Graduations Have Finished!! **whew**

The last of the graduations for this week was held today – a total of two kindergarten graduations and one at the local elementary school.  It’s been a long week, to say the least!  🙂

Those of you who have never been to Japan may think it’s strange to have graduations now.  But the school year begins in April and ends in March.  After a couple of weeks of spring break, the kids start the new year.

This is probably my favorite season of the whole year.  (And not just because it’s my b-day month!)  As the school year comes to an end, the Japanese plum and peach trees are usually in full bloom.  Then when school begins again, the Japanese cherry trees (or sakura) bloom… and they are BEAUTIFUL!!

Another reason it’s my favorite is seeing how much all the kids have grown.  The parents are all watching their own children, while the teachers and I are watching ALL the children.  (So, yes, I cried at all three ceremonies… nothing new! 🙂 )  All the kids are full of hopes and dreams and are eager to start the next chapter of their lives.

This year, some of the kids wrote letters of thanks, talking about how much they enjoyed English classes and how they want to continue learning the language in the future.  (I even had a few this time who told me they want to grow up to be English teachers!)  No matter how hectic schedules get and stressful life can become, comments like this from them make it all worth it!!  🙂

It’s my hope that I made a positive impact on their lives just as my teachers had on me!  It’ll be interesting to see what life has in store for them.  🙂

And so, another school year ends.  Am looking forward to seeing the sakura trees in full bloom and all the new little ones who’ll start classes from next month!

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88 and Looking Great…

My main job is teaching conversational English to anyone who is interested.  There are group classes and private classes… classes at one elementary school and two kindergartens, three community centers and two hospitals.

My youngest student just turned two.  (Yes, it’s a bit more like babysitting.  🙂 )  My oldest student… well, he is the reason for today’s title… he will be 88 this year!

Mr. Hashiguchi is a character!  He grew up in Nagasaki, studied English in junior high, didn’t have to go to fight in WWII but had to watch a lot of his friends go and never saw them again, worked in the black market for a time in Tokyo, realized that wasn’t the path to be taking, moved back to Kyushu, worked on some of the U.S. military bases, then got a job working for the city.

What a life, right?

After he retired, he decided he wanted to study English.  He started taking a class locally and it was soon after that that I met him.  (Just happened I was asked to take over the class he was in.)

Mr. Hashiguchi not only studies and writes a diary in English every day, he takes a haiku class (and has had some of them published in a local paper), he was taking a computer class until just recently… he walks every morning for about an hour and loves watching the sumo tournaments on TV.

He loves fried chicken and drinks some beer and 3 small glasses of shochu every night.  (Shochu is a type of Japanese liquor.)  Whenever we have a class party and he starts drinking, he’ll always start singing songs like “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Old Black Joe”.  (Songs he learned in junior high… and trust me when I say he remembers ALL the words for ALL the verses!)

I hope that if I live to be 88, I’ll be enjoying life as much as he does!  Here’s to my Japanese “grandpa”, Mr. Hashiguchi!  🙂

No Bubbles in this Bathtub…

It’s the middle of winter.  The day has been extremely cold, snowflakes being whipped around by the chilling wind.  You finally get home to a freezing house (no central air/heat in Japanese houses)… what’s the first thing you want to do?  Take a hot and relaxing bath!!

If you’ve ever been to Japan and have had the opportunity to stay in a Japanese home or at a Japanese-style inn, you’ve probably taken an “ofuro”… the Japanese way of taking a bath.  (“The ONLY way to take a bath!” I’ve heard my mother say.)  🙂

Thought I’d add a picture to help with the explanation.  This is a room which is completely separate from the toilet.  The toilet is usually in a smaller room, all on it’s own.  Before you go into the bathtub area, there is another space/room which is the changing area.  In some homes, this space is where the washing machine is and there’s usually a sink where you’d wash your face, brush your teeth, etc.

From there, you’d go into the bathtub area.  In this space, you can get as crazy as you want with the water and it won’t matter!  As you can see in the picture, that space next to the tub is where you wash yourself.  There’s a special seat (See the one with a hole in it?  That’s the chair.) and there are special basins that you use to dip the hot water out of the bathtub to wash and rinse.  And, of course, there’s a shower head for those who want to simply take a quick shower before soaking.

Now, the bathtub itself is now always very long.  (In many cases, the older the house, the shorter the tub.)  But the tubs are quite deep, so much so that when you sit in the tub, the hot water would be at shoulder-level or a little higher… unless many others have taken a bath before you.

Yes, you read that correctly!  Everyone in the house uses that same water to soak in.  (It’s not like everyone’s washing themselves in the same water since they should be clean by the time they get in the tub.)

The tub has a heating unit, so that if the water begins to get lukewarm, you can heat it up again without having to add more hot water.  Pretty neat, right?  But, because of this heating unit, it’s a no-no to have a bubble bath.  (The soap messes up the components of the unit.)

A place for rest and relaxation... but no bubbles, please!

You may notice in the photo that the water is not clear.  Well, there are special powders which you can add to the water to help you relax.  They come in various scents (types of trees, flowers, etc.) and in various colors.  There are types which are said to help aching muscles and others that are supposed to help warm the body from the core and keep you that way throughout the night.

If you ever get the chance to visit, I hope you can experience taking a bath Japanese-style.  Everyone deserves to take an authentic “ofuro” at least once in their lifetime!  🙂

The Wonderful World of Commercials…

In the English classes tonight at Invisi Studios, we were talking about the Superbowl ads.  Some had to be explained since there are so many cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan.  Others, like the Doritos ad with the bribing dog, were quite self-explanatory… the Doritos one produced quite a few laughs.  =)

There are lots of different types of commercials over here, too.

One silly one for you: