It is nearly midnight and I should go to bed, but I must right about today now or it wonít get done before local orientation. Itís in Kofu for three days and two nights and I probably wonít have access to the internet.

Having said that, today was a wonderful, exciting, beautiful, and fun day. I feel blessed beyond what I could have ever imagined.Iím falling in love with this place and the people.

The day started out a little slow, I got up at 8:30 and called Niko since it was too late to call her last night.We arranged to meet at 1pm and I went about my business cleaning and doing computer work for a while before I got a call from Naito sensei that she had some stuff for me at school.I had actually considered going into school anyway, so it was a nice excuse to try biking to school.It took 20min to bike (and relatively hilly Ė not so fun when you donít know how to change the gears on your bike), but preparation on both ends makes the commute really about 30min.Thatís about as long as the commute between Eastman and UR, all told, so itís really not bad.It sure is a hot ride, though.

I met Naito sensei and she gave me my health insurance card (I had been the only JET worried that we hadnít gotten one yet . . .) and information on the local orientation.I didnít spend too long there, but I still left with just about the right amount of time to meet Kuniko (thatís Nikoís full first name) at 1pm.However, I got a little disoriented coming home having missed one of the neighborhood turns.I managed to find my way without backtracking and it only added a few minutes.Go me!Iíd just started trying to get the grease stains from the bike out of my pants when she arrived.If they donít come clean I could use a new pair of pants.I hadnít realized how big they are now . . .

Now starts the wonderful part of the day.Niko said she told her Uncle about me and he wanted to meet me.Since he works in the Town Hall she suggested we go right then.I protested since I was in casual hiking clothes (it had not yet been determined whether we were going to the 8 peaks mountain or the lake), but she said I was fine.It turns out that he is second in command to the Mayor, as I could sort of guess by the rich meeting room in which we met him.Also, a lady served us elegant coffee right away.He was very pleasant and friendly and asked me to come back and work for Kai city as an English teacher after my time in Europe.ďI can give you the job!Ē he said, though mostly Niko was translating for us.Who would have thought Iíd be meeting such important, but more importantly, wonderfully special people!

It took about an hour to drive south to the Mt. Fuji area (though it was still too hazy to see much).We went to the Kawaguchi-ko Music Forest, and it was such a charming (steki) place!Btw, Mark would have been with us but he was needed at school.Niko wouldnít let me pay for the entrance ticket.In fact, she wouldnít let me pay for anything all day.So, what is the Kawaguchi-ko Music Forest?Itís a sort of museum park on the shore of lake Kawaguchi (one of the five lakes near Mt. Fuji).It looks like a charming little German village (sort of Epcot World Showcase style) and it is home of some of the greatest mechanized musical instruments every made.From music boxes to player pianos to mini-orchestras, this place was a player piano fanís dream.We started the day with a demonstration of a player organ that was built for the Titanic, but unfortunately (but fortunately for us) it was not ready in time for the voyage.Then the Praha Quartet played two short pieces (not my favorite rendition of Carmen, but not bad, plus a Mozart).We then took time to look around at the music machines on display.You could listen to any of them if you asked a staff person.I never would have found this place, I never would have gotten as much out of it, and I never would have had as much fun if I didnít have Niko with me.There were many clever machines, but I did like putting a nickel in a Wurlitzer harp.What fun!

We then listened to the demonstration of the player piano and an American one-piece band machine.It had piano, pipes, percussion, xylophone, and probably more.We sat closer to the musicians this time and the 2nd violist stared at me for a good while.That was the first time I really realized how much I stick out . . .

We then walked the grounds and had coffee and cake while taking in the wonderful view.Of course, this whole time we are talking and Iím learning Japanese and weíre having a most wonderful time.I ended up buying a CD of their machines, and it came with a beautiful book with great pictures and it was in Japanese and English!You know how everything electronic in America comes with instructions in at least 5 different languages?Well, in Japan, everything electronic is in Japanese, and thatís it!

Anyway, after having our fill of walking around we headed back for Ryuo to pick up Mike for an excursion to Yamada (a Best Buy or Circuit City type store) and dinner.The traffic was bad so it took us a good while, but I was learning Japanese the whole way.As you know I had been saddened by the fact that I wasnít being forced to use Japanese and so I wasnít learning much.All the words were so difficult to remember and I didnít know any grammar and couldnít put a sentence together.Today things went much more smoothly and some things were really beginning to click.Itís so great that Niko is patient and picky.I might just learn Japanese yet!

