Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17, 2008

Wow, today started off well and just got better and better! We went to Inagi City to meet with four parents with students in the public and private schools. We were able to ask them questions about their schools, and they in turn asked us. It is amazing to hear that many of the same problems we face in the states are here as well. When we think of Japan and education, people often think high math and science scores, disciplined children and a model system. It turns out that bullying is a problem that is bad and is growing. School apathy is also on the rise. Students in the upper school, high school, actually just refuse to go! I always thought this was a society that pretty much did as they were told. It just goes to show that things are not always what they seem. It was interesting to talk to them and the time flew by. Off to another fabulous buffet. It was an “Italian Restaurant” and although it was excellent, it isn’t the Italian that we know. We each got to order the spaghetti that we wanted and then we could get whatever else we wanted from the buffet. They buffet was so good; by the time my spaghetti came I only ate some! I love the fish and tempura type food for breakfast. Starving will not happen here! They are taking fantastic care of us! After lunch we headed for a local shrine to learn about kagura. Kagura is characterized by purity and cleanliness.
In austere and natural settings, ancient dances made as offerings to entertain the gods, often in setting in which no one other than the performers themselves are allowed to witness.
The grounds of a Shinto shrine can be a simple structure as in many village or in the neighborhood shrines of big cities. Many of the large ones are affected by local style and even take on some stylistic elements from Buddhist temples. The two oldest and most revered are the shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu-no O-Mikami at Ise and the shrine of Susanoo no O-Mikoto at Izumo. The Shrine at Izumo is great complex of structures in natural wood. These buildings retain elements which are thought to reflect architectural types going back to times preceding the introduction of Chinese culture in the 6th Century. The Shinto priest who gave us the tour and talk through Oka-san was the 19th generation of performers in his family. We were told the story of the Sun Goddess, and then they dressed us up in the various costumes for the performance.
I’m going to try to put in a slide show of all the fabulous costumes. Until I pull that together I’ll post a couple of pictures. In one of the pictures I’m posting I’m purifying myself of dirty thoughts and dirty body. The papers, that you see hanging, have a dual purpose. First they signify a holy place where used charms can be deposited. If you buy a charm it is only good for one year, and then you take it to a shrine to deposit it. The papers also designate a holy place and keep the evil spirits from entering. We were also treated to a fan dance and a sword dance by a member of the performing troupe. Now everyone is scattered doing various things. I decided to get to the laundry room. Many of the others did their laundry last night, so it is peaceful out on the balcony. I called Glenn on Skype which was pretty cool. Dad you should keep Skype on and I’ll try to call you. Later I may walk down the street with someone to get something to eat, although I’m still full from lunch! Tomorrow I address the elementary school children at their morning assembly. This will be the extent of my Japanese in the speech.
Ohayougozaimasu! (good morning) Watashi wa Wisconsin kara kimashita Anne Woodward desu. (I am Anne Woodward from Wisconsin) Watashi wa sho-gokko no kyoshi desu. (I am an elementary school teacher) The rest is in English with an interpreter. I hope I don’t choke! Elementary school teachers spend the entire day with the children including lunch and recess. However, after teaching a lesson the teachers may leave the room and the students are expected to do their work independently. If they need help they ask their schoolmates. That is what we were told when we visited Tokyo University. Tomorrow I’ll see if I understood correctly.
Well I’m just about out of battery, so I’ll sign off. More about the school tomorrow. I hope you are all dry. We got an email from Andy who went home. He lives just north of Chico, CA. There were 8 homes in the neighborhood, and now there are three. Andy is staying with friends in town.


Jill said...

You're really getting in the swing of blogging, Anne! Each entry is more interesting than the last one!

It sounds like you're really learning a lot, and I especially love the photos of you in the costume. That must have been fun to do! And did you write the Japanese portion of your speech? It's very impressive! You should have someone record it so we can hear you speaking Japanese! How cool would that be? :)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to your next entry. I'm glad to hear you're having such a blast!

Richard said...

Ohayougozaimasu! Thanks for reporting on another interesting day! I'll look forward to the costume show, but maybe you can put that together after you get home.
Give a good speech!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,
Your blog is fascinating--so obviously your trip is! I look forward to each day's entry about your new adventures. You have seen and done so much! Your meeting with the parents sounded extremely interesting. I was surprised at some of the information you received.

I hope the rest of your trip continues well. What an opportunity for you, Anne! You are doing a wonderful job of sharing your trip day-to-day. Thank you!
Old Mary