Category Archives: 2003 Taneichi

Teaching English in NE Japan

Graduation Congratulations!

When I moved to Japan in June of 2003 these kids were in seventh grade… now they are graduating middle school so I wanted to give them all a big shoutout. Go Nakano! Go Kadonohama! Go Jounai! Go Yamato! You kids rock and were a huge part of my love for Taneichi. Good luck in High School or your next adventures.

2003年6月日本に行ったときこの生徒たちは中一年生だった。今月中学校から卒業するよ!おめでとう!がんばれ中野!がんばれ角の浜!がんばれ城内!がんばれ大和!あなたのせいだから種市が大好きだった。高校か次のアドベンチャーでがんばってね~

From,
Your American friend forever,
Forrest(o)

[ofo] getting to nih

Hej all,

P7080264I’m
back in Denmark after a week in Chamonix – Mont Blanc, France. Sorry to
those out of the loop, it has been awhile since my last big email. I
hadn’t even left Tokyo with my sister… it’s been a pretty busy couple
of months since then. Here are some highlights: a week at a youth
hostel in Ogasawara (a randomly Japanese tropical island accessible
only by a 25-hour ferry ride),,, back to Iwate with my sister to teach
folk dances & waltzing to all my students,,, goodbyes to all my
schools,,, goodbyes to all my Iwatelope friends,,, helping Taneichi’s
new ALTs settle in, translating for them and introducing them to
schools and local festivals,,, getting accepted to Nordjyllands
Idrætshøjskole
(North Jutland Sports Folk High School, where I am now)
with 16 days to get from Taneichi, Japan to Brønderslev, Denmark,,,
missing the night bus for my departure,,, taking the shinkansen the
next morning and making onto the plane by half a hair’s width (the last
standby passenger accepted),,, four nights at home, including two
contra dances,,, To øl tak.then
a plane to Hamburg and a train to Odense, where I meet Lindsey, and the
adventure begins (ha),,, we stay with Hanne “Belle” Jørgensen (formerly
of The Freight Hoppers), get the royal tour, and even get to jam on a
few oldtime tunes,,, get on the train to Brønderslev the next day.
After two train car changes we found some seats that were actually
headed where we were, and settled in for the last couple of hours of
the train ride. As a conductor firmly but politely reminded us, we were
in a “shh, no talking” car. “Oookay,” I thought, marking the incident
down as Danish culture shock number one.

We (quietly) rolled into Brønderslev Station, and walked out to meet
the Anders, the school’s representative. He took our bags and pointed
the five of us from that train towards the school. Lindsey and I had to
laugh as we started hiking… our first adventure had already been
assigned! We didn’t say much of anything to the other kids as we
walked, which is funny to think about now… after a month of living,
eating, working, and playing with them, they feel about as close as can
be.

Everything
leading up to Chamonix now feels like preparation for the trip. They
have all kinds of cool games and activities that people at the school
have come up with over the years. One of my favorites was like a
low-tech laser-tag game (with crumpled newspapers wrapped in tape
instead of lasers) played in a gym full of gymnastic equipment for
obstacles. They also got us to come up with games, in teams, of course.
One of those involved stealing clothespins from the back of the other
team’s jerseys, which degraded into a big grabass fest. My favorite was
a kind of soccer / hockey hybrid, with one player of each sport tied
together with bicycle innertubes. That’s when I met Bjarni, my big
Icelandic viking friend, who pulled me around the court making me feel
like it was more of a horse-and-chariot competition than anything else.

A more serious competition original to the school (?) is the
bike-and-run. I think this sport might have been born as a practical
solution to a bike shortage, but it’s pretty cool. In one of it’s
forms, a team of two people with one bike have a 10km course to
complete. When the teacher says “go,” they have to copy the course to
their map (one per team). One person starts running, the other starts
biking, and it is up to them how often the biker leaves the bike for
the runner. It’s a pretty exciting race, because you don’t really know
your position until the end. Even if you are keeping up running with
people from other teams, they might get a bike before you, leaving you
in the dust.

After a month of such team-building hijinks with all these cats we got
in a two-level bus headed for Chamonix, France. More on that later…

Tokyo Adventure

July 2-3

Way back in early July my sister came to Japan for a visit. I told her to prepare for an adventure, and I think I delivered.

