Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Japan 2017 Day 7: Kanazawa University

We began our day early, buying day bus passes at Kanazawa Station, then hopping a bus for the 25 minute ride to Tomoko's apartment, near Kanazawa University. Tomoko works as a counselor in the health center at the university (she is particularly assigned to international students, who often speak English as a second language), and she had arranged for us to have a tour of the health center and lunch with the head of the department (her boss) and colleagues.

It was fun to visit her apartment & make yummy carrot & walnut pancakes for breakfast, right at the table. We FaceTimed with Brendan so he could see Tomoko's apartment & chat with her again. He told us that, after the previous week's wind storm & massive power outages- which he escaped- they were gearing-up for a major storm. A good time to be away from Rochester maybe?

After breakfast we took a short bus ride to the university, which used to be right on the castle grounds in the middle of the city, but moved about 20 years ago to a large, new campus on the outskirts of town, near the mountains. As we crossed the campus en route to her office, she said that it's common to see bears roaming the campus, especially in the Spring. It's a beautiful campus, & clearly quite new.

There weren't many students, because it's the end of year break here, but as we walked, we caught faint music from a student orchestra practicing for the opening ceremonies in a few weeks.

Tomoko's office is also a counseling room, so it's roomy with desk space & also a cosy area for sitting. There's a sink & hot pot to make tea (of course- it's Japan!). One thing we noticed, as it's March & hovers in the 40's & 50's outside, that they don't heat the halls, so all doors are closed to keep the heat in & there are signs on them indicating if the occupant is in.

After the stop at her office, we went to the campus health center to begin our tour. Tomoko explained that, even though the students are on break, the folks in the health center are entering their busiest time, because every single one of the 10,000 students at the university have a yearly health assessment in April, every year. The staff do too. They are working to add a mental health component to the yearly assessment, as suicide is a chronic issue in Japan, with the high-pressure educational environment.

When we arrived, we first met some of the nurses at the health center, who were busy setting up blood pressure machines & laptops for the assessments.  Anyone who has some English conversation skills likes to try them out on us,  & one of the nurses spoke to us in English, which was really fun. She was apologetic about her lack of skill, but we assured her she did really well! Since I wear a lot of hand-knitted stuff, women often notice this & it's fun to chat with them about "amimono" (knitting, in Japanese).

Tomoko next introduced us to staff psychologist (and also a knitter!), Dr. Yumi Adachi, who would be joining us for lunch. She was a very soft-spoken young woman with very good English (though she also apologized for her lack of skill :). A student had come in ill, so the director was slightly late to meet us, but it gave us more time to chat with the nurses & other staff. Eventually Dr. Hiroaki Yoshikawa, the directer of the health center, joined us & took us on a little tour of the place. Dr. Yoshikawa (he asked us to call him "Hiro") has done some work at the Mayo Clinic, so his English was excellent. He's a neurologist, specializing in Myasthenia Gravis research, & his latest research has been looking into the psychological factors influencing neurological illnesses. Along with his heading the health center, he also runs a clinic for Myasthenia Gravis patients. He's a busy guy! And also really interesting to talk to. Dr. Adachi (Yumi) collaborates on some of Hiro Sensei's papers, so it was interesting to get her perspective. We were glad Hiro & Yumi could take the time to have lunch with us.

After our tour, we went to lunch & chatted about lots of things. As Charlie is also a physician, we had some interesting conversations comparing medical practice in the US & Japan. Lunch was bento-style & very yummy.

After lunch we told them how much we appreciated the time they'd taken to meet us and invited them to visit us if they ever get to Rochester, NY. Then we had to say goodbye to Tomoko. She walked us to the bus stop & we hugged goodbye. I hope we get to see her again soon! It was so great to see her new home & the place where she works!

Charlie & I took the bas back into Kanazawa & decided to first go back to the absolutely yummy cake shop Tomoko had taken us to the first day. Charlie has a nose for sweets, so he found it easily:) We had more yummy cake & tea!

Then we went to the 21st Century Art Museum, which was very cool (as it should be). The main exhibit was comparing design to craft & it was really interesting to see things like traditionally made baskets compared to tub trugs, & also lacquer-ware bowls (which is a local craft) made with wooden cores & plastic cores side by side. My favorite exhibit was Leandro Erlich's "The Swimming Pool", which is partly outdoors (looks like a small pool):

And partly indoors, underneath the pool, which is really 10cm of water suspended between clear plastic:

We were ready to go back to the hotel for a rest then, so we bussed it back to the station. In the bus line were 2 girls in kimono. It has been pretty common to see groups of girls, & even a few boys, wearing kimono here in Kanazawa. The girls' tabi socks are usually decorated with rhinestones & many have furry collars for warmth, or cocoon-style kimono jackets. So cute!!

After a rest, we went back to the station for dinner at a restaurant called "Budou no Ki" (Grape Tree). Charlie had beef curry over rice & I had gnocchi & shrimp in a cream sauce. Yum!

Then we bought breakfast at a patissier called "DonQ" :) We bought beverages & went back to the hotel. Tomorrow, to Matsumoto!!

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