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Grocery Shopping in Japan

Some quick notes:

  • Fruit is expensive
  • Microwave popcorn does not exist (in my experience)
  • Be very cautious when using Google Translate’s photo translation feature
  • Learning katakana, or the alphabet Japanese uses to spell out foreign words, will save you time

“Well... that doesn’t smell right.”

I mumbled this to myself after I poured what I thought was laundry detergent into the washing machine. Unbeknownst to me, it was bleach. You may be wondering how one confuses detergent for beach, the answer comes from the 3rd bullet point above.

I was shopping for laundry detergent at the Seiyu near my share house and there was an aisle with a wall of what looked like cleaning supplies. But I wanted to double check, so I used my Google Translate app to take a picture and translate the characters on the bag. Google came up with “Laundry Soap.” Which sounded a lot like a literal translation of detergent to me.

Yeah… I was super wrong. It was bleach. Let this story serve as a warning not to cheat the translation process. In a much less damaging - but equally confusing - situation, I bought grapefruit juice assuming it was orange juice.

 Photo cred link:  here

Photo cred link: here

Grocery shopping is a confusing experience in a foreign country, but if you go in with some pre-researched translations of the important items you need (or pictures from Google if all else fails), you can easily avoid the bleach and grapefruit juice.

- Tabitha

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Interview with Past Mentors

This month, we interviewed a few past interns about the English Camp program and their experiences in Japan.

What was your favorite teaching moment during the English Camp program?

Olivia: Playing card games with my students during lunch! I taught them Go Fish and Blackjack. One week we had an UNO deck, and they taught me various Japanese card games that I mysteriously never won, probably because the rules seemed to change against my favor every time I played. We also bonded through origami “competitions” during breaks to see who could fold the most perfect crane or jumping frog. Word of advice: bring your favorite card game or portable board game (chess, checkers, or GO, anyone?) to enjoy with your students during lunches and breaks. It was during these relaxed and “non-academic” times that I bonded with my students the most. 

Jendayi: My last group of students were by far the wildest bunch with such an amazing range of personalities. My favorite moment was at the end of my second week of teaching. One of my students became so overwhelmed with the program ending that he cried for an hour. He hugged me over and over and thanked me in English and Japanese and just could not stop crying. He was so earnest and sweet, so of course I cried, too. It was the moment I realized that what I was doing with these kids was something they'd all wanted but never had: someone to get to know them, to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and just care for them.

What is your favorite Japanese food?

Olivia: Tied between “Pablo” a cheese tart spot in Osaka (whose delicacies I craved so much that I made mock Pablo cheese tarts in my own kitchen in Chicago) with this restaurant in Osaka that serves mountains of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and heaps on heaps of takoyaki. I honestly can’t remember the name of that place—whether it even has a name or if it’s some sort of divine intervention to earthly cuisine, I never will be sure—but drop me in Umeda and my internal compass and American stomach will guide my way to gluttonous paradise. Also, Ichiran has the best ramen in Japan; prove me wrong. I dare you.

Jendayi: The 100 yen bread in conbinis that is stuffed with sweet cream cheese is my guilty pleasure. It's just so perfectly fluffy and yummy!

Do you have any teaching advice for Global English Camp?

Jendayi: Patience. At the end of each teaching week, I always felt so close to my students, and I know I wouldn't have gotten to the level of personal comfort with them had I been less patient and understanding.

Julia: This camp is all about teaching confidence; a little kindness goes a long way, and will make the students remember you. Tell them they are awesome at English, teach them to compliment each other and themselves, and watch them grow.

What do you like most about Japan?

Julia: I love the omotenashi, or hospitality. I felt it when the owner of the school I taught at in Tokushima gifted me her family’s yukata. I felt it when I was lost trying to find my share house and I knocked on a random door and the woman who answered stayed outside with me in a thunderstorm until I found my share house. I felt it in my host family and with complete strangers. I also love the souvenir culture, where every small town has its own custom products. There were always too many tempting things to buy! Finally, okonomiyaki and endless yakiniku.

Why are you returning to English Camp? Why is this program meaningful to you?

Julia: I am returning because of how meaningful I felt last year; I was sometimes the first foreigner that my students had ever talked to. In the future, I want to work in public diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, and this gave me great experience in cultural adaptation, in representing America, and in learning about the benefits of educational exchange programs (which I would love to be involved with in the political sphere).

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Things I Wish I Knew Before Being an EC Mentor

These statements are from the perspective of one past intern. Your experiences on this program will vary. Every student is an individual with their own life experiences and personalities; therefore, each will contribute to the program differently. These are generalizations I have come across that may help you prepare for or better navigate classrooms. We go over most of this in orientation, but this blog post aims to give you a taste of what you may experience.

The first day takes a lot of courage—not just from the students, but the interns, too.

Classrooms are much quieter on the first day than the fifth day. For the most part, these kids have never spoken to a foreigner before. They are excited for the opportunity but are also terrified—but necessarily terrified of you. These students might be more terrified about making mistakes in front of you, as any language-learner typically feels in front of a native speaker. You should consider that you are older than these students, too, so they may be shy for that reason as well.

The Japanese public school system focuses on reading and writing English, so they rarely speak English in the classroom. Speeches and presentations are also not commonly given in either Japanese nor English in school, yet the English Camp program focuses on developing these skills. Not only are some of these kids giving speeches and presentations in English for the first time, but they may also be giving a speech for the first time in general.

I don’t know about you, but the first time I gave a speech in my first language, I wasn’t sure if I would stay standing until the end. The memory is so engraved in my head that I can remember what the speech was on (the macaw), where it was (my 5th grade classroom), and why I had to present it (It was a current events assignment. The macaws were going extinct.).

I also have not forgotten how I felt after giving this speech. I was so happy. Because I did it.

When I watch my students beam with relief and pride after finishing their speeches, I am always reminded of this same day. These students were able to do something new and challenging (and in their eyes, impossible), all because of the English Camp program.

The second, third, and forth day take a lot of courage—especially from the interns.

On these days, you present your life mission to the students, why you are studying what you are studying, where you plan to end up someday, how you wish to contribute to the world, why these students should care about your life mission, and why these students should be inspired by you.

It’s a lot.

Try to keep in mind that your goal is to open the students' minds about studying abroad, globalization, and their own life missions. More importantly, keep in mind that you should be talking about these topics SLOWLY and CLEARLY. If your major is neuroscience, show them images of optical illusions; not eloquent descriptions of the brain. If your major is music, play them a bit of your music and talk about why it makes you happy; don't go into counterpoint theory and chord progression descriptions. Make your speech interactive. Ask them questions. Encourage them to ask you questions. Play games. Don't lecture them for twenty minutes about your campus courtyard.

The final day takes a lot of courage—not only from the students, but the interns, too.

Because you cry.

My favorite quote about the 5th day comes from Justin, a past UK English Camp intern, who said this:

“During the orientation, when an American started talking about the 5th day and how you cry a lot, I was like, ‘Oh, they’re being overdramatic because they’re American.’ But then I had to say goodbye to my kids the following week, and I felt tears well up in my eyes.”

Or something along those lines.

It’s true. You bond with these kids even though you only have them for five days. You’re talking with them about world issues, about their goals and dreams, and about yourself. You really get to know each other and impact each other's lives.

Confidence is key.

Yes, this is English Camp, but it’s also a confidence-building camp. At the end of the day, the goal isn’t for students to say, “Wow, I learned so much grammar today.” We want kids to say, “Wow, I learned how to say my opinion in English even though I was really nervous,” or, “I stood up in front of the class and sang Ariana Grande lyrics at the top of my lungs with three other students.”

The 80% / 20% rule.

You should be talking 20% of the time. The students should be talking 80% of the time.

The more the students talk, the better their English will naturally become. Whether you get them to talk during a serious UN discussion or during a casual lunchtime chat, both are important successes. We want them talking as much as possible. When else will they receive such a unique experience to talk one-on-one with a foreigner?

Don't talk fast.

Seriously, don't talk fast.

You're still talking too fast.

If you don't slow down, I am going to thwack a textbook at your head.

I would say that this is the #1 issue interns struggle with in the classroom. Even when interns think they are talking slow enough, they aren't. If you're weary about your speed, check in with your students and ask if you're talking too fast. Keep in mind that your students may say no even if you are because they don't want to be rude or admit to not understanding you. In this case, check in with a member of ECMA (returning interns) to see what they think. They're more than willing to sit at your table and give you feedback about the way you're teaching.

Work alongside other interns.

Yes, you have your own table for the week, but you are also surrounded by other tables filled with their own interns and students. My suggestion is to interact with those other interns and students. This can fuel the spark for more classroom games and eventful lunchtimes. Always make sure the environment welcoming and fun!

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Things I Wish I Knew Before I was an English Camp Intern

In the spirit of accepting quite a few 2018 Global English Camp interns this past month, I wrote a blog post about some of the things I wish I knew before I was an English Camp intern. Accepted interns will receive a Welcome Package that lists a ton of helpful information before arriving to Japan, but below are some topics that aren’t specifically mentioned in the Welcome Package and are based off my personal experiences. Keep in mind my experiences in Japan may not be anything like yours.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I was an English Camp Intern

Sleep.

This program is intensive. You are in class from 9:30AM-5PM, Monday through Friday. Depending on the type of experience you want, you might be going out with other interns every night, too. I think this proves how fun this program can be, but that being said, it is okay to take a day off. You won't miss out too much if you stay home today because there will be a tomorrow. I know our program is the best, and I know you want to be awake for all of it, but please take care of yourself!

Make friends during Orientation and Training week.

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Orientation Week: 2018

Orientation and training week sounds boring, but it’s actually my favorite week. You arrive at the main Tokyo Shinjuku venue, talk to other cool interns all day, and learn more about the textbook and Japan. This is when you have the chance to learn more about your fellow interns, too. Some of them will be your best friends for life. You might travel to Okinawa with a few of them during 4th week, or you might miss the last train with one of them one night and be stranded together in the middle of Tokyo. You never know.

Have a blast during the weekend retreat.

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Hakone Retreat 2018

Okay, scrap the Orientation and Training week rant. I think the weekend retreat is where true friendships also begin. I guess what I’m trying to say is: always try to make friends with others!

Clothes - pack light.

Don’t pack a coat. Not even a raincoat. No sweatshirts, either. Stop it. Take those skinny jeans out of your bag right now. 

Seriously, pack light.

I don't think you heard me the first time. PACK LIGHT. Some train stations don't have elevators or escalators which means you have to lug your luggage up three flights of stairs. (Wow, lug, luggage? Is it called luggage because you lug luggage?)

Here's a horror story for you: I did not pack light the first time I traveled to Japan. No, I disregarded the Welcome Package packing warning and packed average, thinking this would be okay. I could roll my luggage. Why would I need to be able to carry it in my arms? Well, I had a 1.5 hour commute from the first weekend retreat to my share house. And I was all alone. And I had three train transfers. And I had to repeatedly carry my luggage up flights and flights of stairs. There was a point where I actually had to ask a security guard to carry the luggage up the stairs for me. So embarrassing. But good Japanese language practice. At another point, a couple walking up the stairs behind me (and my huge luggage) couldn't get past. So I spun around, red and flustered and tired, bowed deeply, and practically shouted, "I'M SO SORRY!" at them in Japanese. They both cracked up, and the man proceeded to grab my luggage and carried it the rest of the way. I apologized and thanked them as the woman sang, "Please be careful from now on!" to me. So embarrassing: Part Two. Then they walked away, and I was alone again with another 30 minutes of traveling ahead of me.

Q: What was the moral of the story?

A:  S E R I O U S L Y, P A C K  L I G H T.

Download Line PRIOR to coming to Japan.

LINE is the messaging app that nearly everyone in Japan uses. That’s right, no iMessage or WhatsApp. If you want to text people after you meet them in Japan, they’ll probably ask for your LINE instead of your phone number. Good news: LINE is free. Bad news: If you’re in Japan and download LINE without any cell service, the app probably won’t download properly. LINE will ask you to verify your account with a 4-pin verification code sent to you via text message - not wifi.

Remove 4-pin verification code security from your apps and tech.

On a similar note, if you don't have cell service (this is different from wifi!) in Japan4-pin verification codes WILL NOT WORK. This messed up my iMessage and email accounts while I was in Japan last year. Apple saw that my accounts were being used in a different country and locked my account, claiming that I needed to verify my identify with a 4-pin code sent to my phone. But I don’t have text messaging in Japan, Apple! After hours of customer service calls and venturing to the Omotesando Apple store in person, no one could really help me. I had to wait to use my iMessage and email until I returned to America. So don’t be like me. Be smart and remove 4-pin code identification off your technology products and apps.

Instructions on how to remove two-factor identification from Apple products. 

Keep a phone charger in your belongings.

It's 2AM. You're walking home. You're using Google Maps. Everything is great. Then your phone dies on 35%. "What? Why?!" you scream in the middle of the sidewalk. Probably because you dropped it in the street yesterday, and now your battery is screwed up. People are staring at you. You're embarrassed. You're tired. What do you do now?

If you get into a dead phone bind like this, you can find phone charging areas in most convenient stores, over by the bland white seating section. If you forgot your charger that day, you can buy one at the convenient store too. Note that chargers are usually more than 2000 yen.

SIM Card, Pocket Wifi, and International Data Plans, Oh My.

You’ve been searching the web for a week and desperately shaking your fists in the air: Which is the cheapest way to get data in Japan?! This information is somewhat covered in the Welcome Package, but we list multiple options. Here are my opinions:

Don’t go through your phone carrier. Most cell provider prices are overpriced and don’t give you much data. Some people have mentioned that TMobile has a great overseas rate. That’s true, but you only receive 2G. It can take three minutes to load one Google Maps search. If you can easily remember landmarks and surroundings and train names, unlike me, this option may work for you.

SIM Card

Our program does offer SIM cards, but interns who used data a lot have stated they ran out quickly. Since my phone isn’t paid off, I can’t unlock my iPhone and use a SIM card. If you’re expecting to purchase a SIM card from us while in Japan, I highly recommend researching the requirements your phone must possess in order to use a SIM card. You’d be surprised how much you need to do to your phone before arriving to Japan. Though I have heard rumors that Android users have no problems. What’s up with that? Not sure about Google Pixels though. If you’re not a heavy internet user, then the SIM card route is probably right for you.

What’s a Pocket Wifi?

It’s my #1 recommendation and is exactly how it sounds—a little black device in your pocket that connects your phone to the sky.

Global Advanced Communications is my recommended cheapest pocket wifi provider. Last year my rental period lasted 52 days (I arrived one week early to Japan), and it cost 19,050Y, or $190. I chose Regular Pocket Wifi with 75BPS and had unlimited data during my time in Japan. I traveled as local as Tokyo but also went up all the way to Asahikawa, Hokkaido, and down to Matsuyama, Ehime, and I always had reliable internet.

That being said, you don’t really need data on this program. Okay, hear me out: All convenient stores have wifi, which are on every street corner. Seriously. One time I saw two 7 Eleven’s next to each other. Also, you can download specific map locations to your phone in Google Maps so that you can navigate without having wifi, but I’m not sure if this works with routing trains; just walking. The only downside to not having internet literally in your pocket is that most classroom venues do not have wifi, which you shouldn’t need anyway. Close Insta and get back to teaching your kids!

Even though I know I "don't need wifi", I’ll still probably get a pocket wifi this upcoming summer. I’m a nervous traveler; especially when I’m alone and navigating train routes and what not (which rarely happened to me on this internship, but still). Keep in mind that most housing accommodations have wifi, but this isn’t a guarantee. If you want to play it safe, I encourage you to think about getting the pocket wifi.

Don’t fear the returning interns.

When I started doing this program in 2016, we didn’t have returning interns. We were on our own. Now we have interns who return to the program every year and serve as our Unofficial Happiness Chairs. When I was a returning intern in 2017, some new interns told me that they were scared of us and thought we were unapproachable. NO! That’s the opposite of how the returning interns should be seen. Returning interns are literally there to be your friend and take you on unofficial cool trips after school hours and have fun with you.

We are excited to meet the new interns for this upcoming summer! Hopefully these random bullet points popping into my head help you prepare for your trip to Japan.

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2018 Application Updates

Hello Applicants! A quick update on submitted applications:

1. Early Planner Applicants - Thank you for your patience as we complete interviews and selection. We will complete selection by February 28th and notify all accepted interns.

2. General Applicants - DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 28th. We will be contacting you over the next 30 days to let you know whether or not you are selected for an interview. If you do not hear back from us by March 15th, you can assume your application was not selected.

3. Thank you all for your interest in our program. Due to an overwhelming amount of applications:

  • We are unable to provide "status" updates on applications.
  • We are unable to reschedule interviews. Please make sure you are ready before your interview time.

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Thank you, UK!

We had such a blast meeting prospective interns and hanging out with past alumni from the program. Now that we're back in the US, we're missing everyone!

 UCL with a past guest LSE intern, Justin.

UCL with a past guest LSE intern, Justin.

 A terrible shot of Matt and I with past Oxford University intern, Oscar, who somehow looks flawless at a down angle. He gave us the full Oxford tour. We couldn't be more thankful!

A terrible shot of Matt and I with past Oxford University intern, Oscar, who somehow looks flawless at a down angle. He gave us the full Oxford tour. We couldn't be more thankful!

 Alumni lunch in London! We all got a Sunday roast - how could we not?

Alumni lunch in London! We all got a Sunday roast - how could we not?

 Oxford University info session, our last stop on the UK tour.

Oxford University info session, our last stop on the UK tour.

Now is the perfect time to apply for the 2018 Global English Camp program. You can apply here.

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U.K. Tour is Happening Now!

We're here! We're here! Come out to any of our info sessions to learn more about our summers in Japan.

Confirmed locations:

  • Imperial College London - Wednesday, January 24, 12-1PM in HXYL 140
  • Cambridge - Thursday, January 25, 3:30 - 5:30PM in the Bowett Room in Queens' College
  • University College London - Monday January 29 from 6 - 7 pm in Cruciform Building B404 - LT2
  • Oxford - Wednesday, January 31, 7 PM - 9PM in Rainolds Room at Corpus Christi College
  Cambridge University with a past Cambridge intern.

Cambridge University with a past Cambridge intern.

  Info session at Imperial College London.

Info session at Imperial College London.

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U.S. West Coast Tour begins this week!

Catch us on the west coast soon at these locations:

STANFORD 11/28 | Old Union Room 200 from 4 - 6PM

UC BERKELEY 11/29 | Barrows Hall 78, from 4 - 6PM

UCLA 12/1 Bunche 10383, from 4:30 - 6:30PM

Stay tuned for photos, videos, and updates throughout the week!

  Stanford alumni dinner.

Stanford alumni dinner.

  UCLA info session.

UCLA info session.

  UCLA alumni dinner.

UCLA alumni dinner.

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College Tour: Week 1

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This week we visited Johns Hopkins, UPenn, Duke, Michigan, Northwestern, Chicago, NYU, Columbia, and Duke. Check out our November newsletter below to see where we're off to next!

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U.S. College Tour 2017 Coming Soon!

Are you interested in talking to us in person about Come on Out and other opportunities in Japan? A month from now we will begin our annual U.S. college tour. 

We also love to reconnect with past interns. Check out some pictures from last year's East Coast College Tour below. 

    "12 Schools. 14 Days. 27 Interns. 2000 Miles. 1 Unforgettable East Coast College Tour!"

 

"12 Schools. 14 Days. 27 Interns. 2000 Miles. 1 Unforgettable East Coast College Tour!"

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終わり・The End

English Camp 2017 is officially over, but the friendships and memories that were made will never be!

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"Today marks the end of the greatest trip of my life so far. The dream I've had for a decade finally came true. I am so happy to have met so many amazing people on my journey through Japan. I'll never forget the experiences I had here and ones who made it special."
- Kavi (NYU)

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to share such an amazing experience with. Thanks for the incredible six weeks.

- Joon (Duke University)

These 6 weeks were amazing. Thank you Come on Out- Japan for giving me the opportunity to work with such wonderful kids and fantastic interns!
- Ning (Duke University)
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I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have gone to Japan and teach English with Come on Out- Japan this summer! Despite the 90 minute commutes on week 1, endless applications, and my inability to speak Japanese, it was everything I could have wanted. I met some truly awesome people, saw great sights, and had excellent food - not to mention having the best homestay family I could have asked for.
- Shehan (UC Berkeley)
This opportunity teaching/mentoring for Come on Out has been one of the best things I've ever done, and I am so grateful to everyone who made my time in Japan so incredible! So to everyone I meet in this program, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!!
- Rebecca (UCLA)

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Mt. Fuji Adventure

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Mt. Fuji Adventure

Today I did something that I can only describe as "terribly worth it." I have been pretty much awake for the past 40 hours because I went and climbed Mount Fuji. 8 hours up overnight, 4 hours down after sunrise, and a lot of cursing myself for choosing to even do the hike in the first place.

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I and my friends really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into, even WITH all the stories and advice we heard from others that did the climb earlier this month. But, while there was no way we could have been fully prepared for the challenge, there was also no way of knowing truly how beautiful the sunrise would be.

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The pictures I managed to take aren't even close to capturing the full grand nature of it all, but I tried. And now, I lay in bed, ready to sleep, only to have to leave this wonderful and amazing country tomorrow evening. It's a bittersweet ending to an unforgettable experience and opportunity to meet such bright Japanese high school students and be their guides as they explore the fun that can come out of speaking a language they've only really studied vocabulary and grammar for. Thank you Japan, thank you Come On Out, thank you Come On Up, thank you Toshin, and most of all thank you to all of my fellow interns who I was able to get to know for the past 5 weeks. I will miss all of you, so let's please meet again!

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- Zohair

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Miura Beach

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Miura Beach

WEEKEND TRIP TIME!

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This weekend, interns raced to Tokyo from all parts of Japan (Tokushima, Ehime, Nara, Okinawa, Osaka, Kyoto, and more!) to make the 10:27AM train to Miura Beach in the Tokyo Bay of Kanagawa. On our way to the beach house we were staying at, we stopped at a lava rock beach.

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Afterward we took a small boat ride to a seafood and vegetable market. 

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Buying food at the market is always an exciting experience. They’re all locals from who don’t understand any English, so we can only use Japanese with them! We never know what food we’re buying, but it’s okay because the food is always delicious.

 Watermelon on the pier.

Watermelon on the pier.

Later that night, we returned to the beach house and had a big barbecue. Tofu, vegetables, tuna, sashimi, kimchi, chicken wings—we had it all! 

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Week 4: Osaka

Osaka is famous for okonomiyaki - a savory pancake stuffed with whatever you like. Literally. Okonomi means “how you like,” and yaki means grilled. Sounds perfect, right? So I was pumped to go to Osaka this week. 

 My students took me to an  okonomiyaki  restaurant near our classroom. LOOK AT THIS.

My students took me to an okonomiyaki restaurant near our classroom. LOOK AT THIS.

In Japan, tables at restaurants sometimes have a grill that's built into your table. Usually the food is made by the staff. Other times you make the food yourself! This is something I'll miss when I go back to America.

Osaka had so many exciting things to do - shopping, ferris wheels, lines of restaurants, and even a British Pub. 

Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan, so we never ran out of new things to try.

 The view from our classroom.

The view from our classroom.

 Group photo!

Group photo!

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Week 3: Matsuyama, Ehime

 googlemaps.com

googlemaps.com

When I first heard that I was going to Ehime, I thought I would be stranded in the 田舎, or countryside, but I was surprised by how lively the city is! After classes, we went to Matsuyama Castle, Dogo Onsen, and Baishinji Beach.

 Monday night late dinner!

Monday night late dinner!

We also did fireworks and celebrated an intern’s birthday with cake and a barbecue. Just like Hokkaido, the Japanese staff were so welcoming and wanted to show us everything Matsuyama has to offer.

 Dogo Onsen is one of the world’s oldest hot springs, and we went there!

Dogo Onsen is one of the world’s oldest hot springs, and we went there!

 Millie (the birthday girl!)

Millie (the birthday girl!)

 Matsuyama Castle with Rikuto and Ichiro

Matsuyama Castle with Rikuto and Ichiro

 Climbing was so hard. But worth it!

Climbing was so hard. But worth it!

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Week 2: Hokkaido: Asahikawa

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Week 2: Hokkaido: Asahikawa

Three interns and myself flew to Hokkaido this week to teach at a welcoming school called Toshin Eisei Yobiko Asahikawa Ekimaekou. My week wasn’t just the best experience of English Camp 2017 so far—it was probably one of the best experiences of my entire life

On the first day, we were met at the airport by three Japanese staff, taken out to dinner (which was completely paid for by the school!), and shown around the venue.

 

When we walked into the venue, we were shocked by the clumps of balloons and leis decorating the walls. Welcome to English Camp at Asahikawa! was written in bubble letters on the white board. 

