Springing into new opportunities

Excuse my absence. I have been soaking up spring.

My last post was on April 15—most likely when the first cherry blossoms began to bloom. Their beauty awed me last year, and would continue to do so every year, even if I spent the rest of my days in this lovely country.

Cherry Blossoms at the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

However, just as the blossoms come and go, I recently made the decision not to extend my teaching contract for a third year. The (almost) two years I have spent in Japan have been more than I ever expected them to be—full of friendship, opportunity and most importantly—self-awareness and self-empowerment. With all of these experiences and unforgettable memories, I will head home in August.

Although I clearly focused my studying on speaking at izakayas rather than writing kanji,  I did manage to complete my final paperwork.

Although I clearly focused my studying on speaking to strangers in “izakayas” rather than writing kanji, I did manage to complete my final paperwork.

Therefore, although this is certainly not my last encounter with springtime in Japan, this spring was especially special. From Hiroshima City and Fuchu to Onomichi and Fukuyama, I enjoyed the blossoms in every corner of Hiroshima prefecture.

Cherry Blossoms at Fukuyama Castle, Fukuyama

Fukuyama Castle, Fukuyama

Nighttime "Hanami" at Fukuyama Castle, Fukuyama

Fukuyama Castle, Fukuyama

Next spring, I hope to experience “hanami, 花見” Japanese for “relaxing under cherry blossom trees,” in a new city—Washington D.C.  Therefore, tell your friends and professional contacts… (as my students would say)… let’s hiring Katie Ray!

Atsukos's birthday, Fukuyama Castle

Atsukos’s birthday, Fukuyama Castle

Cherry blossoms at school--Kannabe

My school, Kannabe

My daily commute, Kannabe

My daily commute, Kannabe

Fuchu Park, Fuchu

Senkoji Park, Onomichi

Senkoji Park, Onomichi



Caving to the craving

Sometimes, we crave fast food. Whether it’s to cure a hangover, remedy a bad day or simply make a good day better, there’s something about greasy goodness that leads us to cave to the craving every once in a while.

Of course, most things are okay in moderation. However, in Japan, I’ve found fast food that is more acceptable to eat on a regular basis. As a result, my cravings for fries, pizzas, burgers and wings have been largely replaced by cravings for salmon, tuna, scallops and edamame

Fortunately, fast foot sushi shops abound. Rather than golden arches, the defining characteristic of these sushi shops is conveyor belts. Passing every customer, sushi and other goodness goes round and round the restaurant. Some options, such as “ebi ten,” Japanese for “fried shrimp sushi,” or “amerikan chokorēto kēki,” Japanese for “American chocolate cake” (obviously a favorite of mine) are not healthy or fresh. But, as mentioned earlier—it’s all about moderation.

If nothing tempts you, you can order from your table’s personal touch-screen menu. Soon after, your order will arrive on the conveyor belt. Upon its arrival, your screen will display a cartoon and sing a jingle—a “happy meal” of a different kind.

However, the happiest moment of the meal is paying. At sushi-go-round restaurants, most things are ¥100, about $1. Essentially, with the exception of beer, soup and a few other items, the entire store is a dollar menu. It’s fast and inexpensive—a happy meal indeed!