Monthly Archives: April 2012

EPIC Tokyo trip part 1

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July 2011

Well, not that epic. There were no elephants or mermaids involved. I came away smiling despite that. Also, this story is quite old now so I apologize if I mix things up anywhere.

A quick sum-up of more recent occurrences (October 2011):

I’m studying Japanese quite bit more and taking lessons. My weekends have been either packed or empty… yet still packed with things that get pushed aside during the week like laundry and cleaning. Playing games with Joel and friends for hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings has been making me feel like a kid waking up for Saturday cartoons. My co-workers are much more comfortable chatting with me now, though I don’t think my Japanese has gotten that much better… just a comfort thing. This weekend I’m off to Hiroshima for a few days to see the sights and pay respects with Nicole for her grandmother who recently passed. Before I post on that trip I still need to do the August trip home, climbing Mt. Fuji, and Senmaida light up festival.

For this post I’m going to be methodical about my trip to Tokyo and go day by day and try not to forget anything important. It was an eventful trip. I pray that I am brief but still entertaining.

Tokyo. Everyone’s heard of it but everyone has not had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand. It appears to be different things for different people. For me, this trip was like a wine tasting. Nicole and I made our way through as much as we could while still enjoying our vacation and not getting too stressed. Maybe less nomi-hodai next time(see Friday)…

Wednesday night/Thursday

Traveling in Japan has been an interesting adventure for me. Never had I traveled long distance via coach bus before. Not only was I to be in a motor vehicle for 10 or so hours but I was to travel at night and sleep as much of the way as possible. This works in theory but since it was my first time… sleeping wasn’t on the menu much. Nicole did okay I think but my dramimine just wasn’t knocking me out like usual. I got a few hours of sleep before we touched down in Shinjuku. Here’s a picture of us waking up at 5:30am on the bus.

Nothing was open… really. There were some conbini’s scattered about but none had bathrooms except for one that we finally found. But why not go somewhere in Shinjuku station? You may wonder… the only area open that early was one with a men’s bathroom area. Granted, in Japan it is very acceptable for women to use men’s restrooms in times of need but men can never use women’s restrooms. I guess that was the idea behind only having the one bathroom available. Ugh. After cleaning up in the smallest (and suprisingly grossest) conbini bathroom EVER, we made our way walking about Shinjuku to kill time until we could check into our hotel.

I forget all that we did on Thursday as I was only partially concious. I do remember visiting the Square Enix store. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I hoped but was still cool to see the dude (a life size Final Fantasy character) in the floor. I didn’t get a picture… don’t seem to have any pictures of that first day lol how silly. We also found our way to random pet shop and had a nice time in there with some exotic critters like monkeys and such. The best part was when we first walked in and there was what we thought to be a huge stuffed dog in the back. As soon as we were both inside the door he sprang to life and came over to say hello. That was the single most uplifting moment of that trip for both of us I think. We were missing our pets back in the States terribly at that point and he was just the friendlest little guy ever.

Finally we made our way to the hotel to unload our luggage and relax for a bit.

Friday

To the tower! We made off for the Tokyo Tower and I was surprised. I guess I expected to be in an area like in Paris where people take pictures with it and it’s imposing presence is always in the background. Nope. I could barely see it from the station we got off at, so many buildings and trees in the way. It felt like it was just stuck in the middle of stuff, an after thought. ‘You know what’d be great here! A HUGE tower!’ ‘Why?’ “Why not I think is what you meant to say…’. Anyways, here it is. We had some pretty good curry served by a foreigner who spoke perfect Japanese. Not weird at all…

In the evening we decided it would be best to keep it simple and not stay out too late so we opted for an interesting looking izukaya. After finally being seated (not sure why they were looking for customers, they had plenty) we decided to get nomi-hodai (all you can drink). Nicole’s friend came eventually and we enjoyed some drinks and jokes for a while until we realized we had missed the last train home… and were subsequently stuck in Shinjuku until the morning train unless we took a super expensive taxi. So stay we did. And party we did. We made our way around trying to find a half decent club but had a hard time surprisingly. Finally we found Xanadu and made ourselves at home with a second nomi-hodai. I don’t recommend the club unless you love that genre of music, 70’s and 80’s disco and techno style, slightly modernized but it’s hard to make poo any better than what is, no matter how many beats you smear over it.

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School fest

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October 29, 2011

Jr. High School Festival

Taking the simple stuff and making it fantastic

This is a post that’s been sittin’ on the burners a while, sorry. There’s been so much going on these last few months. The second I can relax, I usually fall asleep. As of right now, I’m going through the last few weeks of classes and it’s wearing me down. I said my last “See you” to one of my elementary schools the other day and I was this close to crying in front of everyone. Giving me goodbye letters was hard enough but then one class actually read them all aloud to me… now that I can actually understand basic Japanese it was like a lovely kind of torture. My junior high kids are going to kill me, figuratively.

Let’s time travel back to the end of October. Also a busy time but full of awesome. My JHS was prepping for this festival. I kept hearing about it but didn’t understand exactly what it was or how it worked. All I knew was that I would be at the school the day before and the day of the event.

Next thing I know, I’m wandering the halls after my classes were finished just looking for trouble. I ended up making paper flowers, connecting paper chain links, giving painting advice, and generally being a huge distraction for the kids. They spent days getting materials together and making all sorts of artsy decorations.

All the stairwells in use for the day had these strips across them. I thought it was really smart way to get an interesting perspective effect.

And of course there were advertisements for the different ‘corners’ around the school. There were areas for snacks and all manner of games. One was a Japanese game show style, another was a gesture comedy show like Who’s Line Is It Anyway.

The opening ceremony had the best banner I’d ever seen come out of JHS.

Next there were a few speech contest winners who presented in Japanese.

One student, a first year, gave her English speech that one speech contests here and also nationwide. Rather impressive.

Next came the singing competition. Each class had to sing a song and there were trophies for the winners of each grade (in Japan, JHS has 3 grades – 7, 8, and 9 but call them 1, 2, 3 years). The trophies weren’t awarded until the end of the day… a few of the 3rd year girls cried because they were upset about not winning. It was little competition, unfortunately. The girls were all evenly matched but the boys were a bit more obvious in their weaknesses.

All in all, it was a lovely day. I felt honored to be a part of it. It gave me a chance to connect more with the students outside of a classroom setting. Some of them open up amazingly when not confronted with a blackboard.

The real surprise is their level of dedication. They aren’t even in high school and they’re more focused and organized than half the folks I knew in college. It blew my mind at first. After a while, I became less jaded and saw some the possible problems that cause and are caused by this high level of dedication. To name one, the conformity dilemma. Nothing wrong with it out right but the suppression of independent thought is a bit of an issue for me. I’ll have to devote a whole post to this topic, however.

Next, I’ll try to get Hiroshima and a couple other posts done before I leave Japan. Now I’m off to add (or distract) my JHS kids during their prep for graduation. I hear we’ll be drawing on blackboards and decorating the whole school for the 3rd years. Why is it so sad!

With love – M