The Life of Jim (YOSHIDA Shoin IPF)

I am from Australia - a teacher in Japan. My hero, the revolutionary YOSHIDA Shoin.

Entry No. 32

2006-11-06 01:55:42 | Weblog
This continues the Tale begun in Blog Entry No. 28.

Entry No. 31

2006-11-05 18:49:54 | Weblog
This entry continues the tale begun in Blog Entry No. 28

On Tuesday, the 17th of October, having no classes until the late afternoon on that day, I decided to go back up to Yuya and search out Towa's grave. It was somewhere near the Shrine, I believed. I travelled up via Akiragi, in Hagi, where I had some other matters to attend to - to find out the name 「中沢たかかず」and address 「754-0411萩市大字明木」of a 76 year old man I had earlier photographed and "conversed" with (he was deaf/mute) as he repaired the thatch on his vroof - a true rarity in these early 21st century times. I wanted to send him copies of the photos! And I wanted to leave a small gift with other friends in the same town with whom I had dined unexpectedly two nights before: MATSUDA Toshio 「松田俊男」and his wife Yoshie 「芳江」and his 86 year old father. Toshio I first met a year ago at the autumn festival of Nakatsuse Shrine in Ube, where he played various kinds of flutes. He is in fact a fine performer on the shakuhachi. He it was who sent me tickets to see the film "Futou-Fukutsu", about which I explained above. These matters taken care of, I drove on to Nagato-City and Yuya and out to Hiyoshi Shrine above Kawashiri. There was no one there. I took my time angling shots with my camera and then walking down the narrow road a few hundred metres until the vista opened out to some glorious scenes of terraced rice fields with round thatched-roof shaped hay-stacks above the beautiful blue of the Sea of Japan down below. Okay. So, now, where might this grave lie. Driving up out of the Shrine setting and across the intersection I went down the opposite road a kilometre or so to a point overlooking Yuya Bay. There were some houses, a byre housing some black wagyu cattle and some workmen relaxing in their cars during their lunch hour. I parked. One man stirred as I approached his car so I asked if he knew anything about the grave of a 19th century woman called Towa. No, but he then alighted from his vehicle and went to one of the other cars - his boss, I suspected! This man, Mr SEKITANI Magoji「関谷孫次」heard my question out and replied, "'Reppu' Towa?" (Aah, I thought, so that's her title!) Yes, that's her I said. Her grave? Yes, her grave, I think it's somewhere near here, I added. He made a 'phone call on his cell-phone to a NAKAHARA Hiroshi「中原寛」- it seemed that his mother knew the location of the grave, but, she was out at that point. I was given the 'phone number to call in my own time to learn the location of the grave. And by now it was time to head back south to be ready to teach my late afternoon class!

Most week-day evenings of this period I was reporting on my discoveries, about my journeys north to the Sea of Japan coast, to my sushi chef mate, FUJIMOTO Etsuo. His great restaurant, "Kaisendonya" 「海鮮問屋」lies only about 300 metres from my front door. He speaks amazingly good English, especially given the fact that he spent only about eight or nine months in Vermont in the US when he was in his late 20s, some 20 years ago. Occasionally I would seek some assistance from him concerning the meaning of a passage or phrase. On one of those evenings he'd provided me a rough translation of one of the stories I'd printed off the Internet - an interesting twist on the full story as written by Shoin - as though heard third or fourth hand - by a writer of some of Japan's hidden stories, YAGIRI Tomeo「八止夫」(1914-1987). Well, now I wanted it in perfect detail and Yoshi (MASUDA Yoshiyuki) again kindly agreed to be my informant as I wrested the meaning from the Japanese. It diverged in truly major ways though some points converged. For example, the murderer was KAREKI Ryunoshin (the same name) but in this tale he was a villainous vagabond who had cased the fact that Towa and her husband Kokichi had four teenaged daughters, aged 18, 17, 15 and 14. [Keep in mind that Towa herself was only 23 at the time of the true murders, in 1821.] Anyway, this criminal entered the home and immediately slew Kokichi and HIS parents, then raped the four daughters. An amazing feat in itself, perhaps, but having sexually violated them, he decided that he might as well dispose of them too. And so they, too, were slaughtered, this the scene to greet Towa when she returned home from her errands. Following this she was to spend ten years seeking the murderer to exact revenge. Having done so she went to visit Shoin and stay at "Shokason-Juku". Shoin listened to her story and wrote about her. At this point, according to this story, and representing all the students of the school, TAKASUGI Shinsaku and KUSAKA Genzui approached Shoin, requesting that he insist Towa leave, her low caste status presence fouling the school, which would require purification in any case. YAGIRI's version has Shoin facing them down, insisting that the law creating her caste status was the thinking of a man, TOKUGAWA Tsunayoshi. Their aim, he is said to have cried, should be to overthrow the Tokugawa Bakufu system and bring about the equality of all people, "Shimin-Byoudou"「市民平等」! Following this declaration, he took some ointment and, in a very Christ-like action, personally applied it to the bruised and damaged feet that Towa had suffered from in her shoeless wandering over the mountain passes and countryside of Japan in search of the murderer. For this act, he was sent to Noyama Prison for a month. That's the essence of the YAGIRI version. It's interesting that the one month the story says he spent in prison actually fits the period of time that Shoin closed "Shokason-Juku" in order to research and write both the Memorial inscription (as can be seen to-day in front of Takibe Hachiman Shrine) and the lengthier book of Towa's story, "Tozoku-Shimatsu"「討賊始末」in the July of 1857! And in the real story, Towa visits Shoin at his invitation in the September, staying overnight in the SUGI Family home!

It is inevitable that some inconsistencies appear within memories and written records over a period of time - and I have noted quite a number already in my research for this story - that's human and to be expected but the YAGIRI story is quite bizarre, even if the heart of it may reflect Shoin's feelings for equality of all human beings - within Japan and outside, too.

On Thursday the 19th of October, having printed up the YAGIRI version of Towa and Shoin, by chance I happened to be at home when the 'phone rang. It was Mr SEKITANI from Yuya. It was to let me know that he'd been in contact with a Mr UENO Kazuo 「上の和雄」「759-4502長門市油谷久富1559」
the former Head of the local Yuya Board of Eucation. It seemed that Towa's grave lay immediately behind the UENO family grave site. I should contact Mr UENO on the 'phone number provided by Mr SEKITANI. How extraordinary! Then again, that night, another 'phone call from Mr SEKITANI. He was sending me by fax (to my university) a page from a Yuya history which was all about Towa! Such kindness and thoughtfulness! At my Doctors class that evening at the Medical University, OKADA Seigo "Bobby" had brought along something he'd printed off from the Internet which mentioned Towa. At home I had a copy of the same article, I later realised. And the following week another member of the same group, Dr YOSHINO Shigefumi, brought along almost exactly the same article, which he'd also printed off for me.

