Sunday, July 7, 2013

On trash, sizes, and recycling

One of the things that our group noticed right away is how clean public spaces are.  I have seen a piece of litter here and there, but very, very little.  What is even more remarkable is that there are very few public trash cans.  They were removed after the gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995.  When we have found waste receptacles, they look something like this.

As the pictures show, people have to separate their trash into the correct recepticle: cans, plastic bottles, and paper.  The purple container may be for things that can be burned, and then there is a smal trash can next to the recycling for what is left over.  What struck me is that this is a very different sense of shared public space from what I saw in India.

When we walked through the Shinagawa neighborhood, it was garbage day, but in reality, garbage pickup happens almost every day because different days are designated for different types of recycling and trash.   

Last night we went to a Softbank Hawks baseball game in Fukuoka, and in my head I was picturing the parking lots around Jack Trice Stadium after an Iowa State football game.  Yet, at the end of the game, the fans carried out their trash to the trash cans and huge trash bags that attendants were watching over.  Certainly not all of the trash was carried out, but a significant portion of it was.  As we walked out at the end of the game, the stadium looked almost as clean as when we arrived.

One more recycling story and a comment on sizes.  One evening when we got done a little early, three of our group went to Asakusa to check out some small shops and a temple.  We stopped at a McDonald's to get something to drink.  I ordered a large soda which is the glass on the left.  Someone else ordered a medium soda which is the glass on the right.  In the States my large would probably be classified as a small.  Drink sizes in general are smaller here, which is not a bad thing.

When we were done with our drinks, the ice went into one waste container, the paper cup went into another, and the straw and lid went into another.  Fortunately there was a gentleman ahead of me who I saw get rid of his glass, so I knew what to do.  As I dumped my ice and sorted my trash, in my head I could imagine all the complaining that Americans would do if they were asked to sort their trash this specifically.  But Japan proves that it certainly is possible.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Japanese neighborhood

For our trip, we all read J-Boys by Shogo Oketani about life for a young boy in Tokyo in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  It would be a great book to use with middle school students.  As part of our trip, we spent Friday morning with the author walking around the neighborhood where he grew up.  The photos below are from that walk.

The view from the subway entrance where the author met us.

It was garbage pickup day, although because of recycling, everyday may be some garbage pick up.  The recycling is very specifically sorted into different types.  The netting over the bags is to keep the crows from tearing open the bags and making a mess.  Pretty ingenious, but I don't think it would stop raccoons.

Some of the houses on our walk had small gardens like this one behind the wall.

All of the garages or parking spaces were tiny by our standards and all of the garages were extremely tidy and organized.  Many of the homes had vehicles parked in the garage because travel by subway and bus is so much more convenient.

Several of the houses had these sorts of potted gardens arranged in the available space.

At several of the corners, these sorts of mirrors were mounted so that drivers and pedestrians could see what was coming from the other directions.  None of these side streets were very wide.

This was the only empty lot that we saw on our walk, but across the street in the exact same space are three homes and another building.  In the book, the main character talks about playing in empty lots after school, and Shogo said that during the time the story was set, there were many more empty lots in the neighborhood.

This dilapidated building is an example of what the houses in this neighborhood would have looked like in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  There were a few examples of these style homes still standing, but not very many.  All of the more recent houses are multi-storied, while all of these appeared to be single story.

These two pictures are of a parking lot in the neighborhood.  The rates are 100 yen for 20 minutes from 8 am to 8 pm and 100 yen for 60 minutes from 8 pm to 8 am.  The maximum amount for the day is 1500 yen or about $15 dollars.  Keep in mind that this is a residential area, not a downtown commercial district.

We made a short stop at this Tendai Buddhist temple, Yogyukuin Temple.  I have more photos of this temple, but I am saving them for a later post.

This is the cemetary at the back of the temple.  A cemetary like this would not be found at a Shinto shrine, because Shinto focuses on life and the living.  Buddhism addresses what happens after death, and so funerals and burials are the taken care of by Buddhism.

