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Published: April 29th 2015
I hereby decree not a single Dutch student gets to complain about PE anymore... Pushups and sit ups on the hard ground, there you go.
Okay, so I haven't really been updating this blog as much as I did in the beginning of my trip. Let's just say that my head was very full, and where normally writing might help to clear ones head, this wasn't one of those occasions so I remained silent for a while. Those of you who are connected to me on facebook will have seen my photo album of my trip to the imperial palace and the Eastern garden. Let me start where we left off and I will tell you what has been happening around here. I hope you have time because this is bound to become a long post.
So, last Friday: Good thing happened at school. I observed a cross cultural understanding class and ended up having good talks with students about Beauty and the Beast. They have to retell the story in presentations and once I started asking questions I was happy to find that most students were very capable of expressing the story even if I needed to correct some of their English from time to time.
In the evening I wanted to go out dancing at a salsa bar I'd found but I ended up
staying home because I just didn't feel up to it. True, that might have been because on my way home from school I stopped by Animate in Ikibukuro to pick up a few mangas.... I have my Loveless volumes 1, 11 and 12 in Japanese people! And yes, reading one page takes ages with my online kanji dictionary by my side but I don't care. I hope I can brush up my kanji knowledge again by doing this. And now that I've invested money in the mangas and it is a manga I love I hope I can stick with it.
So that was Friday. On Saturday I kicked myself out of the house and set out for the center of Tokyo to visit the imperial palace. Okay, I was really going for the Eastern garden because after visiting a few castles and palaces I knew that I wouldn't be too interested in the building itself. But give me a beautiful garden any day!
I found the palace just by following the masses again... It made me realise though that I should probably do my research on how to get from subway stations to my destination more, I have
several times been at a loss as to where to go and even though I never got lost perse it just take up too much time in my opinion. Anyway, the palace. The building itself is not open to the public, the imperial family live there after all. I started out by walking around the mould. I saw the famous bridges, took the required pictures (there was a guy there who had benches set up and a camera so that he could take group pictures in front of the bridge, seriously). I decided to continue my walk around the mould first and see whenever I would end up at a garden entrance. By the time that had happened I had done more than half of the circle.
The garden was beautiful. There are many remains of old buildings standing up. Not only some of the walls but also the base of an old tower that you can actually climb on! That felt very special. Especially since I had history lessons when I studied Japanese so words like shogunate were not strange to me. I loved exploring the place with its beautiful plants and a lovely pond with a waterfal. I
walked around for several hours and even lounged on the grass a bit together with all the families with small kids. I made my way out past the mini museum where some pieces of the imperial art collection are displayed. I picked up a lot of folders because pictures weren't allowed of course but most of the pieces on display are depicted in the folders and on the flyers anyway. By then I was very tired so I made my way back to a subway station, picked up some food and headed home.
In the evening my flatmates had a party planned but I still left for the salsa bar. The location was what struck me most. Since Tokyo had a lot of tall buildings it is very well possible for a building to harbour several bars and restaurants, one on each floor. This particular bar could be accessed by taking an elevator to the 3rd (so our 2nd) floor of a building and turning a corner which then led you straight through the door. The bar itself couldn't have been much bigger than 30 square meters or something. I was welcomed by that evening's dancing instructor, who told me
he taught bachata, and who fortunately spoke some English. I paid the entrance fee at the bar, got my first drink (what, you don't drink alcolhol? Nope, I'm here to dance, not to fall over thanks) and waited to see if someone would ask me to dance or if my being a western woman would be too intimidating. I was happy to find that most men had no problem asking me to dance and I danced a lot. Around half past 11 everybody started to leave and a few guys exchanged facebook requests with me.
