I drank more tea within this past month than I have growing up. I basically drink a variety of tea everyday. It has been interesting because the juice is rather expensive compared to America. If I grew up in Japan, maybe I might buy more juice, but because I know it is more expensive when you take into account of proportion, it’s hard for me to buy it. Maybe it’s that American “find the best deal” kind of thinking that is influencing me. Any dairy product is also comparatively expensive. So, this leaves me with tea. I have been enjoying oolong tea immensely. I must say that barley tea is probably the worst that I’ve had so far. It’s so strong that I need something sweet to offset it, which is what I am supposed to do anyway (or so I’m told).

On another note, the English seminar finished earlier in the week. I am happy that it is over, but I am glad that I was able to get something out of it. The best speaker that presented in the seminar was a professor from the Nagoya Institute. She spent her college years abroad in Great Britain and still goes back twice a year, so she had the best command of English. Her focus was to show the Japanese teachers of English, many of whom have sparsely traveled abroad, about the many different standards of English in the world. Probably the most widely known example is the British spelling of “colour” versus the American “color.” Maybe for more immature people, there is a fascination with the eraser being called a “rubber” in Great Britain. A “rubber” for Americans…

I have met with my teaching partners already to discuss the next 2 lessons. The first lesson will be my own self-introduction. Then, we’ll jump into where the students left off before the summer vacation. I will type more about that in the coming weeks. First things first: I had to make a short speech yesterday in the opening ceremony in front of the whole school. I was told that I could basically do whatever I want, so I decided to test the field and do an interactive speech. As I expected, maybe about 1% of the students responded.

“お早うございます。(Some students and teachers respond) 私の名前はモイ・ジャスティンです。新しいAETです。だから… Good morning, everyone. (Only my supervisor responds.) Let’s try it again. Good morning, everyone. (similar response to my greeting in Japanese.) My name is Justin Moy, and as the principal said, I am from New Jersey. (The principal first gave a pretty thorough introduction of me.) I know that Mito High School has classes for French, Chinese, and English. So… who likes French? (Raising my hand while asking) No one. Okay, who likes Chinese? (Same action and a few students put their hands halfway.) How about English? Who likes English? (Foreign exchange students raised their hands and maybe about 3 Japanese students.) Okay, we’ll work on it. How about Japanese? Who likes Japanese? (No one raises their hands.) 日本語が好きですか。(Still, no one raises their hands.) Wow. You don’t really like any languages huh? We'll work on it. I look forward to teaching you all with the other English teachers. Thank you.”

今週の写真: Part 2 from Tokyo.

Hotel Room (shared with 2 other guys)

Scene out the window (right)

Scene out the window (left)

Shinjuku (Maybe outskirts of Shibuya?)


Karaoke (Look at us foreigners...)

Restaurant called "Watami"


Video game store (look how lively it is)

Shinjuku area

JR Metro

JR Metro map
Food stands! Temptation!

Sign for shinkansen (bullet train)

Shinkansen exterior

Shinkansen interior


今週の漢字: ()

My experience so far has been very positive. However, that’s not the reason why I decided to use this kanji for this week’s blog. I recently learned this kanji as I have been slowly spending time studying Japanese by myself. I use some Nintendo DS games to help me practice and even to learn more kanji. If I didn’t use the DS, I would be using so much paper for my kanji practicing. With the DS game, I can just write on the screen. As I walk around I try to recognize any kanji that I’ve already studied. I also try to read everything I come across whether it is hiragana, katakana, or even kanji. I would do something similar when I learn new grammar points. For example, I just recently learned about the products of interrogatives combined with particles. For どこ (doko = where), when it is added with certain particles, nouns are formed:
どこか (dokoka = somewhere); (ka) is a particle used for questions.
どこも (dokomo = everywhere); (mo) is a particle used to express equal, same…
どこでも(dokodemo = anywhere); でも (demo) is used similar to the English “but.”

