The first British Japanese Consul in Liverpool

This time, I came to Liverpool again, to follow the footsteps of James Lord Bowes, the first British person who was assigned to be Japanese Consul in the UK. Please watch the video!

After he died, no one of his family members, nor any museum, was willing to inherit the Japanese Museum as it was. At the end, sadly, the vast collection had to be auctioned piece by piece, and the auction continued for 10 days! Imagine the number of works of art that had to be sold.

As Mr. Smith cleverly mentioned, I also believe that the butterfly was indeed James’ spirit. I wish I had kept still, then the butterfly might have stayed on my hand a little while longer. I’m sure his spirit wanted to say to us, “Thank you for remembering me!”

Awa Dance Master in Manchester!

This time, I met an expert in Awa dance near Manchester!

So, what’s Awa dance?

Awa dance is one of the most popular and well-known Bon dances in Japan.Bon dance is a style of dancing performed during what we call Obon. Obon is usually in mid-August, and it is believed that the spirits of the dead will return to visit the family during this time. Bon dance is performed during or at the end of the Obon period. Originally performed to welcome the spirits of the dead, the style of dance varies greatly from region to region. Each region has a local dance, as well as different music. Awa dance is from Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku.
The typical Bon dance involves people standing in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival, called a yagura. The yagura is usually the bandstand for the musicians and singers of the Obon music. But in Awa dance, dancers simply march through the streets of a town. Typically, these marches involve thousands of people, which makes quite a spectacle.

Awa dance has both female version and male version. Our guest today, Alan, will of course show us the male version. The lady dancing with him is Sae, whose mother is Japanese. Please take a look at the video!

This occasion was “Bonenkai”, a forget-a-year party in Japan, equivalent to a Christmas party in the UK.
We also held a workshop. First, everybody was being shy, but I explained the famous Awa dance lyrics that goes:

踊る阿呆に The dancers are fools
見る阿呆 The watchers are fools
同じ阿呆なら If Both are fools alike
踊らな損、損 Might as well dance!

This, as I hoped, encouraged many people to get up and dance, so we had a wonderful time, as you can see in the video.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Japanese Conversation Evening

Among other things I do to promote Japanese culture and language, one thing I should not forget to mention is Japanese conversation evening. I hold this social evening once every other month, at a Japanese restaurant in Manchester city center. I usually manage to get 10 to 20 people, and have a wonderful time socializing with like-minded people.

It started a few years ago, when one of my friends, who had been to Japan on the JET program asked me to hold something like that, to provide people like him an opportunity to speak in Japanese in a non-threatening environment. I still remember the first one I held. At the request of the Japanese restaurant I decided to use at the time, the get-together had to be during day (as it was the quietest time at the restaurant). So I set the time from 3pm to 5pm on Saturday. Then only 2 people showed up!! Basically the one who asked me to hold it and his fiancée. I was hugely discouraged, and did not want to think about it for a while. So I left it some months, until I was asked yet again from some other source. OK, this time, I will hold it in the evening. I decided so and used a different restaurant. Then, it was a success! I had about 15 people, and everybody had a good time over Japanese food.

Smile!

Most people who are interested in Japanese language and show up at my conversation evening have been to Japan for various reasons. The main reason by far is to teach English in Japan, either by the JET Program or working for a private language school. There were some people who went there on the Working holiday, and yet another people were living there for some years working for a Japanese company. There was one person who went to Japan to work at a care house for elderly people. Of course there are also many people who visited Japan on holiday, and fell in love with Japan. And yet another people have never visited Japan, but are wishing to visit there in the near future. All these people, some fluent in Japanese, and some can’t speak at all, get mingled and enjoy each other’s company.

This is all mine!

As a Japanese, I feel so grateful for the fact that all these people love Japan so much and wish to go there again whenever an opportunity arises. I did not realize how wonderful it was to live in Japan, until I left there. Silly me. Now I’m one of them, wishing to go back to Japan to live there one day.

If you live in the Greater Manchester area, I will welcome you to join us at this conversation evening, so please contact me. I believe anyone who likes Japanese language and culture is a good, sincere, and genuine person. I know it’s a bias. But, hey, don’t you like Japanese culture too?

Preface

Hi everyone,

I’m relatively new to the UK. Originally from Japan, when I first moved to Manchester, I did not enjoy it here. The time I came was not helping; January 2nd. It was dark, wet and cold, and everything looked just dirty. I was literally crying everyday missing Japan. But of course I didn’t want to waste my precious time, so I have tried to make the most of my time living here.

Gradually, I started to find various things that are related to Japanese culture in and around Manchester: places, societies, organizations, and people. Each time I “discovered” them, I was first surprised, then impressed, and filled with joy. The more I learned about them, the more I felt that living in Manchester is not that bad. I started to feel more at home in Manchester.

If you are interested in Japanese culture, I’m sure you will find what I’ve found interesting too. That’s why I decided to start this blog, named “Japan Outpost.” I hope you can share with me the excitement and the joy I felt when I discovered the things I’m going to introduce one by one. I’m looking forward to your comments!

Yuko Howes