Friday, February 22, 2008

Great Dictionary Conversation Starters

One of the 3rd year students at Kirita decided to use her dictionary to make conversation during lunch on Thursday. She started with some questions from what I'm guessing was an appendix at the back (of the dictionary) and then moved to seemingly random sentence examples from different dictionary entries. Here are some of the gems she used:

- Will you be my boyfriend?
- I want to hold your hand.
- That sweater becomes you very well.
- I have bittersweet memories of my first love.

I'm especially fond of the last one. It led to a conversation between a few of us about first loves and when they occurred. Interestingly, all three girls whom I asked said they had their first loves between the ages of 3 and 5. @_@ I don't think I had my so-called "first love" until junior high school!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Kids Ask the Darndest Things!

I'm always a little apprehensive before an elementary school visit, but once I'm at the school, I usually have a great time.

Sanbongi Elementary School is probably my favourite school. The kids are always genki (energetic, cheerful) and excited to be with me; it's the one school where I get the "rock star" treatment, i.e. kids ask me to sign their notebooks and things.

So today I was teaching the fifth graders at Sanbongi ES and it was my first time meeting them, so I did my self-introduction followed by a time for questions. One of the classes came up with a lot of amusing questions. Well, I guess the individual questions weren't really that funny, but together they totally made me smile:

- Are you married? (This is all in Japanese, of course.)
- What type of person do you like?
- Do you have a boyfriend?
- Do you plan to get married?
- Do you want to get married?
(The last two were asked by the same student. =P)

One student asked me about famous Canadians (I NEVER know how to answer this one, especially since it's always elementary kids who ask it!) and the only person I could think of that they might know was "Avril Lavigne." They misheard me, though, and thought I said "afro." I corrected them, of course, and we all had a good laugh.

Then a couple of minutes (maybe 10 questions) later, as the final question of the class, a student asked: "Since you have long hair, have you ever had an afro?" =P

That was probably the best question I've ever been asked during a self-introduction. ^_^

On a somewhat related note, I had a bit of a chuckle over the answers some of my second grade students at Kirita gave to the question: "What's your type?"

In Japanese, "ogenki desu ka" is roughly equivalent to "How are you?" and "genki desu" is "I'm fine." So in this context, genki in English is "fine," but in general the translation of genki would be more along the lines of "energetic" or "cheerful." Well, my students didn't really know this, so when they were answering the question "What's your type?" a couple of them said things like: "Kind and fine."

My JTE thought it was a bit funny because it was as if they were saying they like healthy/sound-bodied people, but I was thought it was amusing because they were trying not to be superficial but they didn't realize that "fine" is slang for "good looking" or "sexy."

That whole discussion on "types" was interesting too because the last boy (out of three in the grade) to answer the question came straight out and said he liked "cute" girls. Of course there was some ribbing about that to which he responded that the other guys' answers--"kind," "cheerful" &etc.--were "strange" (henna) and not really truthful.

A Happy Valentine's Day

As a happily single person, I could usually care less about Valentine's Day, but it was actually a lot of fun this year. Knowing that V-Day is a pretty big holiday in Japan, I spent the past two nights (Tuesday and Wednesday) baking chocolate chip cookies (using strawberry-flavoured and milk chocolate--yummy!) for all of the students and teachers at Kirita, plus the people in my section at the Towada Board of Education (60 people in total).

I somehow managed to wake up early enough to go to the office and back (~1hr roundtrip) before I had to leave to go to school. It was kind of fun (even though it was snowing and I was tired) because I was the first and only person in the office so I felt a little like Santa Claus (the Valentine Fairy?).

Then at Kirita, all of the students and teachers were appreciative of my V-Day presents, plus I got to do V-Day activities with all of my classes.

And the chocolate!!

I thought the (female) students would only give presents to the male teachers, but a lot of them made enough for all of the teachers (plus their classmates). One thing I learned, though, is that it’s a good idea to keep some sticky notes handy to identify the giver of each present as they’re given; it’s important to know who gave you presents so that you don’t miss giving anyone White Day presents. (March 14th is White Day, a day when girls who gave Valentine’s chocolate receive presents in return.)