My explanations of these particles are only what I have learned about them so far. There may be more uses of these particular particles. I noticed that there will be more uses for that I will learn sometime later.

There are three large cell phone (携帯電話けいたいでんわ – keitaidenwa [or just 携帯/けいたい/keitai for short]) companies in Japan: Softbank, AU (by KDDI), and Docomo (by NTT). When I learned the new grammar point, it hit me why NTT’s cell phone company is named Docomo.

I still haven’t explained why I chose this particular kanji despite all my positive experiences. Since I have arrived in Japan, I have been attending orientations and seminars. Currently, I am still part of an English seminar that requires participation from all the AETs (Assistant English Teachers) in my prefecture as well as many JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English). Each of this 5-day seminar (not consecutive days) focuses on a different topic. The first day dealt with icebreakers and classroom management. The second day focused on improvement of the students’ listening skills and ways to effectively teach customs and cultures. Days 3-5 will take place at the end of the week and the beginning of next week. I found that the most interesting was the period dealing with customs and cultures. I knew about some things like the “sempai-kohai” system (in other words, a vertical system versus many western cultures of a horizontal system) and using circles to note correct answers. However, I did not know that the check mark meant incorrect. I figured that if people here would form an “X” with both arms or sometimes with their fingers, then incorrect answers would be marked with an “X” like it is in America.

Another interesting cultural difference to note is representation of counting. I never thought about this small action. I tally when I use marks to represent counting. People in Japan apparently tally by using as follows:

These small revelations have been making my time so far extra special. I hope these small sweet moments continue throughout my time in Japan, however long that will be.

I have posted earlier than usual again due to the English seminar. As an update on my communication status here, I have gotten my cell phone by signing up with Softbank. Because of Softbank, I have seen many pictures of Cameron Diaz as the company uses her image to try to sell their products. I hope there was no brainwashing involved. I like to think that I signed with Softbank because of the nice deal I get for signing up with Yahoo Broadband (Yahoo BB) at the same time. [Note: Softbank and Yahoo BB recently merged.] My modem will be delivered to me in the beginning of September, so I’ll have the internet then. If I decided to get my modem when I signed up, I would have had to pay for the month of August.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: 東京で写真をたくさん撮った。

Above are pictures of Tokyo.

Map title near Shinjuku Station;
Shinjuku is where the hotel is located

Curry Udon restaraunt

Yum... tomato-based curry udon...
Only ¥780 (about $6.73 USD)

今週の漢字: 話している

I’ve been having a great time trying to communicate with people. As any other place, some people take the initiative to come and try to talk to me, but some just leave me alone or wait until I take the initiative. As I am walking to the school, I try to at least greet others who are outside. Usually it just ends there as I am making my way to the school. At Mito Senior High School (SHS), I try to talk to other teachers when it doesn’t seem like they are too busy. Oftentimes, the other teachers seem really focused on whatever they are doing. However, there have been a number of teachers I’ve been able to converse with for longer than just the usual greetings.

Most of the teachers I’ve talked with know a little bit of English. So it’s been a mix of Japanese and English. Then, there are a few teachers who don’t really know any English (or maybe know a little but are afraid to try). I try very hard to communicate still. The exchange doesn’t go very far unfortunately. I think it’s because the other person tries to use very simple Japanese and eventually it gets hard to really go into a more complex conversation.

Some words have been sticking with me like おめでとう (congrats), 作る (to make), and 格好いい (good appearance... something like that). I’ve heard these words a lot. The first was on my birthday. A very nice lady wrote to me: “22才の誕生日おめでとうございます。(Congratulations on your 22nd birthday).”

