22 March 2007

Okayama Wednesday 21st March 2007

The next day, after Universal Studios was a public holiday so Lauren, Tina, Renee and I decided to go on a day trip to Okayama. It took two hours on the train to get there because we got off the fast train and took the slow train half way. We were starving by the time we got there so we went to this really cheap place for lunch. The food was delicious. I ate potato salad, soup, rice and a pork stir fry and it cost me 600yen which is around six dollars. I don’t know why everyone says Japan is so expensive, because it is the cheapest place to eat out. In just about every restaurant I have gone to, I could get a meal for under ten dollars, and descent meals at that price are very hard to come by in Australia!

After lunch, we walked to the gardens and looked around. It was really pretty, but I think the best season to see the gardens would be Summer because funnily enough, in Summer it rains more and everything is green.

While we were strolling through the gardens, we saw this man and woman taking photos after they had just gotten married. The lady was in a traditional Japanese bridal dress and her hair was all up with beautiful clips in it. Her dress was so colourful and she looked like a little Japanese princess! She was so beautiful, so we took a photo of her.

We made our way to the Okayama Castle which is a black castle. Unfortunately, the castle is not the original as they had to rebuild it after World War Two when it was raided by a bomb. There are only three original ancient castles left in Japan and the Himeji Castle is one of them. It was nice to look at, but it had nothing on the Himeji Castle because the Himeji Castle is ancient and had all the original interior and exterior architectural designs. The Okayama Castle was still cool to look at though. We got to sit in a carriage that is used to carry the princess of the castle around. It looked really cool and it was so comfortable to sit in. I fit in it just perfectly. In fact, I think they made that carriage just for me! I was almost going to pick it up and take it with me!

Okayama was a really cool place to go and visit. We missed out on seeing quite a few things there, so it is another place that I have to put on my “Must Go Back and See” list!

The train ride home was almost as packed as the train ride home from Osaka! It was really funny though because just before the train left, there was still a few gaps on the train that people could stand in. Tina said that the train was packed, and I relied back to her, “no, there is still room for at least another ten people to come in” and sure enough, ten more people, no more, no less, came onto the train! I felt like a psychic. So if anyone wants me to tell their future, you can write to me and I will be able to make my predictions!

The next few diary entries will be dedicated to Tokyo. This is where I will be going next. Should be a blast. I can’t wait to tell you all about my expedition! Wish me luck!

The busy train ride back from Universal Studios

After our action-packed busy day in Universal Studios, it was time to go home. We had to pick up our bags from the train station where we had left them so we set off to do that. We were pushing it for time because by that stage, it was 11:00pm and the last train left Osaka not long after that, so we were lucky enough to be able to make the last train home. If not, we would have had to stay in Osaka for an extra night to catch the first morning train back the next day and we didn’t want to do that.

Anyway, we had about ten minutes before we had to catch the train so I quickly went to the toilet. You know how I said I bought these Hello Kitty ears? Well I was still wearing them at the train station. So I came out from the toilet and started walking back to the group when this guy was just starring at my ears because they looked pretty stupid! He wasn’t looking where he was going and he took out this small lady walking along in the station! He almost fell right over and she was so angry at him that he wasn’t looking where he was going. It was the funniest sight because I saw the entire thing and I was bent over laughing my hardest at him. He was all flustered and didn’t know what to do or where to look and he knew that I saw everything. He would have been so embarrassed! Ha! That’s what you get when you look at my Hello Kitty ears! That’ll teach him! I always knew Hello Kitty was a bit cheeky!

We got to the platform we needed to be on and we were waiting in the line and as the train pulled up, it was so packed and busy that we just got pushed onto the train by all the people behind us. There were piles and piles of people pouring into this tiny train – it was insane! I couldn’t believe how busy this train was.

It was so busy and packed that it was funny. So there we were, the only Westerners on the train, cracking up laughing because it was so packed, while everyone else on the train was silent and serious. In case you didn’t know, there is a special train etiquette where you are not supposed to make much noise while you are on a train because it is the time when people rest and sleep. So we were being rowdy and noisy and we couldn’t help it because it was so funny being packed in like a sardine the way we were.

