Friday, March 30, 2012

Time and Time Again

I've said this time and time again, but leaving friends is the worst feeling in the world for me. I remember when the TIUA students returned to Japan, and how lonely I felt knowing the only way to contact them was through faceless internet methods. Now, I'm getting ready to leave all my friends again, and the feeling's just as bad. Even if I can't bring myself to shed any tears, it's still painful.

The worst part is knowing where your friends are but being unable to reach out and touch them. In my mind, there is a gap between American and Japan. Even when I think about my friends, all I can think about is the distance between us. I can't even recall them fondly without that thought sinking in. I'm just trying to do my best to make it home without spitting tear-bullets out of my eyes. Some part of my brain keeps telling me I'll return to Japan someday, and that makes it slightly more tolerable.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I met some friends this evening and sang my final karaoke songs in Japan. I've always had a love/hate relationship with karaoke. On one hand, I enjoy singing immensely, and have participated in numerous choirs throughout my life. On the other hand, I don't have many opportunities to practice the songs I choose at karaoke, so I don't sound too good when I sing here. The acoustics of a 9x9 foot room with a speaker under the television aren't excellent. You can't project without causing a feedback loop that makes every syllable inaudible. I think the real point of karaoke is to hang out with friends, joking and doing something that everyone can share in. In that respect, tonight was very successful.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tokyo! Again

I reached Tokyo this evening and was welcomed by good food and old friends. It's nostalgic, being back in my old "hometown," but I already miss Hirata Village and the kind people there. I can honestly say I was one of the luckiest English teachers in Japan. My students were well-behaved, my coworkers were polite and engaging, and life was simple. I will miss teaching English. But I also know I couldn't have done it forever. Unfortunately, I can't have it both ways.

Until I return to America on April 3rd, I will be visiting friends in Tokyo and taking in some last-minute sights. The flower-viewing season has just begun, so if I'm lucky I will be able to see some cherry blossoms in bloom, something I've always wanted to do. I will keep you updated.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Blog

I've started a new blog as of today. Since my life in Japan will shortly be coming to an end, I am turning my focus to my other love, film.

NickFlickPick is a blog dedicated mainly to film reviews by yours truly. Inbetween, I will try to update you all on the progress I make toward becoming a fully-fledged filmmaker. It will be slow-going, to be sure, but maybe the journey will be exciting as well.

That's not to say I am neglecting this blog. I will continue to update this blog until I return to America. So, about another week. After that, I will focus all of my effort on my new blog. Thanks for reading this blog, and I hope I broadened your horizons even a little bit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Packing Again

It's hard to pack 9 months of your life into suitcases and move across the world. When I was packing to come to Japan, I was thinking strategically. What won't I be able to obtain in Japan? What will I need to hold me over until I receive my first paycheck? What sorts of things might be easier to bring than to purchase? I had two suitcases and a carry-on, and I tried to make every last inch of space count. In retrospect, I think I was mostly successful.

Re-packing for my trip home, I realize now that nine months of Japanese lifestyle choices have netted me a ton of souvenirs but not much else. Many of my purchases were pragmatic, such as tables, sofas, and kitchen supplies. I'm coming back with most of the same clothes I brought (minus some significantly worse-for-wear shoes). I have one more suitcases than I had originally, but it's a small one. In the end, a lot of stuff will either be left for my replacement or tossed in the trash.

That's not to say I didn't have fun. Most of my souvenirs are small, and I think in this age of amazing technology, our ability to maintain memories has become smaller and more sophisticated. I have hundreds of photos on my phone, along with countless messages to my friends. Imagine trying to bring a comparable amount of photo albums and bundles of letters back to America... it would be impossible!

My best memories have all been chronicled here, on this blog. And as long as I have my memories, I can stand to go without life-size sculptures of Buddha, or authentic samurai swords. I'm very eager to return home, and I hope my suitcases make the trip as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'll be attending one of my elementary schools' graduation ceremonies on Friday. At first, it seemed a little strange because I don't remember there being any graduation ceremony at my elementary school. I was also a little peeved that I could only go to one of the four, as they are all being held at the same time.

In Japanese, ceremonies are held at each benchmark. The ceremonies are held at the end of March (now), right before the start of the new semester in early April. Graduation is held in the gymnasium, with seating in the middle for students and parents and seating on the sides for teachers and special guests (such as the head of the school board).

I was privileged to watch a rehearsal last week. One thing that surprised me is that the kohai (underclassmen) also attend the ceremony. I don't recall seeing any juniors or sophomores when I graduated from high school! Because of the strong connection between grades, all students are present. The graduates and the underclassmen (let's call them senpai and kohai for now) speak to each other, then sing to each other. I am not familiar with traditional Japanese songs, so I'm not sure what they were singing. According to Wikipedia, they might have been the Japanese National Anthem, the village song, and the school song.

The ceremony is incredibly quiet. I remember attending an elementary school festival a few months before Christmas and being surprised at how utterly silent the parents were. There is no clapping, whistling, or shouting unless at specified intervals. It gives the whole event an air of professionalism, but doesn't feel very fun or spontaneous.

Finally, the certificate ceremony itself: "The principal reads the diploma out loud once to the first student in each class. The diploma is handed over full size in an open cover (not rolled-up). The principal rotates the diploma to face the student and hands it to them. The student receives the diploma by using their left hand first, and then their right hand before pulling it towards them. The student steps back and exchanges bows with the principal. The student then slowly closes the diploma and folds it under their left hand before turning and walking away. Returning to their seats, students stop and bow to the special guests." Complicated, no?

Anyway, I'm eager to see my students one more time, even if it is not in the usual setting. Hopefully their ceremony goes smoothly and everyone has a joyful experience.