JET Programme: In Pursuit of Golden Cabbages

In a truly international event, I went with some other JETs to see an Argentinian film about a beautiful and notorious serial killer. The movie was in Spanish with Japanese subtitles, and I wanted to test the theory that my Italian skills would help me understand most of what I was watching. I understood about 70% of what was going on in the movie, which was refreshing, considering I understand about 1% of the Japanese that is spoken around me.

After the movie, we went to a curry place, which happened to have a 100 yen fortune telling dispenser. I couldn’t resist, so I picked up. In America, usually fortunes are mindless platitudes that could apply to just about everyone’s life. This is apparently not the case in Japan, where there are different types of fortunes ranging from positive to absolutely catastrophic.

Mine happened to be a mixed fortune, which one of the Japanese proficient JETs happened to beautifully translate for me on the spot. Here’s the less beautiful google translation:

The fortunes are upside down and disasters occur from heaven.  The problem that must be cleared up is likely to be exposed to a harsh environment where you look up heaven unintentionally as you pile up or get sick.  However, since it is time to learn about the kindness of a person, you can ask for help from someone without reluctance.  You can survive by doing so.  Don’t forget to thank for your daily relationships.  Health … I worry about cholesterol.  Try to reduce it.  Tomorrow’s fortune tomorrow today … If you have a taste for the hobby of your favorite person, GOO!  Money luck … Don’t carry more cash or cards than you need.  Lucky number 3.7+ color … orange ..

I’m not very superstitious, and I believe that we make our own fortunes in this world, but there are many things beyond our control. So, I bought some orange and blue pajamas for good luck. Hilariously, pursuing a hobby of my favorite person would mean getting into Classic WOW. I hate the art style of WOW, but I think I will try it out for at least a month…. maybe more in the winter months. As for relationships, I’m trying my best to reach out and make connections and friends in order to have some kind of support network. I couldn’t help but think of the Twilight Zone episode with a young (beautiful) William Shatner when I got this fortune.

This weekend was the annual Gunma Games, in which the four regions of Gunma competed for the glory of the golden cabbage. The lead up to these games also started a meme war on the event page. Initiated by a one man meme machine, Mr. Aidan from Tobu(green team), in a frenzied late-night mania, posted several memes to the Gunma ALT group facebook page. Some of the best memes:

In response to the late night night meme flurry, another ALT posted this.

The memes started to take it up a notch:

There were wholesome memes, too.

This dank meme battle set the tone for Saturday, as it mostly set people against the whole Tobu team. There were many defectors (read: traitors) from Seibu, to other regions, as other regions have fewer ALTs, thus recruit ALTs from the most populous region. There were many games, many of them cabbage themed (as this is what Gunma is known for).

I participated in the cabbage toss, in which you must YEET the cabbage the farthest in order to win. I felt confident in my strength ( it was a man/woman team for each region). While I used a football throw technique for the cabbage, Tobu team used an underhand throw which ultimately won them the cabbage toss game.

My back was in kind of weird way, so I decided not to fully jump into more of the physically challenging games. My friend that was holding the flag wanted to jump into the balloon stomp game (think N64 Mariokart battle mode), so I volunteered to hold the flag.

Derping with the flag

This violent flag filled me with patriotism and bloodlust for the glory of Seibu! I noticed many of the Seibu spectators were not gathering around the balloon stomp game to support our troops, so I called people over. The balloon stomp game was absolutely electric! Twists and turns! Trying to guard your balloon, whilst also trying to stomp out another’s! At the very end, in incredible show of athleticism, one of the Seibu players cartwheeled backwards to avoid getting stomped out, which left many in the crowd shooketh to the core. My friend managed to get the winning stomp in and everyone went absolutely bonkers on team Seibu after that.

After a full day of games, we waited as they tallied up the scores. In dead last, was Tobu, which most everybody felt happy about, because of the meme war. Seibu was crowned victorious!

All Glory to the Golden Cabbage!

Update: Mr. Aidan has also posted his version of the Games events.

Had many fun adventures this week! Tune in next time for more or check out my old posts:

JET Programme: Cats & Mall Rats

The Mandoue (万灯会) Candlelight Festival on Kannon-yama

JET Programme Week 3: Orientation 2: Electric Boogaloo

JET Program Week 2: Getting into the Groove

JET Programme: First Week

Advertisements

JET Program Week 2: Getting into the Groove

This week has been a period of trying to get the basics of survival down: what do I need to live and what do I need to work.

