Last Day as a JET ALT

My last month has been a tornado, with goodbyes and thank yous, packing and cleaning, and all sorts of logistical things, so much so that I’ve had little time to actually reflect and think, “I’m leaving Suzuka.”

And even when I say that, all of the facets of these past two years just won’t seem to fit into those three words. I’ve invested in and been touched by so many lives, students and teachers, friends, babies and grandmothers, Japanese and foreigners. I’ve learned so much about Japan in these two years, things I couldn’t have learned during my study abroad. I’ve grown in my language abilty, learned a new instrument, been to Universal Studios Japan, twice! And in the midst of the busyness of life here, I got used to Suzuka. It feels weird leaving here, as though I can’t imagine a different life.

I’ve certainly had my struggles during my time here as well. I’ve been hurt by people, and I’ve hurt people, Japanese people. And looking back, it breaks my heart to think that I hurt them. But thanks be to God, I really feel I’ve grown through it all. I think that I’ll always have more growing to do, but I think I can say that at the end of these two years, I’ve gotten a little bit better at forgiving, a little bit better at loving, a little bit better at lighting joy like a candle in the night. My soul feels more free now than ever before. I’m so happy to have had this time, and yet so sad to leave. All the students I’ve grown to love, the friendships that I’ve made that I know can’t end now. And yet, unlike the last time when I left Japan before at the end of my study abroad four years ago, something is really different this time. Something is here in my heart that wasn’t there then: Hope. Hope blazes in my heart like a wildfire. Though i don’t know what the next years hold for me exactly, I know that it’s gonna be good! I’m so excited to see my family! So excited to walk into tomorrow! I know that God is good. I know He’s got my back. And I know I’m coming back.

 

Suzuka, I’m so thankful for you

Suzuka, you’ve made my heart full

Suzuka, you know I love you

So Suzuka, I’ll see you soon.

 

 

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和楽器生活 - パート 2   Wagakki Life – Part 2

今回の投稿は単に私の一番好きなバンドの和楽器バンドについて話してほめたいと思う。私の意見ですが、和楽器バンドは日本の中で、一番かっこいいバンドの一つだ!私にとって、グッズを一杯買ったり毎コンサートに行ったりバンドか歌手の名前を叫んだリするほど芸能人とか俳優の大ファンになるそんなタイプじゃないけれど、といっても、一番そういうことに近着いたのは、和楽器バンドなんだ。もう二回コンサートにいったことがあるし、パーカーやCDやアクセソリーなど買った。あ、そして、ファンクラブも入りました。たぶんそれは本当にファンになったことになるだろうね!

I’d like to take this time to just brag on my favorite band, Wagakki Band! Wagakki Band is in my opinion one of the coolest bands over here! I’ve never really been one to be a fan of a particular musician or actor or celebrity to the point that I buy a bunch of their merchandise and go to every concert screaming their name, but I’d say Wagakki Band is the closest I’ve ever gotten to that : P I’ve been to two concerts already, bought a hoodie and a few CDs and a few accessories. Oh, and I entered the fan club! I guess that makes me a fan! : P

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でも、正直に、このバンドが出している音楽とほかの音楽者のために作っている文化的な道で、とても偉いと思うよ。西洋なものをあこがれてきた国には、このバンドが同時に日本の伝統的な文化を敬いながら現代のつながりもなくさないで質の高いJロックの音楽を作る方法を発見できたと思う。このバンドはどうか古い日本文化も新しい日本文化も合わせて、いい音を出せた。

All goofing aside, though, I really admire this band for the music they’re putting out, and for the cultural path they’re blazing for other artists. In a nation that seems to be increasingly hungry for Western stuff, I feel like this band has found a way to honor and use traditional Japanese culture while at the same time staying in touch with modernity and producing high-quality J-Rock music. They’ve managed to integrate both old Japanese culture and new Japanese culture together, and make it sound good.

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それで、和楽器バンドは新年の始めに今までに一番大きい会場らしい日本武道館でコンサートすることになったと聞いたら、行かなきゃいけないと思った!それで、東京に行った!私が住んでいる三重県から、やく三時間四時間だった。でも、めっちゃよかったよ!もちろんカメラは禁止だったものなので、コンサートそれ自体の写真はあまりできなかったけど、聞けたのは素晴らしかった!そして、和楽器を現代音楽に合わせて音楽者になりたい人としては、そんな演奏を見ることそれより、そんな演奏がうまくできたのを見ることは大励ましだ。

So when I heard that Wagakki Band was starting off the new year playing in the Nihon Budokan (The National Martial Arts Stadium), which I later learned was their biggest venue yet, I just had to go! So off to Tokyo I went! It was about 3-4 hours from where I live. But it was totally worth it! They didn’t allow cameras during the concert, so I didn’t really get pictures of the actual concert itself, but they were so awesome to listen to! And as an aspiring musician aspiring to use a Japanese instrument in modern music, it was really inspiring to see it done, and done well.

