Today’s “Only in Japan” post actually has two segments.
First “only in Japan:” karaoke.
Now, I’ve never done karaoke in America, so I don’t know exactly how it compares to Japan, but here you rent a small room with your friends. The room usually contains a table, seats, a TV screen that shows lyrics, and a couple of handheld devices with which to choose songs. Many places offer food and drink as well.
Last weekend, which was a long weekend, my teammates decided to have a karaoke night. This team seems to really love karaoke. Me, not so much. I like singing, and I usually sing a couple of songs (think: Disney and musicals), but the inner performer in me (if there is one) just doesn’t like to make much of an appearance in public. However, I do like spending time with my friends, so occasionally I’ll tag along on their karaoke trips.
When we went last weekend, we got the unlimited plan. I figured we’d stay maybe three hours while everyone sang their hearts out. Three hours later, everyone was still going strong. Everyone except me, that is. Somewhere after the third hour, the singer in me gave up, and I looked like this:
Well, even if it’s not my forte, it’s another Japanese experience I can say I’ve tried!
Before the second “Only in Japan” segment for this post, I have a bit of a rabbit trail. Or should I say, a snake trail.
That’s right. *TRIGGER WARNING.* Snakes. (If you don’t like ’em, feel free to skip ahead to the line of asterisks. That’s where it’s safe to start reading again!)
I’ve gone a year and a half in Japan without seeing a single snake, much to my great delight. Then, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen three – two of them in one day (that’s today).
Actually, I think I know why. The weather is finally getting cooler and dryer, so my hypothesis is that these cold-blooded creatures are venturing forth to sun themselves and warm their cold little hearts.
But it doesn’t mean it has to make me happy. Not at all.
Today, the weather was so fine that I decided to have a picnic. I trotted off to the grocery store to buy some food to take. On the shortcut path, I heard a rustle and looked down. Yes – there, on the path ahead of me, was a small snake. It was disturbed at my approach, and moved close to the stone wall that borders the path. I stopped and tried to regulate my breathing. I decided to be brave and move past it, even though I was afraid it would decide to move toward me instead of away from me. It didn’t. Crisis averted!
But sadly, my poor little heart didn’t know the danger wasn’t over yet. I brought my picnic to a nearby park, walking up the many cement steps to the grass at the top. I watched my step, not wanting to meet with another slithery creature. There was no sign of any reptiles about, so I walked to a bench and enjoyed my al fresco lunch.
Then, on my way back, as I walked down the cement steps, I heard another rustle. What?? Not again!! I stopped, startled, as another snake, this one larger than the first, reared its head up and looked at me. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Why are you looking at me like that, snake? Are you a cobra? I checked out the black and red pattern covering its back, wondering if this was an unfamiliar Japanese snake that could be poisonous. Doesn’t red and black indicate danger? Wait, no, that’s red and yellow. “Red and black, venom lack.” Or is that an old wives’ tale?
Before I could devise a plan of attack, the snake moved into the grass by the side of the path. I couldn’t see it anymore, but to make sure, I threw a piece of stick in its direction. I could then see that it definitely was moving up the hill and away from me. I continued down the steps, but not without keeping a sharp eye out for any more reptiles.
Much to my shame, I opted not to take the shortcut path home. I looked at it, knowing that I should be brave, but not willing to risk another encounter with a snake. Two is enough for one day. Actually, it’s enough for the rest of my time here. I don’t like winter, but I’m almost glad that soon the ground will freeze and put a little distance between me and slithery things. I try to look at my fear objectively, to remind myself that snakes won’t hurt me, that they’re more afraid of me than I am of them, etc., etc. But still, when I see one slinking along the ground, or even worse, rearing up to glare at me with its beady little eyes, all of my logic flies out the window. I’m sorry, snakes. I know you really don’t mean to appear creepy and evil. You just can’t help yourselves.
Anyway, back to the rest of my post…
Only in Japan, part two!
Last Monday, which was “Respect for the Aged Day” and a national holiday, one of my Japanese acquaintances took a coworker and I to a European-style coffee shop in a nearby town. It was nice to have the chance to go there, since it’s only accessible by car. On the way, we happened to pass some tanbo art displays. Tanbo art, or rice field art, is made when farmers plant different colored rice in a specific design. When the rice ripens, the design is revealed. Kind of like a corn maze, but…not.
I was actually really excited about the tanbo art, because I’ve heard about it but never seen it. Apparently there are some really large tanbo art displays in some other areas of Japan. These were quite small, but I still enjoyed seeing them. There was a platform set up in front of each display, so I clambered up each one and took some photos.
Well, that’s all for this post. Between karaoke, snakes, and rice art, I think I’ve covered enough topics for one week. Check out my post next week to see about my adventures of this weekend (which happily was another long weekend!).
See you next week!