Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oktoberfest Yokohama 2010

The title is somewhat oxymoronic: Oktoberfest - Yokohama. Two cultures on opposite sides of the globe vary in nearly every way: Germans are sturdy, Japanese are tiny; Germans are fair, Japanese are dark; German is a guttural language, Japanese is soft; Germans have fast cars and autobahns, Japanese vehicles are efficient and the country's maximum speed is 100 kph; Germans love greasy sausage, Japanese foods are very lean; German's will toast to anything, Japanese hold up signs indicating it is time to toast; Germans drink beer, Japanese drink sake - except for Oktoberfest... Then, the cultural divide dissipates and you can become witness to a melding of two highly disparate cultures at Oktoberfest Yokohama 2010.
Imagine a tent full of food vendors and tables a la Hofbrauhaus, only more delicate in nature and spaced about 18 inches apart. Add to this picture the sound at a professional football game when the home team scores, only these people are cheering for the oom-pah-pah band on stage.  For the full effect, the video below is off You-Tube (thank you to whomever posted it!).  Sausages with grainy mustard and sauerkraut were being served right next to the cured cucumber on a stick and edamame. The sausages, although great (and much better for you) did not have the same greasy, German appeal.

We were a bit apprehensive that the beer would be some-what ho-hum, but were pleasantly surprised at the incredible selection, as well as taste, by the many beer vendors. Spaten and Hofbrauhaus even had a presence there! One IPA I tried had a very dry taste to it. After some conversing, it was agreed that it tasted the way it smells when you lay down on the hot concrete around a swimming pool in the summer. Some of you will know well the smell/taste I am referring to. Turns out that the "dryness" diminished with time...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buddha Buddha Buddha

Arrival: Thursday, the 30th of September, Japan time.
We got to the Navy Lodge, an institutional, Motel-6 like place that we will call home until we secure off-base housing.  They have placed it at the farthest corner of the base, highly inconvenient and away from the commissary and Exchange, away from the schools, library and theater, away from Eric's work and away from all the restaurants, except Chile's.  The kids love it, but Eric and I tired of it after a couple of meals.  We are right next to the housing center and the Auto Port - very convenient as we have no housing nor vehicles...  The Auto Port/Gas Station convenient store is,  appropriately, convenient!  We can always get cereal and milk without having to hike 3 kids across the base and then schlep it all back.  Very convenient!

Over the weekend we visited the house in which we shall call home very shortly.  It is not nearly as institutional as the Navy Lodge, but, as one friend put it, not likely to win any architectural awards.  It has the look of a castle's barbican, complete with arrowslits (or loop holes!).  In Japanese terms, it looks a bit like the yakura, the square buildings placed around the bailey used for storage (ya = arrow, kura = storage).  For whatever architectural panache the outside is lacking, the inside more than makes up for.  It is brand new, the toilets do everything but give you fiber, it has great storage, it is just around the corner from a park and quite near friends, it has an oven and... it has A DISHWASHER!   It is a stretch to call it a dish drawer, unless the drawer in reference is the utensil drawer - but it is a dishwasher!  That was one job title Eric and I were both happy to shirk...

The next week was our Area Orientation Briefing.  It went something like this: people in charge of stuff, telling us things, giving us important information to remember.  Blah Blah Blah.  The week ended with Cultural Orientation.  Introduction to Japanese food, Japanese language, Japanese history, Japanese English (or Engrish), blah, blah, blah.  The Japanese accent makes English sound a little different.  The Japanese learn English for a number of years in Jr High and High School, so their grammar is impeccable.  It really makes American's look like ignorant lugs.  However, understanding their English with a Japanese accent takes a trained ear.  Japanese has no 'f' or 'th' sounds and the 'l' and 'r' are interchangeable with a sound somewhere in-between, quite similar to a soft 'd'. The only sound that ends in a consonant is the n/m sound.  Otherwise, all the consonants end in one of five vowel sounds.  So, for example, Eric's name become "Eriku".  It is quite simple, once you get used to it.  However, it does leave room for some interesting interpretations.  Let's take "love" as another example: "rubeh".  You love it?  Want a rub?  You're a lub?  Blah Blah Blah.  Or, as a Japanese says it: buddha buddha buddha...