Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Japan

Life here has become very comfortable for me. Three months have passed and I can hardly believe it. I'm getting to a point where I can't believe that I'll actually have to leave this life in just 7 short months. It's strange to think that this time in my life will never be able to be duplicated; the friends I have here are from all over the world and it will be nearly impossible for all of us to be together again once we all leave Japan. I'm really cherishing every moment I have here, making the most of every opportunity.

Right now, I'm sitting here listening to (illegally) uploaded videos of the band Grizzly Bear on Youtube - who I'd not heard of but was Googling 'best of 2009' lists and this particular group was on the top of someone's list so I decided to check them out - and I thought now would be a good time to update this too often neglected blog. It's post-Christmas day and the holidays here were well spent, albeit a bit different from what I'm used to: it was the very first Christmas I've ever spent away from my family.

Christmas Eve was spent making and eating delicious Nabe (a kind of Japanese stew) with a really awesome girl named Hiromi who I've been spending some time with, and her good friend Saki. Hiromi often goes by Hiroron, which is super kawaii (cute). I like the way it looks in katakana, ヒロロン, so I sometimes take just the middle two sounds and use that: ロロ. Coincidentally, I bought the screenplay to the film Juno last night for language practice (one page is in English and the facing page is in Japanese), and Rollo, the store clerk (played by Rainn Wilson), is also, naturally ロロ in katakana.

(Me and Hiromi in the kitchen making nabe)

Anyway, enough digression. We ate in my dorm room and I showed them the videos of my two appearances on Mentai Wide and the commercial I was in. Afterward we went to ピノッキー karaoke. We spent 5 hours there, from midnight to 5:00AM. It was a blast, as karaoke almost always is. I sung mainly Green Day and Oasis songs, with the key dropped one half step so that I could handle the higher notes. But I did have a duet with Hiromi: Angela Aki's 「手紙 ~ 拝啓 ~ 十五の君へ」. I also sang some Lincoln Park when someone else chose them. "In the End" is surprisingly fun to sing and almost within my range. Karaoke is actually improving my singing abilities which are infamously mediocre.

(Some of the karaoke crew)

(Me and Hiromi at karaoke)

Last year on Christmas Day, Jerrell and I went and saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" at Jackson 10 in Jackson, Michigan. This year I went to Toho theater in Fukuoka, Japan to see "Avatar" in 3-D with a bunch of friends. I'm not going to turn this blog entry into a movie review, but "Avatar" was super epic and amazing to watch. Check it out if you get a chance.

Since my last update I've met my homestay family and spent some time with them. I was invited to their house for dinner and tea and got to know them. Their names are Sachiko and Takeji Kuma, they're both in their 60s and have kids that are grown and long out of the house. They LOVE "The Carpenters" (which my mom will be pleasantly surprised to hear); that's all we listened to the whole way to and from the Christmas party that I went to with them in Kurume city. The party was really fun and I was able to see them both perform Noh (能) and I saw Sachiko perform tea ceremony. She's a professional tea ceremony instructor and Takaji has been doing Noh for decades.

After the main party we went to a delicious Ramen restaurant and then returned to watch a really great Beatles cover band. At one point they asked,

「日本で一番人気があるビートルズの歌は何ですか?」、 "What's the most popular Beatles song in Japan?".

I answered, "Let it Be", in perfect English. (I had heard three different people play it on the piano that was in the room throughout the course of the day, so I figured that was the correct answer.)

They said, 「えっ、どっち?」、"Hmm, which one?"

Again, I said "Let it Be".

They said 「ヨワ プロナンシエーション イズ ベリ バッド」 "Your pronunciation is very bad", in very bad English.

So I "corrected" myself and said, 「レット・イット・ビー」, "Letto itto bii".

He exclaimed 「そうですよ」、"That's right".

It was a hilarious exchange and a great example of how the Japanese katakanize (change the sound to fit the Japanese syllabary) English song titles to the point that they can't even recognize the original, correct pronunciation.

Earlier this month JTW took a trip to another elementary school, this time Susenji Elementary School. I spent my day with a 5th grade class and spent a lot of time with the boys both in the classroom and outside on the playground. We made origami Santa Clauses and did calligraphy. All of the kids wanted to touch my beard too. It was really funny. I had a really good time and will most likely go back for their Mochitsuki in January.

(At Susenji Elementary with some of the students)

I'm currently on winter vacation which will last for 14 days. It is a very welcome break...though I've been sleeping in way too late (though that's probably because I've been staying up way too late so I guess it balances out). I've been playing a lot of guitar lately, working on writing new material that I'll probably end up forgetting before I ever have a chance to record it. But it keeps me from going crazy since I don't have Sonar anymore and can't compose my instrumental/orchestral stuff.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I miss you all and can't wait to see you in July!

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