Monday, July 18, 2005
Black ships, big bangs, and a belly buoy...
What a weekend. The annual Perry ceremony and festival was a blast, literally. I met some of my cohorts from city hall at Kurihama Station at about 11:30 and we took a cab to Perry Park, where the ceremony was to be held. It was a short ceremony, but it was really hot in the reception tent. All I had to do was greet some of the foreign guests, mostly high ranking U.S. Navy officials and their wives, give them a brochure, a hand towel, and an ice pack to keep cool with. It was rough wearing a necktie in the heat, but it was worse in the shade of the reception tent due to the lack of a breeze. Standing in the sun was actually cooler because we were right near the ocean and there was a nice breeze.
The ceremony was over by 2:30, at which time, Noro-san and I took a cab with Tepo-san (I believe his first name is Bernice - he is a French official in Brest, one of Yokosuka's sister cities here studying Yokosuka's government) to the reception hall. Noro san and I played the role of MCs - she told the crowd to quite down and listen up (in very polite Japanese, of course) and I read the translation. We introduced the Yokosuka city council chairman, who gave a short toast, which I also read in English. Then we had about an hour to mingle with the Yokosuka and Kanagawa officials, officers in the Japanese and American navies, and representatives from the State Department and Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was a blast. Maiko was the only female there dressed in traditional Japanese clothes (she had a beautiful yukata on), and some of the Japanese officials were flirting with her before I even got down from the podium. I think she was flattered because they thought she was Miss Yokosuka (who was in the parade later in the day). We had some tea and tried to scarf a little food in our faces in between chatting with important people. A commander from the SDF invited me to another fireworks festival in 2 weeks, but I think I have plans. I also talked with the political attache for military affairs from the U.S. Embassy (can't think of his name now), and a few others. I really wish the party would have been longer so I could have met more of these people, but you have to go with the flow on these things, I guess.
After we told everyone to go home (again, very politely...), some of the city staff who didn't want to eat or drink in front of the guests (I guess I shouldn't have either... oops...) gathered around a table to have a few beers and eat leftovers. I was ready to go, so Maiko and I hitched a ride with Mori-san (Int'l Affairs Div) and Tepo-san (French guy) to the station so I could buy a jimbei. Jimbei's are really cool traditional Japanese clothes for men, which I guess you could think of as a cross between a karate uniform and surfer clothes. I thought it would go well with Maiko's yukata, and it was a heck of a lot cooler than wearing a suit.
We missed most of the parade because I was buying the jimbei, changing, and looking for an open coin-locker (didn't find one). It was unfortunate, but I was about ten million times more comfortable in a jimbei and sandals than I was in a suit and leather shoes (and there is not one-one hundred billionth of a microgram of exaggeration there). We walked to the festival area, which was near the beach and where the ceremony earlier that day had been. It was packed! It was much larger than I had expected. I hadn't been to a Japanese festival in 2 years, so it was great to be back. It's fun seeing all the people out there, young and old, some dressed in traditional clothes, some in regular everyday wear. There are food stalls everywhere selling yummy grilled and fried traditional Japanese foods. While Japanese food is, on the whole, very healthy, the stuff they serve at festivals certainly isn't.
There was an hour long fireworks display, which was interrupted several times for a large sightseeing ferry to change locations. Buggers!
We were exhausted by the time we finally got home around 10:30 or so, but we managed to get enough rest to get up at 7:00 to get back on the trains. We met Maiko's mom, her brother Shun, Nishio-san, and another couple that are family friends in Atami, which is about an hour and a half away. We took a ferry to Hatsushima, where we spent the day sitting and eating fresh sashimi. It was so fresh that the squid tentacles still twitched when you touched them with your chopsticks (not an exaggeration) and the spikes on the sea urchin still slowly swayed while they sat on your plate. It was hot, but we were right next to the ocean and Nishio-san brought a snorkel and goggles, so I just went for a short swim any time I got too hot. Being from the midwest, I love being able to see ocean fish. I tried to dive down and catch some blowfish, but I was a bit too slow. Plus, having a slightly puffy belly myself, I can't exactly drop to the bottom like a rock. Maiko and her mom enjoyed teasing me that if anyone fell in that couldn't swim, they could just grab on and use my stomach as a personal flotation device. Funny...
Anyway, it is getting late and I have written way too much, but not enough at the same time. I have posted most of my pictures from the weekend on flickr, and I will post more when Maiko sends me hers. My memory card filled up at Hatsushima so she took most of the pictures there. I burned all my pictures on a CD today, so I am going to cleanse my memory card so I can take plenty more pics this week.