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massive back-in-Japan update - including Amuro Namie's concert! [Sep. 2nd, 2010|10:03 am]
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yes, I'm alive!! can't believe it took me over a month since I got back to Japan to update this thing haha. and so much has happened already I dunno where to start. short and simple, Tokyo and Ishikawa orientations were a blur, Wajima is a lot less rural than I thought (big city on the Noto peninsula, ha!), festivals here are crazy, my apartment is new but smallish, Osaka hasn't changed much, Amuro Namie still knows how to work it and I start teaching next Wednesday Monday.

more under the cut I guess if you want to read my blabberings. and no music this time (or ever possibly) since a grand total of zero commented on the last entry that had muzik.


anyways, pick your poison, or read them all:

ok, so like where to start. first impression, holy crap there's a lot of trees! I'm so used to flat cornfields that forest covered mountains are like 'omg wut?'. my first image of a rural area in Japan would be like rice paddies everywhere, that got erased immediately. but wow the scenery! I can honestly say that so far Wajima is probably the most naturally beautiful place I'll live in. the mountains and hills, ocean, beaches, rock formations...I can't wait to start driving around and take in the scenery.

so the location is beautiful, yay. convenience on the other hand is a mixed bag. I do get like 4-5 conbini, I'm a 5-10 minute walk to the shopping plaza which has a grocery store, drug store, electronic store, 100 yen shop, bookstore, etc. another few hundred feet and its another 100 yen shop, 2nd hand store, clothing stores, etc. pretty nice. there's also a used game/dvd place that I have yet to hit up in Wajima too and I'm a 5 minute walk to the bus station. yup, bus station, Wajima DID have a train, but that shut down in like 2004. poo. though, from what cities that still do have a train station, its too expensive, slow, and infrequent that driving would be the better option anyways. all I want now is a Book-Off and Uniqlo :( need my used books/CDs and cheap clothes lolol.

so yea, my Japanese friends sometimes tease me that I'm out in inaka-land, but really it doesn't seem that way. in fact, other JETs are jealous about how me and the other three Wajima JETs are in Wajima. hahaha. other people out on the Noto don't even get a conbini! seems like Wajima is the go to place for the Noto Peninsula, especially the Oku-Noto, or the top portion of Noto. like, dude my city is on the freaking map! beat that! probably just because of our laquerware...but yea. at least other people have heard of us.

apartment is pretty sweet. pretty darn new with wood flooring and new appliances. whatever wasn't included my Board of Education (BOE) provided me like a hot water heater, vacuum, and rice cooker. only 'big' thing I needed was an iron and ironing board. and storage shelves, but that was about it so far. wish I had some more elbow room to put in a desk and chair. oh well. so yea, its sweet in some ways, but compared to other JETs in my town and on Noto its a shoebox cause I only get one room while others get 2 or 3. meh, at least mine is easy to clean and cheap to heat or cool. I have everything I need now: car, internet, and cell phone. now I just want a bike.

so the BOE had me working the day right after I flew into town. ...which is fine by me since I guess my contract started but I had no idea what to DO. so basically for the past month I've just been sitting at my desk reading, studying, and going online. and now I'm planning lessons like my first introduction, but yea, basically nothing. and I got paid for it. oh and did I mention that Ishikawa is one of the last prefectures to give 5 more vacation days for each school break?! so in total I have 35 days of vacation in a year. whoohoo! they're called cultural furlough vacation and its supposed to be for JETs to travel around Japan. used the summer vacation one to get back to Kansai (more on that later).

overall the people at the BOE are great. they threw me a welcoming enkai (ie, drinking party) which was nice, if only it wasn't on the Wednesday right before orientation in Kanazawa. I had to catch a 6:40 am bus to get there on time D: but yea, that was pretty fun. the dinner part was a little awkward and I made the mistake of saying that I liked to drink umeshuu. oops. so while everybody was downing beer after beer, I had to watch it with the umeshuu lol. also ate a huge snail still in the shell. that was interesting. didn't mind it so much because it was covered in miso haha. but when we went to karaoke, ooo yea did I surprise them by singing Japanese song after Japanese song XD the vice head of our section wanted to sing Utada Hikaru with me lolol that was fun. wish we could have kept at the karaoke, but yea, had to end the party around 11 :(

but anyways, now that I finally have the schedule of schools I'm going to, I can go ahead and try to find them and not get lost on the first day. I have one middle school and eight elementary schools, but three of them I only go to 1-3 times this semester. seems for the most part that I'm around the main city area for more of the elementary schools. the middle school and three elementary are a good 30 minute drive out to a place that was merged with Wajima in the past several years. that's why Wajima city is so huge. there are a few schools that are 45 minutes away by car, but I wasn't scheduled for those. oh em gee its getting closer to when I'll start teaching! first school has 10 fifth graders and 8 sixth graders. whee

