10March2012

Up and Up

Posted by Roland under: JET.

Things have been on an uptick here in Japan. Some of it probably has to do with the seasonal change (it’s not freezing cold all day now!) but a good amount of it has come with getting to know the kids I work with better. As I’ve been told, it’s quite a change to go from working with adults to working with children. Immaturity is such a fun game. But almost every day is a realization that we were all probably jerks in school to our teachers and we didn’t think anything of it. That was one thing I had to get into my head, that most of these kids don’t mean anything when they’re being annoying or disrespectful. There’s usually no ill intent there (i.e. they’re not really going out of their way to be disrespectful), that’s just how they act. Kids being kids. Once I started to stop being annoyed/offended at every little thing kids would do, I found myself a lot more at peace with what was I doing. Instead of dreading certain school visits, they became much more enjoyable. Sure, they still acted up or made stupid jokes/comments every now and then, but if I didn’t worry so much about that, I found out that for the most part, they were still learning some English. How about that? And if anything, they weren’t terrible all the time, they had their fun moments too (usually recess related).

I think one of my biggest mistakes early on was believe kids were going out of their way to mock English, either by saying words in a obviously poor accent or mixing up common phrases (like “good morning” when it’s afternoon, “nice to meet you” when we’ve already met multiple times). I eventually realized that these kids are not trying to make a mockery of English but rather that was all they knew English wise. So now it’s my job to fix those poorly pronounced words and incorrectly used phrases.

There was definitely some measure of unmet expectations when I came into Amakusa. That’s not the students’ fault, that was something I needed to adjust to when I came in. But over time, I came to realize that there are really no bad kids here. There are kids having moments when they’re being annoying, but that’s just kids being kids. There’s no class I have that’s beyond repair (and really, they’re all a bit far from that point). Once I learned more about them and found out what they were really like, they all became somewhere between the ideal student and the worst student possible. And then when I came to meet them at that point, I found that teaching here became immensely easier.

Luckily, I work with the same kids year to year so I won’t have to go through this adjustment period again. If anything, this should hopefully help with making stronger connections with the students. Culturally, it takes awhile to build close connections in Japan, but I’ve been slowly building that up. I’m thinking it can only get better from here.

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24February2012

English Game Time

Posted by Roland under: JET.

One of the biggest developments re: English education in Japan in the last few years was the introduction of formalized English education for fifth and sixth graders in elementary school. Previously, English lessons only began in earnest in middle school. While there could be some English taught in elementary schools before the introduction of Eigo Note (the elementary English textbook), it was very much location and staff dependent on how good the teaching was, if any was taking place.

Officially, the purpose to teach English in elementary is to just get kids exposure to English at a younger age, a sort of headstart to the English you’d start to learn in English. However, there is no accountability in terms of testing or grades (at least from the schools I work at) on how well you do the lessons. So this means a student’s desire to sit through an elementary English lesson is firmly predicated on their own personal desires to study (and also a little bit from having to behave because they’re in school).

But since the main purpose is exposure and not accountability, the English being taught focuses on simple phrases and only conversation. There’s no writing or reading elements being tested. Most of the time, kids are given a few key words/phrases to learn and then activities to do that reinforce learning those words/phrases. But since you’re dealing with kids, most of the activities turn out to be games. I think some of the games do work pretty well (they all involve speaking/listening English in some respect to succeed at the game) but I also think it sends a message to the kids that English lesson time is also a sort of play time. Some classes expect a game to happen in each weekly class (and inevitably they’re usually right).

It’s a double edged sword. I think it does accomplish the goal of getting kids exposed and also getting excited about English. But when game time is afoot, you don’t always get the best behavior out of class. That’s a lesson I had to learn early on. I came in to expect a perfectly behaved class and when I didn’t get that sometimes, I would get upset with what appeared to me as disrespect/disinterest/bad behavior. But as I saw more of the kids at play, I learned that it was just kids being kids when they have a good time, a little rough, a little loud, but never mean-intentioned. On the flip side, when I saw kids in other non English classes, such as Math or Science, I was legitimately surprised to see how seriously they took those classes. Where was that behavior for my English classes?

English in Elementary is a pseudo game/lesson for most kids. You’re not going to get them on their best behavior most days, but then again, I learned you’re not dealing with a bunch of horrible kids who have absolutely no interest in what you’re doing and just want to play play play. What I had to learn was to balance my expectations and lesson plans with the class I was working with. And by god, with the English lesson plans I was handed, I would probably hate to have to sit through a traditional class of English. Games are a god send to keep the kids from falling asleep and not learning anything, I’m sure.

