翔鷹際-BUNKASAI - PART I/III

September 14th, 2017
Bunkasai is the biggest event of the year at our school (and most schools in Japan) so there's no surprise this post will be in three parts covering the three days our school was consumed by Bunkasai madness! Thursday marked day one of the festivities, and it was entirely dedicated to setting up and prepping for the main day on Friday. 

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Each homeroom plans some event to do in their class...i.e a game, ride, haunted house, selling food, etc...and the entire class works together to create some type of attraction for others to enjoy. Truly a beautiful picture of teamwork, resourcefulness and creativity! 

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One class made a maze with giant piece of poop as their mascot...hahah ohhhh my. 

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The most anticipated classrooms are the ones that do haunted houses! They cover everything in black trash bags and do a pretty amazing job of pulling off a true haunted house! 

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The middle garden is set up for the main stage performances! 

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Madness all around. 

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NO BIG DEAL...just installing a man-powered spinning tea cup ride in their class! SO IMPRESSIVE. 

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3A set up a haunted house using SO MANY cardboard boxes!! Can you believe it? It's like they're living every kids dream of building a massive fort in their classroom to play around in haha. 

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The students spent all day moving desks around, painting. taping, cutting, and setting up for the big event on Friday. It was a full and fun day!

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As things wrapped up after school,  I noticed the brass band hard at work practicing. These kids never stop! Even during the busiest event of the year, they are still practicing as hard as ever. So impressive.

Alright...now on to PART II!!!!

BUSY SEASON

It's mid-way through September and the beginning of the busiest season at school. The first big event is English Camp for the 1A students, then theres Bunkasai this weekend, Taikusai next week, open house and preparing for speech contests! 

To kick off the business, I was in charge of running a two day "English Camp" for the 1A class. This is an annual event that gets the 1st year students exposed to as much English as possible, since they'll be going to Torrance next year. One of my main jobs at Ichikashi is to plan and run this event...and although it took a lot of hard work and planning, it was so worth it!

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I'm lucky to have amazing coworkers to team up with...Tama being an excellent "Tama-taxi driver" making sure we always get where we need to go, Mami being an awesome homeroom teacher to these 1A kids and making sure they know where they need to be and when, and Alison adjusting so effortlessly to our job as Ichikashi ALT! 

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Four native English teachers from the prefecture come and help us with this camp and I am truly grateful for their efforts and kindness to our students. At the end of day two, every student gave a show-and-tell speech and it was really cute seeing their personalities come out when they talked about something important to them. The best part of the whole camp was just seeing the joy on the students faces as they spoke English and had fun with eachother. 


After a busy two days, I decided to keep the ball rolling and jam pack my weekend as well!

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I spent Saturday in Ginza roaming the streets and looking for some things to buy. I had my eye set on this Faure Le Page bag that my brother told me about (they only have stores in Paris and Tokyo!) but when I went to the store in Ginza I saw the price tag and said: NO WAY, JOSE (one tote bag cost ¥170,00...aka $1700!!!!!!) But, I still could enjoybeauty that is Ginza on a weekend...truly one of the best places to spend your day off!

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What makes Ginza so magical on the weekends is that on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, they close off the main street to cars and create what they call in Japanese "pedestrian heaven" - which it truly is! Not to mention the streets are all extremely clean, the stores are incredible and it makes for a prime people watching spot. YES, GINZA, YES.


Saturday was a good day....and I headed home that only to wake up at 6am to take a train back into Tokyo for the Tokyo Tower climb I heard about! I found out about this "Tokyo Tower Climb" via a website I sometimes check out (SAVVYTOKYO) and I immediately jumped on the chance to be involved. TELL is an organization that provides suicide prevention resources here in Tokyo and they were running this event to help raise awareness on suicide prevention day (sept 10th). I convinced Steph to sign up with me and we met up at Tokyo tower bright and early Sunday morning!

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There was a fun vibe around the starting line...with a bunch of people ready to be active for an awesome cause. They told us there were 600 steps to climb and most people can walk up it in 18 minutes while the record is 2 minutes 3 seconds!! 

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We climbed the inclosed steps that lead to the main observatory and WOW....such a rad view. Despite the fact that my legs felt like a thousand ton bricks after 30 seconds, the view really captivated me and reminded me of how rad of an experience this was!!

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Made it to the tip in 7 min 23 seconds! Not bad. Let's just say it was shorter than I expected and harder than I expected HAHA! I was super thankful it ended by 8:30 actually because that meant I could make it to church in time! Thank you Lord. 

It felt amazing to do something active, in a city I love, for a cause that really hits my heart so raw and real. Suicide is the leanding cause of death in men age 20-44, and witnessing just a glimpse of the cultural pressure and emotional strain on Japanese people has left me hurting for the people around me who feel any bit of shame, guilt, hopelessnes, isolation...and I was reminded the great mission I have to pray for this nation and the people who call it home. Truly... the most powerful, most helpful, and most impactful thing I can do is pray.


After climbing Tokyo tower, I made it to church in time! Praise the Lord. I met up with my good friend Miri and we enjoyed an awesome service at Hope church :) Then, after we headed over to Lalaport Tokyo bay to meet up with Miri's mom whos in town from Osaka, as well as our good friend Naomi and her family! I met all these lovely ladies when I was a tutor in Torrance!

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Naomi has two little boys, Rieiji and Kaiji...and Miri and I enjoyed being aunties for the day. We cruised around the mall, Miri bough Reiji a bday gift at the disney store which he was stoked about, and we even got a picture with Chiba-kun (the prefectural mascot!) 

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Reiji, Miri, me, Naomi, baby Kaiji, and Miri's mom Masako! So thankful to have spent the day with these lovely ladies!! 

phew...busy season is well under way and I am enjoying every moment of it! 

I FOUND MY CALLING: SHIRO CAFE

Japanese minimalism...
perfectly curated white and blue walls...
incredible JAPAN MADE fragrances...
incredible JAPAN MADE makeup...
strong coffee....
berry+ricotta cheese pancakes...

I HAVE FOUND MY CALLING...the SHIRO CAFE IN JIYUGAOKA, TOKYO.
 

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So...SHIRO is a cosmetic company I first found out about when I stumbled upon it at my local train station. I was immediately drawn to the immaculate white walls and perfectly positioned tiny bottles of fragrances, lotions and soaps...and my obsession began right away. Since then, I've collected (and gifted) quite a few of their cosmetics! This past Saturday I finally got to experience the SHIRO cafe in Tokyo!! YES, LORD! (btw..."shiro" means "white" in Japanese...how appropriate) 

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I MEAN...COME ON! Look at these walls!!!!! How perfect is this??????

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The whole building was two stories...with the cafe and cosmetics up top and more household items and a make-up station down below. I went with my friend Yuki and we ordered some of the yummy food of the menu...she got the Mango pancakes while I got the berry ricotta ones....AMAZINGGGGGGGGGGNESS.

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All of the products made by Shiro are sourced and produced in Japan. For example, they have KOMBU (seaweed) face wash, SAKE lotion, FLAXSEED oils, and a bunch of other amazingly healthy things for your skin. Oh...how I dream to have a vanity covered in this stuff! 

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You know you're in a hip place when the bathroom is just as well designed as anything else in the building...WOW. 

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After Yuki and I ate, we cruised around the shop where I eventually got a free make-up trial using Shiros new bronzer and blush...and I was sold!! Such good products. 

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I also befriended Maki, the lady who tested the make up on me and gave me a free manicure too! I told her my new dream is to work for Shiro and she happily agreed that it would be a good place for me :) 

let's pray they open one in LA soon!! 

BACK TO SCHOOL

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AAAAAAND....We're back!! 

After a fun 2-ish months of summer break, school is back in session. Yesterday (Friday) we had our "Opening Ceremony" where I took this pic...the students are lined up in their homeroom rows and before the ceremony started they had to stand up and properly space themselves out in order to create perfectly straight lines. Yep, this is Japan after all! 

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A little over a week ago, I welcomed in my new coworker - Alison - to Japan and to Ichikashi! At the Opening Ceremony she gave a speech and made a great, friendly first introduction to the students. It's been really fun showing her around Kashiwa and explaining how things work at Ichikashi.

The other day (one day before the Opening Ceremony, and the last day of summer break) I arrived at school early simply because I'm an extreme morning person and can't really sleep in...haha. I got to school at 8am or so and was the first person at the office and the only one there for an hour...so I had this moment of silence to make my coffee and sip it looking out the window over the back of school. ahhhh....I was so grateful to be there. Right there. At my school office, looking over the Japanese countryside on a rainy day, in city I call home, at a job I love...thank you Lord! I officially have one year left here in this country and it's already bittersweet thinking about, but that quiet morning the Lord reminded me that every day is filled with His goodness and purposes for my life and I shall live each day to the fullest and not fret about the timeline! God gave me an extra boost of joy in that moment and He encouraged me that this last year is exactly where I'm supposed to be and how I'm supposed to spend my time. 

There is no peace like the peace of Christ!! 

心を尽くして主に信頼し、自分の分別には頼らず。常に主を覚えてあなたの道を歩け。そうすれば、主のあなたの道筋をまっすぐにしてくださる。
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. 
Provers 3:5-6

THE AMERICAN IN ME

As much as I love Japanese food...there are moments when I just crave something covered in sugar, or salsa, or condensed milk...and my American heart leaps for joy HAHA

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1) I was meeting my friends in the city last weekend and had an hour to kill before seeing them and what does my mind randomly jump to for no apparent reason??? CINNABON. 

2) Shaved ice isn't a uniquely American thing, but the size of this one was! HUGE and amazingly delicious with that peach sauce all over it...MAAAAN. I'm convinced small portion size is the reason Japanese people are all so healthy and thin...making it hard to find something here that is actually too big! This shaved ice was a rare, glorious find. 

3) BURGERRRRRRSSSS! My good friend Miri took me to 3rd burger, this cool chain in Tokyo and I got this incredible set meal (Japan is all about having "set meals" for everything). I got the SALSA BURGER which basically is a burger with a bunch of REAL SAlSA on top with cream cheese!!! AHHH and it came with fries and a green smoothie all for 1200yen! hallelujah.

 

Of course I love Japanese food and it will forever reign supreme on the cultural food tower for me...but there are moments in time when it is necessary to just have a excessively sweet, sugar covered cinnamon roll or a burger drenched in salsa (real salsa).  THANK YOU TOKYO.