Today I went up north to the little tourist town of Akanko (Lake Akan) after being impressed upon by the English teacher there to come and help judge a speech contest. 8 hours later I was sitting in a nice coffee shop when, for the sole reason that I was young and white, I was approached by a tall American and his Japanese wife. This is the second time I've recently been approached by someone in a coffee shop in such a way; having these two characteristics, I am undoubtedly an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). Turns out the other American had also been an ALT and made his status permanent. Its a bizarre community of ex-pats here, but that's for another day. Anyway, I was encouraged by this Japanese woman to begin a blog, then she launched into the story of her stomach cancer (from which she is mostly recovered) and invited me to her big foreigner party next month.
I was in the midst of writing about the play today on facebook but this is a better forum for honest opinions. My actions are more public while I'm in Japan. For example, the other day I was buying a coffee (and paying my phone bill) at a random 7/11 in the middle of Kushiro (a town of 180,000 people) and the woman at the register asked me about my hockey playing. Three days earlier I had joined the elementary school hockey practice for the first time. I mentioned this and asked her (in bad Japanese) if her son or daughter played hockey. She said, "no," and then, pointing to the door, "over there," which I took as my cue to get out of the way of the next customer and leave. I have no idea how the fuck she knew I was practicing hockey.
Finally, back to the school festival today... After the short English competition, there were various presentations and choir and brass band performances. Everything was fairly normal except the 8th grade play which was singularly creepy. It began with a single student, sitting center stage at a desk and staring out over the audience in front of a black background (and yes that was the entirety of the set) while various other cast members entered, spoke to her and left. Occasionally she would write letters to her mother, explained by a voice over of the text. The creepiest moment, aside from her attempted suicide and eventual successful suicide via pills, occurred when a particularly quiet young actress delivered a 5 minute monologue that was entirely and completely drowned out by the heavy rain on the roof of the gym as we sat in the dark.