Wow what a crazy busy week I`ve had!! Thank God I`m keeping a diary or I`d never be able to remember everything!! Last week I got to meet the city`s Mayor, which was nice. We chatted for a bit about Ireland and Japan, and he gave me presents (a book voucher and a clock that allows you to figure out the time in every time zone: pretty cool!).
I played my concertina for him (and there was a picture of me banging out a tune in the paper the next day!) and he seemed to really like the Irish music. There was a group of people in the city on holidays from the area worst affected by the tsunami and he asked me if I would play music to try and cheer them up. Their lives have been pretty tough lately, as you can imagine, so the mayor wanted them to have a really good stay in Suwa so he arranged for me to play for them that evening. While they had tea, I sang and talked about Ireland and played a few tunes. They were all lovely, a mostly elderly group. One couple even had a daughter living in Ireland as a professional singer!!
In English class in school the teacher got me to teach some basic Irish to the class. They got their `Dia Dhuit`s and `Conas ata tu?`s but then it got complicated as the teacher started to simultaneously teach them Russian, as she had lived in Moscow while working with a company through Shannon Airport. The board became a mess of English, Irish, Russian and Japanese and left everyone confused but it was good fun! Some people were really interested in Irish and now when anything funny happens, they all tell me that it was `gas craic`!!!
I got to experience Japanese karaoke last week! After school I went with my friends and we got a little private room. It was so much fun!! There was loads of songs I knew so we spent a few hours belting out Lady GaGa, Katy Perry and even some U2 (all out of tune of course!). They tried to get me to join in on some Japanese songs but I couldn`t read the lyrics fast enough and I had no idea of the tune so I settled for air guitar instead! :P
My host mother bought Guinness for our dinner the other night! The curry we were having was insanely spicy so it didn`t last too long! While we ate there was a little earthquake (which I`m sure we felt all the more dramatically after the Guinness!!). We also watched `P.S. I Love You`, which my host mother really enjoyed and now more than ever she wants to come to Ireland. I have been singing the `Galway Girl` a lot over here (I can disguise my croaky voice with some intervals on the concertina, Sharon Shannon style :P) and watching it done properly in the film really put me to shame!!
I was in a bookstore at the weekend spending my voucher from the mayor and I was randomly flicking through a magazine when there was a big article about an Irish pub in the mountains not too far from where I`m staying!! It looked just like an old Irish country pub, complete with old Guinness posters and all!! They serve `Irish food` (or what they think we eat in Ireland!!) and celebrate Paddy`s Day. My Host Mother got really excited so maybe we might visit it someday.
This weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend so we headed down to Kyoto, a big city about 4 hours drive away, for a big festival called Gion Matsuri. It was brilliant! There was so many people in the city and we got to see many parades with traditional Japanese costumes and floats. We also visited some shrines (including one made of gold!) and a bamboo forest (which was really amazing but there was signs everywhere to beware of the wild monkeys: AAAGH!). We walked through the Gion area on the lookout for Geisha and we managed to spot 2!!! For the festival many people were wearing the traditional Japanese clothes, like kimono, but the Geisha were wearing the full make-up and hair. It was cool to see them because I didn`t really know that there was still real Geisha. They were really hard to spot though, by the time you noticed them walking past they were almost gone, and you could only get a photo of their backs. We also passed a Geisha school and saw some girls praciticing some form of dancing (of course we did not sneak in to secretly take a picture!). In Kyoto, the Geisha are called Gayko or Maiko (depending on whether or not they are a virgin) and their clothes and make-up are stunning!
In Kyoto I tried some Japanese food, especially desserts! Black sesame ice-cream is divine, as is lemon sherbet sorbet but I`m not the biggest fan of tofu ice-cream (it`s just weird!) or wasabi peanuts (they burned the mouth off of me!)! Japan won the womens` soccer world cup against America while we were in Kyoto so there was big celebrations going on! The shopping in the city was great and there was some really nice indoor Japanese markets (ingore the smell and the atmospere is incredible!). We walked through the little side-streets at night time and they were amazing. They were lined with restaurants and little boutique shops and there was lanterns everywhere and it was just so Japanese and lovely! Something very rare happened for one of the days in Kyoto: it rained all day! It was a nice break from the sweltering sun but somehow it still managed to be roasting!! It is monsoon season here, so it`s common for there to be thunderstorms in the evenings but it`s unusual for there to be a full day of rain. They all said that I had brouight the Irish weather with me! There was a lot more non-Asian people also, and it was really weird hearing people speaking English in the different accents. I have only seen a handful of Westerners in the city I`m staying in.
I have only 3 more days of High School left :( but I have a busy schedule for my last 3 weeks. I will be teaching in the Elementary School for 2 days and we`ve got loads od activities and visits planned! It all sounds so good, and I`m having a great time!
I must go, I`m in computer class and it`s almost lunchtime. More news soon......