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River Opening

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

May 21-22, 2011

All Pictures

getting ready for a festival

Boat Battles

It was supposed to be an event on Facebook created by Mark for everyone to see some cormorant fishing in the town of Hita. But, further research showed that seeing the birds catching fish would cost us about 100-300 USD per person. This is way too much money to watch birds regurgitate fish. As luck would have it, the trip wouldn’t have to be called off.

There was, at the same place and time, a water opening festival. There would be watersports, fireworks, and festival food. We went. I drove, as usual. But by the time we got there, I didn’t feel like competing. Mark joined another team and I just watched on the bank while staying dry.

So, where are you from?

Some of our friends dressed up in costume. They cause quite a scene. They were interviewed on camera and might have even made the Hita evening news. It was a great event.

sink her!

I loved watching the people in their little boats try to sink each other. I also thought it was funny when, our friend Sylvain, realized how see-through his white costume could be once wet. Don’t worry nothing obscene happened, just his well hidden tattoos became not so hidden. He thought is was funny too.

I have no idea what I’m eating.

Festival Food

The festival food was great. After my friends changed into normal clothes, we walked around town sampling foods on sticks. Some of the vendors offered 2 for 1 deals if the buyer could best the sales person at rock-paper-scissors or as it is known here in Japan janken. We walked around for a good hour and a half eating and talking.

Rain can’t stop our fun!

One of the Hita JETs set out a spot for everyone to sit near the river, earlier that morning. With our territory staked out, we casually sat around and chatted until the fireworks began. The fireworks were great too, even though it rained. It lasted for 2 hours! We didn’t get too wet. After it was all done we headed off for karaoke.

It is not just a word.

This is one of the hardest entries for me to write. Before I continue, I just want to say that the offending person that I write about below is not any of the people in any of the photos in this blog entry, any entry previously, or any entries to come. I have never seen this guy before nor have I seen him since.

After the fireworks show we walked to a karaoke place that one of the JETs recommended. It was a long walk, about 20 minutes, mostly because people wandered off and we had to stop and wait for them to catch up. It was decided that we, or rather they, would go to a 7/11 to buy beer before going to the karaoke place.

We kept passing convenient stores which confused some of the walkers. But we were promised that the 7/11 up ahead was not only better, but closer to the destination. When we pass the 7/11 that was closest to the karaoke place someone in the back shouted out that this would be the one we would all go to. A white guy, I had never met until this day, was so happy that we had finally reached the place where he could buy beer he shouted out “Yea Nigger!”

I was so taken aback by hearing this word coming out of the mouth of a white man that I just stop, turned around, and looked at him. Mark, just as shocked as I was, did the same thing. He casually walk passed me and said by way of an excuse, “I’m white…” and sheepishly walked past me.

We were very spread out in our walk at this point, so I’m not sure who all heard this remark. But I know that both Mark and I, along with the guy’s Asian girlfriend or wife heard. A few minutes later, while standing outside the 7/11 I overheard him tell his lady friend, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

“Why? What did you say?” the woman asked.

“It’s just not a good word.” he replied.

When we got to the karaoke place, I wasn’t in the mood to sing. I really just wanted to go home and not be in the same room with the guy. I felt very uncomfortable around him. If I were back in Oita, I would have just left. But I was staying at a friend’s place and I couldn’t just leave without explaining why. I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s night, so I just sat there trying to make the best of it.

Then the guy got up to sing the first song. I don’t remember what song it was, but it had the word “nigger” in the chorus and he sang that chorus with gusto. I felt sick. I really didn’t want to be there.

Later on, Mark took this guy aside and told him that I was very upset with him. He sat next to me to apologize, but I didn’t buy it. Later I heard him telling Mark that he was not a racist. “I’m in an interracial relationship,” was his proof of his non-racist status.

I’m not a racist, I have a (enter minority ethnic group here) friend.

This is the lamest proof for not being a racist. Let me give you an example…

I hate alcohol. I especially hate beer. I might tolerate a cocktail, but I would not go so far as to say I like them. I do, however, like Long Island iced teas, as made by one of the bars in Itaewon, in Seoul, South Korea. But my liking this one drink, doesn’t affect my dislike of all other alcoholic drinks in general.

I am not a racist. My proof is that I do not act in a racist manor, nor do I say racist things, nor do I hang out with people who act like racists or say racist things. I do not know if the guy was a racist or just a idiot who says racist things, but if he had never used that word, I would not be questioning his racist status or writing this right now.

But I hear black people using that word.

The guy never brought up this point, but I would like to address it. For the record I feel uncomfortable hearing anyone use that word. It’s just stings more when a non-black person uses it. It’s hard to explain why, but here is the best analogy I can think of…

Let’s say, you, your mom, and I are talking. Your mom says something I don’t agree with so, I call her a “bitch”. You would probably be very mad at me. You ask me why I would think it was okay to use that word against your mom. I respond by saying, “Well, I heard your sister call your mom a bitch and thought that I could do it too.”

In both cases it is very rude. Neither your sister nor I should refer to your mom as a bitch. But it stings you more to hear me call your mom a bitch, then when your sister does it.

Self racism.

I have tried very hard to stay away from racism. Racism towards other people is not so difficult to avoid. It’s not hard to see all peoples as being human with the same needs, wants, and goals as your own. The kind of racism that is turned inward is a bit trickier. It is harder to avoid, because it is more difficult to identify.

I grew up in a very religious home. I was not really allowed to listen to secular music and for most of my childhood I didn’t care. But when I hit puberty, I wanted to act more like my friends who were allow to listen to any music they pleased.

So, I started to turn on the radio when my parents were away. I would listen to anything. I enjoyed all types of music. And once I was listening to non-christian music that I enjoyed, I wanted to talk about it to anyone who would listen. That was when I found out that I shouldn’t like country music, rock, or heavy metal, because I was black. I should prefer dance hall, roots, and reggae over rap and R & B, because I was West Indian.

But this made no sense to me, because I WAS black and I WAS West Indian and I DID enjoy some country music songs, some rock and heavy metal songs, and sometimes, I liked rap and R & B over reggae and dance hall. And I hated most roots music. Other than  Steel Pulse most roots singers were one hit wonders in my book.

Luckily I had friends who didn’t care what music we were obliged to like. They openly admired rock, pop, and whatever music bands were hot at the moment. So I followed their lead. Back then I enjoyed mostly 80’s cheese music and in college I loved glam rock.

But music was just one form of self racism. In college I loved to rollerblade through downtown D.C. One weekend, finding that all my usual rollerblading friends were gone for the weekend, I asked a friend and fellow basketball teammate to borrow some inline skates and join me.

Since learning to rollerblade, I had taken many college friends, including Makeeya, downtown and taught them to skate, just like my friend Andrew taught me, but without trying to cross the 395. Many of my friends who were new to inline-skating would say no at first, but I would talk them into it. So when she said “no” I started to explain how safe everything was, and that, since she would be learning, we would stay off the roads with cars on them, at least for the first hour.

Then she told me that she wasn’t saying no, because she thought it was unsafe, though she did think it was very unsafe. She was saying no, because she was black and black people don’t rollerblade. “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” I told her. “How would that sound if a white person said that?” So I left her there and found someone else less self-oppressed to rollerblade  with.

totally normal

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)


How to get there:

By Car from Oita –

  • Take either the Oita Expressway or Highway 210
The train station in this town is called Hita Station.




  • There is a Sapporo Beer factory in this town.
  • There is a River Opening Festival on the first weekend after May 20th, every year.


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