Letter from Japan

Hey, it’s Mary. How have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages! It’s been too long, pal. I’m missing you like mad! I have to say though, Japan is amazing! Everything is so different here, but I love it. My house is massive! Bigger than all the houses in Dullatur, haha! It has six bedrooms, five bathrooms, three living rooms, two kitchens, a games room and an office. The garden’s massive too! Look here’s a picture of it:My bedroom is the second biggest in the house; I have a king-size bed, a walk-in wardrobe, a 3D 44-inch plasma television, one of the touch-screen computers we used to always talk about before I moved. I also have a balcony that looks over our swimming pool; did I mention we have a pool? Well we do, it’s amazing in the summer, it’s always warm and my friends and I who live in the street can dip in and out of it whenever we want. Even in the winter, it’s still fun to go in because it has a heater but we don’t go in it that much because my friend, Gemma (she’s American and she lives two doors down) has an indoor pool.I have one of the home cinema rooms too; it’s good when I’ve got friends over and when the family are over. There is some American and British people living nearby that were a bonus. When we first arrived, they came round to the door with a bottle of Japanese Whiskey because they knew we were Scottish, and apparently all Scottish people like Whiskey. Anyway, their children are lovely, Gemma, she’s 13 and Graeme, he’s 14, from the Forrest family (they’re American) and the Jones’s family are lovely too, they have one child, Ryan, he’s 15 but we all walk to school together.I have made a few friends here, but most of the people in our school don’t talk much English, apart from the stuff they’ve learnt in English class, but that doesn’t really make a very good conversation. My parents are thinking about hiring a Japanese tutor for me and my brother, so we can get on better in school and stuff, since we do live in a Japanese speaking part of Japan. In school, the English speaking kids do get taken out of some classes for some Japanese lessons but my parents still think I would benefit from a private tutor…you know what they’re like. My school is quite big too, I’ve seen bigger though, here’s a picture:I quite like the lessons in my new school, some of them are the same as Scottish school lessons but I do get taught some traditional Japanese arts like Shodu, which is like calligraphy and Haiku, which is a form of Japanese poetry, it was developed here 400 years ago. It’s very precise, every Haiku has seventeen syllables, and they’re split up into units of five, seven and five syllables. They are written to convey deep emotion apparently, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Haiku teacher shed a tear at any of my poems, well if she has, I can assure you, it’s not because she thinks it’s good…We have loads more trips here than we ever did in Scotland. I’ve been to lots of historical sites and festivals. I’ve also been on some of the trips for the highest achieving pupils, we’ve been on two ski trips and I’ve been on three trips to Kyoto and one trip to Nara. They were so much fun and interesting too! On the trip to Kyoto, they took us to a big museum in the city, I can’t really remember what the museum was for, and I wasn’t paying much attention. As you know, I’m not the biggest fan of museums, anyway, Gemma and I were wandering about, and I should probably say it was one of those really silent places that the only noises you hear are coughs and sneezes and the occasional hiccup.Well, we were walking through whispering to each other and making jokes about some of the things in the museum. I said something to her, and it must have been funny because she burst out laughing and fell backwards into an older man, who fell into one of the exhibits, sending it flying! Luckily, nothing was broken and no-one was hurt, but the old man that Gemma bumped into told one of the security guards when he came that it was Gemma and the guard was shouting at her in Japanese, she laughed, said “sayonara” and walked away, it was rather funny. You don’t have to wear uniform in Elementary school, but most Middle school and High schools make their pupils wear uniform and they’re much stricter than our schools uniform.The boys have to wear black trousers and a blue jacket, with a stand-up collar and the girls wear blue blazers and black knee-length skirts. Just like OLHS, there are lots of extra-curricular activities for us to do like sports clubs (baseball, football, judo, basketball, tennis, gymnastics and volleyball), choir, art clubs, brass band and even tea ceremonies and flower arranging! Our holidays are similar but the only thing different is the new school year starts after our spring break in April. I start school at half 8, and finish at three. Most of my teachers are lovely, they’re very supportive and are helping me as much as they can to pick up the Japanese language, and for that I’m very grateful, although, there are a few teachers who I’m not too fond of, but not as many as there were in Scotland.Our lunches are prepared for us in the classroom; we always have something different, featuring various fishes, meats, vegetables and sea plants. A typical meal is either stew or curry, served with boiled vegetables, a sandwich and a salad. Milk is served with all our meals and we usually have a desert, jelly, ice cream and fruit. I like the meals, they’re always lovely, and they’re healthy too. One of the weirdest things about coming to a Japanese school is, instead of having fire drills, we have earthquake drills.When the alarm goes off, we all have to get under our desks immediately, until the quake is over, then we get hard hats from the front of the class and follow our teacher at that time out to the assembly point which is in the yard, we all squeeze into the middle of the yard, so we’re as far away from the building as possible. We have these drills once a month. If it was a real earthquake, we would have to stay at the school until we were picked up by an adult, in-case something happens to us on the way home, or something has happened to our house and we can’t get in and there’s no-one there.When the kids are in Elementary school, they get to go to the local fire-department and have a go in the earthquake simulation room, that’s a room in the building that’s decorated like a normal Japanese living room, and people go in it to experience an earthquake, the whole room shakes, and all the furniture falls. I haven’t actually been in one of these rooms because the school takes us when we’re 7 and I was 12 when I arrived here. I have had a go in our schools emergency chute; it’s a fast way to get from the top floor to the bottom floor. I know it’s serious but it’s very fun, when you’re not actually in danger!

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