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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie » In Japan
 
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“Sure you don’t want it?” “Positive.”

Posted by maggie on Jun 6, 2012 in In Japan

Today at the Tamachi station women’s restroom, I had a funny moment. I was waiting in line behind this woman, and one of the stall doors finally opened. She looked like she was going to go for it, but we both realized quickly that it was a squat pot. She looked back at me, smiled and gestured me to go ahead. I just shrugged, and we both started laughing as she turned back.

There were no words between us, but it was clear that neither of us wanted that stall. That is one thing I can be positively sure about.

In case my blogs haven’t been displaying it clearly, positivity is not really my strong point. I like to think of myself as a realist, but I suppose pessimist can also apply at times. As human beings, I think we like to focus on negative things because in the scope of time, even just a day, something bad that happened in an otherwise good day can stick out more clearly than a good thing during a good day. And a craptacular day overall is awful; sometimes it’s hard to find something good to take away from a day like that, right?

I mentioned before that I don’t see too much negativity in Japanese media. The news in America loves playing up big stories of negativity. “This could be potentially fatal.” “Local man shoots three teenagers.” “The hottest celebrity couple breaking up.”

That’s not to say everyone is this way. I can just see a basis for why the focus on negative things is encouraged. Even in movies, it’s satisfying to watch a character who has been stepped on during the whole film rise up and get revenge. Releasing negativity, getting over it is cathartic, useful and helpful in our daily lives. Whether your a pessimist, optimist, realist, whatever, you feel down sometimes and getting over it feels good.

It’s when there is too much of a negative focus that things can be bad, even unhealthy. This trip is providing so many opportunities for self reflection, but it can lead to stress and overload sometimes, and as a realist/occasional pessimist, this can get to me. Today was just one of those days.

I have always known I was bad at reading signals from others; not because I can’t read people at all, but because I have conditioned myself to read signals when there are none. I’m a very sensitive person who sometimes doesn’t take teasing well; it comes from some bad friendships I had when I was younger, which have put me on edge, even all this time later. I like to feel like I’ve made steps and gotten better, but sometimes when there is a down day….well, it’s like I’m back to square one all over again.

Sometimes I have trouble telling when people are joking, especially if the joke makes me feel stupid or otherwise down about myself. Sometimes that turns to resentment and anger, and I act on it at inopportune times. Then I feel stupid and upset, angry at myself and others at the same time, but I stumble trying to find the correct emotion and response, in a sea of endless possibilities.

By why do I say all this? Because this trip is a learning experience, applicable to so much in my life. By talking to others, both Japanese and not, I’m making discoveries, and trying to develop ways to adjust and get better. I want to be a better person by the time this trip concludes, and I want to hurry up and get with it, seeing as I only have about 3 weeks left.

I found some comfort in talking to people, particularly on this trip. There is so much support coming from my friends and family, but sometimes in this new place, I can and will feel very alone. It is nice to have people over here that understand and care, and I can go talk to if I have things to get off my chest.

I need to be a better communicator is what it comes down to. The reason I joined the major at JMU was not because I was an excellent example and could breeze through the classes; I’m not the greatest at giving speeches, and often times, when talking to people, I resort to gesturing (and making sound effects at the worst of times) when I can’t find a good way to express myself.

I chose it specifically because I like following how people communicate with each other, how they express feelings and wants and emotions in their own ways. Looking at my own experiences, sometimes I cannot understand why people act the way they do, but I want to learn. I want to better develop my skills, to be happy and healthy and be helpful to others, but at the same time know my limits.

I still have quite a ways to go, sad to say. But it’s not completely sad to say, because I’m still trying. I’ll still keep going for it because it’s a worthwhile goal that will be helpful as heck later on. That’s some positivity, right?

I can’t completely change the person that I am, but I can mold and shape that person into being closer to what I want to be. I’m going to practice thinking about things positively, because a conscious effort is the only way I can make a habit out of it. It’s the same with working out, eating right, sleeping well, studying, etc. Being conscious and diligent. Don’t beat myself up, but still hold myself accountable.

Sorry if this mostly seems like pep talking and what now, but I feel like this will help me, and make the conviction feel more solid.

Tomorrow is Studio Ghibli Museum, and after that, who knows. I’m excited to see exhibits for some of my favorite movies of all time. Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and the other directors and producers at Studio Ghibli really do feel like the “Disney” of Japan, but for an added bonus, they still use 2D animation. I wonder what we’ll see there…

On Friday, we’re doing Karaoke too! Actual Japanese “ka-ra-oh-keh!” :) That should be fun. I know the machines probably won’t do romaji lyrics, so I’ll really have to work on reading hiragana fast. If all else fails, shoot for anime themes and J-pop I know.

Last week of class feels weird. I can’t imagine what my internship will be like, but that’s still some time off.

 

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The Strange Encounter

Posted by maggie on Jun 4, 2012 in In Japan

The late day sun drifted lazily through the windows of the car, the whole train lightly bobbing as it sped along the tracks. Every seat was filled that day, leaving many standing in crowds near the doors on either side. With one bag on my back and another in my hand, I slouched against the bar by the right side door and watched the land outside pass in blurs of color. The sun was not setting now, but it would be soon. I looked forward to the change. Even in the city, sunset paints everything in beautiful colors.

The train stopped. Passengers pushed their way in and out, shoving or stepping around the people in front. A few girls near me shifted slightly, but there was no pause in the conversation. I stood silently, shifting when I had to. A large crowd appeared at my door pushing their way in, and I moved to the other side, grabbing the handle above me. In no time, the doors closed, and we were in motion again.

But then I became aware of something. A noise from further down the car. It grew a little louder, and I realized it was a man. I frowned a little at his tone, recognizing a few words directed to someone I couldn’t see.

“Shut up!…What? Can’t you understand me?” 

It was almost palpable then. The entire car was tense, only the bravest daring a glimpse at this man. Some people squeezed around others to see, while others cast their eyes to the ground. Several shook their heads and returned to their business, a wary eye drifting every now and again.

With some subtlety, I caught a look at him from the corner of my eye. A wife beater and a lot of ink decorating his back and shoulders immediately caught my notice.

“What, huh? Do you speak English?….Shut up!”

My first thought was ‘Yakuza,’ or at least some gang member. Not just anyone would flaunt their tattoos so openly here. Some people actually don’t get served in restaurants and other places if they display tattoos.

Cautiously, I moved back to the side I’d been on first, standing with my friend. There was enough of a crowd that he didn’t see us, and I stood faced away, keeping my eyes down as well. I felt bad for the people he was shouting at, but I wasn’t about to get involved. By now, I figured he couldn’t be ‘Yakuza;’ the tattoo was large, but it could have been a few close together. It wasn’t a large landscape or very artsy at all, just straight black ink.

Still, he was obviously some punk kid who shouldn’t be crossed. My curiosity sated for the time being, I resolved myself to admiring various kinds of shoes that were gathered around me.

