Pink Petals   

So spring has finally come. The floating snowflakes have turned to pink petals of cherry blossoms which have started to scatter across the city footpaths.


To me it was a little sad to see the snow slowly melt away, yet I am glad that the days stretch longer into the evenings now and the sun shines a little longer. But accepting spring did not come easy. I think I had a little bit of seasonal sadness as the snow turned to rain and I no longer had to skate to school on the soles of my boots.


Last month I finally became a first year student at my university. I went to my entrance ceremony along with my classmates. My classmates and I were some of the very few international students in attendance. We walked through the glass doors among our fellow first years all dressed in black suits. I think we must have looked like a hoard of penguins.


In Australia we do not have university entrance ceremonies. We don’t celebrate the entry, we only celebrate the leaving – graduating from university. The ceremony was long and I still don’t know why they introduced every member of staff that sat on the stage. As soon as the names were spoken I am sure most of us students forgot the names soon after.


In Hokkaido we have our entrance ceremonies in the April winds and the melting dirtied snow. I am jealous of those in Honshu who can celebrate their new schooling life under the cherry blossom trees.


But here in Sapporo we can enjoy the cherry blossoms in golden week instead. I rode my bicycle by Maruyama Park a few days ago, the smell of cooking meat drifting up my nose. I can’t wait to sit under the cherry blossoms myself tomorrow, a picnic in the shade of the trees and sipping beer in the sun with my friends.


I love the Japanese culture of appreciating the coming of spring by enjoying flower viewing. Or maybe it isn’t so much appreciating flowers as it is an excuse to get drunk, eat too much and laugh alongside your friends? Although there is nothing wrong with that either.


I’m looking forward to experiencing my first Hokkaido summer after the spring has passed. I can’t wait to see fireworks and wear a yukata with my friends.

But I will still always be counting down to my favourite winter days and a Sapporo blanketed in white.

Jessica (Australia)


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# by chitchatcafe | 2017-05-12 13:54 | カフェ 英会話 札幌 | Comments(0)

My homestay experience   

Hello everyone,


I would like to share my homestay experience with you! I was lucky enough to participate in a homestay program in March. The program was advertised at Hokkaido University’s International Office and I had to apply two month before I wanted to participate. The application process was easy and straightforward. I had to provide my personal details and my preferences, however I couldn’t indicate where I wanted to do my homestay. I didn’t really mind that, because my aim with this program was to experience living together with a Japanese family, practice my Japanese and to learn about their daily life. Finally, after a month or so, I got a call from the International Office that they found me a family in Wassamu, Hokkaido!
I was really excited to spend 6 nights and 5 days with my family. They were a family of two, my host-dad, and my host-mum. They also had four lovely cats. Before my arrival I had to make sure that they know the time of my arrival so I had to ring them up, and speak Japanese to them on the phone! It was really scary at first, but in the end it worked out just fine, and they came to pick me up from Wassamu station. They couldn’t speak any English, but they were really eager to learn a lot about my country, my family back at home, and the differences between Japanese and Hungarian culture.
They were really welcoming and I felt like home, although far away from home. I bought them a present from Hungary. It was a bottle of Hungarian white wine, my favourite! It seemed to me that my host dad liked it too, because we finished it together the first night I got there!

