My First Traditional Japanese New Year



Hi everyone, long time no see! Happy 2015! It's the year of the sheep, so we say "Nice to see ewe*!"

This year, I spent New Year's Eve and New Year's Day at my friend's family's home. For the first time, I experienced a traditional Japanese oshogatsu! It was very fun, and I learned a lot about Japanese customs.

Soup with Rice cakes‐very good!
First of all, we spent December 31st relaxing at their home and eating delicious food like rice cakes, soba noodles, and sushi. I helped my friend's mother cook for a few hours.

While we ate, we chatted and laughed, and didn't worry about things like work or studying.

In the evening, a television program with many different musicians came on, and we all watched TV together while eating again. Outside, the weather became colder and colder. We debating going to a shrine at midnight. Finally, we decided to go quickly before it started to snow.

The shrine was more crowded that I expected, and a long line of people were waiting on the stairs. For about 20 minutes, we stood outside in the cold until we finally reached the top. 

At the shrine, we tossed some coins into the collection box, then closed our eyes, put our hands together, and prayed for health and happiness in the new year. Even though I don't believe in any gods or spirits, the atmosphere was very nice! 

Just as we arrived back at my friend's house, it began to snow lightly. By the morning, all of the ground and houses were covered in white powder! It was a beautiful morning, and a great start to 2015!

That day, we gathered at the table again and I enjoyed my first osechi. We don't have this dish in the US, so I was very eager to try it. Everything was delicious! Especially the black beans, which were very sweet. There was nothing that I disliked. 


Did you enjoy your New Year's holiday, too? I hope you enjoyed some good food in good company. 

Anyway, let's do our best this year and stick to our resolutions! 

See you soon!
Michelle B. 

* An "ewe" is a female sheep! It's pronounced almost like "you."





Hello, my name is Michael.

I arrived in Japan early December from St. Louis, Missouri in the USA.

St. Louis, MO is in the Midwest (the center of the USA) where the two biggest rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, meet.  

St. Louis is popular for its musical heritage.  Check out, Miles Davis, Scott Joplin, Allison Krauss, or Wilco.)  St. Louis is also known for some famous writers, for example, T.S. Elliot, William Burroughs, and Tennessee Williams.  Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) also came from and wrote about Missouri.  

The popular horror film, The Exorcist, is based on a true story that happened in a hospital in St. Louis.  There are many haunted mansions in St. Louis from old families who brewed beer there.  The Anheuser Busch brewery, which makes Budweiser, is in St. Louis, and so is the second most successful baseball club (second to the New York Yankees), the Cardinals.  

Yankee has a different meaning in the USA than it does outside the USA.  To Americans, a yankee is someone from a northern state, especially from the New England area.  In the American Civil War, a yankee fought for the Union (the North).  Its not always clear the difference between the North and the South in the USA.  Missouri was a divided state during the Civil War, and has characteristics and values of both the North and the South.

I hope you had a safe New Year. 

I am happy it is beginning to warm up a little here in Shunan.


Beautiful Winter Hofu



Hello, this is Taylor. I spent winter vacation in Hofu with my family. It was very nice, but I don't really have anything exciting to share about it. So instead I want to share a few photographs I've taken around Hofu this winter with my phone. I think that Hofu is a very beautiful area, full of mountains, rivers, coastline, islands and beautiful scenery. We are so lucky to live in a place with so many beautiful things to see every day.

My home is near the Saba River, so I often go there for a relaxing walk. Here are a few photos from the river:


Of course, in Hofu the river is not the only water--we have lots of coastline. There are many beautiful places along the sea. One of my favorites is the beach in Nakanoura. It's a quiet, peaceful place and a great spot for watching the sunset.


At night, we often have a clear sky overhead. While the city's lights are too bright for us to really see many stars or the Milky Way, we can still see some stars and we can of course see the moon. Here is a photo of the moon taken in Mitajiri.


Wherever you live, I hope you also can find a moment or two to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us every day!


Our Trip To Miyajima Over The New Year Holiday



Posted by Rob Ellsworth

On the 29th of December, Karina and I went to Miyajima for first time. As we were arriving to our destination we realized that finding a parking spot might be more difficult than we had hoped. Luckily, our timing was right and we got the closest spot next to the ferry. As we got off the ferry we were greeted by a few beautiful deer and it seemed that are trip was getting off on the right foot.


After taking some photos around the commercial area of Miyajima we headed up towards the shrines to have a look and hopefully capture a few nice moments on camera.



After looking around and exploring as much as we could we decided to head up the long trail to the peak of Mount Misen. 


After making it to the peak of Mount Misen we took the rope-way down and enjoyed the oysters pack in the market area. After that it began to get dark and we made our way back home.  Overall a successful road trip looking forward to the next one. 



"Big D"



Hello Everyone and Happy New Year!

My name is Tracey, and I'm a new teacher at SES. I'm so happy to now be living in Japan! Before moving here, I lived in Dallas, TX for almost 14 years. It's such a cool city! Would you like to know more? Here's a bit of information I thought I'd share:

  •  Dallas is the 9th largest city in the United States.
  •  Dallas is the 3rd largest city in Texas (Houston is 1st and San Antonio is 2nd).
  •  Approximately 1.28 million people live in Dallas.
  •  Dallas is home to DFW International Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world.  
  •  Dallas is home to five major league sports teams. They are:
    • Dallas Cowboys (Football)
    • Texas Rangers (Baseball) ** 3 Japanese players have been or are currently on their roster (Koji Uehara, Yu Darvish and Kyuji Fujisawa) **
    • Dallas Mavericks (Basketball)
    • Dallas Stars (Hockey)
    • FC Dallas (Soccer)
  •  On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas.
  •  7-Eleven originated in Dallas, TX in 1927. 7-Eleven Inc., is headquartered in Dallas as well.
  •  Toyota is relocating its US headquarters to Plano, TX, a city in the DFW metroplex.
  •  Sendai, Japan is an international friendship city to Dallas.

Take a look at my hometown!  

Dallas skyline
ダラス スカイライン
Big Tex
ビッグ テックス
Winspear Opera House - AT&T Performing Arts Center

Klyde Warren Park
Pioneer Plaza
Dallas Love Field Airport
ダラス ラブフィールド空港
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Deep Ellum
DART Rail Station
The Sixth Floor Museum


I hope that you enjoyed my little virtual trip back home. If you're ever in Dallas, I think that you'll love the city just as much as I do. See you!