|My Web Site -- Japan|
Recently got back from a conference in Kobe, Japan. Eight hundred of us JETs stayed at a very upscale hotel, sat listening to speeches and staring into space by day, went out on the town in Kobe at night. Among some of the more interesting things I did was to visit to a 5-story sex shop called simply "Body" in Kobe. The Japanese clerk was most helpful explaining to all of us exactly how one used all these sexual gadgets like butt plugs and dildos. The next day we went to Osaka. I learned that Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto are all basically all melded into one colossal concrete mega-jungle. So you can take a train from Kobe to Osaka, or Osaka to Kyoto, or Kyoto to Kobe, and never once see anything but gray buildings and sidewalks... there simply is no green space in between. Weird. One night, I saw a group of Japanese people practicing break dancing moves on the sidewalk. In typical Japanese form, they were neatly organized into a group, practicing the moves together in sync. One Japanese guy winked at me and said hello in flawless English, no accent or anything, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Everywhere I went there were Japanese people speaking English without an accent, without giggling, and without making a mistake. It was pretty disconcerting.
In Osaka, we went to this nightclub because we heard there would be drag queens there. At around 1 a.m., just as we were losing hope, the drag queens came sauntering in, clad in 8-inch heels, 4-inch fake lashes, and huge flaxen wigs. They looked gorgeous. They handed out 3-D glasses to everyone and then went downstairs to the dance floor, got on stage, and put on a great show. Everyone went nuts, it was great. The drag queens were up on stage, dancing seductively. All the Japanese people were dancing their funny dance while waving glowing sticks around. The dance floor was packed, people were going crazy, and I felt like I was attending a sold out concert or something, the energy was that high. I've never experienced anything like that before. Stayed at my first capsule hotel that night.
21 May (Beautiful Fish)
On Sunday, went snorkeling in Koniya with Keith, Adrian, Suzanne, and Audra. I saw several large blue starfish this time. I saw hundreds of beautiful tropical fish. I saw clownfish nestled in the anemone, looking up at me as if to say, "and just who the hell are you?" The pufferfish scared me a bit. The look in his independently moving eyes was just sinister somehow. It was windy and the waves were tossing us around the surface of the ocean like pieces of driftwood. Someone mentioned that they had seen a shark around there the previous day and so I kept freaking myself out while I was in the water, looking over my shoulder to see if Jaws was coming for me. Sharks are very scarce here and a sighting is unusual, even in deep water. But there are plenty of sea snakes. A few months ago, when we were sailing, a sea snake swam right beside our boat. It gave me the willies just watching that black, slender body sliding through the water. Sea snakes are supposed to be extremely poisonous.
Sadly, most of the coral here is slowly dying. The dead coral looks like nothing but drab grey rocks. The fish were all eating what remained of it. The fish were so spectacular. I tried to imagine what it must have looked like when all that coral was still alive. How sad that it is all disappearing. I'm going on another snorkeling trip with the local Amami Snorkeling Club on the 1st of June.
I've added some photos from our fishfry down in Ashikebu. Please have a look see.
15 May (Hot and Steamy)
Summer's definitely here. It's making me all sweaty and smelly-like. I'm spending a relatively uneventful afternoon in the office. That's about it.
Dutifully attended my Japanese pottery class last night. I'm working on a cup and saucer now. I got a little carried away with myself during my sculpting and scraping and poked a hole in my saucer. My dear friend and teacher, Ike-sensei, patched it up for me. I have a couple of pieces in my house that I claim as my own work but are really examples of Ike's genius for avoiding a waste of clay. Wish I could take photos of them and put them on the site, but I got the official word yesterday that my camera was beyond salvation. Next step is sending it back home.
13 May (Monday)
Enjoyed a most interesting weekend. On Friday night, I got drunk on Japanese beer and watched American History X, Trainspotting, and half of Clockwork Orange. American History X rocked my world. I loved it. What a compelling and important film!
On Saturday, I participated in a volleyball tournament with some people from my office, most of them male middle-aged chain-smoking desk workers. We played against all the junior high school teachers in the city. We did a bit of practice before the match and when my coworkers saw how I crouched down in fear when the ball came in my direction, they made sure that I occupied the back row in the team formation. Before each match, my teammates huddled together for a pep chant, or whatever you call it. When someone scored a point, which was rare, everyone else on the team temporarily left their positions to give the victor a high five. Yet, in spite of all that enthusiasm, we played badly, very badly. Most of the guys up front couldn't jump high enough to hit the ball over the net. One poor guy fell right on his ass during a serve. There was a lot of grunting and falling and grimacing and sweating. Good fun all around, though. Needless to say, we got our asses kicked--it was downright shameful. After volleyball, I went to the home of a woman who works in the office. We ate a lunch of soba (buckwheat noodles), fried rice, cucumbers, and pea salad while watching a program on TV about some Japanese people who did a homestay for some African bush people who had never, up to that point, had any contact with modern civilization. The Africans were giggling gleefully at the miracle of plumbing and electricity. When they entered a modern house for the first time in their lives, one poor soul was so overcome that she lay on the floor in a fetal position, here eyes wide with shock. During meals, they were overcome to the point of tears at the abundance of food. Really bizarre shit that was, perverse and twisted (but what can you expect from Japanese TV?). They even had these poor African people doing aerobics. What the faaaa...?
On Sunday, I was invited to attend a village festival in Ashikebu. They had what we call in Texas a "fish fry". When we arrived at 10:30 in the morning, I was shocked to see that the vast majority of men there were already very drunk. Since I was perhaps the only foreigner they had ever met in their lives, I got loads of attention from them, offering me beer, getting angry when I refused it, insisting that I sit next to them so they could ramble on in slurred, unintelligible Japanese while I held my nose against their beer breath, turning my head occasionally to gasp for air. Once I got over the shock of that, though, things went pretty well. I watched as they cast a huge net into the sea and pulled out hundreds of colorful tropical fish. I felt sort of sad to see all those beautiful fish writhing and suffocating on the beach. A 3-year-old girl started to whimper and turn her head away when some men began ripping the scales off one of them. My feelings exactly, I thought. But they were delicious, I must admit. They cut some of the fish up and served the raw meat to us right there on the beach, which we ate with some onigiri (rice balls) and miso (soy bean paste).
Later, I helped the women fry up the fish (whole), scrape tiny scales off fish heads. We ate and then had games and karaoke. We competed for prizes of dish washing liquid, brooms, tupperware etc. by standing in a line and passing a rubber band to one another on a chopstick held in our mouths. During his turn to pass the band, one old (probably drunk) guy started to fondle and kiss the younger guy he was passing it to.
For some reason, I was really mesmerized by the elderly women sitting near me. They looked so ancient, so tiny, like little yodas. They ate and drank greedily, licked their fingers. Later, one of them helped me read some kanji (Chinese characters) and told me about how each village on Amami had its own dialect.
|Sunday morning. Makiko and I stand watching the men haul up hundreds of fish from the sea.||Makiko and I displaying the catch. This fish was bright blue. It's hard to tell from the photo.||Makiko and I displaying a shell that someone found. These shells are supposed to bring good luck.|
|Pigging out on raw fish. This shack is just a few yards from the beach where we caught the fish.||Eatin' and smilin'. Yes, that is a bath towel wrapped around that guy's head.||Ah, satiation. A moment of reflection after filling our tummies.|
|I politely claim my prize (it's dish washing liquid) after my team won the pass the rubber band with a toothpick game.||Enjoying the festivities with the locals. An obaachan (grandma) sits to my right.|
May (Office Exercise)