I was holding my overnight back and there was this little old man standing next to me bent over because it was too busy for him to stand up straight. My bag was shoved into his stomach and I was fully leaning on him. The poor man was saying, “itai, itai” which means, “it hurts” and I felt so bad. Then the train stopped and this huge pile of people came rushing out of the train. We just had to go with it and walk out with the people even though we wanted to stay on the train. This poor little old man was still holding onto my bag through the rush while he was trying to get out of the train. I tell you what, I bet he was over the moon when he got to get off that train!

Renee was cracking up laughing at the entire situation because she was in the worst position. One leg was facing one way and the other leg was facing the other way and she felt so unco. Then to top it off, she was fully pushing into people every time the train veered in another direction. It was just the funniest thing to experience and we knew we weren’t supposed to be laughing, but we just couldn’t help ourselves. While we were on that train, we weren’t the most popular people in the world! Sometimes, you just have to laugh, though!

We ended up getting home at 1:00am and were absolutely STUFFED from a literally jam-packed day!

Universal Studios, Osaka 20th March 2007

Universal Studios is a theme park in Japan that is similar to Dreamworld and Movie World in the Gold Coast. I took the day off school on Tuesday to go to Universal Studios with Tina, Steve, Lauren, Renee, Steve, Karen and Jodi. So we had a pretty big group to go with, but it was cool because the atmosphere was so exciting and we were all pumped because it looked so cool!

When we first got to the park, I saw this robot standing around talking to people, but it was a Japanese robot and couldn’t understand English. I said, “konichiwa” to it and it said, “konichiwa” back to me! Then it looked at me and shook my hand and said, “hajimimashite” which means “nice to meet you”. I was so excited that I was having a conversation in Japanese with a robot!

Then we got inside the park and went on some really cool rides. We firstly went on the ET ride. It was OK, but it was a sort of kids ride. We firstly had to walk through the forest where E.T. was and then after we finished walking through the forest we went on the cars and they took us through E.T.’s land. It was cute to see how they had made the sets.

While we were waiting in the line, these sixth grade students were excited that they were standing next to foreigners and they were saying hello to us and we talked to them for ages in the line. Not that I really knew what they were saying to me, but it was still cool that we could communicate with the little Japanese that we knew. They were really cute. I wanted to take them all back to Australia so that I could teach them coz they were so nice. One of the boys had a whole bag full of lollies that he gave to us because he liked us! I could imagine how difficult it would be for a kid to part with a bag full of lollies just to give them to a stranger, so I thought it was really generous of him! Then we took a big group shot of them when we got out of the ride so that we could remember them. I felt like a movie star in the line because they kept on taking photos of us! They were funny!

After the E.T ride, we went on the roller coaster. It was the coolest roller coaster I have ever been on. In their advertisement poster, they had a picture of some people on a roller coaster riding under a rainbow in mid-air with all stars and stripes around them. I thought we were going to get to ride under a rainbow in mid-air, but it wasn’t so! Talk about false advertising! It was still really cool though. We were laughing the entire time!

The ride that took the cake that day was the Spiderman ride. It was the BEST ride I have ever been on in my life and THAT is a big call! It was a 4-D ride where we got to sit in this car thingy and it would go around a circuit and we had to wear special 3-D glasses to see things popping out at us. All of these villains would come up to our car and sit on the edge of it and would be just about to get us when all of a sudden, Spiderman would come to our rescue and save us! He would always come at the very last second just as they were about to kill us. It was so exciting. I really thought they were going to get me because it looked and felt so real!

Then at one stage, we were falling from this building and we were about to land on the ground when Spiderman made a special web to cushion our fall. That was a close call! He saved us so many times that I fell in love with him by the end of the ride. I almost died about seven times in that ride, but thanks to Spiderman, I am still alive! I can now openly say that Spiderman is truly my hero!

