Sunday, 27 September 2015

Day 1: Sight-seeing, sumo wrestlers and sake - post by Vic Dobos

Amidst great anticipation and excitement, the 2015 ASTA delegation to JAPAN had its final pre-brief in the Qantas lounge at Sydney International Airport prior to its 4.30pm scheduled flight to Tokyo via Singapore. As flights go, it was remarkably uneventful with conditions smooth, plenty of onboard entertainment, food and chatty company. Our Boeing 777 tracked over Lake Eyre, Uluru and the Kimberley coast of WA providing us with spectacular views of the salt lakes, the intricate inland drainage networks and the sculptured aeolian landforms. Our connection was made in Singapore without drama and the delegation touched down at Tokyo International airport on time.

Passports - ready, landing cards filled in (correctly and in pen), eyes at camera - done. We finally made it through immigration and were met by the welcome party from Sony Education Foundation.

While in the middle of introducing all parties, we were confronted by six budding student interviewers (5-6 years olds learning English) from the British Cultural Academy. We happily participated in their three question survey, exchanged gifts, talked about Australia and posed for a photo. We have finally arrived in glorious Tokyo!

Vic Dobos, CEO of ASTA participating in a survey conducted
by students from the British Cultural Academy
Next stop, Shinagawa, where we would be based for the week. Shinagawa is a ward (precinct) of Tokyo and is home to nine embassies, a number of large manufacturing companies including Isuzu, and no less than five universities.

We were met by Mr Takanose, the newly appointed Executive Managing Director of the Sony Education Foundation. Packing a great sense of humour and speaking excellent English, I sensed that building this new relationship was going to be very enjoyable.


The next stop was the Edo Tokyo Museum, which was mind blowing! Even in our sleep deprived state, it did not take long for the adrenalin to kick in and we were buzzing. Tokyo was founded 450 years ago in the small harbour village of Edo. The museum depicts a time continuum, and how during the early days the city grew and developed through centuries of change. We got an insight into the life of the warriors (samurai of course), the life of the townspeople (artisans and merchants) commerce and currency (gold, silver and zeni) and life during the four seasons.

Edo Tokyo Museum
A Daimyo residence at Edo Tokyo Museum

The exhibits were incredible. My favourite was the exhibit based on the Kabuki theatre, a classical Japanese dance-drama known for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. This exhibit
contained marvellous sets where models were clad in hand-sewn costumes depicting the "rough style" acting (aragoto) that suited their temperament. Bright colours, superman type characters, lots of makeup and villains made up the central plot of this kind of classical drama where male actors often played both female and male characters.  We regrouped after several hours and agreed that this museum required a return visit.

On venturing beyond the museum, we soon realised that the museum was adjacent to the main sumo wrestling stadium called Ryogoku Kokugikan where the final day of a sumo wresting tournament was being held. We were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, because there are only six grand tournaments held in Japan each year. Yes, we did get a glimpse of a sumo wrestler, see the action on the screen and get a whiff of the excitement generated by this sport. Of course the delegation couldn't resist the crazy photo opportunity.

Penny George enjoyed visiting the sumo wrestling stadium
There was no better way to end day one than enjoying Japanese tempura with new friends, a little sake and lots of chatter. A fantastic Japanese welcome. Looking forward to day two.

Dinner Japanese style - Robyn (top right) is sitting next to Mr Takanose
Executive Managing Director for Sony Education Foundation

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