Tuesday, 10 July 2007


There's a lot of festivity this month! Next on the celebratory hitlist is Tanabata, the Japanese star festival on July 7th. The legend goes that two separated lovers (the stars Altair and Vega) are allowed to meet each other only on this night... awwww... romantic huh? The occasion is celebrated with a summer festival, and people tying poems, prose or wishes to the branches of bamboo trees.

Our Japanese class decked out in Tanabata wear and lookin' spiffy. See the lady on the far right in the blue? That's Fumie my teacher who's slowly but steadily improved the level of my Japanese from 'non-existent' to 'existent but bad'. Quite the achievement.

Luckily, we had the staff of our Japanese language program to explain this to us, this week we forgoed our regularly scheduled lessons in exchange for a Tanabata party, allowing the girls to get decked out in classy kinomos and the rest of us to eat some traditional sweets and write out some wishes; my three this year are (in no particular order):

  1. A pair of shoes that FIT.

  2. The ability to control my kid's classes through sheer force of will.

  3. World peace.

Really, I'll settle for one out of three. The most nerve-wracking part of the festivities was having to give a short speech in Japanese talking about yourself. Luckily I had my teacher Fumie to polish out my grammar mistakes and brief me on how to pronounce everything, domo arigato Fumie-sensei!

Post festival celebrations (the day after actually) I jumped on a bus down to Fukuoka to help Katy get her Birthday celebratory vibe on. Amanda pulled off some stellar organization and a fabulous array of Mexican food, we cracked out and carved up a candle laden watermelon (how Japanese huh?) Then we went down to the park for some more firework-themed shenanigans (wooo! I still have all my fingers, that's 2 for 2!) We stayed up sipping champagne and pontificating about life until the wee hours then eventually retired for some much needed kip.

Katy with her birthday watermelon (tea-lights included), tasty AND far healthier than the traditional calorie-loaded 'cake' alternative; Japanese ingenuity scores again!

I spent much of the afternoon hanging around Amandas place while she was out, taking the opportunity to read my way through some more Haruki Murakami, this time it was South of the Border, West of the Sun, which gets high marks from me for noirish atmosphere and visualization but lost out a little in the actual 'storytelling' sense; I'll still give it a recommendation though since you can read the whole thing in under 4 hours.

Getting festive in the park; we danced like nobody was watching. Unfortunately, someone was. Damn you Amanda! ;)

In the afternoon I grabbed a coach back to Sasebo to do dinner with Laura and Lani and reaffirm my testosterone filled manliness with a cinematic session of Die Hard 4.0, awesomely cinema's in Japan don't suffer hangups about allowing food or beverages onto their premises, so we grabbed a six pack and proceeded to sup our way through it as Mr. Willis got progressively more violent and blood stained in his pursuit of justice. Afterwards we went down to the local park and climbed onto a gazebo roof and watched the fish jump in the horribly polluted river while we philosophized. Very Dawson's Creek, no? :P

Now of course it's time to start another work week. Hooray. Yay. Woo AND Hoo. Pass the tie and call me 'sensei', I've got a whole bag of grammar, vocab and listening skills to teach before next Sunday!

Starlight and love,


Thursday, 5 July 2007


One of the best things about being an English teacher in Japan is the vast array of people you meet from all over the world (or at least the English speaking world). Suddenly it's rare to have a group of friends who share an accent, and getting carded at the pub is a cool excuse to check out the drivers licenses of the globe.

Another benefit is that it provides an excuse to celebrate an inordinate number of national holidays; before I didn't even know when Canada day was, now it's marked on my calender and I'm stockpiling maple syrup in anticipation.

In any case, living among such a vast quantity of Americans, it seemed remiss of us not to do something to mark the anniversary of the nations, uhhh... nationhood. You can only imagine my shock and disappointment when I found that the only 'official' July 4th celebration was held behind the secure perimeter of the Sasebo Fleet Activities facility. 'This shall not stand!' I muttered to Lani and Laura and set about organizing a suitable homage to George Washington et all.

Laura and Lani... ummm... in my bathtub. Don't ask me how this happened (or why they were both in my tiny bathroom AT THE SAME TIME.) But we were lucky there were no fatalities. Note how Lani is reaching out for help while I'm standing taking photos. What are friends for, right?

Not that there was much organization to do, seeing as our idea of a celebration involved those two great pillars of Americana- fireworks and hard liquor. It's been so long since I've had ready access to explosives (what with Australia being one big tinderbox and all) that my childlike joy could hardly be suppressed when I walked into Jusco and found an insane quantity of near military grade explosives to choose from, all available over the counter.

So after work I got back to my apartment to find Laura and Lani already engrossed in beer-swilling and MTV watching. There were many toasts (some even non-ironic) to Lani's homeland, then we wandered down to the park to set off our stash of sky flowers. For some reason we had this idea that it would be cool to set ALL the freakin' things off simultaneously; while the visual result was indeed spectacular, it generated enough noise that we actually ran away before we were arrested under some festivity-crushing noise-pollution ordnance or something.

Fireworks! There's enough firepower here to level and entire civilization (of ants). I think the bottle of I.W. Harper is a nice touch too, it really screams 'responsibility'.

At this stage the bar seemed a good idea, so we wandered off to Playmates, then proceeded to party with the Navy for much of the night, I was amazed by how many of them didn't actually realize it was July 4th (or 5th actually at this stage) unpatriotic sods! Still they bought us beer which was nice. Happy birthday America!

Oh say can you see?