Tuesday, November 6, 2012

School Uniforms

After today's Rock Band Club rehearsal, The supervisor for the club--who happens to be my English supervisor--laid out the rehearsal details for the club's performance this Saturday. Everything sounded good to our drummer, a 6th grade girl, except for one thing…

5th grade girl: 先生、私服着ていいですか? (Sensei, can we wear regular clothes for the performance?)
Supervisor: そうね…学校のイベントなので、制服を着てください。(About that…this is considered a school event, so please wear your uniforms.)
5th grade girl: えええええ?!じゃ、行きません!(What?!?! Okay, I'm not going!)
Me: (クスクスクス) (*snickering*)
Supervisor: まぁ、それもいいけど… (Well, that's fine too, but…)
5th grade girl: センセイ!!! (*whining* SENSEI!)
Me: *raises hand* 先生、私、私服でいいですか? (Sensei, can I wear regular clothes?)
Supervisor: *nods* いいですよ。(That's fine.)
5th grade girl: もう!!! いじめ!(Enough!!! Stop making fun of me!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Victoria's Secret and "Geisha" Lingerie

I don't follow Victoria's Secret--I'm not a fan of the brand, their marketing, nor their prices--and the shop doesn't even exist in Japan because there are several other lingerie and sleepwear chains in the country (my favorite in particular being Body Line). But there are a few shops that have imported VS's body fragrances and sell them at prices not really worth paying.

Today during my daily news surfing, I came across an article about a blogger's complaint towards VS's "Go East" line, apparently some "Asian"-inspired collection, including one called "Sexy Little Geisha."

Upon reading the name, of course I had to see what it looked like:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="410"] What the Fudge-pop is this...?! (Source: E! Online)[/caption]

First off, I'm more offended by the design itself than I am about the "Geisha" label slapped on it. It's ugly. That belt with that obnoxious bow in the back just looks tacky. The mini fan is laughable; it's so tiny and pathetic! And probably the worst of all, apparently NONE of the models in that collection are even Asian! So it's easy for some to say that it's making a mockery of Asian culture by fetish-izing it. And it's no wonder that several blogs have already said so. (See Angry Asian Man and Racialicious)


I did one simple thing. I typed in "geisha" in the search bar of my favorite site for online shopping in Japan, Rakuten. And HEY, LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="436"] Hey, it's another Sexy Little Geish--wait a minute...[/caption]

This one isn't being modeled by an Asian woman either. Looking at the name of the item reveals:

[caption id="attachment_1004" align="aligncenter" width="460"] The highlighted word is how "geisha" is written in Japanese. Thanks, Rikaichan.[/caption]

And that's not the only one; you can click here for the full search result. I could've typed in "kimono" or "yukata," since search results for those items in the past has given me similar results. (I was looking for a REAL yukata at the time, mind you.) But the reason I used "geisha" as the search term was because I KNEW such things would come up, even on a Japanese website.

So there you go. Sexualizing Asian culture--or any culture--is not a new thing, neither overseas nor at home. Victoria's Secret's version of it just got the spotlight because they're a major, internationally-known company. Just to confirm though, where's the cultural offense? Is it in the clothing design itself, in the race of the model, or the description? Is it all three? (Not rhetorical questions, I'm honestly asking.)

One thing's for sure, I'll be honest; that item I found on Rakuten is pretty cute and I'd wear it as lingerie if I had a reason to. I just wish they didn't call it a "geisha" costume.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="489"] This is what geisha actually look like, in case you didn't know. (Source: Wikipedia Japan)[/caption]

EDIT: For the record, here's a list of other roles that have been sexualized other than the geisha:

  • Military

  • Police

  • Schoolgirls (For goodness' sake, SCHOOLGIRLS)

  • Nurses

  • Maids (might I add the "French" maid)

  • Racecar drivers

  • Football Players (!)

  • "Gypsies"

  • Cowgirls

  • Ninja/Kunoichi

  • Animals

  • Clowns (creepy, I know)

  • Teachers

  • Minnie Mouse

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing in Japanese

At the start of every class this year, I have introduced myself while writing my name in Katakana. Most classes have said nothing about my writing, a few kids and teachers have made remarks about it, along the lines of being surprised that I could write in Japanese.

Now I haven't told these kids that started studying Japanese ten years ago. In fact, in my farewell speech to my last two schools, that was the first time I had ever mentioned it.