so, since I've been here I've already attended about six nights of festivals on the Noto. festivals were definitely something I missed out on while studying abroad because I came in the fall and left during the spring. but these are not exactly the festivals you see in the dramas, movies, or manga with the rows of food or goldfish catching booths and everybody dressed in a yukata. sure, there are still food booths and a few people in yukata, but most people out are drinking and carrying or moving around a giant lantern called a 'kiriko', which are only found on the Noto peninsula. so, lots of sake, lots of kiriko, lots of taiko drumming, and sometimes a lot of chaos. definitely quite the experience.

let's see, so the first huge festival I went to was during the second weekend I came to Wajima in a city about an hour and a half south called Nanao. went with a bunch of other JETs on the Noto so it was cool to get to know who else lives in the area. so there were a ton of people milling about and we were just wandering around for a while since the kiriko don't actually make an appearance til later at night. so we got to the main area and somehow ended up on the second floor of some random drunk dude's house. guess he likes foreigners?! the view was pretty good, but omg once the kiriko came you couldn't see the top because of the roof. those lanterns are waaaay bigger than I'd thought they be, and they were completely held off the ground by people's shoulders. must have been freaking heavy. apparently Nanao's kiriko are the largest on the Noto and I see why - they were almost three stories tall or something. they also had pretty calligraphy or paintings on them as well, making them a moving piece of art. each town participating had a kiriko and specific happi coat to wear and I believe there were eleven in all that night.

went to a smaller matsuri about a week later in a smaller part of Wajima at Sosogi town. there were five smaller kiriko that paraded around the town before stopping at the town's scenic point of rock formations and beach. bonfire and fireworks went off while the kiriko took turns around and around the bonfire. after the fireworks show, it was pretty much done with, but it was nice to see a smaller, more local side of festivals in Wajima. it was also a nice toned down preview of what the great four day festival Wajima would have later.

so the biggest and most chaotic of the Noto festivals takes place in good old Wajima. a four day event filled with kiriko and drinking. all the young people come back from college to go back to their hometowns and take part in the chaos. the first night was pretty mellow: started out with the Wajima youth taiko group performing on the beach with the sunset in the background. then they drowned the mikoshi, a portable shrine for the gods, into the sea. not sure what that signifies...maybe the god wanted a bath?? haha. after a few hours, went to the fishing part of town where they had all the kiriko already lined up. it was pretty loud because all the kiriko have a taiko drum attached and just about all of them were being played. actually had a chance to try taiko for a little bit...I could see how it could get tiring very quickly lol.

so yea, the next night was when I actually was invited with a few of the other Wajima JETs to join a kiriko team and take part in the festival. pretty exciting actually because I got to wear the happi and follow the kiriko around. but there was noooo way I could help carry that heavy lantern. I helped carry it for maybe a full minute during the entire night and I don't think it helped much haha. but most of the time was spent going through the town and stopping every so often at somebody's home to receive an offering, usually sake, and play the taiko for a bit. eventually when night fell all the kiriko gathered around the port area where again the chaos of noise and drunk madness ensued. not to mention the bonfire! its actually a huuuge upright torch that has three arrow-like things sticking out and once they fall down (along with the burning straw and ashes), grabbing one brings good luck to your town. so you can expect how crazy drunk people would get trying to grab those bamboo sticks. couldn't really catch it on video well, but actually saw a man literally jump in the fire to grab one...I bet he got trampled later by others. after that had to travel back to the starting point where we had a bento. by then it was like 1:30 am or so?? and we started around 6!

third night was more of the same, only we weren't part of a team. this time the kiriko had to go across bridges and for some reason they find the need to sprint down and back. this time we randomly followed a kiriko...I'm pretty sure it was because the old men there gave us foreigners free beer and what not haha. the kiriko ended up meeting in a huge parking lot by the city hall and had the bonfire there. couldn't exactly see the madness this time but the crowd kept moving back. once the individual kiriko started leaving, it was only midnight and I called it a night. kinda glad I wasn't part of another team haha. so tiring!

