Party in Central Park

Central Park Nagoya, that is. Yes, Nagoya has a Central Park. It is basically a wide median in the center of the city. It is nice though to have such a green strip running through the center of the city. Today the Park was abuzz though because there was a 24 hour television event, some music underneath the TV tower, and the main stage for the Domannaka Festival. Wow, what a day for Nagoya.

There were some old-timers jamming underneath the TV tower.

Music under the tower

 

And some sort of 24 hour television event. I’ve never quite understood these events. They don’t seem to be fundraisers or have any purpose other than promotion. I never really watch these events. I don’t watch much Japanese TV.

24 hour television

 

This weekend is the 12th annual ど真ん中祭り (yes, another festival). I’ve written about this festival before. I only saw one group wearing fundoshi this year, and perhaps it would have been better to have been a little more modest. As always though, the costumes and dancing were fun.

ど真ん中祭り

 

The requirements for the festival are simple:

The rules of the festival state that each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and that a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music. The teams thus prepare original dances and music that give a sense of their local culture. The greatest characteristic and charm of Domatsuri is that it connects people from many different areas and countries, and gives them an opportunity to vitalize local communities as well as to create and pass on new cultural expressions.

ど真ん中祭り

 

I ended up going to the festival site, having a beer, and watching the stage performances on an outdoor screen. The weather today wasn’t that bad.

Warm but not impossible

 

Cooling off

 

Maybe it was over 90 degF, but the humidity was a little lower so I was comfortable in the shade.

日は明日また昇る

[Translation: The sun will come out tomorrow]

Where do they find the Japanese girls which such red, curly hair?

World famous Annie

Indeed, Annie is just as perky in Japan as anywhere else. I saw this advertisement in my subway station. All the major musicals play in Japan as well. Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Aida, Annie, The Lion King, and others I’ve forgotten. I haven’t gone to see any of them as they are all in Japanese. At first I thought it was crazy that they shouldn’t be in their original language, and then I realized how much I liked Les Miserables. In English. Of course, the original Boublil & Schonberg lyrics were in French, although the English version is considered by the lyricists to stand alone.

The English language version, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and additional material by James Fenton, was substantially expanded and reworked from a literal translation by Siobhan Bracke of the original Paris version, in particular adding a prologue to tell Jean Valjean’s back story. Kretzmer’s work is not a direct “translation” of the French, a term that Kretzmer refuses to use. A third of the English lyrics were a rough translation, another third were adapted from the French lyrics and the final third consisted of new material.

Festival Time

August is Festival (まつり) time in Japan. On any given weekend in August, you can be sure to find a festival somewhere in Japan. This year I missed the Nagoya Castle Festival, but I made it to the Hirokojidori Matsuri (広小路道まつぃ). Basically, several city blocks in downtown Nagoya are blocked and you have a big street party.

A matsuri in Japan is much like a county fair, or any one of a number of festivals that you can have in any small town in the US. It’s a way to get out, have some fun, eat some unhealthy food, and wonder why you went. In Japan, there are matsuri throughout the year (for instance, the fertility festival which I posted about that some people declared NSFW, or the naked man festival– the two posts that are responsible for the most number of hits to my website), but August is by far the most popular time. I think it is because it coincides with school holidays and Obon, so there are lots of reasons for people to take a little more time. The weather is incredibly hot and humid, so it is probably also a really good excuse to get out of the house because the house will be boiling hot anyway.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but I had my iPhone which has a pretty good camera.

Hirokojidori Matsuri

 

The matsuri I visited tonight had all the requisite matsuri foods like karaage (からあげ), yakisoba (焼きそば), fried potatoes (フライドポテト), beer (ビール), scary chocolate bananas (バナナチョッコ), and so on. I had my traditional karaage and yakisoba. And walked down the street with a beer.

The street had many stages set up. There was the Jazz Stage, another stage with the Arc de Triomphe as the background for some inexplicable reason, two taiko areas, a domannaka style dance area, and a street dancing stage. Well, that’s some of the stages. They also had a bon odori area. Very nice, and participants easily ranged from 5 to 75.

One thing I really like about Japan is that young and old alike are not afraid to participate in traditional activities. Although I’m sure some customs are dying, younger generations do seem willing to stay engaged. As a matter of fact, one of my young colleagues was planning to go to Gujo during Obon for their bon odori all night dance. I thought that was really cool. Unfortunately, work intervened and he couldn’t make it. He doesn’t strike me as extremely traditional, I just think he thinks it’s fun.

The entrepreneurs start very young here too. Instead of a lemonade stand, this kid is selling beer.

Young vendors

 

The financial fun of an ex-pat

I’m trying something new here … updating my blog exclusively with my iPad. I don’t plan on doing this for long entries, but it is pretty convenient. I’m in Tokyo for the weekend and decided not to bring my laptop.

I was reading CNN, and noticed an interesting article on the dollar / yen FOREX. It isn’t good news as the dollar approaches record lows against the yen. For ex-pats, this can be great news, bad news, or no impact. Luckily for me, it really isn’t that big of an impact, and might even be a little bit to my advantage. I am still paid in dollars, so my net worth in yen has been in pretty steady decline. However, my housing and major expenses are covered by the company at their cost. I don’t have an allowance in USD other than my transportation allowance. In addition, I have a goods and services differential that basically covers cost of living differences in consumer item costs as well as adjustments for exchange rate fluctuations. So, provided my lifestyle doesn’t exceed the basis for my goods and services differential I am OK. When I do buy major items here like plane tickets, it hurts! If I was going to settle in Japan it would be more of an issue. But one of these days the adventure will end and I’ll pre turn to LA.

Other ex-pats are on a dollar salary and may not have the goods and services differential as part of their package. They are the ones that are hurting the most in this situation. Life is costing more and more in USD even though inflation is low.

Still other ex-pats are paid in yen. If they are planning on returning to the States, i would imagine they are buying dollars like crazy right now. They are quite happy!