David Chart's Japan Diary

November 1st 2003

It's been a while since the last diary entry, but I've been busy with school. I'm still tired and stressed, which is to be expected given that the classes are still pitched to be difficult for me, and I really need to do some RPG writing this weekend because the ideas are keeping me awake at night. Nevertheless, I still like it here.

The local festival People at the festival, with the shrine in the background.

Last Sunday the English teachers who invited us to a tea party a couple of weeks ago invited us to sushi and then to a local festival, at one of the shrines in Okazaki. The sushi was good, and I got to speak more Japanese this time. Our hosts (Masumi, Chieko, and Mieko) said that my Japanese had improved a lot, which may well be true, or may just be a consequence of my using more Japanese this time. Either way, they had an ulterior motive: they wanted us to attend their Halloween party for their students. I suspect that most of us will go (no, the party wasn't on Halloween itself, because Halloween isn't a public holiday), out of a sense of obligation if nothing else. This is a more effective strategy than the group who just put posters up in Yamasa.

The fireworks Fireworks at the festival.

The festival was interesting. It wasn't quite like anything in England, quite apart from being held at a shrine. There were a number of food stands, all in the shrine grounds, and what I think was a bring-and-buy stand, but there was also a stage which was used for drumming and karaoke. There was a small fireworks display, of about the scale you would expect on November 5th in a small town in England, and there did seem to be quite a few people milling around. At any rate, this was a festival for the locals, not for tourists; I think we were the only foreigners there.

I can't think of much notable that happened during the week. I had school every day, again, so I've now had two normal weeks. Next week will be completely abnormal: Monday is a public holiday (so it will be Tuesday before I can next check email), Thursday we have a big test, and Friday there are mock tests for the two thirds or so of the class taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December. I'm not entirely sure what the remaining three or four of us will be doing, but it certainly won't be standard lessons. Outside school, I didn't have time to do much, and mid-week I was a bit under the weather with the cold that's been going round. Given that some people have lost two or three days to it, I think I've got off fairly lightly.

The halloween party At the halloween party. From left to right, me, Sharon (Taiwanese) and Amy (Canadian).

Yesterday there was a Halloween party in the school bar. I first went far too early, after finishing my homework, and got to talk to a few people, but then I came home again, read a bit of The Tale of Genji, and then went shopping. I walked all the way to the big department store (Aeon/Jusco -- I'm not quite sure on the relationship, but Aeon may be the mall and Jusco the store, or the relationship may be a bit different) to get something with which to clean my floor. Given the way it looks just outside the bathroom, I don't want to mop it, as I don't think it responds well to prolonged dampness. On the way back from shopping I had dinner at Atom Boy sushi (quick, inexpensive, and pretty good), and then went to the party, where rather more people had turned up. I spent a couple of hours there, chatting, and then came home for a night which was a bit later than planned. I still woke up before seven this morning, with RPG ideas running through my head. I really do need to write them down.

One Month On

Today, I've been in Japan for a month, which seems like a good place to take stock. I'm not suffering from culture shock or homesickness, although the fact that I really like the pillow full of plastic beads is provoking surprise among some of the other foreigners. I am somewhat stressed, but that is to be expected under the circumstances; I am in a different country, after all. I don't think it's anything serious.

I've been to Tokyo and Nara to see sights (and, in Tokyo, Yuriko and Saori), and to Nagoya to see Aya. I've booked to go back to Tokyo, and to visit Kyoto, and I will probably visit Kyushu sometime early in the New Year to see Yuko, and some of the sights there. I don't think I could do any more tourism than I am doing, given that study is the top priority while I'm here.

Speaking of which, I'm still happy with the school. I still feel that the lessons are a bit above my ability, so I'm being stretched, and that everyone else in the class is better at Japanese than I am. On the other hand, I mostly understood the listening comprehension we did yesterday on the first hearing. I still need more practice, of course, but I think things are getting better. So far, Yamasa is pretty much as advertised. The lessons do focus on involving the students, rather than on rote learning, class sizes are fairly small (to the extent that students complain about being in 'large' classes with thirteen students). I think my Japanese will improve a lot over the course of this year.

In summary, then, Japan is good, I think I'll do what I came to do, and I'll meet lots of new people. Here's hoping that the year continues as it has begun.