Just got back from a very fun weekend in the eastern Hokkaido town of Kitami. Officially, it was for a meeting of the island's JET association, but really it was just an excuse to get out of town. No, really. There were a few meetings, all of which were optional, but creatively scheduled so that people could take off work on Friday to travel to the meeting and stay until Sunday. And I was given travel money from my office to attend. Even better.
So, in all, about 100 JETs descended on Kitami for the weekend. We drank all of the nearby bars out of beer, took over the "Tacos and Beers" restaurant, ate the Jamaican place out of everything they had. And that was just the first night.
The second night, we had a costume contest to raise money for the "English Challenge Cup". A group of seventy foreigners is a pretty rare sight in Kitami, but most of us were in costume (no, not me, I was too lazy). And really in costume. The winner of the best costume had dressed up as a Japanese demon/dragon character, complete with wings. Huge wings that doubled his height (Keitai/cell phone pictures to be posted soon). So we weren't just an unusual sight, we were a sight that caused office workers to come outside and watch us go by, passerby to gawk and point, and general mayem and confusion.
I rounded out the evening singing karaoke at a place called "Su ri ra" in katakana English. That's right, this karaoke place is themed after the Michael Jackson song "Thriller". The walls are covered in blood, skulls and crosses. And the music selection was pretty good.
It was excellent practice (no, not really) for the Hokkaido Player's annual musical auditions. Note to self: next time I audition for a musical and have to sing a capella I should probably have more than four hours of sleep and hydrate a bit better. We're doing "Guys and Dolls" and there are actually going to be guys playing the guys! Apparently last year (they did Annie) most of the girls playing orphans also had to double and triple as various guy parts. Musicals not being a very "manly" hobby and all. But Guys and Dolls has gambling, and there will be stripping too. Nothing too showy -- this is still Japan, where exposing your lower back is extremely risque. Aside: things I don't understand about Japan. Exposing your lower back is a big no-no, but you can buy graphic porn manga featuring young girls in any convenience store. They generally put those in a display near the window so you can puruse the porn without even having to go inside. Ahhh, the joys of cultural differences.
In all I would rate it a really good weekend. Never underestimate the sheer joy of being able to communicate in your own language without having to resort to interpretive dance. And use sarcasm and have it be understood. Ah, the little things that make life good.
I even remembered at the last minute to buy omiyage for the office. Anytime someone goes on a trip, they bring back a present for everyone in the office. Usually some kind of small, individually wrapped food item that is representative of the area. We only remembered that we should buy omiyage after we had already left Kitami (the town of mint, onions and squirrels). Conveniently, many omiyage shops usually have a selection of stuff from all over the region. We lucked out and found Okhotsk sea salt chocolate at one of the hotels in Sounkyo. No, salt and chocolate is not something I would generally think would go together, but I'm willing to give it a try.