Posts Tagged numazu
Today I attended the annual English / Japanese speech contest at Numazu library. The event was hosted by NICE – Numazu Association for International Communication and Exchanges. The Penpal is a member of NICE, so I went along to check it out.
When I learned about the contest a few months ago, I had given some thought to entering. The demand was much greater than the supply – 24 people tried to enter but only 10 Japanese speeches were presented. There were also 10 English speeches by Japanese residents. My favourite speeches were about the differences in communication styles between Japanese and American housewives, and an elderly Japanese man’s scorching rant about those annoying teens in sweatpants who hang out in front of convenience stores.
I really admire the courage shown by everyone who made a speech: public speaking makes a lot of people nervous, nevermind public speaking in your second language.
I overslept before the contest and didn’t have any time to eat before I got there. By the end of 20 speeches I was STARVING. On my way home I stopped at the new donair food truck in front of Don Kihote. If you’ve never eaten a donair, you are truly missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.
When I got home I received an invite from the Penpal to come over for dinner. I was still full from my late lunch, but I never, EVER refuse homemade curry. Yum!
Today the Penpal had lunch plans with one of her friends and the freind’s daughter. Instead of tagging along, I decided to go off and have my own adventure.
It was a rainy day, but I stayed mostly dry thanks to some expert use of my umbrella. I’m only mentioning this because I live in Winnipeg where many people don’t own a single umbrella, and the usual response to rain is to stay inside or run while outside in hopes of not getting too wet. I felt a sense of accomplishment in being able to get to the station mostly dry in the rain.
I took a short ride to Numazu station, and walked towards the Bivi building on the north side. Bivi was built during my last year of teaching in Japan, and houses a movie theatre, internet / comic cafe, Game Center, and a bunch of restaurants. Many of the restaurants had changed since the last time I was in Numazu, but everything looked good. After making a quick loop around I was drawn in by the delicious smells coming from Ohsama No Curry.
A Canadian walks into an Indian restaurant in Japan sounds like the start to a bad joke, but it was actually the story of a good lunch. The lunch special had curry, a choice of nan bread or rice, salad, and a drink for just under 1000 yen. SOOOO GOOOD!
After lunch I made a visit to the Game Center and played whatever the newest version of Guitar Freaks is called before shooting some zombies and checking out the claw games. Most of the machines have cute anime characters as prizes, but one of them had something a bit different for “ladies day”.
I’m assuming by the picture in the background that these were actually hand massagers, which would be very useful after playing too many video games. It is possible that they may have some other uses as well.
No, I didn’t play this machine. If I want a “hand massager” I’ll buy it from a specialty shop instead of trying to win one in front of random strangers in a place frequented by teenagers.
I returned to Numazu station and took the Gotemba line towards Gotemba station at the foot of Mt. Fuji in the hopes of getting some pictures. Unfortunately the rain kept getting worse as the train climbed the mountain. By the time I reached Gotemba it was a total downpour. I managed to snap a few rainy pics from the station, but didn’t trust my prairie boy umbrella skills in rain that the Japanese people were avoiding.
My ride back down the mountain was delayed by 15 minutes due to weather. Delaying a train in Japan is NOT something taken lightly, so the weather must have been really bad. Instead of being lined up on the windy, rainy platform, everyone was politely lined up in the enclosed stairway leading to the platform. For the record, politely is the default way to line up anywhere in Japan.
I ended up getting home about the same time as The Penpal. We both went out for lunch, but had very different experiences. I may be biased, but I think mine was better. When you are on vacation, even a quick bite to eat and a train ride can be an adventure.
Japan is a fascinating country to visit, with simply too many things to see and do. Most people who come to Japan for a short period of time will see the most popular sites – the bustling urban jungle of Tokyo and the wonderful temples and shrines of Kyoto. While those are both well worth the visit they don’t accurately represent much of the rest of the country.
The drive along the Numazu coast towards Izu Mito Sea Paradise is a good example of something that exists for the people who live there, not for the benefit of visitors. Numazu is famous for it’s fishing industry. The narrow road along the coast is lined with marinas, fishing supply shops, and warehouses. Trucks speed by taking the day’s catch towards local markets or even to the big cities. Fishing boats are docked along the shoreline next to fishermen with dark tans who are casting into the nearby waters.
There are no skyscrapers. There are no salarymen. There are no temples. There are just hardworking people whose lives are based around the ocean.
As we drove back towards our house, my father in law pointed out some spots where he and his older brothers went fishing for their dinner in the hard years after World War II had ended. These were likely the same spots where people had been fishing for hundreds of years before.
I really enjoyed the drive today – it was cool to get a little taste of non-tourist Japan.
Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier. Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.
I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.
The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.
We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.
It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.
Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.
Summer in Numazu is unbearable. The heat isn’t much higher than what I experienced in Winnipeg (yes, summer temperatures can be hot), but the humidity is horrible. The damp air comes in from the ocean, gets stuck on the mountains, and then hangs over Numazu, turning it into a city sized sauna. It’s typical to have humidity over 80% in July.
I have one air conditioner in my 3 bedroom apartment, located as far away from my bedroom as our apartment layout permits. There is not much cool air left by the time it travels through the living room, past the kitchen, down the hall, and into my bedroom.
I have to wear a shirt and tie to work, doing my best not to sweat through them while riding my bicycle to my school. NOVA is extremely well air conditioned, almost to the point where I can see my breath. When I leave the school at any time during the day my glasses instantly fog up when they hit the thick, humid outside air.
After a few years in Japan I have adapted to the crowds, the language barrier, and people staring at me when I walk around. I don’t think I can spend enough time here to ever get used to a humid sauna-like summer.
Today was scheduled to be a day off so we could get a break from the non-stop sightseeing and activity. However, a break from sightseeing didn’t mean that we were going to sit around; we decided to explore Numazu a bit.
I picked up my parents at their hotel, and we walked to the Nakamise shopping area, which is where my school is located. Nakamise is an area covering 4 x 2 city blocks, with a ceiling over the main center street. It’s like an indoor mall without actually being fully indoor. The area features a variety of restaurants and stores. My parents enjoyed looking around and picking up a few souvenirs for friends and family back home.
One of the stores in Nakamise is a jewelry shop. I had proposed to The Penpal in February suddenly, without getting a ring in advance. We had agreed that we would take some time and get a ring together, but so far we hadn’t done any shopping. My mom got excited about the idea of helping her son look for engagement rings. My dad was less excited, so he decided to get a coffee and explore the nearby bookstore.
The jewelry store looked just like any jewelry store in Canada – lots of glass display cases with nicely dressed smiling staff ready to show off the expensive, shiny contents. We were approached right away by one of the staff (thanks Japanese customer service), and I managed to explain that I was looking for an engagement ring, despite not really knowing either of those words. The clerk asked a few questions and showed us some of the rings that were in my price range.
Browsing the rings was an enlightening experience; I learned that I knew almost nothing about rings or jewelry and didn’t have the vocabulary needed to ask good questions. I did get an idea of the huge variety of rings available, but knew that any serious shopping would have to involve The Penpal.
My mom and I thanked the clerk for her help, and she gave us a full 90 degree bow when we left. Customers are already treated respectfully in Japanese stores, but I had never been on the receiving end of a 90 degree bow before. I’m guessing its more common in high end retail.
My mom couldn’t stop talking about how happy she was that we got to look at rings together. I’ve had a lot of fun adventures involving my dad on this trip, but this was something special that my mom and I could share.
After an eventful morning where my parents did some solo sightseeing, we met up with The Penpal and her parents to see some sights in Numazu. Both of their cars were too small to hold six adults, so we divided up into a men’s car and a woman’s car. While we were driving, my dad had about a million questions for The Penpal’s father, and I did my best to translate their conversation. I’m happy that my father is a friendly, outgoing person, but by the time we got out of the car my brain was tired!
We visited Senbonhama Park and beach, and then went on to the giant tsunami gate View-O, where I had been with The Penpal’s father before. Everyone got a chance to talk and hang out before we ended up at the mountaintop restaurant for dinner.
My parents were jetlagged and overwhelmed by everything, but they enjoyed getting a chance to spend time with me, their future daughter in law and her family. Over dinner we discussed the plans for the rest of the week. Tomorrow morning my parents and I were going to get up early and head west for 4 days in Himeji, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara.
It was a fun day, and a good way to spend time with my two families.
I showed up at my parent’s hotel in the morning, surprised to find that they were not only awake, but had already been out of the hotel and had some adventures on their own. This is not something that would have happened on their first trip to Japan!
My parents had woken up early due to jetlag and general excitement about their trip. Instead of hiding in the hotel room, they went and introduced themselves to the desk staff, who had already been told that Canadians were staying in the hotel. Instead of being intimidated, the staff were eager to practice their English with the friendly gaijins. Note to any of my students: do this! Practice English when you have the opportunity, especially with native speakers!
After having some breakfast, my dad started asking the hotel clerks about the parking lot. Hotel Miwa has an automated parking system, which is an awesome way to store a lot of cars in a small space. We had seen a demo of this kind of car storage at Toyota Mega Web in Odaiba on my parents’ first visit. My dad asked the clerk for a demo, and he happily retrieved and put away cars so my parents could watch. Customer service in Japan is generally exceptional, but taking the time to retrieve car after car to entertain a guest is really going above and beyond.
