Julien's Report on "KAKUCHI LIFE"
The new year has started at Kakuchi! In this post, I’d just like to welcome all of the incoming first year students to Kakuchi and welcome back all of the second and third year students!
I’m excited to see what the new year brings. Let’s all try our best!
In other news, in the past two weeks I visited Hiroshima City and Fukuoka for お花見 🌸! It was my first time to see the cherry blossoms in Japan and I was really impressed by how scenic these flowers were. My only regret is that お花見 is not longer. Alas, it gives me something to look forward to next year, I suppose.
Here are some of the pictures I took during my cherry blossom viewing.
Kendo ‐ A lesson in Japanese culture and philosophy
December 26, 2018.
Recently, I had the rare opportunity to join Kakuchi’s kendo club and I must say, I had a great time!
Kendo (剣道), which means “sword way,” is a form of martial arts practiced throughout many communities in Japan and the world. Like its more ancient counterpart kenjutsu (剣術), kendo involves individuals honing their minds and bodies through the way of the sword. The main difference between the two being that kendo uses a bamboo sword, known as a shinai (竹刀), rather than an actual sword, a katana, which was traditionally used in kenjutsu.
My initial reasons for wanting to try kendo were driven by my longstanding fascination with Japanese history, particularly as it relates to the samurai. Having watched countless anime on the topic such as, “Samurai X” (るろうに剣心 -明治剣客浪漫譚) and having read books like Inazo Nitobe’s (新渡戸 稲造) book, “Bushido” my interest in samurai philosophy and its roots have occupied my curiosity for quite some time. This interest, as a matter of fact, is a major reason why I chose to come to Japan.
Before I even got to swing a shinai around, however, I first had to learn the basics. What surprised me from the start of this whole process was just how difficult something like a foot-stomp could be or equipping my armor, bōgu (防具) in Japanese. The students and Morita Sensei, the head of the kendo club, threw on their armor in lightning speed – a testament to their discipline and dedicated practice regimen. In the five minutes it took the others to finish equipping their bōgu, I was still helplessly struggling to properly tie my headband in the correct fashion. Who knew there were so many ways to tie a knot?
Once I finally finished equipping all my armor, however, the effort was well worth the reward. Morita Sensei was a kind, yet stern teacher offering me tons of useful feedback on things like stance and sword technique. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel cool dawning the armor of a kendo practitioner. More importantly, however, I realized just how much effort and discipline this sport requires. It is this effort and discipline that can be found throughout many aspects of Japanese culture today and perhaps may be said to be an inheritance from the effort and discipline of the samurai.
My kendo training was a humbling experience, to say the least. During my four months at Kakuchi, I often heard the war cries of the kendo club echoing in the halls of the gymnasium. These powerful chants were both intimidating and fascinating to me. I knew little of the practical aspects of kendo except that it had a strong connection to the samurai ethos. Given my longstanding fascination and respect for the samurai, I just knew I had to try kendo at least once during my time in Japan and I was definitely not disappointed from what I experienced. There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be trying kendo again in the future thanks to Kakuchi’s kendo club!
My Peaceful Oasis
November 15, 2018.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Hiroshima City, lies a quiet city nestled in the countryside of Hiroshima called Shobara. When I first came to Shobara, I can’t deny that I was a bit shocked by just how rural it is. Part of me, one might say, was even slightly worried about how I would survive in such a remote location.
However, since that time, I have steadily come to admire Shobara for both its natural beauty and its people. There is something to be said about a place that affords one plentiful opportunities for peaceful contemplation. This is especially true when considering the fact that in contemporary society it is increasingly difficult to find time to truly think about our lives and the meaning behind our actions. For this reason, we ought to appreciate those times and places that afford us moments of peaceful reflection. Rather than look at the lack of technology and people in a negative manner, I have come to view Shobara as my peaceful oasis of natural beauty. This place has also taught me the importance of perspective in shaping how happy we are in life. So, for these things and more, I want to say thank you to Shobara and its people.
Rainbow in Shobara – Finding Beauty in the Countryside
September 9, 2018
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to see a rainbow in Shobara, which inspired me to write about it. A rainbow may simply be a rainbow to some, but to me I couldn’t help but think about what makes a rainbow possible and what it symbolizes. A rainbow is much more than a majestic light show in the sky. It is, in fact, the byproduct of trillions of tiny photons of light traveling millions of kilometers across the vastness of space from our sun and refracted by our Earth’s atmosphere. An appreciation of the science behind what makes a rainbow possible somehow makes it seem much more impressive to me. Furthermore, this display of colorful beauty in the sky represented possibility and hope. Life is, after all, largely what you make of it and how you view things can have a significant impact on how successful you are.
Taking English Teaching Beyond the Classroom
August 20, 2018
While the school’s in Hiroshima are still on summer holiday I, like all other Assistant Language Teacher’s in Hiroshima, have yet to interact with my students inside the classroom. This fact, however, has not stopped me from finding ways to interact with my students outside of class.
Since beginning my tenure as an ALT at Kakuchi Senior High School, I have actively participated in several of the different clubs including, the soccer club, the basketball club, and even the girl’s volleyball club. Through my participation in each of these club activities, I am consistently reminded of the substantial gap in energy between myself and my students. While getting older stops being fun after college, I appreciate the underlying reason why I participate in each of these clubs to begin with – it is not necessarily to win, but to create a friendly atmosphere at Kakuchi and to enhance the exchange of ideas between myself, my students, and my colleagues.
This past weekend, for example, I had the chance to play volleyball with the girl’s volleyball team after receiving an invitation from Hashimoto Sensei (my supervisor). Within a few short minutes of our practice game commencing, both myself, my team, and the opposing side quickly realized that Julien Sensei had completely forgotten how to play volleyball.
Embarrassing as this situation was, my students and my supervisor were very encouraging to me, even though I suspected I was probably violating a half dozen rules during the game. For me, though, the embarrassment was well worth the opportunity to interact with my students and gain their trust. I believe this trust will prove invaluable in the classroom.
Breaking down language and language and cultural barriers one goal at a time
August 4, 2018
August 4, 2018. Kakuchi Senior High School’s soccer team.
As an English Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at Shobara Kakuchi Senior High School, I feel very lucky to have a job that allows me to do two things I greatly enjoy: teach English and play soccer. This past weekend on August 4th, I had a great time playing soccer with my some of my students. Though my soccer ability is not what it once was and despite my lack of Japanese ability, I felt that this experience was a great way to connect with some of my students and help them gain the confidence they need to become versatile English speakers.
I’m looking forward to the coming year in Shobara and the opportunity to learn more from my Japanese students and colleagues.