He's not your daddy

Well a couple days ago I went out to the Rakugo performance at Northwestern’s downtown campus for free thanks to the Chicago JET offices. Rakugo is a kind of Japanese Sit-down comedy. Why not “stand-up comedy” you ask? Well it seems that a defining feature of the art is that the performer sits in seiza on the stage during his act, so stand-up comedy just really wouldn’t fly. The performer tells stories that are stuructured in a similar way to many western jokes (the father says to his son, the son says… the father says… PUNCHLINE), but in rakugo, the performer relates the story first person, acting the roles of the various characters and distinguishing them only by altering his voice and slightly turning to one direction or another. The performer also uses no props besides a fan and a towel. It was a great time. The main Rakugo artist was a man on tour of the US via motorhome from Osaka, and he was accompanied by a Canadian counterpart, a Rakugo apprentice and a shamisen player who proclaimed herself to be the most talented and sexy shamisen player in the world.

I took my friend Joel from highschool with me and all in all it turned out to be a great event. In the lobby we were making fun of how most of the couples were made up of Caucasian men with Japanese women, and I finally understood Joel’s disdain for that stereotype, and his desire not to conform to it by pursuing Japanese lovin.’ But for the most part the couples were extremely dorky on both partner’s parts. It seemed almost that they were equally the outcasts of their respective cultures. If I were to date a Japanese national, it would be different because im totally cool and attractive right? Right?

Anyways, afterwards Joel and I found some other JETs from Chicago and we all went out for drinks and greasy food. It was great to meet some other ALT’s in person because thus far I have only encountered them through internet forums. They were all pretty intelligent and nice and it was fantastic to see that this is all actually coming together and will involve real live humans!

Most importantly, part of the appeal of attending this Rakugo performance was the allure of meeting Austin—the Chicago JET coordinator—in person. He promised in the Yahoo group message board that he would be there to hand out our free tickets, and I have to say that is really what sold me, because this guy is amazing at coming up with sarcastic zingers in response to stupid questions people ask on the Chicago JET forum. For example,

“I am an upgraded Alternate. There are still going to be more placements right?”

“No, everyone upgraded from here on out will be thrown out of the plane with a parachute. You start teaching wherever you land. –Austin”

Anyway, I got to place about half an hour early and approached the Will Call table to see if Austin was around. After some explanation that I was not in fact Austin, nor was it at all a last name, They managed to tell me that he hadn’t shown up yet. So I waited around looking for him in the lobby (of course I don’t know what he looks like) until 5 minutes before the show, so I approached Will Call again…

“Has Austin shown up yet? I’m with the JET group.”
“Oh yes! He dropped in and gave us this lit of names. Sorry for not letting you know.”

Damnit! He ninja’d in and I didn’t get to see him.

So that night, I sparked a discussion on the Yahoo boards about whether or not the guy actually exists, if he is a robot, AI Conglomerate, etc.

After much ado, he replies:

“I am actually a minor Shinto deity. My true name is
O-Sutein-No-Omikami-Sama. I am the patron god of squid fishermen,
catalpa trees, and girls with the kanji for "apricot" in their names
(there's 8 million of us, so we have to specialize). And, as with
Santa Claus, you can only see me if you truly believe. So, how did I
end up being a JET Coordinator? Well, long story short, around a
thousand years ago I knocked up the Sun Goddess's sister and so was
cast out of the High Plain of Heaven and sentenced to toil forever in
the depths of the Japanese Imperial Bureaucracy.

Stay away from solar deities, kids. They're trouble.


Ahh that’s too bad because I had come up with a great acronym for AUSTIN:

Artificial Unit for Sarcastic Troubleshooting and Inquiry Neutralization