juneau. However, the grounds the event was supposed to be held on was just sand. Compact sand. And from what another teacher told me, there was something the boys were doing which involved them climbing on top of each other and doing that on top of mud and shifting sand is kinda dangerous… So we ended up cancelling it. Even though there was nothing we could do about it, I felt bad because we had special bento boxes ready and parents had taken time off work… all for nothing!

I hung around the staff room for the rest of the day flipping between researching activities and cleaning out my still not clean desk. Eventually it was time to go and I left to get ready for the staff dinner party, or ‘enkai’, that would take place at a hotel up the street from where I live later that evening. Honestly, the enkai is what I looked forward to the most. I saw it as a chance to get to know my coworkers outside of the school environment and for them to get to know me as well. When I arrived at the hotel, I was greeted by the 2nd year math and social studies teacher; they collected my money for the dinner (Yeah, it wasn’t free) and then let me take a number from a bag. The seating selection was lottery style, so I had no idea who I would be sitting by. I already knew none of my JTE’s would be attending so I was ready to spend most of the night in silence listening to my fellow teachers talk. I was the first one seated at my table, but I was soon joined by the 3rd year art teacher, the home economics teacher (who I sit by already at work), the school accountant, the 1st year math teacher and the nurse. To my surprise, the 3rd year art teacher knew lots of English! Well, enough to get by on conversation or translate my English when I couldn’t figure out how to say something in Japanese. We had a few small course meals which were amazing! My favorite was the squash soup which I forgot to take a picture of, but it was AMAZING.

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After the first two courses, people started getting up to make speeches about school and the (now) upcoming sports day. I only understood parts of what I heard, but enough to get the gist of the mood. As I was taking a drink of water, I heard the MC say, “And now Miranda-sensei will say a few words.”

And cue…

Embarrassing School Moment # 4: Spitting your water up all over your food and shirt because you just learned you had to give a speech in front of the majority of the staff body you work with. IN JAPANESE. I shuffled up to the mic and didn’t speak right away; someone thought something was wrong and asked if I was okay. I said to give me a second because I was trying to figure out how to say these things in Japanese. After collecting myself, I said something along the lines of this:

“Hi… I’m Miranda… and if you don’t know that already, I’ll bring a neon sign to school next week. (cue laughter). I’m going to apologize now; my Japanese isn’t very good, but I will do my best with this speech. (pause) I have been to Japan twice in the past, but never to Shizuoka or Hamamatsu. (pause) I think I am very lucky to have been placed in Hamamatsu because it is a beautiful city and I love the schools I work at. Hokubu is especially nice; the school is nice (small clapping), the students are great (louder clapping), and the teachers are wonderful (full blown applause complete with whistling). I look forward to working with you this year!”

Then I stepped down and made a beeline for my seat. This was one of those times where I was okay being showered with the “your Japanese is amazing” comments. Normally, it bothers me because I barely get two words out before the compliment comes out of someone’s mouth; at least let me work for it!

The rest of the night was filled with drinking; lots of drinking, but not on my part. The teachers I had been sitting with that night asked me lots of questions in either one of two ways: broken English I could barely understand and semi- drunken Japanese which I could not understand. I mean, I have a hard enough time hearing sober Japanese; how am I supposed to cope with that? At one point, I had said that my favorite Japanese talent (like, actor, singer, comedian) was Ken Watanabe. Two of my teachers thought that this was a great time to get into a veeeeery heated discussion over what movie was his best. I stayed out of it for the most part, only nodding or shaking my head to certain things, but I all but jumped out of my chair when the teacher sitting next to me yelled at the top of his lungs and slammed his hands on the table hard enough for my coffee cup to tip over. And cue frantic waiters and waitresses trying to clean up my spilled coffee while the other teachers asked if I was okay. I found it to be hilarious if anything.

Dinner ended and I hadn’t yet been invited to a nijikai (second party) so I gathered my things and left the hotel to head home. As I was just pulling out my iPhone to put some music on as I walked to the conbini, my Kyoto-sensei came up to me and asked if I wanted to attend karaoke with a group of them. Now, I don’t sing. Not well enough to sing with confidence in front of other people, but I really wanted to go because it would give me more bonding time with my teachers. So I said yes and frantically started to search my music library for songs I felt confident enough to sing.

We made it to Joy Sound, a big name Karaoke bar here and hit the ground running. Holy cow my teachers can sing. It was so fun! A few of the really got into it and I was serenaded to a few times. I tried to push off the singing as long as I could, but when they said I would go next, I panicked and chose to sing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” I did it because it was at a pitch I knew I could hit and it’s one of the only songs I like from her. After thunderous applause from that, I had a few songs to take a break and then the mic was back in my hand, except this time, it wasn’t my choice.

They made me sing “Let It Go” in English; yeah, I  know. I mean, I didn’t mind, but half the notes Elsa reaches, I can’t. Halfway through the song, ALL of the male teachers that came (ages 24-60) started belting the song at the top of their lungs. I wish I had taken pictures because it was hilarious.

At the end, they invited me to a sanjikai (third party), but I declined on the grounds that I had an early bus to catch in the morning. They were okay with it and I left. I’m really looking forward to going to the New Year’s Enkai in December!

The following day, I got up REALLY early to drag myself to the bus station to catch my bus to Tokyo. My two fellow JETs, J and A were already there (J arrived Friday, we were staying with A) and planned to run to Disneyland that morning to get us tickets later on in the week. Well good thing they did because about an hour before I was supposed to arrive, they found out that the days we would be there (Sunday-Tuesday) were sold out for full day passes. Instead, we decided to do a Starlight pass that same day and just do what we could.

I SHOULD have gotten there at 1:30, but I was stuck in traffic at noon and then was dropped off in a part of Shinjuku station that I am not familiar with in any shape or form. I wandered around for near an hour because I figured out how to get to Tokyo. I made it to Maihama station (Disneyland Station) around 2:30 and all but ran to where the others were waiting for me; they had snagged me a locker to put my luggage in! And good thing too; I would not have been a happy camper if I had to drag around my suitcase all day. After haphazardly throwing all my things into the locker and changing my shoes, I went to get a Minnie bow to match J and A. We waited in line and we were off!

We decided to high tail it to Big Thunder Mountain because it still had a fast pass left and we managed to get passes for the last grouping. None of us had eaten, so we decided to have a sit down meal and formulate our attack plan. The food was delicious! Even though I’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland twice in the past, I’ve never actually eaten at one of their sit down restaurants.

