Friday, March 28, 2008

Happy Wedding Day!

One of my former eikaiwa (English conversation) students, Mihoko, got married last weekend. Though I was honored to be invited, I've heard (and seen) that Japanese weddings are extremely formal, stiff (read UNfun) affairs. Beautiful, but really formal. I was nervous about what to wear, how to act, since I feel like I never really know what is expected of me around here. Fortunately, I can usually play the "gaijin" (foreigner) card and beg forgiveness on account of ignorance. I was also lucky to be able to join some of my other Japanese girlfriends for both the wedding ceremony and the ensuing party, and therefore didn't feel so lost :) In this first photo, Mihoko's wearing a traditional white kimono, and the family is standing in front of the special gold screen to receive guests into the reception.

Here's what was waiting for us at the table! Actually, this fish, "tai" is probably my favorite kind of sashimi. I think it might also be considered "lucky" (I guess for those who eat it - not the fish itself!) I could be making that up though -

Next is the appetizer course - it was delicious, but don't ask me what the things were. I think the pink thing was "sakura mochi", though - made from sakura blossoms and leaves (but I could be making that up, too!)

Ahhh... the wedding cake. If it looks a little unprofessional, it was! It was just a frosted cake and the guests got to decorate it! What an idea! They had bowls of goodies set out beside the cake, and at the beginning of the reception, guests got to add their own touches.

Finally, here's Mihoko in her second wedding dress (she went through several costume changes throughout the whole affair!) and me & "the girls."

Ai Uta by Greeeen

Here's another J-pop group for you. I heard this song all the time last year, but just figured out who did it. It's kinda "poppy" but fun.
If anyone knows the real meaning behind the video, please share :)

Here is the chorus and last verse translation I found online:

Only standing by my side spending days laughing and crying,
That has become the meaning of my life
I dedicate this love song for you

I can't express how much I am thankful for you
Cries, laughs, sadness, and happiness are all shared as we continue to live
No matter how many nights have passed
I would like to sing my love with you

*** and the romaji ***

tada naite waratte sugosu hibi ni
tonari ni tatte ireru kotode
boku ga ikiru imi ni natte
kimi ni sasagu kono ai no uta

tada arigatou ja tsutae kirenai
naki warai to kanashimi yorokobi wo tomoni waka chi ai ikite ikou
ikutsumono yoru wo koete
boku wa kimi to ai wo utaou

***If you want to check out the rest of the lyrics, or if you want to see other Japanese music videos, check out

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mayday! what the heck is a Bump of Chicken?

A couple of posts ago I featured "Mayday" by Bump of Chicken. While trying to nail down an explanation for the unusual band name, I came across two:
1 - The term for "goosebumps" is "torihada" - but instead of "goose" they use "tori=chicken." Maybe the band's music is so amazing, listeners get "torihada"...
OR (and this one is from my resident "Bump of Chicken" student expert in ichikumi)
2 - In Japan the chicken is seen as a weak creature***. However, when the chicken is "bumped" or attacked, it "counter-attacks" (hangeki suru is what my student used). My student said that Bump of Chicken's message was about "fighting back" when you're knocked down - don't just take it. Stand up for yourself.

So - Bump of Chicken mystery solved.

***I got HOWLS of laughter as I explained the whole "You're a chicken" insult to my students. Of course I hammed it up with a proper "brock brock brock" (I have NO idea how to type chicken clucking) and doing a little chicken dance...

And, for those of you in a karaoke mood - here's "a" translation of the chorus and romaji lyrics to a song that'll put you in a good mood:

Mayday (excerpt)

Are you holding your breath
down to the bottom of your heart?
You are sinking (drowning/hiding?)
So I won't stop diving till I find you
The closer I get to you
The more harder it gets
When I have to take another breath
I'll take it with you

Iki wa motsu darou ka
Fukai kokoro no soko made
Kimi ga shizumeta kimi wo
Mitsukeru made moguru tsumori sa
Kurushisa to hireishite
Bokura wa chikazukeru
Futatabi kokyuu wo suru toki wa
Kimi to isshou ni

adjusting the volume II

So. The relative peace and quiet can be great. And I am, 'at the end of the day', thankful for this unique opportunity. But try to imagine living in a place where EVERYthing you hear on the radio, TV, at work, on the street, in the mall, at the grocery store, at the post office - try to imagine all of it makes no sense - it's just sounds...that eventually turn into a kind of white noise. It's isolating. At the same time, however, I try to use it for focusing on my own things, and think of my lack of understanding as a sort of immunity to some of the very things I was trying to get away from in the States. The concept of "Communication" seemed so 2-dimensional before, and now it seems to be expanding exponentially. Feeling (for the most part) "locked out" of a language allows me to evaluate existing methods and develop others as I deal with the day to day job of living.