On Friday October 20th I went directly to the University front office to retrieve the fax, waiting for me as promised by Mr SEKITANI. And that evening I visited my local bookshop to purchase a detailed atlas of Yamaguchi-ken - so detailed that I would be able to find my way, I hoped, to Mr UENO - planning, if it were agreeable with him, to go up on the Sunday. But I had to make the 'phone call first. And there is still a vestige of the fear that always gripped me in my early days here when the 'phone rang that it would not be an English speaker. Excruciating it was! I'm way beyond that now I know, yet still a kind of anxiety lingers when I have to contact someone new by telephone.

On Saturday October 21st in mid-morning I made the phone call to Mr UENO. He understood who I was but had to cut our call short as he was departing by bus to a wedding. He asked me to call him back that evening. Two or three Saturdays a month I enjoy a conversation class AND lunch with a Research Professor at the Medical Faculty of Yamaguchi University, Dr YAMADA Yasue. She encourages my interest in Japanese cultural historical matters by explaining to me rather difficult concepts, translating various articles, pages from books and so forth. She was very interested in the Fax from Mr SEKITANI. It explained that the brush stroke copy I had of "Towa", written by Towa, in hiragana 「とわ」(which I had been given by MATSUDA Teruo-sensei) had actually been guided by Shoin's own hand holding hers. Also that her posthumous Buddhist name (Kaimyo) was "Shaku-Myou-Kan-Shin-Nyo" 「釈妙歓信女」. She had died in Hisadomi on January 3rd of 1871. It also explained which members of her family had been murdered by KAREKI Ryunoshin, who, in hiding at Hikosan「英彦山」in Kyushu, had changed his name to SATAKE Oribe「佐竹織部」. And there were two Hiyoshi Shrines - the one at Kawashiri and another at Kadoyama (I'd originally thought it was Tsunoyama) which had been the responsibility to care for by Towa and her husband Kokichi in their capacity as "Miyaban"! And finally, that in 1916, the same year as the Memorial Stone was set up in Takibe, another was erected in a local temple, "Jo-sen-ji" 「浄泉寺」。It was good to be armed with all this detail before heading up to Yuya!

So that night I gave Mr UENO a call. When he started to give me directions I told him I had an atlas and that I could see what I assumed was his nearby station, Hitomaru Eki「人丸駅」! Okay, he replied. Let's meet there - 8.00am the appointed time! Exchanging details of our cars, we ended the call! Phew! I could do it!

To be continued in Blog 32

Entry No 30

2006-11-05 00:20:25 | Weblog
I took photos of the Reppu Towa Memorial Stone at Takibe Hachiman Shrine (both the front - the inscription written by YOSHIDA Shoin - and the back) as well as the smaller Memorial Stone alongside describing how it had been erected in 1916 (大正16年) though very difficult to read - weathered and moss infected. I also focused my camera on the Noticeboard with its detailed explanation, so that I might later better know this history by getting some friends to read it to me. Then I checked with a chap pruning trees nearby as to the best route to Yuya to continue my exploration of sites associated with Towa. Well, there were two routes, it seemed, a shortcut or via Kottoi, though not much between them,in fact! I thanked him for his advice and opted for the Kottoi route. This took me within about ten minutes to the sight of Tsunoshima, the island on which stands a lighthouse, opened in March, 1876, built by an engineer from the Stevenson Lighthouse Engineering firm of Robert Louis STEVENSON's father and uncle. This firm had been awarded a contract to construct western-style lighthouses around the dangerous coastline of Japan as part of Japan's commitment to modernisation. In 1878, MASAKI Taizo, one of the last of the students to join Shoin's school, "Shokason-Juku", in Hagi, in the UK to advise young Japanese students studying there, as well as to recruit foreign teachers for Japan's developing tertiary institutions, was interviewed by a young Robert Louis STEVENSON about his teacher, YOSHIDA Shoin, later to be published in a book of sketches of significant figures from around the world! My route took me along the coastal highway, Route 191, overlooking the Sea of Japan until reaching the beautiful wide Yuya Bay, then looking across it to the Kawashiri Peninsula on my left as I drove along! This was my destination. Leaving Route 191 I headed towards Kawashiri. This was where I would search for the Hiyoshi Shrine which Towa and her husband had performed their "Miyaban" caste protection work. At first I stopped at Big Beach. There was a sizable swell and quite a number of surfers around their cars in the carpark who seemed to be packing up after a good day's surfing ready to return home! Then I drove into the little port town of Kawashiri (an old whaling town I will later). It was my first time to come to this point. I'd only before ever looked down onto it over the terraced rice fields which fall steeply down to the sea from the heights of the ridge above (and are counted among the best 100 such rice terraces in Japan). It seemed that I might have to turn around until my car sensed its way forward and up the narrowest of roads I've ever driven on, rising high above the town! By this time I was praying that I would not meet another car - there was no where for passing that I could detect! And then, at last, the road widened! I stopped and got out to take some photos of the rice terraces and the Sea of Japan vistas. Some people came walking along and I engaged them in conversation - they were able to advise me how to reach Hiyoshi Shrine. And within about five minutes I'd found the side-road leading to the Shrine. The Priest, Mr MIYAZAKI, who had suffered a stroke which affected both his speech and his mobility, was nonetheless able to advise me on how to reach Ushirobata (the Kadoyama Hiyoshi Shrine had served that part of the coast - though I wasn't absolutely certain then on how it was connected to the story I was pursuing). He gave me a fairly vague tourist brochure and sketchy map, in any case, and I proceeded to take some photos of the Kawashiri Hiyoshi Shrine - a wooded glade - very pretty in this late afternoon setting! The priest's wife was just finishing cleaning buildings and grounds in preparation for a festival to be held two days later - or maybe they were both loth to leave while the foreigner wandered around, taking photographs - maybe she was being busy on things already completed. Sensing an element of concern (they had appeared to be on the point of departure as I drove in) I soon made my farewell, but determined to come back again. In any case I was able to follow Mr MIYAZAKI's directions and soon found myself above Tateishi (two huge rocky outcrops in the sea by the port) below the rice terraces of Ushirobata. The rice harvest, which was well underway, and a field of cosmos both invited my photographer's eye. And then the sun was gone. Time to return home. It had been an exciting afternoon even though there seemed to be more questions than ever about Towa and where she had lived, etc.

