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Published… WTF?? June 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Other Arts.
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Thanks to Sacramento writer buddy Josh Fernandez, the haikus I wrote in Okinawa got published in a poetry journal!

WTF is a free quarterly zine produced by Rattlesnake Press and the Poetry Unplugged poets from Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento. It features “X-rated” works from local writers and artists.

I hoped mine would be printed in English and Japanese, to give them some kind of context. They only printed translations (I swear, I know how to count syllables), but it’s still an honor to get published.

You can pick up a copy at The Book Collector or order it online here.


Study and Intern in Okinawa June 3, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language.
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Some people have inquired as to how we got such a sweet internship:

Jojo and I participated in a program called Study and Intern in Okinawa, Japan. As far as I can tell, it’s the only internship for English speakers in Okinawa.


The Tonaki Song June 1, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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One night on Tonaki Island, we went out to this seawall with Sigrunn, new friends Kinjo and Saya, the pink guitar, the recorder, two bottles of awamori and some panda chocolates. Here was the result:

This song utilizes some traditional elements of Okinawan folk and pop music:
1) Hogen phrases (akisamiyo = oh my god, deji = very)
2) Musical battle cry “iia za za!” (a vocable = lyrics with no lexical meaning)
3) Finger whistling (yubi bue)
4) Lyrics about a drunken creeper (a.k.a. Yamada Denki)
5) Power derived from distilled liquor (and chocolates)

Now to wax poetic. (more…)

Ideal Roommates May 28, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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During our last week, Jojo and I filmed a music video for his band Please Quiet Ourselves. Jojo toted those masks around to Nakagusuku Castle, Kogen Hotel, Naha, and all over Okinawa City so we could present to you this:

A cab driver brought Jojo to tears by teaching him this Okinawan proverb: ichariba chode. Once we meet, we are brothers and sisters. We felt that strongly in Okinawa, being so quickly taken in by friends, and friends of friends of friends.This fraternal philosophy inspired the video.

“World Music” Boom May 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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According to some experts, the surge of worldwide interest in Okinawan music stems from this song. The Boom is a mainland Japanese band, but the singer wrote “Shima Uta” after visiting Okinawa, and incorporated sanshin hooks and Hogen phrases. The Hogen title literally means “island music,” and the song is meant to capture the post-war island spirit.

According to Wikipedia, many others have covered this song, including … wait for it … ANDREW W.K.

Chura Kagi April 25, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language.
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Our faces are on the interweb! The sensei at JSL, the Japanese as a Second Language program we stayed with in Urasoe, filmed these for their website.

Sigrunn is on there too, speaking English and Norweigan.

(Anyone notice Jojo and I each rocked Griznar shirts in the last two posts?)

Funny Things on Menus, Pt. 3 April 21, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Food and Drink, Language.
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  • Tunasandwish
  • Beef in boiling salad
  • Stick salad
  • Ocean spaghetti fish
  • Gin & Rime
  • a loaf of bread topped with ice cream

Sanshin Lesson #3 April 20, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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Jojo and I attended Kinjo-sensei’s sanshin lesson in Okinawa City last week. We fumbled through a couple of classical songs (clarification: I fumbled, Jojo really read the music) while the other, far more experienced students patiently waited. Then they busted out this jam:

Interesting sanshin facts:

  • sanshin literally translates to “three strings”
  • they are traditionally covered with python snake skin
  • the low string is known as the male string, and the high the female
  • the head of the instrument is “sky” (but, you know, in Japanese), and the taiko body is “earth”
  • the hogen lyrics of “Kagiyadefu” (which Jojo wrote about last week) translate roughly to: “How can I express the joy of this morning? I was a wilting flower, then the dew touched me and I was revitalized.”

There’s a professor at San Francisco State named Wesley Uenten who teaches Okinawan culture and sanshin. After hearing so much slow, sad sanshin music, I have to remember how Wesley explained Okinawa music:

Okinawans are capable of hating and loving passionately — always a mix of extremes — so even joyous songs sound somber.

Adventures in Haiku April 8, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Other Arts.
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Today we went to a haiku class at the Yonabaru community center. The woman we’re staying with, Miyuki-san, helps conduct these classes and has traveled all over the world studying haiku. So here’s what I wrote today:

となき しま
うみわ しあわせ
なにも いない

“Life goes on. Fuck it.”
No regrets, no funeral.
“Let’s eat a sandwich.”

お-はな さく
そして はる わく

あかに なる
なつ ばかな がか
やけてる よ

Translations and more

Hearts & Soul of Uruma April 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music, Photos.
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The other day we went up to these castle ruins, Iha Gusuku, overlooking the Ishikawa district of Uruma City.

My Wikipedia research couldn’t tell me anything about whether Ishikawa was built on a landfill after World War II, or whether it became the headquarters for the CIA, or why my mom wasn’t allowed to visit her friends who lived there when she was in high school.

It did tell me that “Uruma” was an old alternate name for Okinawa, coming from the Hogen terms for “coral” (uru) and “island” (ma).

It also told me that Uruma was home to “the Japanese Jackson Five,” a group called Finger Five. The four preteen brothers and one sister, from a native Okinawan family, peaked in the early ’70s, after releasing a few albums with King Records and touring the Okinawa military bases. They pretty much disappeared after trying to hit the big-time in Tokyo.

Here’s their best-known single, “Love Call 6700”: