A funny weekend

Hi blog! Haven’t seen you in a while. Been studying for a test – yes, the JLPT, N1, and I’m quite confident that I’ve failed it for the first time – and working full time, and also applying for a visa. That is an ongoing process I’m not going to talk about it here today. Maybe another time. Maybe never.

A couple of weeks ago I had a funny weekend that I want to share with you. You’ll need some back story first – namely, that I’m a musician and have on occasion done some performances singing and playing the piano around Hiroshima city. My friend’s mum, who is in a band, was participating in these events and invited me to join, which was nice of her. I don’t have a band in Hiroshima, and these have always been solo acts. I did one in February or March this year and didn’t enjoy it much, and decided not to do these any more by myself. But in June this year I was asked to do one on a Friday night.

A friend my age was organising an event in his local area, and some local acts including a DJ were doing a gig in a small gallery space, and they wanted one more act, so my friend asked me. It was a different group of people from the other events I’d participated in – younger, like, people in their 20s and 30s and a couple of families with kids. One of the families was on stage together, with their kids playing marimba, clarinet, keyboard, violin and singing. The dad was on the drums or bass, depending on the song. Another act was a singer-songwriter kid, 19 years old, in red bell-bottoms and an orange and white striped long-sleeved T-shirt, singing all his own songs, with a distinct sound. One group was made up of One Piece fans in orange T-shirts and straw hats who sang two Aimyon covers in a row. Then there was me, and then the DJ who played some great music. It was an interesting and fun event to be part of because everyone was so different. At the end one of the One Piece guys played a song someone had written about the area, Yokogawa. It was pretty catchy.

Some friends had come along to watch, so we went out afterwards to find somewhere to have a drink and something to eat. We tried to go into a cool-looking bar on the ground floor of a hostel nearby, but they were closing. Around the corner there was an Akamaru, which is a chain izakaya popular in Hiroshima. It was pretty full but there was a very friendly bunch of Japanese guys drinking with a bearded overweight white guy, all who looked to be in their early 20s, who encouraged us to join them or take their seats. They were sitting out the front of the place with tables and chairs on the footpath. They actually stood up and asked us to take their seats, but they and all their food and drinks were still at the table, so we didn’t straightaway. The staff brought out an extra bench to sit on and we eventually sat down and the 4-5 Japanese boys drifted away, but the white guy said ‘Can I join you?’ and sat down with us.

There were about 7 of us – me, an American guy, and 5 Japanese girls with varying levels of English speaking and listening skills. The American guy was between 2 Japanese girls nearer the other end of the table, but I was next to the bearded white guy. His name was Ron and he was from Canada. One of my Japanese friends wanted to ask him lots of questions but he didn’t really understand her English, nor she his, so they did a bit of communicating through me. It went something like this.

Friend (in Japanese): What’s his name?

Me: She’s asking your name.

Him: Ron, I’m Ron.

Me (in Japanese): His name is Ron.

Friend (in Japanese): Rob?

Me (in Japanese): No, Ron, like Ron Weasley. You know, in Harry Potter.

Friend (in Japanese): What’s that?

Me (in Japanese): You don’t know Harry Potter?

Friend (in Japanese): His name is Harry Potter?

Me (in Japanese): No, his name is Ron. One of the characters in Harry Potter is also called Ron.

Ron: What are you guys saying?

Ron told us that he had been travelling around Asia for a couple of weeks. He had been in Taiwan for a week and then maybe Korea, and Japan for a few days, and my American friend and I were the first white people he’d seen in a week and a half. He’d come to Hiroshima through Saga (Kyushu) and Fukuoka and there were no white people anywhere. We couldn’t know how happy he was to see white people!

This was pretty funny for me and the American guy. All the Japanese girls agreed that his story was impossible: maybe not in Saga, but there are lots of foreigners in Fukuoka. There must have been some.

No, he said, there weren’t.

We asked Ron what he did and he told us he worked for General Motors, which was a name we two westerners recognised but none of our Japanese friends did. They didn’t know Holden, Commodore, Chevrolet or Buick either. This was a bit of a surprise for Ron and, honestly, for me too. We all had to suppose that Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Honda are just really prevalent, and that other cars popular in Japan are often from Europe or the UK, like VW, BMW, Audi, Mercedes etc. You do see Fords though.

Ron had to repeat how happy he was to speak natural English with white people again. I could only think, hmm, he hasn’t lived in a non-English-speaking country before.

We all had fun meeting Ron and he seemed to have enjoyed meeting us. He might be back in Canada again by now.

The next day was Saturday and I had work. I was planning to go to lunch at a friend’s house on the Sunday and that friend had a new baby, so on Saturday after work I went with my other half to look for a nice present for the baby. We weren’t sure exactly what sort of thing we wanted to give, but we went to the baby/kids’ section of Fukuya, a department store, to see what was there.