Anyway, I came home with quite a haul!

For more (close-up) pictures of the presents, please see my Facebook photo page at

After school we had a rehearsal for a play some of us (ALTs) will be performing in Japanese at an "international" event in Towada. Following that the six of us went for dinner at a great Italian place in Towada called "Papa de Mucho."

Since I was in such a good mood, I decided to splurge and ordered the "Papa de" course: salad; pasta; dessert; and a soft drink. They were out of tiramisu, but the chocolate mousse was delicious, so it was fine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rescheduling Deliveries in Japan

Japan Post "Undeliverable Item Notice"

[Edit: See this post for information on how to reschedule Japan Post deliveries using the automated phone service.

Edit 2: Updated Sep 30, 2014]

Japan Post is probably the easiest service to schedule redelivery with since you can do it online and they do have English on the site. For those who like step-by-step instructions (like me), douzo:

1. On the Japan Post website, click the link for 再配達のお申し込み "Sai haitatsu o moshikomi" under the インターネットサービス "internet service" section. (Or go directly to the redelivery page at

2. Scroll down past the various warnings to the input section 「郵便物等ご不在連絡票」情報の入力.

 Enter your postal code without hyphens in the first section. Next enter the notice number. The number should theoretically be written in the box in the bottom section of the "undeliverable item notice" slip, but in my case it is printed out on a sticker that is then attached to the notice.

There are two entry sections for the notice number; the one you should use depends on the type of notice you have. Postcards (as pictured at the top of the post) should have a 11-13 digit number which should be entered on the left side box (追跡番号(お問い合わせ番号) Notice Number), while notices with a barcode and a  6-8 digit number should be entered on the right (お知らせ番号 Notice Number).

Select your desired redelivery date in the third section.

 For the fourth section match the kanji for the mail type from the bottom of the notice postcard ("Mail, etc. Type"). 

Be careful to select the package type in the section corresponding to the type of undeliverable item notice you received (select from the top section for "追跡番号(お問い合わせ番号) Notice Number" or from the bottom section for "お知らせ番号 Notice Number").

Choose where you'd like your package redelivered in the fifth section:
ご自宅 - Home Address (original delivery address)
ご近所様に配達 - Deliver to Neighbour
勤務先に配達 - Deliver to Workplace
配達を担当している郵便局の窓口でお受け取り - Pick-up from the Delivery Center Post Office (do not re-deliver)
他の郵便局の窓口でお受け取り - Pick up from Different Post Office

Click the left hand red button (次へ進む) to continue. (If you have a Yuubin ID, you can click on the right hand red button (ゆうびんIDを利用して登録する)

3. (Note: The following if for re-delivery to the original delivery address. You would probably see a slightly different page for delivery to a neighbour/workplace since you would need to enter the re-delivery address.)

Choose the date and time range for redelivery. (Make sure you're actually home at that time!) Note that this option is not available if you choose to have your package re-directed to your workplace.

Enter your daytime contact phone number (using half-width numbers) starting from the local area code (include an extension number (内線) if necessary); name (maximum 16 characters for full-width characters, or 32 characters using half-width characters), and email address twice for confirmation (half-width characters).

You can skip the "Notice for Office" unless you have some information/request you need to convey to the post office.

Click on the red 次に進む button to continue to the confirmation/submission page.

4.  Check all the information for accuracy and hit the red 登録する button to confirm. (If you're redirecting to your office, I think the next screen will ask you to re-confirm the original shipping address.)

Pelican ( Package)

Calling to have an Amazon package redelivered is easier than I thought it would be.

A sample phone conversation (in very basic/broken Japanese) rescheduling an Amazon package delivery:

Me - Konnichiwa/Konbanwa, Melissa desu. Amazon kozutsumi arimasu. Ashita no roku ji kara kyuu ji made takuhai onegaishimasu.*

(Hello, this is Melissa. I have an Amazon package. Please deliver it tomorrow from six o'clock to nine o'clock.)