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To save you from me narrating our entire time in Disneyland, here’s a rundown of what we did:

-Pirates of the Caribbean
-Star Wars
-Snack break
-Toon Town/Roger Rabbit’s something something ride
-Alice Tea Cups (which by the way, we could not walk straight after we finished)
-Donald’s Philamagic
-Haunted Mansion (We managed to see this ride for the Nightmare Before Xmas version! It was amazing! Even in America, I’ve never seen this one before!)
-Dinner break
-Window shopping for later
-3 minute viewing of “Once Upon a Time” (I think this is exclusively for Japan; I haven’t heard about it for America before. Basically, the entire castle becomes a huge screen and snippets of all the Disney movies play on it. And fireworks.)
-Stiches Encounter (this was actually a lot of fun! You got to legit interact with a computer Stitch! The best part was when we had to direct him through a maze to escape Gantu)
-Big Thunder Mountain (so worth the wait, and the view from the top was beautiful at night! Again, something I’ve never done!)
-SHOPPING

And that was it! For having a starlight pass, I think we did quite a lot! We made the trek home and made a small game plan for the next day. I am going to stop it there though because this is pretty long already. So ends part 1! Part 2 will have the rest of Silver Week! Keep an eye out!

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Free Time in Japan: Concerts, Instore’s and Concerts

Alright! So, I decided to do a separate post on what I’ve been doing on the weekends because only a handful really care about that; I figure, that for the people who are only interested in my work life, this allows them to bypass my posts about my free time. And NO, this is not what I did during Silver Week; that will be posted in the  next couple days.

Without further ado, let’s do this. Be prepared, this is a long one.

I love Visual Kei and I love attending concerts. If you know me well enough, or have spoken to me for at least five minutes, you should have seen this coming. Now, this is NOT my only reason for being in Japan. Many assume so because I talk about it so much, but it really isn’t all I do. In fact, for Silver Week, not a concert or instore in sight! I am in fact aware there are other things to do in Japan.

My first concert since arriving back in Japan was a taiban (multiple bands) in August, but I really just wanted to see Black Gene even though I knew many of the ones that were there. Black Gene is currently my honemi (number one band), though it is tied with Liraizo. I flailed and let myself loose during Fear Dance when Black Gene came on and LIVED. I didn’t actually think they would play it because Fear Dance is…aggressive. And if you aren’t a fan of their music then it really isn’t much fun for you. Since this was a taiban with multiple bands, you can see my doubt on whether or not they would play it. Well, they did!!!

Afterwards, I ended up getting a cheki (mini polaroid picture) with the vocalist of Uchusentai:Noiz cause why not. I had to buy their new single which wasn’t a big deal, I kinda wanted it anyways. I also ended up buying a CD that I was missing for Black Gene so I could snag a signed fan. We got in line and the members of Uchusentai:Noiz came down wearing their tour shirts. Kim and I were in the same line (by happy coincidence, I wanted a picture with Angel Taka, she wanted Yamato which were the same line) and I didn’t have a towel for them, so she went first and then she would pass me the towel as I went up to take my picture. Well…this kinda sorta worked. I was walking over to where I was supposed to put my bags for the picture, but she didn’t see that I had moved. So she threw it towards where I she last saw me standing and I looked up just in time to jump up and grab it before it had a chance to land in the sound booth. A collective “Oooooooooh! Sounded from the band and Taka even clapped for me when I sat down next to him.

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The next day, I had a series of three instore events, all for Duel Jewel. I’ve been listening to them for a while and I’ve seen them a few times in concert, but never actually had a chance to MEET them. And since they’re breaking up in February, I did all I could this time around. The first two events went by fine. Aside from them fawning over the really old towel I had for them to sign and attempting to speak English with me, it went great. Got my pictures with them and carried on. No tears, not stuttering; everything was just peachy.

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Until it came to the last event where I got to shake their hands and actually have some time to talk with them. Shun, my favorite, was first… of course. I did my best to keep myself composed, but the moment I shook his hand, my eyes started to water. I tried to express how I was feeling in Japanese, but that was diiiiiiiifficult. He said to go ahead and use English and BOOM. Waterworks. I can’t remember half of what I said, but it had something to do with loving their music, how much I’ll miss them, how upset I was I couldn’t attend their finale in February, how it was my dream to meet them etc. etc. Shun ended up patting my hand and saying that even though he only understood parts of what I was saying, he still understood how I felt through my tears. HE MADE IT WORSE. I kept crying and I don’t think Natsuki could even understand what I said because I was such a mess by time I finished with Shun. Went down the line and kept crying, though not as hard, Hayato did a pretty good job trying to make me laugh, and when I thought I had finally reached the end, Val had to go and kiss my hand and thank me for being a fan. TEARS I SAY, TEARS.

I managed to make it back in line for the two shot and something happened that has NEVER happened at an instore before; the other fans hugged me. The girls I was standing near saw how upset I was and gave me tissue and hugged me and patted my back. It was amazing if anything. Most fans ignore me at those kind of things. By the time it was my turn for the two shot (me and a member of my choice), I had composed myself and looked decent enough for a picture. The girls had lent me some of their make up to fix what my tears had messed up. I picked Shun (no surprise there) for my two shot and when I pulled away to thank him, he pulled me back and gave me a hug. Cue Mandi losing it once more. It was both an amazing and sad day. I didn’t actually realize this until after I had time to sit and look at the pictures (like on two hour long train ride home), that Shun was only smiling in the last photo I got with him. See, Shun isn’t known for smiling; he doesn’t do it that often. In the first one, he’s smirking. That’s not a smile, don’t argue that it is, you’ll lose. In the second, he ain’t doing anything. But… in the third one… there is a genuine smile! Makes my heart go dokidoki every time I look at it. It’s a simple thing, but it just makes me so happy.

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The following weekend, I saw DaizyStripper. It was a full out One-Man for their Never Ending SIRIS tour. OMG AWESOME. They did Ame no Waltz, which is a SUPER old song and one of my ultimate favorites. I. was. In. Tears. SO MANY TEARS. But I wasn’t the only one who was crying either. I was a little sad they didn’t do Setsubou no Freesia, but hey, I’ll take Ame no Waltz any day.

I was in the third tier, but managed to run up to the front to participate in Black Dropper. The girl who stood next to me would run down with me, but she was so short, she couldn’t lift herself high enough to touch Rei (I did!). So, being a good fellow fan, I knelt down on one of the sets and boosted her up; great intentions, BAD IDEA. My knee is still feeling it O_O From then on, we would run down holding hands and then look for each other on the way back up and help each other back into our original spots. She was so nice!

