Thousands of Miles from Home


Just Like Music

Last Wednesday, before attending Japanese school, Kimura-sensei invited Cori, Janna, and I to lunch at her house. Janna's mother was also coming all the way from America to visit Japan, so it happened to work out perfectly that I could sample Kimura-sensei’s fine cuisine as well as meet Janna’s mother. I took a bus to Okayama and met Cori, Janna, and Mrs. Hall at the station (I had the intense urge to call her Hall-san but she preempted my mistake by telling me to call her “Judy”). The four of us took a taxi (it was raining) to Kimura-sensei’s house, a beautiful brick building near the edge of the city area of Okayama. I got a chance to talk with Judy while Kimura-sensei prepared what ended up being a massive lunch. The trip to Japan was Judy’s first time to be outside the US, but she was hosting not one but three exchange students at her house in Newport News. One was only short term, but she said it would be great to get a break from the cooking, cleaning, and carpooling of three exchange students.

Kimura-sensei then served lunch; Chinese egg rolls, a corn soup, chicken salad, go moku (vegetables over noodles), with strawberry ice cream for dessert. Amazingly delicious. I felt important as Janna, Cori, and I translated Kimura-sensei’s Japanese into English for Judy, and vice versa. After lunch Judy took a small nap while we waited for a cab to take us to the Japanese school. I felt quite tired myself, and relaxed a while on the couch chatting with Janna and Cori. Back at the school, no one felt much like studying (or teaching) so we only did one lesson before finishing for the day. After class I shopped for a while with Janna and her mother before taking the bus back to Tamano.

Arriving home around 7, I went to Jirou-sensei's house for the weekly guitar lesson. He amazed me with his skill, as usual, but after the lesson a girl from Tai came over to play the Shamisen and Koto. It was my first experience with a Shamisen, but I found it somewhat similar to a guitar. Unlike a guitar, the head of the Shamisen is made of cat-skin (also dog-skin in cheaper models). The Okinawan Shamisen, also called Jamisen, is made of snakeskin. The Koto is a long hollowed out box made from Paulownia wood, with thirteen silk strings. It is instantly recognizable as Japanese, and both the Shamisen and Koto have sounds that would remind me of Japan in any situation.

I tried my hand at both instruments, having a little luck with the Shamisen playing “Sakura.” It was excellent to get a chance to play these traditional instruments, and the girl who brought them gave me tickets to a show next month in Okayama. I thanked her profusely and hopefully I will get another chance to play before I leave Japan.

The next day I left for Tsuyama, but I will leave that experience for another entry.


  • I'm unable to play the music on the Koto link. Did you get any video of the girl playing the instruments? I would love to be able to hear it.

    By mom, at 9:25 AM  

  • I LOVE the title of this entry.

    By Cinnacism, at 3:00 AM  

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