Sunday, October 27, 2013

Japan Women's University and Tokyo Life Q&A Session

Hello everyone! I thought we'd do something a little bit different today. Recently I was contacted by someone, let's call her A-san, who is applying to Japan Women's University and had some questions she wanted to ask someone outside of the school staff. So here are some of the questions and answers about JWU, the dorms and living in Japan. I still recommend asking any and all of your questions to the staff, if possible, the international office staff (they're the best!). If anyone else has questions or further insight they can provide, please comment at the bottom or send me an e-mail!

Note to the wise: This is a VERY long post. I've put all the questions in bold for convenience's sake, but for those of you without questions you want answered, be warned. And sorry about a lack of pictures.

Now, without further ado, here it is.

Soo, my biggest questions is about the dormitory, the staff of the college didn't give a lot of information on that one.. but could you tell me if there are meals included? 
I'm currently living in Senshin Dormitory, the second one is Senzan Dormitory. The meals are provided in both dormitories as a part of your fees. You get breakfast, lunch and dinner on Monday through Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Saturday evening and Sundays you have to provide your own meals. 
While there are meals that are really, really good most of the meals are in the "It's okay, I'll eat it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it" category. Though it’s usually not too bad. Occasionally there are meals that the three of us exchange students won't even touch, but it's all on personal preference. We know girls who both love and hate the dorm meals. Some of our common items are things like curry, rice bowls, fish (so much breakfast fish) and random vegetable stir fry with vegetable noodles.

Do you think it [living in the dorms] is a great way of meeting friends and hanging out?
As far as being a great way of hanging out and meeting friends, it's a fairly good place to make friends who live in the dormitories. People who do not live in the dormitory are not allowed inside (see the above mentioned gate). I'm pretty good friends with the second years on my floor because I've put in the effort to talk and start trying to build friendships with them. I felt like I was getting nowhere spring term due to cultural/language barriers, but now I feel like we're starting to be really good friends. My friends on the other hand never talk to the girls on their floor though, so they haven't made a lot of friends. 

As far as dormitory rooms go, Senshin is by far better. I posted pictures on my blog (  ). The rooms in Senzan are very, very small with only a twin size bed, a desk at the end and barely enough room to walk between the wall and bed. I think they also have a wardrobe, but I'm not sure. The senzan girls tend to spend a lot more time in the common room due to their living arrangements though.

The one thing I want to stress about the dorms is it's pretty much like being treated like a child living alone for the first time at times.

Was there a person in the dorm and university that you could turn to if you didn’t understand something or didn’t know something?
If I don't understand or don't know something I usually will first ask the girls on my floor of the dormitory. If they don't know then you can ask the advisor (if it is about the dormitories) or you can ask anyone in the international office. Tanabe sensei is also a good person to ask things if you don't understand and is much more willing to help you work around things as well.

What other points can you stress?
Let's see. Other points I can stress. Here are some of the rules and stuff they don't really tell you before you move in.
  1. Curfew is at 10:45 pm and you must be inside the building (not inside the gates, the building) by this time. If you are late you get a point against you (I think you have like 8-10 total, not really sure). At 11 pm the doors shut and are locked until 6 am. No exceptions to the 6 am bit, but if you are going to be late and you call the dormitory advisor to say as much they will wait up for you. Just be warned that any time you are late you will have to fill out a form saying where you were, where you came from and why you were late. Coming back from Osaka my plane was over an hour late, which made me late for curfew. This counted against me as far as the number of times being late go. Be careful!
  2. Above mentioned form is also mandatory if you stay out overnight without permission. Each time you have to fill out one of these forms it is a mark against you and after 8-10 times it is possible to get kicked out for either offense. I'm told this rarely happens, but better safe than sorry.
  3. Speaking of staying out overnight. If you want to do this you are required to submit a form to the international office at least 3 days in saying where you are going, who you will be staying with, why you are staying out overnight, etc.
  4. We just learned about this one. If it turns out you won't be staying out overnight after all you have to go back and tell the international office that you are cancelling your overnight stay.
  5. Monday, Wednesday and Friday is mandatory cleaning at 8 am. There are occasional days off as it's set up in groups of 2-3 people for different areas that rotate, but you can get in trouble if you miss enough of them.
  6. There's an 11 pm roll in the common room on each floor. For this you show up in the floor’s common room and whoever is on duty makes sure everyone is home. For the first month or so everyone shows up, but after that hardly anyone bothers. There are, however, floor meeting nights which are (random and) mandatory.
  7. Also at 11 pm one person from each floor goes down to the first floor and confirms that "Yes, everyone really is here." Despite the board behind the advisor telling her as much.
  8. That board is a list of room numbers with a tag. When you leave you are expected to flip it to the red side to let the advisor know you are gone and to black when you are in. If you are going to be late, the advisor moves it to another spot and if you stay out overnight there is a special place for that as well. 
  9. When you come home there is a little card you have to show to get back in, but if you forget it you just fill out a little line in a notebook.
  10. Alcohol is prohibited in the dorms even if you are 20 years or older.
  11. Once every month or two you are expected to work in the front office for a 2 hour evening shift. You sit there and flip above mentioned tags as people come home and if anyone calls you tell them to please wait and you go find someone who can speak Japanese better than you or attempt to understand them. 
  12. Don't be fooled by the "cafeteria" food on campus. It is completely different from the dormitory food. For lunch you return to the dormitory to eat lunch and then you return to classes. If I do have a class both before and after lunch I tend to eat on campus in the basement of 70 Nenkan since it's much better quality and doesn't leave me rushing for time.
  13. All rooms are single rooms. The best part of living in the dorms.