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29January2012

One more year?

Posted by Roland under: JET.

The contract to sign up for another year in Amakusa is still in my desk. All signs point to me signing and staying one more year, but for some reason, I still haven’t turned it in.

I’ve had to learn how to deal with kids. For some reason I expected more maturity out of them, but kids are kids. It’s been a lesson learned in order for me to keep my temper and stay patient.

I’ve had to learn how to deal with living in a remote area. Not that I’m in the worst possible place, there’s reasonably sized places of civilization in close distance, but it’s no San Francisco. That’s been getting easier too.

I’ve had to learn how to deal with not always being able to communicate 100% with people. Probably just a sign I need to study more Japanese, but even besides that, the Japanese language is so indirect, sometimes the American way just doesn’t work here.

I’ve had to learn to deal with not having people my own age to talk to. Again a product of location, it’s all families, most young people leave for the city once they can. If anything, I’ll need to see if I can make some friends in Kumamoto City, however that may happen.

It’s been a learning experience, but I’ll most likely be here for another year of learning.

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18January2012

An island in the west

Posted by Roland under: JET.

At some point I assume someone is going to come all the way out here to visit and when they do, I want to make sure I limit the amount of questions related to how much this isn’t what they expected when they were thinking about Japan. I’m talking about those who are firmly in the Japan = Tokyo futuristic city camp (I’m really hoping there’s no one in the Japan = still has plenty of samurai camp).

A handy dandy map, for those so interested:


View Larger Map

Amakusa is part of Kumamoto Prefecture, about 1.5 to 2 hours west of Kumamoto City, the closest large city. That should be a sign when the closest large city is that far away. Amakusa is actually on its own separate island from the Kyushu mainland, so in order to get to Amakusa, you have to cross five bridges, which have been actually turned into a semi sightseeing spot for travelers coming into the area. However, unlike a lot of Japan, Amakusa is not accessible by train. The closest train station is about an hour away, at which point you’ll have to bus/car/ferry over into Amakusa proper.

The current Amakusa city is actually made up of a lot of independent towns and villages that combined into one city a few years ago due to dwindling population. They were formerly independent areas under the label “Amakusa District”, but a recent push in Japan nationwide has been to consolidate smaller areas into one larger entity. So the majority of the island of Amakusa banded together to form the Amakusa City, which would now be the legal name for all their territory. However, the Amakusa District name lives on in one holdout that didn’t merge with the rest of the island, although it is now legally a district with one town to its name.

I personally live in Ariake, one of the old towns in the Amakusa District, now part of the overall Amakusa City. All the old names from before live on in peoples’ address and it is common to say what part of Amakusa you are from as a way to identify yourself. The center of Amakusa, Hondo, also serves as the logistical center of Amakusa, most people live there as well as it being home to the Amakusa government offices and most shopping/restaurants.

Ariake is 15 minutes away from Hondo but most of Ariake is just housing. There are a small number of restaurants and if there’s shopping to be had, I don’t know where to find it. Ariake’s claim to fame has always been its octopus however, to that effect, there’s a large octopus monument near a rest area called Ripple Land. Ripple Land actually serves as a popular place in the summer, when people come to visit Ariake’s beaches (one of the highlights of the area) as it provides convenient parking in addition to a good restaurant/gift shop/onsen.

But Ariake is more or less just a suburb. It’s where a lot of people live and they do their eating/shopping/traveling somewhere else. However, I think it does have the best of both worlds when it comes to nature, Ariake is right along part of the Amakusa coast which lends itself to great views of the sea. On clear days, you can even see across the sea to Mount Unzen and Nagasaki prefecture. On the other side, if you drive away from the coast and just a little bit inland, you can find some pretty amazing mountains as well, with lots of greenery to go with it. There’s a lot of farmland to be had in Ariake as well, so it’s a common sight to see large swaths of fields right under large mountains.

It’s a quiet life here. If I just stay in Ariake, there’s not much for me to do besides go to school and come back home. Going to Hondo does provide some change as it is the place to go in Amakusa for pretty much anything, but the selections/options are small. For even the smallest taste of a big city, Kumamoto City is the place to go. But with it being quite the drive away, it’s not a place I can just drop by for a quick dinner. Going out to Kumamoto City almost turns into a day trip just to be worthwhile.

