David Chart's Japan Diary

April 14th 2004

Term continues to be busy; for some reason I have lots of homework this week. Maybe it will be a continuing feature of the week. I've also just had the horrible thought that the composition I thought was for Friday may be for tomorrow instead. Well, if it is, it isn't done; I was doing other homework this evening.

Yamasa continues to be a good school. There was an issue with one teacher's teaching style at the end of last week, so I (and, independently, a couple of my classmates) spoke to one of our other teachers, who undertook to transmit the message. This week, things have been much better, so it looks like the school is good at responding positively to student complaints. This probably explains why it's been good enough not to provoke complaints in the past.

Otherwise, not a great deal to report. I've been busy trying to get things that didn't get done over the break cleared up. I've largely dealt with my email backlog now, and cleared a couple of other jobs. There are still a few things left to do, however. One of which is filling in the gaps in this diary, so without further ado...

A long time ago, in a country far, far away

A dancing clock The clock at Okazaki Castle, in open mode. The clock faces are on the square panels that have lifted up at the sides.

Well, actually, about three weeks ago in Japan. Anyway, on Sunday March 21st Julia, one of my classmates, had arranged a little trip to the touristy parts of Okazaki. Yes, they do exist. She did an internship with Yamasa before, and got to know some of the people at the Hattori factory. One of them is a tourist guide in Okazaki in his spare time, and he'd offered to show her, and some of her friends, around.

The first place we went was Okazaki Castle, and its museums. I'd been to the grounds before, but not to the museums. The labelling was exclusively in Japanese, but still, it was quite interesting. There is also a mechanical clock, which opens up on the hour so that you can see the mannequin inside perform a traditional Japanese dance. There seem to be quite a few such clocks in Japan; I'm not sure why.

Most of the museums in Okazaki Castle focus on the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified the country at the end of the sixteenth century, was born there, and a number of the sites in the grounds are connected to his very early years. He grew up elsewhere, and doesn't seem to have come back much, although many of his most trusted advisers were from this area -- the 'Mikawa bushi', 'Mikawa' being the name for this area of Japan. One of them was called Hattori, and was in charge of the ninja. This puts the Hattori Foundation in a whole new light... (Apparently, there's no connection. But then, if Yamasa was really a secret ninja training school, that's what they'd tell you anyway. [mental image of certain fellow students as ninja] OK, maybe there really is no connection. [mental image of certain other fellow students in anime-style ninja outfits] Pity.)

Matsudaira graves The graves of the Matsudaira, Tokugawa Ieyasu's ancestors. The really big one furthest from the camera is Ieyasu's memorial.

After the castle, our guide drove us even further from the school to visit the Iga Hachiman shrine and the Daijuji, a temple. Both of these have close connections with Ieyasu, particularly the temple. In fact, nine of Ieyasu's ancestors are buried in Daijuji, as is a bit of Ieyasu himself, I believe, and memorial boards for all the Tokugawa shogun are kept there. It's actually a very nice temple, with an impressive graveyard attached. I imagine that being buried in the same plot as Ieyasu's ancestors has a certain amount of appeal to, well, the sort of Japanese person who is actually bothered about where he and his ancestors are buried.

The temple was patronised extensively during the Tokugawa shogunate, and so it is quite large and has some impressive screen paintings, which are now kept in a separate climate-controlled room. It might not be a major tourist destination, but I'm very glad that I went, and very grateful to Julia and her friend for organising the trip.

Right, more to come in the next update.