We stopped for a short visit at the author's home and were able to ask some questions and share our thoughts about the book.  The two dogs are rescued, which seemed appropriate as the little brother in the book wanted to save a stray puppy.

On our way to lunch, we passed by a couple of neighborhood shops.  The shop with the blue awning is the tofu shop, and a tofu shop had important part in the beginning of the book. 

How to grow tomatoes in a very small space.

After lunch and on our way to back to the subway, we stopped at the neighborhood Shinto shrine,

We also passed another tofu shop that was open.  The owner, there in the doorway, told us that he gets 95% of his soybeans from the United States.

In the book, the main character describes in detail the tofu shop owner bringing the tofu out of the cold bath that it is kept in while waiting for customers.

Another important part of the book are the visits to the public bath house.  This is the local bath house.  That's the author in the lower right hand corner.

And then we were back to where we started.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Three visits...almost

I was really excited for our day on Thursday.  Our agenda had us starting at Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan Museum, then a visit with David Satterwhite at Fulbright Japan, and ending with a visit to the Ghibli Museum.  The day started off well with sunny skies and a cool breeze.  We arrived at Yasukuni and walked up to the shrine, only to find out that the museum that is always open was closed.  So, we'll be going back to Yasukuni on Monday, and I'll talk about it more then.

To fill our time, we went to a garden near our next appointment.

May be the largest thistle I've ever seen

And who doesn't go to a garden to smell cigarette smoke?

This garden was in the middle of an upscale neighborhood with hotels and shops just across the street.


Our visit with David Satterwhite provided us with some information about Fulbright Japan's activities in Japan over the last 61 years.  Having lived 43 years of his life in Japan, Dr. Satterwhite was able to give us a better understanding of how Japan's economic and political circumstances in the last 20 years has affected education.  The biggest change that he has seen recently in education is a push for greater internationalization or globalization in the schools as a way to address Japan's domestic needs and its international relations.  After our talk, we went for an obento lunch with Dr. Satterwhite, but it was not an ordinary obento lunch.

Our lunches were set out in preparation for our arrival.  Note the stocking feet as we are standing on a tatami mat.  While we were sitting on the floor.  There is a well under the table for our feet, so it was more like sitting in a chair.  This was my second meal in a row sitting on the floor.

My dining companions.  Dr. Satterwhite is standing in the background.

This was our delicious obento lunch.  Starting in the lower left corner and going counter-clockwise, a bowl of rice, soy sauce for the sashimi, soy sauce for the tempura, a savory custard, and miso soup.  In the box itself, beginning in the upper right courner and going clockwise, tempura (foods dipped in a batter and fried--this lunch included shrimp, a leaf, a piece of squash tempura), pickles, sashimi (raw fish and very delicious), some tofu and vegetables, and hamburger patty with spinach, cucuber, and tomato.  I did not find anything I did not like.
After a good lunch with excellent conversation, we departed for the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.  We traveled by subway, train, and bus to one of the most whimsical places that I have been in a long while.

It is not too hard to figure out which bus to get on.
The entrance to the museum.  Keep in mind if you are planning to visit, you can't just show up and get a ticket.  You have to buy in advance and arrive at your scheduled time.  The statue at top is part of the rooftop garden.

View of the museum from the rooftop garden.  No pictures could be taken inside, only on the outside.

The statue on the roof.  Everyone seemed to want their picture with him.

The circular stairway to the rooftop garden.  Inside the museum is another circular stairway, but it seemed only half as wide.
 The museum seemed more like an idyllic childhood playhouse than a museum.  A couple of the rooms had exhibits providing some insight into what Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli do.  The paintings in the workshop exhibit were beautiful as is so much of Miyazaki's movies.  The visit also included a short film made specifically for the museum, and it was a wonderful example of Miyazaki's anime.  The gift shop was a total crush, and I passed up the stuffed Totoro for a picture book that showed the story of the short film we saw.  The blackcurrant cone in the museum cafe was literally icing on the cake of a great day.

