Monday, August 19, 2013

Baseball Outing

Another highlight from the past few weeks was Baseball Day (the best day!!)! Somehow, thanks to Dorsey-sensei, our group came into a bunch of tickets to a Marines baseball game (Chiba's team)! So sensei, yukari-san, all the ducklings, my friend from my dance group, Hikaru, our friend from Sekiya-sensei's class, Hiroki, Masa, and I all got together and watched some baseball. There was snacking and chatting and buying of souvenirs and all around general merriment. It was an okay game, the Marines didn't play that well and basically lost it toward the end, but it was fun just to be at the game--Japanese baseball games are different from American ones in that there are cheerleaders and an entire cheer section...I think people here are way more into it, despite baseball being "America's Pastime." They played a team from Hokkaido, the Fighters, and I think the end score was 8-5 or so. We then fought our way through the multitudes of disappointed baseball fans to Kaihinmakuhari station and went home.
As always, here are a bunch of pictures.

To the Embassy!

As the program is coming to a close, I have a couple more group activities to document.

A couple weeks ago we had two separate embassy-related activities. On Monday we all took a trip to the American Embassy in Roppongi. We met at the station as a group and then wandered around for about half an hour trying to find the place because the streets out there are rather confusing. Walked in a couple separate directions at first, then finally ended up finding it, and by the time we got there, Sensei-sama was about ready to die because he had hurt his back a day or so before. We all offered to carry his bag, but he wouldn't let us...
Anyway, we finally go to the embassy compound and turned in all of our electronics and such (and thus I have no pictures from this trip), had copies taken of our passports, and were lead to a meeting-style room where we met with dai-senpai Mark Davidson and three of his interns. He told us stories about his life and about what it's like to work at the embassy. We also heard from the interns and got to ask a bunch of questions and had some pretty good discussions. Afterward we all had lunch together at the embassy cafe (American food!) and then took leave, some making their way to Sky Tree, some going to school.

The next embassy trip was a group barbecue with Dartmouth alumni and related persons, organized by the president of the Dartmouth Japan Club, Kenji Hosokawa. I got there kind of late because I had gone to watch the closing performance of my dance group at Kanda, so I got there about half way through. It was at the embassy housing complex on this huge lawn that was a brilliant shade of bright green. There were hot dogs and hamburgers and other kinds of American barbecue snack foods, it was like being back in America! But the mingling was fun and unfortunately toward the end there was  downpour of rain so we hurriedly moved everything indoors and hung around in dai-senpai's apartment for a while. It was a really beautiful space, two floors with a balcony overlooking Roppongi. Once the party started to dissipate we all made our way home in the rain.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fukushima Minpo Newspaper

Hello, here's the copy of the newspaper article I promised!

Nihonmatsu Trip

Pictures from this trip are: HERE

Friday morning (the 12th) started out earlier than most Dartmouth expeditions do—6:25—I left my house in a hurry to meet everyone at the rendezvous point at Nishi Funabashi at 6:45. 

We all made it on time and actually had a fairly smooth trip to Tokyo Station (6 ducklings total. Three decided they could get there on their own.). I think they were all sort of surprised by just how packed the morning train to Tokyo can get. I instructed those who I could hear me to get into the aisles rather than the space by the door because you get a little bit more room. Japanese morning trains are all about strategy, you see. The picture on the right is Kiki being upset on the packed morning train with Anne in the foreground. We met everyone else and received our tickets for the 8:16 bullet train. I then got a message from Tom (one of the independent ducklings) saying that he was going to be late. So everyone went on to the bullet train and I waited behind for Tom hoping that he would make it before the train left, which he did! Scolding him for being late as a result of not going with the group (as a good senpai should do), we joined everyone else just in time and were off to Fukushima prefecture!

