The Dreaded “Day of the Speeches”

Class days like today are really, really frustrating. We only had morning classes, and today’s topic: Keigo, or extra-polite Japanese speech. A topic that’s fairly esoteric for the terminally informal American, and one that actually spans two full chapters in the Genki 2 textbook. And we tried to stuff it into 3 hours. It’s something I really want to know about and understand, since I think it’s very important in being thought of as well-educated in the language. But this was even less time spent on the topic than 2 years ago. I have no other choice than to battle-through on my own at home, which is really a shame.

At last, the dreaded IJP Speeches (Happyoukai 発表会) arrived, and with 17 participants it was a true marathon. I think I did just fine and people usually pickup right away that I’m a teacher and seasoned presentation-giver, even with my elementary-school Japanese vocabulary and topic. If the program gets any bigger, they really will need to re-think how—or if—to do speeches. It was rather grueling…

But then comes the best part of the speeches: the incredible feeling you get after the extreme weight of it all is lifted from your shoulders! In the evening, I tried to fumble my way through the largest homework assignment we’ve had to date: 6 pages about Keigo—another frustration.

Tomorrow there’s only a brief morning lecture, then we’re off to see one of the most famous festivals in all of Japan—Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri. I’m really excited for that!

Next-to-Last Class

Classes were once again a race against time to cram as much new stuff into my head as possible. That prospect is always daunting enough, but today seemed even more difficult than usual. It’s hard to accept that a month has flown by and I haven’t done everything I wanted to yet.

The afternoon was a tech-rehearsal for the speeches, which seemed kind of anti-climactic for some reason. The speech is really the most difficult part of the whole IJP experience, and causes quite a bit of stress and even consternation among the students. I myself am torn over how I feel about it: it sure takes a lot of time that could be used for other purposes and additional study topics, but I can also see the value of getting up and making a public address in Japanese. I guess in the end I sort of wish they would abandon it in favor of more class and practice time. Either that or drop the Kindergarten visit.

Had to do laundry and miscellaneous stuff this evening, plus study, study, study. It’s essentially all over tomorrow.

Classes Are Winding Down

Today is the day when you realize that “gee, it’s just about all over, isn’t it?” All of a sudden you see that there’s not going to be enough time to complete everything in the textbook and there is so much more that needs learning. I really do need to spend the rest of my life learning Japanese.

Classes were, however, pretty much like always—fast paced. The afternoon was spent doing a practice run delivering our speeches in front of the CPs and our classmates. I’d asked to go first so that I could leave early and get to Kyoto Station to book my reservation. The good news: my speech went fine, I thought. The bad news: the overnight train to Hokkaido is all full! I need to figure out what to do next to keep myself occupied for a few days until I report to Tokyo. I’m already staying through the weekend at the dorms. I’ll figure something out, even if it’s to make my way to Hokkaido on daylight trains. My rail pass starts on the 20th (Sunday), so I’ll have to move fast.

Another Day in Osaka

I wanted to spend my last free weekend day actually going to see Osaka. I’ve already been once, but only saw the station and the inside of Yodobashi Camera, which really doesn’t do the place justice.

From anime references, I wanted to make sure to go see Tsutenkaku Tower. It’s not all that tall anymore by most standards, but there was a great view of the city from the top. I stood in line for about 40 minutes for the privilege but it was a fun experience that seems to be only interesting to the locals—I was the only non-Japanese tourist in the whole place. The tower is located in the famous Shinsekai neighborhood which is filled with bustling shops with interesting and entertaining signs out front. I ate lunch there at one of the little Kushi-yaki (I think that’s the name) restaurants. Basically, you can get anything fried up on a stick for around ¥100 each—really tasty, fast and cheap.

The whole tower experience took a bit longer than I’d planned, so I kind of decided to forego Osaka-jo Castle (which I saw in ’06) and instead go to the Kato Hobby Center. I wanted to make sure to buy a recently re-released train set that has been unavailable for the last two years. See what I mean about not enough time to see everything? But then, life is a series of tradeoffs…

The final destination was the Osaka Aquarium, which turned out to be really spectacular. It’s one of the world’s largest saltwater aquariums, and is famous for the pair of Whale Sharks they have there. They also had about the largest collection of Jellyfish I’ve ever seen (at least 40 different kinds—beautiful). I just wish I had more time—there’s a ferris wheel, lots of shops, boat rides, a view of the harbor…sigh. Had dinner at Yodobashi Camera’s restaurant floor again and came home.

I made my way home via the Kyoto Station to see if I can get reservations on the overnight train to Hokkaido for next weekend—sadly, they closed at 5:00, and I wasn’t there until later. I’ll try again tomorrow. By the time I got back to the dorms it was getting late and I was exhausted. So much for getting extra rehearsal done for my speech.