I didn’t realize this, but their Nagoya stop was the Semi-Finale for their tour, sooooo we had three encores. THREE ENCORES. I’ve only ever see two happen at lives for actual Finales. The last encore was only one song, but all the members played janken (rock paper scissors) to decide who would do what. Mayu (usually r. guitar) won first, so he picked drums, Rei chose main guitar (usually bass), Yugiri chose rhythm guitar (usually vocalist), Kazami sang (usually drums/piano), and Nao had bass (usually m. guitar). I’ve never see them do that before to that was so much fun. This is the first time however that I haven’t seen Kazami do his piano solo. He’s like… known for that.

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More recently, I attended the Reign and Liraizo Two Man live for Kili’s Birthday with Kim. We don’t normally go out of our way for concerts; the only time we’ve gone to a concert in Tokyo together was for the 10th Anniversary for the Gazette. However, since this particular live was for Kili’s birthday and the fact that four original members of AND would be playing at the same venue, we went for it (Ikuma, the vocalist of AND is now the vocalist of Reign, Kili the main guitarist for AND is now the guitarist for Liraizo, Suzune, the drummer for AND before Kaji is now the drummer for Liraizo and Ken, the bassist for AND was coming for the session band, which also included Suzune and Kili). We took a night bus from Nagoya on Friday. We didn’t know that we could lower our seats back so simply put… it was a very uncomfortable ride. We got into Tokyo about 6:45 am and spent most of the morning charging our phones at a nearby Starbucks. Kim passed out for a little bit while I fiddled around on Twitter. We had a second round of coffee as we did our makeup and hair. We decided we needed to find a Loft or 100 yen store because the bag I had put Suzune’s gift in just wasn’t cutting it and the tape on Kim’s gift to Kili was coming undone.

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We wandered over to Ikebukuro to scout the area. We weren’t sure how early people were going to start lining up for the special 9 shot photos, so we went early. After a very sketchy ride in a very sketchy elevator, we got distracted by Closet Child (a used Visual Kei goods store) and may have raided more cheki than I had meant to…

We got lost looking for the venue, which I wasn’t surprised by; soooo many people told me Edge was one of the hardest venues to find if you didn’t frequent Tokyo. I mean, name any Nagoya venue or live house and I got you. Tokyo… I know… two tops. We decided to run by the 100 yen store nearby to get some last minute things to finish our presents. It was actually the best decision ever because as we were walking in circles, looking at my phone for the map to find the building, we literally ran into Liraizo (the band we went to see) as they were unpacking their van. Tohma, the rhythm guitarist, saw us and asked us if we were lost and we said we were there for the Liraizo/Reign live but couldn’t find the venue. He actually recognized Kim because she’s been to all of their instore events and concerts for Nagoya. He showed us where the entrance was and she was even able to give Kili his birthday gift in person. I had seen Suzune briefly before Tohma told us about the venue, but I wasn’t able to give him my gift. I ended up giving it to a staff member later on when I bought the special collab cheki. Instead of being weirdos waiting outside the venue for a couple hours, we wandered around the area; though we still stuck somewhat close to the venue because we didn’t want to get lost again.

Around 3:00 we headed back to the venue to start lining up for the special 9 shot picture thing. We were actually the first ones in line. I ended up going first because Kim didn’t want to, so I bought some special collab cheki (one member from each band in the picture), a few ‘day of’ of cheki (outfits Liraizo would be wearing that night, supposedly) and then a few old cheki from previous lives and instore events. And then a towel! We grabbed our tickets and went back upstairs to secure a coin locker!

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We hung out by the stairs waiting for the live to start; we had different numbered tickets, she would go in sooner than I would, but we ended up having really good spots! Since Suzune is in the back center of the stage, you can really see him anywhere, so we stood on the right side of the venue for Kili. It didn’t take me long to remember why I dislike going to concerts in Tokyo; Tokyo fans are fucking nuts. They’re so mean! I’m so used to Nagoya fans that I forget how bad Tokyo can be. That entire evening, I think we met only two or three good Tokyo fans.

The first band was a session band with two current members of Liraizo (Suzune and Kili), a vocalist from another band, a second guitarist I wasn’t familiar with, and the bassist from AND (Ken). So. Three original members of AND playing together once more…I was hopeful I would hear some old songs! But at the same time, I didn’t think they would because it was never really announced WHY AND broke up in the first place and I wasn’t sure if it was a touchy subject. So my expectations were quite the roller coaster. The very last song they sang was fucking BLACKOUT. Out of all the songs they could have played, they played my absolute favorite song. I was literally screaming and crying when I heard the first chords. I had so much fun doing that song again, I remembered ALL the furi for it. Sadly, the few people around us were NOT original AND fans and did not participate and seemed really agitated that we were. When we rushed the stage for the gyakudai part of the song, they refused to move and when we returned to our spots, they wouldn’t move. It was so annoying! Halfway through the song, we gave up trying to move past them because it just wasn’t worth it.

We had small intermission where we went back to our original spots and waited for Reign to come on. After about…20 minutes, they came on and I was curious because I hadn’t heard Ikuma’s new band in person yet (he’s the former vocalist for AND). I did like Club Bunny; that was a fun song. Their very last song was one of the most intense gyakudai’s ever. Like, omg this was so insane. The band members were literally pulling fans on top of each other to make the pile bigger. At one point, I had a face full of Ryuzi, not that I minded at all 😛 I also managed to touch Tano. I lost my ability to see at one point because my glasses got so smudged from rubbing against my face and other people. In the future I need to decide on how much I actually want to see during concerts because I left my good concert going glasses at home and I don’t like I can’t go all out on furi because I’m trying to keep my glasses on my face.

Before the intermission, we got to see the music video for Reign’s Club Bunny which was awesome. I was able to quickly clean my glasses to watch it. After 20 minutes, we thought that Liraizo was finally coming up. But… the screen hadn’t rolled back up yet. Well! We got treated to the new music video for Liraizo’s recent single! Kim and I knew they were making one, they had hinted at it all month, but then….we got a second video. One that NONE of us were aware of.

It. Was. Amazing.

Like…I was floored with how beautiful it was. It takes a lot for music to make me cry, but Liraizo is one of those few bands that have accomplished that. It is just beyond words. I was crying and screaming (I wasn’t the only one) and omg I wish that it was showed again. If there was ever a time when my fangirl mode was at 100%, that was it. The live was amazing. I let myself go with the furi (Kim had taught me the night prior as I hadn’t been to a Liraizo live yet) and was just all over the place. I got to touch Kili, Yuki and Tohma. Sooooooo awesome. Their gyakudive wasn’t as intense as Reign’s, but it was still a lot of fun. I caught Kili’s guitar pick, but I gave it to Kim because I couldn’t keep it with a clear conscious.

