Nihongo Nom Nom Nom

Last Thursday, (or actually, a week ago last Thursday: time does march on), well, the boys had their first school trip. It was a whole school trip to a local park and this meant I needed to supply them with a packed lunch. In Japan this is called obento and *can* be a big deal. I made it a big deal. On my potential list of elements in the bento box was:

  • weiner octopus
  • rice balls
  • pasta salad + olives
  • cherry tomatoes and sticks of cucumber
  • hunks of cheese
  • dried mango
  • wraps

I never did find any wraps, so I went with everything else and voila! 

Bento boxes #1
The fruits of my labours (minus the dried mango).

Peace in Our Time?

Matt Lucas is on the telly. Breakfast telly too. In Japan………..

Hang on a minute, that’s not Matt Lucas, that’s Kim Jong-un. This is my first morning at home – yesterday I spent a good hour or so at the bank, opening a bank account to pay for school lunches. (On other mornings I’ve hung around the school ostensibly to ‘help’ the boys, but actually doing very little.) So this is my first taste of Nihongo housewifery and what a Good News Story this is: the two leaders of the Koreas meeting up.

Considering that last year North Korea was shooting missiles over Japan, this is really great news for this part of the world. IMG_0986

Tim Marshall in his book “Prisoners of Geography” points out that moving on from the stalemate is unchartered and perhaps undesired territory, (at least for South Korea and China). This is because there will be huge demands economically on South Korea and a united Korea would also mean Beijing will share a border with a US ally.

Anyway, I’m hoping the Domesday Clock has gained some time from this development. Exciting times.

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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.