July 14, 2001


Right now I'm feeling: Worn out but good!

The enormous Kyoto train station
Dancing ladies inside Kyoto train station
Statues in Sanjusangendo Temple
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Making a woodblock print


For my last rotation I am at Takatsumi JHS. Takatsumi JHS hosts one of the most interesting students I have ever met. Her name is Eiko. She lives at Torafusu, which is kind of like a home/school for abandoned or abused children. In her case, her father is god-knows-where, and her mother died about six months ago. Her schoolwork has completely lagged and now she’s part time at Torafusu and commutes to Takatsumi to do limited JHS-level work.

Everyone has just about written her off, even the good teachers here. The general sentiment is that she has no future, no hopes of keeping up with her fellow classmates, and is a pity case because now she is just about an orphan. She has some discipline problems, but for the most part seems a very cheerful and happy-go-lucky kid. Eiko comes by my desk most days I’m here this rotation to speak English.

I don’t know how, but she has managed to learn a lot of English. I love the conversations I have with Eiko. She is intelligent, resourceful, and when she doesn’t know a word, phrase, or idea in English, she is somehow able to make herself understood to me. We have a terrific rapport. When she does know the English words she wants to say (which is most of the time), she has excellent pronunciation. I told one of the English teachers here that I think that she would make a great competitor for the English recitation contest in October. The teacher looked at me like I was insane. Then she explained that since Eiko isn’t a full time student, she was ineligible anyway. And they like to make good students participants so that they have a chance (by means of the prize, which is a trip to the USA) to get rewarded for all their hard work. So Eiko’s out. It’s a shame, though. I think all she needs is a chance and some motivation. I hope she turns out all right.


Because our last trip to Kyoto fell short of the mark, I needed to go again. Lesa really wanted to go, too, and because Glenn didn’t want to, it was just the two of us. It was a really, really rewarding trip. We saw Sanjusangendo temple again, but this time we snagged some TERRIFIC shots of the interior, thanks to our new and very discrete digital cameras. We felt guilty for taking pictures inside this sacred temple and national treasure, but .. oh, well! We only took pictures when no one was looking and we were very respectful about it.

We also saw another temple called Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, which is the wackiest shrine/temple complexes I have seen in all of Japan. The complex consists of one large shrine and five or so smaller shrines scattered over a mountainside interlinked by these corridors of closely placed tori gates. These tori gates are placed so close together that in some places they completely block out the light from the sun and surrounding forest. It is a downright creepy place and is best visited towards sunset (just make sure and bring a flashlight!!). It could easily be the setting for a Japanese horror movie. Lesa and I had a terrific time getting lost among the long dark hallways of tori gates and seeing the individual little shrines. When we realized that we had no idea how to get out of the maze and get back to the main temple we got freaked out and started really running all over the mountain, trying to find the main road before we completely lost the light. We found the main temple and left the complex just as night fell. It was very cool.


Before we left we were also able to stop off at the Kyoto Arts and Crafts Center, the best place in the city to buy good souvenirs. I came away with some silk paintings and other stuff. Expensive, but I'll be glad to have them when I'm back.

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