Right before I left I got tangled in a conversation with a guy from Latin America who spoke only Japanese and Spanish and was clearly tipsy if not drunk. He insisted on having a drink with me in a different bar and I hesitantly agreed. The conversation took a lot of efford since I speak only litte bits of both Japanese and Spanish and the guy himself had had too much alcohol to remember his translation app most of the time. The one drink he had insisted on ended up being whiskey soda and involved chicken bites as well. I wasn't allowed to pay and
I had this uncomfortable feeling he though he was coming home with me, despite me explaining I had something like 5 or 6 flatmates. Once we were out on the street again it took him a moment to realise I was not taking him home. When he did he mostly looked like a sad puppy but I seriously was not interested in him. We said goodbye and both went our ways. Well, I guess it's something I get to my exciting experience in Tokyo but I felt mostly very uncomfortable.
On Sunday I went to Harajuku. Partially I wanted to experience Japanese youth culter at its high point, partially I wanted to visit the Nezu museum which has a Japanese style garden next to a famous collection of East Asian art.
I was not disappointed. The museum had a special collection on display based around a famous painter. I marveled at the painted chamber screens most and I ended up buying post cards of the ones I liked. Next to this special collection they had some Chinese bronze from their own collection on display and several Buddhist statues. After exploring the inside of the museum I walked into the
Famous bridge two
Bridge one is behind bridge two
garden which was amazing! It was like a mini valley with a pond in the middle and lost of mini pagodas hidden between the greenery. I was absolutely in love.
I had to leave though if I didn't want to make it too late so I walked back along the very busy shopping street that is sometimes called Tokyo's Champs Elysee. The crowdedness of that street was nothing compared to the number of people crowding Harajuku's most famous youth culture street though (yes, I am too lazy to look up its name right now). I walked up and down that street as well but on my way back I ducked into a few of the side streets to get away from the crowds (and saw some beautiful little streets in the process) becauseall the squeeling people were driving me crazy. Although some of the shops sold clothing that definitely caught my interest, prices were so high that I didn't buy anything.
I decided to walk home, which wasn't very difficult except that I accidentally took a wrong turn somewhere and so I walked for 15 minutes longer that was strictly necessary, oh well.
On Monday I taught my first
class to Japanese first years in senior highschool. Conclusion: Japanese senior highschool students do nothing unless you hold their hand and guide them through every step. Since this is something I am not used to as such many things take up more time than I would like. Of course I guide my students in the Netherlands but that is nothing compared to these Japanese students who tend to be incapable of deciding on pairs to work in when I assign them pair work. Not that they are to blame, they are just used to their teacher decreeing every single thing. Another frustrating concept is that the class might just remain silent, even after you have called a student by name to give the answer, simply because they are too afraid to make a mistake in their answer and so they remain silent which is very awkward for me but for them preferable over saying they don't know or making a mistake if they do answer. I guess I'll just have to accept I won't have the time to work any changes in that area but it does make me want to shout from time to time.
On Tuesday I taught
the same lesson to a different class and had the students hand around a water bottle. Whoever held the bottle when I asked a question had to answer. Of course this led to some frantic passing the bottle around and trying to get rid of it even after I had finished asking my question. At least the students were more active though which for me was preferable to them staring at me blankly and not answering at all. I still didn't always get an answer but at least they weren't sleeping either.
Apart from such tricks I tend to use a kind of stand up comedy a lot in order to depict the story we are reading to the students. By now I have depicted a dashing hippo and a crawling tortoise but at least it makes the students laugh and a laughing student hasn't got the time to be nervous. I still ended up being pressed for time and so I did something radical and skipped the so called buzz reading since I think it doesn't really contribute to the lesson and I had better things to do. I was surprised to find Yamazaki sensei didn't comment on it.
I still have problems with how little engaged the students are but the Japanese system simply is very different from western systems. To be honest I am here for too little time to actually care but sometimes I feel like hitting kids who refuse to answer. I won't though, promise, I'll be nice.
Finally, today is a national holiday so I'll go out and do a little more window shopping in yet another district of Tokyo. The sweet ALTs at school gave me tips about the Tokyo bay area but I'm not sure I'll get there this last week that I'm here. I guess I'll have to come back. Of course I could go today but I want to relax a little bit too.
That's the end of my long post. I'll try to keep you up to date more, promise. I'm only uploading a selection of pictures here. Some are on my facebook. Once I get home I'll figure out a better way to share my pics :P
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