Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kansai Culture Day weekend

So, last weekend, Kansai celebrated Culture Day by having a weekend of free museums. Here is one of them:

Taking up the whole eighth floor of the building was a entire recreated village of the Edo Period. Impressive, yes? And then, on the floor below, were many displays of intricate models recreating scenes of Osaka in the early 20th century.

After that, we finally took a trip on the HEP 5 Ferris Wheel. The view was spectacular, and it also had an iPod dock to play your own music in the capsule. It's little things like that that make the experience a little more special. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fear of Dancing

Preamble: I've noticed that this blog has thus far been dominated by my travel videos. I've also been reading a number of swing dancing blogs, so I thought that I'd try my hand at a dancing-related blog-post...

When I was in high school, I had a morbid fear of dancing. I still remember being at the MLC formal in 1996, girls attempting to coax me onto the dance floor, and I'd sit on the sidelines shaking my head furiously. Even when everybody was moshing to the Smashing Pumpkins, and pelvic-thrusting to the Grease Megamix.

Fear is the best way of describing it. Performance anxiety is another. I didn't know the rules. What if I didn't do it right, and looked like an idiot? I wouldn't know where to start.

In hindsight, I wish somebody had explained to me that nobody on the dance floor cared about any of that, and that I should get over myself. I eventually realised this, about the same time that I started going to goth nightclubs, and started dancing like I was practicing martial arts to the soundtrack of The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Prodigy. The dance floor at Abyss nightclub was my dojo.

Flashforward ten years - to 18 months ago. I start dating a swing dancer. Every few weeks, she was off to an exchange, and I figured that, it being something that she was keen on, that I would learn to swing dance. In secret. I figured that, in a month or two, I'd learn enough to be able to sweep her off her feet, Frankie Manning aerial style.

Firstly, the "learning in secret" thing didn't exactly work - I seriously underestimated the incestuous nature of the swing dancing scene, and after a few near-misses (i.e. "No, I've never met her before. Especially not at a dancing class"), I 'fessed up.

Secondly, whilst I was nailing the moves in class, with the teachers calling out the moves, social dancing was a completely different story. I remember my first social dance. I walked into the room, with my repertoire of six-beat tuck-turns and pass-bys, and it was the MLC formal all over again. With me sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head whenever somebody asked for a dance. Occasionally, I'd be brave enough, and those three-and-a-half minutes would last forever, perpetually worried that this girl would hate me for my bad dancing.

The thing is this - when you're a lead, you need to dance for two people. Not only did I have to look good, but I also had to make my follow look good by leading her well. It was just "too scary" - what if I screwed up? The crazy thing is that I wasn't scared of performing. Here's a video of me at the performance ball in October last year. (In the front right)

I wasn't social dancing then.

It took me a good six months until I became brave enough to social dance "properly". Learning 8-beat helped a lot.

However, the fear has still been there for the year that has transpired since then. The Fear of Dancing has mutated into a subset - Fear of Dancing with People who are Really Good. (I also have a Fear of Blues Dancing, but I'll blog about that another time.)

And the most terrifying of all - being asked to dance by a teacher.

Moving to Japan has helped me face my fears somewhat. It helps that I really don't know what level a lot of dancers are at. It helps that I'm now dancing in a social dancing scene that isn't dominated by a skill-based hierarchy (which was the case in Melbourne) with teachers at the top, then the various troupes, then "mid-stream" students, then beginners.

However, being a traveller, I feel like I'm finally free from the fear. I can just get on with enjoying the dance, without worrying about whether my follow will be underwhelmed by my leading.

At least, so I thought, until this week, with a visit to Osaka by amazing guest teachers Patrick and Natasha. I loved the friendliness and enthusiasm with which they embraced the scene, and danced with everybody... that is, until it was my turn again!

And the fear struck, once again! Of course, I accepted the dance, but I was too preoccupied with rising panic to really enjoy it. Will I ever be free?

Finally, a similar concern is how I'll feel if/when I return to the Melbourne scene. All my peeps that I started out with will have blossomed into troupe members, whilst my skills will have atrophied through months of travel, devoid of dancing. They will have evolved into the dreaded subset of my dance-a-phobia.

I may never dance again.

Then again, maybe I'm over-thinking the whole thing. After all, it's just dancing, right?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Koyasan: take two!

For our second trip, we took two days, and stayed the night in a buddhist temple, complete with meditation session and mommy vegetarian food.
We also went to the cemetery at night time, but it seems that my camera doesn't work too well in the dark. S has also written about the trip with more photos. Definitely worth returning, and I want to go back in December once it's started snowing. Then again in Spring when the cherry blossoms have bloomed. It's certainly the most stunning place I've been to so far.

Monday, November 7, 2011


So, last weekend was our first trip to Koya-san. We're visiting again next weekend, and this time we'll be staying overnight. I expect it'll be colder and there'll be more red leaves to look at. Meanwhile, here are our first impressions...

Friday, November 4, 2011

2 months in Japan

So, it's now 2 months since I arrived in Japan.

I'm still not sure how to describe how I feel about being here. I don't feel settled, because I don't have a local job, or any long-term security. However, I'm not exactly on holiday either, because more than half my time here is spent in some semblance of domestic routine. I get up, I do cleaning, wash clothes, go for walks runs, cook meals. I'm becoming a regular housewife. It keeps me going - for now.

I'm also meeting new people every week. I've established a few local connections. I've been doing a couple of hours of private teaching each week, plus helping out some other local English enthusiasts who have been very hospitable in return.

And I've been able to travel a bit too. I've visited Osaka half a dozen times, Nara twice, and Kobe and Kyoto once. We've made plans to go to Malaysia / Singapore / Hong Kong in December / January.

I'm also studying - I've gotten one subject down closer to completing my masters. The plan is to have that done by next August.

Being November, I'm also engaged in NaNoWriMo. I've been a bit slow off the mark, but I plan to catch up quickly next week. Oh yes. I'm not planning to have the great Australian novel written, but hopefully it'll unclog my creative flow.

So, my life definitely feels like it's in transition. The wheels are in motion. I'm not sure where they'll take me, but it'll be somewhere. It's still scary not knowing what will happen next, but I can't say it's been too boring.