Went on a trip to Kyoto on Sunday with the Kansai Gaidai Photography Club. If you know the scene in Help! where the Beatles get off the plane with cameras and snap pictures of each other non-stop, it was like that at times as we turned our cameras on each other. Most of the time though we had nice scenery around Higashiyama to shoot. We wandered through the old streets and ended up at Kiyomizu-dera temple. It was odd to think that the last time I’d been up there was in my first week here. Things seemed to have gone full-circle.
Going out with the Photography Club gave me an insight into a bit of Japanese culture that I’ve (sadly) not experienced much of – socialising in organised groups. In the evening we headed back to Hirakata for a big welcome party (The Japanese students’ academic year started recently). After lots of organised toasts, we sat down and proceeded to eat and drink a lot. A lot. I was not the freshest person when I left Sem House 4 the following morning to join a field trip to the Osaka courthouse.
What could make my hangover worse, you could well ask. How about one of those ultra-nationalist sound trucks that scream far-right rants through their loudspeakers at amazingly loud volumes? Coming right up! This one was quite small by their usual standards (manned by one man with a microphone and a big grudge), but easily the loudest one I’ve encountered so far.
Court proceedings were very hard to understand – I only got a few words here and there, and probably wouldn’t have done any better if I’d been running at full (non-hungover) power. Fortunately, someone with us was very good at Japanese and managed to give us a precis of the case. The Japanese court system is inquisitorial rather than adverserial as in Britain and the U.S., so the judges take a more active role in the case.
I probably would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t been a) hungover, and b) trapped with some of the most annoying students ever. The “I don’t care” girl was in my group, and was whining about how we couldn’t get into the big murder trial downstairs, because it was full and they were issuing tickets to allow people in. Apparently it hadn’t crossed her mind that you don’t have consumer rights when you’re watching a trial.
The trip was organised by the professor who teaches our International Negotiation class, and afterwards he took us to an underground food court in one of the big department stores. I love these places, because they have lovely-looking food, but everything’s far too expensive for me. Our professor then took us to a couple of bars, fetching up in a nice establishment with a good atmosphere and a selection of beers from all over the world. By that time there was only a small group, and we got talking to two Japanese girls and a fellow Brit who was travelling around the world. We also ended up doing purikura. These are photobooths where you take photos of you and your friends, customise them and print them out on little strips, a very popular pastime for teenage girls in Japan. We look slightly the worse for wear in all our pictures, and my cheeky grin is definitely cause for concern.
It was a fun night – just like the photography club social the night before, I met some cool people, and did more chatting in Japanese than I have for a long time. It comes back to something I wrote back in September (full-circle again, see?) about language for me being worth it when I get to use it outside the classroom. I will honestly say that the Japanese conversations I’ve had over the past couple of days have been more useful for me than learning about the Accusative-Passive in our duller-than-dull Spoken Japanese lesson today. Having been out drinking two nights in a row, I was too tired to seem interested. From here on out, a relaxed Golden Week looks more and more appealing.