Monday, February 27, 2006


On Friday night, I had what may have been one of the best karaoke sessions ever! We'd gone to the Miyoshi-gun English teacher's enkai, which in itself was a blast. When that finished, the ALTs decided to head to local karaoke house, Chantez, for some crooning. Oh my, we had such a laugh. We went mad, and by the end of it, my voice had really gone. Check out Tamezane-sensei's face in the corner of the picture of Nate and me (we're singing 'Perfect Drug' by Nine Inch Nails, a song I wouldn't recommend for karaoke!)

Saturday was a musical rehearsal, and it's good to see it all being pulled together like this! It was a long day, though, lots of standing around waiting for things to happen. That night Noam came back to mine to crash. We had a blast, drinking a LOT and talking a LOT. The musical is great in that way, because it allows you to meet a lot of people who you might not otherwise see so often, as they live miles from you. Noam is a great guy, and if we lived closer together, I'm sure we'd hang out a lot. But he lives in the south, me in the west. Such is life.

However, I somewhat regretted the late night (actually, early morning 2.30am), when at 6am my alarm went off! I was picked up at 7am by my friends Hanna and Kunihiro, as we were taking a day trip to Naoshima. Naoshima is an island off the northern coast of Shikoku, and takes about an hour to get to on the ferry from Takamatsu city. I tried to keep my eyes open, but I simply couldn't and ended up fast asleep on the ferry. Guilty feelings for the lovely people I was supposed to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for. However, on arriving at our destination, I soon perked up.

Naoshima is famous for its art galleries. It has three of them, and we were heading to two on Sunday. The first was called Bennesse House, and it is a contemporary art museum, with exhibitions that change every so often. I was excited to be in an art gallery again, it feels like a long time! Some of the exhibits totally blew me away. I won't even try to describe them, I won't do them justice, and taking pictures was a big no-no. But suffice to say that I was very content indeed to be wandering around in such a great space, appreciating all that I saw.

The second gallery of the day has a name that I forget. I was a bit reluctant to head here, as it had an admission charge of Y2000 (about £10), which I thought a bit steep. Well... I have never been as retrospectively happy to part with a tenner. This place was unreal. I think it might be one of the best galleries I have ever been to. Again, some of it is simply inexplicable. But there was the Monet room that I'll tell you about.

You leave your shoes outside, and step into an unlit, white room. The floor is laid with unpolished marble cubes, with rounded corners. It's a beautiful floor, and I just wanted to lie on it and float away. On the walls are three Monet originals, all coming from his work at Giverny. The thing with this room is that it is lit only with natural light from above, so that you can appreciate the paintings in something like the sort of light that Monet painted them in in the first place. The soft white of the room, the floor, these amazing pictures, the quiet... I felt an ambience in the atmosphere that made me never want to leave. What an experience.

We caught the ferry back to Takamatsu about 2.30pm (and this time we all dozed, tired bunnies we were). On the way home, we stopped off at the Shinto shrine where Hanna and Kuni got married. I'll admit, I was less than eager to do this. It had been a long day, communicating in broken English and Japanese, and I was more than ready to call time, and head home. But once again, I was really glad we stopped.

神谷神社 (Kamidani Shrine) is the oldest Shinto shrine on record in Japan. It's a beautifully serene place, set back from the road, surrounded by forest. The priest is a personal friend of Hanna and Kuni's, and so gave us a guided tour of the place. It was really interesting, and I felt honoured to have been given such treatment. I also found out the answer to a question that has been on my brain for some time now: the little pebbles that people throw on top of torii gates at Shinto shrines mean NOTHING. There is no religious significance in doing this whatsoever. What a stupid practice, then. Cause it's damn near impossible to get them up there, and you can spend hours trying.

So that was the weekend. And it was good. I have very good friends, I am a lucky person.

This week is one full of changes. Firstly, yesterday I had my last lesson with my third-graders. These are the special kids: the ones who have been with me since the beginning of my time in Japan. They gave me a lovely send off that had me bubbling at the front of class. I am going to miss these kids something chronic.

Also, yesterday was Miyoshi-cho's last day on Earth. Today, we merged with Mikamo-cho across the river to become Higashi-Miyoshi-Cho. What a mouthful! Changes indeed.

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