Wednesday, November 24, 2010

After school


Yes, I'm back to school, but this time, it's the Tokyo School of Japanese Language. Everyday lessons, tests, small classrooms, teachers, homework - just like high school. And the atmosphere's exactly the same, we always have a good laugh and no one is really that stressed about the whole thing. Of course, there is a bit of rivalry and some usual conflicts but that's natural and nothing to be concerned with. Also, for the past three months all the Vulcanuses have really come close to each other. We hang around a lot, go out all the time and organise small excursion to various places in and around Tokyo. Our high school lifestyle has it's up and downs, though. Since we are a tad older and used to the freedoms of college, it's sometimes hard to study on a daily basis as well as regularly attend classes. The schedule of our language course is really tight so we are not allowed to be absent almost at all and have a lot to study. Fortunately, the school does its job very well and we're already able to speak some simple Japanese in everyday situations. Laying emphasis on conversation skills is, by the way, an important feature of our lessons and one that the school is famous for.

The Naganuma School was established just after World War II, thus being one of the first Japanese institutions freely teaching the language to foreigners. The classes are diverse - apart from regular grammar / conversation / writing / listening practice, we sometimes use the computer room and the special language laboratory, where we record our voice and improve our pronunciation. There are seminars and other occasional activities like calligraphy, tea ceremony or Tokyo field trips. All these activities combined with extremely long commuting leave us little time for anything else on weekdays. Sometimes, however, I do manage to find the energy to explore the city some more and take an after-school stroll around Tokyo. Here are some random thoughts on...

Shibuya. I wrote about my first trip to this district here. Back then I wasn't aware of the fact that I would visit it everyday since that's where my school is. Below you can see a bonus clip of the crossing as seen from Shibuya Station on a rainy night. The facebook album contains some pictures taken on my usual way to school as well as in other surrounding districts, like Chiyoda (near the Hanzomon Gate) or Setagaya (especially the cool Shimokitazawa neighbourhood, our favourite party spot).

Tokyo Disaster Prevention Center (Ikebukuro Bosaikan). Located in Toshima, it was the destination of our first school field trip. As a part of the Tokyo Fire Department, it fulfills the noble mission of educating the townspeople about the basic actions they should take in case of various natural disasters that frequently invade Japan. During our visit to the Bosaikan we took part in elaborate simulations that empirically taught us how to react to danger. We had to find our way out of a small maze of typical office corridors filled with smoke, keeping close to the ground and following the exit signs. We learned how to use real extinguishers putting out a virtual fire in an amusing yet difficult computer game. In a special room mounted on top of a moving platform we could experience a genuine magnitude 7 earthquake and prepare some hiding strategies. Finally, dressed in waterproof outfits, we faced a powerful typhoon and realised how hard it is to stand straight or even breath when an extremely strong wind hits your face with streams of cold water. All those events were preceded by a short introduction by our Japanese guide and in the end we watched a rather silly informative movie in Bosaikan's small theatre. All of this was a lot of fun (when not treated too seriously) but also a piece of useful information and I'm glad our tutors had thought about taking us there.

Ginza. A district of Chuo, it's unquestionably the most luxurious and expensive place in all of Tokyo and therefore one of the fanciest urban areas on Earth. Often compared to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, it hosts a great number of department and flagship stores of the world's biggest fashion, jewelry and electronics brands like Tiffany, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Apple or Sony. There's gold dripping from each wall and the smell of wealth in the air. You can see the elite of westernized Japanese businessmen with their kimono-clothed wives and butlers in white gloves. Let's just say it's a bit too expensive for a poor student like myself.

Welcome to Japan Party. Although it has little to do with my after-school trips, I've never had the opportunity to mention it here, so I'm doing it now. Organised a while ago by Vulcanuses in Europe, it was the proper welcome party that allowed us to integrate better with each other and with our new Japanese friends. It took place in Marie's (yes, the same who took us on a tour of Yokohama) house and was obviously very enjoyable. Just look at the pictures over here and you'll know why. And that's the end of this incoherent post.

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