Chiyoda!: Friday

2016-Jul-22, Friday 23:29
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
One benefit of staying in a ryokan is that you get both dinner and breakfast, so after sleeping in almost until the last minute, I was awakened by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd with exactly enough time to make it to breakfast after a quick shower. And such a breakfast:


Get in my mouth.

We had to eat a bit quickly in order to make the ferry, and originally I thought we were going to miss the shuttle from the ryokan to the port and would have to walk. What was I thinking? This is Glorious Nippon, after all. They held the bus for us, loaded our luggage into it while we paid for the room, and then drove us down in time to catch the 8:25 ferry and the street car that was just leaving after that.

We didn't try to make the 9:40 bus after arriving at 9:35, so we popped into a 7-11 to withdraw cash and get snacks--I got a melon pan, om nom nom--and then up to the bus center, where we bought tickets and asked for the proper platform to board the bus. I thought it was eight, but I was misremembering. It was nine, like it's always been.

Also, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd accidentally bought us children's tickets instead of adult tickets and we were worried for a moment, but we were being silly. This is Japan, and the ticket counter exchanged them for free. They were actually the same price, so I'm not sure why the 北部 line even offers separate tickets.

On the bus, we learned that Pokemon Go had finally gone live in Japan, causing a frantic burst of activity as [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega captured every unclaimed gym in sight.

And then, we arrived in Chiyoda.


From the highway. That building with wings is the community center.

Kaminaka-san, Hattori-san, and Sunada-san were all waiting to meet us at the bus center, and after a round of hugs (hugs! In Japan!) we started on our short tour. First we went to the Geihoku Cultural Center, new since we lived here, that had exhibits about local folk crafts like weaving and rice growing, about kagura performance, and about the festival of Mibu no Hanadaue. Then we went to Mibu itself, walking down the shōtengai where the festival takes place and ending at Mibu Jinja, where we went for hatsumōde our last year in Japan.


Not as impressive now, without the snow and lanterns and crowds of people. I wish I had a picture of that night...

After that, we drove up to a viewpoint on top of a hill, and after a short walking path, we found our way to 壬生城跡 (Mibu shiroato, "the ruins of Mibu Castle"). I didn't see anything that looked remotely like a castle had ever been there, but there was a spectacular view:


Facing toward Ōsaka.

After that, we went to look at our old house, still pretty nice looking and still sitting next to the abandoned twin house next to it, and and then off to Chiyoda High School! Unfortunately, due to the Japanese policy of transferring teachers after only a few years, very few of the people that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd taught with were still there. There were a couple, though. Umeki-sensei, who teaches math, and Nishihara-sensei, who teaches science, and the school nurse were all there. We also ran into Koyama-san, mother of Kazu, who I wrote about in this post and who is now a high school student. We didn't talk for very long because Kaminaka-san had set us a schedule, but we looked around for a bit in the school and then continued on to the Yae-sogo Communtiy Center for lunch, where we were met by Nakamura-san, the other Hattori-san, and Bōno-san.

Lunch was amazing. They had remembered I liked sake a lot and brought two small bottles for me, one of local sake from Chiyoda and one from Saijō, where the sake festival is held every year in late August. We had conbini bentō and okonomiyaki, as well as dessert jello from somewhere. I got a grape and aloe jelly that tasted exactly like the drinks I used to get from vending machines. We chatted, and I did a lot of translating to and from Japanese, and there were only a couple times where I just brought the conversation to a halt because I couldn't think of how to express an idea. It was amazing. Why did we leave?

Oh yes. So [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd could go to school and fulfill her dreams. It's a good reason! And yet, when I'm here, walking around Chiyoda, speaking in Japanese in a way that I was very uncomfortable doing when I lived here the first time...

If I had moved here before knowing as much Japanese as I know now, I'd be conversationally fluent. But, well, there's nothing to do about that now. I just have to keep trying and keep studying.


