Tag Archives: cool Japan

Local Mascots

Japan loves cute things. Hello Kitty? Yeah, that’s Japanese. Cute cartoon characters, both imported and homegrown, are really popular over here. Japan loves cute, and their term for cute – kawaii – is high praise. But because kawaii is so popular, it is sometimes applied to multiple things.

One of the things it is applied to is depictions of devils. Here, for example, is a local icon. There are actually three of these located in the area. This one is in the train station. It’s title is “Oningyousama” which roughly translated means, “Mr. Doll.”

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Personally, I find the thing to be downright creepy, like a gargoyle or something.

Mascots are huge in Japan. Not just for sports teams. Cities and prefectures have their own mascots as well. A few decades ago a nearby town decided to build a tourist area around the stag beetles that are so common in this area. Not only did they build a park to see the beetles, but a hotel and a set of roller coasters as well. And, of course, they came up with a cute mascot: a giant stag beetle.

Last weekend I went and cheered at a local road race. To my utter surprise, the mascot was there, running the 3 kilometer race. How that person managed to go the whole way in such a gangly costume I’ll never know. But there it was, running along. Smiling, as always.

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Monday was one of those days here in Muddville. The ninth grade English teacher, Mr. Sato, slunk in in the morning and said, “Today I have no motivation.” He coaches the baseball team and they had lost both of their games on Sunday. To avoid having to teach a full class, he showed the students “The Making of ‘We Are The World.'” It was either going to be that or a compilation of ABBA’s music videos. The seventh and eighth grade English teacher seemed cheerful enough. On the way downstairs after class, however, she commented that two girls we had just passed in the hall were tired because they are on the basketball team and extra practices had been held last weekend. And sports day had been held last week, basically an all day track meet. The girls were physically exhausted, and it showed. We walked in to the teacher’s room to find Mr. Sato trying to make coffee. The office lady, Mrs. Honda, saw him and rushed over, apologizing profusely. “Do you need your caffeine?” I teased Mr. Sato. He smiled. “Yes. My caffeine and my nicotene.”

For my part, I was tired too. Friday night for a coworker’s birthday we had gone to Round One. Round One is a delightful company in
Japan. It is like Chuck E Cheese for grown ups, or Dave and Buster’s on crack. The first floor has a bunch of gambling machines. The second floor has the check in area. The third has conventional bowling. But the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors, oh my! A flat fee gets you in for a certain amount of time and within that time span you can do as many activities as you like. The fourth floor has arcade games, table tennis, darts, and a skating rink. The fifth floor has miniature bowling, karaoke, a mechanical bull, and a spa area. The sixth floor has batting cages, archery, putt-putt, golf practice, and small courts for basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and volleyball. Usually it closes by 11 and opens at 6. But on Friday and Saturday nights the complex is open all night. Anyone who arrives after 9 just pays the two hour price as long as they leave by 6. So that is what we did. Because there aren’t a ton of people there at 2 in the morning, we also could bend some of the rules. You’re only supposed to play that arcade game once before moving on? Play it twice, no one is waiting. The badminton court we’re only supposed to stay on for 10 minutes at a time? 40 minutes later we finally depart. This sounds crazy, but even though we were there for seven hours, we still ran out of time. None of us got to do all of the things we wanted to do. There is that much going on.

Anyway, we dragged ourselves out by 5, caught an early train, and slipped into our apartments. I was in bed by 6:15, slept until 11:10, woke up, and went to bed by 9:30. Sunday morning I slept until 8:30, and that night I was in bed by 10:20. Monday morning my alarm was set for 6, but when I awoke I changed it to 6:35 and went back to sleep. If you calculate it up, there is enough sleep there. It averaged to 8 hours a night. But I was still tired. I loved our time at Round One, but I basically worked out for at least six of the seven hours I was there. And the one hour of “not working out” was spent singing at the top of my lungs. My arms were incredibly sore, which serves me right for doing batting cages, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, and pitching games in the same night. Still, I was recovering, and was doing fine until ten minutes before first period. That is when wave of dizziness hit.

I was my usual, chipper self. Except when I had to pause for a moment. But it seemed to be okay, for everyone was moving a little
slower too.

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The Fire Drill

Last week the junior high I teach at had a fire drill. 

I’m going to assume everyone reading this blog has a grid for what a typical fire drill entails. If the reader doesn’t, it usually is just making sure everyone exits in an orderly and safe fashion.

Here is what is different about Japanese fire drills (vs. U.S. ones):

1. The students changed their shoes on the way out. – Yes, Japanese take their shoes off when they enter houses. They also do it when they enter select businesses (schools and hospitals, yes. Traditional restaurants, yes. Most other stores, no). Since this was a planned drill, the students all collected their outdoor shoes from the cubby holes a few minutes before, then changed on the way out. I asked my co-teacher and he said in a real drill they would just go outside in their indoor shoes.

2. Once the students exited the building, they ran to the designated gathering point. My teachers always yelled at us if we broke into a jog. Here, it was expected. Not a full out sprint, but a rapid jog. Like storm troopers on a mission. 

3. They all wore caps – I knew about the shoes thing. My sister had told me about it years ago when she was a teacher in Japan. But this year, for the first time, I noticed the caps. Japanese students have caps that they wear during their daily cleaning time. Apparently they also wear them during fire drills. What I want to know is whether they would all reach for their caps in the case of a real fire. 

4. And they all held handkerchiefs – As far as I could gather, this was to have something to cover their mouths with to prevent smoke inhalation. Makes sense. But what if you don’t have the handkerchief with you? Do you dig through your bag to find it before exiting? So many questions…

5. They actually practiced putting out fires. It wasn’t a real fire, but the firemen who had come to observe the drill gave a short lecture and then about twenty students took turns taking the pin out of a fire extinguisher and aiming it at the fire. They used real extinguishers but filled them with water which was aimed at an orange pylon. This part I really like. I’m 30 years old and I’ve been shown how to use an extinguisher, but never having actually used it, I sometimes wonder if I would botch the whole operation in a panicky moment. Here they practice. I say, Good show!

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