Tuesday October 10th, I showed the photograph of the sign explaining about 'Reppu' Towa, in front of Takibe Hachiman Shrine to my three Ube City Hall conversation class members, NAKANO Yoshikazu, YOSHIMATSU Sakae and HASHIMOTO Yoshiko and they helped me to a rough translation. After returning home that night, I was joined by a friend, MASUDA Yoshiyuki「益田義之」who helped me to translate the lengthy article I'd downloaded from the Internet (and to which I referred at the beginning of Entry No. 29! This was not an easy task but Yoshi was determined to complete it and he returned the next three nights till we had done it! Yoshi was at Ube Fuzoku Middle School in 1995, 3rd Year, when I was teaching 1st and 2nd Year! We had occasionally exchanged greetings in the stairwell, it seems. At the end of that year he headed off to England and undertook studies at Bedford School. (I've just been reading that Professor WILLIAMSON, with whom the Choshu Five (all of them Shoin's students at one or other of his teaching sites - 「明倫間・杉家・松下村塾」) stayed while studying at University College, London from 1863, took two of them, YAMAO Yozo 「山尾庸三」and INOUE Masaru「井上勝」, on a field trip to examine industrial and agricultural machinery in Bedford, in 1866, where they were welcomed by the Mayor and his Deputy! While Yoshi was in Bedford, he played Rugby and chummed up with two other Japanese exchange students, brothers, sons of the noted Japanese actor, TAKITA Sakae「滝田栄」, recent star of a film (called "Futou-Fukutsu" or 「不撓不屈」) dealing with the true story of a Taxation Accountant whose incorruptibility helped transform the taxation accounting systems of Japan.

On Saturday, October 14th I worked on transforming the notes I had taken of the translation of "Tozoku-Shimatsu" into a readable and reasonably clear English language version.

On Sunday, October 15th, I went to Rikadai to print off this translated version of the story and then, having already telephoned MATSUDA Teruo-sensei, drove up to Hagi to meet with him and discuss further my work on this particular story of 'Reppu' Towa. He was waiting for me at Shoin Shrine when I arrived. He lives only about 300 metres from the Shrine itself. He led me into the Volunteer Guides office then took me greet the Priest of Shoin Shrine, UEDA Toshinari 「上田俊成宮司」. In fact we had met once before, almost two years back, when I was with an Australian friend Dave LATZ (from Brisbane, several years working for Nova in Fukushima-ken, then three years as an ALT in Onoda). We'd met as judges on the Onoda/Redcliffe Sister-City Middle School Speech Contest judges panel in early 2004. At the Shrine we'd met UEDA-sensei and I had told him about the Yoshida Shoin International Paedagogical Fellowship 「吉田松陰国際教育協会」I had established back in the July of that same year. I had given him a Fellowship membership pack, containing an article/speech, in Japanese, explaining my respect for YOSHIDA Shoin! He remembered me. We had some tea. He asked me about myself and I had the opportunity to speak more about The Shoin Fellowship, too! He was preparing for the special ceremony to mark the anniversary of Shoin's execution on October 27 (1859) and invited me to the ceremony. Alas, I explained, I have three classes that day at Rikadai. But next year the anniversary will fall on a week-end day. I will be there, then, I promised! He sought some advice from MATSUDA-sensei, then we two excused ourselves and returned to the Guides Room, where we enjoyed a lengthy conversation. I guess I could properly follow only about 50% of our conversation, though, and I wished I had had any friend with me fluent in both languages to make uncertainties of understanding perfectly clear. At any rate I learned that as a lad (born in 1925) he had prayed every morning at Shoin Jinja, before heading off to school, because his mother (from Tokuyama) had told him how great this teacher was! His grand-mother had had a letter from Shoin's sister, Chiyo (who lived till nearly 100 years of age), still now in his possession. He mentioned that the Imperial Forces Academy 「陸軍士官学校」in Tokyo, if I understood him clearly, during those wartime days, used Shoin as a kind of militarist symbol to encourage young people to believe that it was right and proper to want to die for their country - a huge distortion of the YOSHIDA Shoin (revolutionary teacher though he certainly was) we study about in the Sho-Fu-Kai 「松風会」from his writing and other historical records. When he began teaching in the early post-war era, he was appointed to one of the toughest schools in the Kobe area, because, as he said, he had no network of seniors there to look out for him. He spent ten years at Nishinomiya, teaching the children of people who were untouchable caste descendants of those had suffered severe discrimination simply because of their classification, especially during (but also beyond) the Edo Era! In 1951, the "Human Shoin"「人間松陰」made his appearance. All human beings are different. We should treat our students as human beings! During the time with MATSUDA-sensei it became clear to me that Towa's grave existed in Yuya - and I determined to try and find it. It was time to say good-bye. I got some omiyage from the shop and then from MATSUDA-sensei, for myself! He is incorrigible!

To be continued in Entry No 31

Entry No 29

2006-10-29 20:04:18 | Weblog
N.B. Entries 28 - 30 are a continuing tale.

On September 30th, the Shoin Study Group had its 2nd meeting for the current course (which runs from July 22nd this year till January 26th, 2008) in Yamaguchi-City. The first lecture (though scheduled for the afternoon) came from Mr Indefatigable「疲れ知らない様」himself - MATSUDA Teruo 「松田輝夫」. It was titled: "YOSHIDA Shoin and Two Women" 「吉田松陰と二人の女性」. The lecture included references to Shoin's positive attitudes about the importance of education for girls (they needed a good education since they would be the first and most crucial point of education for their children) and his comments about Ainu people whom had he met, early in 1852, on his journey to Tappi-Misaki「竜飛岬」(Flying Dragon Point)in the far north-west of Japan (present-day Aomori-ken). Shoin reported that they were human beings, who lived lives like ordinary Japanese people, strongly countering the standard prejudicial and discriminatory descriptions of his age. The lecture also touched on a woman of samurai class, TAKASU Hisako「高須久子」, (1818-1887) who was in the Choshu Clan Prison, Noyama-Goku「野山獄」, at the same time as Shoin was incarcerated there (upon his arrival following his despatch from Edo at the end of 1854) after his failed attempt in the March to depart Japan with Commodore Matthew Galbraith PERRY on his ship, the "Powhatan". It would seem that TAKASU had sympathies with members of the untouchable castes and had thereby merited a term in the clan prison. Certainly her circumstances and thinking would have been known to Shoin from their shared time in the prison (only a dozen inmates) - and, along with his already established sympathies for the underdog, it would have surely played an important part in his attitude and later involvement in the tale of "Reppu" Towa, from July, 1857.