アメリカにいて興味を持っている人、実際は、ニューヨークに3月14日にコンサートするらしいよ!がんばって、和楽器バンド!

For those in the States who are interested, they’re actually having a concert in New York on March 14th! Go Wagakki Band!

http://www.wagakkiband.jp

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Christmas vs. New Year’s

So being here in Japan over the holidays has brought to my sight something I didn’t realize before. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t know this, but I just didn’t know quite how strongly it was this way.

In America, Christmas is a big holiday. Whether if you’re Christian or not, there are all kinds of festivities and traditions and reasons to celebrate. And in terms of decorations, there are Christmas trees, lights, red suits and red hats, Nativity scenes, songs about baby Jesus, and songs about Santa coming to town. In addition to all the decorations, Christmas is usually a day (at least in my experience and from what I’ve heard from others) when families get together and spend quality time together. We may have traditional foods that we like to eat on that day, which, again, in my experience, is usually similar to the Thanksgiving menu. Or, according to the Grinch, hoo pudding and roast beast : P

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In Japan though, the family day really does seem to be New Year’s Day. The almost a week of vacation that Japanese receive is centered around not Christmas, but New Year’s. And in place of Christmas decorations, there are new year’s decorations usually made with bamboo, and there is usually osechi, traditional rice cakes made by pounding rice into a goo, essentially. In just the past month I feel like so many Japanese have asked me, “What do you eat for New Year’s in America?” Uhh…am I missing something guys? What do we eat on New Year’s? I told my 6th graders that my family and I eat shrimp on New Year’s Eve, and that was about as much as I could tell them : P

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I didn’t notice the complimentary reflection of me in the background in this picture : P

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Having said all this, the Japanese are aware of Christmas in that they are very good about putting up Christmas decorations the month leading up to Christmas, including trees, lights, and santa hats of all colors! In the local supermarket, I had to smile at this sign they had up throughout the store.

 

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“Let’s Make a Christmas!” But there’s no question about it; here in Japan, the big family holiday at the end (beginning) of the year is New Year’s.

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Wagakki Life, Part I – Taking Up Shamisen

It’s gotten cold here in Suzuka. I finally broke out my heavy jacket in the past couple weeks. Things have been busy the past couple months. But it’s a good busy : )

Today I want to talk about Wagakki! Wagakki is the word for traditional Japanese instruments. There is a drum called Taiko, A bamboo flute called Shakuhachi, a 13 stringed harp called the Koto, and a three stringed guitar-like instrument called the Shamisen. For a while now, I’ve wanted to learn a Wagakki instrument, so these past few months, I’ve taken up learning the shamisen!

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I actually found out that there’s a shamisen teacher next to one of the schools I teach at, so it’s very convenient. She’s an elderly Japanese lady, and very kind and hospitable towards me. About twice a month after teaching I go to her house for lessons. And recently, since finding out that I don’t have a chance to eat dinner because I bike straight to her house and then straight home afterwards, she has prepared rice balls for me when I come. She fondly calls me her grandchild, so I guess that makes her my Japanese Shamisen Grandmother!

And boy, can my Japanese Shamisen Grandmother play some shamisen! I’ve got a lot to learn, but it’s nice to know that one has a quality teacher who’s been playing for most of her life. And yet, even though I’ve only been playing for a couple months, I’ve already had my first shamisen recital! And since shamisen is a traditional instrument, you have to play it in traditional garb as well!

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As much as I like traditional Japanese clothing, I’ve always thought it looks better on a Japanese : P I actually didn’t know how to put any of this on, or how to tie any of the stuff, so I had several elderly Japanese men and women fiddling at my clothing for what felt like half an hour, but I suppose the most important part is that it looks right, right?

There were young people there, too. Another woman around my age just started taking lessons recently, and there’s also a young man who has been playing since elementary school. Needless to say, he could play some shamisen, too! I only played 2 songs, but I figure that’s pretty good for 2 months. From here on out, My skill can only go up!

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Silver Week Adventures シルバーウィークの冒険

I originally was going to make my September post about my first experiences teaching English in Japan. But then a five day weekend called Silver Week came along and whisked me away on a string of adventures with lots of Japanese friends! So I thought I’d write about that while it’s still fresh!

日本語の翻訳はまだです。一週後また確認してください。

First, I went on a short weekend camping trip with some Japanese friends at a nearby mountain. Mie has lots of mountains. Japan in general, actually, is pretty mountainous. The weather was beautiful! And so were the mountains, and everything on them!

