Enkai and Karaoke

The above items in my ‘title’ loosely translated, mean:

enkai: a drinking party designated for any kind of event, where there is lots of beer, Japanese tea, and never any water. Usually, there is only food I can’t eat… or don’t WANT to eat. (Ususally the former… physically unable to swallow uncooked nastiness.) It begins with a kampaii speech (‘Cheers’) and ends in everyone standing around the table yelling ‘BONZAI!’ three times. (Congratualtions… I think)

karaoke: A chance to embarrass myself in front of important people. (ie. MY BOSSES at the Board of Education), by singing random selections such as: Spice Girls, Wannabe; Madonna, Like a Prayer; Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway…. and YES, in that order.

It was a pretty great night. I figured that since it was a school night, we would end early… like 9 pm. Yeah, 11:20 rolls around and I am finally walking through my front door. 🙂 Tired…. but good. 🙂 It was a fun time. Probably one of the best enkais I have ever been too. 🙂

The rest of the world will never understand.

Back to Reality

After my last post, this will seem VERY anti-climatic.


After sumo last week, everything has flown by in a blur. I am actually kind of grateful for the speed which time has been passing with lately. My time in Japan is coming to an end. And while that brings sadness it also brings a sense of relief, like I can finally see the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, I still have another 4 months left in Japan after I return from my vacation back home. But in the grand scheme of things, my time in Japan is almost completed.

I guess what has been making me think about that, is all the stuff I have to do while I am home in preparations of my return in July. I just spent an hour trying to do a car loan application online, that would time out after a minute of not typing anything, and thus ended in me having to re-type EVERYTHING again. (This happened 3 times!) I have to get the application done now, so I can have a meeting while I am home, so I can order my new car, which is estimated to take up to 5 months before I can get it. ARG! I also have to find a time to have a pseudo job interview with a man at Direct Buy, so I can know if I have a job when I come home OR if I will have to continue to search for one. On top of all that, I am trying to figure out how to do my taxes with working for half a year in the states and another half in Japan. Probably one of the most complicated things EVER.

Please don’t take this as whining. Rather, a venting about all the things one must accomplish FAR IN ADVANCE. It is utter craziness.

(And then, suddenly, I smile.)

I am getting on an airplane and coming home in 9 days.

Life is good.


To convey the sheer awesomeness of sumo in mere words… is impossible. I can only hope to shed a small, match-light-flame-sized light on this extraordinary adventure.

First off, I want to send kudos to my friend Brian Patz. He braved the cold, the wind, and heavily occupied trains to accompany me to Osaka for the March tournament. Without his help, I would have gotten lost… utterly and completely lost.

We arrived in Osaka just after 10:30 ish. (This accomplishment alone from AWAJI: the island of dream vacations and the capitol of inconvenient transportation, was amazing. It meant we had to leave Awaji island  before the sun came up over the horizon… four days prior. Just kidding :). But we did have to leave REALLY early.)

Upon arriving in Namba (another name for a part of Osaka that you wouldn’t have known about until you got lost there) we quickly asked for directions to the prefectural gymnasium (Brian speaks Japanese.) Though, had we waited to ask directions for 3 minutes, we would have been able to tell which direction to move in. This is because 2 VERY LARGE sumo wrestlers were walking from the SAME train station to get to the tournament. The only thing they carried with them were their mawashi in little hobo-esque bags. (no sticks attached.) We knew where they were going, and figured it would be best to follow them. I have to say, it was pretty exciting to see real sumo wrestlers! It felt like I was entering into Hollywood, seeing actors actresses whom I have admired for years.

It was beautiful.

I almost cried.

yeah right!

So, then we bought tickets. 10,300 yen. That’s a little less than $100. I was just happy that we were able to purchase box B tickets. B seats are the 2nd closest you could get to the ring. Box A were all sold out. The cool part about it, was that no one else bought seats in our box. (Usually 4 people sit in these little squares that have floor cushions in them. and basically you sit on the floor the entire time.) So, we were able to stretch out… for half the price! (To purchase an entire box cost twice as much as Brian and I paid.) There were interesting men in the boxes around us. We initially thought they might be a nuisance, but it turned out that they were REALLY nice and made the experience all that more enjoyable… they enjoyed taslking with us too, since Brian and I know a little about Sumo. They gave us some of their food and beer… and later in the match they actually bought us ice cream.

We sat in our little box for close to 6 hours. Until finally… the top ranking guys came in. In all their sumo glory, I had to resist running up there and giving each one a hug while asking “Do you know you have changed my life forever?” (Thinking this through, I thought better of it. They would only have needed to flick the tiniest finger in my general direction, and I would have been Aris-mush.