I took the night bus to Tokyo on Friday, which gets to Tokyo at six in the morning. I think this is my favorite time to be there, when the city is just waking up and yawning: the quiet before the morning rush inundates the streets and trains with people on their way to work. I usually end up just wandering around and people-watching. I found a random amateur rock festival in Hibiya park, which was funny. There were about twelve people watching, and every song ended with a thud. I tried to give them a little “woo,” but it didn’t help much. Maybe everybody was off watching Björk, which I didn’t hear about until my father told me a week after the fact, dj’öh.

Around two I went to the station to wait for Claire’s call. When I hadn’t heard from her by four I was getting worried, but finally she called from the station. Then we set off to find the hotel.

Our reservation was for the Hotel New Otani Inn, so we set off to the hoterunyuuootani, which I had found on the map. My heart sank when I saw the place at which I thought I had made a reservation, a dirty shank of concrete, left over like so many other relics of the 80s economic boom. I had a bad feeling as we walked in the front doors, which might have been caused by the dark, swirling carpet under our feet, or the sickly yellow lights above our heads. The bellhops took our luggage and gently guided us to the front desk, making us feel uncomfortable in that special way that only overly-polite Japanese bellhops are trained in. After about twenty minutes of checking and rechecking we finally figured out that we did have a reservation, but at the hoterunyuuootaniin, a completely different place, on the other side of town. Luckily, the … Inn was more our pace, and much more convenient to the main train line.

We took turns showering and napping, and then Daishi called me from the hotel lobby. We had plans to go out and see the big city at night. First on the adgenda was a *monjayaki* place in a section of town that is famous for it. Monjayaki is like Tokyo’s version of okonomiyaki,* a big, savory pancake that is made in front of you and eaten from the pan. It was pretty good, and vegan, so Claire even tried a little bit. I picked on Claire for not eating more of the non-animal things that I managed to find for her, but she did try more than last year, I guess. Daishi and Akiyo gave us real beetle keychains (not vegan, but sufficiently quirky) as welcome-to-Tokyo presents. Too nice.

Claire was almost falling asleep onto the griddle, so she opted to go back to the hotel instead of the clubs that they had picked out for us. The first place was a little hole-in-the-wall, but the entrance was off of a quite path on the way to a shrine, so I thought that was pretty cool. The DJ was good, and I met a bunch of Daishi’s small film friends. The event was a live acoustic set from someone that used to be in a big-time group but had since gone solo.

After that place we hopped in Daishi’s (father’s) Beemer and headed to the next place: Ageha @ Studio Coast. This is apparently the newest, biggest, best club in Tokyo. It’s not my scene, but it was definitely an interesting experience. He has a few friends that work there, that got on the guest list, which meant we got to breeze past the line of “normal” club-goers, and not pay to get in. The first room was the “Water Bar,” where five go-go girls were coming out to do their little show. D. pointed out the two go-go girls that used to be, ahem, go-go boys… I couldn’t see their faces under the huge afro wigs, but I took his word for it.

The next room was electronic, with massive mobile light systems, video screens, and a huge floor. I thought it was cute how the dancers were still giving each other at least two feet of space. It may be the best, but it is still Japan.

We had a little talk with one of his friends that was working as a rollergirl, and she told me she had been wearing the skates for ten years. Another of his friends hooked up with with recycled VIP bracelets, so we went to check out the VIP beach next to the reggae dance floor. Got some udon noodles and a seven-hundred yen beer, and looked out over the water at the Tokyo lights. Yep… definitely not my scene, but good for a laugh.

Crashed at the hotel as the sun was rising. The next day Claire and I did the Tokyo tour, then Monday it was off to Ogasawara! More will come when/if I find time to write…

This week has been something…

Today at Kanehama I was lovin’ it… I think I’m finally getting a feel for getting into a wave, so from now I have to figure out what to do once I’m there (maybe turning?). It was an amazing day, and there were only three of us in the water. I love surfers. They spend hours together, and don’t feel any pressure to fill it with chitchat. As long as they are sitting in the water they could just as easily be doing zazen meditation in a temple. But anyhow, there are many places in the world that would be just crawling with surfers clamouring for a wave on such a perfect day. That thought makes me a little sad to be leaving fair Tohoku.

I have a new muse now for surfing, too. My heart was full of her today, and it was the best day of surfing in my short surfing career. Like Quixote’s Dulcinea, I will dedicate every wave to her honor, for the rest of my life.

Current playlist:

the notebook of life

I’m coming down off of a long weekend of sorts… Thursday I got to sleep in a little bit before heading down to Morioka for our quaint little conference thing. We thought it would be funny to try to have one in Tokyo, but… maybe a bit harder to justify.

