Yay! I’ve got my readers back! Thanks to all of you for commenting on my last post, sorry for the lack of responses – I’ve been slackin’ with keeping in touch with everybody recently…Busy, busy, busy! But I finally did get around to going through the nearly 500 megs of pictures I’ve taken over the last few weeks, and I pulled out a bunch more of what I consider to be the better ones.
You probably noticed that I’ve stopped maintaining the “gallery” section of my site…once I really got out and started exploring Japan it became far too tedious to sort and upload so many of my pictures, so from now on I’ll most likely just be posting them here on the main page. That way I can focus more on getting 10 or 15 of the ones I really like up rather than 30 mediocre ones. Here’s another picture of the spectacular Kiyomizu Dera light-up – much clearer than the one I came up with for the last post!
So, why have I been so busy lately anyway? Well, class at Rits has finally started, and I have to say I’m pretty damned pleased. I placed into C class (classes range from A to E), much higher than I would’ve expected considering my comparatively little experience with the language. At times I feel like I may have gotten in a bit over my head, as the classes are taught entirely in Japanese and I probably understand about as much as I don’t, but I guess this is a good thing – hopefully with time my comprehension will go way up. Plus my grammar classes only have four students: Shivana, Hidy, Dylan and I. Talk about individual attention!
This picture and the previous show what the Rits campus looks like with all of their sakura blooming. It’s really a nice environment, especially because the school has SO much spirit that there’s almost always something going on – whether it be cheerleaders and double-dutch jump-ropers practicing in the quad or the kendo team recruiting new members in full uniform. However, I posted these two non-action-packed pictures to show how pretty the campus is itself; one of these days I’ll put up a video, a better way to really capture how lively it gets during the day.
In addition to the Japanese language courses, I’m also taking a class in Japanese confectionary and shamisen (the traditional instrument that resembles a sitar but is played with a large wooden pick). Both of these are taught by very well-known figures in their respective fields who also happen to speak NO English. I’d say I understand about 20% of the lectures for these classes. But, again, hopefully that’ll change soon. And shamisen looks like it’s going to be really cool – the classes are held in the teacher’s house right in the heart of Gion, and the place is as traditional as can be – full tatami, and he teaches in a kimono. Plus, you should hear him play. Man.
The one downside to class having started is that I have much less time to study Japanese on my own. I know, the point of class should be to study Japanese, but the fact is I know EXACTLY what my weaknesses are, and when I’m studying on my own I can focus specifically on those. Class is too standardized. I find myself spending most of my study time doing work that’s either repetitive, or too advanced (where I should be studying the lower-level grammar that builds up to it first). But this lack of individual studying also has a lot to do with the sakura; because they’re only around for such a short time, we’ve really been trying to take advantage of every free minute. Once they’re gone I should be able to get back on track and hit the books again.
Speaking of taking advantage of every minute, yesterday a group of us went down to the Osaka Mint where they have over 122 DIFFERENT types of sakura imported from all over the world, and over 300 individual trees. The viewing area is only open for five days a year, and we all have Dylan (the master researcher here at YHM) to thank for discovering the place for us. I had no idea that sakura were so diverse – along one single pathway we saw white, pink, purple, and yellow sakura; sakura with tiny pedals and sakura that looked like roses; huge sakura trees as big as pines and weeping sakura and bushy sakura. Yes, a good portion of my 500 megs of pictures came from here 🙂
Afterwards we headed to the nearby Osaka Castle. Since we all had pretty much no money we decided not to go in, but we still had some good times around the castle grounds – including some additional footage for KDP ’05!
Wait…I haven’t mentioned KDP yet, have I? You may remember awhile back when I posted a link to “WhereTheHellIsMatt.com”. Well, inspired by his antics, the group has decided to produce their own version – Kyoto Dance Party 2005! Basically the concept is we’ll all flail our limbs about in a dance-like fashion in front of as many famous landmarks as humanly possible. Stay tuned for the video probably sometime around August.
Also, since many of you seemed to enjoy the video of the Taiko drummers in front of Himeji-Jo, I thought I’d offer another sample of drumming on front of a castle. This time, we have a….drumming…samurai…in front of Osaka Castle?? Your guess is as good as mine!
Finally, tonight we went for another light-up at Nijo-jo, the famous giant castle built in Kyoto by Tokugawa. The sakura were, as always, fabulous – but what made the evening more memorable is that we all dressed up in our kimono! The castle offers free admission to anyone wearing traditional wafuku, so we all suited up and rode our bikes down there samurai-style, which the Japanese locals seemed to love (I think more Japanese locals took pictures of us than we did of each other. We even did some posing for them). Good times! Although I haven’t gathered the pictures from Nijo just yet (we actually just got back about two hours ago), so those’ll have to wait until next time!