Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Odawara Survival Guide For newly arrived foreign teachers

This brief guide is designed to help you prepare for your move to Japan
and give you an overview of Odawara city and the surrounding area so that you
can get acclimated once you arrive. It is undoubtedly incomplete and perhaps
inaccurate in places. It has been assembled and condensed from a number of
sources, but the mistakes are my own. In particular, I have drawn heavily from
similar guides produced by LIOJ, NTT, and the Sagami-Hara board of education.
Please note that there is not a lot of JET-specific information included here. It is
assumed that you will have an avalanche of information coming in from CLAIR
and AJET that is related to the JET program if you are a participant. You will also
find that there is a disproportionate emphasis on American matters. This is due to
the large number of former AETs (Assistant English Teachers) in Odawara who
have been American.
I, and all of the present AETs, wish you the very best of luck and hope that
your time in Japan is as rewarding as it has been for us.
Alexander Halavais

Odawara city is located near the southernmost border of Kanagawa
prefecture. Kanagawa is home to a metropolis (Yokohama), Japan's tallest
building (Landmark Tower), and a past national capital (Kamakura). Odawara is
roughly 80 kilometers south-west of Tokyo. While Kanagawa is in one of the
most populated prefectures of Japan, Odawara is sandwiched between the urban
sprawl to the east and natural beauty to the west. Odawara, known for its castle,
is also referred to in many tourist guides as "the gateway to Hakone." Hakone
and Atami, both to the south of Odawara are the oldest resort areas in Japan;
Atami is on the coast, a little over a half hour by train, and Hakone is in the
nearby mountains. We are also at the base of the Izu peninsula, one of the most
beautiful areas of Japan. Odawara's most important products are film (Fuji's main
factory is located here), cosmetics (Kanebo), and fish paste (kamaboko). We
also produce prune extract (Miki), computer products (Hitachi), and handmade
wood products.

The climate in Odawara is perhaps among the most temperate in Japan,
but that is not saying much. The winters drop below freezing and the summer
temperatures soar. While winter and summer can be uncomfortable, spring and
autumn are beautiful, if short. We are also blessed with a rainy season (tsuyu) in
early summer and a typhoon season in August.

Japanese Junior High Schools
Japan's educational system is based on the 6-3-3 grade structure borrowed from the US during the
Allied occupation. Students must pass a test to enter high school and, therefore, little importance is placed
on grades. It is virtually impossible to fail a grade or a class - students are held back only in very extreme
cases. The structure and content of the high school and university exams determine the curriculum.
Students are not (officially) stratified in any way within the grades. You will have learning disabled
students in the same class as English-fluent "returnees." A large number of students attend a juku, or cram
school. The high school tests divide students and place them at different level schools.
The year is divided into three terms (Spring, Winter, and Autumn), the first starting in April.
Students go to school for a half day two or three Saturdays each month, but often spend weekends,
holidays, and each school day until five or six doing club activities. Club activities are heavily centered on
sports - baseball, softball, "soft" tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, soccer, kendo, judo, swimming,
etc. - but also include homemaking, tea ceremony, fine art, cultivation, science, and, in some cases, an
English Speaking Society.
Students remain in the same classroom for most classes. Teachers go to different classrooms for
each class. Students are also responsible for collecting homework, finding Read More



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