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These are the year 2000 entries to:CA'S LATEST NEWS.
In December I participated in three concerts at Kitara Hall with my chorus and the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra. Twice was Beethoven's 9th, plus we were invited to sing in the annual Kitara Hall Xmas Concert on December 23rd. By the end of December, I was all sung out, but I still decided to see in the new year/century/millennium by singing Beethoven's 9th in a Countdown Festival in Chitose (see CA's Journal, 2001).
In November, being one of the few Americans in Sapporo who had voted in the presidential election, I was interviewed by HTB television. They did the filming in my office, starting with a view of me using my Macintosh PowerBook, and with all my bookshelves in the background so, according to reliable sources (my private students), I looked very professorial. Although the crew was there a good 30 minutes and seemed to have at least 20 minutes of footage (in English, to which subtitles were added later), I appeared for only about 30 seconds on the actual program making some of my more inane comments. I was upstaged by the Consul General who gave his interview in fluent Japanese.
In October I participated with several members of Sapporo Academy Chorus in a concert in Shibetsu, a small town in eastern Hokkaido. I was given a ride by one of the basses so had the good fortune of doing some sightseeing on our way back, visiting lakes, including Lake Akan, and mountain passes, including Bihoko Toge, in Hokkaido I had never seen - with some lovely views of fog! Also, the morning of the concert, five of us took a drive around Shiretoko Peninsula, where the trees were just beginning to turn. From the shore we could see some of the islands belonging to Russia.
Although it threatened to rain, and actually sprinkled a little, we had generally good weather for the annual international walk rally. It took place along the Toyohira River near where I live (see photo below). We walked from Horohira Bridge (where there's a plaque commemorating Portland, Oregon, the sister city of Sapporo, to the Munchen Bridge (Munich is another sister city in Germany). About 60 people participated; I was one of the few Americans so people were eager to talk with me. I got asked how long I've been in Japan about 6 times, adding to the 600 times I've been asked the question since living here. (See list of CA's FAQ.)
On September 18th my chorus had its 21st concert at Kitara Hall. The first part of the program consisted of Quattro Pezzi Sacri, or four sacred pieces - Ave Maria, Stabat Mater, Laudi Alla Vergine Maria, and Te Deum - by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The second part was a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Weber, singing some of his most popular pieces including some from the musicals Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Since we sang some of them in English, I had to help teach correct pronunciation.
In April I started teaching at Sapporo University (in addition to Hokkaido University of Education and Hokusei Women's Junior College. The new class, called Teaching Development, was for students planning to become junior and senior high English teachers. Although I had previously taught the course three times at Asahi Cultural Center, teaching it to inexperienced university students was a new and challenging experience for me. There was no break - not a single holiday - from the end of Golden Week until the end of July, during which time I was teaching part-time at three different universities in addition to my own classes and private lessons. August, when I finally had a vacation, was unbearably hot!
In June, following the experience of singing on HTB, I was invited to sing at a dinner show starring Namerikawa-Sensei, one of the stars on Yugata Don! Don! Three of the other participants in the international competition were invited as well.
Namerikawa-Sensei is an enka teacher, so I sang a well-known enka, Kita no Yado (Northern Inn). At the end, all four of us sang Suki Desu Sapporo (I love Sapporo!). I'm sorry to say that I wasn't able to do my best since I had trouble reading the words from the karaoke screen; I should have practiced more. In the end, we had the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a marvelous show with the Sensei performing a variety of enka. (Enka translates loosely as a kind of Japanese love ballad, usually with a sorrowful theme much like American country-western music.)
During Golden Week I participated in a singing contest on the Yugata Don Don! Show on HTB TV. Twelve international contestants sang in a kind of tournament for a week and a half. I won my first round (singing "I will always love you") but lost the second one (in which I sang "Oh, Pretty Baby"). Even though I didn't go to the top, it was a fascinating experience that you can read about in detail at "Stranger Singing in a Strange Land." On the right you can see a photo of me with the show's mascot, On-chan.
From March 1st to the 14th, I took a trip to France visiting Paris and southwestern France. I've wanted to go ever since I studied French in college, but the time was right since I was able to stay with American friends (long-term French residents) whom I had met through an e-mail list. Although I experienced several bits of culture shock, I enjoyed every minute of it. Except for the day I visited the Eiffel Tower with a Japanese student currently living in Paris, the weather cooperated beautifully. You can see photos by clicking Paris above or read about my experience in my travelogue.
Since last December and continuing through November of this year, there has been construction both next to and behind my apartment! What is sad is that two beautiful buildings were destroyed to make way for the new 10-story apartment buildings that will be finished later this year. The only way I can put up with the noise is through humor (from e-mail to my sister: "Godzilla is back in Japan and walking through my neighborhood."), curiosity (I have a fascinating view of each step of the process), and knowing that the end is in sight (although the mountains will be out of sight, obstructed by the new buildings). I can always hope for some new students for my English conversation classes!
In February, I went to see the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park.
On January 8th, in my calligraphy class we did kakizome or the first writing of the New Year. This year was special for my teacher, Umeki-Sensei, because he celebrated his 50th birthday, which is a sort of coming-of-age year for artists in Japan. For photos of my calligraphy teacher and class, see my page on calligraphy.
I began the New Year's with a trip to Lake Toya where a friend's family has a small hotel with a hot springs. That is the same area where the volcano, Mt. Usu, erupted on March 31st. For more details of my trip, see Lake Toya.
See more news from 1999.
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