It was odd; usually all the cars were packed at this hour…

The next stop dragged slowly into view, the train screeching softly to a halt. A few people got off, minding their own business. The man was sitting quietly at this point, listening to his iPod, but no one from our side of the train dared to go near him. Probably just as well.

People shifted awkwardly back to conversations, every now and again casting glances towards the back of the car. I thought about the situation at the time, slightly concerned but also just the slightest bit amused. I knew to keep my distance, mind my business, and above all else, not make eye contact, but I thought about what he had said before. Had the lady provoked him somehow? Or was he just being a jerk because he thought he was tough and felt like bossing people around?

At the next stop, I felt the tension lift a little. After the initial crowd got off, someone must have alerted the police, because at least three or four officers boarded the train. After what I assumed was them nicely asking the man to leave, they ended up pulling him off with little protest. For a moment, we waited at the stop, watching him stand outside, hop up and down, and occasionally make faces at the people he was sitting next to. I couldn’t help but laugh, just a little. It probably wasn’t the best idea, but he was so focused on those people and was acting like an idiot.

We were on our way again in no time, leaving the punk back at the other station with the officers. A few people laughed at first, slowly relaxing back into their little groups, the din in the car mingling until I couldn’t follow any of it anymore.

As I made my way to the next line, checking for sure that it was the local, I couldn’t stop thinking about this strange experience. I had followed my instincts and stayed away from the danger, and yet I was surprised by how unafraid I had been at the time. Surely, in the states, such an incident would have raised the hairs on my neck and sped up the beating of my heart.

But while I was a little anxious, I didn’t feel in danger, per say. Maybe it was the crowded train full of people; but then, no one had spoken up when the punk began shouting at that woman. Or if they had, I didn’t hear it. Maybe he was shouting at several people at the time, and I just hadn’t noticed.

What had been the point of the argument? Of making such a spectacle of himself? Though trying to be tough and command attention and respect, he just seemed more juvenile, and I wasn’t quite sure if people took him all that seriously. Perhaps they were just annoyed by this man being rude and obnoxious on their peaceful commute home.

But it was certainly interesting; I hadn’t expected any commotion like that here. With a shrug, I just kept on walking, vowing to write about it when I was safely home. I boarded the next local train and sighed as it travelled leisurely on.

That is why I proceed with caution. Because even the friendliest city in the world has its dangers.

 

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2

Across the Universe

Posted by maggie on Jun 3, 2012 in In Japan

Occasionally I slip Beatles themes and subplots in here. I have no idea why. But there is an irish pub just inside Tamachi station, and every time I pass it after school, I swear the Beatles are playing. Just yesterday this guy at the ramen shop we went to was playing Coldplay on his iPod.

Music that I’m familiar with is pretty popular here, it seems. Even with all the Jpop and Kpop and such. It’s probably a stereotype I developed from watching anime. Of course Japanese people don’t always just listen to their own country’s music. Americans don’t, although I can count the number of times I’ve heard general Japanese music outside a convention on one hand. It seems we prefer to listen to things we can understand. But I liked listening to music in other languages even when I had no idea what it meant. Sometimes music just speaks to you, and it doesn’t matter how.

Now, to go on a totally different tangent, someone else mentioned this to me yesterday, and I do admit it seems odd. There appear to be a few cases of an American man dating a Japanese woman, but you don’t see much or any of the reverse. While I was on the train the other day, I met a family from Alabama riding on my train, and the father told me that his wife, who wasn’t there at that moment, was born and bred Japanese. I can see the appeal of one being exotic to the other, or maybe presenting more of a challenge in connecting because of the communication gap. But really, why are there so few Japanese men and American women couples? Do the guys find them mostly unattractive? Or is it that the girls see Japanese automatically think “this is the man you will walk one step behind the rest of your life.” Although, to be fair, that can happen in the states too, depending on the couple.

I’ve heard someone say that a friend of theirs, whose origin I have forgotten, got fed up with her husband because she was basically taking care of the man. He couldn’t cook or clean or do some things most American guys and girls would consider basic, and she didn’t want another child to take care of. These thoughts reminded me of each other, and I was wondering if there was something more to them than they appear.

Today I went back to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa to buy a charm. I’ve been collecting charms from every temple or shrine I go to, and I realized I had forgotten to buy one while we were at the festival. I decided to do that instead of going to the baseball game that everyone was attending. I made this decision because I was feeling a little sick and not particularly social, and I was a little short on cash today. The charm was cheaper than a ticket to the game, but I can’t help but feel I passed up a good opportunity.

Oh well. I’m sure there will be a chance to go to another one when I have more cash. Just a shame that I didn’t get to hang with people today.

But, as for not being social, Asakusa was not a particularly good place to go. Full of people, and all of them walking like it’s a funeral procession. Walking slow is one of my pet peeves, especially if I know where I want to go and know how to get there. For some reason I could get over the crowded trains with no problem, but I still have trouble getting over large crowds of slow moving people. It’s because walking slow hurts my legs after a while, and it strikes me as rude, personally, when people do that without clearing a space for faster traffic. It’s like driving, and having two cars in front of me taking up the only two lanes and driving at relatively the same speed. I respect your desire to sight see and take your time, but please respect my time and let me get by.

I originally thought Japan would be politer than the states overall, but then I remembered that what I consider polite is not necessarily the same thing. Oh well. :) I figure it’s better to know yourself and your limits, and judge whether or not you can get past them.

It was a good day, though; I enjoyed getting a seat on the JR line and just riding around, watching the passing scenery while I chilled to my iPod. Then I took advantage of that wonderful bath again, and now I feel good as new. Sometimes you just need a day to recover. After all, I went to the beach yesterday, and that took a bit out of me.

It was so much fun. A bunch of us went to the beach at Enoshima. We met up in Kamakura and caught a tram from there. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures this time. I didn’t want to take the camera in case it got lost, stolen, or sandy. But there wasn’t much to say, other than the sand was black, and the island was tiny. I believe it is devoted to a goddess by the name of Benzaiten, who made the island rise out of the sea sometime in the 500’s A.D.

We ate lunch and looked for shells (sadly, they don’t look much different from shells you can get from the east or west coast of the U.S., but I picked up a few anyway), and then we played some volleyball. After that, we went back to Kamakura for some dinner, a popular ramen restaurant in the area. By the way, authentic ramen is so much better than that cheap stuff we buy in packages and cups in America. :) Then we went on to Zushi to catch the last bit of a fireworks festival. We didn’t go far into Zushi, but we got there just in time to see some fireworks (or hanabi, as the Japanese call them). Then some of us went home, and I was included in that group :)

And there was much Japanese practice that day :) Riho brought friends with her, and they all seemed very nice.

It felt weird to stand on this side of the pacific, and even just go in the water a little. It’s weird to think that way over there across the sea is where all my friends and family are. My house, my apartment, my car, dog, etc. etc. It all seems so surreal after just a few weeks of being here. Now America is the far off place that’s weird to imagine, and Japan feels somewhat more natural and almost home.

