The school year in Japan is soon coming to an end. I originally wanted to write a card for every student I knew who was graduating, but immediately realized I would probably run out of ink in all my pens before I could finish. So, I decided to write a somewhat generic message to all the students.
Dear Students of (my high school),
It’s time to say farewell, but I have few last things I want to say.
It seems like just yesterday that I introduced myself to you. “Hello everyone, my name is Alice and I love to eat, especially takoyaki.” Now, many of you will be graduating and going to university. Time flies!
Each one of you has amazed me every day with your brilliance and perseverance to learn English with me. I often joke asking, “Is your favorite thing to do learning English with Alice?” I hope so! I know it wasn’t easy, but I am proud of all of you for fighting through my challenging lessons.
I have one last phrase of the week for you.
Did you know that the world is your oyster?
I hope you said yes! It means you are free to do whatever you want in this world. この世界になんでもやりたいことができる. You can do anything and everything you want to do. Work hard, set goals and find your pearl!
Lastly, I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for another amazing year with you all. While I do stand in front of the classroom, like the lady in charge, I have learned many wonderful lessons from all of you. Thank you for being not only my students, but also my teachers.
After a 2 week-long vacation, I finally came back to work on January 10th.
My coworkers asked that I give my students a lesson regarding winter break or about the new year. Typical. Right?
I wanted to do something..something other than a plain worksheet printed off the internet..something that could have some impact on their new year. Something that the students could enjoy while doing this activity forced upon them.
Normally, to begin class, I would introduce a phrase of the week to my students. But, this time, I wanted to switch it up. I told my students that it was their turn to choose. I asked them to pick a word for 2017. One word. Any word. It had to be something that would represent their goals or focus for 2017.
Honestly, that would be too broad of a task for my students. If I gave no guidance, I am sure they would open their dictionaries and just choose a random word. So, I started by teaching them about what a New Year’s resolution was. How would you like to change your life this year? I told them the popular ones like losing weight or trying to eat healthier. They could use those if they wanted to. The choice was all up to them.
I gave them these prompts to help them think:
This year, I want to …
This year, I hope to…
They all had different resolutions surprisingly. I am glad that they were finally thinking about it themselves.
Then, I asked them to hone in on their resolution. Focus on one word or think of one word that represents their entire resolution. My students came up with some interesting ones.
Then, they asked me what my Word for 2017 was going to be. I had to think on the spot. Silly me didn’t prepare anything. I just thought to myself, “Oh, this could be a fun lesson for my students!”
I first had to think about what I wanted for 2017. How will I change my life this year? Since this is my 2nd year in Tokyo, I decided that I wanted to go out and experience more. I want to try new things. I want to go to new places. I want to eat everything and anything that catches my eye. I wanted to get out of this slump I had fallen into since I have moved to Japan.
That was it.
My word for 2017 will be experience.
It is a very broad term and it can encompass quite a lot of things into just one word. I hope that 2017 will bring many more new experiences to me and I hope to find myself getting out of my comfort zone to experience what Japan has to offer while I am here.
To be honest, I’ve had this word in my head for a while. I never thought to make it my word for 2017. When I visited my Japanese family during winter break, they kept saying this one word to me in Japanese. With our limited knowledge of both the Japanese and English language, we struggled to exactly define what it meant. It wasn’t til I returned to Tokyo and looked the word up.
Its been a while since I’ve written a blog post.. Mostly because I am just uninspired and lazy. Partially because I forgot I had a blog.
Well~~~~ I’m back and I’ve got some photos from Tsukiji I want to share! I can’t believe it was my first time to come here even though I have lived in Tokyo over a year… Fail.
So getting there isn’t too bad. Since it is in Tokyo and it is a tourist attraction, there are going to be tons of signs in English as well as Japanese. I took the train to Tsukiji station and just followed the signs to “Tsukiji Market”. To be honest, just follow the crowds…. everyone else is also headed there to buy fresh seafood or stuff their faces like me!
So I don’t know if this is like an entrance.. but it was where all the people were going so.. LET’S GO! It was so crowded.. I went at around 11 AM on a Wednesday morning (12/28) but I feel like it is part of the experience of Tsukiji outer market. I am sure you can plan your way through the many many stalls, but the easiest way to tackle this is to just go forth and let your eyes guide you. See what you like.. Stop.. Eat.. and keep going.
You will find stalls with everything. From vegetables like fresh wasabi roots to fresh live seafood. Since it is almost New Year’s in Japan, we saw a lot of stalls with “Katsunoko” aka Herring Roe. It is a popular side dish for Osechi, New Year’s meal in Japan.
