It’s been a whirlwind here at EmLem HQ; we’re pushing to publish HyogoTimez early because the designer (and probably most of the writing staff) is leaving for spring break on Friday. I’ve been attending graduations and trying to collect, digest, and disseminate information. I thought this issue of HT would be smaller than normal because we’re missing two of the regular sections, but then I somehow wrote a bunch of sections myself that I felt needed to go in and.. we’re about where we are every month I guess.
It’s spring, officially. Sagramore came to visit and we had pretty much the coolest Shiso weekend ever. First we visited Tatsuno’s Ayabeyama plum grove collection, where we wandered through that special brand of newly-spring sunlight and an intoxicatingly plum-blossom-aroma-filled air. I bought some honey which I believed at the time (but no longer believe) to have been produced by the terrible Death Bees (susumebachi) of Japan.
We then went directly to monkey park Chikusa (directly is relative.. I got lost and found again along the way), which proclaimed itself open with signs at the front, but there were no monkeys nor people to be found at the park site itself. On a whim, we (three of us now, with the addition of Chikusa’s Zed) climbed a hill toward Ruriji (the temple around which was built the monkey park), even though the path was muddy and there are still a lot of downed trees there from the typhoon rain-caused landslides almost two years ago.
Our reward was that as we pursued the dying sunlight to the top, we found where the monkeys were hiding, as well as a semi-abandoned looking temple. It was pretty freakin’ awesome. I did not have my camera in hand.
After marveling for a while, we went back for dinner at Raputa, followed by a good karaoke session in which we screamed lyrics until we could not speak anymore.
Sunday, we had brunch at Uncle Tom’s Cabin (yeah it’s really called that), a restaurant near my apartment, and then went to Takarazuka, where Sagramore was able to get tickets for seats not far from us. We saw Beauty and the Beast, which was fabulous as Takarazuka is, and the second act was a sort of musical dance and singing number which made sense in a over-the-top glitter and feathers and sparkles and colors kind of way until the unicorn bit (which I still don’t get).. even the America segment, with its cavorting and gunmanship and yee-haws was understandable! We followed the show with dinner at a classy New Zealand restaurant (where yes I did lick the plate), and I concluded along the rainswept walk that Takarazuka is a cool city, all perched there along the river tucked against the mountains, and I hope to spend more time there, especially once Laureno gets installed.
I drove home zombie-like through the rain so I could go to bed so I could get up Monday morning and go sit for my portrait..!
And that too was pretty much awesome. I’ve gotten to the point where visiting a Japanese household is not a huge cultural experience. Happily, the purpose of my visit was not Japanese Cultural Experience (some people in the past have invited me over in order to Teach Me Stuff and show me the layout of a house.. it’s not until I get into these situations that I think about the fact that I go to a Japanese home once a week for dinner and studyin’), so we didn’t waste any awkwardness with a tour or explanation of the style, displays, or whatever.
We had tea in the morning and a cookie, and chatted a bit. I hung out with his wife while he set up in the studio before 9. I use that term deliberately; in some situations I “sit with” someone’s wife as we awkwardly attempt to find more about the weather to say to one another. But here, we just chatted, paused to watch a little NHK, chatted some more. I was their first foreign guest (gaijin-san.. I think nobody who says that actually means it as an ironic insult). The house seemed full of various paintings. I thought about my grandfather, the artist.
I was more relaxed than I thought I might be, too. I sat for twenty minutes at a time with ten minute breaks in between. I refused to look at the work in progress. I looked around the studio. We chatted during breaks and a little bit during sitting. When it was finished, we had pasta and salad and whiskey and chicken, and it was all really good. I felt pretty at home still.
I thought the painting was really good. I think my real face is a bit rounder, and in the painting I look older or sadder or something.. maybe longer, or maybe I just don’t know what I look like from the side (er..). I wanted to take a photo of it, but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure of protocol. I figured I (or my parents) might buy it at some point.. and I was still (am still) hoping to maybe do it again. He didn’t seen quite satisfied with the painting, and I don’t know if that was just culturally the way you have to put down yourself and your stuff and your skills, or if it was the artist’s affliction wherein nothing is every quite right.
They gave me fifty bucks and then his wife drove me home. On the way, she mentioned that sometimes he gets mad at Newbie-sensei because he wants her to become a good teacher. It dawned on me that this makes total sense. Here I was, fearful that he hated me, when actually he was just getting mad sometimes because he gives a shit and wants us to be better. Because the students should get a good education and because.. because we just should keep trying to be better. I can really identify with someone who gets frustrated when other people aren’t better sometimes.
The result of the morning was that a painting was produced, the future of which is uncertain, but that it exists is really cool to me. And I like this teacher a lot more. I feel like I might really be part of this town (especially if my picture gets to hangin’ in the local pizza restaurant, and it might), and this staff, and I like to think we can ‘hang out’ with our co-workers. If I had a house or cooking skillz of any kind, I would invite them for dinner. Instead I just stopped tiptoeing around the staff room. I mean, ef it, I’m a person here too, right? Just a person.