*Random note: Tokyo is a really really clean city!!*
During my stay in Japan I go to school every day. (I even went 7 days in a row once!) This post will talk all about school and how things work.
For the first week everyday transportation was the same. We would wake up, eat breakfast, go to the station by car, take a 30 minute train, and walk for 30 minutes to get to school. Once i get to school there is the extremely long and steep hill that everyone has to drag themselves up to get to school. めんどくさい！The train ride is really one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen! The train literally rides through the mountains and looking out the window I can see all of the green forests and ricefields reflecting the mountains. If i take the later train the sun setting on the mountains always looks amazing, (especially if there is a reflection in the ricefields!) One of my favorite parts of Japan is the train ride home. Almost everyday I meet someone new. People here are really friendly in public places! Especially workers in stores or even at gas stations. They are some of the nicest and most polite people I've ever met! Back to transportation, Everyday walking, I saw students on their bikes speeding past us. Randomly one night my host brother asked if I wanted to ride a bike to school! Of course I did! Now we ride the bike from the station every day! It's really nice to be able to ride a bike and feel the wind blowing in my face because it's pretty humid here :P!
Apparently to be able to ride a bike you need some sort of license from the teachers at school so two days later apparently I was approved and could now ride a じてんしゃ(bike)! On the way home it's always the same. We leave school at around 5 (we have to wait because 5:20 is the earliest train) but if we have club activities we normally take the 7:30 train. After the train ride, if we take the 5:20 train we walk home for about 25 minutes, but if we take the later train, Okaasan is waiting at the station in her car and she drives us home!
げんかん - Entrance
Japan is known for really complex rules about shoes. I've never changed shoes so much in my entire life! They have different shoes for everything! When you first walk in any building, except for maybe SOME レストラン (resutoran) and みせ (stores) there is always a "Genkan" at the entrance. Upon entering the genkan you must take off your shoes and turn them around, placing them along the raised ledge. There is normally another type of slipper that you have to change into right before you enter the rest of the building. But if you have to go to bathroom, you have to change shoes again! They have special slippers for the bathroom too! :P At school when you first enter you walk down a concrete hallway, but in this hallway there is a long wooden path that is there for the students who have already changed shoes. At the end of the hallway there is a big room full of lockers for the shoes you need to change into. After changing you take the wooden path and head to the classroom, but if you have PE and you are going outside you need to change shoes again! I think it's pretty funny how many times you need to change shoes in one day :P! There is also a hallway on the third floor where you take your shoes off before entering the classroom! For example, during music class we are all in socks! It's kind of comfortable :P! Sometimes I'm worried I'm wearing the wrong shoes or something but for now I guess I've been doing it right..!
At school everyone always says hi to me! "Eban, haro!!" "Eban! Gudo moningu!" It's really crazy haha! Whenever I turn a corner there are more people shouting my name. Christina and I are sort of like celebrities here! It's funny :P And on top of that, every day I get asked if I have a girlfriend. Or sometimes it's "sukina hito aru?" "do you have a girl that you love?" or "who do you like?" haha.
At the school there are about 600 students. It's a lot different from my school in America with about 3000 students! It's kind of nice though because there aren't as many names to remember and you can actually walk in the hallways!
In Japan they have a completely different school system. Everyday students go to the same classroom where they stay all day, excluding special classes like home making and computer class. Students stay with the same classmates for every single class. All of the teachers have a "home base" in the teachers room, a sort of small room where every teacher has a desk. It looks kind of cramped and hectic if you ask me :P. Homeroom is supposed to be 10 minutes but it normally only takes 5. Every day there are 6 periods and lunch. Every single class here is taught in a lecture-style way. (excluding English class.) They would never have a class discussion or do partner work or group activities. The surprising thing is that they really don't seem to get much homework. At the beginning of every class including homeroom and Souji (all the students clean the classroom at the end of the day. They don't have janitors!) the class leader tells us all to stand up. Then we say "Onegaishimasu!" which means please do this for us! And we bow to the teacher. The teacher bows back and we start class. At the end of class the class leader tells us to stand up and we all say "Arigatou gozaimashita!" which means "thank you!" Every day the classes that we have are different, but for some reason we have math every day x.x! Haha, the reason I don't like math class is because my teacher is an old man whose Japanese I can't understand AT ALL! I don't know if he has an accent or something, but I literally can't understand anything except for "Mainasu ichi" (minus 1) and "Purasu yon" (plus 4!)
In between classes we always have 10 minutes where students get out their iPods, cards, or lunches. During this time you are allowed to eat and drink, and students normally go to the vending machine or the school store to buy some food and drinks. During class you are absolutely under no circumstances allowed to eat or drink. I figured this out one time after taking a sip of my drink during English class. Everyone
gasped and stared at me! Haha :P
For PE class the girls stay in the classroom and change and the guys go to the stage to change. At the beginning of class we all line up (girls on the left and guys on the right) and do some sort of signal with our arms. The guy and girl in the upper right most spot raises their right arm straight above them and everyone else raises their right arm straight out in front of them. A student leader then says that class has started and we begin our stretches. The two student leaders count "ichi ni San shi" 1-2-3-4 and everyone counts back "go roku shichi Hachi" 5-6-7-8. after the stretches we do a relay with pushups and jumps and things like that. It's like a warm up. After that we go back into our lines and do the arm signal again. Then we get into lines for what sport we want to play! The choices are always the same: badminton, volley ball, ping pong, and most of the time basketball. PE is pretty fun! :D
Every day at school it is really hot and humid. They don't have air conditioning so the window is always open. Every day you can hear students saying "ATSUIIIII!!'" (It's so hot!!) but the thing I don't understand is that one day it was kind of rainy and wasn't completely hot and some students were saying "Samui!" (It's cold!!) and closing the window. I don't really understand why they did that because in Akita during the winter they get tons of snow :P. Maybe they are just really sensitive to temperature changes? Haha
At lunch students are allowed to eat wherever they want. They normally just eat in the classroom. Everyone has a bento almost positively made by their Mom. An "obento" is a boxed lunch that usually has rice, vegetables, and a meal inside. I have delicious onigiri (rice balls with meat inside) almost every day!
After school every day i have to wait until 5:00 to leave for the earliest train. During this time you can hear the band practicing and the taiko drums and traditional Japanese flutes playing. Everyone who does a club activity has practice almost every day. Even the skiing club has practice every day after school and even during the school day during lunch! They even have normal practices on Saturday and Sunday with rare breaks. That was really surprising to me because at my school our skiing club is literally like a recreational group where you can go skiing if you want to.
Every day we normally get home around 7-8 pm. Whenever we come home on the earlier train, Okaasan is really happy! She loves when we're home! She always works so hard doing everything including house cleaning, garden work, laundry, preparing every meal, and taking care of Ojichan (our grandfather who had a stroke maybe 10 years ago). I often ask her if I can help out and we have fun conversations while doing things like that. I really really appreciate all of her hard work!
My host Dad is such an awesome person too! He is so funny and nice and always makes us laugh. Sadly he can't live at home during the week because of his work. He has been trying hard to come home every weekend and whenever he is home we all always have so much fun together talking at dinner and spending time together. We all wish he could come home more but the commute to his broadcasting company is way too far. He has to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to get home!