They had 南部美人 (“Southern Belle” sake) at the place we ate on Thursday, which I think must have some amphetamines in it or something, cuz I start rolling on that stuff like nothing else. Friday was Tiff’s birthday thing, which was nice, but they seemed to be short of anything other than tofu and chicken… served them fifteen ways each. I met a railroad man that was going to be an extra in a film shoot on Sunday, so I invited myself along of course. Saturday I woke up and made the mix for our dance class, and went to that, which was good good fun. The location pulled a stubborn j-style c-block on our using the sound system, so we had to use a boombox, but other than that it was cool. Hopefully I’ll be able to pull it together somewhere better next time.

On location in Iwate…

[ofo] Swinging Iwate

Long time, no big email… how ya been?

hexagonal origami - back Last week’s enkai was fairly entertaining.  Enkai are a Japanese phenomenon where everyone in an office is obligated to spend lots of money, eat a pile of food, and drink – the later seeming to be the main goal of the evening.  Some of my coworkers don’t even eat that much, just so they can save room for beer, nihonshu (sake), and shochu (Japanese liquor).  There needs to be an excuse for all this revelry, and last Thursday’s was in honor of the Superintendent leaving his position.

today's randomness April first is the start of the fiscal year in Japan, and it is also tenkin season, where employees are traded around like so many Pokémon cards. I think that the higher-ups actually do have smoky meetings in dark back rooms where they speak in hushed tones and shuffle their employees around. At least that’s what I imagine. The students are on spring break now, so I’m at the Board of Education for a couple of weeks. Every day a group of transferees will come in and give the standard greeting one by one: “You have taken care of me for X years, thank you very much,” followed by a deep gracious bow. Then the top guy in the office says some stuff, and we all bow some more. The teachers often look like they are on the verge of tears, but maybe they are trying to look stoic. Either way, the last bit of the exchange always seems so wrong to me: a forced, curt, painfully awkward round of applause. (Yay! I’m being involuntarily transferred to somewhere totally new and random! Exactly what I had in mind for the next three years! Thanks for the applause guys, it’s all I needed.)

card I give my card to the teachers that were friendly to me, and it’s nice to have a small nonformalized sayonara. If last year’s tenkin is any indication, none of them will call, but that’s OK.

Anyhow, with the superintendent on his way out, there is only one person in this office that has been here longer than me, and for all I know they could be on their way out as well. The end of March is a crazy time here. There is a nervous tension in the office, with everyone trying to go about their everyday jobs but unsure of what those could be come April.

vegan sashimi I guess the primary function of these official drinking parties is to relieve some of this the tension. I told Nori, a friend from the town hall, that I’m not too sure about August, and I’m thinking about trying to stay in Taneichi for another year. We started talking about that, but just then Mayor came up and sat down on the floor with us. The mayor is an interesting character, elected (?) good-oldest of the good old boys, he speaks with a clip that is pretty hard for me to pick up on. Japanese men are more difficult to understand than Japanese women (the exception being women from Tsugaru, who have the most overwhelming accent I’ve heard yet). There is a macho staccato that has taken me a couple of years to be able to get into the flow of. People that have had contact with foreigners generally know how to slow and dumb it down enough for me to understand.

in which our mayor battles my supervisor for my honor The Mayor doesn’t dumb it down, so at these functions an office friend will usually translate what he is saying into Forrest-accessible Japanese. Tonight Nori was the man for the job. Apparently the mayor wanted to give me a piece of land with one cedar tree. I’m not sure about the significance of this gesture, or whether he remembered it the next morning, but we shook on it and had a good laugh. Then Nori spilled the beans that I’m considering trying to stay for a third year, and we shook and laughed on that too. The Mayor has a good handshake. He is also good at sumo, from what I saw….

contra dancing in japan So yeah, I’m thinking about staying. It doesn’t hurt that I got to put together and call a contra dance last Sunday. That was a lot of fun. About seven English teachers showed up for the whole thing, and a bunch locals floated through during the two hours. We had enough for three hands-four, which is enough. After my contra thing there was a swing thing, which was good fun as well. All and all, it was daiseikou (a big success). We’re planning another swing event for next month.

I practiced calling at Yamato, the combined Elementary / Middle school that I go to on Fridays. I love going to that place. We did “Sasha” and “Seven Jumps” as part of the elementary pre-graduation celebration. Everybody was having a blast, students and teachers. The one boy was pretending to be too cool for a little while in there, but I saw a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth by the end of it. He’ll move up to the world of formal middle school English education in April, along with two classmates. I’ve played with them every Friday during recess for almost two years now, so hopefully we can skip the whole shy part of the first year of English.

