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    Goodbye Message
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    Week Two
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    A New Year
Weekly Blog


I arrived in Japan four years ago with 2 heavy bags, too many clothes, and not enough peanut butter.  I nervously waited for my first day at school and wondered if I could do this job.  My fears and nervousness soon gave way to excitement and I realized that being an English teacher was going to be fun.

For the year and a half at Kisakata Elementary School, I had three wonderful volunteers, Yumi, Akemi, and Tamaki, who came with me to the classes.  They were good sports during class and definitely helped ease the cultural transition.  My confidence in teaching is solely because of these super volunteers.  Had they not come to school with me, I don’t know if I would have stayed for four years.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much for all of your help both in and out of the classrooms.

My time at the kindergartens has given me a whole new appreciation for children.  On my first day, I worried about how I would communicate with them since my Japanese wasn’t great.  I learned that you don’t need a common language to communicate, and they were so good at imitating me, it was kind of scary!  I also very quickly learned that no topic is off limits for these children!  I was continually surprised at the questions they asked me…”Why are your legs so big?”  “Do you like beer?”  “Do you come from America every day?”  “Why are your fingernails long?” and the ever popular “Which ikemen do you like?”  Teaching at kindergarten was exhausting, but it was really fun.  Being able to have an impact on such young children is a wonderful privilege and one which embraced with fun and games.

My first year in Japan was a little difficult, as I had very few friends.  The volunteers at Sloan’s English School were always willing to help me with anything and everything.  With smiles on their faces, they were ready for any task or project…except the A to Z Readers!  I looked forward to the Saturday morning volunteer meetings and loved talking to the volunteers.

The transition to life in Japan was not the easiest, but there were many people who were eager to help.  Akemi Ito came with me to many of my doctor’s appointments, and was a true angel when I needed help for my tendinitis.  We worked together to help plan the 2009 BBQ and Flea Market, which wouldn’t have happened without her help.  Over the years, she has helped me with bills, sending money home, shopping, getting my Japanese driver’s license, and much, much more.  She was my Japanese aunt, and to her I am extremely grateful for helping make my life a lot easier.  Many other people helped with the cultural transitions.  Mrs. Sasaki and Jinko helped negotiate a good deal on my first car, Tamaki made me her super delicious homemade food, the Thursday night ladies (Ei, Yu, and Kazuko) taught me how to use my rice cooker and washing machine, Jinko and Setsuko cleaned up my yard, and Keiko and Yuu have done countless translations for me.

Keiko and Hiroyuki Konishi have been extremely helpful in my personal life.  They helped me get my second car, took me to Hokkaido, came to parties, translated and explained Japanese to me, and were the best friends I could ask for.

Yuu Sasaki was one of my best friends in Japan.  During my first month, we met at a Halloween party and hit it off immediately.  I was delighted to meet a young person who spoke English, and we shared similar interests.  We’ve cooked American food, gone to parties together, danced till dawn, and share our undying love for the super hot Korean boy band SS501.  Over the years, she has been a super friend and I will miss her dearly.

Yuko Ishigoka was a special friend of mine, and someone who I will also miss dearly.  I met her while she was a high school student and studying at Sloan’s English School.  She and I cooked together, had sleepovers, watched movies, ate junk food, and always had a great time hanging out together.  Her English ability has always amazed me.  From the first time I met her until now, has blossomed into a young lady, and I will miss her very much.

The events at Sloan’s School hold a special place in my heart.  The Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving events were really fun and I enjoyed being able to share part of my culture with good friends.  I relished the opportunity to provide a cheerful, holiday atmosphere and I hope that everyone was able to have a good time.  When Sloan suggested we do a few English-based karaoke events at the school, I almost panicked.  Karaoke is not a popular American pastime and being a singer is definitely not my calling.  However, I realized that it was less about being a good singer, and more about socializing and having a good time.

The one person who I want to thank the most is Sloan.  The first time we met was during the Sister City Exchange in 1997.  I would have never guessed that years later, I would be working for him.  These four years have been life changing.  He helped me become a better teacher and pushed me out of my comfort zone so many times I can’t find it!  Because of Sloan, I have developed a love for teaching.  I have come a long ways from the shy, inexperienced person I was four years ago, and I have him to thank for helping me become the confident, challenge-embracing person I am today.

