Visiting US military bases is fun for me. The US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps use 75 facilities within Japan and Okinawa, 51 of which are dedicated and the rest 24 shared with Japan Self Defense Force. Though those facilities are usually closed to civilians, they are open to residents around them once or twice a year, and you can get inside the military places during these festivals.
Visiting those facilities is one of the few occasions to get
in touch with the United States. You can eat American-made hamburgers, hot
dogs, steaks, turkey legs, and other American foods. You can pay foods, sodas,
beer, sweets, and souvenirs with US dollars. You can talk to Americans in
English. And, you can find out how average Americans live their daily life.
What kind of groceries do they buy? What kind of foods do they eat? What kind
of newspapers do they read? What kind of school do they make their children
attend? You can catch a glimpse of those things without flying more than 12
hours to get to mainland America.
I have visited US bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for more than 15 years. With respect to what I have experienced, I’m grading each of these out of 5 by categories of accessibility, smoothness of entry and exit, freedom of movement, and availability of on-base building. 5 is the most excellent, and 0 the worst.
I visited Kokugakuin Tochigi High School where a friend of mine taught dancing and choreography to the student of the Musical Club as an instructor. There was a cultural festival of this school, and the Musical Club members performed Half A Sixpence. It was the second time to see this show since I saw it ten years before at just the same place.
That motivated me to visit Folkestone, England where it took place in.
I visited Oizumi, Gumma Prefecture. Large factories and plants were invited to set up in this town, and mainly Japanese Brazilians were attracted there as factory workers. According to statistics, almost 6,000 people out of this town’s population of about 41,000 are from abroad.
Last weekend was happy days for me because I deeply experienced a British taste last Saturday and Sunday. From the beginning I preferred the USA to the UK or other English-speaking countries, but my affection has been shifting to England for years since I happened to read Kaoru Mori’s Emma, a romance manga of a maid in England in the Victorian Era who falls in love with a member of the gentry.
On the first day, the first thing I did is to see Oliver! by the Musical Club of Kokugakuin Tochigi High School playing for the school’s cultural festival held in this weekend. Oliver! is, as you may already know, an English musical based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. It’s the story that Oliver Twist, who has missing parents and is in a workhouse, is forced to get out of the workhouse and gets involved in a group of pickpockets. He tries to pick a pocket of a well-off lady, who finally takes him in and brings him up, and then he gets happy.
As I already wrote in this blog many times, I’ve kept in touch with Mito Saigusa. She is a choreographer teaching dance and choreography to the students of this club. I come and see their performance for the cultural festival every year in order to see her too. Of course she was well this year as well.
This year’s show satisfied me much more, because its scene was in England in the 19th century so it was just for me. I was very happy with that.
After seeing Oliver! I left the high school to drive to British Hills, the educational facility located in Fukushima Prefecture operated by Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages, with Medieval British-style buildings in a 50-acre land. Each building is furnished with the fixtures modeling the era of the building. From the beginning it was only for the students of this Institute, it’s been open to public for several years. More than a half of the staff working there were non-Japanese, ranging from Englishmen, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and more. As the official language in this area is English, even a Japanese attendant talks to you in English, because British Hills is for teaching English to guests.
A two-hour drive from Tochigi took me British Hills. It was almost on the top of a mountain, more than 20 miles far from the nearest motorway exit. Once entering into the site of British Hills, almost all traffic and informational signs on the road suddenly turned into English, just like crossing a national border into a different country.
October is a month of fruits, readings, sports, art, and — more than those — festivals. There were various kinds of festivals in the Kiba Park, which was close to my house. The biggest one was the Koto Kumin Matsuri festival from the 16th through the 17th of October.
It was the third time for me to see this festival, so there was nothing new in it. Everything was almost the same as usual. All I did there were to eat Indian foods bought from stalls inside the park and to watch a performance by Vivace, a marching band consisting of only female employees of ALSOK, a Japanese security company.
In the same days, there was a festival by the students of University of the Sacred Heart, which had been built in the former residence of Empress Dowager Nagako, the previous Emperor Hirohito’s wife. This university is for women only, so it’s usually closed to people other than the students of it, except on special days like the festival. I wanted to get inside the university because I wanted to see the historical houses inside, such as the former house of Nagako and the chapel of the university. During the festival the university was open to public, so it was one of perfect chances to see them which wouldn’t come so many times.
After seeing the Koto Kumin Matsuri, I went to Hiroo to see the festival of University of the Sacred Heart called Seishinsai. I took the subway to Shibuya and there I took a bus to Japan Red Cross Medical Center, where I got off the bus and I had a gate of the university. After ID check at the gate I got inside and walked along the path for several minutes then I had the Palace, the former house of the Prince Kuninomiya, where his daughter Nagako had been raised and lived until she had married the previous Emperor Hirohito.
The Kuni House, the site of a main entrance of the Palace, where Empress Nagako departed to the Imperial Palace on her wedding.
The Marian Hall, an auditorium of USH. The Latin phrase on the top made me feel it was gorgeous.
The chapel, used on a daily basis for masses and prayers. An alumna of USH can use it for her wedding.
The interior of the chapel, where the student choir practiced singing. I heard their sounds reflected to multiple directions on the round ceiling and resonated fantastically. I admired its gimmick of construction to help Catholics feel God’s Power.
In addition, there were an open-air stage, stalls selling foods and goods, and many kinds of events and amusements during the festival, but I left in haste because there were such young and bright boys and girls that a middle-aged man like me couldn’t stay any longer 🙂