Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Graduation - part 2

So after all that excitement, the graduation ceremony continued.

The teachers formed two lines leading to the gym doors and clapped as the students said their farewells, bowed and walked out. There weren't as many tears this year compared to last year.

Afterwards in the staffroom, the teachers were huddled around the stove heater ('stove meeting' as kendo-sensei calls it) warming up our hands and chatting about Gackt's surprise visit. It was the hot conversation topic for the rest of the day. More excitement stirred in the room as our bento lunch boxes were delivered. It was as always, totemo oishii!

After lunch I went upstairs to take photos with the students and wrote in some of their year books. Their yearbooks seriously kick ass. They are big, hard covered, full colour, professional gloss photographs on thick card pages. These are what yearbooks should be like - they were so, so nice!

Bento lunch box goodness
Adzuki (red bean) rice is usually prepared for special occasions

The girl on the right did an exchange in Texas for a year and speaks great English,

she works at Marui-pan bakery

Some OC boys (Bruce Lee, Nelly-hip-hopper, me & Team Tachikawa)

This student was one of the girls I coached for the speech contest last year,

is one of my top students in English and she also works at Marui-pan bakery

This student is going to study French in university, her English is really good too

Gyaru gang

This is my 3rd year ESS girl - I'm going to miss her a lot. I started tearing when she said 'Thank you' to me and that she really enjoyed my classes and thinks many other students began to like English because of my classes. She said that she didn't see me as a teacher but more like a big sister. *tear* Her English is really good and she's going to study English & Russian in university.

Badminton club girls

Letters of 'Congratulations' and well wishes from local VIPs and schools

These girls are from the track & field club - the student in the middle made me the birthday cheesecake last year.


Okay, so why the all-of-the-sudden spate of blog updates from a usually week or 2 behind, watashi? Because of the randomness that was today and the buzz that is still pulsating through my body.

Today we had our school's Graduation Ceremony. It was sad to see off the third years, especially the ones I've gotten to know through my OC classes and my 3rd year ESS girl. Even though at times I dreaded the class, they are all good kids and I wish them the very best and hope they have bright, happy futures.

All the teachers were nicely suited up. New haircuts, pearl necklaces, crisp suit jackets straight from the hanger - everyone looked great. Principal-sensei wears his black jacket with tails and pin striped pants. He looks as if he's going to conduct an orchestra. He looks very formal except that he's wearing bright white sneakers. tee hee hee. In the gym we have to change shoes and wear 'non-outside' shoes.

Anyways so we have the big ceremony in the gym as usual. All the 3rd year students (sitting in the front) and 2nd year students are present with only a few 1st year student representatives. Parents are at the back, local dignitaries and PTA reps are to one side and teachers are on the other side.

It's the usual dig. Principal speaks, sing the Japanese anthem, PTA chairman speaks, sing the school song, student reps speak - ofcourse this is all in Japanese so I drift off into a hot beach related daydream. Soon I snap back out of it and scope out all the camera people, reporters, film crew and such. I don't know if it's like that with other high schools or perhaps just our school since we have that special, only-one-in-Japan Environment and Disaster Mitigation Programme.

I spy one guy standing behind me. He's wearing faded jeans, white collared shirt and a nice black jacket. His hair is slightly coloured, longish and quite stylish - spiked but not too spiked. No way is he a film crew guy or a journo. Camerman perhaps? But where is his camera?

Just as I'm pondering these thoughts, Head of logistics-sensei gets up and says something and the side door of the gym (where we are sitting) slides open and some people walk in. Very distracting entrance for a typical regimented Japanese high school graduation ceremony, I reckon. But then it seems like it's all part of the programme. I don't remember this happening last year.

Anyways, thoughts race through my mind as I wonder who these people are. Some are quite big, dressed in black, have security ear pieces hooked behind their ears - what the? One dude has his sunglasses on and is wearing a long, black trench coat - very matrix. Could it be some important person? Famous, perhaps?

My eyes are drawn to the movement on the stage and out of nowhere two huge ass speakers are wheeled out to the front of the stage (do we even own these?!), the piano is pushed back, some chairs and microphones are placed in front and the mysterious huge bonsai plant that appears at ever formal ceremony is placed at the back (I think it's actually fake because it looks exactly the same - immaculate every time. But I've never seen it up close before).

