Giant Robots & Japan

One of the first things that students learn when I introduce myself to them is that I’m a fan of the Japanese animation series, Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I’m not going to geek out though in this post and write paragraph after paragraph of prose about it’s deep themes or excellent take on the giant robot genre of animation that is so quintessentially Japanese. What I do want to talk about though is just how endearingly popular this show is in Japan today even though it originally aired in 1995. Continue reading Giant Robots & Japan

In the Heat of Summer

I’m just about all set up in my new ALT position after a few busy weeks of paperwork, moving and what feels like a thousand other things that are all part and parcel of moving work & home in Japan.

The school I’m working at now is pretty high level and offers not just English but several other language courses for kids such as Spanish and Korean. Continue reading In the Heat of Summer

Hitting the Pause Button

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to sit down and knock out a few hundred words for this here blog. With good reason though as I’ve been rushing to and fro in my quest to obtain a visa extension for give me another few years in Japan as my original visa is about to reach the end of its usefulness.

And as anyone who has experience with bureaucracy will know, Japan excels at making you sweat with paperwork of any sort. Luckily it seems like I had everything they needed so I spent a brief 15 minutes handing over forms and waiting for them to check that everything was in order before I was given a receipt in my passport and told to wait for about 2 to 3 weeks before heading back there to pay ¥4,000 and get my new Resident card. Continue reading Hitting the Pause Button

The Roads to Sata

One thing I always get asked is why I chose to come to Japan and my usual answer is that I came here because I wanted to try my hand at teaching and because I have an appreciation of Japanese history and culture. The truth is that is only part of the why I really ended up living here.

What I want to write about today is a book that really ignited my fascination and love for Japan and helped me finally make the decision to apply for the JET programme and leave my family and friends behind as I hopped on a plane bound for Tokyo nearly three years ago. Continue reading The Roads to Sata

Golden Week Adventures

The end of April and the start of May in Japan is always the best no matter what your job or where you are. It’s a glorious period know as Golden Week, which is the Japanese equivalent of Easter holidays in the there’s a slew of national holidays that see all and sundry take to the roads and the sky on their way to a week-long vacation.

Of course the downside is that when you are one of those people yourself you soon find that every train, plane and bus is filled to bursting which makes traveling just a bit more stressful than it needs to be. Continue reading Golden Week Adventures

Spring in Japan

Spring in Japan is one of the most beautiful seasons anywhere in the world. Every street and park is filled with cherry blossom trees in full bloom and families and groups of office workers eating and drinking under the trees.

It’s also a bit of a respite from the freezing cold of winter before the humid heat and rain of summer arrives. Continue reading Spring in Japan

Of Parties and Fish

So after all the movement of teachers and students during the end of March and the start of April it’s finally gotten a bit more settled at school with only the final welcome enkai later today remaining before the new school year starts in full earnest with the official opening ceremony.

Not a moment too soon either! My wallet has taken a beating over the last week or so with an almost never-ending stream of 送別会 (farewell parties) to say goodbye to the teachers moving on to greener pastures as well as 歓迎会 (welcome parties) to welcome in the new teachers. Continue reading Of Parties and Fish

The Annual Teacher Swap

Every year at the end of March there’s a lot of important events in schools around Japan. Not only are the students finally coming to the end of the academic year and the hundreds of tests that they have had to endure but the teachers themselves find out if they will be staying or transfer to another school.

Now this was something as a surprise to me since South Africa doesn’t have a teacher transfer system and it’s extremely common in SA for teachers to spend almost all their professional lives at the same school. In Japan though teachers are frequently transferred between schools. Junior teachers can only spend up to four years at a single school while senior teachers can spend up to 9 years although that is pretty uncommon. Continue reading The Annual Teacher Swap

Japan is Cold!

One of the biggest shocks to my system when I first moved to Japan as just how cold the winters here can be. Now those of you who come from the US or Canada will be laughing at me and telling me that your winters get just as cold if not more so, but what you’ve got to realize is that South Africa has particularly mild winters paired with hot, dry summers.

On top of that most housing in Japan isn’t insulated so when it gets hot it gets hot and when it gets cold it gets cold. Continue reading Japan is Cold!

Graduation Day

This week was the graduation ceremony for the third years at my main high school. It’s the main event of the school year and all the staff and students try their best to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.

As with most ceremonies in Japan it’s a very formal affair with all the teachers and parents dressed as smart as possible. The teachers also make sure that all the kids are behaving themselves and not falling asleep during the ceremony (something they seem able to with alacrity). Continue reading Graduation Day