Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bunkasai (School Festival)

Yesterday was our school's Bunkasai. Literally, 'Cultural Festival,' but I think 'School festival' is a far better description. The day started with each class giving a short skit about the school year which usually included several humorous impersonations of teachers (luckily I was excluded), and replays of important events over the past few months.

Next were several speeches given by the students, two of which were English speeches given by students I had been working with. They were, needless to say, awesome. After that came a brief recorder concert, whose highlight was, in my humble opinion, a breathtaking rendition of the Beatle's 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.' Actually, I think everyone appreciated the ironic value of the concert as each song was following by clapping and quiet chuckle.

After lunch was a choir concert. Actually, a better word would be competition, as at the end of the concert, two groups were crowned winners. This was apparently a rather big deal as there were a few joyous tears shed. After this the whole 'festival' got noticeably more casual as kids got on stage and tried their hand at rapping, playing the guitar and, for some, just jumping around on stage.

With the rise in informality also came a rather substantial dip in quality, but the kids were having fun. (A LOT of fun) Actually, maybe my favorite moment of the day was when two students sung a song with teachers playing the background instruments. Not only were they good, but it was funny to see our head teacher shredding licks on the guitar.

Monday, October 23, 2006


This weekend my friend Evan (see Japan Photo Guide in the links sidebar) and I went to Naruko. Known for its Onsens (hot springs) and its scenic gorge, Naruko is an ideal place for Koyo (Fall foliage viewing). Another pleasanty Naruko offers is the pervasive smell of sulfur thanks to its natural mineral springs . Aside from its distinct funk, Naruko does offer some beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, I think we hit the gorge a little early; the leaves probably won't be in full effect for a few more weeks. But since it was such a perfect day, I'm not complaining. After spending a few hours walking through the gorge, we hit up a famous lake in the area. It's claim to fame is that it is one of the most acidic lakes in the world with a pH of 1.4, which I believe is on par with stomach acid. Yum.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sports Festival Redux

Recently, we had another 'sports festival' in my area, although this one would be far more recognizable to western eyes. Essentially, the way the festival worked was middle schools throughout the Higashimatsushima area got together over the weekend and competed in a number of sporting events including soccer, volleyball, basketball, kendo, baseball and probably a few more that have slipped my mind. I personally spent the day driving around the city with my school's principal to watch a number of the sports. Because my principal had to make an appearance at most of the happenings I got to see a lot of different events, but this also meant I never stayed more than 30 minutes to watch one specific thing, so to be perfectly honest, I have no idea how we did in any of the events we participated in. I can only assume that won handily in each case. That is, of course, the most logical conclusion.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jazz Festival

I honestly don't remember when this was. I think it was the first month of September, but who's to say. In any case, this was the second Jazz Festival I've been to in 6 months (the other being in New Orleans). Not surprisingly, the two are slightly different. The Jozenji Jazz Festival is a two or three day event (like I said, it was over a month ago) that takes place over several blocks and a few parks scattered around Sendai. Bands are placed in a number of places, some more formal than others. Some simply set up shop in front of a building while others get proper stages. Music ranged from Soul/R&B/Funk covers, a sort of Asian Blues Brothers if you will, to more 'traditional' jazz. The first day I went it was a bit rainy, but main for a somewhat subdued atmosphere that I thought strangely complemented some of the chiller Jazz ensembles. The second day was fiendishly hot, but was the only sunny day in the period of about three weeks. Typhoon season isn't as fun as Lonely Planet made it out to be.