Friday, January 26, 2007

Japanese New Year

The Japanese New Year occurs on January first, but is celebrated throughout the month of January. I can tell because I'm working right now at the Japanese New Year Celebration sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Indiana. It's a lot of fun, and I'm really enjoying some of the traditional Japanese New Year food (and will probably have nightmares about some of the food). In addition to the food, we've got mochi pounding, sake tasting, a tea ceremony, authentic New Year's Fortunetelling, and much other wildness.

A lot of the "other wildness" is karaoke. Yee-ha! They wisely decided not to start the karaoke until later in the evening, after the sake tasting has taken effect. It's much fun to watch, and even somewhat fun to play Sound Guy for. Though it did give me a moment of sound-guy comedy. When they mentioned they were bringing a karaoke machine, they were really nervous about my ability to hook it up; apparently a lot of guys can screw up a video player and microphone. I'm a pro, and I gave them much reassurance that yes, indeed, I can manage to plug in a karaoke machine. So when it arrived, in its own rolling rack, I was expecting no problems. First problem: it doesn't run on standard U.S. 110-volt power. Thankfully, a transformer came packed in a little box with the karaoke discs. Second problem: I popped the back off the rack and found the usual pile of RCA jacks, about twenty or so plugs. All of which were labelled in Japanese only. There weren't even numbers on anything. I had to get a translator for the karaoke machine. The buttons and switches on the front were also labelled in Japanese. The only things I could recognize were the play and stop buttons (they had the usual pictograms). But it turns out that if you've used enough audio gear you don't actually need to know what the buttons say to know what they do. This wasn't true for the plugs; there's no system for that. The plugs are generally located the shortest possible distance from the appropriate circuitry inside.

I also enjoyed a moment of cultural comedy. One of the participants in the tea ceremony arrived dressed in a formal homongi kimono -- an elaborate affair that I'm sure takes hours, and assistance, to properly assemble. She was also wearing biker boots and a Harley jacket. It was a fun fashion statement.

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