Days 13 and 14: Back to school

So after having the day off for the trip to Kyoto, we went right back to studying in school.  Our language classes are only 3 hours in the mornings now, with cultural classes after lunch.  So on Thursday, our cultural class was learning how to make stone stamps.  These were polished, smooth stone rectangles, about 3/4" square by 2" or so, and we made designs and carved them into the square end to use as stamps.  Mine has my name in katakana, and utau, or "to sing" next to it.  I mostly chose that because it was a cool kanji and it does represent something I do a lot of.  It was really hard to carve it, though, especially to make it so that the characters were the parts that would be colored instead of those being the white parts.

My seal and stamp.

A close-up of the stamp.  I had to carve it inverted and backwards in order to come out right.
Friday's cultural activity was learning all about wearing kimono and such.  It was almost all about the girls, but it was still kind of interesting.  I already knew a lot of it, though.  In the end of the class, one of the girls got to wear the full kimono, which took roughly 20-25 minutes to put on.  Then one of the guys wore the men's version, which took about 5 minutes.  The difference in fashion level is very apparent here.  Also, apparently women's kimonos can be sized to fit basically any height or girth, but men's kimonos have to be matched to your size.  The women tuck up the extra length under the obi (belt), and the men don't get to do that.  That makes it much less convenient.

The woman on the right was the teacher, and she wore a kimono the whole time.
In unrelated notes, here's a glimpse at my lunches this week:

Curry bread.  This time I decided to microwave it a little while before I ate it.
In case you weren't sure why it was called curry bread.  There's the answer.  It actually tasted pretty good.

"A lunch" again, but a different one.  Pork cutlet, I think.  The stuff in the bowl on the right was absolutely nasty, but I still ate it.  It was super sour/bitter.  And cold.  The main dish was pretty good, if a bit soggy, and the soup was normal.
And now a glance at the school.  These are all taken from the same seat.

Everyone studying the day's kanji to prepare for the test.  We do 10-12 new kanji per school day.

Looking around the main hall we meet in every day, St. John's Hall.

St. John's Hall 2

St. John's Hall 3

St. John's Hall 4
And now for another round of random notes and observations:
  • Among all the different school groups when we went to Kyoto, I was surprised at how many of the girls were wearing the sailor-style uniforms.  I'd heard they were going out of style.  I'd estimate about 20-25% of the uniforms were that style, though.
  • Girls' uniforms do NOT have super short skirts (I knew this already, but hey, some people might not).  They were actually a bit longer than I expected, usually a couple inches below the knee.  The highest I noticed was just above the knee.
  • Boys' uniforms pretty much all looked the same.  White collared shirt, either long or short sleeves, and black or navy pants.  Usually had the school emblem somewhere.  Pretty boring.  Doesn't seem like it would help to distinguish you from the other schools much.
  • Several days ago, I saw Ranmaru coloring a picture on a worksheet from school.  At first I didn't pay much attention, but then I realized that all the people in the picture had black hair, and the same medium-light brown skin color.  I guess it's to be expected, but I never really thought about it before.  In the U.S., kids' pictures always had people with brown, black, blonde, and red hair, and usually at least a couple different skin tones. [Edit (6/16/12): I just noticed I already mentioned this one... already repeating myself]
  • Japanese TV has a whole lot of game shows.  It seems like that's just about the only thing people watch besides news or weather reports.  And an occasional baseball or soccer game.
  • The popularity of anime and video games seems to be roughly on par with how it is in the U.S.  You're not going to find a ton more people into anime here than back home, although they may be into different ones.
  • Exception: One Piece is everywhere, and everyone loves it.  [Having only seen about 2 episodes out of the middle, in English, I was unimpressed]
  • There are a lot of foods that you would think when you look at them would be served hot, but are in fact refrigerator cold.  It's a bit unsettling when you bite into something you're expecting to be warm and it's cold instead.
  • Instead of one big plate and everyone taking food and putting it on their plate to eat, meals in Japan use lots of small dishes, usually one per food item.  Occasionally a couple different things will be on one plate, but only if they're supposed to go together.
  • I read before coming that it's considered rude to grab food off a communal plate with the same end of the chopsticks you've been eating off of.  You're supposed to flip them around and use the back.  I have yet to see anyone actually do this, and plenty of (Japanese) people break the rule regularly.
  • No one drinks water.  Instead, they drink tea (ocha/お茶).  Even drinking fountains are rare.  I know of exactly one on campus so far.
Ok, that's it for now.


  1. Good job on the carving. What a nice item to have as a keepsake. Now that you have all the culture classes, I guess you'll be doing more of the things that are expressly Japanese, so enjoy. We are missing your piano playing here. Are you able to play quite a bit there? We are really enjoying the almost "real-time" travel highlights. Thanks! Have a good week!

    1. I do get to play the piano quite a bit here. There's one in the entrance/dining/living/family room downstairs, and I've been playing every day or two. Yukie has been practicing one of my songs that she really likes, too.

  2. Yes, good job indeed on the carving. Reverse carving requires a bit of gauging and foresight. Wait, the stamps were stone -- what did you use you carve them? Some kind of chisel? I wanted to say this before, but, your potpourri observations are very interesting. Do keep that up. Speaking of which, the cafeteria food is served on porcelain (or whatever material they are made out of) plates and bowls, unlike disposable plastic ones over in North America.

    "I'd estimate about 20-25% of the uniforms were that style, though."
    What other style of uniform was there? I thought sailor outfit and school uniform were roughly synonymous.

    1. Thanks. The stamps were stone, but it was a soft stone, so it actually was surprisingly easy to carve. We used a long, narrow piece of metal with the tip sharpened (basically a small chisel). You're supposed to just push the tip directly into the stone manually, and it actually worked pretty well. The stone was being ground off in little pieces with every push. It didn't chip or crack or anything. It was almost like working with wood, except you didn't have to worry about the grain.

      Yes, the cafeteria food is served on nice-looking plastic dishes, which you are expected to bring back to the wash station, rinse off, and drop into the appropriate areas for cleaning. Cups on top, dishes in the tub underneath.

      Sailor uniforms were really popular about a decade ago, if I'm remembering correctly. Since then, they've been slowly dying out in favor of more mature-looking clothing. I'm sure you could see some other uniform styles if you glance through my pictures. There are a few different ones that I see regularly, but it's hard for me to describe clothing.

      Most uniforms have a regular white blouse, long sleeved (often worn with the sleeves rolled up). Many include a tie of the school's color. Roughly half also have a sweater vest included, which can be any fairly neutral color (pale yellow, gray, navy, black, etc.). Some girls wear cardigans over the whole thing, but I'm not sure if that's actually part of the uniform itself or not. All the uniforms have skirts of roughly knee length, and most have socks pulled up to a few inches below the hem line. Short socks don't seem very popular here.

      Also, even with sailor uniforms, there really aren't many bright colors. Skirts are generally neutral dark, shirts white. The ties or neckerchiefs are usually the only real colorful items, and many neckerchiefs only have significant coloration on the stripes.

      I hope that's enough detail for you. :)

  3. That seal was pretty cool. Could you make something like that for me sometime? ;D

    1. I could, but I'd need another stone to make it out of. They actually let me keep the chisel, and gave me a box of ink, so I have all the tools, just not another stone.