Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Roppongi on New Years

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A taste of America

To me, Osaka is probably the most similar city to a large American city. The streets remind me of a large American city's streets, food is less healthy and more greasy, and the styles are similar. We spent our last day in Osaka shopping and eating in a shopping archade in downtown Osaka.

Tomorrow we waking up early for a long train ride to Tokyo. Our plan is to see the fireworks at Tokyo tower and go to the shrines.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Above the crowds

I spent most of yesterday away from my friends because I had to travel back to Kyoto to retrieve my camera. I made it an architectural field day and ended the day with at trip up the Umeda Sky Building. There is an observation deck 173m above the ground. This picture was taken from the observation deck.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Have faith in Human(Japan)ity

Thank god, someone turned in my camera to Kyoto Station. I'm back on track.

This is a picture taken at Osaka Castle.

Kyoto Day 2

Today we went to the Kinkakujin (Golden Temple).

I have my health

...but I lost my camera and the 200+ pictures. I'm going to check with the train station again tomorrow.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The night bus has me and my phone drained. We are now on route to Kyoto.

This morning, we arrived in Nagoya. I dragged everyone around looking for the "OASIS 21" bus terminal. Be sure to check out the photos when I post them.

Christmas in Tokyo

メリークリスマス everyone!

Day 3 of our trip (Christmas Day) was spent in Tokyo. This photo shows the walls to the Imperial Palace mote with Christmas lights on the right and some of the buildings near Tokyo station.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

We spent Christmas Eve in Ropongi.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Central Japan Trip

My friends and I are traveling around central Japan during our winter break. We are doing all of our traveling on local trains because we have passes for unlimited travel on local trains for five days. This makes for some long travel times, but the.passes are very reasonably priced. I will be posting pictures and short blurbs from my trip when I can.

Take care.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Plans

For those of you who do not know, Tyler is back in America for Christmas. She will be traveling between Clovis, NM, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio to spend time with her family. She arrived on the 18th and she will be returning to Japan on the 15th of next month.

I am traveling around Japan for the holidays with some of our friends. We are visiting Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. I will be posting pictures and short entries during our trip from my phone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

PS. I have posted pictures from our latest snowfall. Enjoy!

An English Christmas in Japan

This holiday season is, by far, one of the most unique ones I have ever experienced. There is the obvious reason; being away from my family and wife, but that is only part of my reasoning. So far, I have dressed up as Santa Claus three times (two for work) , attended a gift exchange, attended a foreigner's Christmas party where most gaijin were Chinese, and I had a traditional English (British) Christmas Dinner.

A fellow JET, Janine, who lives a few towns over, invited me to a Christmas dinner that she hosted for her supervisor, English teachers, and Japanese friends. Janine is from England, so she prepared a traditional English Christmas dinner. This dinner was much different than any Christmas dinner I have ever heard of. To start off, we were given “crackers” which are presents that are wrapped around cylindrical tubes and the excess paper is tied with ribbons on both sides of the tube. Each person holds their cracker by crossing their arms and grabbing onto their neighbors’. They then pull the cracker, rip the paper then candy, a joke written on paper, and a Christmas hat fall out. Each guest places their crownesque Christmas hat on and they take turns reading their jokes. Appetizers then were served followed by a pea and cheese soup with a bread board and a glass of red wine. Next came a fish dish with white wine. We had Salmon with cheese on a salad. Next came the main course. We had “Coq au vin” (chicken cooked in wine). After the main course, the cheese board was served. Our cheese board had many french cheeses, grapes, celery, and bread. It was amazing! Finally after all of these dishes comes the dessert. Janine made her family’s “English Trifle” dessert. It had a sponge cake, various fruits, whip cream, and walnuts. Delicious!

The dinner was the first time this year that I began to feel like it’s the holiday season even though it was so different from the Christmas dinners that I’m used to.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Photos

I have uploaded over 200 new photos to our Flickr page. Enjoy!

Play Day

Iwate Bus Tous

A group in Morioka organized a sightseeing bus trip around Iwate that Tyler and I went on. The trip was primarily spent in Tono, dubbed “The Town of Fairy-tales”. Tono is about an hour and a half south of Morioka (3 hours south of Ichinohe). The first place that we stopped at was Rokondo cave. This is home to “Japan’s largest waterfall in a cave”. We laughed too, many places around us are “famous” for something whether it’s sake (a type alcohol), an onsen, a fruit or vegetable, a flower, or any combination of each. The cave was pretty enjoyable, but it was a bit treacherous at times. This cave would probably not be a tourist attraction in the states because it had many rocks you have to duck under and slippery rocks to walk on. With paid admission to the cave, you are given a rain coat, helmet, and a pair of goulashes to use. Our tour guide described the cave as being similar to the one in “The Goonies” movie. That is actually a pretty accurate comparison minus Chunk running behind the gang with a clumsy cyclops. There was even a bit of a treasure in the cave. About 2/3 of the way through, there is a golden (maybe not real gold) statue/shrine (look for it in the pictures). At the end ofthe cave was the famed waterfall. Naturally, I loved the cave. Tyler did not.

Next stop: Lunch! We ate a very Japanese lunch at a restaurant next to Denshoen Park (more about Denshoen shortly). The lunch looked a little scary at first (it had teeth, look at the pictures) but it was really good. Tyler even enjoyed it. We walked around after lunch. We first walked to Jokenji Temple and the “famous” stream called the “Kappa Buchi” that the “Kappa” monster lives in. The Kappa is a supposed monster that, similar to big foot, is perceived in various forms. Some describe it as a reptile/lizard creature that is as tall as a child, some describe it as being more like a ninja turtle, and so on. A few of the consistent details are: they have webbed toes and fingers, they have a hole in their head that they fill with water so that they can leave the water, they love cucumbers, and they are very polite. Because the Kappas follow japanese etiquette, you can easily defeat a Kappa by bowing to it. When you bow, the Kappa will also bow, but the water in his head will spill out and he will die or be crippled. Fortunately, we did not see any Kappas. You can read more about kappas on Wikipedia. We then walked back to Denshoen Park. Denshoen Park has a beautiful garden and an old group of buildings that have thatched roofs. There was also a traditional painter, handpainting some orniments for the tourists to buy.

The next place we stopped was Fukusenji Temple. This temple is famed for having Japans largest wooden statue. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photographs of the statue, so I don’t have any pictures of it. This traditional temples in the pictures are from the Fukusenji Temple complex.

We finished our bus tour at Edel Wine Winery. We received a walking tour of the company’s facilities. We received a brief history of the company and we heard about all of the awards that it has received from all over the world. We saw a stagnant factory with fermenting vats and barrels filled with wines that are not scheduled to be opened for years. Most importantly, we were given samples of all the wines. This was the perfect end to a day of sightseeing and traveling.

The photos from our bus trip are posted on Flickr.


It’s true. Japan does have capsule hotels. My friends and I stayed in one a few times in Morioka. You can see some pictures of it here. The capsule itself is the length of a person laying down and is tall enough for you to comfortably sit up. In this particular capsule, there was a TV, a small shelf, and an instrument panel that had a radio, volume control, light, alarm clock, and an emergency button. There was a mattress that lined the “floor” and a curtain for privacy. The capsules are stacked 2 tall and line a corridor with about 30 or so capsules in each corridor. This particular hotel does not allow females because there is a public bath house similar to a spa, and there is very limited privacy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas

You may need to press the play button a few times to get the video to play.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Today, I am showing my 3rd year (9th grade US) Junior High School students, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. You may remember that I am a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. I wrote my senior paper on him in high school (and I received an A, I might add).

Our library has a few translated children books that are popular in the states. Among them, I have seen “Adventures of Frog and Toad” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, but I haven’t found any Dr. Seuss. At first, I thought that it was just the region of Japan that we’re in - believe it or not, we don’t have robots hovering around and dispensing any electronic ever made. But, I thought for sure that Dr. Seuss would be popular in other areas of Japan. I am beginning think that he isn’t. There are only a handful of Dr. Seuss books available on and I have asked my teachers if they have heard of him and they always reply with, “Who”?!?.

