Healthy diet Japanese style

June 5, 2009

I have always lived under the impression that I eat a healthy diet. However on closer inspection earlier this year I realised that I was falling well short in the fruit and vegetable department. Since then I have made a concerted effort to step up my fruit and vegetable consumption.

A purchase I made a couple of months ago has really helped. I bought a fruit and vegetable juicer from Rakuten for the bargain price of 31,000 yen. Pretty damn expensive but it is a top juicer that allows me to make my own fresh fruit and veg juice any time I get the urge.

For my breakfast I am having a pint of carrot, orange and ginger juice daily. This gives me five servings of fruit and veg before I’ve even left the house as part of an alkaline breakfast.

It kind of disappoints me to see so much imported fruit from as far away as places like Florida. That said, the oranges are very juicy! On the vegetable frontier though there are plenty of fresh greens available down the local farmers’ market.

To be honest I can hardly remember eating spinach at all when I lived back in the U.K. Now though, it is a regular feature in my diet.

Another great thing about living in Japan is that it’s easy to eat plenty of fish which has a knock on effect of reducing meat consumption. I still love a good yaki-niku but now have no problem going without meat for days.

Increasing the amount of fruit and veg we eat helps us combat the ill effects the typical Western acid diet has on our health. Living in the East I aim to be a healthier me!

The best place in Japan

May 21, 2009

This is ALT Susono’s first Japan blog matsuri (carnival) entry. The theme of the blog matsuri is “The best place in Japan” and is hosted this month by The Nihon Sun.

For my article on the best place in Japan I am going to define best as a place that gives me tons of value; a place where I have the chance to visit regularly; somewhere I always look forward to going to; and a place in the town I live…Susono!

Introduced in pictures I present 大貴(Daiki), the best place to eat on a budget in Susono Japan.

It takes less than two minutes to walk there from Susono station.

view from the station

The shop front up close.

shop front

My seat.

the counter

My current favorite 定食(set meal) is the aji fry set.

aji fry set

Daiki holds a special place in my heart. I was taken there on the very first day I arrived in Susono over six years ago. Since then I have probably eaten there about 500 times.

As long as you are not a vegetarian, the menu is wide enough to find something to suit your mood. I usually go for something fried but in Japan even that is healthy!

The obasans running the place are a bunch of gossips so it’s fun listening to them opine about the latest local scandal.

If you ever find yourself in Susono, visiting from our sister city in Australia or on your way to climb Mt. Fuji, my hot tip is to get your set on at Daiki.

Kite Flying

May 6, 2009

How did you spend your Golden Week? Were you concerned about buta influenza and keep things close for or did you get out and about?

I’ve been taking things pretty easy myself but decided to make a short trip down to Hamamatsu to check out their Kite Flying Festival. I had been down before but as I’ve got back into stunt kite flying myself since then, I wanted to go and check out the big boys again. At this kite festival, they don’t simply fly, the fight!

From the station there was a shuttle bus that ferried people to and from the beach. It cost 500 yen for a return ticket which was a fair price. Considering the amount of staff driving buses and directing traffic I doubt they were making much, if any profit.

People from Hamamatsu were really friendly. On the way from where the bus drops you off, about 800 meters from the main festival area, I was stopped by some obasans who wanted me to try on a happi. Initially I was ready to get defensive and tell them I didn’t want to buy on but that wasn’t the deal at all. They were simply getting people to try them on and get their pictures taken. I was happy.

kite flying

Then as I continued walking the rain started falling. Being without my own umbrella I gave a J-girl a bit of a fright by ducking under hers. Not a bad way to start a conversation.

The festival runs on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of May. Groups from all over Hamamatsu fly their massive kites which are about 2 meters long, almost 4 if you include the bamboo spine. Once a team has their kite in the air it’s time to start kite fighting. The aim is to bring down opposing groups’ kites by attacking their kite lines. Two or more kites that do battle end up with their lines twisted around each other. With lots of pulling an appropriately timed shouts of yoisho one of the kites’ dance in the wind comes to an end as it crashes out of the sky.

warrior kite

As I walked along the path eating my takoyaki a felled warrior smashed into the ground less than 10 meters in front of me. There were quite a few startled Japanese even closer but everyone managed to hang on to their okonomiyaki, yakitori and so on.