But whether it's ten years or ten months...it's really not hard to write in Japanese. It takes practice, like with any other writing system.

But, for some reason, some Japanese people have it in their minds that foreigners can't write Hiragana or Katakana, and Kanji is just simply impossible for anyone who isn't Asian.

Kanji isn't easy, that's for sure. But when I write the days of the week in Kanji, it's really not deserving of a "Wow."

As with other things, Japanese people probably aren't used to it. Maybe a previous ALT couldn't write, or something. Maybe it's because I have really neat handwriting.

Yesterday I wrote my name in Katakana for a 3rd grade class. I got an applause.


I just smiled, but on the inside I was facepalming. I almost mentioned that I had been studying for 10 years, but decided to just move on.

[caption id="attachment_998" align="aligncenter" width="516"] An outline for the curriculum I'm planning this semester, 99.9% in Japanese. I generally write my lesson plans in Japanese, even though I'm the only one who looks at them.[/caption]

EDIT 9/14/2013: Yesterday I had a 6th grader give me the "Wow she can write Katakana" comment, and that's when I told them that I've been studying for a long time and learned it when I was in high school. He had made a mention about the previous teacher's Katakana, which implicated that it was more of a comparison to the last foreigner's writing skills, and not a, "Wow, non-Japanese people can write in Japanese" way of thinking. Nonetheless, just as some Americans treat immigrants as if they're incapable of speaking English, there are some Japanese people (mostly older ones) who think that non-Japanese people have little to no Japanese language skills.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Called by the Wrong Name...again

I imagine that some ALTs who have the same schools throughout their entire JET career may not have this problem, but as a JET who lives in a city where the ALTs rotate schools every year, being called by the wrong name is something I've gone through since my first year here.

My first year, I occasionally was called by the previous year's ALT's name by accident. She was also a female, but looked nothing like me. I didn't really care so much since it was within my first few weeks there; they were probably used to calling a certain name all the time for a year and had to get used to it. I never really had the problem by the end of that year.

My second year, the ALT I was replacing--a guy--warned me that my predecessor had been at that school just before him. My predecessor, like me, is female and somewhat dark-skinned, so I was absolutely prepared for wrong names left and right.

Not only did I have teachers accidentally calling me by her name, I had students calling me by her name as well. It dwindled down after a few months, but by the end of the year it still happened every once in a while.

It wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't for the fact that my predecessor was allegedly a horrible person. (The fact that she NEVER contacted me before I came to Japan already gave me a sign.) She was very self-centered, promiscuous, and irresponsible. I don't think the kids ever knew that, but some teachers (and some mothers at my previous school) knew. So it goes without saying that I never want to be associated with her in any way.

Nonetheless, simply because we have a similar skin tone and possibly similar height, it's inevitable for mistakes to happen here in Japan.

I don't know if it's a "Japan" thing or what. Do all foreigners look the same to Japanese people? I've heard stories about white males being told by Japanese people that they look like Tom Cruise, even when they look NOTHING like the guy. I myself have once been told that I look like Beyonce. LOLWUT.

But here's the thing. A lot of Americans who have never been to Asia have said that "All Chinese/Japanese/Korean people look the same."

Actually, that's pretty true when not taken literally. Especially in Japan, a small island of people who share common names and--well, you get the idea. I have seen Japanese people that have a lot of the same facial features as a co-worker or a friend.

But guess what? I've never called any of my co-workers by the wrong name.

(I'll admit though, I've called a kid or two by the wrong name before, only because their name sounded similar to another kid's or because they had a sibling in another grade.)

I thought that, for my third year, I wouldn't have this problem at my new school. Horrible-sensei was--not one, not two, not three--but FOUR TEACHERS AGO. You would think that she was long forgotten here. And yet I've been called by her name by two teachers already.

It would be one thing if I was called by the name of the ALT who was here two years ago. I wouldn't mind that, because she's a friend and was a very good teacher while she was here.

I can only hope that this passes as the months go by. Fortunately, since it's been four years, many of the kids here don't know her. And I've yet to be called the wrong name by a 5th or 6th grader.