I keep thinking about home, though. What’s happening over there? How far of a swim would it really be?

A long one, I’ll tell you that much. :) I still wish I could break things up and visit home, just because I miss home. I only got to spend 3-4 days there before I went on this trip. And it’s not just a couple hours away anymore.

I don’t think I’ll stay in the same place forever, but it will feel weird at some point to move away, when that’s the place you’ve known for so long. I remember missing my grandparent’s old house in North Carolina because I had so many good memories there.

Too much thinking about random things, yeah?

I feel bad for not going to the game, if only for the experience. It reminds me that I have yet to go to a football game at JMU, which I desperately need to do before I graduate. I have seen a basketball game, though, so I don’t feel like the worst student. :) It’d be fun to get a couple of friends to go, or maybe my friend who now lives in the area with her family. That’d be cool. But it reminds me that a lot of my pals just graduated, at that makes me a little sad.

As usual, thoughts jumping all over the place. I’m partly watching the world cup soccer game between Japan and Oman. Japan’s doing very well right now. Hideki-san tells me that they need to win this game, so I hope they do. There, I am getting some sports exposure today :)

7-11 is a big deal over here. It has commercials. I don’t remember seeing any commercials for 7-11 at home. Because it’s just a convenience store. But here, it’s a god send, really. It has the atm, usually in English or at least with an English language option. It also has some of the most delicious, but decently cheap and low cal pork buns. It makes me happy.

I keep wondering what my work will be like. I know it’s at least three weeks off, but I’m curious and I like to be as prepared as I can be. I’ve started thinking about all the supplies I’ll need when I’m no longer living with Sueko-san. I hope I can keep on surviving :)

I miss you all, and really thank you for the support you’ve given me. I keep you guys in my thoughts, and as much as I like it here, I can’t wait to come home and see you. Or just talk to you, depending on where you live. :)

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Looking Ahead, and Behind

Posted by maggie on Jun 1, 2012 in In Japan

I tried authentic ramen the other day. Very good, very big. I liked it, but if I must indulge, I’ll go for the cheapo ones you can buy at the supermarket :)

It’s hard to believe there is only one week left of living with my host mother. For as frustrating as communication can get sometimes, I’m thinking about how much I’ll miss her already. I want to keep up and write letters and maybe send a picture every once in a while if I can. She’s a sweet old lady. I hope she’s not lonely when I leave; true, Hideki-san will be here for a little bit, but then when he leaves I hope she’s fine. I’m pretty sure she will be, though. I’ve learned through some very short, jointed conversations that she sews and goes to dance classes on some days. We even stopped and spoke with one of the neighbors a weekend or so ago. So she has things to do and people to talk to.

I still will worry about her though, because I’ve come to love her like another grandmother. It’s kind of cool in a way; you don’t need to perfectly understand someone in order to form a lasting relationship with them. Regardless of our cultures, norms, locations, etc., we are all human beings with an inherent desire for connection. Being so far from home probably strengthens the feelings, I’m guessing, but it is reassuring in a way. I’ve met all kinds of people in my short time on this earth; good, bad, and everything in between, based on my own biased standards. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy kids’ movie, it would be nice if we could get passed some of the more superficial things that drive us apart and come together as human beings, and my trip to Japan has shown me that it can be very possible if we have the drive and make the effort.

In many of the classes I have taken since coming to college, I have heard all sorts of different policies on people treating other people. I don’t think of myself as an “ist” of any kind, but as I learned in conversations with some of my group members, you can be a racist or a sexist in any situation when it is twisted the right way. And we all have ways of defining these situations by ourselves, so I could go out of my way trying not to be an “ist” and the right person could still argue that I was being one anyway.

Japanese culture and language focus heavily on not offending anyone. There are numerous ways to apologize, varying forms of politeness that you can use in only certain situations, and it is considered polite to be very humble. If someone compliments you, the correct answer is, “No, I’m terrible, really.” You tread carefully so as not to step on any toes or say things too brashly, even if you dislike someone. It’s like working in 24 hour customer service.

To me, it comes down to suppressing emotion and natural inclinations. Here, they are the enemy, only to fraternize with in the quiet comfort of your own home, when Big Brother isn’t watching you. Haha. Not really really.

But even in your own home, you still have to be a little conscious about things if you live with other people. I bring this back to the bit above about human beings all getting along and not being racist or sexist or any form of “ist” you can think of.

I find it important to gain and maintain strong, long-lasting relationships in my life. I realize that is not how everyone wants to be. But I also see that I cannot make close friends with every person I meet on the street. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to offend someone at some point, probably on multiple occasions. It’s unavoidable and uncontrollable. All I can do is try to accept it and move on.

So here is what I think about the “isms” and “ist’s.” True, I don’t want to purposely offend people. I want to make friends, as many as I can, as close as I can. But I can’t spend my life trying hard not to step on anyone’s toes. It’s a lot of hard work with no guaranteed reward other than that they might think back on that nice girl what’s-her-name for a moment and then promptly forget. Also, it will only make me more tired and annoyed when others don’t show me the same courtesy.  I will do my best not to personally insult people for dumb reasons, but I can’t always guarantee that either. I am a human being with emotions, thoughts, and opinions, and while they might get me into trouble every once in a while, they mostly serve me very well. Above all, my emotions and instincts make me human, a smarter animal than most but an animal nonetheless. To try to completely suppress my emotions and natural feelings is, to me, to make me less of a human being, because whether they are bothersome at times or not, they give me the ability to care as well as to hate.

It is a two sided coin, and all that philosophical yadda yadda. :)

Tying back into humanity as a whole, Japan and America are quite different in many ways, but fundamentally, as collective assortments of human beings who strive to make a profit, connect with others, and lead fulfilling lives, we are not that much different. And while I can shake my head at someone who I perceive as being ignorant, I soon realize that there are many things I am ignorant of as well.

I think we take ourselves way too seriously. It’s hard designating which lines should not be crossed, but maybe we could start by not getting so whipped out about small things. I’ve seen too many people getting upset with each other over whether or not Glee is good. I’m bad about it too. Really, who cares? It doesn’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

I feel like my musing is very contradicting at times. I love arguing with people over whether or not a tv show or a game or something is good. But I think it is when people get nasty about it is when it starts getting too personal. So someone doesn’t like Star Wars. Or Glee. Or whatever else. Nachos, I don’t know. That’s their preference. Just don’t hang out with them then if it bothers you so much.

By the way, please don’t take this as me nagging at you. This is a message to me more than anyone else. Maybe this gives me more of a motivation to listen to my own advice :) Everything is relative.

I love writing, maybe because I love to talk so much. Writing gives you a good forum, where you aren’t interrupted unless it’s a chat and you type too slowly.

But what did you really come to hear about? The trip, of course! I promised to talk about where I went on Tuesday, and here I keep putting the blogs off. I get easily distracted, especially in Japan where there is so much to look at. Lots of color, flashing lights, bells, whistles, and such.