Pelican - Gojuusho wa nandesuka.

(Your address please.)

Me - [Address in Japanese]

Pelican - Denwabango wa nandesuka.

(Your phone number, please.)

Me - [Phone number in Japanese]

Pelican - Hai, otodokemasu.

(We'll deliver it.)

* If I'm asking for same day delivery before a certain time I might say something like "kyou no roku ji han made takuhai shite dekimasenka" to ask if they can do it, rather than just saying "please deliver it."

[Edit: I wrote this post fairly early on in my time in Japan. I've since learned a more proper way to inquire about non-delivery notices, so here's my improved sample phone conversation. Please note this is for calling a delivery center and not the driver! Also, what the Pelican/Sagawa/Japan Post people say is just a rough guideline at best since 1) I'm writing it from my memories of what I heard, and 2) phrasing is usually different from person to person anyway.

For Pelican/Transport Communication Sagawa:

Me - Fuzairenrakuhyou ga todoitanodesuga...
(I received a "Message of Non-delivery..." ご不在連絡票)

Pelican - Okurijou bango wa nandesuka?
(What's the notification number? 送り状番号 - Not a literal translation, but close enough.)

Sagawa - Onimotsu bango wa nandesuka?
(What's the package number? お荷物番号)

Me - 0123456789
(The number in Japanese - zero/maru, ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, nana, hachi, kyuu)

Pelican/Sagawa - Ima kara uchi ni imasuka?
(Will you be home from now on?)

Me - Hai, imasu. / Iie, imasen. Ashita no gozenchuu ni saihaitsu shitekuremasenka?
(Yes, I will./ No, I won't be. Can you redeliver it tomorrow morning (usually meaning between 8am and 12pm)?)

Pelican/Sagawa - Hai, (ashita no gozenchuu ni) otodokemasu.
(We'll deliver it (tomorrow morning).)

Me - Arigatou gozaimasu. Shitsureishimasu.
(Thank you. Good-bye. - Literally "Pardon my rudeness.")

Note: If you're asking for same day re-delivery within a certain time frame, they may ask for your phone number so they can call the driver and then call you back.

For Japan Post:

Me - Yuubinbutsu oazukari no oshirase wo todoitanodesuga...
(I received an "undeliverable item notice"... 郵便物お預かりのお知らせ)

Japan Post - Haitatsu tantousha wakarimasuka?
(Do you know the driver's (配達担当者) name?)

Me - [Driver's name]
(Here's where it's tricky since it's written in Japanese... I was lucky the one time I phoned instead of using the internet since I actually knew the kanji for "Suzuki" (鈴木).)

Japan Post - Wakarimashita. Gojuusho wa nandesuka?
(Your address please.)

Me - [Address in Japanese]

Japan Post - Oname wa nandesuka?
(What's your name?)

Me- [Name]

Japan Post - Sashidashinin wo wakarimashitaka?
(Do you know the sender? 差出人)

Me - Hai, [Sender name].

Japan Post - Denwabango wa nandesuka.
(Your phone number, please.)

Me - [Phone number in Japanese]

Japan Post - Shichi ji kara ku ji made otodoite yoroshi desuka?
(Is it OK for us to deliver it between 7 and 9 (pm)?)

Me - Hai. Onegaishimasu.
(Yes, please do.)

Japan Post - ~ Arigatou gozaimasu.
(Various polite phrases along the lines of "thank you for calling" and "have a pleasant evening.")

Me - Arigatou gozaimasu. Shitsureishimasu.
(Thank you. Good-bye. - Literally "Pardon my rudeness.")

Note: Since you can reschedule deliveries online, I only call Japan Post if I come home too late to be able to reschedule a same day redelivery and I don't want to wait for my package until the following day.

Of course, you can also go to pick up your parcel--just bring the notification form, your hanko, and a piece of ID (driver's license or gaijin card). ]