Kobe Days

34.6911° N, 135.1973° E

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Pumpkins, Kenshin and Momotaro

There has been a recent spike in the number of hits on my JET application post, something that I had been expecting since the application opened a week or so ago. Hopefully it has given some good tips to aspiring JETs. Good luck with your SOP writing, guys! If you have any questions, about SOP or reference letters or the forms, feel free to ask them here or in the Singapore thread on the official JET forums.

I’ve been thinking how to blog lately. Truth be told, my life has become pretty much normal since I’ve settled in, and there’s very little to update regularly. Those of you whom I know are reading this are also on my FB, and there you get to see my (much more) regular updates about my life and in a more timely fashion too. So, what can I put in this blog that would be interesting?

Give me a comment if you have any suggestions. Otherwise it’s likely that this blog is going to suffer an early demise. XP


So, for Health-and-Sports Day (体育の日)I took the opportunity to run out of Kobe again to continue ticking prefectures off my list. This time round, a visit centred around the modern art-y island of Naoshima(直島).

I happened on the island when I was looking up possible destinations. It was a toss-up between Okayama and Tokushima until I saw a picture of the famous Pumpkin, which sealed my decision.

Despite Naoshima’s proximity to the mainland, administratively, it’s part of Kagawa. To get there, however, I had to first get to Okayama. So on that bright morning, I got onto a bus and headed westwards.
Too many pictures again…


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What’s your 血型?

I have another vacation recap in the making, but let’s interrupt my (ir)regular updates for a public service message. 🙂

血型。In Japan, it remains one of the most popular ways of determining what a person’s characteristics are. To be honest, I know nothing about it.

So, from Wikipedia:

Type A
Best traits Earnest, creative, sensible, reserved, patient, responsible
Worst traits Fastidious, overearnest, stubborn, tense
Type B
Best traits Wild, active, doer, creative, passionate, strong
Worst traits Selfish, irresponsible, unforgiving, unpredictable
Type AB
Best traits Cool, controlled, rational, sociable, adaptable
Worst traits Critical, indecisive, forgetful, irresponsible, “split personality”
Type O
Best traits Agreeable, sociable, optimistic
Worst traits Vain, rude, jealous, arrogant

Hmm. Is it accurate for anyone?

For me, blood type is only important because I’m a blood donor. Not a regular one, but I drop in at the National Blood Centre when I remember to. I think I just did my 12th donation before coming here.

I am a registered blood donor in Japan too. I signed up last year when they held a blood drive at my university. There’s a rumour that foreigners are not eligible to donate. I’m proof that the rumour is false. So, if you’re interested to donate, go ahead. They won’t turn you away…as long as you speak and understand Japanese. XD

The most interesting thing about donating blood in Japan (for me) was the service and the freebies. They definitely beat Singapore’s blood drive hands down. When I came back, I knew I wanted to continue donating, so I decided to keep an eye out.

Imagine my surprise when, the first time I was at Sannomiya, I saw a poor guy holding up a card with the 4 blood types and the number of donors they still need for each. Right smack in the middle of the shotengai! It’s akin to having a blood donation centre in the middle of Orchard Road. Needless to say, business didn’t look good for him.

I’ve tried once since coming here, but was rejected for low iron. Yesterday, since I was at Sannomiya, I decided to try my luck again and dropped by the blood donation centre.

For someone who’s planning to donate for the first time, there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, you can’t donate unless you’ve been in the country for at least 4 weeks. Secondly, you can’t donate if you had taken medication or had dental work done in the past three days, or don’t feel well.

Service at the centre was efficient. Since I was registered, I just needed to give them my donor card and everything could be retrieved from my records. I did have to answer the full list of questions (in Japanese) about my health and travel history, but that’s part of any screening process.

I was anxious when I got to the blood test for iron level. Thankfully, I just made the minimum mark this time! Here, the freebies started coming. The nurse gave me a baumkuchen and told me to get a hot drink since my iron level was just borderline.

When I went into the donation room, I found out that each seat came with its own TV set! Of course, there were only 5 chairs in the room, but that’s still impressive. I watched some strange afternoon detective drama while they drew the blood.

Post-donation, more freebies! I got an ice cream, a pack of instant curry and a point card. They also had stickers and tissue packs for donors, so I took one each. Then, when I signed up to be in the national donor registry, I got Hello Kitty stuff!

I think the mascot is really cute XD It even has its own website! Check it out here!

It wears different costumes in different prefectures too! In Kobe, it wears a sailor suit, but in Kyoto, it wears a kimono. You can see all its costumes here.

So, that’s my blood donation experience in Japan. If you’re looking for a quick way to volunteer and you’re not squeamish, why not consider donating as well?

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Chronicles of an elementary 給食 (September)

Teaching elementary school is an adventure. Try keeping 35 kids below the age of 12 entertained for 45 minutes while trying to teach them a foreign language. Not easy! But they are a wonderful contrast to my quiet JHS students.

I’ve played tag with them at recess, got mobbed, climbed on, clung to. I’ve had kids point to their schoolbag and yell across the street at me on my way home,”K-sensei, what’s this?!” after a day of teaching them just that. And the best part of my day is always standing at the school gate saying goodbye and giving hi-5s to my little ones.

I take 給食 (kyuushoku), so my last class before lunch gets to eat with me. The kids janken with the teachers for the right to eat with me, even though they usually end up really quiet once I’m there. Still, I really like eating with them.

The food itself is an adventure! So, here are my 給食 chronicles for September!

September 7

Chinese-style egg stir-fry with spring rolls (Class 5-2)

September 13

Fried beehoon, siew mai, bread and pineapple jelly (Class 2-6)

The bread was a tad too much for me…these kids need the carbohydrates but not me! I gave half of it away.

September 14

Rice with umeboshi furikake, fried salmon and miso soup (Class 4-5)

The kid beside me added rice, added furikake, exclaimed “酸っぱい!” (sour!) at a bite, added even more rice, thereby creating a rice mountain. He finished every grain. (Except for the ones that got stuck on his shirt. LOL)

September 20

Bread, sweet and sour pork, edamame (Class 2-7)

I don’t understand. Bread with sweet and sour pork? Why not rice??
I made a sweet and sour pork sandwich in the end. The kids watched, fascinated, then proceeded to copy me. XD

September 21

Nikujaga (meat and potatoes), hijiki (seaweed), furikake (Class 4-2)

A very traditional Japanese meal. Some of the kids obviously hated hijiki, scraping off as much of it off their plates as they could.
My own problem was with the nikujaga. I really don’t have a taste for beef.

September 27

Corn chowder, stewed potato and meat, bread and sausage (Class 2-2)

Surprisingly, some of the kids didn’t like the sausage!
The chowder was a little watery. There was a kid with a milk allergy in the class, and he brought a box of wakame soup for his lunch.

September 28

Chicken liver stir-fry, miso soup, tsukimi dango (Class 2-4)

Without saying, I’m sure you know most of the kids don’t like the liver. I’m not partial to it myself, but I think of it as a source of iron. (I got rejected as a blood donor for insufficient iron. Curses!)

The tsukimi dango was pretty good, though I got reminded of mooncakes. (TwT) They gave me a chance to talk about mooncakes with the other teachers and staff though. Apparently they know what 月餅 is, though it’s pronounced geppei. They were surprised to know that they’re called mooncakes in English.

So that’s a month of 給食 adventure. Stay tuned for the next edition!