Friday, March 26, 2010

On onsen and enkai (FoF)

Onsen and enkai are two things that are as Japanese as sushi. Infact, more Japanese in some ways.

You're probably more familiar with onsen. That's the Japanese word for hot springs. They're all over Japan. You strip down, wash off and sit naked in a tub of nearly boiling water.

Some onsen are natural. Some are man-made. Some are indoors. Some are outdoors. (If you ever have the chance go to an outdoor onsen in winter.)

You're not supposed to have camera in onsen, but over the weekend, I went with some friends and it was just us so...

As you can see, steam is not conducive to picture-taking.

Also, last night I went to an enkai. An enkai is a drinking party you go to with the people you work with. Because it's Japan, it wil have an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony. It will also cost way too much money. Teachers tend to have enkai at the beginning of the school year, at bunkasai (culture festival), at the end of the calendar year, at the beginning of the calendar year, at sports, at graduation, and at end of school year.

The end of school year party is also a goodbye to teachers who are being transferred. In Japan, a teacher spends anywhere from 3 to 8 years in one school before beign transferred to another in the same prefecture. Someone once told me that it's so that when they become Principal they've got a wealth of experience in different situations. I think it's sad. In Japan, work is life. And your workmates are often your only friends. Imagine having to switch your friends every 5 years! And move across the state to boot!

Teachers who left last year ( I didn't take my camera this year) along with the Principal (the guy)

Anyhow, back to the enkai. After the enkai is the nijikai (second party), the sanjikai (third party) and I've even once had my teachers do a yojikai(fourth party) which I narrowly avoided going to. In Japan, drunkenness is perfectly acceptable. And what happens in the party, stays in the party. It's good and bad. You'll have a teacher discuss how they translated the entire Constitution of Japan into English, then they;ll only say Good Morning to you when you get back to school.

Before we eat, citations are read and presented. (And of course, there's the kanpai! In Japan you can't touch the food or drinks at a formal event until the kanpai-cheers.)

Most of the meal. A few more courses are served later, including desert and soba.

During and after the meal, we go around pouring each others drinks, so we can have a chance to speak to one another.

Another thing about drinking here is that there's no tolerance for drunk driving. If you have a drop, you're illegal. If you eat certain sweets, or take certain medicines you're illegal. So they're very efficient about it. Noone pressures you to drink if you're driving (on the flipside it's hell to avoid drinking if you're not). In addition they have the daikyu system. Two guys come in a cab. You get into your car with one of the guys as driver and he drives you home with the cab following. Then he jumps back in the cab and leaves.

Finally a video of two of my craziest teachers doing the "Air" for two of the departing teachers last year. The one with short hair is leaving, this year. I am going to miss him!

And of course this week's edition of Iwate Swan. This time Rodger is shopping in his town, Hanamaki. Note the range of KitKat flavours :)


Marsha Sigman said...

That is too cool! Love the pics! I want to visit now!

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