Members of the community Taiko club at Concord-Carlisle High School describe witnessing Taiko drumming during a visit to Nanae, Japan, and how that experience encouraged their study of the traditional Japanese art form. The students featured here are Mark O’Toole (’11) and Nathaniel Ridpath (’13), both of whom were members of the Concord delegation that visited Nanae in April 2010.
I was sad to leave my guitars behind when I left the States, but I did not think that my work for Nanae would require the use of an instrument.
I attended my first meeting of the Nanae High School English Club on Tuesday. At the last minute the Club’s faculty adviser had to take off to attend to one of her children, who had developed a fever at school that day. With 30 minutes before the Club meeting, I needed to make a new lesson plan. Somehow, I was able to borrow an acoustic guitar from my boss’s brother. The instrument hadn’t been tuned in a while, and the high E string was missing, but that was enough; I know a few songs that only use the bottom 5 strings. Scrambling, I printed out 5 copies of the lyrics to “Time of Your Life” by Green Day, cut them into strips of individual lines, and stuffed them into 5 envelopes. I figured I could play the song while teams of students listened and raced to piece together the lyrics. With help from several staff, I turned my section of the Town Office from International Relations into Arts and Crafts, and managed to make it to the high school with a few minutes to spare.
In the car I wondered, should I have picked a simpler song? Are Green Day’s metaphors about life’s mysteries and the inevitable passage of time comprehensible in translation when they’re coming from a guy who hasn’t even sung their tune in 5 years?
Apparently, yes. The students had little difficulty piecing the lyrics together, and with one and a half run-throughs of the song we had a winning team. The victors got first pick from the Concord-themed gifts I had brought as prizes, but eventually all 17 girls had their choice among an array of Paul Revere and Minuteman key chains, Concord militia ribbons, and Walden Pond magnets.
I’m not sure if I’ll need a guitar again for English Club, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Even if I cannot play one in my apartment for fear of offending my neighbors, I expect it will come in handy for future events at the high school, in my community English classes at the Onuma Seminar House, or in my classes at various nursery and elementary schools that start in January.
I arrived in Nanae under the weight of three checked bags and an additional checking fee. 10,300 Yen, approximately $123. My second carry-on bag, a red Delsey roll-a-board, usually skirts past security in American airports, but officials at Haneda Airport were careful to enforce the rules on size limitations.
The flight from Haneda AP to Hakodate was the final leg of a journey that began in Concord, Massachusetts at 5:15am. An early flight from Boston to Newark, a 20-hour flight from Newark to Tokyo, and a night in the Narita AP Rest House had preceded it. Still, my spirits were soon lifted. The Section Chief and International Relations staff from Nanae’s General Affairs Section greeted me with hot tea and a 12-foot banner welcoming me to Nanae.
After first contact and official greetings, our group got into the car and drove to the apartment building that would be my home for at least the next year. My coworker, Emi Kimura, speaks fluent English, and she translated for me and my bosses as we drove beneath heavy cloud cover and a light mist left by a large snow storm two days before.
The apartment was a studio, and spacious by Japanese standards. I unloaded my luggage and prepared for a crash landing on the futon, but the night had just begun. My coworkers planted me back in the minivan they had borrowed to transport my baggage, and out we went for dinner.
Kaiten sushi. I have eaten sushi in the States many times before, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight I beheld inside this restaurant. Platters of beautifully prepared morsels were circulating on a conveyor belt that snaked its way around three dining areas and a fully stocked sake bar. Waitresses scurried up and down the aisles like clockwork, answering calls from buzzers located in the individual dining booths. Why diners used these call buttons was a mystery to me, as the parade of fish, egg, tempura, and vegetables held my full attention.
There was no time for hesitation. I grabbed small servings of sushi as they came until I had an assortment of platters decorating the table in blots of soft color. Food served in kaitensushi adds up dangerously quickly, and we soon had our individual collections of small plates in stacks of ten or more. Washed down with cups of green tea from the faucet at the head of the table, this meal almost put me to sleep. If I weren’t so obsessive about unpacking my bags I truly would have crashed into bed when I arrived home.
On October 11th, 2010, eight students from Nanae High School and Middle School began a week-long visit to Concord, Massachusetts. All were select members of Nanae‘s annual delegation to Concord, and most had never traveled outside of Japan. Together with the help of the CIR, Ben Mirin, and staff at Concord-Carlisle High School, they produced a 10-minute documentary about their experiences and initial impressions of CCHS and its people.