A Travellerspoint blog

Chase the Clouds Until They Disappear

On the train ride this morning, I got a seat. And I didn't need to break my leg, get pregnant, or even pretend I'd done either of those things

The activity today was to go to Ghibli Museum. Ghibli is a production company which brings such films as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Howl's Moving Castle.

The only one of those movies I'd watched had been Kiki's Delivery Service, and that had been on VHS. Even so, the museum had been very impressive. There were different sections of the museum dedicated to different parts of the production, with lots of drawings and animations. Images from Kiki's Delivery Service brought up fond nostalgia. Other parts were just really cute (there was a cat bus from Totoro that small children were able to climb in) or simply amazing.

For instance, one of the rooms was dedicated to scenery. That room was meant to be a somewhat 'in progress' shot of a studio, I guess? There were pictures around the walls, and two different desks with (plastic representations of) paint jars on them. By one of the desks was an overflowing pile of books. The titles were mostly in English, and were things like 'Gardening,' and 'Wild flowers' and 'A Guide to Roses on English Manor Houses.'

Another room had a bookshelf, with books about drawing humans and animals in motion. Next to that was a reel of a hand-drawn horse galloping.

Another room had a drawing in several different stages of completion, ranging from rough sketch to complete finished. Next to it were several different color guides, like what you find in department stores when you want to paint your house. I could imagine people flipping through it and trying to figure out exactly what shade of red Kiki's bow should be in that frame.

All those things- all that research, all those decisions, all that work- all for a picture that would flash by in the fraction of a second. It's so minor, but so important. No single frame could tell the story all by itself, but in combination, the frames all blur together.

For some reason, the school thought this would be a good trip to pay attention to the pre-designated end time with. It took half an hour to get there, so the official end time was an hour after we arrived. However, we were already in the museum, and we were given train tickets back, so we were free to stay later (or even leave earlier) if we so chose, we just needed to be able to get from there back to our houses.

I intended to leave with the main group. It was animated films that I hadn't seen most of, and would just vaguely recognize some images as being a reference, without being able to tell you what it was a reference to. One hour still wasn't enough for me. Which means the way back to the train station, then the way from the train station back to my house, needed to be navigated with 1 (and then 0) other person.

On the way back to my house, I passed people in suits with white umbrellas and black earpieces. They, along with the workers in bright vests with reflective sticks, seemed to be directing traffic. I only passed one of them on the street, where I was confused enough to wait despite having a walk light. The man in the suit told me to go, and I'm still not entirely sure if I was supposed to be waiting or not. I was curious, and only had a partial explanation when I saw motorcycles and cars with blinking lights go by.

Posted by Soseki 05:11 Comments (0)

Wrote My New Song on a Five Dollar Bill

One of the things I'd heard about Tokyo was that people were more likely to chase after you to return a wallet you'd left behind than they were to pickpocket you. I didn't realize that the chasing after you to return items referred to dropped ten-yen coins. I dropped one as I was on the stairs at the train station, and made the conscious decision not to go find it because my train was pulling in. Before I got on it, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me I'd dropped it. I thanked her, but needed to wonder how many people in the US would do that.

If, on the other hand, I'd dropped a one yen coin, I don't think anyone would have even picked it up. Those are some of the most useless coins I've ever seen. No machines will take them- typically, the smallest piece of currency they take are ten yen coins. The price you pay for most items in Japan is the price that they have displayed, and that's usually divisible by ten. And you don't tip waiters. So the good news is that there's not a whole lot that will give you one or five-yen coins. The bad news is if you do get them, you just need to hang on to them for a while until you get five or ten of them.

I like five hundred yen coins. Partially because I like the idea of coins that are worth that much. They're also really shiny. I'm not sure if they're newer or just less frequently used, but every five hundred yen coin I've seen has been really bright and shiny. (There's also not a hole in it, unlike the five and fifty yen coins.)

Moral of this story is that I've grown a lot more used to paying for things with coins. The smallest bill is 1000 yen, and most of my purchases are below that. I have yet to be able to consistently take the change out, sort through it, put the appropriate amount on the counter, and put the rest back in my wallet without dropping anything, but I'm getting better at recognizing coins, at least.

One interesting aspect about class: the concepts make sense when I learn them in class, but if I'm looking ahead in the book, they don't. Even if it's something I've learned before, like how to make adjectives into adverbs. The one-line summary of the concept doesn't make sense until one of the teachers start explaining it, and then suddenly it does.

After class we went to Shibuya. Apparently clothing is the only food people need, or something. We left immediately after class, and had several delays, none of which had to do with lunch. Allegedly it was supposed to be a quick trip to get a couple of articles of clothing that were on sale. But when we arrived at the mall and tried to set a meet-up time: 'One hour? That's not possibly enough time.'

I was part of a group that splintered off, left that store immediately, and found lunch and a book store. I regret nothing.

Posted by Soseki 03:39 Comments (0)

And Tomorrow Is More of the Same

Today in class we were back to the original teacher. (It has been an entire week.) I'm not entirely clear on why we're learning about transitive and intransitive verbs. The short version of the lesson is: if you look at a lot of different examples, you can start to see some similarities... but you can't make any fast rules to figure out what the transitive pair to an intransitive verb will be. (However, once you do figure out which is which, you can do some cool things with them.)

The activity to go to a Japanese university, get a tour, and then talk with some of the students. (Volunteers, not random students who we stopped in the hallway.) The tour was different than most college tours I've been on, and I don't think just because of language difficulties. For instance, they never stopped us by a blue pole and told us how safe the campus was. There were also two tour guides, and neither of them walked backwards.

