Author Archive

Thoughts on Summer

June 29, 2011 1 comment

I’ve begun to compile a list of observations about the absurdly humid Japanese summer. A few of the ones I’ve come up with so far:

 I’m sweating through my pants!
 I’m staying plenty hydrated! Every time I breathe it’s like I’m swallowing a gallon of water.
 Since coming to Japan pools have stopped looking so inviting, mainly because it’d actually be drier than not being in one…
 My schools have resorted to putting dehumidifying packets INSIDE the paper trays of the printer because otherwise the paper soaks up so much humidity it creates constant paper jams.
 One of my schools is considering buying a shaved ice machine to have on continuously in the teacher’s room.
 I haven’t had to pee in like three days. No matter how much water I drink I’m just sweating it out immediately.
 I am constantly in the middle of doing laundry, since I go through approximately half of my wardrobe every day.

Feel free to comment with your own, if you have any others 🙂


Categories: Pre-Japan

I went to…山口県

June 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In the middle of May I took a trip with my taiko team to Yamaguchi prefecture. For those of you unversed in Japanese prefectural geography (like me…), Yamaguchi is the most southern prefecture on Honshu, the main Japanese island. (I’m on Kyushu, the southern island. Yamaguchi is famous for a few things, most notably fugu (blowfish) and kujira (whale.)

This is where Yamaguchi prefecture is.

For those of you with ethical issues, let me come out and say it right now. Yes, I’ve eaten whale. And no, it’s really not worth eating. Anyone who says it’s the most delicious thing on the planet is delusional. Is it bad? Nope. Is it worth killing off an entire species? Certainly not. It’s meat. Plain and simple.

Anyway, we gathered in the morning on a Saturday and piled onto a bus which would take us to our first stop. In true Japanese fashion this trip was to be spent mostly on a bus. It was a quite oshare (osharay – fancy) looking bus, and we got off on the right foot by passing around 500ml cans of beer as soon as the bus was in motion. (It’s approximately 10am.)

The inside of the bus!

Fancy Fancy!

After an hour and a half drive we arrived at our first destination, the bridge spanning the island of Honshu and the island of Kyushu. They had some nice places to take pictures, and we hung out there for a while enjoying the wonderful sunshine. The weather was quite favorable for us the whole weekend.

The bridge to Honshu!

The buildings always look nicer on the other side of the river...that's how that saying goes right?

Ishihara-san lookin' cool

After our bridge stop we headed to lunch, which was underwhelming. After lunch we ran into a group of elementary school singers singing the whale song though, which was interesting. I didn’t understand a thing, though I’m a bit disappointed that it didn’t sound very much like whales. It would have been nicer if it’d been similar to this duo des chats concert.

After watching the performance we headed over to Suzuki Kaneko’s house. “Who’s that?” you ask? I have no idea. Still don’t. But she’s famous, so to her house we went! On the way I saw a sweet VW bus. I also saw a really interesting piece of graffiti/social commentary on a wall which I had to capture. It was the first real taste of “whales!” I’d had since coming into Yamaguchi. It would not be my last.

A VW van in Japan!

"On the beach people may have a feast, but meanwhile under the ocean the sardines will mourn for the dead."

After another hour or so in the bus we arrived at a small whale museum which talked about the culture of whaling in Japan. Learning about the old ways of catching the whales was quite interesting and further implanted me a feeling that catching whales in and of itself is not necessarily such a problem. The struggle they used to endure to catch a whale, hundreds of people going out on hand carved boats with little more than tiny knives to fight this massive animal is quite impressive and a real test of courage and endurance. I can respect that. Of course the advantage has changed now that we have boats and weapons about the same size of the whales themselves…

Leaving the museum and heading up a steep incline we arrived at one of the more striking places we visited that weekend. A grave for baby whales. According the inscription, some whales which were caught were naturally female, either with baby whales in tow or pregnant. Killing baby whales really was never part of the deal in catching whales, but after taking the mother putting the babies back in the sea was just cruel since they’d never survive. So they built a shrine and a grave for these whales to honor their sacrifice. There are about 70 baby whales/whale fetuses buried at the shrine.

Etou-san workin' the harpoon.

I'm not dwarfed like this too often...

The actual grave...

And then we all posed in front of the shrine.

Pretty much the whole taiko group

From there we headed to the hotel where we were staying the night. I didn’t take any pictures of the hotel, but it had a lovely onsen and REALLY tasty food. We spent the rest of the evening drinking and socializing which was nice.

Waking up in the morning we did some more sightseeing around the area before heading to Karato Ichiba (Karato Market) where they had tons of super fresh sushi, fugu and whale for eatin’. I did not partake in the whale at that time, but I did have some DELICIOUS sushi and fried blowfish (which is oh so good.) Fugu sashimi (the raw kind) is alright, but they usually cut it so thin you can barely taste anything. Fried fugu is SO juicy and delicious…oh man. We took a few pictures around the market and then wandered into a random outdoor flea market type place with live music and dancing going on.