So on Tuesday, I went to Shibuya to see the Hachiko statue just outside the station. It’s a well-known story over here, that a professor who lived in the area found this dog, and they would meet at the station at the same time everyday. But the man died one day, and the dog just kept coming back to wait at the station every day.

 

It’s kind of sad, but also sweet. Dogs may be slobbery and not the smartest of animals, but they are certainly loyal companions. Makes me miss my own dog.

So I saw the statue, and then I wanted to go look for the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. I had to leave the station to see the statue; I didn’t want to pay to get back inside, so I figured I’d walk. It’s a bit of a way, but Shibuya and Roppongi aren’t super far apart. It would have taken a while though, even if I hadn’t walked in a giant circle for an hour and 20 minutes. Eventually, I was tired, and decided I had spent enough time wandering to warrant getting back on the train, so I hopped back on and then took the subway two stops to Roppongi.

After 30 minutes of searching, pausing to explore a music store and Japanese cold stone. They sing if you tip them here, too. I saw someone tip them and the song was funny, because I recognized the tune but few of the words. When I finally found the restaurant, it was closed til the 19th, but that means I can come back maybe on a weekend while I’m still here :) I like collecting stuff from hard rocks when I can. It’s not extreme, but if I go to a new country, it’d be cool to visit the hard rock there and grab something. So I’ll go back to that. 

Then, on Thursday, we went as a group to Meiji Jingu, a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shouken. The original building was destroyed in World War II; what we saw was the shrine that had been restored in 1958, I believe. It has the (maybe one of the) tallest gate in Japan. It’s a cool place. I hadn’t seen any sacred trees before, but this shrine had two, bound together and each carrying a spirit within.

After this, we parted ways at about noon to spend the day as we wanted to. I followed Cindy to Omiya looking for a kimono shop that had an employee who spoke English, but when we arrived, the shop was closed. So we walked for a while looking for the bonsai nurseries, instead finding the Hikawa shrine, a big park, and a zoo. It wasn’t how we expected to spend the day, but it was a lot of fun. And the unexpected can lead to new and interesting things. I’m glad I resisted the urge to go home and nap, even though I desperately wanted to by that point.

 

 

 

 

I’m just throwing in pictures all over the place. :)

 

 

 

 

I feel bad for talking so much this time around. So here I go dumping pictures on you instead. That’s pretty much all that has gone on since the weekend. Interesting stuff, at least. This trip is so awesome. Japan used to feel like a dream, and now home seems more faint and dream-like. I can barely imagine what it will be like to come home after all of this.

 

Going to bed for now. Thanks for journeying with me again today. Jane (jya-neigh), not Jane, Dad. :)

 

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4

What do you do with a free day?

Posted by maggie on May 28, 2012 in In Japan

For some reason the song, “What do you do with a drunken sailor,” is stuck in my head. Oh well. It gave me a title….kind of…sort of…not really….

I had a very nice dinner with my host mother last night. I managed to tell her a decent chunk about my day (thank you, class grammar/vocab lessons), at least about how we went to class and later stopped by a convenience store to pick up tickets for the Studio Ghibli museum. The lady behind the counter told us right away that she spoke no English, but I did my best to indicate what we needed and I think it turned out well. She knew what I was talking about and helped us through ordering the tickets on the little machine near the manga and magazines. Now we have tickets.

Today is a day off, so there will be some vegging time, naturally. I thought I might go explore a district on my own for once. I need to break from the stubborn habit of only really exploring when with other people. To make the most out of this trip, I need to try going at it alone a little bit. What is nice is that Tokyo feels pretty safe in contrast to some other places I’ve been. No body bothers you here unless you’re asking for directions. I’ll be wary of people being too friendly or too insistent, of course, or people following me.

Wow. Now I have the movie “Taken” stuck in my head and I’m getting paranoid. Maybe not extremely, but it never hurts to be aware of your surroundings. I want to see some stuff on this trip and be around to tell about it. Sound good?

Nothing much new to report. Akihabara was nice if a little on the flashy-too-much-stuff-to-look-at sort of way. It’s easy to get distracted there. Lots of anime stuff, electronics, and otherwise shiny objects of many varieties. It was a fun trip though, and I got some stuff from it to help satisfy my anime needs. :)

Maybe I can write something about where I explore later today. I’m still not set on anything, but there are some touristy type spots I have in mind that I’m deciding between. I’ll leave those a mystery until later.

I feel like I’m losing weight from all the walking and stuff, but it’s harder to notice for me because I’m more likely to see “noticeable changes” as opposed to small things like “toning” or losing a little fullness in my face. I’m trying not to hyper focus on it, but it’s hard in a country where EVERYONE is smaller than you. I thought America could make you feel bad. This is about on the same level, but it would be worse if I was clothes shopping, I’m sure. The one t-shirt I picked up in Asakusa, which by the way looks very geeky touristy by Japanese and probably American standards, was blatantly labeled “American sizes.” Which to me screams more of “People of Unusual Size,” to misquote Princess Bride. “Come one, come all, fat people! We actually have something you can wear!”

All though it makes sense. No Japanese person in their right mind would wear the shirt I bought. It’s the equivalent of one of those “I heart New York” shirts. Literally.

I just wanted something with a place name on it to prove I’d been there. Hats are ridiculously expensive to buy over here, although those would have been easier. Japan, why do you make clothes and souvenir shopping so hard? Do you not want us here?

I kid. I just think it’s funny. It really feels like I have to adapt. Some people over here may speak English, but they don’t cater to me and my needs just because I’m American. It’s harder, but more rewarding I guess, because I feel like I have to earn it. I consciously strive to eat less and walk more over here. Maybe some day I could fit into a Japan extra large. :)

But I digress. This is kind of a filler blog. I wanted to update because I’ve been forgetting to go on facebook more and more, except of course to upload pictures. Gotta have those pictures. :)

I hope everyone at home is doing well. Being able to easily understand other people they pass on the street….

Being able to at least read every sign they see….

You lucky people :) That is going to be a weird feeling when I come home. You get so used to being confused half the time here, or you just stop caring about some of the miscellaneous things you can’t read and focus on the important stuff. Like “This is a bike lane,” or “Stop.” Stuff like that.

I’m off to eat something and go make use of this nice day. If it is a nice day; my window makes it very hard to tell. :)

Before I go, I felt a mini earthquake last night. It was cool. It was like when we had that one in fall, all along the east coast. Nothing shook very hard and it was over in a minute or so, but it was still cool and scary in a way. I was watching the ceiling for any cracks or anything, not sure why. But yeah.

Talk to you guys later.

That’s another thing. I don’t hear “y’all” anymore. I never picked up the habit because I always say “you guys,” not “you all.” But it is weird, because that phrase is all over the valley, and no one says it here. Haha. Just one of those little weird things you notice.

By for real this time. Jane. :)

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1

Religion, Politics, and Scary Movies

Posted by maggie on May 26, 2012 in In Japan

I just learned something new today. Watching a scary movie before bed is just as scary in America as it is in Japan. Too bad I can’t resist the urge sometimes, so now I just have to suck it up and deal.

So whilst I do my best to avoid turning off all the lights and trying to sleep, let’s recap what’s been going on.

On Thursday we went to Kamakura to see a shrine, a few temples, eat some Osaka-style okonomiyaki (aka meat and seafood pancakes of awesomeness), and a giant Buddha. There was also some shopping involved. But going away from that topic, looking into the religious aspect we saw how heavily Japanese culture and society weighs Shinto and Buddhism. Which makes a lot more sense having seen some of this stuff.

Not to be ethnocentric, but a lot of American society and culture has roots in Christianity and its rules and traditions. Whatever your opinions on Christianity may be, you can’t ignore the impact that it has had on more than just our holidays. How we treat others, how we conduct ourselves and our businesses. All this stuff ties in.

Some of this is changing with the growing diversity of the population, but a lot of our behaviors and standards come from religious bases, and while this might change some day soon, Christianity in its multiple forms still dominates. This notion of religion is true of Japan as well with the two afore mentioned practices, but it is much slower to adapt to new things and people, perhaps partially due to the country as a whole still being a little xenophobic.

It’s not strange if you think about it. Japan was isolated for a long time, and seemed content to be so. Who knows what today would look like if they had never engaged in wars, trade, or expanding territory. But even with the changes brought on be these, tourism included in there as well, I still walk down many streets and notice that I am the only caucasian present.

It was a bit weird at first, coming from a country where I am in the majority, but it didn’t take as long to get used to as I might have thought. I don’t receive a lot of stares from people, or at least I don’t notice them; though that could be because it would be rude to be caught staring at someone or even making eye contact for too long. In a strange way, going about my business just like everyone else makes me feel more like I’m participating in the culture.

It’s hard to explain. If I go out in public back home, even riding on a bus full of people I feel oddly alone. Maybe it is because we’re all off doing our own things, trying to ignore each other. But in Japan, just being a part of the crowd of business people en route to work everyday makes me feel like I not alone. Even if my headphones are in, I still feel more engaged and conscious of the people around me, and for once not in a “someone’s-giving-me-a-weird-look-is-my-makeup-wrong-or-something?” way.

Weirdly, although I get jostled frequently in crowds, no one has yet stepped on my foot. Not even when I decided to be crazy and wear sandals. Am I just pushing my luck, or is there something to that? Maybe it’s okay to shove past someone a little, but stomping on their feet with your dirty shoes is bad? Just curious.

Oh, what was I talking about? Religion? Woops.

But I guess it fits in a little bit. There seems to be a sense of order and harmony to many things, and if you don’t see it right away, you’re able to go beneath the surface and find it. As I understand it, Shinto offers the belief that ordinary things like objects, man-made or not, are special and contain spiritual significance. My immediate thoughts drift to Disney’s Pocahontus, where every rock and tree and creature has a life, spirit, and name. Yadda yadda. But there is an underlying sense of order and purpose; nothing is wasted. The city of Tokyo is very clean and organized all things considered; traditional practices are valued and carried out with diligence and patience. Maybe everyone does their part in one way or another, even the people going about their business; cleaning up or helping out the poor tourists like me that get lost every now and again. It all betters the community somehow.

Then again, I’ve only been here two weeks now. I’m just trying to make sense of the world around me.

I can definitely see the value placed on the past, particularly in ancestor worship (if there is a better term for this, I lack it). The Japanese language has a definite sense of past tense, which can also be used to describe the way things have been. Meaning, you could say, “I brushed my hair” in Japanese and the sentence could also imply that brushing your hair is something you do frequently. Establishing a habit, if you will.

The present tense pulls double duty to be the future tense as well; it depends on the context. But Japanese culture seems very focused on a connection with the past. The old are respected and the ancestors revered. In America, we seem to focus a lot of attention on the future, and younger generations treat old people as either unimportant or a nuisance. Not like a storehouse of wisdom and experience like they are; more like handicapped people who only serve to cause vehicular accidents and drain our resources. Or the nice grandparents who cough up good money for birthdays and holidays every year. This is a gross generalization, but I’ve seen it. We focus on what is new and now, and the old is out of luck. Which is a shame.

To loosely tie this back in with events, today I went to see the Square Enix museum and the pokemon center, not greatly impressed by either, but  enjoying the experience and the company all the same. I kind of wish pokemon would bow out gracefully at some point; not that the series had a lot of dignity in the first place (thank you 4kids and the American dubbed cartoon). Also, because the Japanese seem to lack subtlety and sense by most Americans’ standards. But now I feel like it’s beating a dead horse, and can’t really connect with the new pokemon as well because I feel so far removed. In the past I loved the video games and the tv show for all its corniness, and now if it’s on I swiftly change the channel. Why can’t we agree that pokemon is/was a good series and let it die in piece? Must we keep putting out new stuff that’s only half as good? (cough cough star wars prequels cough cough)

Yeah, I’m weird. But the past, for me, represents nostalgia; a simpler time when I didn’t need to question as many things, was easily impressed, and the world made more sense. It’s like Eve and the apple; now that I’m older and more aware, I can never go back, and it saddens me a little bit. It doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the future or changes to things, although admittedly I’m not crazy about change when it comes to the things I love just as they are. But with new times come new innovations come new problems, and it’s harder to adjust to those new problems because no body’s had to deal with them before.

My main beef with the future mostly has to do with the media; things getting either cheaper, dumbed down, or unoriginal. But that’s another story for another day….er….night.

Tomorrow, Akihabara. I can slip back into the fun of being a fan in Japan, provided I keep a tight hand on my wallet. But so far, that hasn’t been a problem. I feel a familiar voice in the back of my head asking, “Do you really want this or not?” when I go to buy something. It’s very helpful from a saving perspective. It’s only a few weeks in after all. Plus, some of the stuff I see here I could probably get cheaper in the US. I try to avoid impulse buys, at least expensive ones. But I was happy that my postcard made it through to the US; hopefully the others will get through alright.

By the way, Okonomiyaki is delicious. :)

I’m having so much fun on this trip. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but some of this stuff I might never have seen until years later. I think it’s good to see it now, when I have the energy and excitement for it, but also the ability to let it mold me a little as I go. I admit that I can be a stubborn person, and my tendencies really clash with the culture sometimes, but honestly, I am so happy to be here. I would gladly take the frustration and confusion for the experience I am getting here. I can already feel some changing going on, hopefully for the better. :) I hope tomorrow is a lot of fun.

Oh God, why did I watch Pet Sematary again?…I’m never going to shut my eyes tonight, I can tell. Even with the light on, I’m creeped out, and I’m not even thinking about the scenes. Just hearing the music from the soundtrack in my head while I type is creeping me out. (O.o) scared face now.

