How to make coffee: Japanese style

So you’re at the office and need a morning coffee. The vending machine and its canned coffee is too far away, you hate instant coffee and the school has no coffee maker… what do you do?

Easy. Just make yourself some Japanese style individual sized drip coffee.


1. Get a package like this one. As a foreigner it is one of the many weekly gifts I have received from the amazing Japanese staff.


2. Put the container on your cup


3. Fill your cup with hot water from the ubiquitous hot water keeper


4. Toss the container in the food waste bin in the sink. Not the garbage, never the garbage, unless you want a crew of concerned looking Japanese ladies to explain the garbage sorting process to you in excruciating detail every time you walk near the garbage. Also not for the garbage? Banana peels, apple cores, and leftover rice.


5. Yum!



Seriously the staff gives me so many gifts! Today alone I received that coffee, two cookies, two snacks, some grapes and that sweet Yamato High School graduation 2006 mug!



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Cherry Blossoms and my Schools

Cherry blossom trees surround many schools in Japan, and both my schools have an abundance. Opening ceremonies for the new school year are in early April, and coincide with the blooming of the trees.

This is Omuta Kita (North Omuta) High School, where I spend Monday, Tuesday and Friday.


Yamato (which literally translates as mountain gates) high school, where I teach on Wednesday and Thursday.

We have really been enjoying the cherry blossom season, and I will be sad to see it end!

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Graduation Ceremony

Students and teachers have talked about the upcoming graduation ceremony for months now, and on Tuesday it finally happened! Although I understood almost nothing of the speeches, the preparations and the ceremony, it was still a very moving experience. Students here graduate after three years in high school, and they ended formal lessons in January to spend the last few months of their high school career preparing for University entrance examinations. By now, all the students have been accepted, or not, and will spend the next month getting ready for their life at University, or starting their careers.

On Monday we had a full day practice ceremony with the first, second and third year students in the gym for three hours rehearsing their ‘Stand up, bow, sit down cues’ and singing the school song. On Tuesday, parents began arriving early in the morning, some dressed in Kimonos, to take their place in the gym. I checked in one last time on the third year students, to find them all taking photos together and signing yearbooks. The similarities between graduation at home and here were very interesting.

Students signing yearbooks!

Students signing yearbooks!

The actual ceremony was much more formal than those at home, with students only standing up when their name was called, and not crossing the stage or receiving their diploma. One student accepted a diploma on behalf of the others, and another student made a speech that even had me tearing up as she struggled to get through it.

After the formal, and long, ceremony was over, students went back  with their parents to their home room classes where they received their diploma and some mementos. Each student made a speech to their classmates, parents and teachers. It was so interesting to see the bonds these students had with their teachers. They generally have the same homeroom teacher for their three years of highschool, and teachers here are much more involved in students lives. For example, if a student gets in trouble with the law, the police call the school before the parents. Also, students may spend up to 10-11 hours a day at school due to extra classes and activities!

Standing up as the student representative receives the diploma for all the students

On of the teachers at my school said to me that ‘although you can not understand the words, you can understand the emotions,’ and as cheesy as that sounds, it perfectly sums up my experience!

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Work Humor

These magnets are on the cupboard in the staff room. The photocopy lady says she put them there because Japanese teachers “never have time for smiling.”

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