Posts Tagged Mishima
This morning I took my 3 year old son Tiny Dog (TD) out for an adventure by myself. Our destination was Rakujuen park in nearby Mishima.
Rakujuen is a large park in Mishima which was built in 1890 by Crown Prince Akihito. As you can imagine, the park is beautifully landscaped with impressive thick forests and a beautiful lake. More importantly for the under 5 year old demographic there is a petting zoo, miniature train, merry go round, and coin operated rides and games.
Remember all of those coin operated rides for young children that you used to be able to find in front of malls and supermarkets? Rakujuen is the place where classics go to retire alongside some high tech Pikachu games.
TD was totally overwhelmed with his options and didn’t know where to start. We rode the train and merry go round and rode a few of the coin operated rides before he found the most exciting game in the entire park: Pirate Blasta.
The object of Pirate Blasta is to aim a water cannon towards different pirate themed targets to make them move. Up to 4 people can play at the same time, and there are step stools provided for the young children.
To say that TD loved this game would be a complete understatement. He ended up playing it 5 times in a row before I got him to check out some other games with the promise of snacks. I even got him to go to the petting zoo for about 3 minutes, but not even the opportunity to pet some adorable guinea pigs could keep him from dragging me back to “water game”. I reminded myself that we were on vacation, and paid for a few more plays. Thankfully it started raining which I used as an excuse to head back to the station.
I’m sure that Crown Prince Akihito never intended for his park in Mishima to become home to a bunch of children’s games, but I’m hoping that he would be happy that it has become a fun place for families to visit and leave with slightly lighter wallets. Highly recommended if you have kids under 5.
Happy New Year!
Today I went to Mishima Taisha with The Penpal and her parents. The weather was beautiful; sunny and 10 degrees ABOVE zero. Usually in Winnipeg it would be sunny and somewhere around minus 20.
As usual, the shrine was completely packed with people going to pray for good luck in the upcoming year. As a rule, Japanese people are not religious, but they do regularly visit Shinto shrines for big events, likely more out of tradition than religious obligation. We worked our way through the crowd up to the front of the shrine, dodging flying coins from people who didn’t have the patience to get all the way to the front. As I clapped to get the attention of the gods of the shrine, I decided that 2006 was going to be MY year.
After surviving the crowds, we returned to The Penpal’s house. The Penpal and her mother went into the kitchen to prepare dinner, while The Penpal’s father and I watched TV and talked. I got some good Japanese practice, and felt like I was part of the family, which was pretty great.
Today was one of those days filled with minor annoyances that all added up to make me grumpy.
Recently some of the teachers learned that the City of Mishima was offering free Japanese lessons to foreign residents, with signup at city hall. I got up in the morning to meet a group of teachers so we could all go sign up together. It took me about 15 minutes to find my belt, and then when I got outside, I found that my bike tire was flat again. I ended up being late to meet the other teachers at Numazu station.
Finding Mishima City Hall was a bit challenging. There were no English signs (not entirely surprising considering we were in Japan), but we had no idea where to go once we got into the building. Since I was voted to have the best Japanese skills, I went to ask the man at the information desk. He didn’t really understand what I was asking about, so he decided to call the one person who speaks English on staff. He told the person on the other end of the line that there was a group of gaijins asking about Japanese lessons. Upon hearing the word “gaijin” we all laughed, while he seemed legitimately surprised that we were familiar with the word.
The word gaijin literally means “outside person”, and is used when referring to foreigners. The word itself is not inherently offensive, depending on how it is used.
Realizing we could understand a bit more Japanese that he expected, the information desk man referred to our group as “gaikoku no kata” the next time. This literally translates to “foreign country person”, and is a much more polite / politically correct way to refer to a foreigner. The suddenly much more polite man directed us to another building across the street, where an English speaking city worker helped us sign up for Japanese lessons.
After the adventure in signing up for lessons, I rushed home, got changed, and hurried to work. I was not supposed to have any group kids classes on my schedule, but things changed and I had to teach 2.
In the evening I talked to The Penpal. We had been planning to go to Canada for Christmas together, but it sounds like she will not be able to get the time off anymore. Our trip is not looking very likely at this point.
Today was the first day of 3 different NOVA branches in 3 days. Today I demonstrated my conversational English teaching skills in Fuji city. Tomorrow I will be enlightening my students on the finer points of conversation at my usual branch in Numazu. Thursday I will be expertly educating at my old branch in Mishima.
I thought that 3 branches in 3 days was pretty impressive, until my thunder was stolen by Alice, who had just somehow completed 4 branches in 3 days. Thanks for stealing my thunder, Alice!
After work I went out for pizza and beer at a really cool place in Numazu. Sleep is really overrated.
In the morning I went for a much needed haircut. The last time I ended up with a bizarre soccer hooligan haircut, but I decided to give QB house another chance, mainly because it is close and cheap. This time worked out much better, and I got exactly the haircut that I wanted.
Tip for everyone getting a haircut in a different language: bring a picture of a time you got a good haircut.
Work was pretty typical, but something interesting happened on my way home. Mishima NOVA is located across from the south entrance of Mishima station. I was waiting at the corner to cross the street, when I was approached by a woman. She asked me in Japanese if I wanted a massage. I politely said no, and she went back to the corner and continued asking men who walked by.
I have never seen anything like this before in Japan. Also, I am no expert on the massage business, but I suspect most legitimate massage places don’t advertise face to face on street corners at night.
