Kumamoto Mystery Destination

After leaving Aso Farmland, we were soon back on the long and winding roads of the Kumamoto countryside. With music pouring through the speakers of Shelby, Chads tiny but ballsy car, we watched the scenery change around us. From Hills, to towns, to villages, to valleys, we saw the beauty of Kumamoto. I was most curious about this destination. The entire trip had been a little bit of a mystery, but with time ticking on my interest was peaked.  Winding ever on, we finally arrived at a small village, passing many onsen along the way, the pipes spewing out steam.

With the hands on the clock pushing six, we soon came to a standstill, the traffic surprisingly heavy for a small village between two mountains. It didn’t take long for us to find out why. Nestled between two large mountains either side a roaring river, sits Tsuetate 「杖立」, a small onsen retreat in the heart of Kumamoto. I had forgotten that today, May 5th, was Children’s day 「子供の日」and Tsuetate, as I later found out, was famous for celebrating it. Hundreds of carp streamers「鯉のぼり」 hung above the river, dancing on the wind as it made it’s journey through the valley. It was honestly breathtaking. Easily one of the most beautiful things I have seen, like something straight out of a Miyazaki Hayao masterpiece. Due to traffic, we were a little late to dinner, but thanks to the kindness of our patrons, we had a delicious dinner laid out for us upon our arrival.

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We spent our evening relaxing in the onsen after a delicious meal, with me and Mamie having a good bonding session in the soothingly hot water. By the time we got back to our rooms, our beautiful wooden table had been swapped for four comfortable futons, which we all soon fell into. Not before having some delicious beers of course. There is honestly nothing more relaxing than sitting with your friends, wearing Yukata and listening to the crashing of water below you as you sip your beverage of choice.

The next day the tight schedule continued. Even more so in fact due to it being our last day, we still had a lot to see before we arrived back in Nagasaki! After an equally exquisite breakfast, we decided to go on a little adventure and explored the small area of Tsutate before we left. With a tunnel of wishes, twists and turns everywhere you went and stunning views, I immediately decided that those who live in the area were some of the luckiest people alive and that I too, in return, was lucky for being able to come here, even if for a short while.

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If any of you have no plans next Golden Week, I cannot recommend this place enough. With a raindbow of colour blowing in the breeze above your head, and old mountains either side protecting you, I promise nothing but a dream like experience.

Thank you for reading

❤︎❤︎

Lets go to Unzen!!

After waiting for over a year for it to arrive, the Unzen flannel cabin party finally happened!

Being a block 10 event, the party brought in cool people from not only Nagasaki, but from Fukuoka, Saga and Ōita too. I had never been to Unzen before, and after seeing Emily’s video on last year’s party (a fellow Nagasaki JET), I just knew I had to go.

Clad in heart glasses, a flower crown (both available at Wego) and of course the required flannel, me and my buddy Aaron were all set to go! The bus journey was a little long, but absolutely worth it. The views were spectacular as we drove along the coast and winding roads sealed off by bamboo forests.  I wouldn’t be lying if I told you I got a little bit emotional. I was reminded suddenly of just how lucky I am. Japan is such an amazing country and I think sometimes I forget how beautiful and wonderful it can be. That’s why I love trips, they make me see how awesome my life is. And so, with good music, stunning views and pretty awesome company, the journey flew by!

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There was one stop, however, which cracked me up. Not far from Unzen, you can find a town called Obama. Not only was this town right on the sea, with steam coming out of the ground every which way, but it also had a very creepy statue of Barack Obama, which I felt made the place seem more complete. I’m sure you’d agree. It was an honour to have him wave to us on our journey!

The moment we arrived in the quaint, traditional styled City of Unzen, we were picked up by Emily and whisked away to our mountainous cabin resort. We had three cabins rented out and with hills, trees and an array of wildlife (in the form of Goats, horses and sheep, the latter of which I was very happy about, me being the proud Welsh person I am)  to keep us entertained. It was wonderful, and the feeling of summer saturated my skin. With three cabins to ourselves, I’m pretty sure we took over half the resort, which made me feel a little sorry for the fellow campers who were staying with their families. As much as I hate the phrase, I think of a bit of Gaijin Smashing happened, much to the regret of me and  the surrounding Japanese families. But truly, the place was idyllic and I was never more glad to be a part of block 10.

