Archive for the ‘hamamatsu’ Tag

JIJA: Yush 2010   Leave a comment

Yush 2010 was mad! Held at the National Stadium, the music was fast and furious. Looking forward to 2011!


 

 

 

 

 

New Untemplater Article! “Triumph Over Tragedy!”   Leave a comment

Please checkout my latest article written for Untemplater Online, entitled, triumph over tragedy!

Click the picture to read the article. Please comment! Thanks

Jamaican in Japan: Me Playing Some Pool   Leave a comment

In Hamamatsu, I hang out at a weekly English meetup called “Eigo Mura” (英語村) (English Village). It’s right below a sports bar and this is some footage of me and my friend Yuki hanging out and playing some pool.

Marcus Bird Design on Kanye West’s Blog. カニェウェトのブログ^います。   Leave a comment

My cousin is performing artiste Beniton the Menace, and in 2008, I designed an album-style image for him on a whim. I had no idea that this would be the most profilic image of him on the internet. In fact, if you google “Beniton the Menace” n google images, its this picture that comes up first; an image I created while on vacation in New York. He told me that the image had surfaced on Kanye West`s blog because of a new single he and crooner Marvin Priest (Maxi Priest’s son) had made called “Who’s Gonna Smoke”. The song has received good airplay and got Beniton a featured in Fader Magazine online. The link to the image on Kanye’s blog is below. You can download the single for free here:

http://www.kanyeuniversecity.com/blog/index.php?em3106=242059_0__0_~0_-1_10_2009__

Dick Jokes and Pumpkin Carving   Leave a comment

 

I’m dressed as a spade, and I’m sprinting up a hill. Behind me, four small Japanese boys scream “Ashi hayai ne!!!”  (he runs so fast!) I crest the hill, and in front of me, is an army of little Japanese kids dressed like witches, goblins and ninjas. Giggling and screaming, they dart from place to place, in search of candy. The four boys behind me catch up, huffing and puffing. They point towards a thick grove of trees fifty feet away and we start running again, navigating between little bodies and screaming voices.

 

I’m a counselor at the annual Mikkabi Youth center Halloween camp.

 

Mikkbai is a quiet town about an hour from Hamamatsu by train. The vista I received after stepping off the train was exquisite. In the near distance I saw green rolling hills and fields of tall, dark grass. The surrounding had a panoply of plants and colours. The train station had a quaint touch; it was small and built of wood, and doubled as a bakery. The place immediately made me feel calm and relaxed.

 “From what I heard last time, the camp was a nightmare.”

Another ALT had told me this at a bar after a few drinks three weeks ago. At the time I hadn’t planned to go, and paid it no mind. But I had no apprehensions about doing the camp. At some points, I had envisioned a huge log cabin filled with wild young Japanese kids, screaming at the counselors and wreaking havoc. It wasn’t anything like that.

 

“This reminds me of Jamaica.” I said to Emma, another counselor. I ran into her at the station and we took the train up to Mikkabi together.

“Really? Why?” she replied.

“Well I realized something when I traveled to Osaka a few weeks ago. I noticed that when I got there I felt very calm and secure, but I wasn’t sure why. The Japanese people hadn’t changed, and nothing was horribly different but then I realized that in the distance I could see mountains. Then I said to myself, wow, I grew up for most of my life seeing mountains wherever I went. I even live in a community in the hills overlooking Kingston.”

 

My spiel revealed something else to me I didn’t realize either. Living in a foreign country has certain demands, which are mostly mental after you get adjusted to your work environment. Trying to escape for many people involves engaging in various activites to keep busy, but its not always garaunteed to make you feel that good.
For me I discovered that I had an escape. I just needed to find a place with hills.

 

The youth center was a large modern building that felt like a hotel. We were greeted by staff and a few volunteer high school students. Upstairs was a meeting room with several other counselors, mostly twenty somethings that lived in different parts of the Shizuoka prefecture. It was funny to see so many foreigners in one place. It had been weeks since I spoke much that English on a Saturday during the day.