I guess that it only makes sense that reading books filled with fabricated words and written in a particular rhythmic meter is probably not best for people learning English as a second language. However, this is Japan. There are many things in Japanese lifestyles that don’t make any sense (ie. Why do my colleges run everywhere?, Why is it OK for grown men to have cute “Lilo and Stitch” stuffed characters dangling off of their bags and cell phones?, Why is “Godzilla” pronounced Gojira - Goduzirra seems like a closer alternative). The way I see it, English is a damned tough language to learn, let’s have some fun learning it like I did/still am.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Japanese Schools and Teaching English

1st grade jr. high students.

Teaching is getting easier for me. I am getting used to each of my JTE’s (Japanese English Teacher at the jr. high schools, 3 JTEs total) teaching styles and the classes are becoming less awkward and more productive for my students. I have mentioned my elementary school that I have dubbed “my baby”; the classes at this are getting better and this school is becoming my favorite. I am only at this school 2 days every 3 weeks. I have planned 3 lessons: “Halloween in America”, “Body Parts”, and “Big vs. Small and Other Adjectives”. I am lucky in that I can typically make a single lesson plan per visit and adapt it for each of my 6 classes held at this school.

Japanese schools are pretty different from American schools. One of the major differences is school discipline. It pretty much does not exist in Japan. There are no detention, suspension, or write up systems in place. If a student wants to talk and disrupt the entire class, too bad for the other students, but they can talk away without the teachers stopping them. The students can sleep in the classes without any consequences. Students do not have to participate in their classes either. That being said, the student’s at all of my schools (over 200 total) are very well behaved students. I do, however, have a fourth grade class that is very excited and loud that I have a difficult time with. It’s not that they are bad students, I think that they’re teacher does nothing to control the class and when the famous foreigner (me) makes an appearance, it is similar to the puppy and the wet floor when the owner comes home from work.

Another difference is that the student’s are always at school, especially at my jr. high schools. There were a few times over the summer break (no classes) that I stopped into my schools and some of the students were sitting around their classrooms. When school is in, my students arrive around 7:45-8:00 AM and go straight to their classrooms. Their first class doesn’t start until 8:45, but somedays they organize highly formal assemblies before school. They have a regular load of 6 classes throughout the day and they finish classes around 3:20. After school, the 1st and 2nd year jr. high students (7th and 8th grade to Americans) are forced to participate in a school club. The clubs at my jr. high schools are basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, and table tennis. The 3rd year students (9th graders) are required to stay and study for their high school entrance exams. It is pretty common for the students to stay past 5:00 PM. The jr. high students are rarely under supervision. Similar to in America, they have different classes at different time periods. Dissimilar to America, the student’s stay in one room and the student’s visit them in their classrooms.

School lunch in Japan is totally different than in America. A few students from each class put on “sterile” clothing covers, masks, and a type of hair net and retrieve classes’ lunch from a serving area where one school employee rations out the proper amount of food. The students then take the food back to their classrooms and serve their classmates. Before the students can dig in, they must say the phrase “i-te-dak-imas” in unison, which is basically saying grace with out any religious connotation. The students are given 15 minutes to eat their lunches and they eat in their classrooms. They finish their lunches with the phrase “go-chiso-sama-deshita”, again, giving thanks for the food. After lunch, they must take all of the serving dishes back to the food distribution area. The students are not allowed to bring their own lunches.

The students are also required to clean the schools. There are no janitors at the schools , so the students are in charge of the cleaning. They organize into groups of varying age and grade levels (again with no teacher supervision) and the go through a checklist and clean their designated area of the school. I am thankful that there were janitors at my schools when I was a student because I know that they would have been absolutely filthy, but my japanese students do a really great job.