When the live ended, we walked around the venue trading with various fans and talking about the live. I love trading, it’s so much fun, especially when I don’t get to do it that often. We got in line for the photo session and promised to meet a few fans upstairs afterwards to trade some more. Kim went first and I heard like a roar of laughter, but no idea why. When I went in for my turn, she was turning around to leave and I was like “I’ll see you upstairs!” The moment I spoke, all eight heads swiveled towards me. I got a chorus of hellos and I just smiled and sat down between Ikuma and Yuki. When the staff said I would get two pictures, they were all like “oooooh! Big fan!” So I got my two pictures; I meant to change poses, but the staff was so quick with it, I didn’t have a chance. I didn’t get to pick who I sat by either ;A; When the staff was finished, I turned around to thank them and Ikuma was like  (in English) “Thank you very much!” And I was like (in Japanese), “Your English is really good!” There was an eruption of oohs and aahs and clapping, and Tohma was like (in Japanese), “You’re Japanese is amazing!”  Tano asked who my favorite member was and I said it was Suzune and he did like a small fist pump, like he was the lucky one who caught the foreigner’s eye. I thanked them and said I hoped to see them all again and left. For reference, Suzune is the one second from the right with the red streaks in his hair.

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I went upstairs to trade some more cheki with Kim and we ended up getting some drinks with a couple other fans we connected with earlier. I don’t know, but there’s just something about having ice cold drinks and sitting outside the venue talking about the live that just feels… right. Even though our Japanese isn’t the best and their English wasn’t the best, we were still able to communicate with each other about things we felt passionate about. It seems so simple, but it’s one of those things I’ve always seen happen and thought “I wonder when I’ll ever get to do that.” Well! That was the night! It will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. Kim and I had intentions of doing purikura when the live was over, so we asked them if they wanted to join us and they did! So, we went out for purikura at a nearby arcade. It was amazing! They were so creative with the rakugaki!  I’m so happy I went. One of the best days ever!

Okay, if you’ve stuck it out this far, you’re amazing. That’s all for this post, I’ll try not to make the other one’s this long!

Posted in ALT Life, Instore Event, Japan Concerts, JET Program, Visual Kei | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Full Week of School and TYPHOON

Well! This has been an amazing and somewhat terrifying week! I finally have visited all my schools and am creating a nice routine. And I survived a typhoon.

The typhoon was actually one of the worst ones I’ve been in and I’ve been in a few of them. I was drenched by the time I got to school on Tuesday and I wasn’t the only one. Roads were flooding, sidewalks were flooding, everything was flooding. I gave up on trying to keep my shoes dry and just sloshed through the water so I could get to school quicker. We had multiple warnings for evacuations and to stay away from rivers.

Come Wednesday, it’s just REALLY windy. But I had already taken nenkyuu (paid leave) so I decided to clean up my apartment and take advantage of being able to listen to music while I planned lessons. Sun was out and shining Thursday in time for my visit to my elementary school.

I love my elementary schools. Like, absolutely adore them. The kids are great, the teachers love talking with me and the classes are so much fun. The only thing I don’t like… is that the 5th and 6th year classes are ALWAYS on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building. When you have four classes back to back and your teachers insist you go back to the main floor so the students can escort you back to the class is taxing to say in the least. I’m not the most fit person in the world and yes, I will admit that walking up 4 flights of stairs every 40 minutes hurts.

The upside is that I have a fan club at each elementary school. Each school has a group of boys (and girls at one school) that follows me around ALL DAY. They know where I’m going in the building before I do! It’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re exiting the restroom and there’s a group of 15 some kids standing out there waiting for you… it’s odd. I’ve also been given a nickname by almost all of my classes at all of my elementary schools.

In my introduction powerpoint, I mention that I love Pokemon and that my favorite pokemon is Weaville; however in Japan, that is not its name. Here, it’s known as Manura. So. Guess what the students call me?

Manura-sensei

I think that it’s just adorable to be honest and encourage them to keep calling me that. Like today when I was walking to my elementary school, I hear this chorus of “MANURA-SENSEI!!!!! HELLOOOOO” And I’m tackled by about 10 kids. The teacher’s I work with at this school didn’t understand why they were calling me that so I had to explain it about 18 times today.

For the junior high school, I only have one or two classes that I’m iffy about, but mainly because one is SUPER quiet (it’s like pulling teeth to get them to do anything; the other teachers agree with me) and the other just doesn’t listen. It was bound to happen though; we all have THAT ONE class. The majority of my 1st year students (7th graders) have great energy and it fuels my lessons. Take my Friday classes for example. I was in charge of creating review activities for the two 1st year classes I had on the previous three lessons they had learned. So, I made two activities, one with high energy, and one with low energy. The low energy one went great. They were engaged and saw it a challenge to complete the entire puzzle.

The high energy activity is another story entirely. They REALLY got into it. Like, REALLY REALLY into it. For the high energy activity, I had various flashcards stuck on the chalkboard. The class had been divided into two teams evenly down the middle. We moved all the desks and chairs out the way and they stood in the back of the room. I would say a word, for example, tennis. One student from each team would have to run up to the board and touch the flashcard for tennis first. If they were the first one to touch it, they would ask the other person, “Do you like (tennis)?” and then the person would respond. This repeated itself over and over again. The girls were fine. They didn’t push or smack their faces into the blackboard. The boys however are a different story. The boys were pushing each other, running into the board full force and at one point, a pair of boys aiming for “rock music” hit the board so hard they recoiled back onto the ground. Needless to say both my JTE and myself were on the floor with laughter. Now, I didn’t see this as a bad thing. Both my JTE (his homeroom was my first class of the day) and the Japanese teacher (her homeroom was my last class of the day) were apologizing over and over again for how loud and energetic the students were and the Japanese teacher even went as far to encourage me to do what my pred did (basically tell them to be quiet/shut up all the time). I had to explain to them though that I didn’t mind loud classes at all. In fact, I liked it when classes are like that. I feed off of that kind of energy. If I see my students are having a good time, then the lesson was a success for me. I did apologize however for how loud the lesson was; I didn’t take into consideration how loud that activity was.

The afternoons are fun, I get to hear all the classes practicing for the upcoming Sports Day, which is this Friday! I want to go out and see what they’re doing, but at the same time I don’t want to interrupt or distract them. Buuuuuut, my curiosity was just too much and I left the teacher’s room to investigate. From my understanding, it was the chant practice for the different teams. At Hokubu, the three years are split into four teams: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red. They do it this way so if all the first years are competing there is still someone in the crowd to cheer for them. I believe I listened in on the Blue group. The MOMENT I walked around the corner to listen every single one of my 1st and 2nd year students in the group (I don’t teach 3rd years sadly) shouted in Japanese “Miranda-sensei! Miranda-sensei is watching!” Many of them waved at me and I waved back.