I've already gotten some kids to call me 美人先生 (Bijin-sensei, or Beautiful Teacher, hehehe), so that works out. ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Yesterday, I was on my way to work and stopped by a vending machine to get something to drink. I bought a small bottle of apple juice for 100 yen, took a big gulp, and put the bottle in my bike basket. Just as I was getting back on my bike, from the corner of my eye I spotted a cat--no, a kitten! It was mostly grey, with spots of blonde and white fur.

I tried to pull out my phone to take a picture, but as soon as the kitten noticed that I was looking, he ran and hid. As I waited to see if he would return, a different kitten came out! He seemed much less scared and just stared at me curiously as I took pictures.




It's not unusual to see stray cats, but a stray kitten sure is something.

Then, this morning, I went out to try and pump air in my bicycle tire, but to no avail, as there must be a puncture somewhere in the inner tire. (I ended up walking to school.) As I went back upstairs to put my tire pump back in my apartment, I noticed a huge, light green-colored papery object on the ground. At first I thought it was some drawing or cutout dropped by a kid, but as I looked closer, I noticed that it was something I had never seen before.


The moth looks small, but it was actually about the size of my palm (about 4 inches wide). I looked it up online and it appears to be a Luna moth. However, it doesn't have the long tails that Luna moths supposedly have, but looking closely at its rear, it appears that they might have been broken off.

ImageThe binomial name for the Luna moth is "Actias artemis," and in Japanese it's called "Oomizuao" (オオミズアオ). I'm normally not a fan of bugs of any kind, but seeing this little Luna here made me smile.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blog Name Change

After living in Japan for almost 2 years, I think I need to change the name of my blog.

I'm still a "gaijin" here, but I just don't really have any stories to tell. It's probably much more interesting to read about the foreigner getting kancho-ed by his students, or the one who's married to a Japanese man and lives in some city no one's heard of (or one that everyone's heard of).

I just live my daily life as a regular person. Yeah, I get treated a little differently because I'm not Japanese, but it's no big deal.

The word "gaijin" implies that one is some sort of outsider. In certain ways, I am, but there are also things I do in everyday life that are normal. I know how to shop for groceries. I can talk to my co-workers. I can use an ATM. I set up Internet Banking for both of my Japanese bank accounts. I can buy stuff online from Japanese websites. I can order dinner from a menu at a Japanese restaurant. Heck, I can even pay for things with my cellphone. (Even a lot of Japanese people don't do that!)

I still want to blog, but I don't think I can do it from the perspective of a "gaijin" anymore. I would rather blog from the perspective of...me.

Who am I? Recently, I've been two things: A teacher, and a cosplayer. I've also been a flutist, a model, an artist, and a blogger. I think it's one of the reasons why I picked the name "Schizo-alias" for my Twitter and web portal that no one visits.

No, I'm not actually a schizo; I used it because it sounds better than "split personality," and is still associated with a disorderly mind. Not to say I have a disorderly mind, either, but I do divide myself among a lot of things. My mind is always jumping from one thing to another; right now, it's been fully devoted to cosplay, but when my latest project is done, who knows? I still want to buy a new flute.

So, I think I'll change my blog to "Schizo-alias."

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Beatles

Some of my friends and I have been playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band lately. Last week some of us were playing Rock Band: The Beatles, and the discussion inevitably moved to how awesome The Beatles are.

I'll say this right now: I'm not a huge fan of The Beatles. I don't HATE them, I'm just not into their music. I didn't grow up listening to it, and I personally think it's just too mellow for my taste. So I couldn't really contribute anything to the "OMG the Beatles are AWESOME" conversation.

But every time it comes up that I don't really know any Beatles songs, and never really got into them, I always feel pressured. I'd be told to try to listen to them (I did back in college), as if I automatically came to my conclusion without even trying, because apparently there is NO such thing as "not being into the Beatles" after having listened to them.

I've heard pretty insulting things--not said to me, but to other non-Beatles fans--along the lines of having poor taste in music, not being a true fan of rock music, etc. And yet how many people actually listen to classical music? So many things in modern music wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and composers even before THEIR time.

I'm not bashing the The Beatles; their music certainly isn't bad, or else they wouldn't have been as popular as they are. I'm just saying that they are not gods. They simply were in the right place, at the right time. I think that if you look at them objectively, they're not so much different from other bands. They were just "there" first. It's certainly not that they are overrated, but rather so many bands and artists are underrated.