At any rate, I found it very difficult to follow the tale of "Reppu" Towa, as it unfolded from MATSUDA-sensei's presentation. (The document/extract was taken from Book 10 - included in the 'Selected Works of YOSHIDA Shoin' on page 563, dated July 16, 1857.) For a start, the document we were reading was written in an archaic form of Japanese. MATSUDA-sensei's explanations were extensive but these, too, were too complex for me to understand. Certainly I knew that this was the woman about whom I had read in SHIMA Yukiko's thesis but the details were all flying well clear of my comprehension level. It was frustrating. But all was not lost. I was that day with two friends. One was EMA Takeshi, a businessman from Osaka. He usually stays overnight with me the night before our study days. He's the current PTA Chairperson of Ikeda Fuzoku (Attached) Primary School - his only child, a daughter, currently in Year 6. He doesn't speak much English but he's rather good at explaining things to me in alternative Japanese terms so that I can generally expect to catch the gist of a subject. And then, too, I was with Professor KANO Makoto, newly arrived here in Yamaguchi-ken this year at my university - a special task transfer from the mother campus at Kagurazaka in Tokyo. During our visit later that afternoon to the beautiful mid-15th century garden of the temple called Joei-ji, still in Yamaguchi-City, designed by the Priest Sesshu, I asked him if he would help me to an understanding of the document. And so, later, dining at "Paysan", the best Italian Restaurant in Western Japan, Professor KANO translated and I scribbled meanings of words across my copy of the Shoin document.

On Sunday, October 1st (the next day) I wrote up on my PC a neat version of this rough translation. This exercise, however, provoked further questions in my head about the sequence of events and the relationship of the various "players" in Towa's story - and it is the solving of those questions that I want to describe from this point onwards! At the same time I wish to pay tribute to my many friends who have played significant roles in helping me make sense of this story - whether by translating phrases or parts of documents and lengthy articles, providing me with maps, insights, introducing me to people and/or in person guiding me to various places associated with "Reppu" Towa.

On Tuesday October 3rd, I downloaded and printed out a number of articles which appeared when I entered the linked names, Shoin & Towa (「松陰と登波」) on the Internet search. One was titled "'Tozoku-shimatsu'towa?" (「討賊始末」とは?). This is the title of the lengthy book version of Towa's life story that Shoin wrote after preparing an inscription for her memorial stone monument - with a slight pun on the pronuciation of her name in the question! This article was a legthy re-telling of Reppu Towa's story, along with lots of specific details. My interest was definitely aroused. But who put this article together I have no idea as I write now - the website, however, is as follows: And copyright is to 萩路・旅帳. It would be nice to make contact with whoever wrote this because their sensitivity to the issues of injustice accords with my own and I would like to be able to say that there is now an English-language translation!

On Wednesday October 4th, I visited my Shinto Priest friend, MARUMO Yuji 「丸茂雄治宮司」in his office at Suijin-sama 「水神さま~中津瀬神社」! I told him a little about my study day and my interest in the story of Reppu Towa. When I showed him the document which referred to a place on Kawashiri Point in what was formerly Yuya-Town, now amalgamated into Nagaoto-City he pulled up a map on the Internet and pointed out that he had in fact been born in Yuya, though spending his childhood in Senzaki, the port side of Nagato-City (from where also hailed the early 20th century poet KANAKO Misuzu April 11, 1903 - March 10, 1930). We searched the map and found several of the references from the Shoin document and other reports I'd downloaded from the Internet and that the monument in Reppu Towa's memory was to be found at the Hachiman Shrine in Takibe 「滝部」, also noting that Towa had passed away in 1871 aged 73.

The following Sunday was October 8th. In the morning I drove to Hofu, showing Hofu Tenmangu「防府天満宮」& Suo Kokubun-ji「周防國分寺」and, in Yamaguchi-City, Narutaki, a waterfall, to a friend on the staff at Rikadai, Professor TAKATO Koki. He spent some time on a post-doc research fellowship at the University of Hull in England, living close by to the beautiful mediaeval town of Bevereley. A distant English cousin, the Revd. Aelfric C RUTHVEN-MURTRAY [1880-1949] from the Scottish side of my family, was the Vicar of Bishop Burton for the final 25 years of his life. He was the fifth son of Sir James AH MURRAY, the writer/editor of the New English Dictionary later more famously known as the Oxford English Dictionary. Koki was happy because I was familiar with Beverley, having in fact wandered around its charming central Cathedral area with my wife one August afternoon in 1999. And another distant cousin in Australia, Joan MURRAY, had also once glowed because I was familiar with the town since her mother's ancestors were from there. In the afternoon, back home, I turned my car to the north-west, in virtually the opposite directiomn to Hofu, and, alone, drove to Takibe - about 90 minutes away through the pretty rural countryside, golden with fields of heavy-headed rice ready for the harvest, and, as I grew closer to Takibe, the waving colours of fields of cosmos, a special feature of this northern-most part of Shimonoseki-City. I'd never been to the village of Takibe before, though I'd passed close by so I knew it's location. It shouldn't be too difficult to find, the Hachiman Shrine, I reasoned to myself as I turned into the built-up centre. Spying a bus-stop I pulled into the space. It was next to a house with a window alongside. I called to the elderly woman at the window, seeking directions. She indicated a temple across some fields but when I explained the Hachiman Shrine was my objective she pointed further to the left, explaining I should turn right at the intersection, adding that it was not far at all. And her directions were perfect. Well, there was a Shrine over there. I turned down a very narrow road and pulled up next to the Shrine, alongside a wall. Getting out to check that it was the Hachiman Shrine I was seeking, I found myself staring up at the monument to 'Reppu'「烈婦」(=Woman of Courage) Towa!

Towa was the second daughter of Jinbei, the「宮番」"Miyaban" (lowest caste) or Shrine Guard, of this Shrine, in the late Edo Era of the early 19th century. Towa was born here, in Takibe, in 1798 or 1799. And it was here in late October of 1821 that Towa and her husband, Kokichi came. They were "The Miyaban" of two Hiyoshi Shrines in Yuya, one above Kawashiri「川尻」looking out over the sea of Japan, the other, a few kilometres distant, at Kadoyama「角山」overlooking Yuya Bay (which was where the great Japanese Admiral, TOGO Heihachiro [1846-1934], lay in wait for the Russian Baltic Fleet, vanquishing it in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905). Kokichi's sister, Matsu, was to hold talks concerning her divorce settlement, with her ex-husband, a ronin named KAKEHIRO Ryunoshin. Things did not go according to the script, alas, and during that evening something went awry and Ryunoshin killed his ex-wife, Matsu, as well as Towa's father, Jinbei, in whose house the discussions were taking place, and Jinbei's younger brother, Yusuke. It must have been either sudden madness or well-premeditated. And Towa's husband, Matsu's brother, Kokichi, suffered serious injuries. Because the authorities scarcely stirred themselves to pursue the perpetrator, since the victims were, in those class/caste defined times, seen as little more than "things" and were, in the hearing which followed, more-or-less blamed for provoking the attack, Towa resolved to seek justice on her own and, indeed, did so, once she'd nursed her husband back to health.

Entry No. 28

2006-10-27 14:26:32 | Weblog
It's been almost six months since my last Blog entry. Apologies to all those who have occasionally (loyally) visited in vain. It's been a busy time for me on many other fronts - in my teaching, my (Northern Hemisphere) summer back in Australia, with my wife - and in my continuing study of YOSHIDA Shoin!