15649525882478194541984169194904.jpg

(ATSUI DESU NE: It’s hot, isn’t it? )

Last week, Japan experienced a heat wave that left many people dead. I’ve been resorting to freezing water bottles before I go to work and spending money on sports drinks from various vending machines. This has also been an excuse for eating copious amounts of ice cream. I’ve been trying to get my hands on some cool biz clothes , but finding clothes in my size (US XL) has been a challenge so far. I have to special order from Uniqlo as I am a XXXL in Japan. Luckily, this week, in comparison, has been more livable temperature-wise. 

20190805_073620_hdr1168446392084949505.jpg

(Bike parking garage)

My landlady gave me the keys to a bike. I was very grateful to finally be able to transport things in my bike basket, rather than trudging around in the heat with 50lbs in my backpack. It has improved my life dramatically because of its hauling capacity: some of the first things I bought for my apartment was a coffee maker, some towels, and a sharp knife. Biking is a legitimate mode of transportation, and on the streets here in Takasaki there are designated bike lanes on all the major sidewalks, and dedicated bike parking just about anywhere. There are even bike pumps available free to use at some bike shops.

img_20190809_085524_3561860486887171785582.jpg

(Garden at the station)

The station where I get off to go to work is really adorable. It’s out in a more rural area, so it’s surrounded by a small town and farmland. On the way there, in the rice paddies, I see very distinctly white cranes stalking through the paddies probably looking for some delicious breakfast. There’s an older lady that works at this small station that is just sweet as can be. She doesn’t speak any English, but she definitely has a strong mom-vibe and even has a small garden by the tracks which is really lovely.

I’ll be writing another post next week, so stay tuned for more updates!

JET Programme 2019:

JET Programme: First Week

30 Days til Departure (JET Programme)

Japanese Language Learning:

Introducing Myself in Japanese

JET Programme: First Week

It’s always hard to close one chapter of your life and be prepared for the next one. I feel like I had just gotten settled into my new apartment in North Hollywood when it was time to go. Leaving for Japan was bittersweet and different the last time I went to go live abroad for an extended period of time. When I was 22, I was unattached and also clueless about a lot of life skills necessary to be a fully functioning adult. Eight years later, and my situation is completely different: leaving behind my little urban life and my loved ones.

Orientation was jam packed with seminars and useful information. I didn’t really sleep the first three days because my room-mate snored horribly, so I was basically wandering around the hotel at odd hours of the night and slowly descending into delirium. I met a lot of interesting people during meal times but I never actually made it out to explore Tokyo as I got sick from some combination of lack of sleep, jet lag, and mingling with people from all over the world.

Wednesday was also jam packed: After a bus ride to Gunma, I got to meet with the Japanese English teachers that I would be working with; they are the sweetest people!  They drove me to city hall to do some paperwork, then to get my bank account, next to grab my luggage from the high school and introduce me to the principal and vice principal, then finally to my apartment in Takasaki. My landlady took pity on me, as I had been blowing my nose all day and probably looked like the walking dead, and drove me to the store to get some groceries and some medicine. Finally, I got to sleep. Glorious sleep! The next day, my predecessor helped me get on the train to my high school. I came home, went to sleep at 8pm. On Friday, I introduced myself in the limited Japanese that I have to all of the teachers at my high school. I have to give a speech in Japanese during my appointment ceremony and also during the larger school ceremony later.

Finally, on Saturday, I was feeling well enough to go out and explore. Saturday also happened to be the time that the Takasaki Matsuri festival was happening. I decided to try to meet up with some other JETs and watch the fireworks. I got lost along the way, but ended up getting some awesome pictures of some taiko drummers:

30 Days til Departure (JET Programme)

Earlier this year, I was accepted to participate in the JET programme. After what felt like an eon, I got my placement: Gunma prefecture. If you’re like me and don’t know a lot about Japan, you probably thought the same thing: “Where’s that?”
Screen Shot 2019-06-24 at 10.45.32 AM
This was quickly followed by a google search and a fast and furious reading of the wikipedia page for Gunma. Capital city: Maebashi. A mountainous region once known for horsebreeding. It’s main economy is boostered by agriculture(konjacs and cabbages), silk farming, and car manufacturing.

I later found out that I would be placed in Takasaki city. A city famous for the Daruma doll.

My placement is not a big city like Tokyo, but more rural. As I am currently living in North Hollywood near LA, I’m definitely ready for a change of pace.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m scared. This is something I’ve been working towards since I was still in Italy trying to figure out how I could live and work abroad. Living abroad was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have ever had. I can’t wait to do it all over again.

I will be sure to set my goals and intentions in a following blog post.