Unfortunately, Courtney, Jenelle, and I had to be checked out of our single hotel room by 10am. Fortunately, this time there was no lifeless bloody body lying on the ground outside of the elevators (last time we stayed at the Toyoko Inn, this was the case L). We met up with Ruu, Futoshi, and Tomoko (moon moon child), and headed out to SAKENOJIN!! All of the most delicious sake makers from Niigata Prefecture get together for two days a year in a Convention Hall (Toki Messei) to serve all-you-can-drink sake samples, all for the miniscule price of 1500 yen (~$15)!! One of my goals in Japan was to be able to enjoy sake, and on Sunday, March 15, that goal was achieved!! We drank strong sake, sweet sake, plum sake, and on and on and it was spectacular!! At one point, us foreigners were even invited on stage to pound rice into making it mochi – ‘mochitsuki’!! In the end, Jenelle’s craving for Pizza Hut prevailed, and we ordered pizza to the lobby of Toki Messei (a pretty wild idea in this country). It took Ruu 3 times to get it right, haha.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
After a long afternoon of killing time in Niigata City, and walking around like lost hobos, we finally made it to the performance hall. This performance ranks as one of my favorites, as my grandma, aunt, cousin-once-removed, and cousin-twice-removed were in the audience (along with many other friends). To celebrate the last show, raise more money for PNG, and also observe St. Patrick’s Day, there was an all-night dance party at Immigrants Café.
Today was my 24th year anniversary since being born, and 4th year anniversary of living to see March 13th fall on a Friday. They have the same superstitions here in Japan about Friday the 13th, but none affected me. Conveniently, Futoshi was in Murakami and graciously gave me a ride to Niigata City immediately after I got out of school. We went back to the delicious sushi place with Jenelle, Sim, and Cus. If you go on a birthday, they make a sushi ‘roll cake,’ or the hugest maki I have ever seen, garnished with sparkler (firework) candles. Futoshi and Jenelle were TOO nice in making this one of the best birthdays I’ve had. After stuffing ourselves silly with raw fish, wasabi, and rice, we made our way to Northern lights where they came out with an ACTUAL birthday cake!!
Monday, March 9, 2009
Not everyone was completely happy about taking the musical on a boat to The Sado Island. As it turns out though, this was THE most fun we’ve had as a group yet!! Due to stubbornly getting a little bit lost, and loads of traffic, there were a couple minutes that I had my car believe that we were going to miss the ferry. Nope, we made it!! The sea was full of swells that brought on seasickness to some, and loads of fun to others!! Walking through the cabins, we discovered early on that if we skipped with high knees, eventually the boat would drop and we would fly!! We had so much fun acting like our elementary school students skipping and jumping on the bottom, side, and top decks. Eventually Christian and his Spiderman abilities ran up a slightly angled wall. Monkey see, monkey do; we all saw and HAD to do too.
With there being a 3-year gap between The Musical being performed on Sado, Saturday night was a BIG deal. There was a pretty good turnout including friends, students, colleagues, and the MAYOR. A video man came to tape the whole show so that they could show it on TV later that week!!
We were able to rent futons and a house for everyone to stay in on Saturday night. I had TOO much fun playing Slap Happy, one round of Texas Hold ‘Em (no chips), and Circle of Death. Jenelle convinced me to go on a walk into the darkness, and when we returned everyone was asleep and we had no futons!! Luckily she’s a relentless detective and caught the futon thief red handed!!
The ferry ride back was less wavy but still nice. A hawk joined the seagulls that normally follow the boats from the mainland to the island and back this time.
I stopped by Obaachan’s before heading back to Murakami. The weather was perfect, so I dragged her out of the house to go on a walk to the beach.
Kawamura-sensei invited me over to see his dolls, and eat dinner with his family again. The month of March, in Japan is known as ‘girl’s month,’ especially March 3rd, ‘Girl’s Day,’ or ‘Ohinamatsuri.’ The Kawamura family explained to me that when a family has a baby girl, they buy a massive Ohinasama set. Every year, it’s brought out during the month of March to celebrate the growth and happiness of their daughter. The first platform (top) seats the imperial dolls, representing the Emperor and Empress. The second platform holds three court ladies, or sake bearers. The third platform holds five male musicians. The fourth platform displays two ministers of completely different ages. The fifth platform holds three samurai who protect the Emperor and Empress. The sixth and seventh platforms hold a variety of furniture, tools, and carriages. If the dolls are displayed past April 6th in Murakami, they risk the chances of their daughter getting married!!
Monday, March 2, 2009
The doors were open to a more convenient weekend as the musical finally came to MY stomping grounds. My current Vice Principal at Iwafuna-sho was also once a VP at one of Jenelle’s elementary schools. She’s one of the coolest VPs out there, and invited us over for mochi, dinner, and drinks on the Friday night before the next day’s performance. Her husband is coincidentally a principal at another elementary school in the area. As we talked and talked, we learned that they had grown up next door to each other, and actually still live in the VP’s childhood home. They had no idea who the other one was, due to a 6-year age difference, just missing one another in the 6-year elementary school system. Apparently their marriage was arranged, and yet they seem perfect for each other. Their story is fascinating, and Japan continues to widen my eyes.
Because there was a tiny bit of alcohol involved, we spent the night, but made sure to wake up early the next morning to get some snowboarding in before Saturday night’s performance. Aimee, Jennelle, and I got a solid 2.5 hours in before going to one of the Senami onsens that had a waterfall, and then straight to the Joho Center to start setting up for Prince Snow White and the Seven Samurai.
Of course, Sunday Courtney, Jenelle, Casanova, Futoshi, Ru, and I went back to Wakabuna. The slush snow was a bit better than the ice from yesterday. I did a BOX … TWICE!!!
The school year in Japan runs from April to March, which means it’s graduation season!! Once again, Kamikaifu was thoughtful enough to invite me to their 6th grader’s send off party. The program was comprised of dances, instrumentals, singing, presentations, and a hilarious play by the 1st through 5th graders and teachers. It’s remarkable to see how much a small school can accomplish with the flexibility and individual attention teachers can offer to each student. The five graduating 6th graders each had an impact on the other students and will be missed very much at Kamikaifu as they move onto middle school.