*... nihon kekkon shiki ...* ((a.k.a. the wedding))
first, the cast of characters: marika - bride, and my 'japanese twin' katsuhiko - groom masaaki (father) & kuniko (mother) - bride's parents akane - bride's sister ecchan - bride's best friend
knowing very little about japanese weddings, i sort of winged it. a lot, actually. but i figure it was okay, seeing as i could always fall back on the gaijin excuse, wide-eyed and confused looking. i donned my black dress (appropriate) and sparkly tights (maybe not as appropriate, but gaijin-able) and headed down the elevator to the 4th floor of the hotel, where the wedding would be held. i was immediately recognized by o-mama-san (marika's grandma) and led in to the family's designated waiting room, where marika waited, somber and beautiful in her all-white bubble-head get-up. i spent a lot of time asking the overly-enthusiastic-english-speaking masaaki questions about the wedding ceremony and japanese traditions, and he spent the rest of the time misinterpreting what i was asking. a typical exchange went something along these lines:
b: hikosawa-san, where will marika live once she is married? m: she will go to australia tomorrow morning. b: yes, but when she returns from australia, where will she live? m: she will leave for her honeymoon. tomorrow. b: after she gets back from australia, will she live in your house? with you? m: huh? ... ah.... mmmm..... ((kuniko, who understands much MUCH more english than her husband, but who never speaks it, translates my question)) m: ah! yes, marika will live in the house. ((kuniko mutters again)). AH! marika and her husband will live close to the house. in another house. very close.
sheesh.the guests came in to make their greetings, but were directed to other rooms to wait until the ceremony. when the time came, masaaki found ecchan, and gave her a stern lecture along the lines of "don't lose buritto. make sure she understands everything." he was really worried about me. the ceremony was in a small shrine within the hotel, and had more standing up and sitting than any catholic mass i've ever seen. while enchanting, i had a hard time keeping a straight face at the sound of the "orchestra" in the ceremony, a man blowing on tubes to make sick, dizzy, bagpipe-y sounds that i suppose were meant to be beautiful. the sake we were sipping (as part of the ceremony, i swear!) probably didn't help that cause. afterwards, we proceeded to the reception hall, greeted the receiving line (bow, bow, bow...), and found our seats. it wasn't hard to find mine, considering i was the only name that wasn't in kanji. i was also at the family's table, sitting to the left of kuniko, and humming along to "under the sea" which, for some reason, was on repeat overhead. the bride and groom entered, having changed in to their wigs (marika's) and new kimono, and took their place at the head table on stage after much applause. suddenly, a light-voiced japanese lady took her place at the podium, the official emcee of the evening, who had no relation to the couple other than to narrate the day's activities. she introduced the speech givers, first the groom's, then the bride's bosses, who gave lengthy speeches about the entire work history of their respective employee. i wasn't really sure how that related to the couple's future, but everyone seemed quite serious about it. ms. emcee got back on the microphone, and started to call a few people's names, when all of a sudden i heard "san diego no..." and my j-versioned name. i looked at the parents, and they indicated i should take my place on stage with the others highlighted, and take in to my possession a large wooden mallet being offered. i then became part of the 6-person team attempting to bust open a giant barrel of sake on the stage, which is a lot easier to do than it seems since they break the board sealing it shut ahead of time, and one already tipsy gentleman lost control of his mallet and busted through on the "1" instead of on the "1... 2... 