Their chant was really good! I’m excited to be able to see the other three! From what the Japanese teacher told me, they were all surprised that I had come out to watch because teachers were assigned to teams, to help and whatnot; I hadn’t been assigned anywhere so it was assumed that I would pick a team to cheer with or not align with a team at all. I believe that by me going to see what they were doing, I had aligned myself with the Blue team. After their practice, a flood of students came over to me, thanking me for watching them and I think for joining their team? It was hard to tell because so many students were talking to me at the same time. Soo….guess I’m gonna be cheering with the blue team Friday. But maybe to keep from looking like I’m favoring specific students, try to cheer for the other colors as well.

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Going On’s of August, Hokubu Opening Ceremony, and YAY ALT LIFE

Can’t believe it’s September already! It feels like I just arrived in Japan, when in fact I’ve been here a little over a month! I’ve been so busy I guess I just haven’t noticed. Because I’m feeling particularly lazy today, I am just going to list out things that have happened since I last wrote. It’s not entirely in order, but for the sake of those who are purely interested in my life in Japan and not what I do in my spare time, I’ve decided to do a separate post later on in the week about that.

-My bed broke…after one night sleeping in it: That’s right. My bed broke. It was assembled two weeks ago on a Saturday, but since I was spending the weekend in Nagoya, I didn’t actually get to use it until the following night. Monday evening, I was organizing my room (something I do often) and was about to put my suitcases under my bed when I noticed one of the support bars just… wasn’t quite right. So I shimmied underneath and realized one of the supporter beams had snapped clean off. After frantically enlisting the help of my neighbors, C and D, I decided to go back to Nitori to have it fixed. C and I took pictures of my bed and showed them what had happened and even showed them on the floor model they had. In the end, they said they would replace my bed with a new one free of charge. Which leads me up to my next bit:

-Bought more furniture for my apartment: Yup. I couldn’t help it. I went to Nitori with the intention to only have my bed fixed and price check some other items I was interested in (as well as measurements) but… saw a TV stand and just had to have it. Bought a second, larger bookshelf as well since the small one I have now just isn’t cutting it. They were both delivered yesterday and after an amazing two hour building session with my neighbor, C, I have a nearly finished apartment. Really! I’m almost done! Just small things I need to get now to make it homey, like hanging stuff from the walls and such. I will have a post later on this month about my apartment.

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-Bought a total of 5 umbrellas: I KEEP FORGETTING THEM AT SCHOOL. Seriously. I don’t use umbrellas in Alaska. We have rain jackets. But NOOOOOO, Japan’s in on the umbrella thing. So I had one umbrella; left it at my JHS. Bought a second one, figured a spare was a good idea, to make up for it. Left that one at an ES. Bought another one. Can you guess where that one it? Yeah, another ES. So I gave up and bought a small purse size one so I could stop buying umbrellas.

-Attended the Opening Ceremony for my JHS: And I’m just gonna Segway right into this one.

Embarrassing School Moment #3: Being late for the Opening Ceremony. Yup. You heard right; I was late. They drill this into you: don’t be late on your first official day! Don’t be late! And see, I didn’t think I was going to be late. I arrived really early. However, I wasn’t told that the ceremony started even earlier. So here I’m thinking I’m an awesome person because I’m super early and have time to cool down and collect myself before having to give my speech to the school, I’m actually late and have to run to the gym, hair a mess, sweating like crazy. Mind you, I’m wearing a suit.

According to my tantosha, I wasn’t late for the official opening ceremony. Just the award ceremony. Still! I was late! I stood outside the gym for a little while, trying to fix my hair and seem less distressed than I really was and going over my small speech over and over in my head. I tried putting off walking into the gym as long as I could because the moment I did, EVERYONE looked in my direction. I wasn’t supposed to give my speech until after Kocho-sensei and that’s when I realized…. I was the only one in a suit. Even my Kocho-sensei wasn’t in a suit. It took everything I had not to turn red like a tomato in embarrassment. I gave my speech and it in both Japanese and English. Went something like this.

“Good morning, everyone. My name is Miranda Barril, but you can call me Miranda. I am from Alaska in the USA. My hobbies are cooking and tennis. Please to meet you.”

Short, sweet and to the point. Not going to lie, I was shaking by the time I left the stage.

-Got to see the Dance Festival in Nagoya: This one was awesome! It was a huge dance festival in Osu; I managed a video, but I haven’t quite figured out how to add those yet….

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Now for a quick couple observations to wrap this up:

School Observation #1: Students will stop in the hall to bow and say good morning to teachers. This has happened to me at least twice a day while I’m at my JHS. Not sure if ES students do this, but I haven’t been there when students are there, so that might change. When I’m walking around the school, students who are there for their club activities will stop what they’re doing, or stop a little bit before I pass them and bow to me while saying good morning or hello.

School Observation #2: Students introduce themselves and state their purpose when entering the Teacher’s Room. This one threw me off the most because this isn’t something that happens in America. I sit right next to the door (I’m the first teacher students will see when they walk in) and whenever a student wants to come in they do the following: bow, ask for permission to enter, say hello/good morning to the teachers, state the teacher they’re looking for/what they’re doing in the staff room and then hurry off to whatever they stated they were there to do. Personally, I think this is genius.

Oh, and I guess this would a good time to mention that teacher’s don’t have a specific room like in America. All the teachers have desks in the Teacher’s Room and then go to and from their designated classes; the students are the ones that have specific rooms. The teachers go to them! Minus like… gym and a couple other classes.

Okay, so that’s gonna cover it for this post. I will have more coming throughout the week and hopefully I can post them somewhat regularly haha.

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Final Days of Hama Training and First Week at Two Schools!

