Summer has come to an end here in Toyokoro.
All of the summer festivals are finished and the weather is becoming a little colder with lots of rain and thunderstorms.
Summer vacation is also over now in Toyokoro. Summer vacation is only three weeks long at the beginning of August and unlike Canada, the teachers are not on holidays during the break.
All of the teachers still work full-time during the summer, attending workshops, meetings, and doing class preparations.
During summer vacation, I had to work at my office in the Board of Education, but I did not have much work to do, so I read all the Harry Potter books and studied Japanese.
Now the students are back at school, and so am I.
In Japan, the new school year begins in March, unlike ours that begins in September, so here after summer vacation, students are entering their second semester but not changing grades.
During summer vacation, I was asked if I wanted to join the Taiko Drum club.
Taiko is a traditional Japanese style drum.
There are about 12 Toyokoro citizens in the club and we practice two evenings a week.
I have my first performance on Sept. 13 at the Toyokoro Industry Festival (Toyokoro Sangyo Matsuri).
Taiko is fun, but it is challenging because there is no music to read.
Instead you have to memorize the songs, which has been difficult, but I finally have all of the songs memorized for my first performance.
Every song has a different story to tell, and the actions that accompany the drumming try to act out that story.
Due to the language barrier, I’m not 100 per cent sure what all the stories are about, but I know there is something about a boat on the ocean, engine trouble, big waves, and catching salmon.
But whatever the story is that is being told I’m having a lot of fun learning how to play the Taiko drums.
Also during summer vacation I experienced my first earthquake in Japan.
On Aug. 14 at around 2 p.m., a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit just south of Obihiro, approximately 30 kilometres west of Toyokoro.
I was at the Board of Education at the time, and the earthquake started off with a very low rumble and then the whole building began to shake.
The earthquake only lasted about 20 seconds, but it felt much longer than that.
After the earthquake stopped, a bunch of alarms and announcements started going off in the building as well as outside over the load speakers.
There was no structural damage or incidents anywhere in Toyokoro and everyone was safe.
It was definitely an interesting experience, but I hope there will not be more earthquakes in the future.
I hope everyone had a great summer and is excited for back to school.
This is the first time since I was five years old that I am not going back to school as a student this September, but thankfully I still get to go to school everyday and teach!
Alyssa Hooper is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.