Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sara-Akita trip

This past weekend, Patrick and I went up to Akita as part of my birthday celebration.
Patrick took me to the aquarium there. I really love aquariums, and this one was really fun. So I put together a little video.

After the aquarium we stayed at a very nice onsen (public bath house, one for men, one for women). An onsen is also a hotel.

We had a very spacious room with a good view of the ocean. The room was actually bigger than our apartments!

We had a great dinner of fresh sea food that they brought to our rooms.

The food was incredibly good. And the bath was very relaxing after you get over the shyness.
After dinner and our bathing, we met up again to go to a taiko drumming performance that was at a small community theatre down the street. I can't particularly remember the troupe's name, but they dressed up as Namahage (A type of demon/god of Akita). People usually dress up as these beings for various festivals in Akita. This troupe performed as Namahage as a way of preserving tradition and teaching their culture in Akita. Namahage are beings who would punish/take away bad children so when they performed, the Namahage would wander the audience yelling "Arrgh! Are there any bad children here today?? Are there lazy, or rude children?" Parents were told to hold tightly to their child to protect them from these gods. It was a really great show. The drumming was amazing and it was free. It is a must see for anyone going to Akita.
This is a brief video I put together of the performance. The last piece they performed, I believe they composed themselves. For anyone who is familiar with taiko drumming, you may notice the more modern sound.

The next day we had another wonderful meal. Breakfast was served in their dinning room. It was a traditional tatami mat room. We were the only ones there but it was nice to have a quiet and relaxing morning. After breakfast, we checked out and wandered around the small town and then took the train to Akita city, in Akita. We went to a small art museum and wandered through a nice park. We ate dinner at the train station and then took the shinkansen back to Morioka. Though it was a brief trip, it was a lot of fun.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sara-Sansa Festival '08

From August 1st to the 4th, Morioka has it's Sansa Festival. Sansa is a type of traditional dance here in Iwate. There are many different dance troupes that perform during this time. Companies and neighborhoods put together troupes of dancers, drummers, and flutists. They parade down the main street of Morioka in their summer kimonos (yukata). Children and adults take part in the parade. Many families perform together. I saw some of my students participating as dancers for their neighborhood troupe. It's a very festive parade. Everyone dances, even the drummers and flutists. They also have an announcer who announces each troupe, and when the troupe gets to the finish line she announces "Thank you for your wonderful performance."
I have put together a brief movie with the original sound so you can hear the music. The dancers are chanting something like "Sakkora Choiwa yasse!" I'm guessing that this is from their local dialect, or something much older or a mixture of local and old Emishi. (The Emishi were the natives of Tohoku) I have heard that there are about 20,000 performers and around 5,000 drums. In the video you will also see performers wearing large flowers on their heads or a straw hat. Those are the traditional Sansa costumes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Catherine-Long time no see

Hello all,

I'm sorry that I am a terrible blogger. I just tend to forget that this is here which is why it's fortunate that Patrick and Sara are such good bloggers. I could tell you all about the various things I've been doing since my last post but as it's been several months I won't. Instead I will talk about all the recent events.
For our job we work at one school for one year. The catch is that we start work at the beginning of second term rather than first term. Recently, meaning the end of July, we all ended our last term at our old schools and prepared to head to our new ones. For me this meant cleaning out my desk, saying goodbye to all the teachers and students at Josei during various events. To say a proper farewell to the students I gave a speech in English and in Japanese telling the students how much I loved working at Josei and how much I would miss them all. I cried two lines into it but I had come prepared with tissues. After my speech a student of mine gave me one in return. He had written in both English and Japanese and though the English was not perfect I was very impressed and moved by what he had to say. I was also given a bouquet of flowers. It was very nice.
At the end of the day, after my farewell to the students, I went to a nomikai with all the teachers from Josei. There I gave another speech that was much shorter and ended with the line, "Please drink a lot." I am happy to say that they had no trouble complying. This nomikai was a chance for me to say goodbye and thankyou to the people I had worked with for a year. I really loved being and Josei for a lot of reasons but the staff that sat around drinking and talking with me was a big part of it. I miss them already.
The next major event for me was actually a series of events, namely Board of Education seminars spread out over the course of this past week. These seminars included the four new AET's: Rylan, Alicia, Kim, and Dan. These four were all SICE students and had been to Morioka before for four months on a homestay program that included two and half days a week teaching English but I still felt a little like a senpai. We spent time going over teaching methods for both middle school and elementary and talked about living and working in Morioka. We had a contract ceremony to start the year off right, visited our new schools to introduce ourselves, and attended workshops with other teachers about teaching English.
Tomorrow is the first official day at school for all the AETs but Rylan. He is in the Tamayama area and will be visiting all five of his schools tomorrow. I am looking forward to starting at my new school, Kuroishino Jr. High, and I hope that it will be another great year.
As I think back over the past year at Josei and in Japan I feel like I have learned a lot about Japan and Japanese culture but I also think that I will always be surprised. I know that I have learned a lot about being an English teacher because I had three amazing role models to learn from and I'm glad but I also think that I will still make a lot of mistakes. Teaching may be a process of learning everyday how you can mess up and then never doing that again.
Well that's enough.

Until the next time I remember or am reminded,