(I have once again joined the 「松風会」the Shoin Study Group - now into its 7th round of lectures - yesterday, October the 28th was the third class in this course - held in Hagi. Most of the day was spent on a four-and-a-half hour bicycle ride around the city, to places associated with Shoin, led by our indefatigable teacher, MATSUDA Teruo, 81. His energy levels would shame many less than half his age. This tour followed a two-hour lecture he gave us in the mid-late morning.)

But what I want to write about much more seriously is Shoin's involvement in writing a memorial inscription, and a much lengthier book, about a remarkable woman of the lowest untouchable caste in Japan, in the Edo Era, 「烈婦登波」"Reppu" Towa, (1798-1871), whom he invited to meet him in Hagi and obviously, sincerely respected. It has much to say about human beings then but the resonance continuess with us still, in these parlous early 21st century times.

From the latter 1970s to the mid-1980s my teaching and studying was in the fields of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and cultural diversity. As you might well understand, these are meeting places for the issues of social discrimination and prejudice and so consequently, social justice issues are of utmost importance. (And I don't mean justice as "just us", as an uncle in the U.S. once suggested to me was the cynical US "reading" of the term - and this was before Bush & Cheney & Rumsfeld and Iraq!)

Many people imagine that history is in the long ago, and yes, in part, they are right. But the more important point to acknowledge is that we are living now in historic times; that what politicians are doing at this very time, plunging us into states of uncertainty and war and marginalising entire groups of peoples based on ethnic or class lines, is also history. When we read the past well we can also understand the dangers of the present. When we understand that the people of the past, outside of the technology with which we live now, were, in effect, the same kinds of people as we are, with the same kinds of passions and feelings, including for social equity and fairness, then we can the better read our current world and circumstances. If you believe that people of past ages or in different cultures were pitiable, superstitious creatures then you will probably believe anything said by people in positions of power when they attack particular races or sectors of society in the here and now. What I am trying to argue is that we should best try to assess all people from our own hearts and that if we do this we will see through the phoney outrage of those who would want us to wage wars against each other, to discriminate against each other.

Might I add at this point that I am not arguing from a remote, theoretical position. I was born and raised in an Anglo-cultural background in Australia. The religious faith within which I was raised was a fundamentalist U.S. based Protestant sect and from which I didn't disentangle myself until in my 20th year. I grew up with neighbours from Italy and the Netherlands and of Indigenous Australian, Chinese, German, English and Scottish backgrounds. Because of the district in which I lived, they ranged from the very ordinary to the very powerful. One was a first cousin to the British Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas HOME; another was the owner of six radio stations and the first television channel of our north-western region of New South Wales. We shared a birthday, which certainly raised the profile of my birthday presents. There were teachers, farmers, business people, technicians, timber millers and labourers. And we represented the broader spectrum of religious and political beliefs, too - not that these things were terribly noticeable to me as a child, however. Later I began to understand my own family history and the reasons for my particular existence. Within my family are in-laws and cousins representing the wider world including, apart from the UK, France, Germany, Austria, China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Maori New Zealand, Indigenous Australia, Nigeria, China, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Costa Rica, Trinidad... And I feel connected to all these places!

I first came across the name of YOSHIDA Shoin while on a Japanese homestay in early January of 1990. I had begun to study and teach Japanese at junior high level in Australia the preceding year and then, with a group of 16 teachers from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, I was part of a three-week study tour to Japan, including a ten day homestay in Yamaguchi-ken. Having ascertained that one of my deep interests lay in history, my hosts, whose family connections were to MURATA Seifu 「村田清風」and the MOHRI Lords of Choshu「長州の毛利殿」, took me to Hagi. It was all new to me; names, places, the historical references. YOSHIDA Shoin, a rather severe-looking samurai class teacher, and his tiny schoolhouse, "Shokason-Juku", and a wax-works diorama museum of his life, in which there was a reference to something I understood - the incident where Shoin and his companion, KANESHIGE Shigenosuke, rowed to Commodore Matthew Galbraith PERRY's flagship the "Powhatan", in late March of 1854, pleading, in vain, to be taken abroad; The MOHRI Lords and one of their two, stone lantern-filled cemeteries, at Toko-ji; the ruins of the old castle, Shizuki-jo, alongside Kiku-ga-hama beach. As I stated above - virtually none of this connected with my known world BUT it was a foundation. The notes I wrote at that time served as the basis for later accretions of knowledge and understanding which came as a result of my return to live and teach in Japan, from late March of 1995, to the very region of this teacher.

I am sometimes tempted to see the hand of Fate in what happens in my life, even knowing that we make our own fate, in a sense. Nevertheless, I started teaching at my university here 「山口東京理科大学」 in April of 1996. A year or so later a Japanese colleague and friend, SHIMA Yukiko 「島幸子」 began writing her PhD thesis and I had the pleasure of reading each section, written in English, as she completed it. One of those sections was about the teacher, YOSHIDA Shoin. For the first time I was able to read about him in English! Despite his eminence and fame and the respect accorded him from every level of life in this country, he remains virtually unkown outside the Japanese sphere. In the chapter I was reading I found outlined very clearly the educational philosophy and practice of Shoin: being proud of one's own hometown, whether insignificant in the grander scale or not, co-operative learning, no discrimination between classes, building confidence by predicting bright futures, encouraging discussion and research, modelling by his own manner or behaviour, teaching from Mencius 「孟子」that diligence and devotion are the basis of achieving success, teaching world history and advocating the study of foreign languages and travel & study abroad. He gave no tests but wrote letters to his students. He had even invited a woman of the untouchable caste to visit him at Shokason-Juku. I was amazed for truly here was a man after my own heart! For some twenty or more years I had been writing letters to my students, convinced that teacher expectation plays a huge role in the achievement of students, philosophically I had been opposed to the streaming and ranking practices of students and fundamentally opposed to examination practices, even though it had been the system I had myself passed through and then, in turn, inherited, as a secondary school teacher in Australia. The use of the term "diligence" was not exactly one of my own words, though a cousin in Scotland, James MURRAY, (aged 15, only seven years younger than Shoin) had writtenin 1852 in Latin, "Nothing is better than a most diligent life"! I have lived and stayed in many places in Australia, in Europe and in Japan. Wherever I have been, whether great and powerful or more humble and seemingly insignificant, I have uncovered much of historical importance or of natural beauty and uniqueness. And any discrimination based on ethnicity or class and caste is abhorrent to me. These reflective mirrors to the great teacher Shoin left me really excited.

I began to discuss these educational matters as practised by Shoin at various teacher seminars to which I was invited. My interest piqued, I began going back to Hagi. In other parts of Japan (such as Hirado, for example) I noted that Shoin had visited and I picked up on references to some of his many successful students including ITOH Hirobumi, YAMAGATA Aritomo, KIDO Koin (KATSURA Kogoro); and TAKASUGI Shinsaku.

