Saturday, July 08, 2006

Catch-up packet

Actually, I lied about last Wednesday.

Japanese trains are notoriously punctual, so when my 8:00 connector to Kaihin Makuhari was two, then five minutes late, I was sort of surprised. Ultimately, my train just never came; I took the next one and made some extra connections, putting me (and three other kids in my class, mind) about ten minutes late for class. One of our teachers later hypothesized that someone had killed himself by jumping in front of our train, something apparently un-unheard of here. That's about all I've got.

Thursday we went to a tea ceremony, which we were hideously unprepared for. A Japanese tea ceremony, being a tradition stretching back over eight hundred years, is ridiculously steeped in ritual. Not only are there proper greetings and seating arrangements, but the bowl must be held in such a position, must be drank from after the proper movements, and must even be inspected in a particular manner after the tea is long gone. We had watched a brief video (in Japanese, naturally) the day before, but definitely did a lot of learning on the fly.

That aside, though, it was pretty interesting. I was fascinated by the paradox at hand: how, in an event with the purpose of fostering deliberation and meditation, was one also expected to actively remember each proper step and manner? To the severe consternation of my dad, the mental freedom of repetitive physical work is something I've experienced only rarely. Maybe I just need to mow the lawn more often.

Friday was another activity day: kabuki!
Kabuki (かぶき, or 歌舞伎 for the overachievers among us) is a form of Japanese theatre, with a heavy focus on characters rather than plot and a fair, but not heavy, amount of dancing. Since most actual kabuki plays last upwards of six hours (yes, no typo), our class went to a shorter, two-hour condensed showing of one of the hundred or so conventional plays. This made the plot make even less sense than it already did--but then again, that isn't the important part anyway. It involved a swordfighter from Kyushu who agreed to throw a match to a complete stranger so that the latter could help his mother, and then came home to find an old lady who wanted to move in with him, and then his fiancee who he's never met comes in disguised as a priest... and I hope you start to get my point by now.

(Incidentally, all of these places had really drab exteriors and interiors with 'No Photography' signs. Sorry about the lack of exciting pictures. However, I did come across a couple of gems on the way back from the tea ceremony.)

First, some bonsai trees from a garden went to afterwards:

And a picture that needs no explanation (location--downtown Meguro):

I also just remembered that there's so much basic stuff I haven't had the chance to go over so far. I'm thinking subways, Makuhari New City, even the money system--I'm sure half of what I'm talking about here doesn't make half as much sense without it. I'll try to get to that ASAP, which I hope means tomorrow.

Vending Machine Special #10: Mets!

I have no idea why there's a drink in Japan with the logo of the New York Mets on it, but it's available in the IES Center and it's fairly tasty. Another grapefruit concoction. If anybody knows any more about this or is bored enough to go on a Googlehunt, inform me.


At 8:49 PM, Anonymous  said...

OK, So really, here's the scoop:
You know how when you're reading the New Yorker and there's a cartoon and YOU JUST DON'T GET IT?

Sometimes it's like that with the captions to your photos ("I'm looking at the guy in red here" or "*Japanese*") or with the titles of your blog entries (What is Black Cat Shipping?, anyways?)

BUT I GET THIS ONE. "Catch-up packet" sounds like KETCHUP PACKET.


This just proves and glorifies your esoteric humor and ingenious wit. :-)


At 8:49 AM, Anonymous tami said...

Mike pulled this blog up for me while we were in Florida.(big hug and thank you again to him) so i felt a little more connected.
I LOVE YOUR PICTURES. I think they are my favorite.

Keep writing whenever you can




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