また今度, I said as we left. "Until next time..."

And we will be back, someday. Sooner than five years.

After a three-hour meal, we had to catch the bus back to Hiroshima, so we took the taxi Kaminaka-San had chartered and packed away the hand-made pottery pieces he had made for each member of our group, including [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who wasn't there due to having not been in Hiroshima with us, and we got on the highway bus and started the trip back. After the trip, we walked to our hotel--not Hotel Active, sadly, because there was a weekend price spike that made it not worth staying in--but in Toyoko Inn on Heiwa-Ōdōri, which was further but not significantly so. We were scheduled to meet some old friends from our Japan days, who happened to all be here at the same time in a weird serendipity, and after we checked in that's what we set out to do, though [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat stayed behind because they were still incredibly full from lunch.

The tabe・nomihōdai was at Sōgo, not Mitsukoshi like we originally expected it would be, so it took a bit longer to get there than we thought it would. Not too long, though, and once we made our way through Sōgo to the special beer garden elevator and went up, we had a couple hours of drinks and food with friends. The food wasn't that great, but I got some nice use out of the bottle of sake that it didn't seem like anyone else was drinking from, and a lovely time talking to people I hadn't seen in years. And some Japanese practice with an acquaintance, though I think because of the beer, she forgot that I'm not that great and just launched into full native speed and I followed along as best as I could.

At ten they threw everyone out. Some people were going on to a bar called Koba and originally I was planning on joining them, but on the walk there I started getting more and more twitchy in a way that told me that it was time to go back to the hotel. So I said my goodbyes, walked back to the hotel with a friend, and read until [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd came back and then went to bed.

Steps taken: 14050.

Note: If you're interested in more about Chiyoda, I did a whole blog series about it here.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
I offer no excuse. Never retreat, never surrender.

(Also, I've been really busy on weekends for weeks. So)
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
I've wanted to make a post like this for a while, but I've always been stymied before because I didn't think of using my phone to take pictures everywhere until about halfway through my time living in Japan, and even then I didn't typically take pictures of daily life. Everything you do all the time seems ordinary even if other people wouldn't think so, after all. I could have used Google maps, but the only places the picture vans had gone were the major thoroughfares, and even then a lot of the major side roads hadn't been explored at all.

Today, I looked on Google maps and found that Chiyoda had been thoroughly mapped by Google Streeview, even to the point of a lot of the single-car roads leading to nooks and crannies all over! So here, I present a lot of the places I remember and my memories of them, with Streetview links so you can see them yourself.

You'll have to forgive the constant shifting between overcast and sunny in the pictures, but on the other hand, it does a good job representing Japanese weather.

Home Sweet Home
We lived in that house for three years. The discolored one on the left is abandoned and had been abandoned for years before we got there, but ours was in great condition. It looks like a cement block on the outside, but the inside is all tatami and wood floors, sliding panels, shōji screens, separate bathroom and toilet, and all the other elements of a traditional Japanese home.

It was subsidized by the Kitahiroshima Board of Education, so we got a huge bargain on the price--monthly rent was 170,000円, which was around $200 at the time and is more like $160 now. That's a big part of the reason we were able to save so much money and also why we never moved, even in the winter when it got incredibly cold--most Japanese houses are uninsulated, and ours had concrete walls filled with sand so it was even worse than usual--or the summer when it was muggy and hot.

We had holes in our shōji screens for a while before we learned where to buy the supplies to repair them, so our house enjoyed brief fame among [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's students as the creepy house.

A Picturesque Path
If you've ever seen those various postcards or pictures or anime sequences where children are walking along raised paths through the rice fields, while cicadas buzz or crows caw, then you recognize that picture. That was the route that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd took every day to get to school. Or at least, to Chiyoda's schools--she was at three other schools on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but since they aren't in Chiyoda and I never went there they won't feature here.

