Further in to Serenity

With the emergence of autumn comes a wicked cold breeze to raise the bollocks. This issue does little to damage my mood however, as I look on in wonderment at the beauty of autumnal changes around Japan. For the most part, New Zealand is lacking in this department. There are few deciduous trees in Wellington so to see the streets lined yellow with the fallen leaves has been a beauty to behold. Tourists flock to this great city of Minoh for the maple trees. They are ushered along a track by these malting beacons, all the way up to our great waterfall (legitimized as the third most popular waterfall in Japan). It certainly is a magical walk I assure you.

So my first weekend of the month was spent fishing with a new friend here. It was a resultant failure albeit a lot of fun. We did not catch the tachiuo fish we were after though as a foreigner in this very Japanese territory, I am blessed certain privileges. In this case, I was offered a local’s catch. An old man with a lifetime of fishing experience wanted me to share in his spoils, so he gifted me a fish without a second thought and of course it would be rude to decline. Once again, the kindness of Japanese people is not lost on me. I am ever grateful for the immense generosity of everyone here. It never ceases to amaze me. This particular fishing spot was situated on a freight ship graveyard. There was a strange serenity to it, being surrounded by dilapidating ships of yesteryear, the sun exposing their degradation via soft amber light on their rusted hulls. My gratitude to Kentarou for showing me the local Japan. It’s always more exciting than the tourist version.

Now I don’t protest the cold all too much. It offers me the chance to defy my better efforts of living a healthy lifestyle, leaving the comforts of the indoors and getting some sunshine on my face. And what with the release of the new Harry Potter installment, I have no regrets in taking a night to watch “Wild Beasts and Where to Find Them.” As a student of film, I feel it necessary to make a short review here. Let me begin by saying I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Eddie Redmayne was well cast to the lead role. The supporting cast, however, really threw me. The demand for a love story in any Hollywood production really sponges the “magic” of a film not intent on creating a devoted love story. This is Harry Potter man! Focus on what everyone wants to see. Spin some dope magic and show me some mythical creatures. I don’t need to see a ten minute finale attempting to claw out some sort of emotion toward a supporting act romance of which I have zero interest… zero. Don’t get me going on the state of Hollywood films right now. My cynicism in this field will start to show. Save that lecture for Friday nights at Happy Hour. But then Colin Farrell killed it as the antagonist and the New York setting was a nice change from England so I would say it is still a film worth seeing in cinemas although I wouldn’t put it on the same pedestal as the Harry Potter Harry Potters. Okay. I’m finished with that.

In other news, one of my students won an English speaking competition. I am now the proud coach of a gold medalist. She really obliterated the competition too. I’m so proud.

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Right, time for a history lesson. When I think of my country’s history, I think of year 10 social studies and the amount of sighs that left my body when we were told to read up on The Treaty of Waitangi and the arrival of British settlers. Both of which happened only within the last couple hundred years. New Zealand has great folklore what with Maui, Ra the sun god, and the great taniwha in Wellington harbour. But our history is so brief in comparison to other countries. Recently I went to a museum in Tsutentaku which holds items that date back to the 8th century. There are mind-blowing pieces depicting the 12 signs of the zodiac through anthropomorphic gods, statues of Buddha whose eyes penetrate your soul, and mythical creatures of tradition tale that were embodied on paper centuries ago and still remain for us to see in this museum. Japanese art and history really does rise above a lot of the world. Being an isolated country for such a long time, Japan has a truly unique culture that comes across as both strange and intriguing simply because it has such a different background to what I and certainly many others are accustomed to. It’s fascinating. It’s mesmerizing. It’s addictive to study.

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In any case, once again citing the weather, tis the season to be jolly. In only a matter of weeks I will be celebrating yet another Christmas and yet another year. Already I have spent a night at a Christmas festival here in Osaka city. Once again I am put in a strange situation where I am experiencing a cultural conglomeration. Every year at the Umeda sky building, the German consulate hosts a Christmas party in honour of the relationship between Germany and Japan. This means bratwurst and pretzels, candle dipping, Christmas ornaments, mulled wine, candied almonds, and harsh German Christmas carols about the butchering of deviant children. I love to sit down and go over in my head the ironic feeling of celebrating a German Christmas as a kiwi lad in Japan. The world seems to be shrinking. Everyone is getting closer together, cultures intermingling and all that. I felt such a comfort walking around these stalls, with the mouth-watering smells and the Christmas jingles leading me on. Set aside your notions of commercialism and Christmas still has a magic to it. Osaka has been adorned with lights. The winter-coated bodies walking around are not as hurried as they were only a month ago. It’s starting to feel like Christmas. Perhaps Japan will finally rest for a moment when the holidays come around. It would be a nice change to the franticness I have seen in the last four months. Everyone works so hard here. The teachers at my school are there for 12 hours some days. Anyway, I’m still a sucker for festive cheer and I hope it sweeps the nation.

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This last weekend was no different as far as festivities go. I was fortunate enough to be shown around Kobe by my Japanese friend. Little beknownst to me, there was a world famous lights festival going on. Having not been informed prior to the weekend, I was instantly blown away. Japanese festivities cut no expense. This event was amazing, from the stunning lights, to the delicious street food. But more than anything, the happy families and glowing aura from all of these people. The mood was so fervently positive. And then there is city itself. Kobe isn’t far from Osaka or Kyoto and yet it has a unique style, especially with clothing. Much like a Cuba Street style, store owners have made gallant efforts to create unique stores in which customers are forced to pause for a moment to take in all that is on offer when they walk in the door. As is expected, crowded Japanese cities like Osaka, Tokyo, and Kobe, must find space where they can acquire it. And as such, no space it unutilized. Walking in to a clothing store can often be overwhelming due to the sheer amount of products spanning the walls, rooves, crawl spaces, etc. I personally love it. It comforts me to be in a close knit web of people and clothing alike, uncertain as to whether that was an end table brushing against your butt, or a “cheeky” local.

This month has been a blast. For every day I spend in Japan, I feel more enlightened, more cultured, and hungrier for new experiences. It’s so hard to pack in all that I want to do here. Every opportunity I have is spent exploring new things and in return, I am filled with an energy I have not felt before. I’m so happy to be living here. And I have so much to look forward to in the months to come. Christmas is coming up and my little sister will visit me. A group of us will road trip around Japan. I will then go to the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Ghilbi Museum in Tokyo. Then I’m off to Okinawa in March for some sun, diving, and R&R. I need to give my thanks to so many people for for enabling all of this. I will do my best in the months to come to give back where I can, because if there’s one thing that mother taught me, it’s that giving is more important than receiving. The Christmas spirit is rising. じゃね。

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