Marriage and Weddings in Japan

Early this year I attended a farewell party for one of my JTE’s. It was just an ordinary party; give a toast, eat food, and drink copious amounts of alcohol. After an hour of drinking my two co-workers that were sitting across from the rest of the group dropped big news. They had been dating for two years and were married the month prior. Of course no one had the slightest idea that this had happened or that either was interested in the other. The group thought it was a joke but then the rings were shown and it became evident, a Japanese wedding celebration was just around the corner.

When living in Japan, chances are likely that you will be invited to a friends or coworker’s Japanese wedding. Originally, all I knew was that Japanese weddings are notorious for being expensive(there is good reason for that.) Although it was expensive, I decided that was a unique opportunity.

If you have the opportunity to attend a wedding while in Japan, here are some tips and information to help you survive your first Japanese wedding.
*I cannot vouch for how all Japanese weddings run but here is my experience.*

*Guests enter the venue.
*Grand entrance of the wedding couple.
*Introduction of the bride and groom: Information about their birthday, the schools and clubs they attended, and so on.
*A toast followed by the cutting of the wedding cake.
*Meal- During this time you can wish the couple luck by pouring the couple beer.
*Speeches: If they work at a school there will be speeches by the Principal and Vice Principal.
*The Bride leaves to change outfits.
*The Groom talks with guests and then leaves to change outfits.
*The meal continues.
*The couple reenters wearing traditional kimono.
*The couple visits each table and takes pictures. After that they go back to the front and you can greet them there.
*Lighting of the marriage candle.
*The Bride addresses her family with a thank you letter and then she addresses the Groom’s family. After this the Groom’s father gives a short speech.
*Closing ceremony- After closing you can take the flowers home. (Note: the tin foil is not to take home food it is for the flowers.)
*Guests leave. On the way out you go and congratulate the couple and their family one last time. The couple gives the guests a small gift.

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jayne Jayne Arnold is a 3rd year ALT in Kagoshima City

In Case of Emergency

You’ve seen the news about Japan’s earthquakes. You know about the typhoons. And by now, you’ve probably heard that your neighbor is an extremely active volcano. All this information would cause anyone to be nervous. Lucky for you, we have some resources to ease your worried mind.

The Prefectural Website has compiled an extensive list of links on how to handle your next natural disaster. You can find that list HERE. Resources include

  • How to prepare an emergency kit
  • How to evacuate
  • What to do in an earthquake, typhoon, eruption or tsunami such as:

A Tip for Drivers – if you find yourself in a car during an earthquake:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road
  2. Turn off the engine, turn on the radio for updates
  3. Put on your emergency brake/hand brake
  4. Stay in the vehicle until shaking stops
  5. You can exit the car once the shaking stops

IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE IN THE WORKPLACE

The prefectural website also has a list of contacts to report any kind of workplace harassment. CLAIR also offers counseling for long-term issues. You can find those HERE.

Finally, here is a quick list of emergency numbers to have on hand in case of the worst. They can also be found on the Prefectural Website:

  • Police (keisatsu / 警察) 110
  • Ambulance (kyuukyuusha / 救急車) 119
  • Fire (shoubousha / 消防車) 119
    • From green pay phones: Lift the receiver, push the red emergency button, and dial.
    • From grey pay phones: Lift the receiver and dial.

 

9 Ways to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Island Placement

01
Kurasaki Beach
  1. Appreciate the uniqueness of Japanese island life. You probably didn’t ask to be placed on a remote island, right? There are very few island placements, and you got one of them! It’ll be all right. You get the special experience of living in a place that is so different from the Japan that everyone knows. And your backyard might be a beach.
02
Tokunoshima Scuba Diving – Credit to Micah Mizukami

 

2. Pick up a water sport. You can snorkel, dive, surf, do SUP, or more than one! You may even make some local friends while out on the water, too.

03
My first hula class

3. We are always on 島時間 down here. If you are stuck behind a truck full of sweet potatoes and end up being late for something, blame it on island time.

