Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Friday, March 31, 2006


I have Friday afternoons off so I headed down to Ishiuchi Maruyama to snowboard. It has been snowing pretty much non-stop for the last two days and as a result, Ishiuchi was covered in powder!! They groomed the easy course from the top to Chuo Exit, but the rest of the mountain is under one to three feet of snow. It took me a few runs to get used to riding on the soft stuff (it's a lot slower and very heavy to turn) but once I was back into it, there was no stopping me. I explored all the mountains trying to find teh most exciting powder and I found it; a steep run under the number 3 lift. So much powder, a few trees and a couple of jumps! Fantastic! I mixed it up a bit by taking the groomed runs and practising fakie, ollies and 360 turns. The tricks are starting to feel more natural so perhaps next year I can start using them on kickers and halfpipes with confidence. I stopped by Mion Onsen on the way home to soak, relax and warm myself up. It was great to sit outside in the snow knowing i could jump into a nice warm bath when I got cold.

I'm off to Niigata tomorrow for footy practice and a night on the town (Tom and Ryan's birthday as well as Kieko's leaving party). I'll take my board so I can go boarding somewhere on my way back on Sunday. Have to make the most of the snow!!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's not fair!!!

It has been snowing again. All day yesterday and all day today in fact. I'm desperate to get on the slopes and ride that lovely soft powder, but all the naitas in the area have stopped!! It's so not fair. At least I have tomorrow afternoon off. At 12pm I'm out the school gates and off to Ishiuchi for the afternoon. I'd better go prepare and wax my board!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A treat for people back home

I've made two trips back to England whilst I've been working as an ALT. For each trip, I had the honour of witnessing two pairs of friends getting married. Of course, as always, I took loads of photos, maybe nmore than I uauslly would have taken. At last I've sorted those photos and posted them on my site. You can find them on my photos page (look out for the red square ) or by clicking these links:

And if anyone would like to print copies of any photos, let me know and I'll send you the high quality versions.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The circle gets bigger

I've now added a blog from Ros to my blog links and the blog browser. Be nice to her!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More recent new photos

I've sorted out a bunch of photos from the last month. Check the photos page and look out for the red square
Highlights include:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Is it wrong?

Is it wrong to remove a picture of a skiier from a work sheet if I think that the skiier looks too smug?

Monday, March 13, 2006

If it's Snowing, I'm boarding

It's the last week of the school year at Tokamachi this week. The closing ceremony is on Friday and I have eight classes to do between today and Thursday. The four I had today were pretty much back to back, from 3rd period to 6th period. I had lunch in the middle, but that was spent preparing for the afternoon. Periods 1 and 2 were spent preparing for the four lessons, and after all that I had English Club. So pretty much 8.30 to 6pm straight, stopping only for three coffees and half a tuna bagel for lunch. So pretty much the the toughest day I've had for a while.

Any normal Monday, and I'd be off home resting for teh evening before my Tuesday at Tsunan. But not today's Monday. Today's Monday has seen snow falling since I woke this morning. I had to clear six inches off my car when I left school, which meant only one thing: I had to go snowboarding!

I picked up Keiko, stopped at mine for a lightening quick change and to pick up my gear, and we were on the slopes by 7.10pm. And it was fantastic!

The snow condition was great, it wasn't too crowded and all my favourite bits were available; the Big Powder Drop at the top, the high-speed run to Chou-Exit and my new favourite, the snowboard cross course. We eventually bumped into Erik, Debs, Katsu and Lopaka at the end of the night and joined them in the final run home to the car park.

I did feel like going home and sleeping when I left work, but I was so glad I thought better of it and went snowboarding. With the amount of snow that fell today, it would have been rude not to. I'm hoping I can sleep enough tonight so I feel good enough to board tomorrow. This could be the last decent fall of the winter so I want to take advantage of it was much as I can!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's been ages since.... snowed. And ages since I got any comments on my blog. Are the two related?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Updated Snow Blog

I also found and have uploaded teh photos for the last month on the Snow Blog. As you can see from the road and buildings, there has been any significant snowfall for a long while.

Tokamachi High School Graduation, 2006

Friday 3rd April was Graduation Day at Tokamachi High School this year. Graduation Day for me is a breeze; all I have to do is turn up at the hall in time looking smart. I feel sorry for the other teachers though.

