Today we had to get up and check out of the hotel by 6:00 AM (or 5:45 AM if you had phone charges to pay for like I did). Then we ran to catch the early morning train and made some exchanges to get over to Takarazuka, where we visited the Osamu Tezuka Museum. The walk to the museum from the train station would not have been so bad; if we weren’t carrying our luggage for the next 3 days with us1. The museum wasn’t as big as say the Ghibli museum had been but it was packed with stuff about Tezuka and his work. Also in the basement level, they ran an hour long “animation course”2. The course ran off a set of computer built into little desks with built-in lightboxes. You were supposed to follow along with what they were saying via your computer, but we didn’t speak enough Japanese and none of us read any Japanese, so that part was hard. Fortunately, some of the museum employees spoke enough English that we were able to participate and make our own little 2 frame animation. Mine was of my CoffeeBear character waving and it received the Astro Boy Seal of Approval3 *grin* Oh and one of the other nice things about the museum was that they allowed you to take pictures inside. So, I’ll see about posting some of those later.
After we finished up at the musem; we hit a nearby mall for lunch. I had some ramen with dumplings and bits of pork; it tasted good but didn’t agree with me later. After lunch, we went to a nearby coffeeshop; where I enjoyed an iced coffee and a kjiwi/strawberry parfait. It was ridiculously large and quite, quite tasty. *yum*
Then we caught another train that took us out to the Jeiki center4. I’m not entirely sure where the center was, but I know it was right on the beach of Lake Biwa and am guessing it was in Osaka. The train station there was pretty disappointing in that we were all tired and thirsty but for some reason this one station didn’t have a single vending machine in it or near it; so no drinks were to be had. *groan* Then because the Jikei bigwig with us wanted to walk; they asked all of us to walk. Surprisingly, most of us did so. Some who hadn’t been well (and some who were just whimps) accepted a ride in the air-conditioned van to the center. The rest of us hiked 2 kilometers or so to the center. It was a beautiful walk and not too hard to do after all the walking we’d done in Tokyo and especially since all the luggage went to the center in the van. Towards the end of the walk, it started to rain and I held my umbrella for one of the girls on the tri; she said she didn’t need it but that wasn’t the point. The point was that a gentlemen sees to the comfort of those around him before himself, though I have to admit that rain felt good and cool as it hit me. Then we had a short time to clean up before we had to give our speeches to all the bigwigs of Jikei, including U-san’s uncle/the owner of Jikei. Apparently, I was about the only one of the students who remembered that this was the night we were supposed to dress up and hence bothered to actually shower/freshen up. Most of the other students wore their crappy t-shirts and didn’t seem to have made any effort to appear presentable. There wasn’t enough time after my shower for my hair to dry and I got a few comments from people that I looked very different with my hair slicked back. U-san, pointed and made hand gestures that I think meant he approved at my attempt to clean up; while K said that I looked more like a professor with my hair like that and while wearing my glasses. *heh*
Then the speeches started and after the Jikei president gave his; they handed out a copy of the Jikei banner to each of us as well as giving each of us a book. The book was especially a treat for me because it’s in both Japanese and English. Plus, U-san grabbed one of the 3 books, skipped a couple of kids and asked me if I wanted the samurai/bushio book. Naturally, I said yes and accepted it. U-san is just too cool for words and I really must learn enough Japanese so I can talk to him one day5. After the books, then each of the students gave their little speech with Keki-san providing the translation where necessary.
After everybody had given their speech; we broke up for dinner. The Jikei staff made this massive meal for us and served it to us with smiles. It was really nice. I started off the meal, drinking some Asahi dry (maybe draft?) beer with U-san. It was the same stuff that I’d drunk with M-san during the homestay and was fairly pleasant. Then we started in on the food, which including fresh pineapple (one of my all time favorite foods!). We’d barely started eating when they asked for five of us to go off and try the Japanese tea ceremony. I volunteered and found it to be a very relaxing experience. First they feed you a small slab of red bean paste (very, very sweet stuff), which you eat by slicing it in half with the wooden knife and eating it in 2 bites. Then they give you a small bowl of strong/bitter green tea, which you rotate in the palm of your left hand 2 times and drink down. I heard later that it’s considered lucky if you can finish the tea in 3 drinks, but I think I took a lot more than that. L was doing the tea ceremony at one time and let his nervousness get the better of him. He sort of listened to the instructions then kind of frooze up while drinking the tea and finished it in one go.
After that, it was back to dinner but U-san was elsewhere by then and a Keko-san joined me at the table. She was nice and spoke enough English that we could converse during dinner. While we chatted, she asked what kind of manga I draw; so I did a quick sketch of my CoffeeBear for her on the paperwrapper for my chopsticks which seemed to please her quite a bit. Then she had to go off to do something else and dinner broke up shortly afterwards. At the close of dinner, the staff explained that they had a game room complete with a billards table as well as a karoke room that we could use.
Naturally AWelkin, Bryon and myself made a mad dash for the karoke room; SE also joined us as well as a couple of the other students. And it was karoke for me till my voice gave out. I would never do karoke in the US but in Japan when you’re just doing it with a group of your friends; it’s a hell of a good time. *grin*
1 The rest was being stored at the Toyo Language School thanks to the efforts of the mighty U-san.
2 This was really aimed at the 12 and under set, but we silly foreigners didn’t let that stop us and several of us sat through the course.
3 In reality, everybody’s animation got stamped but I can’t read any of the writing on the stamp; so I don’t really know what it says. I just recognize that Astro Boy was in the middle of it.
4 Err, I’m not sure that’s what it was called but it’s what I called it. It is owned by the Jeiki group and is more like a resort than a school. We found out how much like a resort it was on our last night there, but more on that in a future entry.
5 Currently, my Japanese is enough to order my own food at a restauran (if somebody else can read the menu to me) and discussing the weather. I’m no where near fluent enough to have a real conversation.