There have been so many people who have helped me throughout my time in Japan, and I am truly grateful to you.  I am so lucky that I had four wonderful years to spend in Kisakata with such amazing people.  I have formed many wonderful friendships, and I hope I can return in the near future to see everyone again.  You have all made a difference in my life, no matter how small or large, and I am extremely grateful to you.  I humbly thank you for all the help and guidance I have received, and look forward to the day I can return to Kisakata.  Until then, sayonara and arigatou!!

I would like to introduce myself and my family. We are excited to meet you.
My name is James Edel. I am the new English teacher at Sloan English School.  I have a masters degree in TESL and I have taught for 5 years.  I will be teaching at Kisakata, Koide, and Innai Elementary schools as well. 

My family includes my daughter who is 14 months old, my wife, and myself. We are Canadians and formerly lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  This is very close to the famous Banff tourist resort. We both were raised in small towns.

Actually, our fathers are grain-farmers.  We are looking forward to living in your city.  We are excited about living close to the ocean.  Can you imagine that where we come from the closest ocean is 1,200 kilometers away!  Please teach us about how to live in Japan!  My wife is very shy, so don't be afraid to approach her and welcome her.  We speak a little Japanese.  We hope to share our lives together with you in your community. 

We are looking forwarding to meeting you! 






Teacher’s Name:  James Edel
Home Country, City:  Calgary, Canada
Education: B.RE;  MA TESOL
Time in Japan: Oct, 2010 to present
Hobbies: Baseball, golf, martial arts; learning about other cultures

I grew up on a pig farm in Canada.  I have two younger sisters who are teachers and a younger brother who is a musician.  You can listen to him at: www.myspace.com/mikeedel.   In the middle of college I spent a year teaching English in Asia.  After that I knew I loved learning about other cultures – and especially eating their food.  I worked at a juku (tutoring agency) for 3 years and then decided to take a masters degree in TESOL.  At this time, I also began teaching immigrants to Canada.  I enjoy the classroom a lot. 

My family is a big, big, big part of my life.  My wife and I have one daughter, Naomi, and she is our princess.  Because we love her, we call her names like “monkey” and “turkey”.  Do you call little kids these names in Japan? I like playing with her in the park.  She loves slides.

Besides my family, I enjoy sports.  Hockey, golf, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and martial arts are some of my favorites.   I like cars too.  I had a Mazda Protégé 5 in Canada and it was a great car!  Be careful if I’m driving past your family’s car.  Canada drives on the opposite side of the road!  Oh my goodness.

I hope you use this website to improve your English so you can get a great job and maybe travel abroad someday.  You could come and visit my home city, Calgary, and the famous tourist destination Banff is really close.  Bye for now.


   It’s that time of year again when we get ready for the year’s Halloween fun. We will have two parties this year. We are combining James Edel’s (our new English teacher) “Welcome Party” with the “Adult Halloween Party” on October 29th at 7:00pm. If you have not met him, Yvonne his wife, nor their daughter Naomi; then, this is a perfect time to join us. They are a wonderful family from Canada. Everyone is welcome to come. We will have lots Halloween fun. Please look at the Adult Party’s flyer for more information. The drinks are on the house and all you need to do is bring a snack to share with people. You may come in a costume or in regular clothes.  Hope to see some of you adults.

   Our other Halloween Party is for the kids. It is Saturday, October 30th from 4:00-7:00pm.  It will be our first Halloween in the new building. I am really excited about it. We have much more space to play games and we don’t have to worry about the not having enough room. Click the “kid’s Halloween button” for more information on it. Well, I guess that is it for now. I have go and get back to my Halloween madness.

Thanks for visiting our Blog!

Our Halloween parties were lots of fun this year! You spend hours and hours preparing for two weeks in the hope that people will enjoy the Halloween parties. It feels good to realize that all the time, money and energy that goes into preparing for the parties are well worth it.  Of course we owe all the success to our wonderful volunteers and James, our new teacher and his wife.  Yes, we sure missed our super Halloween angel, Kristin Clumpner and all her experience, but somehow we were able to give everyone a great time. I guess she left us a little of her Halloween spirit.

