I’ve been in Japan for more than three months now. That’s a little exciting. I feel like I’m almost fully settled in now. Almost. I’m not going to talk about work this time, although everything is fine on that end. Later I’ll mention the various events that I’ve participated in during the past couple weeks, but first I want to talk about being huge in Japan. Sure 5’11” is a fair deal taller than most Japanese people, but I don’t mean physically large.
Westerners are cool. I’m sure the effect is magnified in rural areas such as Ibara, where there is less of an international population, so I can’t speak for city life. But in Ibara, I’m kinda a big deal. Because my foreignness is so uncommon, that I have: appeared on TV with the other new ALTs when we arrived, had a camera crew come to our favourite bar and interview us and the owner to discover why foreigners love the place, and have appeared in an PR video for locally grown grapes. When I bike past people, they comment to each other in Japanese about how cool I am. Another ALT told me that he spent an elementary school lunch hour with kids who wanted to know why exactly he was so cool, and then spent the hour chatting amongst themselves about his coolness. The people who know my name outnumber people whose names I know by at least 100 to 1, and countless people I don’t immediately recognize will wave and call my name when I’m out around town. The celebrity treatment is a nice ego bump, and I could actually imagine it being a bit of a downer going back to being another anonymous face in Canada after living like this for a few years. One of the other ALTs tells me that foreign men might be treated a bit differently than foreign women in this regard, so your results may vary.
Events: Two weekends ago we had our Halloween party in Okayama, and despite my previous mentioned reluctance I had a lot of fun. Ended up spending the night in a capsule hotel, so that was also a new experience, and not a terrible one either. Yesterday (Sunday) was the Ibara International Food Festival which, of course, we all participated in. Us four new Canadians manned the Canada booth with the help of one nice Japanese woman, and served poutine, maple cookies, and apple cider for five hours. It was a pretty good time. Some of the guys in the Indonesian booth next to us brought guitars, and we had rather nice music all morning. The weirdest moment was when we ended up teaching the Macarena to around 20 other people, and then slow danced it to the accompaniment of soft Indonesian guitars.
Next weekend’s the Samurai Parade in Yakage (10 minutes by train), and we’ll all be heading over to see that. My taiko group is also performing there. Just now writing this, I realized that I may not have anything scheduled for the following weekend. If that’s so, and I’m not mistaken, it’s wonderful. I could really use a weekend to just sit around and do nothing.
I’ve somehow managed to work in a few good runs, and am happy to brag that I’m back over 10 km. The problem is I’m always running in the dark. If I get home from work at 4:30 (the earliest possible), I would have to leave for my run immediately to avoid having the sun set on me while I’m out. That actually sounds doable though, so I might try that a few days this week. I need to ask someone in the sports section at the board of education about any upcoming organized runs; even if I don’t run fast, I’d still love to participate. Hopefully I can manage to keep running through the winter. There’s only three English conversation classes left, and after that I can start working in another run on Wednesday evenings. I also found a nice looking hiking trail last week. This was a surprise since everyone I talked to assured me that no such thing existed in Ibara. I didn’t get to explore it very far, because it was already getting dark when I found it, and then it went and rained all weekend. I might head back today after work.