Thursday, December 4, 2008

"How else can I shoot those balloon animals?"

A large tree in front of the station was illuminated for the season, and we were dispatched to lead the countdown after a short message. We didn't have much forewarning as the ALT from the elementary school, who was supposed to do the honors, skipped out last minute, so our message was a rather lame, "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men." And then they pushed me forward to sing carols in English - A. claimed to not know the lyrics. I felt sorry for the professional enka singer who was already providing just fine entertainment, not the least because two languages at the same time just sounds like Babel.

Then they invited us to a party across the street - some were the people who had planned the decoration but a lot just seemed to show up. There was a great deal of talking very fast but a man from the BoE - who spoke some English, was actually a former principal of our school, and cornered me right away with "I want to speak English with you" - translated an occasional joke and once beseeched the revelers, "Please speak slowly, they do not understand." It was all a little embarrassing, but hey, free dinner. And the view was priceless.

The brightly lit window under the SHARP sign was where the party was still taking place when we left early, since we had work the next morning.

Here are my awesome works of art for the board:

Remember the hanabi festival I went to in October? One of the food stands I visited ('twas a night of indulgences) was run by a nice little old man who asked where I was from and admired my hair (even though it's not nearly as long as I've had it, it seems so in comparison to the very short 'do that is popular here.) Fast forward to today. There are often people who come to sell things to the captive audience of the teachers - yoghurt drinks, dried seaweed, coated nuts. It's usually women with large bags - today's visitor was a man with a long box. Much to my surprise he approached me. Only when he mentioned karaage at the hanabi festival I recognized him. I wondered if his box contained fried chicken - instead it was an array of different spices that he would mix on the spot into a unique blend. I would have liked to try some but I had no money on hand. Instead he gave me his number on an empty packet and said, "Please call me. I will be waiting." Which is sweet but my Japanese is shaky enough in person when I can use extensive miming - it's not up to the complex phone etiquette. But I'm still amazed that Ihe remembered me after all this time (I know, a couple months, but you know my memory), and wearing a mask as I was. It's a small country after all.

Speaking of which! When Mom and I were in Ueno Park, we encountered an interesting man who spoke decent English and wanted to lament the lack of pandas in the zoo and other slightly incoherent things. I'm not sure if this is the same guy, but it was a very similar encounter to what many other foreigners have described.

This is the season when the TV is full of "best hits of the year" programs, which I love. One group I never get tired of seeing perform is three-girl group Perfume. I was dubious about them at first since I'm not a fan of the sort of techno-pop where the singer is so heavily computerized they might as well not be singing. But I'm trying to become less of a musical snob, and I'm thinking the performers who prerecord their singing are a different type of talent, but not necessarily worse. I do admire that Perfume is spot-on in live performances - I've never seen them do a single move out of synch with each other. And I'm not sure if they could achieve that while trying to sing at the same time (or without a bucketload of rehearsal.) So maybe it's different than live Broadway - that doesn't make it worse.

Plus they're ridiculously adorable, and adorably ridiculous. They have to be putting on an act in interviews, since no one could be that amusingly stupid, right? Right? Them interacting with my favorite Tsuyoshi is priceless, because he clearly has no idea what to make of them either. It's kind of a running theme with Japanese entertainment - that "is this person for real?" feeling. Which I suppose isn't that different from American.

If you have a moment, check out the webpage for Japan's first food bank.


Beeniac said...

Hi Em,
Is the tree-lighting in Yaita? I want to hear more about you singing Christmas Carols. Did you know the words by heart? Sure wish you had your harp there, you could have given a one-person performance.
Love you,

Beeniac said...

The Tao story about a carpenter and his apprentice.
A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice; "Don't you know why this tree is so tallk, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?" The apprentice looked at his master and said: No.....why?"
Well, the carpenter said, "because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into taables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax." Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude.