Thursday, November 20, 2003

Another note in passing....

Last week, I had to go to the Kagoshima JET Programme Mid-Year Conference. (Yay.) I had to miss one of the "big four" events of the school year (Culture Festival) for this. (Double yay.) Needless to say, I was a bit unhappy.

As it turns out, I got stuck into a Senior High group for the conference. Now, I don't teach in any senior high schools here. In fact, the demonstration class for this conference was the first time I had set foot in a Japanese senior high school. Thus, for the whole two-day conference, I was a bitter 3rd-year ALT. New ALTs were saying, "Boy, I hope I don't become as jaded as you!"

One cool thing that happened at the conference was that I got a chance to see Emperor Akihito as he arrived at the Kagoshima Prefectural Office Building (think Capitol). Many of us shouted and waved as his motorcade went by. (He waved back.) Many more of us were late returning from lunch because the police closed the streets and crosswalks before the emperor's arrival. And then the organizer of the seminar got mad at us for being late.

[insert long-suffering sigh here]

Well, at least I got to see the emperor. Not a lot of people get to do that, apparently.


Monday, November 17, 2003

And now, more random observations:

If you're never gonna blend in, why not stand out?

A couple of weeks ago, on Culture Day (November 3), I went to Kagoshima City to see the Ohara festival, which is one of the largest festivals in Kyushu (so I've been led to believe). It was a cool, slightly drizzly day, not bad for watching a parade. Of course, I wasn't actually watching the parade. I was in it.

Yep, I put on the hachimaki and happi, and joined the rest of the Genki Gaikokujin ("energetic foreigners?") as we joined hundreds of others dancing the Oharabushi through downtown. There were about 30 of us in our group. We got a lot of stares, and a lot of people took pictures of us. One guy got in my face with a camera and stayed there until I made a mistake, which was when he snapped his picture.

There was actually a second dance besides the Oharabushi we were supposed to do, but we didn't bother, for some reason. Instead, whenever the other groups were doing the second dance, we did...

...the Macarena.

(Don't ask me, I didn't organize this gig!)

The parade route ran along the City Tram line, which was shut down for the day. Along the tracks, the organizers had set up tables with beverages, to keep the dancers refreshed. The choices seemed to be iced tea or water. During one of the short breaks between dances, I grabbed a cup of water and slammed it. Of course, it wasn't water, but a fairly potent kind of alcohol distilled from sweet potatoes....

Ask not for whom the NHK guy tolls....

Last Tuesday, the NHK guy caught me at home for the first time in two years. NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai(Japan Broadcasting Company)) is the public television company; Japan's equivalent to the BBC. NHK is funded in a similar fashion to the BBC, as well. Everyone who owns a TV "is required by law to enter into a Broadcast Receiving Contract with NHK and pay the appropriate receiving fee."

Now, Article 32 of the Broadcast Law has a loophole written into it, saying that "this shall not apply to those who are equipped with a receiving set not intended for the reception of broadcasting," and this is how I have managed to not have to pay for the past two and a half years. When the NHK collector came to my door back when I first came, he immediately grasped that I didn't have enough Japanese skill to watch TV on a regular basis. I also kept repeating two words from my limited Japanese vocabulary: "video," and "TV games." However, this time, when I opened the door, the guy could hear my TV, and I was watching the NHK coverage of the sumo tournament at that moment.


So, I gave him some money (�2790 for the two-month period of October and November), and he went away. As it turns out, he was supposed to charge me about twice that much because I have a Broadcast Satellite dish. Should I say anything?

Some of the Japanese people to whom I've told this story say, "Of course, you must pay the NHK fees," but most say either "yeah, I haven't paid for years" or "yeah, I got away without paying until last year/last month/etc."

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (my God, what was I thinking?)

In a little over three weeks, I will take the train up to Fukuoka to take the Nihongo Nouryokushiken, san kyuu. By then, I will need to have a Japanese vocabulary of about 1500 words, and I'll also need to understand about 300 Kanji.


(It's not the vocabulary that worries me, it's the grammar.)

Honto ni shinpai shiteiru yo!