I also saw a short movie of Shrek and The Terminator 2 in 4-D which was also really cool. Again, things were popping out in front of me all the time, and it was really interactive in the fact that I could feel the wind on my face, I could feel the spit go on me when the donkey sneezed, I could feel the spiders crawling up my legs on the ground. It felt like I was actually in the movie! Maybe one day all movies will be like that.

I went a bit overboard with the souvenirs though. I got all this gimmick stuff that I really didn’t need, but I just wanted at the time. Tina, Lauren and I bought these Hello Kitty ears with bows and fake jewels on them. They were heaps cute and we wore them all day.

All in all, Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan was brilliant. I didn’t get to go on all the rides and do everything in the park because there wasn’t enough time, so I would love to go back there. It was so cool though and I would recommend you to go there if you ever get a chance to go to Japan.

Chili Peppers Concert Saga

Well this was a saga and a half. You know how I was telling you in my last entry to “stay tuned” for this concert? Well I have a BIG story for you!

So we were in a rush on Monday after school because we had to have all our things ready to go as soon as we got to the train station after school. We got to Osaka in record time, quickly had something crap and unhealthy to eat (a Japanese version of McDonalds) and rushed to get to this concert held at the Osaka Dome. We got to the dome, and this strange, eerie silence surrounded us. We could hear no music, no laughter, no people and the doors weren’t even open. We were so confused and baffled by this situation that was presented before us. I said to the others, “Geez, the Osaka Dome has pretty sound proof walls surrounding it because I can’t hear anything.” Everyone agreed.

We were walking around the dome trying to find an entrance to get in. It was so strange that noone was even hanging around the outside of the dome, not one soul. We were beginning to think that we had the wrong date! Eventually, we spotted this sign. It said something like this:

“We are sorry to announce that the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert has been cancelled for 19th March due to Anthony Keitis (the lead singer of the Chilis) having bronchitis. Please hold on to your tickets as the concert will be held later on in the year.”

Well you could imagine the disappointment on my face after reading that sign. I was shattered! I had taken a day off the next day, booked a hotel that night and had my concert clothes on ready to go…and then this! No Chilis!

So we walked back to the train station with our tails between our legs and our heads down feeling sad and ripped off. Lauren’s friend, Renee got the raw end of the deal because she was just visiting for two weeks and she had a ticket, so there was no way that she was going to be able to make the concert later on in the year. I felt for her that night!

Anyway, we got back to the main part of Osaka and decided to drown in our sorrows and look for a place to eat cake and coffee. Well, what else do you do after feeling disappointed other than eating cake? It did make me feel better though coz it tasted so good!

We wondered around for a little more and then went to bed after a sad, sorrowful night! (I soon got over it, though – at least I have something else to look forward to later on in the year!) The next part of the story is really cool!

Sumo Wrestling 18th March 2007

I went to Osaka o Sunday and saw a sumo wrestling tournament. It was so cool! It went all day (from 8:30am to 6:00pm) and I loved every second of it. It was really fun to watch and I never got bored of watching it. The actual wrestling matches don’t go for that long. They can be as short as five to ten seconds and can last up to five minutes…or longer! The goal is to try and get the opponent on the floor or out of the ring. The first player to do this is the winner.

The sumo wrestlers looked so big and tough and mean! I definitely wouldn’t want to get on their bad side because they would squash me flat like a pancake in one second! That would be the end of me! What got me, was that sometimes the sumo wrestlers would push each other with such force that they would go flying out of the ring and land on top of the spectators in the first row! Imagine a sumo wrestler landing on you! Man, I was so glad I wasn’t sitting in the front row!

I didn’t end up getting a photo with a sumo wrestler in his traditional costume, but there were two sumo wrestlers standing by the vending machines in their robes and they kindly let us take a photo with them. When I asked for their names, one of them replied and I forgot his name the very next second because it was so long. The other one just said, “shhh…it’s a secret!” and he left it at that and didn’t tell me his name! I just played along with it and laughed. Maybe he was so famous that if he said his name, a mass of people would come running to get autographs…it was probably for his own protection (not that a sumo wrestler would need protection coz he could just sit on them and be done with it!).

