Thursday, 18 January 2018

William D'Arcy's Japan Adventure - Part 3

It's been too long…

Just a little while ago a little event known as New Years took place and before that, Christmas. Year after year most of us spend this time with family giving gifts and what not. But this year I decided to mix things up a bit and spend my festive season in Japan, leaving Christmas behind me - or so I thought! Apparently, everyone here loves any excuse to have a festival and Christmas is huge with massive decorations up everywhere. It's much more extravagant than anything in Australia. Even Christmas dinner is the most amazing thing ever: everyone I've spoken to enjoys a lovely big box of KFC chicken on Christmas Eve. What could be better? Still, as I thought there's not a lot of focus on Christmas here. I wasn't really expecting to celebrate Christmas, which is a small price to pay for the 2-month holiday of a lifetime.  But still Christmas morning came, and BAM! - a small box from Mum arrived and another from Dad. Both were filled with chocolate and the best of gifts because apparently they haven't given me enough already. 

Christmas aside, it's time for New Years - I'm told it's rather important. This year my host family, the Egawas, decided that New Year would be spent at Hamamatsu, the home of unagi (eel) - which I might add is delicious. On the two hour trip to Hamamatsu, we stopped at Ryōtan-Ji Temple. Now I'm not exactly sure the purpose of the temple is. The word Zen was thrown around a bit, but I think that was lost in translation. Either way, it was beautiful: big, well-maintained gardens and huge, decorated buildings dating back hundreds upon hundreds of years. Moving on to Hamamatsu, we arrived at a big hotel, the tallest building in Hamamatsu. High raised ceilings, an all you can eat buffet and BEDS! Hamamatsu, like many Japanese towns and cities, is in no short supply of castles and shrines.  It's home to a rather cute castle which I'm told was the home of the first Shogun (maybe). 

Unagi pie! It tastes a bit like cornflakes, I'm not really the biggest fan. Still, we visited the Unagi pie factory which was kind of crazy. Maybe its because I've never seen the inside of a factory before but there were so many moving parts. Even the people operated like robots! It was possibly the strangest thing I saw. 

But it's time to step away from Hamamatsu and all the popular tourist destinations. It turns out my favourite place in Japan is right here in Susono, I Kyo Ji. Maybe I got the name wrong. (Cannot find the correct name/spelling - Editor) It was beautiful, untouched by tourists and people. At first, all you see is a small building with an equally small bridge leading to the building. But its not until you get close that you see the bridge stands above a deep cavern with water rushing through it. It's the same again on the other side of the building. The building is on a huge floating pillar of rock, surrounded by these deep caverns with fast flowing water. Around the building, many small statues are littered about, covered in moss and almost unrecognisable as people. There are also rough, worn down steps to the river below. I don't know why, but this one little place was more beautiful than anything I've seen in Japan and no-one has even heard of it.

Stay tuned, I only have about 6 days left in Japan and there's much still to say. Part 4 will be here soon!

Ryōtan-Ji Temple Gate

Ryōtan-Ji Temple Gardens

William outside Hamamatsu Castle

New Year's sunrise at Hamamatsu Hotel

Go Ryu no Taki (The Five Dragon Falls) with Kurara, the dog

I Kyo Ji

Friday, 22 December 2017

William D'Arcy's Japan Adventure - Part 2

It’s been a while! So much has happened! My adventure never stops!

Since last we spoke, I've changed residents. Although sad to say goodbye to Aiko, I couldn't complain about the warm welcome of my new host family, the Egawa family. This time IT'S CRAZY! I’m now staying with a family of 5, 3 kids a little bit younger than me so it's so much fun! So far the youngest one, Marina has taught me a little bit of Japanese, the oldest daughter Reina has taught me how to play Igo, a traditional Japanese board game, and their son, Ryosuke and I have attempted cooking enormous things in the kitchen - not that it works out all too well. I’m loving it here, the Egawas are some of the nicest people I’ve met. They even went as far to take me to see the new Star Wars movie! What more could I ask for! I mean I could ask for a bed but I suppose tatami isn’t so bad.

I didn't think it was possible - I'm actually enjoying every second of school! From the moment I wake, I can't wait to get to school - even the train ride is super fun. I teach Australian words to my friends. And at school I've got a whole new class! Leaving homeroom 13 behind and moving into homeroom 14 where they're crazier than before! Well, maybe not crazier as homeroom 13 was pretty crazy. It seems it doesn't matter what homeroom I'm in, there's always laughs to be had.

The Tea club! If you know anything about Japanese high schools you'll know that they have club system. So after school, many different clubs run and there's no shortage of clubs at Johoku High School. They have everything from table tennis to basketball - even a traditional tea club which I had the opportunity to join for a day. On the day I had no clue what to expect as all I was told was that there'd be cake, so it already sounded amazing. so after school, I was taken to possibly the coldest and darkest part of the school and there we waited for a minute, just me and probably 15 girls. Apparently boys don't like tea all that much. The large sliding door soon opened to reveal a small cozy, well-lit tatami room with an old fashion boiling pot embedded in the floor. What came next was possibly the scariest but coolest thing ever. It was all very traditional and everyone knew their role, except me of course! I simply sat there while they brought out big bowls of frothy green tea and sweet jelly-type cakes - all of which tasted amazing. I think I wasn't ready for how proper and traditional it all was but still a lot of fun and hopefully I'll go again. 

But as fun as tea club was, there was another club that caught my eye ... KYUDO! The martial art of Japanese archery! I'm very fond of archery, I thought it would be awesome to try out kyudo, so I did. News flash it's not easy. I think I spent a full hour just trying to hold the bow. The Sensei sat in a large, cushioned chair - not gonna lie, he looked like some sort of samurai shogun. Everyone is even required to bow as low as they can upon arrival to the club. Kyudo truly is amazing and it's definitely the part of Japan I was looking for. Who knows, I may just become samurai, or maybe I'll at least be able to hit the target!

Until next time, I'll catch ya later.

William and Reina about to walk to school on a very cold morning

Reina and Marina teaching William Japanese

William playing chess with Ryosuke

Reina and William waiting for an all you can eat buffet to open while watching Ryosuke's soccer game

Mount Fuji

Odawara Castle in Kanagawa Prefecture

Sister Cities Australia National Award Presentation

On Wednesday 20 December, Sister Cities Australia Executive Committee member Christina Despoteris presented Frankston Mayor Colin Hampton and Frankston Susono Friendship Association (FSFA) Chairperson Peter Patterson with the 2017 National Award for Community Involvement at the Frankston Council Chambers. 

The award application was based on FSFA's hugely successful 2016 Japanese Festival held at Frankston High School's Senior Campus on Sunday 17 April. The Festival celebrated the visit of the Susono City delegation led by Mayor Kenji Takamura.

Christina Despoteris expressed appreciation to the City of Frankston and members of FSFA for all their efforts supporting and fostering the relationship between the sister cities over more than 35 years. Events such as the Japanese Festival serve to strengthen the involvement of the local community and promote friendship and an increased global awareness among the citizens of Frankston and Susono.

Mayor Colin Hampton expressed his gratitude for the work undertaken by the small group of dedicated community volunteers who manage the sister city relationship on behalf of the City of Frankston. He spoke of his own travels to Japan with delegations from Frankston and the warm and lasting bonds of friendship created during such visits.

FSFA Chairperson Peter Patterson endorsed the Mayor's comments and also acknowledged the great passion, enthusiasm and effort contributed by the volunteer citizens who work together to run the sister city association. Peter also stated that the award presented to the City of Susono would be presented to their Mayor in September 2018 when the FSFA delegation travels to Susono.

Sister Cities Australia Executive Committee member Christina Despoteris presents Mayor Colin Hampton with Frankston's 2017 SCA National Award in the Community Involvement Category

Christina Despoteris presents Frankston Susono Friendship Association Chairperson Peter Patterson with Susono's 2017 National Award

Colin Hampton, Simon Hast (FSFA Vice-Chairperson), Christina Despoteris, Julie D'Arcy (FSFA Executive Committee Member), Peter Patterson, and Margaret Patterson (FSFA Executive Committee Member)

Sister Cities Australia - Community Involvement Category Trophies (does anyone else see a similarity to Mount Fuji?)

Left - Susono's Trophy; Right - Frankston's Trophy