Be Proud!

This diary entry is dedicated to the Graduates…

In one week’s time, many of you will graduate and leave Moka Girls High School but hopefully Moka Girls High School will never leave you. What I mean by this is I hope that you will keep all the experiences, lessons, and memories of Mojo close to your heart.  Moka Girls High School has been a part of your life for three years; I myself have only been here for six months, but I have shared many a laugh and tear and made many precious memories together with you in this school. Please remember that although you’re leaving to start a new chapter of your life, your teachers will still be here and they will always welcome you back for a visit! I know I will, please come see us and tell us how you are doing! We care about you very much! Although I’ve never taught any third year classes, I’m so glad and feel so fortunate to have been able to spend time with you outside of class. Several of you have also become my friends, which I am ever thankful. I hope you learned something from me, as I have certainly learned many things from you.

Although March 1st is your graduation from Moka Girls High School, you should remember to thank the people who helped you along the way. The teachers here at Moka Girls High School dedicated themselves to teaching you for three tears. Your friends have been on the same journey as you and will probably all go off to different universities. Make sure to tell both your teachers and your friends how much they mean to you! Do not forget how much both your teachers and your friends have helped you!

Be proud of Moka Girls High School! Be proud of yourself for succeeding in school because it was very difficult, eh? Be proud, because you will all represent Moka Girls High School wherever you go; be it university, college, or work. Congratulations girls on your graduation. I, and all the teachers here, are proud of you! おめでとうございます!




Groundhogs and Chocolate

Dear Moka Joshi Students and Teachers,


Today is the first day of February, and oh how the time flies. This winter has been quite cold, eh? Hopefully we can all be graced with the beautiful pale-pink blooms of the Sakura sooner rather than later. But for now, it is still winter but even in the dead of winter we have many things to look forward to, especially in Canada.


February has one public holiday in Ontario. Not all of Canada celebrates it, only five out of 10 provinces and 3 territories do. It is on the third Monday of the month and is called Family Day 家族の日. On this day, people do not have to go to work or school. It was created recently by the Ontario government because the whole month of February did not have even one public holiday for us to enjoy. On this day, we are to spend time with our family and relax since February is usually the coldest month of the year, just like in Japan. Apart from this holiday, there are two special holidays Canadians celebrate even though we do not get the day off!


Everyone must still go to work or school for both of these holidays, but we still celebrate them. Also, both these holidays are quite quirky. One is called Groundhog Day and the other is Valentine’s Day.


Groundhog Day (グラウンドホッグの日) is celebrated on February 2nd each year in both Canada and the United States. On this day, people gather around a groundhog’s burrow and wait for him to wake up and come out. A groundhog is a small furry animal that looks like a really big squirrel or tanuki. If he comes out and it is cloudy, he will not see his shadow, so he will come out of his hole. This means that Spring is coming soon. If however, it is sunny the groundhog will see his shadow and go back into his burrow. This means that there will be six more weeks of Winter. Of course, none of this is really true because the groundhog cannot predict the weather. But, this silly little holiday is a tradition of Winter in Canada and parts of America and usually involves a festival as well where there are parades, people eating, singing, dancing, and enjoying the winter weather. The most famous groundhog in Canada is called Wiarton Willie, in the town of Wiarton, Ontario.


The second holiday is of course Valentine’s Day, celebrated in Canada and in Japan but in very different ways. In Japan Valentine’s Day is where girls give boys that they like chocolates, and maybe even confess their love for them. Also, girls give men in their lives who they respect chocolates. Girls do not receive chocolates on Valentine’s Day in Japan. However, in Canada and most of the Western World, Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers to celebrate each other equally. Of course, on Valentine’s Day you can confess to your crush or your secret admirer can confess to you but overall Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love. If you are in a relationship, you will give your boyfriend or girlfriend something and he or she will also gives something back to you. Chocolates, cards, red roses, and candy are all gifts that we can give our lovers, but… it is not really about the gifts but rather appreciating each other and celebrating your love for one another.