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With alcohol, a roaring BBQ and three cabins full of friends from all over Kyushu, there was little else to be desired. It became evident pretty soon, however, that I was not the drinker I one was, and have apparently left my party hat somewhere back in Wales. I didn’t even make it to 1 am, and was passed out in my pyjamas amongst the raving. Well done Naomi, well done.
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We spent our following morning eating homemade French toast on the veranda in the company of friends, everyone buzzed from the night before and basking in the warm spring sun.  I felt calm, at peace and more than ready for the day ahead of.  And so, clad in spring clothing and with a skip in my step, I set off to explore Unzen, my sense of adventure renewed.

With the smell of sulphur guiding us, Aaron, Christina and I decided to make the hells our first point of call, following the path between them as the earth bubbled and boiled all around us. As if it were breathing, the earth hissed and grumbled, spewing out steam from its core. Like stepping into the fires of mordor, the earth seemed alive, angry almost. Each hell has its own name and story and I wish we had had more time to read them all.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The path led us to a stone torii gate guarded by statues of lion like creatures. It was a beautiful sight, and for a moment I just had to stop and stare. The shrine was peaceful and beautiful, and deserted bar one demonic looking cat that watched over the shrine. I was reminded me once again of just where I was in the world and just how much I loved it. It may sound strange, but sometimes it’s easy to forget where you are and how much you enjoy your daily life.  I was more than happy for this overdue reminder.
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We concluded our little excursion with a visit to a homely little place called Kaseya Café. With a delicious array of bread and drinks to choose from, I was spoiled for choice! Which, if you are a vegetarian or vegan living in Japan, you will know how rare that is! Not wanting to leave the place of famous onsen boiled eggs without actually eating one,  I finally settled on an egg filled fried bread( I have no way of knowing if it was an onsen egg or not, but I can pretend that it was and feel a little better about the whole thing.) I decided to be greedy and add a soufflé-esque cake to my order, along with Unzen lemonade to wash it all down. It was pretty bloody delicious!

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At 13:00 on the dot the bus turned up, and we were transported back to our everyday lives. With the sound of The Lumineers lifting my soul, they bus journey sped by, and I was gifted once more with wonderful views. I went on to have a great evening with Chad,  filled with Chinese food and fireworks. My time in Unzen as brief, but I completely fell in love with the area and will 100% be visiting again before I leave Japan.

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A lot has changed

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皆さん、久しぶり!

Hello my lovelies, how are you all? Long-time no see, I hope you are doing well.

First, let me just say thank you for all your support up until now, it’s truly been motivational! I’m super lucky to have such cool people reading my blog. I promise to be a better blogger from here on out. ( I bought a ‘blog’ diary and everything! See, super motivated.)

So,  a lot has changed since the last time I was around. I’m pretty much still the same old seriously inept 23 year old, trying to be sassy while procrastinating 98% of the time. A few add-one and upgrades have been installed but I’m still kind of useless.

It all started on what was promising to be a typical valentine’s day, with a distinct lack of romance and far too much booze. Fate (aka, said alcohol), however, had other things in store for me. Having broken things off with the guy I was dating only a month or so ago, my heart was bruised and  naturally, I was feeling particularly fed up and frustrated with my luck. It was then, in a drunken haze that I suddenly thought to myself, ‘Why not make your own luck?’

And so, with a decent about of cocktails churning around in my stomach and seeping into my bloodstream, creating a chemical imbalance that resulted in something akin to courage, I confessed to  guy I had been crushing on for a while. 10 weeks have passed since then and this tiny act of bravery has led me to a cool guy with whom I can laugh, cry and just be a general tit with. It’s been so long since I’ve been in  a real relationship with anyone, and it’s still really scary. I still can’t get used to having  boyfriend, it’s just so weird. Weird, but good. Really good. And I guess ever since then, things have been getting better.

It’s not that my happiness relies on men and romance etc. It’s more to do with the fact that I’ve managed to make my own happiness, which is something I was always too afraid to do. It sounds simple, making your own happiness, but oftentimes it’s the simplest things that are the hardest. I’ve gained a grain of confidence and positivity and its left me wanting more.

Another changed that’s occurred, is my hair. For years I’ve harboured a secret love of short hair, always wanting to take the plunge, but never being able to follow through. The one thing I’m always complimented on is my hair, and for a long time I felt that cutting it short would directly cut its appeal. Like Samson, I found strength in my hair, like Rapunzel, I felt my hair defined me. However, she cut it short and it worked for her! And so, one Friday after a lovely lunch along Dejima Warf, I decided to pull a Rapunzel.