Two middle-schoolers graduated from that school on the 15th, and their future paths have been decided by the tests they passed. They included Claire in the graduation ceremony, saying “REMEMBER THE TIME… WE TAUGHT FORREST’S SISTER… ABOUT OUR TRADITIONAL DANCE.” This was one of about twenty “memories” that the students memorize for this part of the ceremony. They belt these out to each other in a specific order in this even monotone yell. The whole thing was off-putting when I saw it last year for the first time, but now I find it sweet and endearing. I’m turning Japanese I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so….

Anyhow, if I decide to not stay, I guess I’ll be looking for gainful occupation come August. Any ideas? Kids, dancing, music, film, outdoors, environment, surfing, information technology… if one or more of these are involved it would be bonus.

Tell me what you think,
– Forrest

[ofo] summer is nice

Sorry, long time no update…

Back in June my Mom, Dad and Sister came over to Iwate for a couple of
weeks. We visited my schools and traveled around the prefecture. One of
my favorite parts of having them here was to hear their analysis of what
was going on around us. When I arrived in Taneichi there were a few
things new to me, but overall nothing was too shocking, since I had “done”
Japan before. This was my parents’ second visit to Japan, and my sister’s
first, so they were able to point out things that I have come to take as
normal. Let’s hear what they have to say about the visit, in their own
words…

>From Dad:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/forresto/121678.html – click!
>From Mom:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/forresto/122109.html – click!
>From Claire: start here:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/frostblaze/1193.html – click!
then click the right arrow to read each entry on Japan.

There is a lot that has happened since their visit. A bunch of friends
left, and some new ones have been found. I volunteered at the Jazz fest
that I loved so much last year, and had a great time. I’ve been in the
ocean almost every day, as Summer has been almost perfect. Now the Fall
winds are blowing, so it’s about time to get out the full wetsuit and
booties once again. Tonight I have a date with a ukulele player from
Sendai at Tomaya. This weekend I’m taking a little time off to go see the
Kodo Taiko Ensemble on Sado Island, who are apparently the stuff. As I
cruise into my second year, Iwate continues to keep it interesting.

Peace,

(Back to Taneichi Index)

[ofo] Golden Week was golden.

Sometimes I start to worry when my email box stops ringing, but then I usually realize that I haven’t written anyone in weeks. Lots has been going on, so I guess it is time for another big update… so here we go!

Last Thursday I finally got to do some hanami. Hanami means “flower viewing,” but it involves more than just that; it’s a real event. As the cherry trees bloom from Okinawa to Hokkaido (March to May), millions of Japan’s inhabitants do some serious socialization, eating, and drinking anywhere there are hana to mi. I was invited to go with a friend, her mom, and some of their family friends. There were two toddlers (Ten and Eri), and one younger baby (Aoi). I think these shorter names must be in vogue these days… I like them. Ten means heaven, eri means charity, and aoi means blue. None of these babies had car seats, which made my motherbear instincts rare up, but there wasn’t anything I felt I could do or say from my position in the group.

In Japan I’ve been laughed at a few times for putting on my seatbelt in the back seat. “Oh! You don’t have to do that! Nobody does that.” For me it’s not even something I think about, so it surprises me every time someone is shocked by safety. They say that they use seatbelts in the front seats, but I’ve seen kids in neighboring cars climbing all over the dashboard…. This all comes down to a difference in child-rearing norms, and I might be starting to understand what some of those differences might be.

But back to Thursday: the first place we stopped off was a public park. The playground was great, with boats and fountains and a rainbow maker. I was glad that I had the little ones as an excuse to play. Not that I need an excuse, but I might have scared everybody off if I was just gallivanting around by myself. Not that I didn’t scare anybody off…. After the park we went to another park in Shizukuishi where the blossoms were out in full force.

Friday night I was struck down with a horrible stomach bug. Something had gotten into my body that my body did not want in there, so my body did everything in its power to get everything out. Saturday I spent the day holed up in my room, sipping on a tablespoon of water every fifteen minutes to stay hydrated. My incapacitation was a huge bummer, as all the while I was thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to the to a bluegrass festival at Koiwai Farm on Sunday and Monday.

