By which I mean I am writing this at work when I should in fact be working.
My excuse is that very shortly I have to leave the school in order to go attend a Ward Meeting in a place called Utashikiyama. I place I think I can get to on the bus because I actually know the Kanji for yama and uta. Yama is a horizontal line with 3 vertical lines sticking up out of it and is meant to look like a mountain (which is what it means) and uta is harder to describe but looks to me like someone spinning their dance partner. No idea what it means but yay! I learned a kanji.
Ward Meetings I am reliably informed are largely an excuse not to work and to eat biscuits so I anticipate it and the hours journey it will take to get to it with great relish. Especially since it will give me a chance to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on the bus. Yes that is a computer game where you play a lawyer but it is much more fun and much funnier than that sounds. And yes I did buy a D.S. No Wii yet though as I don’t even have a telly yet.
All this talk of skiving of course makes it sound like I don’t like my job and want excuses to avoid it. Well that’s not entirely true. I love my job, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more rewarding job, both financially and otherwise, but bloody hell does it get on my nerves sometimes. Mostly its habit of creeping into my leisure hours so that I end up doing a lot of unpaid over time i.e. making plans at home, searching the internet at home for pictures, buying stuff out of my own pocket to use in lessons, etc. In those circumstances I can justify having a bit of a doss sometimes.
So I was talking about Sports Day, before Blogger decided to be difficult, and I shall resume my narrative. Sports Day in Japan is massively, massively more important than it is in England. For starters it takes place on a Saturday (yes I had to work on a Saturday, I had to cancel plans to go to Tokyo Game Show to do it as well. Sonna fronna rassum frassum kids.) and parents are invited. Secondly to prepare for it lessons are actually cancelled and replaced with “Sport’s Day Practise”. Mostly this consists of kids practising how to march and do a dance called “Soran”. This sort of thing went on for nearly a whole month and I can only assume is as infinitely tedious to do as it is to watch. The month in question was September too which has been bone-bleachingly hot. I thought August was hot, and September did start out by cooling down a little. But then about halfway through it decided that no, it wasn’t done with me yet and decided to become hot enough to melt plastic bottles in my hand and cause young children to spontaneously burst into flames. On one particularly bad day we had all day Sports Practise. That may have been the closest I have come to death. Sat in the sun for hours on end with nothing to divert me except kids endlessly marching and my futile attempts to engage in English conversation with students. Actually it wasn’t that bad, towards the end of the day I actually got some decent conversations going, usually by catching big groups of boys together so they could help each other out and fielding endless questions. But during the middle of that day my school looked like the Civil War scene from Gone with the Wind. Visions of groaning injured Japanese School Children as far as the eye can see.
The other thing they endlessly drilled, “Soran”, is actually quite cool. Normally I don’t like Japanese traditional music. I think Shamisens (a sort of Japanese violin/banjo crossed with a drum and played with a pick the size of a ruler) sound atrocious, particularly when coupled with the strange warbling singing that is meant to accompany the instrument. You know how I hate singers like Christina Aguilera who insist on wandering up and down the scales for every single word they sing. Shamisen accompaniment is much, much worse. It sounds like someone strangling Christina Aguilera and her gamely trying to keep singing anyway. Actually that’s a little bit unfair on the Shamisen. Played well it can be haunting and (dare I say it) atmospheric. But usually I can’t stand ‘em. However the one in “Soran” sounds fantastic. It’s played really quickly, makes a sort of bouncy swingier noise and has more of a guitar like twang than its usual banjo-esque noise. Couple this with the pounding drums and the soaring flute and “Soran” sounds really cool. Really energising and primal. Turns out the reason I like the Shamisen in “Soran” (according to wikipedia) is that the tune played in schools isn’t the original but a rearrangement done in the 50’s to make it sound more rock ‘n’ roll. Ah well.
Supposedly the song comes from Hokkaido and is all about the fishermen there. The kids do dance moves that mimic the actions of fishermen and the words are a mix of fishing commands and just noises. I do have a video of it and if Blogger is being nice to me it should appear below this sentence.
So anyway, scene set, boring as hell rehearsals for aaaaages. I was fully prepared to despise Sports Day. I bloody loved it. It was easily one of the best days I have ever had since I came to Japan. I felt immensely proud of myself and my kids and for the first time I unequivocally know that I belong here doing this job and that I’m not going to get fired any second when they realise they gave the job to the wrong bloke. Seriously I had nightmares about that, someone called “Adam Richard Halls” showing up screaming “You bastard you took my job” and then stabbing me. Okay maybe it wasn’t that likely to happen, but it could. So now let me take you through Sports Day as it happened.
Or rather not, as now it is time for me to go to my Ward Meeting.
Well I shall continue this tomorrow and I shall try to be briefer and funnier.