Shogaku – 小学. The boys are back in school.

I thought I had done most of the shopping for the boys’ start of school by Saturday, and true, on Sunday there was only a couple of things outstanding. Then we labelled. That was a lot of fun.

I lie.

But, the upshot is that we all now know how to write the boys’ names in katakana and their pants are named so I don’t have to be rooting around looking at what age is on the label. (A wee bugbear.)

Monday morning. The boys are excited. The randoseru, (backpacks) are packed.

We are to be at the school at 8am to meet with Lin-sensei, the head of the international classroom. I think I’m going to refer to it as a unit though.

At Kenilworth school there were units – the deaf unit and the behavioural unit. (There weren’t any units at BSG and that made me sad. Because we all know that to be in the top 16% you cannot be deaf or have any emotional issues. Mmm.)
Dan didn’t make it past the genkan, (area where you doff your shoes), and was shooed away. It was all a bit of a blur. I had more forms to fill in and things to order.

The boys were made welcome by their classmates and teachers, who both seem nice. Oliver’s in particular is lovely. He is lucky because he has a girl in his class, Erica, who can speak English, (she’s Japanese though). I did spot a slightly European-looking kid in George’s class but George said that none of the kids spoke English. That mystery was solved today by me bumping into a tall Caucasian who introduced himself as the boy’s dad and he is Norwegian. So this Dad goes into school once a week to teach his son Norwegian. Cool.

I was in George’s classroom during the music lesson and they sang BINGO (in Nihongo) and I joined in in English which was great fun and earned me some kudos among the kids! I was hoping to be around at lunch time but I was dismissed by 10.30. Oliver is wanting me to stay but really, there’s not much I am doing of any worth.

So for some lessons they are in the unit, where they are getting intensive Japanese (Nihongo) support but otherwise they are in their classrooms. Oliver’s class has 36 kids, but the rooms seem big enough and I really don’t think it’s an issue.

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I was told by George’s teacher that I need to make a mat for when they do art.

So I did that the Monday night. I also needed an empty 5kg rice bag for putting his flower pot in. So Dan sourced one of those from his colleagues and brought it back yesterday.

I also needed to go shopping yesterday for a yellow bandana for when Oliver does Home Ec (Friday), and a new, washable facemask. He will be able to take the apron made by the lovely folk in Montana, who belong to a Christian community,  (their name escapes me) which was gifted by Fiona.

IMG_1339The boys are enjoying their lunches. I have been told that George needs to adjust his grip when using a spoon. George went back for seconds on Monday. On Friday it will be George’s turn to be serving lunch to the others. Exciting.

Oliver said yesterday that he is loving school. George is having a whale of a time. Yesterday he was having his PE lesson and I sneaked this shot of them all listening to the teacher. Note the caps which are reversible – you get one red team and one white team.

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Apologies, People of Motomachi: this Gaijin made a Mistake. (Ok, more than one.)

Just got home after a thorough soaking to and from school.

The umbrellas didn’t really cut the mustard. It was a wellies and waterproof trousers affair. Not that I’ve brought either of those over with us.

img_1357-2Anyway, this morning we arrived to school. Far fewer kids in evidence walking to school today which makes us suspicious that perhaps when it’s stair rods out there the parents cheat and drive them close to the school. Mmm.

Got in. Handed over yet another order form, (this time for a sewing kit for Oliver), and the health form about vaccinations, (in Tagalog,) to the international teacher, Lin-sensai. She then made a request. “Somebody saw you yesterday go to the bakery after school. Then you were eating as you walked along. This is not allowed. You must go home after school, and the kids take off their randoseru, then you can do groceries. And no eating outside.” I was mortified. I cried. Bloody wuss. I’m trying so hard I’m really feeling the pressure. Thankfully there were no kids in the classroom.

So it was a tearful walk home in the rain. Got soaked through and have hung up my clothes in the bathroom and put the drying ventilation on to sort them out. Have made a coffee and perused Facebook and am listening to radio3 online.

