Thursday, June 24, 2004

My Japanese Culture


he first day of the workshop got me thinking about a lot of things. As I mentioned yesterday, I am not much into incorporating culture into my course except for that which is embedded in the language or in the text that we are reading. But the presenters of the workshop--one is a friend and colleague of mine (you reading, MG?)--put together a panel of five students: two from elementary school, one in high school and one undergraduate and one graduate. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the workshop in that it openned my eyes to what students thought.

I believe I have a pretty good rapport with my students and they can usually talk to me about a number of things. But perhaps one thing they may have reservations about is the content of my class. They may be satisfied, they may not. But there is--for better or for worse--a power relationship going on, and I am not ignorant of that fact. Neither do I take advantage of it. But I must recognize that it just may prevent my students from expressing their thoughts, and so it was good to hear the thoughts of these students with whom I have no relationship. Their answers were varied. One young one thought that language and culture should be take equal parts of the class. One student who admitted to studying approximately thirty minutes per in-class hour (one credit unit) stated that culture should take up 100% of the course. I won't discuss the merits of their comments--or lack thereof--until I have had time to mull it over a bit, but I must admit that one thing stuck to my brain: They really wanted to have culture incorporated into the course. And so I will now spend time trying to develop some kind of lesson plan to successfully fulfill their interests. but as I said, I need to think about it further...

Thank's to sweetphuong for bookmarking me. I hope you don't mind that I have included you in my list of RBJ buddies on the left (or top on the comment page). I can really feel the love...

BTW: I seem to be approaching 30K. I count myself among the fortunate to have so many visit me... I am, as always, your humble servant... (you getting this Vixen?)

Hey, Whonose. I asked for some input and I guess you've read some of the suggestions from yesterday's comments. Hehehehehe. If I may add my two cents. Don't listen to some of these guys. Tokyo is the place. As I stated earlier, it has many of the features of the different cosmopolitan cities of the world without the crime and dangers usually associated with large urban centers. Certainly, Osaka and Kyoto have their charm; of this I am fully aware. My mom was from Hiroshima and I have a deep affection for that city as well. But Tokyo is the CENTER OF THE FREAKIN' UNIVERSE. Did I make myself clear enough to you? Hehehehe. I can already imagine the ragging I'm gonna hear from others. But I lived in Tokyo on my own for over seven years. Not with mommy or daddy, not with Uncle Tsuyoshi, not crashing at my friends place. I experienced Tokyo. I lived Tokyo. And I love Tokyo... Geez, and I haven't even experienced all of Tokyo in my estimation. It is huge. What the heck are you gonna do in one week?

Okay, okay. enough of the ranting. As everybody else said, you should devot an entire afternoon, at the least, to Akihabara--north of Tokyo station on the Yamanote, east of Ochanomizu on the Sobu line. It is the electronics capital of the world, for retail that is, and much of the prices ARE retail. You can find bargains, but I unsdrestand you can't haggle as much as you could before, unless you go to some of the back streets and are willing to settle for an older model of whatever catches you fancy. Of course, an "old" model by Japanese standards can sometimes mean only 4 months old...

For something pseudo-cultural/religious, go to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the Meiji Emperor who "led" Japan into the modern age. If you're inclined, and have the time. A stroll around the Imperial Palace is okay. I don't mean "around" literally; it would take you half a day to circle it. Just the main gate. You cannot enter, of course, but it is the psychological and emotional center of Japan.

But I think to really feel Tokyo, you should--as my favorite Xangan, SammyStorm, mentioned in yesterday comments--invest an afternoon and evening in Shibuya to just walk around and breathe in the humanity. It is awesome. This is where young people like you hang out to eat and drink; to see and be seen. I would also go to Shinjuku and wander around the are around it. Its' amazing. 3,000,000 people go through Shinjuku station everyday. That's the equivalent of the population of New Zealand, which gives you an ideas as to how busy the busiest train station in the world is. Shinjuku is where I used to hang out. Lots of places to go eating and drinking or just watching the sea of humanity ebb and flow around you. I would also suggest some time on Omotesando, the street that leads to the Meiji Shrine. It is a broad (by Japanese standards) thoroughfare lined with ginko and other trees. Find an outdoor table at a pub and drink a beer as you watch the young people stroll by. My friends and I used to go girl watching. You'll often see Japanese celebrities walking around as well. It is, to me, the Tokyo version of the Champs Elysse. Nearby is Takeshita-dori (street) where the highschoolers bop around. It is young, but usually a must see for young people on their first visit to Tokyo. If you go on a Sunday, a short walk toward the Olympic Stadium (toward Meiji Shrine) will lead you to the crazy goth and 50s rockers who dance in the street.

As for food, if you have a friend, have them take you to eat yakitori (grilled chicken) maybe at an izakaya, the Japanese version of a pub: noisy, informal, boozy. Also, ramen. This is not your instant ramen! I have certain ones I go to: virtually anyone at Ogikubo station, or to Bannai, on the south side of Chofu station (negi ramen!). If you eat ramen, be sure to eat regular chashu (bbq pork) ramen. Don't let anyone talk you into eating anything else. No miso ramen, no shio (salt) ramen. They are good, but always eat, savor and learn from the basics, and that is shoyu (soy sauce) ramen with chashu. You may not have the time to go to the ones I favor, so any busy looking ramen shop at virtually any train station should be fine. If you have to walk more than 5 minutes away from the entrance of the station, don't enter. Major rule of thumb: the closer to the station, the better the food (well except of the fast food joints like Mcdonalds). If you got further, it had better be on someone's recommendation... Like the soba place in Kunitachi. I swear Sarashina Jingoro has the best soba in Tokyo. They use Shinshu soba and it is always al dente. The best dish is the Tanuki soba. This is different from most--usually Tanuki soba is just the deep-fried batter used for tempura. Here the topping a Kakiage--a mix of vegetables and seafood deep fried in batter--and it comes out so hot, I have to wait a few minutes for it to cool down. So I usually have to dig down beneath it to start to eat the soba first--don't want to let it get soggy. Note: This shop is south of the station. Do not go to the Sarashina north of Kunitachi station. It is a bogus imitator. If you like sushi, good luck. There are many places but they charge an arm and a leg. When I would go with M, it would cost me about 20,000 yen at least. You can go to the kaiten (revolving) sushi, as many young people do, but that is not for me. I'm no longer young...

Anyway, dude, hope you have a safe and fun trip to Tokyo.

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