In late 2003 and early 2004 a young Australian teacher and friend, Cameron DENT, working in the region for a major "juku"/cram school 「宇部進学教室」, became rather interested in my tales of YOSHIDA Shoin because Shoin was the symbolic figure within the structure of his "juku". In fact so interested was he that I began to think even more deeply myself, to the extent of establishing the Yoshida Shoin International Paedagogical Fellowship 「吉田松陰国際教育協会」by the July of 2004. Members, now numbering over 200, are from all walks of life, and represent some 14 countries to date. And in that same year, only a week or so after the launch of the Shoin Fellowship, I joined the Shoin "Pine Wind" study group:「松風会」 - to take my understanding of this revolutionary and teacher to a much deeper level!

This, then, is the setting for the tale I want to tell you about "Reppu" Towa. (Continued in Blog Entry No. 29)

Entry No. 27

2006-06-19 15:09:05 | Weblog
This Entry (and maybe the next) will be devoted to a brief summarisation of some of the key moments since the last lengthy and detailed entry back on April 24th.

April 25th: FUKUMA Riki, the first Rikadai student to whom I ever spoke in class (and he was a graduate of a junior high school in Matsue at which I taught during my exchange in early 1992 - in fact he was a student there in 3rd Year while I was teaching the 1st and 2nd Year students) calls my number at home to see who had 'phoned his cell-phone. I had thought he was in Osaka but no, just nearby in Onoda, managing the 2nd Street recycling store there! What a great surprise! And when he finished work later that night he called by for a cup of coffee!

April 26th: MARUMO Yuji, my Shinto priest mate, takes me up to "O-Tani Sanso" the grand onsen hotel at Yumoto in Nagato-City (Yuji's hometown). The hotsprings area is beautiful and we have it ourselves just after arriving as the few other guests head off to dinner. In the outside section, a light drizzle falling, we soak for some minutes in the cypress wooden bath. After dinner we enjoy a half-hour Mexican mariachi song bracket - lots of old favourites including "Cielito lindo" and "Guantanamera" (the latter nowadays suggestive of the injustice that the Bush regime in the US is visiting upon those whose natural resources it wishes to plunder - in the name of democracy, of course)!

April 30: I've been ill the past few days (more than likely imported "kai-bashira" I ate at the hotel a few nights earlier as part of a "sushi" plate) and MASUDA Yoshi has offered to drive me to Fukuoka Airport to collect Christine. I accept this offer. She's on time. That night we all meet up at the cinema for "V for Vendetta" - brilliant as an anti-Terror parody drawing on the Guy FAWKES tale for these parlous Bush-Blair times - (starring Natalie PORTMAN, John HURT and Hugo WEAVING)!

May 3rd: It's Golden Week - vacation time! Chris and head off to visit friends in Yonago (Tottori-ken). First stop is in Hamada, Shimane-ken, to see friend Eleaner KANE and her three children, Ren (whom we met at the hospital just after his birth, in Glasgow, now in Year 1 of primary School); his 4-year old sister Amy and 8 month-old sister Mai. Husband HINOHARA Tsuyoshi, a junior high school English teacher with just the nicest hint of a Scottish accent, calls in for lunch, too. Another old friend (from our days in Matsue) currently an ALT in Hamada, is Rose TANASUGARN, from the US - a graduate of Cornell. She calls by to say hello, as well. Rose's sister is the Number One Women's Tennis Champion of Thailand, Tamarine (Tammy) TANASUGARN.

It's a pleasant and easy drive up the Route 9 Sea of Japan coastal road until we strike Izumo-City which it takes about 75 minutes to pass through. There is no by-pass yet - as hideous for traffic as it ever was! Despite this, once we hit the expressway from Shinji and on through Matsue, we are at the home of Hideki and Yuki OKINA in Yonago-City within a further 45 minutes! Here we are joined by two other friends, Masae & Junko, for dinner!

May 4th: Chris and I find our way to the neatest, fullest, best arranged craft/sewing supplies shop possibly in all of Japan (the world?) and afterwards take coffees and cakes (make mine "wagashi" 「和菓子」) at "Libido" cakeshop, managed by one of my old 「松枝商業高等学校」Matsue Commercial High students (TACHIBANA Yoshiharu) - part of a chain of such cake shops run by his family (Tottori, Kurayoshi, Yonaga, Sakaiminato, Matsue and Izumo)! Yoshiharu is there and I am able to his master patissier older brother, Ryoichi. We drive up to Tottori Hana Kairo (Tottori Flower Corridor) and enjoy the displays of flowers as well as the fresh green leaves on the trees - with Daisen (rising up from the coast almost 1800 metres) some snow still visible on the summit, looming almost overhead! After this we drive back through Yonago and on to Sakaiminato to check out the MIZUKI Shigeru Road - a street lined with the bronze statues of a fantastic array of characters spawned in the brain of this writer cartoonist. The streets are jam-packed with fellow tourists. We head across to the Sea of Japan Port side/sailing area - and sit and read in the cooling afternoon breeze for an hour or so before heading back to Hideki and Yuki. Youngest son Kei is now at a dance school in Osaka - but home for a few days. He looks terrific - tall, brilliant hairstyle! Growing up, of course!

Entry No 26

2006-06-08 00:40:39 | Weblog
This entry is devoted to The Charter of Fellowship of the YSIPF for those who may wish to download it - and follow it up by applying for Membership!

Diligence 「勤勉」    Devotion 「専念」    Sincerity 「至誠」

          吉田松陰国際教育協会 - 2004



In the spirit of the great teacher YOSHIDA Shoin, I vow, to the best of my ability, to follow his educational philosophy and practices:

1. To always foster confidence in my students in their growing ability to understand and learn; (avoiding any public humiliation - even when it is a well-intended joke {unless against myself})

2. To be an active learner from and alongside my students, each of whom is a unique individual: (acknowledging that I do not know everything, that my students are experts on their own lives)

3. To promote co-operative learning - life and learning proceeds best from co-operation; (acknowledging that competitive practices among individuals work to the detriment of the whole)

4. To predict or prophesy or forecast positive and significant futures for my students; (painting scenarios that always glow with international contribution and personal satisfaction)

5. To understand that in my very behaviour and manner (without words) I teach my students; (realising that what I do has far more power than mere words to influence the students in my charge)

6. To believe that ALL peoples are equal under heaven - no matter their social caste or ethnicity; (ordinary people all over my planet hold hopes for the same kinds of peace, success & happiness)

7. To encourage my students to feel a sense of pride in their origins and hometowns; (never to feel a sense of inferiority to any other, and to know with justifiable pride their own place)

8. To evaluate my students with as much personal sensitivity and confidentiality as is possible; (employing written comments, returning reports in random arrangement, private counselling)

9. To always connect the things I am teaching to the world of my students and other subjects; (all learning, all human existence is connected - I will indicate how our world is, via maps, etc.)

