Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'll be home for Christmas...if only via webcam.


Merry Christmas from Japan!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hair cut!

Went and got my hair cut today. This after weeks of gathering the courage and looking up hair related vocabulary. I didn't have a spectacular experience last time at what is essentially the Japanese version of Great Clips so I decided to try for the place next to my house the Hair Stage. A little old lady who has gotten me wet on more than one occasion while she washes her front sidewalk in the morning worked on me. I asked for a "edage kitte" (cut off the dead ends or trim) but to put in some layers and I emphasized over and over that I wanted it long.

We had a little trouble communicating but I had explained at the beginning that I didn't really speak Japanese. This sets everyone's expectations very low so when I was able to chat with her, she was impressed. (So was I, frankly.) But my vocab search didn't extend quite far enough so when she was trying to ask me about how I wanted the layers done I had no idea what she was saying. She eventually just said, "eh, we'll try it." What we were trying I don't know! I'm still not sure exactly what I got because after she and another lady dried it, they put curlers in. I now have cascading curls down my back that look quite nice. No way it will ever look like this again anytime soon but I feel like I should go out tonight since my hair looks so good.

And it wouldn't be a trip to the salon unless the hairstylist commented at least once on how much hair I have. I couldn't explain in Japanese that I actually used to have more hair but this always shocks the stylists in the US. Quite a bit fell out when I lived in France and it's never come back in. It freaked me out at the time but it turned out to be a good thing. This lady added that I also had a small face, which I think is supposed to be a compliment. They also liked the little curls around my ears (I do too.)


The best part was that it was only 3500 yen or about $35! I kept telling myself while they were curling my hair that it was Christmas and it was okay to splurge, thinking it was going to be expensive. But 3500 yen? That's awesome. Now that I know that it's cheap and I can get by with my Japanese I won't be so nervous to go the next time. Add that to the list of "one more thing that should be easy but isn't because I live in a foreign country but I have finally managed on my own." Hurray!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let it Snow

On the first snow of the year my mom always calls up my grandma and before she can even say much more than hello, my mom launches into a rendition of the song "Let it snow." When I moved out I used to do the same thing to her. Except now I don't really get snow in Tahara. Sometimes a few flurries will swirl around but nothing ever sticks. And we never get snow like they are getting back home this week.

So the only way I was getting any snow was of the symbolic kind, so when we went to Maeda-sensei's house for a calligraphy lesson two weeks ago, I chose the word yuki to write. The top half written by itself means "rain." The bottom half changes it to "snow."

I liked writing this kanji. This one, like "mother" last time, is a beginner kanji so there weren't too many strokes. But Maeda-sensei for some reason also wanted me to write it in hirigana ゆき but the first character ゆ proved to be really difficult. I won't even post my results because it was really that bad. Afterwards, we had tea and cookies and chatted about the upcoming winter vacation. It was another relaxing Saturday afternoon calligraphy lesson.



Friday, December 18, 2009


I went to two bonenkais (end of the year parties) this week. Thursday night was the Board of Education enkai which I was dreading. And last night was the choir enkai which I was only slightly dreading. I'm not really a party person and I'm really not one when I don't speak the language but both parties went better than I had expected.

The part that gives me the most stress is the seating. Unless it's a small group you aren't allowed to sit where you want. You have to draw a number and sit at that seat. I'm always afraid I'm going to be sitting next to someone who won't bother to try and speak English or at least speak slowly in Japanese. I got lucky both nights and had people who were both friendly and willing to slow down for me.

The good thing about the assigned seating is that after the opening speech and the kanpai (cheers) you can get up and move around. People crawl around on their knees and pour drinks for other people and chat. Actually you're really not supposed to pour your own drink. If you want some more to drink then you pick up the beer/sake/tea and pour for your neighbor and then they will hopefully return the favor.

I didn't really drink Thursday night because I had work the next morning and I didn't feel like a hangover. Besides, I'm not a big beer or sake drinker. I did drink a little though just because there is a lot of pressure to drink. I drank more last night not only because it was Friday but because one of the choir members makes his own red wine and brought some along. Wine is my drink of choice so I had to have some. Besides it's weird to get plastered in front of your boss, it's not weird to be tipsy in front of the choir members.

At the choir enkai we also played bingo and got to pick out presents. I got a basket with some candy. The woman sitting next to me also gave me a book of photography published by her husband. It has some beautiful pictures of the beaches in Tahara and it's so I can remember Tahara when I leave next summer. We had a nijikai (second party after the first one disperses) at the local karaoke place. Almost everyone at the first came to the second and we got down with some jpop, anime theme songs, enka, and my few additions of English songs. This is why I haven't quit yet. Because I really did have fun last night.

But I am glad that I am done with bonenkais for the season...possibly forever. I will miss having enkai style dinners. The tatami rooms are gorgeous and the food is usually delicious (I chowed down both nights!) But I won't miss all the drunkenness and awkwardness of not knowing enough Japanese to sustain conversation for three or four hours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas!

December is nice because not only do I get a two week break for the holidays but my lesson planning requires very little thought. I teach about the differences between Christmas in America and Japan and the students are very surprised to learn that we don't eat Christmas cake or KFC and everyone from children to grandparents get presents. Then we make Christmas cards or some other sort of craft and end with We Wish You A Merry Christmas. This has been successful for the last three years and this year was made even better by the addition of a 300 yen Santa suit I found at the 100 yen shop.

Christmas quiz!

Exchanging cards.

Merry Christmas from the 4th grade!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Three weeks ago I met my friend C in Shimoda for the weekend. We chose it because it was close to Tokyo (where she lives) and is on the coast. It's not on any must see list of Japan but it notable in that it's the port where Commodore Perry arrived in 1855 with his eight black ships and "suggested" that it would be nice if Japan were to end its self enforced isolation and trade with the US. (A few cannonballs convinced the Japanese that it would be wise to comply.) And so Japan was opened.

What the Lonely Planet Guide does not tell you, however, is that there are TWO Shimodas in Japan. And the one where we were headed does not have a very easily identified train station name. I knew that I needed to go to Izukyu-Shimoda because I was the one who poked around on the internet and booked our hotel. C is a trainee lawyer in an international firm and frequently works until 10pm so she didn't really have the time to do any research. We found out though when she ended up north of Sendai, hours away from where she wanted to be. By the time she realized her mistake there were no more trains back to Tokyo, let alone Izukyu-Shimoda. So I spent the first night and morning alone.

But after that small hiccup, we had a lovely trip. We took a cable car ride up for some views of the bay and the Pacific. We rode on a poor imitation of a Black Ship. And we visited a local onsen (a first for C.) Sunday, we hiked along the beach and wandered around town before heading back. We talked so much on the train back that I left my bag on the overhead rack when we got off. I was almost on the shinkansen back to Nagoya when I realized I was sans suitcase. I had to sprint back to the other train, which luckily was a local and hadn't left again yet.

Our plan was to meet again before Christmas but it looks like the only way that is going to happen is if I steal up to Tokyo and hang out in the afternoon by myself while she works on yet another deadline. Makes me glad I'm not a lawyer!



Small island with a shrine and a few fishermen.

Perry Road - named in honor of Commodore Perry

Tourist gimmick that we totally bought into.

Temple where the US and Japan signed their first treaty.

How Japan "really" felt about the US. (Actually they held a sumo contest in honor of signing the treaty.)