One of the streets we passed on our bus ride back to the train station.  What do you notice is missing?  Did you answer trash?
 For dinner, several of us went out for sushi, and for reasons I do not completely understand, we opted to sit on the floor.  This time there was no foot well and I was in a narrow knee-length skirt.  It was an interesting way to sit through dinner.  A couple people ordered sashimi as well as sushi, and below is their order.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On the road Japan

Every summer I spend one or more weeks on professional development.  This year I am spending four weeks on a study tour in Japan.  This study tour will be building on a course we all took last fall entitled "Cultural Encounters of Japan" which focused on Japan's history in the context of world history.  The program is jointly funded by the National Consortium for Teaching Asia (NCTA) and Fulbright-Hays Group Study Tour.  The Program for Teaching East Asia at the University of Colorado-Boulder organized the course and the study tour.  I have worked with TEA for over ten years, and I was very excited to be able to participate in this program with them.

We arrived Tokyo yesterday, after two rather long days of travel for me.  Our first day has included several orientation elements, including different food styles and good meal etiquette, so my first comments are about food.

Flying into a country, the airplane meals always seem to reflect that country's cuisine, but it is still airplane food.  So, for example, our first meal on the plane included an option for miso chicken, but it came with an American style salad and dinner roll.  For the second meal, dumplings were one of the options.  The dumplings were served with noodles and another dinner roll.  I just find it odd that culturally appropriate entres are added to typical American-style elements.  And I have always wondered why the airlines do this.  Is it intended to be a reminder of home for those people who are returning home or as taste of what is to come for those people traveling to that country?  I can't imagine these strange hybrid meals succeed, whatever their purpose.  Or at least, they have never worked for me in either of those ways.

After checking into our hotel yesterday evening, we went out for a meal.  We ended up at a noodle place, and this was my meal.  On the left is tempura chicken and mushroom on rice, and on the right are the noodles.  These were hot noodles served in a broth with green onions, seaweed, and another condiment that I did not recognize.  It was delicious and far better than what we got on the plane.  The most interesting part of this meal was the ordering process.

Outside the door was this machine where we ordered.  After inserting the money, the diner selects whichever meal he/she wants and pushes that button.  The machine issues a ticket and the change.  Then the ticket is turned in to the kitchen.  It was a pretty slick system.

Tonight, our small groups used the information from orientation to select a style of restuarant to try.  All three groups selected yakitori, a style in which the food is placed on skewers and grilled on a charcoal fire.  The food was very good at the restaurant my group selected, although the seating arrangement was interesting.

Note that we are seated on the floor and the height of the ceiling.  The waiter who drew us into the restaurant was not completely sure we could handle this seating arrangement, but it worked out fine.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Student Council might be jealous...

Day two of our visit to Navrachana School again began with an all school assembly.  This time the purpose was to induct this year's student leaders into their offices.  Normally, this ceremony occurs at the beginning of the school year, but because of our visit, the ceremony had been postponed until we were able to attend.  There was a great deal more formality and pomp than occurs when my new Student Council is installed each year.

The first group of students who were inducted were from what we would call the middle school.  Their offices included representatives for each of the houses--the school is divided into four houses, and each student is assigned to a house.  The second group of students were from grades 10-12 and included the school president, head boy and head girl, the sports captain, the cultural presidents, heads of student welfare, and the head of the creative cell.  The last four offices also had vice-heads who were inducted.  Prefects for each house were included too.  The first group did not have sashes, but all of the key officers received a sash for his/her office.  All of the new officers were sworn in with an oath of office.  In the first clip, notice the students standing on the balcony.  These are the primary grades, and most of the students were in their more informal uniforms of polos and shorts because it was Saturday.

The entire school is present to witness the induction of the Student Council.

During the swearing in of the new officers.  The student standing at the microphones on the left side of the stage was being sworn in as the school president.

Navrachana School's newly inducted Student Council.  Principal Baksi conducted the swearing in of the new officers.

The president and head boy/girl are the three highest offices in the Student Council.  These students had to complete an application and then a vetting process to be selected for these offices.
My Student Council's end of the year pizza party and election of new officers really pales in comparison to recognition that these students received from the staff and students at Navrachana.