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Thanks to the wonderful and Talented Tajima-san, at Pandemic (a hairdressers I highly recommend for those of you in Nagasaki City), the transition from long to short was painless. I was hooked after the first chop! “Oh well, can’t stop now, or you’d look like a tit” was the actual thought I had. But for the first time in a long time, I smiled even mid cut, knowing I was going to love It. I was relieved when he came to cut my hair, and when I told him this he told me (with a sort of nervous but happy smile) that he had requested me when he saw my name. I was pretty much ecstatic. He’s talented, cute and it just gave me a sense of home for a moment, a feeling that can be hard to come by when you live in a country so vastly different from your own. For the first time in maybe seven years, I have short hair, and I’ve never felt better. Getting my hair cut is one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Yay for spontaneity.

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Work Is also going better. During the spring holidays I was more productive than ever and have found great joy in my new position in the staff room after the annual teachers shuffle. I feel good, and when I look up I can see blue skies, tall buildings and a clear view of two cute teachers. Windows always calm and inspire me and I feel more relaxed for it. My supervisor became the new 1-2 home room teacher in the whole shuffle and has asked me to help out with her class on occasions as a sort of unofficial sub-sub homeroom teacher, which is something I am so ready to do! I love those students so much, they are adorable. In fact the entire first year at that junior high are adorable! It really helps teaching in the elementary school that most of them come from. I’m pretty sure the amount of students I don’t know, I can count on my hand. I’m also starting to gain confidence and a better relationship with my colleagues! …I think…

I’m also writing articles now! I’ve been so happy getting back into writing, and taking it seriously this time around. I’ve been writing for a Japan travel sight and was even featured on one of the weekly news letters, which was amazing! I’ve even recently submitted something for a paper back in Britain. They gave me a feature and will even include pictures! This is all for free of course, but that really doesn’t matter to me. I am so insanely excited! I’m still nowhere near the level I want to be, but I’m determined to try hard every day until I get there. I’ve decided to take my blog and diary more seriously, and my hobonichi is getting fatter by the day!

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I’m still the same mess I was, just slightly improved. A newer model if you will; the same old vessel, just functioning a little more efficiently. I know that with the guidance of my amazing friends and the continuous inspiration my fellow amazing bloggers and other outside sources *cough*pintrest*cough* that I can finally, slowly start down the road that will lead me to the person I’v always wanted to be.

 Next Goal: Be tidy, trendy and trim.

I’m back!

皆さん、久しぶり!
明けましておめでとうござます!今年もよろしくお願いします!
元気ですか?クリスマスはどうでしたか?
Long time no see!
Happy New Year!
how are you all my lovelies? Were all your Christmas’s alright?
I’m sorry I’ve been so inactive, I’ve had a lot of things going on and I’ve been worried. Like a fishbowl filled with far too many energetic goldfish (if goldfish can even be energetic that is), all fighting for food, my brain has been full of worries and thoughts, and my blog has had to be put on the back-burner. Despite writing for my on amusement, I’ve been almost scared to go near my blog, unable to even open the tab. But, I’m back! and more determined than ever to turn my blog into something I can be proud of!
I’m still debating on how much of my personal life I want to share, especially when it comes to things such as my love life and my trials and errors. What do you guys think? When it comes to a blog, is less more? Or is more better?
I’m still trying to find my ‘blog voice’ or whatever the more educated term for it would be, so bare with me while I stumble along this bumpy road of self discovery!
I will say, however, I have re-contracted! Another year in the wonderfully eclectic city of Nagasaki! While I do feel a lot of anxiety towards my decision for reasons that call me home, I’m very excited to spend more time with my friends, visit the rest of Japan, get to know my students better and drink tea at my favourite cafes.
Well, that’s all I’m going to say for this post, I plan to get out a few more today, perhaps!
またね!

My life in Japan so far

So, with today being my last full day in work, I am forced to reflect upon my time here. Despite not regretting my choice to come to Japan, and being so thankful I am here, It has not been as easy and smooth as I had expected.