4. Join a local cultural activity in your community like shamisen, eisa, or hula. Dont feel too bad about missing out on all the fun culture events on the mainland. The islands have plenty of culture, too!

5. It is so exciting when you have the chance to go to the mainland. Going to _Uniqlo or Starbucks in Amu Plaza is all the more exciting when you have to take a plane or overnight ferry to get there!

 

 

04
Islanders love Starbucks

6. Islander bonding. Even if you are on an island by yourself, you still have the other islanders who understand you.  And you can always hop on the ferry and visit another island for the weekend. Your Island card helps you save a little money on travel costs.

05
Ready for Mangroves!

7. Island life is cheap. You will probably save a lot of money living down here. Unless you spend all your paycheck on island mangoes. Those are like 2000 yen for just one.

8. Island people are ridiculously nice. One time we asked for directions to a restaurant at a gas station on Okinoerabu, and the guy got in his car and had us follow him so he could show us the way.

06
Bashayama Beach

9. When it’s summertime, you are living in a tropical paradise. Most tourists skip us and head right to Okinawa, so a crowded day at the beach can sometimes mean you are sharing the sand with 5 other people.

Enjoy!

 

Becca Simas is a 1st year ALT on Amami Oshima

Cockroaches Suffer No Fools

You. I know you. You think you know bugs. After all, you’ve been to summer camp. You’re from an equatorial climate. Your grandma’s house was nasty. There’s no tricks these critters can pull that you havent seen before.

Well. I’m here to tell you, you dont know jack.

Japanese bugs go hardcore – probably because most Japanese buildings lack an insulating layer, and keep their windows open 24/7 in summer – and if you dont go hardcore too, they’ll take over your apartment.

In the city, cockroaches will be your biggest problem. Japanese roaches are smaller than their mainland cousins, but Jesus, are they persistent. They get everywhere. That lack of an insulating layer means they can live right in your drywall and have easy access to your space. Access they’ll readily exploit. My guess is they’re Catholic, too, because they breed like the Good Lord commands. For every one you see in your kitchen, there’s probably 100 more.

But don’t panic! You can fight back. My advice, besides general good hygiene?

Go chemical.

Roach traps are your new best friends; spread liberally around your apartment. And for those truly stubborn nests, there’s always the nuclear option; the dreaded “Varsan.” Absolutely guaranteed to kill anything that walks on more than 2 legs; available now at a drug store near you.

TL;DR – The roaches here don’t play. Treat them with indifference, and they’ll eat you whole. Become the moster they warn their larva about, though, and you may just keep your home your own.

Happy squashing!

13559092_10210005640840703_7524326961065279350_oDave Byrnes is a second year ALT in Kagoshima City.

Welcome to Kagoshima!

ようこそ鹿児島へ!Welcome to Kagoshima!

Kagoshima is the southernmost prefecture in Kyushu. It is home to a majestic volcano, Sakurajima, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The volcano is located in Kagoshima Bay (also known as Kinko Bay). Sakurajima is famous for producing one of the world’s smallest oranges, the komikan, and the world’s largest radishes, the Sakurajima Daikon. Additionally, Kagoshima is full of nature, friendly people, and delicious food.

GeograpSatsunan_Islandshy 

The Prefecture consists of two major peninsulas (Satsuma and Osumi) and about 30 islands. Famous islands include Yakushima (a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site), Tanegashima (home of the Japan Space Program), and Amami Oshima.

Climate 

Kagoshima ranges from temperate to sub-tropical climate. Spring and Autumn are temperate, and there is a short winter. The rainy season in June leads to extremely hot and humid summers. Typhoon season runs from June to October. During winter, the temperature will drop to 0 degrees C (32 degrees F), while the summers reach over 32 degrees C (90 degrees F).

KAGOSHIMA SPECIALTIES

If there is one thing to know about Japan, it is the fact that the Japanese are proud of their regional food and products. Kagoshima is certainly no exception!

