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Urasoe Bells May 4, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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I just found another citywide PA recording from Urasoe. I think it was marking the noon or 1 o’clock hour. You’ll get an idea of how serene the city could feel from our tatami mat apartment bedrooms, until the traffic light turned green (“blue”) on the major highway right below.

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?)

Urasoe, Come On Baby! March 29, 2010

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It has been a while since I posted, so I still need to say goodbye to Urasoe.

Really fun. Big music post coming soon. See you, bye bye.

Last Night March 27, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Tonight’s our last night in Urasoe, and our last night here at JSL.

Tomorrow begins the third leg of our trip: The Unknown. With no specifics in mind, we’ll be around Naha and Okinawa City and maybe a couple other little towns for all of April, trying to meet musicians and other people of interest.

Then in May we’ll hopefully go to Tokyo to hang out with Sigrunn, who may as well be our cousin now too. And on May 10, just as our visitors’ visas expire, we shall return home, triumphant and broke.

Sanshin Lesson #1 March 26, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Music.
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The most famous sanshin player here who’s not Okinawan is Byron Jones. He has established himself as an expert of Okinawan culture and language, even though born American, and now he teaches sanshin to native Okinawans.

Byron is a friend of Mike, our program director, and old friend of our moms, so he let me sit in on this week’s lesson at the Urasoe community center.

Most of the hour-and-a-half practice was spent eating a Hotto Motto platter and congratulating one of the students, who just completed a master’s degree in Ryukyuan studies at age 75.

But I did learn about this notation: Music is read from right to left in vertical columns. The right side of the column is for the voice, which also includes symbols denoting inflection and intonation, and the left side is for the sanshin notes, written in kanji characters.

Byron also explained the two main schools of classical sanshin music. The original is named for its creator, Afuso, the elder students. This method is said to be the “more pure.” One of Afuso’s students, Nomura, was chosen by the king to develop a new style of music, Amuro, which I think is more widely practiced today. (If I got any of this wrong, feel free to correct.)

He gave me some homework to memorize the note positions, since sanshin has no frets. Hopefully I will have more information as weekly lessons continue!

Oki Vintage March 23, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Here’s what the coolest (so far) vintage shop in Okinawa looks like:

This is Ring Ring Bell in Urasoe. A beautiful array of clothes and accessories, and probably most of it comes from California. I even found a Gilroy, CA shirt!

And they were playing Stray Cats. So perfect!

Jojo got a snappy plaid shirt, and Sigrunn got cute leather saddle/bowling shoes. I tried on these perfect old-school mustard yellow Chuck Taylors, but ¥9,800 (about $100) is a  bit too much for semi-novelty shoes.

Scrappin’ and Yellin’ March 18, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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By request, here are some of the rad playgrounds we’ve come across:

This appears to be a satellite dish?

More photos after the jump.
There would be more, but my camera is on the fritz!

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Reading Is Fundamental March 9, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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I love this place!

Public book case in a park next to this playground.

Visiting book truck at our elementary school.

Omedeto! March 9, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Last week our school had an assembly to honor the sixth graders, who graduate next week (the Japanese school year starts in April and ends in March). Each grade did a different dance or presentation for their onissan and oneesan — older brothers and sisters. It was super cute.

The sixth graders sang this song — I don’t know anything about it and there is no academic purpose for linking it here, it’s just cute.

The staff formed a band and covered “Shimanchu nu Takara” by BEGIN. It’s a good thing we got here when we did, because the band had no drummer before Jojo, who made his drumming debut here. The vocal microphone was sub-par, but the music teacher did a wicked sax solo.

Uchi Sweet Uchi March 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Oh right, photos of our apartment.

The Japanese as a Second Language program owns the building — classrooms on the first floor, the rest student apartments. We don’t take classes, but our internship allows us to stay here.

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