First stop, we found a stand with oysters and scallops. We got two fresh raw oysters, a grilled butter scallop, and of course some steamed oysters too. They were huge! Yummy!
Just keep walking.. Follow the crowds.. Let your eyes guide you. Trust me. If you go in circles…well … I hope you don’t. haha
Next stop: Sweet tamagoyaki on a stick. They are 100 yen/ stick so about $1 ish. I will warn you, these are sweet. They are SO fluffy and best eaten warm. They also have a side area where you can buy full tamagoyakis to take home and eat with your family. I highly suggest just waiting in line for the sticks. The line for this place was long but it moves quickly. Just go up to the cashier when it is your turn and say how many sticks you want. I wish I got more!!!!
It was crowded anywhere you went but just keep moving and look for more snacks!
Ever go on YouTube to watch videos of a place before you go there? Well…I did that for Tsukiji because I didn’t know what to expect. Every video I had watched had this stall. I was desperately searching for it and I’m glad my nose picked up the scent of the buttery uni and hotate(scallop) They are a bit pricey.. But look at all that uni that gets piled on top!!
To the left of the uni/scallop sticks stand is a “kani miso” stand. I guess kani miso is like the gizzards/brains of the crab? It is definitely something you have to get used to if it is your first time trying it. It has a briny taste.. I grew up on it so I had to get one. But.. 700 yen for one was a bit much.. They were first steamed and blow-toarched.
These 3 are actually all like together. So first, get the scallop with uni, kani miso, then get some fresh uni straight from its shell. They had a variety of uni to choose from. They had some from Russia some from Hokkaido. Dam.. they were pricey though. I wish I didn’t spend 1500 yen ~$15 USD…but YOLO. I just had to try it.
So… Tsukiji is mostly a fish/seafood market but there are fruit and vegetable stands as well as sweets stands!
Time for some Strawberry Daifuku and white strawberries! Have you ever had a white strawberry? I had never seen them til I came to Japan…but omg they are so much sweeter!!
Lastly, there are tons of shops with kitchenware and knives.. Be careful you will be searching and have the hardest time choosing which to get.. BUY THEM ALL!!!
So.. I am sad I didn’t eat any kaisendon or magurodon or unidon or sushi (~~don=rice bowl)
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
It’s been (over) a year in Tokyo. My dream to live in Japan has not only come true, but also been one of my most memorable years in my 23 years of being alive.
Can you believe it? It went by so quickly!
To be honest, I felt like I haven’t done much during my time in Japan. Yet everyone keeps telling me that I’ve done sooooooo much. Let’s see…So far, I have eaten lots of sushi, ramen, and yakiniku. I have traveled to several prefectures such as Okinawa and Hokkaido. I have been to Tokyo Disney enough times that I might as well just get an Annual Passport. I have met dozens of new people, both Japanese and foreigners. I have done so many things during my free time, but most of the time, I have been teaching hundreds of high school students English and about American culture.
I definitely have milked all the free time I have to explore and enjoy Japan. Hopefully I will continue to blog more about my adventures and travels. BUT…I do also want to do more. I’m not referring just to more adventures. I’m talking about doing more with my job.
This next year under JET, I hope to be a better ALT for my students. The school I teach at is very relaxed and the work we do as ALTs is, to be completely honest, really not that much. Since my school does trust me (I think?), I would like to incorporate new teaching techniques and experiences for students. I am not the main teacher in my classes, but some teachers do allow me to have freedom in how I teach the textbook material. While most teachers rarely use technology in the classroom, I would like to incorporate PowerPoint slides and games like jeopardy. I am also adding new learning experiences for those who want to learn more about American culture or English outside of the classroom.
My ideas for this next year include:
using more visuals such as photos and YouTube clips
not being afraid to speak only in English to students who look puzzled
not using the excuse of “they don’t understand me anyways” when introducing new topics
engaging students inside and out of the classrooms
having a mailbox for students to drop messages, questions, comments, or feedback
introducing an aspect of American culture or an English phrase that they won’t learn about in textbooks at the start of class every week in the form of fact cards
having English “open hour” during lunch two times a week where students can hang out, eat, and chat in English with me
watching a movie in English with popcorn and pizza once a month
and many more!
I’m constantly looking for new ideas to try and see how they work in my classes. If you have any ideas, please share with me!