Once we arrived, we hopped on a bus headed toward Asaka High School, the school that Dartmouth alumnus Asakawa Kanichi, the first Japanese national to graduate from Dartmouth, attended back in the day. We were given readings about him prior to arrival so that we knew a little bit about our “dai-senpai.” Dai-senpai basically means great or grand senior. Not senior like senior citizen or senior in college/highschool. Senior as in older or higher in rank than us. In Japan, there’s a huge emphasis on the hierarchical system and on respecting your elders and those who are more experienced than you. Therefore, everyone talked a great deal about Dai-senpai and all of his accomplishments and everything. 
We learned a word of the Tohoku (or maybe just Fukushima prefecture’s??) dialect—“obandesu” which apparently is the equivalent of “gochisousamadeshita” which is what you say at the end of a meal. I think I missed the beginning of his explanation, so slightly unclear on that.
We walked around the school wearing hardhats because it had been partially wrecked from the tsunami and earthquake, and then we came to this attic-like place where we went up this rickety staircase wearing our hardhats just in case the roof fell down (!!!!!). I’m actually not sure why we went up there.. We climbed up and looked around for a second and then went back down…
I’m still a little confused by that. Afterward, we went out to the school yard which was completely dirt and sand. There were kids playing soft tennis (bigger rackets I think and softer ball.. maybe not.) which was amazing because it was swelteringly hot outside. Our ultimate goal, however, was this giant tree. As the story goes, while Asakawa-san was a student learning English there, he memorized a page or two of the dictionary a day and after he had it memorized, he ate the pages. When he had finished all the pages, he couldn’t eat the cover so he buried it in front of this tree where it most likely has now decomposed and is no longer actually there, but at least the memory is nice. So we took a photo in front of it like good sightseeing Dartmouth people and went to take shelter from the heat.
After the highschool, we went to this place called Furusatomura (Hometown Village) where we had a group lunch and then walked over to this museum-like place where we appreciated some art and old artifacts and some things related to Asakawa-san. Then the fun began as we came to the place entitled “Genki Kizu Paku” (Energetic Kid’s Park),
this big play place where kids could come, accompanied by parents or not, and play in the different rooms. One room was occupied by various toddlers and their moms reading books and playing with pretend cooking sets. The next (and by far most exciting) room that we came to had a ball pit and slide and a wheel you could roll around in and a giant trampoline runway thing. We wore passes that said we were only observing, but being the adventurous group that we are, there would by no means be any sitting on the sidelines and watching the fun. Even Dorsey-sensei joined in.. Here’s photographic evidence.

After our romp through the playhouse, we moved back outside and walked around viewing various historically rich traditional buildings. Then of course we came to another play area and made a stop there, mostly (I think) because Dorsey-sensei wanted to ride on the mini zipline.
We then returned to our bus and made a quick stop at this really big castle, but instead of going inside, we just took a picture in front of it. We used up a good chunk of our time by taking over the children’s play areas, but in the end it was definitely worth it.
Afterward we went to the Nihonmatsu City Hall where we had a small reception-ish thing with the mayor, a short and rather cute man who apparently is a great campaigner. We each did a self-introduction in Japanese and then received a gift. Consequently, we were in the newspaper the next day, which was cool, I can actually post the digital version later. Then we left City Hall temporarily to visit the grave of dai-senpai where some people offered prayers, lit incense, laid flowers. The graveyard itself wasn’t very large, but regardless it was beautiful. It was located high up on this hill and it overlooked the whole city of Nihonmatsu. After we payed our respects to dai-senpai, we returned to City Hall to have a cultural exchange with a group of middle schoolers who would soon be travelling to Hanover for a short trip. They all introduced their selves in English and then proceeded to demonstrate a variety of traditional Japanese games, practicing explaining the games to us first before they went over to Dartmouth. It was really fun actually—they played this version of mini volleyball with a paper ball that you just kind of batted back and forth. 
They also had this card game for learning English that was sort of like the memory card game where you have to find two matching cards, except for with this game all the cards were face down and the teacher would call out the card in English and they would have to find the Japanese character that went along with it. Then they flipped the cards over and we played an opposite version of the game where we would say the kanji and they would have to find the English. It was really fun! We all played these games together; I mostly watched because I wasn’t able to adequately complete with the energetic Dartmouth kids, being the slightly worn down senior that I am. So Yukari-san and I teamed up and got one point together. 