Apart from this cultural faux pas, the schooling is going well. And the food from the bakery was bloody worth it. It’s amazing.

Like a Parisian patisserie but with more bread stuff and less fru-fru. I suppose if I’m going to transgress, I’ve done it in style.

The weekend – shuumatsu 週末

It’s Friday! My lovely Egremont Bookclub gals will be meeting later. Boo. But I am creating another bookclub in Yokohama. Woot.

lId27I84TtulRJCKGCr6cwYesterday we returned school  paperwork to the Naka Ward Office. It’s great. There’s a bit of waiting around, but the job is done there and then. Really efficient. Copeland could learn a lot. But then they’d need to employ more staff and there is no money……*sighs*. You get a number and two corresponding slips of paper and are eventually called to the desk. One slip of paper goes off into the office with the paperwork to be sorted and you keep the other to be reunited at the end of the job. So good. We then went to a Family mart and bought some picnic items including for me and George inarizushi, which is a pocket of tofu with sweetened rice inside. Oliver went for sausage and chips!

We ate these in a charming park near the Baystars’ stadium (the local baseball team). There were loads of tulips, they were so beautiful and dotted around the place were lots of artists practising their watercolours.

After this we learned about useful buses and bus stops and the limits of Google maps. But after a prolonged wait at the wrong bus-stop we found the right bus and headed to the Aeon department store to attempt the school shop.

I’ve been worrying about this for months. The list of items seemed scary and odd, but what Motomachi Primary school are asking for isn’t as huge as other lists I’ve seen and thankfully most of it was all on one floor. Unfortunately I ran out of cash before I finished the first shop. So we caught the bus home, had a wee rest, picked up more spondulics and headed back for another shot. Yesterday I bought:

  • two pairs of indoor shoes
  • white gym top and shorts for Oliver (George has been loaned some from the school)
  • one disaster hood
  • cleaning cloths
  • face masks for serving food
  • two pencil cases
  • a box of pencils 2B or B
  • a box of red pencils
  • two skipping ropes
  • two sets of: toothbrush, plastic cup, face cloth
  • handkerchiefs for drying hands after using the loo
  • kanji exercise books
  • two communication books
  • geometry set
  • coloured pencils
  • plastic boards to protect desk
  • a bag to put gym stuff in
  • a bag to put cup and toothbrush etc in
  • pegs for attaching cleaning cloth to underside of desk
  • plain rubbers
  • pritt sticks
  • AND A THERMOMETER!!

Of course I am now taking their temperatures and it is interesting to see how much it fluctuates. Or maybe I need to get out more.

And on that note: I need to head out now to meet Dan’s colleagues for lunch. [Dan might be too busy to meet us(!)], then we are meeting a friend called Frances, from Taiwan, who is married to another of Dan’s colleagues; and tomorrow I am super excited to be meeting up with an old pal from Bournemouth. Yes!! So exciting. Very out of the blue. Cannot wait!!

Must dash.

 

 

School

This morning we need to go and buy a thermometer. Part of the paperwork that took NINETY minutes to complete yesterday, (with an interpreter), was writing down the kids’ average body temperature. Both the international teacher, Lin-sensai, and our interpreter, (a lovely lady from Dan’s HR department), were shocked that I didn’t know this off the top of my head. So today we buy a thermometer and start taking readings.

The orientation session yesterday was long. I need to set-up a bank account: in order to do this I need to create a seal. Woah. I need to take some paperwork over to Naka ward office today, and at some point we need to buy all the bits and bobs for Monday morning. It was a hard ninety minutes but I held it together until we got out. Really overwhelmed. And Oliver was being difficult.

As it happens, next week the teachers are carrying out home visits for all the pupils in the afternoons so the boys will only be going in for morning session and lunch.

I’ll be going in with them for that first week. Both the boys are upbeat and excited. Turns out Oliver will be going on a residential camp in June at a peninsular where they’ll be fishing and kayaking and suchlike.