The teachers sitting around me look just as confused with eyes wide open and puzzled expressions painted on their faces. Suddenly there are gasps of "Heiii?!?!", screams from the female students and I can feel excitement stirring around the room.

*What the hell is going on?*
I lean in to Part-time-young-maths-sensei and ask,
Dare? Dare? (Who? Who?)
He replies in awe and disbelief, "GACKT?!"
Honma? Hontoni?

I've heard of the name before but I know nothing about this dude. Just that he's some famous Japanese singer. Pronounced 'ga-ku-to' and not the sound you make as if you were choking or hacking something up (learn from my mistakes, kids - that's what I'm here for). With shrieks and tears from the female students and the frenzy the reporters, film crews and camera people are in, I'm assuming he's pretty big a star. Luckily I carry my camera everywhere so I manage to get some shots too. *Yay for still being a tourist!*

I don't even know this guy and haven't heard any of his songs, but I guess with all the camera flashes going off and the vibe I'm picking up in the gym, I get carried away with the moment too. Gackt gets up on stage and starts speaking (damn you, speak English! haha). This is the translation I got afterwards.

Apparently 2 years ago, one of the graduating 3rd year boys (then a 1st year) from the environmental programme emailed Gackt and told him about the course and what they do. That year the intake of new students for the programme was really low with only 30 students. The boy was saying how important this programme was and that he hoped more students would be interested in it so that the special programme could continue. Apparently Gackt reads all his fanmail and replies to them, and he is interested in 'environmental' things. He wrote back to the student and since then the boy kept writing to him and kept saying, 'Please come to our school and see it for yourself, please come to our graduations ceremony..yadda yadda..' Anyways Gackt said that 3 days before the graduation ceremony, he decided to come and he also wrote a song especially for the graduating students. His people got in contact with Head-of-logistics-sensei and Principal-sensei and it was all organised. It was all hush hush and only 4 teachers knew about it.

After he explained all this, he got the graduating student to stand up and everybody cheered. It was the stuff dreams are made of. Then two guitar guys started playing and Gackt sang this song that he wrote especially for them. I didn't understand much, except the word 'yume' (dream) but it was freakin' awesome. He has a really good voice and the fact that he arranged to come to a public high school and made my students so deliriously happy on their graduation day, really got to me and even brought a (singular) tear to my eye. Some female students were sobbing into their hand towels and I looked over and one of the younger female teachers (perhaps a big fan?) was crying too.

After singing he spoke some more, shook Principal-sensei's hand and then was escorted out the side door as fast as he appeared, followed by his groupies and that guy in the jeans, white collared shirt and black jacket - I knew it! He looked more like a manager-type.

I could see the poor 1st year students outside, not part of the ceremony, leaning dangerously outside the 3rd floor classroom windows trying to take photos with their keitais.

In true star status, before he walked out the door, Gackt turned to the students, smiled (and melted many hearts I'm sure) and waved goodbye. He was so close and I had the perfect money shot lined up but my camera froze - I guess it got starstruck too. I was speechless. My first real Japanese celebrity sighting. I had no idea who he was (except for the name and that he wears make up and has the whole David Bowie feminine look going sometimes) but I was swept up in it all like a 16 year old female fan.

Gackt - You've got my respect for making my kids so happy and giving them such a memorable graduation. Yeah sure, it could have been just a great publicity stunt to attract lots of positive media attention but who cares, the joy and delight I could see on my students' faces was priceless. Much respect. You get a high-five and extra bonus participation points from Chris-sensei.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Monday already?

I only had one class today, the graduatoin ceremony is tomorrow and exams start on Wednesday, so I decided to have a laid back class.

First we listened to Lauryn Hill's version of Can't take my eyes off of you and the students and to fill in the rhyming blanks. Then we listened to Dido's Thank you (idea from Claire) and in groups, the students had to arrange the lyrics which I had made into sentence strips.

Do you know what day it is? That's right. It's Monday FUNday!

After work I headed into Sanners and while waiting for Sue Yen, I headed to Starbucks for a hot beverage to wake me up. I had just paid and was waiting for my cafe mocha-no-cream-thanks while I was oohing and aahing over the delectable looking chocolate mud cake things in the cake cabinet.

