Friday, May 30, 2008

Out and about visiting Japan

I'm back from my trip with my parents. Dad took almost 650 but I've managed to narrow it down to 60. We had a lot of fun. Starting out in Tokyo, we visited the Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Harajuku, Shibuya, and Asakusa. My dad bought a new backpack with a compass especially for this trip, which I teased him to no end about.

"Did you think we were going on an urban safari?" It got better when he kept getting us lost. Eventually, I had to take over navigation.

From Tokyo we took the shinkansen to Kyoto where we visited temple after temple including, Kiromizu Dera, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Fushimi Inari (my favorite!), Nijo-jo (actually a castle and not a temple) with a day trip out to Nara to feed the deer and look at the largest Buddha in Japan.

Then it was off to Miyajima to see the famous floating torii gate. Dad somehow restrained himself and only took 50 pictures of it. (You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not.) We stayed in a Japanese-style inn, called a ryokan, that night. Sleeping on the floor usually wouldn't sound like an appealing idea but our hotel in Kyoto had been so crappy that futons and tatami sounded luxurious indeed. Besides there was a huge Japanese meal and a small onsen to go with it.

On the way back to Tahara we got off the train in Himeji to see the famous castle there. Then it was back on track to Tahara where I acted as tour guide, showing off my favorite places around town. We had a nice party with friends Saturday night and then I put them on the train back to Tokyo on Monday.

It was a great trip, mostly because my parents are awesome and are great to travel with.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Janken - it's the Japanese rock paper scissors and it's a daily part of my life. A day does not go by in school where my students don't janken for something, extra dessert or milk at lunchtime, who is going to go first with their speeches, random games for fun in the hallway before class. If there is a dispute in one of my games, something is a little too close to call, I just say "janken!" and they have to abide by it. There are no hard feelings in janken. It was one of the first things the other English teachers taught me when I arrived. You will need this, they told me.

Some teachers try to teach the English version, knowing the kids will be interested in knowing another version of their favorite game, but the truth is that I prefer janken to the English version. Janken has a much nicer rhythm to it. Sisho gu janken po. You throw on the po. If you throw the same thing then you say aykorasho, throwing again on the sho until someone wins. Some kids shorten it to just janken po and sho, but that usually throws me off so I like the full version better.

What makes me laugh is when they really get into it (which is almost all the time.) We had frozen yogurt with lunch the other day and the shrieking caused by kids who had lost their chance at the extra in janken made me giggle. They do big group jankens for the leftover milk too. What really makes me laugh is when they glare at their hands and shake them with disdain, as if it was the appendage that let them down not their own intuition.

It's one of those things that I will take with me from Japan. I don't know if I'll ever play rock, paper, scissors again, but I will janken.