Inside the market

Fugu sashimi (raw blowfish)

A live blowfish. But not for long!!! Muhuhahahahahahahahahaha

The front of the market

One performance in particular was a fascinating and disturbing display. It was a hip hop dance group dancing to some crazy US rap music. These girls were bumping and grinding all up on the stage, shaking their behinds like they had something stuck to it. Simulating all kinds of sexual acts and all around acting like the world’s biggest [insert dirty word here.] Oh and also, they were like 8 years old.

I didn’t dare take a picture because if I had done that in the states I would have been arrested immediately. Instead, everyone was clapping along to lyrics such as: “Fuck yeah motherfucker, smack that ass! Work it all up inside.” It was truly disturbing. I did take a picture of the girls who came later who were more my age, just so I could look at that picture and remember everything that was wrong about everything that happened there.


After “enjoying” the performance we headed back to the bus for our journey back. It was a truly fascinating weekend, a real insight into both Japanese people, the way they travel and where they travel to. That’s not to say it wasn’t a lot of fun though!


Categories: Pre-Japan

How amazing am I?!

June 16, 2011 1 comment

I have not done origami in quite some time, so i though it would be nice to do some again. I had promised my students at one of my smaller schools a prize after playing bingo (what’s the point of bingo without prizes??) and I though, “instead of giving out stickers, whxih are SO last year, why don’t i give them some origami?” And so I decided to make each student a origami backpack in the same color of their real backpack! There are only 14 students so it’s not too much work. I have until Monday and am about hapfway done!


Categories: Japan, Pictures, School Tags:

Picture Perfect Pizza Party

June 15, 2011 1 comment

This past Saturday I hosted the first party at my place in a looooong while. I usually don’t keep my place super clean, and since I’m not willing to have people over while my place is a mess, I usually don’t host parties. However, I had decided a while ago I really should host a party, so plans were made. Thanks to the mud volleyball event the weekend before my place was actually clean!

Keeping the momentum going, I managed to keep my place relatively clean during the week and so was able to have a pizza party at my place. I only invited a few people because I wanted to keep things small. Alex came over earlier to prep the dough, and I made a delicious pizza sauce to go along with it! We had tons of ingredients! The usual – salami, spinach, pineapple, cheese, mozerella, basil, peppers of various colors, olives…and we had some typical Japanese pizza ingredients – shrimp, corn, mayonaisse.

People started arriving around 7 (there were five of us in total.) It was all delicious, though I felt slightly discriminated against since I lack the ability to create a perfect pizza circle. Something Shirin still won’t let go. To be fair, her pizzas were spectacularly round, where-as the ones Alex and I attempted were…of various shapes.

Taste is paramount, however! Please enjoy these delicious pizza pictures.


Is there anything better than a pizza margherita? How about a square one?!

One of Shirin's many fine circles, a skill crafted after many years of apprenticeship to an Indian mother.

10 Dash Dollars to those (who didn't make the pizza) who can tell me what all is on here!

Forgot the cheese! - or - "Healthy Pizza"

Cheesy crust!

Alex's face pizza. I think he might be compensating for something, because he doesn't have that much spinach! ZING

I've never eaten a more delicious face.

Categories: Pre-Japan

Mr. Dashiell…kun

June 14, 2011 3 comments

I recently taught a group of first graders for the first time, and as you might imagine they were quite excited to see me. As I introduced myself I taught them about calling me Mr. Dashiell instead of Dashiell sensei, which they were very receptive to as they thought it was hilarious. Then out of no-where this one student pops up and just yells out: “Hello Mr. Dashiell…KUN!” and everyone starts giggling, naturally. “kun” is a word you stick onto boys names familiarily. For girls it’s “chan.”

The students loved this so much I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly rid them of the habit. Which to be perfectly honest I’m OK with because I think it’s adorable. The teachers may not love it too much though, so we’ll see what comes of that.

Anyway, really what I wanted to share is that I finally have gotten my hands on some pictures of me teaching. I know many of you think I just sit around an office doing nothing, but I do actually teach! These following photos are from three “evaluation days” which schools have intermittently not necessarily to judge me but to see English class in action and to learn how it works. These pictures are from June 2010, September 2010 and June 2011. Though I feel weird just posting a bunch of pictures of myself here, I figure some of you would very much like to see them. Also, there are some great series of pictures in here AND they’ve gotten me to realize that I pretty much have the same pose in every class since I started. Which is something I intend to work on!

Enjoy me!


"This is how you drive a car in America!"

Noyori sensei is tiny. Or I am huge. Probably both...

"I don't like..." yeah I'm not sure what I'm doing here!



"This is anpanman."

"I like anpanman. He's delicious!"

"Hey Mr. Takenaga, do you like anpanman?"

"No way!!"

"Do YOU like anpanman?" (The answer is yes, by the way. Even though he's a character for 2 year olds.)

"Mr. Takenaga LOVES beer."