So the photos. The school itself looks run-down in comparison to British primary schools. It reminds me of schooling from the 1960s. Or maybe earlier. But they WILL learn some Japanese!

Home

This is a bit of a catch-up post.

  1. I have found a closer supermarket which is far more comprehensive. I am a happy shopper.
  2. Yesterday we met Dan for lunch and had a Korean barbecue meal. Hover over the photos to get the captions.

    People have been asking about our house. Well, it’s at the top of a hill, so coming home we all get a mega workout climbing one hundred odd steps. It is on three levels and is great. We have a strip of scrubland outside the living area which will be handy for barbecues. Here are some snaps.

Japanese People

The neighbourhood we are living in is full of hair salons and each one advertises perms. Really??!

I’d not seen any curly haired Nihonjin…..until yesterday.

Here is my list of interesting Japanese people spotted so far:

  • with a perm
  • trans person
  • person with a dog in a pram

I managed to get a snap of the pram.                     2j5N122aQYW1HL+VTs+cEw

Weekdays. But boys still at home….

So today is Wednesday. It’s my Dad’s birthday – Happy Birthday Dad!!

Today is exciting because this afternoon we will all visit Motomachi elementary where the boys will be enrolled. Hopefully they will start on Monday. It will all be a bit fitful as there is a school holiday around Golden Week at the start of May and then we’ll take the boys out of school in mid May to accompany the Moomins (grandparents) whilst they come and stay.

So in the meantime we have been mixing the usual home ed stuff with exploring our new area and meeting Dan for lunch. Sunday evening we planted some seeds and look forward to growing our own cucumbers, strawberries and herbs.

 

 

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Ramen. Under the egg and shredded radish are noodles. You eat the solids with chopsticks then sup up the miso broth with a ceramic spoon or straight from the bowl.

On Monday we went to a Ramen restaurant and one of Dan’s colleagues joined us.Yesterday we were en famille and we went to a cook-your-own okonomiyaki, (optimistically called Japanese pizza, but there’s no real dough and it’s mainly a cabbage frittata with barbecue sauce and mayonnaise on top). I went for seafood and the boys stuck with pork.

The meal begins with a salad, (the dressing reminded me of Little Chef prawn cocktail), and then the hot plate is activated and you cook the meat. Meanwhile you mix your bowl of stuff and add the cooked meat to the mix. Then you dump the mix onto the hotplate. Apparently it needs to be 14cm in diameter. I joked about not bringing a ruler and Dan told me that they are provided. (Of course). Then a saucepan lid goes over the top and a timer is turned. Once the time is up, the okonomiyaki is flipped and cooked for the same time. Then you get creative (or not) with the sauce.

Dan worked a little later last night so I did some research and found a ramen restaurant near Ishikawacho station and we met him and headed there for tea. It was cold and raining and I was glad I’d taken my woolly hat and warm jacket.

Tonight we’ll be having spaghetti bolognaise. Dan cooked up a big batch and froze it before coming back to the UK at Easter.

Sunday

It’s been a few days. The jet lag has taken its toll a wee bit and it is only now that I feel clear headed enough to post again.

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Sunday

I think Sunday was the hardest. We attempted a big supermarket shop – by bus, none the less – in the morning; then in the afternoon we took the train out to Kamakura, a hill town south of Yokohama which has lots of temples, a giant buddha, and lots of shops and cafes.

Dan has a preferred supermarket; OK supermarket. Google maps told us the nearest one was a fair way away. But we catch a vey nice air conditioned bus and follow the progress on Dan’s phone and start the shop. Now. I love exploring the food shops and this one was a bit disappointing. Plus, I suppose I have more fun when there isn’t a time or purpose constraint and we had both on this trip.

I *had* started a blog post on Sunday so it seems a shame to waste it. Here is what I wrote:

The wind howled and the rain poured last night and most of this morning. I slept badly and got up early. Dan joined me and we watched a couple of episodes of the Million Yen Women on Netflix before the boys got up. It’s a great wee drama about a novelist and it involves intrigue, murder and I use it as an excuse to learn some Nihongo.

