Monthly Archives: August 2014

Here’s to you dude on the train platform.

This one is going to be super short, but this image has stuck with me until this morning.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of figuring out the train system here in Japan. I’ll keep it to a minimum. It was super easy. Commuter pass cards here make everything a breeze. You don’t have to buy tickets. You just load money and the gates do it for you.

Yesterday on my way back from language camp there was a young man waiting on the opposite platform. He was tall, lanky, and rocking a phone and headphones. His hair was cut close to his head and his clothing consisted of baggy jeans and a plain old t shirt. This was not one of those fashionable dudes with the perfect hair and clothing.

Whatever music was pumping through his head phones must have been stellar because despite the full group of waiting people he was rockin out hard core. It started in his arms and ran all the way into his shoulders. In no time his long legs joined the party all without making a sound.

It wasn’t fancy dancing. It was the sort of full body, pretend d.j. on a turn table, eyes closed sort of thing. Without a care to who might see him he worked his way around the small space on the concrete he was occupying.

So here’s to you train station dance master. May your tunes always be great and your feet be happy.

The best new neighborhood hang out.

Adam and I decided on Saturday night that we’d like to check out some of the smaller more local eateries. I must say that we were well rewarded for our efforts. The restaurant we entered, to the best of my knowledge, is simply called Yuu-chan. It had a whopping total of ten seats, a tall bar behind which the owner cooked, and a t.v. The t.v. of course was the main focal point since Hiroshima’s beloved baseball team, the Carp, were playing.

At first, we simply bellied up and ordered. There were plenty of things that I could have ordered, but I really only could read about half of them. It’s really lame, but we decided on some fried fish bites and fries. Yes I do realize that going into a Japanese bar and ordering fish and chips is a bit silly, but they were really good.

We mowed through those and our drinks. Adam suggested paying and wandering back to our combini for some ice cream. I wasn’t super full yet, so I suggested we order one last thing. I’m really glad that we did because, along with our order of tonkatsu (breaded fried pork), we were treated to the presence of a newcomer we would later know as Takeshi.

Takeshi walked in with the swagger of someone who belonged in the tiny room and on a regular basis. He said hello to the man who had been silently occupying the one four seater table and harassed the owner. She took it with a smile. He ordered a beer and then proceeded to scoop himself a bowl of Oden. We’d so far ignored the hot plate full of strange looking things on sticks.

We continued watching the baseball game, but it wasn’t long before Takeshi caught our eyes and started asking questions. I’m always slightly afraid of a less than warm welcome. I’ve yet to see it happen. Within minutes of Takeshi walking through the door not only did we have fresh drinks on him, but we also had a bowl of Oden to try. He literally bought us one of everything. Everything, naturally, was on a stick. We had chicken skin, chicken hearts, surimi (form pressed fish that’s a bit like fake crab), fried tofu, and bamboo that they did something magical with. The bamboo tasted a bit like butter. It melted in your mouth.

In progressively slower, Japanese he continued to ask us both questions. We talked about all sorts of things where we were from, what we liked to eat, where we lived, where we worked, and any number of other things that I’ve forgotten slightly. I unfortunately asked about something one of his friends ordered and ended up with part of it on my plate. It was delicious, but I didn’t intend to eat half of his food. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to make it up to him.

The night degenerated into phones being passed back and forth with pictures of family both young and old. This spurred a round of harassment at the owner for being old enough to be our parents. Too quickly it was over. Takeshi insisted we introduce ourselves and that we be back in the future. We won’t have any problems with that. Anyone who wants to buy me food and drinks to show me what they like is a friend I want to keep around.

Exploration is definitely rewarding.

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One of the best things about wandering aimlessly around my apartment is that I stumble onto things like shrines. A few minutes walk from our apartment, Adam and I stumbled onto this absolutely awesome shrine. It was tucked back into a neighborhood just across the street from the prefectural office. We’d actually spotted it the day before. Neither one of us wanted to be rude or do anything wrong, so we waited to go back and do a little research before mounting the steps up to the shrine itself.

The weather has gone from hot and cloudy to rainy and back again. I haven’t experienced much else besides that since getting to Hiroshima. No one but us, one woman who seemed to be also exercising, and a young mother with her daughter were even at the shrine. We entered up the side of the stairs since it is impolite to walk down the center. I did not realize this until half way up. Thankfully Adam told me before I could make to big of a jerk out of myself.

