Posts Tagged The Beatles
(rewritten from original post to add much more detail)
Today I went to the John Lennon Museum in Saitama, which is a city just north of Tokyo that belongs to the Greater Tokyo Area. I met up with some of the teachers that I went to orientation with. We had exchanged contact information at orientation night, and shortly afterwards made plans on a mutual day off to meet up and visit the museum.
In early afternoon we met up at Akabane station and switched to a train heading towards the Saitama Super Arena. Since we were all pretty new to Japan, we took the local train instead of the express and got off at the wrong station. We left the station area and started looking around for a large arena. With a name like “Saitama Super Arena” we figured it would likely be a prominent part of the scenery. After a few minutes of wandering on both sides of the station, we decided to walk into the nearest Koban and ask for directions.
A Koban is also called a “police box”. It is a small office usually staffed by a few officers who patrol the local area and provide directions. Not knowing whether or not the officers would speak English, I decided that it would be a good time to put my University Japanese education and phrase book to use. I looked up the word for museum – hakubutsukan. This was combined with “wa doko desu ka” (where is it) from my Japanese course. After a few practice runs I walked into the Koban and politely said “すみません、(ジョン・レノンの博物館はどこですか？” (excuse me, where is the John Lennon museum). The officer took one look at me and answered in perfect English “oh, the John Lennon museum? This is the wrong station. You need to get back on the train and go one more stop. Get off at Saitama Shintoshin station and follow the signs”. This was a recurring theme in my Japanese adventures – when you don’t expect someone to speak English, they end up speaking it very well.
We followed the nice officer’s instructions and entered the John Lennon Museum. The museum chronicled John’s life from childhood to death, with different rooms for different stages in his life and career. There was an extensive collection of John’s personal effects (thanks to Yoko Ono) that included John’s elementary school report card, a guitar with a Beatles set list still taped to the neck, Sgt. Pepper stage costumes and song lyrics written on various scraps of paper or napkins. I am more of a Beatles fan than a John Lennon fan, but it was still a great way to learn more about John before, during and after the Beatles. All of the displays were in English and Japanese. The museum was fantastic!
After the museum we went to the attached John Lennon museum cafe. The cafe featured live music by a band called Light Steel Blue who played Beatles songs. The female keyboard player kept looking at me during the show. Afterwards my teaching friends and I were standing around talking when the keyboard player walked up to hand out information about her band. I told her in Japanese that her music was great. She thanked me and we had a bit of a conversation in broken English and Japanese and exchanged phone numbers. She also took my friend’s numbers as well, but I think she did that as an afterthought to be polite.
I got to see all of John Lennon’s personal stuff and got a phone number. What a great day!
The museum closed a few years ago, but you can get some good details here: http://amoderngirl.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/goodbye-lennon/
Another one of the important characters in my upcoming adventures is The Penpal.
In my second last year of University I took an elective Japanese language course. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue with another Japanese course in my final year of school. My biggest concern was losing my language abilities in the 4 months between semesters. Winnipeg has a very small Japanese community, so I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to find language partners in person. Faced with a challenge, I turned to the internet for assistance.
Searching for foreign language exchange partners brings you to a wide array of websites – some legit language exchange sites, many more for finding foreign spouses. I would promote the website that I used, but it has now been replaced with a straight up dating website.
I signed up for an account and created a profile explaining that I was looking for someone to practice Japanese with. In my profile I specifically mentioned that I was a big fan of Radiohead, Pixies, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beatles. In short order I ended up with penpals from Japan, Korea and the Philippines. One of my Japanese penpals decided to write to me because she shared the same taste in music. She was about the same age as me, and lived in a city called Numazu in Shizuoka prefecture. Like many other Japanese people, she had studied English in school but didn’t have a lot of opportunity to practice in daily life. Out of all of the penpals I got on the website, she and I had the most in common and wrote each other weekly in English and Japanese.
One of the highlights of our email exchanges was when I made a mix CD to send to her. The CD included Queens of the Stone Age, Moist, Our Lady Peace, Frank Black and other music that I was into at the time. Out of the CD, she particularly liked Moist and Our Lady Peace (go Canadian bands!). Not having a CD burner, she responded with a mix cassette. Her cassette included Shiina Ringo, UA, Love Psychedelico and Number Girl. I had never heard of any of them before, but quickly became a fan.
To be clear – I was not looking for a girlfriend. I already had one of those (The Ex). She also had a boyfriend at the time. We were both honestly looking for a language partner, and we both ended up finding a friend. From here forward I will refer to this person as “The Penpal”.