David Chart's Japan Diary

April 18th 2004

Well, I'm starting this a bit later than I would have liked, but things have been very busy recently. There have been two main reasons for this. First, I'm still not completely over the 'holiday', so yesterday had to be a complete rest day. Second, we are getting a lot of homework this term. On Thursday I had to do a composition, a reading comprehension, a set of grammar problems, and a few left over problems from class work sheets. On Wednesday I had to do a reading comprehension and several sets of grammar problems. Today, I had to do a composition and two sets of long answer reading comprehension problems, so those were effectively compositions as well. Oh, and study for a kanji test tomorrow morning.

Plus laundry, shopping, a bit of flat cleaning, reading, and sorting out admin that should have been done quite some time ago and thus really needed doing.

Still, I'd better keep filling bits of the diary in, or I won't have done the first family trip before Sheila comes and creates lots more diariable activity.

Apart from being very busy, I also had dinner with Hang-san on Friday, which was very pleasant. We mainly talked about school, and thus about our teachers and the other students in the class. We did agree that we were being given too much homework, and that the fact that we had homework for the composition option class before the option classes had even started was terrible. After that, I went to the school bar for a little while, and chatted to various of my friends. Then I came home to sleep.


As I mentioned a couple of entries back, I agreed to write and run a roleplaying game for the members of my class at the end of last term. I actually managed to do this; people who read Japanese can download the game here. Actually, people who don't read Japanese can download it as well, but there isn't a great deal of point. (It's two RTF files in a zip file, which means that you will need an unzipping utility to read them.)

For the benefit of people who don't read Japanese (probably most of the audience of this English diary), here's a little more detail.

There were a few constraints on the game. First, and most obviously, I had to be able to run it in Japanese. That means a lot of talking and listening practice, as well as the composition practice I got in writing it, so it was very good for me from that perspective. Second, nobody playing it had the faintest idea what a roleplaying game was (the Americans, who were at least vaguely aware of Dungeons and Dragons, had already gone home for the holidays). That meant I had to explain the whole concept and all the rules as well as running the game. Third, I had to run it for the entire class and two of the teachers, nine people in total. Finally, the whole thing had to happen within one hour and fifty minutes, with a ten minute break in the middle.

The roleplayers reading this will realise that this meant I had to write a whole game, because no published rules or scenarios come close to meeting those requirements. Fortunately, that's my job, and the game couldn't be very complicated. In the end, the rules were very simple. Everyone got three glass stones, and played themselves with the addition of a secret power. To use the power, they had to give me a stone. Normal things could just be done by saying. Sakai-sensei checked my handouts for me, so she knew everyone's secret power. Thus, she knew everyone's power in character as well, and her power was that she could use anyone else's power on their behalf. This was deliberate, and aimed to stop the game bogging down if the people with useful powers didn't realise. At one point, it was actually used to keep things moving.

As I mentioned, everyone played roughly themselves, and the game started with everyone in the classroom for the first lesson on the last day of term, which was when the game started. From that point, things diverged from reality a little. OK, a lot. For a start, I was mysteriously absent, since I had to play everyone else in the world.

The school was stolen away into the spirit world by a spider god. The first task for the players was finding a way out of the school, at which point they discovered that Okazaki was missing. Outside, they talked to a shapechanging silver fox, who gave them some advice. Unfortunately, the spider king heard the advice, and sent spiders to attack them. They escaped on a flying carpet that one of the players made with her secret power, even though I hadn't originally planned for that to be possible. It made for a good bit of story, though.

To return home and rescue their friends (and husband, in one case), they had to talk to a snake god and get his help. This involved being polite and offering gifts, and eventually they managed to get the magic sword from the snake, and with that defeat the spiders and get everyone back to the real world.

I quite enjoyed running it, and I think most of the class did, too. Of course, in such a large group not everyone could participate all the time, and the people with better listening ability (the teachers, Che-san) tended to participate more. But overall, I think it went well.

After the game, it was time for the graduation ceremony. All the graduating students who attended gave speeches, which varied a great deal in length. The most entertaining was the student who said at the beginning that his ambition when he started at Yamasa was to be able to speak Japanese while juggling. At that point he produced three balls from inside his jacket, and gave the rest of his speech while juggling, to enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Then I had to say goodbye to my friends who were leaving, and head home to get ready to go to Tokyo to meet my family. But that, I am afraid, will have to wait for the next entry.