The guy who served me then reaches from behind the counter and takes out a plate of delectable looking chocolate mud cake things cut up into sample pieces with toothpicks. Let's call him Tanaka-san (because all the guys in my Japanese text books were called Tanaka). Tanaka smiles at me and offers me a sample. My eyes light up as I take a piece and put it in my mouth. It's tastes amazing. He then offers to take my toothpick and disposes of it. Tanaka's mate down the end of the counter calls out my order. Tanaka bows with a hearty "Arigatougozaimasu!"
"No, Tanaka. Thank YOU!" I smile.

I meet Sue Yen at Tittie Park (other variations are Boob Park, Tit Park and I'm sure a whole lot more). It's a popular meeting place in Sannomiya and bands usually jam there. It's not really a park, just cement slabs and mounds that look like boobs. But what I don't get is that there are 3 of these mounds, not 2.

We decide against shopping today (plus our wallets don't allow it) and we head to La Pausa for some pizza, pasta and dessert. We were so full we had to scrap choco cro's from our itinerary. It was great to just sit back, chat, catch up, laugh, reminisce, discuss and play 'guess the song' - most of them being tracks easily found on 90's Hottest Hits Machine Volume 1-12.

After we roll out, we head to Break Nine and Tabata-san sets us up nicely. We play a few games and laugh at how unco we have become. Once killer pool sharks in high school but alas no more. We have decided that we need to put a time curfew on Monday night outings as sleep deprivation is not cool.

Thanks babe! I had oodles of fun and that last song by Real McCoy...it just came to me! Another Night booyah! *fist pump into the air*

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Why is there no bacon in my house?

Too much going out and too many late nights mean more time spent in bed the next day.

I woke up with a huge craving for bacon and eggs on toast with tomato sauce and a cup of tea. I had everything but the bacon.

Just as I got out of the shower I heard the kero-man driving along. I've been waiting for him for ages! I ran out of kero awhile back and he only comes around my area on Thursdays late afternoons (before I get back from work) and Sunday mornings. Only those of you who have lived here through the Winter know what I mean, unless you have the luxury of central heating (ha!), gas heaters or whatever - I don't want to know.

So basically the kero-man is like Mr. Whippy. He drives around very slowly with this song playing through his huge ass speakers. Over and over and over again. Instead of dishing out soft serves and ice cream cones with Cadbury flakes and sprinkles (yumm), the kero-man dishes out kerosene. Just as tasty.

People line up with or leave their distinguishable blue kero tanks outside and he brings warm goodness, peace, love and heat into our cold, cold lives. He is pretty much as close as you get to your neighbourhood hero, except he doesn't wear a cape but his English ain't too bad.

Anyways, so I just step out of the shower and have to race down to get my kero before I miss my chance. I can hear the song slowly fading away as I pull on my jeans. Bra? There is no time for clothes! I throw on a zip up jumper, grab my wallet and my blue kero tank and run as fast as my slippers will take me. And just like all dramatic moments, ofcourse it's raining.

But the happy ending to my story is that I get my kero tank filled up, warm up my house, get changed properly, take a 3 minute walk to my mini co-op, pick up some bacon and juice then fry me up an awesome brunch.

I decided to take it easy today and actually get some household chores done. I eventually headed out around 7pm and went to Sanners. I had a QMT night doing little things that make me happy;

  • Spending ages in Junkudo browsing books (I left with 2 books).
  • Spending ages in HMV listening to music (I left with 1 CD).
  • Going out for dinner - I went to Sapna and the mini-course is so not mini. I was stuffed! Mutton curry, full nan, tandori chicken, salad, chai and I ordered a mango lassi on top of that (I left with a very full stomach).
  • Spending ages in a flower shop looking at the fresh flowers, inhaling bouquets and being amazed by the colourful arrangements (I left with some irises).

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rock & Roll

Tonight I headed to Ryan's Pub for the Habitat for Humanity Benefit Concert. This group (which includes Miako & Jen) are heading to the Philippines over Golden Week to help build a house for a family in need.

I left Lisa's a bit earlier than the others. Felicity and I ran to the bus stop (damn girl, you can run! and think I ate way too much) with me puffing behind her and repeating in between breaths "Couldn't we just hail a taxi?" but we made it in time.

As I train-ed it home I was desperately trying to rub the tattoo off my face. No such luck. It just kept getting redder and redder and I hoped that I wouldn't bump into any of my students. As I was waiting to change trains at Nishi-Akashi, I look over and see some 1st year girls from Awaji. How embarrassment!
"Is that a flag on your face?"
Err...no. Yes.
They were off to Porto Bazar for some delicious pizza.