We had one more week of training after I uploaded the last post. It covered a variety of things, mainly about things to help us get adjusted to life in Japan and Hamamatsu. We had speakers come in and prep us on special needs classes (which I have two at my JHS), Earthquake and Disaster safety, and how to be an effective ALT. We also had all the current JETs in Hama give short presentations; topics ranged from Self Studying Japanese, What to Wear to Work, How to Work with our JTE’s and then small tidbits on elementary and junior high schools. It was very informative! The BoE had an Ikebana instructor come in as well and I got to try my hand at that! It’s harder than it seems! And straight up matcha (green tea)…. Not a fan. Not a fan in the slightest. SO BITTER O_O

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I’ve spent the evenings either shopping around Zaza or May One or spending time with my fellow JETs! I’ve already been to Animate twice and I have come back hurting from how much I buy; I don’t mean to whn I go initially, it just…happens. My apartment is almost, keyword here, finished; my bed frame is coming in tomorrow and I managed to assemble a small shelf on my own (with the help of some colorful words). I still need a TV stand (my TV is currently propped up on my suitcase) but that can wait until later this year. My apartment is feeling like home now! The only issue is the incessant dust. Where the hell is it coming from? I wipe everything down DAILY and it’s still EVERYWHERE. We also had a welcome party last week for all the incoming JETs! It was really fun! Couldn’t eat most of the food, but what I did eat was AMAZING! And some killer karaoke afterwards 🙂

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I went to Nagoya last weekend and met up with three people who I haven’t seen in a long time! We had lunch together, shopped, and enjoyed each other’s company. It was so nice seeing them again! B came with me as well so that was great! I love shopping in Nagoya. Next time, I hope to make time for a massage. The Raffine clinic calls!!! O_O We left Nagoya around 9:15ish and had a minor panic attack as we weren’t sure if the train we had gotten on would make it all the way to Hamamatsu. We had one conductor say no, then two seconds later another one said yes. We also had one conductor who brushed us off completely -_-

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We made it though. And I spent the majority of Sunday cleaning and washing and getting ready for my first day of school at Hokubu JHS. Technically school doesn’t start until the 31st for me, but as an ALT, I HAVE to go to school. I really don’t mind. These couple weeks leading up to school starting will give me a chance to get the layout of my school down and prepare my self-introduction.

I actually ended up going to the wrong way my first day. I caught the right bus (score!) but Google Maps ended up taking me to the back entrance of the school rather than the front. And I think this is a great Segway into a new part of my blog that I’m introducing called, Embarrassing School Moments. Because seriously, it’s gonna happen; I might as well have fun with it. So!

Embarrassing School Moment #1: Being escorted to the front of the school in front of my new students. Now, if they were in fact 3rd years (9th graders) then it’s not as embarrassing as I think it is because I won’t be teaching 3rd years. But I’m pretty sure they were 1st years (6th graders).

After being escorted to the school, I managed to find an open guest shoe cubby and meandered around looking for the Teacher’s Room. I had memorized the kanji (and by memorized I mean had a picture of it on my phone), but it wasn’t even necessary because all the room placards have English underneath the Japanese. Another cool thing about my school, none of the doors open out. They’re all sliding! And the school smells amazing because it’s ALL WOOD. My tantosha (supervisor) said that the school was recently remodeled a few years ago.

I was greeted by my tantosha, O-sensei, who then showed me to my desk. There’s quite a bit on it that I don’t need and I plan to get rid of it later this week. I haven’t had much time to filter through the papers, but I’m pretty sure I will only keep a few and chuck the rest. I have my own system for organizing! I am grateful for the heaps of flashcards; I spent most of the morning going through them and organizing them. However, I don’t know how often I will use them. I need to sift through the books and see which lessons they would be used for. My school also gave me a computer to use, but it doesn’t connect to the internet (there’s a main computer everyone uses) so I opted to just bring my own.

I was introduced to Kyoto-sensei (vice principal) and he went through the rules of the school. Things like the schools strict no drinking and driving/acting stupid in public, no taking pictures of the students/posting them on social media without permission, no piercings or jewelry (I have to remember to put earrings back in otherwise they’ll close!) and dress code. He also went into explanation about the school lunches, but I’ve opted out of them since I have so many dietary issues. It’s just easier to bring my own lunch.

O-sensei showed me around the school and explained how the levels were divided on the floors. I haven’t seen the second half of the school yet, there are parts of it that are in a second building nearby. I was also shown the changing room, but I don’t have a locker yet. It will be nice to have so I can keep a blazer at school at all times just in case of surprise ceremonies. My tantosha has been great though and gave me a year events schedule for the school so I know when all the important things are.

Embarrassing School Moment #2: Tripping while walking UP the stairs. This is a new one for me. I mean, I always, ALWAYS fall down stairs; it’s a fact of life Miranda will fall down stairs at least once a year. But tripping… up? That’s a first.

I met my Kocho-sensei too (principal) and he asked why I was working during summer vacation and INSISTED I take Friday off to relax and enjoy Hamamatsu. Well, who am I to go against my boss? But of course, I checked with my Kyoto-sensei and Tantosha (O-sensei) to make sure they absolutely didn’t need me that day. My biggest concern was being help to help my speech contest student, but since he wouldn’t be there Friday, I relented.

In the afternoon, I helped O-sensei with Hokubu’s speech contest student. His English is really good for a 3rd year! And his speech tugged at the heartstrings! His biggest challenges are the “th” and “ly” sounds, especially if they’re back to back. I’m going to be working with him on it after school once school begins, but until then, I get an hour twice a week with him. He was really excited to hear I had participated in a speech contest in high school, but since he was also told I won first place… no pressure, right? The contest is on a Monday, which means I’m actually at my elementary school that day; but I want to be there to hear him recite it! My elementary school is making my schedule to hold all my classes in the morning so I can attend his speech recital in the afternoon. I’m so grateful!

Other than that, I spent the rest of the day working on my introduction PowerPoint and reward system for my JHS. O-sensei loves my ideas, I just hope my other two JTE’s are as embracing! I wish I had O-sensei more often for class too; I only teach in two of her classes! The majority are with I-sensei, who I met briefly Tuesday; she’s the coach for the softball team at my JHS. O-sensei was also super encouraging when I asked about after school activities. I asked if it would be okay if I filtered around the clubs to see what they were like. Of course, I won’t have time to actually go see any until after the speech contest. I don’t mind though! My student is doing an amazing job!

It’s so quiet O_O There’s maybe, 4 teachers (not including myself) at any given time in the teacher’s room. I have yet to buck up the courage to go exploring around the school, but I’m not entirely sure I can?

Tomorrow, I will FINALLY be able to attend a concert. And for my absolute favorite band O_O K is going with me, she’s meeting me at the venue once she gets off work. I also have a few instore events planned for Sunday which are incidentally ALL for Duel Jewel. But hey; they’re disbanding. And I won’t be able to make it to their finale in Feburary; and I missed all their Aichi/Shizuoka lives; SO. Meeting and greeting and pictures three times.

Don’t judge me 😛

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Hamamatsu City at Last!!

Sorry for such long break since my last post. I’ve been go go go since I arrived in Japan and it’s been even more so since I arrived in my new home. I’ll try to run it down as best I can without making as long of a post as my last one.

