Happy Holidays from Tokyo!
Tonight I’ll meet some friends for an early dinner, then we’ll walk around to see the lights. It’s exciting to be in one of the most amazing cities in the world for Christmas, but I’m also thinking about my family and friends at home in the U.S. Thank you to everyone who follows this blog and who has supported me through your reading, comments and questions. どうもありがとうございました Dōmo arigatōgozaimashita!
I’ve made the transition from Nagoya to my new apartment in Kawasaki City, which is only three train stops away from where I lived last term. I’m again working in the office in Tokyo, still as a senior instructor since there are some schools in session until the end of January. I’ll fly back to Colorado on January 31.
Leaving Nagoya and Sugiyama Women’s University was bittersweet. I was ready for a break from teaching but it was difficult saying goodbye to a lot of my students. I enjoyed working at the school and sharing an office with my great colleagues. While still a significant city, Nagoya is like a small town compared to Tokyo, and I loved being able to get around on the subway so easily and having a relatively short commute. I stayed busy exploring and visiting some local areas. But by the end of the term, I was itching to return to the Big City. I’ll write more about being back here in Part Two, but first, some highlights from the final weeks in Nagoya…
View across the hall from my classroom.
Terrace shops just below campus, illuminated for the holidays.
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We had a great team of teachers. You may recall how optimistic we seemed in this post. And here we are on our last day of work, three months later:
Some survived the term better than others…
Yes, we survived just fine. Jane, Morgan, Kim, Matt and me.
Leaving Sugiyama for the last time.
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We still had a few days in Nagoya after our final work day. I walked throughout the city enjoying the fall. I’ll miss my early morning runs around the park and Nagoya Castle.
I ran many miles along this path.
Nagoya Castle in the early morning.
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The subway and train systems in Japan are models of efficiency, cleanliness and orderliness. In Nagoya I could get most places with only one or two transfers.
Nagoya Station towers and the Midland Square building.
Even subway entrances are classy.
Right on time.
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During the last few days in Nagoya, a friend and I took a day trip to Ise, which is about an hour south of Nagoya by train.
Ise (“ee-say”) is a smallish community and not on the typical tourist list. The draw to Ise is the beautiful surroundings and Ise-Jingu, the most important Shinto shrine in Japan. The shrine and related structures date back to the 3rd century. Every 20 years, the shrines are replaced with new structures, built adjacent to the old buildings, using the exact specifications and techniques as was used with the former buildings. No nails are used, only dowels and interlocking wooden pieces.
We were fortunate because 2013 was the year for the shrine buildings to be replaced, and the old structures had not yet been dismantled. They will stay in place, side by side, until March 2014, at which time the old buildings will be taken apart and the wood will be used for repair or construction of other shrines and torii around Japan.
There were pathways around the shrine grounds that are usually closed off, but were open on the day we visited and only a few other days of the year.
The shrine is so sacred that the main buildings are mostly hidden from view by wooden fences. Only the imperial family and certain shrine priests are allowed in the inner dwellings. We were still able to get a sense of what these buildings were like, as the outer viewable buildings are exact replicas of the main shrine but on a smaller scale. Also, some of the upper parts of the main shrine structures were visible over the fences.
This is an especially sacred shrine to the Japanese and there were many people visiting, probably because of the timely significance, but also because it was a pristine fall weekend day. For all of the people there, I saw only four other westerners during the entire day.
New shrine structures.
We were able to go into the shrine area a short distance, but once we were past the torii, pictures were not allowed.
Sections of the old and new shrines next to each other. In March the old shrine will be taken down.
This path is open only a few days of the year in which the new shrine is constructed.
The river is used for symbolic purification.
Later, we walked through the crowded streets of Ise.
Udon noodles for lunch.
Taiko drummers. This was a powerful and fantastic performance.
In the afternoon we had tea and traditional sweets at this cafe.
The sweets are a mixture glutinous rice and bean paste (which is much better than it sounds).
Ise was a bonus. The timing was perfect and I saw a unique side of Japanese culture and history shared with a good friend. My deep and meaningful take-away? When your Japanese friend invites you on a day trip, you clear your calendar.
‘From Nagoya to Tokyo’ to be continued in Part Two…