Is this a message?

Hello everyone,

Take a look at this picture. What do you see?

I was walking to the studio today, and looked down at the roof by the teachers’ bicycles. There is a fish on our roof! That is definately an ocean fish, and it is too big to be put there by a cat, so where did it come from?

Flying fish?

No, it is not the Mario flying fish. I talked with Horie-sensei, a biology teacher, and he said it looked like an ocean fish. That means it is not from Wakayama Castle. So… a bird carried this fish all the way from the ocean, and then dropped it on our school.

Maybe this is a message from God about the cats living around our school. Or… maybe this was just a nice drop from the bird. Either way, I think I will start using an umbrella even on sunny days.

What happens if there are a few loaves of bread there tomorrow…

Yamanakadani Hiking

Hello everyone!

Last week I was happy because my mother visited me from Canada. One thing we enjoy doing both in Canada and Japan is going hiking. A few years ago in Canada we hiked up the Enderby Cliffs, and enjoyed an amazing view of the farmland below.

Last weekend we went hiking in the Kisen Alps, which are the mountains between Osaka and Wakayama. They are really beautiful because at the first lookout, you can see all of Senshu from Misaki to Kansai Airport. Then, on the other side, you can see all of Wakayama City.

I have been doing the Kisen Alps hike for many years, but this was the first time I had gone since the big typhoon in September. Looking around the forest now, many things are different. Hundreds of trees have been blown down, and their roots were in the air. The trail was covered in leaves and branches from the storm. It made me feel a little bit sad to see those old trees down, but that is part of a forest’s life cycle.

Winter is coming! Get out and enjoy some nice weather and nature before it gets too cold. See you next week,


What a game!

On Saturday, after the open lesson, M1 to H2 headed over to the prefectural gym to watch the finals of the girls volleyball tournament in Wakayama. Earlier in the year, our girls had lost to Kaichi in the inter-high tournament, and now it was time for revenge.

Our team looked to be the stronger one except for one problem, Kaichi no.4. She had incredible power on her spikes and always seemed to find holes in the defense. However, when she was not on the floor, our team took command.

The third set was a heart-breaker as we had glorious chances to go up 2 sets to 1. However, the Kaichi team was strong and held firm, taking the lead themselves.

By the fifth set you could see both teams’ legs were getting tired, but still they hammered the ball. Down 13-10, things looked grim, but the last five minutes were magic as we outscored the other team 6-1 for the 16-14 full set victory.

The players were crying, the coaches were jumping, and the crowd was in a frenzy. It was everything sports is supposed to be. Powerful, dramatic, heart-wrenching.

Congratulations to the Shin-ai girls for reaching the national tournament. We will all be  cheering for you in January!

Happy Halloween -> Merry Christmas

Hello everyone,

Yesterday was Halloween, and maybe some of you found me afterschool and said “trick or treat!” Halloween is getting more and more popular in Japan. When I first came to Japan, there were some small events in Osaka, but not many shops decorated their stores. This year I walked through Burakuri-cho and saw many decorations. This morning on the train I saw many people in costumes coming home from their Halloween night in Osaka.

After I got off the train, I went to the convenience store to buy some tea and I saw something strange…

Really? Christmas cakes? It is November 1st! Halloween had only been over for 6 hours when I saw this!

I understand that holidays are fun, especially Halloween, but they should be more than just a chance to make money. Holidays are also important and have deeper meaning. We know the real story of Christmas because we are at a Catholic school. The meaning of Christmas is not cake…

This goes for more than Christmas. In Japan, New Years is a nice holiday to spend time with family. Of course some people go shopping, and that is fun, but balance is important. Anyway, just something to think about the next time you see “Christmas cakes” in November…

Grumpy old-man Allen signing off.

A Full Moon Tonight

Hello everyone,

Today we are going to the Culture Hall to watch a concert. I enjoy this day every year, because it is a good chance to experience something new. After the concert, you are free to go home. You have some extra time after school today, so I am going to give you some special homework.

Tonight, after it gets dark, look up into the sky and see the “full moon”. A full moon is a moon that is perfectly round in the sky. There are no clouds today, so the moon should be very beautiful.

The moon has a cycle of 29 days. Starting with a new moon, there are 8 “phases” to each moon. Take a look at this picture to see the different ones.

We also have a special word for the second “full moon” in the same month. It is called a “blue moon”. We use that expression to talk about something that does not happen often. For example, “Mr. Allen eats eggplant once in a blue moon.” (I’m not a big eggplant fan).

Anyway, look up at the sky tonight, and see the moon that people have been looking at for thousands of years. See you!

My friend Michael Wittman

Hello everyone,

This is one of my favorite times of year. The weather is cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon. I hope you enjoy it though, because the days are getting shorter and shorter.

One thing I did during mid-term tests was organize and clean up my desk. Included in that was cleaning up files on my computer. When I was cleaning up my computer, I found some old pictures of a friend and I.

His name was Michael Wittman, and he joined my class when I was an elementary school student. He has cerebral palsy, and so he can not speak and has a difficult time controlling his body. In class he used his eyes to communicate left and no, and used an alphabet board to spell out words to communicate. However, there was nothing wrong with his mind. He was very smart.

At first the kids in my class didn’t know what to do with him. It was difficult to communicate and we didnt understand that behind the body was a normal kid. However, after some time with him and his helper, we understood that Michael was a really funny kid! He also won top prize for math the first year he was at my school.

Over time I got to know him, and we became friends. He lived near my grandparents house, and I often went to his house to play. I even spent the night there. One memory is me pushing his wheelchair across the road running as fast as I can, and Michael having a huge smile on his face. I am sure his parents were nervous, but also happy at the same time.

Over time I moved away to a new town and we lost touch. However, I have never forgotten Michael. I searched his name online and found that he became involved in making music, and also in making technology to help other people with communication barriers.

We are all together at Shin-ai for this part of your life, and afterwards you will scatter into the world. However, the friends, experiences, and memories you make here will stick with you forever. Be the best person you can be here, and create those memories for others.

Below is an article about him (with pictures of me as a kid!). It is a little difficult, but challenge it! Let me know if you read it and if you have any questions. See you next week,


Junior High School Life to High School Life

Hello everyone,

Did you enjoy your sports day? I enjoyed cycling in Shimanamikaido again this year. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, but it is one of the most beautiful places in Japan.

Before exams, I asked my H1A students to write about the differences between their junior high school lives and high school lives. They did a really good job, and here are three examples:

Also, I began to do SGH this year. There are seven people in my group, but I didn’t know all the girls. I aquired the courage to speak my opinion through SGH because I had many chances to talk with new people. From now on I want to continue no only studying all the subjects, but also doing volunteer activities.

Of course, studying academics is important. But school is also a place to practice skills you will need in the future. Working in a group, being a leader, sharing your opinions, these are all things you will need in society. It is important to practice these skills now.

Also, I belong to GAC. I want to challenge new things and be internationally-minded. I made a handbill for an event with my senior. I had a sense of fulfillment.

The GAC club raises money for a school in Cambodia every year, and at Christmas travels there to learn more about the country and people. I hope you have a great time!

First, I think the difference between junior high school and high school is the importance of classes. The reason was that I was happy when I was sick in my junior high school days so I could be absent from school. But I am schocked to be late for classes now. So I think that I have to do my best every day.

In junior high school, your school life seems endless. However, once you enter high school, you realize that time passes very quickly. In life there are many things you can repeat. You can go to many universities, you can have many jobs, you can join many clubs and make many new friends. However, one thing you can never do again is be a high school student. So, I hope you enjoy your busy high school life. Make it full of friends and learning and memories. Live it with no regrets.

See you next week,


To get rusty

Hello everyone!

The rain is back and another typhoon is set to ruin another weekend. Hopefully this one tracks between Korea and Japan and doesn’t do too much damage. I am a little disappointed however, because every year I take a cycling trip on this weekend. I usually go down to Hiroshima and cycle the “Shimanamikaido”.

This summer was so hot I didn’t have much of a chance to ride my bike. In fact, I would say that I am “a little rusty” at long distance riding. In English, when you haven’t used a skill for a long time, we say that it “gets rusty”.

Rust is the brown colour you see on metal that hasn’t been taken care of. Old buildings, old cars, and old tools can all get rusty. But, with a little practice and a little care, the rust can be removed and something can look like new again.

Take a look at these pictures. On the left are the tracks used everyday at Ozaki station. On the right are the tracks that have not been used since the fire a few weeks ago. See that rusty brown colour?







Like these tracks, your English skills need care and attention. If you leave them too long, they will get rusty, just like these tracks. Take care of them everyday, however, and they will be sharp and ready whenever you need them.

Good luck on your last day of tests,


46th Wakayama English Recitation Contest

Hello everyone,

Another typhoon rolled over Japan this weekend, I hope your home and family are all ok. Before the storm hit, two of our students and I went to Wakayama city hall to participate in the annual recitation contest.

Before the summer, both students were offered 10 different readings to choose from. Miss Oida chose “Visas for 6,000 lives”, which is about a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during World War Two. Of course you know this story, in which Mr. Sugihara wrote visas for Jewish people trying to leave the country. It is a serious story, and Miss Oida told it with grace.

Miss Takeda chose a piece called “Changing the World”. This is a speech that was first done at a United Nations environmental summit in Brazil. At the summit, a 12 year old girl spoke to adults on behalf of children about the problems facing future generations. Miss Takeda was the first speaker of the day, and her powerful voice set the tone for all of the other students there.

Both students won a special prize sponsored by the “Wiseman’s Club of Wakayama”. They should be proud of their effort! Good job!

In Memory of Paula-sensei

Hello everyone,

Today is a sad day here at Shin-ai. Many of you will not know Paula-sensei, but if your older sister, mother, or teacher is a Shin-ai graduate, they will. Paula was from America and taught English here for twenty years. She is an important part of Shin-ai’s history, and also a trail-blazer. When she came to Wakayama, there were not many foreign people teaching English here. Her effort and energy helped open up our school to new programs and challenges like SGH and our visitors from Australia.

Ten years ago she retired and moved back to America. Although I did not work with her, I met Paula when she came back to Japan to visit her friends. She most recently came back this summer.

Unfortunately, when she returned to America, she went to the doctor and learned she was sick. She passed away today. When you pray today, please remember that we are all part of a big Shin-ai family, filled with not only the people you see everyday, but also the people that came before.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

– Mary Elizabeth Frye