Monday, October 10, 2005

Health-Sports Day

This morning, I got a phone call from my parents.

I get a phone call from them every weekend. We always try and talk at least once a week. With me being over here, and them being over in Oregon, the phone is really the only way to keep in touch. Besides, it's always nice to hear the same familiar voices once a week.

However, the phone call woke me up, as it usually does. This is NOT a complaint; I just feel bad because I always answer the phone some thing like this:

"Mmmrfrffmmm? Helrrmmmmmmmmmo?"

I'm not what you would call a morning person.

Dad and I attempt conversation for a few minutes, but it becomes apparent that my brain is still lying on my pillow, fast asleep. He says, "Should I call you back?"
Me: "mmmmrfffmmmyeahmmmmm."
Dad: "What time are you going in to work?"
Me: "rfffrmmmnationalholidaymmmfrf."
Dad: "AGAIN?!"

I love having the "It's a three-day weekend over here" conversation with my dad. His reaction is always pure gold.

"What? You have another national holiday? Don't you ever WORK over there?"

Classic. Gotta love him.

So, today was Health-Sports Day over here. It used to be on October 10th, but now it is held every year on the second Monday in October. It was designated as a national holiday in 1966. It commemorates the day that the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was held on. With it being the first Olympics held in Japan, it was a big deal, so now we have a national holiday to show for it.

Apparently, meteorological data shows that October 10th is the most likely day throughout the year for good weather here in Japan. That's why October 10th was chosen as the day for the Opening Ceremonies.

Today is October 10th, and it rained like nobody's business all afternoon. So much for meteorological data.

Of course, with it being Health-Sports Day, all sorts of sporting events were held all over the country. There was a nationally televised team marathon race held in Izumo, Shimane (that's where I used to live). I'm sure there were lots of other things, too. Why? Because good ol' Starfish High had an event planned for today, and if we're doing it, I have a sneaky suspicion that everyone else is too.

Our event? Park golf. What's park golf, you ask? Imagine miniature golf, just without the fun obstacles. Oh, and you don't use a putter. I think what we used today would be most easily described as a "blunt instrument" or "a three-wood with a tumor". Better yet, imagine that a three wood and a croquet mallet got married and had children. Their children were what we were using today.

Today's event was a PTA-sponsored parent-child park golf tournament, and I was looking forward to it. Mostly because I thought it was going to be miniature golf. I was wrong, but it was still fun, at least for me.

I wonder about Japanese people sometimes. While I have a lot of friends who know how to cut loose, relax, and have a good time, I wonder if Japanese society truly understands the concept of "having fun". Here's why.

Everybody shows up around 10 this morning, ready to park some golf. To start things off, we have an Opening Ceremony. Umm, it's a national holiday, and it's just miniature golf, right? It gets better. We had warm-up exercises. Oh yeah. Everybody stretch! For crying out loud, IT'S JUST MINIATURE GOLF! Cool it with the formality!

I know it's a little strange for me to be complaining about formality after six years over here, but I deal with that enough at work. It's a national holiday, a day off, and I just want to relax and have a good time. I would prefer to avoid bowing, official greetings, and group stretching when all we're doing is smacking a ball around a miniature golf course.

And yes, I am a bit worn out and grumpy from this last week.

Here's the best (see also: most ridiculous) part of the day: Most everybody in our group was a newcomer to park golf, and we were nowhere near what you would call "pros". However, there were some teams of older folks out there who were trying their best to play the part of "pros". These guys had their own blunt instruments and balls, hip clips for said balls, gloves, shoes...the works. It's like seeing someone dressed for 18 holes at Augusta at your local mini golf course. You could see the disgusted looks on their faces when their group got stuck behind one of ours. You could tell that they were thinking, "Who let these jokers on the green? I'm going to have to talk to management about restricting membership."

Sometimes people just take themselves WAY too seriously.

A group of three of these "pros" was waiting for my group at one of the holes. I'm getting ready to tee off, and one of them starts telling me that I'm supposed to tee off behind some markers on the astroturf (I'm guessing that that was the tee off line). Umm, yeah, thanks for all your help there, Phil Mickelson, but I DON'T CARE. I'm not concerned about my score, or where the ball lands, or most of all, about anything YOU say. What an ass. I turn around to tee off again, but I'm just torqued off enough that I turn back around and say, "Why don't you go first? We are, after all, merely beginners, and we'll just end up making you wait. Pros like you should go first." Smiling all the while, but loading the words with enough venom to kill a small calf. Sometimes, you just don't want to catch me at a bad moment.

Anyway, we finished up, had lunch, had an awards ceremony followed by a closing ceremony (AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGH!), and then we all went on our merry ways. I went to the local pool, swam a bit, came home, and fell asleep. Long weekend.

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