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Farewell Feasts and St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo

April 20, 2013

I meant to post this a lot earlier, but my computer out of commission for a while messed up the timing.

In the middle of March, we decided to celebrate our final weekend together in style. It began with a super fancy lunch on Saturday the 16th on the 52nd floor of the Park-Hyatt Tokyo hotel, famous for being in the film Lost in Translation. Since it was a high-class ordeal, eight of us dressed up and ate the most expensive meal that we had ever set eyes on. For a set fee, we were given access to appetizer and dessert buffets, an entree, a glass of sparkling white wine, and post-meal coffee or tea.

From L-R: Courteney's hand, Taiki, Becky, Lauren, Kate, Kris, and Jess's hand.

From L-R: Courteney’s hand, Taiki, Becky, Lauren, Kate, Kris, and Jess’s hand.

The view from my seat.

The view from my seat.

Group photo, taken by our waiter on Taiki's camera

Group photo, taken by our waiter on Taiki’s camera

Awesome tortoise building in Shinjuku.

Awesome tortoise building in Shinjuku.

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A New Year of School

April 16, 2013

My computer is fixed! It turned out that after six faithful years the charger finally gave out. After handing over a fair amount of cash, I’m up and running again.

Anyway, I’m one whole week into the new school year now! Some things have been switched around regarding my schools. MES has moved to Tuesdays, THES has moved to Wednesdays, FES2 has moved to Thursday mornings. I have one new elementary school, and I’m now teaching at a junior high school for one and a half days a week. In the process of this giant shuffling of schedules, I will no longer teach at TES or WES. As a result, I have no idea how to code my schools anymore. Keep an eye out for any changes.

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Quick Update

April 3, 2013

I’m sorry for the long period of silence! Things have been crazy what with the end of the school year, and on top of everything my computer won’t charge anymore. I have an appointment with the Apple store in Ginza this Saturday to get it checked out.

Once my computer is fixed, though, expect a few posts on the end of the school year, my spring vacation, the start of the new school year, and a post on another café here in Koga.

So Long, Farewell, Sayonara, Goodbye

March 18, 2013

We’ve entered the final week of school, with the sixth graders’ graduation ceremony on the 19th. That’s only a day away. As such, it also means that last week was the final week of English classes for my sixth graders and for a fair amount of my fifth graders. It’s amazing how much I’ve gotten to know my students over the year, and I didn’t expect to get all teary eyed when I watch graduation rehearsals or when my sixth graders give me a handmade gift on behalf of the class or receiving a plaque with a class photo with me and messages written on word bubbles stuck all around the edges.

I just know I’m going to need to carry tissues at graduation.

Last Monday the sixth graders at MES invited all of their teachers to a special ceremony planned by the students in order to thank their teachers for their hard work during their time at school. At many points there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience, as the students played a song on their recorders, percussion, pianicas, and accordions and handed all of us canvas tote bags that they personalized for each teacher. (Mine had the initials KK with a heart in between, since my name would be spelled Kyarorin Kohru in Japan’s romanized writing system).

My initials!

My initials!

However, the teachers had a surprise of their own for the kids, as we sang the song 「世界に一つだけの花」(sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana), an extremely famous song sung by the boy band SMAP, to them.

Luckily I knew the song, and they gave me a sheet of lyrics so I could follow along. However, I didn’t realize that the teachers would also perform the famous dance to go along with it! It was a good thing that I was second from the end, so I wasn’t sticking out too much like a sore thumb.
With every final English class, I make sure at the end of the period to take a picture with  my students. I’d post my pictures here, but due to privacy concerns regarding my students I’m not able to. So, just imagine twenty two different pictures of me surrounded by fifth or sixth grade kids and you’ve got the general idea.

Tomorrow is graduation and as much as I wish to be at every single of my schools’ graduation ceremonies, the Koga BOE decided that every single school in the district have to hold their ceremony on the same day. This means that I can only attend one graduation ceremony, which is saddening because I know I had many schools that hoped that I could join them.

It’s been such a great year, and I’m looking forward to the next school year in Japan. No word yet regarding whether or not I get to stay at my same schools. I think it’ll all depend on whether I get my Japanese driver’s license or not! Wish me luck — my test is next Monday!

The Art of Making Soba

February 7, 2013

This post is late in coming because I was waiting for the pictures. It also needs an introduction of the cast of characters, and therefore will be kind of long. I apologize!

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I’m Dreaming of a Japanese White Christmas

January 11, 2013

While many of our co-workers chose to retreat to warmer places to spend their two-week winter holiday, Jess and I made the decision to head up north to Hokkaido, specifically the city of Sapporo, in order to celebrate a (very) white Christmas.

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古河提灯もみまつり (Koga Chouchinmomi Matsuri), also known as the Koga Lantern Fighting Festival

January 9, 2013

Every year on the first Saturday of December, all of Koga congregates to participate in the city’s most famous festival, known as the 古河提灯もみまつり (koga chouchinmomi matsuri), or as we English speakers in Koga call it, “The Koga Lantern Fighting Festival.” This year marked the 152nd gathering, which was a huge surprise for me.

The premise of the festival is this: neighborhoods around Koga create teams and congregate at the festival to battle each other using paper lanterns strapped to the top of long bamboo poles. Each team constructs their own structure, and a side competition is held to see who built the tallest one. My team won, with a final measurement of 22.78 meters (74.74 feet). The general shape is this: A paper lantern is attached at the top of a very long bamboo pole, which is then supported by three more poles. Think of a tripod with a fourth central leg. Five team members hold onto a leg (meaning twenty people holding onto the structure itself) and then the paper lantern is lit. The teams then crash their lanterns into each other until the lantern goes out, the lantern burns itself to bits, or the bamboo poles break. It can get pretty dangerous, what with hot wax and/or fire raining down on you, and by participating on one of the teams I got experience the festival firsthand.

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