Thousands of Miles from Home


From Pirates to Rotarians, Kylies to Kimonos: A Rotary Story for the Ages

My third to last weekend in Japan has finally drawn to a close, leaving a trail of destruction and mayhem in its circuitous path. On Friday, I did not attend school and instead gave my final speech to the Tamano Rotary Club in the clubhouse of a golf course on a mountain in Tamano. My previous host parents, as a well as a teacher from my school, made speeches which made me feel more than a little teary-eyed. After the speeches and a good deal of picture taking, my host mother and I drove to the nearby Bizen pottery shop to pick up the vase and cup I had thrown about a month ago. The glaze set perfectly and there were no noticeable cracks, which makes my first attempt at Bizen pottery an apparent success (provided they survive the trip home).

That evening, Neil, Ryosuke, and Aketa-san (my Rotary counselor) came over to the house for an evening of mahjong, to which I am now thoroughly addicted. Much sushi was consumed, and a good time was had by all (my host father joined the mix after we had been playing for a number of hours, and Neil and I finished off the evening with a few rounds of rummy and casino).

Neil ended up spending the night, and a good deal of Saturday morning/afternoon, as my entire family gathered for a professional Kimono photo shoot. A Kimono sensei came over the house early in the morning to dress my host mother, two older sisters, grandmother, and me into a series of amazingly colorful Kimono. My host father (dressed in a suit), Neil (dressed in a flowery shirt), and the rest of the family (clad in Kimono) boarded two cars bound for the professional photographer in the city. We took a series of shots together, which might not be developed until after I leave Japan, but my host family has promised me a copy in the mail.

After the photo shoot we returned to the house for a feast of maki-zushi and cold soba noodles before I packed my Pirate outfit, bid goodbye to Neil and my host family, and embarked on my trip to Iwakuni and Angela’s Kylie Pirate Party.

The concept of the gathering, as envisioned by Jo, was a costume party where you come dressed as either a scurvy-dog Pirate, or any rendition of Kylie Minogue from the past few decades. With Pirate materials packed in a small bag, and carrying a slim plastic katana, I took a bus to Okayama and then the Shinkansen to Iwakuni in a lightning-fast hour and 40 minutes. About halfway into my trip I noticed I was a getting a few more stares than usual for a foreigner in Japan. I then realized I was not only carrying a bright red child’s sword, but also wearing a shirt with the kanji for “samurai” written across the front. I must have looked like the biggest dork this side of the international dateline. Can’t say it wasn’t rather thrilling.

Arriving at Iwakuni station, I met Selene on accident, and we decided to wait together for the bus to Angela’s. About an hour later we were standing at a bus stop next to numerous rice paddies, dressed in complete pirate gear. We crossed a small street, drawing some astonished gazes, and walked up the hill to Angela’s house.

Selene and I were greeted by a slightly intoxicated Paul (minus swan costume), who called to use as we almost took the wrong road to Angela’s house. Also awaiting our arrival were Jo and Jessica, while Angela was “Kylie-ifying” in her room. It was my first time to meet Jessica after reading her blog for a good part of the year and I always get a deep satisfaction from that sort of get-together.

When Angela emerged from her room I was shocked to see her dressed in little more than a tattered bed sheet, straight out of Kylie’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head” video. Paul and Selene put on their Pirate garb, consisting of photoshopped images of Kylie as a Pirate (deftly created by Paul, even with little knowledge of photoshop). Next to arrive at the party were Kat (who I met at The Killers), Kirk (who accidentally called me out of nowhere while I was in Tokyo), and two friends of Kat whose names I can’t recall because that is not my strong point in life (I apologize in advance). Bren, Sarah, and Chris arrived with bottles of wine apiece, and the party was underway.

Over the course of the evening I ended up meeting numerous Yamaguchi bloggers for the first time. Selena, Victoria, another Paul, his wife Elissa, Nate, and Erin arrived, with plenty of people whose names were replaced with crafty Pirate-related monikers. There was much “yo-ho-ho-ing,” “bottle of rum-ing,” and maybe even a game or two of spin the bottle. The food was to die for as Angela pumped out tacos and hummus, with an assist by Kirk in the chips and dip department. Paul provided the liquid refreshment (Angela provided the hurricanes), and overall this party was by far the CRAZIEST and most eclectic (Pirate related) function I have attended in Japan. There were games, music, dancing, fireworks, and all sorts of assorted skullduggery. After disappearing from the party for a while, I was welcomed back as people started to wear down and crash wherever they could find space on the floor.

The following morning, Angela’s house was a graveyard of bodies, discarded pirate clothing, and feminine Kylie attire. Some people left Iwakuni to return to their regularly scheduled lives, while the remaining crew decided to recharge at a local onsen. Thus Angela, Jessica, Paul and his wife Elissa (an amazing couple from New Jersey), Nate and Erin (for some reason I was sure her name was Melissa, probably because reminded me almost exactly of my good friend Melissa from OMC), and I hauled our broken bodies to a local Iwakuni onsen (with an amazing view of the city) for some rest and relaxation. In my time spent mostly naked with Paul and Nate I learned about the wonders of Japanese animation, the mysteries of pottery, and more about being a JET. As the only non-English teacher among the group it was interesting to compare the differences between out time spent in Japan as a student or a teacher (which are numerous).

Exiting the onsen, and feeling like 100,000,000 yen, the seven of us split up to reconvene at Granpa, my favorite restaurant within a 100Km radius around Iwakuni. We chatted, reminisced, laughed, discovered the definition of little-used words, and enjoyed our Ja-pan before we finally finished our meals, exited to the street, and were immediately presented with balloon animals. Before we said our goodbyes, Jessica gave me a drawing she had done from a photo on my website, which was thoroughly mind-blowing. I feel sad that I may never get the chance to meet these friends I have made in Japan again, but I am a better person for the time I was able to spend with them.

Boarding the train back to Okayama, I had an interesting talk with a group of old women about Ballroom dancing, and realized that everyday in Japan is one crazy adventure. Two more weeks left, I’ll be sure to make them count, Mateys.

MVQ (Most Valuable Quote) Nate the Anime Pirate: “...and this is my Bootleg”


  • Really great entry. Thanks for coming!

    By Cinnacism, at 6:54 PM  

  • it was good seeing you ben...i am glad that you feel comfortable with the yamaguchi group. you are a great guy...It's a shame you are leaving so soon..take care, see you in the midwest

    By Sarah, at 2:35 AM  

  • Very thorough. (Sasuga Ben!) Glad you decided to make an appearance in the flesh. (and such a flashy one) I expect you'll be back to this place in a couple of years but in the meantime your legacy will live on. Please continue on with the havoc.

    P.S. I stole a bunch of your pictures. :P

    By Jess, at 5:05 AM  

  • ben...add some mixer that to sugarcane!

    By Jo, at 7:38 PM  

  • you indeed will go down in yamaguchi jet history ben, keep up the antics! shame you're leaving soon but its safe to say you bled japan for all its worth X

    By Kat, at 12:26 AM  

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