 

As I sat there, watching the groups interact with each other, I got sudden flashes of the past from living in America and Jamaica; the fleeting glimpses of those memories a quiet echo of my western culture.

 

My charges were four young boys, whom I met at lunch. Kyoko, one of the founders of the event, explained to the children what the events would be. As we started singing songs and playing with the children, I felt more like the sensei  I had become.

 

Watching grown people play with children is always a little weird. In our adult lives we rarely do exaggerated things unless we are drunk or engaging in specific physical activities. Seeing tall young men and women running after little children, making smiling faces and gesturing wildly with their hands was interesting. In a way, I was looking at these people being parents, or practicing. I was seeing how humans are, and how our roles interlink from place to place. Our charges for the weekend were our kids, and we had to watch them and protect them, make them happy and not get exhausted in the process.

 

“Yes we can! Yes we can!” everyone chants after singing a halloween song. Outside, the sky is a cool gray, and the sea is near motionless save a lone boat sliding across its surface. In a gymnasium with one hundred and forty children, twenty counselors and another twenty staff, I feel quiet and at peace.

 

We do some early trick or treating and I change my costume three times before I decide on what I’m going to be, which is a Spade from a deck of cards. My guys are all dressed as a certain Japanese wizard, the name of whom I can’t recall. As night falls and Iget used to the routine of watching my group and playing with them, I learn about the people around me in soft sprinkles of information. The counselors are mostly from America and Canada with a couple Scots and English people tossed in for good measure. I am one of two Jamaicans in residence, which is pretty cool.

 

Later we make Jack-o-laterns. I’ve never carved a pumpkin before, and I take make sure to design the perfect pumpkin for my guys. Yutaro, a small, wide-eyed child with a man’s confidence is fiercely debating how we’ll make the eyes.

“Let’s use this stencil.” One of them says to me in Japanese, pointing at a stencil book.

The image is a frightening pair of eyes and a grisly smile.

“No, we need an original design.” Yutaro retorts, and they eventually decide on eyes that are shaped like Stars.

I’m proud of the finished product and so are my charges. They happily smear fake blood on the Jack-o-latern and disappear to their rooms before we head back to the gymnasium for some more games.

 

By the time the kids go to bed we get some good news. A local hotel, called the Ryokan will be where we sleep. One of the event managers knows the hotel very well; her family owns it. We walk down a quiet street that opens into a wide view of an inland lake. In the distance like a burst of colour, are the spinning lights of a ferris wheel. It’s chilly, and I made small talk with a girl from California, practicing my horrible Spanish.

 

At the Ryokan, the natural progression of events leads to drinking. We all sit in a large room, chugging beers and playing drinking games. As things start to wind down, everyone for some reason starts speaking about names.

“How do you get ‘bob’ from Robert?” someone says.

“How do you get ‘Bill’ from William?” a female voice chimes in.

“How do you get ‘Dick’ from Richard?” a guy name Mike says to me.

I pause, then I respond: “How do YOU get dick from Richard?”

Everyone laughs and this becomes a running gag for the remainder of the camp. The next morning, I wake up to the sound of my phone alarm. Ben, an English guy sleeping in the room with myself and two other guys, groans.

“It’s cold. It sucks” he says from underneath the blanket.

I stumble over to the window, which gives an amazing panoramic view of the lake in the morning. We stand there, the three of us, in our underwear for all of thirty seconds. “Time to go.” I say, rubbing my arms to keep warm. I slip on a sweater, grab my bag and prepare to head out. Ben, still putting his clothes on mentions something.

“I had a friend named Richard.” he said. “He never liked the nickname Dick. It really bothered him.”

“You mean Richard didn’t like Dick?” I said.

Ben laughed.

“I walked right into that one.” he said with a smile.