Now before I begin, I must say I’m actually no hanabi expert… I am just sharing from the two times I have gone this summer 🙂 I went to the Yokohama and the Edogawa fireworks shows. Both were unique in their own ways. Yokohama had unique designs like smiley faces and hearts. Edogawa had bigger and brighter bouts of fireworks. I highly suggest you check our your local fireworks shows if you can!
I made a quick entry in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It is a bit hard to read so I wrote everything out below in detail! If you like these kinds of scrapbooking type journal entries, check out my crafty IG @craftyinwonderland :]
What is hanabi? Hanabi translates to “fireworks.” During the summer holidays of July and August, cities around Japan host firework shows that are way bigger and brighter than the ones you may be used to in your home country. (This was true at least compared to my home country of USA.) People come dressed in their summer yukatas and wait patiently on their mats for the show to begin.
Japanese fireworkds are crazy! They have all kinds of unique designs and they are not afraid to go big. Best of all, it is free! But, there is a catch.
You must first battle the heat of Japan’s summer and the crowds. Once you get past it all, it is truly an amaing summer experience with friends and family.
Here are some tips I want to share with you to make your future hanabi experience more enjoyable.
Prepare yourself for crowds stampedes. They will be lots of people there no matter what. Even if you think you are arriving early, there are always going to be people who arrive earlier than you. There may be thousands of people at the same fireworks show you are planning to go to. Just remember to stay calm. Japanese people don’t normally push. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do.
Reserve your spot early in the morning. All the pro-hanabi spectators know to show up early and put down a tarp/mat with their name on it. This is actually the normal ting to do in Japan. You will see people show up at 10 am and leave just a mat (sometimes with their name taped on) in a specific area. They come back later in the day and no one will have taken their spot. Trust me on this one. It is worth doing for big groups!
Dress code: Yukata. lol kidding. Not everyone will show up wearing their yukata, but it is what many people will come dressed in. If you happen to just have a yukata, hanabi season is the perfect time to break it out and get your money’s worth. You will blend in and everyone will see your beautiful yukata designs.
Arrive early. If you haven’t already reserved a spot, you’ll want to arrive early so that you can at least find a place to sit and watch the fireworks show. If you have already reserved a spot, you’ll still want to arrive early because the late stragglers will be crowding around the back and it is harder to get past them when you arrive late. I’ve learned this the hard way. PLUS, you’ll want to arrive early because the trains start to get delayed even 3 hours before the show begins. Sometimes trains are even stopped. The earlier you arrive, the more pleasant your experience will be.
Buy food and drinks ahead of time. There are going to be food and drink stalls obviously by the viewing areas, but the lines are insanely long! My friends decided to wait until they got to the viewing area and ended up in line for sausages for an hour…while I enjoyed my futomaki and yakisoba on the mat that we had reserved earlier in the morning. However, if waiting in long lines is your hobby, by all means, don’t let me tell stop you. (:
Don’t forget to bring enough plastic bags or trash bags. After all the food and snacks you eat, you have to collect your trash and bring it to designated areas. We must do as the Japanese do. There aren’t usually public trashcans around Japan, so they just carry their trash around until they find an appropriate place to throw away their trash. Please don’t litter. It is very rude. Plus the fireworks show is all free, we must do our part in cleaning up our mess.
Fireworks iPhone photography protip: If you have an iPhone, you can actually shoot video and take photos at the same time! This has been the best method I accidentally discovered when I was playing around with my iPhone camera. How to: Start recording video of the fireworks. There will be another button that will allow you to take snapshots while recording. This method has worked so well for me because you don’t have to keep tapping your screen to focus or adjust the white balance. I have shared this tip with all my friends so far, and they have told me it works! The only problem is you have to have enough memory on your phone to save both the videos and photos. hehe.
Well, these are all the tips I can think of to make your next hanabi experiences more enjoyable!
Here is a link to the top 20 hanabi viewings in Japan! Hope this all helps!
If you didn’t already know, I love traveling and exploring new places. So when a family friend asked what I wanted to do on our day off, I asked if we could explore the tiny island of Enoshima.
Ever since coming to Japan, I have developed a weird obsession with manhole covers. I always post them on my Instagram (@travelsinwonderland) with the hashtag #おすいinwonderland When I found so many in Enoshima, I knew it was going to be a great trip!
Enoshima is about 1 hour away from Tokyo Station. I live about 30 minutes away from central Tokyo, so it took me 1 hour and a half. It cost me about 1220 yen ($12 USD) one way and 3 trains later, I had arrived at Katase- Enoshima Station.
Here is the route that I took. I love how easy it is to navigate around Japan using public transportation.