However, on Valentine’s Day many people become depressed or do not like to celebrate because they might not be in love. But Moka Joshi students and staff, please do not be depressed if you’re not in love or in a relationship! Celebrate with the rest of us, many people give gifts to their friends that they love or their family members. For example, some of my friends who are not in relationships get together on Valentine’s Day and cook romantic food together and watch romantic movies. For me, every year I will give my Mother either flowers, chocolates or some other kind of gift because my Father passed away very young. I choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my own way, by thanking my Mother for her love. In my opinion, there is no wrong way to celebrate Valentine’s Day or any other holiday… you can choose if you want to celebrate and how you want to celebrate. This year, I do not know how I will celebrate Valentine’s Day since this is my first Valentine’s Day alone! Please help me Moka Joshi students and staff, how do you think I should celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? J





The Snow Falls Everywhere

Dear Moka Joshiko Girls and Teachers,

This Saturday we saw our most significant snow fall for the new year in Moka. It was beautiful. But guess what? It also snowed in Toronto at the very same time. I felt so connected to both my family and friends in Toronto and here with you all in Moka. For a brief moment of time, both places had the exact same kind of weather and for a brief moment of time, I felt at two places at once.

You all know how Moka looks in the snow, but how about Toronto?

Here is a link to some photos:

Please enjoy

With love,

Matthew C:

Eh vs ね

Eh vs.

The more time I spend in Japan, the more similarities I find between Canada and Japan. This time, my discovery is that of the linguistic-cultural kind. Ever since coming to Japan, I hear people adding ~ to the ends of spoken sentences as a way to acknowledge someone, to express agreement with another person, and also to say that you understand. In fact, I hear ~ being used so much that I often add ~ to the end of my sentences, even in English! I think ~ is great. It is short, simple, and it is something that is very Japanese. In fact, to me, it is an essential part of everyday Japanese communication.

However, in Canada we also have a great way of expressing to each other that we understand or that we agree. It is ‘eh’. Phonetically, it is pronounced more like ‘エイ’. Canadians like to add ‘eh’ to the end of our sentences just like Japanese people like to add ~ to the end of their sentences. The intonation of and ‘Eh’ are the same as well, as both rise. For example, I said in my last diary entry that both Canadians and Japanese like to talk about the weather. We are two countries that experience all four seasons every year; perhaps that is why we are similarly preoccupied with talking about the weather. But the way in which we talk about the weather is similar too! In Japan we often say ‘寒いですね?’, and in Canada we say ‘It’s cold today, eh?’. Both sentences are the same, and so is the way we express each sentence. Other ways of using ‘Eh’ can be like this: ‘What do you think, eh?’ Well, I want to know what you think! Do you think that the way Canadians use ‘Eh’ is close to how Japanese people use ? Why do you think each of our countries have this unique ending to our sentences?

I think one of the reasons why Canadians and Japanese add these unique linguistic markers to the ends of our sentences is because both our cultures like to find more ways to agree with each other than to disagree with each other. Perhaps it is a reflection of both our society’s desires for peace and acceptance, eh? そうですね!

How's the Weather?

Today, my hometown of Toronto got its very first snowfall of the winter season. It was only around two centimetres but it made me wonder when Moka will see snow falling to the ground since, although it has been very cold in November, these first few days of December have felt more like autumn than winter. I can’t wait to see the snow, because I think snow makes it feel a lot like Christmas. So far, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas because of the weather. The weather is always an important subject in Canada, and people from other countries, usually America, always point out or make fun of Canadians for always talking about the weather. The weather is almost our default (or standard) conversation in everyday life. We talk about the weather so much it becomes almost a point of pride to Canadians. However, since coming to Japan I’ve realized that it’s not only a standard conversation topic for Canadians but for Japanese people as well. It is funny because the more I stay in Japan, the more similarities I see between Canadian people and Japanese people. Canadians usually say ‘How’s the weather, eh?’ when talking about the weather, while Japanese people usually say either 寒いですね or 暑いですね depending on weather its hot or cold outside. Both basically mean the same thing, as we’re always asking each other for their opinions on the weather. I guess the weather is important to both our countries because we both experience the four seasons and maybe also because we’re more observant of nature than most other countries. I like spotting the differences between our two countries, but I love even more finding the similarities be they small or big. I hope to talk to you all soon on my diary! J


P.S. I hope to find some photos of Toronto’s first snowfall for you all to see the magical feeling of my city in the winter. Please check back soon!



