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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh, look: an update!

Last week the US culture course went to see a traditional Japanese theater called Bunraku (Wiki link here). It was an awesome experience. I was familiar with it before we went (I've taken a handful of Japanese/Asian history courses at KSU, so I've at least got a tiny bit of knowledge) but actually seeing it was a whole different thing. The easiest way to think of it for someone who's never seen it is to relate it to marionette puppets, but the manipulation of the puppets is different.

Here are a couple videos on youtube that might help you understand:

During the plays there are the "chanters" who voice the characters and narrate. Most shows only have a couple, but the first one we saw had 5 of the chanters and 3 shamisen players, which made it really dramatic. The puppets are typically operated by 3 people, and in most schools of bunraku only the lead puppeteer is allowed to reveal himself; the rest are hidden in black costumes. The lead puppeteer operates the head and right arm, the 2nd puppeteer operates the left arm, and the lowest level puppeteer operates the legs/bottom/body.

The downside to bunraku (even for many native Japanese speakers!) is that it developed in Osaka a LONG time ago. What this means is that the plays are performed in the Osaka dialect. This in and of itself is a problem, because the average person who isn't from Osasa/Kansai area doesn't particularly understand that dialect. Then top it off with the fact that it's an archaic version of this dialect from the 1600s, and it becomes nigh impossible for people speaking standard Japanese to understand. During the play it was subtitled in the standard Tokyo dialect along the sides of the stage, which I found to be pretty amusing :) It kinda sucked not being able to understand what was being said (though I derived a bit of comfort from the fact the Japanese people didn't understand the speaking either) but you can infer quite a bit from the tone of the chanter's voices, the music of the shamisen, and the puppets themselves.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More Pics and Videos, Too!

Here's some more stuff from the Kamakura trip; I forgot to upload the videos too. Also, there should be a post forthcoming about the culture course we had today. We went to see a bunraku play (traditional Japanese cultural thing), but I don't have time to write a pithy post as I've got to study for an exam Monday I forgot about...

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Sorry guys--I know it's been a while. I get easily distracted, and I'm sure you're all waiting anxiously for my update has has not been forthcoming :P There's not much of an excuse for my lack of updates other than that I simply forgot...

So! Have you all been wondering what I've been up to? Well, lots of studying my ass off but other things have been going on too :) Let's see if I can put this together sequentially.

On the weekend of the 20th/21st the Americans in the Japanese Culture class took an overnight trip to Kamakura to visit a shit-ton of temples, shrines, see the giant famous Buddha, go to Enoshima Island, and we all stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel (you know, the ones with paper walls and doors, tatami mat rooms and such). Being out of Tokyo and going towards the coast and a bit more out of the way was an amazing experience, and it was really gorgeous to take in the scenery. We also happened to be able to see part of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, and I thought it was gorgeous. Experiencing a bit of the traditional culture at the temples and shrines was a welcome break from the fast-paced life in Tokyo. The entirety of the weekend was jam-packed with stuff, and they had us tightly scheduled for the whole trip. We met at the school at 9 am Saturday, and arrived back at the school at about 7 pm Sunday night, so it definitely wasn't a slow weekend.

I pretty much immediately went to bed after returning from the trip out to Kamakura and Enoshima, but even though I was dead tired I had so much fun.

Monday I went out with my Korean, Thai, Chinese and one American to go drinking. We ending up being SO drunk. I'm told there are photos, but I don't particularly recall them... I
was that drunk. In fact, I slipped down the stairs on my way into the train station (in my defense: it was raining), slid down half the flight on my butt, and sat there giggling for a minute. I think I'm done with the drunk thing from now on :P At leas the whole over-doing it thing, anyway. That being said, it was great to let loose with friends again :D

After that the week started picking up again, and as per the norm I had lots of homework to keep me occupied. Honestly though, I don't really mind it. I can obviously notice my skill increasing, and that's really encouraging.

Friday there was an opportunity to hang out with some Japanese people in a curry cooking class held by the school. I took the opportunity to use my Japanese in "real life" and we all cooked yummy curry!
The Japanese girl we were with spoke really good English, but for the most part we tried to use Japanese and I got along better than I though I would :)

On Monday (11/29) I went over to the guest house of one my American friends for her dinner party thing she was holding with a bunch of her friends from the guest house. There were a variety of nationalities present in the guest house, including a fair amount of Japanese students/young people (the guest house is pretty cheap) which was an unexpected treat!

It feels so weird to think that it's already December. Soon this semester will be over, and I've got conversation exams and finals coming up soon already. The semester will be over in 3 weeks, and then I'll have a winter break. I'm not 100% sure what I want to do but I'll figure something out at some point. I still have some time.

Well, it's gotten late, so I'm gonna crash. I've got plans with a friend in the morning, so I need to get up early. Night!