Kokugakuin Tochigi High School

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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.

British Hills Directory British Hills Bump

I parked my car in the car park and took my iPhone to tweet in Gowalla, but the iPhone couldn’t connect to the 3G network because Softbank wasn’t in service in this area, whilst my Blackberry, where NTT DoCoMo’s SIM card was installed, was okay.

British Hills
I got out of my car with all of my luggage and walked to the reception desk, following the signs put on the roadside.

British Hills
The Manor House
The reception desk was in the Manor House. A Caucasian receptionist accepted my check-in. She gave me a room key and a brochure where my name and dates of stay were printed and gave a detailed explanation of the building where I was supposed to stay, as well as each of the premises in British Hills. Unlike the people you may see in the countries other than Japan, she behaved in a manner as polite and gentle as Japanese clerks would do. She also advised me that a handbell was available at the reception desk and anybody who was walking in the nature trail of British Hills should carry it in hand so that its sound might scare bears which might appear in front of the walker.

Guestroom 725
This is the guestroom I stayed in. It was a gorgeously furnished suite room.

Guestroom Guestroom Guestroom
It wasn’t air-conditioned so as to meet the taste of a Medieval British house, but I could cool off by an electric fan put in the room.

This is the bathtub made of the fabric imported from the UK. The amenities (shampoo, conditioners, soap, and body moisturiser) are imported from the UK as well.

After putting my holdall in the guestroom, I went out to walk around the grounds around the buildings. Unlike US military bases, you could go and walk wherever you wanted, although some “No Entry” zones for staff only were only exceptions.

British Hills Refectory dining facility and courtyard Main gate and Sports Wing The Manor House and courtyard Stone monument William Shakespeare statue
Every building was built in an ancient British manner, from Yeoman to Stuart, Georgian, and Tudor styles.

Housing complex
Each guest house was named after a historical person popular in the UK.

The Wren
This building is named “Wren,” who was an astronomer in Oxford making a great contribution to the reconstruction of London burnt down by fire in the 17th century.

The Turner
This is the Turner, where I stayed. Turner was a landscape painter in the 18th century.

The Drake
This is the Drake, derived from Francis Drake, the first British sea captain who sailed around the world in the Elizabethan era.

The Henry II
This is the Henry II, the first King of England.

The Ascot tea house
I dropped in on the Ascot tea house to have a tea set. An Englishmen and some Japanese girls served me there.

Tea set
This is what was served at Ascot: tea with a scone, a quiche, fresh cream (not clotted cream), and strawberry jam. They had got an afternoon tea set or a high tea set with more scones and sandwiches, but I didn’t order them because the dinner time was coming soon and I didn’t want to be stuffed there.

The Ye Shoppe
This is the Ye Shoppe, a souvenir shop selling tea leaves, mugs, shortbread, sweets, letter sets, bookmarks, keyrings, pens, toiletries, and other items imported from the UK. I found a gorgeous feather pen used in ancient times, so I bought it with a bar of English soap, bottles of bath foam, and a key ring celebrating the marriage of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Nature trail Nature trail
Then I dropped in on the reception to borrow a handbell and walked the nature trail. It was a 2-mile long unpaved footpath around the building area, with many ups and downs. It was a good exercise for me.

View point Celtic cross
I had got a viewpoint and special places to see on my way of the trail. Fortunately, I saw no bears or any other scary wildlife, but I had got a heavy thunderstorm while walking, so I gave up walking all of the trails and went back to the guest house halfway through the walk.

Stage at the Refectory
Dinner time began at 6:30 pm at the Refectory dining room. It was the main dining room modelling a refectory of British traditional public schools. It had dress codes and no admission for casually dressed personnel. I changed clothes into a suit with a tie before going there.

Full course dinner at the Refectory
It was a full course dinner starting from pumpkin & yoghurt veloute, followed by salmon terrine, consommé soup, sorbet, and the main dish in the above picture. This is some slices of the roast beef marinated with gravy and horseradish sauce. When serving it to me, the chef of the Refractory himself came to me and carved from a chunk of beef. Of course, it tasted excellent! It was a bit too luxurious for me, as I always eat simple foods daily.

After dinner, I went to the pub next to the Refectory and got a glass of 1-pint beer. A Canadian girl sat next to me, so I talked a bit with her. She said she was a staff member of the Refectory and she was coming to drink there because that day was her day off. After a while, a group of the staff finishing the work at the Refectory and changing their clothes more casually came to her and invited her to the inner seats to talk together. She went and joined them. Then I made a little conversation with a Japanese bartender, drank some dry martini, and played darts with him a bit. He told me that many more foreign staff members usually worked there and made merry in the pub every night, but in those days there were less because many of them were returning to their home countries to renew the working visas expiring in that season.

Foggy morning in British Hills
The next morning it was very foggy, and it was hard to see even ten yards ahead.

Buffet for breakfast
It’s breakfast at the Refectory. It was a buffet style. I thought it would’ve been perfect if there had been baked beans.

While eating breakfast, a supervisor came to me and asked me to have a guided tour in the Manor House if I had time. When checking out the hotel, I told her I was ready for the tour. Then she took two young girls to me and told them to guide me as attendants. They were just college students studying the hotel industry and were coming there for one of the education programmes of the college.

They took me inside the Manor House and explained the history of the Manor House, how and why those kinds of houses had been built in the Medieval times, with what fabrics the rooms were furnished, in what manner the walls and the ceilings were decorated, and more. They explained a bit falteringly, but with all their might.

Upper Hall
One of the most instructive pieces of knowledge from their explanations was why the level where there was the main entrance was called “the ground floor” and the upper level called “the first floor” in the UK or the British Commonwealth. According to their explanations, the downstairs wasn’t considered as a residential area because it was used just for a butler who greeted incoming guests, judging whether the guests were going down well with the master or not. Only the guests judged as welcome persons could be shown upstairs by the butler and arranged to meet the master at the upper hall like the picture above. That’s why the place was on “the first floor,” whilst the downstairs hall was on “the ground floor.”

In this picture above, you can see in the middle the gorgeous stained glass weighing 1 tonne specially crafted at Scotland, Queen’s and King’s rooms on the right side, and the left, a library of more than 1,000 volumes of old books stored in the bookshelves. Of course, Oliver Twist was one of the collections.

Aisle Aisle
On both sides of the aisle were the portrait pictures of the people who had made a great contribution to the UK and Japan, including former Emperor Hirohito and his Empress, as well as Emperor Meiji, the first east Asian person on whom the Order of the Garter was conferred.

Queen's room Queen's room Queen's room
It’s the Queen’s room named “Her Majesty,” modelling the private room of the mistress.

King's room King's room Bed at King's room King's room
The King’s room called “His Majesty,” the master’s private room. The furniture had a fierce-animal-shaped decoration in many parts to show off his power and strength. Prince Hitachinomiya actually stayed in this room when he visited British Hills. The attendants said even an ordinary person could stay here for 250,000 yen per night.

Snooker rooom Bar counter at the snooker room
The last place they guided me was the snooker room, where snooker was available as well as drinking brandy at the bar counter. Snooker looked like billiard, but they said snooker used a wider table and smaller balls than billiard, and it was much more difficult to play.

I enjoyed the stay until noon on that Sunday. The staff members were very polite, well trained, and had much elegance and hospitality. I thought it would’ve been better if the uniforms of the staff had been like those of British maids and footmen :-p as everything in British Hills was modelling the ancient British cultures. Apart from that, that “theme park” is my No.1 recommendation that is good for taking a rest if you get tired of your routine days. I think that the company I’m working for, trying to get involved in global business, should arrange a few days of English lessons in British Hills as an education programme for encouraging the employees to be more skilful in English.

This year I saw Oklahoma! at Kokugakuin Tochigi University High School. Every year I go to the cultural festival of this high school to see a play performed by the Musical Club. This club consists of tenth and twelfth graders of this high school, playing musical on an after-school basis. They have regular performances several times a year, and the biggest one is a show at the cultural festival in early September. Mieko Saigusa, one of this club’s instructors in charge of choreography, is the lady I know well and look forward to seeing once a year. That’s why I go to this high school even though I didn’t graduate from it and, to be sure, I’m nothing to do with it.
The city of Tochigi is about 50 miles to the north from central Tokyo. Car is the most convenient option to go there, but I went there by train for the last two years as I didn’t have my own car since I sold it two years ago.

Nevertheless, this time I rented a car to get there faster and more comfortably.

Ms. Saigusa was fine, worked energetically, and looked a bit younger than last year. To my happiness, when I came this morning in front of the entrance door of the musical venue, she led only me to the front row of the spectator’s seats inside the theater where the show was performed, while other guests were still waiting in front of the door 🙂

Oklahoma! Finale from Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi on Vimeo.

The musical was perfect. All the cast members played almost as skillfully as professional musical players. I enjoyed it very much.

The synopsis of Oklahoma! is shown here.

Kelso Heartland Homestay Program

In addition to the musical SHOW BOAT by the Musical Club, one of the Cultural Festival's attractive displays I wanted to visit was the reports of "Kelso Heartland Homestay Program" by some students who visited the United States. Devin Kelso, born in Mount Vernon, Iowa, working for Kokugakuin Tochigi University High School as a communicative English teacher, hosted the home stay program with his family.They arranged the host families in Mount Vernon to encourage them to accept each of the participants.

About a dozen of high school and junior high students took part in this program. They spent about two weeks with the host families, learning English, and taken to cities around Mount Vernon for shopping, camping, barbecuing, and sightseeing. Every picture displayed on the boards showed that the students had been very excited to experience unknown new culture.

Kelso Heartland Homestay Program

They brought back plenty of American items as well as American mind. They are really nice.

According to an article of a local newspaper, Devin Kelso began this program to encourage Japanese youths to have such experiences that he did when he was 15. He visited Mexico with his father and learned many things there. He found out that his Spanish he had learned at school worked well, and that the people were getting along well without English.

