I don’t think I’ve had two weeks pass so fast in my entire life, and what a two weeks they have been! For starters I don’t think my body will know what to do with itself when I leave Japan and its heavenly food behind, only to be switched with a ham sandwich and a few digestive biscuits for lunch. On Friday, my host sister’s friend and her mother came over for “dinner” but let me tell you it felt more like the last supper…There was pizza, sushi, salad, fried potatoes, fried chicken, and thats only naming a few! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, out came a ‘so beautiful you wouldn’t want to eat it’ Blueberry cake with “Welcome Katie” written on a chocolate plaque. I couldn’t believe it! and to bring me from cloud nine to cloud ten, they also gifted me a beautiful traditional Japanese fan with a firework design on the outside. I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the kindness of Japanese people.
Before I say anything further let me assure you that fan was put to good use. If man could melt there is no doubt in my mind that I’d be a puddle right now. I really don’t know how Kaho, my host sister and her friends manage the long trek to school every summer day while struggling in 32 degree heat. The journey to school is also something very different than the usual get to school routine in Ireland. Many students (my host sister included) take the train to a station near the school and walk the rest of the way. One of the biggest surprises of my visit so far is how timely the trains are. You can judge by the minute if you are going to make the train because if a train is scheduled for 6hrs 17 mins 32 seconds…it will arrive at exactly that time ( alright the seconds part might be an exaggeration but I kid you not it would very rare a train arrives at 6:18 when it has been scheduled for the above )
School life is also something completely different than what we have at home. While our phones would be taken away had we been using them in school, Japanese students have the full rights to their mobiles in the ten minutes between each class, at lunch time and basically whenever a class isnt in progress. Sleeping in class is also another thing not frowned upon and while I knew this in coming here, it still surprised me when I saw a guy in dreamland during a geography lesson for the first time. (Needless to say I have taken full advantage of this difference)
While I am utterly useless in every subject apart from english…I have made the best out of this sole fact. I showed my english class a presentation video I had made about Ireland and luckily they seemed to find it interesting (Particularly when I told them that our summer holidays is 3 months…Yeah I don’t think they will ever get over that, especially here in Nagano Prefecture where the summer holiday period is one of the shortest in Japan at just touching 4 weeks). I was also approached in the library one day by a junior high school teacher to “assist” in his English class. Little did I know that on that day inspectors from the national department of education had come from Tokyo to observe the class and there was I standing at the front of the class talking about what I do at the beach while three official looking men circled the classroom with clipboards and another filming the entire ordeal. Even though I wasn’t the one being examined, I still to this day am wary whenever someone asks for “assistance” XD
Something else that surprised me in highschool was the school trip organisation meeting. Now you might think that the likes of that would be for the most part organised by the teachers or someone else in authority…never would you think that a good proportion of the details (train times, stations, sightseeing locations ) would be left to several groups of 17 year old teenagers to decide. Now I know when it comes to school trips in Ireland the students are free to suggest places they would like to visit but never have I at least had a professional tour planner (complete with suit, tie and badge) there to advise me that it would be better to take the Alpha line from Location A to Location B as there are less stops and it is cheaper. The 2 full days of which the students entirely plan are different for each group of 5 and therefore each group must write down there plans detail by detail ( they must be even as specific as to write that they will spend exactly 35 minutes for lunch in Beta Cafe ) It seemed like such a great idea when I was watching them that I wanted us to have that responsibility in Ireland… but thinking now of how it might play out, especially since the odds of the school’s budget being blown on several professional tour planners is little to none, I think I’m happy with the organisation being done for me.
Now I know I’m bringing the topic back to food but trust me you have never heard of food being so fun ever before. Nagashi Soumen or in my own words… noodles on a slide (I know it sounds crazy but bear with me) was probably one of the craziest things I participated in. The noodles were placed in water and allowed to run down a bamboo slide while we tried to catch some with our chopsticks as they zoomed past. Although I was having more difficulty with the chopsticks than the actual act of grabbing sliding noodles I still had a lot of fun. Speaking of noodles, as you might be aware Japan is home to many kinds and varieties of noodles, one being Soba. My host family and I went for dinner in an old fashioned Soba restaurant that was so beautiful that the only thing that distracted me from the beautiful interior was the unbelievable meal served to me.
I probably ate as much Soba as five men would eat in a week along with a serving of a traditional Japanese desert right after it…but I left that restaurant with no regrets and without question, a full stomach.
Well thats about it for today as I must prepare for tomorrows adventure!
But the next blog will be dedicated to the craziness that was the school festival so look forward to that!