Climbed Mt. Fuji!

Last week, I climbed Mt. Fuji! It was an absolutely incredible experience! We climbed at night in order to see the sunrise from the top. No picture or description can accurately replicate the view or the experience!

While waiting at the bus station, we met a young woman named Edel, who was from the UK and was traveling through Japan.  Then on the bus we sat by Toby and Amy, who were from the UK as well, but are currently living in Tokyo as English teachers. We all got along quite well, so we decided to climb together! Can’t imagine doing it with any other group of people.

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New Friends to Climb Mt. Fuji

I like to think that I’m in relatively good shape and I thought the ascent would not be too bad.  However, the climb was a humbling experience and was a little more difficult than I thought.  Not impossible, but definitely not easy! We climbed Mt. Fuji in about 4 1/2 hours and arrived at the top at 1:30am. It was below zero and the sunrise wasn’t for three more hours. We are now very, very COLD!! We all huddled in the back of a truck with a tarp over us to try to stay warm…didn’t help.  For about three hours, I couldn’t feel most of my body and was pretty miserable.

BUT, then…sunrise!  And it was all worth it!

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Sunrise at the Top of Mt. Fuji

There was something so magnificent about having just climbed this iconic mountain and seeing the day begin from above the clouds.  The colors, the air, the feelings…it was all so incredible.

After the sun had fully risen, I then hiked around the crater at the top to get a picture with the sign that says, “You’ve made it to the top!”

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The world is an amazing place!! Can’t wait for the next adventure!

A few more pictures:

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以上です!

私は4月から7月まで、東京外国語大学留学生日本語教育センターで、日本語を勉強しました。授業は難しかったですが、楽しかった事の方が思い出に残っています。私の日本語は、まだ上手ではありませんが、日々努力し、これからも勉強していくつもりです。9月からは、国立音楽大学に行きます。雲井先生と一緒に勉強できる事が待ちきれません!ですが、今は日本での夏休みを楽しみたいと思います。

Done! I am officially done with classes at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies’ Japanese Language Center! It was difficult, but fun! My Japanese is still not very good, but I study more to get better.  I’m really excited to being my studies in September at Kunitachi College of Music with Masato Kumoi. Cannot wait!  But, for now, I’m ready for summer break!

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My final presentation was on classical saxophone.・私の発表がクラシックのサックスについて話しました。

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MEXT Research Students ・ MEXT研究生

Golden Week

The first week of May was Golden Week in Japan. The week is chock-full of Holidays: Showa Day (Showa no hi), Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi), Greenery Day (Midori no hi), and Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi).  Because there are so many Holidays generally everyone is off from school and work.  Thus, Golden!! (Kinda of like a Spring Break for the whole country!)  Unfortunately, my university still had school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; but, I still found time to enjoy the week!  Here is what I did over my break:

Wednesday: Darkness Festival.  Fuchu is home to the Okunitama Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo. The shrine’s annual festival is called the Kurayami (darkness) Festival, where mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried in the darkness. The festival had so many great food stalls with such variety.  Needless to say, we ate quite a bit!

Thursday: I spent the morning doing busy work around my apartment and then went to Harajuku to meet some friends. We ate and drank at this little area called Commune 2nd.  It reminded me a lot of Austin and the food trucks.  Each restaurant had their own little shop with unique food/drinks.  You ordered and then went back to your seat at outdoor picnic style seating.  We were lucky enough to score the couches and so we camped out most of the day!

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Friday: Mt. Takoa. About one hour outside of Tokyo is Mount Takoa.  A few of us MEXT research students decided that we should take the day and hike the mountain.  It was a fairly easy hike only taking us about 6-7 hours to climb up and down the mountain. There is a Monkey Park about half-way up that we stopped, rested, and watched monkeys. The weather was perfect, the trail was beautiful, and the matcha ice cream at the top of the mountain was so worth it!

Saturday: Rest. All of the outings made me a bit tired and I really needed to study my Japanese.  So, I took the day to study, get work done, and rest.

Sunday: Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade and a Picnic in Yoyogi Park. It was so wonderful to spend the day with my new friends celebrating everyone and sharing a meal together in the park. Perfect way to end Golden Week!

Golden Week was a success!!  Now, back to school and no more breaks until July…

Got a Job!

After only being in Japan for one month, I already have a part-time job!  I am now a Private English Instructor for Cosmopolitan Village Inc.  cosmoAs an instructor, I will be traveling to families homes and teach mostly “light courses.”  These courses focus more on conversational and everyday English learning away from a textbook.  The company’s motto is “Home+Smile=Natural.”  In most cases, I will be teaching entire families splitting the time with the children and the parents.  I’m excited to get back to teaching!

