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11 January 2011 @ 01:49 am
In which I am used for trickery and deceit  
So, about a week ago, Kaminaka-san asked my help in performing a trick (well, loosely-defined) on his neighborhood. I was to impersonate a US ambassadorial aide with a message from President Obama.

Now, I've lived here for almost two and a half years. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who softlykarou and I are, even if they might not know anything else about us, so I knew that they wouldn't actually believe the ruse. Nonetheless, I dressed up in a suit to keep the illusion at least partially intact and, it being a party, they played along with the speech. Here it is, if you want to read it:


いつかいちの皆さん、 明けましておめでとうございます。


I come from the American Embassy. My name is Brian Pitt.
I have a message from President Obama, which I will now read to you.

"People of Itsukaichi [the neighborhood whose New Year's Party this was], Happy New Year.
I have the following hopes for this year:
First, for a peaceful world without nuclear weapons.
Second, for the rebuilding of the American economy.
Third, to bring about closer relations with Japan.
And finally, for the continued development of the Itsukaichi Neighborhood Council.
I wish for all of your good health and happiness.

-Barack Obama, President of America."

The speech went pretty much as I expected it would (I ended up getting complimented on my pronunciation, actually), and then I was given a seat and a bentō and chatted with people for a bit. The most interesting chat was with the 79-year-old man who told me about his daughter living in New Orleans when Katrina hit and how he had skied as a hobby for the past 70 years. He even mentioned one of the teachers who used to work at Chiyoda high school as a good person to go to if I ever wanted to learn how to ski (since I had told him I had never been).

He also asked me if liked living in Japan. Well, literally he asked me how was the Japanese lifestyle, but I knew what he meant. And I said yes, I really liked it, and that softlykarou and I planned to return when she was done with grad school. And as I said that, I thought: "you know, that's right. I really do like living here." In fact, I'd say that in terms of places I've lived (not people who live there necessarily--I miss you all dearly), Japan is my favorite. I'm not sure I can point to any single reason why, but I can definitely say that on the balance, it's true.

Anyway, moving back is a long-term goal. We'll see how well it works out.

I was also invited to a middle-school children's class at the community center on Saturdays, but I wasn't able to understand exactly what kind of class it was. I wouldn't really feel comfortable going until I knew that. I can ask Kaminaka-san, I guess.

About an hour after I arrived at the party, I judged that I had spent sufficient time at the Itsukaichi New Year's party and told them that I had to get going, since the Yaenishi Tondo festival was the same day. I walked a couple of kilometers over to the festival and arrived late (that's three years in a row I've missed them lighting the bonfire (T_T) ), and was promptly loaded down with food and sake.

The most memorable part was when one of the Tondo organizers gave a brief speech, and then asked softlykarou and I to give a speech as well. So I gave a brief line about how everyone was incredibly kind to us, and softlykarou did the same, and then we saw that Santa Miki was crying, and that made softlykarou cry, and everyone said aww when I gave her a hug.

But, the bigger thing is the reaction in general--someone cried because we're leaving. I know we've been here for years, but we keep a lot to ourselves and don't speak Japanese as well as we should. While we live here, I don't really know that people actually view us as part of the community. Or, at least, I didn't know until today. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised: softlykarou is the teacher at the local high school (and two others beyond that), and both of us teach English lessons to children and adults. We spend a lot of time in Chiyoda because we're both here--unlike a lot of JETs or other ALTs, we don't need to go elsewhere to avoid loneliness to maintain a support network, so people see us around a lot (well, they see softlykarou a lot. I'm kind of a cave-dwelling troll). That's going to make leaving even harder than it already was.

It doesn't really have anything to do with living in Japan, per se, it's more living in a rural area. My friends in Hiroshima proper don't get their neighbors bringing them excess vegetables or rice or treats when they're sick, and I know those sorts of things happen in rural American areas. When we lived in an apartment building in America, we didn't know the names of any of our neighbors. We assumed one family was Indian, because we could frequently smell them cooking curry, but they might have just really liked curry. We knew one family had young children, because softlykarou saw them coming home. But that's it. Here, though, people know us. Even if we're members of a different culture, and sometimes have problems communicating, this is our home.

That's a nice feeling.
Current Mood: nostalgicwistful
Current Music: Massive Attack - Teardrop
Wouldn't you like to knowlibby_may on January 10th, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
That's really lovely! We kind of have the same thing here. I'm sure if we stayed for 3 years it would be the same. I can't tell you the numerous times we've been handed lemons, mandarins, mochi etc. - for free. There is a nice thing about living rural.

I'm glad that your community is going to miss you! It shows that you've had an impact :).
softlykaoru: Zoe washsoftlykarou on January 11th, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC)
You really said it. I was thinking that of all the places I've lived I've never really felt the way I feel in Chiyoda. I mean you would think I would be a fish out of water and they'd be making a comedy about me and my wacky gaijin ways. But everyone in our town is so generous and loving. They even said they would be waiting for us when we came back. I'm glad we did this together.
Jacquelineshes_crazy_see on January 11th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
You're both wonderful and, while I envy your drive and courage to have up and done this, I am moreso glad to know you both and happy that this experience turned out to be such a positive one.

Still, it will be to nice to see you guys again- when is the official return?
dorchadas: Broken Dreamdorchadas on January 12th, 2011 03:37 am (UTC)
Unless we stay later to do more of the tourist thing, or take a trip around Asia, we'll be back at the end of July.