Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sake to me!

   Tonight was the annual Shinnenkai Celebration with the Japan-America Society, held at the Marriott on the Plaza. A shinnenkai (Japanese 新年会, literally "new year gathering") is the Japanese tradition of welcoming the arrival of the New Year, usually by the drinking of alcohol. And drink we did... once the ceremonial sake barrel was broken by Fran, Sachie and the others, we all toasted to health, happiness and prosperity in the new year. Patty and Mickey, above, were kind enought to buy me a drink prior to the toast and our fabulous dinner, too. 
   The evening was so fun: I met some new friends, Natsuko and Hiroshi, and Shelley. And Bobby Watson, the director of Jazz studies in the music conservatory at UMKC not only performed, but delivered a heartfelt speech. He and 11 of his students had the opportunity to perform in Japan last year, and several of the students spoke as well. Paraphrasing Bobby, he said that America is a great country, but it is humbling to know how much we can learn and be inspired by places that are centuries older. Too true!
   We all had lots of time to eat, drink, meet and visit, and it was a great way to kick off the new year. 開けましておめでとうございます!
Sachie was my very first Japanese teacher:
   今晩はプラザのライトがまだとても明るいです。The holiday lights were taken down last weekend, but the Plaza is still pretty and festive at night: