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Monday, December 8, 2014

The Year In Music (2014)

December is a magical time. It's when we all put aside our differences and celebrate the majesty of things that we most enjoyed throughout the year. 

In that spirit, let's not waste a beat; here's the music that I liked in 2014.

 Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else


Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

 Spoon - They Want My Soul


 Jack White - Lazaretto


The Antlers - Familiars


 Wye Oak - Shriek


Brian Eno and Karl Hyde - High Life


The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream


 Flying Lotus - You're Dead!


 clipping. - CLPPNG


Caribou - Our Love


 Manon meurt - Manon meurt


Strand of Oaks - Heal


Ariel Pink - Pom Pom


 Run The Jewels - RTJ2


Perfect Pussy - Say Yes To Love


tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack


 FKA twigs - LP1


Todd Terje - It's Album Time


 Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal


Perfume Genius - Too Bright


Mac DeMarco - Salad Days


Real Estate - Atlas


 Lykke Li - I Never Learn


St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Dum Dum Girls - Too True

Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else 

Macross 82-99 - Sailorwave
(This technically came out last year December 31st... so...)

Cibo Matto - Hotel Valentine

ceo - Wonderland

Kishi Bashi - Lighght
Taylor Swift - 1989
(It was a strong pop album, but the lyrics prevent me from rating it too highly) 

What's on your list this year?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Film: Jurassic World Trailer

Finals are here, so there's not been much for me to do these last couple of days. I've managed to avoid spontaneous combustion by maintaining a few scraps of busywork here and there but it's mostly negligible things.

Having said that, I figure this would be an appropriate time for me to discuss something that hopefully many of us are looking forward to: the return of two classic franchises in both Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode VII.

Let's start with Jurassic World. In the unlikely event that you haven't seen the trailer, please take a minute to do so now. Short as it is, I think there's quite a bit to digest.

One of the first things I'm terribly pleased about is, first-timers to the franchise, director/co-writer Collin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly. Their previous film Safety Not Guaranteed which Connolly wrote, and Trevorrow directed and produced, was a tremendous film that I think speaks to why they would be suited to take over this franchise. Without spoiling much, the concept of Safety Not Guaranteed stems from a joke ad that achieved internet fame in the late 90s.* Here's the ad in case you've forgotten it:

It spawned a wide range of memes often pairing the ad with a humorous and unflattering shot of an unidentified individual. In Safety it plays central to the plot, which takes place in a universe where the ad is not a joke but has been placed by a man who believes himself to be capable of time travel. So how does this relate to Jurassic World? Quite a bit in fact.

Let's think about the original Jurassic Park for a minute to to answer this. The leap is that man was able to recreate dinosaur through genetic chicanery. That's a big leap too. Science has long since dismissed the foundation of the novel and film as being impossible by virtue of the fact that DNA simply doesn't survive that long.** It turns out this really didn't matter though. People voraciously read through the books - as did I at the tender dinosaur loving age of 10. The movie took people by storm, and with but a quick scan of lists is often considered one of the greatest films of all time, certainly one of the more notable ones. It didn't matter that it couldn't happen. What mattered is that the story was interesting, had a great cast, and was of course visually dynamic. The CG definitely helped, but once you take note of the fact that out of 127 minutes, 6 have dino-CG and 14 total feature dinosaurs at all, it becomes a different story.

Safety Not Guaranteed takes a huge leap as well, but I contend that much like Jurassic Park, it's not the point, nor really is it the gamble. The gamble is trusting the story and characters to make the leap as seamlessly as possible. The dialogue was fantastic in Safety Not Guaranteed, the characters felt like more than cardboard cutouts, each of whom dealt with their own personal conflicts over the course of the runtime. That it dealt it with a man proposing time travel played second fiddle to the real point of the film.

This of course brings me back to Jurassic World. I can place trust in Trevorrow/Connolly to create a sense of purpose for these characters beneath the veneer of a shiny new dinosaur inhabited park. Much like the first (and best so far) entry in the series, it will rely on more than a gimmick to make it memorable. This is course is evidenced by the supreme lack of plot and nearly pointless characters introduced in the forgettable Jurassic Park III.

So what else makes me excited about this movie? I think the plot so far as we know is more clever than people are giving it credit for. From what has been revealed the movie involves a working theme park set twenty two years after the events of the first film. From what the director has stated the park is fully operational yet interest has slowly declined in recent years. This results in the geneticists being tasked with creating a brand new hybrid dinosaur. By the way, that's the new leap.

It's humorous to me that people would be upset about this at all. I'm reminded of a Kumail Nanjiani joke wherein he rhapsodizes about a stray cat that tries repeatedly to enter his house. At one point the cat comes dressed in a pizza delivery outfit and proclaims it's from "Meowminoes," to which Kumail says, "...So we had it put down." The audience groans but he soaks up their reaction following with, "Really? At what point did you believe that story tale? Meowminoes made sense to you?" That's how I feel about people reacting negatively to the news about a hybrid dinosaur. A fully operational dinosaur park visited by tens of thousands daily, and you groan about a hybrid dinosaur? I propose that the hybrid dinosaur is precisely why this plot is clever.

Again we need the first movie real quick to help with my point. I believe it was as much a commentary on the state of computer generated graphics as it was an adventurous good time. Such a thing hadn't existed before Jurassic Park and as a result of its triumph CG dominated movies have become increasingly common. That's where Jurassic World has had trouble. It had been in development for many years, and some versions of the script that leaked along the way included mechanized dino-soldier hybrids.*** So what could World do when Park had already been there - quite successfully as well? You change the commentary to adapt the attitude. When people were blown away by the CG dinosaurs, it would be equally as accurate to say that people were blown by the CG. In Jurassic World the attractions are commonplace and people are accustomed to it much in the way that modern audiences live in a world where CG is commonplace and the fantastic no longer exists solely in dreams. I feel this is the purpose that the hybrid, allegedly D-Rex, serves.

Audiences are bored so we've got to shake things up by making a brand new dinosaur. 

That's really clever because as a statement it exists both within and without the universe of the movie.

That having been said, how cool was that trailer!?


* For more on that check out the Know Your Meme article, which is actually quite detailed.
** Darn science. It seems it's only about 521 years for DNA to hit its half-life
*** ILM has since denied that these were 'official' part of JP4's (as it was called then) production. But given that hybridization is a part of this plot, I'd be willing to be it wasn't far off.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Opinion: It's Time

     Sadly, today's topic is not a fun one, but it is something that ever more needs addressing.

     Just recently I read about an alarming incident that had affected a fellow ALT who joined the JET program the same year as I did. I remember our conversations mostly from the plane to Tokyo, and inside the Keio Plaza Hotel where we had orientation for several days. We parted ways after that - as is the sad but true nature of the program - but I would still read the things she posted long after that. I was shocked and quite upset at what I last read.

     But rather than telling you myself, I'll let her do it:

      It was a disgusting event to say the least. I became filled with a kind of shame mixed with sadness at the audacity this guy had to approach a person he did not know and assault her in the way that he did. It's tragic for women - because this is the reality that they deal with - and it's shameful for men who must share associations with these kind of immoral people.

     After lunch we had a meeting in the staffroom today. Almost as if some omnipresent being were attempting to underline the issue at hand, the topic was sadly similar.

     One of our 3rd years (whose name I will omit here, naturally) was walking home from school just last night after club activities. A stranger in a car had approached this student and began talking. The initial conversation started off with school related things (which is already odd enough) and then, as suddenly as he came, drove off. The student in question proceeded to walk home. Mere moments later, the stranger had circled back and began his round of questions once more. I do not know what they discussed from this point, but what I do know is that at some point he moved from inside to outside his car. Again, the contents of their discussion was left out of what I was told but eventually he touched this student. I don't know where, and quite honestly I don't need to. The student was scared (obviously) and ran home. The parents were quickly informed about what happened and they in turned phoned the school. We don't know who this man is, or what he drove, so there might not be much that the police will be able to do, but I should hope that he is caught and dealt with accordingly.

     It was disturbing to see both events have such similar circumstances. The somewhat friendly and seemingly harmless initial banter followed shortly by a departure only to then be harassed a second time with twice the force. It's as if agreeing to a conversation with these people has somehow convinced them that they've also been granted some form of sexual permission. It's scary to think - and know - that these people most definitely exist.

     There is a larger issue here though. I've never subscribed to the logical fallacy known as "victim-blaming," because it is as ludicrous as it sounds. When I think of these ordeals, my gut reaction is to tell women to simply ignore advances by men they don't know. That's wrong though, and here's why: That's still victim-blaming. The implication of saying that is akin to telling the victim that they need to more vigilant about how they avoid people who want to cause them harm. This is not the world I want my friends to live in. It's not the world I want to tell my daughters (should I have them) they will have to be aware of. It's not the way I want people to think about this issue because it does not inherently reprimand amoral behavior.

     The only way to deal with this is head-on. Women shouldn't have to change how they live. Out of my own nature I would always advise everyone to be careful no matter who you are, but that is not to say that the onus is solely on women. Quite the contrary, the responsibility lies within society to ostracize, condemn, and in all other ways punish this filthy behavior. And since we are society (for better or worse) that places agency ever so delicately in our hands.

     All of which is to say: We can do better than this. So let's do that.

For anyone who has dealt with this kind of assault, harassment (in all forms), or violence, you have my deepest sympathies. I can't begin to imagine how frightening your world must be. 



Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Way You Speak To Me

Episode 11 - Irohasu (Orange)

I apologize for the delay in this episode but we've just been back to back busy with all manner of events and circumstance that we - as ALTs - find ourselves constantly in the middle of. This week we're talking speech contests! Mitsuko and I both share some strong opinions as well as stories from our past experiences with this yearly school event. As a bonus we've got special guest Brianna Hom making her first appearance on the show. All the way from Akita-ken, Brianna recounts the huge impact her first speech contest left on her.

Show Notes

-The drink for this week is actually water! It's fairly common and I've seen it in just about every single vending machine I've stopped by. Here's some googled images as I don't have my phone and we're just going to have to make do!

Yep, it's water.

The spacing of the "I" is still odd to us.

-We definitely shared some strong opinions this time around so I feel this episode would benefit from a disclaimer. We spoke our minds and opinions honestly. I think we did so while also being mindful and culturally sensitive to the topic at hand. I'm positive many people will disagree with the feelings we expressed, and that's fine! Let me know what you think; I really do want to hear about it.

-Here's a shot from the contest itself:

To preserve their privacy (and my entertainment) their faces have been replaced with dots.
My kids are the "Akachuu" Red ones.

All the students got on the stage to do some last minute practicing upon arrival. I was instructed to make my kids do it as well. Honestly I would've avoided that since A) Everyone talking at once is hardly conducive to concentration B) I doubt it did any favors to the butterflies in their stomachs, and C) If you still required practice by that late into the game then you have more problems than a last minute rehearsal would fix.

My kids were dropped off by another JTE - who had to go back to work immediately thereafter - and I drove myself, so it was just the four of us for most of the day.


As always you can find us on iTunes so be sure to subscribe if you haven't already!

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Make sure to read Mitsuko's blog right here:

Chicchai Adventures!

 And special thanks again to Brianna Hom for taking the time to chat with me!
Check our her adventures (and alliteration right here:

Ask her anything, she's nice!

As always if you have thoughts, comments, suggestions,
critiques, or maybe you want to find out how to be a guest on the show, send us an email at:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Long Enough

I've been so busy this last month.

View from Kobe Port Tower

     My work is a series of violent waves; it's dynamic, ever-changing, and occasionally pretty choppy if you lack the sense to stay on your toes once it gets rough. All of which is to say that I know I haven't posted but (insert excuse here).

     The next episode of the podcast is being edited. There's plenty to write about from our trip to Okayama, Kurashiki, and Kobe. I'll still have to talk about Bunkasai sometime as well. For now though, I can offer the English for the town newsletter that I write every other month if only to prove that I am alive and occasionally write when I'm not surfing. Please enjoy.

Not Just A Holiday

            As time goes on, life becomes busier and more complicated. It becomes increasingly more difficult to do all the things we want to do once our responsibilities begin to grow. Traveling is one expense that always seems to get cut first because it requires the most time and money. It also happens to be the most liberating experience a person can have.
            When I came to Japan I had a personal goal to see as much of the country as I could. Keeping true to that goal I recently traveled to Kobe - stopping at Okayama and Kurashiki along the way. In short, it was a fantastic trip and I’m glad we were able to do nearly everything we wanted to.
            To me, traveling is not about being on vacation. It’s about exploring, discovering, and learning – mostly about oneself. For that reason alone I think it’s an essential part of our lives. 


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Back In Fine Form

Episode 10 - Pocari Sweat

After yet another break - due in large part to some hardcore overtime in preparation for the recently completed English Speaking Contests - we're back! This week is all about the Sports Festival, also know as, Undoukai. We break it down for you and talk about our most memorable moments from the past couple years worth of them. We also pay tribute to our (formerly) one-eyed daruma halfway through. Here's hoping he's pleased!

