Spent the night at a friends house in Kumamoto city. In the morning I went to the immigration office to get my multiple re-entry permit. It is good to have for traveling or if I ever needed to leave Japan and return.After that I walked around Kumamoto city for the day. I found a neat shine that was empty. I walked around then as I was about to leave a woman came in to say her prayers. She approached the shrine and put some coins in a large box out front. Then she rang an old bell about ten times, and
walked to the edge of the building. She then put her hands together for a few moments and mouthed some words.

Later I went to one of the cities art museums and saw a big exhibit on Buddhist artifacts. Naturally all the explanations were in Japanese, so I made up my own explanations and stories for the various artifacts.

September 1
First day of school. Today I went to the Menda Junior High where I will be stationed much of the time. They had an opening ceremony where teachers and students would stand up bow to the students, bow to the teachers, bow to the assistant principal, bow to the principal, bow towards an empty wall (I have no idea) and then give a speech in Japanese and repeat the bowing procedure.

I was among the first to make my “self introduction” speech. First I did it in English, then I used the few words i posses in Japanese to cobble together a sentence or two. After that I sat through about half a dozen more speeches and introductions.

For whatever reason, they decided they didn’t want me staying around since I had no classes, so as soon as the assembly was over, they sent me back to the BOE office in town for the rest of the day.

First day at Menda Elementary School, which will be my other main school. First the self introduction to a room of some 400+ students. They had me wait in a corridor outside the room until the students were assembled. I walked in while they were singing the “Hello Song” Basically, “Hello, Hello, Hello how are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too” repeated over and over again.

Again I feel a bit of the “rock star” treatment here. As I am lead to the front, students sit up on there knees in an honorific pose. I give my self introduction speech, the children sing two songs, I am lead out and the Assembly ends.

Next, classes started. I pair up with a homeroom teacher and help them present an English lesson. For now all the lesson plans and materials are ready for me when I get to school. This will probably be the procedure for the foreseeable future, which is fine with me. Today’s lesson was members of the family. I have photos of my family and introduce the vocab words and sentence “Is this your …Brother, Mother, Father, Cousin, Aunt, Grand Mother, etc”, followed by “Yes he/she is” For some reason, each of the teachers picked out the picture of Adam with his long hair and asked “is this your Sister…” which gave me the opportunity to teach, “No he isn’t”.

At night there was a party with teachers from Menda Elementary. It was in a traditional Japanese style restaurant where you sit on the floor around tables, and take food from platters. Of course, all manner of alcohol flows more than freely at these events.

Later the Principal and about 15 teachers went to a Karaoke bar. I think I did about 1/3 to 1/2 of the songs that night. Once I finished one they asked me for another selection. I kept to stuff I am relatively good at, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Toto.

After that party I met up with a group of other ALTs who were having Karaoke parties in the same venue. We rented a small Karaoke room and kept the party going.

Earlier this week, one of the leaders of the scouts group I am sometimes involved with invited me to go on a rafting trip down the Kuma River.

I arrived at the base where I was given a life jacket and a helmet. None of the companies water shoes were of an adequate size for me so one of the guides lent me his Teva-like water sandals.

I got into a van with 5 members of a co-ed bad-mitten team from near Hytoyoshi. The guide for the trip was Masatoshi, my friend from the scouts and also the owner of the company. We started out on a retaining wall along the River. Our raft was positioned so that once we started, we were able to slide 20′ down this 45 degree slope into the river and then on towards the white water.

We stopped at a few places along the way to swim.

At one point we left the raft on a rock and walked up a stream to a small waterfall and pool. Walking back from the waterfall, one of the sandals tore.

Back on the water, we came upon some white water that we navigated imperfectly, causing the raft to flip over. We floated down the white water. I noticed that I was now wearing only one sandal. In a calmer area we climbed on top of the raft. There some of the guys started playing a game trying to push each other off. I started playing, and soon another boat came over full of men who wanted to challenge me. One giant Japanese dude climbed on my raft, I look at him and asked if
he was a Suma wrestler, he indicated that he was. Some how, I was able to push even Suma boy in. I though about pounding my chest and chanting “U S A – U S A” but thought the better of it. After a few more challenges I was worn out and got pushed in by some little twerp I could have easily trounced a little earlier.

Hanging up in the main office are promotional pictures of past participants on the water. Center is a picture of a former Taragi ALT from 2 years ago who was sitting on the front end of a raft as it was going through a stretch of white water, he has a striking resemblence to me, but I just cant place it exactly.

Had nursery school today. Nursery school days are the easy days for me as I have a max of 3 classes each one is half an hour long. There are about 25 kids in each class of 3, 4 & 5 year olds. I start of teaching hello & good morning. Then “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes”, a cheer, “The other day I met a Bear” and “stand up sit down”. I finish by handing out a sheet for them to color in and I give each child a sticker. The kids are awesome. At one point, I was sitting down singing with them and one child came over and hugged me, then a few followed suit, and soon I was completely over run with small Japanese children.

When I got home this evening, I put tape over my windows and moved everything inside. As I finish this e-mail, a category 3 Typhoon is picking up steam. I figure the worst of it will be over within the next 4-8 hours. The wind is pretty strong outside now, but so far all is OK. I have plenty of bottled water, flashlight batteries and ready to eat food.

I am following the storms progress at: http://weather.yahoo.co.jp/weather/jp/images/satellite.html

I am on the Southern most major island, Kyushu. Judgeing from the map, I am in about the worst of it now.

Ill get out a quick note in the next day to let everyone know that I am OK after the storm passes.

Stay Safe,


Josh Bernstein
JETAA 2005-2006
Asagiri, Kumamoto Prefecture