Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lost in Translation, except in the USA

I know, I know. We're all sick of my Japantown tweets and haul blogs. But this post isn't about shopping.

Today was the Japan Day Festival in San Francisco. I wish I could've stayed at it all day, but I was able to wander around for about three or four hours, which turned out to be plenty of time to have several adventures. Here are some things I saw and did. (Lots of photos coming.)

First, I watched the taiko drum performances in the Peace Plaza. The beats and the synchronization were really mesmerizing.
I walked to the other side of the plaza to try and get some shots from another angle, and a man who was working at the festival came up to me, handed me a pamphlet, and started speaking to me. His English wasn't very good, but I was nodding and I guess I agreed to go to a Japanese calligraphy demonstration. So he lead me into a small room in the East Mall where a woman sat me down at a table, explained some kanji to me, taught me how to hold the brush, and then I did calligraphy for the next hour. I totally felt like Scarlett Johansson's character in Lost in Translation when she stumbled into an ikebana class and people just started handing her flowers and scissors and things. Except with calligraphy. And, lbr, I wish I looked like Scarlett Johansson.


The main demonstrator kept cracking jokes like, "This stroke is like stabbing someone through the heart." And then he'd walk around and tell us to make our strokes "with feeling."

Practicing "patience" and "thank you." I might need more practice
stabbing people through the heart.
After that, I went back out onto the plaza and watched some dancing. One performance was Japanese classical dancing by Fujima Ryu of Chicago, and the other was traditional dancing by Sakura Ren.

I was a tiny bit concerned one of the men was going
to have a "wardrobe malfunction."

At the end, they danced through the crowed and right beside me. It was a lot of fun.

Then, I took a quick frozen yoghurt break in the West Mall.

Really crowded today
Stopped by the bookstore to gaze upon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's new album in the flesh (or in the plastic, rather). (Special appearance by 2NE1.)

All three versions! And all three ridiculously priced.
Note Ayumi Hamasaki gazing up longingly from the shelf below.

And then headed back to the East Mall for the ikebana (flower arranging) demonstration. I don't remember her name, but the head sensei (as she was referred to) arranged flowers onstage while an assistant helped her. And off to the side, another woman narrated everything they were doing.


The narrator was a small, elderly woman and she was probably my favorite part. She'd tell the crowd some informative facts about the arrangement and how it takes many years to master different styles of ikebana, but then she'd humorously question the sensei's arrangement with something like, "Are you sure you want to put that there, sensei?" and the crowd would laugh. She was very much like a sports commentator on TV. Except for flower arranging. Awesome.


I had some more work to do this afternoon, so that's all I got to see. I did take videos of nearly everything, which I might put up sometime as a private video on my YouTube and post here. A few lovely people from YouTube also stopped by and said hey to me. I'm used to always doing things alone or not talking to anyone here, so those conversations were really nice. If any of them see this, thank you for the great chats.

I've also got a story about some haunted tofu, but I'll save that for later.

-joe