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My Web Site -- Japan

Listening by Seiko Tachibana

Back to the Beginning · About Me · Resume
2001 Aug - Dec
2002 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
2003 Feb Mar Apr
(Click on images for larger view)
July 21st (The Good Earth)
Good weekend. Suzanne and I went to an almost totally deserted beach on Saturday afternoon. White sand, clear sky, beautiful clear blue water surrounded by lush green hills - sometimes I still can't believe that I actually live in this tropical paradise.

On Sunday, I went down to Ashikebu to help the villagers with their rice harvest. They call this "inekari". My teacher and I drove down together. As we approached the village, we spotted one of the little 1st grade elementary students walking down the road, sporting a brand new mohawk. When we arrived at the rice paddy, I saw that a few of the other kids were wearing hair-dos inspired by Ronaldo and David Beckham. Saturday was the first day of summer vacation, so the kids are helping themselves to a little free self-expression, something that they can't do when school is in. The whole experience was a really bizarre juxtaposition of the old Japan and the new. Rural kids with mohawks and David Beckham hair hauled in the rice crop and one teacher, harvesting rice side by side with the elderly villagers, gasped with horror as he dropped his expensive digital camera in the mud.

Cutting the rice is really very simple. You just grab it with your hand and cut it off at the base with a small sickle. When you have a bunch of it, you tie it together. Despite this, I naturally managed to do it the wrong way. It took a little tutoring from a villager before I was harvesting rice like a pro. My feet kept making farting noises as I sloshed around in mud that came up to my knees. I felt like a character out of a Pearl S. Buck novel. It was really quite a thrill and the first time that I've ever done anything resembling hard work since I've lived here in Japan. How refreshing! :) After the last bunch of rice had been hauled in, we all sat down for a little picnic of watermelon, individually wrapped cookies, and homemade chocolate cake. The older villagers were eating some strange concoction of rice, pink-tinted water, and little beans... it was just a tad too exotic for my palate, so I stuck to the chocolate cake and mugicha (barley tea). You just can't go wrong with chocolate cake! I said, "Konnichiwa, Beckham" to one of the boys with a Beckham hair-do and they all thought this was hilariously funny. They were rolling around on the blue tarp that we were using for a picnic blanket, just in hysterics over that. When they stopped, one of them would say, "Konnichiwa, Beckham" again and they all start rolling around again, grabbing their sides, paralyzed with the giggles. I just couldn't figure it out. I mean, I thought looking like David Beckham was the whole idea?

Here are a few photos from that afternoon. Also, I've added some photos from Adrian's going away party.

The rice paddy
Japanese boy (with stylish mohawk) holding a bundle of harvested rice
Toiling away in the rice paddy
Post-harvest photo, holding my sickle and wearing mud socks.
15th (Make Me Wanna Holler...)
A typhoon blew in this morning at about 3:00 in the morning. I awoke several times during the night to the sounds of high winds and the feeling of my apartment building shaking with the force of the storm. At about 6:00 a.m., I peeked out my window and saw debris flying through the air, bicycles being tossed down the streets, trees bent over double, horizontal rain ... they say the winds are at 80 mph, which is pretty intense.

So, on a day like this, what do the Japanese do? Where do they go? Do they stay within the safety of their home? Do they go to a nearby shelter? No, they do none of these things. They get right out in it, in the pelting rain, winds strong enough send bicycles and small animals hurtling through the air, they get in their cars, and they drive to work as if it were any other day of the week. Unbelievable, but true. In my case, I had to walk to work. So, groggy and irritable from lack of sleep, I got dressed and put on my raincoat as Marvin Gaye sang "Make me wanna holler, the way they do my life" in my head and tried to avoid being knocked sideways by powerful wind gusts as I walked to work. As I approached the building, a couple of other employees were standing outside, trying to chain up their bicycles. Suddenly, a huge blast of wind came streaking down the road and we all had to struggle to maintain a vertical standing position as the wind tried to topple us. It was just an utterly ridiculous scene that I just had to laugh to myself. Everyone looked at me as if I were a bit touched in the head. Do I sound bitter? I'm trying not to be bitter about the fact that I have to be at work with nothing to do when I could be at home catching up on all the sleep I lost last night. I'm trying. When I arrived into the office, I was given this note: "Bron-All school are closed. Because, the 7th typhoon hit Naze. But, public servants have to come to office in Japan. I don't know this reason. Maybe. custom or duty. Duty is right." So there you have it. Half the employees in our office took a vacation day, probably because they can't leave their children at home alone in a typhoon.

