Thursday, November 30, 2006

Autumn in Kyoto

Yesterday I decided to take a half day off work and go to see the beautiful scenery of Kyoto while the leaves are still in the midst of the Fall color change. It seems that I picked the perfect day to do so because yesterday was an unusually warm and sunny day. I first took the train up to Arashiyama which is in western Kyoto City. Arashiyama is full of gorgeous parks, temples, shrines and has a beautiful river that flowers right through. I thought I could avoid the crowds of people by going on a Wednesday afternoon, but it was still jam packed even on a weekday! I shudder to think how crowded it must be on the weekends. Around Arashiyama the colors where amazing; the reds, yellows and oranges of the tree leaves were so vibrant that I felt as if I was in a dream or possibly that I had died and gone to heaven.

Later in the evening I took the train back towards eastern Kyoto City to see the “light-up” at Kiomizudera temple. I have been there before in the day time but it is so much different to be there at night with all the fall colors illuminated by lights. It is such a peaceful and ethereal experience to see the fall colors lite-up to a stark black night backdrop. One of the things that I love must about Japan is the sharp contrast of the 4 seasons. Coming from California where the weather is pretty moderate year round it is great to experience a real Fall with all its glorious colors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whether Rain or Snow the 2006 Seika Town Festival Proceeds

Despite the rain, wind and cold many people still showed up for the Seika Town Festival on Sunday November 19th. With all the hard work and preparation that so many people put into the festival nobody was going to let a little rain stop the fun. But while all the booths were able to endure the rain, unfortunately the parade and most of the concerts had to be canceled due to the heavy rain that began to fall right around noon.

As volunteers with Seika Global Network my workmate Chris and I helped out at the children’s face painting booth. At first the kids were hesitant to have us paint their faces but once a few brave souls took the plunge it snowballed into dozens of children lined up to get their faces painted. The majority of kids wanted Pikachu, Anpan-man, flowers, stars and mushrooms painted on their cheeks, but there were also a few other random requests that we tried our best to accommodate with our limited artistic skills.

Of course Chris, I and the other volunteers did our best to show the kids how much fun it was so I had a big yellow Pikachu on my cheek and Chris had an American flag on top of his head and a Japanese flag on his cheek to symbolize the importance of international exchange. Once the line started getting pretty long we were really painting a lot of faces and having a lot of fun. It was nice to have a chance to chat with each child for a couple minutes while we painted their faces and then send them off with a heart shaped balloon. The kids seemed to really enjoy it as well as they would often come running back later with a new friend to have them get their face painted too. So despite the rain on the day of the festival I think that the TV spot and the face painting were successes for our grassroots internationalization project in Seika Town.

Live on TV!

On Saturday November 18th my workmate Chris and I got our 5 minutes of fame on TV! The funny thing is that it was literally 5 minutes, no more no less. What happened was that in preparation for the Seika Town Festival a TV crew from KBS Kyoto Television came down to Seika to do a short spot on some of the local groups, people and products that were going to be featured at the festival.

The TV crew interviewed Seika Town Mayor Kimura, a group of high school kids, a local strawberry grower, the local pastry chef, and Chris and I. We did a quick rehearsal but the TV spot was actually done live so there was no room for mistakes or blunders. Personally I have never been on TV so that alone was kind of scary to me, but to be interviewed live in Japanese on TV just made it even more scary. But even though I was nervous I was also excited about being on TV and getting the chance to promote Seika and the festival.

When it came around for our turn on the broadcast the reporters asked Chris and I about how we liked Seika, what we do at work, and what we would be doing at the festival the following day. Since we were going to be doing face painting at the festival Chris was asked to give a quick demonstration by painting the cheek of one of the reporters during the live interview. Chris and I were both nervous and excited and then it was over so quick. We were both happy and relieved that it went off without a hitch and now we can say that we were on TV and had our 5 minutes of fame!

