Thursday, March 23, 2006
A Year of One-Liners
- Japanese People!
- Lick the dong
- There are no signs to Nikko, you just drive a while and suddenly you're there
- You wanna DO me!
- It was HOT!
- Ok, I'm gonna admit something to you: I don't know a lot about birds
Any to add? Questions about these ones? Comment.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Today, Tuesday, March 21st, was a National Holiday in Japan.
Well, it is one of two days each year that the daylight hours are the exact same length as the dark ones.
Seems a rather trivial reason to call HOLIDAY!
But then, I like not working, so I'm not complaining.
For the People?
The following is the actual translation of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan as of 1947:Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.Seems friendly, right? Wrong. Why?
- This constitution was imposed by the American government after the defeat of Japan in WWII.
- Since their defeat by the United States, Japan is not in a position to disagree with or defy American policy or political (insert: war-related) decisions. Despite a marked public and political reluctance to support the US in the War on Iraq, the Japanese government decided there was no choice but to do so.
- America is now strongly "encouraging" that Japan amend this Article to allow military forces.
- America is not happy with the current level of Japanese "support" for the Iraqi war (peacekeeping efforts) but would prefer military involvement.
Whatever suits ya'll at the time, right guys?
I don't know about you, but I find this all very scary.
Thanks to my student, Yoshiko, for the political updates.
On not having television
Many of you may not understand what one gives up living abroad, but let me just say, this shit ain't easy. Apart from language barriers, sexism, backwards driving, and the like, there is the catastrophic lack of television. Well, let me clarify: when I turn my TV on I can get 6-7 channels static-free, but these feature mainly Japanese gameshows.
If you've never had the experience of watching said gameshows, they are definitely recommended, once. What starts out as bizarre and hilarious quickly becoming physically tiring to view. I swear Japanese TV personalities are force-fed Speed before going on-air. So basically, I was done with J-TV by about last April.
One can get satellite, on which I'm told one can view dated English programming, but I figure, if it can't compare to REAL TV, then why bother? I mostly stick to rentals; I'm halfway through the entire series of Sex and the City.
Most days I don't notice the lack of TV, but then, suddenly, I'll be trying to waste a half hour (a moment in which I would have zoned out to HGTV), or find myself unable to fall asleep (my cure usually involving a lengthy blank stare at the Food Network), or worse, someone back home will mention a show that I used to be fond of (all of which were featured on FOX), and then jealousy kicks in.
All in all, I sometimes miss TV. Never would I admit to being an addict, but let's face it: TV is good times. In conclusion, anyone who would like to be my BFF (best friend forever) should consider sending me the second season of The OC on burnt DVDs (my DVD player won't play Western originals). Apply within.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Sunday morning I had to peel myself out of bed to attend the Hikari Kindergarten Graduation. I was excited to attend this event, but also extremely nervous as I had been asked to make a speech.As mentioned, the kindergartens in Japan go from 3-age to 5-age; at the end of the year (March) the 5-age students graduate into Elementary school. I can't remember if there was a similar ceremony in Canada, but Japanese kindergartens host graduation ceremonies (at 9am on Sundays - atrocious!). Yesterday's ceremony began, for me, with tea in the staff room. I was then escorted into the auditorium, front row seat. Of course all the kids had to oogle at me in my skirt and blouse, as they usually see me in jeans or the like. The co-owner of the kindergarten (wife) then handed out diplomas to each of the students. The camcorder-weilding mothers all sobbed in unison. Songs were sung, including one that seemed to "pass the torch" to a group of 4-age students who will be next year's grads. There were a number of speakers who I surmise to be Board of Education members and/or representatives from the local elementary schools.And my speech. Thankfully, I got the whole thing out without disaster. I paused at the right points for my interpreter to translate, and remembered to bow to the audience. Nerves were at full-tilt nonetheless. Incase you're interested in what I said, here's my notes:**bow**
Parent, Teachers, Students,
Thank you for asking me to speak at this ceremony. I am sorry that I cannot deliver my speech in Japanese - maybe next year!
My name is Crystal and I have taught English to these children for the last year. When I came to Japan from Canada I was nervous about teaching here, but these children have made every day here enjoyable.
I feel very proud that these kids are graduating into Elementary school, but also sad to see them go. I hope that I have instilled a love of English in them that they will carry with them throughout their studies.
Thank you, children, for all the great memories and the joyous smiles over the last year. Gambatte (good luck)!
When the ceremony concluded, I was presented with more tea in the staff room, and a packaged bento (Japanese style boxed lunch). The Head Teacher pointed out that my bento included a can of beer... she seems to know me better than I suspected!
I wanna be a POP-STAR!!
Saturday night was our usual karaoke, with a twist. Jody's mom, Pamela, and sister, Paula, arrived in Japan on Friday and their jet-lagged asses were drug out the next night to partake in grapefruit-shochus and song.
In conjuction with this momentus occasion, it was also our first opportunity to karaoke with our J-crew (ha! J-crew!): Mie, Hidenori, Yuka & Hideki. Whoa! What a riot. The great part about karaokeing with Japanese folk is that they sing JAPANESE SONGS!!! - such as the title-worthy "Pop-Star." This lends excellent opportunity to practising one's Japanese skills; reading the subtitles. On the downside, J-karaoke means SMOKING. So much smoking, in fact, that my eyes were burning 24 hours later. Ugh.
After a fairly early night, we headed home with promises of bender-karaoke in the future.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Twice a Bridesmaid
As previously mentioned, Ashley Kanigan got engaged recently. YAY! Well, dear Ashley invited me to be her BRIDESMAID!!! I would like to publicly thank Kani for thinking of me; I will do everything in my power to be there!
As for the "Twice a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride" theory... do you think that reverses itself if one is a bridesmaid more than twice? (uh-oh)
Happy Happy Happy
Besides being able to spend nearly all my free time lately with someone very special, I am especially happy because my Thailand itinerary arrived by courier today!! Too bad it's all in Japanese! 7 DAYS TO GO!!!
I finally watched "Lost in Translation." This movie received rave critical reviews, but it seemed to fall flat with the general public. I think, before my Japan experience, I too would have been less-than-excited about it. Now I am enchanted with the gaijin-humour and recognizable Tokyo shots. I give this movie 4.5/5 for foreigners living in Japan; 2.5/5 otherwise.
Tonight is my first karaoke experience with Mie & Friends. I also get to meet Jody's mom and sister who have flown in from America. YAY! Unfortunately I have to speak in front of 200 parents at 9am tomorrow morning, as I have been asked to make a speech at the Hikari Kindergarten Graduation. Ugh. Needless to say, tonight I will be Responsible Crystal.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Another Valentine's Day?
Today, March 14th, is White Day. It is said that this day is the world's first commercially produced holiday; celebrated in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Basically, candy producers in Japan thought they were not selling enough at Valentine's Day, and rallied together to make a second holiday targeting male consumers.
How it works: at Valentine's Day it is traditional for women to give candy (mostly chocolate) to
the men in their lives. She can give "giri choco
" to male co-workers, bosses, friends, etc. and/or "honmei choco
" to her special someone. In return, exactly one month later, male recipients return the favour.
Some speculate that White Day was originally the brainchild of marshmallow candy producers, and that it was the producers of white chocolate (the now-common gift of choice on this occasion) that followed. Either way, I think women are getting ripped off; nothing is better than good old fashioned milk chocolate.
My two cents: as if one Valentine's Day isn't bad enough. Alone. Ugh.
NB While researching for the White Day picture I came across a rather interesting cultural event... KANAMARA MATSURI. It is held every April 15th at Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan and involves such practises as pushing a giant penis around the city. Seriously, Google it.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Maybe I'm Still Hungover, But...
I have little to say after finally co-hosting our Salaryman/Schoolgirl party on Saturday. This most likely stems from crazy incoherence.
I would like to issue a formal apology to those who had to put up with me. I'm sorry.
No more liquor until Thailand (12 days!!!).
Anyhow, Jody-chan went as a French schoolgirl, complete with baguette. Tressy went as an anti-schoolgirl - a redneck who never attended school. Hilarious. Mostly everyone who attended put some effort into being businessy or schooly, which was appreciated. I have to admit, this girl enjoys men in suits.
With my natural ability to trash-up any situation, I dressed as a "Bad-ass" schoolgirl. This involved donning more make-up than I've wore this whole year combined. I still can't get it all off.
For the first time, the party was held primarily at Tressa's apartment. I have to say, it is enjoyable to not shuffle through the ruins of an post-party hurricane. I showed most guests my apartment though, and they all seemed to like it as much as I do. Finally homey.
Despite my enthusiasm about having my camera back, I totally forgot to take pictures!! Ahhh! Apparently Jody took about 300, which is not uncommon for her, so I'll hopefully be able to "borrow" some for your viewing pleasure.
So as not to fully murder our neighbourly relations in our first month here, we shifted the party to our new kareoke joint before the night got too late. About 10 people, of the originally 20-or-so went to Dream (or Da-li-me). Good times.
Thanks to all those who attended. Anyone who couldn't make it is welcome to drop by anytime for a private apartment-viewing.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
I did not know exactly...1. Full of love; loving.
2. Inspiring love or affection.
3. Having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye. See Synonyms at beautiful.
4. Enjoyable; delightful
Good As New
MY CAMERA ARRIVED TODAY!!
how excited am i?!?! it's been repaired, and is good as new. the thing was still on warranty, but i did have to put out $80 to get it ExpressPosted to me. $80!!! sheesh. well, at least i'll be able to take it with me to sunny, beachy, alcoholic-fruit-slushy-beveragy THAILAND in two weeks. how excited am i?!?!
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Chronicles of Narnia
What can I say, Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was everything I remembered, and everything I didn't.
My mom read us these stories when my sisters and I were children, and though I had only a vague idea, after all these years, of the characters and plotline, I was complelled to see the on-screen version.
As is always the case with cinema, everything was bigger than the imagination. The costumes were fantastic, especially the grand and atmospheric hair-dos of the White Witch. The special effects were enthralling. The scenes and cinematography were eclipsing. On the whole, a dynamic and most successful recreation of a classic.
My only complaint was for the somewhat nauseating portrayal of Lucy Pevensie by young Georgie Henley. Other characters, especially Mr. Tumnus, played by James McAvoy and Edmund Pevensie, (just as infuriating as I recall) played by Skandar Keynes were spot-on.Though I'm certain Chronicles... is no longer in theatres in the West, I would have advised anyone willing to see it on the big screen; in fact, I should like to see it again! I give it four out of five stars.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Mito & the Umematsuri
If you haven't figured it out already, "matsuri" means festival. Ume means plum, or in this case, plum blossom.Friday night Peter, now known as Maverick, and we three ladies headed to Mito for a gathering of co-workers and a friend's 30th birthday. Though I did not have much opportunity to talk to the birthday girl, I know that Angela (from Vancouver!) enjoyed herself. When we reached the Drunken Duck to meet up with Amy and Christa (friends from my company) around 11pm, it was PACKED... about an hour later we were closing the place down. Snore. We decided to try a club in Mito, only to find it less hopping than the 8 people we left at the Duck. At this point Jody and I went back to Amy's where I promptly fell asleep, while Tressa and Peter put a valiant effort in making a night of their trip to Mito (uh, karaoke, woot). For another version of these events, and pictures, view Jody's Blog: http://jodydwhite.blogspot.com/2006/03/mito-several-days-late.html
Saturday morning I met Riccardo at the Mito train station and we set off on our day of culture. The Umematsuri is just beginning in Mito, and the eleventy-billion trees in the Kairakuen park (the third most famous park in Japan) are only about 10% in bloom. Nonetheless, the park itself is beautiful and we didn't have to deal with the throngs of people expected in the next few weeks.After marvelling at the lack of timidity of the ducks and swans inhabiting Senba lake, Riccardo and I sat in the perfect sunshine and enjoyed a picnic! YAY! We wandered through the park, and through the Kobuntei, a traditional Japanese building once inhabited by a ruling lord of the area. The Kobuntei featured hand-painted sliding doors, very low entrance-ways, and an amazing view.After the park we walked through town and visited the Mito Museum of Art. I have been wanting to visit the gallery since I've been in Japan and was not let down. The exhibit was called "To The Human Future: Flight from the Dark Side" and featured about 20 international artists dealing with human degradation via war in a variety of media (paint, sculpture, photography, movie...). There were haunting pieces involving Chernobyl, The Manhattan Project and various wars. I had heard of only one artist in the exhibit: Yoko Ono. Surprise!! Her included sculptures were quite thought-provoking and graphic.Topped with dinner, great conversation, and the odd staring contest, Saturday was fabulous. I hope to have more cultural adventures very soon.My weekend was rounded off with a viewing of The Chronicles of Narnia and dinner with Koji. While I was with him my new sofa was delivered to my apartment. YAY!As it turns out, all these photos are by Riccardo; my thanks to him for weilding his camera so skillfully, and also for re-sizing the picture for me. I have just found out that my camera is en route from Canada by ExpressPost and am crazy with anticipation! YAY!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
March 3rd is Hinamatsuri, or Festival of Dolls, here in Japan. Not only was my favourite private student, Yoshiko's weekly journal write-up about this event, but Yanagida-San, the mother of three of my **favourite** students also came by class to tell me about it. Combined with notes by Jody and stolen photographs of a display at my Friday school, Shiraume, I am learning a great deal about this, one of the most noted, traditional Japanese ceremony.