 

 

The day is a whirlwind of activity including a campfire, toasting marshmallows and trick-or-treating; all things I have never done. As the day progresses, the sun breaks through the gray bank of clouds shadowing the city and it gets warm. The kids feed on this weather with rabid enthusiasm. The day becomes a melee of running, Frisbee throwing and field games.

 

As the event comes to a close and we stand in a line to take pictures with our groups, two small Japanese girls standing in front of me ask to touch my hair.

“Cool!” they say to each other.

I respond to them in Japanese and they proceed to pepper me with questions, tickle me and teach me Japanese words like “bag”, “shoe” and “glasses”.

 

The camp feels like it ended a little quickly. I enjoyed my spirited conversations in Japanese with the energetic little boys, and barking their names whenever they got into mischief. I take a picture with the mother of Ritsuki, the tallest of the group, and she thanks me profusely for showing them a good time. I wave goodbye to Koki, the most shy of the group. Shintaro, Yutaro’s twin brother, gives me a happy high five before he runs to his mother. As they each go back to their parents and start walking away I smile. It feels good.

 

Kyoko’s house is both a school and a residence. It is clean, spacious and has a small back yard. The deck oversees train tracks and hills in the distance. The counselors eat sushi, chips and drink beers while occasionally singing along to popular songs (A counselor named Kat could play the guitar). I was horribly comfortable, singing along to Oasis, trying to play a Bob Marley song in between drinking and snacking on food. The high school students who helped out with the event were in residence too, chatting with each other and occasionally interacting with the counselors.

 

Watching the high school students help over the weekend was like taking a hot bath in Japanese culture. If you didn’t know beforehand they were students, you would think they were employees of the Mikkabi youth center. They did every duty diligently, everything was on time and no one had a sad face.

 

Before I went home I took one last look at the brown hills in the distance, looking at the tall trees which dotted their surface, and the undulating patterns and bumps along their breadth. There I was, standing on a deck in a far off place, and a sharp feeling of familiarity hit me which made me smile, even though I was nowhere near home. Happy Halloween.

 

 

Two Temples and a Man Purse : Kyoto   2 comments

When I step out of the train that exits into Kyoto city, I’m greeted by huge modern posters advertising mostly American Brands. Thousands of people cross crowded streets passing very modern stores. For now, I’m a little confused.

As long as I can rememmbger, Kyoto has been a supposed place of history, mystery and intrigue. I had images in my mind of men dressed in monk’s robes, walking to and fro in their setas (Japanese slippers), calmly going about life down quiet streets filled with telltale Japanese buildings. I imagined Kyoto to be the real Japan, the kind that when I went there I would get washed in a feeling that was similar to the first time I watched anime, or starting reading about Japan on the internet. But so far, it feels very familiar.It has a touch of Tokyo right in the city center, with tall buildings and
large numbers of people. But in the distance, I can see the faintest outline of mountains, which gives me a sense like Oasaka. Then the buildings and layout of the city have an architecture that remind of of certain places in Europe. It feels a little scattered, but I’m still glad to be here.I am not the biggest sightseeing enthusiast at times.

My trip to Kyoto mainly came froma trip to Osaka, and I decided to come here in my down
time. I ask a man where the most famous temple in Kyoto is, and he
gives me some directions in Japanese. “Take the number six bus for
about fifteen minutes and you will be at the temple.”

He says. I nod in agreement, then go outside to look for the terminal.However, it is a holiday, the end of silver week and the streets are crammed with people. At every bus stop there are no less than fifty people standing in line for the buses to arrive, and I don’t see any terminals marked six, or any buses with six on them. After walking in a circle for ten minutes or so, I see a few girls in a coffee house. They all have dark hair and look European. I ask them about Kyoto. One of them, a tall slim girl with an attractive face tells me in a heavy accent they are in town for an eight week exchange program. They say that I need to walk thirty minutes north and I will find the temple. I start
walking.

