This is it! My last week in Japan! After passing out without taking a shower the night before, I woke up early to take a shower before work. Living in southern Tokyo, I actually live closer to the venue in Yokohama than the venue in Shinjuku. But we have to walk from the station to the school quite a bit, so it ends up taking a little longer. I had to buy my lunch at the konbini by the train station before getting to school since it’s so far and I didn’t want to have to walk back.
As we approached the sprawling school, you couldn’t help but notice the church right next to it. Turns out it’s a religious school. The classrooms all have Jesus on the cross above the blackboard. And they take mandatory religion classes. Very few of the students are actually Christians. And it is relatively rare to find a religious school in Japan, since Christians make up such a small minority.
There is a courtyard with two tennis courts and the kids are out there at all hours of the day, even on the weekends playing tennis. Yasuko said they have a very famous baseball team too, but it turns out she was thinking of a different school with the same name. They do have a baseball field though. I didn’t see it, but I saw a model of the campus. It is enormous and is fully equipped with sports facilities and a real nice concert hall. I was really impressed by the concert hall.
We mainly taught in one big conference room where they have assemblies. But we also got access to the upstairs classrooms with the sliding doors. We saw their lockers in the large hall space. And they also had these glass rooms that were empty and seemingly had no purpose. They would be perfect rooms for detention though. You stick the kid in a glass box where everyone can see them and there’s nothing in there. I think it’s just for sunlight to get in.
My students are amazing this week. I have Koki, Yuzuki and Haruna. Yuzuki and Haruna are basically fluent. Our first presentation on the Olympics was very impressive. They gave the presentation without notes. It was off the cuff and natural. I think Koki felt a little pressured to also give his presentation without notes and he did it very well. I kept telling them they could write down what they wanted to say, and they ignored me. I’m glad they did. They even asked questions and answered questions without hesitation. I got very lucky getting the best group this week.
Playing games is a lot less organized without Michaela. We don’t know what we’re doing. We get an allotted time and we waste half of it setting up and trying to figure out what we should play. We need the game master to put us in place.
A group of us went to Yokohama Chinatown for dinner. I had a pretty good zhazhiang mian. After I went to a bar with Matt and Sayaka. I haven’t gotten to hang out with Matt or Sayaka much. We will rectify that. The bar was pirate themed? Darin, always the clever one, said it looked like Jim Crow. I’ve never had very aged whiskey before. The 17 year whiskey was smooth and it goes down nicely.
Oh and also there was a typhoon going on. That means lots of wind and rain. I was instantly reminded of the Japanese movie After the Storm I saw at Cannes by Koreeda, which I loved. Luckily I brought an umbrella this one particular day–I wasn’t so forward thinking the following couple days. The streets were pretty empty though. Most people heeded the warnings and stayed home. By the time I got home, I wanted to do laundry but someone was using the machine. And then I was too lazy to shave, so I just went off to bed.
In the morning, I was very disoriented. Still in my usual routine, I got on the train in the wrong direction going to Shinjuku. And it took me a stop before I realized I had to go to Yokohama. Then I tried to buy lunch at the grocery store instead of the konbini and we walked in and started browsing before we got kicked out. The employee looked at us funny like “what are you doing here?” Turns out they weren’t open until 10, but the door was unlocked. So back to the konbini…
I played my usual game with the kids where you write down the name of a person or character and you put it above your head and ask yes/no questions to figure out who you are. And they gave each other some pretty hard ones, like Jaws and Steven Spielberg, coincidentally. That’s my favorite game cause it’s fun and easy to explain.
After work, my weeks of stressing over my luggage culminated in Genevieve and I going to 7-11 to get a form to fill out. You can bring your luggage to a 7-11 two days before your flight and they’ll deliver it to the airport for around $20. They’ll also pick up from your house, but I’d have to be home for that. The problem is the nearest konbini in my neighborhood is very far away, and up and down hills. I walked another route that was flatter to see if there was a konbini I could go to. I saw none (but later in the week I actually did find one…). Anyways, I packed my luggage and the next morning I dragged my luggage all the way up and down the hill and brought it to the konbini by the train station. Here’s where the problems started. My American phone number wasn’t good enough for the man behind the counter. He wanted a Japanese number, though we went through a whole misunderstanding lost in translation before we got to that point. And then, they don’t accept credit card nor my SUICA for TA-Q-Bin (come on, Japan). And I was short on cash. So I went to the ATM, but they didn’t take my American bank card. Cause it wasn’t a 7-11. Darn Family Mart doesn’t have the right ATM. So I had to cancel my order and drag my luggage onto the train to Yokohama and take care of it at the 7-11 in Yokohama where I could take out money. I was so frustrated. I got to 7-11 and Gabrielle helped me translate and I finally got it off my hands. I don’t know why she had to translate so much. You’d think these people behind the counter have never done this before. But it is very common in Japan according to Bill. But I was late to work after Sayaka had just given us a talk about being late.
