Published: October 15th 2010October 15th 2010
...and I didn't sound like an idiot!! In fact, the man (who is a staff member at TIU), told me 「あなたのはつおんはすごくきれい！」or "Anata no hatsuon wa sugoku kirei!" OOOOORRRRRRR "You're Japanese pronunciation is very pretty/clean/good!" (There are different meanings for the word "kirei")
I was blown away. I had actually briefly met this man once before with a Japanese friend, Marina, but I didn't get past "hello" with him the first time. Obviously, when he approached me and said hello, I was already shocked that he remembered me... but then he started asking me about whether I'd studied Japanese before, and when: I understood everything he said, and I was able to reply in what I guess sounded to him like well-pronounced child's talk.
Now, the Japanese are famous for their politeness, and also for their assumptions that fundamentals of Japanese culture like being skilled with chopsticks and having good pronunciation (let alone speaking the language at all) are things that foreigners just don't know or do. This quality is actually very endearing at times, because almost every time I meet a new friend of my host-family's, they are taken aback when I say "Hello!" in Japanese (はじめまして、Hajimemashite). Their eyes
Fuji: Morning After
Me and my host mom have started calling this "Zombie time".
go wide and they smile largely, immediately turn to my host mom or dad, and say "OMG He is speaking our f*%^$ing language!!" (or something to that effect) as if I'm not standing right there.
I think this quality comes from a general feeling that I've experienced from most people here, a sort of inferiority complex with foreign countries, especially America. I've gotten the vibe from many people here that America is way cooler to them than their own country, and maybe this accounts for some of why they're surprised that an American would have enough interest in their own country to learn things like Japanese or how to eat with chopsticks: Don't we have cooler things to do in America like drink beer and watch football???
Anyway, get back on topic, Rowan. Maybe this guy was just being polite, and was just surprised by my ability to speak Japanese at all... but he seemed very genuine about it, and if he works at an international university, I feel like he would've gotten the exposure to enough gaijin to get the perspective that many other Japanese don't have, which is American's aren't automatically cool just by virtue of
My other host bro! (That's a wig!)
being American. :)
So long story long, I'm happy. I had been wondering lately what I sounded like to Japanese people, and even though this guys is only one opinion, it's still a great victory in my book!!
It's getting longer and longer between my posts... I'm busy, y'know? I have a lot of great and fun things happening to me right now, which is just where I want to be. Life in Japan is great. It's an easy life I'm living, like an extended vacation, but one where I'm also learning a great deal everyday. It's a completely new feeling for me, being both relaxed and being so busy learning stuff each day that I'm exhausted after each one. I'm actually pretty spoiled here, which is both wonderful and is going to be a rude wake up call when I get back! My host mom makes me breakfast every morning and makes be dinner every evening, my host dad drives me to school when it rains, I have a room thats probably twice as big as the common college student room in Japan, and it's definitely the biggest room I've had to myself... I feel like I'm
Riei is Kenji's wife!
dreaming a lot of the time. It's carefree, and I'm loving it.
I've started hanging out more with TIU students, which is obviously both fun and is helping my Japanese a lot. I've also decided that I'm going to go to Jun's (my host brother) tennis club every week that I can, and bring TIU friends with me!
Anyway, stuff is great, I'll just run down some of the stuff in this entry's pictures:
1: September-October is a big month long period of birthdays in the Yoinara family. My host dad and I are in September and then host-mom, Riei (Kenji's wife), and Jun all have birthdays in October!!
2: I've spent some really nice days being taken around our part of Saitama (a prefecture: basically a state, but smaller) by my host family. We went to a temple in Kawagoe where we saw some chanting monks who did taiko as well, and we went to the birthplace of the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun, right down the street.
3: My birthday party was awesome: my host-family ran the whole thing in their bar and it was just a really great time. We decided to have a
So-chan is adorable. Kenji's little boy: he's 2!
whole 40 mins where everyone HAD to speak Japanese, which really help integrate the foreign and English-speaking students with my host family's regular bar customers and friends.
4: Joe Spradley, currently becoming famous
in Seoul, Korea at game developer Com2Us, came over to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show and we got to hang out once again. I know Joe from USC, where he actually started what has become the biggest game making, student run organization on campus: Makers of Entertaining Games Association (MEGA). I and four others took over the work that Joe started after he graduated, so it was really great to reconnect with him after so long. Can you think of a moment in which a friendship that you built primarily through work, school, or some other organization crossed the boundary between mostly conversing about that one topic, into starting to delve deeper into that person's motivations and interests? I felt that Joe and I, being both in a completely foreign environment, were able to see each other in a different way and get to know a different side of each other than we had at college... I'm not sure if he felt the same way,
Richard's Birthday Lunch
Richard (my host dad) had his birthday a week before mine!
but I was very happy with how the common foreign elements around us gave us great context to become better friends. We had some fun adventures, including going to the Ghibli Museum, and being at the top of two of Tokyo's tallest buildings in one night, the second of which was the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where they filmed most of Lost In Translation. Good times, I hope we can make them happen again somehow. Check out Joe's blog here: BodyNSeoul.com
So that's it for now. It's exactly 2 months till the day until my flight states-side, but I'm pretty interested in staying for an extra week or two at the end to just travel around. If you have any suggestions of what to do, please let me know! Tomorrow in the Kawagoe Matsuri, a city wide street festival. I'll take lots of pictures! And then in two weeks, I go one my first bullet train (shinkansen) down to Kansai, the southern region of Japan's main island. We hit Hiroshima the first 2 days and see the Atomic Bomb Memorial dome for some heavy and somber reflection, and then we go to
Playing with Legos!
Childhood seems pretty similar in Japan!
Kyoto, which is supposed to be much more traditional than where we live. Looking forward to a change of pace and scenery (not that where I am is boring in the least!!)
Much love, I'm out,
There are more photos below