Mainly, though, the tour just felt more ad-hoc. Less 'here are the top seven things you should know about the campus' and more 'Um... we should stay around this area so... let's go to that building!' I saw a lot of places where students would eat or study, and also the tops of a lot of different buildings. (We rather consistently took different ways up than down, and I'm not sure if there was a point to that.) We ended back where we had started at 16:30.

The program had said the activity ended at 17:00, and that's when several students told their host families they'd be home. So 16:30 would have been a good time to start heading back to the train station. Instead, we hung around for a bit, went outside to take a picture, came back inside (because ti was hot and bright. Also: so many people here object to either the heat or the humidity. Wimps.) and hung around some more.

At 17:00, we went upstairs and sat down at tables to talk with several of the students. It felt forced and unnatural. We had two students in front of us. We'd asked the question 'What are your hobbies' and they'd answered, then started the question around. It went through me and about halfway through the table when they needed to get up to talk with one of our teachers, and then leave the room. That teacher sat down to take their place, then answered the question and bounced it back to me. I protested and named the first student who hadn't answered, so the teacher started at the other end of the table and went around that way. I still needed to answer, but this time it was after everyone else had. Then one of the original students and a new one came back, and answered the question, but fortunately didn't make us all repeat our answers.

Eventually, that activity was over and we could go back. For the first time, I needed to navigate the JR Lines on my own. Given it was only one stop, it was easy. I looked up at the signs and waited by the track that had an arrow pointing to where I wanted to go. I didn't get a seat, but it was only one stop, so it didn't matter. I then walked back to my station, and could get home from there.

Posted by Soseki 03:40 Comments (0)

What Have You Learned? Can You Remember?

There was a new teacher for Japanese today. (We have her every Monday, the first teacher every Tuesday and Thursday, and the second teacher on Wednesdays and Fridays.) She reminded me a bit of J.M. Coetzee. Not any of the things about Coetzee Webster would know, (South African, double Booker, wrote fiction of some kind) more the part where Coetzee was an awful teacher who didn't even like teaching. I was not the only one in the class with that impression. There was a general lack of understanding before every activity, and for the first time in a week I was hearing multiple side conversations in English. And I was hearing (and occasionally participating) in them during class, not during a break.

After lunch, I taught someone how to knit. It was made more complicated by the only free skein of yarn I had, which wasn't smooth, so it was harder to see the stitches. Regardless, she's now well on her way to making a scarf that would fit a doll, so I'm calling this one a victory.

After class, I went out exploring again. (I should start finding other destinations to add to my map and look for, or else I'm going to run out.) It was then that I learned navigating could be much worse. There could be no streets or signs to speak of except when you leave. That's what trying to take a shortcut through the park was like.

I eventually made it to the right exit, and did what I thought I should, and followed the road. What it should have done was bring me to store I wanted to see. What it actually did was bring me to yesterday's store, making my detour through the park useless (but pleasant.) I'm still not quite sure how that happened, but I should probably figure it out before I try again.

Posted by Soseki 04:48 Comments (1)

You Ever Notice How in Supermarkets They Turn the Lights Off

More time spent in more stereotypical Shibuya

Today went roughly according to plan, for what little plan I had. I wanted to get lunch. I wanted to go to the park. I wanted to find Seibu. And if I could, I also wanted to check out one of the cat cafes. I did all of those, and didn't get lost on the way.

First I went to Seibu, which was a store. After I looked around for a while, I decided to go find lunch. Even by myself, that turned out to be one of the harder steps. I found myself a place with an English menu and tasty food, so I think I managed fine.

After that was finding a cat cafe. I'd already marked where one was, but I forgot what I needed to do to go to it. I remembered that Tokyu Hands had chairs and free Internet access, so I went back there. On my way back, I also ended up finding a free sample of Hibiscus tea. I feel kind of guilty about treating them like a free coffee shop... but then again, it was free.

At the cat cafe, I paid for a drink and half an hour inside, then took off my shoes and went in. There were a lot of cats, I'm not sure how many. Probably the most amusing moment was when one of them freaked out and jumped, loudly landing next to a handful of other cats. There were suddenly half a dozen agitated cats looking around, including some that had been hidden earlier.

The park was different than what I was expecting. I think I thought it would be quieter. There were a lot of people- not subway or even downtown crowded, just... a lot of people. You'd hear different music depending on which part of the park you went to. Some places people were playing drums, other places the flute, some places a saxophone... lots of different sounds.

There were also things to watch. There were flowers and fountains. There were even water fountains! A lot them! Which means there's finally free places to refill water fountains. There were other, more decorative fountains to watch. And people playing games, and footballs going into fountains, and break dancing... all in all, very pleasant to watch.

And there were the birds. Previously, I'd been slightly creeped out by them. Sometimes they'd sound normal. Other times they'd sound like a sick child imitating a crow. That was really alarming the first time I heard it. It wasn't much better by the twentieth. And I'd seen them fighting in the branches, and they were big and black and didn't appear to be scared of me... they were a little creepy. Not anymore, though. Because I saw them hop.

I don't mean just one bird that was injured. Multiple of them. And they can walk- I've seen them do it before. They can certainly fly. But they also hop. Both feet together, jump up a little in the air, land, and repeat until they've made it to where they want to go. It's really amusing to watch.

Posted by Soseki 03:30 Comments (1)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 29) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 »