Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gaijin on Parade

"Nara JETNet, comprised of participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme), is an association whose goal is the grassroots internationalization of local communities in Nara Prefecture. Its organizing committee, which consists of the Prefecture’s five Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) and the Prefectural Board of Education’s Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), plans and carries out international exchange events that bring together foreign and Japanese members of the greater Nara community."

Last Saturday, a JETNet event took place: A Halloween Parade!

32 Nara JETs, 60 Japanese people (ranging from infants to the elderly) gathered at Miwa station, all dressed in costume. Let me paint a picture for you: 30 FOREIGNERS BOARDED A TRAIN COMPLETELY CLAD IN HALLOWEEN COSTUMES. To say people stared would be an understatement. They LEERED.

When we arrived in Miwa, we gathered in groups. We were all placed on "teams" primarily so we could make sure no one got lost on the trail. I was on team witch. There was another team, "Frankenstein," with a mislabeled sign. It read, "Frankenteim." Yes, the MC Hammer jokes were a-plenty:

Me: Hold on guys! Stop. Franken-time!!

Just try to imagine me doing the MC Hammer shuffle in my toga. Yes, I put on a simple bedsheet as a costume. I was not going to walk 13KM (roughly 8 miles) in makeup or some complicated BS. What I didn't realize until someone had pointed it out to me, is that my choice of a light green bed sheet turned my costume from Toga...to Statue of Liberty. I only bought the stupid color because the store was out of white sheets. Oh well, it WAS funny.

The Halloween parade happened on the oldest road in Japan, Yamanobe no Michi. This road is centuries old, but many areas cut through residential neighborhoods. The trail is incredibly varied. One minute we were walking through someone's driveway (imagine his surprise), and the next minute we were walking through a shrine in the mountains. It was very bizarre.

As we marched on, many people (not JETs) started to drop out. There was a train station about halfway that 1/4 of our guests seized. It really was a tough hike for children.

The trail ends at the Chicken shrine in Tenri. I don't remember the name, but I've been there before when I visited the "center of the universe."

I still have no idea why I was the only one sunburned. Before you yell, "because you have fair skin!" just know that there is an Irish Jet whose skin is a lot more fragile then mine.

Here's the mildly amusing picture to end this post. It's soooooo...artistic:

Before I forget, my blog just got listed on the Unofficial JET Programme Guide - http://jet-programme.com/


  1. "From a Nara JET ALT"....Lame, you deserve a better description than that!

    BTW, you do look like the Statue of Liberty.

    Was the parade just with people walking? Were there any floats, displays, throwing of beads and candy?

  2. 1. Ya, I totally agree. I definitely need a better description.

    2. Nah, it was just a costume parade. It would have been a tremendous hassle to drive or push floats 8 miles...

  3. Wow! I'm nearly speechless! I've hiked along Yamanobe no michi and the thought of running into your merry group of wildly costumed gaijin on a crisp fall day is hysterical! What a crazy sight to behold.

    BTW, the huge shrine in Tenri-shi is called Isonokami jingu (石上神宮). An interesting note: a "jingu" is a special category of "jinja" --> it's a Shinto shrine that's connected to the Japanese Imperial family.

    Sounds like your first year as a JET is going pretty well. I was a pre-JET ALT in Nara from 1979-1981, way back in the Dark Ages! Back then, there was just a single ALT to cover all of Nara-ken. Got to know Kintetsu and the JR lines real well. Ganbatte kudasai!

  4. Yes, things certainly have changed since the late 70's. I believe there is now an ALT for EVERY school in Nara. Of course this includes ALTs that visit up to 9 different schools. In fact, Nara is one of only 2 prefectures to increase their number of JETs from last year! Whoop!

    Also, thank you for the interesting facts about Isonokami Jingu!