That's a basic run down on the rules, though it usually sounds more strict than it is. During the summer, for example, the manager is a lot more relaxed and you have no cleaning and don't have to fill out overnight stay forms so long as you tell her you won't be home. Though there still is curfew. The manager (管理人さん) is a really nice lady though, you should ask her to make you Kyoto Okonomiyaki sometime!

And how is college life at Joshi Daigaku in general? Are there any beginner tips or anything you would recommend doing/not doing?
I find that JWU is very easy compared to my college in the United States. The teachers say they are going to tailor classes to your level, but they generally end up being a bit easier/lower level. I took all the Japanese courses in the spring as recommended and found that I had no time for anything else though. I recommend taking a couple of classes outside of Japanese.
If there is a class or a subject you are interested in sit down with Tanabe Sensei and go through the course books saying "Well, I want to take courses in children's education/american culture/whatever it is you are interested in." I did that for this term and I am much happier with my classes and overall school life for it.
Tips... tips... tips... I think a good tip would be don't be afraid to speak to the Japanese students and at all costs avoid having the teacher introduce you as the exchange student who doesn't speak Japanese very well. That's the best way to sit alone in a corner all term. Just do your best with what Japanese you know and it should be fine, but don't be discouraged if it seems you don't make many friends at first.

I do not recommend 5 period days or 1st period classes, but that's just a personal preference. :) It is quite possible to take off any day of the week that you want because each class happens only once a week for an hour and a half. Recommendation: Take breathing time. You are coming to Japan for an experience and if you are constantly in a classroom or studying you will miss out on a lot.

Another recommendation, join at least one club. The school has a plethora to cover all interests. It's even possible to be in multiple. I was in 3, but I had to quit volleyball due to a reoccurring injury. Clubs are a great way to interact and make new friends. You're not limited to clubs at JWU either. Waseda is about a 20-25 minute walk from JWU and has twice as many clubs with people who are a lot less reserved. While those in JWU clubs will be almost 100% Japanese there is a much larger group of exchange students at Waseda and the Japanese people in those clubs are a lot more outgoing and friendly and not so reserved.

How do you manage everyday life (bank account, phone, tickets for subway or transportation in general)? did you receive help or did you figure out most of these by yourself?

As far as everyday life goes, things like a phone and bank account the school will help you with. They will ask if you want a tutor and if you do your tutor will help you with these. If not, I think they will ask someone to help you in setting these up. Setting up phone and bank accounts can be very time consuming (and extremely confusing) processes if you do not have someone with you to help so the school will arrange to have someone help you. Also, as you must be sponsored by a company or organization to open a bank account in Japan prior to being here for 6 months the school will sponsor you to open an account with SMBC so that you can open one shortly after arriving.

Now that I'm thinking about it, there is free wifi in the dorms. It is a bit slower than other countries and can be fussy at times, but most of the time you can use it without any problems. As for transportation fees, you are on your own for that. Your tutor or someone else if you ask, will help you set up a Suica or Pasmo card. If you live in the dorms it's as simple as filling out a couple of lines at a ticket machine and getting your card. From there you can charge the card for 1,000 up to just about as much as you want. Then when you enter the train station you wave your card over the card reader and do the same when you leave. These cards can be recharged and used as long as you want. I generally spend about 8,000 a month in transportation, but months where I am busier or going around more often I spend between 10,000 - 15,000. Those months are few and far between.

