It’s been a whirlwind weekend, and at this point I can barely talk. Three consecutive karaoke-filled days — especially considering the way I sing (“scream” is probably a better verb) — will do that to you. So let’s cover it from the top.


I come into work to find three large pages of sheet music on my desk. Confused, I have the following conversation with the english teacher:

Me: “What’s this?”

JTE: “Oh, that’s Shima no Uta.” All the teachers are singing it at the school’s big choir festival next week, as part of the opening ceremonies. We’ve been practicing it every day for the past two weeks, but Shibasaki-sensei (the music teacher) thought we could stand to have the lyrics, so she copied those for us. Nice, huh?”

Me: “There’s a choir festival next week?”

JTE: “Oh, yeah… I… nobody told you? We’ve been talking about it at the teachers’ meetings, and it’s in the school plans…”

Me: “…in Japanese?”

JTE: “Oh.”

Me: “When do you guys practice?”

JTE: “Um, after classes, and club activities, and planning for the next day, so… 7 pm?”

Me: “I can’t stay until 7 pm. Is there a CD of this song?”

JTE: “Well, Shibasaki-sensei usually just plays it on piano. It’s a really famous song. Oh! I think she has a cassette tape of her playing it on the piano that she uses! Oh, but it doesn’t have any words.”

Me: “Gahhhh…. okay, it’s called Shima no Uta, and it’s famous, right? Would it be on the internet?”

JTE: “I don’t know how to use the internet.”

Me: “…I’ll go look for it tonight.”

So I find the song, learn about half of it that night, and wow Shibasaki-sensei the next day by singing it for her to verify it’s the correct version — which it was. However, she informs me, the choir ceremonies are next Tuesday. When I’m at a different school. In the middle of the day. So now I have to go figure out how to switch up days, or leave in the middle of the day for an hour, or somesuch. Whoo!

(I should point out that they don’t really expect me to do this, I just feel like I should. I’m a teacher, after all, not some sort of visiting guest.)

That was only the start of this week’s singing, though. That night, we had a group outing with Akio. Akio is a really cool Japanese guy who’s fluent in Japanese and English (he actually spent some time in Kentucky, of all places), a practicing acupuncturist, and a graduate of the junior high I teach at. He brings along several friends from his junior high, and we all have a good time, talking shit about various teachers.

For a lot of the time, I was one of the only (if not the only) gaijin there, which was an odd experience. You see, my Japanese is decent, especially considering how time I spent forgetting it, but holding a conversation with real people in real conditions is insanely difficult. Most of the night I was quiet, sort of half-able to follow their conversation, but completely incapable of butting in. Which is too bad; I really liked Akio’s friends, and wanted to get to know them better, but the language barrier thwarted me. We ended up going to karaoke, which was fun, but I felt a bit weird choosing english songs. It was definitely a tad lonely.


Went up to Moriya, a nearby town, and had lovely German food with Amy and the three JETs up there. Amy and I managed to dumbfound them with tales of our bizarre backgrounds, and further confound them with some of our more recent Ryugasaki exploits. Speaking of which, I need to write an entry on Yuusuke, our friendly neighborhood mob boss. Maybe in a couple days.

Anywho, we ended up going to karaoke — in fact, the only karaoke place I’ve found so far in Japan that has “Since U Been Gone.” Kelly Clarkson is reasonably popular, and almost everywhere has several of her songs, but I had yet to find one that had, oh, I dunno, her most popular song. Anywho, I did my whole “death metal pop” routine (singing happy pop songs in the style of Metallica or Linkin Park), which proved to be a hit, although it massacred my vocal chords. All in all, a fun evening.


A ton of JETs got together went up to Tsuchiura for a fireworks festival. Actually, let me clarify: fireworks competition. These weren’t your namby-pamby state fair fireworks. This is where the pros go to show off, and land contracts for the rest of the year. To say it was impressive would be an understatement. I spent two and half hours bearing witness to teams blowing pretty much every type of firework I’d ever seen, and several types I’d never seen — the stuff the shape of mushrooms and kanji was particularly awesome. The event was completely packed. All the trains to Tsuchiura were like sardine cans, starting from about noon onwards. I’ve not seen trains more crowded outside of rush hour on the Yamanote around Shinjuku. It was intense.

Anywho, great fun was had by all, and we ended up at a Filipino restaurant with a karaoke stage. I gave it another go, completely blowing out my vocal chords after one song. It was scary; I sounded like Satan’s own lieutenant. One of the girls sitting nearby had to switch seats because she was so freaked out whenever I talked. My friends thought I’d come down sick with something. Heck, a little kid on the way back hid behind his mom when he heard my voice. I mean, it’s useful to know that my voice shifts to “hellspawn mode” when I sing too much, but I kind of wish I didn’t.


Got up a little late, and went into Tokyo for a Sri Lanka festival around Harajuku. I’m tired and too busy to go into it at length, but suffice to say, it was fun, I spoke a lot of Japanese with Ananda’s insane Sri Lankan friend Suba, and I ate some delicious food. I’ll upload pictures later. For now, bedtime.