David Chart's Japan Diary

May 29th 2004

The big writing deadline approacheth, yea, it cometh rather nearer than I'd like (and, bizarrely, my word processor's dictionary recognises 'cometh', but not 'approacheth'), but today has gone really well (5000 words+), so I'm calling it a day at this point, in the hope that I'll also be able to get stuff written tomorrow if I do so. Another day like this, and I'll be in good shape.

With the approach of this deadline, and the ongoing presence of several other Ars Magica projects demanding time and attention, I've been almost completely neglecting homework. We had a big test on Tuesday and, of course, I didn't have any time to do revision for it. This had a noticeable impact on my marks.

I got over 90%. Easily the best mark I've got on any test here, and well over the class average.

This was actually disappointing. Certainly, I must have been lucky, and I got some marks from a process of cross-referencing and logic, because I'd completely forgotten the Japanese involved, but still, my sense of rightness and the fitness of things strongly suggests that doing no work outside class for several weeks should have a negative effect on my test results.

So, the lack of correlation between 'amount of preparation' and 'test result' shades over into a negative correlation. I suppose the real explanation is likely to be something to do with the generally negative correlation between 'time spent at Yamasa' and 'amount of preparation', along with the strongly positive correlation between 'time spent at Yamasa' and 'Japanese ability'.

The serious conclusion I draw from this is that twenty four hours of study per week may actually be as much as I can profitably do. A lot of language learning is to do with reusing and re-encountering the language, so that it becomes natural to you, rather than using the same point repeatedly within a short space of time. At any rate, the results don't encourage me to spend all my study time on homework, once I have study time again. I'm likely to put more effort into reading Harry Potter in Japanese, watching television, and writing.

(Why Harry Potter? The stories are fun, I've read them in English which will help with context, and because they're aimed at younger children any difficult kanji have the reading noted. I might be able to read them without constant dictionary reference.)

I had a meeting with another potential English student last week, as well. I have both the first lessons next week, so it will be nice to get a bit of income. The newer student wants teaching three times per month, so between the two of them they add up to a little more than one once-per-week student.

The weather has been nice this week. It was supposed to start raining this afternoon, but so far (18:45), it hasn't. It almost certainly will start raining soon, though, as June is the rainy season. Lovely...

Kyoto with the Family - Part I

Back into the mists of time... Getting from Okazaki to Kyoto was no problem, as it only takes forty five minutes from Nagoya by shinkansen. We arrived in the morning, and got a taxi from the station to the ryokan. We couldn't check in at that point, but we could leave our bags, so we unloaded before setting off to visit Kiyomizudera.

Family at a temple Silver, Mum, and Ray at Kiyomizudera.

Kiyomizudera is one of the most popular temples in Japan, and really lives up the reputation. The setting is spectacular, and the buildings are wonderful. As I suspected, it has rather more impact in daylight than in the rainy dark. As you can see from the picture, on the first day we had really nice weather. The main hall of Kiyomizudera is built out from the hillside on an enormous wooden platform. The tourist route means that you stand on the platform before moving to the viewpoint from where you can see just how big it is. The photograph doesn't really show this off to best effect, but it's very spectacular.

Just behind the temple is Jishu Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of love and matchmaking. This was absolutely packed. In the grounds of the shrine there are two rocks, about thirty feet apart, and if you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, it is said that your desires in love will be granted. Reading some of the ema here was interesting; most were things like 'Please let me go out with marumaru-san, whom I really, really, really like', but one or two were still the standard 'I want to pass my exams'. I wonder what that says about intended methods? Anyway, as usual it was the foreigners who wrote high-minded petitions for world peace and such. (I'm not sure whether you're supposed to read them, but they are hung out in public, and it's interesting.)

We then headed back to Kinmata ryokan, as I continued the process of working out how much we could fit into a day. This time, we could go to our rooms.

These were absolutely spectacular. We had a whole half-floor of the ryokan to ourselves, with a shared toilet and washing area for me and Silver, while Mum and Ray had their own. The rooms, of which there were five in total, were all beautifully decorated, and the futons were very comfortable. We were served complimentary green tea in the largest room, which would become Mum and Ray's, and a little later dinner was served.

There was a minor hitch or two with dinner. As I should have realised, but didn't, they had set up to sit at floor level, and while that's fine for me, Silver, and probably Mum, as we had the floor chairs, Ray couldn't handle it. So they brought up a western-style table and dining chairs.

Then the first course arrived, and it included fish. It seems that my explanation that Silver was vegetarian hadn't conveyed the information that she's a real vegetarian, and thus doesn't eat fish, either. I quickly explained the situation, and they took her first course away. A few minutes later, they brought her a new one.

After that, her courses arrived at exactly the same time as everyone else's, with one exception matched the style of everyone else's, and according to Silver, were all delicious. The courses with meat and fish in were also delicious, beautifully presented, and served by attractive young women in beautiful kimono. At one point the owner's wife came and talked to us, well, me, for a while.

The garden at the ryokan The back garden at Kinmata ryokan.

The ryokan provided a number of picture books of Kyoto for people to look through, as is fairly standard. The difference was that these were all books featuring the ryokan we were staying in. We bought copies of the book about the ryokan itself, and the owner signed them for us.

The atmosphere in the ryokan was great. It really did feel like we were welcome, even though we kept causing trouble. Mum commented that she didn't feel out of place, as she thought she would in a high-class western hotel. On the second day, I asked if we could see the enclosed garden mentioned in the books. The owner initially misinterpreted this as a complaint that we didn't have rooms overlooking it, but once that was cleared up there was no problem going back and having a look, as the people in those rooms had gone.

Breakfast at the ryokan was equally good, although after that I had to explain to the owner (also the chef) that Silver does eat eggs. Poor man.

Still, we had a wonderful time staying there, and I was planning to go back with Dad. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough vacancies, so we're going to a different posh ryokan. Compare and contrast time.