I legged it back home with the disturbing thought that I might actually have to rock up to Ryan's with the Australian flag on my cheek. However after much rubbing and a variety of make-up removers, it was off and I didn't even have to put on blush.

Met up with Hana, Sam and Sue Yen - thanks for the prime seats guys! It was good to see and catch up with some familiar and not so familiar faces.

Got to hear Danny sing and play. You did great - so very impressed!
The second band played some good songs too. Not too hard and their jam session was awesome, including the Japanese dude on the zither(?) zahir(?) - I have no idea.
The last band, which totally rocked the place, was Whiplash. Hard rock.

Chris is the lead singer. He's a 3rd year JET from Hawaii and is also who gave me my current adult eikaiwa class. He's really nice, speaks excellent Japanese and with his long, black hair, you can tell he loves his rock & roll.

Katsu, Megumi (and her husband) and Ayako also came down to watch him play too. They got the place rockin' with Highway to Hell and Thunderstruck, complete with groupies and fist-pumping action. Dressed in all black, true rock & roll attire no less, Chris is a brilliant performer. We all agree that he is the Hawaiian version of Jack Black in School of Rock. Exactly! You guys were awesome.


Band-aid wannabes

The second band

Hana & Sam's power nap

Cameo with Yoshi & Katie (previous at the Oz day bash)

Yoshi is from Osaka and has been living in Perth for 2 years and was just back for a holiday. Katie only recently met him when she went back for Christmas. Small world - yes.

Katsu & me

Katsu, Megumi and her husband

Megumi, me & Ayako


"We love you, Whiplash!"

Afterwards we headed to San Marks cafe but it was closing and we could only get take away choco cro's. No matter. So we headed to MacDonald's instead and ate them there with our drinks. Oooh delinquency. Rock & roll was running through our veins that night.

Happy (belated) Oz Day

Happy Oz Day!

Yes, I know I'm like a month late but here in Japan, a few of us Aussies have decided to unofficially proclaim (and celebrate) February 25th as Australia Day in Japan. We would have made it February 26th but it fell on a Sunday, and we couldn't have Oz day shinanigans on a Sunday night with school the next day, now could we?

First I went to the gym with Cheryl. I had my last street dance class for the month. We learnt some more steps to our routine and then got divided into groups and then did the whole routine together and even had a mexican-wave-action thing going at the end. It was classic. We also learnt the cowboy lasso move but my dance instructor called it the 'Boomerang' complete with "ton ton" sound effects - it was just way too funny.

After Cheryl and I stuck our Oz flag and AUS tattoos on, we walked out of the gym and had to pick up some stuff. For efficient time management we had to split up for a while as she bought some freshly baked bread from Marui-pan and real cheeses and olives from the foreign food store and I was sent to Co-Op to pick up some paper towels and tomato sauce for Lisa. Usually I go right under the radar and blend. However with an Oz flag tat on my cheek, I wasn't use to the stares. Cheryl said it was normal, but it must have been a real treat to see both of us together speaking in English.

On the train - proof that we went out in public like this
We're even wearing Australian t-shirts - now that's worth an 'A' for effort
AND we found geraldton wax at the florist!
We headed to Lisa's place in Kakogawa where they were already starting up the takoyaki hotplate. Lisa - you are amazing! The takoyaki was totemo oishii and your chicken salad with balsamic dressing was 'totes awes'! (credit to geags & her little sister and their new word) We managed to fit about 15 people in one of her tatami rooms!
It was great to catch up with some people who I haven't seen for a long time and eat delicious food. I was so stuffed by the end of it. I made lamingtons and brought strawberries and Australian red wine.

Me & Chris with our lamingtons

Lisa and friends (sorry I forgot names) working the takoyaki hotplate

Sampling Lisa's takoyaki, chicken salad and Chris' awesome homemade sausage rolls

(From scratch! He even made the pastry!!)

Struan's Aussie beer 6-pack

After 1 glass of wine I became Super lamington Oz day girl ... or something like that

Cheryl with her scrumptious cheese platter

Lisa - Thanks for organising and having us over. Hope your night ended up with AC/DC and Barnesy karaoke. Okini!