Golden Week

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. has 10 “national” holidays. They’re technically “public holidays,” since it’s considered unconstitutional to designate “national holidays.”

(OH YEAH, THAT’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL, BUT HOLDING PRISONERS FOR AN INDETERMINATE AMOUNT OF TIME IN GUANTANAMO BAY AND VIOLATING PRIVACY RIGHTS OF CITIZENS ISN’T. OKAY YEAH THAT MAKES SENSE. GOOD TO KNOW WE HAVE OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.)

Anyway, in Japan, there are 15 “public holidays,” and Golden Week is a series of days upon which three holidays happen to fall. This weekend consisted of the holidays that fall right next to each other, so we had a four-day weekend! It’s sort of difficult to explain, but here is the breakdown:

  • April 29th (Monday) – Showa no Hi (celebrates Hirohito’s birthday, but is supposedly a “reflection on the turbulent years” of Hirohito’s reign, according to Wikipedia)
  • May 3rd (Friday) – Constitution Memorial Day
  • May 4th (Saturday) – Holiday/Greenery Day (this day wasn’t technically a holiday for a long time, but it was given as a holiday because of a law that says a day between holidays must also be a holiday)
  • May 5th (Sunday) – Children’s Day
  • May 6th (Monday) – holiday given because of a law that says a Monday after a public holiday is also a holiday.

As you can see, this week, Golden Week fell on a weekend, which was sort of lame. When it falls in the middle of a week, you can get the whole week off and IT’S AWESOME, but that’s just not how it happened this year.

Golden Week is a big deal in Japan. It’s the holiday, so travel is huge and hotel rates go up and tourists block traffic.

The ‘Boso is known for tourism, because it’s so goddamn beautiful here and it’s relatively easy to get to (as opposed to Okinawa), so you can go to the beach and Kamogawa Sea World and hella michi no eki and some famous temples/shrines and hiking and camping… etc. Chiba is the place to be when you’re going on vacation.

There is a toll road highway that runs north and south in Chiba prefecture, and my town—Tomiura—is literally the last stop on the toll road. The toll road ends in my town, turning into the 126, which is just a big road that keeps running through Minamiboso City. (Like PCH and the 101.)

(You can tell I’m Californian because I say “the” before a highway number. :D)

Anyway, that’s how you know that I live really far south.

There weren’t as many tourists as I thought there would be, but there was some bad traffic in the afternoons on most days. It was crazy backed up! Instead of taking 20 minutes to get from Tateyama to my house, it took 30.

Since I live in such a great place, I spent a lot of the weekend in the ‘Boso. But I did travel a bit, too.

So here’s what I did for Golden Week!

Friday—May 3rd—Tokyo with Judith

I may have written about Judith way back in my first entries. I met her at the Los Angeles JET meeting the day before we all left from LAX, and she was incredibly helpful in making me feel better about everything. Then, when we arrived in Tokyo—coincidence!—we were placed in the same hotel room. It was by total chance. We were amazed.

She was placed in Kyoto, which is about as far away from me as Torrance was from Santa Cruz—that is, an 8 hour drive and about 350 miles.

So that kinda sucks, but if either of us want to go to that side of the island, we have a place to stay! Pretty cool.

Judith was spending Golden Week in Tokyo, to see some friends and her grandparents, and since I live an hour and a half away, we planned to meet up on Friday! I met her in Ikebukuro, and we walked around, shopped for manga, ate some Mexican food, and caught up. It was totally awesome, and I bought a lot of manga. (Well, a lot for me. Probably not by some other people’s standards.)

Yeah, the one on the right is about Buddha and Jesus living in an apartment in Tokyo.

Yeah, the one on the right is about Buddha and Jesus living in an apartment in Tokyo.

We stopped at a park to sit down and there were SO MANY CATS there. We must have seen about seven different cats. It was nuts.

IT'S A GIZMO. (Photo taken by Judith P.)