Over the course of the teaching week, students were happy and engaged. We made hats out of paper, played telephone charades, and genuinely became good friends with each other. The Japanese staff also bought everyone Hokkaido Fighters baseball jerseys. 

We even played heavy metal music to make students speak louder during their speeches. Best part: a Japanese staff member brought the heavy metal CD.

The day we had our flight back to Tokyo, the Japanese staff took us around Asahikawa.

 (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6826.html)

(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6826.html)

These are some of the places we went to, but we also went sake tasting in the morning and got dinner before our flight back to Tokyo (which were also all covered by the staff!) The Japanese staff cried when they dropped us off at the airport. I did too.

 Flower Land in KamiFurano

Flower Land in KamiFurano

 So pretty!

So pretty!

 Aoiike (Blue Pond)

Aoiike (Blue Pond)

I also had an amazing homestay this week. My host dad loved to make soba from scratch, so he made me some for dinner one night. Watching him make it, cut it, and cook it was such a unique experience. They also took me to karaoke, a fireworks festival, kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi), onsen, and a fancy restaurant. The grandpa lived across the street, and he often came by and took pictures of my host sister and I. He had a really nice camera because his hobby was photography. He attempted to teach the camera to me one evening via Google translate by using speak to text which was hilarious.

 He made the soba so fast too! Probably took him 40 minutes.

He made the soba so fast too! Probably took him 40 minutes.

I can't wait to come back next year and see my friends again!

Paige

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Suzukien Asakusa: "the strongest matcha flavor in the world"

Hello!

My name is Natasha and I have a major confession: I have a sweet tooth. No, not just a simple, little sweet tooth. I like to think of it as a monster sugar craving. 

You’re probably thinking: what does this have to do with Japan?

During my travels here, I’ve seen wonderful places and participated in incredible events. However, none of these activities address my problem of needing sugar 24/7. Luckily, a konbini is never too far away and I can quickly purchase an ice cream bar. I definitely recommend a Meiji orange cream bar that tastes like a creamsicle dipped in white chocolate, or a monaka that’s basically a waffle ice cream sandwich. However, none of these delicious treats could satisfy my sugar monster for very long.

In addition to loving sugar, I absolutely adore anything matcha flavored. It could be matcha soap and I’d probably try to eat it. So, when I read about a place in Tokyo with the self-proclaimed, “strongest matcha flavored gelato in the world,” I had to eat it for myself. 

The shop is located in Asakusa, only a few minutes’ walk from Senso-ji temple. It’s called Suzukien Asakusa and you may have seen videos of it on various forms of social media. Suzukien has six more matcha flavors as well, with each gradually increasing in intensity until reaching the premium “strongest matcha flavor.” Besides matcha, the shop has other tea themed flavors, like black sesame seed, roasted black tea, and azuki bean.

The shop is so popular, that the line used to snake down the sidewalk. Now, there is a waiting room a five-minute walk away, because the community members didn’t like the aesthetic of eager Instagrammers blocking the neighborhood. I don’t blame them. 

When I arrived at the waiting room, the kind worker took my name. It was a great opportunity to awkwardly stumble through the few phrases of Japanese that I know! I was lucky enough to only wait for 20 minutes, whereas people on the internet have reported waiting up to an hour and a half on really busy days. Once the worker called my name, I received a laminated pass and walked to the shop. This pass is really important because the shop will not serve you gelato until you hand it to the cashier. The only way to get the pass is by going to the waiting room.

Finally, I reached the front of the line. I decided to get one scoop each of black sesame seed and premium no. 7 matcha (a.k.a. the strongest possible), as seen in the photo below.

I can’t say it’s the most intense in the world, as I need to have more matcha ice cream before coming to that conclusion. However, the gelato was indeed the richest matcha flavor I have tasted thus far. It had a very earthy flavor, even more so than a mouthful of grass and dirt. Yet, the subtle, nutty taste of the black sesame balanced out the bitter bite of matcha. I was in ice cream heaven!

While the gelato was a little expensive for an every day excursion, I think Suzukien is a great place to satiate one’s sweet tooth. If you love matcha or being adventurous with food, then I recommend you give it a try too!

Safe travels,

Natasha

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Week 1: Teaching Story

 

Hi everyone! I'm Shehan. I wanted to share my experience with the program in the first week.

