On Monday 13th March, students from the 1st year Gaigo course gave a presentation in English about a social issue. Eight students from among 1-7 and 1-8 were chosen to present to their classmates and teachers. This presentation is a form of preparation for their third year at Wako-ku, where Gaigo students will present a longer graduation presentation on a social issue of their choice.
In addition, on Thursday 16th March, students from the 2nd year Gaigo course had Open Debate. Four debate teams were chosen among 2-7 and 2-8 to participate in a debate in front of the 1st and 2nd year Gaigo students. The topic for debate was, “Convenience stores in Japan should be banned from being open for 24 hours”. One team from both 2-7 and 2-8 ended up winning their debate matches.
These events were a way for students to show their classmates and teachers how much they have grown in the English speaking skills since the beginning of the school year. Congratulations to the 1st and 2nd year Gaigo students on all their hard work this year!
Hi it’s me Tunji! Today was the graduation ceremony. Last year I also attended the graduation ceremony but it was a bit because I didn’t know any of the graduates because I didn’t teach any of them. This year’s graduates are actually students I taught so the feeling was very different. I taught these students when they were 2nd years and also continued on teaching some of them when they became 3rd year students. It was a bit sad to have to say goodbye. In life you’ll meet many people along the way and those people won’t always be a part of your life. How I’m putting it may sound sad but I don’t think that's the important part. When you meet someone there will always come a day where you have to say goodbye but this fact doesn’t change the value that person has to you or affect the memories you made. So I’d like to say it was an honor to teach the students that graduated today. I’m glad to have met you. Despite me being a teacher you all taught me so much. From my heart, thank you.
On Sunday 12th February, students from the FEN debate club participated in the Winter Cup online at school. The students were split into two teams to debate the question: should English be excluded from university entrance exams? The students spent months researching this topic and practicing to prepare for this tournament. Through this competition, they also had the chance to compete with students from different schools, such as Omiya International High School and Inagakuen.
Through their efforts, the two teams of the English debate club won 9th and 11th place in the competition. Although most students were very new to debate at the beginning of the school year, they worked hard to learn debate skills. These results are due to their consistent efforts throughout the year. Congratulations to the FEN club on such excellent results, and to the teachers that supported them!
It's me, Tunji! Last week I had my final lesson at Fujimino High School. Going to a different school every once in a while was a very interesting experience. While at Fujimino I noticed that the teacher and student relationship was quite different from Wakoku. It was quite interesting to see. When the other teachers found out it was my last they chatted with me for an hour during my free period. While I do have mixed feelings about visiting Fujimino, over all I think the experience has given me a unique perspective on the differences and similarities between schools. I’m also glad that my last day was last week because today it snowed for the first time in a long time. It would’ve been troublesome to go to Fujimino.
Since the start of this term, the students in Wakoku have been preparing for the Marathon Day that will take place on February 1. It was unfortunate (the students might disagree) that the run was canceled last year due to COVID-19. This year, we will be taking the scenic route and the students will be running around Lake Sai. The girls will be running 10 km and the boys, 15 km. It might be tough for most of the students but I hope they will have fun and make some fond memories while toughing it out with their friends.
This term, the third year students’ classes have been reduced, with no afternoon classes. This is because they are preparing for their university entrance exams. By the beginning of February, the third year students’ classes will be finished, giving them more time to study and prepare.
It will feel a bit empty at Wako-ku without them, and there are many students and teachers who will miss them. We wish the students good luck with their studies and the entrance exams!
Hello, it’s me Tunji! It’s a little bit late but Happy New Year! I spent the winter break doing nothing in particular so I have nothing to say about that. I started this a few months ago but I hold an English conversation group at lunch. A student of mine asked me if we could have one. I was a bit surprised by their initiative. Now I hold that group 3 to 4 times a week. During that conversation group I also teach students helpful phrases for conversations, grammar, and give them study tips. If there are students who’d like to join all they have to do is ask.
I walked into school the other day to see these laid out near the entrance. The mikan (a variety of mandarin orange) and the daruma are often things commonly seen at the end and beginning of a year.
The Japanese mikan is a familiar sight in Japan during the winter as a classic winter activity in Japan is sitting at a Kotatsu (heated table. A MUST have for winter) eating mikan and watching tv dramas. As for the daruma, it is a round Japanese traditional doll modeled after the founder of Zen tradition in Buddhism. It is seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, making them a popular purchase at the start of a new year. When purchased, the daruma doll’s eyes are both blank white. The owner makes a wish or goal for the year and paints in the left eye of the doll with ink. Once the goal is achieved, the right eye is filled in.
The closing ceremony for winter break has already taken place by the time this article was written, and students have officially gone off for their winter break. As we approach the year end, let’s give ourselves a little break and enjoy the festive season. Have a mikan (under the Kotatsu if you can. Have I mentioned that it is life changing?), give thanks for you have gone through a year safely, despite the ups and downs, and perhaps, purchase a daruma doll so that you can start 2023 with a goal to look forward to.
Have a good winter break!
First, congratulations to all students on finishing your exams for the term. I know you all studied very hard! There is now only one more week until the end of the term, but Wako-ku students are still staying busy.
On Tuesday 13th December, a truck came from the Red Cross to take blood donations at Wako-ku. Both students and teachers came to donate their blood. This will be life-saving for the many people who require blood donations each year.
A big thank you to all the students and teachers who donated their time (and blood) for a good cause!
Hello, it's me Tunji! When I don’t have classes I try to use the school’s training room. Surprisingly, not many students seem to know that such a room exists on campus. When students see me there, they are quite surprised. The other day after I finished using the training room I noticed that some of my students were playing badminton during their P.E. class so I decided to join them. It was the first time in years I’ve played badminton. Although I don’t pay attention to or play many sports, I used to play badminton with friends when I was at university. Playing with the students was a lot of fun and I would like to do it again if I get the chance.
For the team-taught class this semester, the Year 1 Foreign Language students are doing a project titled “News Show”. The students work in small groups to create an original news show. They are given free reign over the news that they report on. They only required to have three types of news reports: an international, a domestic and a free topic. For the free topic, some groups even choose to exercise their creativity by coming up with an original news content.
The students are currently filming their news show. Initially, many students have chosen to do their filming indoor. But the rain a few days back cleared the sky and presented them with a golden opportunity to shot outdoors. At the start of the lesson, the students were hesitant about filming outside but once they stepped out of their classroom, they got excited enjoyed themselves.
We will be viewing the news shows as a class in early December. I am excited and looking forward to know what the students will come up with.
On Friday 18th November, the 1st year girls from each class did a dance performance. The 1st year boys and many teachers came to watch their performance in the gym.
Each class worked hard to choose their songs and learn the choreography for their dance, I could see how hard every student did to give the best performance for us. This was my first time watching the dance performance, which is an annual event at Wako-ku. It was so much fun for me to watch, I’m looking forward to next year!
Congratulations to class 1-4, who came first, and classes 1-8 and 1-5, who came second and third. Most of all, congratulations to all the students who participated, you should all be very proud of yourselves for doing such an amazing job!
Hello it’s me Tunji, this week we made baked cheesecake. Although I prefer rare cheesecake. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I join the handmade club from time to time. This may come as a surprise to some but I really enjoy cooking and baking. Before joining in the handmade club activities I haven't had a chance to bake in over 10 years. I normally cook at home. It’s always funny to see students pass by the club as most are shocked to see me of all people. I find cooking and baking to be a stress reliever. I often watch cooking videos on Youtube as well. If time allows I think I might help the handmade club next year during the culture if they are allowed to sell food.
In preparation for the prefectural debate tournament, Inaho Cup, students from the FEN (short for Fun with English Network) club had been having practice debate matches online. The students debated on the topic of whether the Japanese government should abolish the mandatory retirement age systems. Through these debate matches, the students had the opportunity to hone their skills for debate as well as their critical thinking skills. In addition, since these matches were online, students from all over Saitama as well as other prefectures such as Yamanashi and Fukui were able to take part, thus, allowing the students to make friends with those whom they might not have the opportunity to meet otherwise.
The Inaho Cup will take place on 6th November 2022, this coming Sunday. The students from Wakoku have grown so much in terms of their confidence and skills since their first practice match and I am excited to see how they will fare in the Inaho Cup.
All the best to them!
This week, students had their mid-term exams. While they were working hard, the ALTs had a party with the PTA. For some of the ALTs, this was their first meeting with the PTA.
Members of the PTA had a chance to ask questions and learn more about the ALTs and their home countries. This was also a chance for parents to speak English with native speakers. Afterwards, the ALTs tried kirigami with the parents and had the opportunity to chat with them.
This was my first time doing kirigami. Although it was hard, it was a lot of fun and very rewarding for me to complete my kirigami rabbit! The ALTs also had a wonderful time chatting with parents in both English and Japanese. I’m looking forward to next year’s PTA party!
Hello! It’s me, Tunji! I can’t believe I have been working at Wakoku for a little over a year now. I initially arrived on September 13th 2021 but I didn’t start working until the 27th of that month. Getting used to Wakoku was initially difficult at first because of the pandemic. Over time many things got easier. Getting along with students was initially very difficult as there wasn’t much opportunity for me to talk with them in class. Due to this a lot of students got the impression that I was a scary person or that I wasn’t interested in talking to them. Of course this was not the case. As things calmed down I’ve gotten to know many teachers and students very well. Though it has already started I looked to what will happen during my second year at Wakoku.
Hello everyone! It’s Jade writing this week. I hope you are all enjoying the cooler weather lately. This week I’m going to write about one of Wakoku’s biggest school celebrations.
This week students and teachers all celebrated the sports festival together. What is the sports festival? First of all, in Japanese, the sports festival is called “undokai.” In Japan, schools host two festivals each year. The culture festival and the sports festival. For this school celebration, students participate in various team sports such as relay races, tug of war, and the typhoon event.
As a foreigner, I had never seen the typhoon event before. I thought it was really interesting. To do this event, students huddle together as a team in four rows. The four students in the front are holding onto a long pole. First, the students with the pole must run together to maneuver the pole around some obstacles. Then they must get everyone on their team to jump over the pole which is followed by passing the pole over the heads of the rest of the team. Finally, they pass the pole to the next four students, and everything repeats for another round. The first team to complete ten rounds is the winner!
After the sports events are finished, all of the students participate in a cheer competition. Although everyone participates, it is really the 3rd year students who shine the most during the performances. Students do all sorts of cheers and dances. It was amazing to see how much hard work the students put into preparing their performances. If only they could put that much effort into their homework!
Before the COVID-19, English lunch was an everyday affair at Wakoku. You might be wondering what English lunch is. It was started with the aim to encourage students to converse in English. And what better way to do it than to have it in a relaxing setting and over food (the Singaporean in me says, “Yeay!”). Armed with their lunch boxes, both the ALTs and students would gather in one of the seminar rooms to chat.
However, COVID-19 threw a wrench in this plan as students are now encouraged to not talk when they remove their mask during their meal. Seeing that there will not be any changes to this rule anytime soon, but we would still like to increase the students’ exposure to English, English lunch was revamped to be an English Cartoon session. And on September 27th, we had our first English Cartoon session.
To start this session off, students were shown Spongebob Squarepants in English with English subtitles. Since they would not be talking while they watch the cartoon, students were allowed to bring their lunch boxes and eat as they watch. Even though it was only opened to the Year 1 students, the turnout was better than expected. With this success, we have decided to hold a second session for the Year 2s and 3s on October 11th. Keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that the turnout will be as good as the Year 1s.
This week, the third year students have been preparing for the sports festival. Before and after school, the students have been practicing their dance performance for the festival. Since this will be my first sports festival at Wakoku, I am looking forward to the event!
In Australia, the school sports festival is a little different. The events at our festivals usually include shotput, high jump, long jump, running, and relay races. We also have another event in the year called the swimming carnival, where students compete in races for backstroke, butterfly, and so on. I am looking forward to seeing the different events at the sport festival at Wakoku.
Good luck to the students who are working hard for the sports festival!
Hello it’s me, Tunji! Unlike most people, I didn’t travel during the summer break. I honestly didn’t have that much time off to begin with. While I was working I took the opportunity to check out the various club practices that went on during the summer. Apart from ESS, I took the opportunity to watch the girls basketball team and the Shorinji Kempo club practice. I had been previously invited to watch the basketball play so I took the opportunity so as it was easier to fit in my schedule during the summer. As for the Shorinji Kempo club, I've always been interested in martial arts so it was very interesting to watch. One of the members even placed 4th in a national competition everyone is so talented.
Welcome back to the start of a new semester. It’s Jade writing today! Let’s talk about clubs at Wakoku today. In particular, I’d like to tell you about the Handmade Club!
Handmade club happens every Tuesday after school. In this club, students can learn how to make delicious food with their friends. Usually, we cook something sweet. For example, we have made chocolate chip cupcakes, delicious crêpes, and last week we made decadent French toast. So many of the students at Wakoku are already amazing chefs and can make some great-tasting food. Hopefully being able to cook together at school inspires everyone to keep on trying new things in the kitchen.
In Canada, my home country, there usually aren’t after-school club activities like Handmade Club. Instead, Canadian students can experience the fun of cooking during Home Economics class where they learn how to make all different kinds of food. In Canada, I enjoyed taking Home Economics class and now I’m enjoying seeing how a similar activity happens in Japan.
There are many differences in the tools and equipment used in Japanese kitchens vs Canadian kitchens. Canadian kitchens always have large ovens and stove tops but there usually aren’t things like gas ranges and rice cookers. Japanese kitchens use chopsticks a lot more in cooking and make much better use of the microwave. In the end, however, equipment and tools don’t matter as long as there is tasty food being made and enjoyed by the people close to us.
Let me give a huge thank you to Handmade Club for letting me join them and share in the joy of cooking together!
Welcome back to school!
This summer, I had the chance to pop back into Singapore for a visit, after not being able to go home for the past two years. To say that I was excited was quite an understatement.
I have always heard about how people would experience reverse culture shock after being overseas for a period of time and I had a taste of it on my first train ride back in Singapore. Having been used to the tranquility of Japanese train ride, it took me awhile to get used to the chatter that is common in trains in Singapore. The moment I got on the train, I was greeted by many different conversations spoken in different languages. In that short 20 minutes train ride, I heard an Indian mother talking to her child in Tamil, a pair of Filipino ladies talking animatedly in Tagalog and a group of girls that looked like they were of high school age gossiping in Singlish. Gone was the tranquility of train rides that I had gotten so used to in Japan. In its place was a variety of conversations in different languages (and sometimes volume that borders on invading personal space). The short train ride itself was a glimpse of Singapore’s multi-cultural society. It was at that moment that the thought, “Ah, welcome back to Singapore!” popped into my head.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time back in Singapore tremendously. There is just something about home that settles the heart. Even though I am not much of a foodie (a person who loves food and is very interested in different types of food), I found myself seeking comfort in the familiarity of the taste of local Singapore food, especially those found in hawker centers (non-airconditioned food courts in Singapore). The dish in the picture attached to this article is Fried Hokkien Mee, literally ‘Fujian Noodle’. It is a dish of stir-fried noodles with egg, pork slices, prawns and squid. Even though it is named ‘Fujian noodle’, it is not known to the Fujian province in China and had been created by Fujian sailors who came to Singapore after World War II. I chose to feature this because it is one of the local foods that Singapore is known and the best that I had during this trip back home. Please try it if you ever visit Singapore.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit home this summer. This little taste of home had recharged me, and I’m all geared up for the new school term. Looking forward to an exciting school term ahead!
Hello it’s me, Tunji! Towards the end of every semester Wakoku holds some joint classes with other schools. The English ALTs also take part in some of these joint classes. Wakoku is rare in the case that it has 4 English ALT’s working at the school. Not many schools have even one ALT. Most of the joint lessons held with the ALTs are with the neighboring special schools. Due to the pandemic we are unable to go to the schools in person instead we hold these lessons on Zoom. The lessons commonly consist of self introductions from the ALTs and students along with activities about the things we like. It’s an interesting change of pace from
the normal classes that we have at Wakoku.
This week at Wakoku, students have been writing their end of term one exams and teachers have been busy working through grading the piles of exams that have stacked up on their desks. Thankfully it’s not been as hot this week as the last, so everyone is feeling at least more physically comfortable now that the mental discomfort has gone up.
Students in Japan write a lot of exams compared to many other countries in the world. Japanese schools divide their academic year into three different semesters. Each semester, students write midterm and end of term exams. These exam periods are in addition to any extra tests and quizzes that are given during regular class time. Students also must worry about things like entrance exams to even get into high school and later again when applying to university.
This leads to a lot of studying. Japanese students are master studiers. Coming to school in the morning during exam week, students can even be seen doing last minute studying on the trains and busses and even some as they walk to school. The amount of effort that they put into their studies and at achieving academic success is inspiring.
Hopefully all of their preparations have paid off and the students of Wakoku will be proud of themselves for their achievements in the first term of this year.
Before coming to Japan, any idea I had of Japanese high school cultural festivals was mostly from what I have read in manga, which had gotten me very curious and I often wondered if I would ever get a chance to experience it. “My manga was telling me the truth!” was what I had thought when I first experienced Wakoku’s Cultural Festival in 2018. I was blown away. There were so much creativity and talents showcased during the Cultural Festival.
The theme for Cultural Festival in Wakoku this year was “Gameshow”. By making use of the premises of games such as Minecraft and Biohazard and drama series such as Squid game, the classes transformed their classrooms into attractions such escape rooms, casinos (don’t worry, no real money was traded), horror houses or even thrill rides (Yes! Students built a ride in their classroom). Through a play of words (e.g. Class 3-8 used Biohazard as their premise and named their attraction 8nohazard) or the incorporation of their home room teacher’s name (e.g. Mr Sakamoto’s class attraction was Poppy Sakamotime), these attractions were given a catchy name. The students also drew posters by hand and plastered them all over school. Even the staircases were not spared.
Besides the class attractions, there was an outdoor stage where students held the Best Class T-shirt contest, danced to the latest K-Pop tune and played the guitar using the finger-slapping style. Even though the weather was sweltering, the performances on the outdoor stage attracted a large crowd of both students and guests such as parents and junior high school students. It was truly a testimony of how good these performances were for the crowds to endure such heat just to catch them.
Another highlight for Cultural Festival was the student bands. It is common for students from different classes and levels to form a band. Most of them do covers of a variety of genre of music but occasionally, a band will play an original song of their own. It amazes me because such bands are rare in Singapore and being a J-Rock and indie fan, I often read about how professional bands started out playing together in their high school years. Seeing my students play had convinced me that such traditional still holds. Who knows, maybe one of these student bands would turn professional one of these days.
Even though this is my fourth year experiencing a Cultural Festival, I am still in awe by the talents that I see every year. I am sure that this is one thing that I will miss when my contract with the JET Program finishes.
On Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of June this week, Wakoku will have their cultural festival. In the lead up to this event, students have been working hard in their homerooms and clubs to prepare for the many events during this time.
Some classes are preparing exciting games with various themes, such as Squid Game, Splatoon, and Minecraft. Many clubs are preparing as well, such as the ESS club, who will perform in the gym, and the Manga club, who will hold an exhibition of their artworks. During this time, the students have a lot of excitement and energy, and are proudly wearing their special class t-shirts.
This will be my first cultural festival, and I am very excited to see what the students have prepared this year. Since I never had an event like this in my high school in Australia, this will be a very unique experience for me.
There will be many games, performances, and exhibitions, so I hope everyone enjoys the cultural festival!
Hello this is Tunji, when I was in high school I wasn’t really in any clubs because there were not many at my high school. I was surprised to see that there are some interesting and unique clubs at Wakoku. I’ve been helping the ESS club with their pronunciation and other things. For those who don’t know, ESS stands for English Speaking Society. It’s essentially an English Drama club. ESS is a very interesting club and the club members are very kind and welcoming. For their productions they get help from people who were club members years ago. This is something you don’t see in the United States. I’m looking forward to their next production.