We picked up Mark and went to Yamada (after Niko showed me that I have to turn on my land line answering machine when I leave or else it just rings for ever) and I bought a cell phone and Mark looked into getting YahooBB.Of course I found it very draining, but I was happy to discover that I got a pretty good deal with my NTT internet (at least comparatively) and to finally get a phone.Donít ask me why, but thatís the way the Japanese like to communicate even though itís very expensive.Luckily, itís free to receive calls, so I should be able to make my cheep (cheapest at least) plan last.I had tried to get a printer, but they couldnít say whether it would work with my English OS or not, so that will take more research.

It was nearly 9pm when we finally went to dinner.It was some of the best food Iíd tasted since Iíd been here: sushi, tempura, and fried pork (I forget the name of it).I discovered I like raw tuna, and salmon roe is okay.I really loved the raw scallops, though it was so huge I felt like a chipmunk trying to eat it.

We got home around 11pm and I am quite tired!I have to pack and get ready for the orientation now . . .

One good thing Iíve noticed is that along with talking more slowly and clearly (Iíve been complimented on my easy to understand English a number of times Ė take that, Dad!), my pace of life is a bit slower as well.Iím calm and move about deliberately and at a steady, unhurried pace.Itís quite lovely!Iím not as panicky, and itís easy to adapt when Iím relaxed and alert.Iím simply enjoying everything as it comes and not worrying about what Iím not doing or what people think of my work.I hope I can continue this way!

I know this is a blog, not a letter, but I canít help but end with a message of love and gratitude to all.God bless you!

P.S.I canít believe I forgot to mention that I talked with Mom and Dad and with Heather and Jonathan on Friday night, I believe. It was wonderful to talk to all of them, but it sure was nice to hear Jonathan say Aunt Janet, beach! So, remember I have a Rochester number, so Iím only a loca/longdistance call away! If you donít have my number, email me and Iíll give it to you. (See the Links: Miscellaneous: About IrishOboe section)

Posted by harp on Monday, August 8, 2005 at 4:39 pm | Edit
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A Wurlitzer HARP? I can only imagine... I heard a recording once of some awesome pieces for player piano from the 1920s by (I think) some friend of Charles Ives', taking advantage of the mechanistic nature of the medium to play more notes in quicker succession than would be humanly possible, and to play little number games with the duration and spacing of the notes with a mathematical precision that wouldn't be humanly possible, down to miliseconds.

Posted by Andy Bonner on Tuesday, August 09, 2005 at 7:35 am
Checking in every day. Love reading about your adventures. Sounds like your are doing great with the Japanese. Keep on describing the food, it inspires me. Last night we had grilled salmon with ginger and soyyu along with cold soba noodles and sauteed zucchini. What should I make next?

Posted by Helen on Tuesday, August 09, 2005 at 2:47 pm
Acne pads are the best thing for getting bicycle grease off of skin. Though, I haven't tried it on clothing.

Posted by jondaley on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 2:05 pm
Okay, as long as we are talking about grease removal try Crisco, beleive it or not, but I don't think you'll find that in Japan. Perhaps fresh whale blubber.

Posted by Helen on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 3:08 pm
Dad recommends getting bicycle clips as a preventive measure. (Hoping you can get both clips and a helmet -- to prevent disasters worse than grease spots -- at a bike store.)

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 9:45 pm
I'll second that. A friend of mine almost had an accident downtown this past spring. Fortunately his pants tore off halfway up the knee rather than pulling him off his bike in the middle of the street. I don't see why rolling up your pants and using a rubber band won't work in a pinch....unless you are afraid of a few wrinkles.

Posted by Andy on Thursday, August 11, 2005 at 3:36 am
Oh joy! What activity on my blog! Thank you! Andy, I remember studying that Ives piece in 20th c. music history. It was very cool sounding. I believe it was the same part played backwards at the same time it was playing forwards. So, one started high and the other low and it started slowly then went very fast and was off by a small bit. I rather enjoyed it. To clarifly for others, this was accomplished by mechanically cutting a piano roll Thanks for the suggestions about biking. I certainly have a bit to learn about how to make it all work. I got permission to bike in shorts and a tee and change at school, so that might solve a few problems. I also forgot to mention in the post that on the ride home I accidently changed the gears. A small part of the handlebar near the center turns, which is actually quite clever. Apparently too clever for me . . . I had a great week. I can't wait to tell, so you'll hear about it soon!

Posted by IrishOboe on Thursday, August 11, 2005 at 6:47 am
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