3!" marika's conclusion of rolled eyes and a muttering of "bad timing" seemed just about right. i returned to my seat and enjoyed the next round of speeches (go, ecchan!), lots of bowing, and some fabulous food, beer, and wine. guests kept visiting the table to pay respects to (i.e. pour beer for) marika's parents, and we would have the usual conversations that involved any combination of the following sentences: "wow, you speak japanese well!" (i don't) "wow, you use chopsticks well!" (i do) "wow, you know karate?" (yes) "this is our third daughter" and "this is marika's twin from america" (wow!). the disney soundtrack had been replaced by some off-beat 80s tunes, in english, of course, and was stopped only for the chef to come out and give HIS speech about the day. meanwhile, marika slipped out the back (with akane, and quite frankly, a bit of fanfare) to change in to outfit #3, and suddenly it became the GROOM SHOW! with katsuhiko running around the reception hall with a handheld microphone, trying to get people to make speeches. it was a fruitless effort as people politely laughed and stared at their steak and fish. he then disappered too, returning with marika and showing off their "western wear": a caricatured ballroom white gown for her, and tails for him... and a lit candle. i got the impression, at this point, that katsuhiko was about 2 sheets to the wind, and handing him a long stick of fire was probably not the best idea. marika took great control, however, as she led him table to table, bowing to each group and lighting their centerpieces as a sign of respect and gratitude. the afterwards, they somehow came in to possession of a giant knife to cut the fake cake with, continued taking a billion pictures with everyone, and settled in to eat. and THEN came the globe. what i eventually learned was this giant inflated fuzzy blue and green orb that had ginormous shrimp stuck all over it, and large beady eyes was actually the mascot for katsuhiko's job (niigata fishery bureau) and his handler was giving out prizes to the random people picked to answer quiz questions about clean water and the environment. and a few more speeches honoring the parents, and thus concluded the entertainment portion of the evening. we filed out of the reception hall and were greeted by the same receiving line we came in to, except this time we were handed peanuts. i'm still trying to figure out that one. a couple of hours later, the nijikai kicked off in the lounge-y bar upstairs. it seemed we kicked all the "adults" out, as everyone there was our age. i was immediately re-adopted by ecchan and akane, and led to my seat where we feasted (too much food. seriously) again, and, of course, more speeches were made. marika made at least one other costume change, and we played guest bingo, which had me thoroughly confused at first as akane took my 3x3 grid and started filling in random names, and i had strangers coming up to me to ask me to "sign please" their grids. i really didn't see the point until the happy couple started announcing names, and akane started marking them off. OHHHHHH, gotcha. i was apparently a very lucky girl that night, as not only did my name being called cause me to win double-bingo (down and across the middle, yes!!), but caused a flood of people to jump up and shout "bingo!!" as well. i ended up winning a gift certificate to the hotel for 2,000 yen, which i traded with ecchan (who also won off my name, thankyouverymuch) for the most awesome, and perhaps only, banana case i had ever seen. i think i got the better end of the deal in that one. more beer pouring, eating pizza with chopsticks, and lots and lots of "you're welcome!"s and "enjoy!"s as katsuhiko meticulously handed each guest a small foil-wrapped hershey kiss, compliments of my suitcase. i forgot, again, about the japanese idea of portioning; clearly throwing a handful on the tables or putting them near the buffet would have been a serious equality faux pas. and then suddenly, it was done. guests got up, plenty of food and drinks left, and wandered in to the elevator. no love for the loiterers, i suppose. i lingered about a little, hanging with ecchan and mr. and mrs. until i too took the elevator... 7 floors down to my hotel room to de-smokify myself in the shower, and collapse from the excess of japanese pizza i consumed... eaten with chopsticks, of course! 10:39 AM
*... "U-SO!" ...* It's fun to know that I can still argue in Japanese. Maybe not such a good idea if the person you are arguing with is your Japanese teacher, and she keeps calling you a liar.
so I have decided that even though my in-Japan adventures are finished, my post-japan adventures never cease. And thus, for everyone's entertainment and delight, I will be continuing my blog o' adventures, but on another page. More details to come, yo. Stay tuned. 10:13 AM
Sunday, August 31, 2003
*... owarimashita (I have finished.) ...* I move tomorrow. I start Japanese class on Tuesday (I guess that will answer all you folks' question of, "So, are you, like, totally fluent now?"). I have a job to go to, karate to practice, and lots of people to show pictures to.
I threw myself so intensely back into San Diego that it seems that I have snapped my Japan connection almost entirely. It's hard to explain exactly what is going on through my head these days; it's far beyond jet-lag. I have a chapter full of contextuals, and am not sure what to do with it. I find myself editing things that pop in my head, stopping myelf from saying things, or attempting to explain things with the preface of "you're not really going to understand this, but..." I am glad to be back, but I am a bit mournful that the experience of it is so utterly over. Never again can I have the sensation of leaving behind everything I know and moving to a place so utterly foreign. Of course I can DO that, but at least the next time around, i'll be a little better equipped, ne?
If you had to ask me about the worst, i could go on and on about the lonely winter, the frustrations in the workplace, the body demons and accepted gender harrassments, and the perceptions (or should I say misconceptions?) of American and other Western cultures and being made to feel responsible for those. If you had to ask me about the best thing, I couldn't tell you, or at least nothing springs to mind as strongly as the bad parts. The ShinKenKan people were lifesavers. My students were the reason I went to school. The really cool, really Japanese things I got to see and do, as well as travel about to other SE Asian countries and see and do things there were absolutely invaluable. And, most of all, the everyday challenges and the subsequent solutions (admittedly not always the best decisions, maybe) I came up with to cope with them showed me so much more about myself than I could have imagined. And I thought I knew myself pretty well.
So, yeah. I'm back. And I'll be here for a while. Will I ever go back? Who knows, and in what capacity is even less answerable. But I'm happy to be here, I'm happy I was there, and I hope I don't lose that 1/24th of my life somewhere in the midst of trying to get ahold on things in general. I hope that you all may have the opportunity to learn something as valuable as that somewhere on your own lifes' path.
* eYeS/hAiR/wEiGhT. brown/reddish?/yes. * cUrRenT wHeReAbOuTs. back back to cali, cali * bEdTiMe. my body has decided to forgo sleep for now. * fOoD. it has also decided it's anti-food. * pHrAsE. ahh! too many people speaking English! * mOoD. i feel weird, yo. Like twilight zoney, in another world weird. * tUnEs. i get to listen to the radio in my car again! * qUoTe: "whereas i am trying to read in the succession of things presented to me every day the world's intentions towards me, and I grope my way, knowing that there can exist no dictionary that will translate into words the burden of obscure allusions that lurks in these things."
*"One, seven, three, five -- The truth you search for cannot be grasped. As night advances, a bright moon illuminates the whole ocean; the dragon's jewels are found in every wave. Looking for the moon, it is here, in this wave, and in the next." Zen Master Hsueh-tou
* tHiNgS i WiLl MiSs... *
* kaori (kojima) and mariko, kaori (honma), marika and etsuko, setsuko, nakano and sakai (aka "the boys"), kelly, alan
* most of my students
* some of my teachers
* the Shin Ken Kan crew
* my granny bike (a little)
* speaking Japanese
* tHiNgS i WoN't MiSs... *
* the staring
* the bus
* being bored outta my gourd
* sleeping on the floor
* the Japanese Way
* secondhand smoke
* the fashion
* jApAn, AkA tHe LaNd oF... *
* "We Don't Believe in Cilantro"
* "We Don't Believe in Towels"
* "Obscurely-Sized Paper"
* "Flouride is Foreign"
* "It's Rude to Eat on the Streets, but it is Perfectly Acceptable to Blow Smoke in your Face"
* "9am is Too Early for Stores to Open"
* "We Just Make the Technology, We Don't Use It"
* "Central Air? Never Heard of It. Central Heating? Nuh-uh. Heated Toilet Seats? Well duh, of course!!"
* "Open 24Hrs = 7am - 10pm"
* "Our Knees Don't Freeze"
* "We Want to Speak Like Americans and Look Like Americans and Act Like Americans, But We Don't Actually Like Americans"
* "Hey, Free Beer!"