Monday, October 16, 2006

A Weekend in Tokyo

First, to answer some questions I've been asked:

1. Elise- Otoosan was on a chair because he was photographing our party from above, and that served him best I suppose. Furthermore, this is a common site in the Kato house! It's a wonderful place to live!

2. Tiago- I called them "Otoosan" and "Okaasan" because that's what they told me to call them. For informative purposes, their names are Megumi and Noriko, respectively. But I never call them that.

Both of you- thank you for reading!

Moving on...

This past weekend was a good one! Thanks to my travel buddy Jade, I saw many interesting sites and had many interesting conversations. I'll talk about our trips to Yasukuni, Hibuya, and Asakusa later though.

Yasukuni Jinja, for the unaware, is the Shinto war shrine that has gotten now ex-Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro in so much trouble so often. He made very frequent visits to the shrine to pray for the nation's war dead. Furthermore, however, 1,000 convicted war criminals from World War II are honored. This, of course, struck a delicate chord with certain nations- especially the Koreas and China. As a result, many talks and treaty processes have broken down. For more information on the controversy, please see this article.

We actually visited Yasukuni twice. The first time was for the annual Japanese archery contest, in which two 'armies" of archers led by two "generals" (dubbed North and South) squared off against the most formidle of all enemies- a plastic deer.

The poor plastic deer was battered by both sides for a little over an hour until one of the teams was declared the winner. Note: My Japanese language skills helped very very very little here. Only observation allowed me to realize that the guy who hit the deer's "heart" was able to put 3 sticks in the sand, while the chap who missed twice and then dropped his last arrow threw his sticks in the garbage (felt bad for the guy).

The second visit to Yasukuni was for the museum...which I might say is well-worth it. If you don't mind seeing and reading things that are quite the opposite what one could do in the USA, visit Yasukuni. Here, WWII has been renamed The Greater East Asian War. A time tree tracks the war from beginning to end- but unlike our similar devices in America, theirs starts with Commodore Matthew Perry, NOT Pearl Harbour. While I still think we were on the right side of the war (especially considering Germany) it was definitely interesting to see. More interesting, for me anyway, were the display cases filled with samurai armour! Some pictures from the Yasukuni visits:

Approaching it the end of the world?

Standing in front of Koizumi's favorite hangout.

Two teams. Two generals. One plastic deer.
Who would win????

Not this guy, that's for sure! I was very disappointed in him,
as he was by far the most samurai-looking archer.

Now, before going to bed, I just wanted to comment on a party I went to the other day. Okaasan and Otoosan had invited me to a friend's wedding party. It was not the wedding, as the groom is from Slovakia and they got married in Europe a week or so ago.

The day started out by attending Mass in a Japanese church. Yes, there ARE Japanese Christians! Some are real and some are fake. The real ones are...well, real. They do of course have Japanese influences (such as the stained glass window depicting a man wearing a rice hat- you've seen them), but the ceremony and beliefs mirror those in the West. The "fake" Christians are those Japanese who get married in a Church- complete with cross and altar, and wear a white wedding dress, but forget to send an invitation to any priests! Alot of Japanese girls now grow up envisioning a white wedding dress, and with the added advantage that these are cheaper than the traditional wedding kimono, even Japanese fathers agree to these Western-style weddings.

But regardless, the Mass I went to was indeed a Mass, as my Kato family is part of the 3% or so of Japanese that are practicing Catholics. The newly dubbed husband and wife are Peter (Slovakian) and Yukiko (Japanese), respectively. Both are extremely nice, and I was able to talk to them in both English and Japanese.

With my Kato family being an extremely odd group (please note, I am only echoing Otoosan's words "We are chyotou hen", they happen to know a lot of gaijin (foreigners). And so, at the party were 2 fellow Americans (a university sensei and his brother), 2 Latin Americans (Louis, whom I mentioned a few weeks ago, and his friend Juan), 2 European girls (one from Germany and one from Hungary), and others.

The most interesting part of the evening was the series of slide shows shown. I won't bore you with details (photos depicting the lives and meeting of Yukiko and Peter), but I'll just repeat Yukiko's brother's introduction of Peter to his new Japanese family members:

"Peter failed to email me anything about his deepest heart's thoughts. But I think I know him. He is always a smile, and he likes little people. Also, he is exactly 32 centimeters taller than me. I like him."

Some pictures before I sign off for the evening:

The bride, Yukiko, and groom, Peter

The entire wedding party group (if you see the gaijin with glasses sitting on top of his head towards the back, right...that may be me!) If not, just realize there were ALOT of Japanese folk!

In order- Juan, Tomo's childhood friend whose name I've forgotten, and Louis (the Brazilian from earlier who is an English teacher in Japan).

From right to left (that's how they do things here, okay?!):
Tomo, Peter, Okaasan, some guy...

All the wakaiihito (young people)...I'll name the people I know: Tomo, myself, Peter, Yukiko...the gaijin girl in the upper left is Chiara, a girl from Italy who is friends with the Kato's.'s a bit late here in Tokyo. I'll come on tomorrow after class and talk about further adventures. Thank you for you readership!


Rose said...

A Slovakian/Japanese wedding!I bet that will be the only one you'll ever go to. Did they incorporate both Slovakian and Japanese traditions at the party?
How honored you must have felt to have been included in their special celebration.
To think you actually observed the annual Japanese archery contest!
After reading your blog today, I had a flashback to when we would go to the Renaissance fair and watch the knights sword fight and how thrilled you were to be there.
I'm so excited for you to be experiencing all these traditional experiences.
Keep writing!

Andrew said...

You should read more about postmodernism - no objective truth, especially in something as constructed as history, blah blah blah. Anyway, the point is, their interpretation makes sense. Pearl Harbor marked the beggining of the war for us, not them. They had already been at war with China for years. And had invaded Korea and Taiwan before that. Japanese imperialism went relatively unchecked for most of the first half of the 20th century, and WWII was really just a continuation of all that. Correct me if any of that is wrong, I've only been going to US Diplomatic History sometimes.

Also, I've been meaning to ask you for the Gaijin perspective on Japanese people's reactions to North Korea.

I also think it's silly that you have to approve comments (No 1st Amendment in Japan, I guess) but it's good because hopefully this will notify you and you'll respond to me.