The second word was used whenever I ate lunch. The dialogue usually went as such:
先生: (御飯を食べたの後) ええ~御飯を作った? [A: (after I ate) Eh! You made your meal?]
: はい、つくった。 [Me: Yes, I made it]
先生: ええ~すごい… [A: Eh! Amazing…]

The last was always when I met students. At first I didn’t really know what 格好いい was, but after hearing it so much, I checked my dictionary. Usually, it went something like this:
生徒は僕を見ている) [(A student is looking at me)]
: こんにちは。[Me: Hello.]
生徒: こんにちは。[Student: Hello.]
僕をまだ見ている) [(Student continues looking at me)]
: 私は新しいAETです。アメリカから来ました。[Me: I am the new AET (short for Assistant English Teacher). I am from America.]
生徒の友達は聞く) [(Student’s friend hears)]
生徒達: ええ~ジュスティン先生~ [Students: Eh! Teacher Justin…!]
: はい、モイジャスティンです。[Me: Yes, Justin Moy.]
生徒: 日本人ですか。[Student: You are Japanese?]
: 中国人です。[Me: Chinese.]
友達 (生徒と話している): ええ~格好いいだね。[Friend (speaking to Student): Eh! He has a good appearance…]
Note: I don’t really want to say that it means good looking because frankly for me to translate it as such would only come from a big ego…

Anyway, that’s the gist of a lot of my conversations. Of course there are many unique ones, but I am not going to write out all the dialogues that I’ve had. That’s just too silly.

Just a little note on Japanese computer keyboards… when typing in English, the letters and numbers are in the same layout compared to American keyboards, but the symbols are not. For example, if I wanted to type in an apostrophe using a Japanese keyboard, I would need to hold “shift” and press the number “7” key. For quotes, I would have to hold “shift” and press the number “2” key. So where is the “@” symbol? I just need to push a button for it that is located right next to the “P” without holding “shift.” Currently, I’m back to my American layout and I have been pushing the “7” and “2” keys frequently. It’s going to be interesting as I anticipate lots of switching between the two layouts.

This week is an early update because I don’t have internet in my apartment yet and Thursday and Friday will be filled with me going to Nagoya (Aichi’s capital) for a prefectural orientation.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: Early last week the students had to come to school for “School Day,” which was basically when the students and some teachers cleaned the school. Some had assignments to mop. Others swept, vacuumed, pulled weeds, etc. Also, it was a day to mark the beginning of summer break. Full day class schedules ended in mid-July, but for a few weeks the students had to attend mandatory “supplementary” classes in the morning. Those who participated in certain sports stayed in the afternoon for practice and/or games. So, you get some pictures of the school and a couple of the all-school meeting in the gym.

Mito SHS (far)

Mito SHS (Close)
All-school meeting about to start

Empty Classroom

今週の漢字: 演劇

It has been an interesting week since I last posted. On Saturday, I organized most of my apartment. It has come along very nicely from its somewhat unorganized state when I first walked in. Sunday was a busy day. In the afternoon, I went to see a drama titled “Gulf” that was adapted from an American writer. It was all in Japanese, but I was able to get some sentences and words. Ms. Kobayashi, whose house I was staying in for my home-stay, played some part in organizing the theatrical event. I could sort of figure out the plot by putting together the little Japanese that I understood with the acting. Unfortunately, the semi-Brechtian style direction of the play didn’t help much, but it was very interesting to see it done. I was expecting something similar to Realism or Naturalism.

Before the play, I met a friend of the Kobayashi’s whose son is also a friend of Koya Kobayashi (Mr. and Mrs. Kobayashi’s son). I also met another one of their classmates. We first tried to go to McDonald’s, but ended up going to a fast food place called “Lotteria.” The McDonald’s that we went to was really packed. There was a line that snaked around the entire store. It was interesting to see as the US McDonald’s aren’t usually as busy. This makes me want to see how busy the busiest McDonald’s in the world is like—the one in Moscow. Anyway, I had a nice shrimp burger with fries and oolong tea. I’ve been drinking a lot of tea here as not many people go around drinking water or even much soda for that matter. I learned before coming to Japan that people don’t drink or eat while walking. It’s apparently considered rude. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but when I find out, I’ll surely post it.

