Saturday, February 10, 2007

Japan e-mails August 14, 2001

Things are going alright over here. My first couple nights were a little slow, but now I’m getting invites everywhere and making new friends. Today I was part of a panel discussion.

It was a little weird actually. Apparently 20 is the coming of age year in Japan, so they had a ceremony today for everyone who turned 20 in the town during the last year. Usually they have a famous speaker at the ceremony (or relatively famous, locally famous, you know, whatever they can get. Kind of like a college commencement ceremony). But they've had some problems in the past with the young 20 year olds getting rowdy and throwing things at the speaker. Not in my town, but in some of the other towns. (Surprising isn't it? It doesn't really fit my image of Japan).

So, to make things more exciting this year, they had an international panel where me, the New Zealand guy, and an Indian student from Asian Pacific University in Beppu (the next town over) talked about stuff. The funny thing though was that we were asked mostly about ourselves. Why did you come to Japan? What do you hope to learn from Japan? What do you like about Japan? Etc. I don’t have a clue what it had to do with the occasion. The only question that seemed to have any relevance was that once they asked us what coming of age day was like in our own countries.

Anyway, the audience didn't throw anything at us. But they were very visibly bored. And who can blame them really. Who wants to hear why Joel Swagman came to Japan at your coming of age ceremony. Afterwards however many of them were very eager to meet us. A couple of the girls there asked me to join them for lunch, but I had to go out to lunch with the school board instead. I’m really kicking myself now for not getting their numbers, but I just wasn't thinking at the time.

The town is pretty small, about 8000. I did meet the Mayor, although I think this isn't anything special. I think most JET’s get introduced to the Mayor during their orientation, at least briefly. And my meeting was very brief. The Mayor handed me a certificate, and I got my picture taken with him, but he didn't speak any English, and I don’t speak Japanese (Yet :)).

I can only hope I’m making a good impression. Everyone is very friendly and gracious to me, but of course the Japanese are famous for not letting on when they’re upset, and I’m sure I've been committing many faux pas. My predecessor may have been a bit difficult to please, but he spoke fluent Japanese and I think had a knowledge of the culture..

The food isn't bad, and I've been a bit adventurous trying things out. But I do have to be somewhat careful because they eat a lot of raw stuff here that my Western stomach isn't used to (lots of raw egg and fish in particular). I've already heard stories of westerners getting sick from the food.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Liberty Leading the People (French: La Liberté guidant le peuple) is a painting by >Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution, and specifically the events of the 28 July 1830 in the centre of Paris. A woman personifying Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the >tricolore flag of the French Revolution in one hand and brandishing a >bayonetted musket with the other.

Link of the day
Swimming in Racial Backwater of Washington - Barack Navigates Sharks

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