Isolation and Teaching in Japan

There’s nothing like the arrival of someone new into your life to make you question where you stand. Especially when that someone is starting from the exact same point you did years ago. I have a new co-ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), and she’s warm, kind and funny. We get along really well and I feel …

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The Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park – Part 2: The Gear (7 Day Hiking Kit List)

When planning for a mammoth seven-day hike across Daisetsuzan I found myself faced with all kinds of perplexing research, facts and questionable gear recommendations. Having only completed two-day hikes, with a convenient overnight stop at a mountainside hut, I was feeling the pressure to get the planning right. This gear guide is a summary of …

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七夕 Tanabata Festival: The Festival of Lovers in the Stars

Orihime and Hikoboshi, lovers separated across the Milky Way, are allowed to meet once a year. Represented by the stars Vega and Altair their meeting is a time of wish granting for lovers and hard workers. On the 7th day, of the 7th month of the lunisolar calendar, they are permitted to meet, and the …

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Finding my Kanji Name and Japanese Naming Conventions

Kanji learning is a scary activity for those learning Japanese. Not only are there 20,000+ characters (2,136 being the literacy requirement) but each one has multiple meanings and pronunciations. I know, right! The size of it all, and the sheer cultural dissimilarity, is massively intimidating. But it is endlessly fascinating for those interested in language, …

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ジプリ 美術館: The Ghibli Museum

Pastel palette colours wave smoothly over the unexpected turns and asymmetric designs. Windows, varying in shape and placement, are frothing with leafy green vines. The huggable mass spills over the building like the froth from a pint of beer. It shimmers in the sun as a breeze passes. So far, the architect has succeeded in …

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おみくじ Omikuji: A Japanese Fortune Telling Slip

A Japanese language teacher gifted me an おみくじ, Omikuji, from the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, a famous shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Kyushu. She sat down to explain it to me, letting me know that Omikuji is best translated as a 'Fortune Slip'. As the Dazaifu Tenman-gū is a large and famous shrine, they had English Omikuji available. She happens …

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節分 Setsubun: A Japanese Coming of Spring Festival

A normally robust P.E. teacher quietly issues a ‘sumimasen’ at my shoulder. She stands behind my chair with a small paper bag in two hands outstretched, in the polite style of giving something. Rough calligraphy style kanji swoops over the front as is the norm with small, locally crafted gifts. She offers me the bag …

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語呂合わせ Goroawase – the Art of Japanese Mnemonics

Smiling, and with the slight self-awareness that comes with starting a conversation in an otherwise empty staff room, one of the older teachers at work swung round in his chair today to speak to me about Shakespeare. As a literature graduate who has seen that meme illustrating the heart wrenching uselessness of my degree far …

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Taiikusai: Inside a Japanese Sports Day

May is a little early for Japanese Sports Days but in compartmentalised Tokyo these rentable sports grounds are booked solid through the summer months. The entire student body, and teachers, are assembled on the pitch. The students lined up according to colour coded houses, and the teachers are sitting under the just erected canopy, the …

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Gontran Cherrier – Tokyo’s French Bakery

On a rainy afternoon in Tokyo it pays to be sat in a large window. From here, you can watch as the lights change and opposing hordes of umbrellas crash, then merge. It's a fitting tribute to commuter culture in Japan. As the sky darkens, the multicoloured lights wash over the pavements like glitter shifting over …

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