My jr. high student’s are always taking tests. It is pretty common for them to have a test once a month. The 3rd year (again, 9th grade in US) are constantly taking preparatory entrance exams for sr. high school. A problem that comes from this type of curriculum, however, is that most of the teachers teach to the tests. My student’s of teachers that are taught specifically for their tests will test well, but mostly, are unable to comprehend simple English phrases that are essentially, just variations of the test questions. It also seems that my students of teachers that use the textbook and the test materials to compliment their lessons rather than restrict them, will test lower but they can typically understand the larger picture when spoken to in English. Unfortunately, comprehending a language is subjective, and the student’s progress is currently being evaluated by tests (and probably always will :( ).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Obviously, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Japan, but one of our friends hosted a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at her house. We had all the typical Thanksgiving food items: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, mashed potatoes, and many desserts.

We wish that we could have been home for Thanksgiving, but this year, we are especially thankful for such a wonderful and supportive group of friends. They really have become integral to our well being while in Japan away from our families.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hello Winter

This entry was posted from Dan`s phone.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

School festivals

Each of the schools hosted a festival that showcased choir performances, plays, art work/projects, awards, and individual student’s written works (some in English). These were similar to an open house but the students mostly ran the festivals with the occasional speech by the principal and teachers. These events, just like the morning assemblies at these schools, were very formal and organized. The festivals were basically a chance to allow the community see what has been happening at the schools. Remember that the schools are halfway through their school year. I came in at the beginning of their 2nd semester.

I've posted some video of the festival from Kozuya middle school. This is a link to my 1st year (7th US) student's performance. My 2nd year student's did "Asian Dream Song", a really beautiful song that is popular among many pianists. The video of their performance is below this text. For the festival's closing ceremony, the underclassmen (1st and 2nd years) thanked the 3rd year students with a cheer. They finished by singing the school song and opening the Japanese piñata. Click on the colored words to view the videos.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Making Soba

There is a soba (Japanese noodles) place in Ichinohe that Tyler and I really enjoy. It is a small grocery shop on one side, and a seating area with a kitchen on the other side. The restaurant is only open during lunch, so we rarely eat there except on holidays and vacation days. We’ve caught them a few times when they were not technically open but they’ve served us anyway. The most recent time we went, the cook (maybe owner) brought us into the kitchen and he taught us how to make soba from scratch. Here are some pictures of our soba class.

がんばります! (I am trying)

I have been studying Japanese on and off for the three months that I’ve been here. I was using a college textbook that I inherited from one of my predecessors, but now I am taking a correspondence class offered through JET. So far, I am able to read the two different Japanese alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, and I recognize some Kanji. Hiragana is the alphabet used for Japanese words, ie. いぬ (dog) is pronounced eenu. Although I can read Hiragana, I don’t typically understand the words being read. Katakana is the alphabet that approximates foreign language’s words. Most of the words are English words, but there are also other language’s words that are katakana-sized. An example is アメリカ (America), pronounced A-ma-ree-ka. The “A” is like “o” in on, “me” is like “may” minus the “y”, “ree” is a mix between “ree” in reef and the name Lee, and “ka” sounds like “cot” minus the “t”. Japanese also uses Kanji, which is Chinese characters or symbols. There are thousands of characters and each of them have different Japanese and Chinese pronunciations. Many of them have numerous meanings as well. I have heard that high school graduates typically know around 1,800 characters. 一戸 is the Kanji for Ichinohe. As for the language, I am able to say basic greetings, tell time, count, order food at some restaurants, and drop a few vocabulary words here and there. I am not studying as much as I should be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's getting cold, thank goodness for Kotatsu

As the winter approaches we are catching our first glimpses of fall in Japan. The trees are beginning to change color, the rice is being harvested, and the cool fall breeze is visiting more frequently. With the transition comes the obvious drop in temperatures. There have been a few mornings that the temperature in our house has been 8 or 9 degrees Celsius. That translates to 46 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit. We are well aware that it is only going to get (much) worse before it gets better. We have taken a few preparatory measures: we got some of our winter clothes from the states shipped, we have done some winter clothing shopping, we've purchased a sleeping bag and an electric radiator heater, and we've fired up the Kotatsu.