That being said, most of Japan is the quiet farmland you may have seen in Totoro, for example. Tokyo kind of places get all the love when you’re outside of Japan, but once you get in, you find there’s more nature to be found than wall to wall skyscrapers. There’s a time and place for big city life, but I’m enjoying myself in the small town atmosphere right now on the island of Amakusa.

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11January2012

Tumblr

Posted by Roland under: Personal.

I have a tumblr now, even though I really have no business having one, since I don’t really need any more social outlets for me to ignore. But I guess it will fit in snugly for right now in between the 140 characters of Twitter and the longer posts here.

http://rorando.tumblr.com/

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7January2012

On the New Year

Posted by Roland under: JET.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, you’ll hear it here now, New Year’s is a big deal in Japan. While in America, Christmas is the winter holiday of choice, Japan has placed more importance on the New Year holiday.

To that effect, starting around December 29 or so, you start to see a lot of places close up and take their holiday break. Most places do n’t open until January 3 or 4. In fact, during the New Year’s holiday period, the only thing I could find consistently open was fast food, convenience stores, and big malls (more on the malls later). This actually turned into a bit of a problem personally, as the ATMs in Japan also operate on schedules, so ATMs also had their only holiday break. That meant money was scarce at the end of holiday period (after spending most of it traveling). It was a point where I was thinking, “when will this holiday ever end?”

But New Year’s is big family time for Japanese. To that end, there’s not a lot of traveling as you would think, and if there is any traveling, it’s usually entire families doing the deed. One of the reasons there probably isn’t a huge travel boom for New Year’s is that some travel sights (museums and Kumamoto Castle comes to mind) are closed for the holidays as well. While my image of an American New Year’s is bars and restaurants open all night for huge parties, when I was in Kagoshima City for New Year’s Eve (a legitimate large city), only the aforementioned categories of buildings mentioned above were open…and even when it came to restaurants, actually a good number were still closed (and the one we ended up eating at closed at 11).

New Year’s isn’t the time to party all night (although I’m sure that fun can be found somewhere). In fact, while my travel group did find an New Year’s Eve event to attend (an outdoor mini gathering with some fireworks), by 12:20 most everyone had left. Not exactly Times Square.

So what do you do for the New Year’s holiday? I assume that most families just stay at home, have a good dinner and enjoy themselves. To that end, the TV networks usually show 4-6 hour long shows, knowing that the family homes will be tuning into something. However, the big thing to do for New Year’s is what the Japanese called “hatsumode”, or basically the first shrine visit of the New Year.

In Kagoshima City, I went to Terukuni Shrine, the largest there. To that end, the grounds were jampacked with people trying to make their offering for the New Year. The shrine was prepared for this, having fences to herd people in the appropriate lines, as well as extra staff on hand to deal with people buying charms for the New Year. Of course, one can make their offering to a shrine any time of year, but the first of the year has importance as basically setting your pace for the coming year. I made sure to make my own offering for success in 2012.

The other large part of New Year’s is the shopping. I lamented the loss of the Black Friday tradition during Thanksgiving, but I was heartened to see that the Japanese saved their shopping craze for New Year’s. While not everything is open, the stores that are open (plus the big shopping malls, which definitely are open) usually feature big sales to celebrate the New Year. But a special part of the New Year’s shopping craze is something the Japanese call “lucky bags”, basically grab bags where you don’t know what’s inside. I actually saw them before, when they open a new convenience store in Amakusa, that new store will usually feature lucky bags for a few days after opening, the contents being hidden, but usually an assortment of what you could buy in the store.

The “luck” factor comes in because while the contents are hidden, the idea is that some bags have contents that total up to higher than the bag’s price. Basically it is a gamble, but if it is a store that you would shop at anyway, you’re not going to be dissatisfied with what you get. Clothing lucky bags are usually the first to sell out (the stores actually claim to pack in clothes higher than the bag price, which is a hint that they’re just trying to get rid of inventory). And then some stores take the gambling aspect out of it by listing what you’ll get in the bag, basically listing the savings you’ll get, with the added bonus that you get a fancy bag to go with your purchase.

For my own part, I also indulged in a few lucky bags, grabbing one from a furniture/home item store and one from a Spencer’s Gifts kind of place (think random gifts). Excited as I was, I didn’t really get what I expected so I was a little hmmmm when I opened up. But then again, that’s the luck of the lucky bags. There’s always next year.

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27December2011

Ryokan

Posted by Roland under: Personal.

While I’ll probably get into further detail about my winter break Kyushu trip, I think I have to take a moment while I’m lying here in bed to write about my ryokan experience, which took place in the lovely town of Kurokawa.

