大二先生 (dai-ni sensei )

17 09 2007

I have a lot of pictures this week, so I can finally write less than a thousand words. Not to mention I’m at a point where most of my time is spent doing the mundane.

The not-so mundane:
On Thursday, I went to a horse park/farm/extravaganza with the kindergarteners, which was another overwhelming cute overload. The farm also had an amazing playground with the longest slide (the roll-y kind) I’ve ever ridden—it puts American parks to shame. Except for Penny Park in Evanston; that place was the shit.

Friday and Saturday were spent at my junior high school’s culture festival, which was 48 hours of 11- to 14-year olds singing, dancing, giving speeches and public service announcements, performing plays, and showing off their freshly made paintings, newspapers and tako (giant kites). I understand now why all club activities shut down for the weeks leading up to the festival—the amount of work put into it would be clear from even a quick glance through the gym doors. If you spent any time in the festival you would see that for their age, the product of their is grossly disproportionate to anything in the States. It’s actually sort of sick. When I was their age, I could barely keep my voice from cracking, and here they are belting out songs with four part harmonies.

Perhaps most impressive/memorable/scary was during the variety show when one of my students impersonated Kojima Yoshio to the T: even his costume (watch the video…this also gives a nice glimpse of Japanese TV—it’s literally nuts).

The festival closed by revealing of student superlatives (cutest couple, most athletic, etc.), and I was somehow voted the second most-liked teacher. I swear the kids must have been overexposed to paint fumes this week. I honestly feel bad for getting any mention at all—the teachers do so much for the students. Every day, I run past the high school around 8:00 P.M., and there are still teachers hard at work (school ends at 3:15). Even though the position of teacher is much more respected in Japanese society than it is in the States, it’s still wholly underappreciated. And thus, with the title of Assistant Language Teacher, though I’m honored, I feel the nod is more deserved by any other teacher.

Moving on. This weekend I went up north with about 15 other JETs and gaijin to Furibiru for it’s annual fire festival, where the local god, Tengu, angrily swaggers about town on stilts and drinks sake provided by the townspeople to quell his wrath. He’s followed by a procession of townsfolk carrying huge portable shrines. Then, at dusk, Tengu and his entourage walk through a huge fire (I’m not really sure of the significance of this). When they go through, the followers are still carrying the huge shrines, which has in the past resulted in people being sent to the hospital. It’s that little bit of risk that made it exciting though. It’s like how people watch NASCAR for the crashes (honestly, what else about NASCAR is exciting?).

As my three-day weekend (today is Respect for the Aged Day) ends, I’m (still) working on editing and uploading videos, so for now enjoy the pics.

VIDEO (click to play):

PICTURES (click to enlarge):

cuteness

America has the short bus. Japan has the cute bus.

hats

swimming in a sea of kids in hats

teacher and kids

kids and teacher, waiting to ride

awesome playground

propeller-run spaceship ride thing

long slide

one slow kid holds everyone up on the long slide

flag bearer

school flag bearer

Students run away

Running out from the opening ceremony

giant kites

tako

the emcee

the MC

preconcert prep

pre-concert pep talk

marc is threatening

Furibiru kids meet their first black person

Tengu poses

Tengu poses

Tengu and attendents

Tengu and attendents

dragon attack!

Brad nearly has his face bitten by a dragon

amused porters

the porters were amused by the large crowd of gaijin

Tengu faces the fire

Tengu faces the flames

Tengu backlit by fire

The flames and Tengu…and a slightly frightened attendant

One final note, I earned another nickname this week: 卵 (tamago, “egg”). The Japanesification of Zach, zakku, apparently sounds similar to the Japanesification of “egg,” eggu. I’m Prince Egg, nice to meet you.

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7 responses

18 09 2007
Nell

Penny Park WAS the shit. I’m pretty sure I got into my first fight there.

You look like you are having so much fun, I love when you post photos! Japan is totally the Penny Park of your 20s, but with much cooler electronics.

18 09 2007
mom

I LOVE the hats on the little ones. Kind of reminds me of Madeleine, the sweet French story. L’Shana Tovah (Happy New Year) everyone.
Love you,
Mom

18 09 2007
Scott

Kawaiiiiiiiiiiii!

18 09 2007
Shira

I wonder how they all decide who gets to be Tengu at the fire festival….like, is it some big meeting, and they’re all like, come onnnn you got to do it last year!! and then he’s like, yeah, but i have seniority! and then the other one is like GUYS, you KNOW I make those stilts look good. And then the newbies are all, I’m just happy to be in the entourage!

oh, my. I am SO still in college.

…and in penn theater.

19 09 2007
zacharykern

In response to Shira:
As we were leaving the next morning, I actually saw a young kid practicing his Tengu swagger on the street full with costume, mask, halberd and the wooden stilt shoes. It’s probably a pretty coveted-after position, and I think your description of the meeting is spot-on.

19 09 2007
Allison

The picture on the pink slide is adorable. Definitely frame-worthy.

9 10 2007
Zoe

Adorable pictures, Zach!

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