The Kotatsu is essentially a coffee table and an electric blanket combined into one ingenious device. The table has a removable surface in which you lift off, place a blanket on top of the table's structure, replace the table top, and plug in the table. There is a heater that is attached to the under side of the table that heats up the blanket. You sit with your lap and legs under the blanket and as you might imagine, the Kotatsu becomes an instant hit for the frozen Northern Japan residents.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I am an English teacher.

School has been keeping me on my toes during the week. I am teaching at four schools, 2 junior high schools (JHSs) and 2 elementary schools. My schedule repeats itself every three weeks, for example, I am at one JHS one week then I am at the other JHS the 2nd week and I split the 3rd week between my two elementary schools. The JHS's have a set curriculum and a full time English teacher so at one of my JHS's, I am primarily used as a human cd player to spit English phrases on command. The other JHS I play a larger role. I am encouraged to create lesson plans and fun games to help the student's gain an understanding of the grammatical points from their textbooks. I am enjoying the latter mentioned JHS much more. The elementary schools are both very fun. One of my elementary schools is pretty similar to the JHS's in that I am an assistant to the homeroom teachers but I have more fun with the youngsters. I play a more important role in these classes and they mostly go smoothly because the teachers and students are really great. I am looking at this school as a sort of mentoring program. I am using my experiences from the elementary school I've mentioned to help me at my other elementary school. The other elementary school is sort of my baby. I plan and teach my own lessons and I am getting an idea of what does and doesn't work in an elementary classroom. I am enjoying the responsibility I have, but it is overwhelming at times because of the short amount of time that I see them in my 3 week cycle. Since there is no English that is taught between my visits at this particular school, I end up reviewing mostly with very little forward progress. I am, however, enjoying this school because it really is a challenge. The classes that go well are very encouraging and the classes that do not go that well, make me think of ways to improve the next class.

At times, I forget that I was hired to be an English teacher. Those who know me well (and those who read this blog) can attest that the English language is not one of my strong areas, but I really am enjoying my time in the classroom. With my weekends as busy as they are and all the traveling that I'm doing, I feel that it probably won't hit me that I am teaching English until I'm saying goodbye to these kids at the end of my contract. I hope that they learn something from me whether it's English or otherwise.


This is our taiko group's performance for the 2008 Ninohe matsuri held September 4th-7th. They performed these songs on a float that they built and decorated. I learned these songs but I did not perform with the group because Tyler and I were out of town during most of the matsuri. There are pictures from the opening ceremony here.

This was the opening ceremony that kicked off the Ninohe matsuri. Each Taiko group (9 total) was allotted 5 minutes to perform. At the end of the individual performances, all of the groups performed collectively. This video is of the collective performance with all the taiko groups.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

McDonalds is in Japan

This is a pretty popular burger among the gaijin. It's the Mega Mac and yes, it has 4 patties. If the standard fries and drink are not enough, you can add chicken nuggets to the meal for an additional 80 yen. I will not be going near this monster.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Here are some of the pictures (finally)

Click on the pictures below to start the slideshow. You can turn on the picture's comments by clicking on the screen if you wish. Enjoy!

Views of Ichinohe

Misc. Japan pics

Monday, September 15, 2008

Towada lake, Aomori Prefecture

Tyler and I went to Towada lake on Monday with some friends. This picture is of The Chyoshiotaki Falls on the Oirase river/stream that is near the lake.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Arts and crafts

These are our first attempts at making owls. It`s possible that everyone will be receiving these for gifts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A view from my office

Where I`m from this is called a カエル (ka-e-ru)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Settling in

Things are good in Ichinohe! Tyler and I are pretty settled, I began teaching last week, and we've met lots of new friends.

The month of August was very slow in the office, but Tyler and I were very busy with traveling and trying to setup the living luxuries. We have our keitais (cell phones) but we haven't had any luck with getting the internet set up. The latest quote for us having internet in our home is the 3rd week in September. One of my fellow JET colleagues reminds me almost daily that I should have used the internet company he used, but it just wasn't an option for us after I applied to YahooBB. Ah well...

