Monday, June 30, 2008

Ten'ryu-ji to Togetsu Bridge through Bamboo forest

We got to Randen train station from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine through narrow alleys which everyone felt to be taken to some mysterious places by GTS. From the east terminal to the west terminal of the Randen train, students got to Arashiyama area where we dismissed for lunch before visiting Ten'ryu-ji temple. We were able to enter the main building as well as its famous garden around "heavenly dragon pond." As soon as exiting from the north gate, another exquisite scene of the bamboo forest welcomed students. Through the bamboo alleys students reaches the hilltop scenic point from which small river boats and sightseeing trains could be seen. Students went down to the Oi river and got to the Arashiyama park through Togetsu Bridge (Across the moon). Hankyu train line took us to the center of the city from which everyone went home. The weather was perfect after the nasty rainy day yesterday!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nishiki-Koji, the Food Avenue!

By now most students learned how to maneuver in the central area of Kyoto, yet not probably the food alley called Nishiki-koji through which GTS and a students walk. On that street, there is a shop owned by GTS's long time friend (over 30 years!) and got some fish-paste products. GTS asked the student to bring some to his host family who is now taking care of 3 students of GTS! GTS got some CDs and a summer cotton kimono "Yukata" for his 2-year old daughter "EMA-lynn" at the underground shopping mall in the Kyoto city hall area from which the student went to his recently-signed up sports gym for work-out. It was quite a yucky weather day today but it should be cleared up tomorrow for another 'HIKE' in a bamboo forest!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Japan's Largest Aquarium in Osaka Bay

Weekends plans for students varies based on their host family's schedule and other pre-planned individual schedules. Those who didn't have special plans gathered at the center of Kyoto city and left for Osaka by Express train. Unlike Kyoto, Osaka has two major commercially lively areas, Kita (North, centering around Umeda) and Minami (South, centering around Namba and Shinsai-bashi). Kita is also famous as a business district and Minami is famous for entertainments including traditional puppet theater (Bunraku). While some went to Shinsai-bashi area, GTS/Little Ema and 5 royal students headed for Osaka Harbor area which holds Japan's largest aquarium called "Kaiyukan (Ocean fun hall)" This huge aquarium is equipped with Temposan Market Place with stores, restaurants, game arcades, live stage, as well as Japan's largest Ferris Wheel. On the way back home, some stopped by the central commercial area in Kyoto for window shopping and cultural exploration before heading back to each host family.
The itinerary was: Shijo Kawaramachi-(Hankyu Line)-Umeda-(Midosuji Line)-Hon'machi-(Chuo Line)-Osaka Harbor (round trip, regularly costs 1320yen, but weekend group rate for 1044yen!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear Deer, Great Buddha and Tears!

All 20 of us were luckily able to get on the same bus for Kyoto Station where students could get about 45-minute lunch time during which GTS obtained bullet train tickets from Kyoto to Nagoya on the we leave on 7/24! (Our special bullet train will leave at 10am on Thursday 7/24 and get to Nagoya around 11am. Everyone can get a coupon for a drink (soft drink or tiny bottle of the wine). While one student tried to get a bottle of drink, we missed a train. In the next train for Nara, GTS got acquainted with a couple college students who might be able to become a good friend of students of our group. Giant Buddha, as usual, waited for us while a couple of students almost missed the opportunity to meet him! Some students fed deer in the park and the temple along the way from Giand Bell, Giant Buddha Hall, February Hall, March Hall, April Hall of Todaiji-temple to Kasuga Grand Shrine via Wakakusa mountain walk. We lost one student right before getting the Kintetsu Nara Station and missed several trains while searching the lost student. After almost 2 hours, we decided to leave for Kyoto. Upon arrival in Kyoto Station, we got a phone call that the student reached the wrong train station (JR) in Nara from which the student must get on the train for Kyoto alone. This is another lesson everyone must call GTS as soon as realizing being lost!!! The weather was perfect, everyone got exhausted as expected!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stage at Kiyomizu-temple!