I pass a bridge and see a river stretching far into the distance. At either side of the river banks, beside large sloping walls designed to channel flood water, are hundreds of people sitting down. They stretch for as far as I can look, and I stand there for a minute or two, just people watching. A few street artists are doing their thing, painting passersby or drawin caricature for a thousand yen. I pass more shops and mostly fast food places, then I reach a temple. There are no markings on the front, save two large Japanese dragon-dogs. It looks pretty big, and people are filing in and out in a constant stream. I go in.

The place immediately shifts from a city to something else. Around me are tall trees with thick leaves. The elements of the temple start to appear. Some bells here and there, an old building and then eventually the main area. I am by an extremely tall Japanese prayer shrine. People walk forward and pull the rope a few times to ring the bell. They clasp their hands and drop a little money into a large silver jar. I watch them do it for a while, taking in the vista of the temple grounds. It
is very spacious and well groomed, but crowded. I like the temple, but seeing people traipsing about with Deisel jeans and Louis Vuitton bags makes things less spectacular.

I walk further inside, and find a park, which hilariously has a statue called “JOOK”, which means “sex” in Jamaican vernacular. I watch a few boisterous young boys chase some people-friendly ravens for a few minutes while I think about life. I walk further into the temple, and find a beautiful pond with small fishes swimming clearly near a short waterfall. A Japanese man and his son stand by the water, feeding the fishes with breadcrumbs and watching the frenzy.

I go further into the temple, and I can clearly see a hill nearby, its green body covered in lush vegetation, with the lengthy bamboo shoots standing out like needles in a fuzzy ball of yarn. A bench provides another spot of solitude, and I drink some water while taking in the nature. After I’m done with that temple, I go back into the city, immediately transported back to reality. I find another temple nearby, a Zen temple guarded my tall men with police uniforms on. This is the Kennin-Ji,
Kyoto’s oldest Zen Buddhist temple. This feels like the “real” Kyoto. After I pay five hundred yen to go inside and remove my shoes, I am in a huge wooden building the likes of which I have never seen. Japanese architecture of this nature really has a therapeutic and balanced touch. Everything is expertly groomed, clean and calm. There are various historical pharaphernalia on display and there are rooms that guests cannot enter or photograph.

 The place feels very old andhistoric. Most of the people walking around are Japanese couples or
families, taking a break on the weekend. I walk into a room the size of a basketball court where people are in various states of relax; they are either sleeping outright, laying on each other, or just sitting quietly. I pass this room and walk across a semi-bridge that connects the buildings. There I see displays of statues showing a range of Japanese style sculpting. In here definitely feels more like a temple to me.’

I put on a pair of red slippers and walk outside through a rope towards another large building. This is the main attraction. The building is the size of a church and empty save three or four large sculptures beside an elegant shrine. As I walk in, I see everyone looking up, and
so do I. Then, I see it.

On the ceiling is a painting, an old, classic Japanese painting depicting dragons and various other mythological symbols. It is the largest painting of its kind I have seen thus far. People stand there and take photographs, and I do the same. Inside there is shadowy and ancient, filled with secrets and mysteries. I stay in there for a few minutes, and then leave. Outside, the air is cool and the leaves rustle in the trees. The property is very calming and there are less people there than the other temple. I make my way back to the large relaxation room, and lay there for a while, with my eyes closed and the occasional gust of breeze tickling my feet. A voice comes over the speaker, and I recognize the tone.

The temple is closing. I get up, slightly more refreshed, and head back to the center of the city. I pass the bridge again, and there are even more people this time by the riverside. It is an interesting site. I head back to the train station and then up some more, just to see what else is around. I end up at Terimachi street, which is the most famous shopping street in Kyoto. Many, many years ago it was a district where goods were bought and sold, when men had horses and carriages, and there wasn’t nicely manicured tile lining the street. The size was daunting, with three streets stretching for at least a quarter mile in a straight line, each one packed with different stores. I walked for a while,
browsing here and there ,and eventually purchased a small coin bag for my travels.

I went back to the station, a little tired from all the walk, but glad that I had done some sightseeing, and took a breather in a Buddhist temple.