If you end up not living in the dorms, you are eligible for a 定期. Essentially, it is a monthly fee you pay for the trains from station A to station B. You can get on or off at any station between these two without having to pay additional train fares. Anything outside those stations will cost you money. The cost of this changes depending on how far you are going, etc. If you are eligible, your tutor will help you get this. Since it seems like you'll be living in the dorms, you probably won't be using one of these though. 

Figuring out the trains and how much it costs to get from A to B can be confusing at first, but there is always a large map over the ticket kiosks where you can find out exactly how much it costs to get where you want to go and you buy the ticket from the machine. I find the Suica or Pasmo cards the most convenient way to go about getting around Tokyo though as you don't have to worry about constantly buying tickets. Suica and Pasmo are essentially the same thing, just different companies. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling Suica is more versatile, but if you will be staying in Tokyo they both will get the job done.

Soo, about the tickets for subway...would you recommend getting such a Suica/Pasmo card or would you say it doesn't matter since there is no discount if choosing the Suica card? Or is it simply more convenient having those?

I would recommend buying either a Suica or Pasmo mostly because it does make it much more convenient getting around. You don't have to worry about making your connections in larger stations or whether you have time to buy a ticket. Almost everybody in Tokyo has one of these cards and as such there are special Suica/Pasmo cases sold everywhere specifically for them. They (the cards) are very convenient and I would highly recommend them.

Oh, and since i am also a student of Japanese Studies, does that mean i will take courses of the Japanese department mainly or how are the courses arranged?

The International Office has a list of Japanese classes for exchange students. These are the classes they usually expect you to sign up for. However, if you want to take classes other than these they will help you go through the course books and help you join other classes. They highly recommend taking only the Japanese courses your first term. However, since there are no Japanese students in these classes I recommend trying to take at least one or two classes outside of these. My first term I took all the Japanese courses and an American Cultures and a Yukata making class. This term I am taking only one Japanese course and all of my other courses are outside of the Japanese courses. Apparently this is unusual, but they are more than happy to help you take the classes you want. 

You will have to get permission from teachers and departments outside of the Japanese courses, but it's usually not too much of a problem. I've yet to have a teacher tell me I couldn't take their class. These teachers are also usually very excited to have an exchange student in their class as many exchange students stick only to their program (and thus Japanese courses). If you're looking for a fun class I recommend Nishimura's 子供の造詣 classes. They're very hands on and everyone is very friendly and much more willing to become your friend quickly in these classes since it's not a study based class. 

Also, do you know if sports clubs etc. are covered in the tuition fee or do they have to be paid separately?

Club fees are not included in the tuition. Each club has its own fees which you pay separately to the club. Here are two examples.
Ikebana: Annual Fee: None
               Participation Fee: 1,000 per session (meets twice a month)

               Transportation Fee: None (on campus)
Archery: Annual Fee: 5,000
              Participation Fee: 400 per session
              Transportation Fee: Each person must pay their own transportation                 costs to and from the practice location.
              Misc. Fees: All members are required to buy their own Bow and                   Arrows (Starts at 80,000 )
Of course, there are also clubs with no fees. If you join clubs at Waseda many of them will waive most if not all fees. My friends in the Waseda archery club for example, paid no annual fee, no practice fees and were not required to buy their own bow. They only paid for transportation. Many clubs will also have summer trips or 飲み会 or other parties. These will have separate fees and are not mandatory, but are also paid to the club.

I am a bit afraid that there is only Japanese speaking staff because for the reaaaally important matters (paying fees, courses, certificates etc.) I'm not sure if they will understand me (and I prob[ably] won’t understand them... haha)

While the school staff speaks only Japanese, most of the members of the international office speak, or at least understand English reasonably well. There is one lady and one man in the office who speak nearly fluent English, though I can't remember anybody's names. (I'm terrible with names). If you have questions about fees, etc. you can ask them in the international office, though it may take a time or two asking your question for everyone to understand, and they can help answer it or, if necessary, go to the accounting office, etc. with you to help you figure it out. In the case of mail from the bank or phone company even they can help you out if you don't understand. They are very patient and very easy-going people. It isn't easy to understand them at first, mostly because you won't be used to being around the language all the time yet, but they do their best to speak slowly and use smaller words whenever necessary to help you understand. They really are very helpful. 

