Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hank Williams san

The other night we went to a guitar bar called Kishin. They were immediately excited that we were gaijin and asked us to come up on stage and sing some Beatles songs with them. I obliged and sang some terrible renditions of Let it Be and Hey Jude. That damn Paul McCartney is sneaky. His songs seem so easy to sing at first, and then all of a sudden he switches up the melody on you. Afterward they let me sing a couple of my songs and everybody seemed to dig it.

We had to use sheet music because no one really knew the song

Then, this really old Japanese man dressed up as a the perfect picture of an American farmer--complete with the flannel shirt, durango jeans, ornate leather belt with huge buckle, and baseball cap that said "cowboy."--got up on stage and sang some country standards. You couldn't understand a word that he was saying, but he did the perfect Hank Williams with the drawl and the howling voice cracks and everything. After his set he told us (from what we could understand through his garbled Japanglish drawl) that he was a cowboy in Oklahoma when he was in his 20s and that he spent some time in Nashville as a singer and a guitar player and that he might have played at the Grand Ol' Opry (or at least seen some shows there).

My hero

At the end of the night, one of the bartenders got up and did a great rendition of Stand By Me, then sought our immediate approval of his intonation, which we gave sincerely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Age Big Person's Day and Fireman Acrobatics

Our blogging has been a little less than faithful as of late, so I'm happy to report that Kyle and I are back on track and brainstorming a plethora of suitable topics for upcoming entries. Today we had hoped to get footage of some daruma doll burning ceremonies, but apparently we got a little mixed up about the dates and no such thing happened. However, I'm happy to report that in our confusion we accidentally stumbled on a few unexpected cultural celebrations that we're able to share.

The first is called Seijin no Hi (literally "age big person's day"), or Coming of Age Day. As the name implies, this holiday celebrates young people coming into adulthood, which in Japan happens when you're 20 years old. People celebrate by dressing up and going to an official city ceremony called sejinshiki and then having small parties among friends and family (where they can finally drink now that they're 20).

New "age big persons"

The women often wear traditional kimonos called furisodes, which have long sleeves that almost reach the floor. The men sometimes still wear traditional hakama (the skirt-like thing below), but more often than not they dress up in Western-style suits.

Young ladies in furisodes

It appears the the 2 guys in traditional hakama are also wearing make-up

The second is a fireman's parade called dezomeshiki. A long time ago during the Edo period of Japan, there was a giant fire which destroyed a lot of Tokyo. About 2 years after that, a fire brigade held the first dezomeshiki to demonstrate the extent of their training and equipment so that the people would feel more confident in their skills to put out fires. Where there had previously been brawls among fireman over territory and rights, now there was increased cooperation and training.

Hope there isn't a fire today because the firepeople are busy

And to prove in what great shape they're (still) in, they perform ladder-top acrobatics.