Wednesday was the day I parted from my fellow Alaska JETs; some left in the morning, others early afternoon. I was right in the middle, set for 9:00. We walked to Shinjuku station and boarded a train to Tokyo station. We actually ended up leaving the hotel early, so we had plenty of time to explore the station for food. I bought a bento box from a store and chatted with my fellow Hamamatsu JETs. So much excitement! We boarded the Shinkansen (bullet train) headed to Hamamatsu City; the ride was about 1.5 hours. It was nice out, so the view of the surrounding area was beautiful! I even got a few pictures!

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The past couple days have been a blur, so I don’t entirely remember what order everything happened. After arriving in Hamamatsu City, we drove to the City Hall to register our Residence Cards and at the same time while waiting for our cards to be updated, we filled out all our bank account papers. We drove to the Board of Education to pick up our suitcases and even received a welcome bag of baked goods from a current JET! The brownie was best by far!

In this INSANE heat, what is really only a short 10 minute walk feels like you’ve been walking for hours. I’m pretty sure we all were drenched in sweat especially since most of us live higher than the second floor. I live right between he BoE and the JR Station on the third floor of a complex; the stairs are SO steep. Even now I’m still breathless by the time I reach the top. I had the rest of the evening to myself, but I left right away to meet up with everyone else to go to Bic Camera to set up phones. Ended up getting a phone with AU (aw yeah, iPhone 6Plus at last) and even got wifi set up; super productive first day!

The second day was filled with training! Speeches and presentations and more speeches! I’m so surprised to see how well thought out this training is. Over the past two days of training (Thursday and Friday), we’ve covered topics of Culture Shock, Developing Good Relationships with our JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English), Introductions, Apartment Details, Public Transportation, Working with local International groups (HICE) and we even met the mayor of Hamamatsu City!

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In the evenings, we’ve all been breaking off into small groups to shop for various things. The 100 yen store has been my best friend since I got here. Most of my apartment has been furnished by it! Recently, I bought a bed frame from a local furniture store. A current JET, C, brought a few of us there today; I could have bought so much, but I had to restrain myself! There are still a few more things I need to buy, but I plan on filling up the apartment slowly.

I get to find my four schools on Monday…. On my own. But! The BoE provided detailed maps and bus schedules so we can all find them with little trouble. Most of mine I take a bus to then walk, but I’m excited to see them at last! We don’t officially start working at the schools until the 17th, as we still have training at the BoE this coming week. I can’ wait to meet all the teachers I’ll be working with.

Hamamatsu is great city! I’m nearby quite a few stores and useful shops; I’ve been having fun scouting the area. I hope to keep this blog more up to date now that I have wifi!

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Tokyo Orientation Day One and Two

Oh boy, it’s been a fast two days! I’m posting both days in one post, so I hope this isn’t too long!

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I crashed at 10 on Sunday (the day we came in) and managed to stay asleep until 5:30 or so. Even though I couldn’t fall back asleep, I enjoyed the comfy bed! J and I had plans to meet up with a few other Alaska JETs at 7:30 for breakfast. We got dressed in our suits and I must say, I felt super fancy. I don’t wear suits often so it was cool to wear one all day today. We all trekked downstairs to where Breakfast was being held and dug in! The tables had quite the variety! Potatoes, eggs, salad, toast and rolls, juice and lots of fruit! The eggs I didn’t really agree with because it had a really odd consistency. I probably won’t go for them again.

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Here is what our first day looked like:

9:00-9:20 Opening Ceremony
Exactly as it sounds; a large ceremony welcoming us to the Program

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9:20-9:45 JET Programme Essential Information
Just some tid bits we needed to know

9:45-10:00 Break

10:00-11:00 Expectations of a JET ALT
Again, exactly as it sounds

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11:00-11:15 Break

11:15-12:00 Foreign Language Education in Japan
This one was interesting because recently, the hours spent learning foreign languages has increased and it’s been made compulsory in 5th an 6th grade levels, but the classes isn’t graded until JHS

12:00-1:15 Lunch
Has some tasty penne pasta with a  veggie red sauce

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1:15-2:25 Useful Information for ALTs
A great presentation from a current JET about what to expect and tips for getting by in the public school system

2:25-2-35 Break
At this point in the day, we all had to separate to different rooms based off of what our nametags said. I was in Class 4. We also had to use Attendance Cards to prove we went to these workshops because apparently people in the past skipped out on lots of the workshops even though we’re being paid to go. It’s not too bad really, but I kept forgetting to turn in my card and would have to fight against the crowd of JETs to turn it in.

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2:45-3:25 Team Teaching Demo and Effective Lesson Planning in Junior High School Part One
This was so much fun! Got great ideas for my self intro lesson and got a better understanding of Team Teaching

3:25-3:40 Break

3:40-4:30 Team Teaching Demo and Effective Lesson Planning in Junior High School Part Two
Just a continuation of the previous workshop, but it focused on lesson planning and forming relationships with your teachers

4:30-4:40 Break

4:40-5:15 Japanese Self Study Intermediate/Advanced Class
This workshop was nice in the essence that I got a list of more apps to use and how to keep myself motivated while learning Japanese

5:15-6:30 Break

6:30-8:00 Welcome Reception
Big buffet dinner in the main room and we were all split up by prefecture and designated city. I stood with Shizuoka Prefecture, Shizuoka City, Hamamatsu City, and Aichi Prefecture. It was nice to finally meet some fellow Shizuoka and Hamamatsu JETs! I’ll see them all again at the prefecture specific orientation on Day Two.

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After the kampai, I lingered for a bit, but didn’t have the patience to stick around to get food. So, I left in search of my fellow Alaska JETs and ran into them in the main hotel tower. We decided to make a spontaneous trip to Shibuya! And I’m so glad we did, because it was so much fun! We did some window shopping, geeked out at the small Disney Store, had some awesome ramen, died in Book Off and enjoyed the night life!

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Day Two

There weren’t many things different from this day of training other than the panel of current JETs and more workshops. At this point, my adrenaline and energy were pretty low, so personally I found it hard to pay attention. But I did my best!

9:00-10:30 Elementary and Junior High School ALT Panel Discussion
This was probably my favorite event of the day. It was great to hear from current JETs about their experiences on the program and I have a somewhat better idea of what to expect on my first couple weeks

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10:30-10:45 Break

10:45-11:35 Speaking for JHS Class Four
Had some demonstrations about good techniques to use with Speaking in the JHS environment

11:30-12:50 Lunch

12:50-1:40 Grammar for JHS Class Four
How to use grammar without technically teaching it on your own; kinda confusing and honestly I spaced out most of this workshop.

