Category Archives: Life in Japan

I moved to Japan as part of the JET Program(me) and this blog should encapsulate everything after arrival in Japan related to my every day life.

I also have a separate section dedicated to the JET application process and such, so if that is of interest, please refer to that as well.

If I do not cover any areas that you have questions about, please ask. ;)

Iaido Experience


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Last night I had the amazing experience of trying out Iaido for the first time with a weapons master and a national champion of Mugai-ryū 無外流, a Koryu (traditional sword style). The experience was even better than I had expected. Read the rest of this entry

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Flu Vaccines in Japan


The Flu season here in Japan is coming to an end as spring is slowly arriving. There are still a few students out with the Flu, but that`s a major improvement from the 10-20 percent of the students that were out due to the flu a few weeks back.  That percentage was pretty consistent from elementary schools to Middle schools in my area. I thought that was an alarmingly high number, but the reaction was more of “仕方がない” (it can’t be helped).  From there the students that have the Flu are to stay at home and the students remaining are to wear medical masks and should be extra vigilant when washing their hands. You also can`t forget about “うがい,” the act of gargling tea or water.
I had not thought much of it recently, but it came up again in conversation and an interesting but basic question was asked.
“Does Japan have the flu shot?”
Yes, Japan has and uses the Flu shot, but it`s apparently a bit expensive and not covered by insurance most of the time.  This was a bit of a surprise as the health insurance here in Japan is usually pretty solid.
The Flu shot is free or cheap to the elderly, but can be 4,000 yen (~$35 USD) or more for anyone else. There seems to be the mentality of it`s too expensive to do get done yearly, but if you get the Flu and go to the hospital for treatment, it`s covered…

日本の運転に対してアメリカの運転


 

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私の本もとの出身は、年中暑いフロリダです。中学生の時にニューハンプシャー州の北部に引っ越しました。気候は会津地方と似ています。 Read the rest of this entry

Driving in Japan vs. the USA


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In the USA, there are no Kei-cars(軽自動車). I had never seen a Kei-car until I moved to Japan and started driving one for work. Read the rest of this entry

Japanese and American Thoughts #2 Sex Talks


Having a conversation with a friend from Japan and comparing our thoughts on things we found strange or unusual about each other’s Country, while trying to explain, defend, or (agree and then) explore the aspects of our cultures. Part 2

There is so much to talk about so this is part two; We decided to continue by covering a few aspects of conversations around sex. I almost cut out a few key sections, but I wanted to keep the conversation as whole as possible as is the point of the conversation.

Japanese and American Thoughts #1 Public Baths


Having a conversation with a friend from Japan and comparing our thoughts on things we found strange or unusual about each other’s Country, while trying to explain, defend, or (agree and then) explore the aspects of our cultures.

There is so much to talk about so this is part one. We decided to start off with the conversation by diving into the public baths in Japan.

Japanese and me, so far [part 4] (IS 6)


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About two weeks into the semester at Kansai Gaidai, I found myself enrolled in a Shorinji Kempo martial arts club.  The clubs in Japan are Read the rest of this entry

Japanese and me, so far [part 3] (IS 5)


Once in Japan I was hit by culture shock in varying degrees depending on the situation.  I was also horribly nervous and could hardly say a few words to figure out where I was supposed to go to pick up my luggage, let alone have a conversation.  Within a week I was able to hold a shaky conversation and after a month, I was talking to everyone and anyone I could.  I had always been Read the rest of this entry

Japanese and me, so far [part 2] (IS 4)


From there I entered college with a drive to learn and to push myself.  Having a desire to learn another language has become a driving force in my effort to learn Japanese and is incorporated into my major.  I started off not truly knowing how to study Japanese and I would often spend most of my time staring at the pages of my textbooks, trying to absorb the information that way.  This was horribly ineffective and after the first few chapters I started struggling.  Most of the grammatical structures, vocabulary, and conjugations would make some sense for a day or so and then I would forget them or make the same errors again and again.

I was lucky enough to meet several Japanese exchange students right around the time when I was struggling most.  They were very kind and started helping me practice my Japanese a few times a week.  They would quiz me over and over again on vocabulary until I knew what they were going to say just by the first syllables that left their tongues.  Once I was able to create my own sentences, not just repeat common phrases everyone had memorized, I would say anything and everything I could in Japanese to them, and I listened intently each time any of them spoke to me.  I still struggled in class and my skills were poor all around, but I was still passing my courses at a level to continue.  These people that helped me have become some of my best friends and I am still in contact with them today, driving me forward still.

