Daily Life

Japan in Twelve Photos: A year in review

Twelve months have gone by faster than I thought could be possible (time flies, and all that). Looking back at all the pictures I’ve accumulated brings me back to so many great memories and experiences I know could only be possible in Japan.  I’ve pulled some of my favourites in a sort of visual memory of the past year.

August: Obon, Kamiichi

I left from Toronto arrived in Tokyo // sweat alot // drank 2L bottles of water sitting on my tatami floor. Obon happened and the office was empty. I went to a  festival in Kamiichi Town, went to a beach party and (sortof) climbed Tateyama.


September: Osu Kannon, Nagoya

I started to figure everything out a bit more. I started teaching and meeting students. I took my first trip, going to Nagoya. I have this very distinct memory of being half awake and watching the Japanese Alps from the bus window as we drove through. I spent a lot time after school helping students prepare for a speech competition.


October: Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

While my family was eating Thanksgiving dinner I was in Kyoto for the first time, eating burnt Ramen and visiting a cat cafe. I went to a Halloween party and to the speech competition. I learned that Kit-Kats are given for good luck.

November: Kurobe Gorge 

The seasons changed later than I expected. I went up to the Kurobe Gorge in a rainy, cold, and fantastic train ride up the mountain. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan.


December: Maki-Chan in Japan

In December my sister visited Japan. We went to as many places as we could from an English camp in Toyama to Nagoya, Tokyo, all over Kansai (Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), and finally Maibara. It was strange to suddenly have a piece of home in Japan. I went about 4 weeks without classes and missed it a lot.


January: Hakuba, Nagano

I shivered at work and shivered in my apartment.  I went to Nagano to go snowboarding and loved every minute of the breathtaking mountains.


February: Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

It was cold. The third years finished classes. I went to Kanazawa21 and and saw an amazingly cool exhibition and ate lots of ramen to keep warm.



March: Dohtonbori Osaka

The school year ended, and it was really sad. My first fully-fledged trip to Osaka was incredibly fun, I ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. Omiyage was weirdly difficult to find. I saw sumo. I lost a contact lens. It was great.


April: Sakura at Matsukawa River

Cherry Blossoms lived up to their hype and more. Outside my school, around the river, in Osaka, and in backyards, these trees were so soft and pretty I felt like I was in a dreamland.


May: YG Concert in Tokyo 

Golden week was four days of pure awesomeness, the most “Tokyo” experience I’ve had, by going to a concert, the robot restaurant, and getting swept up in the energy of the city.


June: Uozu Port 

It became summer, like fully summer with high humidity and blue skies. I spent a lot of time getting sunburned and riding my bike around. I don’t mind the cold winter, but summer is the best for exploring  the city and feeling re-energized.
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July: Tatemon Festival 

TECHNICALLY this photo is from August but I’m using for July for the sake of relevance. I participated in the Tatemon festival, which was an absolute blast. High energy, lots of people, and a really wonderful culmination to the long season of festivals and fireworks of the summer and to the year in Japan.

Land of the blazing sun: Summer in Japan

How have I not made more puns like this?

My brain must have melted in the heat of summer.

It’s hot here. A heat I’ve never experienced before. The temperature itself isn’t so bad, averaging about 35, but the HUMIDITY wraps you in in its arms and hugs you until you feel like you’ll never breathe fresh air again. I’m being dramatic, but I’ve never seen so many sweated-through shirts than here. And yet, I still see men in full suits. Women with pants and long sleeves.

I went to a baseball game and and spent three hours in the open sun and subsequently spent the following week with a burn and potentially a minor case of heat stroke. Now I have a farmer’s tan that I’m weirdly proud of.


Troopers, these Brass Band members and Baseball players. I don’t know how no one fainted.

The staff room at work is not so bad. The air conditioning is usually on and there’s always several fans going. It’s a good thing classes have now ended, because the full wall of windows and close proximity of forty students turn the classrooms into incubators. Students arms stick to their worksheets and they roll up the legs of their uniforms. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for them to concentrate all day.

But still, all of these heat and humidity brings out so much life around us. The rice fields are so green and lush looking!



I went to an English camp and spent two days with some of the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever met! They were so eager to participate and I had a lot of fun. My little workshop was about Art, so we talked about different types periods of Art History. Students could pick their favourite painting from a set of images and write a story or their opinion.


Interestingly enough, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (the one in the middle) was the most popular one chosen!

The summer means it’s almost time for the new teachers to arrive! It’s been a few weeks of goodbye events and dinners. It’s sad to say goodbye, particularly because many of the friends I’ve made here are from many different countries making the chances of reunions a little less likely. We’ve spent some time in arcades, taking classic Purikura  photos.IMG_8226


My new little friend.

One of the best parts of summer is all the festivals! It seems like every weekend there are one or more festivals around the prefecture. They’re always fun, tons of food, entertainment, and families! Last weekend I went to the festival in Namerikawa that had a great fireworks show at the end!


Festival ice!


Fire dancers!

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Some creative firework shapes: upside down heart!

A Mashup Of Spring Happenings

The past week or so has been a hodgepodge of work and events. The weather has been alternating between cool and hot… so I’ve been enjoying my fortunate location near the sea. Here is a taste of what’s been going on…

Last weekend I went down to the pier and sat closer and closer to the water to play chicken with the waves. The wind and water were refreshing and I’ve ended up with a pretty impressive and awkward-looking tan on my forearms.

