Silver Week Day 4 & 5: Kyoto!

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For the final stop on our trip, we stopped by Kyoto/Otsu to stay with another friend from Nashville, Mikayla, and also to see the Rene Magritte exhibit at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art! While staying with Mikayla, we joined up with a few of her nearby friends and ate okonomiyaki at a local shop. It was absolutely delicious and so cheap!! We were stuffed by the time we left. I learned to say “gochisou sama deshita” after eating as thanks for the meal. Then we had a few drinks out by the lake. It was a good time!

The next day we went out into Kyoto towards the Art Museum. I came across one of the biggest torii gates I had ever seen!

The Rene Magritte exhibit MADE MY LIFE.

There were 130 full original works on display. I’d never even seen ONE Magritte piece in person before that day, only in books and online. I even got to see all of my favorites up close!! It was fantastic and I still keep looking back on the experience and smiling to myself. I filled about four pages of my sketchbook with sketches of the paintings I saw. We found it delightful that the gift shop was staffed by smiling people in suits and bowler hats. Speaking of the gift shop, I bought so many things. Three postcards, two button pins, and a velvet-touch sketch journal with works by Magritte on them. We later ate some fantastic udon and soft ice cream (I had matcha & vanilla swirl!).

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Silver Week Day 2 & 3: Osaka!

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For the next stop on our Silver Week adventure, we took a train to Osaka and met up with some “old” friends from the Nashville consulate! We had all gotten really close during US and Tokyo Orientation, so it was wonderful to see some of them that night. We had never been to Osaka before, so when we arrived we met up with our friend Logan and just aimlessly explored until it was time for dinner. One of Sabrina’s friends from college was an Osaka local so she got us a great deal on nomihodai at a delicious okonomiyaki (something like a mishmash of meat, veggies, and dough cooked into in a pancake) restaurant! Josh and I really enjoyed ourselves and we were stuffed by the end of the meal!

Because this trip was rather spontaneous, though, we were left with absolutely no place to stay as all accommodations seemed to be booked solid. However, we ended up finding a not-badly-priced love hotel that looked like a freakin’ mansion inside!

The next day we met up with my friend Laura and explored Osaka Castle and Dotonbori! There was a huge festival going on at Osaka Castle and we grabbed some delicious takoyaki there (fried dough balls with octopus inside). By the time we got to Dotonbori we were starving- we walked amongst the vivid nightlife scene before settling on tonkatsudon (fried pork cutlet, egg, and rice). That tonkatsudon was just about the best I’d ever tasted- but then again I was super hungry. It also came with a side of pickles and miso soup. I was in heaven! That night we took the train home (only about an hour away) to take care of a few errands before we left for Kyoto the following day!

(more photos coming soon! These are from my cell phone- Josh manned the nice camera and took some great shots.)

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Josh made friends with Sento-kun at Bethany’s house before we left (this is Nara Prefecture’s mascot!).

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We made it to Osaka!

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I won this cell phone charm at the Pokemon Center in Osaka!

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It was so great to see Laura again!! We both found out we were accepted into the JET Program at the same time- we were chatting with each other over Facebook when the email came in.

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The beautiful and massive Osaka Castle. We had a bit of a steep climb to get to this point!

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This crab actually moved around on the sign!

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Delicious katsudon and miso soup!

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Silver Week Day 1: We found Kume-Dera Temple!

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I’ll be honest: for our first day of Silver Week we rested. Josh wasn’t feeling too well and I was pretty exhausted myself from the last two weeks. We slept in and I got to Skype some family back home for the first time since I got here- I also got to see my cat Ambrosia but she pretended not to recognize me. Maybe I should have tried explaining where I was going a little better to her.

Eventually around lunch time we decided to skip up to Ninokuchi and eat some delicious and affordable Kappa Sushi with our friend Bethany. We then bonded over some old anime music videos that we had made in middle school back at her apartment. On the way back home, we noticed a sizeable Shinto shrine, but I noticed that we were in Kume-cho. “Could this be part of Kume-Dera Temple?” I thought. I’ve seen Kashihara Shrine many times by now, but I kept seeing “Kume-Dera Temple” on maps and could never find it. We walked a little ways past the shrine and discovered a whole spread out area with many different temple structures dedicated to Buddha inside! It was a beautiful sight to see with my loved one as the sun was setting. :3

I felt like this was a wonderful way to start our Silver Week together- tomorrow we’re headed out to Osaka to meet up with the other Nashville JETs that became so near and dear to my heart during the Unites States and Tokyo Orientations!