Show Notes

-This week is the electrolyte-fueled Pocari Sweat; it's like Gatorade with the 'ade'. Definitely not fun going down and the milky consistency coupled with "sweat" in the title only add to the unpleasantness. Pick one up at your local grocer today! Cheers!

It's got everything plants need!
-Let me throw you to the previous article I wrote about my school's Undoukai, which covers that day in great detail:

-Here's a picture of Mitsuko's glass sliding doors.

You sunk my battleship!

-So here's the Daruma we purchased from the local shrine in Ebi on New Year's Day this year.

This is the state we left him in.
In modern times the practice of filling in an eye is either for the purpose of setting a goal - to be colored upon achieving said goal, or for wish fulfillment. In the case of the latter, the eye is colored in upon fulfillment of the wish in question.

Somehow he just looks angrier. We're sorry!

The practice of using Daruma is fairly recent in Japan's overall history (Late 1700s onward) and is rooted in Zen Buddhism. The design of the Daruma is based on Bodhidarma, a man with a mysterious history who is credited as the founder of this particular sect. Not much is known about him these days beyond conjecture and myth, but the Daruma dolls remain a popular yearly tradition.

They started off as a way for priests to encourage patrons to revisit the temple on a yearly basis to buy new charms - as they would magically last exactly one year, requiring one to repurchase annually. In a funny old way, you might think of Daruma as the inspiration for the Ford Motor Company, but I digress.

The peasant masses were well aware of this it would seem, and the practice of using Daruma was originally invented as a way of handling the high yearly demand for new charms. The temple most closely associated with Daruma, Daruma-Dera, in Takasaki, Japan offered visitors wood blocks with which they were meant to cut out their own charms, thus lightening the load on the priests. Hrm, IKEA too it would appear, anyway!

Editor's Note: There was a video I was about 99.99% sure I uploaded to Youtube featuring the burning of the Daruma. I'll investigate the old hard drive and see if I have it backed up there, which I will promptly upload if I can recover it.

-Musical recommendation for this week comes by way of Morgan Kibby as White Sea! 

Really has that Abraham Lincoln touch going on.

Editor's note: I mistakenly referred to it as the 'title track,' but I meant to say opening track. 

This song felt very much as though it could be an Undoukai anthem when that chorus hit. Driving along to the enkai that night I must've looped it a dozen or more times constantly imagining how I would've filmed my own music video for it. Speaking of which, I had never see this one before; It was kind of pleasing to see that whoever directed it also felt that high energy slow motion shots were good imagery for the song. 

I think that's about it for this week! Here's some links! Everyone loves those!

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As always if you have thoughts, comments, suggestions,
critiques, or maybe you want to find out how to be a guest on the show, send us an email at:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Speaking The Truth

The speech contest has officially ended and now it’s time to write some thoughts about it. 

Close but no cigar

     It is true that we didn’t come home with a prize, but despite that there’s still much to write about. We’d been practicing for over 2 months by the time our regional contest came around. I felt extremely confident in all my kids. It's probably hard to believe that I was being objective about their abilities but we honestly had a good shot at it this year. I never put any pressure on them though; above all else I told them that we should go to have fun, do our best, and be proud of the work we put into the competition. I can safely say that we accomplished all of these. It’s a huge achievement - something they’ll probably remember for the rest of their lives, and I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of it.
     Watching them improve their abilities as the days went on was incredible. I’m positive that their self-confidence has improved dramatically, which is a hard-earned award of its own. One of my girls in particular, who I will call R here, made a complete transformation from her shy cocoon.  
     R was always one of my favorites because she's just a bright kid and damn near everything a teacher could want from a student. She was always very timid though; most of the work we did was to crack that shell so she could feel comfortable in her own skin. I think we nailed it too. I remember the first day I was able to make her laugh while we were practicing. Eventually she was smiling regularly during our sessions. One day, when I was in the gym waiting to start practice, R approached me and said that she had already worked with one of my JTEs earlier so she would just be doing club activities. I said that was fine and gave her a "頑張って"* for her practice. During one moment of downtime she walked back over to me where I sat along the edge of the stage awaiting the other three students: 

     "It was kind of lonely with only the two of us working together today." She said with a half smile.
     "Yeah, it is more fun when it's the whole group of us isn't it?" I replied. She smiled.
     "Yeah, like when it's the 6 of us..." She trailed off as practice demanded her attention once again. I leaned back on the stage feeling as though I were doing something right.

     Those kinds of small moments are really what spelled our time working towards that contest. Every single one of them had an effect on me. K was our comic relief, A was and is ever studious about English and I enjoyed having grammar conversations with her, Ka is the veteran, having competed last year. I knew her the best from the start. 
     I still can’t believe how strong the four of them were. I know what a nerve-wrecking experience it can be to stand amongst one’s peers and perform before a panel of judges. Rather than shrink with fear or lose their voice to nervousness they courageously rose the occasion; standing tall they confidently gave their speeches and performed admirably by all standards.
            Our small band of five applauded with uproarious cheer after each speech, never failing to support one another. In the break periods between these moments we huddled together and congratulated those who had finished their performance and offered encouraging words to those whose time had yet to come. They were amazingly brave and poised throughout their speeches. If the tables were turned and I had to speak Japanese I can’t say I would’ve done as well.
            In all honesty I felt very confident about taking home a victory this year. It’s hard to be objective when one is one as close as we were throughout these months but I thoroughly believe they performed in a manner worthy of accommodation. When their names were not announced, I felt my heart sink. They accepted this loss with great dignity but I was left feeling as though I had let them down. When the ceremony had ended I made sure to tell everyone how proud I was of them.
            The next day I asked how they were doing and they all seemed fine. I was glad that they were handling it well but I still felt a bit bad myself. While I was working on my English board, rearranging a few things, A came and handed me a letter. In it she thanked me for all help along the way and said that despite not winning she felt we all gave it our best shot. While I was still riding down the happiness from that letter R later told me that she had fun.

And then it struck me: that was the goal wasn’t it? In the end, that’s all it took to make it better.

Well that says it all doesn't it?


 * 頑張って (ganbatte) is an expression that one hears quite a bit in Japan. It's sometimes thought of as being synonymous with the English saying "good luck!" but I tend to disagree. "Ganbatte" means "do your best" and would therefore imply that the person it is told to must put some effort into their happiness. "Good luck" on the other hand feels less contingent on the agency of the person involved in the fortune. But that's just me!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Good Sports

Hello there,

Third from the right is clearly the best

     This is another long overdue post but speech contest prep has required me to stay late every day for the past couple of weeks so I've been a bit preoccupied.

      Today I wanted to reflect a bit on what my school's Undoukai was like. Undoukai (運動会), also know as Sports Festival, is an annual event which typically takes place after the start of the second semester at all educational institutions from Kindergarten to High School. The entire student body (within one school) is divided into various groups wherein they compete in a series of physical challenges for a ceremonious trophy at the end.
      This actually wasn't my first Undoukai (having attended Kofu Chu's two years ago) but it was the first time I saw my own kids compete. We arrive in August through the JET programme which normally means that the first big school event we see is the Undoukai. That year however, to avoid conflict with the many other schools within my town, the junior high school moved their Undoukai to May - just a month after the new school year. Had I only stayed for one year I wouldn't have been able to see it; fortunately that wasn't the case.
     I arrived to school that Saturday at my usual time of 8:10; the sun was out and bright that morning. Being well aware that I was going to spend an entire day outside I spent a bit of time dousing myself in sunscreen. The entire staff (myself included) was wearing our newly made school T-shirts bearing the slogan, "全力赤中," which doesn't translate so well directly but sounds good in Japanese.* Preparations had been made in the days leading up to event so at about 8:50am I made my way to the field where I awaited further instruction.
     Nearly every teacher other than myself had a job or a purpose for that day, which made me feel all the worse when I was included in the pre-event huddle and radio exercises**. I had asked one of my JTEs if there was something I should be doing to help as no one had mentioned it to me. She explained that I was there as a guest and I should simply be enjoying it. With that point duly noted I picked a seat under the pop-up canopy reserved for staff and waited. As with anything bearing even the slightest resemblance to an official event there is an announcement which commences it.
     The first events were 100m races between small groups of students. Since my entire school was only divided into a red or blue group the events were comprised of teams that included all class levels, 1st through 3rd. I'm not sure how the competitors were picked for each individual sport but it was definitely not split by class. Some of my students surprised me with their athleticism while others I had pegged as likely being adept at their various challenges.
    Next up was the Mukaden, which is a clever pun on the word for centipede (mukade, ムカデ) and the second kanji from the word for relay race (den, 伝). It's not as complicated as the last sentence made it sound, but if you recognize both words it gives one a chuckle. In any case, Mukaden is basically a three-legged race, but with about 10 kids tied together at once making it scientifically 33% more hilarious.
   One of the most interesting events was called, "栄光の架け橋" which roughly translated comes out as "Glory Bridge".*** The idea is that the groups make a bridge out of their backs by kneeling on the ground side by side while the nominated runner walks across this people-bridge in a race to the finish line. The challenge though is that the distance they have to run is longer than the number of people they can use to make a bridge. This means that as soon as one is stepped across that person immediately needs to run ahead and form a new stepping stone so-to-speak. It was wildly entertaining.
     Following these events were demonstrations done by the boys and the girls. The girls had a dance called, "えっちょうー!えっちょうー!," a traditional dance that was modernized with the help of some contemporary music. The boys later removed shirts and performed a series of increasingly dangerous stunts that involved human pyramids and lifting of people to ridiculous heights. After that there was a tug-o-war between the two groups. They split it up into multiple sessions so each team would swap out members successively until the entire student body participated.

