Friday, April 16, 2004

My week in Review
Sorry to everyone who I haven't been e-mailing recently. (Am I beginning to sound like a broken record on this e-mailing thing?) As always I hope this blog is keeping everyone updated who cares. And feel free to send me e-mails updating me on your lives. No fair holding grudges because I never answered your last e-mail.
Japanese Hostages
If you've been following the news, you know that the 3 Japanese hostages have been released, including Nahoko Takato, who is a friend of one of my friends in Sapporo. Thanks to everyone who was praying about the situation. My friend in Sapporo was pretty upset, so I'm glad for her that everything worked out.
Of course now the news is that two other Japanese nationals have been kidnapped in Iraq. Sigh. So it goes.
Easter Sunday
In Japan, Easter is a holiday that is notably by its absence. Most western holidays have been imported to Japan in one form or another. Christmas isn't officially celebrated, but the decorations are everywhere. Valentines day is arguably bigger in Japan than in the states. Halloween is a non-event, but Japanese people know it exists, and us JETs are usually asked do some sort of Halloween English lesson in October.
But for Easter, nothing. In fact the past two years, Easter came and went without me even realizing it.
This year since I've started attending Church again, I'm a little more attuned to these things. I attended an Easter Service, and was fed Easter dinner by the Church afterwards. (Although since it was Japanese food, it didn't feel like Easter dinner).
Cherry Blossoms
Sunday we caught the tail end of Cherry blossom viewing season with a party in Beppu. The flowers were just beginning to fall of the trees at that time. Now the flowers are gone completely, but it was a beautiful season whilst it lasted.
First Day Back to Work
First day back to work on Monday, and I overslept again. I was supposed to be at work at 8, but I was awakened by a call from the Board of Education at 8:30.
Not only was this the second time within a 2 month period, but it was the first day of work for me this school year. And you'll recall from my previous posts that in Japan everyone gets transferred around at beginning of a new school year. So there were about 5 new members of the board of Educations, whose first impression of me was that I overslept and had to be awoken by a phone call. (Maybe it's better that way. I can start things off by establishing low standards for myself right off the bat. "Right, I'm the American in this office. I come late, I leave early, I oversleep, and I get paid the same as you.")
Naturally I didn't do this on purpose. After 2 weeks of Spring Vacation, I had gotten out of the habit of waking up by alarm. I set my alarm the night before, but set it for 7 PM instead of 7 AM. I'm sure you've all done something like that at sometime. The danger of living by yourself is that there is no one to wake you up if you oversleep. I suspect perhaps if some of my colleagues at the Board of Education lived alone, instead of with their famalies, this might happen to them occasionally too. But as it is I'm the only one who oversleeps and has to get a phone call from work. And I do it on a roughly bi-monthly basis.
Entrance Ceremony
Japanese people love ceremonies. There is a graduation ceremony for graduating students, school closing ceremony before the start of Spring Break, opening ceremony at the beginning of school, and then Entrance Ceremony for the new students.
The entrance Ceremony is a lot like the graduation ceremony. A lot of speeches and bowing. Most interesting to me was the "singing" of the National Anthem. They played the National Anthem on the speakers, but hardly anyone sang along to it. I could almost hear the insects chirping outside.
The National Anthem is an interesting aspect of Japan's culture wars. It hasn't been changed since World War II, so many Japanese people refuse to sing it because of it's association with Japan's militaristic past. (Imagine if Germany had the same National Anthem). The Rightest Elements in the Japanese government have refused to give the song up, and have been trying to force it into the schools. But the teachers Union is controlled by the Socialist party, and most of the teachers refuse to sing it. If you're interested in Japanese politics (as I am), the whole issue is fascinating. I wrote up an article on it for the Tombo Times, which should be printed in next month's issue. I'll post a link when it gets published.

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