Tuesday, April 26, 2011

After school 2


I do realise that I finished the Japanese language school last year and have been working in a company ever since, but I've still got some after-school stories to tell. They simply didn't make it to the first post or happened afterwards. So get ready for more incoherent thoughts on...

Zen meditation. One Friday afternoon, instead of practicing new verb forms, we took a brake and went on a small cultural bus-trip with our teachers to a nearby Buddhist temple. Inside we met some nice monks who explained us the main principles of zazen ("sitting meditation"), gave us pamphlets and allowed to try the whole thing ourselves, watching over us with bamboo sticks in their hands. Generally, the have the authority to (slightly) hit anyone who's not doing it right, but we were lucky (or just gaijins) and no one got "corrected". Afterwards we met for a short meal, discussed the everyday life of a Japanese monk and went our own way. That's it. For me, the most impressive part of the ceremony was the mantra they sang at the beginning, accompanied by a powerful taiko drum. A truly magical experience, a trance perfectly setting the mood for meditation that followed. And zazen itself was simply about slow, controlled breathing with your stomach and freeing your mind from any thoughts. It's more difficult than it seems and so much different than just reciting some earlier remembered phrases.

Tsukiji Fish Market. Officially known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, it is situated in a district of Chuo called Tsukiji. The word itself means "reclaimed land", as the whole neighbourhood used to be a marshy delta of Sumida River. Tsukiji was, however, dried and built-up throughout the XVII century, becoming the site of the commercially and touristically important market after the previous one in Nihonbashi was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake. The Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest of its kind in the world and offers foreign visitors a unique chance to witness the early morning tuna auctions. The massive fish are brought in by smacks straight from the ocean and some incomprehensible rituals are then conducted by the auctioneers. Is it really worth the hassle? Well, you have to queue up first thing in the morning (the market opens around 5.00 AM so staying overnight is highly recommended), it stinks and there's fish blood everywhere. But people still get attracted in vast numbers because of the market's uniqueness and a chance to have some incredible fresh sushi for breakfast. Also it's a great experience after a crazy drinking night when you just want to sober somewhere up and wait for the first train to take you home.

Miki's Party and End Year Party. Miki-san from the EU-Japan Centre had just went on a maternity leave and was not to come back to work before our programme would finish. As a way to thank her for the support she had always given us and to congratulate on her new role in life as a future parent, we decided to throw a surprise party. Well, maybe it wasn't exactly a surprise, because she and her husband had to come to a community centre in Shinjuku, which we had rented for the evening, but still she was happy and mesmerized by the amount of food from our home countries we'd all prepared. Some people might say that I hadn't done anything and had just stood there drinking beer but that's not true! Anyway, the party was a huge success, felt so warm and familiar. On the other hand, the End Year Party was held in the EU-Japan Office right after our December presentation session. It included the school graduation ceremony as well as a meeting with some of the future Vulcanus in Europe students and instructing them a bit on how to survive in the Old Continent. It was a lot of fun and a perfect opportunity to finally thank our teachers and the EU-Japan Centre staff before we would go on a well-deserved Christmas holidays. The end.

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