Sunday, June 15, 2008
Manyouta Festival
As I found out during a welcome party for home stay students in Yamanashishi, there is an annual festival in Manriki Park called the Manyouta Festival. Uta, in Japanese, means song and the whole festival is dedicated to some old chants. Some of the selected home stay students, along with several local elementary students, were chosen to sing these chants on stage during the festival. While performing, they would also get to wear some traditional outfits.

I was asked by the mayor's secretary if I would like to go and wear a costume. I actually helped the mayor practice a speech he would give at the festival in English and I told him I would go to cheer him on, so I figured doing so in costume would make things a bit more fun for me. She picked me up at my house and took me straight to the festival. We got in a spot of trouble over where to park for a bit, but she used her 'i work for the mayor' powers to help us get a close parking spot. We then rushed over to the costume tent, where she helped me pick out my (too small) outfit. Even though I was told the costumes were traditional dress, I highly doubt they had bright pink, yellow, and blue shiny hakuma back in the day. However, I love to dress up, so it was all good. And of course, everyone fawned over seeing me, the gaijin, all dress up. Later, some of the home stay students also arrived and had to dress up, so I didn't feel so alone.

I got on stage and lit a candle and then listened to the mayors speech. After the speech I congradulated the mayor on his English skills and took some pictures with him. I also ran into one of my 6th grade students, who was hosting one of the home stay students and was going to be singing the special chant on stage. I promised her that I would stay and cheer her on.

After the chanting, I headed over to L river, my favorite local bar, with the mayor and his secretary. They mayor had never been to L river, so I was kind of fun to show him where we hang out. The bar master also seemed quite please to have the mayor in his establishment. After a drink or two, we busted out the karaoke. So, yeah, I got to karaoke with the mayor of my town! Crazy!

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posted by am at 10:31 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Welcome homestay students

A group of students from Iowa (and a random one from Colorado) came to visit Yamanashishi on part of their trip around Japan. Tiffany and I were somehow nominated to attend their welcome party, which actually turned out to be less of a party and more of a ceremony, on Friday evening. I introduced their schedule to them and then me and Tiffany gave them a little pep talk on living in Japan. At the end of our speech, we got way more questions about how to become an English teacher in Japan than we did about Japan itself.

After the speech we ran a little activity for them while waiting for their host families to arrive and pick them up. The activity was 'guess what's in the box' and we used a variety of Japan and Yamanashi related items including fans, tatami, cherries, grapes, and the most hilarious one, devils tongue jelly!

By the time we finished, all the families had arrived and they started pairing up the Iowa kids with their families one by one. I felt really bad for the kids who were called up last. You could tell they were nervous and excited. I tried to lighten the mood by joking that we'd run out of families, but realized they might have taken my comment a bit too seriously when a few of them started to go pale. Interestingly, a few of the kids I teach were there too. I knew one of them was going to host someone, but none of the others told me. They were pretty nervous too. It was really cute!

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posted by am at 10:30 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Happy Birthday to Me
I celebrated my 24th birthday recently. I wanted to keep everything kind of low key so I celebrated by having dinner with some friends at a newly discovered curry place in town and taking a trip to the gym. Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday!

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posted by am at 12:09 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Hanging with the Mayor
On Wednesday, after my 5th period class, I went over to the city hall to help the mayor practice his speech for some homestay students from Utah. I suspect his secretary was behind the English practice. Still, it was rather neat to get to see the mayor again and help him out. He was actually quite good for only having started practicing the day before. I plan on going to the event where he is giving his speech in order to cheer him on. I also got a Yamanashishi pen for my assistance. Not as good as the city hall events where they give me cash, but at least it was still something.

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posted by am at 12:05 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I went with Tiffany last weekend to check out Nikko. It's a popular tourist spot in the Tochigi prefecture and is well know for its impressive temples and the famous see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkies.

Getting there is fairly simple, but takes about 4 hours via train so we left really early on Saturday. While on the train we ended up talking to a very interesting older women who was sitting next to Tiffany and across from myself. She apparently lived in England for a year and has a husband who works in Kentucky. It was great getting to chat with her and she really helped us out. The train we were on split at a certain point, one half going to Nikko, and the other half going another direction and lets just say we wouldn't have been on our way to Nikko without her help. Our first stop wasn't actually Nikko, but Utsunomiya to check out a famous stretch of cedar trees. It's actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the worlds longest tree lined avenue. It was a gorgeous area, so I'm glad we made the extra stop. I can't get over how great the area smelled....yeah, that's right, smelled. They were cedar trees after all.

After that we checked into out flash back to the 70s style ryokan and then walked around. Right outside our hostel there was this really neat red bridge so we went to take some pictures. We also stopped at a curry place for some lunch. Tiffany made fun of me cause it was like the 5th day in a row that I had eaten curry. What can I say? I'm a curry fan! Afterwards, we wandered around some more and ended up at a giant temple area and walked around town for a bit taking note of various interesting shops and oden vending machines.

The next day, because we only had a little bit of time, and a lot to see, we signed up for a tour. All in Japanese of course, but we managed to muddle our way through the important instructions. The tour took us to a few waterfalls, the red bridge we had seen the day before (but this time we got to actually go on the bridge), and 3 different famous temples including the one we had stumbled across the day before and the famous temple that has the carving of the famous hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil monkies.

Once the tour was over, it was another lengthly train ride back home. But don't worry. We made the most of our time. ;D

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posted by am at 11:46 PM | Permalink | 0 comments