Is there someone maybe who is responsible for international students?

I'm not sure in what way you mean responsible. If you're talking about "If I do something wrong they get in trouble" then no. You are responsible for your own actions. If you get into trouble, then no one else takes the blame. However, the International Office seems to be the most responsible for us and will act as parent/guardian wherever necessary. Does that answer your question?

So for this year there are only 3 exchange students or are there more? And is there kind of a meeting with those exchange students (so i wont feel completely alone) ;)?

This year there were 7 of us. 2 girls already went home in June. (Shout out to you guys Katie and Melissa! Hope life back home is treating you well!!)  The other 5 of us will be leaving around the first of January. As far as English speaking exchange students, I do not know how many people there will be next year. Outside of the 7 of us, I know that there are more at the school, mostly from Korea, but we rarely meet/see them as they take separate classes. The school will have a party for any and all exchange students shortly after your arrival to introduce you to each other and help you start making friends as well as one or two other parties during the year. Each group of people has their orientation separately though. Your best bet if there are no other exchange students when you arrive is to join one of the international clubs at Waseda. They have a couple of clubs which focus on making international friends. This also makes them a great place for you to make other international friends. :)

Also are there some recommendations concerning the neighborhood of the campus (if I understood correctly the dorms are located on the campus?)? Like for example where do you buy your food on Sundays... where do you shop for everyday life goods and where do you go for money withdrawal... it would be great if you could tell me a bit about the neighborhood...and your favorite places to go ;)

Yes. The dormitories are located directly behind the university! As far as shopping goes there are three main stores nearby that I shop at. The first is Co-Op, which is the closest by a couple of blocks. It has okay prices and an okay selection. They also have the cheapest bread. The next one is Maruetsu. This is the most expensive store, however, it has the best sales, especially on meat. It is the best place to buy meat, especially because sales will mark it down up to 50% sometimes and meat is pretty expensive in Japan. EDIT: Since writing this e-mail I have started visiting the butcher’s shop just down the road from the dormitories. They have really delicious meat for pretty cheap prices. 100 grams of sliced pork (like you would use for okonimiyaki) runs about 150 – 180 yen. Chicken is about 160 yen for 100 grams. The last one is Piago which runs about the same price as Co-op. Its prices are okay and it's usually cheaper for eggs and vegetables, but not all the time. It does, however, have the cheapest ice cream and drinks in the area.

Other than those there are two convenience stores in either direction from the entrance to the dormitories. There is also a Seiyu (Walmart) about a 15-20 minute walk from the dormitories, but you will need someone to help you find it the first time or two you go. It is the cheapest of all the stores, but I rarely shop there because of the inconvenience of getting there (I hate walking up hills and there is a small hill on the way).

For money withdrawal there is a SMBC ATM corner in front of Mejiro station (about a 25 minute walk from the dorms) and on the way to Ikebukuro station (again, about 25 minutes). There is also a post office ATM about 2 blocks away from the dorms. Post office ATMs are really good because they don't usually charge many fees and accept all cards. Since I just mentioned two stations above, Zoshigaya Station is closest to the dorms (about 10 minutes) and runs on the Fukutoshin line instead of the JR Yamanote Line.

As for life goods, I usually go to one of the drug stores near the Seiyu (towards Ikebukuro) for things like medicine (ムヒ is a must for bug bites!!) and there is a small drug store type store down the street that sells pads. There is also a small vegetable shop and meat shop within a couple of blocks of the dorms. They sell really good quality stuff, but the vegetable shop is a little bit pricey. There is a bread shop as well, that has good quality breads and sandwiches for cheap. Oddly, we also have a small fish market on our road, but I haven't shopped there.

My favorite place to shop for things I need are the 100 shops. There is one in front of Ikebukuro station which is convenient, but can have a really odd selection from time to time. The best of these shops is called Daiso and its main branch is located on Takeshita Dori in Harajuku. I know in the US that Dollar stores have a bad rap, but 100 shops really are a great place to shop because their goods don't fall apart the moment you buy them. You can buy things like laundry detergent, office supplies, laundry supplies, slippers, toiletries, just about anything you can think of at these stores. Granted, they aren't top notch, but they will more than pay for themselves.