I tried twice to go to Japan as an exchange student and had to cancel my application for abroad due to financial situations, caused by steep increases in the university’s fees up to $5,000 in one year.  I tried for a third time and was able to study abroad in the Fall of 2012 at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan.  I was kept busy working throughout the summer, keeping me distracted for the most part from my studies, almost as if it was all a lie.  Once I had let it sink in that I was accepted and the initial exhilaration had worn off, I started worrying about the different regional dialects of Japan, especially Osaka, where I was headed.  I had heard from others that the dialect, known as a“-ben” in Japanese, in Osaka was particularly difficult and that words conjugated completely differently, nearly influencing a change in area of study.  Yet the area was perfectly located; the university was in the middle of a triangle of absolutely beautiful cities, Osaka City, Nara, and Kyoto, all within about an hour or so by train.  With this in mind, my motivation spiked once more and I set off for Japan.

kansai gaidai

kansai gaidai

Japanese and me, so far [part 1] (IS 3)


I lived in a city called West Palm Beach, Florida near Lake Okeechobee, until I was 12 years old.  I was exposed to people from around the world that could speak a handful of different languages.  The most dominant language besides English at the time was Spanish and I had picked up a bit just by being surrounded by it. If I drove about 30 minutes South, Spanish speaking skills were a must. I also took martial arts lessons, specifically Taekwondo, at a nearby dojang where the owners were half Korean and often taught the Korean terms for any moves, counting, being sure to keep a continuous blend of Korean and American culture.   In middle school I moved to an area of NH where most people only spoke English and as such Spanish, French, and Latin were offered in the school systems starting in high school.  I decided to go with Spanish, but had no real interest and did not challenge myself to learn the language as there was not anyone to speak with that was a native speaker or at least fluent in Spanish besides the instructor.  There are many factors that play into how I have been learning the Japanese Language.  The more prevalent aspects that affect me in my daily life in correlation to Japanese as a second language are known in linguistic anthropology terms as gender, expert, competence, gesture, community, humor, identity and evolution, yet the most important in my mind is motivation.

I have found motivation an elusive and difficult thing to find again and again.  As far as a second language is concerned the process of learning often stems from some sort of driving force, to get you through the days where things are not working out, you feel like you are miles away from your goal and the only thing keeping you from quitting is some form of motivation.  That can be an internal force or external.  An excerpt from a journal article on motivational factors in consideration to Japanese specifically as a foreign or second language stated:

“…some motivational categories are quite exclusive to Second Language Acquisition; for example…‘communication’ as a driving force in learning a second language. MacNamara, and Lambert and Gardner’s integrative motivation refer to the fundamental nature of learning a foreign language as communicating with native speakers of the language, and as succeeding in becoming part of the community where the target language is spoken” (MATSUMOTO 60)

In this journal the focus is more on the continuation of learning and the motivation that keeps that interest in the subject for every step of the way, even after the academic, in-class level, of learning has passed.  This strikes a key with me as I have never been naturally skilled or talented in the acquisition of languages.  I often received poor scores on tests, quizzes and exams, yet I was always giving it my all.  I could study for 5 hours straight, and get the same result or worse than someone else that studied for just one hour.  An interesting thing about this article is that it is going against achievement theories; such as “you are successful so you gain the want to continue”, by saying:

“the learning of a foreign/second language involves far more than simply learning skills, or a system of rules, or a grammar; it involves an alteration in self-image, the adoption of new social and cultural behaviours and ways of being, and therefore has a significant impact on the social nature of the learner.” (MATSUMOTO 61)

This reasons that success in a second language goes beyond immediate grammatical, testable success, and melds the understanding of these rules with the changing of oneself at the same time.  This is where my journey takes a turn for the hardest thing I have ever tried to do, and am still doing, learning Japanese.

When I was a freshman in high school I met an exchange student from Japan.  He was in the same calculus course as me and he could speak basic English.  He seemed like a nice person and I tried talk to him every day, yet he could not understand much of what I said and I had no knowledge of Japanese outside of “Konnichiha” and “Arigatou” which mean “good afternoon” and “thanks”.  After about three weeks of failed attempts to communicate I decided that I would learn Japanese in order to help bridge the gap between us.  I wandered haphazardly in my studies, picking up random words and a rough memorization of two of the Japanese writing scripts.  Yet this did not help in my ability to speak in Japanese, yet he was improving rapidly with his English ability every day. This was my first motivation for learning Japanese.

Throughout high school I tried to get a Japanese language course integrated into the public school in order to study it in a formal setting with hopes of getting at least a few years worth of study.  This went on for 3 years and then finally I had the chance from a grant offer by the state for new classes in public schools in New Hampshire.  I was in charge of finding a Japanese instructor, students that shared a similar desire to learn Japanese, a time that worked for everyone to meet, and then to help decide how the class was to be graded.  The class was hard and not structured very well, as the kind hearted instructor was used to teaching young children that had already spoken some Japanese and I was the only student to follow through with the class to the end.  I had ended up learning mainly about the culture and a collection of interesting facts and the proper pronunciation of the Japanese syllabaries, but that was enough to get me started.

 

MATSUMOTO, MASANORI, and YASUKO OBANA. “MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS AND PERSISTENCE IN LEARNING JAPANESE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE.” New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies (2001): n. pag. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. June 2001. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nzasia.org.nz/downloads/NZJAS-June01/LearningJapanese.pdf&gt;.