the fourth and final night was the strangest and most memorable, mainly because it was so bizarre. I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to it but never asked lol. anyways, there were three main things: a huge fish, the mikoshi, and the most flamboyant kiriko. it seriously had disco lights, mardi gras streamers, and watermelon beach balls attached to it. on and did I mention the horns?? both the fish and that kiriko played some annoying tune every so often on honking horns. apparently they were non-stop previous years so glad they were broken or something this year haha. so for most of the night the three chased each other up and down a long street. there were other normal kiriko around, but they were smaller. the last night is apparently for younger people - I'm pretty sure the ones carrying the fish and disco kiriko were in high school. so when they finally stopped chasing each other around and gathered around the bonfire....oh god. this night is notorious for brawls for the bamboo sticks and didn't realize how careful I had to be until there were fist fights literally 10 feet away from me. there were kids behind me too but that didn't stop the boys from hitting each other and moving around. that was probably the most crazy part of the four day festival I have to say. overall they were quite the experience and I can see why some people wait all year just for these nights of drinking and chaos.

so I took the first cultural furlough days I had to plan a trip back to Osaka and Kobe! couldn't wait to get back :D it was a little pricey and took a while but it was worth it. I actually stayed with my old host family for most of the time. that was really nice of them to welcome me back like that. it was very reminiscent of my time studying abroad, kinda like I didn't leave after all haha. spent the first day just chilling with the host family and catching up with them. it was great to see familiar faces in a place I know and recognize. sleeping in my old room really brought back the memories. and the host dog!! how I missed that pooch lol.

second day was reserved for the Amuro-chan concert :D check out the next section if you're interested haha. the third night I hung out with another JET who was on the same study abroad program as I was so we went shopping at our favorite places. at dinnertime, met up with one of the few remaining Japanese friends still in the area and another exchange student from our year. it was great seeing them again and reminiscing about old times. went to an izakaya for dinner and then heading off to karaoke for a little bit. however, lesson of the night is NOT to leave your crap in a locker and try to get it after the last train. not sure if its every station in Osaka, but the Namba subway definitely does not allow people to go in and get their crap. so basically my friend and I left our bag with our toiletries and change of clothes in a locker. greaaat. crashing at our friend's place wasn't so bad besides that, though it really killed any happy mood we had going.

so basically we had to go back in the morning and get our crap. but wait, we had to repay the locker fee to just GET our crap out! ::grumble grumble:: so yea, get the crap and then change in a random bathroom and then head on over to a very American-like shopping mall lol. met up with my host sister and walked around, had lunch, and did a little more shopping. by that point I was getting a little low on cash so didn't want to risk not having 7000 yen for the train. so after we got bored of the stores, which was pretty quick, we went to karaoke again, cause two hours the night before wasn't enough :P good times good times. then it was goodbye to my other friends and back to the host family's where one of the host sisters got invited to a BBQ and fireworks thing at her friend's place. great time even though I didn't know the hosts and whatnot. finally got to experience fireworks in Japan!! yay sparklers, lots and lots of sparklers! a true Japan summertime event :D my favorite was the octopus sparkler that spread out into four 'leg' sparklers lol. after we ran out, headed inside and played cards for a bit before heading back.

last day in Kansai kinda sucked cause I knew I had to go back to Wajima lol. said good bye to the host family and met up with a friend (this time, one who studied at my university in America) for lunch. that ended all too quickly and I had to catch the train and start my 5 hour journey back north. I admit I got homesick again, not for America but this time for the host family's place and the familiarity of Osaka. I still don't know where everything is in Wajima...it doesn't feel like a home yet, but I know it will eventually :) and though I miss it now, I already made plans to go back in three weeks lolol. missed a huge group of friends because they had to go to Yamaguchi prefecture for a badminton tournament so gotta see them and visit the old college lol. by then the new exchange student will be at my host family's so...probably a good idea to find another place to stay, even though they will probably invite me over. can't wait, just gotta put my mind to teaching now though.

last Friday I went to see the one and only Amuro Namie in Osaka! like o.m.g. I got to see her new tour!! and in just barely a month since I got back to Japan!! sooo lucky it coincided with my trip XD literally freaked when I checked her schedule haha. :D anyways, so spent another like $100 on goods...couldn't help myself. got the shirt, black towel, tour pamphlet, poster, and one coke can. lol. also got her new single because didn't have a chance to get it yet AND they were giving out the 'BREAK IT' poster too! woohoo more posters to decorate my apartment with!

and whew what a performance! my seat was pretty good despite being on the second floor because I was right in the middle and very close to the railing so I was able to see everything. but soooo jealous of those right in the first few rows because Amuro-chan was like RIGHT THERE. ::sigh:: without giving too much away, I thought the opening and transition videos were very cute with the puppet dolls XD keeping with the theme of past and future, they made Dr. Chronos a character as well haha. it definitely set a different, almost light hearted, feeling - a change from the grand and epically charged BEST FICTION tour. they also provided a great distraction from her costume changes, which were very quick this time around. no awkward pauses or long waits this time!