This is right outside of Katase-Enoshima Station. It was a bit gloomy the day I went. Okay.. I admit.. I took this photo of the station as I was heading home at around 5:30 pm ish.. (:
From this station, just follow the crowds.. This usually works.. But my friend had one place in mind that she wanted to take me for lunch. The restaurant was a Japanese style Italian restaurant called Il Chianti. They had all kinds of pizzas and pastas and wines, but we decided to order the specialty of Enoshima: Shirasu pizza. Shirasu are baby sardines that are popular in Enoshima. The taste of the shirasu pizza was not fishy at all. Actually, I didn’t notice the taste of the shirasu while I consumed almost half the pizza. To be safe, we also ordered a more familiar type of pizza: Prosciutto with arugala. Oh, and we started with some garlic clams. Omg, it was so garlic-y and so delicious. I just wish they had served some baguette or something on the side to soak up all the garlic sauce.
Bridge to Enoshima
Beach along the right side of the bridge where locals have BBQs and Jet Ski
After lunch, we went to explore the island of Enoshima. There are two ways to get to the island: Walking across the bridge or catching a ferry ride to the island. The ferry ride is 400 yen (~$4). We had just finished a huge, filling lunch, so we decided walk it off.
Once you cross the bridge, about 5 minutes, you reach the Torii. Usually toriis are red and made of wood, but the torii in Enoshima is actually made of bronze and has a green color now.
I’m no Enoshima expert, but what I did was follow the crowd. Oddly, we kept climbing uphill. Everywhere we went was all uphill. P.S. If you do come and check out Enoshima, bring lots of sunblock.. or protective sun gear! 🙂
After climbing up many stairs, we decided we were done climbing up stairs in the heat. Ha! Luckily, Enoshima island is smart and built escalators for the lazy people like me! All you have to pay is 1000 yen (~$10) and it is an all day pass to ride all the escalators AND gives you entry to many attractions like gardens and the Sea Candle (aka Enoshima Tower).
Once you climb up about 3 escalators, you finally reach the shrines! Purify yourself with the water at this fountain. Then, it is time to collect all the small change you got in the bottom of your bag and pray! Toss some yen in, bow twice, clap twice and end with one final deep bow… Now, just hope your wishes all come true! Be careful though, Enoshima is a “love” or “couples” island.. I accidentally almost prayed at a couples/love shrine.. I don’t even have a boyfriend.. lol jokes on me for not reading the signs.
From here, my phone’s memory space was low..because #aliceproblems so many things I saw were missing..
Next, we made it to the Sea Candle! I love love love going up towers. The views are always my favorite and luckily I have no fear of heights! The Sea Candle isn’t really too high.. It is only 59.8 M tall and 119.6 M above sea level. Baby tower size! If you got the Eno Pass, it is included! Take the elevator up, and it will take you to a viewing room that is indoors. Look for the rooftop stairs that will take you up a little higher with unobstructed views and a cool ocean breeze. If you do go to Enoshima in the summer, it is nice to just enjoy the cool refreshing breeze and relax before heading down.
View of Enoshima’s shops and restaurants
Stairs to the rooftop of Sea Candle
View from inside the Sea Candle
The Sea Candle
On the rooftop of the Sea Candle
After the Sea Candle, its time to hike back down after “climbing” up so many flights escalators. Here you will find many freshly caught seafood restaurants and tiny shops selling gifts to bring back to your friends and family. I wish we could have stopped for some fresh seafood, but we were all so full still! Darn it.
Soon, you’ll reach the opposite edge of the island where you will find tide pools with many families trying to catch tiny fish and crabs.
There are two “caves” in Enoshima. It was nice to go inside because it stays cool during the summer and warm during the winters. There is an entry fee, but if you have the Eno Pass it is included as well. In cave 1, people come to see the birthplace of Enoshima shrine and pray.
In cave two, you can make a wish to the dragon and read more about why Enoshima is also known as a love island. When you reach the dragon, make a wish! If the light flashes twice, it means your wish will come true. Lucky for me, my wish will come true! I hope.. haha.
It’s finally time to go home!!! Boy, today was a long and hot day. I got sunburnt but had a great time. Since we were all exhausted from exploring and walking around all day, we decided to take the ferry back. It cost 400 yen and was a very short ride, about 7 minutes. In the ferry, you’ll see many jet skis whizzing past you doing all kinds of crazy things you wish you were doing.
Did I mention how there were many Hawaiian things in Enoshima? There’s even the popular Eggs N Things there! The lines were insane.. So, before catching the train back to Tokyo, we cooled off and relaxed at Aloha Table with refreshing, fresh watermelon juice and Black Salt soft serve. Both, I highly recommend if they are both still there!