DonQuixote (I think that's how it's spelled) is also a really fun place to shop. They have just about everything you can think of. Literally. Their prices tend to be on the lower end. I can't explain these stores; you just have to see them to believe them. XD I generally go to the one in Takadanobaba (one stop past Mejiro station or about a 30-40 minute walk from the dorms), but there is also one in Ikebukuro or just about anywhere else you find yourself.

Okay. I'm stopping myself here for now.

Oh one more thing concerning the flight... do you have to have booked the flight back to your home country in advance (like when entering Japan)? Or is it okay to enter Japan with no return flight ticket? I don't know if i should book the return flight in advance or not...

As for buying the return ticket, I bought one before I entered the country because it was my first time leaving the U.S. None of my friends bought their return ticket though. Especially if you'll be here for a full year it is difficult, so it is okay to buy your return ticket after arriving in Japan. No one has yet to ask me if I have a ticket home.
I figured from your blog that you are also a Sailor Moon fan? Well, I LOVE sailor moon and though it may sound stupid I am dying to go to Azabu-Juban (Sailor Moons birthplace and real life place from the Anime) Have you been there?

It's funny that you mention that! Yes, I am a Sailor Moon fan! And somehow that one time I talked about Sailor Moon has been the number one reason why people visit my blog. (Maybe I should change the blog topic... hmmm... Just kidding!!!) It doesn't sound stupid at all! I haven't been there unfortunately, but I hope you have a great time there! I haven't seen Sailor Moon in so long I had forgotten about that!!

What kind of trips/excursions would you recommend in the Tokyo area (or also a bit outside of the city...but affordable!) Does JWU organize excursions?

In the Tokyo area? Hmm... Let me think about that for a minute.

So far JWU has organized 5 excursions that I remember. Tanabe Sensei is always in charge of these. They change slightly from year to year, but generally there is a trip to Kamakura in the spring. Tanabe sensei will also take the exchange students to Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. This only takes part of the day, but it's a really, really cool experience as they perform a ceremony for everyone. The just before summer there is a weekend trip to Hiroshima that I highly recommend. After that there is a Kimono wearing trip which is in Tokyo. The last one I think was particular to this year, but the girls in her class recently went to go see the new Ghibli film with her.

Okay. Excursions in Tokyo. Excursions. There isn't much I would consider an excursion that I've done in Tokyo, but I definitely recommend checking out Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Akihabara (but those are probably already on your list!). If you like Musicals they are very inexpensive in Japan with the cheapest seats being 3,000 yen and the next cheapest 6,000 yen. There is also the national bunraku theater, kabuki theater and takarazuka theater (these tickets sell out VERY fast so I haven't been able to go. Q.Q ). Tanabe sensei can help you get cheap tickets for Kabuki or Bunraku as well.

Of course, Asakusa is also a must. It's a great place to visit, but a bit touristy. Inokashira park is also a nice little park and the Ghibli Museum is also there. From JWU it takes a bit of time, but if you go to Shibuya via the Fukutoshin line you can transfer to the Keio Inokashira Line's express train and ride it all the way out to Kichijo-ji and it's a short walk from there. I've yet to see all of Ueno, but it's an amazing park and there is a HUGE zoo there I've heard.

A couple of other excursions which have been recommended to me a lot (and hopefully I'll be taking soon!) are to Mt. Takao and Nikko. Nikko is especially recommended for the fall. They aren't actually in Tokyo, but you can access them via the trains, but it will cost a bit more than standard train fare.

If you're up for a day trip you can take the Fukutoshin line to Shibuya where it changes to the Toyoko like and you can ride that all the way down to Yokohama which has a really amazing temple in the middle of China Town. You can also visit the bay from here.

Another couple of places I've yet to go is Puroland (Sanrio land) and Disney Land and Sea. There are a few other highly recommended theme parks in/around Tokyo, but I haven't gone to any. 

Another thing that i was wondering is... did you have the JLPT test before you went to Japan? If not, are you getting it?

