Wednesday, May 28, 2003

My Class Trip to Takayama

I wish I had written about my early May trip to Yamagata before my impressions of it were clouded over by the trip to Gifu Prefecture`s town of Hida Takayama. Considering some of the circumstances, I had a really good time. And I am happy to say that we were in no way hindered by funky-looking white vans driven by people in funny white clothing :-D

View from Soba Restaurant Oishi Soba!

The bus ride took about three hours, during which we took a small detour to Nagano Prefecture, where we stopped at a roadside soba restaurant that had a fantastic view of the mountains and a river. Needless to say, the soba was simply delicious!

KamikochiAmazingly Blue Water

Afterwards, while we were still in Nagano Prefecture, we stopped by Kamikochi, which was one of the prettiest places we went to on the trip, in my opinion. It also helped that the weather was beautiful that day! Kamikochi is a sort-of park/nature trail with an amazing view of snow-capped mountains and a river with water that is clear, and amazingly blue. In fact, I asked my professor if it was ok to drink the water and he said, nomeru, yo (sure, you can drink it), so I decided to drink some. As I took a small mouthful of the river water, I thought to myself, "Knowing my luck, I`ll probably come down with dysentery or something." But luckily, I was ok ;-)

Spanning this river is Kappabashi, or Kappa Bridge, named after the Japanese mythological kappa creatures that look half human, half turtle. According to the legend, they lurk in the river and if you`re not careful, they`ll pull you in. Also, they absolutely love cucumbers (hmmm....that reminds me of someone ;-)). The souvenir store was fully of kappa memorabilia, including Hello Kitty`s dressed as kappas! (Let me tell you, each region of Japan has it`s own unique region-related Hello Kitty souvenirs...but that`s another story for another time ;-)) I didn`t get any kappa souvenirs, but I did buy a small turtle cell phone strap/keychain for my younger sister. She likes to collect turtles so it made me think of her as soon as I saw it.

Hida Folk Village

After Kamikochi, we finally arrived in Hida Takayama. Our first stop was the Hida Folk Village, which is a re-created folk village from two hundred years ago. The houses in this village are actual 200 year-old houses made in the regional traditional sloping, thatched-roof style. They were transported from various places in Gifu Prefecture and brought together to make the Hida Folk Village. Each house had detailed explaination about the kind of work done in the house. One was a farmers`s house, one was a silk weaver`s house, etc. As I walked around the houses, I had to keep reminding myself that people actually lived in them. One item of interest was a circular rice field, which was dedicated to the gods. I have seen many rice fields here in Japan, but never a circular one...

Fancy Dinner at Green Hotel

That`s me in the picture above with T and A (who is from Russia) during dinner at the Green Hotel. The dinner was amazing. We had several courses, brought out to us by attendants...we were really pampered! We were given yukata, which we had the option of wearing during dinner. The dinner consisted of yakinikku, pot pie (yeah, a Western touch there), fish, and some other tasty items whose names I do not know.

There were not one, but two onsen in the hotel, which I had wanted to enter, but after dinner, I took a long walk around Hida Takayama with some girls. It was 9pm and the entire town had closed down. Luckily for us, we found a quaint coffee shop that was still open, so we went in and had something to drink. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was too tired to go into the onsen!


The next day, we had an early start. The bus took us to the center of Hida Takayama, where we spent the morning walking around, looking at all the quaint shops inside the traditional, dark wooden buildings. This place would give Kyoto a run for it`s money!! There was also a riverside market that sold all kinds of traditional foods and snacks. One girl bought some mochi that later on, I had the honor of tasting...the best mochi I`ve eaten so far! They were handing out so many samples of the food for sale that tasting them would have been a meal in itself! Afterwards, we all met at a puppet performance hall, where we saw a demonstration of mechanical Japanese puppets, which originated around the late 1700`s!! However, I wasn`t very impressed...except by maybe the puppet that could write kanji. Then, we went to the hall`s second floor, where we had lunch. I chose the shabu-shabu lunch (pictured above). Of course, it was delicious! By then, it had begun to rain really hard, so luckily we were inside. Thanfully, by the time we were ready to board the bus back to Hachioji, the rain had stopped.


On our ride back to Hachioji, we retraced our ride to Hida Takayama for the most part. We even got to ride past the soba restaurant by the roadside. Since it had just rained, we could see the fog lifting from the mountains, which made them look mysterious. We made two rest stops, one of them was by a city by a lake named Sawako (Sawa Lake). The view was defenitely senic, with the fog rising from the mountains in the background (too bad that it can`t be seen well in this picture). It was as we were leaving Sawako that I received an unexpected, but not unwelcome call from a friend back home! Also, during our ride back, they showed a movie called "Deep Blue Sea", (I would not have known the title if it weren`t for my friend who called) which, I`m sorry to say, was a pretty bad movie. No offense to those who like the movie! ;-) So before we knew it, we were back in Hachioji. I hadn`t realized that the outskirts of Hachioji are practically uninhabited until we rode by on the bus back from Takayama! Unfortunately, it had begun to rain really hard and we had to walk from Soka to our dorms. Needless to say, I was soaked when I got back. But anywayz, that was my trip. It was defenitely a lot better than I had thought....do I dare say it was better than my trip to Yamagata? It was yet another chance to experience yet another part of Japanese culture. I hope that with these pictures, I was better able to convey my impressions of the trip to you. I am thinking of making this a "permanent exhibition" by transferring this entry to my regular webpage. But I`ll need to find time, of course, so we`ll see!
Ooh! Ooh! Look what I found!