I couldn’t believe it was all real, as one by one, my heroes walked into the room. Takamisakari, Kotooshu…. and yes, Yokozuna Asashorju himself.

The thought actually passed through my mind, that, for one moment, I was breathing the same air they were. Granted, it was rather musty air, filled with smells of unknown Japanese food nastiness… but it was the SAME air nonetheless.

Needless to say, all of my main guys won that afternoon. The newspaper said later that Kotooshu seemed to be “the most comfortable he has been in the ring” since this tournament began. I really hate to burst all of the Japanese ladies hearts, but the reason is because he had 22 year-old Aris Haines from Colorado, U.S.A. yelling her poor little head off to encourage and support him. Yes, Kotooshu KNEW I was there. And so did Asashorju.

The stares from the Japanese people in the boxes around us were pretty funny. And it made Brian and I get louder and more “American” in our boisterous manner. The men in the boxes next to ours, became friends, and shouted with us feeding off our energy.

After sumo, Brian and I went to Saiezeriya. Yes Hannah, yes Caleb Trim…. we went to the beloved place of grape ice cream that is “like Welches in my mouth” and chocolate truffles. There, I had one of the best pieces of beef I have had in Japan. It had virtually NO FAT on or in it. It was… amazing.

I got home after such an amazing day, and had to pinch myself to remember it hadn’t been a dream. The soreness of my throat was enough of a witness to  that though.

You never know if you will be able to come back. I certainly don’t. But even if I never get to see sumo live again… the one time I had was more than I could have ever asked for.


Work on a Sunday

I am officially at work on a Sunday.

The beautiful sky that I saw yesterday has witnessed the injustice.

Today it cries with me.

Well, it actually isn’t SO bad. AND… I am going to get to see Mr. Asashorju IN PERSON…. LIVE…. in OSAKA on Tuesday.

Not only him, but hunky Bulgarian, Kotooshu.

Be jealous… be VERY jealous.


The thing about generalizations… at least, as far as I have noticed… is that once you make them you have to be willing to admit you were wrong.

There are ALWAYS exceptions.  Always.

Honestly, it would be better if you never made the generalization in the first place… since the moment you decide how a certain group of people act, where they come from, or how you feel about them… they surprise you and prove your ‘generalization’ wrong.

What gets me is that sometimes, the very person who led you to make the generalization  in the first place, is the one who defies it.

I learned today that a bad day doesn’t always stay a bad day, and sometimes… sometimes, it becomes one of those days you never want to forget.

Today I learned that the frustration of miscommunication, unpreparedness, rain, and lack of understanding…

                        … can be turned into interculturalization through games, a picnic lunch, and priceless memories.

They called me ‘Tiger’ today… and then they asked to eat lunch with me.

 The pictures will be priceless.


Encounters of Another Kind

“Did you brush your teeth this morning?”

That is a question I don’t think I have heard since I was in elementary school. 15 years later… I was asked it again! Not by my amazing mother who cares about my safety, well-being, and oral hygiene… NO! THIS time it was asked, in perfect English, by a little 3rd grade Japanese girl. I think it was quite possibly one of the cutest things I have ever been blessed to experience.

Other things that have happened in the last 24 hours?

* I was asked my bra size by 3 very curious 4th grade girls. (To which I told them was a secret, and highly confidential.)

* I was slapped on the butt by a 1st grade little boy. As he was saying goodbye.

* I was asked if my stomach was “full” due to three layers of shirts/jackets that happened to be bunched around my middle.

* I was asked if I was pregnant. Due to the same circumstances above.

* I impressed a group of 2nd graders by listing off the Mario Kart characters. Yep, I am PRETTY cool with those guys now. Oh, and I was able to read complicated Pokemon character names off of a pencil box with ease… the names were, of course, written in English… on the box… they all then proceeded to find random things in their desks that had any English written on it. Apparently, Mitsubishi finds time in their hectic schedules to make cars AND colored pencils. I know this because I had students who asked me to read the writing on their colored pencils: ” Mitsubishi-Colored Pencils [enter random color here; there are probably 52 possible choices after have reading many of them today] ”

* I wowed a group of 3rd graders with my ability to speak a few tongue twisters like ‘Peter Piper picked a peck…” “Sally sells seashells…” and of course “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck….”

* In an attempt to drink as many ounces of water as prescribed as “recommended” I have now increased the frequency of “bathroom trip” from 1 per 3 hours to 1 per 2.5 hours.

I will be going home in about 45 minutes… to my little  apartment in Japan. It is raining outside. It has been seriously raining ALL day. (Times like these that I miss Colorado’s frequently changing weather…) And it is COLD.

A night keeping warm while watching movies is anticipated. It has been a LONG and tiring week already…