Oops, I made a mistake! Lent doesn't begin until THIS Wednesday. Oh, well. I got an early start. With my new diet, I already feel healthier with more energy to do God's work.
This past weekend, I went to the St. Patrick's Day festival in Ise! A bit early, but because ours was the first in Japan, the Irish ambassador came all the way from Tokyo with some consulate members just to see it (and Ise Grand Shrine, but we like to think we were the main reason)! We started off with free kaki (oysters) pulled fresh from the ocean. We had quite a bit of time just to mill around, so here are some pictures of the attendees:
St. Patrick and a power ranger, very anachronistic. Every year some foreigner dresses up as St. Patrick. As for the power rangers...many people (including myself until last Saturday) don't realize that the "American" show was actually Japanese first. In fact, the American broadcasting company simply took all the fight scenes where they got in their giant robots from the original 70s/80s Japanese version, and just re-filmed the story scenes with American actors. A really cheap, lazy way to create a show. Hence why it was so bad.
Anyway, these power rangers are sort of the mascots of Ise. I talked about them last year. Each color represents a different area of Ise-Shima county. They promote tourism and eco-friendliness. I know nothing else. They might be a local high school drama club, or some board city office workers for all I know. They might even try to keep their real identities secret just like in the show. Whatever. I just couldn't resist getting a picture with them:
I also saw St. Patrick on his cell phone while taking a picture with his I-phone, but didn't get a good photo of that.
This is Ashley, my Irish dancer friend (who's actually Canadian without a drop of Irish blood) with the creepy leprechaun:
They wanted us to look more "festive" for the parade, so the event committee let us borrow their hats:
Then the opening ceremony began. The Irish ambassador made a short speech in English (poor guy can't speak Japanese despite the fact he's been here over a year), and a Japanese opera singer sang the Irish national anthem in Irish. (Not Gaelic. I was sternly corrected on that, though even after looking it up on Wikipedia I'm not sure why. They appear to be the same language.) Anyway, here she is singing in whatever word you prefer to use for ancient Irish speech:
She also sang the Japanese anthem a Capella. I found that pleasantly ironic, that a Japanese woman sang the Irish national anthem, and then sang the Japanese national anthem which has music written by an Irishman(though the words are based on an old Japanese poem). Maybe "ironic" isn't the right word. Connected culturally in an unexpected way? We don't really have a word for that in English. I shall invent one. I shall call it "cultural irony."
Next, we had our parade from the outer Geku shrine to the main train station. Honestly, it was a pretty lame parade. We didn't seem as excited as we were last year, though perhaps more people came out to see us. At the train station, we got a bagpipe performance, which was nice, even if it was a Japanese woman playing Scottish bagpipes while cross-dressing in a kilt. (Because truth be told, the kilt being a man's garment, I was told I was cross-dressing too. I like my kilt, though. I bought it in Edinburgh, Scotland. The only difference between it and the skirts they had on sale on King's Street was that the kilt was longer.)
Anyway, here's our piper:
And here is the Irish ambassador standing beside St. Patrick, listening:
There were a lot of really cute little kids there. Here's a girl wearing a hat and four-leaf clover stickers. (They were passing out the stickers.)
Speaking of cute little girls, the Ise baton twirlers performed in the street on the way back. Here's their Irish tribute. The little girls in back are waving pom-poms the color of the Irish flag: orange, white, and green.
And here is their rock 'n roll dance:
I don't know who that Japanese lady with the green wig and horns is at the end. She was there last year too. I guess it's just like the rest of this crazy celebration. The Japanese aren't Irish, but like everyone else in the world they'll use any excuse to party. And wear crazy clothing that would normally be culturally inappropriate.
When we got back, the power rangers had their silly little show about defending the tourism of the Ise area and how they get their power from Ise's awesomeness:
The yellow one was funny. Being a girl, her weapon was "love." Somehow, whacking people over the head with a giant heart that says "love" just...need I comment?
I really enjoyed the next performance as always, Ashley's dance. Here she is in all her non-Irish Irishness:
My apologies that I tipped the camera for the last part. I got the "brilliant" idea that if I turned the thing you could see more of her. No. Now she's just sideways. The next dancer really was Irish, and her dance was more of a jig, in soft shoes (as opposed to Ashley's hard), so I want to include that too. Again, my apologies for my "brilliant" idea:
Finally, an Irish band from Osaka and Kyoto played. Ashley taught us a bonfire dance, and then the party moved to the community center for more dancing and refreshments. Unfortunately, it conflicted with my scheduled writers' meeting, so I had to leave early. But people were starting to get drunk on the green beer, so that's OK, and the meeting was really productive.
One last thing. People often ask about my "real" life." You know, the job as an English teacher I'm supposed to be doing when I'm not gallivanting off having cultural enlightenment and other adventures on the weekends. Well, now that the weather is getting (slightly) warmer, I've resumed my walks at lunch break. I get to school around 8:30, work until 12:15, take my walk for 30 minutes, and go home at 4:15. The park where I walk is quite lovely, with a nice pond, pavilion, and trees that turn brilliant scarlet in the fall. (I posted those pictures last November.) Here is a picture of the pond I walk around everyday:
Nothing special, but I like it.
Prayer Requests for this week: The Japanese Exchange Teacher Christian Fellowship I'm a part of is planning a trip to the Philippines to build houses there with Habitat for Humanity. The guy in charge is having some trouble getting enough people together. I really hope it works out and we can go. But may God's will, whatever it is, be done.
Until next time, keep praying and loving, no matter what the cost,