On Sunday night, I went to Ms. Kobayashi’s house for a small get-together that she organized with a few mothers and their children. I was asked to bring a food dish. I was a bit nervous about it as I haven’t really cooked for more than 5 people (my nuclear family) and that was when my dad was teaching me… So, I had to think quickly as to the easiest dish that I am confident about making. Ah, lo mein with chicken and vegetables. I went to the grocery store about 3 minutes on foot from my apartment. Of course all except one of their pastas are Japanese. The non-Japanese pasta that they carry is spaghetti. So, I needed to think which pasta would have similar consistency and texture to what I want to make. Yakisoba! YES! I also bought some garlic powder, soy sauce, oyster sauce, cabbage, onions, and other food items that I’ll make for myself during the week. I arrived at Ms. Kobayashi’s house hoping that what I call food doesn’t somehow poison her family and the guests. At first no one really ate my dish. Mainly because they had no clue what it was. Instead they ate the more familiar foods like a kind of fried rice with eggs, a sort of omelet dish of vegetables, sashimi, soumen (a type of noodles), and crab stuffed croquettes. Personally, I loved the croquettes. Finally, someone ate my dish and was surprised by the taste. Stop thinking that this means in a bad way! She wondered who made it, and when I told them that I made it, they were all amazed. Although, I think they were more amazed that I was at the time 21 years old. The night went very well as I got to experience some Japanese culture like a kind of search and find while avoiding spirits (at least that’s what I gathered from watching). Plus, we all lit up a lot of sparklers which was fun. The people didn’t really speak English except for Ms. Kobayashi, so it was interesting to communicate primarily in Japanese with a bit of English nouns added in.

As for work, this week has been filled with the completion of my desk organizing (which is something I’m always happy about), talking with some of the English teachers, meetings, and other interesting little bits of culture. I’ll type more about that next week as my coming week doesn’t have a lot of plans except for meetings galore. Throughout this past week, there were lots of ええええ~s. (Basically many people went in a high pitched voice EEEEHHHHHHHH!) This is usually a note of amazement or surprise. So what were the people surprised about?? Here’s a nice list to end this post:

- I was 21 years old (at the time).
- My grandmother (dad’s side) and great aunt live with my family especially that my mom and grandmother get along with each other.
- There’s a difference between Mandarin and Cantonese.
- I studied Japanese for a year resulting in my ability to read and write hiragana and katakana (despite it taking a bit of time when it comes to reading).
- I have a Chinese name.
- New Jersey is so close to New York City.
- It takes a little over 20 hours to drive from my home to Miami.
- So what’s the most surprising for many people I’ve met so far?? I don’t mind to walk especially the 30 minutes it takes to walk to the school.

Stay tuned next week for another update!

今週の写真: You’re in luck this week as I am posting many pictures of my apartment.

This is my apartment building, "Heights Liberty."
I am the apartment on the bottom left.

This is what it looks like when you first walk in;
Door on left leads to kitchen;
Open room in back is the tatami room

Kitchen view from hallway

Storage in kitchen
(door leads to hallway I was originally standing in)

Kitchen table;
Entrance to tatami room next to it

Tatami room with curtains open that lead to balcony
(view from kitchen entrance)

Tatami room with closed closets in back

Closets open

Tatami room
(view from living room entrance)

Tatami room showing entrance to living room

Living room
(view from tatami room)

Living room
(view from hallway)

Sinkroom (left); living room (right)

(view from hallway)

(small peak on left that leads into bath/washroom)

Bath/shower room
(usually people would draw baths not really shower)

(with a view into the living room)

Lastly, hallway (I'm standing by the living room) showing toilet room and front door. The area in front of the front door is the area where people take off their shoes. If you were to turn left by the toilet room, you would re-enter the kitchen.