Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Overdue Christmas Recap

A couple nights after Christmas, Karie and Reid and I ventured to the home of one of Karie's students for several reasons. First, the student's mother is a licensed kimono maker (by maker I mean the person that ties the kimono around the wearer) and Karie was getting a crash course in kimono tying. Second, since Karie and Reid are leaving soon, the two of their students and their mothers wanted to take us out to have a yakitori party.

We arrived at the Mizuno house, I realized very quickly that this was the biggest and most traditional house I had been in while staying in Japan. It was a huge two story building that looked rather plain on the outside but was amazingly furnished and crafted on the inside. When you first walk in, there is the big area that you take off your shoes in and Mrs. Mizuno had a pair of slippers waiting for each of us. Fortunately, we didn't have to wear the slippers for long because mine were about four sizes too small. We were then led into the parlor of the house and served traditional tea and homemade Japanese sweets made specifically for consumption with the tea we were drinking. We were also shown the household shrine and how it was decked out for the new year. That was a whole separate room from the sitting room. The tea was very tasty and Mrs. Mizumo was in full hostess mode, ensuring that we were properly seated and treated to the tea.

After this, Karie and Mrs. Mizumo along with one of Karie's Japanese teachers vanished and began the process of getting into a kimono the right way. Getting in the kimono is not the hard part, tying the waistband or "obi" is where the difficulty comes in. Tying a kimono is an art that takes an attention to detail and some skill to do correctly. I am not exactly sure how its done because men cannot be in the room with the women while they are getting into their kimono. Reid and I were relegated to a closed off room with frosted glass and basically, were told we could not come out.

After the kimono tying and several rounds of hot tea, we went across the street to a yakitori restaurant and ate a huge meal. Tempura fried lotus root is very very tasty. I am not sure what dish caused it but I was allergic to something there and my face and chest turned very red and it made everyone worry that I was going to keel over. Fortunately, I was okay.

Once yakitori had been consumed, we then crossed the street again and went back to Mrs. Mizumo's house for more tea. Upon learning that I liked pickled plums, Mrs. Mizumo told me that her mother pickles plums and she had a ton of them that she was wanting to get rid of. After vanishing to the kitchen for several minutes, she returned to the tea room with a tupperware container full of pickled ume for me. YAY!

Several nights before the yakitori and kimono tying night, Reid and Karie and I went with two of their Japanese teachers to see Casino Royale at the nearby theater. This was quite the experience, Japanese movie theaters rock. We went to the midnight showing so there were not many people there and we had the theater pretty much to ourselves. I had never gone to a Japanese theater before this and was surprised by the size and the overall atmosphere of the place. I was amazed when I saw a cup of Coke that is on par with US theater portion sizes and ordered it. The thing that cracked me up was the fact that there were two holes for straws in the lid. What Americans see as a single serving, the Japanese see as a serving that two people can share. Also, you cannot just walk into a movie and jump into a seat. All Japanese movie theaters have assigned seating and you can pick the spot you want from a computer monitor at the ticket counter. Overall, it was a fun experience and the new James Bond flick is pretty good. I am not a huge James Bond fan but this was probably my favorite movie in the series.

Christmas was fun. We opened presents and that night, we had Christmas dinner with a girl that Karie and Reid work with and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend had never played poker before and wanted to learn so I got out the cards and gave him a brief tutorial. Christmas was a tad odd due to the fact that none of my family was around for it and the three of us agreed that it definitely did not feel like Christmas. To cover for our un-Christmasy feelings we did everything we could think of to make it feel more like Christmas. We listened to Christmas music and watched Christmas movies, but in the end, it still did not feel much like one of the biggest holidays of the year. It was odd.

On the 27th, we packed our bags and returned to Fukuchiyama. Karie and Reid are going to stay here until the 2nd. We haven't done a ton since returning to Fukuchiyama and I have had a bit of the flu I think, though it could also be nerves. I am having some trouble with getting my visa extended and it has been stressing me out. I think I have blown it out of proportion as I sometimes do with these kind of things but it bothers me nonetheless. Though I know it probably will not happen, they could kick me out of the country if all of this doesn't go through. The odds of that happening are pretty small I think and I am sure its just a matter of time before its all straightened out. Until then though, I will be a worry wort.

Another Christmas event that I should mention is that my brother proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas day and I think they are getting hitched sometime in June so now I will have a sister-in-law. It also means that I will be returning to the US sometime in June for a few days. That will be wierd, I think I will get there a day or two early so I can adjust my sleeping schedule and not be all wacky for the wedding.


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