Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sing with me, sing for the years

Karaoke in Japanese is a clipped compound word combining empty (kara) and oukesutora (orchestra). It's wildly popular throughout the world, but it was developed in Japan where it has long been common to have musical entertainment at dinner or a party. What seems to be popular here now is renting a private room with a group of friends, which Blake and I have enjoyed once and look forward to doing again!

It's no secret that I love to sing and perform and karaoke is, for me, a really chill way to get to do this. When I was in college, I spent many a Friday night at a theater in Pleasant Grove, Utah, singing karaoke with several of my theater friends. In Virginia, I went to Rock It Grill in Alexandria and other karaoke nights. But somehow, Blake and I had never been together until we moved to Japan. 

We have now more than made up for this, since I have found a new job and it couldn't be more perfect for my new life in Japan - karaoke host by the name of Amanda Darling!

Contracted through the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office on our base, I alternate hosting duties on Saturday nights at one of the bars on our base. It's my job to announce singers, program the karaoke machine, and sing in the downtime. I was "discovered" by answering a survey sent out by the MWR looking for local entertainment.  I'm still figuring it all out, but I'm two months into this job now and I like it!

I'm getting to know some people in my neighborhood, practice singing, and working on my hosting/MC skills. I certainly didn't anticipate this opportunity, but I really do enjoy it. One of my favorite moments so far was being profiled by Aspiring Mormon Women on Facebook for embracing my "and" - all the things I am in addition to a wife, (one day future hopefully) mother, and LDS woman. I'm looking forward to seeing to where this goes and you can follow my adventures on Amanda Darling's Facebook page

Friday, June 9, 2017

Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now

Recently, my aunt asked Blake and me a few questions about our time in Japan so far, so I thought I'd turn it into a blog post!

With permission, I've included Blake's answers as well.

Q1:  What's the most interesting discovery you've made in or about Japan thus far?

Blake: For a high-tech society with automation everywhere, there's a lot of very simple jobs that are done by people. Cleaning, assisting, etc. 

Amanda: How respectful everyone is - of each other, of their traditions, of everything. It's particularly an aspect of the concept of "wa" or harmony, which suggests a peaceful unity and conformity. Yes, it can imply a subjugation of ones personal preferences or character, but I do find people can still be individuals while respecting others.  

Q2: the most weird?

Blake:  Seeing western celebrities hawking Japanese stuff. Like Tommy Lee Jones crying, while listening to an iPod, in order to sell Japanese vending machine coffee. 

Amanda: Japanese advertising in general. Sometimes it make sense; sometimes it's a bunch of kids who seem to be dressed as water bottles singing about their product. In fact, about half of them were Americans (or at least Westerners)! It's very common for children of families stationed here to get modeling and acting jobs. I couldn't find a video of this particular ad (probably because I don't remember the name of the product), but I did find an old Buzzfeed listicle about American celebrities who have appeared in Japanese commercials.

Q3: the most disturbing?

Blake:  Google "Japan loneliness." 

Amanda: One evening heading home on the train, I grabbed an open seat. To my left was a man dressed all in yellow. Bright yellow. Bright yellow tank top, booty shorts, and yellow thigh socks or leggings. He was eccentrically accessorized as well. And a few minutes into our ride together, he started crying - not just a few tears and light sniffles, but completely and loudly sobbing. I don't know what what was going on with him, but I hope he was okay!

Q4: the most Beautiful?

Blake: Nature, and how it permeates so much of society here.

Amanda: Japan embraces a concept called "borrowed scenery" - shakkei in Japanese. Instead of tearing everything down to build a garden, they incorporate a lot of what is already there. So, even a well planned out and landscaped garden feels like it was always supposed to be there and makes the view even more spectacular.
A shrine garden in Kyoto that uses the mountain in its design