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I keep forgetting to write this post, mostly because nothing terribly exiting has happened. Last week, from Wednesday to Friday, was the Gunma Prefecture Orientation for all us newbies.

Wednesday dawned bright and early, and I dawned with it, as I hadn’t slept out of nervousness of sleeping and not waking UP. So I was slightly tired throughout the day, to say the least. My supervisor, Kawata-san, happened to be in Canada, so two other people from the BOE picked me up to drive me to Maebashi. It was a nice ride.

Got dropped off at the Kencho (if we can all recall previous posts, I took a picture in front of an imposing and rather tall building. That’s kencho.) Orientation is nothing to blog about, so I’m going to skip it, for the most part. It was a lot of important information, some not-so-important but funny information, and a bit of information that would have been helpful approximately two weeks ago.

Cut to that night. A big group of us got together and went to a cute little izakaya near the hotel, where we got nomihoudai (All you can drink! Best concept ever!) and had so much sake that they actually had to cut us off. Got back quite late, had to get up early in the morning, so that wasn’t terribly pleasant. Had fun though.

At the izakaya, smiling at the camera on the opposite side of the room

Next day was a lot of the same things. Next night was also a lot of the same things. This time, the majority of us signed up for various restaurants to go to, then met up for karaoke afterwards. I chose a korean food restaurant which turned out to be REALLY good food. Unfortunately, it was absolutely pouring. Like, New Orleans pouring. I was soaked by the end of it, as were the majority of people in the group.

After dinner we hung around until it was time for karaoke. Karaoke was okay… a large majority of the people had already been drinking before going, and then they had nomihoudai at the karaoke place, so the net result was that most of us were smashed by the end of the night and ended up going home. I hadn’t drank anything at dinner, and hadn’t had much at the karaoke place, so I tagged along with another group going to a bar after karaoke. I’m not entirely comfortable getting roaring drunk in a group of almost-complete strangers, no matter how close we’re probably going to become in the year ahead, so I never got more than slightly tipsy. Still, that meant I got almost no sleep THAT night as well.

Friday was the “fun” day of orientation, the cultural day. A bunch of different activities such as karate, shiatsu (massage), koto (stringed instrument), Japanese dance, how to put on a kimono, tea ceremony, and other things were given for us to choose a few to experience. I went first to the kimono workshop, since I have NO CLUE how to tie my obi. It was seriously fun, they dressed us all up, and we all got to model. They also showed a few of us how to tie obi different ways, which I promptly forgot.

My obi from the back from the first class

The guys learning how to put on their yukata

After that, I took the koto/shakuhachi class. Koto is a 13-stringed instrument imported from China, and shakuhachi is a traditional flute. I got extremely lucky for that class, because Geoff and I were the only two people who signed up for that block, so we had nifty one-on-one koto action. I really like that instrument… unlike the majority of other instruments I’ve tried to play, my short fingers make absolutely no difference in my ability. I’m going to start koto classes as soon as I find out if there are any in Takasaki or if I have to go to Maebashi for them. I learned how to play an (admittedly) painful version of the traditional song “sakura” and even did an (even more painful) semi-duet with the shakuhachi player. I was also upset because they had a showcase of a few pieces for us, but my camera’s batteries had run out in the previous class, so I could only get the one picture:

Setting up to play an advanced version of Sakura

My last class was Japanese dance, so again with the Yukata, this time with a nifty fan. It wasn’t spectacular, not like the first two were, but maybe it just wasn’t a dance style I’m used to. Still fun!

Me, Leslie, and Tricia!

After that it was time to go home. I came home and slept. The rest of the week was spent pretty much doing nothing… cleaning, preparing, exploring, nothing really spectacular. Hopefully that will come, I’m getting a bit tired of waiting for school to start!

Oh, and pictures from Keis from the Kiryu matsuri of me in my new yukata… lots of those types of pictures recently, huh?