I’m crashed onto my bed, still in my t-shirt and jeans. I have Japanese TV on in the background as I’m typing, and it’s playing some weird soap opera thing. I can’t read the remote, where there is no clear channel changing button, so I’m putting up with the show for now. Is the guy about to kiss the girl? He’s so close…closer…and then – WOW – he just turned into a werewolf. Huh. That’s a plot twist. I really need to figure out how to change this channel.
It’s 9:25, and I just got back to my room for the night. It’s tougher to post in Japan than it was in Korea because we are so busy. We meet at around 8:00 AM each morning, and we don’t get back until 9:00 PM. We’re having a blast and learning a ton, but it doesn’t leave much time for blogging. I will give you the highlights for the past two days:
Yesterday we had a lot of diplomatic meetings. We met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a lecture on the history of Japanese culture, and we had lunch at a German-Japanese fusion restaurant. One of our lectures in the afternoon was done by an advertising company that targets teenagers and collects data on what teens value and what’s important to them (this was fascinating – most Japanese students are extremely anxious about getting into college and their future careers, which isn’t as true in the USA). We also attended a lecture on Japanese foreign policy (we talked a lot about North Korea here, which was interesting because the US shares similar concerns about them). Probably the least educational but most beautiful part of the day was when we walked through some Japanese gardens. They were gorgeous even in the rain. We went to a tea house and had tea while overlooking the lake. This was the same tea house where the emperor hosted the former President Grant when he visited Tokyo. Fancy.
We had dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant with some teachers in the JET Program (a program that brings English speakers to teach in Japan). This was another fancy, multi-course meal (six or seven, I think?), and we sat on the floor. Most of the courses were very strange foods, but one was a fried/baked potato wrapped in bacon. I think we could definitely eat that in America. I also tried sushi, and…um…it didn’t go well. Luckily, the well-seasoned JET sitting next to me let me sneak the remainder onto her plate so I wouldn’t be rude by leaving it on mine. Phew! Bullet dodged. I texted my sister today that I would literally pay $50 for an American pizza. Pizza here has weird stuff on it such as squid rings and mayonnaise sauce. Why doesn’t Papa Johns want to extend its market to Tokyo?
Today we woke up early and went to a Japanese high school. I think this was the highlight of Japan for me so far, because it’s what I came here to do – learn about schools! We had a meeting with the principal first, then we observed a bunch of classrooms. Some teachers had us do question/answer sessions with the students in small groups. One student asked me if the movie High School Musical is how real high school is in America. I wanted to say yes, because really wouldn’t that be fun if all high schools were like that?! What’s the real harm in letting Japanese students believe that? But don’t worry, I said no. Some parts of that movie are accurate, however, so I went through a true/not true list for him (yes, it was a guy who asked). Another student was wearing a Houston shirt, and I asked him if he’d ever been to Houston. He was confused. I pointed to his shirt, and he said he had no idea what “Houston” is. Ha ha! I told him it’s a city in America. Note to self – don’t wear any shirts with Asian characters on them. It’s weird when Asian kids wear English shirts and don’t know what they say (another one said “STRONG CORN.” What?). I got some cool pictures with my Asian students, but I can’t put them on line for privacy purposes. Bummer. We had lunch with the teachers from the high school and learned a lot about the differences between Japanese and American schools. These interpreters are worth their weight in gold – I have no idea what I’d be doing without them.
Actually, wait, I do know. I’d be only talking to the British teacher from their school, John. He sat by me at lunch and was really interesting, but he said William is going to be the next king and I was all, “No way dude, it’s Charles. I kind of love your royal family, and I follow these things.” He thought about it and said, “Draht, you’re righht. I ahlways mess up him and Prince Phillip.” I wanted to ask him to just keep talking, because it sounded like listening to the BBC or my grandma. But I didn’t, because that would be creepy. When we left the school, we all got these sweet gifts!
After lunch we went to the Toshiba Science Museum. They had a lot of information about Japan’s past advancements in technology and also some things that are in the works for their future. One of the funny parts was the display of “the first fax machine, invented in 1994.” Seriously – I kid you not – that same fax machine is in my school’s office. Maybe it’s time for us to update.
Once we were finished at the science museum, it was on to the baseball game! We watched the Tokyo Giants play the Hiroshima Carp. GUESS WHAT I FOUND AT THE BALLPARK?!?!?! AMERICAN PIZZA! I was so happy that I would have done a back flip if I physically could have. Some people bought rice balls or sushi at the ball park, but I was ALL about the pizza. Even if it cost $10. Because, really, I had put in writing earlier that day that I would have paid $50, so $10 was a steal. I got a full personal pizza for that price, so it filled me up well. Confession: I’m getting quite sick of rice.
The game was great. I hung out with the American teachers, and then we got talking to the college guys sitting behind us. I get the vibe that “let’s talk to strangers and randomly be friends” doesn’t happen much in Asia. People seem really startled when I do that. But we ended up friends by the ninth inning, so all’s well that ends well, right?
Now I have to get to sleep so I can get up again and start this whole process again tomorrow. Whew!