Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, October 30, 2006

The 2006 School Trip, Final Day

And now we've arrived at the final day (whimper).

Once again our schedule allows us to sleep in a little bit. Naturally, my roommate (our grade chief, Mr. J) is up at the crack of dawn rattling plastic and thumping around with his luggage. (He really does seem to want me to throttle him, doesn’t he?) Perhaps it's a good thing we're leaving today, because I'll have a few hours of shinkansen time to use for napping.

I’m giving the rest of the staff something of a wide berth this morning because I’m still feeling a bit bitter about yesterday and last Friday. However, oddly enough, it appears they think they actually did me a favor by sending me off and then hijacking my taxi. Apparently they think I wanted to go off on my own, so they cut me loose from all responsibility and let me have the day to play with as I saw fit.

I suppose I can live with that. I only wish they’d made that clear in the first place instead of telling me one thing and then doing another. I guess that’s just good, old fashioned, Japanese honne (本音) and tatemae (建前) (i.e. lying is considered polite here)(i.e. harsh true intentions versus polite stated ones for the sake of maintaining harmony).

Our final breakfast here at the temple/hotel is bacon and eggs...? (I thought this was a Buddhist temple! I thought Buddhism frowned on eating meat! What's with this pork in almost every meal thing?? ) I wind up leaving quite a bit...and hoping I don't have chest pains on the way home.

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After that we gradually herd the kids out into the parking lot and, with a bit of effort, get them lined up and ready to go. They are reluctant to leave, but yet at the same time they're anxious to get moving. Go figure...

As always, before boarding the train we're scheduled to make one last tour visit. This year the itinerary is exactly the same as last year. First we go to the Kyoto Gosho (京都御所), i.e. the old Imperial Palace. One can only get in by reservation or invitation. This is my third visit here.
As always, we are warned that security is extra-strict (diminished 7th chord), so procedure has to be followed to the letter.
As always, we are separated by class, and each group is told to remain in a four-line formation at all times so they can keep careful track of our numbers at all times (cue militant drum cadence).
As always, the students take a few steps, and then the lines followed by the class groups quickly dissolve into one big, shapeless mass that spreads out all over the place. There is no control over anything.
As always, neither our guide nor the grim-faced security guards say or do anything about it, nor do our own faculty (except me, and they just look at me like I'm some nut) (cue Benny Hill music).

(Why do they even bother?)

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However, this time we do get a new treat. The last two times I was here they wouldn’t let us near the main ceremonial building (known as Shishinden - 紫宸殿); we could only look at it from beyond the outer gates. This year we walk right up to the front stairs and look up into its massive entrance (but we can’t go inside and see the throne room...a pity).

After leaving the old palace we proceed to the famous Sanjusangendo (三十三間堂) temple. (Hmm...photographs of the inside are forbidden. How did they make that websi...never mind.) I've already been here twice, but its impact is still enormous. You really have to see it to believe it. The large, main statue of Kannon in the center is flanked by 1000 man-sized ones, all of them gilded. There are also statues of 28 guardian deities (virtually all of which were adapted from the Hindu pantheon) that are of amazing workmanship. It is truly impressive.

And that, my friends, is the end of the trip. All that’s left is the bus ride to Kyoto Station (entertained by those amazing Kyoto bus guides), the shinkansen ride to Tokyo Station (zzzzzzz), and the final bus ride back to the school (ZZZZZZZ). At least the boxed lunch they give us on the shinkansen is porkless and quite good. (Listen to me…and I’m neither Jewish nor Muslim…)

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After arrival back at the Academy I wait around till all the students have gone, and then I accompany the teachers back to the office so that we can say goodbye. (Whatever…) Then I don’t waste any time hustling back to my BLUE RAV4, making like a shepherd, and getting the flock out of there.

Another year, another school trip. I hear we’re going to Okinawa next year…


  • You don't sound too happy traipsing around with the schoolkids. They sound well-behaved though.

    Anyway I've found you another job! The Fiji Sun ran a silly, strange story from Japan. Kathleen McCaul wrote it 'Faking it as a priest in Japan' about a guy from England, Mark Kelly who went to Sapporo as a teacher and decided to make extra pocket money as a fake priest. He did weddings - they weren't legal, just decorative, but sort of Christian. Have you heard about him?

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:51 AM  

  • Odd, I thought Japanese kiddies were good at conformation.

    I love the way they do food, i mean look at that dinky box with all the bits and bobs in it! Too many rice balls though...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:40 AM  

  • Did you see the little Code phrase i did in your last post?

    Cna't do it today, I keep getting q, x, y and z!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:41 AM  

  • Wendy
    Don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy working with the kids far more than I tend to make it sound. Sarcasm is one of the ways I deal with off-key notes in life.

    Conformity is very much the rule here, but the kids also tend to be very much in their own worlds. (I think this is particularly true of Ye Olde Academy, because we get all those spoiled and overprotected rich kids). The idea of moving in line is lost on them. They line up before they do anything, but as soon as they start moving it all falls apart in seconds because they can't match their individual paces.

    I think that's kind of a metaphor for their lives in general. Carefully matched at the outset, but then flying off in different directions with no idea what anyone else is doing...

    Yes, I saw your word verification verse! Good job! Oh, and uncommon letters are NO EXCUSE (though I tend to use that same non-excuse a lot these days...).

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:08 AM  

  • phew... what an exciting and exhausting trip. don't know if i would have liked rooming w/ someone that couldn't sleep in or be quiet when getting up.

    too much pork for my blood. i didn't realize they ate so much pork. i haven't had any in i don't know how long. i don't really miss it altho i do miss having the extra grease around (from bacon) to cook w/.

    By Blogger tooners, at 6:00 PM  

  • Here in Malaysia, most supermarkets no longer sell pork. However, hypermarkets still do. Most people get theirs from wet markets.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 8:52 PM  

  • I will have to fit a lot of Xylophones into situations then...

    and Yaks...

    Sorry about all that pork. I only get it minced in one of my fave thai dishes, the vermicelli noodle salad, but other than that the meat holds no attraction for me. Even less than beef, and I haven't had a steak since I was in school.

    Having said that, I do enjoy the odd lamb chop and I have just eaten a rather nice and spicy lamb curry for lunch.

    By Anonymous Olivia at Work, at 10:17 PM  

  • Pork... i think i haven't eaten them for quite some time... two months? cuz pork are quite expensive here. my last dish with pork - Bat kut teh in malaysia. Oh how i miss home!!!

    It's a nice trip, despite all those porks. You guys have been to quite a lot of places, and there were so much things to learn at each place. Really broaden my knowledge about Japan. Thanks for sharing!

    By Blogger YD, at 11:05 PM  

  • All that pork - even from the temple. Reminds me of the monk who bit off more than he could eschew.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 12:26 PM  

  • please visit

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 AM  

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