Things were looking up Sunday morning, however, so I decided to head out. The road was crazy congested, so I think that roughly everybody in Greater Morioka and Iwate was also going to Koiwai. Could it be that there are enough fans of Bluegrass in Iwate to cause such massive traffic congestion? As it turns out… no. I missed all of the music, but it was neat to wander around the farm. I saw a sheepdog demonstration, complete with the shearing of a hindquarters. As I looked around I noticed that most of the sheep had bald spots back there. Man… sheep are cool. I mean dumb.

As it started to get dark I drove towards the mountains to find a camping spot. The place I found (Amihari) was not bad, and I was able to refigure out my tent’s setup procedure with minimal frustration. I walked to a public bath, but it was closed, so I went to another up the road, but that one was closing. I decided to give up on the idea of being clean, but then I saw a little wooden sign that said rotenburo (outdoor hot spring), pointing to the woods. The moon was bright, so I took the trial to see what I could find. Rounding a curve, I caught a stiff whiff of sulfur, and realized it was going to be on of those kinds of things. Before long I reached the spring, and was a bit blown away at the beauty of the place. A medium-sized waterfall roared just behind the pools of white, sulfury water, and snow from a freak storm a couple of weeks ago was still on the ground. It is unspeakably rude to wear anything into a hot spring or public bath, so I didn’t even consider trunks a possibility 😉 . I had the place to myself, and felt like a king—either that or a really happy peasant. As I settled into the water, I wondered how I would write about this experience when back in civilization.

This thought made me step back a bit. I would have rather just let the experience wash over me, but I was already composing the description (this very description, in fact) in my head. So I decided to focus on the things around me that could never be translated to words. In conclusion, it is a magical spot, and there are thousands of magical places and people and experiences around me and all over the world. My time in Japan seems to be about mediating between these sparse moments of bliss and larger periods of emotional isolation. But the next two days were to bring much more bliss!

I slept like a rock (a warm, eggy-smelling rock) and woke up Monday morning with the sun. I headed down to Tedzukuri Mura, a place where they make cast iron things, turn wood, dye with indigo, and do other crafty stuff like that by hand. A friend of mine named Kumiko works in the indigo place, and she showed me around. She teaches tourists—mostly with kids—how to tie-dye hankies and shirts. I had flashbacks of Little/Middle Folk School summer camp in Brasstown. I showed her how we used to do the swirl, which she had surprisingly never seen. She promised to try it out. Indigo is cool stuff; the dye is constantly fermenting, so the place has a funky smell, but it is pleasant in a way. When the cloth comes out of the dye for the first time it is a greenish brown, but it oxidizes in the air and becomes blue. After three or four times in the vat the cloth becomes a deep, dark blue. I guess I could say it becomes indigo. The tourists do exclusion with rubber-bands, clothespins, and chopsticks. The fancier stuff in the gift shop (that Kumiko and her coworkers make) is either sewn or rice paste (like wax in batik) is used to keep the dye out of where they want to stay white.

From the Mura I went back towards Koiwai. The traffic was lousy again, so it took about an hour to go ten kilometers. I entertained myself by playing banjo between stops and starts, and sometimes on the straight stretches by steering with my knee. If my car’s alignment were better I imagine this would be even easier—I’ll have to look into that.

I got to Koiwai and got directed all over the parking lot until I was back at the exact spot that I had the day before. They must have been saving it for me again. As I walked towards the entrance my heart started to go pitter-pat as I saw a whole pile of folks with instrument cases. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many banjos in one place. They could see the glow of my excitement (and the banjo on my back) so we talked a little bit. They were from Sapporo, and leaving, but there were more folks and music to find inside.

bonafide japanese bluegrassersI found the stage: a flatbed train car with BLUEGRASS in yellow letters and Mt. Iwate aesthetically placed in the background. It was starting to rain, but the show was going on. The groups were almost all half female, which rocks. Band after band played standard after standard…. Some of my friends back home asked if bluegrass is big in Japan, and I guess the answer is revealed by the makeup of the audience: all of the other bands’ members, and me. Maybe more folks would have stopped for awhile if it had not been raining or if the viewing area had been covered… but who else do you really want to be playing for than other musicians? As long as the musicians are having fun—and they were—there is no shame in low turnout. Or a lack of turnout. Says me.

There is a finesse that I’ve been working on in nudging one’s way into a group of friends. I tried to strike up conversation a couple of times, and failed, and was afraid to strike out…. But no! We clearly had something to talk about. A third nudge and suddenly I was in, and they were crowded around me and asking about North Carolina and clawhammer and how I learned to play and how we play music (shoutout to Chapel Hill and Brasstown jams!). After they were all done playing on stage we did a circle jam for about an hour, which seemed to attract more attention from passers-by than the stage acts. They promised to send the group picture that we took as we were saying goodbye after the jam. I’ll post it when they do. I also got some phone numbers and info about more festivals in the Summer, so I bet I’ll see some of those faces again in the coming year.