and whew the track selection was excellent. you know when she says she selects songs for live tours? it really shows cause she was rocking it from beginning to end. she sang all the tracks from the new album and plenty of old songs, including a surprise ballad from like a decade ago! most of the ballads were one after another in the middle of the concert and you would think that the energy would be hard to get back after that but nope! the 'future' portion of the concert started and it hit off with a bang with 'Do Me More' and other tracks like 'Black Diamond'. the surprise of the night though? the rocking ravex song 'Rock U'!! so like I could tell most of the crowd didn't know the song, but it was so high energy and Amuro-chan was working it so everybody got into it. so glad she sang that, for me it was the highlight of the concert. :D

the encore was pretty good, though in my opinion a step back from the BF tour. reused a song (albeit a remix) and the final song didn't have as much of an impact as 'Baby Don't Cry', but it got the job done. her outfit was cute and it was good to see her refreshed as well. again, couldn't be right where when they sent out the streamers :( next time... oh well. it was a good two straight hours of dancing and singing again. I seriously don't know how she does it, its insane. couldn't believe it was over when she walked off the stage. on the way out to the train station I saw an Amuro-mobile XD this guy totally decked out his car for this tour and her latest single! seriously wonder how much it would cost the keep changing it up o_o

so yea, hopefully I'll get another chance to go see this tour again, but now that my teaching schedule is set I think it'd be pretty hard. D: glad I at least got to go!

everybody bored yet? if you're still reading I applaud you. anyways, hope I update this every week or so, or at least until something big comes up. next up will probably be my first teaching experiences. whee! again pictures will be up later, I'm too lazy now :P

[User Picture]From: anison
2010-09-02 09:39 pm (UTC)
Do keep updating, I want to know how you're doing! And, y'know... live vicariously through your funtimes in Japan while I'm stuck here in Chicagoland working for THE MAN.
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[User Picture]From: redsunsetxiii
2010-09-03 05:15 am (UTC)
haha I'll try. what are you up to?? what kind of job do you have? its seriously been years since we last chatted D:
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[User Picture]From: anison
2010-09-03 05:40 pm (UTC)
I work at Northwestern as a graphic and web designer. So it's not really THE MAN, but it can be pretty snoresville at times. Working my way through an MFA online at the same time so I can be lolvideogameconceptartist someday.

Ha ha it has been a long time. I was thinking you should make your students do English mad libs while I was reading your post. :D
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[User Picture]From: charcoalducky
2010-09-03 05:38 am (UTC)
omg so much posting! I will read this part bit-by-bit and comment as I read :D
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[User Picture]From: brackdiamon
2010-09-06 01:58 pm (UTC)
Omg you're back in Japan! Congrats! Osaka seems like an awesome place... There's just something about it!

The festival sounded like a clusterfuck of fun!

How was it at first getting adjusted to your host family when you first met them? Was it extremely awkward? Man, it would be for me..

I assume Namie was all hyper and excited during this tour too, lawl.

Those fans that deck out their cars... no words.

Good luck on your teaching, girl!
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[User Picture]From: redsunsetxiii
2010-09-11 07:10 am (UTC)
haha yea love Osaka, going back in a week! lol

funny you asked about awkwardness and the host family....I definitely felt more awkward when I was studying abroad - I actually didn't talk all that much. when I visited, it was like old times, but we were so much more comfortable with each other and we were a lot more conversational. wonder how it will be now that theres another exchange student lolol

yeaaaa the Amuro-mobile XD gonna post pics up to the community when I feel less lazy. might also post about the Past/Future tour goods too...if anybody (from America at least) wants to buy anything with the current exchange rate. glad I'm getting paid in yen!

finally thanks! I'll be writing really soon about my first experiences lol. hope you're also doing well!! moving right?!
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[User Picture]From: raudypenguins
2010-09-07 09:24 pm (UTC)
That sounds so exciting! And omg you are making me jealous! Good luck teaching -- it's weird that they move you around from school to school. I just stayed at one school, but I guess I wasn't considered rural. You have such tiny class sizes!!
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[User Picture]From: redsunsetxiii
2010-09-11 07:14 am (UTC)
hey!! you're back in America right? :( hope you get settled back in quickly! anyways thanks for commenting, I'm very glad I have somebody else who kinda went through a similar experience on my friends list :D and yea, there are 5 middle schools and 11 elementary that are split between three teachers. kinda wish I was more centralized in one or a few locations to get to know the students better, but oh well. what school were you at? middle?
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