Today was a public holiday much like many public holidays in the US that land on a Monday, in the sense that no one really celebrates it and it's just another excuse for a day off! I had asked some students what this holiday was about, and got mostly replies of "I don't know" and "There's no meaning, really". My favourite answer though was, "I think the government decided there weren't enough holidays, so they made another one." Haha, gotta love some of the advanced students for their wit!
But Umi no Hi, or Ocean Day, does officially have a more significant meaning than that, what with the country being completely surrounded by ocean. To quote the all-knowing *ahem* Wikipedia, Umi no Hi is "a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan." Seems a bit ironic though, considering recent events...
And considering other recent events- this morning on Facebook i was greeted by a string of posts, from Japanese and American friends alike, celebrating Japan's victory in the Women's World Cup. Definitely a morale-booster in a time where the Northeast is still recovering from the devastation of the tsunami, but also a great show of the strength that these people possess. The Japanese are often known for their politeness and reserve, but they are also fighters and exhibit amazing resilience. Just look at the before and after pictures of the clean-up process after the tsunami, it's amazing. I think this World Cup victory is definitely well-deserved.
But this day is definitely a bittersweet one, as tragedy strikes yet again for one of Japan's most influential rock groups- X Japan. They're often described as "heavy metal", but since i fail to hear the "metal", i prefer to describe them as "Japanese 80's hair band, with makeup sometimes reminiscent of KISS". At least they were in their early years. They lost their guitarist hide to bizarre, unfortunate circumstances back in 1998, and just yesterday, their former bassist Taiji died after being found in a similar state.
I discovered X back in my freshman year of high school, at that time they had been disbanded for a few years and there were no signs of them ever reuniting. But last year i got lucky as my dreams became reality, and got to see them perform live in Seattle (of course sans hide, and sadly sans Taiji then too). It was amazing, to say the least.
Mention X Japan to any Japanese person, whether they listen to that sort of music or not, and they'll know who you're talking about, if they don't you can liken them to someone in the West who's never heard of the Rolling Stones (at least, every Japanese that i've asked has at least heard of them). They've had such an impact on the music scene here, and it's sad that this sort of thing has happened to another of their members.
Was debating which video to leave you with, and i can't pick, so i'll just post them both.
There's Silent Jealousy, the first song of theirs that i ever heard. Very early, 80's-style video there for you!
And here about a decade later, playing my favourite live- 紅 (Kurenai)- with less hair, less makeup, and less clothes.