Cuisine

Food:     http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4609.html

Kagoshima is famous for black pork, black beef, black chicken, black sugar…. Kagoshima loves its black foods! In Kagoshima, charcoal is often used in cuisine (It is said to cleanse the body of toxins), so you can find black ramen, as well as chicken sumiyaki. Besides the black cuisine, there is Torisashi (yes, raw chicken) and Satsuma Age (fried fish cake). For desert there is the famous Shirokuma (shaved ice, with sweet and condensed milk and fruit) which is decorated to look like a white bear.

Drinks:

Shochu:

If you ask Japanese people to state one fact about Kagoshima, it will be that “Everyone drinks Shochu.” Kagoshima has a specialty shochu that is made with Satsuma Sweet Potatoes. It is a strong liquor  similar to vodka. People often drink it on ice or mixed with water. You can buy it everywhere, and it is often the preferred drink at enkais.

Tea:

Along with shochu, Kagoshima Prefecture is one of the top prefectures that produces green tea. A famous tea is Chiran-cha which comes from Chiran City in Minami Kyushu. Instead of fields of rice, tea covers the countryside.

Crafts: 

There are many specialty crafts available here. Famous products include Satsuma cut glass, Oshima Tsumugi Fabric, and Satsumayaki (pottery). For more information on these products, please explore:

http://www.kagoshima-kankou.com/for/whattodo/craftitems.html

Welcome to Kagoshima! We hope that you will grow to love it as much as we do. This is a beautiful region of the country and we looking forward to seeing you soon. We hope your first few weeks go well and that you quickly become comfortable living here. If you have any questions do not hesitate to e-mail us at kagoshima@ajet.net!

きばいやんせい!(頑張って)

The KAJET Team

Seeing a Doctor: Respiratory Distress

Are you sick? Injured? Dying? Perhaps I can help.

When I arrived to Japan, I had a horrible wheeze and a productive cough. In layman’s terms, I coughed and stuff came out of my lungs. I couldn’t sleep and it made it almost impossible for me to go on runs. Not a good situation to be in. So naturally I saught help with a respiratory doctor in my town.

I’d never been to a Japanese doctor before, and I had my first experience going to a hospital on my own when I was a senior in college and developed a pretty nasty lung infection about a month before I was set to depart for Japan. Before you ridicule, I was and still am a very healthy adult who takes very good care of my body, thank you very much. There was never a need.

THE FIRST THING YOU NEED TO KNOW: when you are sick, you go to a hospital. Unless there is a special clinic, you will hear your colleagues talking about “my child is in the hospital” or “I have to go to the hospital.” Do not be alarmed! It’s the equivalent of “welp, gotta go to the doctor to get this scrape looked at.” Due to the excellent healthcare here, hospital visits are common and thus usually not a time for worrying. I didn’t know that so I was adamant about going to a clinic, but I don’t think it would have made any sort of difference to be honest.

Here is a vocabulary list/timeline of my average experience at the clinic:

  • 内科(ないか): Internal Medicine. This is where I went for my respiratory issues.
  • 受付(うけつけ)Reception Desk. Go to this when you first get here. You put your name on a list and you will be called on a first-come, first-served basis. Avoid peak hours like lunch, and don’t go too close to closing time.
  • 初診です(しょしん)This is my first visit! This is very important, as they will give you a questionnaire to fill out. Bring a dictionary if you are not up to date with medical kanji. It will ask about your symptoms and medications and smoking/drinking habits.
  • 保険証(ほけんじょう)Insurance Card: You will have one from JET. Bring this and give it to the receptionist with your completed survey. Your copay will be cheap, around maybe 1000 yen if even. I got a chest X ray for the equivalent of $11. You don’t pay till you are done so sit tight.
    • 診察券(しんさつけん):Patient ID Card. If you go to a hospital, not a clinic, you may recieve this. It basically acts as a patient ID card for you to use each time you visit.
  • 診察室(しんさつしつ):Medical Exam Room. You will go here to be examined by the doctor. If you were like me, you will get blood drawn by the nurse first. She will also take your height and weight.

From here, vocabulary will vary. Please understand that you will need a functioning conversational level of Japanese from here on out. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms so try to know how to explain them. Worst case: take a JTE or a Japanese speaking friend with you to translate. When in doubt, pointing to an area and saying 「ここが痛い(いたい)」or “This hurts” will help.