Monday, November 13, 2006

16th Annual Seika Town Relay Race

This past Sunday morning Seika Town held the annual Relay Race around Higashi Hikari Elementary School. Despite the harsh weather including chilly winter breezes, spurts of rain, and cloudy skies many people of all ages came out to run or to cheer on the runners.

Recently it has felt like Fall has been skipped and that we’ve gone straight into Winter. Sunday was really cold and there was a strong wind and dark ominous clouds in the sky the morning of the Relay Race. But regardless of the weather everyone still came out and gave their best effort in the race.

The race was broken up into two parts with the elementary school teams running first. After the young children finished their race the second part began which included everyone from junior high and high school age kids, and all ages of adults.

Each leg of the relay was only a little more than 2km so I didn’t figure it would be that difficult when I signed up for the race. Little did I know that the course was in the hilly region of town and that the last stretch of the course took us straight up a steep hill. Due to the cold and early sunset I have been a little lax on my jogging schedule so I felt out of shape for this race. All the factors including the weather, hills and the early start combined for a straining race for me. But in general the race was a lot of fun, and once we finished everyone was treated to a steaming hot bowl of udon noodles.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

5th Annual Baroque Music Delight

On Wednesday November 8th, Seika Town held the 5th Annual Baroque Music Delight Concert at the Town Office Exchange Hall. Seven students from the Doshisha University music department were invited to play for a crowd of over 100 people. The concert is organized for classical music lovers but also to display the beautiful pipe organ that Seika Town has in the Government Office.

There was solo pipe organ performances, a flute trio, and two vocalists. The young women played various Handel classics and mixed solo performances with combos of vocalist and singer as well as a full group of flutes, vocalists and organ. The performance was beautiful and having taken a look at the questionnaires concerning the concert it was obvious that the audience was quite moved by the performance.

It was pretty fun for me because I got to usher in the people when they arrived for the concert. The look of surprise on some people's face when they entered and had a foreigner greet them in polite Japanese and ask them, "Please kindly take a seat towards the front of the Hall" was unforgettable. It is always nice for me to be able to participate in community events because I get to meet the local people and more people see that there is an American working at the town office who actually participates in local events.

Seika Town offers a number of concerts and events of this type for the residents of Seika Town to enjoy. The next concert will be the “Fureai Concert” at the Keihanna Plaza on January 13th, 2007. If you live in or near Seika you should really take advantage of this upcoming show!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Seika Elementary/Junior High School Culture Exchange Concert

Yesterday, at the concert hall at the Keihanna Plaza local elementary and junior high school children showed off their musical talent and hard work. Various school’s bands paired together to perform songs and become better acquainted. There were hundreds of children from various schools and they all got a chance to perform for each other.

The hard work and practice that the kids put into the music was evident as the performances were near perfect and the smiles on the kids faces afterwards were beaming. Much like my visit to Seika Junior High when I was surprised by the skill level and talent of the kids I was again blown away at how talented even the elementary school bands in Seika are. The event was a lot of fun and the kids all seemed to be happy to have been able to perform in front of their peers.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Seika Hits the Press!

Wow! Today there is an article in the Mainichi Shinbun (newspaper) about the "Life in Seika, Japan" blog. Just a few days ago Mr. Shingu from the Mainichi Newspaper came to the Seika Municipal Office to have an interview with me about the blog, my work in Seika, and my experiences in Japan. I knew that he was interviewing me for an article for the paper but to actually go to the store this morning open up the paper and see a big picture of myself and an article about this blog was quite a shock.

The main purpose of this blog is to expose more people to the great qualities of Seika Town and to develop more interest and participation in the great events that are going on in Seika. So, to have the honor of being featured in such a widely distributed newspaper like the Mainichi Shinbun is not only exciting but will hopefully introduce this blog, and more importantly Seika Town, to a larger group of people. I hope that those of you who read the article in the Mainichi Shinbun and checked out this page enjoy the articles here and I want to thank you for visiting this site. I also want to thank Mr. Shingu for coming all the way to Seika to interview me and feature Seika Town and this blog in his article. What a great honor, this really made my day!