Kyoto Walking Tour 2

Today I went on an all-day excursion around Kyoto with Theo. He’d somehow gotten lost earlier trying to find Nijo-jo, so I told him I’d go with him to make sure he saw it. It was OK in the morning, but of course got hotter and sweatier as the day wore on.

First stop was the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds. The place is huge! Unfortunately, you can’t actually get in to see the palaces themselves without a pre-book reservation which we didn’t have. As gigantic as the place was, we only managed to walk through about 1/3 of it. I need to come back and visit again.

Next up was Nijo-jo castle—an absolutely spectacular palace. When I came here in ’06, it was pouring rain, so it was a bit different seeing everything in sunlight. The place was every bit as spectacular as I remember it being. It’s famous for the incredible gold-painted interiors (that you can’t photograph) and for the “Nightingale Floors” which make a pleasing chirping sound now, but are there to warn of sneaky Ninja attacks.

Afterwards, we were off to Arashiyama to see the famous bridge over the river and visit the Monkey park. After a tasty lunch in an AIR CONDITIONED restaurant (I had Somen cold noodles), we first visited the famous Zen buddhist temple of Zenryou-ji to see the amazing gardens and bamboo forest there. The heat and humidity were stifling, but it was worth it—I’d sure love to see the garden in the Autumn when all the leaves change color.

The final act of the trip was a jaunt to the Monkey Park. “Jaunt” is probably not a particularly accurate word, since you’ve got to hike up a friggin’ mountain to get there (which you really can’t see until after you’ve paid your ¥500 to get in). I just about died on the way up, but persevered. It ended up being worth it for three reasons: First, you could get up really close to the wild monkeys and get your photos taken with them; second, there was the most spectacular view of the city of Kyoto I’ve ever seen; and third, I got to imitate a Monkey with a little 5-year old boy (which he and I will probably remember for quite a while).

We split up in the afternoon, and I went back to relax, work on some studying and rest up after the ordeal. There’s just some much to see here, and the more you see, the more you realize there still is left to see—which can be really frustrating…

[NOTE: I was actually really busy and yes, I’ll admit it LAZY, and didn’t get this entry and the next few done until I was packing to go on Friday July 18. I slipped up a lot more than I did last time, but I think I got everything in.]

[NOTE 2: I was ready to upload everything on Saturday during my downtime, but they’d already turned off our internet access at KSU. From here through my whole Hokkaido trip wasn’t uploaded until I got to my Tokyo apartment—ain’t technology great?]

Last Test and Blog Catch-up

More class in the morning, the final written test in the afternoon. I think I did okay, but maybe not as well as the second test. In the end it doesn’t matter too much since I’m not taking this for credit anyway…

So here’s my big admission: I’ve actually spent the last couple of hours working on catching up in my Journal here. As you’ve read, this has been a rather hectic and busy week and I just didn’t have time to blog. I think I captured the essence of everything that happened, but the sad part is we cram so much into a week, that I know I’m leaving things out. The most important memories, however, are the ones from Hiroshima and I think I wrote what I wanted to.

After the test, we all gathered with the Conversation Partners and made hand-rolled sushi. It was fun and tasty too—but then I was too full for dinner! I ate something anyway, then put the last finishing touches on my speech. Kishi sensei helped me look over it, made some last corrections and it’s now printed out and all set. YAY! All that’s left is practice and delivery next Wednesday. It’s about this time that you sit and think “gee, this program is almost finished already”. Hard to believe. I’ve got 10 days of vacation after that, but there’s just so much I still want to do.

I’m going to go out and do some Kyoto sightseeing tomorrow with Theo since he and I seem to be on the same wavelength on how to do sightseeing. We’ve planned to visit the Imperial Palace grounds, Nijo-jo castle and then out to Arashiyama. That’ll probably be enough for one day, then I may go to Osaka again on Sunday.

Time’s just winding down so quickly…

This Dreaded Speech…

More classwork and more to learn. I shouldn’t be too confused since I’ve allegedly learned all this stuff before, but it’s amazing how much I have forgotten. The particularly thorny concept of Passive Sentences was the topic today. Just another reminder of how I definitely could spend the rest of my life studying Japanese before I begin to understand it…

The last hour of class was working on our speeches, but since I had everything on my computer back at the I-house, I was excused to leave early and go home. I managed to get my speech pretty much finished and after dinner Ikushima Sensei helped me make corrections and gave me ideas. I don’t know what I would do without her help.

All I’ve got left now is a little more in my conclusion paragraph and then lots and lots of practice (oh, and make PowerPoint slides…)