When people think of mass transit in Japan they usually think of trains first, and for good reason. Trains are by far the most famous and most efficient way to get around the country and the major cities. But not all cities are big enough to have great train systems like Tokyo or Yokohama. Enter the bus.
After living in Winnipeg, I am very used to riding the bus. Winnipeg Transit is usually on time, and provides decent service along major routes and is really cheap. Before anyone in Winnipeg starts complaining about this one, I would suggest that you try another city’s bus system first. Anyway, I figured that since I mastered the train system with no previous exposure to trains, buses would be no problem. Was I ever wrong!
There are two main kinds of buses in Japan. One is what is familiar to most people in Canada. You pay a set fare when you enter the bus, and exit when you reach your destination. No problem here. On the other type of bus, you have to pay based on the distance traveled. You board the bus by the rear door and take a ticket. Your ticket will have a number of the stop that you entered the bus. As the bus travels, there is a large digital scoreboard at the front which has the stop numbers and the current price. For example, I get on at stop one, so underneath the one, it says 150 yen. At stop two the board is updated with a higher price for people who boarded at stop one and a base price for people who just boarded. (Seeing it is much easier to understand than reading this.)
When you want to leave the bus you press the signal button and you insert your ticket in the reader at the front of the bus beside the driver. The readout displays how much you owe, and you insert that in change into the coin slot. If you have a 1000 yen bill you can put it into the bill slot. The bill slot will break your 1000 yen bill into 9 x 100 yen coins, 1 x 50 yen coin and 5 x 10 yen coins. You then insert the correct amount of change into the coin slot and leave the bus. Despite the fact that vending machines, train ticket machines, and EVERY OTHER MACHINE WHICH TAKES PAYMENT allows you to pay with bills, this bill slot only makes change for you.
Last Friday I rode the bus from Mishima station near my school to Ooka station near the Penpal’s house. I didn’t have enough change, but I had a 1000 yen bill and NONE of the information I just typed. First I tried to stick my ticket into the bill slot. Fortunately the driver was able to rescue it and put it in the right place. The display read 270 yen, so I inserted my 1000 yen bill, took all the change (1000 yen) and tried to leave the bus. The driver stopped me, and then I realized that I hadn’t yet paid. Fortunately, most bus drivers are used to people (especially foreigners) being confused with this system and are very patient and friendly about the whole thing.
To make things even more confusing, in Nagoya city there are two companies that run buses in the city. One has the previously mentioned system of breaking your bill and then you pay. The new company accepts payment with bills and makes change. Two different systems in the same city. Even the Japanese are confused by that one. In the mean time, I think I will try to stick to the excellent train system where I can insert any bill and coins by the handful, or my bicycle that I can drive on the sidewalk and park nearly anywhere. buses are just too f**king confusing.
Today’s plan was to go to Mishima Taisha with The Penpal. I took the train to Numazu station to find The Penpal waiting for me. She walked up looking worried and told me that her father was waiting outside. Apparently he was off work, wanted to meet me, and offered to drive us to the shrine. I am generally pretty good with parents in Canada, but had no previous experience with Japanese parents. This was going to be a new challenge.
The Penpal’s Father greeted me at the car. We exchanged some pleasantries and the three of us got into the car. About a minute into our drive, he got the Penpal to ask me how old I thought he was. This was obviously a loaded question and I needed to come up with a reasonable answer. Guessing too high was out of the question, and if I guessed too low he would know I was lying. I masked my panic and decided to work this out logically. He looked to be anywhere from 45-65. The Penpal was 24 at the time, so if he was 25 when she was born then he would be 49. After redoing the mental math, I attempted to sound confident with my answer of 49 years old. He was actually 62, so he seemed pretty happy with my answer. Bullet = dodged.
With that out of the way, we went in the direction of Mishima Taisha but made a few stops first. The first stop was the rooftop parking of the new Seiyu department store in Numazu. It offered a good, unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji. After that, we went to Kakitagawa Park. It is a park next to a river where water comes underground from Mt. Fuji. The Penpal’s father treated us to some Green Tea ice cream and then we departed for Mishima Taisha.
Taisha quite literally means “big shrine” or “grand shrine”. There are only a few taishas in Japan. Since it was New Year, there were literally thousands of people trying to get into the shrine to pray for good luck in the upcoming year. On the approach to the shrine we passed a lot of food stands and souvenir shops, which gave the whole area sort of a carnival atmosphere. We got into the shrine itself, worked our way to the front, and dropped in coins to pray for good luck in 2004.
After leaving the shrine, we worked our way through the crowds to leave and find some lunch. Across the street was a van with a giant loudspeaker on top. The Penpal explained that they were a Christian group warning people not to go to the shrine and pray to false gods, recommending Jesus instead. It was an interesting scene to say the least.
We ate lunch in one of Mishima’s many small parks and exchanged slang from each other’s languages. Some time later a security guard approached us and told us that the park was closed. We apologized and he escorted us out of the park. We wandered around Mishima for a while and then ended up at karaoke again. Karaoke is fun – my singing isn’t getting any better, but I am starting to care less about how bad I sound.
It was a good day and I got to see a lot of new things, as well as spending time with the Penpal. On the way home I managed to sleep on the train, but waking up as my head hit the stainless steel handrail I was sitting next to. I am getting better at sleeping on a moving train, but am still in training.
(rewrote parts of the original post to add more detail)