Work ethic in Japan is so shockingly different from back home that it was a little hard to swallow at first, and if it had not been for my part-time Job before JET, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep my head above water – most of the time- as I have been. Having four schools, is honestly a blessing, giving me time to bond with many of my students and teachers. My time as a teacher has been one big loopdy loop roller coaster, and only now am I realising how much I enjoy it. When I started teaching back In September, I was filled with adrenaline, my nerves shot as I stood before my classes for the first time, boring them with a terribly made presentation of me and Wales, and hoping that my too big smile would compensate for the lack of interesting comments and lame jokes. Time continued to pass and I found my confidence fading into nothing, getting lost behind insecurity and home-sickness. If it had not been for my third years at my Inaka school I would have caved, I’m sure. They are, without a doubt, the greatest bunch of kids anyone has ever met! And while I kind of hated the second years in that school, they are slowly becoming the second  best group of kids ever. The children at my base school are a little more tricky to win over, and I’m still doing my best, determined to make them love me and enjoy English, even if it’s just for the days when I am there. My teachers are all pretty great, and I’ve been lucky with all the teachers I get put to sit beside.

At my base school I sit next to a teacher were going to call V Sensei, for the fact that his voice is a little more attractive than it should be. That, and the fact that on my first day he commented on how low and husky my voice was, reassuring me that it was cool when I began to worry I sound like a male when speaking Japanese. I’ve since learned to embrace the huskiness and take it as a compliment after realising that he’s a pretty shy guy and our conversations are rare. That and he is as busy as the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, constantly scurrying around and worrying about the time.

At my Inaka junior high, I sit next to the most wonderful JTE, a woman I have come to love dearly. She’s just so wonderful, and all I can say, is that if she leaves in the march shuffle, I am going to be deeply upset. She’s a great person, and a great person to teach with. I have been super lucky at my elementary schools too, even though I only spend half a day at each! I get to sit beside a funny 4th year teacher in one and a university student trainee-teacher in the other, of which I have become close friends with.

My personal life has not been so clearly mapped out, with bumps in more places than I would have liked. In the space of 5 months, I am facing my 3rd failed romantic relationship?? and It’s honestly destroying all confidence I had in my self. ( And I had very little to begin with). It’s the most romancing I’ve had in a LONG time, and yet, they may as well cease to be, perhaps then I would not be feeling so down.

I have, however, been more than lucky in the friend department. The other JETs of Nagasaki are wonderful, and I love spending my time with them! The people in Nagasaki are pretty friendly, with the Starbucks people always up for a chat, and the women in the niche little art cafe down the road from me knowing my name. Even the crazy-stylish man who works in this crazy-smooth bar near by house recognised me on instagram, and we now follow each-other. It’s something that may seem trivial, but when you are in a new place, miles away from home, even the little things make you feel more connected to everyday life.

That brings me to the topic of Japanese. In 5 months of being here, I have studied maybe twice? How awful is that? As a previous student of Japanese I am appalled with myself. However, as my fatalistic nature entails, I give up before I even begin, ruining any hopes I had at achieving anything out of a fear based on the foundations of years of being pushed aside by those who should have loved me most.

With the new year looming ever closer, and me being a 年女** , I am determined this year will be different. I’m going to look for the strength to make next year even more amazing than last. It will be hard to top getting JET and meeting all the amazing people who I have, But I’m determined to do it.

I can do this.

channeling this face for the new year

年女 (としおんな) Woman of the Year, referring to a woman born in a year with the same Chinese zodiac sign as the current year.

Ganbaranba! Part 2

So, as you all know, around two months ago, I went to watch a basketball match during Ganbaranba! It was amazing and I was SURE that the experience couldn’t be improved on. The high school kids were so talented and the buzz in the stadium was crazy!

I was lucky enough, one Sunday,  to get the opportunity to go for the second time, with both 1st and 2nd years this time! I ended up as part of the 2nd year group and slummed it with my, Ms T, Mr Yo, and Mrs K! Ms T and Mrs K are already teachers I really like, with Ms T being a JTE and Mrs K just being a babe, so it was already hitting off to a good start! So, I got to chat to my students, and go to see some more awesome sports; this time, it was wheelchair basketball.

Unlike the previous match, this would not be between young high school kids, but adults, and instead of using leg muscles they would be putting their arm muscles to the test. I was sooo excited to be able watch such an event. From the 56th tournament in 2001, the National Sports Festival for People with Disabilities was held, so this is still a relatively new occurrence, in comparison to the total age of the tournament itself, with the origins dating back to 1924.

Nagasaki wheelchair basketball was to play the same time we were to be there, however, we were sadly the wrong side of the court, so our view wasn’t as great as it could have been! Like a basketball flying from one strong handed playing to the other, my attention was constantly tossed back and forth between the two ongoing games. It was simply amazing.