I thought the students were very happy to see the world of different culture when they were very young. I hope I could participate in this program some day 😉

Extra: the pictures of trains from Tochigi to Tokyo.

Tochigi station Ryomo Line train Hachiko Line train (Takasaki to Komagawa) Hachiko Line train 2 (Komagawa to Hachioji)

Today I went to Kokugakuin Tochigi University High School to see the musical SHOW BOAT that the students of the Musical Club of this high school performed. Every year I go to Tochigi to watch Musical Club’s performance because they play very well like professional actors, although they are just high school students, and you can see such wonderful shows for free.

I used to drive to Tochigi by car but this year I have no longer my own car so I got there by trains (Subway and Tobu Isesaki and Nikko lines). I arrived at Tochigi station at 8:30 am.

Tochigi station Shuttle bus service

It took about ten minutes from Tochigi station to the high school.

Cultural Festival

This was the musical SHOW BOAT, the story by a troupe on a boat sailing the Mississippi river.

Show Boat

For those of you who don’t know what the story is, here’s the synopsis.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
The show boat Cotton Blossom is a pleasure boat sailing the Mississippi river. There is a troupe who gives performances on the boat. Magnolia Hawks, a daughter of the owner of the boat, dreaming to be a superstar, is now just a staff member occupied with trivial routine duties. When the show boat is anchoring at Natchez, Mississippi, she happens to meet a gambler, Gaylord Ravenal, and falls in love with him. Her mother, Parthy Ann Hawks, is against for her to meet him, but her father, Cap’n Andy, allows him to get on the boat.
One day the leading actress of the troupe, Julie La Verne, who is a daughter with a black parent and white one, is arrested for being married with a white man, because it is illegal in this state that a non-white person marries a white one. Losing the leading lady of the company, Cap’n Andy makes Magnolia the leading actress instead of Julie and at the same time hires Gaylord, who is experienced of playing on stage. The show business results in a big success with them.
Magnolia and Gaylord love each other more and more deeply, and eventually they marry. They retire from actors and get off the boat to live their new life.
However, the new life by a steady-minded woman and a gambler doesn’t last long. Gaylord does nothing but gambling instead of working, and they manage to live in a cheap apartment. Depressed and shamed by his inability to support his family, Gaylord leaves her. Magnolia has a baby, and gives birth to a daughter Kim. She gets back to the show boat and begins an actress job again.
The troupe of the show boat is doing a show with another troupe at Trocadero Theatre, where Julie is a leading lady of this company. Julie meets Magnolia again, and suddenly leaves Trocadero so that Magnolia can fill her position. Magnolia passes the audition and is hired. She becomes a great musical star on the Trocadero stage.
Julie, disappearing from Trocadero, joins a different musical troupe and happens to meet Gaylord, who is a member of the company. She tells him how Magnolia is doing, and encourages him to see her again. He is uncertain whether he has the right to ask Magnolia to take him back, but she does. They becomes happy again with their daughter.

Cultural Festival 2006 at Kokugakuin Tochigh University High School 1 (Oliver!)
Cultural Festival 2006 at Kokugakuin Tochigh University High School 2 (Write what you hear)

Before watching the musical show Sunday afternoon at Kokugakuin Tochigi High School, I visited a classroom where the English Club had a demonstration in the cultural festival.
When I entered the classroom, a schoolgirl belonging to this club and a directing teacher welcomed me. They encouraged me to try to have the “dictation quiz,” where you listened to several short English sentences a native English speaker spoke over the audio cassette recorder and you wrote the actual words of the sentences. Its difficulty ranged from Level 1 to Level 6. Level 1 was the easiest and Level 6 the most advanced. Of course I chose Level 6 because I was proud of my 20 years of English experience.
I was guided to a desk, asked to be seated on the chair, and handed an answer sheet. Then the schoolgirl pressed the play button of the casette recorder. The cassette recorder spoke 13 short sentences like “This engine is powerful.” and “Wealthy people like to travel by ship.” These sentences was repeated twice, and I had to handwrite what I heard over the cassette recorder.
When the quiz was over, the answer sheet was collected by the teacher. He immediately checked my answers and summed up how many sentences were correctly dictated. He told me that I could write 11 out of 13 sentences accurately.
I found that to write accurately what to hear in English was not easier than that I thought. It is almost impossible to accurately hear very short words like prepositions, so it’s important for dictation that you “predict” those words with all of your knowledge on English. If you can predict missing words and write entire sentences with what you hear, it proves that you can comprehend the sentences.

I went to Tochigi last Sunday to watch a musical show performed by Kokugakuin Tochigi High School’s Musical Club in this high school’s cultural festival held that weekend. I watch this club’s musical every year for these several years. One of my keypals, Mito Saigusa, works for Kokugakuin Tochigi High School as a dance instructor for the Musical Club, so I’m very interested in what the students she is teaching play.
This year’s show was Oliver!, a well-known British musical by Lionel Bart. It’s a story of a little orphan whose name is Oliver Twist.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

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