We combined our adult Halloween party with the Edel family’s welcome party. It was a smashing success! James and Yvonne did a fabulous job with the games and James and Yvonne took the time to talk with everyone. Their little girl is always a delightful presence for all of us. We played games, laughed, ate, drank and talked until late in the night. It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves.

Our new building was just perfect for the kid’s Halloween party. We were fortunate to have over eighty kids, volunteers and parents joined us for all the fun. There were six game stations with a lot of Halloween thrills. Afterwards, the kids went trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood. Our new neighbors were very generous in sharing their time with us giving the kids treats. Thank you so much!

I am exhausted along with James and the volunteers, however I think we all went home feeling good about giving our adults and the kids a special time. Thank you everyone for coming! Hope to see you next year!

Hello Everyone!

I have been using the browser “Google Chrome” recently and have been enjoying it. However, I realized the browser automatically opens my mp3 audio files when a web page opens. This is a problem when two or more mp3 files start playing automatically! It turns into just a lot of noise. So, I have had to go back and improve my audio/recorder blog entries. I think they are easier to use and I would love some of you to try the recorder and send me a comment. I have put in the java links for easy set up on your computer. Just download the free software and follow the steps for installing it. It is very simple. I have also designed a better console for the recorder and various buttons. What do you think of the new design? Can you suggest any improvements? Well, I would love to hear from you this week. Until then, thanks for visiting the blog!

I have finally finished this year’s Halloween webpage. It looks great! We uploaded a lot of great photos from both the adult and kid’s parties. However, for privacy reasons, we have decided to only allow access to the page to our 2010 Halloween participants. Each person who attended a party will be given the ID NUMBER and PASSWORD. If you attended one of the parties, but have not received the necessary information, then please contact me this week. Well, that is all for now. Talk with you next week.


A couple of weeks ago there was a suggestion to make a “how to use video” for the recorder. So this week I have attempted to make the video. It is not perfect; however it shows you what you need to do before you can use the recorder successfully. I decided to download the Japanese language version of Java rather than the English version. I hope the video is helpful.

  Well, that is all for this week. I’ll be back next week with something different. I look forward to hearing from you!

It is time for me to stop and pause for a moment to give thanks for God’s goodness. This last Thursday in America people celebrated the national holiday, Thanksgiving. I was talking with my sister, Ellen on Thanksgiving Day and she mentioned that she wrote out a list of things that she is grateful for. So, I have decided to do the same thing here in this week’s blog. I am grateful for many things:

            • My family
            • My gift of faith from God
            • My birth family (forever grateful to a loving mother)
            • Memories of my father
            • Friends from the past and friends in the present
            • Health to live an ordinary life
            • A gift to be able to make a living overseas
            • The gift to enjoy simple things and not need much
            • The privilege to teach kids and adults English
            • To still have dreams and desires for my uncertain future

      What are you grateful for? Tell us how you personally view 2010? Do you have a similar holiday like our Thanksgiving Day celebration? Tell us about it? We hope to hear from you.

I put up our Christmas tree at the school yesterday and was I surprised. It looks so small in our new school building. In our old building the Christmas tree always looked so big! Everyone is welcome to join our adult Christmas party this year on December 22 at 6:30. It will be a pot-luck event with lots of great food. There will be many activities for those who like to have JOLLY CHRISTMAS FUN! You may bring your children to the party, for Christmas is a family event. Look below for more information on the party. Hope to see many of you.

  Another year is almost over and the New Year is upon us. Where does all the time go? I remember for years watching the clock and wishing that I could clock out and go home from a long day at work. Now, there is never any watching of the clock and only a desire to have a few more hours added to a given day. I can never get everything done. However, I realize there are still natural rhythms to life and these rhythms are all around us. I hope that in 2011 that I will be more aware of the important rhythms that surround us.

  This is my first attempt in years to write a Christmas letter. I guess the letter should start with a memory of my father who passed away a year ago last fall. It seems appropriate since my son, Keishin, picked up the lonely violin (grandpa had given him) from the closet and started to play it for the first time a few days ago. It brought back many memories of dad and my second home in the states. The family and I are still in Japan living the country life in a small city in northern Japan.

  2010 seems to have been a year of new beginnings and natural transitions along with a few surprises that are always a part of life. Last summer our son lost his first tooth and since then five other teeth have fallen out one way or another. One day we were watching some animation characters fighting in a park near the house and I and Keishin started to play fight. He was chasing me and fell on the heel of my boot. Well, as you can imagine it knock out his loose front tooth. Blood was everywhere and the old ladies were besides themselves thinking that Keishin was really hurt. The two of us were elated to know that the tooth finally came out. We had to assure the onlookers that all was fine, except that his tooth was lost in the grass. We went home a little sad that we didn’t find the tooth, but enjoy the ecstasy of a milestone reached.

  We had lots of snow in 2010 and look forward to more this year. In March Keishin finished kindergarten and in April became a big first grader. Hitomi shed tears and could not believe that her little boy was now in elementary school. Both Hitomi and I worried about the new school year, especially having our 6 year old walk to and from school with other first graders ( a 30 minute walk along a busy street), but there have been no incidences and we are thankful for that. We are grateful that Keishin after 2 years of constantly being sick has basically been well most of his first grade year. Hitomi has enjoyed the challenge of keeping on top of his homework and school activities. It is amazing home much he has had to learn. He has finally learned the two alphabets in the Japanese language and has started learning kanji. He is already better at math than me. As you can see, life for Hitomi and Keishin center around his school.  I just observe and marvel at it all.

  Hitomi is enjoying her new friends from Keishin’s  kindergarten and elementary school. They have really been a support to her. I think she has more energy than either Keishin or me. She keeps saying, “I’m going to live to 100 and see my grandchild”. I am merely grateful if I make it to the next year.

   My small school saw several changes this year. We spent a lot of time improving the school’s website. You can find it at: http://www.ses-kisakata.com/index.html . We are working on the library this month, so that it is user friendly. In January we  improved the  game center for children. We now have 8 game pages for kids to play games and improve their English. We installed a recorder and public forum on our blog pages. It is not being used much at the moment, but I think it has potential. We created private student web pages to have on going lessons for students via the internet. In August we moved to a new location which is bigger and will allow us to do a few more things in the future. For the last three months, I found myself extremely busy working overtime helping our former teacher get ready to go home and having our current teacher come in September. I am glad that is all behind me and that 2011 looks to be a little more like improving our services instead spending time on transitions.

  I hope to spend a little more time with family and friends in 2011 along with giving back to the community. I think the city has been very giving to me in the 14 years that I have been here. Well, I guess that is all for now. I miss family and friends. I realize that I have been poor at staying in touch with you. Please forgive me. I wish you the best in 2011. Merry Christmas and may God bless you with His grace in the New Year!

      From Sloan & the family


Sloan’s English School Christmas party- Highlights from James

  • Naomi-chan seemed to like spending most of her time with Hitomi, but everyone is her favourite!
  • Keishin is a great babysitter, I should pay him for all the work he does looking after Naomi.
  • Nariyoshi Ito and Yvonne sounded brilliant on their guitars.
  • Yumiko’s voice was beautiful and James’s was okay.
  • Junko and Jinko had fun talking about the similarity of their names.
  • Kotobuki made us laugh during the gift exchange game. 
  • Kei was not laughing as hard as the rest of us.
  • Mr. Igarashi had a big, charming smile like always.
  • Mrs. Igarashi’s voice was as beautifully polite as always.
  • Andy Sirkis won the best dressed contest.  He wore red and green Christmas colors!
  • Stephanie is a woman of many talents.  Her Japanese is progressing remarkably!
  • Mr. Oba is famous for cards of course.
  • Tamaki Ito was in the middle of the Gift Exchange circle a lot!
  • Naomi Oba was having such advanced English conversations!
  • We are always lucky to have a gracious lady like Mrs. Sasaki with us.
  • Megumi was a great addition to our party, too – we hope to get to know her better and better!
  • Yukari impressed us with knowing the word “KIN” which means cousins and relatives.
  • Mikiko and Yukika our high school girls enjoyed the adult party and did a great job helping with Naomi-chan.
  • Akemi was a perfect parking attendant for everyone, thanks a million!