(As awesome as their instrumentation and harmonies were, their pronunciation of those lyrics that I know so well was about how you would imagine… a little painful. But hey! Everybody was having fun, and that’s all that matters. Says me.)

That evening the rotenburo was closed because of the rain—the stream’s level was too high. I went to the public bath (the water for soaking is from the same source, naturally heated). It was my first time at one of those places alone, which felt a little funny. I had to try not to laugh as this guy slipped into the water next to me saying “It feels good it feels good oh how can it feel this good.” Hey uncle, we’re already naked, you don’t actually have to try in order to make it awkward.

Slept soundly again, and woke up early Tuesday morning to grey light and the sound of rain on my tent. I broke it down and threw it in my car, then set out in search of the next adventure. I went to the coast, which involved a couple of hours of curvy, mountainous roads. Actually, if a Japanese road is not curvy and mountainous then it doesn’t go anywhere, so count on it (if you want to go somewhere).

I drove up the coast, which is pretty, all cliffs and pines. I decided to stop by my friends Mitsuru and Kumiko’s restaurant in Noda. Their place is absolutely wonderful. They renovated an old Japanese house to make an inn (called Tomaya). The roof is thatched, and the heat comes from a fire pit in the middle of the floor. There is no chimney—the smoke seeps out of the roof and makes it bug-proof. You’ll always smell like campfire after eating there, which is nice (nicer than cigarette smoke, at least). The menu is whatever they have cooked for that meal, which always comes in about fifteen dishes and is always amazing. Reservations are requested, but they don’t have a phone, you just have to figure that out. The owners are as cool as the inn… I could go on and on about them, even though I’m just getting to know them, but I’ll save it for another time. The place is so comfortable and friendly that I consistently forget to pay, which is a little embarrassing.

I had a slice of pie called babarora. I’m not sure if that is right or what that is, but it was light and earthy and delicious, with a violet on top. I stuck around and chatted for awhile, and decided to make a reservation for supper. They said that I could camp in the woods near their house, and I found a place blissfully removed from the world. I set up my tent in some bamboo, and then walked back down the road with my banjo on my back.

They had told me that there would be a family at supper, and they were there waiting. They had two small children, a six-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. I played banjo, and the kids played drums. The girl was ridiculously cute, she was telling me a story about some of her friends, talking faster and faster as she (I imagine) was getting to the good part. After she went to bed I confided in the adults that I only understood about half of what she was saying, and they laughed, saying that they only understoond about half as well. The father, a mandolin and flute player, had spent time in college in Pennsylvania, and he knew the banjo from Dixieland Jazz. I explained about different styles, and let him touch the banjo. “What is this doing here!” he asked about the fifth string protuberance. “Oh, like a tambourine!” he said about the head. He is blind, so it was really sweet for me to be able to let him “see” him a banjo for the first time, “showing” him all of the important parts.

On the way back to the camp site I stumbled into a frog orgy in the road. I had to blush, but as my blush subsided my curiosity was sparked. There were tens of them, paired up and looking to get paired up, croaking pick-up lines at each other in Frog-Japanese. They were not reacting to me or my light in any way at all, so it was like the nature channel—right there in the road. I woke up during the night with some strange falling and frog dreams, but they settled, and I was able to sleep late.

I woke up on Wednesday morning, the beginning of the last day of the Golden Week holiday. I packed up for the last time; luckily it was sunny. I went down to check out a museum, and met a potting family. “Do y’all know Cat?” I asked. “Do we ever,” they replied, “she shaves her head and walks around barefoot!” (Cat is a Kiwi that lives in that town and introduced me to the magical inn, and works with these potters.) I hope to go down there and try to use the wheel sometime soon. They get their clay from Kuji, the city between Noda and me, which is apparently famous for clay in the Japanese ceramics world.

I found a four-leaf clover, and took it to Tomaya.

The story doesn’t stop there, and there is so more to fill in the cracks, but I’m pushing four A4-size pages as it is. If you have read this much in one sitting then color me impressed. Drop me a line, tell about what you are up to (and any other stories),

Peace,

(Back to Taneichi Index)

[ofo] winter’s last stand

Hey everybody!

The average day’s weather this week has been sunny and blue in the
morning, dumping snow in the afternoon, dramatic colorful cloudy sunsets,
and clear, freezing nights.

