April 2013

April arrives and that means the new school year; new faces appearing in the staff room, students in slightly too big uniforms highlighting their status as newbies, and a new timetable to get your head around. Slowly but surely you realize that it really is time to put away the kotatsu blanket and that you’re going to have to buy a new pair of shoes for work because the only ‘rain’ shoes you have are boots – not practical when you’re not wearing indoor shoes in the temporary staffroom (and hey – new shoes excuse!). It also means that Golden Week is just around the corner, no doubt heralding a slew of ‘I know it’s the middle of the school week and I have classes, but can I take Tues-Thursday off please’ requests in staffrooms across Japan. I always felt a little bit evil doing that, but it’s just so nenkyuu-efficient for travel purposes! Oh the precious, precious nenkyuu…

Sorry, I got slightly distracted there.

Getting distracted by things is something that unfortunately happened a lot in the latter half of March. I’m really, really looking forward to classes starting up again so that I have structure back in my days. I do not do well with free time and should have been far more productive than I actually was. It’s difficult when you don’t know what classes you’ll be teaching/who you’re teaching with. In previous years I’ve got on with the lesson planning anyway, but since I’ll be leaving in the summer and have no idea what experience (if any) my successor will have, I thought it would be a plan to encourage more JTE-driven lesson planning than let-the-ALT-do-everything lesson planning. I’ll have to see how it goes and report back.

Yet through this turbulent time of change and renewal, the Hyogo Times soldiers on! Read on to be transported to Okinawa, fly around Lake Biwa (well, mooch along at least) and continue your spiritual journey in Osaka as the Kannon pilgrimage reaches Fujidera. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into tamagoyaki to make it so tasty, head to the Kicchiri kitchen for all the details. If you buy the eggs from a local source as per Miso Green’s suggestion you’ll be well on your way to having a HT-tastic time. As it’s the start of the school year, there will no doubt be meetings you aren’t invited to, so take over the empty staffroom, listen to the radio without headphones, and read on.

Oh, and enjoy the last of the cherry blossom and themed seasonal goods (I at least will miss the Mister Donut sakura selection).

Message from a Block 6 Representative


Spring break and temperamental weather abound. In infuriatingly obsolete, but certainly more interesting terms, we transition from yayoi (no, not yaoi you deviants, 弥生 – new life) to uzuki (卯月) and most of us can relax with the lull at work and enjoy hanami (花見 – flower viewing).


Hanami is an event so mysterious that the closest thing WolframAlpha knows to it is 5777 Hanaki – a minor planet just 23 light minutes from Earth. Fortunately we can experience the secrets of the ancient ritual of hanami by following the vast crowds of people who flock to scenic areas. People then proceed to picnic on a tarpaulin which has been set down earlier that day (or even the night before, but many public areas do not allow this) to lay claim to the preferred area. More rebellious groups will have a barbeque set up (usually not allowed, or at least considered uncouth) and many people will break out some traditional sake, but beer is becoming increasingly popular for this event. When you have acquired a space to settle down for a picnic you can relax and enjoy your meal while being pelted by a potential blizzard of falling organic material. Hanami kicks off in Kansai near the end of March, but varies with the weather. There will be an AJET hanami event on 7th April. We will meet at sumaura koen station at 11am. Please see the Hyogo AJET Facebook page for details.


As alternatives for those who are less inclined to endure ごみごみ (the crowds), there is yozakura (夜桜) – night sakura viewing. Many popular areas will set up lighting during hanami season. For the more adventurous, consider driving or hiking to a more secluded spot – one of my favourite locations is up the hiking paths near Minoo waterfall in Osaka. Also great, but already over for this year is umemi (梅見) – plum blossom viewing (traditionally more popular than sakura viewing, but now certainly less crowded).


April 1 is the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year, so this is when a lot of changes will be happening at businesses and schools. More relevant for most of us, this period is when we will be meeting enthusiastic and alert new students. This provides us with the engaging task of spending hours making custom flash cards of student photos with their names. Enjoy the flourishing life and change this season brings and I hope everyone has a fun haru (春 – spring)!


– Henry

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