Then it was lunch.

     After the break there were more races, relays, and a jump rope contest, which was split between class and group. Each team's members were divided into their respective classes and competed as a whole to see who could get the most jumps in. We saw one team go as high as 39, some that courageously brought home a 0, and everything in between.
     After all the events finished it was time to announce winners. Trophies were handed out per individual achievement as well as group performance. Another category was the banner design. Each of the classes designed their own Sports Day banner and everyone in the audience voted on which one they liked the best.
     Excluding the enkai, I spent a bit of time thinking about this whole day. At first it seemed identical to what I experienced at Mitsuko's school. It was similar in structure, there were similar events, and I also had nothing really to do but watch. The fact that they were my kids though changed how I felt about it. I became intensely interested in their performance towards the end of the day especially during the relay.
     I started to wonder what had changed. The first half of the day was interesting and fun enough, but it didn't affect me so immensely until I really thought about it. I realized that I was moved by them. The displays of athleticism, the level of cooperation, and the spirit of community that bound them was something I never had at any level of my education.
     Weeks beforehand I had been asking my students if they were looking forward to it. The answer was unanimously: No. I was caught off-guard. It does take a lot out of you, and they had to spend quite a few weeks practicing for all their events so I could understand why perhaps they were less enthusiastic about it, but a solid no? From everyone? It was hard to fathom. I did ask a few students afterwards and the answers all changed. I remember being 13/14 and never being able to admit when I actually liked something out of fear that it would be mocked so when they responded with, "It was kind of fun," I knew what it meant. I don't think they'll understand what a powerful experience it was until they don't have it anymore. If only we could learn this before it were too late.
     I'm going to miss my kids as well. That's what Sports Day somehow managed to bring forward into my immediate attention. It was likely less to do with Sports Day itself but rather the fact we were all in one place, at one time, making the most our of rapidly dwindling time together. There will be a time when I never see them again.

And that is a sad thing to realize on such a fun day.


* So Zenryoku (全力) means "All one's strength" and Akachu (赤中) is the abbreviation of our school. It's actually similar to how we shortened names of schools back home. I went to Pacifica High School, but it was just as common to say Pacifica High. This is a similar idea to when Akasaki Junior High School (赤碕中学校), just gets shortened to Akachu. It's a nickname for the school. So that plus Zenryoku means something like... Full Strength Akachu! Or All Our Best Akachu! In any way that one wishes to translate it, it comes out as sounding very much like a slogan or catchphrase, which is the idea.

** Radio exercises were something that originated in America as it turns by the Met Life Insurance company in 1922. It never took off there but a group of Japanese workers visiting Japan took the idea back home and it flourished. It basically involves light group exercising set to similarly light music. Since 1928 (used first to commemorate Emperor Hirohito) Japan has been broadcasting radio exercises (ラジオ体操) over the air. There was a brief moment during the occupation of Allied forces when Japan was ordered to stop doing it out of fear that it was too militaristic. As soon as they regained independence they went right back to it and it remained popular for many decades. Nowadays it's mostly forgotten but is still used at some old companies and especially at events like Undoukai where it largely serves as a way to encourage group activity, and a pinch of exercise.

*** That first kanji comes out as "glory" and the second part actually means "suspension bridge". I'll let you put that together in English however you want to.