After work on Wednesday, I hung out with Matt and Sayaka. We were going to the Minato Mirai ferris wheel, once the largest in the world. We got off at the wrong stop and then the ferry wasn’t running. So we walked. We passed by an American juggling on a unicycle speaking broken Japanese in front of an audience. Sayaka was unimpressed. We went to Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t know if I’ve ever even been to a Hard Rock in the States. But it is very popular in Japan. Again I think it is one of those things that they’ve convinced the Japanese is popular in America. It was a very American meal.
We did make it to Minato Mirai. It is an old amusement park and the ferris wheel is the centerpiece, overlooking the harbor. Sayaka used to intern at the nearby fancy hotel coincidentally. And as we waited in line, more and more of our English Camp team started showing up. We all had the same idea to go on the same day around the same time. So we had a nice big group. I also played mai mai for the first time in the arcade. It’s the crazy hand version of DDR. And I was able to get to a pretty advanced level, but the very highest levels were too extreme for me. It’s a lot of fun though. I understand how Sean got addicted.
Thursday after work, I hung out with Monica and Alex and Darin. Alex had a bunch of postcards to mail out too. So we brought all our postcards to the Yokohama post office and it was very painless. Most of the cards arrived pretty quickly. But kaima’s card apparently never made it. I had an amazing Belgian waffle in the train station. The train station is amazing. They have tons of stores and something like 8 floors worth of real restaurants. We ate at Village Vanguard for burgers. Monica and Alex just went there the previous day and their pictures looked good so we went back. We chatted for hours. It was exactly the kind of thing Darin loves. Darin loves real talk. And this conversation just made him so happy. The funny thing is Alex and Monica didn’t even know Darin and I were friends. I guess we haven’t been spending too much time together in Japan because we’ve also been trying to meet other friends. But it was nice hanging out with Darin again–might be the last time for a while.
Friday morning Genevieve was running late. So I took over her group. Sayaka just didn’t tell me how late she’d be. She didn’t come in until lunchtime, which was fine since Genevieve covered for me the previous morning, it was just a little unexpected. After work, I went home to get a haircut. Unbelievably, I didn’t really explore my neighborhood until my final two days in Japan. I was shocked to find cheap restaurants and even a Latin ballroom dancing class. I got my haircut for about $10 at a chain where all the Japanese salarymen go. It is down to a system where you pay at the machine and wait your turn in line and they cut your hair and vacuum your head and you’re on your way.
I packed and did some more laundry at home before heading out. I was amazingly underweight! I grabbed a quick bite at Sukiya in Shinjuku because I was starving. At this point, it was around 10pm. And then I met everyone outside the bowling alley to say our farewell. Since the Yokohama people were leaving Saturday, we got a separate farewell dinner but we still wanted to see each other one last time. We all sort of just hung out in the plaza. And then I went up and bowled one not-so-good game. Freddie just beat me. I swear, I can’t beat Freddie at anything–he’s just too good at everything.
And for my final day of work, Darin was mysteriously absent the whole morning. So I took his kids and helped them edit their life mission speeches. Again, my kids slayed their speeches.
After work, we went straight to Shinkjuku for the farewell dinner–it was very bittersweet. It was awkwardly scheduled at a time that they knew we couldn’t make it all the way from Yokohama. So we were a little late. We also stopped by a McDonalds (banana pudding and chicken nuggets) because we heard there wasn’t that much food at the farewell dinner, mostly drinks. It is a nomihodai–all you can drink. That’s how they do business in Japan. Everyone had to give a speech and so I said a little something and tried to be touching but wasn’t really. Jason on the other hand killed it. He made this speech about a former host family and Hotel California and he made everyone cry. Freakin’ Jason. And so we hung out one last time and loitered around the plaza again. I played my last round of mai mai, since it’s something you don’t find anywhere else. And then we caught the last train home for the last time. Those are always the most crowded ones that you have to push and squeeze your way into because everyone has to get on this train. We met this Japanese guy named Hiroki on the train who lived in my neighborhood.
And my final Japanese saga was getting up late and missing my 7:25am train. So I caught the 7:55 instead. And this freakin’ train didn’t go all the way to Narita. We were just a couple stops away and we stopped and everyone had to get off the train for some reason unbeknownst to me. I don’t speak Japanese. I was freaking out that I’d miss my flight. We all evacuated and waited another twenty minutes for the next train and thankfully I made it in time. And I made it all the way to Bologna via Moscow without a hitch. There were actually quite a few Asians going to Bologna. There was a Chinese family speaking Italian right in front of me on the plane. And a Japanese girl bringing a gigantic stuffed animal on the plane–cause in Japan it’s never about practicality, it’s all about being kawaii.