Having turned in all of my final reports with a week to spare until my last exam, I’ve finally been able to spend some time doing what I’ve been craving for months now. Just relaxing.
As I mentioned, I began with a celebration of Chie’s birthday. The original plan was to go out drinking downtown, but some adverse weather conditions forced us to return to her dorm immediately after dinner at Jumbo Okonomiyaki.
Does that mean that our drinking plans would be cancelled?? Oh, heavens no! Instead we spent the evening learning a new drinking game that I found pretty interesting.
The game goes as follows: You fill a cup up with beer, and then place an empty shot-glass in the beer so that it floats. You sit in a circle, and each person takes a turn pouring vodka into the shot glass. This continues until the glass gets too heavy and sinks into the beer. The pourer who causes the sinkage chugs. Then the game continues. Good times ensue.
I spent much of the rest of the week hanging out around the I-house, exploring the city on my bike while taking pictures, and watching movies in the evenings. The classic winter break.
Inspired by my recent trip to Dogo Onsen, one of the movies I watched was Spirited Away. But because I watched it at I-House with the a bunch of non-English speakers, we watched without subtitles. I was very pleasantly surprised.
You see, I haven’t watched Spirited Away since before I came to Japan, and at that point I could only pick out a single word every now and then. This time I found that I could understand well over 90% of the Japanese, easily enough to enjoy the story in its full detail without the need for subtitles. Sweet.
Another noteworthy event took place on Sunday night when I rode down to Starbucks to do some vocab review.
There is a very strange street performer who stands in the middle of a busy walkway (in front of Kappazushi, for those of you who are familiar with Kyoto) almost every night of the week. He stands by himself in that one spot moving his arms around in a maniacal fashion, without any accompanying music or anything. Some have theorized that it’s a form of meditation – that he intentionally acts strange in a public place as an exercise in becoming fully comfortable with himself. Once he can reach a state where no amount of attention or emberassment can affect him in any way, he can be totally at peace with who he is.
Another theory, inspired by the fact that he always stands in the exact same spot and moves his arms around like an ant might move its antennas, is that he’s drawing on spiritual “energy” that’s connected with many theories of Chinese medicine. He searches for this energy with his hands and draws it into his body as a form of self-healing.
Well, this Sunday I found out for sure. Because the man is basically one of the sights I’ve grown familiar with in Kyoto, I decided that I had to have some video/photo documentation of him before going home. I shot some video, after which he approached me and handed me a small slip of paper saying “this is my statement.” So we started chatting.
Apparently he was a philosophy major at Ritsumeikan University who developed his own “public performing art” that has something to do with the body’s internal conflicts and opposites – right versus left, for example. By concentrating on and attempting to relieve these conflicts through his dance he prevents later ill-effects from occurring. Or that’s how I understood it, although I have to admit that I’m not all that up-to-date on my physiology/philosophy Japanese vocab. I was just interested to at last get some idea on what this guy is REALLY doing out there all the time.
He also mentioned that he’s been performing this way every single day for the past seven years, and that at one point a French artist took interest in his style and has since been sponsoring him annually to perform in Paris. If you’re interested, you can check him out here (Japanese and French only).
And since then? Well, on Monday Andy arrived. On Tuesday I took my last final. Now, the fun begins.