Thousands of Miles from Home


Let The Games Begin

My birthday in Japan was wildly amazing to say the least. Stretching over the course of one week and two weekends (time acts funny here in Japan) I celebrated what should have been a one day event.

(I’ll leave part two of the celebrations, “partying with the Yamaguchi crew,” until a later entry, and recap some of the highlights from the party at my house last week.

The day before my birthday my host mom Junko took me to a Bizen pottery crafting location in the mountains to make my own Bizen-ware pottery items. I have never used the spinny-wheel mechanism for making cups and vases before so this was a totally new experience, heightened by the fact that I was given literally no instruction but instead sat down at the wheel and did my best. I managed to fashion a mug and small vase, not bad for my virgin pottery skills.

On the day of my birthday I was surprised with two tickets to the Tamano Marine Festival’s Cruise Ship Lunch Tour. Conveniently scheduled for the 21st, my host mother and I boarded a huge ocean liner and were treated to a delicious lunch, magicians, Japanese Enka singers, and a wedding ceremony as we cruised for 5 luxurious hours on the Seto Inland Sea. The Saekis, who I lived next to in Tai, also bought tickets for the event and I met them on the boat.

That evening people came from far and wide to celebrate my birthday/get a free meal. In the way of Exchange kids, Carter, Janna, Cori, and Michelle showed up at my door, along with Kawai-san, Tomoya, and Takuro from the Tai area. The big surprise came from the kids at my school. I had invited two by the way of e-mail, and only one had actually replied to say he was coming. I had mentioned he could bring friends, but didn’t expect that to happen. To my surprise, when I drove to pick him up at the station I was met with about half the male population of my class at school. Awesome. We shoved as many as we could into the car, and shuttled the rest back to my house in Hachihama.

Kondo and Kawai-san had prepared a veritable feast with enough food and drinks to feed a small army. We all met in my grandmother’s house, situated next to our house, because it has a much larger living-room type area. There was eating, drinking, some singing, and general merriment before someone got the amazing idea to play Hide and Seek, or “kakurembo” in Japanese. My host mom, a volunteer policewoman, lent us her massive flashlight and we set out into the rice fields of Hachihama for one of the weirdest Hide and Seek games I have ever played.

When the game wound down we lit fireworks in a dangerous manner before the kids from my school had to go home. The Exchange kids (and Miwako who showed up after her trip to Kyoto) stayed for the night in my room which I lined with futons. More craziness ensued which doesn’t need to be mentioned in detail. Needless to say no one was (seriously) injured, but my grandmother might have got quite a scare.

Thanks again to everyone who came, and if you couldn’t make it you’re invited next year.


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