We actually move along very quickly. Thankfully I studied some before coming here, so have a head start and am not hit with all new stuff. Even so, this will be a lot of work on my part. I was a little surprised to find out that I will be learning to read the two phonetic Japanese alphabets (katakana and hiragana, though not the kanji, or chinese characters). Basically, I have to learn the phonetic ones as the textbooks are primarily written in them. I was wondering how they handle teaching students who come from different language backgrounds. By having everyone learn these, you have a common base (and one which will help any future studies in Japanese). Looks like I get to spend much of my weekend memorizing letters...
Thankfully, I didn't spend the whole weekend inside. I got out to see some of what Okazaki has to offer. In particular, I spent Saturday afternoon at Okazaki-jo (Okazaki Castle).
One thing that kind of hit me is how small the castles are as compared to those in Korea and especially the Forbidden City in China. I remember reading in Shogun about all of the retainers and samurai that lived in the castle (along with the lord) - quite a few people. This castle had 5 floors, with the first floor being maybe 50' by 50', and each one above that smaller. Not a lot of space.
Unfortunately, this castle is smaller and not as photogenic as Matsumoto-jo, which I saw on one of my previous trips to Japan (and talked about and showed a nice photo of in Asia 2000-01 Update #41). Interestingly, the Okazaki castle may be more important in Japanese history because Tokugawa Iyeyasu, Japan's first Shogun, was born here.
I walked to the castle and back. While doing so, I practiced my hiragana when ever I saw sentences which were all in hiragana. It was challenging, because most signs mix the alphabets or contain proper names, which I won't find in my Japanese-English dictionary. I think in the 4 hours I was walking around, I only translated 1 sentence fully (something like "this is a dangerous area", which was posted on a sign at the train tracks). But it was good practice for me.
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