This is Life

Sunday, August 28, 2005

One Month Down

So, I have now been in Japan for just over one month and have seen and done so much stuff already that I am making myself jealous. I was actually supposed to climb Fujisan this weekend, which translates to Mr. Fuji, but is just a nickname for Mt. Fuji. So, no, I wasn't going to climb a man named Mr. Fuji, but rather the famous volcano that you think of when you think of Japan. The trip got cancelled this weekend because a typhoon had just passed by and the winds would still have been strong. Just so you know, a typhoon is not the same thing as a hurricane. It is actually a tropical storm, but these can be pretty bad. I am lucky I survived because this one was packing winds that may have reached 5mph and it rained for at least 10 minutes at one point. Yep, it was a rough one.

Actually, I probably shouldn't be making fun of the natural disasters because there have been 2 earthquakes in the last couple of weekends. They were just small ones (5.0), but I was in a different area of Japan each time they hit so I haven't actually felt one yet. I'm kind of bummed about that, but I am sure I'll get my turn. I just hope it is a baby earthquake when it does come because I need some practice before a big one.

Anyway, I should be hitting Fuji in a couple weeks, but I have had back luck with climbing volcanoes. I probably tried 3 or 4 times to climb Mt. Etna when I was in Sicily, but those plans always fell through. Now, I am 0/1 here in Japan so I'll keepp my fingers crossed, I suppose.

Other than that, I start school this week and I am pretty excited about it. I have still been going to school every day, as most teachers here work throughout the summer, but most of the students are on their summer vacation so I haven't met many yet. I have been asked to make a speech to the school in Japanese for the opening ceremony. I think I will just memorize a Japanese detergent commercial and hope it sends the right message to the kids about living a clean life. I don't know enough Japanese so my options are limited.

Anyway, here is a sample of what I have been up to.

Last Friday a few of the boys and I knew we were going to be in tough to get to the ferry in time. We knew the ferry left at 1:50 and that it took 90 minutes to get there (I assume this applies to people that have done this before). I was off at 11:30 and then I had to bolt to a town 20 minutes from here to pick up the boys so we could head off. So, we left at 12:00 and had 110 minutes to get to the ferry and it now took 110 minutes to get there (because of the extra 20 minutes distance). Like I said, it was going to be close. So, after a hair-raising, yet beautiful turn-filled drive to the port we made it just in time ... 1:50 exactly. They even held the ferry for us so we could get on. They actually held a 300 foot long boat for 3 foreigners. How about that? The problem was that I still had to park. So, I tried and when I realized it would cost 8000 yen (~$80) to park near the ferry I opted out and we didn`t get on the ferry. Fortunately, there was another ferry at 4:10, but that meant we wouldn`t get to Sado until 6:40 and the concert was at 7:00. You see, we hadn`t bought or reserved tickets yet so we were plenty worried. It turns out that our fears were unfounded and we had plenty of time and there were still plenty of tickets to the concert.

As for the concert itself, it was set atop this hill near the port and was an open air concert. The atmosphere was great and the only downside was that my butt hurt from sitting on the ground. Not a big deal. There was also a Japanese family there with their baby girl who I think was about 12 months and we became fast friends. I had as good a time playing with her as I did watching the show. But the show!!! WOW! It was amazing. If you ever have the chance to see Kodo or any other Taiko drumming then I highly recommend it. It is really cool and it is actually a lot of fun to play too. So that was the Friday concert and it cost 5000 (~$50). The concert on Saturday was a guy named Carlos Nunez and he is a Spanish bagpipe player. Yeah, I didn`t know the Spanish played bagpipes either, but apparently there is a large Celtic area in Northen Spain. He was also joined by 8 members of Kodo. On the final night, the best night, the entire Kodo troupe (30+) played with Nunez and I wish I could have gone because I am told it was unreal.

Other than the concerts though, Sado was a really interesting place. I ended up taking my car on that second ferry we came on and I was really glad I did (although it cost about 10,000 (~$110) per person). It is a pretty big island, but we saw lots of stuff. They have these fisherman that use round, flat-bottomed boats and only one oar. It is by far the dumbest engineering I have ever seen, but they have been using them for hundreds of years so I am probably missing something. I think they have glass bottoms so they can see the shellfish they are picking off the rocks. I`ll post pics of everything as soon as I get a chance.

Having a car gave us a chance to see lots of things no one else got to and to see some of the very traditional fishing villages. There was actually a lot of very, very small shacks that people lived in and I`d say it borders on poverty. You just don`t see that everywhere.

