Some Saga Fun

Maureen and I recently went to Saga to explore the town and cross it off our list of places to visit before leaving Japan. It was a lovely evening, and we had a nice tour of the castle and the many statues along the moat, with some delicious Indian food to finish it off. My favourite part was coming across these pipes at a children’s playground, where we reanacted some scenes from Mario.

Ok, so we both forgot how Mario looks when he comes out of the tunnel, but it was fun anyway!


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What’s that on your Fridge?

Purikura, or Print Club, is an extreme photo booth experience popular with high school girls and with me. Almost every girl in my school has purikura photos stuck all over their pencil cases, binders and even their rulers. Arcades, shopping malls, and even the dollar store have purikura booths and I have easily become addicted.

After you enter the booth, and deposit your 400 yen, you are given the option of making your skin darker, your eyes sparklier, and choosing the background. Each of these decisions is stressful, as the screen is in Japanese, and you are given a short time to make your choice. After taking your photos in front of a green screen, you can add writing, pictures, make up, accessories and hilarious english phrases to your pictures.

The pictures are printed off as stickers, and you can also send them to your cellphone, or add them to a display book on the machine.

I love Purikura and often coerce my friends into going with me so I can add to my excellent collection.

While I know there are a few booths in Canada, and it’s popular in other Asian countries, regular Purikura is definitely an activity I will miss when leave Japan.  However, it’s so ridiculous and Japanese, that it doesn’t really belong anywhere else.


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Japan and Canada – Cultural Adventures

One of the side goals of the JET programme is ‘grassroots internationalization’, a phrase I have heard so often this year I forgot it wasn’t a thing that people elsewhere said. Regardless of any slang I picked up, interacting with students and the community and teaching them a little about Canada was one of my favourite parts of living in Japan. While I am not sure that they understand what poutine is, or that it’s not cold in Canada all the time, at least they can accurately draw our flag, which is more than I can say for many Canadian students, or me.

I held a quiz this morning and the students could tell me that the most famous sport in Canada was ‘ice hockey’ and that the most famous food was ‘mapalru syrupu’, and that the capital was Ottawa. Of course, they also know that Avirl Lavigne and Justin Bieber are from Canada, and I think that endears them to the country more than I ever could. It was my last class with the second year students, and I am going to miss them a lot.

Teaching here definitely has it’s frustrations and disappointments, but it’s all worth it when a student finally greets you with something other than ‘how are you?’. My favourite new saying this month is “What’s cup Heather? What’s cup?”

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Sumo Wrestling in Fukuoka

Every year there are six grand Sumo tournaments in Japan, held in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. Each tournament lasts for 15 days, and we were lucky enough to see the second last day of the Fukuoka tournament in November.

A quintessentially Japanese experience, the sumo tournament begins at 9 and lasts until around 6, making for a very long day for the spectators. The lower ranked wrestlers compete early in the day, with the matches leading up to the grand champions in the the evening. Many attendees don’t show up until around 4, just in time to see the higher ranked wrestlers compete. We were there around 2, as we wanted to have time to explore and learn a little about Sumo. It gave us a chance to see the Sumo wrestlers walking around outside in their traditional uniforms, and marvel at their sheer size. As well we had plenty of time to buy Hello Kitty’s dressed like Sumo wrestlers, Sumo magnets, Sumo ear cleaners and other hilarious memorabilia.

As the sumo wrestlers enter the ring, they take their place around the circle and are introduced to the crowd. Wrestlers compete in two groups – east and west, and are paired off with someone else in their skill level from the opposite group. Every day they compete against a different opponent, and the scores from the tournament are added up at the end to declare the grand champion.

Each bout lasts only a few seconds, and the first wrestler to touch the ground outside the marked ring loses the match. Thought the matches were often short and anticlimactic, the mental preparation component before the bout could last up to four minutes, with each wrestler stomping his legs, shouting and throwing salt in the ring.

Sumo has faced many problems lately: allegations of match fixing prompted organizers to cancel the spring grand tournament in Osaka and attendance at tournaments is declining, as most of the fans are elderly, with few young people interested in the sport. However, I thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Fukuoka tournament, and would go again if I had a chance. One of my favourite parts was the advertising. Instead of traditional sporting event advertising of billboards or panels, Sumo wrestlers carried out banners advertising many Japanese brands, and of course, McDonalds.

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Sleeping in an internet cafe

Many Japanese people rely on public transportation, but also work/party very late and often miss the last train. Luckily there are a lot of options for people who can’t make it home. Capsule hotels are popular and cheap, but usually for men only. Another option is the Internet Cafe. Popular with the young, the cheap, and the drunk, internet cafes advertise their rates by hour and by night.

On our trip to Kokura, we had no place to stay, so we hit up an internet cafe. For about $15 we each got a small room to ourselves for 9 hours.

The room had a chair, a computer and a foot stool. WE also got access to blankets, pillows and a lot of Manga.

There was an unlimited supply of vending machine coffee and coke, and a sweet massage chair.

It wasn’t comfortable, but it was interesting.


*sorry for the bad pictures, they’re from my phone.

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Sports day

Sports day is an annual event at Japanese schools, and students are split into teams and compete against each other in a variety of events.

Today is the first practice I have witnessed, and it consisted of dancing, marching, panel working, singing and formation walking. What a day!


Here is a short video of the entrance ceremony which gives you a view of the courtyard and some marching. Sorry for the shakiness and the part at the end where I cut off after a bug falls on me.

Japanese children practice this kind of marching every year for sports days and other ceremonies, and apparently the Japanese Olympic team has received criticism for their ‘military’ style marching in the opening ceremonies. So much so that the team is apparently reminded every year to walk ‘more casually’.

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