So when that was all done and finished:

  • 待合室(まちあいしつ):Waiting Room. Go back out here and wait. If the doctor prescribed you medicine,  you need a prescription sheet from him or the receptionist.
  • 処方箋(しょほうせん):Prescription. After you get the documents for this, THEN you pay. After you pay, you are free to go to the pharmacy.
  • 薬(くすり):Medicine, in its most general term.
  • 薬局(やっきょく):Pharmacy.They are usually quite near to the clinic. Mine was next door. Walk in, give them your prescription, and wait while they fill it. The will then explain what each medicine does.They may even give you a prescription book, which counts as a record for all prescriptions filled at that pharmacy.

And that’s about it. Unless you experience asthma-like symptoms like I apparently did, your situation will probably be a little different. I ended up getting a short term inhaler and all is well now. Anywho, I hope this can help you navigate through your first experience at a Japanese doctor!

Christine Zawlocki is a 2nd year ALT in Kanoya, Kagoshima

My Wednesday at a Senior High School

With the influx of new JETs arriving, I thought it prudent to write my own “A Day in the Life” blog.

As a prefectural ALT, I was assigned to a senior high school a few weeks before I arrived. At first I was nervous. As a fresh college grad, the idea of teaching and working with a group of students so close to my own age was extremely daunting. But as anything in life goes, you have to grab the bull by the horns and just go.

After almost a year working here, I`ve grown to love not only the job but the staff and students as well. I`ve also developed a routine that may vary a bit depending on my class load, but only slightly. I chose a Wednesday to write about because that is usually the most eventful day.

8:30 – Morning Assembly

This happens every week. I get to school, drop my things off on my desk, and hustle down the hall to either the gym or the Kendo hall, where the entire school or separate grades meet respectively. They`ll talk about events, sports, awards, expectations, and do uniform checks. I observe quietly and bow when necessary, which is very often.

8:45- Homeroom, Prep Time

Everyone returns to their desks in the staff room, and the homeroom teachers go to their classes for a short meeting. If I don`t have a class first or second period, I will enjoy a cup of coffee and maybe an okashi that a teacher has brought back from a trip. When I finish, I will have a myriad of things to do. Usually this includes correcting papers for the JTEs, answering their questions, thinking extremely deeply about colloquial English as a result, and planning lessons. Depending on my schedule, I may have a lot of activities to plan.

10:55 Class Time

Usually I have 3rd period classes for some reason. Lately, I`m allowed to teach on my own for anywhere from 20 minutes to the full class period. It all depends on the JTE, the lesson, and even the time of the year. When I first started, I had 1-2 classes per week. Now I have upwards of 10-15.

11:45 Break

Class ends and I return to the staff room. Again, depending on if I have class or not, I will read or study Japanese. Sometimes I will have 10 minutes to get to my next class. It truly does depend. To note further, if it is exam time during that week, I will have the entire day free. I bring books and study materials. They`re essential, and you might as well spend your time productively.

12:45 Lunch. Omiyage Distribution.

Self explanatory. I eat. We all eat, assuming we have time. I have seen teachers go until after 4:30 before they can touch their lunch, though. This is also a popular time for teachers to give omiyage if they are providing for the whole staff. Those are my favorite days. This is also time that the travel agencies bring their pamphlets and business cards around, and when the Nissay lady comes by with snacks and advertisements. Furthermore, there is a little old woman that sells individual yogurts to our staff room.

1:30 Class Time, Probably

Self explanatory. If this is free time, sometimes I will ask a JTE if it is alright if I run to the bank or the post office.

2:20 Cleaning Time

Students and teachers will clean the school for 20 minutes. I am in charge of sweeping the English department and the Math department. 5 other students help me sweep, clear garbage, and clean the sinks. This is supposed to teach everyone discipline and cooperation and the value of caring for your surroundings. During special long cleaning time, students and teachers even change into their athletic clothes to do this (read: WINDBREAKERS and of course I own one). After this, I continue prep or go to class.