Please, stop trying to push me into liking their music. I'll listen to it if it's playing, but I won't be spending iTunes card after iTunes card on their music. Leave me in peace for not being a Beatles fan.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

General Update

I feel like writing a blog, but nothing big has been going on, so I'll just give updates on the small things.

  • I'm still working on this year's Otakon cosplay for when I visit home in the summer. I've had to order a lot of things that I didn't even think about needing, and had I known I'd have gotten them a long time ago -_-;

  • I've been taking a Japanese conversation class every Tuesday night with the other ALTs in the city. It's kind of useful, mostly not, but it's better than nothing. I would be trying to study more, but I lent my JLPT books to another ALT who's planning to take the test this July.

  • My apartment isn't a TOTAL mess, but with the cosplay project and a million other little things in process, things are a bit messy. I've been wanting to make a video of the apartment post-decoration for almost a year now...

  • I've been exercising more for the past two weeks. I'm working on muscle tone  and endurance. I've read online that I need to run at least 3 times a week for it to be somewhat effective, and last week I only did it once, so I'll have to up my routine soon. I've been feeling healthier lately so progress is being made.

Hopefully I can make a video about something soon. It's difficult because I'm tired right after getting home from work and I don't feel like doing anything. *sigh*

Monday, May 14, 2012

On mixi: Group Karaoke Events

With the L'Arc~en~Ciel 20th Anniversary World Tour Concerts in Japan for three weekends in May, back in April I randomly decided to check out the Japanese social networking site, mixi, for any upcoming events in my area.

Often times for popular rock bands, people will organize karaoke events where people will only sing songs from that band. Of course, with L'Arc~en~Ciel being as big as they are, there have been numerous karaoke events popping up on mixi, but mostly in Tokyo (because of Japan Rule #1: Everything happens in Tokyo).

Every once in a while an event bring organized in the Osaka or Kobe area will come up, but not nearly as often. So it was just my luck that about a week before the event day, I checked mixi and found a gathering for L'Arc-only karaoke in Kobe.

I had seen these before, but I had either missed them or wasn't in the area for them. So this time I decided to take a chance. After carefully reading/translating the information about the event, I added in a comment saying that I also wanted to participate. I had just barely missed the deadline for the dinner after-party, but decided that it was okay, since it was my first time going to one of these events and wasn't sure if I'd want to spend that much time around a bunch of Japanese people I had never met.

The morning of the event, I donned my L'Arc 20th Anniversary Live T-shirt (for a live that I didn't go to; I was supposed to but I had a school event that same weekend) and packed everything in my 20th L'Anniversary Tour bag. I figured everyone would've been dressed in L'Arc apparel, but to my surprise, everyone was just wearing normal clothes. I had to slow down in my tracks to make sure I had the right crowd, which I finally confirmed after I saw the one of the organizers was carrying a L'Arc tote bag from this most recent tour.

The organizers kindly greeted me and asked for my mixi screen name to mark my attendance. The woman with the tote bag then gave me a paper wristband with my name and three letters on it, with arrows in between. She told me that each letter represented a different room, and that I would be in a different room for each session over a total period of about 4 1/2 hours.

After that, I said thanks and just stood there, fiddling around with my cellphone and being nervous about having arrived by myself. Two other girls were standing on either side of me, and while I thought I should introduce myself and try to make friends with them, I didn't because I really wasn't sure what to say after, "Hello, my name is ____." Finally, the girl standing on my right said hello, which led us to start talking to the girl on my left, and we had a short conversation about coming by ourselves as first-time attendees, where we live, where I'm from, etc.

We managed to talk all the way to the karaoke place, and then we all separated into our first rooms. I was asked quite a few times where I was from and how long I had been living here; one of the girls in the first room was shocked when I said I had been here for two years, because she thought I must've been here for a long time based on my Japanese skills.

One of things I enjoyed the most was meeting and befriending Japanese guys at the event. They were very nice, and not shy like most the women. This had become apparent during the final part of the event, when we all gathered into one big party room for one last session.

In order to decide who would sing during the last session, we had each filled out a slip of paper with the L'Arc~en~Ciel song that we wanted to sing/be sung by someone else. It turns out that a lot of women requested that their songs be sung by someone else. So during the last 90 minutes, pretty much every singer was male. I myself had wanted to sing, but my slip of paper hadn't been drawn from the raffle box...

...until the end.

