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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The enkai is a drinking party with your workmates. It is a traditional and apparently unavoidable part of Japanese life. One does not neccessarily have to drink at an enkai and there is no pressure to. There will always be other people who are not drinking, since in Japan, there is a 0 tolerance for drunk driving. By this I mean that if you have one drop of alcohol in your blood you are not legal to drive.

Anyhow on Friday I had my welcome enkai. It was also the farewell enkai for an assistant teacher who was doing an internship at the school. She is still in university. They sat me next to Yamamoto-sensai and Tairo-sensai was accross from him. These are the school's two best English speakers (supposedly, although I know that Chiba-sensai, the female six grade teacher and the third grade teacher always understand everything I say). The principal sat across from me and the teacher that was leaving was next to me. I guess these were the seats of honour. They made a bunch of speeches. Tairo-sensai had to make one since his swimming team did well recently and the Tashikawa-sensai ( the teacher leaving) had to make one, and the teacher she works with had to make one. All this time, the table laden down with food that calling my name. Japan is bare formalities. Can't touch the food til the toast. So then, the toast. Yay!

The spread included fried chicken, fried pork, salad with some really nice sauce, Japanese pizza (aka salad quesadilla), steak and sashimi. Sashimi is raw fish. The difference between sashimi and sushi is that sushi has been prepared- i.e. is raw fish with maybe lime on it, stuck onto rice. Sashimi is just a slice of raw fish. I had octupus, salmon and tuna. I actually tried the tuna and the salmon. The principal saved me from having to finish them. Afterwards, I realise thta you're not actually supposed to bite them. Maybe I will try again, or maybe not. I know I am not touching any octopus!

As for drinks, I had beer, which is not as weak as American beer and sake (which I love) and reggae punch, which is iced tea and lemon and some alcohol, and is the only way I like iced tea.

It's like the song says, "after the party, is the after-party". Of course I was completely pooped and ready to go home. Yamamoto-sensai was sending me home with Hayashida-sensai, but Chiba-sensai grabbed my arm and next thing I know I am on the way to another restaurant. It was way past my bed time. They ordered some food and I ordered an Apple Juice IN JAPANESE!!! Of course they got me steak. Never make the mistake of telling a Japanese that you like something. They will give it to you at every available chance! lol! At 11.40 Tashikawa-sensai said she had to leave (Yay- I was so about to fall into the plate with the sleep!) and she took me home.

It was an enjoyable experience!

Karumai Festival- September 12-15

It is so easy not to blog when you're living the good life in Japan. I am a week behind on everything. Oh well, anyhow.

Last weekend was Karumai festival. Janine came and got us from Ichinohe around midday on Saturday and took us back to Karumai. We hung out her place while she went to the Town hall (yakuba) to get all yukata'd up. A yukata or kimono is not something a female can put on by herself. They involve some complicated knots, and tying off and thing, and in Janine's case, stitching -lol. It is also not something you can take off by yourself. Anyhow, afterwards Janine came back and got us to head over to where her neighbourhood's float was starting.

There were a lot of really tiny kids in traditional Japanese wear and they were really cute. I don't remember seeing any at my festival, but this may be because I worked one day of the festival, had to perform at the second and slept through the third. Next thing we know, Dan is in one of the overcoat shirt things that looks somewhere between a Bermuda shirt and a yukata and we can see that they are going to drag us into the festival. Lol!

But they only ask Dan to pull the float. Funny enough, Janine is the only one in a yukata pulling. The other girls are playing the flute to complement the taiko. And the ladies who are pulling are wearing the same thing as Dan. For some reason the pulled the float up a ridiculous hill and parked. There were 2 more floats, 1 in front and one behind us, which went up the hill and also 2 more which parked in the gas station at the base of the hill instead.

The float for the other ALT's community had a cermonial sake breaking and we had sake to drink. Then a float came down the hill, which was from Hachinohe. This float is the coolest I have ever seen. It can expand. Characters can come out of the top and the sides, making it absolutely humongous. After that float went down, we went back down the hill. This time they asked me and Tyler to pull too. We were joined by some dancers, doing what I assume to be the Karumai dance. Seems every town in Iwate has its own summer dance.

At some point, Dan, Tyler and I deserted to go get some festival food. Festival food is one of the best things about Japan. We went back to Janine. I had yakitori (Barbecued chicken on a stick! Yay!) and sausage on a stick. Tyler and Dan also got a barbecued tofu! The Japanese do any and everything to tofu. The people in the float brought us drinks as well. No one can fault Japanese hospitality. At this point there were a total of 6 floats parked in a lot near a shrine.

The Hachinohe float left first followed by a Ninohe one, then Brett (the other ALT), then another, then us, and then the last. When we got back to the intersection near the yakuba, they parked our float and Brett's float came back and there was a taiko drum-off. They invited me and Janine to join in a dance with the girls from Brett's float. Of course we didn't know the dance so it was fairly hilarious but it was definitely fun.

At exactly 7 p.m, the scheduled end of the festival, they stopped and the float behind us parked where we had been. Brett's community tried to pull their float up the ridiculous hill next to the yakuba. It rolled back for a bit and we worried that there was going to be an accident, but they got it up in the end. Then they pulled our float towards the hill. I thought to myself that there was no way we were going to get up that hill, but then they hooked the float up to an SUV. Yay, for working smarter and not harder!

On Sunday morning, there was a parade. We didn't know what it would be like til we got there. But it was the Fire Volunteer Corps. From the number of people on parade, it pretty much looked like every single man in Karumai was in the Corps. There were some ladies who went in a seperate section. I am not sure if they were FVC or not and there were also some kids, who looked kinda like Boy Scout, Girl Guide equivalent. Then there was an eternal line of fire trucks. I have never seen so many fire vehicles in one place. And they all belong to Karumai. They all went down to the riverside. 24 of the fire trucks drove down into the riverbank. There were steps leading down into the river and we were the farthest ones forward. Clearly whatever was happening, we were going to get wet. They all hooked up to the river and then made an arch of water 50 feet in the air. Then they put dye in the hoses and had a rainbow arch. It is by far the coolest thing I've ever seen fire trucks do.

After that there was a memorial ceremony. Apparently, 7 years ago there was a flood in Karumai and many people on the riverfront lost everything. I think a few people also died. After the ceremony (excessively long- since it's Japan) they packed up and left... We went and had multicoloured, slush puppies in ice cream cones. This is another way cool thing about Japan. Everything is very cute. Lot's of pink. Lot's of cute characters like Miffy and Minny and Mickey Mouse and Pooh and Stitch and Hello Kitty. So if there is a place in the world for a white, blue, pink and orange slush puppy on a pink cone it would be Japan.

Anyhow after that we headed back, because I had a Japanese lesson to go to in Ninohe and Dan and Tyler had to meet the Ninohe/Kunohe lot the following day.

Festivals in Japan are great! If you're ever in Japan try to visit one!
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