Memoirs of a Gaijin

My Travels as an Expatriot

同人 – Kindred Spirits

One of the big factors in the development of my japonohpilia was manga. For the unaware, manga, pronounced “maan-ga,” is, essentially, Japanese comic books, and they are similar in many ways to their western counterparts, though notably different at the same time. As it is in American comics, many manga focus on characters with unique powers who work with as well as fight other characters with their own respective powers, and the stories of these manga center around the development and eventual resolution of these conflicts. And it is also very common to have long-running series in which the chief antagonist will change several times over before the story’s conclusion. However, there is one large differentiation between Japanese manga and America comic books: Manga end; comic books do not.

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自分の表示 – Expressions of the Self

This week, Wednesday the 21st, I will finally hold the first meeting of my school’s new English Club, and I am very excited. For the first time, I will have complete control over the dialogue and direction of the classroom, and I plan to use this to give my students all sorts of new experiences. If things go according to plan, my club will allow my students to observe and learn from a more genuine and native form of English, but there are no guarantees but those I make for myself. In the spirit of that adage, last week I tested out one of the lessons I have planned for the club in the coming weeks: I taught my Third Years to write English poetry.

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親睦の機会 – The Opportunities of Friendship

While every week brings about new opportunities, the ones I experienced this last week were different, namely in how they related to my life outside of work. To put it simply, I have finally made friends outside of the JET Program. In the last week, I had the opportunity to hang out with new friends who share no connection to JET, teaching, or even being American. This opportunity allowed me to feel at home in the actual country of Japan, rather than simply in my apartment and place of work. Even though I am introverted, it was a wonder to finally make these connections, and I cannot wait to see how they will impact my time here going forward. Continue reading

踏み切る – A Bold Start

In many ways, Japan is a land that contradicts itself. While being remarkably cutting-edge in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, faxes are used in place of emails and electronic messaging in the workplace; while being the third largest economy on the planet, debit cards are practically nonexistent outside of Tokyo; and even though there is a palpable culture of emotional repression and self-subjugation, Japan has one of the most unique and marvelous party cultures in the world. While I have become well acquainted with the prior two, this last contradiction was one that I finally had the pleasure of experiencing this last weekend, and it was truly an endeavor I do not expect to forget anytime soon. Especially because of its sheer difference from my experience in Japanese culture so far.

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僕の方, 僕の方 – My Way, My Way

Apologies for being absent from the blog for the last three weeks. I have been without a laptop, so writing my blog posts has been an impossibility. However, I finally have my repairs completed and I will resume me weekly schedule, so I hope you will continue to follow me through this journey as I figure out this new life in Japan.

In the last few weeks, life went on in the absence of my computer, and of the new developments, I would consider three of them to be the most important, though they all differ in how they have impacted and will continue to impact my life here. The first is something fairly simple: I finally got a couch and coffee table for my apartment. The second, and arguably more impactful one, relates to my work as a teacher: in November I will begin to hold weekly meetings of English Club at my school and in doing so provide further opportunities for my students to deepen their understanding of English. Finally, after taking some time to evaluate my personal goals, I have decided to undertake the N3  Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or simply JLPT, next June, something that will truly drive me to plan for and work towards success. At first glance, the three may seem unrelated, but each of them have both allowed me to feel like I am truly making a mark in Kiryu, both in my own world and that of the people around me; and it is from this that I have found an even more potent excitement for my life and the possibilities that it holds.

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記憶の威勢 – The Power of Memory

In Japanese schools, the School Sports Festival is always a big deal. For many students, it is the best day of the year. It’s a day when they can escape from the monotonous tedium of everyday class, and instead spend the time outside, running around, having a fun time with their friends and fellow classmates. This annual event occurs at every school in Japan, and in seeing it in person for the first time provided a unique opportunity to compare my own middle school experience with that of my own students. However, upon the conclusion of the festival, the commonality that I found to be the most potent was the poignant sense of heartache that I perceived in the faces of some third years as they finished their final sports festival. A sense that I too experienced last May, as I neared the day of my Graduation from Geneseo.

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くずの美容 – The Beauty of Garbage

If I had to say the thing I miss most about home, besides the standard answer of friends and family, it would have to be the food of Rochester. Sure, I really do love to eat new foods, and living here in Japan has given me the opportunities to try some incredible food so far, but, as with all places, there are special dishes that I can only get back home. I can always make them here in Japan, but there is a magic that is lost when they are made so far from home. I finally came to realize this earlier this week as I told my classes all about my home, and I described to them the piece of cuisine that is truly unique to Rochester and my personal favorite food: The Garbage Plate

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姉妹都市 – Sister City

For the last two weeks, I have been in an incredibly good mood. I’m not sure if it is finally starting to teach in the classroom, feeling Kiryu become more and more like home, or just the extant jubilation I felt when I first arrived and realized I had finally accomplished my goal. Regardless, my outlook and demeanor have been especially high-spirited, and this effect was even further compounded today when I received my first care package from my parents back in Rochester. There was nothing of incredible value in the parcel, just a few books and smaller momentos from home that I asked my parents to send my way, and it was great to feel that connection with home as I continue to make my new one here. The concept of a truly global connection is one that I have learned much about this week, specifically as I have learned more about the concept of Sister Cities.

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