I found this really kewl website were you can post phlogs, or cell phone blogs. You can send entries by email and even post pictures taken with a cell phone. Now it makes me wish I had a camera on my cell phone. I think I`ve been spoiled by Japanese cell phones...when I was home, most people`s cell phones looked so boring ;-) When I come home for good I`m gonna want nothing less than a color screen and camera! Hehe...takai ne...but those phones are so expensive in the US that I probably won`t be able to afford it :-P

komatteiru...dou suru?

In other news....I feel like I`m back on square one. I thought I had been pretty much decided about staying in Japan another year....but the possibility of coming home for good seems to be getting stronger. I thought I could do this alone...but now I`m not so sure...for the sake of the people at Berlitz....I need to decide soon....

Which reminds me...I have some not-so-good news: If I am indeed staying in Japan for another year, I most likely won`t be coming home to visit in July. I found out that my family will be out of town during the time I was planning to visit. Serves me right for not checking with my parents before making set plans. So...I will probably be coming home at either the end of August or the beginning of September. I think the former would be better because most people will be back in school by September and will be too busy. Also, I could move into a new apartment at the beginning of August and not have to worry about where to store my stuff while back home. I know that some of you will be starting school in August and I just want to say I`m really sorry for the change of plans...but I will try to work something out. Of course, if I do come home for good, I will be coming home in July (I think ;-))

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

By the way...!

If I almost forgot to write about this, so it must mean that it wasn`t really a big deal...But anywayz, while I was at work last night, there was a magnitude 6 earthquake! Did any of you hear about it on the news? I wouldn`t be surprised if there wasn`t anything about it. But anywayz, I was in the middle of teaching when my student interrupted me and said, "Do you hear that? It`s an earthquake..." I could hear something rattling but didn`t feel anything at first, so I sat down and sure enough, I could feel it. There have been several small, unworthy-of-mention earthquakes since I`ve been here, so I know how one feels like. But this one was pretty strong...and it was long. The last time there was an earthquake, I was sitting in on my supervisor`s class and he refused to let it distract him so I tried to go on with the class, but the earthquake wasn`t stopping. Then, my supervisor knocked on the classroom door and said "Everybody, out!" So basically, we (my supervisor, "N", my student, and another student) ran down eight floors to the first floor of the building. Thinking about it, if it had been a really strong earthquake, we really should have stayed on the eighth floor to avoid being crushed by things such as the building. I remember seeing a picture of a house that had sunk during the San Fransisco earthquake of 1989. Anywayz, by the time we got to the first floor, the earthquake had stopped so we went back up to the eight floor. Mr. S, who is a student at Berlitz, had stayed behind and was talking on his cell phone when we got back. Also, the new teacher, "D", who has living in Japan for 30(!!) years, didn`t seem perturbed. However, my supervisor said it was the strongest earthquake he had felt since coming to Japan about 8 years ago. "N" and my student also seemed pretty shaken up. Later, I asked "T" whether she felt the earthquake, and she hadn`t felt anything at all! Also, I haven`t heard any mention of it from people in my dorm, so I guess it really wasn`t a big deal. I think that we at Berlitz can really feel earthquakes since the school is on the eight floor...
American Holidays...

I saw something about today (well, yesterday for me) being Memorial Day while looking at Yahoo! news today and realized that I had totally forgotten about Memorial Day! It`s funny that since I`ve been away, I have forgetten about holidays that I had celebrated year after year....

Monday, May 26, 2003

Chit-Chat Club!

I usually don`t write about my other job at Soka`s Chit-Chat Club, but yesterday I had an enjoyable two sessions yesterday with students who seem to be becoming...shall I dare say it....regulars?? In my first session, there was a senior named "T"(who had come to talk to me at Chit Chat before) and what seemed to be his girlfriend or maybe just a friend. Since most of the people coming to Chit Chat Club are freshmen, I don`t usually get seniors so two of them were a special treat because the seniors usually speak much better English and are not as afraid to ask their own questions and get the conversation going unlike many freshman who will only speak when asked a question. So we had a really good conversation about T`s experience in California. At the end, I gave my group some of the chocolate-flavored mochi I bought in Takayama.

The second session began with just girls and while I was talking to them, I noticed in the corner of my eye two guys, "H" and "D" hovering by the door, looking my way. H and D are freshmen who dress up in hip-hop clothes who had come to talk to me at Chit-Chat Club twice before. They crack me up! I always have the students tell me where they`re from and when I asked D, he said in a loud voice, "Chiba!" (Chiba Prefecture). The thing with them is that they`re always talking in Japanese, when at Chit Chat Club they`re supposed to speak in English, so I am always asking them, "Um, what are you saying?" and they tell me in English. Anywayz, they finally came into the room and sure enough, they headed to my table! Towards the end of the session, we were having a pretty loud conversation and laughing a lot when H all of the sudden stood up and turned his chair over. We were all puzzled and I said, "What`s going on?". I stood up to see what he was doing and saw that the straps on H`s bookbag had become completely entangled in his chair!! I couldn`t help it...I burst out laughing really loud. And poor H....his face had become bright, bright red! I can almost say that his face became as red as his jacket...and I usually don`t like to exaggerate like that. I said, "How did that happen!?" and he mumbled something about the straps becoming tangled because he kept moving around. I feel so bad about having laughed so loudly but it was so funny!

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