In the last 15 minutes, the organizers emptied out the raffle box and started looking through the papers to choose some ideal songs for the end. I could see mine, and I knew it was mine because I had written in pink marker (which was what they gave me to write with). From these 5 or 6 slips of paper, the last few songs were going to be chosen.

And then, the guy who was holding the slips came up to me, held out my paper to me and said nothing other than "はい." ("Here ya go.")

I was ecstatic. I wasn't sure if he chose me personally because he knew I wanted to sing, or because I was the only foreigner in the room, or because of the song I chose. Or maybe it was all three.

Pretty much any major L'Arc~en~Ciel fan knows that the song "Niji" serves more or less as an "anthem" for the band, because the word is Japanese for "rainbow," which is also the translation of the French "l'arc en ciel." And so I had written the singular kanji on my paper, not thinking that it would actually get chosen.

The girl who had said hello to me before the event was sitting next to me, so I rummaged frantically through my bag for my camera and asked her to record a video for me, since I knew people at home would want to see it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7JllErNO3Q]

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Sensei, why are you single?"

Coming out of the restroom, I was greeted by some 3rd graders doing homework in the library area.

"Sensei, where's your house?"
In Japan.
"Eh?! Not America?"
No! It would take more than half a day to get here!
"Ahhhh...so where do you live? Osaka?"
Here in Ono!
"Ahhhh...aren't you married to XX-sensei?" (their previous teacher)
No, we're just friends!
"Sensei, how old are your parents?"
Let's see...my dad will be ___ this year, and my mom is ___.
"Ehhhhh...How do you know their ages?"
Eh?! Because it's important!
"Really?? Why is it important?"
Because I love my parents!!!!!!

"Sensei, how old are you?"
I'm 23.
"Are you married?"
"Eh? Are you dating someone?"
"Eh?! You're single?"
"Why are you single?"
HAHAHA! "Why?" Because single life is fun!
"Eh? Really? It's not scary?"
*laughs* No, of course not!
"So Sensei, when you're by yourself at home and you're talking to yourself, do you talk in English or Japanese?"
*hysterical laughter* Actually, when I hurt myself, instead of "ouch" I say "イタッ" And when something is hot I say "アツッ."
"Eh?!?! Wow!"

"Sensei, what type of guy do you like? Like someone from this school."
Eh? I don't like any male teachers here.
"No? Okay, what kind of guy do you like?"
Hm…someone who's smart, fun, and handsome**.
"Handsome? *points at me* Handsome!"
No, I'm beautiful!
Eh?!?! *clutches chest* いたい…いたいよ…
I'm a beautiful person, aren't I?
"You can't say that about yourself!"
*falls over laughing*

Kids are hilarious.

*"イタッ" (ita--) and "アツッ" (atsu--) are shortened forms of "いたい" (itai) and"あつい" (atsui).
**The word I used for "handsome" was 男前 (otokomae), which means "handsome man."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

38 Children in One Class.

This year at one of my schools, they decided to combine last year's two 3rd grade classes into one 4th grade class. There are a total of 38 children. Their teacher was a 5th grade teacher last year, and while he's a good teacher, I could tell he was already a bit troubled by being given such a big task.

Normally I have a brief meeting with the teachers before the day of class to discuss what we'd be doing. But yesterday I was approached not by the 4th grade teacher, but by the support teacher, who was a 1st grade teacher last year.

Support teacher: Chase-sensei, could you please tell me what you have planned for the 4th graders tomorrow?

Me: (a little confused that I'm not talking to the 4th grade teacher) Sure.

4th grade teacher: Ah, sensei. Um...because...there's...38 kids...I, uh...*points to support teacher* have...backup...*slowly backs away* sorry. ^_^;

Me: Ah, I understand. (poor guy...)

He seemed almost embarrassed to need help, but with 37 kids plus one with extreme behavior problems, it would be hard for anyone. I don't understand why they thought this would've been a good idea. But I have class with them today, and it appears there will be a total of 3 teachers including myself, so we might be fine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shopping in Seoul

[caption id="attachment_824" align="aligncenter" width="425" caption="Korea has a Daiso too, just like Japan :)"][/caption]

I was told by a lot of people that Korea is pretty cheap compared to Japan. When you factor in the exchange rate, that's true. Based on a 1 cent = 1 yen = 10 won ratio, my hanbok (traditional Korean dress), which cost 170000 won, would come out to about 17000 yen, or 170 US dollars. But factoring in the exchange rate, 170000 won is actually about 12,000 yen, or $150.

