Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Return (Day 20) Going, going... gone? Typhoon Melor.

(Not much of a photo, but it tells the story - flooded rivers and unusually deserted streets!)
We left our hotel early to meet the students at Tokyo Station. The information screens on the train were announcing the closure of many services due to to the typhoon. At Tokyo station we found that our express to Narita had been cancelled, but we were able to take an earlier (but slower) local train. There were a lot of delays along the way. On arrival at Narita it was confirmed that our Singapore Airlines flight had been delayed for 8 hours, but they could organise 12 tickets on an ANA flight leaving in an hour or so. But the time we'd been weighed, re-ticketed and x-rayed we had to run the length of the airport to make our flight!
The take-off was the scariest I've experienced. As the winds buffeted the jet, it swerved from side to side as it accelerated up the runway. We were getting knocked around in the seats. The turbulence continued for at least the first 15 minutes of the flight - until we were above the weather. Amazingly, after our little adventure, we didn't get into Changi any later than our original schedule!

When the train doors opened it was obvious that the winds were still high..

(photo from ABC online)

(photo from CBS)

(photo from Times online)
5:33 a.m.: Not sure at this stage whether Typhoon Melor will ground our flight or not...

6:30 pm (Singapore time) We got out! It was only later that we saw the damage on the news...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Return (Day 19) - Sayonara

Our last day at Asuka Senior High and the students put on a fantastic Sayonara party - lots of laughs, tears, food, music and exchanging of gifts!
We hope this is only the end of the first chapter of lifetime relationships between Japanese and Aussies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Return (Day 18) Tokyo Disneyland!

Enjoying my time with nine teenagers on a train bound for Tokyo Disneyland…

The Rainiest Kingdom of Them All. The bad news is that it’s raining. The good news is that it’s kept the crowds away  so the queues are all short for the rides and movies…

Not really Lake Disney - just lights reflected in the puddles at the entrance.

A bit corny, but great singing, dancing and special effects.

This place is huge. You can even stay onsite at Disney Resort if you’re not short of yen.

Not just for children. All Japanese seem to be childlike in their love of the Disney fantasy and characters.

And some of the gaijin are rapt too…

On safari on the Jungle Cruise.

The Halloween Grand Parade.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Return (Day 17) Back-to-school

Another day at school. Ceramics class.

English language lab.

Back near our hotel, admiring the fantastic contemporary architecture for which Shinjuku is famous. The rainforest buttressed-rooted-like Yasuda Kasai Kaijo building reflected in the Zenken building’s glass walls.

The Mode Hal Iko building.

A very wet view from the 50th floor of the Nomura building.


You get a lot of exercise in Japan just crossing a busy street – major intersections have pedestrian subterranean arcades or overpasses. Behind this one again, the Yasuda Kasai Kaijo.

Pachinko parlours abound. I can’t quite see the attraction of these pinball machines but they are EVERYWHERE.

The Return (Day 16) Shibuya, Harajuku, Yoyogi & Blue Note!

We began the day in Shibuya to check out the Love Hotels on Dogen-zaka. Most hotels have foyer displays of the rooms. This one had a push-button service to reserve a room for a night or a “rest” – all done anonymously.

One of the now-famous capsule hotels for men only. Shibuya.

Bo Peeps. Harajuku station.

It was Doll’s Day at Meiji-jingu Shrine. Dolls have souls, so when their useful life has expired, must have their souls put to rest by the priests. There were tens of thousands of dolls, teddies and stuffed-toys on display. Afterwards they are disposed of “in a respectful way.”

One of the less cool shoppers on Takeshita-dori, Harajuku.

Tshirt, Takeshita-dori, Harajuku.

The highlight of my day was seeing one of the world’s great jazz acoustic bass players Ron Carter with his quartet. At 8,400 Yen for about 70 minutes, it wasn’t something that a public school teacher can afford every day – but I’ve been a fan of Ron Carter’s for years and who wouldn’t do this while in Tokyo?!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Return (Day 15) - Kamakura

We’d planned to visit Nikko for the day but a nice ex-pat Colombian we met on the train suggested this was better! Once the capital of Japan, (1185 to 1333) Kamikura is still a pleasant little train trip to the country just outside of Tokyo with beautiful temples and the amazing Daibutsu.

The Daibutsu (Great Buddha), second in size only to Todai-ji’s we saw earlier in Nara. Incredible that something 13m tall and weighing 850 tonnes could have been cast from bronze in 1252 - 857 years ago! Like the ancient Greek statues or Michelangelo’s David, the head is enlarged so that it looks perfectly-proportioned when viewed from the front base.

As you move away the head seems to grow. Like its Nara counterpart, the statue was originally protected in a huge wooden hall, but an enormous tsunami washed it away in 1495 and it’s stood exposed to the elements ever since. An earthquake in 1923 destroyed the stone pedestal, but the bronze image remained intact.

The “wings” in the back are shutters to allow light inside. From behind you can clearly see some of the 30 cast sections which were fused on-site.

For a small fee you can enter the Buddha and look right up into its hollow head. The whole edifice now stands on a shock-absorbed stainless-steel plate, so it should survive quakes in the future.

Sadly the rain became constant, so we abandoned our hiking course and headed back to Hase-dera to see the gilded 8th C. 9m high carving of Kannon (no photo permitted) and the thousands of Jizo, patron of the souls of departed children. 

Symbol of autumn, the Japanese Red Dragonfly. (Hasa-dera Gardens)

As well as the usual traditional noh characters, a stall outside Hachimangu Shrine also sold these more contemporary icons.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Return (Day 14) - Asuka

Today was our first full day at Asuka High. Our students participated in a range of lessons with their host buddies. We got to wander around the school and join in too.

Asuka is a kind of experimental state high school with special selection (about a third boys, two-thirds girls.) There is a strong emphasis on practical subjects and The Arts. The works on the walls were of a high standard.

Horticulture is also on the curriculum. I think these guys were picking grubs off the cabbages.

Some of our students had a go at Sakura on koto. Tash was a natural...

Another fantastic painting by a former student.

Sitting badminton. It improves accuracy.

Jack and friend mime a Tug o' war in a drama lesson. Drama in high school is unusual here.

In the evening the English teachers and Kocho-sensei took us out to a sumptuous kaiseki feast at Sugamo restaurant