About 90% of everything was pink/red or blue. I was appalled. The baby whose present we were looking for was a girl, but I didn’t want to enforce any gender norms on her, no matter how sure I was that everyone else would, as well as what she would see on TV, in shops, in books, in all media. We eventually found a nice soft teddy bear – NOT PINK – without a speaker or a peek-a-boo function, not too big, that I figured a small child would be able to hug.

Then we went looking for some yakitori, because it was dinner time and we hadn’t had yakitori in a while. It was raining and the first 3 places we tried were full, but we kept walking around and eventually found an empty yakitori place.

There was a dog on the counter. yakitori dog

The owner didn’t smile the whole time we were in there. He didn’t talk much either. He didn’t mention the dog, we didn’t mention the dog. The dog looked at us. We talked quietly and watched the TV that was on, up in the corner. The dog walked up and down the counter. Some show with some scary home videos. The dog went to sleep. The food was good. The one other customer ordered draft beer after draft beer and eventually left. The dog turned around and looked at us again. We decided it was time to go. The owner stepped outside for a minute without saying a word and I took the chance to snap a photo of the dog. 

The next day was Sunday. I went to the lunch and gave the teddy bear to the mum – the baby was still 3 months old and might not be very interested in her teddy yet, but her big sister would claim it, because she’s really into soft furry things at the moment, according to her mum. Another dad who was at the lunch invited all of us to go to a haunted house he’s organising in August, on levels 3 and 4 of a building, upstairs from what you might be able to call a cafe/cabaret bar.

And that was that weekend.

Spring and that

Here are a few things that have happened with me in the last while.

*Revelation*

It’s hit home that in many cases I’m now a sempai in Japan. Not only in Japan, actually, but that’s the current setting. This became evident a year or so ago at a picnic with a heap of newly-arrived JETs. They were all so shiny-eyed and excited to be in Japan, which was, well, refreshing. It reminded me how it used to feel to be new and as foreign inside as out. I’ve become one of the people explaining and showing other new people how to do things. Stranger still, I’ve had to do this for a co-worker who actually is my senior in both age and in our workplace, because they’re going to do an ALT position, which is what I’ve had both more training and experience in than maybe anyone else at work. Of course, the longer I stay in Japan, the more people I meet who have been here for 10 or 20 years longer than I have, and who can speak, read and write fluently in Japanese. So it’s all relative.

Spring

As well as the end of the school year and a number of changes at work, I had a parental visit over the March transition period which was terrific, and also intense. Mum and Dad came and even though this winter was mild, the trees were still just getting ready for spring. There were some buds on the sakura, but that was about it. Everything was still grey and ugly, but Mum and Dad got to see it all start to change, which was nice. And now everything’s green, the humidity’s on the rise, the doona/duvet/kakebuton is in the cupboard, and the hydrangeas are coming out. No dragonflies yet, but mozzies have started.

Study, work, whelm

I’ve been trying to watch Japanese news, listen to Japanese news, do reading comprehension exercises, read books and study kanji in some combination every day, while working full time and also eating and sleeping. And, you know, brushing my teeth, showering, and even exercising sometimes. And trying to socialise with people. This means that things like watching dramas, reading books (without a dictionary nearby) and alas, self-care take a back seat. Which is a real shame and doesn’t make sense, I know. If you don’t look after yourself, it’s natural that you’re not functioning at your best, which would of course be the ideal way to be for work, study, socialisation and life in general. I guess I’ll make a point of prioritising it for at least the next couple of weeks and see how that goes. With luck the study, etc. that I get around to should be a bit more effective that way too.

What else has happened?
Got my gold licence. When you first get a driver’s licence in Japan, it’s green. Then after a while you have to renew it and it changes to blue. If you have the blue one for a set time (3 years?) and you don’t have any traffic violations in that time, the next time you renew it’s gold. Not sure if it changes to blue the next time if you’re involved in any incidents or what. Hope I don’t find out.

Australia had an election… not much to write home about there.

Japan had an election… not much to write home about other than noisy trucks driving around with recordings of people just saying their names and good morning, hoping that you’ll vote for them.

I went to Kyushu for Golden Week. Kyushu’s great. I failed to go to Yakushima because of weather conditions, but succeeded in having some adventures and spending some money. And finding how popular Kumamon is all over Kumamoto. Most of the week I had in Kyushu was rainy.

IMG_2359

Walking in the rain in Kagoshima

I also saw an interview of a famous ex-porn star, I mean really a star. There was one of a famous man and one of a woman who wasn’t so famous. The man is charismatic and speaks well. His interview is interesting.
Oh, and I saw the Green Book movie the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also found a beautiful cinema where it was showing.

So not that much news going on, but that’s what there is for the moment. At some stage I should have some more to say… maybe in Japanese! That way I could blog and study at the same time.
HW: self care. Hope you’re looking after yourself, reader!