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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
And, of course I can’t explore anywhere without getting souvenirs for myself. I love Hello Kitty, so I always collect the gotochi items they have for every city in Japan. (:
FINALLY, it was time to go home. There are two wants to get back to Tokyo. You can take the cheaper route and ride the local trains from the station to Tokyo, or you can take the Odakyu Limited Express Romance Car for an extra 620 yen. You will ride a special express train direct to Shinjuku where there is free wifi onboard, food and drink available for purchase in the carts, and comfortable, reserved seats.
I hope you will be able to explore Enoshima some day!
“How did you move to Japan so quickly after graduating university?”
When I told people, “oh, I’m moving to Japan in like 2 months,” they mostly replied with, “huh?”
Moving to Japan wasn’t a completely spontaneous decision. The idea actually came to mind in November of 2014 while I was completing my senior year in university. I was taking a Japanese language class for fun because I had the extra time and credits and thought it would be a good idea to brush up on my Japanese. It was by far one of my most favorite classes in university because the teacher was amazing and I was able to relearn all the Japanese I had lost growing up.
Because I was enrolled in the Japanese class, there were a bunch of Japanese related university emails. Usually I would just click “archive” in my gmail inbox and move on. But I was bored on my way to school on the train one day and read through the email. I’m so glad I did. That was when I found out they had informed every Japanese language student that there was an opportunity to move to Japan and teach English. The time I had to make my decision and apply was very short. I had to make my mind up quickly. Should I apply and just hope I get this position? I don’t know, I don’t have any other jobs I’ve applied to yet. Should I be looking for better jobs in America?
Hmm.. I thought so much about this opportunity. I knew I would absolutely love to live in Japan. I knew I could teach English with my eduction background. I knew this would literally be the perfect opportunity for me to live in Japan and have a job straight out of college. I knew it was perfect for me.
I applied after thinking about it for a week. I scrambled to get recommendation letters, transcripts, and permission from my parents. I knew my parents would support me no matter what, but I wasn’t too sure if they would allow me to move to another country around the world to work in a country where I only kind of barely speak the language.
The wait killed me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a job when I graduate. I wasn’t sure if I should start applying for jobs before I graduate. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach in the American school system. I left my future completely in the hands of those in charge of accepting and rejecting applicants to the JET Programme. Luckily, they liked me!
This is an old photo of a journal entry I had made in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook.
Mar 30, 2015: I was accepted into the JET Programme.
May 26, 2015: I found out I was placed in the dream place of many, Tokyo, Japan.
I moved to Japan under the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). They are a very well known and respected “program” in Japan that hires college graduates to come teach in Japan’s public schools: elementary, middle, and even high school. There are thousands of JETs (people working under the JET Programme) placed everywhere in Japan, including all major cities and all of the tiny islands.
In August of 2015, I moved from America to Japan with 2 big Rimowa suitcases, 1 carry on Tumi suitcase, and a Jansport backpack. I entered the Land of the Rising Sun under an “Instructor” visa. I had just turned 22 and had just graduated from university less than 2 months ago.
Wow. So young right? Meh.
K, let’s get back to the original question. “Why Japan?”
When I was younger, I used to always be most excited for spring vacation. It was the shortest vacation out of the 3 main ones, winter, spring, and summer, but it was still my most favorite.
Basically because it was when I would go to Japan with my family. It was when I could eat all the amazing Japanese foods that Japan has to offer. It was when I could go see my grandma and aunts and uncles living in Japan. It was when I could shop for all the Hello Kitty and Sanrio items I couldn’t find in America. It was when I could wander through stationery stores to buy the newest pens and pencils to bring back and share with my friends. It was when I could find drink vending machines on every corner to get my hot Royal Milk Tea fix. It was when I could not worry about anything and feel safe in the country of Japan.
I chose Japan because it is most comfortable for me. It is nostalgic. I wanted to live in a country where I will be immersed in the culture that I grew up in while learning new things about my Japanese heritage. I wanted to live in a country where I would be on my own, but also have support from family if I really needed it. I wanted to be able to eat sushi that wouldn’t give me food poisoning and ramen at 5 in the morning.
Now do you get why I love Japan? If you don’t, I think you just need to visit Japan and see for yourself. I’ll take you around if you need a tour guide. Maybe you won’t like it here. Maybe you’ll fall in love with it like I did.
And these are the reasons why I always answer with “why the heck not?”