Home for the Holidays

Dear Moka Girls High School Staff and Students,

How are you? I hope this diary entry finds you all well. December is coming up soon and I’m already about to explode because of the excitement I feel for the upcoming Christmas season! As the song goes, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’. At least in a Western sense, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. For me, the time leading up to Christmas on December 25th, starting on December 1st is when I am the most happy. Perhaps the one thing I love more than Christmas is actually waiting for Christmas. I love decorating our house and filling it with the spirit of the season. I love going shopping for Christmas presents at the busy shopping malls and shopping streets in Toronto and fighting with other shoppers for the perfect gifts for my friends and family. Finally, I love cooking meals and sweets, such as turkey, ham, cheesecake, and cookies all with a Christmas theme.  

In my family, because we all love Christmas, our celebrations start traditionally on December 1st when we put up all our Christmas decorations outside and inside the house. Outside the house, we hang multi-coloured lights and put up our Snoopy Christmas decorations that light up at night. On our front door, we hang a big Christmas wreath, which is a ring of green pine branches decorated with shiny Christmas ornaments, bells, and balls. The Christmas wreath is a sign of our welcoming the Christmas season, but also that our house is welcome to all of our guests. Inside the house, we hang red, green, and gold garland and tinsel to make our house festive, light up red coloured candles and play cheerful Christmas music all through the house. The most important part of the Christmas decorations however, is our Christmas Tree. In my house, I was always responsible for decorating and the most important job in decorating was the trimming of the Christmas tree. ‘Trimming’ in this sense does not mean ‘cutting’ but rather ‘decorating’ the tree with pretty Christmas lights and ornaments and last but not least, putting the star up on the top of the tree. When the Christmas tree is light up, the whole house transforms into a Christmas wonderland. It is as if your house becomes something else, something magical and mesmerizing.

Christmas time, although originally intended for the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth, it is now celebrated, especially in Canada because we are less religious, by Christians and non-Christians alike because it is a time for family. The most important part of Christmas is spending that time with the ones you love. In a way, Christmas is just like Oshougatsu お正月 in Japan. Oshougatsu is about spending time at home with family and eating special types of food. In Canada, Christmas is also about spending time with family and eating special types of food. During shougatsu, Japanese people eat お節料理and for Christmas in Canada, we eat Christmas feasts. Just like how osechi varies between families and places, so too does Christmas feasts. Some people eat Turkey with stuffing, other people eat glazed and roasted ham; some people even eat both! In addition to turkey or ham, families usually also eat mashed potatoes with gravy, chestnut pudding, and fruitcake. In my family, we don’t eat fruitcake but rather I make a Christmas cheesecake for us to share. I would like to thank all the students who taught me about Shougatsu. I hope one day I will be able to experience Shougatsu, but I also hope all of you can experience a Western Christmas, especially a White Christmas – when there is snow outside on Christmas Day. There is no better feeling than being inside a house with your family surrounded by Christmas decorations, music, and a feast of food when it is cold and snowing outside.

I feel as though I have something to apologize to you all right now. I would love to experience Shougatsu in Japan, but my family is very important to me. Especially during Christmas, I only want to be with my family. Perhaps, it is the same as if you are not home with your family during Shougatsu. So, I would like to apologize for not being able to experience Shougatsu in Japan, but spending time with my family in Canada is more important. I hope you all understand. In Britain, people say 'Happy Christmas', but in Canada and the United states we greet each other with ‘Merry Christmas’. So, for now Merry Christmas!
P.S. I will write more about Christmas and New Years later, please come back to my diary soon! Here are some photos of Toronto's Santa Claus Parade. It is the oldest in the world!


