Friday, 29 September 2006, 12.45 pm JST
sotd: スキマスイッチ, ガラナ
cotd: SXE10 Toyota Altezza RS200 Z-Edition
So after making sure my apartment was inhabitable (which it is, for the most part), my first week was spent meeting various teachers (and forgetting their names), finding my way (i.e. being taken by car) around Tamba City, getting various important affairs taken care of (including the all-important 外国人登録証明書, the alien registration card otherwise and more simply known as the “gaijin card”), finding out where to shop for daily necessities and of course food, and in general finding my way around my area. Walking was my primary mode of transportation in the very beginning, although I soon came into possession of a lovely red Japan-standard bicycle…which I haven’t actually been using very much.
On that first Sunday night, however, thanks to being informed by my predecessor, I was able to go out to a summer festival in neighboring Kaibara Town. There I met for the first time other JETs in Tamba, Simon from Canada, Aaron from Australia, Alethia from Jamaica and Marcela from Trinidad & Tobago, plus of course my lovely predecessor Diana. True to summer festival style, there was a grand fireworks display (even for super inaka land) and about 10 million Japanese girls in yukata. And it was my first chance to ride an inaka train, traveling a whopping 2 stations from my home station of Kuroi over to Kaibara station. It took 10 minutes. Wow.
Immediately after this weekend was the お盆祭 (o-bon matsuri, or Festival of the Dead) in which everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, makes a mass exodus out of large cities to their original or ancestral hometowns to pray for the safety of their dead ancestors who have come back to visit for this one weekend. So on Monday I took my first of twenty days of nenkyu (年次休暇, or annual paid leave) because Taniguchi-sensei had invited me to go watch a baseball game at world-famous Koshien Stadium for the later stages of the national high school baseball tournament. (Which, by the way, is the biggest sporting event in Japan. Even bigger than the professional baseball tournament. Like, seriously.) Unfortunately, being Bon time and all, his wife and his mother DISALLOWED him from going to watch baseball. Harsh, ain’t it? So instead I got to participate in a real village meeting (in 篠山市東木の部, Higashi-kinobe Village in Sasayama City, which is the city next to Tamba) and experience O-bon in Japan. And then I got to have lunch at the Taniguchi house. And man, was it awesome. And his house is real nice too. And then we got to watch the baseball game on TV anyway. (Fukuchiyama, who the Taniguchis were rooting for, won 4-0 but then got eliminated a couple games later. . .) And then we went driving some around Sasayama, which is (a) bigger than Tamba and (b) has castle ruins. Where are our castle ruins? Sheesh.
Anyway, after that it was Tuesday and time to head to
3. Yashiro Prison
Not that Yashiro is a prison, by any means. It’s apparently what the place has come to be called by JETs over the years. It’s actual name, as I mentioned earlier, is the Hyogo Prefectural Institute for Educational Research and In-Service Training (兵庫県立教育研修所). I think I may have said the name wrong last time. Anyway, the point is, as it is located in Yashiro . . . thus we call it Yashiro. And yes, I had to leave my house at 7 in the morning to get there by 10:30. >.<
My route involved getting on a train at my station, Kuroi, and riding it to Tanikawa station until 7:29. At Tanikawa station, I get off the train and transfer from the JR Fukuchiyama line to the JR Kakogawa line and ride that train from 7:36 to 8:03. At 8:03 I get off that train at Nishiwaki-shi station because that’s only as far as it goes. At that time I need to cross the platform and get on another train even though I am staying on the same train line. And then I have to wait until 8:28 for it to leave, and then I stay on it until 8:37 when I get off at Yashiro-cho station. Now, at this point, it was all planned out where I would get off the train and get on an 8:40 Shinki bus (Shinki = 神姫, or the Kobe-Himeji region) and go up to the institute. Except for a slight flaw in Taniguchi sensei’s and my planning.THE 8:40 BUS WAS NOT RUNNING DUE TO A SPECIAL OBON SCHEDULE. WTF. And I did not discover this until I got to Yashiro. >.< So I had to wait in a little ふれあい室 (community room) that was sort of attached to the station. In retrospect, I’m very glad that room was there because the next bus was not until 10:10. So I sat in there, tried to read, played around a bit on a touch-panel internet console they had there. And waited. And there was no way I was walking to the institute. So once the 10:10 bus came I jumped on and rode my way to the institute.