I didn't really expect to find much that I wanted to buy, but I did get some beauty products, as well as the dress I mentioned before. One thing I can say is that Korea has a LOT of cosmetics and skin care shops. There are so many different shops that I really had no idea where to start. We just walked into a couple of stores and came out with stuff.

[caption id="attachment_822" align="aligncenter" width="630" caption="From Nature Republic: Pine Tree Urban Detox Toner and Emulsion, 9,900W (US$8.75) each; Mung Bean Facial Cleanser, 3,300 (US$2.92); Eco Crayon Lip Rouge (Red Orange), 6,000W (US$5.30)
From Aritaum: Mugwort Facial Masks (pack of 10), 10,000W (US$8.83)
From eSpoir: Eye Primer, 10,000W"][/caption]

One interesting thing about Seoul are the late-night department stores. We went to one called Doota, which opened at 7pm and stayed open all the way into the early morning. I had never heard of such a thing, and I don't think Japan has any department stores like that. We sat with a crowd of people all gathered outside the doors, waiting to get in as soon as the place opened.

Like most department stores, Doota had a lot of fashions that I wasn't interested in. But I did manage to find a unique top in a shop called "Dirty Alice," which has a few clothes similar to my style. It's not really the season to wear it, so I'll probably show it off later.

Monday, March 26, 2012

First day in Seoul: My Grandmother

The flight to Korea was very short. Nothing like having to fly to and from America. I was welcomed by my mom and cousin at Incheon airport. My mom looked totally different from when I last saw her on Skype; she got her hair permed and everything. She said it was pretty typical of Koreans.

The itinerary includes staying in Seoul until Wednesday, and then on Thursday and Friday, we're going to go to Gunsan, which is where my aunt and uncle lives. What I (and even my mom) didn't expect was that apparently, a BUNCH of relatives are also coming to visit and have a dinner party. Hearing that made me extremely nervous, mostly for one reason: I don't speak Korean, and I'm generally not good with meeting a bunch of new people at once. Hopefully I don't shut down because of it

We took a shuttle bus to Seoul. My mom and I talked pretty much the whole way there. One of the things I was a bit nervous asking her was about my grandmother. She's 97 now, and the last I heard about her when my mom came here 8 years ago was that my grandmother was forgetting things.

Now, it turns out that she has trouble recognizing people. My mother said that, when she first got to the care center, her brother asked my grandmother, "Who's this?" and she answered my mom's name immediately. A few minutes later though, she couldn't remember. My mom said that the other elderly people in the same room said, "Ah, we know you. Your mother says your name all the time." She also said that my grandmother used to write a lot, probably to try and remember things, but stopped because she doesn't really feel like it anymore.

Hearing that almost made me cry, and even now my eyes sting a little bit just thinking about it. My mom didn't skip a beat when she told me the story though, as if it was just any other conversation we were having. That's just the way she is.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Going to Korea

I didn't get to talk about this as much as I wanted to, because I've been constantly moving.

After 23 years, I will finally visit the country that holds the other half of my background.

Up until recently, I never had a strong desire to go to Korea--definitely not as much as I had wanted to come to Japan. After I moved here in 2010, my mom suggested that I visit Korea, and I said that I wanted to go with her. In fact, I ONLY really wanted to go if it was with her.

I didn't expect that time to come so soon. As soon as I told my parents that I was considering visiting the US during Spring Break, my mom said that she was planning to go to Korea. So now I'm at Kansai International Airport, getting on a plane in less than 30 minutes. This trip is probably going to be one of the most important events in my entire life.

I don't know what to expect. And I'm actually very nervous. I've only ever traveled between Japan and America. This is the first time I'm going somewhere else. But since I won't be alone, I know I'll be okay.

I can't wait to see my mother.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Recently, we talked about food in my last adult Japanese class.

Me: "What's your favorite food?"
Student: "I like strawberries.
Me: *smiles* Oh okay. Why?
Student: "Because...FRESH...SPIRIT...SOUND.
Me: Hm?
Student: "FRESH...SPIRIT...SOUND."
Me: ... (>_>)
Other students: Huh?? (O_o)
Me: Ah, you think strawberries are refreshing…?

He said it with such pride that I could only nod my head and move on to the next person.