IT’S A GIZMO.
(Photo taken by Judith P.)

(Photo taken by Judith P.)

And Leonard makes an appearance, too.
(Photo taken by Judith P.)

(Photo taken by Judith P.)

(Photo taken by Judith P.)

A perfect start to a good weekend: actually being in Tokyo with someone, splurging on new manga, and cats.

Saturday—May 4th—Minamiboso with Kim & Alyson

Saturday was the only day of the Golden Week weekend that I got to sleep in. Ahh, to sleep until noon…

Alyson came down from Asahi (in northern Chiba) to tour around the ‘Boso with me and Kim. First we went to the beach in Chikura, because the beaches in the ‘Boso are beautiful. We put on our swim suits, but we didn’t end up going in the water because they thought it was too cold.

IT’S NEVER TOO COLD TO SWIM. 8D

After the beach, we wanted to go to Nihon-ji, in Kyonan, but we were losing daylight. Kim thought it closed at 4:00—because you climb up this mountain and then have to climb back down, and if you don’t get there before 4:00, you’ll be climbing down in the dark. It was already 3:00, and it would take us about an hour to get there, but we wanted to try anyway, because Kim and Alyson had really wanted to see it that day.

We got there with 10 minutes to spare, but before we walked in, Alyson spied some Dragonball soda cans in the vending machine. She really wanted… Vegeta? so she bought one, but it wasn’t the one she wanted. So she bought another one.

And it was the same one as the last one.

Noooo~! Curse you, vending machine!

So anyway, we headed up the mountain. XD

About halfway up, there is a GINORMOUS Buddha statue. These are pretty much all over Japan, but this one is the largest pre-modern and largest stone-carved Buddha statue in Japan.

(Photo taken on Kim's phone, by some Japanese guys.)

(Photo taken on Kim’s phone, by some Japanese guys.)

It’s bad, but Alyson and I really wanted to climb it. I MEAN, LOOK AT THAT THING. IT’S MADE OF ROCK. IT LOOKS PERFECT FOR CLIMBING. Too bad it’s an important cultural symbol. (Then again… don’t people climb Mount Rushmore?)

Mt. Rushmore

LIKE THIS?

Climbing Mt. Daibutsu

BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS.

We walked the rest of the way up the mountain, to the highest point, and looked out across the land. We were… really high up.

012 020

There was this one part of the rock where you can stand on an edge that is hanging over nothing. I couldn’t do it—I can do rollercoasters, but I can’t do hanging ledges, nope—so I just took pictures of Kim and Alyson on it.

009 022 031 034

Sweeeeet.

Sunday—May 5th—Surfing in Chikura with Riyoko

The night I bought my surfboard, we stopped by someone’s apartment so I could try on the wetsuit, and Riyoko was there. She said that she surfs a little, so I asked her to teach me! She was all nervous because she thinks she can’t speak English, but her English is great.

So on Sunday, I had my first surfing lesson. :)

We drove to Chikura and stopped by this surf shop that her friends own. They were all impressed that I was going surfing for the first time and that I’m from California—and more specifically, Santa Cruz. One man was all like, “AHHHH! SANTA CRUZ!! SUGOI!!” and then he explained to everyone else why he was so excited—because Santa Cruz has a big surfing community.

Riyoko already had her wetsuit on, but I had to change inside the house (attached to the shop), which was probably a good thing, because I still have a lot of trouble getting that damn thing on…

(Taken on Riyoko's phone.)

(Taken on Riyoko’s phone.)

Then we set off for the water!

It went better than I expected. First of all, Riyoko’s English is great, and then her teaching was great, too. We started just lying on the sand so she could teach me the proper body position and explain how to stand up. Then we progressed to the water, starting with simply balancing while lying down, which is harder than it sounds. At one point, I rolled over the board onto her, and when she pushed me, I rolled right off the other side.