1:40-1:55 Break

1:55-2:45 Writing for JHS Class Four
This workshop was the best by far and was pretty much along the lines of the previous two; using writing in class but making it fun (like using Social Media)

2:45-3:00 Break

3:00-3:50 Vocabulary for JHS Class Four
Again, same as the other three workshops; making vocabulary practice fun in the class without excessive repetition

3:50-4:05 Break

4:05-4:55 Host Prefecture/Designated City Meeting (Hamamasu City)
The other activity I was most looking forward to! We found out the schedule for Wednesday (arrival in Hamamatsu City) and how we’re getting there! We’re going to be taking the Shinkansen to Hamamatsu City from Tokyo Station. And then we’ll be bustled around all day filling out paperwork and registering various things. I’m excited to see where I’m living for the next year!

4:55-8:00 Survey Turn In and Luggage Collection
Turn in a survey regarding the Orientation and have your luggage taken to be sent ahead to your prefecture. I didn’t have to do this because I only brought a small suitcase and backpack, but after repacking, I’m beginning to wish I had.

And that was the two day orientation in Tokyo! After freshening up and changing into casual clothes, J, J2, A and I all made our way to Harajuku! I’ve been there before many times, but the shops are always changing, it’s so much fun to keep exploring! We had dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant and then topped it off with delicious crepes! After some window shopping and raiding of Closet Child, we hit up Liz Lisa and bought some new purses! I love mine! We found a purikura store below a store and spent about a half hour there doing some! I love purikura!

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Since we all had to be up early for our respective departures, we decided to head back around 8:30; Harajuku starts to shut down around that time anyway so even if we had stayed there wouldn’t have been much to do. I’ve repacked about five times and I can’t wait to see my new home! I don’t know when I’ll have internet access in my apartment or when I’ll be able to make it to a Starbucks to post, but I will do by best!

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Day of Departure: Hello Japan!

I didn’t sleep.

That’s really the best way I can describe the day of departure. Severely sleep deprived. Our flight from Anchorage to Seattle was at 5:45 am on Saturday, so we all had to be at the airport at 3:45 am for check in and such. So… I pulled an all-nighter; in fact, I believe most of us did, or at least tried. I ended up getting some coffee at Starbucks to attempt to stay awake during our first leg of the flight, but I sort of nodded off for a half hour or so.

We were warned that we might have to run to our Tokyo flight in Seattle, but by some awesome luck, our gate was only three gates down from the one we arrived in. The two hour layover went by pretty quickly; we all put our luggage in a corner and took turns watching it while we all went off and did our own things; one of the perks of traveling in a group!! I made my final phone calls to my friends and family and we boarded the plane!

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The flight was surprisingly full. Five of us were in the same row while the other two in our group were in the second half of the economy cabin. I managed to FINALLY watch the last installment of the Hobbit trilogy and I must say… I’m really disappointed how short Smaug’s screen time was. Like seriously…wtf. I also watched the Imitation Game (SO GOOD) and made it halfway through Exodus Gods and Kings before passing out for about a half hour. We were serve two meals inflight as well as an ice cream snack! I brought goldfish to much on as a snack so I dug into those every now and again when the moment came about.

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Before I knew it, we were landing! I was finally back in Japan! I was (and still am) so happy that I’m back. Immigration was slow, but that’s to be expected. We had to wear these stickers to indicate we were with the JET Program so we were easy to find and guide to the bus area. It makes you feel special, but then you get a small inkling that this is what it was like in elementary school with the “line leaders” who directed the class everywhere. But instead of a class, you have a bunch of tired yet excited men and women with trolley’s stuffed with luggage. I got separated from the rest of the group, but three of us ended up on one bus, another three on the bus before us and then the other on the bus before that. The longest part was moving through the JET line to the buses really. They took our luggage at the bus to be shipped to our CO or BoE and we boarded the bus with our carry on luggage. The bus ride took 2 hours, but the quiet drive and scenery relaxed me! It was still sinking in I was back!

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Even after all the stuff at the airport, we had more to do at the Keio Plaza Hotel, the location of our Post Arrival Orientation. We grabbed our “JET Bags” which contained various papers and handouts on different topics for ALTs and CIRs, had a small briefing with a JET Rep, and picked up our name tags and our hotel room keys! By another lucky chance, I’m rooming with J, the Alaska JET who let me stay with her in Anchorage! We unpacked, kinda, and decided to head out to the nearby 7-11 for food.

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I missed Japanese food so much. It took quite a bit of will power to refrain from buying all the food I missed. I finally had a Jumbo bar!

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I originally wrote this the night we arrived, but I passed out before being able to post it. I will post Day 1 and 2 of the Tokyo Orientation tomorrow night while I still have internet connection!

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Pre-Departure Orientation

Today flew by!

I finally was able to meet the rest of the Alaska JETs and they’re awesome! The excitement in the room was simply contagious. I was tired when I arrived at the Consular, but after the orientation and talking with the other JETs, I was filled with energy!

Our orientation was a 10am and I think it was really informative. We covered a variety of topics, such as packing (too late for me!), culture shock phases, contact information, a small rundown of the process once we arrive in Tokyo, and small tid bits about teaching and such. The most important part, at least for me, was getting our tickets and bag tags! We even got a sticker we have to wear when we get through immigration so the JET volunteers can grab us and guide us to the check in and baggage drop off. As the orientation went on, it slowly started hitting me that, yes, I am in fact going back. I’m sure it won’t legitimately hit me until I’m on the plane from Seattle to Tokyo.

After orientation, we trickled out slowly and made our way to a luncheon set up by the Consular; we had guests from the Alaska Dispatch News, the Anchorage Chief of Police, and professors from UAA. Each table had to sit one JET and it was a smidge awkward for me only because I didn’t have any personal guests. So for a while, I was sitting at the table by myself until the Chief of Police and the head of the Consular sat at my table. We had to give small introductions, like where we were from, where we graduated from, our major, our placement and how many schools we have. An alum gave a wonderful speech as well!

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Lunch only lasted a couple hours and then it was relaxation for the rest of the night! Our flight to Seattle is at 5:45 am so we have to be at the airport at 3:45 to meet the KIE Rep; we were all joking about doing lines of espresso shots at Starbucks to stay awake during the flight, but since I’m just going to stay awake all night, I might just try to sleep whenever I’m able.

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J taught me how to make gyoza and lumpia; my gyoza were a little…different than hers, but they still tasted awesome O_O

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Other than that, just repacking my carry-on bags, making sure I have everything I; going to need and so forth. I’m going to do my best to update as often as I can, but from what I’ve heard from some JETs in the group that went as week, the Keio Hotel has spotty internet. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have home internet for at least my first month, but I think there’s a Starbucks nearby my apartment.

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Japan!

Posted in JET Program, Pre Departure | Tagged , | 4 Comments