Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Tokamachi Closing Ceremony

Last day of the school year at Tokamachi. So today they had a closing ceremony. Like the Graduation Ceremony, it was in the main hall but without the banners and decorations.

The first part was the presentation of certificates to four students; three who'd done well in a skiing tournament, the fourth who'd won a japanese play tournament. Then the kyocho-sensei gave a short speech. From my limited Japanese, I think it was about how the second years will become the new third years and the first years will be come the new second years and that every student should be growing up and taking more responsibilty.

After that there was a talk from another teacher. Wasn't sure what he was talking about but the teacher next to me explained that female students in Niigata-ken have the shortest skirts in all Japan (and yes, it is very distracting). My translator also said that the speaker was attempting to convince the girls that short skirts were not kakoi (cool) by saying that short skirts would weaken the immune system and make you more susceptable to flu and colds. Somehow, I don't think that'll be effective.

To close the closing ceremony, the school band played the school anthem. I've heard this many times before but still can't make out the words apart from 'yuki' (snow), 'Tokamachi and 'kita' (north). There was an added attraction this time; three boys took to the stage and did hand signals all the way through the anthem. And these weren't hand signals for snow, Tokamachi or north either, but signals that would be very useful if there was a fire ("Please observe the exits here, here and here"). Chotto hen ne?

So I guess that's it, the school is closed. I still have to wait til 12 before I can leave though.

Last lesson of 2004-05

It was raining when I walked to my car after school today. The weather feels warmer too so I'm thinking that the winter may be over. No more snowboarding. I'll have to wait til next November or December. I'm quite upset by that idea.

Still, at least my brothers are arriving so that might cheer me up. I was talking to Mark tonight about the last minute details in packing and stuff. I still can't believe that they're coming over. I spoke to Mum this morning and she said she's quite jealous of my brothers. I said she should come over in August for her birthday. She's not sure, but I'm hoping she changes her mind.

Had my last lesson of teh year today. It was the weather leasson with Kamayama-sensei's 1-7 class. It went a lot better than on Tuesday. I'm not sure if it was because we were more comfortable with the lesson or if the ability of this class was higher, but we managed to get through everything a lot quicker. This was good because the lessons today are ten minute shorter than normal to give the students for extra cleaning time at the end of school.

The students-cleaning-the-school thing still surprises me. It makes perfect sense, the students make teh mess so they have to tidy, but I guess the idea that cleaning is done by cleaners is so ingrained in me that it still seems strange.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

One less climber :-(

Went climbing tonight. One of the climbers is leaving because his job has changed location to Koide. So I was asked to sign a rope bag for him that we're giving as a going away present. I wrote "Sorry to see you go, Good luck and ki-o-tsukete, Martin" in mixed English and Japanese. I also gave him one of my business cards when I left so hopefully he might email me.

The climbers also extended the overhang to include four more holds, which means I have to get my whole body around and over teh ridge. This will take me sometime I reckon.


Tsunan had another test this morning. All teh first and second years had to take it and the English teachers had to invigilate. I carried on working on Ikarashi-sensei's Phonics Display.
Ikarashi-sensei has had the idea that teaching the students the phonetic English alphabet will help the students pronouce English words better. I think it's a good idea. Afterall, the phonetic sounds are closer to how you pronounce a word ( cat is "Ka-tu" not "Ka-tea") and native speakers are taught "ah, buh, kuh" before "ay, bee, see".
So, to help teach phonetics, Ikarashi-sensei want's a display of the first 26 phonetics sounds, plus some extra ("th", "ch", "ph" etc). We're doing it in teh classic style; Letter, phonetic symbol, picture. So today I was drawing pictures of an ant, a beetle, a cup, a doll etc.

After the test, the students were free to go home. One student, the head of the student council, came to the English Department. Next week, Tsunan will be host to exchange students from America, to whom the student council leader will have to give a speech. In English. He had one worked out but wanted me to look at it and give him some hints. I suggested where to pause and re-wrote on of the sentences to sound more natural and we practised it a few times til he had it. He borrowed Takahashi-sensei laptop to re-write his script so he was sat next to me for the next couple of hours, talking abot what music we liked, which videogames we liked. It was one of those rare times when you feel like you're fulfilling the "improving grassroots internationalisation" part of my job. So much focus is placed on preparing lessons and teaching that "being human" bit is often overlooked.