That route is also the path we always took whenever we went walking toward the town center or whenever we had to drive anywhere. It's about as wide as our car was, so it's a good thing we never ran into a car going the opposite way. There's a kind of car in Japan called a kei car that were narrower than normal and better designed for urban roads, but we had a Mazda Familia (which we affectionately called "Uncle Enzo"), so we sometimes had to be careful on the smaller rural roads.

Minimalist Intersection
This is what I mean about small roads. This is where we turned left after going down the path between the rice fields. It seems ridiculously narrow, and it was ridiculously narrow, but it's built for left-hand turns so we got used to it pretty quickly. If we were going to the high school, then we kept on straight ahead.

On the right at the side of the road, you can see an open rain gutter. These ran along the roads all over town, filling the air with the constant sound of flowing water even on hot summer days. Sometimes they had stone plates put over them with small holes to let the water in, but in Chiyoda at least, they were usually uncovered. We called them "gaijin traps."

Local Okonomiyaki
When we first moved to Chiyoda, this building was a bakery, but even though there was a sign out on the main thoroughfare and some of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's students bought bread from there, we never managed to get there when it was open because it usually opened early and closed early. The one time we arrived during posted hours, it wasn't open.

About halfway through our time in Chiyoda, though, the family who lived there (shop/house combos are very common in Japanese towns) converted their bakery into an okonomiyaki restaurant where they made okonomiyaki to order. We'd select from the menu--no noodles, plus dried squid and kimchi for me, mochi and cheese for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd--and then they'd make it on the grill in view and bring it over to us. It was amazing, and writing this reminded me how much it annoys me that I can't get good okonomiyaki anywhere in Chicago.

Local Brewery and Shop
I don't have many memories associated with this place, but I'm including it because we walked past it a lot and because we'd get gifts of sake from the various people we worked with--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's co-workers, our students, and so on--and a lot of them came from here. The shop is actually quite small and you can see most of it through the door there. The building is primarily the brewery.

And yes, that is a booze vending machine on the right.

Chiyoda High School
I don't have nearly as many memories of this place as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd does, but it was still kind of the center of our lives in the town, along with the two English conversation classes we taught. I'd walk by it a lot, we'd see [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's students and their parents, around town, and I'd go to the festivals they'd hold there, like Sports Day or the Culture Festival.

If you've seen any school anime, you might recognize the building. This is because all Japanese schools look basically the same, and we were able to instantly recognize them no matter where we went. The main building is on the left, and the building on the right was a theatre and gym.

Next time, more pastoral memories!

鴛鴦夫婦

2014-Oct-31, Friday 11:11
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Checking back through my archives, it doesn't look like I've told this story. I was listening to Raindancer by Erutan (or katethegreat19, which is the name I originally found her by on OC ReMix, though the fantastic The Rose General) and the lyrics reminded me of the last enkai we went to with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's co-workers.

The lyrics themselves aren't incredibly inventive:
I will always love you
I love you
and with this kiss I make this vow
to love you forever
Like birds of a feather we'll be
You with me
but they do lead into the story. At the going-away party, they told us about how they always admired us and were a little envious of our relationship. In Japan, the kind of obvious affection [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I have isn't common--and I'm not talking about PDA, I'm talking about stuff like saying "I love you" before falling asleep or before leaving for work, or when talking on the phone, which is when her co-workers would always hear it. Or how [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd made me lunch every day (and still does 💖). They called us 鴛鴦夫婦 (oshidori fuufu, literally "mandarin duck couple," but figuratively "lovebirds") and gave us a banzai as we walked out.

In many parts of East Asia, mandarin ducks are the model for married couples, since they supposedly mate for life and stay by each other's side, even in harsh weather.
Midnight sleep was broken
But no friend to brush away the cold tears!
I envy the Oshidori which has ever its mate by its side.
-Lady Dainagon, quoted in the journals of Murasaki Shikibu
And hey, we both stayed here during the last winter,

鴛鴦夫婦. That's us.