Not much time for lunch before leaving for Yasaka-shrine. 3 students couldn't make it at the meeting time. The group left those 3 students behind and first got to Yasaka-shrine behind which the Maruyama Park is located. Maruyama Park is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and most floats for Gion Festival are stored there. The group began walking from Maruyama Park, Kodaiji-temple (the former residence of Hideyoshi's wife, "NENE"), Ryozan Kan'non (Great Image of Buddha of Mercy), two-year slope, three-year slope, Kiyomizu-slope and reached Kiyomizu temple where every student enjoyed the city view from the famous stage of the temple. Return trip from Kiyomizu-temple via tea-bowl slope took us to the Gojozaka bus stop where we dismissed. Though the weather forecast reported the "RAIN" today, no rain showed up!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Monthly Flea Market in front of KIA

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, right in front of KIA, was built to honor Michizane Sugawara and is surrounded by nearly 50 different kinds of over 2,000 plum trees planted for Sugawara, who loved the blossoms. On the 25th of every month, the flea market is held and various vendors show up in and around the shrine. Since COD Summer program ends on 7/24, this is the only day on which students can enjoy eating and shopping as well as traditional games here! The weather was cooperating with us though students have to struggle with packed buses to return to host families! Another Tenmangu Shrine is located in Osaka and becomes the central shrine during the "Tenjin Festival (July 24-25, every year)," a week after Kyoto Gion Festival on 7/17. There are still a few students who can be placed a upper level class beginning tomorrow.
Because Kyoto city hosts "foreign ministers conference among 8 nations" next two days (6/26-27), police officers and riot police members are here and there for maintaining law and order now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Golden Pavilion shines for us in the rainy season!

GTS visited Rits Alumni Association office in the morning to arrange its peace museum visit on 7/4 on which students plans to have a chance to go through "Anti-Vietnam War poster exhibit."
Rits Alumni Association office along with its law school is located at the Nijo Station of JR/City Subway. GTS and his partner are both Rits Alumni and got to know with each other first at Rits Chicago Alumni Assocition Dinner.
Students experienced lunch at another college cafeteria at Rits before heading to the Golden Pavilion. Some students stopped by at the college logo store before meal. 15-minute walk took us to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji temple) which shines and reflects itself on the pond to welcome us to Kyoto. Despite the fact that the rainy season (Tsuyu) began a few days ago, it was quite lucky for us to walk through the temple with sunshine! Visitors threw coins to every possible place as if it gives them some good fortune in their life! That's kind of a bad habit brought from the West, yet certainly makes the temple happy to gain "unexpected" donation from even Japanese visitors! Remember, temples are the tax exempt institutions!!. No wonder the Golden Pavilion keeps itself covered with gold leaves!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

THE FIRST DAY (6/23/2008) The Rock Garden

Two students were late for school because of their disorientation near Kitano Tenmangu Shrine right in front of KIA. This is the superb beginning regardless of our 48-hour fun trip from Chicago to Japan! All ate lunch at one the cafeterias, Ryoyukan, of Ritsumeikan Unuversity (Rits). Some students successfully withdraw Yen from ATM located between KIA and Rits during 10min walk. After cheap delicious college lunch, 5-minute walk took us to the famous Rock Garden (Ryoan-ji). Returning trip home began at the bus stop located right in front of the main gate of Rits. One student missed the designated bus stop (Kitano Tenmangu mae) and went to Kyoto station, the terminal. After struggling to find the way back home, finally reached home 4 hours after we dismissed at Rits!! Though it might be the scary experience but hopefully it was a good experience to know what "NOT HAVING MY PHONE NUMBER" really means!
Who's next?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Extraordinary Experience at the beginning 2 (Japan Program)

All of us got a chance of taking a shower, changing clothes, free breakfast buffet, and free Internet connection for about 6 hours! Some got out from the hotel and took some unexpected pictures, enjoyed unplanned views in CHINA. After taking all advantage of being in China, we left there for Nagoya by China Eastern Airlines with full lunch service. Finally we arrived in Nagoya at 1pm on Saturday 42 hours after we checked in at O'Hare. From Nagoya, the Bullet Train took us to Kyoto and joined staff from Kyoto International Academy where every student was successfully picked up by each host family at 6pm (local) which was almost 2 entire days since the Chicago departure. Though everyone seemed to be exhausted, s/he joined GTS next day on Sunday noon at school to just make sure how to get to school from each host family. Those who decided to join GTS on Sunday got the commuter pass for bus and train and became mentally ready for schooling next day!