That being said, my meager attempts at 'learning the language' are always met with such support and enthusiasm here. People may seem shy, but as I think I've mentioned before, they probably don't feel like they have anything to say to me until I mumble something in a language they understand. As I was at Huis Ten Bosch (the Dutch village north of here) the other day, I overhead these shopkeepers' frantic, nervous whispers as they tried to figure out what to say to me - and suddenly they timidly blurted out "Delicious!" I looked at the cheese to which they were pointing, and said, "Hai, chizu ga oishiiso, yo" Which actually might really mean "the map indeed looks delicious", but regardless - they were excited to try to talk to me (in Japanese). We chatted for a bit about why I was in Japan and where I lived, and then I walked away grinning at how funny - and at times misleading - our perceptions about other people can be.

I keep trying to get a point here - about why I've been posting all the music stuff here lately. Some of you probably like some of the stuff, and others, well, thanks for your patience. In the US, I was used to having music around me all the time - Dad was always playing something at home (I miss that - hint hint ;) ) or I could always turn on the house stereo or car radio (here I don't even HAVE a radio). So, now that I'm finally finding popular Japanese music that I can tolerate, I feel like another layer of communication unfolds...
So - I hope this stuff is, at the very least, educational :)

Right. So enough of the melodrama - here's a your "RSD" (random shot of the day) - it's in a washroom at Huis Ten Bosch. This divider is made up of a series of cardboard tubes - they looked like the ones you'd find on the inside of a roll of paper or carpet. Since I read somewhere that HTB was really concerned about the environment, I wouldn't be surprised if these really were recycled materials from the site! This washroom also had randomly-placed round mirrors scattered about the walls. Since the whole room was an oval shape, I figured the mirrors were supposed to look like bubbles...until I glanced in the mirror above the sink and saw that the "randomly-placed" mirrors actually worked like a 3 way mirror! Wow - I need a vacation...I'm now impressed with toilet facilities!

Monday, March 24, 2008

adjusting the volume

One of the reasons I came to Japan was to get away from the NOISE...the general gossip, the ugliness and insensitivity in people's tones, the general harshness I often heard (not necessarily directed towards me) at my previous school, the intrusive sex/drugs/violence in the music, the constant barrage of ads incessantly trying to seduce me to buy this or that.
I just wanted a break.
I wanted quiet... maybe I could...
I've had a lot to deal with this past year and a half with losing Mom, and feeling like I've lost home.
And here I have the peace and quiet to sort this all out. Maybe I can also find this in the States again, but for now, even though life is often very difficult on account of the language and cultural barriers, for now, it's had a kind of calming effect.

I sometimes scream and wail
(mostly on the inside - but doesn't that just echo even louder?
don't those reverberations from the inside out only serve to shatter me more severely?)
the SILENCE - the mind-numbing-defeaning SILENCE of this place stands in stolid defiance, completely unaffected by me.

It mocks me.

it is just patiently waiting

Friday, March 21, 2008


This is the band featured in the previous post, and their name is a portmanteau of the two members' family names, Kentarō Kobuchi and Shunsuke Kuroda. In recent lessons, I've been talking with the students about their musical tastes and "Osusume" (recommendations) and "Tsubomi" is one of them. I don't know why I didn't think of this idea before - listening to the students' favorite music not only broadens my Japanese musical horizons (which doesn't take much!) and gives me a better idea of where they're coming from and what they like. It also gives me more "chat material" and it helps me decide what kind of English music to use in lessons.
Well, I found an English translation for the "Tsubomi" lyrics, and have posted them below. Just for the record, Kuroda is over 6'4" and NO, I've never seen a Japanese guy that tall before :)


Even if tears spilled from a sweat covered smile, no one could tell.
Thats why I don't know you're crying.