Teachers without homerooms have to organise teh hall and help the parents who come to the ceremony. The homeroom teachers for ichi-nen-sei and ni-nen-sei (1st and 2nd year) classes have to keep their classes in check and then lead them into a cold hall 45 minutes early. But I guess this is nothing compared to the responsibilities of san-nen-sei (3rd year) homeroom teachers. They have to make sure all the class are present (and chase absent students by phone to find out why they aren't here), make sure they're all in correct uniform, give or take the odd pair of loose socks, and then lead their class in front of the whole school, parents and honoured guests in the hall. Good job none of them had stage fright!

I managed to get into the hall on time, but too late to sit near the stove keeping most of the other teachers warm (must remember that for next year). The hall walls are decorated with red and white stripes and on the stage there is the school flag and the school's bonsai tree. When music by the school band started (three songs, but I could only recognise the second, "Land of Hope anf Glory"), the 3rd years filed in from the back of teh hall to their chairs at the front, all while everybody else is clapping.

The 3rd years sit, then there is a word or two from the principal. Then each 3rd year homeroom teacher reads out the names of their class, and each student stands as their name is called out. Then the principal again while teh students are standing, and everyone claps. The students sit and the principal gives his main speech. I understood more this year; he said that the time at tokamachi had been long, but hopefully and enjoyable time. Something about memories and acheivements. Tehn something about teh future.

Then the school sings the School Anthem, and then the 3rd years file out to a standing ovation.

And that's the graduation Ceremony. I went back to the English room and ate a sushi bento which had been ordered for each teacher. It was a Friday, so when I left at 12, I went to see the 3rd year students for one last time. I ended up staying for over an hour signing yearbooks, having my photo taken and chatting to students about their plans after school. It was great to see them again after they'd been on home study leave since January. It was also funny seeing their reaction when I started asking questions in Japanese (I have a rule of not speaking Japanese to any student in school at anytime. It limits the practice I get, but it encourages the students to speak English more).

And that was that. In the evening there was a graduation Enkai which I'll talk about in another post.

Another Busy Weekend

Last weekend was another busy one. On Friday we had graduation, then the Graduation Enkai. On Saturday I was scaring myself shitless at the Snowboard Cross camp. Sunday I went to see this year's ALT Play and after for drinks with everyone in Tokamachi.

I'll go through a put a post for each bit.

Look Look! New Japan Photos!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Caption Competition 1

I know you're all eagerly waiting for me to put up more pictures, especially of the two weddings. I'm almost there with both sets, but I did get distracted by one photo. It's a bit of a corker (as any picture fo Will would be) and I can't resist using it in a caption competition. Here it is... think of a funny dialogue or a funny caption and add it to the comments. Easy eh?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Graduation Practise

Tomorrow is graduation day for both my schools, which is unfortunate because it means I will miss the graduation at Tsunan (it being the school I visit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). I'm at Tokamachi today and the whole school has been preparing for tomorrow's event (I assume Tsunan has been too). This morning the students cleaned the school. Then each class in turn moved their chairs into the main hall for the ceremony. When they were all arranged, we had a practise run for tomorrow's ceremony along with bowing practise (deep and for a count of three) and school anthem singing practise. We also had a presentation ceremony for our Cross Country Ski team, who were very successful in a recent national ski tounament. The boys team came second and the girls were crowned champions of Japan! Well Done Team!

After the practise, school officially closed for the students, though most of them are still here doing club activities (training if it's sports club, scales and recitals if it's music club, etc). The teachers have a couple of meetings this afternoon so at the moment I'm left in the English Room on my own, sorting through the year's lesson plans with the intention of improving them.

We also have a new English teacher too. Horie-sensei left at the start of teh year on maternity leave so in her place we have Maruyama-sensei. He's a young teacher who used to teach at Muikamachi Koko with Kate Duis and Hakkai Koko with Dean Kirkness. He seems pretty friendly from the little chat we had before he was whisked off into a meeting. I wonder if he's into snowboarding too?

End of Season already?

The weather is depressing me. I may have welcomed warm sunny spells and occasional drizzle in the past (usually during a cold October or windy March), but during Winter in Japan I want snow and lots of it. I know I moaned about the high levels of snow in December, but that was before the slopes opened. If we have lots of snow, it means lots of lovely powder on teh slopes. And I'll gladly shovel snow for hours a day if I could have that prefect run through the backcountry, zipping between trees and ducking branches before re-appearing on-piste next to the ski-lift.

At the moment, there hasn't been a decent snowfall since Friday 17th Feb so the snow is slowly turning to ice; not the best to go snowboarding. Snow is forecasted for tomorrow but the question is how long for and how much will fall?

Anyone know a good "snow dance" I could do around a campfire tonight?

**Snow Blog**

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