A Japanese Junior High

Last week, I was sent on assignment to teach at a local junior high school and let me just say...the Japanese educational system never ceases to amaze me. 

Here are a few interesting points:


-Kids all wear their P.E uniforms in class. Which, first off, just looks comfy and makes me questions why I don't get to dress like this every day. The blue tracksuit is so cute an honestly very in style now too. 

-Japanese high schools are tall buildings. The first year classes we taught were all on the 4th floor...and nobody uses an elevator or escalator. That means walking up 4 sets of stairs every time they have to go to their classroom. I was out of breath after doing that once...which made me realize why they're all fit!

-Before every single period, the class leader will do a proper 挨拶 (greeting) and then yell "黙想" (Mokuso) and on that command, every student closes their eyes and sits there silently for 15-20 seconds...meditating and being silent before class. WHAT!!? The first time I witnessed this I was in disbelief. They start off every class meditating and gathering their thoughts to have a positive attitude. Wow.

- 給食  (kyushoku) "school lunch"... every Elementary School and Junior High School in Japan serves school lunch. It's an incredible thing. Every day has a different (perfectly) balanced meal. Some protein, a lot of veggies, soup, a little snack of dessert, and milk. always. The teachers all participate in this lunch time tradition too...they all grab their tray and eat it in the office together. After everyone is done, they put their dishes back properly on the cart to be wheeled back to the kitchen and everyone proceeds with their day. I always love Kyushoku because it is truly the quintessential Japanese childhood meal. 

-In every class I taught...almost every kid was wearing a face mask. The teachers strongly encourage this as a way to prevent the spread of the flu. Face masks really represent, to me, how one thing can be completely natural in one culture...and completely foreign in another. Because if a junior high school kid was to wear a face mask in class in America, people would absolutely freak out and think the were on the verge of death. Yet here in Japan it is as normal as eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the states!! (weird for Japanese people).

Valentine's day - Japanese style

Fun fact: on Valentine's day in Japan, girls are supposed to give chocolates to their boyfriends, male classmates, male coworkers, etc.

It's true! Boys are not responsible for anything on this day. How did this strange tradition come about? I have no idea. But what's even funnier is that a month after Valentine's day (March 14th) Japan celebrates what is called "White Day" where the boys return the favor and give chocolates to the girls. 

crazy, right? But it is totally an unspoken rule everyone follows. And department stores and chocolate companies have capitalized on this holiday of love. This past weekend, my friend Moe and I went to Ginza to do some shopping and we noticed an insane crowd of women (seriously, all women) going crazy buying the most intricate and elaborate chocolate for the men in their lives. Wow. 

Not only was the place filled with a ton of people...but the CHOCOLATES!! My goodness. They were spectacular. Truly. I've never seen such detailed, beautiful, intricate chocolates in my life. Japan really takes things to another level. 


Godiva had these thick books printed as advertisements for their 2018 valentine's spread. It was crazzzzyyyyy. Like, a box of 4 chocolates for like $30. Wow.


These chocolate bars were so beautiful. They are forsure for those super fancy, high class, sophisticated people....they're $15 EACH!


Look at how stunning this is!!!! How is this edible!??? Goodness me. Also, the packaging on every item from all the various vendors was just incredible. I was tempted to buy so many things just so I could have the box it came in. 


This was the craziest chocolate I saw all day...chocolate in the form of lipstick!!! What!!? The lipstick part is made of various flavors of chocolate that you just pick up and bite. I couldn't resist...so I bough one!



It's really interesting experiencing how holidays are represented depending on what culture they're in. Japanese people are really about respecting your elders, hand making gifts of sentiment, and loving people through food!!

So it's no surprise that Valentine's day has adopted some very unique "Japanese" qualities...for example:

"Respect your elders": One of my friends told me she had to buy about 10 sets of chocolates to give to each of her male coworkers because they are older than her...whaaat!!??

"Girls are homemakers": The high school girls I teach will spend days prepping tiny cookies, chocolates, and candies to put in little baggies to pass out to everyone at school. You will also notice this in a lot of Japanese dramas and TV shows...my favorite being the infamous "Hana yori Dango" scene where the main character's boyfriend loses his memory and can't remember her so she cooks him these tiny cookies. When he bites into one of them, the song "flavor of love" blast and his memory comes back all because the love he "tasted" in her cooking... HAHA this is no joke!!

"Quality over Quantity" - Japan is a country of such incredible quality. While looking at the chocolates at the store, I noticed how almost every box had 4-5 pieces in it and would literally be $30!!! Extremely high quality. In the states...we're all about the quantity. We want a X-large bag of M&M's or the biggest box of Sees candies. But here in Japan...it's all about the quality. Foreal. I saw this one box for sale that literally had ONE PIECE OF CHOCOLATE IN IT. I AM NOT KIDDING. The American in me screamed. How is that worth it!??? But hey, this is Japan and one high quality piece of chocolate that costs $15 means more than a giant bag of Reese peanut butter cups. 


Well, happy Valentine's day folks!

This year, to celebrate (Valentine's day is tomorrow) I will be on a work trip teaching at a local junior high school..lucky me lol! But I did buy myself jewelry this past weekend because who needs a guy to buy them jewelry when you can do it yourself!? (all my single ladies be shouting... AMENNNN!). 


Even after living in Japan for over 2 years, I still seem to find new pockets of Tokyo that I have never been to before! This time around I went to ShinOkubo, aka Korea town, with my two friends Kumi and Alison. We geeked out all on things Kpop, grubbed on the most delicious food, and went goo-goo-gaa-gaa over all the amazing cosmetics!! 

Here's our day in Ktown...


Shin Okubo is just behind Shijiuku, so pretty near the heart of Tokyo. It's a relatively small area, but really popular with the young kids who love Korean culture! 


Our first stop was the main and most popular shop for Kpop gear...and right when we walked in I saw BTS HAND LOTION!!! HAHAHHA....oh my goodness. For those who don't know, BTS (Bangtan Boys) is a group of 7 boys from South Korea who have recently taken over the pop world and also my heart!! ahahah I really love them and my obsession is growing daily. I was tempted to buy this hand lotion set.  Lord help me. 


There was a good selection of Korean snacks at this store as well which really made me feel like I wasn't in Japan anymore...


This store had everything from pins, flashcards, purses, sticker books, mugs...all with various Kpop groups faces on them. The aisles were packed with teenage kids and young ladies. It was a bit awkward when my hand reached for the same keychain as a 12 year old girl...uhh...hHAHAHAA. 


So I confess that I love BTS but I also have another confession...
I have a favorite BTS member: Kim Seok Jin. HAHAHA Oh man, I can't believe I am writing about this. But yes, Jin is my favorite member of BTS which means I have a "Jin bias" according to Kpop fan-lingo. Thankfully, Jin is the oldest of the group (he's 25) so I feel much less weird about fan girling over him (the youngest member is 20!). I bought a pin with his face on it (wtheck am I gunna do with it?? idk) and also an alpaca keychain which is a character he drew. I spend like $30 on Jin things HAHAHAA. 


This was on a Sunday afternoon, so street stores were packed full! 


Kumi took us to this food stand for a good snack...she said it was really popular and sure enough, there was a line of at least 30 people waiting for a ポポホットク which is basically a friend sweet pancake with various delicious things inside of it like corn, honey, kimchee, red bean, etc. 


After waiting for about 20minutes...I finally got my honey and cheese ぽぽホットク which tasted exactly like a funnel cake with cheese inside covered in honey. MMMMMMMM


We cruised around the small alleyways that led to various parts of the main street...and our best discovery was this tiny little kpop concert at a cafe. We started at them for a while trying to figure out what exactly was going on (filming? free show? are they famous?) and our gaze was so elongated that one guy in the group waved, winked, and motioned for us to come hither HAHHA. All which prompted this reaction from Alison...




I always love when I get random people who look straight into my camera! 


We stopped by the local Korean market and bought some yummy snacks. I finally got my hands on the spicy korean ramen noodles that everyone does youtube videos on (maybe i'll make one) and Alison bought some popular Korean Aloe juice. 


More kpop store!! 


OK we all know Korea is famous for having a huge cosmetics industry...but I didn't realize HOW huge it was until going to ShinOkubo. Every other store was a cosmetic store selling every and all kinds of goods...face masks, nail polish, whitening lotion, lip stain, etc. It was endless!! We ended up spending like 45 minutes perusing all the make-up and all three of us walked out with a bag of goods.  


After walking around and shopping...it was time to eat!! There were so many restaurant to choose from, all with advertisements hanging outside with the most delicious looking Korean food. It was basically impossible to choose one, but we ended up seeing a picture of a bunch of friend chicken melting along side two kinds of cheese and we just couldn't deny that. We ordered the チーズタッカルビ and ohhhhhh my goodness...we were in cheesey heaven. Kpop music was blasting on a tv in the background and we were definitely having the time of our lives. 

Ok...the last but definitely not the least of our Korean town day...

CAESAR CAFE!!! The most over-the-top Kpop place I have ever been to...


First off, we found a table in the back corner that was completely surrounded by pictures of Lee Joongi, a very famous Korean actor. We could not stop staring and laughing at all the messages and pictures of ONE MAN. hahaha! 


The best part of this cafe is you can order a Latte with your favorite bands Latte art on it...and it comes in a mug of their faces on it HAHAHA. WOW. 


Alison got this super cool blue ice drink and Kumi and I succumbed to the theme of it all and got....


BTS and TOHOSHINKI mugs with their latte art on them HAHAHAHAH!!! This is saying a lot because...I don't even like lattes!!!! And here is all of the Jin things I bought LOL. The square thing in the middle is a set of flashcards to learn Korean. I justified this by saying that it has Japanese on it so I can also continue learning Japanese too. 


Kumi is a HUGE Tohoshinki fan (a duet from Korea)...so much so that she recently traveled to Osaka on a night bus by herself just to go to their concert!! dang. She was so happy to sip a latte out of their mug. 


And here's the snacks I bought...chocolate covered sunflower seeds, yummy korean pocky sticks, and the spicy ramen noodles! 


And of course...the cosmetics I bought! The most amazing glitter eye shadow (LIKE, WOW), really awesome concealer, and the best lip color I have ever tried (which is actually not saying a lot since i've only tried like...2 LOL). OBSESSED!!!! 


There you have it folks... a day in Shin Okubo aka Korea Town in Tokyo.

What a magical, magical land.

Now I just have to buy my ticket to actually go to Korea!!