David Chart's Japan Diary

October 18th 2003

Quite a lot has happened since last Sunday, and I'm going to Nara tomorrow, so I thought I'd better write a diary entry this evening.

October 13th (Monday)

This was a public holiday -- Physical Education Day -- so there were no lessons. I had a bit of a lie-in, and in the afternoon I went to a tea party organised by some Japanese people. They are English teachers, so they wanted to speak English most of the time, and anyway I spent quite a lot of the time talking to the other Yamasa students who had gone. Not a bad thing, since I could do to get to know some of them, but not terribly useful for improving my Japanese, as the students in question were American, British, and Canadian, so we spoke English.

October 14th (Tuesday)

The first day for option lessons. I was the only person to choose the advanced composition class, so that class was dropped, and I'm doing intermediate composition instead. It probably doesn't matter much, since I just need practice at producing written Japanese. As a result, I now have lessons from nine to one thirty Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from nine to three thirty on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The two classes this afternoon were composition and kanji. We looked at the rules for writing Japanese, as in physical layout of characters on the page, and were set a composition on something unique to our countries as homework. I wrote about the maypole. I was going to do morris dancing, but that's an activity rather than a thing, and a unique activity might be the next topic... The kanji class wasn't as boring as it might have been, but I still haven't done the homework for it.

October 15th (Wednesday)

On Wednesday, we went to Okazaki City Hall to apply for our Alien Registration Cards. These are documents that must be carried at all times by any foreigners who are in Japan for more than ninety days. The application procedure was greatly simplified, because Yamasa filled the forms in for us and just pointed us at where we had to sign. We all got bussed to the City Hall, though, because the applications must be made in person. We have to go back in about a month to pick the cards up, and Yamasa don't provide a bus for that.

The afternoon consisted mostly of waiting around, but it was still about five pm when we got back to Yamasa, so I didn't have much free time in the evening.

October 16th (Thursday)

In the standard classes on Thursday, we were told that we were all going to interview someone, in Japanese, and then write the interview up for a mini-newspaper that would be displayed in the school. We were assigned pairs, and then we had to decide who we wanted to interview (from a list of options), and go to that person to ask if it would be OK to interview them on Friday. I was paired up with Han-san (that's the Japanese honorific 'san', rather than part of her name), who is Vietnamese, and we decided to interview Iijima-san, in the office at Yamasa.

My options classes on Thursday are reading comprehension and Japanese Studies. Reading comprehension was an assessment test, to get an idea of the level of the class. It was really quite a difficult passage, but then it was supposed to be. Japanese Studies was about the Heian period. This class is essentially a lecture from one of the teachers about some aspect of Japanese culture. The class is, of course, all in Japanese, so it's good practice at listening to Japanese with real content.

October 17th (Friday)

On Friday morning, we did the interviews and then wrote them up. This went OK, except that Han-san ended up asking most of the questions, and did a better job of understanding the answers. I quite often feel fairly useless at Japanese in my class, because I seem to be near the bottom of the class in current attainment. I hope I get better quickly... On the bright side, this week I did start to feel that I was learning Japanese, and learning it quite quickly, as well. We will have to see how it goes. I need to start including more complicated grammar in my speech and writing, and I need to speak in more complete sentences.

The classes are leaving me tired, though. I have to concentrate really hard to follow the instructions and explanations, and keep it up for several hours, so by the end of the week I was really feeling very tired. After class, we had to get X-rayed, for some reason, and then I went to continue trying to fix my email. It's getting there. I think it will be properly fixed by Monday, but I haven't had a chance to go back this weekend.

After messing about with the computers, which took a couple of hours, I realised that it was time for the (roughly) fortnightly free origami classes in Aoi Hall (one of the Yamasa buildings). These classes are organised by local Japanese people, and thus are a good way to meet people, as well as an opportunity to learn origami. I made a box (with lid) and a crane, and spoke to some Japanese people and some other Yamasa students, so it was good. Afterwards, four of us students went for dinner together, which was nice. Certainly better than eating what I can cook at home...

Speaking of which, I should put some rice on for dinner.

Today (Saturday)

Aya Yamashita Aya, outside Nagoya station. The strange metal thing in the right background is a strange spirally metal sculpture.
Nana-chan Nana-chan. I am assured she is usually dressed.

Right, dinner is cooking as I type. Today, I went to Nagoya, to see Aya Yamashita, one of my friends from England. It's about two years since I saw her, so it was very nice to see her again. There were a few problems meeting up, as she thought I was coming in on the Meitetsu line, while I was actually coming in on the JR Tokaido line, so she was waiting at the wrong station. Fortunately, I took her mobile phone number, so I could call her and sort things out. We were only about twenty minutes later than intended meeting up.

From the station, we went for coffee, walking past Nana-chan to do so. Nana-chan is basically a giant mannequin, and apparently she is normally dressed up in clothes appropriate to the season, or to some festival happening at the time. Today, for whatever reason, she was completely naked, which made for a slightly surreal experience when I first saw her.

Nagoya Railway Station Nagoya JR Railway station, taken from outside the front, looking up. And up.

Coffee was good; the shop wasn't too busy and the seats were comfortable, so we had an opportunity for a good talk. For lunch, we headed back to the railway station. Nagoya railway station is big. I mean, really big. There are two enormous towers on top of it, and a fifteen floor shopping centre between them. We had lunch on the thirteenth floor, and after lunch we went to the bookshop on the eleventh floor, and then to the department store lower down so that I could buy some new shoelaces (the current ones in my trainers were threatening to snap). But mostly, we talked. Mostly we talked in English, because Aya's English is still rather better than my Japanese, and it was a nice break to speak my native tongue for a bit.

We both had homework to do, so I headed back about four. The train service between Okazaki and Nagoya is excellent, if crowded, so I think I might make that trip again. The shops we went to aren't exactly difficult to find from the station, either.

Tomorrow, we leave for Nara around 7am, so I have to get up very early indeed.