We traveled to Morioka on a quest to find a bike and do other random shopping. We also went to Hachinohe to continue looking for a bike but we had no luck. We went back to Morioka for a JET orientation. This time, I went with the ALTs (assistant language teachers) that live next to and met some of the other JETs and ALT's from other private companies that live in Iwate. We went to this really great Ramen place (that has a chain opening in Brooklyn soon) and we went to an activity center that had indoor soccer, batting cages, basketball and volleyball courts. It also had kareoke booths, a large arcade, rollerskating ring, and bowling alley. The place was awesome. Tyler met up with us the next day so that we could get our re-entry permits in case we want to travel outside of Japan. We also had some pretty good Italian food followed by Starbucks. We went to a karaoke booth after dinner. The next day Tyler and I did some more shopping. I was successful in finding a bicycle.

I began teaching last Tuesday (8/26) at Chokai Junior High. This school has close to 30 students. Chokai is a town that is West of Ichinohe and takes about 20 minutes on a bike (1-1/2 hrs to walk). Tyler came with me because the school had a welcoming ceremony for me/us. The ceremony was really impressive. It was a pretty formal ceremony with speeches (including my speech in Japanese and English) and a pep rally of sorts with shouting kids and Taiko drumming. It was quite flattering. After the ceremony, I accompanied the full-time English teacher to our classes and I gave my Keynote introduction presentation. I think that I will have a good time at this school. Wednesday (8/27) I started at Chokai Elementary school. This school had a similar welcoming ceremony. Most of my teachers here have a very basic level of English so sometimes it gets a bit quiet when there are only a few of us in the office. I gave my introduction presentation to each of my classes (only 5 classes) and met all of the students. There is a lot of free time between my classes, so I try to visit the students through out the day. I played dodge ball with the 4-6th graders, I ate lunch with the 4 and 5th graders, and I participated in the daily, school-wide run in the mornings. The kids in the elementary school are much more out-going than the junior high schoolers. A few times this weekend, students from elementary school came up to me and siad hello. It is really great that they will come up to me, but I wish that I could speak to them. Their English abilities are pretty poor and my Japanese ability is worse. I hope that this will be motivation for me to learn.

This past weekend was the weekend of the Ichinohe Matsuri (festival/carnival). There were a series of parades and events each day. Tyler, Alex, Claire, and I danced in the parades on Saturday with a group from our office. The parade also had 5 large floats that represented neighborhoods around Ichinohe. Each of the floats were handmade by the community and had room for children to play the taiko drums that were affixed to them. Flutists and dancers accompanied the floats along with community members pulling/pushing the floats. Some of our friends from the areas around Ichinohe came over to our house after the festivities and we had a BBQ. Sunday, one of my neighbors invited all of us Gaijin (foreigners) to help pull the float from our neighborhood. Tyler wanted to watch the parade and the others were busy, so I pulled the float with the rest of the community members. It was a really great experience that I am glad I participated in. I will post some pics and video when I can.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I want this!!!

This is an actual phone that you can purchase in Japan

Saturday, August 2, 2008

3 Days deep

How about that house, eh?

The house is much nicer than I could have imagined. The only thing that its missing is Tyler (and the cats if they were allowed). Having a nice place to stay is helping me deal with being away from home. I have been getting a little lonely but my neighbor and fellow JET and I have been hanging out a lot and exploring the town.

