Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Things to check out

my workout journal -go to the links on the right, it's under 'sports' -swim meet results...

Sista K's blog -she has a unique program going with her students and needs English speakers to comment on it -click the link on the right.


A Japanese Wedding

On April 1 my friend Coco got married in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture). She had told me about it months ago and I was quite shocked and excited.

You see, I hadn't heard from her in quite a while - over a year, in fact. She had moved to Nagoya to work and we kind of lost touch for a while -but I've kept the same address on my cell phone the whole time I've been here and she managed to track me down. So, I was shocked to hear from her and excited to know that once she was married she'd be living in Toyama Prefecture again!!

I met Coco my first year in Japan. She worked part time at a local electronics shop and because she speaks English fluently, she was able to help me out a lot, not only in the store but in getting settled in Japan.

So I was honored when she invited me to attend her wedding. As usual, I wasn't sure what to expect, but the day turned out to be a lot of fun. I took the train to Kanazawa on the morning of the wedding (the wedding was at 6:00 -night weddings are so beautiful). Checked into the hotel that Coco had booked for me and did a little shopping before meeting Takako, another of Coco's friends who was staying at the same hotel. We got into a cab together and were taken to the wedding site around 4:00. I had a hair and make-up appointment that Coco had offered to book for me along with the other members of the wedding (family). I thought it would be fun to see what goes on before the event, so I took her up on the offer. I knew it was a mistake when they started doing crazy things to my hair and making my face 3 shades paler than normal....oh well, everyone was friendly and now I can say I've seen what happens leading up to the ceremony.

I guess I should clarify that this was not a traditional Japanese wedding like the one I attended in September. This was much more Western, in fact the ceremony was a Christian ceremony with a Caucasion minister (but he performed the ceremony in Japanese). In Japan there are wedding ....what should I call them...wedding 'places', I guess. It's the whole meal deal; reception area with a lounge, hair and make up studio, garden, chapel, and dining hall all in one place.

After my hair and make up, Takako and I sat and had a drink in the lounge. I was waiting for all the guests to start streaming in -except, they didn't. I only saw about a dozen other people arrive. At 6:00 we were escorted across the garden to the chapel. Besides Coco's family (parents, sister and brother in law), Takako and I were her only other guests!! The groom had a few more -with grandparents, one of his college profs and 5 college friends. That was it!! After the ceremonly, which was short and sweet, but very beautiful, they rearranged the chapel in order to take a group photograph. Then were were escorted to the dining hall where we were all seated and treated to an amazing never-ending meal. The entertainment included the groom's mother's shamisen (traditional musical intrument) teachers and of course speeches by EVERYONE seated at the table, including me. Thankfully, Coco was there to translate everthing and once again, I felt so honored to be taking part in such an important day!

We ended with a video of the ceremony that had already been put together (courtesy of the full-meal-deal) complete with a musical background and a credit list of all the guests! What a day!

Usually there is some kind of after party involved in this type of wedding, but because the numbers were so small and nobody really knew each other, we all just went back to our hotel, soaked in the onsen (public bath) (separately of course, haha) and went to bed. I had a nice sleep in, did a little more shopping and caught the train home on Sunday- back in my apartment by early afternoon. A very, very pleasant experience.

That's Takako on the left, pale-faced me, Coco and Takanori.

The dinner party.

The Hair

OH, there's one last part of this story to tell you about...you see, it's customary in Japan for the bride and groom to give all the guests 'thank you gifts' -now this isn't too far off from Western tradtion, we leave candies or flowers on the tables for people, and give away pieces of wedding cake...however, it's a little more extravagant in Japan...here's what I took home:

*note: the 'Fine Choice' is a catalogue - I can choose anything from it, send in a slip of paper and it's delivered to me!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Beijing: Day 3 -the last afternoon & evening

After lunch at McDonalds, Mike and I spent the afternoon wandering around the area close to our hotel. There was a big shopping department nearby so we wandered in. The shops were open-style, kind of like here in Japan, where it's hard to tell sometimes where one shop ends and the next begins. They had all the brand names you could think of from Esprit to Nike and although the prices were pretty good, I wouldn't say they were cheap. Mike decided to get his hair cut, so that gave me an opportunity to go shoe shopping -and for those who are wondering: I only bought one pair on this trip!! I had agreed to meet Mike at the starbucks on the main floor and wandered in and ordered a big latte of some sort, found a table and waited for Mike....and waited....and waited, finally he came into the shop, white as a sheet and shaking like he'd seen a ghost. "I passed out." he said. What!?!?! I guess his blood sugar was a little off, combined with McDonalds for lunch and an sweltering temperature in the shopping mall -it made for a disasterous combination. At least he was sitting in the chair when it happened. He assured me that the people at the salon were more than helpful and the one girl who could speak a little English escorted him down to the Starbucks!! Well, that ended the shopping trip! No big deal, we were both a bit tired and so we headed back to the hotel, and had a little nap.

Feeling much better after lying down for a while, we got up and got ready for our night at the Chinese opera. We had booked this part of the trip the night before after deciding that JTB (the travel agency) was doing a pretty good job entertaining us. Our tour guide had given us a pamphlet with optional things to do and both of us had been told not to miss the Chinese Opera. Our sources were correct! It was a great time. First we were given snacks and tea (served with flair -refer to the photo above), next we were given headsets with English interpretations and information about the opera to listen to as it was being performed. Though it was distracting at times, I was thankful for the explanations. The performance was visually stunning and the music/singing was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. It's similar to Kabuki (traditional Japanese theatre) in that many of the movements are symbolic and the story is told through singing. The first part of the performance was a story about war and love, the second focused on the mythical/religious side of China, dealing with warring gods. This part was much more physical, acrobatic almost. A fantastic evening out.

We ended the night with one last tour option: a foot massage. We were taken to a massage parlor and given 90minutes of pure relaxing bliss. We were given our own private room, and Mike's masseur was a friendly young man who tried his very hardest to speak English to us. I had a young girl, as cute as a button, who didn't look older than 13 rubbing my tiny feet. She didn't speak a word, but smiled and promted me to say good or bad if she wasn't sure how hard she could massage. We drank tea all the while and took advantage of the quiet time.

Back at our hotel, we packed up, ready to leave for the airport at 6:30 in the morning. Our flight back was pretty uneventful, save the huge line up at customs. We both had time for a little shopping in T-town before Mike hopped a boat back to his island and I jumped on the night bus for home.

A great trip, with a great travel partner. One of the best holidays I've ever had!
Thanks Mike!!!

OK, here it is, the last of the trip to Beijing, I have to get this written because I keep putting off every other thing I want to post on this blog...