Extraordinary Experience at the beginning1 (Japan Program)

Our flight for Nagoya Japan via San Francisco was supposed to take off at 7am but the "usual" mechanical problem caused 4-hour delay. After being stuck in the aircraft for 4 hours in Chicago, finally we left for San Francisco knowing that we would NOT make it for connection there. Students might have in a little panic, yet GTS was so calm. A safe airplane was most important and GTS didn't care anything but safety. Certainly COD Liberal Arts Division was notified the situation by GTS though the revised schedule was still unknown. We had no idea what might be the option at SFO but we safely arrived in SFO at 11:30am (local). Upon arrival on SFO, we learned that all of us had been re-booked for "Jet Airways 209" for Shang-hai, China at 8:45pm (9-hour layover!!). We got $15 meal voucher per person and waited for an "unknown" airline. Actually Jet Airways, which is just 15 years old, is the best airline in India and indeed, all the check-in counter employees were superb in their hospitality. The aircraft we got on was the latest Boeing 777-300ER with wider seats, individual TV monitor with games and movies, and colorful in-room lighting service. We could choose Indian dining service with vegetarian option.
Though we had LONG lay-over, we loved the Jet Airways and were happy except the fact that we had to go to China instead of Japan. We were welcomed by a "United" employee giving us a hotel voucher at the Shang-hai International Airport!!!! (We felt that a "US career" wasn't too bad only at that time!) We got our luggage and went through the Chinese Immigration with embarkation stamp! When we saw the sign "Welcome to Shang-hai" for Japan Study Abroad program, we really felt that we got on the wrong airplane and reached the wrong destination!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Earthquake in Japan and Kyoto

There was a breaking news at the almost end of my AP scoring session during which some my fellow AP readers had to leave earlier because of the horrible flood in Ceder Rapids, IA. The breaking news was the EARTHQUAKE in Japan by which over 20 people were killed and about 200 people got injured. Even Bullet trains there were derailed! Its magnitude was 7.2, which is just about the same scale as the Kobe-earthquake in 1995 which killed over 5000 people. Fortunately the area we are going to for the study abroad program (Kyoto) is located at a completely different area, so my students should feel OK at this time. It seems, however, the summer began and the high temperature of each day gets 28C (82F) by the time we get there. I am just excited to go to Japan with bunch of my students and I do inform them now to feel safe even though we probably still hear some after effect of this big earthquake!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Royals vs. Rangers at Kansas City

While scoring AP Japanese tests, I had a little time-off at night and went to the Ball game nearby stadium with my colleague Japanese teacher of Seton Hall University in NJ from which I was graduated. Both teams are at the bottom of the team standing so it was easy to get a nice seat right in front of 3rd baseman. Until one of Japanese pitchers, Yasuhiko Yabuta, showed up at the almost end of the game to save the game, I didn't realize that Royals has a Japanese player. Well, he got one win from Yankees last week but this time he came over to the mound to save but got a few hits and became a losing pitcher instead. Well, it was a good game (6-5). The Texas Rangers won the game from the behind. Two home-runs from Royals, a couple of significant errors from both teams. So the game itself was pretty exciting though we were both extremely exhausted. As a refresher for the in-prison activity like scoring, it was quite meaningful. I am ready to go back to Chicago area now and leave for Japan already. Before going to Japan, I have to work as a voice actor for the Rotary International!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

AP Japanese Scoring

Those who graduated from high school are probably familiar with AP courses in various subjects. Recently (actually last year) AP Japanese test began and this is the second year. Over 2000 students took AP test this year and I am one of the scoring leaders of the AP Japanese test. Scoring is like working in the prison confinement all day long for about 2 weeks. So I am now in Kansas City to complete this assignment. I am not sure if 3rd year Japanese finishers of my class can get AP grade of 3 or above. Especially the writing task and the listening task aren't that easy, which is also the week point of our class at COD. At least we can have a little free time at night so my friend professor from Seton Hall University in NJ (where I earned MA degree) and I will go to Kansas City Royals ball game soon. BTW, Royals is the bottom of their divisional team standing! Since the opponent is Texas Rangers, another weak team, we got a nice seat in front of 3rd base. Well, as soon as returning to Chicago on 6/16, I have to finalize the Study Abroad preparation and get ready to fly out with my students and 2.5-year old little "EMA."