The town is interesting in certain ways and kinda depressing in others. There is a main street that is sort of run down and many shops are abandon. We live pretty close to the center of town so its pretty easy to get around (at least while there isnt a foot of snow on the frozen tundra). There is a river that runs through town and there is some really nice country side scenery. There are also some great people here. My neighbor, Alex, and I went to a festival last night and had a gerat time! Alex is fluent in Japanese so he has been a great help for me. We were welcomed by many of the community members and we met many of the children in the town. I will post pictures of the festival as soon as I can.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Konichiwa from 東京 (Tokyo)

It is Tuesday night and I have just completed my JET orientation in Tokyo. I will be leaving tomorrow morning heading to the capital of Iwate, Morioka, by bullet train. My days here have been pretty busy. It has been pretty non-stop from 8:00 AM until 7-8:00 PM both Monday and Tuesday. The orientation had many incredible presenters and speakers offering a plethora of information, insight, and motivation. I must say that I am really looking forward to teaching. I have also met some great fellow JETs, but I am also ready to say sayonara and get out of the Tokyo. I just didn't enjoy the big city this time.

Let me fill you in on my experiences. Monday evening, the ALTs from went out for drinks in Shabuya. Understand that drinking with you co-workers (within reason) is pretty typical in Japan. Japanese do not usually have guests over to their homes, instead people meet up at restaurants and bars to socialize outside of work. And for Shabuya, If you have ever seen a movie that has anything to do with Tokyo, chances are at least a scene from it was filmed there. This is one of the busiest areas in Tokyo especially for Japanese youth and foreigners. After a drink, we went to sing karaoke also in Shabuya. Karaoke is huge in Japan, but is different than karaoke as Americans know it. When you go to a karaoke, you are given a room in what is typically a multi-level building. The rooms usually have a booth that surrounds a table and a karaoke machine hooked up to a TV. You can also order drinks at karaoke. There are many songs that are offered in English because American Pop music is also popular in Japan and the prices are reasonable, especially when a group of friends go. We sang karaoke for a few hours then headed back.

Tuesday night I ventured out on my own...nothing terrible happened, but I did have an interesting adventure. As I was getting a ticket for the train, a "helpful" man came up and assisted me in buying the ticket. I assured him that I knew what I was doing, but he still went at navigating the screen on the machine. As we finished he asked for 200 yen for his troubles. I gave him 100 and I was on my way. I was heading back to Shabuya to look around at some of the shops and I made it there with no problem. As I was walking around, I was approached by someone to buy drugs. From what I understand, this is not common. Messing with drugs of any sort is highly illegal, selling or using. It didn't concern me, it was just kinda shocking. I wonder if he was a cop....

I got stuck in a pretty crazy rain/thunderstorm as I was heading back to the train station but I decided to hold off on purchasing another umbrella (Japan is where Tyler and I bought at least 3 of our umbrellas before). I bought another ticket (this time on my own) and I boarded the train back to the hotel. I was doing so well, until the train broke down and everyone had to find another route. Remember that Shabuya is one of the busiest areas in Tokyo. There were probably thousands of people heading to other trains. It was really quite impressive to watch. I followed the crowd and ended up at another train that appeared to be going close to the hotel but I wasn't sure, so I asked someone, IN JAPANESE!! Of course I had to consult my phrase book, but I mustered up the courage and asked. That was sort of the climax of my evening. I did make it back to the hotel and I did have enough time to iron my shirt at the communal ironing station.

I am heading to Iwate first thing tomorrow morning and I'm not sure when I will be around the internet again, but I will post more soon including some pics that I've taken during my orientation.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Final Countdown

I just hit me...WE'RE MOVING TO JAPAN!!

It seems as if I haven't convinced myself yet that we'll be living in Japan for a year.

This past week has been incredibly busy for the both of us. We had our final yard sale and going away party. We packed, cleaned, and vacated our apartment with the help of my parents and little brother. We drove to Clovis with the cats to visit Tyler's side of the family. Then Tyler's parents drove us to San Antonio to drop off the cats with Tyler's brother and his wife. Tyler will be staying in San Antonio for a couple more weeks then she will be joining me in Japan just in time to celebrate our one year anniversary.

If you've been following our journey, you'll know that I am writing you on the eve of my departure. Thanks to the Holiday Inn that has free WiFi and my air conditioned Ford Focus rental car, I am able to keep you as up-to-date as possible. I have around five hours to waste before I can check in to my hotel. Tonight I will be attending a Pre-departure Orientation and reception to follow. I will breathe my last breathes in the US tonight then depart for Japan early tomorrow. I will follow the sun around the globe (literally) until it I arrive in Japan on Sunday in time for 2-3 days of orientation in Tokyo. I believe I will be in Ichinohe by Wednesday or Thursday. Many things are unclear at this point, but I will keep you as current as/when I can. I promise.