10. To emphasise as best I can, the various historical influences shaping the world of my students; (acknowledging again that human existence is a constant flow of of influences, both to and from)

11. To encourage the learning of other languages and study, travel and work experience abroad; (recognising that though English is THE world language, study of other languages, especially Asian, is vital)

12. To reveal my own enthusiasm and passion for the pursuit of learning to my students; (encouraging them to maintain contact and information flow with me from beyond the classroom)

13. Above all, to evaluate my students according to the criteria of diligence and devotion or of idleness. (always encouraging and rewarding positive, active and continuing participation in my classes)

(755-0061 山口県宇部市若松町3-46) [綱豪・徳治郎] Jim KABLE [恵舞留・慈夢]

Entry No 25

2006-06-05 15:49:13 | Weblog
It's been so long since I last made an entry here that I scarcely know where to begin. One of my great students at Ube Kojo, OKAMOTO Yuta, keeps asking about when I'm going to write something. And one of his equally brilliant classmates, MORIWAKE Yuto, wants me to start introducing photographs into my blog entries a la one of their teachers, MR YOSHIMASA (recently married and honeymoon to Cairns in north Queensland, Australia) who is a photographic genius!

Unfortunately, earlier this morning, I suffered some rudeness from a small group of students in my First Year class at Ube Kojo, and so upset was I that I felt it warranted some discussion with their Home Room teacher - the aforementioned Mr YOSHIMASA. This is a University Prep. class but the attitude I have experienced over recent classes from this group has to be challenged to get them back on track. Some students enter senior high school with a surprising but welcome level of maturity, fostered by the very setting into which they have been admitted. But others, it seems, are still living out of their junior high school milieu - not yet prepared to assume the mantle of personal responsibility called for in high school. I have to encourage them to understand this as soon as I can - and I have to say that it is not easy. Imagine trying to evince concern and dispense words of wisdom in a language over which you might have limited control (as is the case for me with Japanese) to students not wanting to follow direction and who find it all too easy to simply giggle away with their friends and whenever I challenge them to simply reply "Wakarimasen" ("I don't understand.")! I look forward to the change of attitude I am certain that Mr YOSHIMASA will be able to bring about on my behalf! During the class I passed around three hard plastic cases enclosing photographs from my past, scenes of Australia and photographs I took when last in the UK about four years ago when I visited some cousins, Isabel and Alan FARROW, just outside Cambridge. They live in the house where the Revd Wilmer AWDRY wrote the first books in the "Thomas, the Tank Engine" series some 65 or so years ago. My cousins bought the place nearly 30 years ago. Erasmus, the early 16th century Humanist philosopher was invited to stay in an earlier structure on the same site during one of his visits to Cambridge as well, it seems. Whilst not the point of to-day's lesson - or indeed of any class around which I pass such matters - they are a part of my overall plan to stimulate as much as I can the thinking of my students and to lay plain their connectedness with our world. So you might imagine that I felt some pain as the group of troubled students passed these photographs on from one to the other with a mere cursory glance. Only one somewhat redeemed herself, when she realised that one of the photographs was to do with her favourite childhood character 「機関車トーマス」and loudly exclaimed so! She was the same girl on whose recent written report I had had to append a comment that ten minutes in class was not what I had intended as an appropriate allocation of time for that report. I had expected due thought and care at home - not a last minute hurried attempt in MY class time! (So many matters of courtesy, manners!)

At the same school I teach one senior 3rd Year Writing class which is NOT University Prep. although I imagine a number of them will enter university nonetheless. They are keen. Their hearts are not devious. They do as I ask. Which is to listen, to answer, to write. To laugh, too, of course! They practice English pronunciation with gusto and write down the stories I put up on the blackboard. To-day, before the other class about which I have written above, I was teaching this 3rd Year class and eliciting from them their tales of the past week-end. They each in turn gave me a brief outline, I wrote it up in English, they copied it down into their books. My step had been light when I walked away from that double lesson of 100 minutes. Little did I realise what lay in store for me, literally around the corner. But I know this disagreeable matter will be resolved, of course...

*******Up-date. It's Thursday June 8th. Mr YOSHIMASA has worked his magic! The three students have apologised to me for their behaviour on Monday. I have accepted their aplogies with hand-shakes. We are now back on course

Entry No. 24

2006-04-24 15:41:09 | Weblog
It is a week since I last made an entry - and I still plan to return and complete Entry No. 23 by discussing further some of the issues raised by Edward Ricardo BRAITHWAITE in his book, "Reluctant Neighbours".

However, this Entry will be a re-visiting of some events and incidents of the past week.

One of my 2nd Year students here at Rikadai, IKEMOTO Suguru, from Shimonoseki, last Monday gave me a present at our first class for this academic year. It was a tie printed with some seven major figures of the last days of the Edo Era - including that of my hero, YOSHIDA Shoin. It was a surprising yet thoughtful gesture! I put it on at once, around my polo-necked skivvy! Another lad, TAIRA Naoya, from the same class, had a folkcraft leaf-strip woven "snake" for me, which he had brought back from his spring vacation home visit to Okinawa. When the mouth of this "toy" is slipped over a finger, it proves impossible to pull off! (One learns to push further forward to release the grip.) Quite amazing!

That night I receive a 'phone call from friend Keiko OKAMOTO-SCHUCHERT, in Germany. Back in February her car slid in the snow on an Autobahn directly into the path of a truck. Miraculously uninjured, she was able to get a back door open and to escape the wreck of her beloved Nissan "Sunny". She's had a couple of bouts of pneumonia, it seems, and her heart is playing up - a leaky ventricle, I think. Come back soon, I said - Christine will be here from April 30 for five weeks! She promised to send me the German equivalents of Aussie chocolate Easter eggs: two Easter Rabbit biscuits and a Paschal Lamb cake arrived yesterday in the post! I've put them aside to share with Christine when she gets here on Sunday.

On Tuesday evening, after the last of my four classes at Rikadai, on my way home, I collected friend Sachiko DENT (just briefly back in Japan to get her Australian residency visa stamped in her passport) and we went to "Pacific Blue", a Thai restaurant within 150 metres of my house. Sach had her visa and was returning to Australia on Thursday - back to Armidale, where her husband Cameron is doing post-graduate studies at the University of New England (UNE) as well as some part-time teaching at The Armidale School (TAS). TAS has a link to "Calrossy", the Anglican Girls High School in Tamworth, at which my sister-in-law, Nelly KABLE, does some P/T teaching of French. As we chatted with restaurant owner, YAMANO Takako, it transpired that her husband, "Bob" Nopparat NAMPANYA, the chef, would be taking the same 'plane as Sach from Fukuoka Airport, for the first leg to Bangkok, where he was heading to visit family. Small world!

