Saturday, August 27, 2005

Last day of kengaku...

Well, this may be the last time I can get to an Internet cafe before leaving Yokosuka, so let me see if I can catch everyone up on my last week here in Yokosuka, and the Kanto area in general.

On Wednesday, I went to Tokyo for my last day of 'Kengaku' - a word that has no really good translation in English. It is written with the characters for 'look' and 'learn' and it basically means taking a tour of some facility for the purpose of learning what goes on there.

I went with Mr. Kimura from the Public Safety Division to Kasumigaseki, what the Japanese call the Japanese equivalent of Washington, D.C. Kasumigaseki is the district in Tokyo where the national government has set up shop. The Prime Minister's Office and residence, the Diet (Parliament), and the headquarters of most national agencies are located here. Wednesday was 'Kids' Kasumigaseki Kengaku Day' (no affiliation with the American KKK...), so most of the government agencies had their doors open for kids to come in and learn something during their summer vacation. Unfortunately, few of the agencies had anything interesting out. The Foreign Ministry, for example, only had one table out with a few pamphlets. Each agency had its own stamp that you used to stamp a little booklet so you could show everyone where you went. This is about all we did. I believe this picture was taken at the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, but I will have to get back to you on that one. The crazy get-up I have on is supposed to help younger, able-bodied individuals such as myself experience the difficulties of aging by making it harder to move. As I was putting it on this goofy contraption, the mascot characters of the Aichi World Expo, Morizo (the big one) and Kiccoro (the small one) came in to get their picture taken with the goofy foreigner. What a hoot!

Well, I didn't really learn much, but I had fun. The best part was the weather. It was actually fairly cool outside, but inside the government offices was a different story. The Japanese goverment is pushing for energy conservation. Prime Minister Koizumi has spearheaded the 'cool biz' (business) look. All government offices in Japan have their AC set at 28 degrees C (about 84 degrees F), something unthinkable in the States. It was considerably cooler outside this day, which was really frustrating. I heard on the news today that they are going to institute a 'warm biz' program in the winter by keeping the thermostat low in the winter, but I didn't catch the actualy temperature they are going to set all offices at.

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