Hello and welcome. If you’re family, you know who I am. If you’re not, hi! I am currently living in Japan on the Japanese government sponsored JET (Japanese Exchange Teacher) Programme. I intend to make fairly infrequent posts (monthly, or so… we’ll see) about life as a participant on the JET Programme, as well as relevant personal interests.
One of those personal interests is Japanese religion. I graduated with a degree in Religious Studies focused heavily on Japanese religion, and love snooping around shrines and temples. I will likely make use of a WordPress page to organize pictures and information of the various religious sites I stumble across during my time here.
I’ve been in Japan for a month now, and things are good. I’m settling into my apartment, and gradually growing accustomed to the accursed humidity (which really hasn’t been improved by the current typhoon). During my first week I was unsure about my future here, but at this point I am looking forward to an extended stay.
During the first month I had not much to do work-wise. The other new ALTs and I spent the day in the Board of Education office, mostly killing time studying Japanese or randomly browsing Wikipedia. We were told to prepare a 50 minute self introduction lesson for our first classes, but now that I’m at school it’s looking like that won’t be used; I’ll probably have about 15 minutes instead. Some of the things I prepared, such as laminated pictures of my family will still be useful.
We didn’t lack for things to do outside of work though. August was full of festivals, and we attended several. For the Ibara Summer Festival all the employees at the city hall had diner as a group, and then formed one of many dancing teams on the main street.
We performed the same three simple dances up and down the road for about an hour and a half. I saw a similar dance activity last year in Kanazawa as part of the Hyakumangoku matsuri, so it seems like this might be fairly common when it comes to summer festivals.
A couple of weeks later, in Bisei, we attended the Amanogawa (Milky Way) matsuri. The idea behind the festival is that the Milky Way is where some of the gods reside, and by placing your wishes for the following year on a paper lantern, and then burning all the lanterns, you can send your wishes to those gods. I didn’t figure out all the religious aspects, but it definitely involved Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair), the female and male star/divinities that pop up in folk stories fairly often. The massive lantern bonfire at the end was quite spectacular.
In mid August all the new JETs in Okayama attended 2 days of orientation in Okayama city, where we were bombarded with even more teaching tips and activity ideas. They also included a decent section on ‘Life in Okayama’, but that seemed to be more targeted towards the JETs actually living in Okayama city, or at least nearer to it than Ibara. The 3rd day of orientation was the best though; we all got on a chartered boat and headed off to lovely island of Shiraishi for the day. Some of us went hiking through the mountains and almost died of heat exhaustion, and then we all hung out at the beach for the rest of the day.
Last weekend my neighbour (another JET) and I went with one of her teachers to the Ibara Sound Wood music festival. It was a great time, and we caught about 7 hours of live music from all genres before we retreated due to rain. Despite repeatedly applying sunscreen all day, my legs were quite badly burned and are still sore to the touch in places. Japanese sun is mean.
Yesterday was my first day at Ibara Junior High School, although I did not do much. The English teachers were handing back tests today, and had no need of (or time for) me. On top of that, the entire school is involved in preparation for the athletics day just over a week from now. I watched the 1st year boys and 2nd year girls practice for it, and was quite impressed. The boys are doing a fancy choreographed gymnastic performance and the girls are performing a large scale traditional dance (which I’ve learned is related to fishing in Hokkaido). Both are quite complex, and I have trouble imagining Canadian middle school students managing something quite so grand. Apparently this sort of this is happening at schools all throughout Japan right now, and happens every year.
Starting next Wednesday I will also be teaching an English conversation class once a week for an hour. It is a beginner’s class, and from what I understand they don’t truly have enough English to converse. So I don’t know how that will go yet, but it should be interesting to have some older students.
The Board of Education is throwing a welcome party for us 4 new JETs tonight, and I gather we will all be quite drunk by the end. It sounds like a great way to cap off my first month in Japan.