Teaching In Socks


This past Monday was “Appreciation for the Elderly” day in Japan. The age demographics of Japan are a bit top heavy, so there was quite a bit of appreciation being doled out across the nation. A thick air of appreciation filled the air like summer humidity. Even the bugs were respectfully quiet for the entire day (well, until 7pm, elderly bedtime).

However, like any holiday, some families celebrate this holiday with more enthusiasm than others. While some of my students visited their ancestral homes to maintain their family shrine, my close friends decided to show my me how to authentically celebrate this holiday by going to an amusement park. Needless to say, the park was devoid of the elderly, yet brimming with tackiness.

While i felt the aura of respect, the joy of a holiday was lost on me. Monday is already included as part of my weekend (I work on Saturday), so this wasn’t much of a holiday from my perspective, rather part of my regularly scheduled weekend. Also, my Japanese friends get up at normal hours so really this was a weekend day where I had to get up before noon–which barely happened.

Drowsy and inhaling coffee (well one of us was), we headed to Himeji Central Park a thirty minute train ride and twenty minute bus ride from Ako. The name "Himeji Central Park" is a bit of a misnomer; as far as I can tell, it’s not really central to anything of importance. It’s not in the center of the city–far from it in fact, and it certainly wasn’t the center of attention, not on elderly appreciation day at least.

Regardless, it is the Japanese version of Busch Gardens, and i mean this in every way you can imagine. First, I was greeted by bus that well, could only be made in Japan. Secondly, the park has an amusement section, with roller coasters, rides, and low budget live performances, as well as a water park, and a “safari” park.

The Harbinger

The Harbinger

It was raining so I didn’t see a single ride or roller coaster running. I’m not sure if this the same safety protocol they follow in America, but I imagine Six Flags would catapult you into a tornado if they thought it would make you buy a few more funnel cakes. Americans don’t respect the weather the way the Japanese do.

With the rides shut down, and the rain making the water park uninhabited and obsolete, the "safari" became  main attraction. We looked into what times we could embark on the "safari" and realized we had a little bit of a wait. In the meantime we decided to catch "the show" which was explained ot me as some sort of illusionist show.

We filed into a giant performance hall with bleachers, 200 kids and parents, and a small, ground-level stage. There was castle motif to the building, a circus-inspired stage, and I was immediately worried. My fears were immediately confirmed when the Adam’s Family theme began playing over the loudspeaker and strangely choreographed dance number commenced the show. I might be wrong about this, but I get the feeling that they don’t pay royalties on the usage of that song. Raul would be proud not to be a part of this performance.

What followed was a circus montage of goofy jugglers, strange magicians and small dogs forced to perform small and humiliating tricks while dressed in costume. I believe at some point the dogs were married to each other. Cousin It never made an appearance, but maybe  he was supposed to be one of he dogs.  My only noteworthy observation from this tragedy was that most of the performers and stage hands appeared to be foreigners. I opted not forgo engaging in some foreigner bonding with them so my only assumption is that France has some sort of exchange program.

Afterwards we headed to the safari, which happened to partake on that very same bus. They actually drive this monstrosity through small enclosures with cheetahs, lions, tigers and various herbivores. They separate the animals out of food chain concerns, but the only between you and the animals is the thin, tinted window panes of this ridiculous bus. It’s direct and violent taunting of the animals.

While the animals are the attraction I think the stupidity of human beings is what’s on display. First, the place looks like a miniature Jurassic Park.  Didn’t these people see the movie…it ends badly. Secondly, we are the only species crazy enough to design a bus to look like a cartoon tiger and then drive it through a small enclosure FULL OF TIGERS! These Tigers are insulted, people. It only takes one missed meal before they get sultry enough to assault a luxury coach and ensue and massacre on the “camera-faces”.

That said, I did get a nice picture of an elephant in the rain.



Awaiting news of band of rogue tigers loose on the countryside and the arrival of my first typhoon (#13), clearly the horsemen are on the loose.