Recently Wakoku welcomed a new student who is participating in a school exchange program between Japan and Italy. Alessio is originally from Rome, Italy and will be staying in Japan for five months. He will spend part of his time attending school here in Wako and part of his time in Sakado. In Italy, Alessio had been studying Japanese for about a month before departing on his trip. Besides enjoying travelling and experiencing new cultures, he is also a big fan of basketball, cooking, and spending time with friends.
Speaking with him, he seems like a very kind and easy-going person. When I asked him why he chose to come to Japan, he said “why not?” He is looking forward to experiencing and getting to know Japanese people on a more personal level and making connections with new friends. While he is here, he will be staying with a host family so hopefully it is easy for him to achieve his goal of experiencing Japanese daily life and meeting many Japanese people.
I also asked him what part of Italian culture he would like to share with his new Japanese friends and his answer was quick, “the food!” I’m sure everyone would be happy to enjoy some delicious Italian cuisine anytime. He says that he is enjoying his time in Japan and that he thinks the coolest thing about Japan is the mix of old and new everywhere as that is something he cannot experience in Italy. He also says that he likes that the staff and students at Wakoku have been so welcoming towards him as that is not always the case when travelling abroad.
We here at Wakoku certainly hope that Alessio continues to enjoy his time in Japan. If you see him around the school, please take a moment to say hello.
June 10, 2022
By Jade Hanson
by Chin Jie Yun
Excitement filled the air this week at Wako International High School as students prepared to go on their school trip, which occurred after the Term 1 Mid-term test. The students were excited and looking forward to this trip as a change of pace after having studied hard for the mid-term test.
These school trips usually take place in a surrounding prefecture. This year, the Year 1 students went to Chiba prefecture to pick clams by the seashore, an activity commonly done in the summer, whereas the Year 2 students travelled out further to Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture to learn about the history of Japan as Kamakura was the political center of Japan in the late 12th century. Also in Kanagawa prefecture, the Year 3 students had a taste of a different culture in Yokohama as they visited Motomachi-chukagai, otherwise known as Chinatown.
Seeing how excited the students were for their school trips brought back fond memories of my own school trips when I was a student. It is during school trips when students bond with their friends and create memories to remember their high school life with. I am looking forward to the stories that the students will share when they come back to school next week.
This week, students had their mid-term exams for term 1. For the first year students, this was their first exams since entering high school. Lots of the students were nervous, but everyone has been studying very hard to do their best for these exams.
With spring almost finished, the days are getting hotter, and the rainy season has begun. The hot and humid summer in Japan is very different to summer in my home country, Australia, where summer is very dry.
Many students are looking forward to being able to enjoy the nice weather now that exams are over. Good job to all the students on finishing your exams!
Hello! This is Tunji Kayode! I normally walk to school. On Fridays I sometimes work at Fujimino high school and when I do, if the weather is good I also walk to the school. The scenery of Wako City and Fujimino are quite different. Along the way for both schools I see students I recognize which is interesting since they are sometimes heading in opposite directions, from Wako to Fujimino and Fujimino to Wako. In California it is very rare for high school students to commute a long way to go to school. Most students attend school based on districts and where they live. It is interesting to think about the small differences between our countries.
A Well-Deserved Break – Golden Week at Wakoku
This week was a little different for Wakoku students and teachers. Due to the generous number of public holidays in Japan, everyone was able to enjoy staying home on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The students have been working very hard since the beginning of the semester and so some time at home to focus on hobbies, spend time with family or catch up on sleep was greatly appreciated. Friday morning it was back to work for everyone but with one question being repeated over and over in the hallways and classrooms: “What did you do for Golden Week?” For me, I visited the annual Bonsai Festival in Omiya Bonsai Village. Golden Week is the perfect opportunity to learn about Japan and Japanese culture for us ALTs.
“In the Heights” Performance
Every year, Wako International High School’s English drama club, English Speaking Society (ESS), puts up a performance in spring. This year, ESS put up “In the Heights”, an adaptation of a musical about the Dominican American neighborhood of Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, New York City. The students in ESS had worked hard since last school term to prepare for this performance. To include the audience in a lottery that was in the performance, the ESS students made lottery tickets and gave them out before the start of the performance. Kudos to the ESS students for putting up such a fun and colorful performance.
by Chin Jie Yun