The process of getting a part-time in Japan was not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be.  Once I arrived in Japan, I had to go to the Tokyo Immigration Office in Tachikawa and IMG_6646apply for my work visa. This was a simple form where they asked for my contact information and copies of my passport and residence card.  Nothing more!  They told me to come back in three weeks after my paperwork was processed and get my residence card stamped with a work visa.  This is very unlike America, because international students cannot work outside of the university they attend.  Very happy to have the opportunity to teach and make a little bit of extra money to explore Japan/Asia!

As far as finding the job, there is a website called “Gaijin Pot” (Gaijin=Foreigner) that has a classified sections.  There are quite a few English teaching positions on there and you can apply through their portal.  However, this website is very popular and hundreds of applications are sent in for every job.  So, I was quite lucky when I got an interview for one!  There was a Skype interview and then an in person interview, where I was offered the job!

Well, I’ve got orientation/training on Saturday and need to finish reading the manual!  I start teaching next weekend!

 

Grandpa Charlie

One of my biggest fears about moving 6,000 miles away from all of my family and friends was the idea of losing someone. Unfortunately, this fear became reality.  My father’s father, my Grandpa Charlie, passed away last week. My middle name, Charles, was chosen after him. It really pains me to not be there with my family at this time, but there is no way I would have been able to make the trip.  The downside to living so far away… It makes it slightly easier knowing that he was always very proud things I was accomplishing and would totally understand my absence.

I’m sad about losing my grandfather, but realize that I have been rather fortunate to have grown up with all of my grandparents. I’ve such great memories with all of them, and Grandpa Charlie was no exception. Toward the end of his life, he had many health complications, but was always seemed very strong and had a smile on his face.  Absolutely amazing!  He was an incredibly hard worker that was dedicated to his family. Something that never went unnoticed!

Due to me living in Texas, I haven’t seen him much in the last 5 years.  When I came back to Nebraska, I never really got the chance to see him. Now, I kind of regret that. His passing has made me really reevaluate my relationships with people, and the time/energy that I invest in those relationships.  Here’s to you, Grandpa Charlie!

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Ikebana

In an effort to teach all the international students about Japanese Customs and Culture, TUFS offers (free) mini-courses. Friday’s course was Ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging. Ikebana is also known as Kado, which is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kodo for incense appreciation and chado for tea and the tea ceremony. More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of large, multicolored arrangements, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and puts emphasis on shape, line, and form. (Thanks Wikipedia for the facts!)

The class was quite small, as they only had flowers for about 9 of us. We looked at some examples of Ikebana and the instructors briefly discussed the history.  We each were given a bowl, a small weight with metal spikes (to attached the flowers to), flowers, and scissors. They then covered the weight in water and…

….they just let us go! The only instructions that we were given was to leave room for the wind. Essentially, they didn’t want us to overcrowd the flowers and to make use of the empty space. As we assembled our arrangements, the two instructors walked around giving us different ideas and guiding us to our final products.  It was an incredibly interesting, educational, relaxing, and enjoyable experience!  Definitely doing it again!

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My Ikebana

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MEXT Research Student’s Ikebana

Kumoi & Kunitachi

Today after my classes at TUFS, I took the train from Fuchu to

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Kunitachi’s New Building

Tachikawa to visit Kunitachi College of Music (国立音楽大学) and finally meet Masato Kumoi (雲井先生).  The campus is tucked away in a really nice neighborhood near the Tamagawa-josui Station – very cozy! They just build a new building on campus and it is absolutely stunning!

As soon as I arrived on campus, I went to go find Kumoi Sensei’s office.  Per usual, I got kind of lost and had to ask for directions.  Before I could even ask where his office was, the students already knew who I was. (Quite a suprise to me!) They quickly showed me where his office was and found me a room to practice in.  As they took me to the practice room, I ran into many saxophone students waiting for lessons and I tried my best to talk (in Japanese!) with all of them.  They were all so friendly and kind!
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I practiced for a few hours and then left to meet Kumoi Sensei.  He had just finished teaching his last lesson of the day and was ready to leave for dinner.  He invited two of his graduate students (Shusaku Mukaiyama and Maho Kuroda) to have dinner with us. But before we left Kunitachi, Kumoi Sensei took me to the administration office to meet all of the staff.  Yet again, everyone was so nice and welcoming.  I even met a professor who did his DMA at North Texas! Small world!

We then went to Kumoi Sensei’s favorite restaurant for dinner, Cucina.  My first time eating Italian food in Japan! The pizza, anitpasta, and wine were all quite delicious – definitely will be back!  At dinner we talked a lot about all things saxophone, my research goals, his goals for me, life at Kunitachi, upcoming concerts, Japanese saxophone festivals, etc.  I tried my best to carry out the conversations in Japanese, but with my limited vocabulary I had to rely on Kumoi Sensei to translate some for me.  Very lucky to have a teacher who is able to do that so easily! It was a great dinner with wonderful people! I cannot wait to begin my studies with Masato Kumoi at Kunitachi!

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Kunitcahi Saxophone Dinner