It was tough! I've been commuting from Katakuracho to Shinjuku for the past week, which ends up being a 90 minute commute one way. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that my group was one of the weaker English speakers in the program. It was very difficult to get them to talk, and they were more likely to open up a pocket dictionary rather than ask us their question - and I can't imagine how tough this trial-by-fire is.

But I learned a lot. I learned about perspective, and to be creative in moving the group along, in communicating my words with simpler words, and occasionally with pictures. I've tried to explain to students the meaning of "passion" as "burning the midnight oil and trying very hard to get the future you want". I think my students in particular gained confidence and became friends with one another, even though I didn't feel as close as did others by the closing ceremony. However, I wrote them good letters and they gave me an awesome letter in return!

I wanted to talk about one student in particular and his life mission speech. Working with him was a challenge. He didn't have any particular passions. After nearly forty minutes of back and forth in English, I realized that he didn't particularly enjoy any subject. He most valued money, being "the boss", and living a comfortable life. At one point, Yuuki-san jumped in to guide his thinking, and they spoke in Japanese for a while (while I tended to other students). I jumped back into the conversation to feel out a few subjects - namely starting up a business, or being a consultant. 

The gears really started turning when we revisited his "Issues Around Us" speech, where he wrote on the pervasive NEET/hikikomori issue in Japan, where adolescents/adults are social shut-ins that have forgone further education or employment. I suggested making a presentation that seeks to remedy the NEET problem. This is where I stopped, and he began. His presentation was on making a hypothetical company to reach out to Japanese hikikomori and induct them into the workforce. I thought it was awesome because it addressed a very real Japanese problem and presented a potential solution. He only started writing a speech after the 11:30 mark, so I was really impressed to see that he had accomplished a unique and thoughtful presentation, despite his limited English. 

I was afraid that my student would have nothing to say, but I was proven wrong. Yuuki-san can attest to him being a tough case, but I think that experience really showed me that these students can still be very intelligent and aware of the world, even if their English skills may not reflect that. I heard many cool presentations about visiting the world or studying chemistry (I'm a chem major!), but my experience with him was on a different level. I am a lot more confident in my ability to tease out ideas from students and help them develop a passion. Whether or not my student actually makes his startup is a different question altogether, but he pulled through to make a presentation despite his weaker English and time crunch.

That was a lot, but I wanted to share this experience with someone! Yuuki-san is awesome and really helped me out. Thanks for hearing me out. Looking forward to the next few weeks!

 

Cheers,

Shehan

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Retreat Weekend at Hakone

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Retreat Weekend at Hakone

HAKONE WAS A BLAST!

Hakone is a mountainous town west of Tokyo. The town is known for its hot springs and views of Mount Fuji. Lake Ashi is also nearby, but don’t go swimming in the water. According to many of the locals, if you go swimming in Lake Ashi, you will die!

Some people went to onsen. Most people rode on a pirate ship. A few people went up in cable cars. But EVERYONE had a great time.

 The hiking crew.

The hiking crew.

 Pirate ship ride.

Pirate ship ride.

 Stocking up on essential konbini food.

Stocking up on essential konbini food.

 Cable car time with the leaders!

Cable car time with the leaders!

Teaching has just started for interns this week. We'll keep you updated with classroom pictures and stories soon!

 

By Paige Goetz

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Cooking Night in Shinjuku, Tokyo

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Cooking Night in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Come on Out had its first cooking night yesterday! Ohki-san and others taught us how to make thick wheat flour noodles (udon) and homemade rice balls (onigiri). We made our onigiri with spam and pickled plum and wrapped them in seaweed.

Onigiri can have many different types of the food inside of them. At konbini, you’ll find onigiri filled with tuna (They call it sea chicken!), fish roe, salmon, kelp, turnip wasabi, chicken, and even straight mayonnaise.

Udon is served hot and in a broth made from soy sauce, dashi, and mirin.

 Pouring out the udon.

Pouring out the udon.

 In Japan, you’re supposed to slurp your noodles to show that you’re enjoying the food. Some people were almost too good at it!

In Japan, you’re supposed to slurp your noodles to show that you’re enjoying the food. Some people were almost too good at it!

 Group photo. The kids helped us out—they were adorable!

Group photo. The kids helped us out—they were adorable!

By Paige Goetz

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