A Day to Remember

In the year 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I finally came to an end. To memorialize all those people who lost their lives in the war and also as a sign of respect to those who survived fighting in World War I (and all other wars Canadians fought in after WWI), known as veterans, Canadians and people in all Commonwealth countries (former colonies of Great Britain) participate in solemn ceremonies called Remembrance Day. At 11:00am on November 11th, every year, Canadians across the country stop whatever they are doing in order to participate in one minute of silence to remember the dead. Canadians also wear red poppies on their coats starting at the beginning of November until November 11th which are bought from veterans and volunteers with peoples’ donations which go to help take care of veterans.

There are three reasons why Canadians wear red poppies (a type of flower) for Remembrance Day. First, it is because the flowers grew everywhere on the battlefields where soldiers fought. They were one of the only flowers that grew in such harsh wartime conditions. Second, their deep red colour also symbolizes the bloodshed during the war from all the soldiers. The graveyards of the soldiers in Europe are also filled with wild red poppies that grow everywhere, almost like they were feeding off the dead. However, the main reason why Canadians wear poppies to remember the soldiers is because of a poem written by a Canadian Doctor who was killed while trying to save the lives of soldiers in WWI. This Canadian Doctor’s name was John McCrae and the poem he wrote was called In Flanders Fields.

Below, I will write out the poem for you all to read. I would like you all, on this day, to remember all the sacrifices of soldiers made by all soldiers on everyone’s behalf. Everyone, in every country, should give respect to the people who fought for their country. Although  Japan does not have a military now, and because Canada is a peaceful country, both our countries can recognize the sacrifices made by those who fought a long time ago in order to protect our futures. Both Japan and Canada also have ‘peacekeepers’ stationed around the world in places like Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. So please, I ask you all to take some time out of your day to remember those who died in the line of battle and hope that never again do we ever have to face any other wars. I hope we never again have to sacrifice innocent lives in the name of war. Please, read the poem and hope that peace will continue forever, that is the true meaning of Remembrance Day!


In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.



My love letter to Moka

To My Dearest Moka,


I hope this letter finds you well. I am perfectly fine. I love living and working with you and occasionally with your neighbor, Motegi. Though I love to travel, in my honest opinion, there is no better way to spend a weekend than staying here at home with you. I love shopping at Fukudaya on Sundays in the early morning saying ‘おはようございます’ to your residents. I enjoy being with the elderly women and men who I love competing with to buy discounted groceries! I also enjoy the unexpected meetings with students from Moka Girls High, Moka High, Night, Technical and even Motegi High School at Eon when I am wondering the aisles, trying to understand the unique Japanese products. I thank your citizens for being so warm to me Moka. Though I understand some people are still too afraid or too shy to approach me I am forever grateful and touched by even the simplest smile or friendly greeting your people have given me.


I am from Canada, so I love witnessing the changing of the seasons. Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring… I embrace all four seasons and I am glad that Japan also has all four. The hot and humid days of Summer are not coming back until next year and I am finally beginning to feel the cool and crisp Autumn season in your air. Although I enjoy all four seasons, Autumn is my favourite of them all. In America, Autumn is usually called Fall, and in Britain, Fall is usually called Autumn. But in Canada, we use both names to describe this season; both words have the same meaning.


Fall has also begun in Toronto, and the leaves are changing from their lively green to more surreal tones of bright red, orange, and yellow. Here are some pictures from Toronto where you can start to see the changing of the colours:




Sadly, you won’t be able to see the photos if you’re viewing them from a computer at school, so please try to look at them from home! J


Anyways, I am distracted. Forgive me. Oh Moka, I wish I could show you Toronto like you have shown yourself to me. Two of your students came to show me your beautifully fragrant fall flowers and I was so impressed. Another day, the Vice Principal came to one of my classes to take photos of me teaching. She said that she would write a letter and send some photos to my Mother. I was so touched by this I wanted to cry. Thank you all so much! One day I hope some of your students and your teachers or other people come to Toronto so I can repay my gratitude to you all. You’ve all been very friendly and warm to me and it is this warmth that keeps me warm when I am alone in my apartment when it gets cold. Thank you once again Moka, I love you!


