Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trains, Training and Festivities - AEON class of May 2005 ROCKS!!!

Wow... that's the easy way to describe the follow-up training in Shinjuku yesterday.

After getting to bed relatively early on Sunday night, I woke up nice and refreshed on Monday looking forward to my first solo trip into mighty Tokyo. Whipped up a quick breakfast, hopped on the bike around 8AM and made my way to the station to catch the 8:37 Shinkansen to Tokyo station. The ticket purchase and finding the right track was easy thanks to Madoka-sensei's guidance the previous Friday and I got a seat on the super comfy Yamabiko Shinkansen which makes the 100 and some odd kilometer trip to Tokyo station in about 40 minutes, including having to slow down and stop at Oyama, Omiya and Ueno... pretty zippy train.

After disembarking in Tokyo and heading for the Marounochi subway line, I caught a crowded train heading to Nishi-Shinjuku. West Shinjuku is the business district, while East Shinjuku is mostly bars and more of a red-light district. Found my way through the stations and exited before 10AM, practically accross the street from the AEON head office, pictured below.

Stopped in to the Cafe Colorado for a quick iced Kohi since I was running way in advance and then made my way up to the office. Met a few members of our Initial training group there and the discussions immediately began, the most interesting of which revolved around the loss of a part of the Canadian contingent to AEON Japan... Tisha Marie (pictured below on the right), who returned home not too long ago. Kinda sad to see 25% of the Canadian content of our group get cut... but bah.

So we all headed down to the cafe on the first floor to catch up a bit and were quickly joined by many other members of the group. We really did have a heck of a group of people in training... we all got along quite well. I guess part of it must be the fact that we're all going through our arrival in Japan together, it's pretty cool that we've kept in touch. I've yet to hear from another teacher that a group has been as close as our was...

So then of course training started in earnest. I must give it up to AEON, their training regimen is top notch. It's really nice that they realize just how important a component it is to making things run smoothly. The trainers are amazing and a lot of fun and it was great to be able to bounce some ideas off my former co-trainees as well as the trainers. Here's the lovely view from the 16th floor of the building. Pretty nice office buildings in ol' Shinjuku, though it is pretyt damn hot in Tokyo... thank god for AC!

So after a good day of training, we decided to head to Tokyo station since that was where a number of us had to catch our trains (and Steve's bus) home. We headed to a beer garden near the station for a quick beer or two since Leah's last Shinkansen back to Sendai was at 9:32 and training finished a little bit after 7:00. Here's one of the tables... Leah and Nicole on the left, me and Cleve on the right.

Until that point in the evening, things were pretty much on track... I would accompany Leah to Tokyo station, see her off and hop on the 9:44 Shinkansen to Utsunomiya... my latest option being the 10:43 Nasuno bound train. Steve and his pal Ian from Tsukuba would take any bus they could (one every 10 minutes until midnight) and head home. The rest of our group at this point were Tokyo-ites so they had an easy train ride back home.

Of course, as so often happens when good friends get together over beer, the plans quickly unravelled. A conscious decision was made (after confirming that our Shinkansen tickets would be valid for tuesday) to stay the night in Tokyo. All it took to make this decision was the mention of a 300Yen shot bar in nearby Ginza that would be alot of fun. So we left the beer Garden and headed on down to Ginza. Here's a shot of the well lit Ginza.

Once we arrived at the shot bar, the situation quickly deteriorated thanks to some pretty good Vodka tonics and general cavorting and amusement was had by all. One of the only pictures I can post publicly is the one below, which resulted from a frontal attack on Steve by Leah with the aim of taking the Orange Orange bandana from him. If anyone who was present that night would like to see the others, send me an email and they can be emailed... lol.

The shot bar was ok, cheap was the operative term we all focused on. Nevertheless, it was a pretty nice little place, and we stayed there for a bit before making the decent decision to turn in for the night. The plan was to head over to Ian's apartment in Omiya... he's an ET and is currently teaching in Tsukuba but has his homebase in Omiya. From there, both Leah and I would be able to take our Shinkansens home... and they could take a train to the bus that would take them to Tsukuba. (If you notice I keep mentioning the bus, it's because I find it quite amusing that poor Steve had to trudge out on a local bus while Leah and I had a quite pleasant ride on the high speed Shinkansen. We won't be able to laugh at him much longer, Tsukuba will soon be connected by rail.)

This is a shot of a deserted (for Tokyo) station.

At the time this picture was taken, we were pretty damn happy to have gotten a seat on one of the last trains out of Tokyo bound for Omiya... that happiness would soon be shattered...

Before the train left the station, we were aproached by a member of the JR staff and asked to move to another car since this was a "Women only" car. Now, I was under the impression that courtesy was only afforded during rush hour, but apparently not. While we weren't the only men on the train, we were some of the very few and did decided to politely move on. Needless to say we were not impressed when the next car of the train was packed. It's quite unfortunate that one must go to such extremes to ensure women are not groped by chikans on the trains. The whole matter of chikans is a social commentary for another time...

Here are some people shots I got later on the train once the crowds thinned out.

Yes, beer is allowed on the trains in Japan... and the streets...

Didn't take long for Steve and Leah to fall asleep... lucky Ian and I were in decent shape.

So that's about that, we turned in, slept in a pile in Ian's small and well air conditioned apartment for a few hours, got up at 6:30 this morning and made our way home... While Leah was the furthest distance-wise (300km?) Steve was the last to arrive home due to the difference between bus and Shinkansen... they had a 3 hour commute while Leah had an 86 minute train ride.... lol I caught the 8:02 Yamabiko Max (Max is the name for their double decker trains) and was in my apartment by 9:00 this morning. Shinkansen is the way to go!!! I was quite glad to get out of my icky clothes and immediately threw them in the wash. Also quite pleased when I got to work to find out I had a 3 hour break after my lesson during which time I could go home. I headed over and had a quick snooze to get a bit more energy for the other 2 classes I had to teach... lol Tuesdays are a little slow these days with my private lessons shifted to later in the week... it was a good way to start the week after training.

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