Here's the song if you'd like to listen:

Update time

2009-Jul-06, Monday 15:17
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I haven't been updating a lot lately, mainly because working full time and commuting two hours each way to get to my job takes a lot out of me. I've had a short vacation now, though, so I'm going to update with whats been going on. Let's see...

Well, first of all, the reason I had a vacation is because one of the students at Suzugamine came down with swine flu. A neighboring school had a group of students go to Hawai'i, and when they came back, they played a baseball game against Suzugamine. A few days later, both our student and theirs came down with swine flu. Our student lived in the dorms, so they postponed tests and shut the whole school down for a few days. The other teachers had to come in, but I didn't. Partially because I get treated a bit like a part-time teacher by the school--when I have nothing to do, I don't actually have to be there.

Chiyoda High School's cultural festival was a couple weeks ago. People here seem pretty surprised when I tell them that there isn't really anything like a cultural festival in America. I mean, elementary schools have fun fairs, but those aren't really the same thing. Anyway, it was pretty neat. The class homerooms rooms were all decorated in different themes (Egypt, space, a haunted house, etc.), and all the various clubs had displays. The manga club had a bunch of drawings, the tea ceremony club did tea ceremonies, the kagura club performed, and so on. It was a lot of fun, though I imagine it would get boring after a while since they're the same every year.

My phone stopped working a few days ago. As near as I can tell, Softbank stopped billing my credit card for it last month without informing me (or, at least, without informing me in English). I have no idea why. I can still get calls or texts in, but nothing goes out and I have no internet connection. We're going to try to get it fixed later today, in the same trip where we go to add my name to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's bank account like I should have asked them to do 11 months ago .

School is still going well. Slow sometimes, but good. The students are getting more used to me, though it can be difficult to communicate sometimes. Some of them want to learn but are bad at languages, some of them want to learn and are pretty good at it, most of them are just taking English because the government says they have to. The usual story. Lesson planning is kind of fun, but can be tedious. It's especially annoying with my Wednesday classes, because Wednesdays kept being used for different activities, so the Wednesday classes were about a month behind. Blarg.

That's all for now.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
One of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's students came up to her and said "your husband." [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told her my name, at which point the student nodded and then said, "Want." She later tried to grab [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's boobs.

I have no idea what kind of statement she was trying to make.

Sports Day!

2008-Sep-20, Saturday 23:24
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
So, today was Chiyoda High's Sports Day, where all the students get together to do different games (not really sports in the American sense) and the classes compete against each other. I had been invited to go a couple weeks ago, so I woke up early with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and headed down to the school. I sat around with her the teacher's room for a bit, while the teachers held their morning meeting and said a bunch of stuff I didn't understand, and then at 9:30 we went out to the field for the Sports Day.

Sports Day was all kinds of fun, and filled with the sort of activities that would cause a massive lawsuit in America. For example, one of the events involved the boys forming a human bridge that another boy climbed on top of. As he walked on his classmates' backs, the people at the end ran around to the front to extend the bridge. One kid even did fall off and crack something pretty hard such that they had to stop the event, but no one freaked out or threatened to sue anyone--kind of a welcome change. Another one, called Caterpillar, had people climb into a roll of taped-together cardboard boxes and move across the field.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, as well as a bunch of parents from the audience, got to participate in one event--tennis ball bouncing. Against the ground on the way out to the cone, then up and down on the racquet on the way back. I did okay--it's a bit hard to tell how people think you're doing when you could stumble around like a drunken elephant and they'd still yell "[name]-san ganbare!" and "Fighto!"

Then afterwards, I got invited to an enkai (school-sponsored party for teachers). That was a lot of fun--I'm just sad that our ride dropped us off at home while our car is still at the bus station (3 or so miles away), but they did have our best interests at heart. Japanese drunk driving laws basically come down to, "If you have a BAC above 0 when the cops pull you over, you're fucked and so is everyone who let you drive."

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