October 20, 2010

Officially feeling "settled in" in Fukuoka as I've been here just about four weeks, but now that I'm settled, I just wanna shake it up a bit! Getting to know some people that work in the hotel and meeting some guests has put me on the right track for getting out and about more, and experiencing more of the city and culture. On Halloween I will be heading out with a new Canadian friend I met, the wife of the executive chef here, so I'm really looking forward to that. Everyone I've spoken to has said that Fukuoka is a very nice city to live in if you speak the language fluently, but that it is a tough nut to crack for foreigners. Well - give me the nutcracker - I'm up to the challenge!

Last Sunday I took a little walk in the opposite direction of where I'd been exploring previously, my destination being a department store - not because I seriously wanted to shop, but because it would be a big eyesore on the horizon that I could easily identify. As soon as I stepped in and saw the Tiffany store, right next to Louis Vuitton, I knew I was most certainly in the WRONG place. :) It was kind of fun going up and down the escalators seeing how the other half lives while scandalizing the upper crust in my jeans and cowboy boots. OK - not really....everyone was very welcoming to me even though I surely didn't scream, "I can afford this stuff!"

But the walk there was far more interesting than the destination...I crossed over the river, which was shallow and dirty but nonetheless had several older men in waders fly-fishing in it....though what they might catch was a mystery I wasn't sure I wished to uncover. When I left the immediate environs of the hotel and Canal City I felt much more like the "foreigner" and my different appearance got more stares on "this" side of the river.

I saw a great example of teenage fashion I don't ever want to forget: lumberjack plaid shirt with micro-mini black schoolgirl skirt, thigh-high tites with pink lace on the top, and gold heels. I guess even in an ultra-fashion-forward place like Japan, teenagers still struggle to find their identity. :)

For the first two days of my work week, the national baseball play-offs were happening. Fukuoka apparently has a pretty hot team, so Canal City set up a public viewing on a huge screen projector right outside Bar Fizz's windows. While I was entertaining bar guests, the people watching the game outside were entertaining me. I could see the back of the screen and get a basic, mirror-image idea of what was going on in the game, but the reactions of the viewers were what really let me know. I'd be in a quiet moment of some song like "Summertime," and suddenly there's an "Oh no" type exasperated sigh coming from the crowd.....or during the romantic refrain of "Wonderful Tonight" I might hear a big "Yeah!" type cheer, and smile to myself, "yeah I really like how Eric Clatpon said that, too....oh wait!" :)

Then the night before last, a regular patron of the bar handed me some Halloween candy out of the blue. Almost brought tears to my eyes, as it was a perfect example of random kindness. She had no idea her little gift would make me feel so much better. I've been extra homesick since I'm missing my three favorite holidays back home this year, and that's always tough. The wrappers on the candy are great: along with a cute picture of a vampiric ghost or a knife-wielding pumpkin it says: "HORROR TIME!" (the beginning of MC Hammer's song goes through my head at this point) and then across the bottom it says: "Good Taste." Well, it's good to know that the person who eats the candy can interpret that as meaning the candy will be good, and also that the eater has "good taste" in having chosen that particular brand. Too funny.

My rehearsal experience this week was one I hope never to relive, however. They had me in a banquet room that had been shut all day with lights blazing (we're talking chandeliers and stage lights and every hot type of bulb you can possibly imagine) without air con. It was, no exaggeration, at least 90 degrees. I was sweating just sitting there, and after 90 minutes of playing piano and singing felt literally sick. A staff member came in at one point and apologized and started turning down lights, but it was already too late....whew. I hope next time they turn off the lights a few hours before my scheduled rehearsal time. I mean, not to complain too much - I want to learn "At Last" and all - it's one of my all-time favorite songs, but not sure it's worth dying for! LOL

My fiance comes to visit in three weeks and I am full-throttle thrilled! I plan on getting lots of video and pics while he is here since that is when I will do a lot of sight-seeing.

More soon! Thanks for coming along on this journey with me....

October 8, 2010

Almost a week has passed since I took my first exploratory walk around the immediate area where I live in Fukuoka. I posted the pictures I took of my adventure on my Hilary Scott Facebook page. There was a lot of activity going on last Sunday as I walked through Canal City. There had been concerts going on all day on a stage near the hotel, and when I started out on my walk there was what appeared to be a game show going on. Black or White by Michael Jackson was blasting out of the speakers, three women were standing in the center of the stage clapping and cheering and trying to get the crowd involved, and about twelve young men were walking around the outer edges of the stage in a circle. I had no clue what was going on - some version of musical chairs? When the music stopped, however, the men lined up across the back of the stage, then one by one stepped forward to introduce themselves and, I suppose, to say a little about who they were, etc. I figured perhaps it was some sort of "bachelor" style game. Not understanding the language sure takes the fun out of a game show, though, so I continued on my way.

Amidst all the Japanese brand stores, I ran into a Barbie store and a KFC next door to each other and was curious if I had been transported back to America somehow. :) I've noticed that in Asia, the main fast food brand is KFC, not McDonald's, and some Asian countries also have Pizza Hut. I haven't, nor am I planning, to try any of them, though!

I found a veritable "kareoke palace" across the street from the Canal City, and it's on my list of things to do. Also on my list of sight-seeing must-do's: Japanese temples, the highest building in Fukuoka, the famous baseball stadium, a club that is apparently quite the rage called Infinity, and if possible, taking the high speed train to Hiroshima.

The Japanese do everything with attention to detail, and they do it well. While I usually appreciate this very much, when it comes to Halloween decorations, I wish they weren't quite so creative! :) I took a series of photos of the "pumpkin-head men" that stand outside the hotel along the canals, and they just scare me! I know it's because of my traumatic childhood experience with horror movies, but, really....They also have some very cool light statues of skeletons that are poised over the water right next to where the dancing fountains go off.

Work this week was fun - although I caught a little bug and felt sick for a few days. The staff was wonderful to me, made me a ginger tea that has now become my favorite and they have ready for me every night (the bartender said it is his special recipe just for me - apparently he had not made it before) and continually ask after how I am doing or if I need anything. The crowds were bigger this week, and will continue to grow as we near the holidays. An interesting difference between American and Japanese culture is that whereas Christmas in America is usually a family holiday, in Japan it is considered one of the foremost nights each year for couples to go out on the town, very romantic and celebratory. And whereas in America New Year's is seen as a go out and party night, in Japan it is a stay-at-home holiday with family.

AJ comes to visit me in less than 5 weeks, and I'm really excited! For now I'm mostly buckling down working on original songs for the recording in Italy next year, and constantly trying to learn new songs to perform here at shows. One nice side-effect of having a lot of time on my hands is that it usually means lots of time to be creative...we will see what songs come out of this time!