Must. stop. thinking. about. it. Right. Maybe I can offset it by watching a Japanese horror movie?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

No. Just…just no…

I’m going to try to sleep now….somehow. Can’t wait for Akihabara tomorrow. Hope everyone is doing fine at home. I’m on skype sometimes, so if you’re on, feel free to call me. :)

Jane.

P.S. Enjoy the whimsical Miyazaki store. I love that they have these all over the place, wherever I go :) Gotta love the Japanese version of Disney (figuratively)

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2

Togetherness?

Posted by maggie on May 21, 2012 in In Japan

I understand that family and togetherness is very important. It’s important in my family back home. But every once in a while, for me, it’s nice to go off and do my own thing without a) always having to tell someone, and b) coming across as rude.

I’m not trying to be rude, honestly; that’s the last thing I want. But I’m used to being in college, in charge of my own time. Sometime I like just chilling by myself for a little while, I’m more of an introvert really. I need some time everyday to be by myself, or else I get overloaded and that makes me not fun to be around.

Every once in a while, I like making myself breakfast, and enjoy eating it in silence. It gives me some time to think about the day and just relax into my routine.

That doesn’t work here.

I know, because Sueko-san constantly talks to me at breakfast, and sometimes I don’t catch much because I’m only half inclined to listen. I’m grateful that she’s making me breakfast, so grateful that I spam “thank you’s” as much as I can. But every now and then, I’d like to just sit and enjoy breakfast and not have to talk around a full mouth. And I’s also love to be able to say, “I will let you know if I want something.” She literally does this every morning: empties out her refrigerator and offers me everything she can find. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s very hard to adjust to.

My friends would tell you that one of my biggest pet peeves is people constantly asking if I’m okay. They know, of course, because they do it all the time. You guys know who you are :) My philosophy is, I’ll tell you if I’m not okay. Just assume for the most part that I’m okay. Just because I go silent for a little while does not mean I’m angry or upset necessarily. Sometimes even I can shut my big mouth and just think about stuff :)

Here, in Sueko-san’s house, I am constantly being asked if I’m okay, if I need things, and all the while she’s trying to stuff me with as much food as she can. Even though I asked if she could let up, I said it nicely by saying I want to go on a diet because I feel too big, she insists on shoving more and more food at me. It’s off-putting after a while.

I also don’t like having to plan out my day from start to finish all the time. Sometimes I like to relax, or be spontaneous. Unless I’m going to school, which is fairly easy to explain, and the only added details may be that I’ll be back around 6 or so, Sueko-san asks what I’m going to do every day. And I’m not sure how to say “I have no plans,” as of yet.

Seriously, I love this woman to death. She’s so kind and helpful, and I want to make her happy and give her things too, but it wears on my nerves a little bit. I don’t retreat to the bath or my room to get away from the language barrier anymore, I can deal with that. Sometimes I retreat because I’m just not in the mood to be so talkative. As much as it would shock my parents, I actually like silence every now and again :) I like chilling when I don’t feel like talking. Sometimes when I truly have nothing to say, I don’t try to fill the void. I actually do shut up. :)

The social nuances in Japan are sometimes full of mental gymnastics. I want to be able to express that I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just the way I am and sometimes I need that peaceful time. Or I wish I could find a nice, polite way to say, “Is it alright if we just eat in silence?”

If I came here in middle school, like I had originally wanted to back then, I would have come here with a sugar-coated, anime-induced vision of what Japan should be like. Maybe I could have gotten used to the constant togetherness of family; I wasn’t yet living a few hours away in college, after all. But now, as I stay here, I’m finding that I love Japan for so much. I just wouldn’t live here.

As much as I love this country and its many wonderful sights, sounds, tastes, etc, I find more and more reason not to live here. It doesn’t mean I’ll never come back. I’d love to, for work or a vacation or something. But as of right now, I know that I could never live here for an over-extended period of time. Or not with a host family maybe.

It’s a wonderful experience and I’m thankful for it. I never would have found this out if I hadn’t tried. But I discover more and more that I enjoy being my own person, and I like some of the ways Americans do things. They aren’t perfect, of course, but now I’m growing to like things about America as well as Japan, more than just because those things are familiar in a strange land.

I’m discovering more about myself this way, mostly through small encounters like the one I mentioned having breakfast with Sueko-san. Most mornings I can chill and go with it, but this morning I just wanted to be in college again, hanging in my room with a box of cereal. But oh well. Life goes on.

Today we were going to go to Kamakura, but it’s pouring outside and apparently the trip won’t be so fun if it’s raining. So we’re just kind of chilling today. Maybe later I’ll go out for a walk or take the train somewhere, if I’m bored. There’s plenty to see. But for right now, I’m chilling, and quite happy doing so. I need some time to be by myself, and then I can spend the whole evening with Sueko-san and Hideki-san, watching goofy t.v. shows together. Actually, that walk sounds pretty good, if the rain lets up. Wouldn’t want to get any bigger, right? :)

I’m not trying to write chapters that are downers or anything, sometimes I just need to express my thoughts. Sometimes negative things stick out more in the mind, but the nice thing about being in a strange foreign country is that the positive things stick out a bit more because their bizarre and note-worthy. :) That’s another thing, though. Did you ever notice how American t.v. and news focus a lot on negative things? Like murders and celebrity break-ups and what not?

Here, the t.v. shows and news seem much lighter, at least as far as I’ve seen. Heck, people jumping in front of trains at the stations is a daily occurrence; I think I heard someone mention 80 something people jump every day, and yet it’s not really focused on at all. Is this the collectivist society at work? Is group cohesion more important than the straight up facts that might depress people? Or, knowing that so many people are unhappy, do they purposely try to make light-hearted television so that people will cheer up?

I don’t know. At first, I thought it was cold that “human incidents” are common and no body I’ve met seems to pay much mind to them, but really, what would American’s do? If people suddenly started jumping in front of cars and trains by the boatload, how would we handle it? Beef up security? Put in more railings?

Maybe the Japanese have an unstated agreement about the whole thing, and I just don’t know it. This is just a lot of speculation on a rainy Tuesday morning, slightly agitated from a not so relaxed breakfast. But I wonder…

Maybe it sounds dumb. I don’t know, personally. I have an overactive imagination. But why do Americans care so much about failures, break-ups, and unpleasant things? What does it say about our society that such things are everywhere, constantly being focused on? If media reflects society in any way, what does our media say about us? What does Japan’s say about Japan?

More food for thought. Anyways, thanks for listening. I’m off to find out how to spend the rest of my morning/afternoon. Jane (bye). :)

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3

Sanja Matsuri

Posted by maggie on May 19, 2012 in In Japan

Today was a lot of fun. We went to Sesoji Temple in Asakusa for the Sanji Festival. We were chased frequently by moving shrines, “mikoshi,” well not really chased by them, but everywhere we went, we would come out of a shop only to find them right outside, creating a large crowd. The temple is apparently the oldest in Tokyo, and the festival is about two fisherman brothers who caught a statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon in their fishing net, and a third guy who converted them to Buddhism. They then took care of the statue and consecrated it in the temple.

