Saturday, August 13, 2005


I went to Matsuyama this weekend for another orientation and to take a placement test for the free Japanese classes I will take there for the next two weeks. While in Matsuyama I got to see another festival (Japan has festivals all the time, I mean, like at least twice a month. I just learned about the Mud Throwing festival, which should be fun, and then of course the Taiko Drum festival is coming up in Niihama, which is supposed to be incredible. You will see pictures im sure. There is also the famous cherry blossom festival where we are to celebrate the beauty of the cherry trees in bloom by picnicking beneath them. The Japanese also love holidays. They have a "everyone pick up trash day" were everyone goes around and picks up trash together (duh), and the great "take care of old people day" which is a day dedicated to the elderly.) Anyway, this was a dancing festival, were various groups-grade schools, clubs, old ladies, etc-all dress up and dance in a parade. It was a great time. And Totoro was there too.
At the orientation I learned many interesting things about my prefecture such as there are about 9 thousand foreigners living here, five thousand of which are Chinese workers sending money home. Next are the Korean immigrants with 1643, that came over before WWII and then couldn’t leave and for some reason cannot become citizen even if there are born here. I heard that many Korean seniors in high school, because they have to take college entrance exams, have to confess to their teachers that they have been using a fake Japanese name and they are really Korean. This is very stressful for them, I guess. I have also heard that Koreans have to carry around a special ID card. A little strange, yes?
Then People from the Philippines, Indonesia, USA with 188, and the next largest population of foreigners in Ehime is Brazilians, who you cannot see because they are mostly Japanese decent, but moved to Brazil during the war for a better life, but now Brazil is going to shit so they moved back. There are three people in Ehime with "no nationality). These people are from Taiwan, but because Japan refuses relations with their country, but still want them to work for cheap wages in Japan, the government just labels them "no nationality" and claim they have no visas. Problem Solved. Oh, and we learned that JETS make TWICE as much as any normal Japanese office worker beginning a job in Japan. And, I guess some magazine labeled JET as one of the top ten best jobs in the world. I think the first was Rock star or something. Also, i went to the bathroom at the city hall and there were a lot of men in there, as expected, as well as an old woman cleaning.
It was also a great time because I go to make deeper connections with other JETs, particularly the ones in my area. (And another bonus to the JET programme is that you get to meet peers from all over the world. At dinner we got to share are own cultures and compare accents, learn about how much every country hates America, learn about trends, dialects, music, make connections, laugh together, etc. you get the idea.) You can see a picture of Claudia, Jesse, and Abby (with red hair) three people I know I am going to be great friends with (they all live close by). You can see them standing next to an electronic parking garage. No, I am not sure how the cars come out. I think it rotates like a Ferris wheel. Also you can see a manikin pointing to his crotch and where a funny hat. I have no idea what this was for. None. I was shocked when I saw it.
Matsuyama is home to the oldest onsen or public bathhouse in Japan, called Dogo Onsen, which was also the model for the bathhouse in Miyazaki's movie "Spirited Away." So I obviously had to visit. It cost me 400 yen (about 4 dollars) to get in. I won’t tell you much. But if you didn’t known, The Japanese also love getting naked and bathing together, which is a bit odd because they overall seem very shy. But sure enough, in the onsen, all the men get naked together and have a great ol' time relaxing in large baths (this one had two baths, each one able to hold like 20 people or so.) In one, there hung a beautiful but strange stone sculpture of the upper third of a happy old woman (fully clothed) holding in her hands up to her chin a miniature version of herself, as if saying "hey look, here I am again!") This hung right above one of the baths.
What I found fascinating was all the young adults there, teenagers, some that looked very hip and cool, there with all there friends, hanging out naked. I don’t know, I just can’t imagine this becoming a popular thing for kids that age to do in the states. I was also glad to see whole families, including grandfathers, teenagers, and toddlers, all bathing together.
The remaining pictures are of the bus ride home.

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