Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I was going to begin by apologizing for not having posted in a while, but realized that there is no one on the other side of this computer screen waiting in anticipation for the next exciting installment of the Sardonic twenty-something Graduate Student. "Oh I love when he makes vague references to theoretical concepts. . .it's da bomb" (my years of isolation from the world 'out there' allow me to continue using 'da bomb' (and my academic superiority allows me to use both 'quotations' and (parentheses) within parentheses))--check out the double parentheses. . .woo woo.

I have Japan news, but I'm going to start first with an album recommendation. . .well, half an album, because I've been meaning to write about it for a while now. Again, my existence inside the confines of a tiny office almost certainly ensures that most reading this already know of this album, but here goes. Raising Sand is the album's name, it's by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. You can hear songs on the All Songs Considered website. I say I recommend half of the album because there are quite a few songs I don't like. But, songs like "Please Read the Letter", "Polly Come Home", "Killing the Blues", and "Through the Morning, Through the Night" are really well done and the mix of Plant's and Krauss' voices is amazing. T-Bone Burnett produced the album and you can hear his influence. Anyway, give a listen.

Now to Japan. The photos above are from Arashiyama 嵐山, which is a famous part of Kyoto. The wifey and I went. . .what, couple of weeks ago now? Sounds right. Even though it was late in the year, the leaves were really amazing. Just one of the many benefits brought to us all by global warming. Nobel Peace Prize my ass, Mr. Gore. Can't wait to work on my tan next summer.

Late in the year. Yes, it is almost that time of year. In Japan it's not so much Christmas, but New Years, that is important. "Nen matsu" (年末), literally "year's end", is a general word for the season. Basically it's a time when everyone in Japan reviews the past year and prepares for the coming one. The same thing occurs in the U.S., but not in the same way. Already I've been seeing TV shows that recount the songs that were popular in the previous year (and they go ahead and do it for the last 20 or 30 years as well), and shows that sum up major news stories and such--all very nostalgic--"Ah February, that was a good time". I don't know, perhaps it is the same in the U.S., I'm just used to it. Nah, there's something different.

Another big part of the "nen matsu" season is the unveiling of the year's kanji, or chinese character. This year's was 偽, "gi" or "itsuwari", which means falsehood or fake. The character was chosen because Japan has been bombarded this year by companies lying, mainly relating to expired foods. There have been several stories of different companies reusing food that was past its expiration food. . .yum.

"Nen matsu", unfortunately, also means 大掃除 "oosouji", the BIG CLEAN. All of us here in Japan MUST, and I do mean MUST, clean the living hell outta our houses, cars, offices, et cetera, so that we can start the year off "clean". Gotta get new toothbrushes too. I must say, as long as no one tells my wife, that though I HATE this custom, it is nice to have a clean house to begin the New Year. In this respect, Japan is definitely different from the U.S. While people in Japan begin the New Year clean and with the chance for new possibilities, those in the U.S. tend to begin the New Year with a hangover, a new friend (or two) in bed with them, and resolutions that have already been broken (often repeatedly). Ah, but there's dignity in the American way too. . .well, I wouldn't go that far, but makes for better stories.

The other good news from the Japan front is that I heard from the village office in Otaki today and they seem quite excited about the prospect of me doing fieldwork there. So, I'm pretty official now. Still gotta see if the "real people", on the ground, are going to be as receiving, but hopefully they will be. Apparently the village owns about 70 homes, perhaps due to outmigration, so I'll be able to get a place to live through the village office. I'm sure it will be a bit more primitive that where I am living now, but I'm looking forward to that. The wifey. . .another matter, but sounds like she's game for the adventure (which will probably last a month). Anyway, looking forward to it.

Okay, that's the "nen matsu" blog entry. My eyes are going goo goo goo right now, so I'd better get off the computer.

1 comment:

kelli alicia said...

ahh, there is at least one person who awaits your sardonic wit. You know now that I am stuck doing the boring and dare I say "soul crushing" aspect of anthropology that I must live vicariously through your fieldwork.

Interesting chat about the coming of the new year. Personally I find New Year's Eve and all its titillating blasphemy a little depressing. Always saw the new year as a solemn time to really take stock of all that was, and was not, accomplished. And a time to be nostalgic for things gone.

Anyway, glad to here about the field site. Also wanted to tell you that Nicole and I got an invite to apparently the best place to do karaoke in town - a gay bar in an alley in waikiki. It was wondrous. We did you proud despite that fact that no one in the bar was interested in hearing us sing since we are not a) male, b) young and male c) cute, young and male. Pedro had better luck with his spanish song on a number of levels.

Any exciting plans for Christmas? You and Aki have any requests for a little something from Hawaii or Seattle?