Thanks for following!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July trip to Northern NM

We went to Eagle's Nest for an old fashioned, all-American 4th of July celebration this year. I was craving the type of 4th of July you read about of see in movies. Here are some of the pics from our trip.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pic of our place in Japan, check out how close we are to the train!!!

Alright, I'm just kidding. This is the type of humor you're subjected to when you work in an architecture firm. Don't you wish you were so lucky?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I know, I know. It's been a while

I'm not sure it the Sandias are becoming more beautiful of if I'm coming down with a case of pre-departure home sickness, if it even exists.

t's hard to believe that we will be leaving for Japan in less than a month; I'm starting to enter "Panic Mode" as we have so much to do still. Before I leave you anxiously awaiting another blog entry, I want to let you in on some updates. I have added a feature to the blog that allows you to subscribe via email. You will receive a copy of each post from the blog as they are posted. I have not used this before, but it seems pretty convenient. To subscribe, enter your email in the box to the right and follow the instructions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just a quick update on our end

Not much has changed since we've last posted, but I figured I would update you with a few of the details on our end. We've decided to look for part time work to raise money to help us get to Japan and stay out of debt. Tyler just completed her two week training and started working her regular schedule for the call center. I am anxiously awaiting the approval to start my new job auditing lifeguard's response to emergencies at the pools. Also, I will be going into the studio with my band on Friday and Saturday to record a 4 song demo cd (maybe we'll be big in Japan).

We have not done much more preparing for Japan. We've begun getting rid of useless junk at our first of 2 yard sales n which we rose $450! I also purchased some "inside only" shoes per a requirement at my schools and I picked up some gifts for my prospective students. Tyler had the great idea of handing out New Mexico quarters to them. I have been speaking with my predecessor who has been an awesome resource for us. He has given me lots of specific information that will help us with these final 2 pre-departure months. Thanks a lot Scott. Also, the JET coordinator in Denver, Jessyca, continues to amaze me with the wonderful job she is doing.

For those of you that are using the links above, we have added another one that we've found to be quite helpful called "All About Teaching in Japan" and one for entertainment purposes called "Japanese Bug Fights" (courtesy of my dad).

Until later....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Placement in Japan

We recieved news of my placement in Japan today! We're moving to Ichinohe, Iwate. Ichinohe (meaning "First Door") is a town of ~15,000 people in the state of Iwate. Iwate is the largest state on the main island of Honshu. Ichinohe is (apparently) located in the Northern area of Iwate, but we have a difficult time finding any information on our town.

Cold fronts from Siberia make this area very cold from late October through May which may make for some snowboarding opportunities as there are a few ski areas that are relatively close.

I've been informed that I will mainly be teaching in an elementary school and middle school and will be teaching an adult conversation class a couple times throughout the year. We will be living in an actual house that I believe my contracting organization owns. Hopefully this means rent will be cheap.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

We're going to Japan

I was accepted as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. Many details are not worked out just yet, but a few things are certain. I will be departing for Japan on July 26th from Houston for an orientation in Tokyo. Tyler will be coming over a week or two after I arrive and things have settled. We do not know where we will be living until mid to late May, but chances are we will be in a rural area. We will try to find work for Tyler once we find out where we are placed and/or when we arrive Japan.

You can read through the "JET Handbook 2008" link if you want to get an idea of what we will be experiencing in preparation for our departure.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

celtic punk rock...awesome

We're going to Dropkick tonight!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trip to Denver

These are some pictures from out trip to Denver for my JET interview on Feb. 12th

The first picture is a mountain range that was visible from I-25 shortly after we passed the New Mexico/Colorado border.

This is Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum in downtown Denver.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome to Tyler and Dan's Blog. Happy Valentines Day