David Chart's Japan Diary

May 16th 2004

Life in Japan is a never-ending series of thrills. Which is why this week's diary entry is going to be quite boring again. Still, I don't really have time to be thrilled right now.

School is going OK, despite my almost complete failure to do homework. I was planning to do some today, but I'm definitely feeling the edges of a migraine right now, so hard concentration on Japanese may not be the best option. I'm sure I'm still making progress and all that.

However, my composition, on the Japanese hostage crisis in Iraq and the Japanese government's response, was a bit of a disaster. Neither Hayashi-sensei, who taught the class, nor Imase-sensei could understand a couple of the paragraphs. So, I spent half an hour after class on Friday talking to Imase-sensei, trying to explain what I was getting at. Ultimately, I succeeded. My conclusion from this is that the problem wasn't any particular error; my point was just too complex for my current Japanese, at least in the space I allowed for it. Rewriting that paragraph (and the conclusion) was the homework I was going to do today, but I don't think I'm up to it. Still, it's good that the school is willing to give students that sort of individual attention.

Last week did have its high points, though. I coped a lot better with the listening comprehensions than I had expected to. I'm also discovering that five minutes looking at the eighty-odd compounds for the day's kanji test is quite distressingly effective.

Writing is going quite well, somewhat to my surprise. Yesterday was odd. Almost the whole day was a complete disaster as far as writing was concerned, and then after dinner something clicked and I got everything I'd planned to do finished before I went to bed. Today was much more sensible; I've been making steady progress all day, and I'm only stopping now because I don't want to make silly mistakes due to a headache. I had to do my shopping, and despite my attempts to dodge the rain, I managed to go out during the day's heaviest downpour. My washing isn't drying particularly quickly, either. Still, yesterday was nice, so the bedding got done.

I also may be starting to teach English in the near future. This isn't the ideal time to do it, but this is the time when a student has got in touch with me. We're having a preliminary meeting next week, and if she (I think -- I'm not absolutely sure about the sex of the name) wants to continue we'll probably have the first lesson the week after. So there shouldn't be too much overlap with my really busy period.

I've also decided that I really like Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, which is mildly embarrassing, so I'll probably write a web essay explaining why. Maybe even today, since that requires less mental effort than the alternatives. (Why is it mildly embarrassing? The primary target audience is four-year-old girls.)

The Family Visit

So, let's return to filling in the gaps in the holiday. As you may recall, in the previous instalment I got my family to bed in Tokyo. The next day, we got up bright and early and headed for Tokyo station. This proved a bit more complicated than anticipated, and slightly more stressful as well, as I hadn't allowed for Ray's walking pace. Still, we made it onto the shinkansen with several minutes to spare. (The shinkansen, which means 'new trunk line', is the bullet train. No-one ever calls it the bullet train here, though.) The Toukaidou shinkansen, the line we were on, goes past Mount Fuji, and according to my guidebook you might get to see the mountain if you're really lucky. It is, after all, about as Japanese as an experience can get -- seeing Mt Fuji from the bullet train.

We were lucky. We were incredibly lucky. The weather was so perfect that at one point the snow-capped peak of the mountain appeared to be floating in the blue sky. I didn't take any pictures, because I didn't think they could possibly do it justice.

The shinkansen took us to Nagoya, where we got on an ordinary express train to Okazaki. A taxi took us to my flat. There, we discovered that someone who shall remain nameless (but it wasn't me) had left one of his bags on the train. This rather changed the plan for the afternoon. I went back to the station, confirmed that the bag was in lost property in Toyohashi, and went to Toyohashi to pick it up. In total, this took a couple of hours, and thus we couldn't do anything else in the afternoon, like tour Okazaki. Still, Silver got a rest, and Mum and Ray wandered round the ponds near my flat.

In the evening, we went to the nice vegetarian restaurant in Okazaki (Hanechou Honten). The meal was kaiseki ryouri of a sort. That means that lots of small courses are served one after the other, finishing with a bowl of rice in case you're still hungry. Everyone tried everything, and liked enough to enjoy the meal.

Everyone else spent the night in Hotel Heisei, while I got to spend it at home. The next day, we headed off to Kyoto, but that will have to wait for another diary entry.