The weekdays didn't contain too much excitement last week, although I have started a programme with the Arts & Sciences section of the university, and the first session was on Thursday. It's supposed to be an English tutoring system, but in reality it's much more entertaining, as a group of English-speakers just chat to a group of Japanese students. The idea of this class was to improve fluency and understanding of native speakers' speech patterns, which meant that we could legitimately teach the students slang. Next week we're doing Show and Tell!
On Saturday there was a cultural party given by the International Society of Nisshin (The town in which I currently reside) and hosted at NUFS. Members of the society performed Taiko drumming and set up an origami table, and NUFS did, in my opinion, what it does best, and set up food which looked like THIS:
The party was attended by a large number of us international students, and we were at least matched in volume by residents of Nisshin, who brought there whole families along. It was a lovely experience; in Japan people tend to completely ignore each other unless there is a deliberate removal of the boundary. There were no boundaries in the room that day, and if you were stood without someone to talk to for 30 seconds, someone would come up to you and introduce themselves, and ask you about your country and how you're finding Japan. This was also clearly a group of particularly open-minded Japanese people, who seemed to relish the difference in ethnicity we provided.
I also met the family I'll be visiting on a home-stay next month. The mother attended the party to meet me, and her daughter showed me ever so carefully how to fold an origami helmet. I'm hugely looking forward to seeing them again.
Sunday brought good weather, and so the chance for another hike! Enjoyable as the first, the views from 600m were spectacular, and there was definitely never any danger of falling off the edge. Ever surprised by Japan's superior natural beauty, we saw a hawk from very, very close, and continued to spot them all the way up the mountain.
We also visited a shrine in the middle of the forest, containing an earthly beauty I'm sure can be imagined. I have no idea how difficult it must have been to build, though.
The hike was finished in perfect fashion by a visit to the onsen. It was gladly received, as the trails we take aren't easy, and we covered 12 miles or so and 684 metres in 4 hours. I've never experienced too much hiking before, but the sense of accomplishment is something I could easily become addicted to, the exercise is refreshing, and the new things I learn about Japan all add to the experience. We saw a baby snake. How cool is that?
So, back to work for now, and more updates will follow next week.
P.S. For all the photos, visit my tumblr! http://abbyinjapan.tumblr.com/