Categories: School

Mud Volleyball Photos!

June 10, 2011 1 comment

Well, I’ve finally received the photos from the mud volleyball tournament on Sunday and am able to upload them to the web! They are in a pretty random order, so just enjoy the photos! Without further ado, I present to you this year’s “Muddy Mutant Ninja Turtles!”

Mud Volleyball team entry number 8!

Resistance was futile. Tackling was just going to happen. In spectacular ways!

This kid was bugging us for about 15 minutes, mainly trying to hit our junk with a baseball bat.

After the first game! Nice and muddy already!

Getting pumped up for the game!

This was a pretty good metaphor for our performance on the field...stuck in the mud!

There was lots of infighting as well!

Mud Rackers!

T'was a rough day on the courts indeed

Coming back from the court wondering if they could ever attain glory in mud

The post volleyball football bouts were far more successful!

Andre showing off his football skills, even though he's

This can't end well...

Andre all over Claire...literally

A wardrobe malfunction in the making!

And so rubgy was begun

Go David Go!

May making a run for it

But alas...t'was not to last

No escaping this one...

I decided I could not resist participating...

And immediately became of non-seeing ability.

I got a few good shots in though!

Kelsey wanted payback for me yelling at me all day to play better volleyball

The chase is on!

Fun and describes the whole day

It really was an incredible day. There are so many more pictures and they’re all on facebook, if you want to have a better look!


Categories: Pre-Japan

Let’s talk Kanji

June 7, 2011 1 comment

The more you study kanji (the Japanese characters based on Chinese,) the more you begin to see and understand the patterns behind its uses. One of the major failings of my formal Japanese education was that it never taught me any of the etymology, or any of the radicals of the characters I was learning. They’d just give you the weekly list and say: “Go for it!” Maybe they don’t teach it because they don’t think it’s useful during class time. Granted, it would take quite a long time to explain. But even a little introduction to it would have been a massive boon to my ability not only to learn kanji, but also to look them up in a dictionary, or learn how to write them.

Since beginning my independent study of kanji I’ve discovered so many crazy little stories and similarities, it has made studying kanji enjoyable. Now that I know there are methods to the madness I don’t feel so utterly lost and it has helped me come quite a long way in a relatively short amount of time. I am at the point now where I can read many kanji without even knowing their meanings just by knowing what it looks like. This is a holdover from the Chinese characters kanji are based off of. In Chinese each character has a section dedicated to the meaning and a section dedicated to how it’s pronounced, meaning that if you know the system you should technically be able to read all of the Chinese script even if you don’t know the meaning behind each individual character. Japanese has evolved since adopting the writing system, adding its own characters and changing some meanings and pronuncations. This means that it’s not as fool-proof as Chinese is, but it’s still an invaluable thing to know. Let me give you some examples those of you who aren’t studying Japanese probably won’t care one bit about! 😀

1. You can reasonably assume that more often than not, a kanji which includes 反 can be read as “han.” Examples include: 反、版、販、叛、板、阪 and there are quite a few more. This doesn’t mean that it’s so every time, but knowing this definitely helps!
2. Kanji which include 見 will often be pronounced “kan.” 観、寛, etc. Again, certainly not fool proof.
3. This method does not work for the Japanese pronunciations of the kanji. This means it’s only helpful in compound words (words with more than one character) which use the Chinese pronunciations.

As I said before, in Chinese there is a part of the character designated for pronuncation and a part designated for meaning. These meanings, even more than pronunciations, remain true in Japanese as well.

I used to have a terrible time keeping 待 and 持 apart. The one on the left means to wait, the one on the right means to hold. The right part of the character is the same, so the only thing distinguishing these two kanji is the front radical. Had, however, my education told me that the radical of “to hold” was 手, or hand, I would never have had any problems! Indeed you hold stuff with your hands, so the radical in front gives you a pretty good idea of what the kanji is all about. Since then I’ve looked into it further and discovered that pretty much every single character that has the radical 手 on the left side has something to do with hands, or holding. Let me give you some examples.

*Often times the radical and the chinese character it’s based off are slightly different, so if you’re wondering why 手 doesn’t quite look like 扌 , it’s because it’s been changed slightly as a radical. In this same way, water (水) becomes 氵 *

打つ (utsu), to hit.
払う (harau), to pay
扱う (atsukau), to handle
投げる (nageru), to throw
技 (waza), a skill, ability.

I suppose 払う, to pay, is a little bit of a stretch, as is 技, a skill/ability, but really if you think about it it’s not so strange. How do you pay? You hand over money to the other person. Skills are overwhelmingly accomplished with your hands, whether you’re a skilled craftsman or a musician playing an instrument. Throwing, handling, hitting, they all use hands. Having this information is invaluable both in remembering new kanji and inferring meanings of kanji you’ve never seen, something which happens on a daily basis here in Japan.

It’s something I feel strongly would have been a huge help from the beginning of my Japanese study.

A little more insightful today 🙂


Categories: Pre-Japan