I absolutely cannot believe ive almost been here a month, its unreal. Whilst talking to Rochelle (my little American friend who rides all my buses and subways with me each day and generally takes care of me) at the weekend who’s only here til Christmas we realised she only has another 10 Saturdays left-which is horrendous, and it means I’ve spent 1/9th of the time with my host family already. Its nuts; I’ll be home in around 10/11months! Anyway that’s the negative thinking over, I just have to do loads of stuff and not waste my time here!
This week was fabulous in many ways-much hilarity has been enjoyed.
To kick off, the teacher of my festival class recommended we check out the annual festival of a nearby community-Imaike festival. So we toddled along with many who don’t take the class but wanted to come for the ride. We met the teacher there, he pointed out bits and bobs to us, we were given a free Imaike Festival sweat towel as a souvenir - it was SO hot that day!
The festival consisted of small streets packed with market stalls selling all sorts of regional food
specialities, cold beer, and many random unnecessary other things too. Apparently many of the more colourful stalls were run by the yakuza-crazy. We rocked up just in time for the opening ceremony on the main stage which was several elderly festival organisers (24 male, 1 female) introducing us to them and the festival. Nothing massive. Then throughout the day there were performances here by Okinawan drummers, dancers, drag queens (slightly whacky for mid-afternoon in Japan I thought) etc.
After exhausting the festivals amusements, Evan (surprise surprise also American) and I went to check out the Atsuta Shrine a few subway stops away, (everyone else decided the zoo would be a more culturally rich experience). We had barely arrived and taken the first photos when an elderly Japanese man ‘got us’ and without any say in the matter he proceeded to take us around the entire grounds of the shrine giving us very impressive English explanations for every single tree or piece of gravel we came across. He spent probably at least an hour with us which was very kind and he afterwards thanked us for the enjoyable English conversation. He said he goes there everyday so that’s why he’s
quite the expert. He also said he married his wife there 36 years ago and regretted it ever since-what a joker! Mid-way round there was a board displaying ages that are seen as dangerous in Japan. He emphasized a great deal how being 19 I had to be very careful of ‘friends and men’ and that I am ‘far too healthy at this age.’ My other age to look out for will be 33 as this is when I will fall pregnant and then die because I will be too old for pregnancy, apparently….
Another crazy experience was in the bank yesterday. I was sat waiting for my turn and an (again elderly) Japanese man turned and said ‘may I talk to you?’ of course I said yes and we conversed in English for several minutes about non-specific Japan/England related things. He too stressed very strongly that I have to be careful of Japanese men, ironically enough, and told me that I was too charming. When he left he gave me ¥3000 (around £24) for no apparent reason although he pointed in the direction of the supermarket next door and told me to treat myself. Very lovely! So far
I see no reason not to be ‘charming.’
Also when I left the bank cashier gave me a packet of shoe fresheners - little sachets to put in my shoes-apparently that’s a normal thing to receive from a bank here?!
Im sure im mentioned several times okaasan, the amazing granny of the family who looks after me. So when I returned home from all the festival/shrine excitement on Sunday she was sat there with her leg all in bandage-she had left early in the morning to go mountain climbing outside of Nagoya somewhere but fallen and broken her leg. Massively gutting as she’s clearly in a lot of pain and has to stay in her room all day now, I bought her some cute little tea bags to try to make her feel better! She has an operation next week sometime and until then we take her little trays of food to her room so she doesn’t have to move around. The rest of the family have been very good at keeping me fed which also means we see (and hear) a lot more of the baby who seems to hate me slightly less now than last week.
I’ve also now visited a maid café. Originating in Tokyo, there are several specialist cafes, so for example catered for manga and anime nerds and this one near the university is an internet café where the staff dress up as Western maids. Its pretty jokes-I went there for an hour last week to send some e-mails and found myself highly entertained yet I thought taking pictures wouldn’t go down too well.
Thursday was a national holiday, again! (Monday was another one-‘Respect for the Aged day’). So Wednesday night we knew partying had to be done. We went to the American-owned nomihoudai in Imaike which involves paying ¥1000 (around £8) for all you can drink until 11pm. Now this isn’t like Leeds where all you can drink involves weak drinks and only one bar man so you never actually get more than one anyway-the drink was flowing here and a good night was had by all, actually it was excellent-massively good times! The bar was tiny so 80 of us in there was a bit of a squeeze compared to the 20 customers that its used to, and when things got hot the bar man and lady took their
tops off (jokers!) so obviously all the guys went all macho and did the same. Hilarity. I vaguely intentionally missed the last bus home so had to sneak into Katie’s dorm for the night much to the disapproval of her hall rep. Apparently rules aren’t broken here.
Other things that have crossed my mind this week:
Workmen; do Builders etc here generally have the same negative connotations as in England? There is a worksite that I pass every morning on the way to the bus stop and the same man on the gate greets me with a low bow every morning and seems extraordinarily polite. However when one of the workmen from within the site left the other day I got one of those horrible whistles which mixed everything up in my mind-I swear they don’t do that here? Also along the same lines, drunk Japanese guys are also massively funny!
Vehicles; why do cars here all look ridiculous?! It appears that whenever possible the manufacturers have tried as hard as possible to make them look boxy and unsafe..im not sure if that’s part of the kawaii culture but I don’t believe they even look
that cute! They’re all horrific colours too; okaasan’s car is pink for example which doesn’t even stand out over here. Ambulances also, a massive joke they look like toys. I swear if any of these cars came anywhere near England they’d be laughed at.
I am delighted to say somehow overnight last week I seem to have become a respected member of kamisawa (my little housing area). I always pass the same school children in the opposite direction on the way to school every day, yet usually its only the odd one or two who will greet me. All of a sudden one morning last week every single group of kids did massive low bows and said good morning-I reckon it was a pre-determined plot to freak me out-it definitely worked!
Finally, last night I was invited to an Izakaya (really tradaional drinking/eating bar) with some Japanese people. It was 3000yen (£24) for all you can eat and all you can drink. Was a wicked experience and I ate a fish eye. Culture culture culture. There was only a few of us and were outnumbered by Japanese people so there was lots of chances to whack out the
Japanese practice, good times!
Also this week both my host mum and okaasan have asked me on separate occasions whether or not im having a good time here. Since I am having the most amazing time this makes me feel bad as im clearly not conveying that very obviously to them, so that’s my mission for this week-to appear ridiculously happy all the time, along with not being deported, which is an ongoing challenge.....
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