Monday, November 16, 2009

サッカー、Dazaifu, and Commercial Opportunities

I'm having all sorts of issues getting photos to upload and format correctly so I'll post another blog just after this one with photos from the soccer match and Dazaifu. Sorry >_<

What's an Avispa?

I attended my very first soccer game (or football if you prefer...and the Europeans here definitely prefer) this past weekend. The Fukuoka team, Avispa (which means 'wasp' in Spanish), was going head-to-head with Ventforet (whom I believe comes from a place near Tokyo). The game was an absolute blast and our team won 2 to 1!


On November 9th, the JTW crew went on a field trip to the city of Dazaifu which is about a 30 minute bus ride from the kaikan. We departed at 8:00 AM, which was way too early for pretty much everyone. My tutor, Takafumi, came along so I sat next to him on the bus. Some literature was handed out on Dazaifu, its shrines and temples, as well as on Sumo. The itinerary consisted of visiting the Sumo stable, the shrine, and the rest was up to us.

When we arrived in the city it was still very early and the shops were just opening up. As we walked along the slightly inclined main street the tempting smell of umegae-mochi (a steamed rice-cake filled with sweet red bean paste) being cooked wafted past us; large, stone tori were our gateways to the beautiful city ahead, Dazaifu, home to traditional Japanese cultural artifacts in the form of ancient temples, shrines, 1,000 year old trees and gardens more beautiful than you've likely ever seen.

The large sumo tournament in Kyushu is about to happen so our first stop was the sumo stable where the wrestlers train everyday for the big event. We were privileged enough to be able to actually watch the men train from inside the stable. We lined the left and rear walls and observed a grueling practice for about an hour. Afterward, we were able to get a group picture taken with a few of the wrestlers. Best of all, we were able to talk with and ask questions to Harumafuji Kōhei who, in May of 2009, won the Natsu Basho Championship.

Next we visited the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. This shrine is sacred to the memory of Michizane Sugawara, the "god of learning", and was built on the site of his grave. The main hall as it stands today was built in 1591. Because Sugawara was considered the "god of learning", thousands of students come to this place to pray for their success in school. There were many students there the day we went and there was ceremony going on inside the temple that we could see from the shrine square.

Next to the shrine is the fabled Tobiume, a plum tree rumored to have flown from Kyoto to Dazaifu. Outside the square is an ancient and absolutely enormous camphor tree thought to be at least 1,200 years old. This tree and the other camphor trees surrounding the area have been labeled as one of the city's most important cultural properties.

From this time on we were on our own. A few of us decided to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant Takafumi recommended. I had ebiten-udon (shrimp tempura udon) and a delicious umegae-mochi.

After lunch we made our way to what would be the highlight of the trip, the Komyozenji Temple. This temple was built in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and is famous for it's beautiful stone gardens. Outside of the temple is an array of statuettes, trees, ancient looking bells, and other buildings, as well as a path leading to the temple entrance that is lines with a gorgeous stone garden on each side.

Upon entering the temple I was only a few turns away from one of the most beautiful havens of nature I've ever seen. The Zen garden is a paradise of moss covered trees growing amidst a river of raked stones, large mossy rocks upon a bed of green grass. Fall is coming and so the leafy canopy was a mix of brilliant greens, yellows, and otherworldly pinks. The only thing that broke the spell of this place was the number of students there who unfortunately caused this otherwise serene place to be somewhat noisy. I intend to return there some time soon when it will prove to be quieter.

On the way back to the bus I stopped by one of the shops, now open for business, and purchased a umegae-mochi. They are delicious, I couldn't help myself.

Why I'm Going to Nagasaki

My friend Tabea informed me that there is a commercial being filmed that requires 29 non-Japanese extras. I asked her to forward me the information. I sent them the required information (name, age, status in Japan, etc.) and two photographs and the next day I received an email back stating that I was picked to be in it!

The shoot will last 3 or 4 days (depending on the weather) and I will be paid ¥36,000 (about $350). My transportation will be covered, hotel accommodations will be provided, as will meals. I'm not sure of the nature of the commercial, but I was told that it will be shown nationally and will star a famous Japanese actor. The location of the shoot will be in the Dutch themed resort called Huis Ten Bosch. Here's a link to the website:

I find it really strange how much T.V. exposure I'm getting here in Japan. I wonder if something will come of it. At least I'm getting paid for this shoot!

Next up: film?


No comments:

Post a Comment