Kurokawa is a mountain town in eastern Kumamoto, which is mainly populated by ryokan/onsen in the area. Coming from Beppu with my friends, we were treated to mostly snow covered mountains and fields, a sign that winter had arrived. Luckily, the snow was not falling, as my car was not equipped with chains which would’ve been necessary on the mountain route up to Kurokawa.

Ryokan are probably easily defined as traditional Japanese hotels. In keeping in line with the Japanese high standard of service, ryokan are on a much higher level of such service. Upon getting into to our ryokan, the car was taken away by a valet, our bags loaded up for us, and we were lead to our room by an attendant, who explained the hotel and our room to us. Basically, we felt like honored customers, even though they did the same song and dance for everyone who came in. Nonetheless, coming from a society where service isn’t always important, it was great to treated nicely. Maybe the best sign of the service of our ryokan was an attendant who saw me and my friend outside trying to take pictures of the ryokan. He took upon himself to ask if he could take the photos for us. But beyond that, he knew the best spots for the best pictures, which he gladly took.

The other amazing part of the ryokan experience is the food. Dinners are usually a big deal at ryokan, in essence being a multi course affair. When we heard that dinner was to be a two hour experience, our excitement was heightened. So we were led to our own table in the dining hall, whereupon the attendant would come every so often with a new dish in hand, trying her best to explain to us what we were eating. I just remembered amazing ingredients (the sashimi and horse meat was fantastic) and delicious food. I’d have to rank my ryokan dinner as possibly my best in Japan. It’s hard to compare because we don’t get multi course dinners in our lives many times, but the combination of service and taste couldn’t be beat. If anything, dinner just left us excited about the promised breakfast the next day.

And any trip to ryokan is not complete without onsen. Kurokawa is famous for its onsen, every ryokan has one they boast of. At first, the December chill was definitely in the air when I got right to jump in, but once in the onsen, there’s no better feeling. I’ve learn to appreciate the feeling of warmth moreso because of this Japanese winter (electric blankets = fantastic) and I think the feeling of jumping into a hot onsen on a cold winter night is one of the best feelings out there.

A ryokan may be an expensive experience, but in the end, I think it’s well worth it.

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14December2011

Stage 2

Posted by Roland under: JET.

While I won’t claim to be in a full blown depression (perhaps for reasons you’ll see soon), the honeymoon period of my time in Japan is definitely over. The excited faces and good weather has been replaced with more and more why-are-you-here faces and colder (and yet to get even colder) weather. This is natural, any new experience will be exciting at first, but once you settle into a rut, the shine of the beginning is replaced with the reality that things are not as great as you were told or thought they were going to be.

In any case, the timing for this is natural. It’s been a few months now into my stay. However, for many JET people, the winter is a dangerous time. That’s when many have to consider if they want to stick around for another year in Japan. We warned at orientation that many JETs say no to another year in the winter because of their stage two funk, only to regret that decision come Spring. Aware of this I’m doing what I can to convince myself that I won’t fall victim to the same trap and decline to come back for another year (at least for that specific reason).

I do admit to missing the big city life however. There was always something to do, see, eat, etc. in San Francisco. And easily, there were a lot more people my own age. But here in Amakusa, it’s a rural lifestyle, where most days have me pretty much just going home after school. I do enjoy the quiet life, but of course, there are times when even I want to go out and do something different. But those options are limited in Amakusa. Life is in danger of becoming a rut, it seems.

I’ve always been self-aware of my moods and try not to let it cloud my judgments. All in all, I’ll probably end up signing up for that extra year. But similar to how I hesitated on even accepting JET even though for almost all observers, it was a done deal, I’m doing the same thing here when it comes to doing that extra JET year. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ll actually know what I’m doing the second time around. It’s similar to how I decided to stay in the dorms in college for two years…although at the end of that, I knew two years was enough time in the dorms. Would two years be enough for me in Japan?

One of the big things I took away from my visit at the ALT Skills Development Conference (call it what it is, a mid-year conference for the Kumamoto JETs) is that my situation is really not that bad. I was treated to a lot of horror stories by other ALTs in Kumamoto. Bad kids, bad teachers they work with, bad living situations, etc. All in all, I can’t complain. Some ALTs were brought to tears when having to recount their experiences. It’s a mean thing to say, but really, I don’t have it as bad as some others.

In that respect, it gives me a certain sense of thanks for being where I am. That makes it harder to say no to Amakusa after just one year. It may be a Stage 2 funk I’m in now, but perhaps the peak has been overcome.

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27November2011

How to Get Angry in a Japanese Classroom

Posted by Roland under: JET.

The more work I put in the classrooms, the more I realize that we were all probably very annoying kids in our school days. At my various schools, there are good days and bad days. While the language barrier is a unique position that I’m in because of the JET program, I think having to work in a classroom is all-in-all the same experience when it comes to how kids behave.

In some situations, it’s even worse. Not from my personal experience, but from other people’s stories, some Japanese kids are more prone to acting out in the chair/desk throwing variety. I can’t imagine a situation like that ever happening in America. We behave badly, but probably in not such a violent way.

However, when it comes to brattyness, I think that’s a shared trait between American and Japanese children. One of the classes I work with had been just very poor to work with. Understandably, English is a difficult subject for them so perhaps it’s not all their fault, but the attitude the students brought to English classes made me dread going to that class every week. And with my schedule, I would go to this class the day after I had possibly my best school (with well-behaved, enthusiastic kids). The drop off in a such a sudden period of time just increased my annoyance at my bad class.

In any case, their bad behavior would continue for several weeks. Most of the time it would take shape as talking out while instructions were being given. I’m fine with indifference, if someone doesn’t care to learn, then my time is too important for me to worry about that. But when students are disrupting class to the point that people who may actually want to learn something can’t focus, then it’s a big problem in my mind.

So one day, in front of my bad class, as the homeroom teacher was trying to explain the upcoming English activity, I blew up at them. Students kept talking and weren’t following directions and just disrupting the class completely. I told the homeroom teacher to stop and just started shouting at the kids in my best Japanese of anger. It was pretty much something along the lines of me having enough of their behavior and just quitting the class and going home. And for good measure, I slammed a few books on the nearby desk. Now there’s a mark in my notebook that I’ll always remember as having being made on that day. Basically, a good old fashioned emotional outburst.

Results wise, the students fell into line. The homeroom teacher added some more words for her class (I picked up a line about how it was privilege that I come to their class, as I was actually based out of the middle school) and we finished the rest of the class without incident. I was worried that this would sour student relations but at recess that same day I would play basketball with a few of the kids from that class (granted, they weren’t the bad ones).

The interesting part would come from the fallout of my outburst with the school staff, namely the principal. He called me into his office after my class was over. I was worried at first, because Japanese culture does not actually take kindly to emotional outbursts. I’ve heard a variety of opinions, it’s in bad taste to make a scene, it’s childish to be so emotional, etc. But the common theme from all of them is that it’s not a good thing. However, the principal was supportive, saying that if the kids weren’t behaving, they should be told they’re doing the wrong thing. He also said that even though I only come once a week, I’m still on the same level as the other teachers at the school, which would give me the same responsibility to discipline if needed.

Japanese is a vague language though. I took the words for face value, but the next week, he would come by my desk and tell me that this week everything was going to be okay. I don’t know if that meant the kids would behave better or if things would be okay because I would no longer make any more emotional outbursts. He didn’t answer my question when I asked what he meant by the “okay” statement. There’s a hidden context that I’m probably not getting here. Chalk one up to cultural differences.

In any case, the outburst happened several weeks ago and I’ve gotten a few more classes with that group of kids since then. And they have actually shaped up quite nicely. It’s almost weird that they’re actually now behaving well. I’m cautious, but happy that their attitudes are changing. They could still be as indifferent as far as I know, but at least they’re keeping their mouths shut about it.

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11November2011

Nagasaki

Posted by Roland under: JET; Uncategorized.

Looking back and thinking about it, I feel like Amakusa is probably more like Nagasaki than Kumamoto. However, when it comes to Kumamoto, the only other part of the prefecture I’ve seen is just Kumamoto City. But, as I was driving through southern Nagasaki prefecture on my way to the big city, and even in between Nagasaki and Sasebo, it was more of an Amakusa feeling to me. In fact, I get FM Nagasaki clearer than FM Kumamoto, so arguably there’s more to share with Nagasaki than the mainland Kumamoto.

After driving through about an hour worth of Amakusa like fields and small towns, I started to come into Nagasaki city proper. While I can’t say I explored the whole city, it definitely seems a lot more compact than Kumamoto City. Most people in the city get around through a convenient and cheap street car system, which I took advantage of on my first day. Unfortunately the weekend called for rain, which was the case on the Saturday I got in. I found a nearby chanpon shop to have lunch, where I went for pari soba, or fried noodles with the traditional chanpon topping. After that, it was time for me to get acquainted with the street car, which was unfortunately humid from the rain and usual crowds of people.

