No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

22 November, 2008

Trapped in the Train

I didn't think I would fit in the train before the doors closed.  One foot still out the door.  At least 8 more people got on after I was pushed in.  Just a little visual of what we experience on the train.
Where's Jesse?

Gaming and not swaying.  Even if you were to lose your balance, there is nowhere to go.


Friday night, the art teacher at our school sponsored a trip to the 100 year old Showa Grand Theater in Ginza to see 3 Kabuki plays.  She is a Kabuki fanatic and one of the founders of the English ear guide system we used to understand what was going on.  Needless to say, she knows a lot about Kabuki and she opened us up to a beautiful art form.  It dates back to the time of Shakespeare and the stories are almost always tragedies.  Traditional Kabuki acts out Japanese folktales that usually involve spirits, honor, warriors and courtesans.  Each movement is slow and deliberate and is steeped in meaning.  The costumes are the most glorious part--traditional garments, hair and makeup.  They are breathtaking.  The stage scenes are simple and balanced.  Ninja-like stage hands help the actors change costume or remove props on stage.  It was such a fascinating way to learn about Japan's stories and histories.   

The customs of Kabuki are to yell out the actors family name at the correct time so they will strike a pose, eat and drink in your tiny, japanese size seat and don't take any pictures.  Here are some pictures James took:

Not part of the show--we just loved seeing a Japanese Miss Piggy.

The courtesan had just transformed into a mountain woman with superhuman powers.  The stage men change her from a woman into kimono into this in a split second.  The whole audience cheered.

This actor is an onnagata, a male actor who specializes in female roles.  If you were unaware that all Kabuki actors are male, you would be surprised because the men move so gracefully.  Our "Kabuki Expert" said these men are very revered in Japanese culture and are usually around 70 years old.  One of the actors we saw is considered a Living National Treasure.

Here, the courtesan is battling off the evil spirits with the princess by her side. 
She has changed costume this time and is gracefully defeating the warriors with ease.
A traditional bento box--very common to eat at Kabuki theaters, which allow you to bring in your own food.  This one has the "sweet" bean paste pastry, rice with pickled plum, salmon, sweet egg, a sort of chicken yakitori meatball, something fried, eel, tempura shrimp, more rice and a bunch of pickled vegetables which I don't really care for.  They are beautifully crafted, but one does the trick for a few weeks.  I guess my western palate isn't used to it.

Outside the Showa Grand Theater.  It will be torn down this year to make way for a high rise.  Ginza is the place of all things Japanese and very expensive.  

19 November, 2008


Every morning I step onto the balcony to see if Fuji-san will show himself that day.  This morning was gorgeous--I've never seen the hills so clear and the mountain so defined.  

18 November, 2008

just living...

I would post something if there was something exciting to write about or show...but we've been working too much.  Worked through our 4 day fall break (workshop), working through Thanksgiving and next Saturday (another workshop) and working for 4 weeks after that until Christmas.  You know how we are, we like to really "understand" the local culture.  We are going to a Kabuki show on Friday night, so if I can take pictures I'll post those.  

Otherwise, life has been a daily stream of work, yoga, cooking, the occasional shopping trip, dinner and drinks with friends and more work, none of which we take pictures of.  We have found a great neighborhood noodle shop that serves huge, piping hot bowls of ramen.  They are heaven on a cold night and its a great time for us to practice our slurping technique and Japanese.  We've started studying Hiragana, the syllabic alphabet (there are at least 3 other ways to write Japanese, but this is the most necessary to learn).  Sunday night we went to a party for a nun to commemorate her 60 years in Japan.  Rockin' evening.  Actually, it was cool to listen to the stories of a very wise, 86 year old Spanish nun who has made her life starting and running the school we work at now.  She is and still kickin' and has a lot of great wisdom to share.  

living abroad makes me feel like this

07 November, 2008

Listening In

I love "adult" conversations by little kids.  With the election, so much of their parent's opinions came into the classroom.  My girls (especially the ones who have 1 American parent) were all giddy about Obama.  Except one "maverick" who said, "I'm voting for McCain because Obama doesn't know what the hec he's talking about!"  Remember, these girls have been in the world for all of 7 years.  Oh how I wish I could have had a recorder for this conversation today, 3 days after the election:

Girl 1: "Do you know that the vice president of McCain has been to only one place?  I'VE been to more places than her!"
Girl 2: "I love Obama."

Girl 3: "Who do you think Ms. Latter voted for?  
Girl 1: "....McCain..."
Girl 3: "...Yeah, I think McCain, too...."  NOTE: This was said very sadly  (what, am I not hip enough???)

Girl 1: Are you a republican?  
Girl 2: "I don't know!!!"
Girl 3.  "You're probably a republican.  I'm a democrat.  If your mom says you're a democrat, you're a democrat."   

05 November, 2008

Global Victory

This is the first time I've ever been abroad for a major US election and today was an eye-opener to see just how influential and global this election has become.  Throughout school Wednesday (remember the 15-17 hour time difference) every computer was tuned to a news station to watch the map colors change from gray to blue and red.  Australians, Indians, Irish, Brits,  Canadians....everyone was talking about the possible outcomes and the excitement of Obama's win.  The outcome of this election has so many implications around the world, but I have to say, as an American living abroad, I'm proud to now have a president whom the world respects.  I definitely don't envy the job he has before him.