Some pictures from Kume-Dera Temple:

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First two weeks of Teaching & The Tennessee Waltz

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Tomorrow will mark my first two weeks of teaching! It’s been a whirlwind of new experiences. I’ve been giving my self-introduction lesson to the first and second year students (sophomores and juniors) and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag with each class. The first years are definitely more shy than the second years, but some classes have really surprised me with how eager they were to speak English. I’ve had more than a few hilarious moments with class clowns as well.

For my presentation I began with a PowerPoint that looked like a Facebook page. I scrolled through the page while I told them about my interests, previous career, and hometown. Then I played some Rockabilly music (originated in Jackson, Tennessee) while I handed out a short quiz to test their memory. I passed around some photo books that I made from my trip to Disneyworld and Fall Creek Falls as well as my glorious 50 state quarter collection, haha! I then had an open Q&A with the students. This is where things got really interesting.

Some of my favorite questions:

“What is your dream?”

“Do you like cockroaches?”

“Who does your husband resemble?” After a minute of laughing they said “Johnny Depp” hahaha.

“Do you like…ME!”

“What do you not like the most?” / “What is your not favorite?”

“How many boyfriends do you have?” (My response… “I have one husband…lol”)

“How old YOUR DADDY!”

“Do you see your type in this class?”

“What is your favorite Disney princess?”

This next one wasn’t a question, but it made me bust out laughing. I gave the students some time to think of a question for me and the class was pretty quiet since everyone seemed to be using their electronic dictionaries (some of them pronounce words in English). Suddenly I hear a digital voice say “chest size” and see a group of boys start freaking out trying to shut off the dictionary.

When the time came to ask questions they asked what sports I liked. xD

My favorite question of all though was when one kid stood up and said in a serious tone “We…all like you. So…do you like us?” (I exclaimed “YEAH!” to much laughter)

Overall, the students have been extremely polite and friendly towards me. Every time they see me they are saying hello, good morning, or asking how I am in English. I also LOVE my english club. They are a little shy but I’ve enjoyed playing language games and getting to know them.

In other news, everyone in Japan seems to mention “The Tennessee Waltz” when they find out where I’m from. To be honest I knew it was one our official state songs but I hadn’t really listened to it that often. I actually find the tune to be quite pleasant! I was even more surprised to find that in 1974 it was the highest selling songs in Japan. I even found a Japanese version of the song that I’ll post below. I’d love to sing the song sometime (karaoke here I come!) since it’s been stuck in my head since I started researching it. Regardless, it’s been nice to connect to people here with music right off the bat.

Tennessee Waltz- Patti Page  (English)

Tennessee Waltz- Chiemi Eri (Japanese)

The School Culture Festival Episode

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My school just finished their culture festival this past weekend. I was blown away by the performances. I don’t think I was nearly that talented in high school! I gave a speech in front of 1,000 students in English and Japanese, and was surprised with a bouquet of flowers on stage! Later, I got to watch a student made stop-motion movie that I played a small role in. It was a fantasy video game setting in which the students had to defeat bosses at the school. I played a ninja boss that tried to defeat the students with difficult English questions, haha! The food was delicious, especially the donburi and the mochi ice cream. Overall I really enjoyed interacting with the students- it seemed like everyone was quite curious about me and Josh. I can’t wait to teach my first class this Tuesday!

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Classroom decorations

Classroom decorations

It was fun to see how each class decorated their homeroom.

Classroom decorations

The student movie that I had a small role in!

The student movie that I had a small role in!

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The students put on a traditional tea ceremony here- it was fantastic!

The students put on a traditional tea ceremony here- it was fantastic!

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A sweet treat from the tea ceremony.

A sweet treat from the tea ceremony.

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A fun skit as part of the festival's closing ceremony. Notice our school's cute mascot to the left!

A fun skit as part of the festival’s closing ceremony. Notice our school’s cute mascot to the left!

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Student uniforms

Student uniforms

The garden courtyard in the middle of the school.

The garden courtyard in the middle of the school.

On Saturday night, Josh and I went out for food and drinks with other JETs at a rooftop location in Nara city. It was so beautiful, and afterwards there were fireworks in the distance! Needless to say we had a wonderful time.

A night-time view of the beautiful Nara City!

A night-time view of the beautiful Nara City!