Monday, May 28, 2012

Japan, Tokyo: Sightseeing

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My hotel was in Nihombashi, a central location--so central, the bridge from which the neighborhood takes its name is the starting point of the historical "five highways of Japan" and is still today the "Zero Mile Marker" of Japan, as seen above.
The area is also known as the home base of Mitsui, early banking and department store enterprise. A local museum I wanted to visit is the Mitsui Memorial Museum, an art museum occupying the seventh floor of the Mitsui Main Bldg. The ticket price was steep at Y1,200--but it was worth it! The museum happened to be presenting a major retrospective of the works of Hokusai, the pre-eminent Japanese painter, best known for Great Wave off Kanagawa or perhaps Cranes on Snow Pine Tree. They were both there, originals; along with about one hundred more--after two hundred years, the colors still both bright and subtle, the lines so sharp some paintings look almost 3-D. If you want to catch this exhibit, you have until June 17th.
While in the neighborhood, I tried to catch the Kite Museum, and finally found it, on the fifth floor above this restaurant, but it was closed. "Never on a Sunday," one of the waiting patrons informed me.
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Sunday and Monday were devoted to touristy sightseeing, and one thing mentioned in the guides is the free observation tower at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. The day was clear, and if you use your imagination, you can see Mt Fuji over my left shoulder:
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Taking pictures was forbidden at the Mitsui Museum, not sure if it would have been at the Kite Museum, but it was also forbidden in the gift shop at TMGB tower, as I found out when I took the snap below. Why? Probably because they're embarrassed that this is the kind of crap they sell there:
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Ironically, you couldn't even take pictures in the "Fujifilm Square", a small camera museum in the Tokyo Midtown complex. Still it was worth a few minutes of one's time--it had two great photo displays, including classic Life magazine photoessays by W. Eugene Smith collected under the name "Humanism in Photography" as well as a collection of cameras from all eras.

Ueno Shopping Street:
Here is a fairly extensive market area with a selection of durable goods, and a guy that will tell you what you want if you're not quite sure:
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There was a lot of food:
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And a lot of the food was fish, from fresh catch to roe to dried squid:
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There was plenty there to keep one snacking, but finaslly I needed something like a meal, so I decided to eat at a Japanese "Macadonoldo". It was depressingly similar to any other McDs, except that the ketchup came not in a squeeze packet but in a plastic tub with a peel-off foil lid like, say, jelly.
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Asakusa:
Tokyo has some good architecture, and the Asahi building, designed by Phillip Stark, is meant to look like a tall, cold beverage:
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But the main tourist draw to Asakusa is the Asakusa-jinja and Senso-ji, a Shinto shrine located next to a Buddhist temple. Actually, the main tourist draw may be Nakamise-dori, the pedestrian shopping street that lines up with the temple and runs from the Kaminari gate, the one with the giant red lantern, whose underside you see in the second photo, to the Hozomon gate, which you see in the bottom shot, taken from the steps of Senso-ji (or perhaps vice versa):
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I took a half-hour rickshaw ride (cost: Y5000), and if there's something more touristy than that, I don't know what it is. Here I am with my rickshaw operator, who was a girl what spoke well English:
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As we wound our way around the temple complex, we took a couple of side streets, one of which has some mannekins that represent infamous robbers from times gone by, or something like that:
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After buying a few knick-knacks (pretty touristy) in Nakamise Street, I had a snack of a Japanese ice cream sandwich, ccookies and cream version:
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

School Club Activity Festival

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Sports Day was followed on Friday by the Club Activity Festival, where many of the school's clubs show of their work product, perform musical or other events they have been practicing for, or in others ways attempt to recruit new members. Most of the booths were set up in the parking area underneath the newly-opened gymnasium (not inside it for whatewver reasons), and the festivities were kicked off by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with numberous school luminaries including Principal Shim and the founder's duaghter:
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In the past, both club activities and the club activity festival took place on Saturday mornings, but this year, with the end of Saturday school, it has moved to the school week. Club activities now take place on alternate Wednesday afternoons, which explains why I have no sixth or seventh period classes on Wednesday. Even though I am teaching only twenty of the twenty-two hours specified in my contract, no one thought of asking me to do a club.
One of the coolest clubs is "Team Graffiti", which is the illustration/manga club; they had their three last annual publications on sale for a total of 4000 W, and you got a free themed bookmark with each purchase. I bought the lot; they looked pretty good to me, not that I'm an expert--though I have recently been to the International Manga Museum in Kyoto.
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Next door was the modeling club:
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Next door to them was the Physics Club booth.
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And next to them the Chemistry Club. A student is explaining potato starch putty, or "glop" (a non-Newtonian fluid) to the founder, the principal and the vice-principal, when I walked by:
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In the corner, someone was (rather hazardously) burning various metal ion solutions to show their colors, and another kid was (nearly as dangerously) demonstrating touch-paper:
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Inside my building, the roboticss club had taken over the foyer:
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...and the downstairs classroom was site of what is, I suppose, the board-game playing club:
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In my classroom was ensconced the anime-watching club (not pictured), with a looping presentation of Princess Mononoke. There were various musical preformances or jam sessions, and you could buy coffee and cookies, as well:
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On the whole, a good time.

Young-il Sports Day

Last Thursday heralded the return of Young-il H.S.'s Sports Day, after the previous principal sidelined it on the basis that it wasn't academic enough. For the past two weeks, PE classes have been battling each other within their grade level to arrive at two best soccer teams, which played out the class finals during the morning's events. There was also a basketball championship. Some photos, taken with my (not quite so) new Nikon D5100:
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The morning's final event is the student-teacher soccer match. You can see in the photo below that the teachers are scoring an awesome header goal, only to have it taken away by linesman calling offside in the distance:
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The afternoon is a series of relay races in heats; most classes take this very seriously, as you can see from their facial expressions:
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But every year, there's one team that knows they have no chance, and go for humor (notice he's running the race backward):
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