David Chart's Japan Diary

August 21st 2004

This week's been fairly quiet compared to last week, and this time it's really true. School has been going fine. I've started working in the computer room before coming home, and it helps my concentration a lot, since I can't do any of the other things that need doing and have to stick to homework and writing.

The most notable event last week was that I dropped a mark on a multiple choice test because I wrote '9' when choosing from answers numbered 1 to 4. No idea how that happened. No idea at all.

A completely un-notable event today was that I didn't win the prize I was nominated for. Oh well, maybe next year.

Today has, however, been extremely expensive. Part of this was because I went to Nagoya to visit Atsuta Jingu. This is one of the main Shinto shrines in Japan -- you can tell, because it's a Jingu rather than a Jinja. It's also the home of one of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan. These are a mirror (at Ise), a jewel (in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo), and a sword (at Atsuta). I've been to the other two places, so this visit was to collect the set.

Atsuta Jingu Me outside the torii at the entrance to Atsuta Jingu.

While I was checking the map in the subway station, a Japanese woman asked me if I was going to the shrine, and then showed me the way, because she was going herself. She got a bit embarrassed when we got to the shrine, and she realised that I could speak (and read) Japanese, and thus could have found my way myself, but it was still a nice thing to do. She took the photo of me standing outside the shrine.

While the shrine is nice, it isn't as nice as Ise, or even Meiji. Toushougu Jingu in Nikko has an unfair advantage, being in stunning mountain scenery. Still, I enjoyed wandering around. There were some men sharpening swords outside the main shrine, which is appropriate given what's in the shrine. I also saw a priest and two shrine maidens blessing people's cars. This is a standard service offered by the shrine, I think, along with weddings. Kato-sensei, my main teacher this quarter, got married there about a year ago. Anyway, I bought a study charm, so I now have seven.

I got the Meitetsu Line back to Okazaki, and came to the conclusion that, while it's more frequent than JR, it's slower and more expensive. The stations are, however, about an hour's walk apart, maybe a bit less, so there are good reasons for choosing one over the other.

The reason I got the Meitetsu Line back was that I had business at that end of Okazaki. I need a hanko (personal seal) for my tax return, and I wanted to order it. Hanko substitute for your signature, and most people in Japan use them rather than signing. For tax returns, buying a car, and buying a house (I believe), you must have a hanko; you can't sign. After you have the hanko made, you have to get it registered at City Hall. Since I will have to go to City Hall to have my Gaijin Card changed once I extend my visa, I want to have the hanko with me then so I only need to make one trip.

On the way back home, I popped into the watch shop in the shopping mall to pick up my watch, which was in for new batteries. So I had to pay for travel, a hanko, and a new watch battery. Not a cheap day, and I'm going to be way over budget for this week. Oh well; I was under budget at the end of last week, so it isn't too bad.

Sheila's Visit

So, let's rewind three months or so, to the end of April, and start writing up Sheila's visit. Fortunately, Sheila has written up her own version, so I can look at that to refresh my memory of what we actually did.

On the evening she arrived we had a look round the school, as it was going to be closed for most of Golden Week, and then had dinner at the Italian restaurant in the Aeon mall.

The next day, the Thursday, was a national holiday, the first of Golden Week, and we spent it looking around Okazaki. This means that Sheila is the only one of my visitors to have been to the touristy bits of Okazaki. They do exist. Really.

Sheila at Okazaki Castle Sheila beside a big stone saying 'Okazaki Castle'.

The first stop was Okazaki Castle. The castle, like most of those in cities, is a concrete reconstruction. It looks right from the outside, but the inside is less traditional. Still, the museum there is quite interesting, and includes the 'camp hat'. Oddly, this label is not on the helmet with the butterfly on, but on the broad, flat one next to it. Sheila thought that the helmet I claim has bunny rabbit ears on actually had donkey ears, but I think I'm right.

Sheila at Daijuji Sheila in front of the pagoda at Daijuji.

Okazaki park is really very pleasant, and we had good weather so we were able to enjoy it. If I remember rightly, the wisteria on the trellis was just coming into bloom, and so it was quite pretty, but probably not as spectacular as it would become a week later. We also saw the local camera club on an outing. This was mainly men in later middle age and early retirement (periods with a substantial overlap these days), and they had, it seems, jointly hired a couple of models to wear yukatas and pose with the flowers. As a result, the trellis was a little crowded with (surely over-complex) photographic equipment.

From the castle, we took a taxi even further north, to Daijuuji. As mentioned when I visited this with school friends, this temple is the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu's ancestors, and as such quite significant. Architecturally, it is impressive, and the pagoda and main gate, in particular, are well worth seeing. The collection of painted screens is also very nice, although it's slightly unfortunate that the demands of preservation mean that they can't be kept in the original rooms.

We had dinner at Tonkatsu Ichiban'ya, which I like a great deal; it's nice, traditional Japanese food, and not too expensive. The meals come with all the rice and cabbage you can eat, although I've never yet needed a refill of either.

Friday, I was back to school (because Yamasa are mean and don't give us the extra day off boo hiss), but Sheila took herself off to Hikone, which I've not been to yet because it isn't in my guidebook.