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August 2004 - Fireflies, Beach Parties, Festivals

Ochidani Park
There's a gorgeous park in Tottori called Ochidani Park.  For a few weeks during late June, the park is home to thousands of active fireflies at night.  It's quite the popular local attraction, so I went to see them twice.  I was especially excited because I had never before seen fireflies.  They looked like little green ghosts hovering everywhere.  It was indescribably surreal--like being in a fantasy video game or dreamy movie sequence.  I thought I saw a strange red one, but it turned out to be an old man smoking a cigarette in the dark.

Osaka Street Live
I played guitar on the streets of Osaka a few times.  The first time was funny because the police came and asked all the other Japanese performers to leave.  I will say that the other performers were shockingly  loud--powering sizable guitar amps with gas-powered generators and setting up full drum kits with plenty of cymbals.  The police looked at me and my acoustic guitar and walked on.  Assuming I didn't speak Japanese, I think they were afraid to speak English.  Either that, or they didn't consider my acoustic guitar/battery-powered amp combination to be a significant noise-maker.  The stage now clear, I played away.  I realize there are definite advantages to pretending like I don't speak any Japanese.  The streets shows went okay, but I really want to start doing shows at clubs in Osaka because I feel like a homeless person doing street shows.  I befriended a girl named Mai at one of my street shows, and she showed me a few nearby clubs in Osaka.  She did me a huge favor cuz I would've never found those on my own.

All-Night Tottori Beach Party
I went to a huge Tottori beach party hosted by a popular foreign restaurant owner here.  There were about 80% foreigners coming from all sorts of far-away lands.  It was strange outnumbering the Japanese people for once.  I brought my video camera and used it as an excuse to talk to random people.  I met a cute Japanese girl this way and got her phone number.  Turns out she is an English teacher in Tottori.  Score!

Japanese Class for Japanese People
I started going to a new Japanese class run by the Tottori International Center.  I like it because it's a group lesson, but it's EXTREMELY difficult.  It should be called "Japanese for people who are fluent in Japanese."  I'm the only non-Asian person in the class, so each class I get to choose which Asian country's table to sit at.  Will I go to China, Thailand, or the Philippines today?  One guy from Taiwan is so fluent that I never know what the hell he's talking about cuz he talks too fast.  At first I thought he was the teacher.  It's kinda fun being by far the stupidest student in class because I have nowhere to go but up.  This Sunday is the class speech contest.  That's gonna be really funny.

Everyday Uniform
One of my students came to my Saturday class.  She was wearing her high school uniform.  I asked if she had school cuz many Japanese high school students go to school on Saturday for their club activities or for extra study sessions (esp. around exam time).  She said no.  So I asked why she was wearing her uniform.  She said she likes to wear her uniform because she doesn't have to think about what to wear.  I think this is actually quite common cuz I see kids wearing their uniforms just about 24/7.  When I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to rip that stupid uniform off once I got home.

Another Beach Party
One of our foreigner-loving students Keeko invited everyone to a daytime beach party.  The beach was fantastic--the water was still and at spa-like temperature.  I was bathing in nature.  My manager Akiko found a massive (dead) jellyfish on the beach.  Later we smashed open a watermelon (a summer tradition) and jumped over to a local festival.  I won 3 "yo-yo" balloons!

The Wisconsin Pavlinas in Japan
My uncle, aunt, and cousin came out to visit during my week off (for the Obon holiday).  We met in Tokyo, then headed to Kyoto, then Tottori, then Osaka.  4 cities in 1 week.  I hope I didn't burn them out!  They seemed to enjoy it, but coming from a small town in Wisconsin there was a healthy degree of culture shock.  It had been a long time since last I saw them, so it was a rare treat to spend quality time with them.  Highlights of the trip (for me) included a massive summer festival in Kyoto, and a relaxing day at an indoor water park in Osaka.  They even attended one of my Osaka street shows.  They were the only attendees, though. :-(

Mondaiji, the Album
Lately, I've just been working on finishing a mini-album of my Japanese songs.  I just have 1 more song to record.  I hope to do a concert at my favorite bar in Tottori on 9/5.  It shouldn't be too difficult packing the place considering the bar holds about 5 people.  I even printed some mondaiji.com stickers and have been handing them out.  One of my students put the sticker on his backpack.  That made me happy.

Shan-Shan!
I went to Tottori's largest annual festival (called Shan-Shan)--a 4-hour umbrella-dance parade.  The umbrellas have small bells on them, so they make a jingling sound (hence the name "Shan-Shan").  I ran into so many students and friends there that it hit me how small of a town Tottori truly is.  Even more students were in the parade.  As I sat and watched the Ricoh company (they make copy machines) dancers go by, they all ran up to me and begged me to join them.  They were all obliterated out of their minds and wreaked like an exploding beer brewery.  There was even a beer keg on the Ricoh parade truck.  I guess they need plenty of beer to survive a 4-hour parade.  I don't blame them.  They gave me an umbrella and put a monkey costume thing on my head.  I joined them for one song.  It was hilarious cuz I kept botching up the dance while the beyond-inebriated Japanese performed expertly.  A ton of people took pictures.  Oh dear, that will probably be in tomorrow morning's local paper.  After the song, we all jumped around crazily and yelled.  Too bad I was the only sober one among them.

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