Friday, September 02, 2005

The Space Between

(I can't quite believe it, but I'm headed back to Sado for the next ten days. I won't post here during that time, but if you listen really carefully, from far across the water, you may hear the beating of Taiko messages in morse code...)

I'd thought that I'd spend my single week back in the 'Nog in my monastic quarters, hibernating away. While did have ample time to catch up on my shows and my blogs, I also spent much of my week with drink in hand, jaw aflapping.

It started with Steve's B-day party at Giardino. A few of the new JETs came out to share in a slight misadventure with a new waitron. As we're wont to do, we headed to Shidax for karaoke next, to be joined by the vast majority of the remaining newbies. I had the complete inverse of my usual initial meeting. Rather than feel a good connection with one or two, this time I was strongly repelled by a couple folks who, let's say, are a bit character deficient. One woman seemed to be doing a fantastic Patsy of Ab Fab imitation, whether she knew it or not. As for the other one, Miki actually asked me if he was retarded. ("Well socially, perhaps," I said.) I turned this into a game with returning JETs who asked me about the newbies. I told them Miki's reaction but didn't mention this guy's name and told them to try to figure out who it might be. I eagerly anticipate their mistakes.

Saturday I met most of the Tottori city group. We had a Buddhist experience event at Mitoku-san, where we'd climb the mountain, return for a vegan temple meal, then arise at dawn for meditation. After two months away, I looked forward to a bit of spiritual training. But I wasn't told about the night's entertainment, village woman doing traditional dance, their men emulating their movements while in drag. Nor was I told that I'd still have a beer in my hand past 1 a.m. It required every ounce of strength to get up for zazen at 6. Despite this, the morning found me genki, but it wore off slowly thru the day. I usually have a fantastic sense of direction, but driving back to the 'Nog with Catherine, I somehow wound up in Okayama-ken. We just shrugged and meandered the overabundant back roads, bobbing our heads to a mix CD of Tarantino soundtrack tunes. Once in town, I had a quick lunch with a visiting Katherine and the English School boys, then headed to the Kaike International (We Pay For) Friendship Assoc. BBQ. I usually like that event. Meeting new folk and seeing returnees after vacation always makes it feel like fraternity rush week or something. I'd forgotten that we are also expected to chat with the locals. In English. (Ben and I used to call them Star Fuckers.) They'd move slowly out of the crowd, sidling up slowly like a zombie, to consume your time and eat a bit of your soul. (I still love "Shaun of the Dead!") I was fatigued and not really in the mood, so I responded to everything in Japanese until they gave up. I'm a dick.

The weekend over, things went a little slower, but I still seemed to spend part of the day with somebody. Tuesday was the highlight. I was taken out to Miho Jinja, near the eastern edge of the Shimane Peninsula. We met with the main priest, who along with his team, gave us a demo of traditional Shinto music. After each piece, he'd give an explanation. As a (hopefully) future ethnomusicologist, this was heaven to me. I must get my hands on a ryuteki, that shrill flute that punctuates most Kurosawa films. As I sat in seiza, watching the miko turning as slowly as a 16 rpm LP, tears began to well up. I'm leaving this next year. Though I plan to return to Japan someday, in Kyoto I'll be one of thousands of gaijin, no longer the big fish I am here. In the 'Nog I seem to stumble upon these sorts of scenes almost weekly. I'll really miss it.

Miki's in the 'Nam again, so on my last night in town, I had a TV-light dinner with my mother-in-law. I always try to have my first Japanese meal at her house. As we ate, we watched the news. The election campaign is in full swing, but there wasn't a single story on it, the candidates, or their platform. Instead, we got three stories about Yon-sama and the thousands of middle aged women using him as an elixer to turn back menopause. But there was one LDP commercial featuring Koizumi. In it, I saw the PM sipping a pina colada at Trader Vic's. His hair was perfect.

On the turntable: Gomez, "Out West"
On the nighttable: Bruce Chatwin, "On the Black Hill"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.