The JLPT test is not required for this program. I am currently studying for the N3 level test on my own. I'm mostly taking it because I want to have some kind of proof of my Japanese level for my own benefit.
I know it is not required for an exchange ...but I wonder how your language skills were when you first came to Japan? I am a bit scared because I think my Japanese is so bad and no one will understand me...
When I first arrived at JWU I had taken 3 years of Japanese, but had no confidence in it whatsoever so it was really bad. I had friends who came to Japan with less than 2 years of study though. Being in Japan your language abilities will improve tremendously very quickly, even if you don't notice it happening. The first 3 months are probably the hardest for language transition, but it's nothing intolerable. There will be people who understand and don't understand you, but if you speak slowly and try not to be nervous it will be okay. More likely than not it will be you asking people to repeat or to explain more simply.

What was the "Language thing" like for you? What were the biggest language difficulties for you? and do you find you improved a lot? Or were you already a pro in your home country?
I'm not sure what you mean by the "Language thing" though. Haha
Language wise the biggest difficulty was a) not being able to say what I wanted to say (lack of vocab, grammar, etc.). This has improved as I have studied more and picked up more from general daily conversation. Other than that, a large part of my language problem came from the fact that I had no confidence in using the language. The longer you are here, the better it gets though.

That said, I do feel like I have improved a lot. I don't feel like I need a translator for every little thing and I'm able to have full conversations with people without hearing "なんでもない" all the time because I don't understand things. I was far, far, FAAAAAARRR from being a pro back in the U.S. I had so little confidence in my abilities that I could barely speak Japanese outside of class, let alone in front of Japanese people. Now, while I don't consider myself a pro, I definitely feel like I've improved. :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Volunteering and the Long Weekend

So. I had this list, in my head, of what all I wanted to put into this post. Unfortunately, I can't remember a single one of those things right now. So instead, I'm going to talk about the festivals and stuff that happened in my area this weekend a little bit.

First off, this weekend is a 5 day weekend. Well, in theory, I only get a 4 day weekend. Two days prior to the weekend for planning and setting up the JWU Mejiro-Sai festival, two days for the festival and one for, take down? Recuperation? I'm not really sure, but there is no school tomorrow.

Since none of my clubs did anything related to the festival I just got a really long weekend for basically no reason.

So here's how I spent my weekend. (Actually, I'm starting from the day before the long weekend started.) Got ready to go to my gaming group, find out that due to the typhoon (Almost used the Japanese spelling taifuu) that hit Tuesday night through Wednesday morning game was cancelled. While that was the least exciting news of the week, I did manage to get a leg up on my JET program application. By which I mean I applied for some of the necessary documents and I've asked a couple of teachers to write me letters of recommendation. Thank you in advance Alisa, O'Brien 先生 and Tanabe 先生! Also ordered proof of enrollment, proof study abroad and transcripts (from all three of my past universities since UO doesn't include transfer work on it's official document apparently).

While in theory, game being cancelled should have meant that I got a decent amount of sleep, I ended up with only an hour or two extra sleep and was very nearly late to the school despite the fact that it's less than a 10 minute walk. My least favorite part of volunteering is sitting in on science and math classes. It's no big secret that I have very little interest subjects, especially when I can't understand what they are doing or why because the kanji and vocab is ten times more complicated than anything I've studied up until this point. I also don't get to help any in these classes. It's purely standing in the back of the class (or wandering around in science) and observing. Makes not falling asleep first thing in the morning a little bit hard.

One of the science teachers, who is also the Ikebana teacher, rescued me from my misery and took me on a tour of the school garden and animal cages. It was really fun, especially because I love plants. I just wish I'd known more of the plants in this garden (which reminded me a lot of Oregon except I knew almost none of the plants). The only down side is that my legs were eaten by mosquitoes since I was in a skirt. Bugs 500 billion. Illaura 2.

The dastardly creatures.
The second grade English class on the other hand is amazingly fun and adorable. They split the second graders into two groups and these two groups alternate every week for English class. I don't get to teach, but I can walk around and talk with some of the students (their English is amazing!!) and I get to sing songs with them so it's fun.

Lunch, while generally good, is a little bit on the small side. Therefore I have to bring a Calorie Mate or the such to sneak in before the after lunch courses.

Since there was no Home Ec class this last week, of which I'm a temporarily permanent fixture, I sat in on a 2nd grade computer class where they were learning to, get this, do basic computer animation. I know, right!?! Obviously they didn't do a lot all at once and it was one step at a time with the teacher's observation, but it was awesome.

