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Boats, Caves, and Graduates

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
As a part of my new schedule, I do a lot more driving. I go around the island often, and I pass some new sites. One of them is the island's biggest working shipyard, in Kinoe. Last Monday I was driving by, and the ship that I've been watching for a while was approaching completion. I had some time to spare before I had to get to my next school, so I pulled over and took a picture.

The light wasn't great, the picture wasn't much more than a reflex, but I took it, and went on to my next assignment. I didn't drive by for a few days, and then it was Friday, and I was working at Kinoe Middle School when the principal came over to my desk. "Are you interested in shipbuilding?" he asked? I said sure, I was and so he told me to come with him and one other teacher to the shipyard for a ceremony. By chance, I had brought my camera in to school that day, so I grabbed it and headed out. It turns out we were invited to the launching ceremony for the new ship, the Gas Inspiration.

It was a pretty huge ship, 300 feet long, and some ridiculous weight. We stood at the shipyard as workers got ready for the ship to launch.

Shipyards are huge. They dwarf everyone who works in them.

The sky stayed dark until the boat launched, but every now and then the sun shined through the clouds.

The owner of the shipyard came over and talked to me. He spoke pretty good English and told me that his grandfather had founded the shipyard in 1931. Back then, the entire region was building military ships for the buildup to the Sino-Japanese war, nearby Kure city was one of the biggest shipyards in Japan. He told me that they build about six ships a year, for clients around the world. Apparently business had gone way down, and most of the shipyards on the island had to close, but now as the economy of China grows quickly, they have a need for shipping, and business is picking back up.

That's him, in the middle with the blue tie. There's something about the moment before a posed picture is going to be taken that I like a lot.

I also like nine people sitting and standing in front of an enormous ship that they are exchanging a lot of money for.

The owner said some short words, the hulks of the adjacent closed shipyard in the background.

As the time approached, the workers all came out of the woodwork. They are of all ages, and among them are a decent amount of women.

Then, without warning, a fancy pulley system was released, a bottle of champagne was smashed across the bow, and the ship went sliding down into the water. It happens quickly, silently, and incredibly smoothly.

The workers all stepped out from their relaxed leaning to watch the ship go. I wonder what it's like to see something you've been working on for months, something you've built from nothing go floating off on it's own power. I wonder if it has any effect on them at all, after having seen it so many times.

Really awesome traditional Japanese worker's pants and shoes.

After the boat floated out a ways, the folks up on the platform started throwing bags of mochi - pounded rice cakes. It's for good luck or something, because everyone goes ape-shit and starts running around trying to get as many as they can. Old ladies are holding their aprons out to catch flying mochi, dignified men in suits have plastic bags which they are frantically trying to fill. I caught five bags and decided that was enough.

Don't tell anyone, but I played hooky today. The office thought I was at school, and school thought I was at the office, and neither place had anything for me to do, so I decided I'd spend the day getting my house clean, mailing out some things to some people, paying bills, the usual stuff. Mori called me up in the morning though, and he came by. It was gorgeous out, sunny and about 60 degrees, so we decided to go out. Early march is ume (plum blossom) season, so we headed out to find some in my car. After a bit of driving, we ended up on Nagashima, the little island near my house. We pulled over and Mori pointed over at a bare grassy hill pretty high above us. "Let's go there" he said.

It ended up being a pretty tough walk, through two people's property, through some pretty dense woods, and then up. The hill turned out to be an old abandoned stepped field, the steps smoothing out over the years, turning from steps into lumps. The earth was loose and sandy and more than once we slipped and fell back down a step or two. Finally we made it to the top, panting.

It doesn't look like much in that picture, but it was something.

A word of warning. It's ume season, and next is sakura (cherry blossoms). There may be numerous pictures of flowers on this blog. Bear with me, I can't help myself.

This one is for you, Fred.

We sat up on the top of the hill for a good half hour, during what would have been the first half of my lunch hour at the office. We decided it was a pretty safe spot, as my boss was probably not going to come by and spot me not at work.

After the hill, I took Mori to a little beach I had found on Nagashima, out past a Fluke farm and a weird business hotel. You can only get to it at low tide, but when you can, it's a quiet beautiful place.

I found a little natural cave, and sat and thought about things.

And Mori found a comfortable spot up on the rocks.

I was a pretty awesome day, and we hadn't even had lunch yet. We got some food, and played some video games. I spent the rest of the day doing the things I needed to do.

The Japanese school year ends in March. The next year starts one week later, no break in between. As I teach every class of every school on this island except for the high school, this basically means that I will teach the same kids in new classrooms. The only big change is the third years at the three Junior Highs. I like the third years a lot, and they are all moving on to high school. I will miss them, and I got photos of each of the classes. I'm trying something new, these pictures are hosted off the site, and are a good deal bigger than the usual ones. Let me know how it works out for you.

Osaki Basic English

Osaki Advanced


Kinoe - the only class I could cram into a single frame. I feel like they didn't get equal treatment.

My family is coming to Japan on the 11th, and staying for a few weeks. I may be updating, I may not. We'll just have to see how it goes.