Saori, one of the Keio students we met yesterday, met up with us (the girls) at Ueno station, and from there we went to Asakusa. There was much shopping involved, lots of wandering and looking at vendors and sharing food we got. I tried takoyaki (fried octopus meatballs) and immediately burned most of the inside of my mouth. At least I wasn’t the only one. :)

It was good, I remember that much. But because my mouth is numb now, I can’t really remember what it tasted like. Just that it was good.

Katie tried the little game where children try to catch little goldfish in a net. She didn’t win, but the game owner gave her two fish anyway. Then, while Cindy and I were getting fortunes told, I wanted to take a picture of mine. As the picture shot, Katie’s bag of goldfish spilled out, so n my picture, there appears to be a goldfish randomly sitting on the top of my fortune. That was a funny moment once we got them safely back in the bag.

 

We had yakitori (fried chicken) too, and I got a shaved ice because my mouth was still hurting like heck. It still hurts, actually, but it’s better now. It was a fun experience.

Coming home, Hideki-san showed me his photography portfolio, which was really cool. And Sueko-san practically dumped all this stuff into my arms. She gave me a lot of stuff; it was free for her, so I guess I feel a bit better. But still. I was so confused at first, but that made her laugh and she kept giving me stuff. It’s pretty cool actually. Also, apparently there is supposed to be a solar eclipse on Monday around 7 in the morning. I want to see that, maybe take a picture if I can.

All in all, it was a great night. Shopping fun, sight-seeing, making new friends, all that good stuff. I had such a good time. If only every day could be that fun. I’m just going to keep hoping all the days will be, because that will make this the best trip ever. It reminds me of how lucky I am, and how grateful I am to my parents for getting me here. I wouldn’t be here without them, literally :)

Also, love Sueko-san so much. She’s like my Japanese grandmother, like Ozeki-sensei from JMU but easier to understand, believe it or not. I think I’m getting better at speaking with her. I just have to keep working at it.

 

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4

Adapting

Posted by maggie on May 18, 2012 in In Japan

I’m quickly getting over my sense of personal space. It is hardly ever respected in Tokyo, especially not on trains, but it’s been much easier to adapt to than I had thought previously. Maybe it is because the people on the trains are quiet enough that if I want to sit there and just enjoy the ride with my headphones in, I’m not struggling to hear them like I would be on the buses in Harrisonburg.

On Wednesday we went to the Tsukiji fish market, a massive place with dead, alive, or just plain bloody fish. Then, on Thursday we went to go see the sumo tournaments at Kokugikan. That was an interesting cultural experience, and I have to say I now roll my eyes a little at people who say “Fat Guys in Diapers.” While the sport is not particularly my cup of tea, I respect it for the cultural and entertainment value it represents. And no, they aren’t just fat guys. They work out and train for this, so while it looks like flab on the surface, a lot of the underneath is muscle. The matches were quick, and if I have to be perfectly honest, a bit more interesting than I’ve found football so far. What are these things but parallels in different countries? The arenas have boundaries, there are referees, T.V.’s at home do instant replays if the match looks close. It’s actually kind of cool, and it has a significance beyond just two big guys trying to push each other out of the ring.

Other than that, not much is going on. Some of us are heading over to a religious festival in Asakusa; I hope that will be fun times for all. Sueko-san and I have conversations now; they may not be very long or delve into much depth just yet, but we’re conversing a lot, and I think that’s certainly something.

Some Keio University students came to hang out with us in class on Friday. They seem nice, I hope I get more time to talk to them. One of them expressed an interest in having contacts in the U.S. It’s nice to find more people to talk to.

I feel exhausted a lot when I come home at night. I’m trying to get better about that; last night I stayed up until 1 a.m. just to prove that I could make it. I need a lot of energy to make it through the day, and I don’t want to eat too much.

These all just seem randomly strung together, I know, but I’m thinking about all that’s happened this week, and honestly, I’ve been feeling low a lot of the time. I know it’s natural and fine, but I’ve been trying to keep it under control, and so far, that works about as well as it usually does. Sometimes at night, actually mostly during that time because I find myself alone and just kind of chilling, I reflect on the day and come across a few things that make me feel a little homesick. These blogs are supposed to get us thinking, but I feel like, for right now, I wish I could just turn off my brain and enjoy the ride. During the day, my brain is on, of course, but there is so much to see and learn that I don’t have as much time to think about bumming stuff. Maybe I need to find something to do at night. I still need my time to be introverted, but maybe I should find something else to do, like take a walk or something like that. I haven’t seen much of Japan at night. I’m sure Sueko-san wouldn’t mind, considering Hideki-san comes in late from work anyway. As long as I lock up. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

I need to get more comfortable exploring on my own. I know how to ask for directions, and I’ve learned that it’s easier to ask women, because women in general speak more slowly. But there is stuff I want to go see, and anyway, once the group trip is over, when I’m not interning I’m going to want to spend my free time somehow.

Off to the festival soon. I hope it’s fun. Yesterday I picked up some more batteries for my camera, so I’ll be posting on facebook for sure. I hope everyone else is doing well at home, I miss them so much.

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4

Ups and Downs

Posted by maggie on May 15, 2012 in In Japan

Today on the Yamanote line, Katie pointed out an ad on the wall. It was for skin whitening cream, I think. Or some sort of process like that. I thought that was interesting because in the US, girls usually want the opposite. To get bright orange tans, like giant oompa-loompas.

If you think about it, it’s a culturally relative thing. In the US, it used to be only laborers would get tan, because they worked. It was like a status symbol to be pale for a while; indeed, you can see evidence in England, with that poisonous powder stuff they would put on their faces to look white. Laborers got tans, and wore jeans. Something like that. And then (sorry for the vague details here, I heard this in SCOM 242 before but forgot some of it) someone famous accidentally got a tan by, of course, being in the sun too long. Suddenly, people decided she looked good, and slowly began to seek tans themselves. Now, especially in the burg, there are a multitude of tanning salons, and on a warm enough day, the quad is covered in towels and bikinis, which I’m fairly certain pleases most of the guys.

Through a much more complicated process than I’m making it out to be, the tan became what we as a society chose to have as one of our ideals of desirability. Now, ironically, if you have time to spend lounging on a beach long enough to get a tan, or spend enough time and money at a tanning salon, I guess, you’ve got yourself a high status symbol. You are, at least partially, beautiful and wealthy, says America.

But if you think about it, being pale is probably healthier. The more you spend time in the sun, the more you risk things like skin cancer. True, some sun can be good for your skin, but the amount the average college girl gets is probably going to have serious repercussions later in life. But who cares, right? We’re young and pretty now, right? Who cares, because it’s so far off before we see those problems.

Then again, as we grow older, we might find ourselves feeling bitter and angry, as the world we live in focuses more on the younger, prettier people. Once you pass age 40, your age group appears less frequently in ads and T.V. all of the sudden. What will we do then, when we’re spoiled and raised ego-centric for now?

