Archive for September, 2007

Sports Day and Harvesting Rice

September 27, 2007

. . . are two unrelated things I took part in last weekend.

Sports Day is the same annual school event that I talked about last year. Alas, this time my vantage point was lousy, so I don’t have any good pictures. This will have to serve.

Hibarigaoka Taiikukai

Sports Day at my current school was fairly similar to how it was organized at my first school, but there was one big difference. Rather than doing pyramids and other mass acrobatics, the boys did a dance. They were less than enthusiastic.

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The following day I harvested rice with some teachers from the special needs school (where I worked every Friday for my first term), also accompanied by their families and a new JET and his wife. I did this last year, although it was in October that time. Last year I forgot my camera, but I didn’t make that mistake again.

Rice Harvesting 1

Grain! Sickles! Barbecue!

Rice Harvesting 2

Okay, the barbecue part isn’t pictured, but we did have one. But first we cleared the plot. We only did half of it by hand, then the kids got to drive a combine.

Rice Combine

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I still owe an explanation of Yasukuni Shrine, but I’ll leave that for my next post. If I don’t put this entry up now, then I won’t get to it until Saturday, and then it would be that much less likely that I’ll write or at least start another post this weekend. So I’m hitting Publish.

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Tokyo

September 17, 2007

Gah. I seem to be unable to write anything coherent, so I’ll stop trying and just throw something together.

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One of the several neighborhoods I visited in Tokyo was the nerd mecca of Akihabara. Following the war, there was a black market in Akihabara selling electronic parts to students of the nearby technical college. This grew and became known as Electric Town. This is the old face of Akihabara.

Tokyo Akiba RC Sign

From the ’80s on, computer parts entered the scene. The neighborhood increasingly became a destination for nerds of all types, not just the radio enthusiasts and gadget freaks. Eventually, Akiba (as the abbreviation goes) came to be dominated by Japanese comics and animation culture. This is the current face of Akiba.

Tokyo Akiba Toranoana et al

You can still find the electronics shops, but they’ve been joined by maid cafes, thriving arcades (a dead or dying institution elsewhere), huge manga (Japanese comic book) stores, and numerous 24-hour internet cafes. On Sundays, the main street is closed to cars and all manner of strange street performances take place. Singers of both the professional and painfully amateur varieties do their thing, girls in outlandish costumes pose as crowds take pictures, groups of people do synchronized dances, and craziness abounds.

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Tangentially related:

Only a bit nerdy and not at all fringe is the Ghibli Museum, a 30-minute train ride west of Tokyo’s central loop.

Mitaka Ghibli Totoro

Studio Ghibli is an animation film studio, best known in America for the movies Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away (both highly recommended if you haven’t seen them). The museum has exhibits on the science of animation, a mock studio with piles of reference material, sketches, and storyboards from Ghibli’s films, a mini theater showing short films that can only be seen at the museum (you get one viewing), and so on. The whole time I was there, I felt like skipping around giddily like the little girl in the picture above.

On the roof, there was a full-sized statue of a robot from Castle in the Sky.

Mitaka Ghibli Robot

Photography was forbidden indoors, but there are some pictures of the museum’s interior at the official website.

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A few random things.

A wedding procession at Meiji Shrine.

Tokyo Meiji-jingu Wedding

A statue in honor of kamikaze pilots, outside the war museum at the ever-controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Tokyo Yasukuni Kamikaze

And a restored Mitsubishi Zero, inside the museum.

Tokyo Yasukuni Zero

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Oof. Yasukuni warrants some background explanation, but I’ll forgo that in favor of just getting this entry posted.