At first I would wince, nervous that when they got knocked over or tumbled, their seats coming with them, that they would hurt themselves. I soon realized quickly how wrong, and just simply disrespectful it was to have felt such a thing. These men ( and I’m sure a few women) were strong and quick, their arms propelling them forward, their bodies twisting any way they could to reach for the ball. I was mesmerized and found myself inspired by their sheer talent. I was glad my students got to see this. I was glad that my students got to witness first hand just how much someone can achieve if they work hard, regardless of whatever disability he or she may have.

Sadly, Nagasaki lost by a hairs breath, but it was a good game. Yes, it was a fantastic game, but more importantly, it was an even better experience.

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Ganbaranba! Part 1#

Every year in Japan, a national premier sporting event known as the, National Sports Festival of Japan or the 国民体育大会 (Kokumin Taiiku Taikai) In Japanese, (or often abbreviated as 国体(Kokutai) is held. It is a competition in which anyone over the age of third year junior high student can enter. Even foreigners are now able to enter the competition if they are permanent residents of Japan (Although the final decision still comes down to the chairman of each sport). The competition started in 1946, hosted by Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, and is held in a different prefecture every year. It is an event which is much looked forward to and in which many participate and attend. The hosting prefecture that year is even left in charge of choosing a name for the competition. The first time Nagasaki ever hosted the Kokutai was in 1969, during its 24th years running. They called it the創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) and gave it the slogan あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai).

24 1969 Nagasaki 創造国体 (Souzou Kokutai) あすをひらく創造国体 (Asu wo Hiraku Souzou Kokutai)

More than 40 years has passed since Nagasaki hosted this National event, and be it fate or just dumb luck, I happen to move here the year we are hosting it again. Ever since I arrived, the pictures of the mascots have been plastered on every surface possible, the name written on every buildbord, and everyone just going crazy about it. A few weeks ago, the athletes’ started arriving, and let me tell you, it is not unpleasant. Everywhere I look there are people dressed up in their sports outfit, the name of their prefecture plastered across their back or arms. I always feel energized when I see them, and then a little jealous. Why didn’t I try harder at anything when I was younger. Oh well, too late to dwell on that now; that’s a post for another time.

With time ticking on, I was a little worried that I would not be able to see any matches, and I began to wonder how I could go about getting tickets. I then found out that the first and second years of my base school were going to watch a basketball match. This was my chance! With only one class on that day anyway, I went to one of my JTE’s and asked if I could join. They would be leaving during second period and my only class was first period anyway! She agreed it would be a good experience and convinced the Kouchou Sensei to let me go! YES! I was in, and about to experience Nagasaki’s second time holding the kokutai.

This year, the event is called 長崎がんばらんば国体 (Nagasaki Ganbaranba Kokutai), Ganbaranba being the Nagasaki Dialect for “Ganbatte”. It will be the 69th year of the competition and I am sooo stoked to be apart of it.

Ganba-kun and Ranba-chan

I had never seen a Basketball game before, seeing as its not a national sport in Britain, so I was really excited to be able to see something new for me. There were two games in the hall in which we were sitting, but we got seated right in-front of the Okinawa v. Yamagata game. Despite their height, they were in fact High schoolers, which I think made the girls a little more eager to watch the sports. At the start I really wanted Yamagata to win, deciding I liked the simple white of their uniform. That is, however, until I was told that Okinawa was a part of Kyushu. Up until then, for some reason, I had always disassociated Okinawa with Kyushu, seeing it as its own area, but this new piece of information changed things for me. I suddenly wanted Okinawa to win with a burning passion, and soon I was sucked into the world of Basketball. My heart was pounding the entire time, my butt precariously situated on the edge of my seat. I wanted nothing more than for Okinawa to win, and I felt I would die if they didn’t. Sadly they didn’t win, but luckily, I didn’t die. The game was close until the very end, and it  made me realize just how precious each second was in the world of sports. I guess that applies for other areas of life too, but that’s getting o deep for a post about sports. Both teams played amazingly, and I wish both could have one.

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The day was also a great chance for me to speak with Teachers I had not yet had much change to speak to, bond better with some, and have a more of a casual chat with my students. I found that some of them actually spoke to me more. I had been hopeful that this would make them more confident to speak to me during school time, but sadly that’s not the case. Its as if the grounds of the school contain a confidence draining property, that leaves my students shy- for the most part.