A little extra time off can go a long way
06.04.2008 19 °C
So, I have been neglecting my blogging duties it’s true. They say that when you hear from some one too much they are probably lonely but if you never hear from them they are having fun. I am glad to report I am falling towards the latter these days and I have been having a wonderful time exploring Japan due to an unexpected increase in holiday time. The school board I work for recently decided that part of the purpose of my being here in Japan is to learn more about Japan so I can share my findings with all of you. So, they decided that I would be allowed to take “Japanese Study Time” whenever the students are away from school. That means I have more time to travel in Japan and experience Japanese culture and less time sitting in the teacher’s office doing nothing. So, that lovely change will start to pay off for the school board right now as I tell you all about my latest adventures in Japan.
When last I left you I was standing in sub-zero temperatures watching a bunch of naked men fight for a stick. I’m happy to say that I have officially turned off my heater and I am enjoying some lovely 20 °C weather. Come home you ask. Why, I ask. But I am getting a bit ahead of my self here. Let’s go back to February.
I spend most of my time in February exploring little areas near my home. I made efforts to stop whenever the notion struck me and I was able to glean a few interesting pictures this way. I took an alternate road home from the city one day and found one of the largest graveyards in Okayama and an immense tori gate. I have been meaning to ask about how the Japanese are traditionally buried but I keep forgetting. I’m thinking that given the size of the tombs cremation might be the way.
Also in February I went off to Bear Valley an hour away to indulge in my second attempt at snowboarding. The trip there was breathtaking along lakes and higher and higher mountain vistas. I loved the snowboarding too but at the end of the day it felt like I had been involved in several fairly brutal car accidents. Luckily it snowed like mad so it was more like violently smashing into pillows than concrete, which was good. It was also a great opportunity to spend some time with friends and get some much-needed exercise in the winter months.
March saw the graduation of the third year junior high school students. This was an incredibly ceremonial event and many of the students took to fits of tears when they realized they would now have to work for their A pluses.
I discovered a beautiful campground near my house in March. The scene was so inspiring I think I took a million photos. Here are a few of my favorites from that afternoon.
I have been taking a Japanese language class every Wednesday night in the city and at the end of March we were treated to a lesson in Shuji (also known as Shodo or Japanese calligraphy). It was love at first character. I went out the next day and bought a shuji kit and have been covering my house with my creations despite their serious lack of talent.
The shuji kit was purchased on a trip my friend Jade and I took to Nimi about an hour from my home. Jade and I went to visit a Japanese friend of ours who has made a name for herself playing tour guide. We had the pleasure of joining her on a tour of her hometown which included a trip to the Nimi caves and the very relaxing onsen. The day was capped off with a lovely visit to an Okinawan restaurant. Yet another reason why I have to go on a diet.
So that brings me up to last weekend. It was right in the middle of spring break so a couple of girls I do dinner with every week and I decided to take a trip to the culture capital of Honshu, Nara. Nara is one of those lovely little cities that managed to escape the fire bombings during the war so many of the old temples and artifacts remain as they have been for hundreds of years. The highlight of course was Todaiji temple which houses three massive Buddhas. The town is littered with dear which the locals believe to be lucky. We were blessed to have great weather and the cherry blossoms had even begun to make an appearance as well.
Yesterday was the middle of the cherry blossom viewing season. The Japanese go bonkers for them. They sit outside on tarps under the trees with their friends and family and get drunk. Wherever you find a cherry blossom tree you are sure to find ten or twelve drunk Japanese people under it. We didn’t want to be left out of this cultural experience so myself and a bunch of other English teachers gathered under the cherry blossoms yesterday afternoon and, well, I’m sure the rest is history.
And here is a photo for your amusement.