We decided to go to the supermarket. After much Google Mapsing we decided to try for the OK supermarket a twenty five minute bus ride away.

Anyway. Here’s the photos of the shopping trip. Of course, lugging it all back on the bus wasn’t as much fun. And the bus was crowded and not air conditioned. And something leaked onto my leather handbag. But I did have the guilty pleasure of listening-in on a conversation going on in the seats behind me between two older Antipodean ladies. I was a bit annoyed at first because I was trying to record the voice of the bus driver who reminded me of a Goons’ character. I did catch this snippet:

 

 

Kamakura

Perhaps not surprisingly, (look at my use of the fronted adverbial, folks), I was not at my best for our afternoon jaunt to Kamakura. By the time we had climbed the steps to the train platform I was feeling totally huge and gallumphing. Being surrounded by these petite things in their stylish clothes that hang from their bony frames does nothing for the self esteem. But I tried to brush off these feelings reminding myself I was knackered and hormonal and European and overweight. Natch.

Ofuna BuddhaWe had to change trains at Ofuna, where there is another giant buddha that you can see from the train. (We’ve not yet got off the train at Ofuna to explore it ourselves). IMG_1148

 

 

 

 

 

Dan has a favourite decadent Hot Chocolate shop in Kamakura and I wasn’t going to turn him down, feeling as I did. We sat outside and watched kites loop around above the trains station.

We then wandered into Kamakura, bought some kitchen equipment from a department store; Dan let me have some breathing time on my own in a funky cafe – I had a chilled chai latte which was a bit too sweet but I pushed on through! Then we returned home. Of course I have taken some snaps of some interesting food items, thus:

There’s a tiny amount of sakura still on the trees, I’m a little sad we missed it, but hey-ho. The next cultural theme will be the carp windsocks which are part of the Children’s Day celebrations in May, which form part of Golden Week. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what this is all about but when I do find out more, I will share with you all. You lucky souls.

Finally, we spotted this and I couldn’t resist.

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So, this is Yokohama.

Yesterday morning we landed in Japan at Haneda airport in south Tokyo. At immigration we received our residents’ cards and we took our fifteen bags to the coach stop and caught a limousine coach into Yokohama. The boys were knackered, (despite my best efforts they did NOT sleep on the plane), and G zonked our right away. Twenty five minutes later we unload the coach and pile into two taxis to get to our house. Yes house! The sun is shining, the weather is warm and the taxi driver checks with me before putting on the air con.

We dumped the bags and walked through Chinatown to get to the Naka ward office where we spent a couple of hours minding a sparked-out George whilst applying for our Health Insurance cards, school places and family allowance. (I know!) We had lunch in some small Chinese place and then walked home. The Sakura (cherry blossom) has pretty much gone now here, but we did see some floating down the local river.

We live at the top of a hill. Outside our house is a flight of steps down to a shopping area which has loads of cafes, salons, grocers and even a shop specialising in honey. At the top of the hill is an historical house called ‘Home of a Diplomat’ which has sumptuous gardens that are free to explore.

Today we caught the train into Yokohama central (two stops on the Negishi line) and bought some boxes for storing clothes in and other essentials. There was a craft market happening by the quayside which we looked around. The quality varied. I did buy some earrings from a lovely lady who spoke English and made things from sea glass.

We had lunch in a British pub. I felt really quite pissed after my pint. Then this afternoon we finished unpacking and braved the drizzle to explore the area at the top of the hill. Mainly the boys’ school. Well, it’s huge and modern and it’s a lovely 10 minute walk through Yamate gardens.

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From here, once you descend the hill again there are even more lovely bakeries, cafes, flower shops and boutiques to explore.

Tonight we had Dan’s spag bol and I had my first Japanese bath. You shower first, then soak. It was heavenly.

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Tomorrow we are thinking of going to Kamakura on the train.

I am so happy to be here. It’s quite the antidote to all the mini-catastrophes at home.