During my five day stay, they organised so many programs for me, making sure I was always busy and having fun. We went cabbage picking from the snow! I haven’t experienced anything like that before and I really enjoyed it. The snow was up to might waist but trucks cleared the snow out of the way so we could look for the cabbage that were lying there. We pick so much cabbage, we filled the entire truck with it. After that, we took the cabbage to a place where it gets cleaned and packed, ready to go to Tokyo! It was really interesting seeing the whole process and the work they do before these huge boxes of cabbage are sent to Tokyo. I really enjoyed this taking part in such an experience and learnt a lot about agriculture in Hokkaido.
In the end we got to try some of the cabbage, and it was the most delicious cabbage I’ve ever tried! It was so sweet and fresh, and the fact that I handpicked it, from the snow just made it tastier. I think it’s an experience not many international students get to do, so I was really lucky and grateful that my host family organised this program for me.
I tried so many Japanese dishes while I was there. We had sukiyaki, and it was the first time I tried a raw egg. At first I was hesitant to with eating a raw egg, but I didn’t wanted to refuse it, so I tired it. It was surprisingly delicious. I thought that it went really well with the dish, however I was a bit worried wether it’s okay to eat a raw egg, but my host family said that it’s a very safe thing to do in Japan, and it doesn’t carry any bacteria (I wouldn’t eat a raw egg in my country, because it might carry some).
On our last day, we went to an Alpaca farm, and a Picture Book exhibition. The alpacas were super cute, and really fluffy. I fed the Alpaca food, and they didn’t spit on me (luckily!). I really enjoyed the Picture Book exhibition too because the books use easy Japanese that I can read and understand too. In the evening we went to an onset and had jinghiskan. It was a perfect ending to my stay. I spend 5 days with my host family, and I’m already planning my next visit to see them during Golden Week. I am really thankful for their hospitality and for all the great experiences we had together. I’ll be back soon!


Tamara (Hungary)

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# by chitchatcafe | 2017-04-15 17:47 | マンツーマン 英会話 札幌 | Comments(0)

Changes   

I’ve finally started my lessons, only a few Japanese classes this week, but full fledged first semester starts from next week. I am a little bit excited about it but nothing abnormal actually to my surprise. I thought I would go crazy with excitement, but I just feel normal about it. Maybe that’s what growing up is, you just feel normal about stuff.


A lot of developments have been happening in my life too, including me and other people, countries at some cases even, so I feel lots of things happening at once, a pace that is little bit too fast for my taste. But I guess during rainy days a good thumbnail to remember is, “Good stuff passes. But bad stuff passes too.”


Speaking of rainy days, what’s with Sapporo these days? The weather was perfectly fine up until last week, now it’s just all hell breaks loose. Yesterday night, was so cold, I actually had to wait in a konbini for a couple of minutes to warm up, and then go back to my home. Hokkaido is just one crazy place. It’s April now I mean, not even the start of it, it’s Mid April, and you still can’t go out without a scarf. And I bought a bike you see, I was super excited to ride it and not be late for school and stuff, but now, whenever I try to ride it, it’s either raining, or a wind that’s so cold and strong it just stops me on my tracks. Calm down a tad bit more, Hokkaido my dear? You’re hurting me, literally. (Note: It’s snowing at this very moment I am writing this.)


I went to a football game the other day with a friend and his kid, between FC Tokyo and Consadole Sapporo which the Sapporo won. As I’m living in Sapporo, I was like “Go ConSa!” the entire match. I guess I’ll go see more games from now on when I have the time. (And the money, aren’t those tickets a bit too much expensive??) Also after the game, we went to a yakisoba place, and guess who did we meet? The game announcer for that nights game! I heard him speaking at the game, and then just casually came to eat yakisoba at the place we were. That was a nice coincidence.


So yeah. Life in Sapporo, I’ve gotten used to it more or less now, some stuff doesn’t excite me as it used to, some stuff I like even more compared to the time I first came here. Life is fun here, I like it. Maybe full of hardships, lots of stuff to think about and lots of homeworks but always, always fun.

Dee (Turkey)



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# by chitchatcafe | 2017-04-13 17:10 | 英会話 プライベート レッスン | Comments(0)

Hokkaido Hygge   

Recently, I read an article at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-39331314 which discussed the concept of happiness. This article intrigued me because I enjoy traveling and trying to be happy. So, I wanted to read more about a foreign country said to be the ‘happiest in the world’. Also, coincidentally, the Nordic part of Europe has come up lately for me. I recently met a friend who is a Social Worker in Sapporo. She had not long returned from visiting a prison in Finland as a part of her research into alternative forms of support for criminals. She spoke very highly of what sounded like an advanced system of rehabilitation. It perked my interest at the ‘alternative’ approach to the way some countries operate as a society. Another recent connection to this part of the world was my recent obsession with vikings! I came across a music band by the name of ‘Wardruna’ which uses traditional instruments to drum, hum and sing Nordic Folk type music. As I listen to it, I can feel my beard grow longer.