There were a variety of festival stalls selling all kinds of foods and the usual gold fish, Doraemon masks and kids toys stalls too. The food stalls appeared to be charging a flat fee of 500 yen for their various dishes. I had some great takoyaki and some less great Hamamatsu gyoza. The gyoza to me seemed just like regular gyoza with extra grease.


Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so good when I went on the 5th. There were grey skies and a little bit of rain. What impressed me though was that it didn’t appear to affect the Japanese warrior spirit. At one stage I counted about 30 kites in flight at the same time.

In the evening there are other festivities in the center of the city but due to the weather, I didn’t hang around for them this year.

kite battle

You can get more festival details, in Japanese, here.

Assistant Language Teachers in Susono

April 20, 2009

There are now six Assistant Language Teachers working in the city run elementary and junior high schools in Susono. The high school also has an Assistant Language Teacher who is employed through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET).

The Assistant Language Teachers at elementary and junior high school are employed through the Susono Overseas Friendship Association.

This year most of our job roles as Assistant Language Teachers has changed. Firstly an extra ALT was employed. Now there is no longer just one Assistant Language Teacher for the elementary schools. Rather three of us go to elementary school for a few days a week and junior high school at other times.

Further, all but one Assistant Language Teacher in Susono changed schools at the start of the new school year at the beginning of April.

I quite like the system of moving to a different school as an Assistant Language Teacher as it keeps the job fresh.

Pirates game – elementary school lesson

April 17, 2009

Since the start of April I’ve been visiting elementary schools a few times a week. A definite change to my school life routine. For our first lesson I am introducing the kids to a game I used to play as a child which went down really well at the last elementary school I taught at.

It’s based on the game Port and Starboard that I used to play when I was younger. This time round I am calling it the Pirates Game. You can read more details on my ALT Lessons blog.

So far the kids are enjoying running about like crazy as we “learn English”. Going to a variety of schools has definitely spiced up my life working as an ALT in Susono.

Mobile ALT

April 16, 2009

My school life has changed since the beginning of the new school year at the start of April.

Instead of being at one school almost all the time, I now visit four different schools. When I started as an ALT in Susono I was based at only one school. Then graduated to occassionally visiting an elementary school. Now I’m all over the place.

Initially I was reluctant to leave nishi junior high school. It is so close to my apartment and the teachers were great. However as I had been there for four years I thought trying something different would spice up my ALT lifestyle.

Going to four schools means I get to meet loads of different teachers and students too. Today I was teaching a 5th grade elementary kid who I used to teach at nursery school. Another reminder of just how long I have been living in Susono!

So far I am enjoying my new role as a mobile ALT.

2009 academic year – week one

April 13, 2009

Last week was the first week of the 2009/2010 academic school year. For the last four years I had worked at Nishi junior high school only 2 minutes walk from my house. So I had become very accustomed to leaving my house at 7.50 and arriving to work for an 8 o’clock start.

This year though my working schedule has changed completely. I now visit four different schools, two elementary schools and two junior high schools. Not only that, but the schools I visit are the furthest away from the center of Susono.

On a practical level, this means that I am getting up much earlier than when I worked at nishi. Definitely not an issue at the moment as the weather is getting warmer and the mornings much lighter. Until November, the ALT lifestyle is very comfortable! BUT…I know it is going to be horrible when the temperature drops and the mornings are dark at the end of the year.

On the upside, moving schools has been a good thing for me. I think I was getting too comfortable at nishi. Changing this up is keeping me on my toes, e.g. giving speeches introducing myself to teachers and students.

Also moving schools within a town the size of Susono has meant that I now have colleagues who I have worked with at other schools; who I have met outside work, e.g. neighbours; whose childern I have taught, etc. Moving schools is great for getting to know more people within the community.