A busy month..

It’s been a while! I’m so happy that September is finally over! Not only has my work schedule calmed down, but the weather has finally started to cool down too. No more humid and sweaty days at work! Hooray!

I’m currently sat in one of my favourite cafes updating this. This coffee shop not only does great coffee, but it also has a cool market at the front which sells a lot of local produce. The staff here are great too, and one waitress offered to help me with my Japanese too since I spend a lot of my days off here to study Japanese. Yesterday I signed up for the JLPT test in December, which is a Japanese language exam. Another goal to set myself before the end of the year! Ganbatte!

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This month has been by far one of the busiest since being in Japan. I’ve had a lot to prepare for at work, including a huge demonstration lesson which I just got finished with last week, and a pretty hectic teaching schedule on top of that.

I was told about my demonstration lesson a few months back so had quite some time to prepare for it. I had to have quite a lot of meetings with the staff to discuss my proposed lesson. I was told that people from the Board of Education would be coming to watch my lesson, and also many teachers from across the area. I didn’t really know what to expect, but my manager kept emphasising that it was ‘important’. As the day got closer, I started to get really nervous. I went to an onsen the night before to try and calm my nerves! But as expected, I got very little sleep that night. I kept dreaming about my lesson!

When the day came, I was in my classroom pacing up and down trying to calm myself. It was quite funny as a lot of teachers would pop their heads through the door to check if I was okay, because my face looked extremely worried. I ran through my lesson a few times with one of the Japanese teachers. Just before 1pm, the people from the Board of Education started arriving at the school, and my classroom gradually filled up. I was pretty surprised at the number of people observing my lesson (there were over 50 people watching!). Since space was quite restricted, a few teachers were stood outside in the rain watching my lesson through the window.

Overall, I think my lesson went very well. The small mistakes I made, I turned into jokes and laughed about them. It was strange as all those nerves I had prior to my lesson seemed to disappear once the school bell rang and I was to start my lesson. My students could not have been better, extremely high spirited and not fazed by the number of people watching them. It was such a relief to finish my lesson knowing that I gave it my all. The feedback I got really made my day, and all the staff were shaking my hand and saying I did a great job.

After my lesson was over, I had to do a mini press conference with all the people who observed my lesson. I had no idea that the observation was going to be that serious! But it was nice gathering with all the staff in the staff room and clapping to celebrate that we had finally done it! I feel a lot more respected by the staff at my school after my demonstration lesson. I am by no means an amazing teacher, but just having people recognising your hard work is always a nice reward!

3rd September 

So amidst all of the chaos that has been work last month, I did still get a chance to travel and see a few things. At the beginning of September I went to Tokyo with my boss and a few colleagues to see a baseball game! It was my first ever baseball game so I was really excited!

We started off the trip by having lunch on a Yakata bune, which is like an izikaya styled boat. The boat had hot plate tables for us to cook our food on like okinomiyaki and other dishes. The idea of it sounded fun, which it was, but sitting by a hot plate in the scorching hot weather was quite torturous!

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Cooking okinomiyaki on the yakata boat

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It was hilarious watching my colleagues trying to cook on this hot plate, and burning their arms from splashing hot oil around. We also burned out the surface of the hot plate and had to have the workers scrape it clean for us again. We caused such a scene, whilst all the other Japanese people on the boat seemed calm and knew what they were doing.

The boat trip was definitely worth it though. The skyline of Tokyo was beautiful!

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After the boat trip, we made our way to the stadium to watch the baseball game. We watched the Yakult Swallows against the Hiroshima Carps. The atmosphere was incredible. Japanese people are definitely passionate when it comes to baseball!

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As with any game, a lot of chanting was involved! We were cheering for the Yakult Swallows, and whenever they managed to win a round, people celebrated by opening mini umbrellas whilst chanting. It was pretty cool seeing half of the stadium suddenly filled with thousands of tiny umbrellas!

The game at first was really fun to watch, but then it started to drag. With it being my first ever baseball game, I wasn’t sure how long it would last for. The game in total lasted for around 4 hours. I was ready to call it a day! We made it for the first 3 hours of the game, then decided to leave to take the last train back home. Overall it was a fun day trip! Finally got to watch my first ever baseball game, although I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to watch another one! Haha!

September 11th

I was told by a few friends one Sunday that there were two festivals being held in Kuroiso and Shiobara. It’s always tough when you want to stay in your apartment and chill on a Sunday afternoon, but at the same time you don’t want to miss out on all the events happening around you. Festivals happen all year round, but its tough because you don’t want to miss out the good ones!

I decided to go to both festivals with my friend. We went to Kuroiso first, which as holding a Jazz festival. I had no idea what to expect!

The festival was a lot smaller than I imagined, and it wasn’t your typical Japanese festival. The venue was in a small park, and the food stalls were all from local businesses in Kuroiso. It was small and intimate.

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It was a really nice way to spend my Sunday afternoon. Sitting at the park with my friends and listening to live jazz, which was insanely good! Some very talented musicians went on stage to perform.

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Local food stores

Of course I made sure not to leave without trying the food! It was not your typical festival food. I bought a huge barbequed pork yakitori which was a challenge to eat because it was so big! But it tasted soooo good!

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Sweet chilli chicken wings

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After enjoying the food and live music for a few hours, we then made our way to Shiobara for the onsen festival. By the time we arrived at Shiobara, the sky had already started to turn black. But we made it just in time to see the main events!

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Walking towards to festival in Shiobara

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The festival in Shiobara was word of mouth, so we weren’t entirely sure where it was. After exploring the streets with my friend, we managed to see the food stalls lit up in the distance. We knew we were close!

The further we walked, the more people we saw. We could hear taiko drums being played in the distance, and we were greeted by huge mikoshi floats! The first one I noticed was a huge Pikachu mikoshi float.

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As we walked further we saw even more mikoshi floats. The designs were all different, and I saw a lot of familiar looking anime characters.

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Then there was one mikoshi float which really took my breath away! It was so beautifully designed that it almost did not look real.

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Shiobara is very famous for its beautiful onsens, so they hold an onsen festival once a year. I was told that many of the onsens in the area were free of charge on this particular day. Too bad I didn’t bring a change of clothes and a towel, or I would have loved to have gone to one!

The people in Shiobara are very friendly too! A lot of the people were not shy in approaching me and my friend for a conversation. They also had really good English, which was a nice surprise! I recognised a few students from summer school, and they came up to me to say hello and they told me how tired they were from pushing the floats around. It was nice that they still recognised me, and were very confident in speaking English with me! That’s what makes being an English teacher here so rewarding!

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After watching taiko performances performed by Shiobara elementary and junior high  school children, we made our way back home. It was such an eventful day. Two completely different festivals, both amazing in their own ways!

Hope you guys are having a wonderful weekend!

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