theories on saturation

6 08 2007

I should have written this entry this morning. I was much more in the mood then, but I worry that if I put it off too long I’ll forget the details. Then again, it’s worth pushing through writer’s block, right? Fight on Zach; fight on.

Everything has a saturation point: shoes, socks, people. This weekend illustrated that in the way nature usually does: blunt force. It stopped raining for a total of 3 hours between Friday and Sunday (and I was asleep those hours). Of course I didn’t let this stop me from exploring my new home on what promised to be an exciting festival weekend.

My 7 A.M. JET-lag (pun intended, duh) wake-up on Saturday morning left me bored. I decided a little rain shouldn’t stop me from hiking in the mountains. I laced up my boots, stuffed my backpack with things I might need (knife, water, Japanese-English dictionary) and wandered north. I didn’t have a map. I couldn’t read the signs. I just looked at a mountain and decided I would conquer it. Of course there were unforeseen setbacks: there was a bridge that plays music whenever anyone walks across it. The Japanese are whimsical little buggers—I felt so comforted on that (not so) risky bridge crossing.

Anyway, hello mountain. Or was it howdy, mountain. I don’t know. I followed some high-tension wires so I wouldn’t get too lost. Getting lost is generally good (you find civilization again and feel renewed—it’s all about contrast), but I remembered, with a good part of the hike done, that there are bears, so I stuck to the “path” for safety. The summit had a decent view of the town; certainly one better than anything featured in the one-paragraph wikipedia article. Wanderlust unsatisfied, I continued hiking, this time following an overgrown dirt path to a junkyard from the summit: pure photographic fodder. I meandered through some meadow to a baseball field, and so on to a Buddhist graveyard, then a hidden shrine, a tower overlooking the ocean and our famous rock formation. That seemed to be enough for a day. I went home sated emotionally and physically.

My shoes are still wet. Nothing dries here.

Enter the town festival. In all honesty, the first day was pretty boring. I expected big shows and tons of people and those silly floats I saw the night before. I got the Japanese equivalent of carneys trying to pawn their mystery meats on me, and a performance by オルヂーズ バンド (orudiizu bando/oldies band), which featured bad covers of bad American covers of decent American songs. It was mildly amusing in retrospect, I guess.

On Saturday I sacrificed two more pairs of shoes to the wet-shoe graveyard that is my entryway: a small price to pay for the pleasure of that day with a festival that now featured all the things that brought me to Japan. Traditional Japanese music, taiko drumming, and drunken codgers. I was sitting alone in the rain, so an older man, in what would be our shared language of Jenglishanese, invited me to sit with his family (and I thus made my first non-co-worker Japanese friend). We said yoroshiku, talked about the weather, where I’m from, and then we got drunk.

This man was like the giving tree, if the giving tree gave beer instead of apples. It’s a Japanese custom to never let someone else’s cup run dry, and thusly I was saturated with booze (am I trying too hard to make a point?). Just like I love speaking French when I’m drunk, it seems the townspeople enjoy speaking English when their inhibitions are loosed. My predecessor told me that he has a sneaking suspicion that most adults speak some English, but are too diffident to try. The JET orientation was chock-full of the same message. Well, all you need to do to prove those theories is give the people some alcohol.

Living in a town this small is strange to me. I’ve met people in America who have never ventured far from home, but the homebody-ness here seems different. When something beyond the quotidian comes to town the impact is so sudden and powerful. I realize I’m making anthropological claims that are well past my degree of knowledge, but the excitement with which I’ve been greeted is startling. I met a group of five or six students on Thursday, and by Saturday all the middle school students were calling me Zakku-san. So were the shopkeepers. So were the dogs. I guess the point here (and yes, I know I’m lacking subtlety) is that people, too, can be saturated with the mundane. Sometimes it takes a little spark of something new to make life interesting. It certainly worked for me: leaving my pedestrian, American life for this exotic Japanese odyssey has been quite invigorating.

PICTURES (click for full size):

little river

little river on the morning hike

view of town

view from the summit

junk

pile of trash

pretty meadow

sprawling meadows

posts

cool posts

buddhist graves

buddhist graveyard

spider’s web

artsy fartsy

none of it

unimpressed kid

everyone is wet

rainy day :(

competition

eying the competition

taiko

the competition

float 3

sexy float

hideyoshi-san

my new friend and i

family for the night

“family”

lanterns

artsy, without the fartsy

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3 responses

7 08 2007
Nell

That is the coolest pile of trash I have ever seen. Is that an easy bake oven I spy? Miss you.

7 08 2007
Shira

Sooo the girl is taking off her shirt, next to a pack of power rangers….hmm. I won’t even go there. Too easy.

8 08 2007
daniel

i love the wearing of a coca-cola shirt, in hebrew, by an american in japan.

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