It ended up being a great day with lots of fun. I bought a sumo display cloth, a sumo wrestling magazine and some sumo rice crackers for the teachers at work. When I gave them to the teachers today, they were so excited! I think I made their day!

Sumo wrestling would require a great deal of commitment and dedication…they don’t just look the way they do overnight! Unfortunately, sumo wrestlers have very short lives due to their lifestyle, but they are very skilful at what they do.

Apparently, at the end of their sumo career, they have a very important and significant ceremony where they cut off their hair that is always so perfectly worn in a bun. This is a very sad moment for the sumo wrestlers because it means that they will never wrestle in the ring again. Many of them get very emotional during this ceremony.

So that is what I learnt about sumo wrestling. Pretty impressive, huh? Stay tuned for my next entry: The Red Hot Chili Peppers concert!!!

13 March 2007

After the graduation ceremony...

The ceremony was ECXELLENT! I am so glad that I got to go to it today. I was so amazed by the fact that all the students looked so perfect, not a foot out of place and they were all looking straight ahead sitting as still as a statue the entire time! Good luck trying that with our kids!

All the third grade students stood up and sang a couple of songs and they sounded amazing. It brought goose bumps to my skin listening to how beautiful they sounded – three hundred students in perfect harmony and perfect unison. I don’t know how they did it. Then to top it off, the conductor was one of the students and he looked fantastic. He was so graceful with the way he moved his arms and he was so confident in the way he lead three-hundred students in perfect timing and perfect pitch. The pianist was also a student and she could play the piano so well. Not one nervous mistake. I was in awe!

At the end, this girl gave a speech. The only thing I could really understand about the speech was when she was talking about her parents and her friends that she had made at the school and I think she was talking about how she will always remember the school and the support it gave her. It was really sentimental and sweet. Then pretty much the entire audience started crying – including most of the third grade students…AND including me! I felt really dumb because I wasn’t really apart of any of it…I don’t even teach the third grade students and there I was bawling my eyes out! I just put my head down and tried not to let anyone see that I was getting all emotional. I couldn’t even really understand what was going on and I was STILL crying! How sad is that?!! Oh well, not to worry. We can keep it a secret just between you and me!

Tuesday 13th March 2007

Today is the graduation for the third grade Junior High School students. I am so excited to see it because all of their formal events are always really good. I was almost not able to go because I was supposed to spend the day at the Elementary School today, but I asked if I could stay here instead so that I could see their graduation ceremony and luckily, they said yes. All the teachers are really nicely dressed up and they look really good. All the men are wearing suits and all the women are wearing nice black pants or skirts and nice tops. The ceremony starts at 10:00am and it’s only 8:24am. Hurry up, time!

We spent all of yesterday afternoon cleaning the school. The students got their rags and brooms and swept the floors, cleaned the windows, cleaned the walls and the entire school looks perfect! I asked what I could do and I got to follow the flower arranging lady around the school and help her arrange the flowers in the pots. I had no idea what I was doing, so she did it all and I just held the flowers. Every now and again she would give me a flower and tell me exactly where to put it in the pot to make me feel like I was actually helping, but I really wasn’t doing much! I was like her caddy!

Updated "Chin Chin" story...(read the one below this one first)

So the “Chin Chin” story continues…

I was talking to the teacher who was in the class when it all happened and she gave me an update of what the kids said. Apparently, after the class, all the boys came up to her and asked her if I really knew what chin chin meant. She told them that I didn’t know what it meant. Of course I didn’t know, coz I wouldn’t have said it otherwise!!! Anyway, I asked her what they said to that and they told her that they were going to come up and tell me what it meant! She told them off and said not to and got angry with them. I can’t believe they were still talking about chin chin in the next lesson they had with her. Man, that is so embarrassing! I never want to teach that class again. If they come up to me and say anything about chin chin I will get so embarrassed and probably go as red as a tin of tomatoes! I hope they don’t say anything! It just puts a whole new meaning to the “Three Little Pigs” story:
“Little pig, little pig, let me in. Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!”
I think my next lesson will be learning the story about the three little pigs…what do you think??? ☺

12 March 2007

Embarrassing "Chin Chin" story...