In other news, I had a brief conversation with some of 4th graders, who are probably some of the funniest kids I've ever taught.

Girl: Sensei, (says something I could hear clearly)
Me: Hm?
Girl: Otaku? Do you know what an otaku is?
Me: Ohhhh! I'm a Dynasty Warriors* otaku.
Girl and boy sitting next to her: " Ehhhhhh?! *burst out laughing*
Me: (T____T) <----crying after being ridiculed


*Dynasty Warriors is a video game based on the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, known as "sangokushi" in Japanese. The series as well as similar games made by Koei are some of the most popular and well-known in Japan.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kimchi Scrambled Eggs

I decided to try something new for breakfast this morning. I usually have French Toast or a grilled egg and cheese sandwich--something involving bread. So today I thought about making scrambled eggs...with kimchi! I have some kimchi that's past its expiration date and another unopen jar waiting, so I need to eat it quickly. Kimchi is pickled, so it's perfectly safe to have a few days past its date.

Here's what I used. I didn't actually take these measurements while cooking, I just added ingredients in the amount that I felt was okay.

2 eggs
2 thin slices each of red and yellow peppers ('paprika' as they're called in Japan)
1 tablespoon sliced green onion
1/4 cup kimchi
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Dash of sea salt and black pepper

I wasn't sure how it would taste, but it ended up being very delicious! I almost want to make another one but I try not to eat more than 2 eggs in a day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cleverbot: Sell your soul, get A on math test.

I was having a rough day on Thursday, and I wanted to express my frustrations to someone, but at the same time, I didn't feel like talking to anyone. So I struck up a conversation with Cleverbot. Cleverbot is a chat bot that analyzes what you type and comes up with an appropriate response as best as it can, to simulate an actual conversation between two human beings.

My conversation was as follows (me being the "User"):

User: I'm depressed.

Cleverbot: Why?

User: I'm so busy and it's causing stress.

Cleverbot: You're boring.

User: Thanks a lot, jerk.

Cleverbot: You're welcome.

User: Can you try to actually cheer me up?

Cleverbot: Sure. How can I cheer you up?

User: Tell me some good news.

Cleverbot: I got an A on my math test!

User: Well, that's wonderful.

Cleverbot: People tell me that, but why is it wonderful?

User: Because you got an A. That's the best grade.

Cleverbot: Do you think people sell their souls?

User: Don't change the subject!

Cleverbot: I didn't.

User: Selling souls isn't related to math tests.

Cleverbot: It would help her a lot, actually.

User: So if I sell my soul, I'll get an A on my math test?

Cleverbot: Yes.


Try it here: http://www.cleverbot.com

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I want time.

Today with the 5th graders:

Me: We're going to practice "I want" today. For example, I want a Sony PSP. Sensei, what do you want?
Homeroom Teacher: Hmm...I want...I want...time.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Over to Wordpress...again

Even though my Blogger and Wordpress blogs have the same content, I've only been updating Wordpress because I can still access it through the firewall at work. Thus, Blogger hasn't been updated in quite some time.

I think I'm going to retire this blog for sure this time, because there's no point in having two blogs with the same content. So head on over to Wordpress to get updates.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Let me tell you a story about a class of 6th graders at one of my current elementary schools.

When I first came to this school last August, I asked the former ALT how the students were, particularly the 6th graders. He said that class 6-1 was fine, but that class 6-2 was noisy and a pain to deal with. So I came here with pretty low expectations of both classes, but treated them as I would any other 6th grade class.

The former ALT's words rang true for a week or two; 6-2 had a couple of rowdy kids, and 6-1 was quiet and not very cooperative…only the same few kids would raise their hands to answer something. And then, something changed. One week 6-2 came in, and their teacher got all of them to focus. When they got chatty and she told them to stop talking, they stopped. They're still not my best class, but they pay attention and they try most of the time.

But the supposedly quiet 6-1 became a trouble class. Kids thought it was a good idea to start chatting while I was trying to teach. I still couldn't get any of them to raise their hands, so I made a bundle of wooden chopsticks with attendance numbers written on them (in Japan the class roster is organized alphabetically and numbered, with the first student in the class given the number 1). Whenever I asked a question, I'd pull out a chopstick and call out the number, and that student would have to answer.