Everybody complains about how cold it is here. Japan is one of the most
technically advanced places on earth, the line goes, yet they still have
not figured out insulation and central heating. This much is true–most
houses and schools don’t have either. My house is blessed with two vented
kerosene heaters, one in the living room and one upstairs in the bedroom.
The “vented” part is a relatively new key innovation; otherwise I would have to crack a
window to keep from dying.

I have gotten used to the system, though, and may have even grown to like it.

I was thinking back to the Great Carrboro power outage of 2001, and how it
was 46 degrees Fahrenheit in my house and I thought I would freeze to
death. Now it is usually a little more or less than 32F, and I am
completely used to it. I sleep with two down comforters, and have the
heater timed to heat up my room 30 minutes before I wake. On average, I
end up burning just enough fuel to heat one room to 60F (that feels balmy
now) for two or three hours. I bought three cans of kerosene back when it
started to get cold, and just finished the second. That is about $16 for
three cold months… not bad. There is something nice about knowing
exactly how much I am impacting the world for warmth.

On another note, the school year is coming to an end. Soon I’ll get to go
to a bunch of middle-school graduations and see those kids off into the
world. Yeah, I’ll miss them–even Kadonohama’s graduates, the little
boogers. All of the students have been working on reviewing for year-end
tests, which means that I have had a lot of downtime (even more than
usual). I’ve been using that time working on a pet project that has been
on the back burner for about a year now:

http://folktunes.org/ – The Folktunes Archive

The Folktunes Archive will be a collection of all kinds of folk tunes that
anybody will be able to stream or download to learn. Anybody will be able
to add to the collection as well. I’m currently seeking advise for this
project, so if you have any, give me a call or email.

I’ve redesigned the homepage, but I don’t think it is quite right yet…
any ideas? I’ve also got the structure in place to start archiving
recordings. I want the first ten recordings in the archive to be ten
different people playing the first song that they ever learned. Please
drop me a line if you can help.

– Forrest

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[ofo] Winter vacations over, back in the saddle again…

I’m back in Japan from a month back home. Break was so good, almost too good. I got to spend serious quality time with my family and friends, in addition to dancing my pants off. 1ヶ月アメリカにいって、日本に戻ってきた。冬休みは良かった。多分出来過ぎた。家族と友達と色々な話ししたし、たくさん遊んでいた。そして「コントラダンス」と言うの社会ダンスとかワルツも何時間できた。
Bye-bye Japan じゃあね日本




Back to the college town 僕の大学の所
When I got home I set out for Chapel Thrill to try and see the folks that were still around. I rented a car, and pulling out of the parking lot was my first attempt at driving in this strange new land. I pulled up to the road on the wrong side of the driveway, and went back to try again, shaking my head. This time I talked myself through it: “You are on the right side of the driveway, and that is right; you will soon pull out and turn left ending up on the right side of the road, and that will be right.” I made myself do that for every turn, and didn’t make any more mistakes. Oh yeah, I did turn on the wipers instead of the turn signal a few times, but that didn’t hurt anybody. (In case you didn’t know or figure it out, we drive on the left in Japan.) 両親の家に帰ったばかり友達と遊ぶためにチャペルヒール町に行ってきた。車をレンタルした。レンタルの所から行くのは久しぶりに道の右側に運転するのだった。駐車場から道まで行って、違いました。日本っぽいに左側にいた(しまった!)。「だめだめだめ」と思って、もう一度やってみた。今回は自分と話しました。「いま駐車場の右側にいるので、正しいです。これからこの道を左に曲げて、右側に行って、それは正しいですよ。」全部の曲げた時にそういう事を言っていた。そして間違いはなかった。ま、シグナル点けたい時に時々ワイパーを点けたけど、大丈夫だった。(分からなかったら、アメリカで右側に運転するよ。)
Chapel Hill was great. The first night I crashed early and woke early jet lagging. I went around and surprised as many folks as I could. That night I watched the Twin Towers Lord of the Rings at the Church House. That place is the nicest house I have seen my college friends living in; it is across the street from a church and used to be the preacher’s house. My eyes would not stay open for most of the end of the movie. チャペルヒールは本当に良かったです。最初の日時差ぼけだったので、早く寝て、早く起きた。色々の場所に行った。ある友達はびっくりさせた。教会の家でLOTRの二番のDVDをみた。あれの家は僕の同級生の住んでいる所の中に一番すてきな家だ。教会の向かいにある。前に説教師のいえだった。映画の最後の2時間ぐらいにほとんど寝ていた。