4:15 Leaving Time

I never leave at 4:15. Never. On the rare day that I absolutely MUST leave at my scheduled time in order to pick up something or travel, I feel guilty. The Japanese are known for their hard work, and that doesn’t end in the classroom. Teachers get out at 4:50 but many will stay well past 6 or 7. If I have English Club (Tuesday), I will end up leaving at 6:15. However, I usually end the day at 4:30 or 4:40. This week I had a lot of prep to do so I ended up staying till 5:15 for a few days.

Keep in mind that this is not required. There is an understanding that you`re a foreign member of the staff and you are absolutely not required to work overtime, especially since you are not paid for it. If you want to arrive at 8:30 exactly and leave at 4:15 every day, go for it. Just do not be late and do not leave early unless you get explicit permission or want to take nenkyu, or paid leave.

Every situation is different. This will not be your day to a T, as it is uniquely mine. However, I hope this gives you a rough idea of what to expect as a teacher at the senior high school. Good luck!

christine Christine Zawlocki is a 2nd year ALT in Kanoya, Kagoshima

Things to Consider When Recontracting: An Opinion Piece

Post by Aneika Angus, an ALT in Isa.

Reappointment Woes

Hey loves, don’t you just love this time of year, the birds a gearing up to head south for the winter, leaves are changing and temperatures have “shankle dipped” over night to new lows. Yup it’s the season, reappointment season that is. I’ve been talking to a few of you about this over the past few weeks and it seems for some the decision is almost equivalent to being asked to use a basket to carry water. It seems so daunting and you know in your heart,

“This ish aint gonna work.”

Lets first look at your progress thus far; I want you to ask yourself the following questions;

  • What were the expectations you had of being a JET participant prior to coming to Japan?
  • How do those expectations compare to your actual life in Japan?
  • Are you in a position where you are constantly learning something new, or are being challenged to learn and or grow as a person?
  • Will any of what you’ve learnt be usable or adaptable to your life outside of Japan?

We all had a preconceived notion of what life would be like in Japan, some of us even went as far as to set goals for yourself, these are all perfectly natural human reactions to making major changes. But we must evaluate ourselves and our achievements when it comes time to admit that many of the goals we had set have not been achieved.

Now the reality is that many of you may be worried about re-contracting due to various factors:

  • An additional year in Japan could mean a significant setback to jump starting your career, should you choose to forgo teaching when you leave Japan.
  • You’re all “Japan Out”, meaning you’ve been everywhere, seen everything and now are no longer impressed by what the country has to offer.
  • While the money is good, bills back home are being paid etc. You are no longer happy.

The above are just a few of the extensive list I have. But the fact still remains, reappointment is your decision to make, do not pressure yourself into staying in a situation that confines you and makes you unhappy. Remember my loves; you deserve all the happiness that life has to offer. I will not sit here and tell you that life will be better when you return to your country. Chances are you will have to sit on your derrière for 3-6months before you find a job but we’ll get into that aspect in my next blog to you, for now, I want you all to think carefully about this decision.

Here are some Realistic Reasons to Re-contract:

  • You are content with your placement and job requirements
  • You feel that you are making a contribution that has a positive effect on others.
  • You can identify personal and professional growth in yourself.

When considering your options for reappointment, be wary of deceptive rationalizations such as:

  • I’ll save money next year.
  • I’ll learn Japanese if I stay

Unless there is a radical change in your life, chances are your life in Japan will not change dramatically if you were to choose to re-constract, this is empirically proven for third and fourth year JETs.

Realistic Reasons NOT to RE-CONTRACT:

  • Procrastination – putting off a hard decision, such as going back to school, or going home to face unresolved issues with family etc.
  • Money – staying on JET for the sole purpose of collecting a cheque.
  • Obligations – Persons within your BOE or CO have become familiar with you and they may pressure you into staying.
  • Indifference – its neither here nor there to you at this point, plus you’re a foreigner and you love the attention you get.

Happy thinking loves and remember, sometimes we have to let go of the life we have planned to embrace the one that’s waiting for us.