Next day, Wednesday, my SHINTO Priest mate, MARUMO Yuji, invites me to "Nonbe" for a fugu plate and "hire-zake" with friends SHIRAI Kyoko and husband. Later that night Yoshi calls around to "Neko-Yashiki" (my house)with Yoko IKEDA. We visit Etsuo at Kaisendonya for espressos! It seems Yoko will join the Shoin Fellowship! Yoko and I have been friends since we taught together at Fuzoku Junior High about nine years ago.

Friday turns out to be something of a surprise. My four classes at Rikadai are all enjoyable, though by the last I'm feeling quite weary, of course! Then I get to OHSHIMA for a reviving coffee. It's time for my class at Suijin-sama. Almost everyone is present BUT -there's no key to get into the meeting room! And Yuji and his wife are both out! After standing around for 10 minutes, we reluctantly agree to fold the class for tonight - it's too chilly to contemplate sitting around together outside!

When I go home I give Yoshi a call - he's had a welcome barbecue at his school and is just finishing up. It's nearby and he comes around. We go to a Yakitori-ya I don't think I've ever been to before, called "Daruma". It looks good as we walk in. The Master invites us to sit at the centre of the long counter rather than at the end. He looks at me and then says: "Jim KABLE"! Walking around Tokiwa Park - he adds for my benefit. And indeed not so long ago he has similarly greeted me at Ohshima Coffee shop. He's about four or five years my senior, his wife about the same age as me. The music they play is all from the 1960s. And Yoshi knows lots of the singers/songs as well! The food is good and the discussion on the horrors of war and the fools (politicians) who lead us into them, is passionately pursued!

Later I call on a friend, ITAGAKI Yoshiyuki. I've confused the time for his historic "tsuba" sword guard exhibition (in conjunction with Hagi-yaki potter HIRANO-san of Ube) - and missed it by a week-end. Sorry, Yoshi! He says it was a busy two days, and there were reports in many regional newspapers. Congratulations. He and his wife have a smallgoods business and work hard! He had some time (a month or two?) in the US when he was a student, I think, and his English remains good!

From here I drive to Suijin-sama to see Yuji. His wife tells me he's up in the meeting addressing a visiting group but that it would be no problem for me to go up. I do so. There are at least four people in the group whom I know, one very well. SASAKI Kyoko translated my Curriculum Vitae (C.V.) back in mid-1995 when I had decided to try and find a position in a Japanese university. I sat and listened to the group - a volunteer "cleaning" group (part of a national movement to show that dignity comes from performing service at the lowest possible denominator) to whom Yuji is giving a lecture on "ga-gaku" or old court music (a regular component of Shinto Shrine ceremonies in fact)! Discussion moves beyond this and I am still present when he receives messages from "o-kami-sama" for each person present - concerning ailments. The thing which most impresses me is that all of these messages are of advice and reassurance; there are no messages of darkness. Not one person denies the conditions he refers to - each face in turn one of amazement, hands touching the places/parts described. Later he and I go to Limoges for dinner together, before he heads off to another meeting (preparations for the Heian Era "Foxes Wedding and procession due to take place during Golden Week - when Christine and I will be away in Shimane-ken/Tottori-ken). Limoges has at least nine foreigners dining in it while we are there, including Dr Sue TURALE from the School of Nursing. I briefly greet her and her Canadian ALT friend before departing.

Doug rings up on Sunday morning. We'll meet up, he confirms some earlier e-mail exchanges. He calls around. It's a conversation on teaching (he's got some experiences at his new school, "Keishin", to think through) and some of the practicalities as well as the philosophy that underpins the thinking/experiences. I suggest later that we might go to Ejio Park in Onoda. The purple "mitsuba tsutsuji" is in full bloom right now, I have heard. He's happy to do that and off we go in his grand automobile. The conversation continues as we walk around the park and indulge in our photography passion. The "Three-leaf Azalea" is indeed in full bloom - and we are there so late in the afternoon that we have its marvellous vistas (there are said to be 50,000 of these azalea shrubs in this park) almost entirely to ourselves! Upon our return, it's too late for Doug to join his Aikido class. Instead he gives me a further shakuhachi lesson at home, plays some beautiful pieces of music on this instrument for me and then we adjourn to "Hakkenden" for dinner.

Later I speak to a mate of mine teaching at Yasugi Joho Kagaku (Science Information) Senior High. I'm ringing to see if there's a chance of Christine and I seeing him and his wife Yuki, in Yonago (Tottori-ken) where they live, over the Golden Week break. Not only is there a chance but he insists we stay. So that's what we shall do. He's busy as "Somu-Bucho" Head of School Affairs -No 3 in the school hierarchy - as well as with school team sport. His wife Yuki is the Deputy Principal of a primary school in Yonago. First son Hiroki has just started teaching at Tottori-ken Ritsu Kurayoshi Higashi High - and is enjoying it (I'd spoken briefly to him the night before); daughter Eri is pursuing training to become a physio-therapist in a College near Masuda, in Shimane-ken; whilst youngest child, Kei, is now at a Dance school in Osaka, pursuing his dream. Hideki's mother, in Kasubuchi (below Mt Sanbe) has had some blood condition recently though is now better - his brother is fine - their town region in Shimane-ken has had a name change with the recent amalgamations and so forth - to Misato-Town 「美郷町」. We'll catch up more next week!

To-day at Ube Kojo Senior High, I met the last of my new classes - First Year! What a bright, cheery lot they are! One born in Tochigi-ken, another in Miyazaki-ken!

Bye for now!

Entry No. 23

2006-04-17 13:08:26 | Weblog
Life has been busy of late (when is it ever not) with Entrance ceremonies and meeting my first classes for this year at each of my educational institutions. It is always very exciting such a time - to see the enthusiasm and hope in the faces of my students as I outline my philosophy and we engage in our important early introductory "conversations"!

I am presently re-reading "Reluctant Neighbours" by ER BRAITHWAITE. In it he revisits the major periods of his life (grew up in British Guiana/entered Cambridge/WWII RAF/graduated as a Physicist/became a teacher/Education Officer/employed by International Agencies/UNESCO/Ambassador to the UN).

The book is about human dignity - especially in the face of racist thinking. (Where does it come from, this assumption that me and my lot are far superior/inferior to you and your lot - simply owing to skin colour, hair texture, religious belief, wealth, cultural background, whatever?!!!) Perhaps you may not recognise his name but he was the author, directly from the notes he kept of his teaching experiences in London's East End in the 1950s, of that wonderfully uplifting tale, "To Sir, With Love" and, later, such a fine film starring Sidney POITIER and the singer Lulu, whose rendition of the title song still curls its way in my memory. I want to write a little about this book but I've not yet finished it...