Friday, July 9, 2010

おい!

Hey!

I'm alive, yes!  And it seems that for a couple of months I've gotten swallowed up in trying to be too serious about studying.  Really what happened is I overextended myself, thinking too much and getting overwhelmed by the options that continued to present themselves here.  It's sort of a perennial issue and something that I had a mind to work on in coming to Japan, so I'd like to think I've learned a few things at this point.  With the program starting to wind down now, the smoke is clearing and I'm again seeing some things that are important to me in my life.


Here's a quick update:


• Traveled to America (New York / New Haven) for a week in a whirlwind journey that took me to my brother's college graduation and gave me the opportunity to feel like a real jet-setter sort of person, and do a bit of shopping.  Had some real reverse culture-shock.  Meant to write more about it but got too busy at the time!

• Japanese language skill has improved.  Today in class we had discussion groups with Japanese students as guests, and we talked about such topics as impressions of foreign people, cultures, and countries, foreigner discrimination, differences in cuisine styles, problems in daily life, and international travel.  I was the discussion leader.

• The weather in Kanazawa (and Japan in general) has FINALLY gotten warm.  With it has come the humidity, but I really don't mind it.
• Made a couple more trips to Kyoto and did more exploring.  Really a cool city!  And it's a ton of fun to feel much better informed than the majority of the foreign tourists, too! haha
• Sang at a live event with my A Cappella circle ("Melo Melo") at an off-campus club event.  Our group was called "The Roof Over" because of an uncanny similarity in pronunciation to a particularly delicious style of Japanese noodles, when said with a thick Japanese accent. (zaru soba!)  There's a video of it, but it's pretty huge so can't upload here.  Maybe YouTube later on.  We did one song a cover of "Secret Base," a well-known J-pop song by a group called Zone.

• Performed two songs with the rock band circle YFA at an on-campus live event.  There's a video of this too, but again, it's too big a file. We covered "Suspension" by Mae and "ささくれ" (sasakure) by HY.  I did vocals on both, and acoustic guitar for the Mae song as well.

• Been thoroughly enjoying my "Mass Media and International Communication" class, probably more than any other.  It's the most intellectual stimulation I'm getting here.
• Thoroughly practiced and then performed four songs at a well-attended off-campus live event with the other rock band circle "XXTRA!!"--it was awesome!!  I have a big video of most of it, and I should be getting a DVD with the whole thing in better quality at some point before I leave Japan.  I did the introductions and sang all four songs--also did acoustic guitar for one, electric guitar for one, and harmonica for one.
• Road-tripped with other Tufts students from my program north to the Noto Peninsula to Wakura and some nearby places.  We stayed the night at the renowned "Kagaya" hotel, known throughout Japan as having the highest level of service in the entire nation.  We were incredibly lucky to be treated to this experience, and I'll never forget being doted on like that!  I couldn't possibly stand too much of that.
• Cheered for Japan's SAMURAI BLUE at an awesome bar-party during one of the World Cup games.  Japan put in a good run but went out in the Round of 16.  I now own an officially licensed Samurai Blue towel.
• Participated in Kanazawa's biggest festival, the 百万石 (Hyakumangoku) Festival, celebrating the prosperity of Lord Maeda some 430 years ago.  I donned the 16th century garb of a member of the Archer Corps in Maeda's army and marched with many hundreds of other participants from Kanazawa Station to Kanazawa Castle, a distance of several kilometers.  All while wearing straw sandals that were roughly 8 sizes too small.  It was awesome!!!


I've also been thinking much about the future (at least, as far as a year or so from now), some important issues, and developing some life philosophies.  It's not exactly an atmosphere of intellectual stimulation here, but I realize I'm actually doing rather well, and in the month I have left, I intend to make the most of it.



Now for some pictures.


Assembled guests at Kagaya (加賀屋), wearing our borrowed yukata.


My samurai (archer) dress from the Hyakumangoku Festival.  I had the honor to join Lord Maeda's loyal retainers.


One of my first views of the USA upon my brief return.  Food court at Terminal A in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, a place that is devoid of character by design.


Sushi being sold at Penn Station in Manhattan.


Going out for Jewish food on my first night in New York.  Here's stuff you won't find in Japan!

 
While shopping in SoHo.  I liked the jacket but my arms are too long.


A Real American Steak, part of celebrations for the brother's Honorable Graduation.


A Buddhist temple somewhere in Noto.


During preparations to march, I had a chance to do one of the most funny and rewarding things I've ever done in my life--that is, march through throngs of festival-goers, through Kanazawa Station, into a McDonalds, while dressed fully as a samurai, order a Teriyaki Burger to go, and then rejoin the army and commence eating.


Proudly wearing my yukata during the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり)


During the Japan-Netherlands game.  I wanted to buy one of those official shirts, but they're $100 each.


AMAZING yaki-soba in Kyoto!


Kamogawa River in Kyoto, a very summery scene.  Lots of people like to walk along or sit by the river.


Our stay at Kagaya featured an unbelievable dinner, featuring sashimi and sea cucumber ovary and beer and yuzu-sake cocktails and wagyu beef and shellfish soup, among other things.


During the demonstration portion of the march!


Japanese trains have no exits.  They are in fact so advanced that they have only entrances, and when you reach your destination you simply arrive, without any need to exit.  Actually, a better translation would be "This is not an exit."


For my Japanese Reading class, we read a recipe for niku-jaga! (It's a sort of meat-teriyaki stew with potatoes.)  Then we cooked!  It was delicious.


The Tufts program also treated us to dinner at this fantastic sushi bar.  Some of the best I've ever had in my life!!   Unagi to die for.  But don't do that.


It's such a thrill to see people dancing in unison in the street for as far as you can see, thousands upon thousands of them.  This was part of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri.


Also stopped by Nara again, to see and feed the deer with their summer coats.  Somehow they were even MORE pushy than they were in December.  One of them bit me on the thigh in his feeding frenzy (there was no food in my pocket??), and I was surprised to find that their antlers are warm and fuzzy, not cold and bony.


Sleep now!

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