Over the years I’ve done my fair share of Tokyo-based tours albeit usually on bicycle and all by myself. Not this time though as it was as part of a weekend event put on by the school that I work for. Communication Skill Up was the Japanese-English used on the flyers promoting the event which saw about 15 students from the Kanto area gather for two days of special English lessons and activities.
The first day consisted of 4 x 50 minute lessons and I was lucky in some ways to be teaching the upper-intermediate/advanced level students but, with the same materials provided for all levels, I needed to add a fair few extra activities to ensure the five students actually got something out of it.
The day finished with a buffet dinner which had been brought in by a catering company and included all kinds of Japanese and western delicacies for us to eat whilst mingling in a more laid-back setting to the classroom set-up.
Day two was thankfully a beautifully sunny day and, with the addition of a couple of extra teachers, we split into small groups of two or three students per teacher. It was to simply be a walk-and-talk kind of day with a focus on about eight deep historical bits which we had talked about in the lesson the day before. Many of these places were the kind of thing most of us would normally just rush past without even noticing so it was quite nice to actually take it leisurely.
Three of the first four spots related to a Dutch sailor called Jan Joosten who arrived in Japan in 1600 with Englishman William Adams. The Shogun liked them and they became samurai. Joosten married a Japanese woman and the Shogun gave him a house in Edo (the former name of Tokyo) and that area was eventually named after him albeit with typical butchered katakana pronunciation of his name.
Tokyo Station is a very beautiful station thanks to recent reconstruction of it’s exterior and the inside isn’t too bad either not that the majority of commuters passing through pay too much attention to it. If you look up inside the south dome you can see eight animals from the Chinese zodiac. Each animal represents a direction but for some reason the four principle directions (north, south, east, west) are missing.
Also in the station was a special tile that marks the spot where the tenth Prime Minister of Japan was killed in 1921 by a railway worker. The tile has a little white spot that is no doubt not noticed by most people as they hurry to the nearby ticket machines and/or gates to catch their trains.
We passed a giant tooth stone on the way to lunch at a restaurant called Nanko where we had the box set seen below.
After lunch we congregated at the statue of Kusunoki Masashige in Kokyo Gaien Park. He is fondly remembered as a brave and loyal samurai. Next to his statue is a kiosk that sells special gold ice cream which a few students splashed out on. After a few group photos we ventured on over to the most major of sights on this tour. Niju-bashi Bridge in the foreground of the Imperial Palace is a typical, classic shot of Tokyo that often features on postcards, book covers and so on.
One of the things we had to encourage students to do was talk to a foreign visitor or two to ask them a few questions about their experiences of Japan. Given how shy the Japanese can be, I was thinking I’d probably have to set-up some conversations and this spot was to be the prime place for talking to them…..or so I thought! It still was but I was quite surprised to see most of the students chat to some foreigners before we had even reached Tokyo station in the first 20 minutes or so of the tour! I was relieved that I didn’t have to intervene and they did me proud by talking to Finns, Germans, Norwegians, Australians, Brazilians and Koreans among others.
The tour continued on through Hibiya Park and on to Yurakucho but sadly the Sunday market meant we were physically unable to get to a sign telling the story of a rich landlord who accused a student of stealing the smell of his cooking whilst eating his own bowl of rice outside the landlord’s kitchen window!
Regular Tokyo Fox readers will probably be aware that Godzilla appears a fair bit and he makes a cameo appearance here too. This one was spotted near Yurakucho Station and was all part of promotion for some game centre I think. You can’t really see in this photo but his hands are clutching a placard advertisement.
The next batch of photos (below) are just of random shots I took throughout the day.
The final official stop on the field-trip was in Kyobashi and relating to a traditional Japanese form of theatre. Kabuki is a classical dance-drama but is something I’ve never bothered to watch. It may have been born in Kyoto but the first performance was in this part of Tokyo in 1624 and this stone commemorates it. Over the road from there was the Police Museum; a place I’d never heard of prior to this tour.
Back at the training centre there were a few activities to finish things off. The students had to choose one interesting photo to talk about briefly (what is was, where it was taken and why they liked it) in a mingle drill followed by group discussions in small groups to decide which photo was the most interesting and why. The other point talked about was the foreign visitors we spoke to and deciding who was the most interesting. The winner was a Mexican family on the basis that they were Mexican and very friendly!! Hard-hitting stuff!!
This final session was of course nothing too challenging but just a nice way to wrap things up and round off a couple of fun educational days away from my regular classrooms.
Click here to read ‘Big Red Bus Day’