I apologize. I should have written blogs all week long. Alas, my laziness and stupidity have prevented me from doing so until now. I thank you for your patience.
For those of you who do not yet know me, my name is Richard Graham Schoonmaker and I am from the tiny town of Travelers Rest, South Carolina in the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains of North America. My parents are opera singers and until the age of 17, I wanted to be a baseball player more than anything else in the world. My great-great-great-great grandfather, Richard Tapper Cadbury, started the Cadbury Chocolate Company in England, and when I was a little boy growing up in the super rural mountains of North Carolina, I loved going to the candle makers shop in the woods near the South Toe River, and playing on the tire swing, and swimming in lakes, and running down the paths near my family’s cabin. Also, my favorite stuffed animal was a monkey with a red hat named Giacco.
And now I live in Chinzei, a small fishing and farming village on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the farthest north of Saga prefecture. On Thursdays and Fridays, I teach on three of Saga’s beautiful islands. On one of these islands, an ancient King of Korea was born. And the other two islands have beautiful little Catholic churches and Christian communities. Behind the steering wheels of the fishing boats that take me to these islands, I sometimes see a little Buddhist talisman keeping us safe, and at other times, a little icon of the Virgin Mary. I wonder who catches more fish?
I study pottery in Chinzei, and fortunately, the only potter in town is also one of the few persons who speak English well. It is always one of the best parts of my week when I go to his workshop, make some pottery, have a nice chat, and listen to some music on the radio. I also play baseball for Chinzei’s team and study calligraphy with a group of tiny old ladies in Genkai town, whose Japanese, I’m convinced, is unintelligible even amongst themselves. Chinzei is a great place for running and biking and it has two restaurants that I really like: an udon house called Shirley Ann’s and a little place near Hatomisaki called Hot Dog and Coffee. And the famous Jammin restaurant is just down the rode from my apartment.
Four of the nicest places I have seen in Japan are within twenty minutes of my apartment, and one of these might be the best spot for viewing sunsets in all of Japan. This place is the west side of Kabe Island, across the Yobuko Bridge from Chinzei. The other places are Hizen’s Peter Pan Adventure Island, Nanatsugama, and Hatomisaki. I go to some of these places every week. I also go to Karatsu and Fukuoka every week. Basically, I try to stay out of my apartment as much as possible.
Like many ALTs, I very much enjoy my life in Japan. Unlike many ALTs, I also enjoy my job. I teach at about seven different schools and all the teachers I work with are nice and friendly and helpful. And my students are fun, and every week is different and interesting. I play sports with my students and I find plenty of time for studying Japanese and reading the newspaper on line. And, my BOE is great and my supervisor is a wonderful old man. However, it isn’t perfect. I haven’t found a good tire swing in Japan yet.