Dance, dance, dance 踊る、ダンス、踊り
The first weekend I went up to Minta’s family’s solstice party with David. Their house was packed with people and dogs of all ages and sizes. There was a band of three youngsters playing Irish tunes called Celtic Air who were tight. Eventually they were talked into playing in the basement for a contra dance. Eight or ten folks were able to squeeze around each other and do the dance. I took some video that I’ll post on the web, too. Hopefully this means that some Iwate contra action is not out of the question. 最初の週末デビッドと一緒にメンタの家族の冬至パーティへ行った。家は色々な方々と犬で一杯だった。3人の高校時代のバンドはアイリッシュ音楽を引いていた。バンドの名前は「ケルティクエアー」。上手だった。地階でコントラダンスできた。形態でムービメール撮ったので、すぐホームページにアップロードするよ。8か10人が地階でコントラダンスできたので、岩手でもできると望む。
I also got to do the winter dance week at the folk school from the day after Christmas through New Years. I spent the week dancing and socializing with family and friends, and learned how to waltz and hambo better. About a dozen of my friends showed up for New Year’s, which was great. They got to see the version of New Year’s so firmly rooted in my heart, complete with singing, dancing, and gunfire. Brasstown Brigade’s chant made me all goose-pimply as always: クリスマス日の後からお正月まで社会ダンス週できた。場所はノースキャロライナのブラスタウン(真鍮村)。一週間家族と友達と一緒に社会ダンスしたり遊んだりしていた。そしてワルツとハンボのクラスした。お正月に12人の友達が来た!良かった。自分の大好きなお正月ができた:歌うも、踊りも、発するも(!)。ブラスタウン・ブリゲードの唱した言葉は何時も通りに鳥肌しまった:
… And if it be your desire
Our guns and pistols we shall fire.
And since we hear of no defiance
Now you shall hear the art of Science…
…大丈夫だったら
銃砲を発するぞ
異を立てないので
爆薬の美術を聞けるよ…
Hopefully next year some of my Japanese friends will come with me. 来年日本人の友達も来ればいいと思う。




Decision time  今はデシジョンメーキングの時*
Is Japan my past or my future? This is my current dilemma. I’ve always assumed that the second year was a given, and then I would decide if I would recontract for a third. Now that it is decision time for the second year, I’m not so sure. 日本は私の将来ですか?そして過ぎた事ですか?これは自分の今の問題。日本に来てからすっと「2年ここにいる」と思っていた。2年間の後に3年目の契約をするは問題とおもった。だけど2年目の契約をするのかはジレンマだよ。
My job is rewarding in some ways, but not especially challenging. The biggest challenge is entertaining myself during downtime, at least three hours every day. I’ve taken up piano, and have made a resolution to study Japanese more effectively, but it feels strange to have to entertain myself while everybody around me are busy bustling little bees. For example, I’m taking all morning to write this bilingual mass-email. I got the same feeling while self-employed last winter after graduation (doing “web design”) and doing my thesis before that… any kind of job where self-motivation is the key is wonderful for so many reasons, but also draining in some ways. 今の仕事はいい仕事だけど、チャレンジはあまりない。毎日の大きいチャレンジは授業がない時(3時間以上)に何をする。ピアノを始めた。日本語をもっとまじめに勉強するの書き初めした。だけど同僚はみんな本当の仕事する間、僕は自分の事をするのはちょっと変な感じ。たとえば今日、午前中このバイリンガルの手紙を書いている。去年、卒業の後に自由業のデザイナーだった時、同じ感じができた。その前に卒論をするときも同じ。自発性はキーポイントの仕事はほとんどいい仕事だけど、疲れる場合もある。
I have to decide by next Friday. Hopefully I’ll be enough in the swing of things to make an objective decision (and the right one). 来週金曜日まで決めらないといけない。正しいデシジョンを作ると望む。




Saigo-no aisatsu* バイバイ! 
Thanks for reading, and I hope you all had wonderful holidays,
Forrest
これを呼んで、ありがとう。いいお正月だったと望む。
フォレスト
PS: Comment on my dilemma, please! Grant me some wisdom in these times of perilous life decisions. ポストスクリプト:僕のジレンマについて、アドバイスを書いて下さい
PPS: there is now a Hendersonville number that rings my phone in Japan: 828-393-4072 … call me up &/or leave me a voicemail; I’m fourteen hours ahead of the east coast. ポストポストスクリプト:日本語の間違いを教えてください

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