Food for thought. Feel free to start up a conversation in the comments if you want. I love to ponder things like this.

Anyway, sort of a down day. It was cool and rainy, which is usually fine with me. I think it’s the combined stress of constantly trying to speak/read/understand another language + jet lag + I didn’t sleep very well last night (your day) + the weather a little bit. A lot of stuff contributes to mood. It felt a little long today (no offense meant, Morgan XD). I hate my short attention span I have at times. I got on the train today and I was stressing about something I’d said earlier, and all of the sudden I felt myself tearing up. I felt like an idiot, and I didn’t want to feel like more of one by crying on the train.

This is where I talk about that overanalyzing curse again. I’m very self-critical. I worry about what others think, when they probably have forgotten about it already. I stress about looking or sounding like an idiot to someone else, waaaaaayyyy long after they’ve stopped caring. Not as long as I used to. I’ve gotten better about it in recent years, but it’s a habit rooted so deeply in my personality that it’s hard to break completely, or cleanly. I haven’t been stressing as much about saying or writing things wrong, which is good, and I find kind of surprising. But  honestly, I feel more stressed about hanging with my fellow Americans, and making a dummy of myself in front of them. I think it’s because I’ve accepted that I will screw up in Japanese; it’s not my natural language, and I’m willing to be more forgiving to myself, especially if my Japanese friends are. On a base level, to get all technical here, it’s all about a sense of control. I’ve accepted that those language screw-ups are sort of out of my control. They will happen regardless of anything I try to do to prevent them. At least for now. I just can’t accept when other’s perceptions of me aren’t within my control. I feel like I should be able to control it, by being nice and amiable, but life doesn’t work that way.

I need to relax more and learn to laugh and let go. It’s easier said than done, but I want to work for it. I know it will make me happier. It’ll annoy my friends less, worry them and my family less. It’ll give me more confidence. I know everyone’s got there issues. No body is perfect. But I think recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and working to improve the latter while playing to the former can separate the people who flop from those who go far in life.

So yeah. A bit of a bummer, but hey. It reminded me of the person I don’t want to be, and I had some time to reflect on it with a good, hot bath. Can you tell I like those? XD

Sueko-san’s son-in-law came from New York. Hideki’s English is very good, which was nice because at dinner tonight I got a bit of a break and could communicate things more naturally. I still used some Japanese, of course, for my own and Sueko-san’s benefit, but it was mostly speaking English. He helped me communicate some things to Sueko-san that I couldn’t before, and helped me when I didn’t understand her very much. But I don’t feel less motivated. I’m actually happy to have another partner to practice Japanese with, although he speaks faster and is closer to my age. I’m sensing a theme here. I’m most shy and awkward around people of my age group or close to it. I’ve never quite understood why. Part of mastering Japanese is overcoming the fear to speak it and potentially get laughed at. Or smiled at, as the case often is. Tis the polite thing to do. XD

It’s nice having the option of a sort of translator sometimes, but I can’t have that be an excuse. I have to put myself out there and try (and fail) until I get better. That’s why I’m here, and in particular why Morgan put me here.

Other than that, haven’t gotten too many stares so far. I think there might be an unspoken rule of no eating on the trains. I never see other people doing it. Katie and I did it once. We were careful not to spill, but I still think we weren’t supposed to. The Japanese are very forgiving of “gaijin,” but I try to follow the rules as best I can, so as to not be ignorant and obnoxious. That is where my self-analyzing and awareness come in handy, but I can’t remember everything not to do all the time. Oh well. I try. I still think it was funny; I think it was Josh who got onto one of the “pervert-free” all women trains and no one said anything. I think they should enforce that rule even with foreigners; they can be perverts too, you know. XD

XD is the silly sideways smiley face. I’m fond of that when typing for some reason. It’s like laughing and smiling wide at the same time. Ha. Coming from a low context culture, where everything needs to be laid out and specified, it sort of makes sense that I’m constantly clarifying my moods. It’s harder to tell with text, because some 97-ish% of communication, as a whole, is nonverbal. Body language, appearance, haptics, kinesics, etc. It gives context and emphasis, so without it, for all anyone knows, I could be typing this all intending to be completely sarcastic. I do that because I used to chat with a friend on gmail and practically every time we chatted, I thought at one point or another that she was mad at me. No, I don’t stress that much. Plus, it was just the way she was.

This morning on the train was a human soup. On the Seibu-Shinjuku, I didn’t even need to hold on to anything. The other passengers were my seatbelt. I’ve stopped listening to all the stops on the Yamanote, the second train I have to take, though I like to look at the map occasionally when it pops up. I memorize that my stop going to school is “Tamachi,” and listen for “Shinagawa” because it’s the stop right before mine. On the way home I listen for “Shin-Ookubo,” I think it is. My stop is the one after that, “Takadanobaba.” Say that five times fast.

I’m rambling now. I literally just write what’s on my mind, but I find it’s good for blogs. It’s like a diary, but everyone can read it. Gasp! I ate codfish eggs tonight, knowing full well what they were before hand. Surprisingly, they tasted okay, and I don’t feel weirded out like that time my uncle gave me a friend chicken heart. I swear I kept thinking about that thing beating in my stomach the whole rest of the night.

TANGENT ALERT. Lol.

I’m still refusing to go near the squat pots, a.k.a hole-in-the-ground toilets. I’ve seen plenty of them, but I’m sorry. No. I don’t need to try EVERYTHING in Japan. XD

Was that TMI at all? I can never tell. I have a bad gauge for stuff I should keep to myself sometimes, but only really when it comes to my info. Again, just letting the brain flow out right now. It’s cathartic. Also, I just want to say thanks to Katie for making me feel better earlier.

Nothing much else to say. I miss home a little bit, but that’s natural. I miss driving around with my dad and brother, when we go hoping we’ll see some deer. I miss American T.V. and commercials, although Japanese ones are very entertaining. I miss just chilling with my mom watching T.V., or my boyfriend repeatedly thrashing me at Call of Duty. Simple things like that that just remind you of home and familiar things. Being in another country, especially one so far away, really does make you appreciate your life, and maybe understand it a little better. There are plenty of things I don’t like about America, or as my friends sometimes jokingly dub it “Amuurika,” (note: that’s note Japanese-ish, it’s more of an dumb, ignorant American slur, if you have any idea what I’m talking about) but I remember a lot of reasons why I love living there, even with all of the crap I might have to put up with. Japan or America. Neither one is better than the other, just different. They have different ways of seeing life and people and culture and go about it in their own ways. But I’d be less inclined to live here because I’m a woman, and culture dictates certain things women can and can’t do. I think they try to make up for the inequality with all the cutesy stuff, anime and all that. How else would you make sense of a highly masculine, collectivist culture with so much girly, cutesy stuff? XD

But yeah. A lot to think about. I think I’ll stop for now before I jump around anymore. Sleep time is now. Got to be up bright and early for the Tsukiji fish market tomorrow. Jane! (bye for now!)

 

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