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There are definitely not as many stairs as there could have been. Many shrines even pride themselves on how many stairs you need to climb to reach the temple proper. At the top there was a spread of temple buildings.

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At the bomb dome.

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I had the opportunity last week. Yes I know I’ve been very bad about posting. Sorry new country, nerves, getting used to things and stuff. This particular post has been a long time in the making. Since we found out that Hiroshima was where we were headed, Adam and I have wanted to visit the peace park.

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the peace festival. It’s an all day ceremony (festival is probably a too happy sounding description) attended by school children, locals, and foreigners alike. In fact, I have to say that it’s probably the most foreigners I’ve been around with the exception of my jet training.

I suppose the fact that I am an American gives me a unique perspective on this particular festival. I’m not going to say much more than to simply say it was a difficult experience. Many more words than that, I feel, would cheapen my telling of the experience.

The main focus of the ceremony is the release of several thousand paper lanterns down the river that runs through and along the peace park. Sorry that my pictures are during the daytime. I had a bus to catch and work the next morning.

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There are tents set up practically everywhere where you can dedicate your own lantern to any number of things. My Japanese is limited, so I didn’t attempt that hurdle. Once they begin to release the lanterns it’s non stop. Boats sit in the center of the river and release them in a constant stream. People jostled and vied for the best places to take pictures with both the lanterns and the bomb dome. I did this with limited success. I’m not a photographer.

By far the most difficult and difficult sight was the line leading up to the memorial. It stretched from the start of the park to the memorial itself. Adults, holding flowed or simply their own thoughts, waited while children ran and played oblivious to the meaning. I watched the steam of people for quite some time.

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Something I’ve begun to notice even in my first few weeks here is that Japanese people will rarely ever be overtly rude, but believe me they notice you. They don’t even have to stare.

I was definitely noticed here, and had I known the protocol, I would have joined the line. I don’t want to be political. That isn’t the point of this blog. No matter what your personal beliefs are, however, there is just no way you can stand there and not feel the weight of everything.

Life and tuba players are the same no matter where I am.

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I’m sure you can’t tell, but it’s raining. It has been on and off for the last week.

I ¬†feel compelled to stop lesson planning, if only for a few moments, to post a little about my school. I’m not sure why, but the Kyouto-sensei (Vice Principal) decided that today was the day to test out the emergency microphone system. I’ve gotten to hear every announcement, buzz, siren, and boop that the school p.a. system can make.

Amid the ruckus of the sirens and extremely polite announcements came the sound of a single tuba. At first, it was hesitant. Clearly the player was still trying to figure some things out. Then it happened, the announcement tone rang again across the entire school. That same lone tuba player, not two seconds later, joined in in perfect time and pitch, albeit several octaves lower, to the gentle tones of the warning system.

It was at that moment that I decided I needed another picture for this post and instead wound up in the music teachers room. It was an inevitable place for me to go considering my extensive ( seventeen years playing the flute, double major in performance and education in college) musical background. Amid the chaos of suddenly intimidated faces I made my way through the sea of practicing children and finally managed to find my way to the music teacher’s, Sato-sensei, room.

To the best of my Japanese language ability and the best of her English language ability, we had a short conversation about the upcoming band competition they are competing in. About half way through the conversation a poor dejected young boy excused himself and entered with his head hung and an inverted cymbal held in his hands.

All ready to be helpful, I sprang back down two flights of stairs to ask Adam the best way to fix that problem. Adam was a band director for five years, so it’s right up his area of expertise. When I had the solution, I bounded back upstairs. Sato-sensei was talking to someone, and I realized belatedly that I probably shouldn’t have been quite to cavalier in entering the room. I suppose mistakes will be made.

When she was finished, I explained the method that had been explained to me. She listened politely and then informed me that she would have to ask the percussion instructor the next day to make sure that it was the correct method of fixing the instrument. I won’t lie fixing cymbals is rather violent. It involves feet and pulling on things that don’t look like they should be pulled on. Since it was the typical response I was told to expect I merely said that I understood, and I do.

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The view from the top of my school out across the city of Hiroshima.

Also the rain really does come straight down here.