Courtesy of Conversation Exchange, I now have 6 Japanese speakers (and English learners) to speak with on a regular (weekly) basis. I have a lot more names than that on my Skype contact list, but these are my regular conversation partners.
Proving that you never know what is right around the corner, one of my new Japanese friends lives not in Japan, but about an hour and 20 minutes down the road from me! Excellent. For one thing, not having to deal with a 13 hour time difference is nice.
She told me about the Japanese summer festival that is taking place in a nearby city at the end of next month. I have mentioned the summer festival before (and my determination to try as much authentic Japanese festival food as possible) but now more details are available.
Foodwise, they will have: takoyaki, yakisoba, curry rice, ebi ten don, sukiyaki, sushi, ramen, onigiri, oden, kushiyaki, korroke, edamame, asazuke and Japanese beer, along with some deserts like kakigori and dango.
I have been told that the proper procedure is to eat edamame and asazuke together with sips of beer in between. I’m not really a beer drinker, but when in Rome…or, rather, when at a Japanese festival…and I have vowed to try the takoyaki…octopus…really?
Fun-wise there will be a taiko drum performance, bon-odori dancing, live music (contemporary Japanese hits, which, I suppose, means J-pop…um…hooray?), a performance of a tea ceremony, demonstrations of karate, kendo and ninjitsu (!), a children’s parade of some kind, karaoke (of course!), classes in flower arranging and calligraphy and various games to keep the kids occupied.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty fun day to me. Of course, I will meet my new nearby Skype friend there, so that guarantees me (1) a chance to practice Japanese and (2) a chance to get an explanations of things, such as “What is this food I am about to put in my mouth made of?” Actually, scratch that. Maybe I don’t want to ask that question ahead of time. Maybe I don’t want to ask that question at all. I’ve seen some videos…
It turns out that this festival has been going on for 12 years now, not so far away from where I live, and that the same group also puts on a new year’s festival! The point is that I would never have guessed that anything like this happened anywhere near me. (I only found out about it through my new friend.)
So, where ever you live, there might very well be some interesting Japan related something going on. There might be a cultural club, a festival, a language group…who knows. With a little creative googling (hm..that sounds kind of rude…) I could have discovered all of these wonderful opportunities in my area, but I simply assumed that there wasn’t anything. Don’t make that mistake! Spend some time hunting around. You never know what you’ll find.