Families with daughters celebrate March 3rd by displaying hina dolls on a stepped shelf to express the wish for their daughters' good health and growth. The dolls are dressed in gorgeous kimono modeled after those worn by women in the ancient Heian court. Hina (Empress) and dairi (Emporer) sit on the top shelf, followed by sannin-kanjo (three ladies of the court), gonin-bayashi (five court musicians), suishin (escorts) and eji (guards).
In the homes, nagashibina is performed; traditionally this involved floating special origami dolls (called hinaninzyo) and peach blossoms in the river and consuming arare (a rice treat, much like corn pops cereal) and a specific type of white sake known as nihonshu. Today the tradition involves displaying the magnificant dolls for a few weeks, eating the aforementioned arare and tirashizuzhi, a certain type of sushi.
It is said, if the dolls are not timely and properly returned to storage after Hinamatsuri, that daughters will have difficulty marrying at an appropriate age, and may never marry at all! So THAT's my problem!! hehe
Apologies for blurry photos - I've only my keitai camera.
Good ole Barry invited us to his annual Mardi Gras party in Utsunomiya on Friday. With the impending move on Saturday, I had set myself a curfew of midnight. Then my bosses postponed their arrival time on Saturday morning to 11am, and the girls coerced me to stay until 2. Of course, several drinks later I realized that it was 5am and we were still shaking our booties. Oops.
What began at Lion's Head pub, moved upstairs to Dart's bar, and then to the ever-seedy Birdland nightclub. Our host barely made it to Birdland and had to call it a (relatively) early night.
Met up with a lot of friends from that-a-way; got some RSVPs to the Salary man/School girl party we are having next weekend. Saw hot-black-Utsu-guy (Mike) who was a dick. So OVER. Met a very interesting German fellow with whom I plan to take some travels (since the girls have already been-there-done-that with Japan while I was in Canada).
By the end of the night I may have been the only member of my trio to NOT have flashed my "girls" for beads... instead I flirted my way into four sets. Alas, what happens at Mardi Gras, stays at Mardi Gras.Thanks again, Jody-chan, for not being upset with my constant photo-thieving!
CONGRATULATIONS to my LADIES
... it seems I can no longer call you my "girls." You're all grown up now. I'm so jealous!
Congratulations to Ashley Kanigan for having become engaged over her spring break. How romantic that Neil popped the big question overlooking Vegas in a revolving restaurant!
Congratulations to Kimberly Grace who has purchased her first house... with a man!!
All the best my darlings. Love you so.
"Dream"-ing of Karaoke!
There is a karaoke joint about 5 blocks from our new apartments. It's a little seedier than Shidax (which is like the Ritz of karaoke), but we tried our luck. As it turns out, Daichi used to work there!!!
Dream Karaoke is small and run-down, but is clean, has Western-style toilets (as opposed to the squatties in some older Japanese establishments and homes) and boasts a fair music selection. Best part: they allow guests to bring in their own beverages!! This means that if we wanted, we could haul in a whole cooler full of bevies and have ourselves an inexpensive party!!! Alternatively, we can still purchase all the main drinks, or just ask them to provide cups and ice. YAY! Added bonus: we can drag our drunken asses home without need of a taxi, (which cost about $6.50 just to get IN) as it is only a 10 minute walk from our places!!
I'm sure we will still go to Shidax from time-to-time; afterall, they do offer the best shochu-grapefruits and pizza, but for your run-o-the-mill karaoke endeavours, Dream's a dream.
Thanks again, Jod, for the pics! Can't wait to get my fucking camera back!
the new apartment is terrific. better than words can express... especially when i'm comparing it to the lap of luxury in which i used to reside.
a heated toilet seat is greater than you can ever know. it's something to look forward to daily. ha.
this place is technology, man. it's the real Japan. i have a built-in security system in my kitchen; if the doorbell is rung a camera turns on and i can view who is at my door in real time. i can either ignore them, or tell them to go away from my kitchen via intercom. what fun!
the light in my entrance way goes on and off with the unlocking and locking of my front door (by card key). my hot water is digital and programmable.
this does not even include the location factor. last weekend we walked to coco's restaurant for dinner, and to our new karaoke watering hole (turns out that we have the option to bring in our own bevies at this place!!). and as if tressa and i didn't spend enough time together before, we are now privy to every intimate detail of one anothers' lifestyles! fantastic.
our bosses bought us 10 sets of towels, all nicely wrapped, so that we may carry-out the japanese custom of pleasant neighbourly introductions. we are to go door-to-door to the other 10 apartments in our complex (3 buildings) and test our japanese language skills with the locals. yikes.
i will try to post pictures of the new apartment if i ever get my camera back.