Anyway, back to the article. Try and read some of it and test yourselves to see if you can get an idea of what it’s about. Personally, I learned about one main idea, ‘Hygge’. Yes, that wasn’t a spelling mistake, but a word translated to mean something like ‘self-care or well-being’. Treating ourselves to something every now and again seems to be a part of what aids general well being. In England, many people rush, worry, binge and purge through life. In Denmark, the weather isn’t that great, especially in Winter, with cold days and around 17 hours of darkness! So they seem to make sure they make the most out of small comforts to help them through life. This made me think about the winter we’ve all just had….and still having.

So many people I have met over winter have complained about the cold and for some, the winter is just too long. Everyone seems to be counting down the days to the Spring. But I for one had a great winter and would like to share my ‘Hygge’ spirit with you.
When the snow started falling, leaving everything with a pure, clean, fresh coat of white, I liked the way it made everything look so different. The outdoors of Sapporo seemed to get quieter and more peaceful as the asphalt was blanketed, making cars drive slower and most other people commute by train or foot almost entirely underground.
Snow sports came into season, with mountains of fresh snow waiting to be carved through, like a knife through warm butter. Ramen never tasted better to help warm up the insides and a snowy Christmas spent eating comfort food in the warm while watching movies was my paradise. Outdoor onsens were picture perfect with crisp, snowy views. To top it all off, hunting season was in full swing, with fresh venison offered by a friend making for some amazing home cooked meat. Overall, I enjoyed the Winter and will look forward to the next one. Hokkaido has some of the most distinct seasonal changes I have ever experienced. The Siberian High, which plays a huge role in the Winter of Hokkaido, doesn’t stretch as far as England, so it’s quite unique for me. I try to appreciate each season no more or less than the other, making for an all year feeling of Hokkaido Hygge!

I hope this can freshen any lingering ‘Winter-blues’ and put us in the right mood for a Spring of new life and warmer weather coming soon!…maybe 😉

Matt (UK)

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# by chitchatcafe | 2017-03-23 16:54 | Comments(0)

Spring is coming!   

Hey everyone!

I stepped outside the other day and I finally realised that it's mid-March and winter is coming to an end. I imagine many of you are very excited for the arrival of spring, meaning you can cast aside your worries about shovelling so much snow!

Although it isn't my favourite season, winter is still one of my favourite parts of the year, espcially here in Sapporo. Walking in heavy snowfall, the amazing feeling when you finally sit down and enjoy some warm food and the frequent events Sapporo is world famous for, all of these things have made this the most enjoyable winter so far in my life.

It's strange thinking back and realising the snow started falling all the way back in October and, after a brief period of time with no snowfall at all, December kicked off with record amounts of snow! I've lived in Sapporo before, but waking up and seeing all that snow on the ground still managed to surprise me.

As for my highlights this winter?
Going to Sapporo Factory with friends to eat and see the Christmas tree and decorations back in December. Although it wasn't too special, it was very nostalgic for me having lived in Sapporo four years ago and it's very pretty once it gets dark outside.

For New Year's, an old friend from Sapporo University came from Australia to visit me and we went all the way to the middle of nowhere (Fukagawa!) to eat some ramen made by one of our friends. Probably the most expensive ramen I've eaten to date as the total of the food and travel exceeded 7000 yen!

And last but definitely not the least, the Snow Festival! Every day after work I would walk through the festival and just enjoy the atmosphere and I'm sure I'll never forget the Trump/PPAP snow sculpture!

I hope you all had a good winter despite all the snow and cold weather and I look forward to seeing you all in the Spring!

Michael/Waffle/ワっちゃん

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# by chitchatcafe | 2017-03-21 17:09 | 英会話 プライベート レッスン | Comments(0)