Adding to the "grassroots" vibe of the day, I also got an email from one of the new Tokamachi graduates. I exchanged details with a group of girls who came to see me after the graduation ceremony and this was teh first time they'd contacted me. According to Noriko, who sent the email, she is in Kamakura with Yukina and Miho. She also sent a picture of the big Buddha statue in Kamakura, which looks pretty impresive so I've added it to my list of places to see.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Tokamachi Koko and Tsunan Koko both had their graduation ceremonies for their third year classes. As it was Friday I was at Tokamachi Koko.

I dressed up in my suit and tie, as recommended, and was received lots of compliments from my teachers about how smart I looked. Maybe I should wear a suit more often.

The ceremony took place in the main hall which had been decorated in red and white with school flag and the flag of Japan as a background to the stage.

The school band started to play and ceremony started. The principal said a few words then left the stage. Then one of the the third-year homeroom teachers stood next to the microphone and started reading the names of the students in his class. The student whose name was read would stand up and shout "Hai!", then the homeroom teacher read the next student, who stood and shouted "Hai!" and so on and so on. The students were organised so they were standing in order from right to left (as I was looking). This was done for each of the eight third-year classes (they were allowed to stand when their class was finished).

When the roll-call was completed, the kyocho-sensei (headteacher) took to the stage and gave a speech, probably about how well the students had done to graduate and wishing them good luck for the future.

After the speech, the school band started to play, everyone stood and sang the Tokamachi School Anthem. When the anthem finished, more music was played and the third-years, class by class, stood and started rto move towards the aisle. The students paired up as they met and headed out of the hall. Everyone else was clapping. It was really cool to see. When the last of the third-years had left, the kyocho-sensei gave a last speech and the ceremony was over. I helped clear some chairs away and headed back to the English Department.

A couple of new teachers arrived who I'd never met. They were teachers at Tokamachi until last April and had since moved to new schools. They'd come back to see the graduation ceremony and we sat, drank tea and talked about teaching. They also gave me some suggestions on where to take my brothers when they arrive.

So no I'm back at home waiting for tonight's enkai. I was thinking of snowboarding, but I won't have time for a decent session. So Winning Eleven it is.

I'm in love

I went out for lunch today experienced love at first sight. I really never believed in it before but today, I'm converted. And the name of my new love? San Disk Cruzer micro. Yes, I am a sad geek, but be honest, you knew that already. I'd been looking for a USB Flash Drive for a while so I could move files from my PC to the schools' PCs more easily than using my camera and I final went and bought one. And I managed to find this little beauty. It's so small that it's taken up residence on my keyring. And I can't but smile in adoration whenever I look at it.

I did do some actual work today. I was at Tokamachi Koko and I made a start on sorting out the worksheets for teh first years. It's strange to look back over the whole year's work and see what you taught. The really strange thing is seeing how the same topic can be taught is so many different ways depending on the teacher you team-teach with. One teacher loves activities and games, another likes to stick to the textbook, another like a mix of both whilst a fourth sits back and lets me organise and run the lessons myself. It's also interesting to see how the two schools differ too, both in the topics taught and the style of teh activities. I must remember all this and bear it in mind when I prepare lessons for next year.

I had a bit of a private "Back Home" night tonight. I made a stew for tea, with hot sweet tea, had sponge cake and custard for pudding and watched my Peter Kay DVD. I though about putting big light on but the fluresent tubing would have ruined the mood.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quiet day in the office

Another quiet day at Tsunan, so I took the oppertunity to sort more photos.

I went to Keiko's last night to watch the Premiership review. I'm really starting to miss footy. I haven't played since January and haven't seen a match in months. The J-League season starts soon so maybe I can go see Albirex. Maybe they'll have a match while my brothers are here. Now that's an idea...

After the Premiership Review we were flicking channels and found a snowboarding programme on MTV-Japan. It was lots of footage of decent Japanese boarders weaving in and out of trees and pulling tricks. I was getting very jealous and I can't wait til my back is better and I can go boarding again.

I went climbing tonight. Still the overhang is beating me. It;s annoying because I know I've done it once so I should be able to do it again. I gave up once I felt too tired and concentrated on the numbered route to try and build a bit of stamina. Maybe next week I'll manage it.

**Snow Blog**

Blog Browser

Current JETs Ex-JETs Mates

Powered by Blogger

Who Links Here