But that's enough bitching about Japan for today. As easy as it is to complain sometimes about ridiculous Japanese customs, I should never forget what a good situation I have here. I can see where it might be easy to become one of these ALTs who contantly bitch and complain about Japan, and I don't want to turn into one of those ALTs. On a happier note, a group of us went down to Koniya this weekend for Adrian's going away party. We all sang karaoke until the wee morning hours. We got a huge karoake room all to ourselves, complete with strobe lights and mirrored walls. Suzanne and I did a duet on "The Final Countdown" by Europe, which was terrific fun. Suzanne, being Canadian, sang some Celine Dion. Adam performed his usual reportoire of "A Wonderful World" (he's so proud of his Louis Armstrong impersonation) and "Uptown Girl". It was good fun. Another thing to be happy about today: the dollar is plummeting! I'm almost looking forward to sending money home next week. And today, for the first time since I've lived in Japan, I handled an office phonecall. The phone rang, I picked it up and said "Hello, Naze City Board of Education". The voice on the other end asked for Mizuno-san, I said she was on vacation this morning and would be back in the afternoon, then the voice said they would call back, I said thank you and hung up, all in Japanese! Everyone in the office applauded and my boss said, "Good, from now on, you can answer the telephone." Yay me.

Here are some photos from Adrian's party:

From left: Tatsushi (in 70's jive casual attire), Audra, me, and Adrian
Tatsushi and Takuya sippin' on a bottle of shochu
From left, half of Adam, me, and Suzanne (keepin' the rhythm with a tamborine)

Keith (on the mike) and me

Me and Suzanne (I honestly don't remember what we were doing here, pointing at something...-- I leave it up to your imagination)

Flanked by Keith's and Adrian's heads, Suzanne and I perform "The Final Countdown"

Can't you just feel the love emanating from this photo?

Suzanne and Tatsushi pose for the camera

2nd (Fun in a Japanese Office)
Went to a little island called Tokunoshima this past weekend. We spent
all day Saturday playing on a beautiful, deserted beach and swimming in the sea. Had a little BBQ party Saturday night. It was heaven. On Sunday, we went out to eat at a hamburger place called SamBurger ("Born in American since 1923") and went to the beach again. As we were leaving the beach, some men drove up in a truck with a trailer hitched to it. The trailer was holding a massive, black bull inside (bullfighting is an old tradition on Tokunoshima). The led this grunting, mammoth-sized animal by the nose out onto the beach where it proceeded to roll its head around in the sand and run around in the surf. It was truly one of the most bizarre scenes I have ever witnessed. To my Texan mind, bulls and beaches just do not go together.

Spending a day in the office. Since I pretty much have nothing to do, they figure they'll use me somehow, so I have been stamping shit again, collating, stapling, and also I had my first experience as a Japanese tea server. Some education big wigs are having a meeting on the third floor. One of the men in my office asked me to carry a tray of green tea up there and serve each of them. The idea of doing a tea service just automatically sent spasms of insubordination through my body... I have issues with Japanese male-biased gender roles. But to my utter amazement, he actually helped me carry the cups of tea upstairs and serve it to the big wigs. I noticed a slight look of discomfort on the faces of some of them as he did so. That kind of thing is totally unthinkable for most Japanese men. At that moment, I gained an immense amount of respect for him. Later on, another one of the men who work here asked me to carry another tray up. But he didn't help me, he just sent me upstairs alone, smiled and said, "Bron-san, this is the Japanese way". Yeah, that's the more typical Japanese way, but obviously there are exceptions.