Thousands of Miles from Home


Out Of Town

Last weekend, I received an invite from Janna's friend Michiko to stay in the town of Tsuyama. The Tsuyama rotary members also offered to take Cori, Janna, and I skiing at Ombara. How could I refuse?

But before the trip, I experienced the Japanese traditional dance form of 日本舞踊 (Nihon Buyou). A teacher of the dance lives near Kawai-san's house, so I spent the morning with the teacher (Nakahara-sensei) and her student who was on vacation from her college in Osaka. Nihon Buyou is classified as any form of Japanese dance, but can most often be seen in both Kabuki and Noh plays. The dance is accompanied by the shamisen (a three stringed japanese guitar), and can usually be discerned from western dance by its small, shuffling movements (in contrast with ballet's leaps, yet strangely similar to hip-hop's two step).

The girl who performed the dance had studied since the age of 3, but she said that not many Japanese enjoy studying the dance form because of its slow pace and slightly antiquated style. I thought it was amazing. She performed one dance which lasted about 15 minutes and was broken into three discernable sections. First, she depicted a young man with very powerful movements using a fishing pole and fan as props. The next stage involved the aging of the man, personified by looking inside of a box (during the real play, a mask would be applied from the box). In the final stage the man was blind, yet still carried his fishing pole. By the end of the show I was completely floored by the skill and precision of the dance. I attempted some of the intricate fan movements but could barely keep myself from tossing the would-be weapon across the room.

After some tea I said goodbye to Nakahara-sensei and her student, and set off on a 3 hour bus and train ride from Tamano to Tsuyama. Janna and her host mother picked me up at the station and drove us to Michiko's house on the edge of the city.

Michiko, who studied English in London, was once a model. She now works with her husband selling avant-guard style houses in Japan. As expected, her house was much different than the traditional Japanese dwelling. And just to make my father jealous, they also live right next to a golf course.

Michiko took Janna and I (Cori couldn't come until the following day) to Karaoke with two of her friends. One was very quiet, and didn't say much when he first introduced himself. However, he ended up only singing loud, screaming songs with crazy half-japanese half-janglish lyrics (I can only remember a song with the chorus "Come on...SHAKE HIP SHAKE HIP!"). Michiko, on the other hand, sang Madonna. As first I thought it was going to be funny, but Michiko had a really great Madonna voice. She even got up and made Janna and I dance with her. After karaoke, we went to a small late night okonomiyaki (japanese pizza) restaurant bustling with japanese. Tsuyama's okonomiyaki is more of the Hiroshima style (thin like a pancake and folded like an omelet), while in Tamano the okonomiyaki is Kansai style (thick and "meaty"). You might ask yourself "What difference does that make?" Truthfully, both styles are delicious, and perhaps I was especially hungry after the strain of Karaoke, but the Tsuyama okonomiyaki was first rate.

That night Janna, Michiko, and I watched two movies, a rare occurrence for me. The first, Casshern, was shot entirely with a "digital backlot" (green screen) with all backgrounds added in post production (another example would be Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). Anime fans, rejoice, because lens flares and matrix style moves abound. This movie started to give me a seizure around the middle when I not only couldn't understand what was going on (even with english subtitles) but the camera was cut every 5 seconds to highten the neverending tension. The ending of this movie would be described at "crazy," "nonsensical," or "stupid." It gets points for looking beautiful, however. The second movie, "Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu," or Sekai Chu (pronounced to rhyme with Pokemon's Pikachu) for short, is a love story that was inspired from a book and made into a movie as well as a TV drama. It's english title is "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World," and most everyone in japan has either seen or has heard of Sekai Chu. I thought it was good, especially because of the cameo appearance of the Aboriginal guy from Crocodile Dundee (totally unexpected).

The next day, I thanked Mickiko profusely for letting me stay at her house and left with Hikasa-san, Janna, and Cori to Ombara Ski Resort. Cori and I snowboarded with Janna on skis. Although there was a large crowd of people, the weather was perfect and the lift lines moved quickly. That evening we ate my favorite, Kaiten Zushi (a type of serve-yourself sushi that moves along on a massive conveyor belt) before I caught a train and a bus back to Tamano.



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