I'm talking a machine like this one. Only older and more dangerous looking.
I also sat in on a 6th grade wood working class. I sat in on this class my first week and the girls were all designing boxes, or things generally box shaped, that they wanted to make. This week they were putting a few finishing touches on these designs and using the saws in the back to cut the wood pieces out. The sharp dangerous kind that no one lets kids near. I was super surprised and slightly alarmed that they were allowed to used them at all, let alone that the students were using these machines with no adult supervision.

When I asked the teacher about it, she said that this class is not a normal class. I.E. normal schools don't have this kind of course. But at this school the students are allowed to use the machines on their own from the time they are second graders on. Yes. Second graders. I don't know about you, but I don't think most people let their second graders use the stoves, let alone one of these. They also said that this is an elective course and you must have some kind of interest or skill to take the class. Still didn't make me feel any better about the kids using these without direct supervision.

One of my works. I love volleyball.
Anyways, I also wandered around some more of the clubs. I'm thinking that I want to help with volleyball and coaching since they want me to choose a club to help out with. I want to find out about this art club next week, but otherwise I think I've made my choice.

Also, one thing I noticed this week especially, maybe it's just because I was tired, is that a lot of the students see me coming and laugh and start talking about me/making fun of me, not realizing, I don't think, that I can generally understand them. Other students see me coming near their desk, group, etc. and will stare at me and completely stop talking or working (usually covering their work) until I walk away. Others refuse to accept help from me, even in the Home Ec class, despite the fact that they've
seen me help everyone else and that the teacher has told them I am just as capable as her. They tell me I can't help them and only 先生 can. It can be really frustrating. I know that the first two things are normal in just about any school, especially as a volunteer/assistant joining part way through the year, but the third one really gets to me. I'm trying to help and they refuse to let me help, or I'm just trying to observe and they make it impossible and/or make fun of me for it. It really is disheartening, but that doesn't deter me from wanting to be a teacher. It's just another aspect I hadn't seen yet.

Anyways, so that was most of Thursday. Then I ran to the archery shop where, it turned out that I couldn't just return the limbs, I had to buy new ones since there was some kind of contract I signed that didn't get explained to me. Anyways, so yeah. Anger, frustration, money that I wasn't planning on spending spent. Went back to pick it up yesterday and they ordered limbs for a 32 pound draw weight instead of 26 pound. More frustration, negotiating and now I have to go back, yet again, to pick them up.

So as I was coming home on Thursday, I heard noise over my headphones and after a brief internal debate (*But I'm tired. -Just go. *I don't waaaannnaaaa.... -Do IT.) I went over and checked it out. It was really sweet.

Turns out there was a parade passing by the school one street over. I watched and then followed it, ran into Briana and Chelsea and then Briana and I continued to follow the parade to a nearby temple.

While watching the parade one of the big flowers fell off of one of the really cool things which were actually depicting scenes of the life of this monk who founded the temple the parade ended at. Supposedly, when he died and did the whole buddhist monk Ascension thing sometime in October
cherry blossoms bloomed. This whole festival/parade is in his memory and the flowers represent cherry blossoms in order to honor his memory. Anyways, where I was going with this, this cool little ojiisan picked up the flower that fell off and gave it to me. So now I have a REALLY cool flower.

This festival loves food I do have to say. Like, for the size of it, there was a disproportionately large number of food booths. I also have to say, I love matsuri food.

Hiroshima Yaki and Tapioca Soda. :)
This same festival had a parade the next night, coming from the opposite direction which was even bigger. I'll include some more pictures at the end.

Saturday, I went nowhere. I did nothing. Okay. That last bit is a lie. I played GW2 with my cousin and her husband. Unfortunately lag is causing me to miss out on the clock tower event this year. Curse you bad internet connection!!! Also, found a new web comic that I'm in love with. Richard is the best character. The comic's name is Looking For Group. All I'm going to tell you is, "FOR PONY!"

Then today I woke up and went to see Chelsea's tea ceremony performance/debut. She was amazingly adorable and did a really good job despite her long list of what she did wrong. I was really nervous during it because they gave us one of the seats where you had to be the first person to do things and, since I didn't know what to do, I'm sure I botched a lot of it.

We (Briana and I) also checked out the rest of the JWU festival. It was cute. I saw a bear. There was some amazing Ikebana. Again, more pictures at the end.

Told you I saw a bear.

So yeah. That's been my weekend. Sorry this post turned out to be more about volunteering than the festivals!! More pictures coming momentarily.