10 09 2009

ACK! It’s been over a month!?! Boy you must be thinking I’m slack. But I have a good reason, really!

Um… okay….

Maybe not that great. But yeah, things have been happening to conspire against me blogging. I think summer holidays do that to me. Either I’m incredibly busy or sleeping. However, that’s all over now, and I will endeavor to stick to Goal #1. Both Goal #1s…

My school’s summer holidays are from about mid-July until September. I always have the best intentions to spend as much of my vacations travelling around. Last year I managed to go to Kyoto with a friend, travelled to Aizu Wakamatsu and Sendai for the Tanabata festival, climbed Mt Fuji, visited my family and friends in Australia, then travelled with my parents to Hakodate, Sapporo and Furano in Hokkaido. It was a very successful vacation! A number of these trips were part of my ‘Things I MUST do in Japan’ list, so I was really happy. This year I intended to do a number of things from that list too, however time and money constraints limited what I was able to achieve.

As I mentioned in my last few updates, I did go to Hakone and Nikko, but apart from that I didn’t have the chance to travel much in Japan. Some of the events I did manage to go to however included the Sumida River Fireworks and Summer Sonic.

Japan is very big on summer festivals, particularly fireworks. Sumida River is the biggest and oldest firework festival in Tokyo. The fireworks themselves go for about 90 minutes, but it is near impossible to get a good vantage point unless you reserve your spot some insane time in the morning. That being said, it’s still an experience going. Festivals are a lot of fun, with people in yukata, food stalls, and a fun atmosphere. However, I think next year I will go to my local city’s festival instead, because I actually want to see the fireworks.

In recent years, as well as summer festivals, summer music festivals have become popular in Japan. Summer Sonic, which is held in Chiba and Osaka, and Fuji Rock, in Niigata, are the two biggest. I really want to go to Fuji Rock, however this year the line up wasn’t great, and Niigata is quite a way away. So I went to one day of Summer Sonic instead (it’s a 3 day festival). Although there weren’t any acts that I was dying to see, I did enjoy Dragon Ash, Phoenix, Mercury Rev, the Silent Disco, and Nine Inch Nails(totally surprised me, but NIN were the best act of the day). Overall the day was more fun than I expected.

Apart from those couple of events, there wasn’t much else to my vacation. I did spend a day at the ‘seaside’ (or bayside to be precise). Odaiba is an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. You can catch a boat from Asakusa along the Sumida River to Hinode Pier, and from there across to Odaiba a ferry. During July and August a special life sized statue of a Gundam was built to promote ‘Green’ Tokyo. I have no idea what Green Tokyo was about, but the statue was very very cool. Every once in a while it would play theme music, move its head, and steam, which was pretty cool. But what really impressed me was the details, things like the decals, and hydraulics (fake of course), which made it look like it could have just walked off its stand. Too bad they are taking it down. I think it would have been a very good tourist attraction. Anyway.

While I was in Odaiba I took the time to go to Miraikan or MeSci as it’s known in English. It’s a museum that is supposed to ‘share’ innovative science. There are a lot of interactive displays, and it’s well set out and very funky, but I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be that much. I suppose when I think of a science museum with interactive displays I think of basic sciences. There’s not many ways you can have a display of the International Space Station and make it interactive. And driving a robot remotely just isn’t my thing. However, the one exhibit that was really cool was the internet display, designed to show kids how information is sent around the internet. Using black and white balls as bits you try to send a word to another input station, but the balls have to go along all these ramps and through big windy things. Very cool. Overall, even though I found Miraikan to be a bit dull, young kids would like it.

Oh, and I finished off my day in Odaiba by conquering my fear of heights and walking across the Rainbow Bridge. Got some great pictures of Tokyo too, check them out!

For the rest of my vacation I knew money was going to be sparse, so I took up an offer from my company to teach at an English summer camp. The camp was a lot of fun, and really wasn’t very hard work. I got to meet 3 other teachers from my company who were lovely ladies, and my group of kids was friendly and tried hard. I think the most enjoyable part of the camp was the BBQ/bonfire/ghost walk evening. We ate a heap of meat, got to light small fireworks, dance around, and freak out the kids (we were the monsters)(and yes, I am kinda sadistic).

The final part of my vacation was two weeks spent in Australia. Two weeks seems like a long time on paper, but it really flew. I visited my grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousin, and also managed to catch up with a few friends. I went shopping for clothes (I just can’t buy pants/underwear in Japan), multiple doctor/dentist appointments and ate many foods I missed. It was really wonderful to go back home, I’ve been missing it a lot lately. And believe me, it was very sad to leave. It was also very distressing to get my credit card bill (4 days of shopping, and averaging $500 a day… you do the math) but at least I have clothes now.

And now it’s September and it’s back to school. Admittedly it’s only the first week of school, but things have been slow so far. I’m expecting to get slammed next week. But I would have to say the most interesting thing about being back at school is the ‘measures’ the school is taking in regards to Swine Flu… It’s not even flu season yet!?! Regardless, if a kid comes down with a fever during class time, we have to give them a mask, send them to the teacher’s room, and then to the nurse’s office. And on top of that, the school has decided to limit the Culture Festival in a few weeks time. Now, if you’ve ever watched a school-based anime, Culture Festival is when all the kids open a maid café or make a haunted house in their classroom. People from outside the school (family/friends/complete strangers) can come and look around, etc. This year however, the school has limited the festival to one day, no food will be sold, and only families that have returned their RSVP’s can come. I can tell you now a lot of the kids will be disappointed.

But such is life in a society prone to panic.

Did I ever tell you about how natto sold out when a TV show said eating it every day was good for dieting??? Crazy group mentality….

*edit – apparently the swine flu panic isn’t over reacting, at the moment about 12 kids from the school have contracted it…. great….