I have an embarrassing story to tell! I am at work now and I just had a lesson with the second grade Junior High School students. In the last bit of the lesson, we played bingo. I got them to brainstorm a whole heap of words to do with the body and I wrote them on the board. They were getting stuck for more words, so I was pointing to different parts and they had to tell me what they were. Anyway, I pointed to my chin and they didn’t know what this word was. So I wrote it on the board and they cracked up laughing. I had no idea why so I kept on going on with the lesson.

Then I was calling out all the body parts and they had to cross them off if they had written it down. They were telling me to call out chin, so I did and they laughed again. I asked the teacher why they thought it was so funny, and she was too embarrassed to tell me! She said she would tell me later. At the end of the lesson, I asked her what chin meant. She told me that chin chin means "male privates", so that was why they found it so funny! I was so embarrassed! She said that in the next class, maybe I shouldn’t write chin down as a body part, and I agreed with her! Well, at least I learnt a new word today!!!

Sunday 11th March 2007

I am back! I have gotten over the flu and I feel 100% now…YAY!!! I had a really good weekend, so I will tell you all about it...

On Saturday morning, Lauren and I had booked into this really trendy hairdressing salon in the main street of Himeji. When I saw this place weeks ago, I was really impressed with it because the people who work in there are so fashionable and their hair is awesome, so Lauren and I booked in a session. The people who did our hair were really nice. The guy who did Lauren’s hair had a haircut like Dragonball Z! He kept on telling Lauren how much he liked the show! He was wearing cowboy boots and trendy jeans with a big belt and Winnie the Pooh underwear sticking out of his jeans (he got embarrassed when we saw them and he told us not to look!!). I got my haircut all Japanesey and I think it looks really cool!

Lauren got a trim and the Dragonball Z guy made her hair look really nice and smooth. We took some photos of our hairdressers because they looked so cool!

One of the American’s who lives in our building (Julian) organised for us to go on a Japanese Sake tour of the Sake Factory in Himeji. After we got our haircuts, we got to taste all these different types of sake for free! At the beginning, the president of the sake factory was talking about how they made the wine as it is a very long process. Then they showed us a video of the entire process. It looks really tiring! We went on a tour of the factory and saw all the containers that the wine is put into. The best part was left till last which was when we got to drink free sake! It got very messy indeed!

I think sake is an acquired taste so it is the sort of drink you have to get used to as it is very strong, but it was good to taste really expensive ones for free! Check out the photo of what we had to wear when we went on the tour. Pretty cool, huh???

After the Japanese sake tour, we had tea at this really cool restaurant that makes yummy okonomiyaki. It tasted soooo good! While we were eating, some school kids came up to us and started talking to us. They were really excited to be speaking to foreigners. They were deaf, so it was pretty hard to communicate at the start, but then they gave us a notebook and a pencil and we were writing some questions down to ask them. They were really cute and we talked to them for ages. Then they asked us if we wanted to go and do puricura. I had no idea what they were talking about, but Mac was with us and he could speak Japanese and he knew exactly what they meant. Puricura is like a photo machine that you go into and take photos with your friends and then before you print them, you can put cool pictures and stars and cool boarders around them. We spent ages in there and it was lots of fun. I think the kids enjoyed it too!

By this stage, it was getting later, so we headed to a really cool bar called Coast. There was a big party there that night because some regular local guys were leaving town and they had a big party for them. There was lots of drinking and dancing and fun involved in the night. As the night got on, it got messier and messier and they brought out the whipped cream and were putting it all over people’s faces. Thank goodness they didn’t put it on my face, coz I would have killed them! When I got home, I went straight to bed and didn’t move until late Sunday afternoon!