Monday, January 29, 2007

Back to School

So all of last week I was once again back at elementary school doing my thing for the young generation. Basically what happens is that I get called in to do a tour of duty of all the 1st - 6th grade classes at one of the local elementary schools. Last time I did it at Seikadai Elementary but this time I went to Kawanishi Elementary.

Its actually really fun for me to go to the schools as I am asked to do a “International Understanding” lesson for the kids. What this entails is me giving a self introduction about myself and where I come from. Then depending on the age of the kids I will talk about different themes. For instance with the 1st and 2nd graders I just talk to them about the difference between American and Japanese elementary schools. But with the 5th and 6th graders I usually try to give them a little inspiration about the importance of learning a foreign language. The older students are a pretty tough crowd but the young ones (up through 4th grade) are all pretty excited to talk to me and usually have a million questions. I also try to play different games with them like “Heads Up 7 Up”, or “Simon Says.”

This time on Friday which was my last day at the school I came dressed casually so that I could join the kids for games during recess. Japanese kids love dodgeball and since I used to play almost everyday when I was in elementary I was really excited to play again. Of course I was playing with 3rd graders so I had to ease off on the speed of my throws but actually some of the kids were throwing harder than I was. The funniest thing was when I pegged one kid with the ball and he screamed out, “Arigatou!!!” (Thank You!) I guess it was like an honor or a merit badge to get hit by the foreign teacher during dodgeball!? Anyways, while its tons of fun to hang out with the kids, I can’t even begin to imagine how tiring it would be to be a full time teacher and have to deal with the kids all day everyday. You really have to respect a public school teacher for what they deal with on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spreading the Word

Well I am back in the newspaper again! But don’t worry its all good news. Last week I was interviewed by Mr. Ryota Oshima of the Asahi Shimbun (“Japan’s Leading Newspaper”) about this blog site that I am writing as the Coordinator for International Relations in Seika Town.

We talked about how I got interested in Japan and how long I have been studying Japanese. Mr. Oshima also asked me what are my goals for writing this blog. Since my main goal is to publicize the attributes and qualities of Seika Town and to try to raise awareness about the events and programs that are happening in Seika getting an interview with a large and widely read newspaper like the Asahi Shimbun is a great help.

I hope that people living in Japan will read this article and check out the blog and then come down to Seika and see our beautiful town for themselves. Even better would be if people living around the world can read this blog and gain interest in Japan and Seika Town.

Thanks again to Mr. Oshima from the Asahi Shimbun for the interview and helping the spread the word about Seika Town.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Igomori Festival

The Igomori Festival is an ancient ritual in Seika Town which started as a means of driving off evil spirits which haunted the residents of an old local village. The festival lasts three days but the highlight is on the second night when a huge torch made of young bamboo trees roughly 15 feet long and weighing about 150 pounds is set ablaze in the shrine and carried through the streets. To add to the festivities food stalls and games are set up in front of the shrine and local residents come out to watch the event and enjoy the atmosphere.

As the torch is first lit inside of the shrine in a small building with a low ceiling I was pretty nervous that the whole place was going to catch on fire. Everyone assured me that it would be fine and since they have been doing this festival for a long time in the same place I figured it must be tried and true. In the end everything was fine but when the bonfire was set to light the torch the flames were reaching about 8 feet high and virtually licking the ceiling of the small structure. This is one thing that I love about Japan; often festivals such as this one are technically quite dangerous but since its tradition they carry on regardless of the apparent danger. I think if it was America festivals like this would be shut down by a flock of frantic lawyers and safety officials. After all, a little danger makes for excitement and fun right?!