Its still burning, lighting up my heart
I recieved from you the tender light, proof of unconditional love

While being enveloped by the gentle spot under the sun,
I whisper into your back
Even if a day like this comes again
Surely, surely, surely, you would be able to understand

Vanishing and blooming, this year too the flower bud is waiting for me
the petal dancing in the wind that my palm can't grasp
stops on the shoulder lightly
skillfully riding it and showing a smile, I remember you by myself

In the valley of buildings, sometimes buried dreams bud too
isn't that what makes flowers bloom?
You can't choose where your dreams will blossom

The silhouettes we dropped on this town, they're all looking for the light
even as time overlaps and flows over itself
surely, surely, surely the day we grow out of this will come

On the breezeless track, the beautiful sky of May feels blue and lonely
the motionless scattered clouds will always be floating
there is no place I can return to anymore
this is the way I am, in the whispering wind it dances to the ground with a flash, my tears

On the verge of dropping, once more the re-opening petals, like you,
gave time and again silent encouragement to these hands

Vanishing and blooming, this year too the flower bud is waiting for me
even now I still can't catch the dreams you painted
stopping right beside me
Opening gracefully just like a smile, I keep looking for the flower bud, in the sky

2007 #1

Well, I didn't really know what this song was about - but I really enjoyed watching all the shadow puppets in the video...makes me want to go tent camping. It's called "Tsubomi" ("bud") by Kobukuro, and it was the number one song in Japan last year. Here are the lyrics (up to the chorus) in romaji - so now you can sing along! :) (For any of you that KNOW Japanese - I just found these on the internet - forgive any mistakes!)

Namida koboshitemo, ase ni mamireta egao no naka ja.

Daremo kizuite wa kurenai
dakara anata no namida wo boku wa shiranai.

Tayasu koto naku, boku no kokoro ni, toosareteita
yasashii akari wa anata ga kureta riyuna ki ai no akashi.

Yawarakana hi damari ga tsutsumu senaka ni potsuri hanashikakenagara.

Itsuka konna hi ga kuru koto mo
kitto kitto kitto wakatteta hazu na noni.

Kiesouni, sakisou na, tsubomi ga kotoshi mo boku wo matteru.
tenohira ja, tsukamenai kaze ni tooru hanabira.
tachitomaru ni kata ni hirari
jouzu ni nosete waratte miseta anta wo omoide su hitori.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chibi Maruko Chan

In case any of you are still under the assumption that Japanese children are ALL so well Maruko chan. Actually, I'm thankful that I don't know ANY children like this here :) . I only looked this up because when I gave a Hershey's kiss to one of the kids today, she said "Nagasawakun"! (???) It turns out this is the name of one of Maruko chan's classmates, who has a head shaped like a Hershey's kiss. I don't think that Nagasawakun is in this clip, but I put this up because the English dubbing of the first part - about preparing for earthquakes - is pretty funny (but seriously - don't feel at all obliged to watch the entire clip!).

Monday, March 17, 2008


Sorry for the absence - once again having computer challenges...argh....
Anyway - funny pic of the monkey boys who went camping with us on the eve of my birthday. I'm in my super-sly "Sardines" coat of camouflage...(I guess I'll have to explain that - )

Monday, March 10, 2008


Some of my mates here came over on the night of my birthday to make sure I didn't eat dinner was quite lovely at Nana(nani? I can't remember the name of the restaurant...7 something...).

Exile & Koda - "Won't Be Long" seems the the US influence here extends beyond the proliferation of McDonald's restaurants...but I can tell you the peeps around here don't look any thing like this. Might want to cover the kids' eyes - Koda seems to be allergic to clothes.
The reason I looked this up is because kids at the International Day danced this song for us last week. But because I, once again, didn't quite understand what we were supposed to be doing, I started dancing with the kids (which they liked), but it was really hard to keep up. I glanced at my friend who wasn't dancing and she said, "I think maybe we only have to watch, yo" ANYWAY...the kids were really cute.
So - douzo. K-sensei, I thought maybe the Ely peeps could use this as a diversion from FCAT...
For the record, Bump of Chicken's still got my vote.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hina Matsuri

Happy Hina Matsuri!
Hina = dolls representing courtiers
Ningyou = dolls
Matsuri = festival
On the 3rd day of March, Japanese families celebrate their pride in their daughters by displaying dolls of the Emperor and Empress in a prominent place in the home. Some doll sets also include all of the Imperial court attendants, musicians, and possessions. The dolls are not to be played with. I think this is akin to the Christian tradition of setting up a Nativity scene at Christmas. The "hinaningyou" are usually gifts from the grandparents or inherited from the girl's mother, and are quite delicate and expensive! They are unwrapped in a ceremony, admired for a few weeks and then put back in their boxes. According to one superstition, if the dolls aren't returned to their boxes soon after the 3rd, the daughters will not get married. (How is it I'm still not married? I didn't even HAVE dolls to put away late... I think I just played with trucks!)

By the way, I'm officially moving my birthday to 3/3...maybe that will be an easier date to remember - "tres-tres" (wink, wink CHRIS), it gives people an extra day to prepare (more winking, DAD), and I like the idea of my birthday coinciding with a national holiday that celebrates daughters. Don't worry, boys, there's one for you in May - but you get fish and samurai helmets instead of dolls.

Bump of Chicken

Here's an experiment - well, it's two-fold, actually. One, I'm embedding a music video file in this post, let me know if it worked, ok? Secondly, I'm trying to study this foreign language through it's popular music. The problem I'd faced was I had NO idea where to start - remember - all the stuff in the music stores is IN said foreign language. Then I discovered the miracle of and, so now I can find at least ONE thing I like, and then use that as a point of departure to find other things I like. Then, of course, there are the kids. This week we're listening to songs they like and translating them into English. I'd actually started that task on my own with a new CD I got called "The Elephant Kashimashi" - then I thought, "Hmmm, why don't the KIDS do this?"

Here's one they chose. It's called "メーデー" ("mayday") by Bump of Chicken. I don't know what it's about yet, but the sound of it puts me in a good mood :)

Monday, March 03, 2008

one year later

Yes, you saw these cool cats last year, too. They are the "ouendan" team at school and they performed for our grad ceremony on Saturday (yes, already doing graduation). They are a big part of the reason I've decided to stay one more year - I really want to see my kids (that were 1st years my 1st year) graduate. I got really choked up this year at the ceremony and I didn't even know the graduates that well, nor did I really understand most of what was going on. But I think I'm really going to lose it next year when all these guys I know graduate (and I'll have improved my Japanese and be able to understand a bit more!). I've been having trouble uploading pics, but I do promise some funny ones from stuff that happened this weekend (not necessarily FOR my birthday, but ON my birthday, anyway!)


So I turned 36 yesterday. I think I'll try to take my friend's advice and from now on just think of my birthday as a "celebration of the day the world was blessed with my arrival" because when I think of being 36, unmarried (heck, I don't even remember the last time I had a proper DATE), and without kids, I get so depressed I can't get up off the floor (which, at the moment, IS very comfortable, since I just bought a "hot carpet" - but nonetheless - ).
And, I miss Mom.
She always made the day special for me, and now I'm really feeling the loss again.
BUT I seem to have some 'new moms' who've stepped up to the plate and I really appreciate it. Though the language and culture barrier is ever-challenging, some of the ladies I've met here have provided a nice maternal-like presence on occasion. And Cathy, Cara ("mom-in-training"!), and Aunt Barbara, your care packages are life savers. Really. Thank you. txo

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I'll be out with it already. Most of the time I can be pretty genki, and I've almost gotten used to the fact that I'm simply not EVER going to fit in here.
I feel like it's a conspiracy against me.

Case in point: today. Graduation. I'm told to wear "formal wear" for the ceremony, but, no, 'of course you don't need to wear a kimono'... I come in this morning, and, of course they're wearing kimonos. Everyone not in a kimono has a black velvet suit and pearls (well, the guys aren't wearing pearls). OH, that's "formal wear" Well, shikatta ganai, yo - all I have is an ill-fitting brown suit thingy that I must have washed when it should have been dry cleaned (suits? what are suits?) My plan is to distract them all with my curly hair and I even put on a little makeup. We'll see how it goes.

I know in a few hours this uneasiness will be forgotten (because I'll be freezing said curly hair off in the unheated gym) - no really - in a few hours all the graduates (senpai) and their kohai (the undergrads) will all be having their little celebrations in their club groups around the school. It's very cute to see how happy they all are, and it's evident that they are all really close friends.

And, once again, I'm sitting alone in a suddenly empty staff room - let me go see where everyone's gotten to -