The Hyogo Prefectural ALT Orientation (the name of the event we were actually there for) was, per expectations, not extremely exciting at all, save for seeing familiar JETs and meeting lots of new ones, including Kristine’s and my new best friends Dylan and Heather who had come up to JET together but were in a very similar situation to us . . . in a very committed relationship, but with Heather placed way down in Akashi City and Dylan placed next to me at Kaibara Senior High School. Not so cool if you ask me. Or them. But なんとなく (somehow) it’s working out and we’re all getting along as well as we can and even having outings together! (I’ll get to that later.) So as I was saying, the orientation itself was half a rehash of Tokyo orientation, and half reading the Hyogo Prefecture Board of Education work contract word for word while we sat in the auditorium and followed along. Oh yeah, fun stuff indeed. Until after dinner, when the Yashiro kitchen staff put away their pots and pans and brought out their guitars and had everybody rocking out to assorted oldies sung in near-perfect English. And word on the street is they play at a bar very near to Dylan and me. Score.
The next day featured much of the same with the addition of a dressing down of all the members present because apparently someone had taken a fire extinguisher off the wall during a bout of drunkenness on the first night and set it off in one of the bathroom’s. Yeah, real smart, you drunken, immature idiot. Also, we got to sit through a boring (but somehow entertaining at the same time) skit-based presentation on how to behave at an 宴会 (enkai, or party). Take your shoes off when you enter the place, don’t drink before the toast, etc. etc. So I’ll include a picture. But please note as a bonus the national flag of Japan on the left and the prefectural flag of Hyogo on the right. Woohoo!
So then that night, despite a slightly depressed mood because of the soon-to-become-notorious “2006 Yashiro Fire Extinguisher Incident” we nevertheless had a lavish reception banquet and a rocking dance party with the kitchen band. Until 9:00, that is, when we were promptly ordered to leave the hall and be quiet and not to disturb anyone for the rest of the night. The third day, Thursday, was more of the same, except we got to work with some Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs hereafter) on preparing lessons and such. On Friday was but a short lecture, lunch, and then time to clean up and check out. Unfortunately, with my timing being a little off, I was only able to catch a bus halfway (maybe not even halfway. . .) to the station, at which point I decided to walk to Yashiro-cho station with three other JETs, with my baggage and dressed in my finest. Needless to say, by the time I reached the station I was soaking wet and not feeling very well. Not cool. At all. And then I had to basically reverse the course I described earlier, which meant that I left Yashiro at 2 and was back in Tamba at 5. That left me with little to do except check my e-mail and figure out my key situation. See, my unit in the teachers’ housing is not the same unit that my predecessor lived in, but one a few units down. I had been told that I could take whatever I needed/wanted from that apartment and move it to my apartment. . .except that I was having problems getting in. So I arrived back at school on Friday to retrieve the key and quickly learned that there were no problems with the key. I had just made a mistake and was trying to get into the wrong apartment. Um. . .oops. So until the sun went down on Friday (as there is no working electricity in the predecessor’s apartment, of course) and for most of the day on Saturday I spent moving a whole ton of stuff four apartment units down. It was a lengthy, tiresome process and I felt pretty drained afterwards. But, on the upside, my apartment was now furnished! Or at least, it had a whole bunch of stuff in my kitchen and the neighboring room that I would now have to spend hours looking through and arranging how I liked. Oi. So although I wasn’t able to spend much time with Kristine over the weekend as had originally been planned, we had agreed at Yashiro to meet in Sunday in Motomachi (in the pre-keitai stone age era of mid-August), and so Sunday morning marked my triumphant return
4. To Kobe!
Of the three cities in the Keihanshin area (京阪神, one character each for Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe respectively, and unarguably my favorite part of Japan ^_^), Kobe is definitely the city that I know the least. No doubt because Kansai Gaidai and Hirakata City are located smack dab in the middle of Osaka and Kyoto, but also because there’s much more to do in those two than in Kobe. And it would have been more expensive to go to Kobe from Hirakata. I have since learned that it takes me about 2.5 hours to get to Osaka by train and about 2.5 hours to get to Kobe by train from my area. So, all things equal, I’ll probably be in Osaka a lot more. Going to Kristine’s house, however, and leaving from there, it is indeed quicker and cheaper to go to Kobe. So that might end up happening a lot too. So anyway, I got on a train out of Kuroi at 7:30 and was at Motomachi Station in Kobe at 10. I promptly took Kristine around to 南京町 (Nankinmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown) and メリケンパーク (Meriken Park, which is an open area around Kobe harbor and includes a memorial to the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake).
After all of this we made our way around the harbor over to Harborland (just the name for that area of Kobe), which includes a couple of malls. I’m not so keen on the malls themselves, but Kobe Canal Garden does include my favoritest escalator in the world, and so I shall conclude with that for today.
Okay, that’s all for today, as I need to quickly leave school and pack up to head down to Miki. コメントちょうだい！ (Comments please!)