Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Warning: This Post Contains Girly Discussion of Feelings

I'm feeling a little nostalgic and homesick for my old friends now, after reading my friend Arika's latest post on her Mega Geeks Inc blog. Before I came to Japan, my life revolved around school and making costumes. Arika is a fellow cosplayer- we have traveled together, been on stage together, and costumed together. If you're not a cosplayer, it might be hard to grasp that kind of bond. Let me put it this way:

Making a costume for a competition can be a huge project. It takes months of time, lots of money, and leads to many sleepless nights. Then there's Con Week, the week before the convention when all the unfinished projects have to get finished, when the unorganized cosplayer finds herself hunched over a hot glue gun, adding those last painstaking details at 4 AM the night before the con. Needless to say, this experience doesn't bring out the best in anyone's personality; Con Week can be a time of stress, mental breakdowns and frustration. Then there's the travel, the con, the competition itself- the disappointment of losing or the joy of coming in Best in Show.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Very Otaku Weekend in Tokyo

Zieg Zion!
My friend from college and fellow Japanophile Kenna recently arrived in Japan to do a study abroad program at Waseda University. Waseda is a good school, located in central Tokyo, where I'm sure she's going to have an amazing year studying the Japanese language and culture.

I took advantage of the three day weekend and went down to see her and our mutual friend Megumi, aka Hio. On Friday we had tsukemen for lunch (ramen noodles which you dip in broth), then headed out to the neighborhood of Mitaka to see the Ghibli Museum. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dancin in the streets! Johzenji Jazz Fest

The weekend before last (Sept. 10th and 11th) was Sendai's Johzenji Jazz Festival. It had the misfortune this year of falling on both the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the 6 month anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake. There was a somber but hopeful mood at some of the events, with performers speaking in remembrance of the tragedies and looking forward to the future. But for the most part, the festival felt very optimistic and fun and it was a good chance for us to get out and enjoy some good music.

My favorite thing about the Jazz Fest is the way it spreads itself all over downtown, so that no matter where you go you're bound to run into some free concerts. Also the variety is great, with everything from blues to jazz to classical. Here are some of the highlights:

Delighted Groovers, gettin' their groove on in the station.
The manager of my school is a member of a gospel group, so I went to see their performance inside Sendai Station. They performed up on the balcony overlooking the main ticket gate in front of a fairly big crowd of onlookers. Some of the songs they performed included Amazing Grace and Oh Happy Day. They were great! (And now I can never go to karaoke with my manager again, for shame of my not-so-lovely singing voice.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life As an Eikaiwa Sensei

I realized that in the past year and a half that I've been living in Japan, I still haven't done any posts about what I actually do here, which is teach English. I work for a very small private conversation school, called an eikaiwa (英会話) in Japanese. My school has a little under a hundred students and two locations. I work with one other full-time teacher and one part-time teacher who are both Japanese and speak English fluently. 

So a typical week for me is something like this: in the mornings I teach at youchien (幼稚園), or a Japanese kindergarten. Youchien are really different from the American concept of kindergarten. They're private or public schools with three grades, nensho, nenchuu and nenchou, and many of them also have day care services for younger children. The kids learn lots of pre-school subjects, including reading and writing, English, sports, etc. They also participate in special events during the year, like the sports festival in the fall and the happyoukai (発表会), school play, in the winter. I see most of my kindergarten students about once every one or two weeks.

Last year's Happyoukai included a Yoshi dance. Could these kids possibly be any more awesome?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Manga Recommendations!

I love Japanese manga. Admittedly I don't read it as much these days as I used to, but I still pick up a new series every so often when I have time. Living in Japan certainly makes that easier, with great stores like Book Off, where I can buy used copies for as little as 100 yen ($1). So here are some of my all-time favorite series, as well as a couple lesser-known titles for those of you who are already well-read manga fans.

Revolutionary Girl Utena - by Chiho Saito (少女革命ウテナ). This might actually be my favorite manga ever, although that's a pretty tough decision to make. Basically, it's about a girl named Utena who comes to a private school where the student council members duel each other to possess the Rose Bride, a mysterious girl named Anthy. Which sounds like a pretty weird story, and it is-- but there's a lot more to it than that. It's a really great fantasy take on adolescence and coming of age, with beautiful artwork and storytelling by Saito. There is also an anime series and movie, each of which have a story that's pretty different from the manga. The manga story-line is the best in my opinion, with the movie coming in second and the anime (which is kinda crazy) last.