Winter JETNet – Sharing Winter Traditions With Japanese Communities

One of the tenants of the JET Programme (Japanese Exchange & Teaching Programme) is to advocate grass roots internationalization through the communities we are placed in.

Here in Nara, we take that very seriously and have multiple “JETNets” throughout the year where the residents of Nara can come and interact with us by means of games, performances, meals, and more. Last week we held our ‘winter’ themed event. Let me tell you, it was great.

Held in Kashihara City’s government office, our winter theme kicked off at 10:00 AM…on a Saturday…I know its early but its worth it!

Occupying a large, empty, and freezing room on the fourth floor, we began the day with something every event in Japan must have…an opening ceremony. Yup, I think it is virtually impossible for Japanese events to not have an opening ceremony in some way and we mimic that. 2015-01-31 10.04.00

Above you can see everyone gathered together as we listened to the morning speech by one of our resident Councilors of International Relations (CIR) from the Nara JETs. Pretty much a Japanese language sage, he explained the days activities to everyone and even threw in a few jokes.

Afterwards, we began our first activity. This game just so happened to revolve around snowball fights – something I hope everybody has experienced at one point in their life. But how are we to have a snowball fight inside, you may ask? I mean, yes it is freezing…but is there snow? Don’t worry it’ll all be clear when I explain the rules.

Activity #1:

1. Grab a large piece of paper and write your name on it.

2. Crumple up that piece of paper into a “snowball.”

3. Wait for the music to play and start throwing the snowballs like mad, trying to hit everyone possible.

4. Once the music stops, grab the closest paper, open it, and go introduce yourself to the person whose name is written down.

5. Make sure to retrieve the paper with your name on it so that you can use that to throw in the next round!

This was a great way to meet many of the Japanese attendees and practice English with them. Just a few simple phrases like what’s your name, where are you from, what’s your favorite food? It was pretty funny though when one of our JETs ended up with his own name to talk to. He had a fun conversation with himself.2015-01-31 10.16.21

Before too long, it was time for our second activity…dancing.

Activity #2: The Hokie Pokie and Youkai Watch Dance

We quickly gathered everybody into a large circle around the room and taught the hokie pokie. What made it really interesting is that many of us JETs come from multiple countries around the world, so our various interpretations of the hokie pokie had to meld into one. It worked out pretty well, especially when one of the Japanese attendants decided to add a bit of twerking to it ;).

Oh, and did I mention there was a camera crew there, filming the whole thing…2015-01-31 10.33.14

Soon after the hokie pokie, we all stumbled our way through the Youkai Watch theme dance. For context, Youkai Watch is the newest children’s cartoon craze in Japan rivaling even Pokemon’s beginnings. Here is the dance we had to do:

Luckily, two of the children at the event were pro Youkai Watch dancers and showed us how to do it right! I’m sorry that I don’t have any footage of us dancing to that, I’m sure you’d get a blast out of us falling over each other. I personally felt it was a bit like Thriller, so I just started dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, in my head.

Anyways, with the dancing completed and everybody tired from being out of shape  dancing, we all sat down to listen to some winter tradition presentations from some of the JETs.

First up, Jamaica!2015-01-31 10.53.49Our resident Jamaican ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) taught us how very different Jamaica is from the rest of the world, especially Japan, when it comes to winter time. Instead of bundling up in thick sweaters and coats and searching for the hottest soup or nabe you can find, Jamaica has Carneval traditions of parading through the streets in summer clothes, going to the beach, and drinking sorrel – an alcoholic drink made from a flower in Jamaica.

The presentation was very well done and constantly interrupted with, “eeeeeeeeehhhhhhh,” or, “ooooooooooooooh,” from our guests. It was so fun introducing some of the kids and others to a different culture. jamaican-sorrel-9Also, I need to find that Jamaican drink, Sorrel. It is, apparently, a traditional Caribbean drink and the recipe seems a bit like sangria. Here’s another item on my Japan Bucket List.

Second, Kentucky, USA!

Now, I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of this presentation but one of our ALTs from Kentucky did an amazing job speaking entirely in Japanese while giving us all a sneak peak into Kentucky winters. Basically, it was amazing and made me miss the USA so much. His Christmas breakfast consisted of a glorious hearty American breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, and more. I was incredibly jealous. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get good photos…too distracted!

Next up, the United Kingdom!2015-01-31 11.23.39

One of our UK ALTs decided to teach us about Burns Night, a holiday celebrated in Scotland to remember Robert Burns. Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, was, apparently, voted as the greatest Scotsman ever and as a result, a holiday was made in his honor.

Throughout the night, people recite some of his poetry, have dances, and recant speeches from the lads (boys) to the lassies (girls) and vice verse. However, my favorite part of the holiday is the HAGGIS!2015-01-31 11.26.00You may not be able to tell from this picture, but the power point in the background is displaying tons of haggis! This was apparently Burns’ favorite food and his poem, “address to a Haggis,” is read every Burns Night before the customary serving of the supper. The following video of this ceremony was showed to the crowd at JETNet and many people were pretty shocked by it. Check it out below:

I cannot begin to understand what exactly is being said, but basically…Robert Burns loved some haggis! Our ALT translated a bit of the old Scottish for us and it led to a hilarious presentation.

Finally, after seeing some winter songs like, Merry Christmas and Let It Snow, we sat down for lunch before the afternoon game activities. For the rest of the day we separated a few of us who were voluntold volunteered into groups to lead 1 of 7 activities around the room. People could choose which booths to visit and participate in their activities for periods of 15 minutes before they had to move to the next booth.

We had a paper plane booth, where people competed in making the most efficient paper airplanes.

We had a tea and coffee booth to try and make all kinds of drinks.

We even had an English card game booth where people wrote down words and practiced them together.

My partner and I, however, organized Physical Activities Booth #2…the best one. For most of the afternoon we held a Vocab-Sumo wrestling game where people pinned wintery vocab words to their backs and had to fight each other to pull the cards off of their opponents. Those who weren’t competing, stood in a circle and cheered their teams on. It was a lot of fun. 2015-01-31 15.05.17

Finally, the day was close to an end and we decided to wrap everything up with a massive game of 80 person musical chairs! I was eliminated first…

Overall, I think everybody had an amazing time and the day went by rather quickly. I started recognizing faces from previous JETNets, so I hope they come back for future events. The closest one is a prefecture-wide arts show where many of us ALTs and CIRs compete in a Talent Show!

I have to figure out what I’m going to do…maybe a fusion of the Youkai Watch dance and Thriller..

Categories: Japan, JET, Nara PrefectureTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. This is quite the well-written blog entry, Jon!! I kind of regret missing out on it as you make it sound outstanding!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jonathan. I like your blog and posts so much that I have nominated you to 4 blog awards. Yes, 4! No pressure, tough! It is up to you if you want to accept it or not.


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