Thursday, May 19, 2011

ゴルデンウィーク:藤まつり [Golden Week: Wisteria Festival]

My first vacation as a young professional came just 2 months after the start of my new job--not too shabby, right? The first week of May here is called "Golden Week"--aka, Japanese spring break. Seeing as how I'm only just getting used to my full schedule of classes, I decided to stay in town and just take a couple day trips to other towns in the area. Fortunately for me, my roomie Jess liked that idea, too, and so I had lovely company on my excursions!

The first event I'd discovered online that I wanted to check out was the Konan City Wisteria Festival. I'm not sure exactly what it is about wisteria, but something about those hanging blooms has always struck me as beautifully sumptuous. Needless to say, when I read that Konan's Mandara Temple Garden boasted hundreds of yards of walkways underneath trellises full of wisteria blooms, I wanted to go.

Jess and I set out around lunchtime on the first Monday in May to see what we could see. Upon arriving at the train station with no problem and immediately finding a sign in Japanese indicating a shuttle bus just beyond the station exit, I felt pretty confident. A bus pulled up near the sign, and we hopped on. About 20 minutes later it became evident that my confidence may have been a little premature--the bus pulled up in front of a hospital with a large glass lobby, and the driver shut off the engine. The only thing even vaguely resembling a garden was the planter of neatly trimmed ivy by the hospital entrance. Oops.

After consulting with the bus driver in Japanese, who consulted a nearby taxi driver for extra information, I figured out that we should just wait until the same bus started back toward the station and alight at the line's halfway point on a main drag. From there we could evidently reach Mandara Temple. Once we stepped off and the bus pulled away, there was a minute or two of confusion as we wondered if there was some secret bus stop for a shuttle that we couldn't see, but pretty soon I saw a Japanese sign indicating the direction of the festival, and I figured the safest bet was simply to hoof it to our destination. It took a little while, but maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, we arrived! Yay. By this point a lot of the festival game and food booths around the temple were closing, but the garden remained open, and there was plenty of daylight left, so we started exploring the grounds.

A small wisteria vine in an out-of-the-way area to the side of the main temple.

A considerate bystander offered to take this picture for us without us even asking, and look what a nice job he did, too! The banner next to us says "Wisteria Festival" in Japanese.

Drapes of flowers.

One of the main under-trellis walkways of the Mandara Temple Garden in the late afternoon.
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I hope you've enjoyed this little update about my Golden Week activities. There will be a Golden Week: Part 2 post, so be sure to check back soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

after a long while.

Hello again--I must apologize for the sizable gap between my last post and this one. I tend to want to encapsulate my experiences perfectly (impossible), so I end up avoiding updates. Quite a silly cycle, yes? Ah, well. Today I decided to break it.

Spring sprang here in Nagoya since my last post. Snow feels like a vague memory these days. I rolled through a full month of being a sub teacher while I waited for April, which marks the start of the academic year here. My roommate and I both found it stressful after awhile, since we couldn't know what we'd be called upon to do on any given day. Instead of making lesson plans or getting some sort of rhythm, for the month of March our only consistent work routine was waiting for our cell phones to ring sometime between 11 am and noon with our shift details for the day. That got old pretty quickly, needless to say.

This work schedule had the added bonus that any of the couple dozen schools in the region were possible destinations each day. Generally speaking, I didn't mind the length of any of the commutes, but navigating the trains--oh, the trains! Let's just say I got several cardiovascular workouts against my will thanks to transportation confusion.

In fact, I had written an entire amusing anecdote about running for a train and having the doors shut in my face to my great dismay, but the blog application failed to save it properly, then failed to post when I pushed the button. Cool, Blogger, real cool. I'd love to rewrite it, but now work calls. Time to go get dressed for success! See you next time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

bonus post: SNOW!

Alright, one more important thing I forgot to include: it SNOWED on the 11th! We happened to have the day off from training, which made it even better. I'm happy to report that the last few days have even been somewhat warm, at around 45F. Unfortunately, it's set to rain tomorrow--at least I've got my pink polka-dotted umbrella ready to go!

a brand new day.

Hello everyone,

This is actually a blog started back in my study-abroad days in Hong Kong, but I have returned to it each time I've returned to Asia, and this time is no different. Feel free to browse below for some of my past Asian adventures if you're so inclined. This post will be a new start.

Today marks three weeks I've been in Japan. It's pretty much flown by, mostly due to my six-days-a-week training schedule. Tomorrow will be the last day of adult class training, followed by one day for discussing and signing contracts on Friday. Training has been quite intensive, with one week devoted to learning about kids' English classes, and this week focused on the how-to of adult English courses. While I know that my first day of teaching on Saturday will bring with it another set of stressors all its own, I'm eager to start interacting with real students after all the theory and practice of these past two weeks.

A few dramatic events have occurred since i got here--most notably revolving around roommates. My roommate has been quite interested in Japanese street fashion and punk bands, so she figured a year job in Japan would be pretty cool. All seemed well--then we started training. On the second full day of training, she cracked, and decided that teaching kids' classes was too much for her. By that evening, she'd made up her mind to return home to Australia instead of completing training. Needless to say, I was quite surprised. Over the next few days, details had to be sorted out, but thankfully I knew they'd be able to find another roomie for me. You see, the academic year starts at the beginning of April here in Japan, meaning they've got tons of trainees coming over in the next few months. As God's providence would have it, another girl in my training group that I get along with quite well was a bit underwhelmed with her tiny single-occupant apartment. I asked the realty guy if she could slide into the slot at my place, letting a new person take her apartment, and he agreed! Things have been great with her--she's a friendly, beautiful, Australian blonde named Jess. She taught in Sydney last year, and is a couple years older than me. We've been having a lovely time together so far.

That sums up interesting living situation stuff 'til now. Training has been harrowing, what with having to prep mock lessons and dress in business clothes (who knew looking good could be so restrictive??), and having to be 5 minutes early everywhere. I have to admit it's a bit more pressure than I'm used to, but I think I'm meeting the challenge. I already miss hip-hop. And pork barbeque. The food here is quite tasty, though. I'm even slowly building up steam on cooking for myself--eating out is easy and delicious to do in Japan, but of course not the most economical of choices. Getting used to timing my laundry in order to account for my lack of a dryer has been a bit of an adventure, too. My balcony turns into a clothing zoo once a week.

That's about all for now. I'll try to update pretty regularly--I hope this will be a good way to stay in touch with all of you in the States, my dear friends!