Yours truly,




Halloween Memories

When I was growing up in a small town named Preeceville (its name sounds like ‘peaceful’ and indeed it was very peaceful and very small) in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, the signs of Fall would always be connected to the coming of Halloween. The changing colours of the leaves from lively greens to antique shades of red, orange and yellow and the sudden shifting of the weather’s mood from a warm embrace to a cool handshake told me that the season of costumes, candy, and Jack-O-Lanterns would soon be upon us lucky children.


Before the big day of October 31st, people prepared for Halloween by decorating their houses with signs of the season. Big orange pumpkins (kabocha) are carved with scary and sometimes silly faces and their almond-shaped seeds and gooey innards are scooped out and replaced with glowing candles so that at night their faces come alive! People also string fake spider cobwebs along their doorways and put figurines of ghosts, witches, monsters, and black cats up to make their houses look scary. For my house, all the decorations were with Snoopy dressed up as witches, ghosts, and monsters because I love Snoopy.


On the day of Halloween, October 31st, my entire school would hold a Costume Contest, so after lunch all classes would be cancelled so we could all change into our scary costumes and celebrate Halloween. Sometimes each class would also have a Halloween party where we’d play Halloween games like bobbing for apples, eat Halloween cake, and candy given to us by the teacher, and drink pop or juice from a witch’s caldron. When we decorated the classroom for our party, it was usually coloured orange, purple and black… because those are the colours of Halloween. After our classroom Halloween party, we would all gather in the gymnasium for the Costume Contest. We would all have a chance to go up on the stage with our class and parade around in our costumes. It was so much fun to see everyone dressed up, even the teachers! Everyone would have lots of fun and in the end winners for best costume would be chosen. One year I dressed up like a Japanese ninja, another year a vampire, and another even a scary old lady! I never won, but just spending time with my classmates and teachers in costume gave me so many happy memories.


After the celebrations at the school were done, my friends and I would go ‘Trick-or-treating’, that is, going door-to-door asking for candy from everyone in the town! On the day of Halloween, every house in my town made sure there was one adult at home who would be responsible for handing out candy. I have done it a few years in Toronto when I was older and it is always so much fun handing out chocolates, potato chips, and candy to children (and even sometimes adults) that would come to ring my door bell and say ‘Trick-or-Treat’! In return for dressing up and showing it off to everyone in the town, the people in costume would get candy from us who stayed at home to give it to them. I always made sure my Mom bought the best kind of candy for the people dressed up like witches, ghosts, fairies, Frankenstein, vampires, even anime characters, Harry Potter, and all other sorts of monsters and creatures. People would go asking for candy until late at night and amidst the glow of Jack-O-Lanterns and the scary decorations, Halloween always seemed like a magical night where the town transformed into something out of my imagination.


Halloween is a very important holiday in Canada and America, and it is one that I wish would happen in Japan as well. Halloween brings us closer to our neighbours and makes our communities stronger because we are all visiting each other and giving each other things. Halloween also creates such good memories for us as children that stay with us even when we are adults. Writing this diary entry now has brought a smile to my face. I hope you can all experience Halloween one day! Until then, Happy Halloween!


The Sound of the Cicadas

The sound of the cicadas, like a violent siren, chirp-chirp-chirping and rat-rat-rattling at all times pierce through my walls, my windows and my ears. Not only an assault on the ears, their presence when seen terrorize my eyes, makes my skin crawl, and my soul shudder. They are not the most beautiful of creatures, and not something I would want back in Canada. The sound of the cicadas makes me think I am camping in a forest, even though I am inside my apartment. I sometimes wonder if they ever get tired, making all that noise, at all hours of the day and night. I wish they would go to bed and dream, good dreams, and then perhaps I could have a rest from the nightmare that is the sound of the cicadas chirp-chirp-chirping and rat-rat-rattling. I remember someone told me that a certain cicada’s sound signals the end of summer.  But for now, the sound of the cicadas lets me know that I am in Japan and that constant reminder, for now, is a very good thing. Perhaps soon I will no longer refer to it as the sound but rather the singing of the cicadas; because I love the country of Japan and living here means learning to live with the chirp-chirp-chirping and rat-rat-rattling sound of the cicadas.
By Matthew Chimko, Moka Girls High School ALT