…Well, I was half-joking with that one anyway. XD I felt the momentum, and instead of stopping, like I could have, I just rolled around because I thought it was funny.

She held the back of the board most of the time and taught me how to catch waves. She would yell, “Wave coming! Paddle!” and then I’d start paddling until the wave came and she let go. And then… I just glided to the shore… Heh heh.

I tried to stand up a few times, but I kept falling off, and I really don’t think I was actually standing up. It was more like crouching and rocking back and forth. But when we stopped to take a break at the surf shop, she bragged to everyone that I stood up on my fifth try, or something.

We got lunch, and she got a call from a few friends who were bored, so they came down to meet us before we went out on the water again. By then, though, we were both really tired, so we only surfed for a bit longer before heading back to wash everything off.

The surf shop had some board shorts on sale, and I’ve wanted to buy board shorts for a while now. Especially since I’m going to teach the P.E. swim classes at my school! O:

I miss teaching swimming quite terribly. Hell, I miss teaching, because what I’m doing right now can’t technically be called teaching. I don’t get to lead my own classes and teach techniques and lesson plan. I miss being in charge of a class. But besides that, I also miss teaching swimming itself. It was fun to be in the water with kids. :)

At our last enkai (Thursday, May 2nd), one of the new P.E. teachers came up to me to ask me something. He tried to talk to me in English, which was really sweet. :) Somehow, we got on the topic of the swimming classes in P.E., and when he found out that I used to teach swimming, he asked if I would teach the classes at Tomiura. HELL YES I WILL.

I just hope my schedule works out so that I can… That would be a blast. I’ll try to use Japanese and everything, but probably most of the class will be in English. XD Which will really be okay, since it’s swimming—they only have to be able to see my motions, really.

Anyway, at my gym, all of the ladies wear these suits that have, like, shorts, so I thought maybe it would be better if I had something like that to wear at school. I didn’t want to have to buy that sort of suit, though, so I just looked for some board shorts.

And there they were! On sale! Sweet.

So I made some friends at the surf shop and bought something from them. :) It was a good day.

Awesome people being awesome. (Taken on Riyoko's phone.)

Awesome people being awesome.
(Taken on Riyoko’s phone.)

Monday—May 6th—Soga BBQ & Movie with Laura

It was the last day of Golden Week, and I had to wake up early again. No sleeping in during this break!

I went to the train station at 8:00, and—surprise!—some of my ninensei were there! They were all dressed in jean jackets.

That’s right, folks, the dream of the 90s is alive in Japan. Friggin’ jean jackets everywhere. Jean skirts, too. Remember when those went out of style and then came back into style? ME NEITHER.

XD Anyway, they were cute. And they immediately started speaking English to me.

An: “Megan-sensei! What are you doing?”

Me: “I’m going to Soga.”

Ak: “Why?”

Me: “I’m going to a barbecue.”

All three: “Wow!”

They were so cute! Then they complimented my new earrings, and I asked them where they were going. They said they were going to Futtsu to shop at the outlet mall. Yay! And then they realized that we would be on the same train. XD I was thinking, “Awkward! But it might be fun.” But it turned out that it was an express train, so the seats weren’t arranged that we could sit together anyway.

Speaking of the express train, I got really confused. Really late into the ride, about two stops from Soga, one of the train workers was going around asking for fare. I was confused, because I’d already scanned my Suica card (that’s the card you can use to pay for train tickets and stuff). So if I paid while I was on the train, I would also be paying when I scanned my Suica card at the end. Wouldn’t I be paying too much then?

I didn’t want to upset the man, though, just because I didn’t understand, so I just gave him the 500¥ and decided to sort it out later. It wasn’t his fault that I had never taken an express train before and didn’t know how it worked. So when I got to Chiba station, I went up to the window and managed to explain why I was confused. And then I just paid whatever the hell they told me to, because they know how these things work. |D

Laura picked me up from the station and we drove to a grocery store to pick up drinks for the barbecue her friends were holding. The barbecue place was right across from the flower museum and right next to the beach. The water looked beautiful there, but the barbecue area wasn’t on the beach, so we never went down to the water.