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Camping on the mountains wasn’t enough, though. A friend from Tokyo came to visit me, and we decided to hike up one of these things! We went to a mountain called Nyuudougatake, which was only about a kilometer high, but honestly, at times it felt like we were climbing! Thankfully there was tree cover most of the whole time. I don’t know how it is for most American mountains–nor do I really know what’s normal for Japanese mountains really : P but for this mountain at least, there weren’t any guard rails really. With the exception of a few well placed, well tied ropes as an aid for hiking up and down certain parts of the trail, the trail itself, and a little shrine at the top, the nature felt pretty undisturbed. We encountered two snakes and briefly saw a third something at some point(!?) but thankfully, we were okay! The weather was beautiful on this day, too!

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Then, the weekend after Silver week, I was invited by some other Japanese friends to go to Universal Studios Japan! They told me to be ready at 6:30 AM! I suppose the Japanese play as hard as they work! I got to try out lots of different attractions with my Japanese friends, including seeing Hogwarts! Yes! For those of you who didn’t know, Hogwarts is in Japan! And they honestly did an amazing job reproducing so many different aspects of the Harry Potter world. They had the castle, they had a recreation of the Hogwarts town, with a wand shop and several other shops, they had butter beer! And according to my female friends, there was even a Myrtle ghost in the girls’ bathroom! That’s dedication if I ever saw it! (Although, since I’m not a girl, I can’t actually say I saw that last part : P but you know what I mean!)

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It was a hot day, so I got the frozen version!

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These were just snippets of some of the adventures I have had over the past couple weeks, but they have all been full of fun and good things! I’m thankful to have found so many Japanese friends so quickly : )

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Getting my Bearings 慣れている

It’s been quite a month! After a 14 hour flight, a shinkansen (bullet train), countless orientations, and 4 weeks later, I’m just beginning to settle into my new life here in Suzuka, Mie, Japan! Here are some of the things I’ve been up to.

すごい一か月間になりました!十四時間のフライトと、新幹線と、無数のオリエンテーションと四週間の後で、新しい日本の三重県鈴鹿市の生活に慣れ始めている!最近しているのは以下にある。

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Orientation has been about 1/3 of this month. Honestly, I didn’t know it was possible to be oriented in as many ways as I have been. The JET Programme is sure to make sure you hear everything you need to know both before you arrive at your city, and after you arrive at your city, twice. I might be exaggerating a little bit, but they are thorough about it, and if you can muster up the patience for it all, you’ll learn lots of useful stuff. I learned about Japanese culture, teaching English, how to be effective as a JET, what you’re actually supposed to do as a JET, how to have fun as JET, how to not die as a JET, etc. (That last one’s pretty important!) But I’m sure most of my family, friends and readers want to hear about Suzuka.

オリエンテーションは役この月に三の一部ぐらいだ。正直にこんなにオリエンテーションされる可能があるのが全然知らなかった!JETプログラムは聞かなければならないこと全部を配属のところに着く前にも後でも、二回ずつ、お知らせるようにする。たぶん私がちょっと尾ひれをつけているかもしれないけど、JETプログラムはどうも徹底的なので、我慢できればたくさんの役立つことを習える。私は日本文化や、英語を教える方法や、高価なJETになり方や、いったいJETの目的は何かということや、JETプログラムを楽しむ方法や、JETとして、また、日本に住んでいる人として、死なない方法など習いました。(その最後のことが大事だね!)でも、家族と友達と読者が聞きたいのは鈴鹿のことのはずだ。

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So, Suzuka! Suzuka is a small city–perhaps the best way I can describe it is a patchwork of city and rural. In some parts there are 15 story buildings. And in some parts, there are acres of rice fields and farmland. There are several railway lines. But nothing like Tokyo, for those of you who are familiar with Tokyo. There are lots of restaurants, Japanese restaurants, of course, but also Italian, Indian, and American restaurants like KFC, McDonald’s, and, of course Denny’s! Don’t expect pancakes there, though. This is the Japanese version of Denny’s, which is well, Japanese. Maybe sometime I’ll expand on that.

それでは、鈴鹿!鈴鹿が小さい市だ-もしかして、一番いい描き方は都会と田舎のキルトみたいだ。あるところで、15階のビルがある。そして、ほかのところでは、田んぼと畑地がある。役三線の電車がある。でも、東京がわかる人の見方から、全然東京じゃない。レストランがたくさんある。もちろん日本食があるけど、それ上で、イタリア食、インド食、そして、アメリカ食のレストラン、KFC,マクドナルド、Denny’sなどがあるよ!でも、Denny’sでは、パンケーキを期待しないでください。日本のDenny’sは、まあ、日本ポイ。(まだ行ったことはないけど、日本のDenny’sはパンケーキはないそうだ。)たぶんいつかそれについてもっと話そう。

In terms of where Suzuka is, it is in the coastal prefecture (state) of Mie in the center of Japan. It is roughly an hour from Nagoya, the 4th largest city in Japan, about 2 hours from Osaka, the 3rd largest city, and about 3 hours from Tokyo, the largest city, so it is fairly centrally located.

