I first arrived in Tokyo and all the NY JETS (not the football team my
programme The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme) met up with all the
B phase JETS from such countries as Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand,
Austrailia, and also from all over the states.  The place of the
orientation and where I stayed, the Keio Plaza was one of the best in Japan
so they didn't really spare any cost.
During the 3 day orientation I met all sorts of people from all over and TV
crews were there to tape the new foreign Japanese government workers.  In
case you didn't know I actually work for the Japanese government to help
its citizens connect with another culture and perfect their English (some
of us even said that we are helping Japan to take over the US quicker
haha).  The events for those 3 days are too much to go into; basically we
were given a general overview of everything about our positions and living
in Japan.
        My first night a few of us went into north Tokyo to the Hard
Cafe...so that was different since I've never been one in the US and there
wasn't even a line to get in...imagine that!!!!   Our last day we were all
divided into our separate prefectures (it's like different states in Japan)
and we headed out for them.
        My prefecture, Gunma, is located about an hour north of Tokyo.  On
the way we stop at a rest station/grocery and though most of the food was
the Japanese equivalent of Western food I was surprised by the couple of
packages of turtle (still in the shell) and snake. When we arrived in the
town of Maebashi we met our various supervisors; mostly Board of Education
Superintendents.  It was REALLY formal...and everyone, as you can imagine
was nervous.  Then afterwards each went with their bosses to their various
villages and towns; off to Nakanojo!!
         What a stop?  Yes my superintendent, who actually gave the formal
speech, decided to stop at a local restaurant and have a drink with my
direct boss and me.  My direct boss, Mr. Koike knows a few English words,
so I was relieved to hear that my Superintendent, Mr. Nakazawa knew much
more.  The communication was slow but we got by.  The best part was when he
pulled out a American Folk music book out and asked if I knew any...Down in
the Valley and Home On the Range came to mind...well we both started
singing them in the restaurant...that was corny but, hey a connection was
made...he reminds me of a grandfather type..so I feel really comfortable
with him.
        We made it to the Board of Education in Nakanojo and I met all my
co workers...a few know a few words in English, the rest just nod and
smile.  Eventually I made it back to my new place, which is small but has
all the fixings, even a clothes dryer, which I heard was a rareity for an
AET (Assistant English Teacher).  I moved in quite well.  The next couple
of days consisted of just the basic meeting everyone in the town office;
the mayor is the brother of the new Prime Minister, so that was cool (maybe
I could meet the PM..hmmmm).  Got my email set up and I am officially
        On Friday we left to a nearby place called Shimma to partipate in a
weekend exchange with students from Tokyo.  The annual exchange is in
rememberance of the Tokyo residents who fled Tokyo during its bombing in
WWII to the hills of Nakanojo.  The weekend was filled with various country
activities such as: fishing (they cooked and at the whole fish right off
the cooking rod), a tea tasting contest, and potato picking (the last two I
did).  The one big thing from this was my teaching the kids as well as some
of the teachers and principals a whistle I can create with my hands that my
grandmother taught me when I was 12.  It was funny because I saw one kid
trying before I intervened and I taught him and then EVERYONE wanted to
learn...it was the event of the day.  Sometimes you never know just how you
are going to connect with people until you try anything.
        I got back on Sunday afternoon and was doing something with my
computer, bebopping to the Temptations when an old man, that I bowed to on
my first day here and hadn't seen since, reached into my screenless window
with my mail in a bag.  Surprised I bowed and smiled while saying thank
you, which he didn't understand.  Then he pointed to the house across the
street and did a drinking motion.  Okay I guess he wanted me to go up there
to get a drink...well he left and I put on my shoes, which are next to the
outside door since wearing outside shoes indoors is a no-no.  Grabbed a
prewrapped gift (called omiyage here...it is traditional to give a present
to your host), it was just a bag of wagonwheeled pasta (here it is the
thought that really does count) and I made my way up to the house.  The old
man led me in, introduced me to a woman, and left.  We bowed to each other.
 She gestured to sit down to a table that had some food on it and she went
into the kitchen.  Out came a man and come to find out he didn't know
English and we both had our pocket translators.  We wound up sitting there
and eating making one or two word conversation for a little over an hour.
He introduced me to his daughter who is pretty good in English and gave me
a bottle of wine bottled by a friend of his.  The bottle's label, which is
a famous Japanese painting from the 1920' s was incredible.
Come to find out this man is my landlord!!! Nice guy, and nice family...I
really need to learn Japanese!!
        The next day I was off back to Maebushi for another 3 day
orientation.  THis one would bring both session A (who arrived a week
earlier than we the B's did) and B together for the Gunma Prefecture
orientation.  It was okay...again I met more people, but the workshops were
a lot like Tokyo.  Still getting to talk with some English speakers was
good.   The big thing for me was the first night when a traditional
Japanese drum corps came in and played...it was really awesome...kinda made
me want to grab a bamboo shoot and attack the enemy..haha.   I just got
back from that and that pretty much sums everything in the last couple

        A few observations thus far.  Japan's known for technology but you
don't really see it often.  They are big on things little (no pun intended)
but their watches are huge.  You can find a drink vending machine
practically anywhere.  You could be broken down on some country road and
not have a phone, but a vending machine could very well be right there!!