After game time we broke up into small little groups and had really basic discussions in English and then Japanese with the middle schoolers where we talked about our hobbies and why we were learning our respective languages and what Hanover is like, etc. Our time together ended with Dorsey-sensei taking a video of all of us in turn answering simple questions about our likes and dislikes in English for the kids to learn grammar patterns. For example:
“Do you like Japanese food?”
“I love Japanese food!”
“What type of Japanese food do you like?”
“I like monjayaki!”
“Thank you!”
“You’re welcome!”

We sadly parted ways with the middle schoolers and were ushered into a bus and then a break room for about half an hour before the reception with our short-term host families. The important article of forgotten clothing that I mentioned earlier was a change of clothes for a slightly more dressy occasion--the coming reception. 

Once we arrived in the reception hall, we all lined up along the wall and sat down in chairs in an order that was given to us and waited for each of our names to be called. When it was, we walked up to the front, our host family’s name was read, they came up to meet us, we took a picture together, and all sat down together at our tables.
After dinner, we went home with our host families and that is sadly where my account of the group activities must end! By the looks of it, a lot of people went to Aizu, a town in Fukushima prefecture, and did a variety of things with their families.

I actually had a pretty severe allergic reaction on Friday night (a rather unfortunate combination of cats, dogs, and different trees), and Dorsey-sensei was kind enough to take me to the doctor on Saturday morning. 
Next morning was Sunday and time for us to make our way back to Chiba. We had breakfast and packed up to meet everyone at the station where we said our (tearful, for some) goodbyes, took a group photo, and hopped on the various trains that would take us home.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cell Phone Diary 3 (Tangent)

携帯日記、7月10日(水) 7/10/13
Cellphone Diary by Tangent Cheng 7/10/13
When we went to Nikko, I saw many different types of souvenirs, but the souvenirs that I saw were also generally sold in other prefectures or sightseeing locations. For example, my homestay mother said that Yuba (tofu skin) in Nikko is famous, but it's also really famous in Kyoto. She then said that the anko (red bean paste) from Narita Mountain is also famous, but it's made in various other places in Japan as well. Japanese people do not only give souvenirs to their friends after they come back from a trip, but on New Years, they also give gifts called "ochuuden." My homestay family said that they receive a lot of sweets and snacks as gifts. There is a drink called Calpis that is also apparently a popular gift. I wonder how much money is spent on gifts and souvenirs in Japan each year...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ice Skating Outing

Next update: Dartmouth goes ice skating!
Last week on Wednesday we left from school with Masa, a fourth year Kanda student who is a volunteer for our LSA group, and Naho, a Dartmouth '16 who lives in the area. We missed Kimberly though, she had previously hurt her ankle and so couldn't join us. We took a train and then a bus to Inage where we arrived at the Aqua Rink. It was an ice skating rink plus Aqua Zone! Everyone did a really good job actually. No major injuries!
After everyone had worn out their legs (and feet! Ice skates WILL cause blisters.) we entered the hotspring pool. What was really cool about that was that once you left the locker room, you went through a doorway that enveloped you in a mysterious vale of showering water and suddenly exported you to a magical space with flowing water and a jacuzzi (inside). There was also an outside Jacuzzi overlooking the sea and a sauna! The sauna was impossible for me to stay in, but I feel like the others had a nice time. We then toweled off and went back to the station. We all had dinner together at an izakaya and returned home.

 I like to take a lot of pictures apparently, so here are a bunch:

Also, just so you know there is actually studying going on, here are some more pictures.

Update: Nikko Trip

We're about half way through the program now, I can't believe it! Things have been really great, but really busy. It's also become extraordinarily hot here. Summer has definitely come. I have a couple of things to update on--the first being the Nikko trip that we took two weeks ago, Thursday and Friday. The weather then was really cool and nice and although it rained for one out of two of the days, it was cool so I think we all appreciated it to some degree. 

