July 31, 2007
Japan Experience Day 2 (July 30) typhoon rain & big red temples!
Our four adventurous students arrived for their first time at Seiritsu’s Tokyo campus looking positive and only a little sleepy after their arrival the day before. Our Monday began with a very short welcome speech from Principal, Mr. Kohei Fukuda, and then an orientation meeting about the program, basic safety, a school tour and general information.
Next up was the fantastic Mrs. Yano, or Yano Sensei to us, who will be teaching the students Japanese every weekday along with the International Manager Richard. Justine and Marvin have had a few years of Japanese language classes in school, while Jessica and Angeline are beginners, although they know how to say ‘roundhouse head kick’ from their karate training!
After the Japanese class, we picked up our bento box lunches made by the school’s great cook, Mr. Akakura, and headed off to Asakusa, the old downtown area of Tokyo.
Just when we arrived the famous Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate), a very timely typhoon passed through Tokyo with lots of heavy rain and lightening for a few hours. For sure our Japan Experience students soon felt they were for sure in Asia! The huge Kaminarimon Gate’s entrance way has a massive hanging red lantern hanging from it, and it is the most popular spot in Tokyo for tourists to have their picture taken (which we did in the pouring rain, brave souls we are!)
The gate is for Senso-Ji, the oldest Buddhist Temple in Tokyo. Here the students saw for the first time how the Japanese pray at a temple. To start there is a large incense urn where people waft the smoke over their heads in the hope they will become smarter (or their faces to maintain/improve their looks!). They then saw how Japanese people use water to purify their mouth and hands with a small ladle to prepare for praying. This is followed by throwing a coin into a prayer box and then praying before an image of Buddha.
Between the gate and the temple are several hundred small shops selling all kinds of things, small and big treasures, lots perfect for souvenirs.
Coming back to school to beat the rain, we went to a major city center called Ueno and hung out at a Starbucks to eat our lunches (to escape the last few minutes of rain). The students had a chance to then walk around Ameyoko, a busy bazaar area of stores, many located directly under an elevated train line.
These stores used to be the black market of Tokyo right after the war when the city was being rebuilt and food and clothing was scarce. But not today, as Ameyoko, named either after America for the US made good sold there in days past, or after the Ameya, the name of candy stores, Ameyoko is bursting with everything for sale, for sure playing its part in making Tokyo the shopping capital of the world.
The day finished with the students receiving a lesson from the judo club, or more like just jumping right into a regular practice! With borrowed uniforms, the students got to do rolls, dives and even ‘eel crawls’ on the floor, plus the more adventurous learned a few shoulder throws.
After the judo lesson, the students checked their emails in the library and then they were off again to the home stay families, which I had heard had planned welcome parties with other family and friends. So again, a successful day being immersed in Japan!