My parents had also wandered over to the nearby Ito-Yokado, a cool department store / grocery chain. My dad manged to order a coffee and got his picture taken with a female model who was standing near a car inside the store. I’m not sure the exact context of what happened, and I don’t think my dad really knew what was going on either. He just somehow ended up in this picture:
The first time my parents came to Japan I was their tour guide and never too far away from them. This time was already different, and I was looking forward to seeing what we would get up to!
New Year is the most important family holiday in Japan; it’s similar to a Christmas in Canada or Thanksgiving in the US. Many businesses shut down for the last few days of the year to give their employees time to spend with family. Conversational English schools like NOVA are usually open for every other holiday (because students are available for lessons), but thankfully they give teachers and staff a break and shut down for about a week at the end of the year.
The Penpal had to work today, but her father had the day off and wanted a chance to spend some time with me. The only other time we have spent time together alone was in a very awkward car ride from Numazu station to The Penpal’s piano recital. The Penpal’s father’s English is limited to the basics; yes, no, hello, goodbye. The thought of spending an entire day with him was pretty terrifying. Fortunately my Japanese has improved a lot in the past year or so, but even with that I spent the evening last night studying new words and preparing some emergency conversation topics. This only seems neurotic if you have never faced the thought of spending a day with your girlfriend’s father who can’t speak your language.
The Penpal’s father arranged our day through the Penpal. He was going to pick me up at my apartment and take me to Numazu Port to see a structure called View-O. Like most port areas in Japan, Numazu is susceptible to serious damage in the event of a tsunami. View-O is a man made gate over the entrance to the Numazu port area that automatically closes in the event of an earthquake of a certain strength. The idea is that it will block some or all of a tsunami wave to reduce damage to the port and the boats.
The gate looks like an arch over the port entrance that has a viewing area open to the public. From the top you can get a great view of Senbonhama beach, the Numazu port, Numazu city, and the green mountains of Izu peninsula.
I tried my best not to think about how nervous I was spending time with The Penpal’s father, and to just do my best to be relaxed and enjoy spending some time with him. Fortunately the combination of my improved Japanese abilities, last minute study, and his patience made the time move fairly smoothly. I only had to look in my dictionary twice!
After seeing View-O and taking a lot of pictures, The Penpal’s father told me we were going to pick up his wife from her mother’s house, and then meet The Penpal for dinner. I had successfully made it through the afternoon and I was now in the home stretch and close to having my translator back!
We drove to a part of town I had never been to before and parked in front of a small, older looking house. After a few minutes, a tiny older woman came out of the house and walked up to the car. She looked at me through the window and smiled. I thought this was just another case of an older person seeing their first foreigner, until The Penpal’s father told me I was looking at The Penpal’s 91 year old grandmother. I jumped out of the car, greeted her in Japanese, and gave my best attempt at a polite bow. I really want The Penpal’s family to like me, so I did my best to make a good impression. She kept smiling, which I took as a good sign.
The Penpal’s mother got in the car, and we returned to their house where The Penpal was waiting for me. Even though the day went well, I was very VERY relieved to have my translator available. We went out for dinner and talked about our adventures during the day. I am thankful that her father took the time to get to know me better, and very thankful that things seemed to go well.
(2015 Update) It turns out that I did make a good impression on Grandma, and it ended up helping me out A LOT, which I would find out in a few months.
Today I went to the English / Japanese speech contest at Numazu library. The event was hosted by NICE – Numazu association for International Communications and Exchanges (shouldn’t that be NAICE?)
There were two hosts to the event – one speaking English and one speaking Japanese. The Penpal was the English speaking host for the day. To add a bit of class to the event, the hosts were dressed nicely, with The Penpal wearing a kimono.
A common mistake that non-Japanese people make is to confuse a kimono with a yukata. A kimono refers to a formal and elaborate garment that can cost thousands of dollars, where a yukata is a lighter, less formal robe. In order to get properly dressed in her kimono, she went to a special shop before the event where trained staff spent almost 90 minutes getting her dressed.
This was my first time to see The Penpal in her kimono, and she looked fantastic!
The speeches were interesting, covering a wide range of topics. My favourite speech of the day was in English, given by a retired older woman who studies English as a hobby. When she started her speech she was so nervous that she was visibly shaking. As she got into her speech and got more comfortable, her confidence grew, and by the end she finished strong and looked very happy.
I truly admire the courage of anyone who gets up in front of a crowd to speak, especially in a foreign language. If I am still in Japan at the same time next year, I would like to test my Japanese skills and enter the contest myself.