This is the view from the pier looking at the mountains. The odd-shaped buildings are Uozu’s buried-forest museum which I have yet to visit… another thing to add to the to-do list for the next month.

I’m spoiled to have an awesome conveyor-belt sushi place close by, it’s the best place for a quick meal that also happens to be insanely delicious thanks to our proximity to the sea.

I needed to get a wedding present, and having no idea what type of envelope/ how much to give I was generously helped by some kind ladies at the local convenience store. Turns out one of the ladies’ sons is one of my students! What a small world, or at least a small town!

Last weekend was a dance and music festival in Uozu! The night ended with these little lanterns spread out through the park.


Kind of a lonely image of the room where I have my Japanese lessons. Kind of hints at a more empty version of Vermeer’s room paintings.

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Coca Cola has produced bottles of Coke with popular given names – it’s pretty cute even if it’s just a marketing technique. Hey, if you’re drinking Coke anyway, it’s kinda fun to have your name on it!


It’s getting hot, which sucks for the people who still have to wear button-ups and suit jackets to work. Cool Biz wear starts soon though!

Springtime changes in Toyama

The cherry blossoms have come and gone, and the prefecture is now in a temporary sweet spot of crisp air and warm sunlight. Like most Japanese buildings my apartment is highly influenced by the weather, and whether it’s the spring changes or my own changes in mood – my apartment feels so much brighter and alive. It’s been nice to do a bit of rearranging and pretty highlights around the space, almost exclusively courtesy to the magical 100 Yen store.

Some handmade flags with Oragami paper

Some makeshift decoration – a Japanese Syllabary poster and some items borrowed from the closet

My Daiso map of the world

One of my teacher’s gave this little trinket to me as a present. It’s a little functional zipper from the YKK factory in Kurobe city. This company is responsible for producing the majority of the zipper’s in the world. Check your zipper pulls, many of them are probably labelled with YKK!

A little key trinket from the YKK factory

This weekend we went down to Uozu city’s “Mirage Land” a little amusement park on the edge of the water. We were disappointed to learn we had arrived just as the rides were closing down, but the ride operators of the Ferris Wheel were kind to us and let us take a ride.

Uozu’s surprise amusement park

A bird’s eye view from the top of the Ferris Wheel

It won’t be long before this nice spring weather changes to the sweltering heat of summer- I’ll enjoy it while it’s here!

“Hotaru no Hikari” at Graduation for Japanese High School Students

Saturday was graduation for many high schools, and it was a pretty sentimental day. Although I couldn’t understand most of what was being said I felt such a strong feeling of nostalgia when “Auld Lang Sye” was played at the end. The lyrics were in Japanese, but I associate this familiar tune with New Years and thinking about passing time.

I looked up the Japanese version later to see if it was a direct translation and it turns out it isn’t. It is titled Hotaru no Hikari, “Glow of a firefly”, and is about a hard working student who perseveres using the light of a firefly. So of course it’s perfect for a graduation ceremony, but I’ve also heard it in stores as they’re closing to signal shoppers to leave.

Here is the lyrics below in Japanese, Romaji and English. I am nowhere near capable of translating this myself, all credit goes to good old Wikipedia.  Just like the original, the sentiment is moving and I find the lyrics beautiful.


Japanese text


English translation


蛍の光 窓の雪

書よむ月日 重ねつつ

いつしか年も すぎの戸を

あけてぞ今朝は 別れゆく

Hotaru no hikari, mado no yuki,

Fumi yomu tsukihi, kasane tsutsu

Itsushika toshi mo, sugi no to wo,

Aketezo kesa wa, wakare yuku.

Light of fireflies, snow by the window,

Many suns and moons spent reading

Years have gone by without notice

Day has dawned; this morning, we part.


とまるも行くも 限りとて

かたみに思う ちよろずの

心のはしを ひとことに

さきくとばかり 歌うなり

Tomaru mo yuku mo, kagiri tote,

Katami ni omou, chiyorozu no,

Kokoro no hashi wo, hitokoto ni,

Sakiku to bakari, utau nari.

Stay or leave, either an end

Think as mementos; so many

Corners of my heart, in one word

Sing for peace


筑紫のきわみ 陸の奥

海山遠く へだつとも

その真心は へだてなく

ひとえにつくせ 国のため

Tsukushi no kiwami, michi no oku,

Umi yama tooku, hedatsu tomo,

Sono magokoro wa, hedate naku,

Hitoe ni tsukuse, kuni no tame

Far reaches of Kyushu and Tōhoku

Though separated by seas and mountains

Their sincere hearts are not.

Serve single-mindedly for our country.


千島のおくも おきなわも

やしまのうちの まもりなり

いたらんくにに いさおしく

つとめよわがせ つつがなく

Chishima no oku mo, Okinawa mo

Yashima no uchi no, mamori nari

Itaran kuni ni, isaoshiku

Tsutome yo waga se, tsutsuganaku

From the ends of Chishima to Okinawa,

All part of Japan.

Contribute to our great country.

I’ll faithfully devote my life.

Here is the song in all its audio glory.

Up until now, this experience has been about meeting new people and seeing new things.  It struck me that this was my first set of “goodbyes” in Japan. A little sad, but a good reminder to appreciate everything and everyone here fully.