Monday, May 31, 2004

Japanese Adventure IV

Heh, I can't believe how long it's been since my last update on the trip. I guess I can only assume that people are actually reading this, though. The absence of any sort of replies to my questions (*cough cough*) makes it difficult to determine. Ah well. So, on the one hand, it's been a week since I've updated my activities. On the other hand (I have five more fingers?), not much has happened since then. So, I hope the update is sufficient. Without further ado . . .

This was 5/26. It was an interesting day, too. I spent most of this day worrying about catching whatever it is the little girl I'm living with has. I would have absolutely no immunity to cold strains from Japan, so I've become slightly paranoid about that. But, well, I don't want my trip ruined by sickness.

In any case, my morning began with a trip to a Shinto shrine. Shinto is the dominant religion of Japan, with Buddhism pulling up a close second. The shrine is really quite beautiful. It practically sits on a nature preserve. Unfortunately, everything I heard and saw in the shrine leads me to believe that these people are worshipping demons. Sad. I wanted so badly to share the truth with the priests in the shrine, but they wouldn't have understood a word I said. Also sad. Really, though, I can see why Shinto has lasted as long as it has in Japan. It is a religion of very few formal teachings, no set of actual scriptures, and no requirements of faithful observance. Most Japanese show up at the temple a few times a year, depending on the events of the year, give some money, say a few prayers, and they're good to go (It's amazing such a thing hasn't caught on in America). It's strange though. This religion is an animistic polytheism. Yet the west, in its religious laziness, turned to atheism as progress was made. Why didn't the same thing happen here? I cannot really say.

The rest of the day was spent in class. Japanese class was interesting, as only two of the four of us showed up. Dan and Young were more interested in being with their girlfriends than listening to me struggle with Japanese. Losers. Well, after that, we took part in a calligraphy class (shodo). This was fun. It's not particularly difficult, but I suppose I would have to practice a lot to get down some of the particularities in being great at it. I got to draw haru, spring, which is what I am called by the Japanese here. They can't pronounce "Harold."

Yeah, so the rest of this day turned out interestingly. We didn't know about the guys having girlfriends until after class. Well, we find out, and I'm just kinda like, "Oh, okay." I don't think it's a good idea. Dan, in his ever friendly way, asks me what I think, and I tell him. He then calls me a jerk for my opinion, and asks me why I don't think it's a good idea. Of course, he wasn't interested in my answer; every 2 or 3 words, he interrupted me with an attempt to justify his opinion. Oh well. I guess we aren't entitled to our own opinions after all.

Wednesday was spent visiting the schools. This was yet another reminder that this program was meant for the education majors, which none of us are. The morning was with the kindergarten, and the afternoon was with the elementary school. We could mostly understand the kindergarten (it is, afterall, kindergarten), especially since we showed up at recess. The elementary school was another story. The classes are in Japanese. I don't know Japanese. Consequently, watching the classes was rather dull. I did, however, have an interesting time watching the science club do their thing. These kids do far cooler things than I did when I was their age.

My time here is making me sad though . . . I haven't met one Christian yet! There's even a Nazerene church by the university. I stopped by on this day, and there were two cars and three bikes parked outside of it . . . but no people! I searched the entirety of that tiny building high and low, and found not one person! Did I miss the rapture or something? *Sigh* . . . I miss home.

So, Thursday began with a visit to the Junior High. We'll do some math again: Observing classes in Japanese + Not knowing Japanese = Boring. We did get to see English class, though. This was funny. However, the administration here didn't make us feel welcome like they did at they did at the other schools. I felt like an annoyance here.

This feeling did not improve as the day went on. See, we return, and I ask if anybody is going to eat lunch, and no one answers. I ask again, and Dan calls me a whiny child. Yikes. I try to politely tell him that I simply wanted to know if anyone was going to eat in the cafeteria or not, and he responds that he might later. Twenty minutes later I declare my intentions to leave and eat, and no one says a word. So, I get up and leave. While waiting in line for food, Dan flicks me in the back of the ear and asks why I left without him when he said he would be here. Well, all right, whatever. I wait for him to get his food, but he takes too long and tells me to go sit down. Okay, well, not seeing an empty table in the main room, I go off to the other room and sit next to a window so he can see me. However, he never comes. I even see him sit at a table with some of the local students. I leave, and he's on his way out, asks in a rhetorical manner (and not very politely) why I chose to eat in there. Well, when I return to the computer lab with these guys, he gives me the finger and the accompanying verbal cue. After I give my explanation, and everyone in the room looks at him incredulously, he says he was "just kidding." Yikes.

It made me glad he skipped class again. I had to return right away, too, because my host mother was leaving for Sapporo and needed me to stay around to watch the children. Oh well. An afternoon in front of the computer wasn't so bad.

Friday, Mike and I attempted to get a game of StarCraft going, but alas, the network here is inexplicably dumb. You'd think the Japanese would be a step ahead of us on this, but apparently not.

Japanese class was fun again. In the afternoon, though, we had an art history class under the guise of Japanese culture. This was obscenely boring. It's not that art history is boring, and the professor's english was fine. The problem was that he kept addressing the same things over and over and over because he either thought we didn't understand or he felt the need to emphasize the same issues over and over and over. It was awful.

Friday night, however, was a bit more fun. After my family laughed at my attempts to eat Soba, we attended a music concert at the city concert hall. Piano, singers, french horn, clarinet . . . I thought this would be classy. No, it was an evening of Disney music. Well, not all Disney music is bad, per se, but the Japanese lyrics to "Bippity-Boppity-Boo" are just bizarre. It was interesting, and kinda fun to attend, but I think I was glad when it was over. On a side note, even in Japan the youth don't seem to understand that you dress up for concerts that involve "classical" instruments. Oh well.

Afterwards, we attended for ice cream what I can only refer to as the Japanses equivalent of a Denny's or a Shoney's. The name? Surprise Donkey. Ooooookay . . .

Well, this post is getting long, and I find myself tiring of writing. So, I shall leave it at this for now, and post my weekend later today, or perhaps in the next few days. Enjoy, and please let me know that you're reading!



Anonymous said...

I came across this by way of Pickle and I must say, I'm incredibly jealous. It's been one of my life's dreams to spend time in Japan and here you are living it out. It's one thing to read all about it, but when you get back we'll have to get together because I actually want to hear all about it. Anyhow, take care, be safe, and have fun. Talk to you later, Hal.

-Odell III

Anonymous said...

Hey..update this blog again!


<>< nicole ><>

Richard said...

Came here by an old link from Twenty Sided, and I apologize in advance if the comment of a random stranger raises your hackles... but I sincerely hope that in the intervening years, you've become less of a "smug hypocritical bigot" type Christian.

"Worshipping [sic] demons," eh? How is it any worse to worship a rock than to worship a human being? Especially when the books you borrowed from the Jews specifically prohibit it? Of all the thousands of gods scattered across the face of Japan, not one has been used to justify even a single crusade, pogrom, or general mass slaughter... so the track record of Japan's "demons" is far cleaner in my eyes than that of the supposedly peaceful and loving Jesus.

I can only imagine your reaction when I say that Japan has a small but extant population of Christians, but most of them seem to be Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons, and the latter two groups are just as annoying here as they are in the West.