Happy 2019!

As always recently, long time no write, eh? It’s looking like staying that way this year, because as well as still working full-time in a language school I’m studying for the next level of the JLPT – the N1. I want to learn to read more in Japanese generally, and N1 might be useful in getting jobs, too. There are some jobs in Japan where N2 is useful, and there might be some in Australia where it’s useful too but N1 is definitely more so.

2018 was a pretty good year for me in some ways. It was also pretty sad in some ways. Two of my grandparents died, on different sides of the family. Elsewhere in the family, cousins got engaged and/or had more children. My work environment changed from one of constant discomfiture to one where I can make jokes with other teachers and laugh when things go wrong (not if it’s serious, obviously).

In 2018 I learned the hard way not to ride on the yellow lines (for the visually impaired) when it’s been raining. At least not the new ones. After falling off my bike on them, twice, feeling annoyed at the footpath suddenly having become a minefield of pedestrian and slipping hazards, I also discovered that there ARE actually people who use them for direction. Saw two people in one week feeling their way along, having myself made it to adulthood without ever seeing anyone using them.

2018 brought ends to some friendships and beginnings of new ones, as well as the discovery and closure of a nice Cambodian restaurant. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a bar that plays the BEST music, and also a little Italian restaurant where all the staff wear denim shirts and serve some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten.

In 2018 I went skiing once. I read 27 books, according to Goodreads, including some fantastic ones. My top 3 would be: The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss – and the next book in the series), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman), and The Sympathiser (Viet Thanh Nguyen).

I visited 2 countries I hadn’t been to before: Hong Kong – yum cha 3 times, or was it 4? – and Korea, and really enjoyed both. I tried calligraphy, another first. I tried archery for the first time (it was great) and saw an exploding bamboo fire at the archery course. I enjoyed whisky for the first time: Teacher’s. I went to a rainbow tea party. They were just showing off all the colours of tea they could make – I don’t know if the tea makers are aware of what rainbow means in the West.

Japanese calligraphy. It was fun.

Fancy tea – more for looking at than for drinking.

The bamboo grows in sections, so when the air in each expands with the heat, the divider as it were has nowhere to go but out… pop!

There were some great films that I saw in 2018, including Bohemian Rhapsody. Japanese films I really liked were One Cut of the Dead, Cafe Funiculi Funicula, and Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura. I learned the joys of Japanese medical dramas.

Plenty of things happened for me in 2018 and it’s looking like 2019 will hold quite a few too. Already been skiing once so it’s looking good! I hope you’re well and that 2019 is shaping up well for you.

See you sometime, reader. Wish me luck with my studies. Somehow I’m determined to have some semblance of a life while I study and work. Hard to balance everything. So 応援してね!

またね :)

Catch up

Oh dear, it sounds like something I’m putting into a lesson plan. Finish all the stuff everyone couldn’t finish because they were absent or slower than the time we had.

I’m feeling at a bit of a stalemate with Bijinjapan at the moment. There are things I think about writing, but lots of them don’t feel worth a whole post or relevant to what the blog is supposed to be about (Japan and/or Australia, remark or compare and contrast):…

Like, wow, we’re having some weather events and natural disasters this year. Floods, landslides, earthquakes and typhoons in Japan, and yet more drought in Australia.

Like, I read a great piece about acceptance and the lack thereof as a foreigner in Japan (please read it, it’s excellent, and thanks to the Canadian friend who shared it!).

Like, I don’t know how music fits into my life now that I’ve discovered audiobooks, internet radio and podcasts. This can’t be only me feeling this way. And how paper books fit into the world. I definitely still like them, and music, and do I want to make music? What kind? By myself? Should I wait for a chance to make music with others?

Like, the number of parking attendants in Japan is still funny to me. Sometimes I find them very helpful, sometimes the opposite.

And here, have a couple of summer photos now that summer’s over, the 金木犀 is out in full force and the Halloween goods are on display at Daiso (who am I kidding, they’ve been out for weeks).

This was the day my phone finally decided to let me know when an emergency warning is being broadcast. It let off a siren during a meeting, about ten or twenty seconds before anybody else’s phone did anything. This was the day we were allowed to go home early, except for those of us who weren’t allowed to or couldn’t go home because they lived on a hill or in a valley, so they had to hang out in a car or a school hall for the weekend. It was the 6th of July 2018.

This was a Vietnamese iced coffee I had in Osaka the day I lost one of my favourite earrings – it fell out while I was walking around. It was good, and with the condensed milk it tasted amazing, but I wasn’t game to go for all the lactose in the whole serving. Wish I could have (without issue).

New Obscura in Hiroshima.

Hokkaido white corn, eaten raw. One of the many delicious consumables to be found in Hokkaido.