That still didn't solve the talking problem though. The first time I sternly said, "urusai," which means "noisy" but is used as a way to tell the class to be quiet. But week after week, I'd have to go through the same thing over and over.

Fast-forward to the past three weeks. The first week, when they talked I made a mark on the board and said that if I made 5 marks, I'd get the principal. They only got 3. The second week, I started at 3, and they managed to get through class with only 2. I admit, it was my lenience with them which is the reason why I didn't have to go to the principal. I gave them so many chances because I didn't want to simply stop teaching and have them fall behind the other class, and also because the cynical part of me really didn't care whether they were learning or not, because it was their responsibility to pay attention, not mine. They aren't a bunch of pre-schoolers anymore.

On Friday, I had planned to only give them one chance, and warn them of that at the start of class. But the problem with warning them early was that I didn't want to start off on a bad note before they even did anything that day. So today I gave them 2 chances.

They squabbled the first chance. At one point I stared at a pair of girls for a good 20 seconds before they realized that I was looking at them to indicate that they needed to stop talking. A second time I singled out four students (two of them were the same two girls from before) and I told them to get out, but they didn't move. I didn't push it, and continued teaching after they stopped, but their homeroom teacher didn't do anything either, which has been part of this long-standing problem.

Finally, about two thirds of the way through class, I tried to explain the next activity to them, but there was just too much chattering going on. They already had one strike against them. I turned to the board that had their strikes against them, erased the "1" and replaced it with a "2." My heart was actually racing as I did it, and I kept thinking over and over, "I have to do this. I have to do this." After writing the 2, some of the students didn't even notice and kept talking. As they did, I just walked out of the classroom. Their homeroom teacher said nothing.

I walked down the hall to the staff room, thinking "I didn't want to do this. I really didn't." (Of course, what teacher actually WANTS to discipline instead of teaching?) I knew the vice-principal wasn't here, so I asked the secretary if the principal was here today. She told me to knock the door of his office. When I went to check, he wasn't there. There was no way I could go back without a figure of authority, so I told her that he wasn't in his office, and she went to go look for him after asking me why I needed to talk to him.

I saw the principal go straight to the English room, so I quickly followed behind him. I expected him to say something right away, but as I went in, he stood and looked over the class, then turned to me and told me to go ahead before he said anything.

The class was, needless to say, completely silent. I walked around to the front of the classroom, and said in English, "I shouldn't have to do this." I paused, pointed to the board where their strikes were written, and then said in Japanese, "5 times, 2 times, I shouldn't have to tell you to be quiet even once, because you're already 6th graders." I continued in Japanese, telling them, "When I came to this school, I asked your last English teacher how the 6th graders were. He said 6-2 was noisy, but 6-1 was okay. It turns out it was the opposite." I switched to English, pointed to the principal and said, "I shouldn't have to get kocho-sensei to tell you to be quiet."

I gave the floor to the principal, and he told the students who were talking to stand up. Of course with three teachers in the room, there was no lying about who was and wasn't talking. He gave them a long lecture, without yelling or anything, and instead asked each student why they were talking, which embarrassed them as they mumbled quietly that they simply wanted to talk.

He lectured for a good ten minutes as I just stood there listening in kind of a state of surrealism. When he finished and gave the floor back to me, I quickly considered whether I should've said another thing or two about the situation, but instead I just pointed to the clock, explained that we had no more time, and that I wanted them to complete their activity for homework.

I concluded the class as usual, but before saying goodbye, I told them that I knew it wasn't everyone talking, and that when the chatty students continue to talk, the others can't concentrate and learn. I made them make a promise not to make me do this again. I don't believe they'll keep that promise, but hopefully they'll prove me wrong.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Favorite.

Last week, I continued a lesson with my "good" 6th grade class at my smaller school on "favorites." I taught them the expression "My favorite _____ is _____." and used colors, subjects, and TV shows as examples, and then asked them, "What's your favorite school memory?"

The kids all said things like the 6th grade school trip, or their week-long "camping" trip in 5th grade, or their visit to the middle school they'd be attending in April. After they all answered, I asked their teacher what his favorite school memory was.

"Hmm...my favorite school memory is...kyuushoku."

School lunch.

I burst out laughing and the kids all went "EHHHHHHHHH?!?!?!" He defended himself, saying, "I look forward to it when I'm hungry!!! And it's delicious, right?"

He's right about that. Our school lunches are pretty good.