We left Thursday morning bright and early from Nishi Funabashi Station. I had gone a little early to meet anyone else who was early, particularly because I requested that everyone meet up ten minutes or so prior to the time we would board the train, just so that we would have enough time to get everyone together. Everyone pretty much made it on time too! (I think maybe it was because I bribed them though… does that still count…?) I was so proud. Then we took the train and subway required to make it to our meeting place from where we hopped on another train and began the trek to Nikko in Tochigi prefecture.

Here’s a map.

So yeah.
[[[Aside: I also made a Flickr page (click here) for pictures because there were a LOT. But I’ve also attached some here just so you can put a picture to what I’m talking about right away.]]]

Once we got to Nikko, we deposited our belongings in coin lockers and started exploring! It was suuuper foggy so at first we were kind of thinking that we wouldn’t be able to see that much (but never fret, the story has a happy ending). Our bus passes were distributed to us and then we headed up to see Chuzenji Lake and Kogen Falls. Once we got off the bus, we walked over to the area by the waterfall hoping to take the elevator to the viewing platform, but we could literally see nothing so instead we decided it was time for lunch.
 We originally parted ways with Sensei because he needs his quiet time, however, his attempts to shake us were to no avail (although he did make a valiant—and quiet comical—effort) because we ended up eating together at the same noodle place. So we all ate lunch and then made our way to Chuzenji Lake. Sensei got us all hyped up on the prospect of riding around in swan boats, but we were ultimately disappointed because there was too much fog and we pretty much couldn’t see anything. So instead, I implemented meditation and personal reflection time. We sat for six or seven minutes in peace and quiet, pondering the beauty of nature and observing the swirling, whimsical enigma that was the white shroud of mist hovering over Chuzenji.

After we had sufficiently appreciated the nature, we walked back up to the bus stop. On the way back it cleared up nicely and turned out to be a beautiful day. We then took a different bus and a really long elevator ride and arrived at the falls! Once there, we fought our way through a sea of elementary school children in matching yellow hats, looked around, took some pictures, bought some souvenirs, and went back up.

Afterward, we took a bus to the ryokan (Japanese-style inn) where we were staying, checked in, and put our stuff in our rooms while taking a half an hour break. The buffet dinner to to come was trimmed with an array of awesome Japanese foods which we took full advantage of. We then proceeded to karaoke! Some of the boys went to play tennis (and maybe basketball? I think that got vetoed actually..) in the fitness center and were joined later by a couple girls.
After karaoke we went to the rotenburo, which apparently flows from a real hot spring. Rotenburo is an outside bath kind of like a jacuzzi, but made of stone, lacking in jets, and used for bathing. The ryokan was so cool though. It was giant and the rooms were beautiful (they had both Japanese-style tatami rooms as well as Western-style rooms) and there was a fitness center, karaoke rooms, and a manga room. It was really awesome. We went to sleep exhausted but happy and got up slightly later for breakfast the next day.

Friday! After breakfast (which I feel the need to add was very Japanese, full of fish and all other kinds of things like white rice and natto, fermented soybeans) we packed up and went back to the first station to utilize the coin lockers and board the bus that took us to Shinkyo Bridge. We walked along the bridge and then got back on a bus to Toshogu Shrine. This particular shrine’s claim to fame is the three “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. So we appreciated that for a bit, although the appreciation was made significantly more difficult by the mass of elementary and middle school children that literally created a sea over the entire grounds. We then proceeded to the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu (the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate) and a different shrine dedicated to love and marriage. That was followed by a visit to another temple-ish building.. I think it was actually a temple, but was under renovation and will continue to be under renovation for a long time. Sensei did not come with us on that one, and when we exited the structure (that interestingly had a temple painted on the outside of it), we had a bit of a struggle trying to find where we came in, but got there in the end and went back to the station for lunch.
After lunch we had an hour or so, so we collectively had ice cream and manju (fried dough with red bean paste in the middle)f and then some went to a coffee shop before coming back to the station. 
After that we pretty much just got back on the train and went home. What a great weekend! Even though it rained pretty much all day Friday, it was still really wonderful. Nikko is a beautiful place. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is thinking of taking a trip to the Kanto region of Japan.