June: A Retrospective

JNGR2017In the month and a half since my last post, things have happened. Obviously. However, none of those things really had enough to be said about them to justify a post in themselves, so I took advantage of the opportunity to not anthologise my life or look through any photos I’d taken while I studied for JLPT N3 Round 2: Jack’s Revenge. Now, with the exam behind me, I can take stock a little.

My last post detailed the the weekend of utter chaos and sleep deprivation that was BitSummit. ‘What’s happened since then?’ I pretend to hear you ask. Well, since I pretended you did,


My Mother Came to Visit

Late May saw my mother’s second visit to see me since I arrived on JET. A year without seeing me held significant symbolic value, so this way the intervals are kept to a few months at a time. Friend of the show (and my mother) Sarah coordinated her own debut trip to Japan with this visit, and the three of us were able to join Jaz in a jolly tour round Kanazawa. I almost feel as though I am equally qualified to show people round the city.

No doubt tired by such extravagances as ‘public transport,’ ‘pavements’ and ‘fish,’ Mum and I returned to Yamagata and Nanyo on Tuesday. Sadly, this meant back to work for me, though we were able to make a formal visitation to one of my schools on Friday, as well as watching the city-wide elementary school sports day for a time. Both went about as well as might be imagined, which is to say I spent a lot of time translating compliments about my mother’s youthful beauty and even more time correcting the students who were cheekily convinced she must be my girlfriend.

We also dropped in on a flower festival on the outskirts of Nanyo. It was the sort that could only happen out in the country — a few craft and food stalls clustered around a tiny shrine, surrounded by rows of flowers. Mum and I tried our hand at kendama — a Japanese toy where one must flick a ball on a string and catch it on a wooden handle. Both of us were judged according to the official Japanese Kendama League standards and reached grade 6 of 12. Not bad for a couple of foreigners (probably).

For a late birthday present, we did some pottery in nearby Nagai, which was an entertaining test of my translation skills in a context about as far away as it’s possible to get from a gaming show in Kyoto. We were both nevertheless reasonably successful, and have a mug and two trays/plates each to show for it.


It was my Birthday


Just like the hanami party, some friends and I generally made a nuisance of ourselves in a park, only this time the park was completely empty and I was successful in the only birthday endeavour that truly matters — drinking a 3-litre can of beer in one sitting.


There was a Work Party

to celebrate the 144th [???] anniversary of one of my schools’ founding. It started with snails and jellyfish soup and ended, via sake taste-testing, with my singing Take On Me to the principal, the (I think) head of the PTA and literally one other patron of a tiny snack bar on an ancient karaoke machine at midnight on a Tuesday.


Jaz and I Went to Niigata (again)


The Airbnb Kerfuffle meant that our booking was cancelled, but we were able to find a very cheap hotel room further out in the countryside. It was an odd place which looked like it could use some love, but for about £15 a night we couldn’t complain! The village in which it was situated seemed to be known for its senbei (rice crackers) but that weekend was the start of a firefly festival. It was the first time either of us had seen them, and there was something very pleasing about how exactly they matched our expectation from films and the like. Fireworks in the city on the horizon only added to the atmosphere, although while they were hidden by the mountains it wasn’t immediately clear at first that we weren’t being bombarded. In the city proper we were able to eat some truly excellent sushi, and got a decent hike out of one of the mountains near our hostel.

I went Skiing


in June! Jay and I made the trek up to Mount Gassan, where the ski season starts in April and ends in late July. In winter there is too much snow to ski. Novelty aside, the slopes weren’t excellent. I fared better than the snowboarder, but even so it was a rather unpleasant study in moguls for the most part. The piste itself wound in between trees that, while not yet green, were certainly not white. However, if it was good enough for a large Korean tour who seemed to have taken up the entire café at the bottom of the chairlift, it was good enough for us.


We had a Picnic in the Mountains

around Iide, about an hour’s west of me. Marcus, our regional advisor, organised the event and, despite telling everyone to BYOB and bring BBQ food and snacks, helpfully brought with him half of Costco by means of sustenance. The issue was only compounded when a man appeared bearing a banquet-sized platter of vegetables that he had picked that morning. In the end we all took home more food than we brought. It was a scorching hot day but an undeniably beautiful part of the country. We all reconnected with a more innocent time by means of river wading and 3-a-side football.


I Sat a Japanese Exam

IMG_2418As mentioned above, I went in for JLPT N3 Part II: The Revengenesis. I’d been doing reasonably well with revision through June, but the very sudden change in temperature (up to 30) followed by humidity (up to 90%) did terrible things to me. The final week consisted of me shambling to and from work then flopping straight into bed under the air conditioner and going to sleep.

The day dawned and I made my way to the very architecturally impressive Tohoku University of Art and Design and into a lecture theatre. It’s a good thing I was born with a single column of bone and muscle running up my back rather than spinal vertebrae or else the chairs would have been tragically uncomfortable and I would have spent every session squirming to try and alleviate the pain. A stomach ache came early on and joined forces with my back to create an abdominal dream team of discomfort and distraction.

Thankfully (touch wood), I feel like I knew most of what came up, and at least have a solid shot of passing. One only needs 50%, and [*hubris warning*] considering I was only about 4 marks off the last time with far less preparation, I’ll be a little miffed if I fall short again. In any case, N3 is behind me, and later this month I begin the arduous journey to the next level: N2.


And thus the update is complete. Summer is well and truly here and this first year of JET is coming to a close. In just over a month I’ll be welcoming a new ALT to Nanyō as one of the veterans, rather than the other way round. Hopefully I’ll at least have the Japanese qualifications to feel like less of an imposter.



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