Though the weather was dark and rainy last weekend, Hakone was still a beautiful sight! It was really nice visiting Odawara Castle and seeing the past still standing in the present. I was really excited because there was a really nice view from the top of the castle; you could see the surrounding land and the leaves starting to change colour. Most importantly, I could see the sea! I feel like I haven’t seen the sea, or been near it in a long time, since I was used to having beaches close and easily accessible to me where I lived. Maybe I’ll come across one on one of my adventures soon! I did get to visit Lake Ashi, however, which looked so beautiful and peaceful with the surrounding mountains and mist. With the bright red colour set amongst the dark trees and glassy surface of the lake, the torii gates and the shrine there was also quite a sight to behold! I’m really happy I have the opportunity to be able to experience different parts and aspects of Japan like this, I still can’t believe it!


日本の秋 ーーー ハロウィーン・紅葉 etc

It’s autumn! I’m really happy because autumn is one of my favourite seasons. Although the typhoon came over the weekend, I explored some more of Inokashira Park and I keep being surprised by how beautiful it is! I also found this small cute place that served really delicious udon and hot soupy udon feels so great to eat in cold rainy weather. I know Halloween is coming up really soon too and I hear there’s a big celebration in Shibuya, which is interesting because I haven’t really celebrated Halloween before! It’s not as big of a holiday in New Zealand as it is in America. It’s funny because in New Zealand, Halloween always happens during spring time, so this is the first time the feel of Halloween matches up with the season and atmosphere! Also, now that it’s autumn, I’m really looking forward to seeing all the beautiful autumnal colours throughout the different places in Tokyo. Tomorrow, I’m planning on going along with some friends to Hakone so I’m really looking forward to that; the venetian glass museum sounds so beautiful! Another friend and I are planning on going to Nikko soon which I’m really excited about too! I’m glad there are so many places filled with nature in Japan. The diversity between the urban city environments and the quieter, less busy places is truly amazing.



On Monday this week, I had the opportunity to visit Ikebana Club! I was so interested in seeing what it would be like because I have never done flower arranging before, and we don’t really have anything similar in New Zealand. It turns out you need a lot of patience and attention to detail for it! It was so cool to see the pile of leaves and flowers coming together beautifully while trying to follow the right angles and positioning. Since it was only my first time doing it, I wasn’t that good, but it was pretty amazing to see the students’ arrangements and all the things they’ve learned to do with the flowers over time! Namiki sensei’s arrangement was beautiful too! I also read up a little bit on the history and meaning of flower arrangement and I thought it was really great how the arrangements are a reflection of your personality. I had a lot of fun meeting everyone in Ikebana Club and I hope I can visit more clubs soon and learn more about the students and what they like to do. I’m especially interested in learning more about dance club!



Surprise! I accidentally found myself in a part of Koreatown this week when I went to visit Okubo. I kept walking past shops and I could hear K-pop songs from many bands I know which made me happy, but I was so confused at the time about why all the shops in this area were playing Korean music! It was a really cool place though because it had many different types of people and shops and food. There were many more foreigners there than in Kichijoji, and they were from all over the world, so it was so interesting to see such a huge range of people together in one place! I found an Indian shop which was really exciting because it had all the ingredients and food I am used to at home with my parents’ cooking. There were many Japanese people shopping there which was really great to see! I even bought a kebab for dinner at a little Turkish kebab stand where the man was wearing a red and gold fez (a type of hat) and a matching vest, kind of like what Aladdin wears! I was really glad to see all the different people and cultures Japan is opening up to and I hope it can continue to grow in the future.



  This week I had the pleasure of attending Fujimura’s bunkasai! Back at home in New Zealand, we don’t really have anything like this, so I was really excited to see what it would be like. I attended on both days and I was so glad I did! The school had transformed beautifully with all the decorations and I absolutely loved watching the students doing the things they love, they are incredibly hard workers and so talented. The gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics performances were so amazing, I almost couldn’t believe it was real! Walking around the classrooms and visiting the various things students had set up was so interesting; I was really impressed by how students had made things such as the ride in the classroom and the haunted house, and it makes me wonder when they found the time! One of my favourite parts of the bunkasai was the end of the first day when students who had volunteered went up on stage and performed the things that they had come up with themselves. In my school, we had something similar to this called ‘Variety Show’, where students who volunteered would prepare some type of performance such as singing, dancing, and playing instruments. However, I found the performances at the bunkasai a lot more fun! The energy was awesome and I was very happy to see all the K-pop dance covers the students did, especially with how the other students cheered them on. It was truly a great experience!



I still haven’t been here for that long yet and life in Japan is already quite an experience! Of course, moving and setting up your life alone in a completely new place comes with challenges, the biggest one being how much I miss my family, but there is a lot to be grateful for. I’ve been having amazing encounters with both Japanese people and other foreigners and have made some really great friends. There are also so many more events and festivals here than there are in New Zealand which is really exciting, especially because there’s a lot more people to celebrate them too!

Fujimura’s own Mass Games was a great experience; I took so many photos and videos that my phone ran out of storage space! Back at my school in New Zealand, we didn’t really have anything like this, and I’ve been told that it’s a pretty special thing even amongst Japanese schools, so I feel very lucky I got to experience that. The students had said they had been practicing since April which is amazing and I was really happy and proud to see the beautiful outcome of all the hard work they put in. I can see people rushing around even now, getting ready for the school’s culture festival, so I’m very excited!


9月1日 ダニア先生をお迎えしました。

My name is Dania Rathod and I come from Wellington, New Zealand. I was born in India and moved to New Zealand when I was five years old. I am now 21 years old! I live with my mother, father, younger sister, and my very cute dog! I miss them a lot but everyone has been kind so far which makes living alone in a foreign country feel much better. Although this is my first time to Japan, my mother has been to Japan before and she said it was a beautiful country, one of the best she’s been to, so I’m really looking forward to travelling and experiencing different parts of Japan and Japanese culture! I hope I can learn Japanese quickly as well because I’d like to be able to talk to more people, but kanji is very hard! I’m already learning about many things being at this school so thank you very much for accepting me into Fujimura. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!



This past year at Fujimura has been an amazing teaching opportunity. We are thankful to all our wonderful students and supportive JTEs that have made this past year such an enjoyable experience. We’ve loved teaching and getting to know you all. As you move forward in your education, please remember to keep studying English! There is a huge world out there to explore and English can help you navigate it. We hope to see you all again someday.


Thank you all!

~Marlene Pierce and Emma Sletteland



It’s the start of rainy season here in Tokyo and I still can’t believe how different the rain is here. I grew up in Washington state, which is known for its high amount of rainy days. In fact, a lot of people call my state the “Rainy State.” Back home, however, the rain is very light. It often feels more like a mist or gentle sprinkle. Very rarely do you see Washingtonians (people from Washington State) using an umbrella when it is raining, only a light jacket. When I moved here, I assumed that it would be similar.


My first typhoon quickly proved me wrong. I walked out and saw the familiar dark clouds that mean rain and thought, “It’s ok. I’m from Washington. I can handle a little rain.” Within seconds, a little rain turned into a solid wall of water. Tokyo rain feels like taking a shower it is so heavy! I quickly found myself running to the nearest store and buying my first ever umbrella! This time, when I heard it was rainy season, I was prepared. Now, I never leave the house without a portable umbrella securely in my purse.


中学の英語劇:シンデレラ ーーーエマ先生

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to watch the junior high first year class’ performance of Cinderella. It was so much fun to watch! I loved all of the fun costumes and sound effects. At the end, the girls even sang a song in English. I was really impressed. The play was really good practice for the students for “EP Days,” which is coming up soon in the beginning of July. During EP Days, all of the middle school students will write, rehearse, and preform a play in English. Now, I am focusing my first year classes around getting the students ready for EP days. The students are working on writing and giving speeches in pairs. This is excellent practice for them to be able to write and preform a play in English during EP days. I’m very excited to see what the girls will come up with at EP Days!


スポーツ大会 ーーーマーレン先生

Last week was the Fujimura Sports Festival and it was so fun and interesting! I loved seeing all my students competing together. I have never seen a lot of the events that were played there. In particular, I thought ‘Eye of the Typhoon” and the game where students had to find people with certain characteristics game show style were the most fun to watch. I was on the red team and cheered on my students from the stands. It was a fun day, even if we ended up taking last place.

  In America, we have Field Days that are a similar idea, but not nearly as well executed. Games typically played in the US are more everyday games like basketball, volleyball, and soccer mixed with a few special attractions. My favorite American field game is the capture the flag. We would get two scarves and go out to a huge field that usually had some trees and obstacles on it. Each team could hide their flag anywhere they wanted to on their side. Then, the goal was to find the other teams flag without getting tagged. It is always an action[f1] -packed event. I also love the dunk tank, where teachers and staff get dunked in water if students hit a target with a ball.



This past Golden Week, one of my best friends from America came to visit me in Tokyo. It was so much fun to have her here and show her around Tokyo. I know many people use Golden Week an opportunity to get out of the city, but there’s still a lot of fun things to do in Tokyo during this time, especially with a best friend at your side! We visited some of the most famous tourist sites, like Asakusa, the Shibuya Scramble, and Harajuku. We went to a Wisteria Festival at the Kameido Tenjin Shrine. We also took a day trip to Enoshima Island and Kamakura. We visited the Kamakura Daibutsu, which was amazing. And of course, we ate a lot of Japanese food! My friend wanted to try everything while she was here, so we ate sushi, ramen, tonkatsu, yaki-tori, takoyaki, soup curry, and lots of green tea ice cream. It was a fantastic Golden Week!



Tokyo is a huge city with a lot of opportunities to experience Japanese culture. During the past ten months, I have had a lot of opportunity to try various Japanese arts both here at Fujimura and in the city. One of my favorite experiences has been joining the Ikebana Club. The art of flower arranging is so interesting! I am constantly impressed by how talented the students are with the flowers. Taking a bunch of beautiful flowers and placing them on a kenzan to highlight their natural beauty is very satisfying.


I have also been practicing traditional Ohara Bushi dance. Me and some other JETs have been practicing every weekend and will be performing this Sunday in Shibuya. It is super exciting! We learned three full length routines and then made our own Ohara dance that was inspired by American culture. We will be the first international team to ever compete in the festival. I cannot wait! I love Japanese culture and have really enjoyed experiencing more of it.



   This year, Marlene and I have started going to the JHS first-year’s homeroom classes and cleaning time. It has been a very interesting experience and has helped me learn a lot about the Japanese school system. Homeroom classes are very important in Japanese schools, and homeroom teachers have a lot of responsibility for their students. Some junior high schools in America have homeroom classes, but mine did not. Students in America do not clean their schools. The cleaning is done by professional janitors. I like the idea of cleaning time in Japanese schools, because it teaches students responsibility and makes them respect their learning environment. I think American students might learn some valuable lessons if they had cleaning time, but it would be very difficult to get started in America!



Over the break I was able to visit the United States and see my family. It was really cool to share my stories about Japan with them! I am the only one of my family who has been to Japan and they had a lot of questions. Everyone was surprised to hear that I have been commuting by train everywhere. In my state, the only way you can travel is by car. There is not enough public transportation for people to use it regularly. They were also surprised to hear that I usually walked around with yen. In America, people usually use credit cards. It is unusual for people to walk around with a large amount of US dollars.


I brought my family a lot of Japanese candy and they were excited to try all of the different flavors. I brought home a bunch of different kitkats, Pure gummies, and chocolates. Matcha was especially popular amongst my cousins! My grandmother really liked the strawberry kitkats as well. All of them really wish they could have tried different types of udon and ramen I described as well. All in all, it was really fun to be able to share a bit about my life in Japan with my family!



Last weekend, I joined the other teachers on an overnight enkai at a hotel in Yugawara, Shizuoka. It was my first time being invited on an overnight enaki event in Japan. It was really fun, and was such a great opportunity to get to know and spend time with the teachers outside of school, in a social setting. It was at a really nice hotel with onsen. The hotel provided yukatas to wear, so I decided to try one. It was my first time wearing a yukata, and I really liked it! It was very comfortable and I felt very elegant.


Dinner was excellent. It was traditional Japanese food. There were so many different kinds of food, all served on different dishes. Usually American food is just one main dish served on one plate. During dinner, we played bingo, a quiz game, and a charades game. It was so much fun, and I was the first winner at bingo! After dinner, I enjoyed the onsen with some of the female teachers, and then headed to bed. In the morning, there was a big breakfast buffet with many different western and Japanese options. I mainly stuck to the foods I knew. For me, it is a strange idea to have fish for breakfast, but this is very normal in Japan.


Overall, the enkai was a really great event, and I’m so glad that I was invited to attend. In the United States, it is very common to spend time with your coworkers outside of work. But it is usually much more casual – just people meeting up unplanned after work, not going to a pre-planned event like an enaki. Also, it’s not very common to go to an overnight social event at a hotel. I think that maybe enkais are popular in Japan because most people are very busy and work a lot, so it is more difficult for them to casually hang out with coworkers. Either way – casually like in the United States, or at an organized enkai like in Japan, spending time with your colleagues is great!


              - Emma Sletteland



Last week, I attended the high school graduation ceremony at Fujimura. It was my first time to see a graduation ceremony in Japan, and I found it very interesting to compare it to graduation ceremonies in the United States. The ceremonies in each country are fairly similar, but with a few differences. To me, the Japanese graduation ceremony seemed very serious. Graduates wore their school uniforms and flower corsages. In the United States, students wear special graduation caps and gowns, and their choice of formal clothing underneath their gowns. When the students walk into the ceremony, a “class song” chosen by the students is played. Graduates walk onto stage to receive their diplomas, and shake hands with the principal. There is usually lots of clapping and cheering from friends and family in the audience. Once everyone has received their diplomas, students turn the tassels on their caps from right to left, and then throw their caps up in the air in the celebration. It is a very light-hearted and joyful affair. At the end of the ceremony at Fujimura, I saw some girls crying as they walked out of the gym. This reminded me of my own high school graduation – I definitely cried during my ceremony. Regardless of what country you are in, graduating high school is a big deal, and the students should feel very proud.


- Emma Sletteland



It is almost the end of the school year here in Japan, which is a very different than what I am used to back in the United States. A typical American school year starts in September and ends in June. I think the Japanese school year actually makes a lot more sense for students. With three distinct trimesters, there are breaks more evenly spread throughout the year. As a student, I would think that is a better system. American students may get nearly three months off, but they typically have less breaks throughout the school year as a result.
              I was also very excited to see my students graduate. A few of my classes when I first started here were third year high schoolers and this was my first time as a teacher that I got to experience end of school graduation ceremonies with my own classes! It was so nice to cheer them on and see what a Japanese graduation ceremony looks like. I am very proud of my students!



On Monday, I went to Ikebana club and tried Japanese flower arrangement for the first time! It was so much fun and I really enjoyed it. I have been interested in trying Ikebana, but didn’t know anything about the theory behind it, so it was very interesting to learn more. Ikebana is so much more than just putting flowers in a vase. It is a disciplined art form with a long history and established rules. Ikebana brings together nature and humanity. The artist uses natural materials, but puts a part of themselves into the arrangement. I have always felt a deep closeness with nature, and Ikebana honors this feeling. I also like the visual style of Ikebana. It is much more simple and minimal than western style floral arrangements.  I’m quite pleased with how my first arrangement turned out, and I definitely want to try Ikebana again!


合唱祭(アメリカとの相違) ---マーレン先生

This week was the Fujimura Chorus Festival. It was very exciting to see all of the students perform. For the past month and a half they have been singing and practicing after school and during lunch. It has been very enjoyable to hear them as I walk from class to class and made seeing the festival so much more fun! I was very excited to see that one of my classes won first place!


In the United States, only the students in the choir class would perform at a choir concert. All students, however, could perform in a Talent Show. Usually there will be a Talent Show once a year at American schools and students can audition with a song, dance, or other talent. Only a handful of people get to perform. I like that everyone gets to be involved in Japan! It’s cool to see a new spin on a familiar tradition.



Entrance Exams

Recently, we have had shortened or cancelled classes because of Junior High School entrance exams. This is a very interesting concept for me, because in America, there are no entrance exams for either Junior or Senior High School. Students are assigned to schools based on where they live, not on exams. The good thing about this system is that students live near their schools, within an area where they can ride a school bus for free. I was very surprised by how long some students commute to get to Fujimura each morning, and by the fact that there are no school busses. In America, some families will move in order to get their children into a certain school district. In Japan, there is more responsibility on the student, and it starts from a young age. There is pressure for students to get into a good Junior High School, so that later they can get into a good High School, so that later they can get into a good university. In America, the important University entrance tests don’t usually start until 11th or 12th grade. There are other standardized tests, but overall, I think that exams are more important in Japan than in America. I think that there are pros and cons to each country’s way of doing it, and I have enjoyed learning more about the Japanese system.

-          Emma Sletteland


日本の映画館 ~「沈黙-サイレンス」を観て  ---マーレン先生

This past weekend I went to a Japanese movie theater. I was very surprised! In the United States, you cannot choose your own seats. It was so nice to have assigned seats and not have to wait in line or run to grab enough for everyone. I was also very surprised at the amount of concessions that were available. I did think movie theaters served chicken, hot dogs, French fries, and more than one type of popcorn! Normally, American theaters only offer butter and salt, not caramel, sweet corn, or bbq. It was very interesting to see.


The movie we saw was a historical fiction film about part of the edo era called “Silence.” It was really interesting. While I did not understand all of it (some of the Japanese lacked subtitles) it really made me more interested in learning about that time in Japanese history. My friends and I all went to a café afterwards and talked about the movie, Japan, and life. It was a very nice experience!



日本でのスキー ---エマ先生

I heard that some of the high schoolers are on a ski trip in Kamui, Asahikawa right now. I went on a ski trip myself last weekend, to Hakuba Goryu in Nagano Prefecture. It was a group of one hundred and fifty people, most of them foreigners, from all over Japan. My friends and I rented a car and drove from Tokyo, which took about four hours. It was an interesting experience to see Japan from a car, as I’ve only ever travelled by train so far. On Saturday morning, we woke up to a ton of fresh snow on the ground, and it was still snowing! I rode for the full day, and it was one of the best days snowboarding of my life. I grew up skiing and snowboarding, so I was very happy to go for my first time this season, and for my first time in Japan. The resort was a little smaller than what I am used to in Colorado, but I still had a great time, and all the fresh snow made up for it. I also saw many foreigners working at the resort. I hope the high schoolers had as a great a time in Kamui as I did in Hakuba. Hopefully one day I can go to Kamui too!


『オズの魔法使い』 高校3年選択授業  ーーーマーレン先生

It is a new trimester at Fujimura, which means the third-year high school students get to take elective courses. This surprised me because in America elective courses are open to all high school students, not just seniors. One of the Japanese teachers of English I work with asked me if I would like to help teach the theater class and I was very excited! In the United States I taught a theater for ESL course, so it was something I am very familiar with. We planned a lesson where our two students would memorize and perform a scene from The Wizard of Oz.


We met for four hour long classes and worked on emotions, movement, memorization, and performing. The students were amazing! I have taught many different students theater, but the Fujimura girls really are talented. The scarecrow was full of emotion and Dorothy full of confidence. We performed the scene for some junior high students as well as sang a song for them. I loved teaching theater again and it was so nice. I hope I can teach more theater classes in the future!


アメリカでの年末年始 ーーーエマ先生

During winter vacation, I went home to the United States. First, I went to San Diego, California, where my mom and brother live. The weather was very nice and warm, and we went to the beach. We bought a Christmas tree and decorated it, and celebrated Christmas Eve together with a big meal and presents. Then, I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to see my dad and my friends. My dad and I cooked Christmas dinner together. I ate a lot of spicy Mexican food, which is what I missed the most about home. Then, I went to Denver, Colorado, to see my friends. We celebrated New Year’s Eve together, which was so much fun! It snowed a ton while I was in Denver – nearly 20 cm. It was very cold, but my friends and I still went out to eat, went shopping, and enjoyed spending time together. It was a great trip and it was very nice to see my all my friends and family. Now, I am happy to be back in Japan and excited for what the New Year will bring!