David Chart's Japan Diary

January 3rd 2005

Happy New Year!

There has, obviously, been a slight hiatus in the diary over the holidays. This time, it isn't because I've been anywhere. It's because I've been busy and, briefly, completely exhausted. So, for starters, let's back up and cover the end of last term.

There isn't a huge amount to say, really. We kept working, doing reading comprehension, right up until the end, and on the last day presented little playlets in Japanese, which was fun. In theory they were written by us, but the actual words in ours, at least, had had fairly thorough rewriting courtesy of Haruki-sensei. The graduation ceremony was surprisingly small; seven people, three of whom were from A class. Many more than that were leaving, of course, but it seems that most of them had already gone home. It's a pity, really; the ceremony is a good chance to say good bye to friends and teachers.

I also got my report card for the term. I got an A overall, along with test results. I did very well on the final test's reading comprehension section, so luck was obviously on my side for the hard passage. My pre-assessment of the second test on the material we'd learned was spot on. I got 89% overall, but only 50% on the reading comprehension passage I thought was really hard. It's reassuring to see that my sense on these things is fairly accurate. (On the other hand, I didn't do quite as well on the grammar section of the final test as I thought I did, although not massively worse -- maybe my luck was a bit uneven.)

Half a dozen or so of us had lunch together afterwards, which was nice. About half of this term's A class will still be here next term, including Hang, who's been in the same class as me since the beginning, and Martine, who's been in my class since January last year. Some people have worried that they might be in B class next term, but I really don't think that's very likely.

That was the 23rd of December. On the 24th, I worked. It was a very productive day. On the 25th, I did minimum work in the morning, to stay on target, and then spent the rest of the time watching the extended edition of The Return of the King (thank you Sheila), which is very good and very long; answering phone calls from friends and family, and doing cleaning. Lots of cleaning. Yuriko was coming to visit Okazaki, and would thus actually see inside my flat. Hence the need to get it cleaner than it has been at any point since I moved in.

Yuriko was supposed to be coming to Okazaki on the 26th, but at the last minute she changed her plans and went to Kyoto with a couple of her friends first. This proved to be a good thing, as I spent 19 hours of the 26th in bed, completely exhausted. I took the hint from this, and followed up with a bit of a holiday from work. Indeed, on the 27th and 28th I spent quite a bit of time playing a computer game, on the grounds that it was completely different from all my work, and thus would help me rest. This appeared to work.

The 27th was not entirely wrecked by tiredness, however. Hang was having a party for classmates, both from Yamasa and from Human Academy, where she is studying to be a Japanese teacher. This was partly a farewell party, as Hang has now moved to Nagoya, which is closer to the Human Academy school. While she is still studying at Yamasa, the emphasis next term will be on the teacher training course. Anyway, there was lots of food, quite a bit of it Vietnamese, and a lot of people. Unfortunately, with two groups of people who didn't know each other, things took a little while to get going, and I had to leave early because I was still very, very tired. According to Hang, the party livened up considerably after I left. I choose to believe that the relationship was merely one of temporal contiguity, not of causality.

Yuriko made it to Okazaki on the 28th, and stayed a couple of nights. We spent most of the time chatting, since there isn't a great deal interesting to do here, at least not if you don't have a car to get to the temples and such. We did, however, go to a new sukiyaki/shabushabu restaurant called 'Onyasai', which was very nice indeed. It wasn't cheap (about 2500 yen per head, or about $25 each), but the food was very good, and we spent about two hours eating without noticing the time. We had shabushabu, which consists of very thin pieces of meat that you cook in boiling water at your table, before dipping it in sauce and eating. One of my favourites in Japanese cooking, but not one that I get to have very often. In fact, I think that last New Year was the last time.

As a result, I got no work done before the 31st. On the 31st, I finished my editing, which was good as that was the contractual deadline for it. I stayed up for the New Year, watching the NHK broadcasts from various shrines and temples, nearly all of which seemed to have snow, but that was it for New Year celebrations.

From the 1st, I got back to my writing. I'd really like to get it finished before school starts again on Thursday, and I'm in with a chance; only 8000 words to go. Of course, I should be writing it now, but I've hit a bit of a block. I think the plot for the bit I'm writing now is rather lacking, so I'm writing my diary in the hope that my subconscious will come up with something brilliant. The bits up to this point are fine, but the continuation is currently rather boring and linear.

So, that roughly covers the two weeks.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The New Year is a traditional time for looking back and looking forward. Last year was a good year for me. I finally completed Ars Magica 5th Edition, and saw it published to a much better reception from the fans than I really expected. The rest of Ars Magica Line Editing went well, so the supplements for the new edition should come out more or less on time. Freelancing in general also progressed nicely; I've got a job coming up with a new company, and, of course, there's the project I'm avoiding writing on right now.

My English teaching is also coming along nicely. I do enjoy it, which is hardly a surprise, and my students seem to be happy with the service I provide. The money has been nice, too.

School, of course, has gone well, as should be obvious from the comments I've been making along the way. I've learned an immense amount, and I can even notice the difference in my reading ability myself. I think the end of next term will be a good place to stop, though, quite apart from the fact that, after a year in A class, there won't be a class left for me to learn in. I've been really happy with Yamasa.

I did a lot of travelling, so much so that I got trip fatigue around the end of September, and haven't been anywhere other than Tokyo since. I managed to visit the other three main islands of the archipelago, as well as Miyajima, and a lot of important tourist sites on Honshu. The big travel events, of course, were the family and friend trips. Dad's still hasn't been written up here, which is a shame because that included my visit to Hiroshima. I've seen more of Japan than most of my Japanese friends (that may be a slight exaggeration), so in that respect I've certainly made the most of my time here.

Socially, I've made and deepened a number of friendships here, so that's good. Hang is a very good friend now, as is Yuriko.

Looking forward, I'll be applying for a working visa to enable me to remain in Japan in a couple of weeks or so. It's looking very likely that I'll also be moving to Tokyo when I finish at Yamasa, but don't worry Mum, I've found lots more really nice gardens there for you to visit. I'm set up with freelancing for the first three months of the year, so I'll have to start looking for more, and teaching is fine at least for the moment; if I do move, though, I'll have to build up my student base again.

Beyond that, the future seems to be full of promise and possibilities. I'm looking forward to 2005.

World Events

Every year there is a public vote to choose a single kanji that encapsulates the year. This ends in early December, and the selected kanji is written by a monk at Kiyomizudera. This year, the selected kanji was "災", the character meaning 'disaster'. With large numbers of typhoons and a serious earthquake, this already seemed appropriate then. Since then, the Indian Ocean tsunami has made it even more apposite.

The problem posed for this diary by a disaster of such magnitude is that there is nothing I can say, but equally no way I can simply ignore it. (Although I did take that easy route in my Japanese diary.) I can hope that the initial outpouring of global sympathy is sustained, and that the survivors get all the help they need to rebuild.