My first stop would be the atomic bomb museum and peace park. I’ve been to Hiroshima already a couple times so I wasn’t expecting much new information, but it would be interesting to see the Nagasaki side of things when the bombs fell on them on August 9. The museum was not as extensive as Hiroshima’s but nonetheless was quite moving. There was a good amount of English signage (I spotted an American tour group as I came i n) and it went into a lot of good detail about Nagasaki the city, before and after the bomb. I don’t think they had as many artifacts from the bomb as Hiroshima but what they did have was quite engaging. It was kind of a Hiroshima lite (although the tragedy is not any lessened).

Something that Hiroshima didn’t have (or I haven’t seen) was the peace memorial hall. Nagasaki has a basement memorial in their peace park which is constantly guarded by security (in fact the guard told me the correct way to go in and out of the memorial). You start off by going through a rotating list of all bomb victims, with their names and pictures. After that, you go into a large hall which has little decoration. In the middle of the hall are large pillars which act as “pillars of light” to the sky. All the hall contains are those pillars, inscriptions on the walls, lots of peace cranes, and a register of all bomb victims, which grows as more are found/declared to be victims.

After the memorial and peace park, I headed towards Dejima in the south part of Nagasaki. While Japan was isolating itself from foreigners, Nagasaki did remain open as a port for foreign trade, mainly with the Dutch. Thus, a Dutch settlement was created on Dejima island in Nagasaki. Back in the day, it was a guarded island with only one way in and out by land, constantly guarded to control who goes in and out. Japanese would come in and out to work and trade, but the Dutch had to live on Dejima island (which wasn’t big by any means). As Japan’s only link to the outside for a good while, it was of course a place of great importance. Nowadays Nagasaki has built around Dejima and it’s no longer an island but the houses have been faithfully recreated. I found it a worthwhile and interesting visit, mainly to see the blend of Dutch and Japanese culture within Dejima, as well as why Dejima was so important and unique to the Japanese. If anything, it was a good way to stay out of the rain.

I would wander around other parts of Nagasaki for Saturday night, Meganebashi, the mall by the JR Station (where I did get my hands on some chanpon, albeit in the udon variety), and of course just a little bit of pachinko.

Sunday I headed out to the airport to meet Yuko and her friend Ayami. The one thing I quickly noticed is that the both of them (coming from Tokyo) commented heavily on how much Kyushu has nothing. But in this case, nothing just meant nature. Green trees, mountains, the water. Yes, admittedly, it is no Tokyo but it was interesting to get that viewpoint. And they didn’t really mean nothing in a bad sense, just another way of saying “quaint”, I assume.

We had some time to kill before the Sukima Switch concert, so we headed out to Sasebo and found a recommended burger place to have the famous “Sasebo Burger”. Sasebo has a US military base so it’s said the Sasebo Burger is thanks to the American influence. What this means is in Sasebo you can get a huge burger with lots of toppings and of course, an egg in it. Definitely tasty, although it was quite a bit to eat so I saved some for later.

The Sukima Switch concert was great times. It was a live performance at a Nagasaki International University’s school festival, so the venue was actually their school gym. This lent itself to a more intimate atmosphere (although quite toasty). We got some good seats in the sixth row, although it was unfortunately right by the speakers, so my ears took quite a pounding by the end of the set. However, I’ll definitely say it was worth it. They played all their greatest hits, were quite enjoyable to watch during their interactions with the audience and best of all, played for two hours (at a relatively cheap ticket price). They even got me caught up in the Japanese tradition of group clapping, which was infectious.

While I had been expecting a relatively crazy Sunday night, the rain and the tiredness of Yuko and Ayami lead to a quiet night back at the hotel. While they went back to their rooms with some drinks they bought at the supermarket, I ended up watching Die Hard 4 on TV and calling it a night.

Monday was my last day in Nagasaki, the trip was just beginning for Yuko and Ayami. I went along with them to Glover Garden, which afforded some fantastic views of the city, now enjoyable because the rain had stopped and the sun had come in. After Glover Garden (and a halloween ice cream from Baskin Robbins, offering 31% off all scoops) I took them to Mount Unzen, where they would be spending their Monday at a ryokan, enjoying the onsens at the mountain and probably just thankful to get away from the craziness of the Tokyo life. Unzen is a place people go to when they’re tired of the city. It’s full of ryokan, onsen, and just one convenience store.

After taking a brief trip around Unzen with them, I would head back to Amakusa, my first actual trip during my JET complete.

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