Four Yukata Girls and One Jamaican   Leave a comment

Japan, I’m starting to discover, is a place that love fireworks and barbecues. It is summertime, and the days usually end with the sky a milky pink-white, with an armada of clouds slowly scrolling across the sky. After a great trip to Tokyo and Osaka on tour with my cousin Beniton the Menance and Maxi Priest I’m more open to heading to different places. I’m meeting up with Emily and some friends to go to the Kajima fireworks.

 Emily wants to meet at seven thirty to catch the fireworks, which start at eight-thirty. Since it will be a thirty minute drive to get there, it sounded like a good plan. However, Emi ended up calling me at ten minutes past eight to go, and it seemed like I’d miss the meat of the show. Still I went. Emi waved at me from across the street at Zaza city where we met up, adorned in an attractive Yukata. A Yukata is a traditional Japanese dress worn for these kinds of occassionas (not to be confused with Happis worn during Golden week).

The drive there is quiet, sprinkled with light conversation from Emi and her friends in the car. The fireworks are in Hamakita, just outside Hamamatsu city. As we near Hamakita, I can already see the flash of fireworks in the sky. A loud boom echoes through the air. I can just imagine the screaming crowds jostling to see what was happening. Emi was excited, more excited that I normally see her. “There is where my elementary school was.” She said, pointing towards a small building we drove past.

I tried to imagine Emi as a child, with the small smooth face, bone straight hair and endless energy. For her fireworks were a normal part of her life. She had invited me to no less than four viewings in a month and a half.

 We met up with some other friends of hers, all dressed in Yukatas and found some parking. We had a good walk to the river. Every fifty feet or so, I would see a firework explode in the sky, the boom sounding like quick thunder. Behind me, Emi, her friends and the other Yukatagirls walked and talked, smiling each time another firework exploded.

 Hamamatsu isn’t a very metropolitan area, and more than once I saw a few people looking at me for long stretches, wondering who I was. We were walking on the main road, which eventually diverted onto a small dirt path leading to an intersection below an overpass. We walked pass some tall grass and then came back to a normal sidewalk. There I saw several thousand people, many of them in Yukatas walking around. There were dozens of stalls sell food, fireworks and liquor. It was a frantic mess of lights, voices and bodies.

I made sure to keep and eye on the girls near me, because the Yukata girls around looked startlingly similar, with their hair in buns, walking with a similar, practiced gait. A few more people glance at me now (I think at this point its impossible for them not to, I am the only black person I have seen thus far in a crowd of thousands of Japanese people) and we walk up a hill. It is densely packed, but as we near the top, I can see the outline of the river below, and hundreds more people sitting around there. A structure on a small field is setup, and a voice says something over loudspeakers.

“They are going to show the final fireworks.” Emi tells me, darting to a spot with a good view. I stand where I am and take in the last of the fireworks, which are magnificent, brilliant and beautiful.

One the last of the glowing particles faded into nothing, the crowd stared moving. The group of us–four Yukata girls, one husband and wife and another friend of Emi’s who wasn’t wearing a Yukata, decided to eat some Chinese food afterwards. I groaned inside a little… I don’tnormally like the mixed outings because most people order beef and pork dishes, but we all chip in for the final bill. But I didn’t drive there, and it didn’t really matter. It was only nine o ‘ clock or so.

I met the other Yukata girls, Yuka and Emily who were also regular Salsa dancers. They were both very thin with mischievous eyes. I like something about Emily, who had a thin, long face and a bright smile. We snapped a picture by the car before heading to the restaurant and headed off.

I had never eaten Chinese food in Japan, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it really tasted that Chinese. I figured out a way to get enough chicken and shrimp dishes to survive, while chatting and laughing with the group. It was a good outing, and I was glad to take in the
fireworks as a start to my Friday night. Hopefully next time I’ll reach earlier to another such outing, and be able to see more of the stalls and mingle with the crowd.