Golden Temple

Kinkakuji, Kyoto’s golden temple, is not just painted gold, but is actually covered in a thin layer of gold leaf. It’s located in the middle of a beautiful traditional Japanese garden and spending time here was one of the most peaceful experiences I had in Japan.

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Last New Years!

I miss you family!

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Japan’s weird food: Ryokan meals, Kaiseki

Last winter I went with Scott and my parents to a Ryokan in Kurokawa, Kagoshima. Kurokawa is a tourist town for mostly Japanese tourists, and is full of onsen, hot spring baths. It is very traditional and is every bit as picturesque as you would imagine a small town in the mountains of Japan would look like. Our ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel, had several onsen on it’s property, including one next to a waterfall and one in a cave.
At ryokan, they bring your meal to you in your room, and it’s at least 17 courses of traditional Japanese food. First came sashimi and some traditional appetizers.  Basashi, two hot pots, a grilled fish and some oden followed.
A chestnut, some ginger, shrimp, snail, red bean and a plum.

The food was absolutely amazing and so beautifully presented.

Sashimi, tempura, grilled fish, and a hot pot of beef and vegetables with cheese.

Of all the places we visited in Japan, Kurokawa in the winter is number one on my list of places to revisit. It was absolutely magical.

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July long weekend! We went on a trip to Iki, an island in Nagasaki. The island is famous for Alcohol, beaches and things shaped like monkeys, so pre-trip anticipation of good times were high, and Iki did not disappoint.

We took the ferry on saturday morning, picked up rental cars and after setting up our tents headed to beach number 1!

Spent the afternoon swimming, unsuccessfully snorkling, exploring, trying to do cartwheels and eating strange flavoured potato chips.

If Iki has a downfall, it’s its lack of places to eat. Every restaurant we tried either had no space for 10 people or was closed. We ended up at a curry and beef bowl restaurant with mediocre food for dinner, but had a great time the rest of the night. The next morning started with bang after we found the number one tourist attraction on Iki.

Saruiwa: A rock shaped like a monkey.

From the northern end of the island you can catch a short ferry to a smaller island with a beach and nothing else. It was gorgeous. Beautiful beach, clear blue water, it was hard to believe we were still in Japan.

We returned, extremely sunburnt, from this island and found the only grocery store on the island and bought enough meat to have our own BBQ at the campground. Yakisoba, grilled veggies and delicious meat.

It was a wonderful weekend and I’ll likely post more on Iki later, haven’t organized my photos yet, but posting to appease some dearly missed friends!

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Saying Goodbye

It has been a crazy week here, getting ready to leave Japan. Goodbye parties, packing parties, cleaning parties etc..

Today I leave Chikugo! I don’t have anything eloquent to say but it’s been a great year, and I’m so glad I was lucky enough to be placed here and meet the people I have.

Goodbye Jutaku!


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A day in the life: English Communication Lessons

I’ve been working on preparing information for my successor as an ALT and have been reflecting a lot on what it is I do here as a language teacher in Japan. Most of my work is preparing and teaching lessons to the first year students at both of my schools. These students are 15 or 16, about the same age as grade ten students in Canada. Every week I teach a new English Communication lesson to them. I also occasionally teach second and third year students. My other responsibilities include English club, speech contest and test preparation, exam preparation and marking and English composition marking. My favourite, by far, is teaching English communication. It is so much fun.

All our lessons here start with the opening routine. A student representative calls out ‘be quiet and close your eyes’, then ‘open your eyes and stand up’, ‘bow’, then I say Hello and the students say ‘hello Ms. Heather’ and the student say ‘sit down’. This is a rough translation of what the students say in their Japanese classes, but Japanese schools have a definite routine to them which is a lot more formal than schools in Canada.

After the greeting, I pass out name cards and try to talk to a few of the students individually, while the Japanese teacher usually returns their homework.

Then it’s fun time!

We usually start the class with a warm up game, then we move on to new vocabulary. I have tried so many ways to make this fun, but usually we start with translation, comprehension checking and repeat after meing. Then the class does a vocabulary review game and its time for a speaking or writing activity. The writing activities are usually pretty simple, starting with fill in the blanks and progressing to writing full sentences. The speaking activities are almost all one on one with the teacher, which is achievable because our small class size – 15-20 students, and necessary because when left to work with a partner, most classes dissolve into Japanese. That usually takes up all our time, but if we have left over time I do extension activities with the higher level students and review with the lower level.

 Throughout the class I use participation board to check the students progress. They get a sticker for contributing to the class in any way – winning a game, asking a question, answering a question, talking to me in English, completing their worksheet, etc… At the end of term I give prizes to everyone, and a larger prize to the top 5 students in every class. I think it works great for motivating these students, even if it’s not a system I would use  in a school in Canada.

While the lessons themselves are fun, the best part about teaching here are the students. Not all of them are really happy about English class, but they are very enthusiastic in class, and produce the best English compositions. This week they were to write about their favourite possession. One student wrote me about a KitKat bar her sister gave her which cemented their bonds.

I feel like lately I have ended every post with how much I am going to miss something about Japan, but I really am going to miss the students and classes here. They never fail to make me smile. 🙂

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