September 13th, 2007 – by: rsummo
Speak Salon regulars
Every Thursday night at the Uji community center is the "Speak Salon". The Speak Salon is a free program that foreigners attend to work on their Japanese with native speakers. The native speakers are all volunteers from the local community. The community center is buried pretty deep within the back streets of Uji, so you really have to go there with someone who has been there before, or else have an incredible sense of direction. Normally people just get together and converse in small groups, and gaijin ask questions about things they need clarification on. Tonight however was a special night where they had set up a series of games to play, and bought a whole bunch of different Japenese snacks for us to try. The first game was basically a test of our chopstick skills.
The winning team of the chopstick contest!
Two bowls were securely taped to a table in front of us. In teams of 5, the first person had to move the contents of bowl A to bowl B as fast as possible and then stand up and move so that the second person could sit and move the contents of bowl B back into bowl A, etc. There were 4 rounds of objects: Round 1 was large fava like beans; not too difficult. Round 2 was tiny lentl-like beans, also not very hard. Round 3 was this crazy gelatenous cubed green junk that I was told is somehow a potato, this stuff was next to impossible to pick up because it was so goddamn slippery. The final round was toothpicks, which we had to move one at a time from bowl to bowl. Toothpics were actually the easiest thing to move.
Musical Chairs is evidently an international game.
All that sushi I ate back in Baltimore had driven my chopstick skills up to near-Japanese levels, so I was able to contribute to my teams first place victory. We were awarded some paper medals and adorned with glory. The second game was good old "musical chairs", which was fairly uneventful. The only remarkable thing was that no one ended up being pushed onto the floor, it was an extremely civil game. Some of the people there were here in Japan teaching english, some were students at Kyoto University, some were just here hanging out. It's a pretty fun time tho, and if you are living in the Kyoto/Osaka area and want to learn Japanese, I'd look into getting directions from someone. If for nothing else it's a good way to meet people.