Ok, now for the one thing I want to warn you against if you ever come to Japan. Remember these catch-phrases: "Just so NO to NOH" or "NOH is a NO-NO" or "NOH is a NO-GO" or "NOH BLOWS!" To be fair, some people actually like Noh plays, but in my opinion (and the opinion of countless others), Noh is really, really boring. I guess it is another Japanese experience I have had, but I have talked to lots of Japanese people and very few of them have ever seen Noh. There is a comedy version of Noh, called Kyogen, and I`ve heard that is better, but wow, I was bored to tears. Basically, Noh is a traditional Japanese dramatic play which uses traditional Japanese (which is incomprehensible to most Japanese and is often translated for them into modern Japanese) and often runs for 8 hours. In fact, I once read that it is acceptable to fall asleep during the play. Thankfully, our play was in modern Japanese and was only 2 hours and it was still unbearable. You know, I love trying all this Japanese stuff, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. There were 5 of us that went and 3 of the guys really enjoyed it. They pretended to know what was happening, but I am pretty sure they were talking out of their behinds, if you know what I’m saying. Sounds like something I would do. Wait, I did pretend that I knew what the play was about. In truth, I went and hit balls at the driving range during the middle part of the show. That was the best move I made all night.

Oh, you might be interested to know that we only went to the Noh play because I wanted to go. I thought it would be great and I told everyone all about it. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized what know actually was. You see, I somehow got Noh confused with Bunraku, which is a traditional form of Japanese puppetry and it is actually really interesting (although it may not sound like it, I know). So, that was disappointing, to say the least. On the bright side, we had a really nice meal that night.

So, Sado is known around Japan as being the home of Kodo and of Noh. It is also famous for its hippies. I gotta tell you that hippies are the same everywhere. I mean, I hate to stereotype, but Japanese hippies are the same as American hippies and European hippies except that they are Japanese. There was lots of peace signs, rainbows, dreads, long hair, hemp clothing, environmental groups, etc. Anyway, they were all lots of fun and really amusing.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the ferry ride. Ours was like the Titanic, except no movie stars and it didn't sink and it was a ferry and it had an arcade - well, it was kind of like the Titanic). It was so strange to come up from the carpark and see this magnificent staircase in front of you. It was flanked by a concierge and spa (I think) and was amazing. But we just went to the arcade instead. They had a bunch of classic Nintendos hooked up so it was nice to relive our childhood for a few moments. There was also a series of three identical video game machines. It was like a baby-bear, mommy-bear, and poppa-bear setup, not in their looks, but in the games they offered. The one on the left was a cute kid’s game. The one in the middle was mahjong. And finally, the one on the left was a porn game that involved naughty nurses or something like that. It was a really bizarre sight.

Oh yeah, as for our accommodations, well, I just bought a device the other day from 100yen (dollar store) to somehow fix my back. I am never camping on the beach again. I was fine the first night (other than sand being everywhere and it was 30 degrees by 8 am (no joke)), but the second night we decided to make a fire. Not just any fire would do ... we were going to have to biggest fire this beach had seen in a long time. So, as we drove around that day we picked up as much wood as we could find lying around the island and sure enough, we created a mighty big fire. Unfortunately, we created said fire a little too close to the tent. No problem, we’ll move the tent, I said. We moved the tent back ten feet, but we forgot to clear the ground under where we moved it too so we were sleeping on uneven sand with the odd jacked rock sticking up into our bodies. Not so nice and the reason for my current agony. But back to the fire. It turns out that we were still to close. Well, we’d moved the tent as far as we could and so our only choice was to move the fire. Tell me my friends, how do you move a live bonfire? One piece at a time and screaming like a little girl, that’s how. Somehow we did it, but I think it was because only because some of the boys were drinking that they even considered it. I kind of just sat there and watched the train wreck. Anyway, it was cool having the biggest fire, but likes moths to a flame so are hippies attracted to bonfires on beaches. So, out came the instruments (mostly drums and the odd flute or two) and the party went on all night. Thankfully my experience as a camp counselor taught me that I should never be without a pair of earplugs. So, I had no problem drowning them out.

Ok, story done. Next up should be about my first few weeks of school and a trip to Tokyo and Fujisan.


At 1:26 PM, Blogger Felicia Monson said...

You know what is so crazy, I travel around the world constantly experiencing all kinds of amazing cultures and people. I just got back from India and here I sit thinking, "gee, I sure envy Dean, why can't I be doing such cool things?" I guess it's true that the grass is always greener on the other side. Peace bro, felicia

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Transformational Business said...

Hey Elvis... I mean Dean!

Great to hear the sushi & natural disasters haven't killed you yet. Sounds like you're days are sure building some great experiences.. which means new stories. Can't wait to hear.

We're back off to England on the 29th, this time for Good!

I'll read your blog if you read mine! Then we can pretend people really really care.

One message for you from Hal Johnson- Keep Fit and Have Fun.

Justin Reid


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