Sunday, 7 April 2013

Japan: Week 4

4 - Takayama

Sakura never lasts long in Japan. You can't blame it really, it's got to make its way up the length of the country in one short season, after all. No wonder the delicate flowers will be swept away by one heavy rainfall. Therefore, this week I went to a few places where the blossoms would be in abundance to make the most of their gorgeous presence.

A place called Irigaike Park is located just a ten minute walk away from my accommodation. It was ridiculously windy, but this only drew more attention to the beautiful scenery, as the boughs waved and tries to draw attention, as if it were needed.

There were a lot of people outside enjoying the sunshine if not the wind speed, and I confess my heart still melts at the sight of tiny Japanese tots, especially when they're old enough to stare with huge, round eyes at my foreign appearance, and young enough to ignore their parents' attempts to teach them etiquette.

Another group caught my eye also. At first I only noticed the young couple sitting on the park bench enjoying ice cream, the characteristics of Down's Syndrome standing out to someone as emotionally invested as myself, and then I saw the young man in the wheelchair, and a carer standing with another small group of young adults a little further off. It could've been any mencap outing in England. Tears came to my eyes momentarily; here in a country who's gender equality laws leave a little something to be desired, and which created the proverb "The nail which sticks out get hits down", I worried what the stance on disability might be. I was reassured.

The next job was to seek out some formal clothes. We were invited on a Freshers Camp with the new Global Business students to a place called Tayakama, I think as a point of interest and a chance for them to practice English, and also because on a Teaching English course we won't have all that many trip opportunities. We were told we'd be staying in a very posh hotel, and had to dress for the dinner which would be provided! This panicked us to a certain extent, but shopping in Nagoya is never dull, and we picked up suitable clothing.

The camp itself was interesting. While I understood barely a word of the seminars, the teachers had photo powerpoints and they seemed to be telling the students about where in the world this degree could take them. Seminars were followed by a presentation on British table manners, amusing but accurate. Also, necessary to students who may grow up to be entertained by Western business partners. Practice was also essential, of course. This meant that the day finished with a delicious Western-style supper. Welcome, after a lot of Japanese food these past weeks.

As you know, I visited the onsen as a beautifully relaxing end to the day. I'll point out that it wasn't even strange to be bathing with girls I'd met only hours before, and who I will no doubt see around the university. New experiences.

The next day contained a trip to a place in Gifu prefecture called Shirakawa-Go, a world heritage site with buildings almost unique to the area, as many were destroyed in World War II.  It also had mountains, paddy fields, and snakes. I was sincerely grateful to be taken to a place as wonderful as this. I love to see so much scenery which just doesn't exist in England.

To finish off the week, today I went to a festival event at Iwasaki Castle, also close to where I live. They had a whole timetable of entertainment which I believe was from the local area, including a wind band and a cheerleading troupe. They had stalls of food and games and of course, the Castle in all its splendour itself.

The sakura is mostly gone from this area now, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to see it a lot in both Nagoya and Kyoto. Now that's quite a lot of travelling, if only lessons would start...


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