地学といえば、(日本人のほうが、こんなことよく知っているので、間違いがあれば、ぜひ直してください)鈴鹿市は臨海の三重県にあって、三重県は役日本の真中にある。名古屋から、やく一時間で、4番大きい市だ。それから、3番大きい市の大阪から、2時間ぐらいだ。最後に、一番大きい東京から、3時間、4時間ぐらいなので、結構中心的な場所だ。

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There are several others aspects to my experience living here in Suzuka that are fairly new for me. One is that, unless I am going somewhere far away, I bike most everywhere. And I love it! It’s free, there’s no gas to buy, no insurance, and apparently bike shops will do most basic maintenance for free. Also, this is my first time living in an apartment on my own. I’ve lived on my own before, in a dorm. But unlike my dorm experience, where two of my meals, and several other expenses, and other things were semi-handled for me, I am now mostly on my own, to provide my own meals. Which either means going out to eat most days, buying premade meals, or, the hopefully cheaper option, cooking. So far, what cooking I have done has has been an odd adventure, but I hope to get not terrible at it someday : P

鈴鹿市に住んでいる経験の中で、私に新しいほかのことがいくつかある。一つは遠い場所以外に、大体どこでも自転車で行く。そして、好きだよ!無料で、ガスがいらないし、保険もいらないし、自転車やは基本整備が無料だそうだ。それから、はじめてアパートに住むことだ。寮に住んだことがあるけど、その経験と比べたら、毎日二食事、いくつかほかの経費や用事は私のために扱われたみたいだった。今、大体全部を、特に食事を、自分でしなければならない。その解決はレストランに行くことと弁当を買うことと、一番安い(かな?)料理。今まで、それはおかしい冒険になったけど、結局に、いつか、ひどく苦手じゃなくなる希望を持っている :P

I don’t have many yet, but here are some pictures of my new home.

まだあまりないけど、新しいうちの市の写真。

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This is the view from my front door, to the right.

私のアパートからの眺め。

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Have a little country with your city. Or is it a little city with your country? Probably depends on what you’re comparing it to.

ちょっと田舎と一緒の市。それとも、ちょっと市と一緒の田舎?たぶん比較によるね。

 

 

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A local shrine.

近くの神社。

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Japanese English. Also known as Engrish! Heh heh, if you think this is funny, I’ve got more coming…

日本人の英語、「Engrish」!

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Eyes to the Skies 目を空に

10! 9! 8! I feel like I’m in one of those steam-punk sci-fi movies where something catastrophic is about to happen, and I’m flying out via a homemade space contraption. I scramble about the ship, scrounging for parts, pushing buttons, leaping over seats. Time is short.

(このポストの翻訳は難しかったため、苦手な日本語すみません。)

10!9!8!私はなんかスティームパンクサイエンスフィクションの映画の大惨事が起こるところのときにいる気がして、手作りの宇宙線のような機会で逃れている。宇宙線の周りに急いで、部品を探して、ボタンを押して、座席を飛び越します。時間が短い。

7! 6! Will I make it? Computers beep at me. Meters are off. I make some last minute repairs. I leap over the seat again. There’s something about leaping over the seat that seems both in a hurry and really cool. Screw in a bolt here, pull a lever there. Seconds blur into days into months.

7!6!間に合うかな?コンピューターがビープとする。計器が違いる。泥縄式の修繕をする。また座席を飛び越す。なぜか、座席を飛び越すことが緊急と格好いいという感じの気がする。ここで、螺子を捩じて、そこで、レバーを引く。秒が日に滲んで、月にも滲む。

5! 4! I’ll make it. My best friend helped me with the ship. Lots of friends actually. And I trust them all. I’ll make it. I’m getting there! Tighten another screw, hop over the seat one more time. So much excitement, but no time to stop and revel in it. Gotta be ready when this thing takes off!

5!4! 間に合う。大親友が応援してくれたんだ。たくさんの友達、じっさいは。そして、みんなその友達に信用している。間に合う。着いている!もう一つの螺子を捩 じて、もう一回座席を飛び越す。とっても興奮しているけど、その興奮をとどまる時間がない。この宇宙船の発進の前に準備しなきゃいけない!

3! 2! 1! I strap myself in. I watch the lights, hear the beeps, feel the rumbles, let it all unfold before me for just a moment. Takeoff. Peace in the chaos. Where endings and beginnings meet. Engine churning, thrusters burning, eyes to the skies, hope is in the air! I’m getting there.

3!2!1!ベルトを締める。灯を見る、ビープを聞く、轟きを感じる、つかの間に全てに私の前に起こらせる。発進。混乱の中の平和。結びと始めが会うこと。為る機関、燃えるスラスター、目を空に、希望が空気にある!着いている。

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