We ended up waiting for a while, because there were two barbecue areas, and we were waiting at the wrong one! Oops. And while we were waiting, this huge crowd of people came up, and this woman—possibly from somewhere in Africa, judging by her accent?—came up to us and started to talk to us. She started with “Konnichiwa” and then told us “You’re welcome” over and over again. (Probably just meaning, “Welcome!”) Laura tried to explain that we were with a different group, but it was too late. The woman was already putting her arm around me, like we were family. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought she was high. |D

After a while, we found out that there was another barbecue area, so we found Laura’s two friends.

They were so sweet! They were this great married couple (in their thirties I think) and they do great international work. The man works for this international company/program that helps developing countries, so he’s traveled a lot. They were both really cool and fun, and they reminded me of a few other couples that I know. :)

And the barbecue food was the best I’d eaten all weekend—and that’s saying something, because I ate El Torito on Friday. ;)

After the BBQ, Laura and I went to see Iron Man 3! O: I guess I can’t say anything about it yet, huh? But yeah, I saw it.

And you gotta stay until the after-credits scene! Don’t forget! It actually makes the whole movie, in my opinion. I was somewhat unsatisfied until the hidden scene.

After the movie, we went to a grocery store, and when Laura asked if there was anything I wanted to get, I tentatively asked about their cheese selection.

YOU GUYS. THEY HAD BRIE. BRIE AND GOUDA AND KLDJFADSNTFKJLAKJLK I bought it. They also had coconut juice, but only in these teeny tiny drink boxes, so I only bought one. Oh, how I miss coconut juice… and cheese… Real cheese…

Owari

So that was my Golden Week! I actually didn’t have anything planned until the Monday before it began, because I realized that it was going to be a four-day weekend, and I wasn’t going to do anything. And how lame would that be?

So I quickly made plans, and it all turned out great. I feel like I spent the time well. It’s not like some vacations when afterwards, I think, “Shit, I didn’t do anything. What a waste.” No, I feel pretty good about that holiday. :)

Today at school

Before I go, I wanted to mention something funny that happened at school today.

I ate lunch with a ninensei class today, and K demanded that I sit with his group. He and T like to teach me bad Japanese, so when everyone was seated, T said, “Kyou mo Nihongo wo benkyou shimashou,” which means “Let’s study Japanese today, too.” But he said it really slowly with this weird intonation, so I think he was making fun of the way foreigners mispronounce Japanese. He wanted me to repeat it, and then he kept saying some other stuff really stiffly, so I think they were trying to make me say everything wrong. XD Little jerks!

Then, at the end of the lunch period, T started to sing “女々しくて,” a song by Golden Bomber, because he knew that I know the song. So I sang along with him, and he and K thought it was hilarious. XD

Later when I was in the hall, I saw them standing outside, so I waited by the door. When they walked in, I jumped out and shouted, “BOO!” Only another boy nearly jumped out of his skin, saying “Bikkuri shita!” (literally, “I was surprised!”) over and over again. T only looked at me and said, flatly, “Hello.” But then when they had gone upstairs, T leaned over the railing and shouted, “YOU ARE CRAZY!”

:D

Vocabulary

Daibutsu n. literally “big Buddha.” The Japanese word for the large statues of Buddha around Asia.

michi no eki n. road side station.

Nihon-ji n. literally “Nihon temple.” The “ji” means temple.

ninensei n. second year students.

sugoi adj. amazing, great, cool.

女々しくて n. a song by Golden Bomber. It’s read “memeshikute.” The song is about… well, literally about effeminate men being lonely because they’re so much like women that women don’t want them. I think it might be a larger critique on something in the “herbivore men” thing going on in Japan, but I haven’t looked into it much. Anyway, here’s the music video.

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