1) I`m in love with this hostel. It`s so pretty and comfortable and I`m sitting in a room with the biggest TV ever.
2) Kumamoto Castle was cool. We walked through it. Took pictures. Typical tourist experience.
3) Had horse sashimi for lunch. We had parts of the raw horse meat and then little bits of the liver and collagen. I didn`t really like it the first piece, was ambivalent the second and third pieces, and grew to like it the fourth piece.
4) On our way to look for a restaurant that had a kind of Kumamoto beef we walked through a shopping street, and we briefly wandered into a pet store. There were rows of puppies locked in small plastic cages, and I saw a sad-looking Maltese puppy that perked up when I approached him and began trying to press his face to the cage to get to me and wagging his tail. I suppose part of the reason I felt so terrible for him was because he reminded me of Totoro (my own puppy), but for several seconds I was contemplating the possibility of taking him away with me, even though it was just impossible and I already knew that.
I kind of can`t get him off my mind; he really was so excited to have someone look him in the eye and pay attention to him. I hope someone adopts him soon. He looked so desperate for affection.
worried about finances
Am in Nagasaki! Both of the hostels that we’ve stayed at so far (today’s and yesterday’s) are really cute and friendly… I really wasn’t expecting very much but I am so pleasantly surprised at what we got.
There’s not actually that much to see in Fukuoka, and I actually think that it’s kind of an ugly city, but it’s the capital of Kyushu and the biggest city in it, I think. So I suppose it was worth going to. S and C and I tried to go to a big sumo tournament that was going on yesterday, but we arrived late in the afternoon and general admissions tickets were all sold out. We could’ve gotten in if we felt like paying almost a 100 bucks to get box tickets, but we didn’t.
Then today we woke up early in the morning and just barely caught the bus to Nagasaki (all our bus and train tickets around Northern Kyushu were bought yesterday, right after we just arrived). We’re kind of winging this trip, though—we basically get maps from tourist information centers, decide what we want to say and see what’s feasible given our budget and time, and then try to run around and see it all before they close for the night. This is actually my first independent trip without adult supervision or without some program to take me around—even though I’m also reliant on my friends!—and considering that, things are going pretty smoothly I suppose.
So today, with an all-day pass on the city’s trolley system, we: saw Sakamoto Ryoma’s Kameyama Shachu, a place that memorializes 26 Christian martyrs, a Chinese-style temple from the 1600s, Dejima Island (where first the Portuguese and then the Dutch traders were isolated from the rest of Nagasaki), and then we went to Chinatown to eat some Nagasaki chanpon. It was good but I prefer the spicy Korean version . The Japanese version is delicious but a bit bland, I thought.
Then we bought some castella bread, which was brought to Nagasaki from the Spanish and Portuguese traders, which Nagasaki is now known for. The Japanese call it Kasutera pan.
This is a really brief and awkward update. This keyboard is strange and I’m kind of tired and also, dying to try my kasutera! I’ll add pictures when I get home and try not to sound like a stilted 12 year old.
1) I`m waiting around Shinmachi campus—the campus that`s separated by several blocks and a residential neighborhood from the campus where my classes and the AKP building are—to meet someone about a new club that I joined. I could be studying for my Japanese test tomorrow, but instead I`ve decided to go through my list of contacts and basically e-mail everyone who I haven`t talked to in years. Including my high school teachers. Including that guy who mentored me for one fantastic summer. Including my brother?
2) My left eye is kind of red and painful. I mean it was really red last week and now it`s only slightly reddish. But starting yesterday morning it started aching a little bit; during class today I made a makeshift eyepatch out of tissues and stuck it behind my glasses so I could rest my eye a bit. I`ve been putting off going to an eye clinic for a week but now I suppose that I really ought to go….
3) Finally I have a small heater in my room! Nights were getting pretty chilly without it. My host dad taught me how to use it last night.
4) There is no number four.
5) Today in Japanese class our assignment was to fill out a survey concerning life and a reading that we did yesterday and to explain our answers. One of the questions was “How satisfied are you with your life right now?”
b) kind of satisfied/more or less satisfied
c) not that satisfied
I answered c) not that satisfied. Everyone else said b) and so when I explained my choice I had to say I had a problem with my life (in Japan) right now. I am still trying to figure it out. Wish me luck.
Going out and meeting C as Starbucks to study a little.
I’m so sleepy, I wish I could just spend all day in bed.
episode of rampant gluttony
Can’t talk, can’t breathe, can’t stay still longer than a minute or two without coughing. I’d upload pictures of Jidai Matsuri (a parade celebrating over a 1000 years of Japanese history! Hideyoshi! Kinda creepy looking Japanese noblewomen! Frisky horses!) and Karuma Hi Matsuri (the much acclaimed fire festival that was overrated, overrated. True, there was fire. But there were also about 100000x more bodies in line to see it than there should have been and honestly, if everyone went home and lit their own torch it would have had the same effect without the cramming and squishing and being crushed by countless bodies) and the parfait birthday party yesterday at Shijo, but 1) I’m lazy 2) I’m sick and 3) 2) gives me a legitimate excuse.
It was amusing and interesting to hear my voice rasping out during the Hi Matsuri—possibly exacerbated by all the smoke— but now I sort of need it back. I don’t know what to do about EWS (the English conversation circle that I joined) tomorrow and I really don’t know what to do about the 20 minute Japanese interview/oral midterm that I have on Tuesday. Can something like that be rescheduled? I don’t think Ohno-sensei was expecting any of us to suddenly lose our voices over the weekend.
I mean, I might be able to force myself to talk for 20 minutes but it won’t look or feel good.
I’ve had a lot going on this last week and a half but I feel so drained and sleepy and frustrated by random things. I don’t have the energy to write here. Also I hate tumblr.
The only things I would have to say right now would be to whine and I don’t want to do that here.
On a slightly brighter note, today I went to tea ceremony again today. I’m always impressed by how ritualized every single step taken and movement made is: enter the tatami room with your right foot, don’t step on the lines where the tatami meet, cross those lines with your right foot, exit the room with your left foot, cross the lines with your left foot, pick up the chopsticks in the middle with your right hand and then place it in your left hand and then sweep your right hand up the chopsticks and back down to grip it with your right. There’s a way you have to fold your fukusa (think of it as a tea ceremony handkerchief) and place it in your belt; there’s a way you have to pull it out; there’s a way you fold it, elaborately, and place it firmly in your left hand. Then there’s a set number of times and ways you wipe the small ladle and the cup with that same folded fukusa. (What they told me: You don’t wipe it to clean it; you wipe it to purify yourself mentally.) They kept drilling and drilling and drilling us: fold it here, hold it there, sit up straight, keep your arms level and spread, and most of all, try to look elegant and graceful while doing all this.
Is ritualized the right word? Maybe a better one is “anal retentive.” Japanese tea ceremony is the art for anal retentive people; once you kneel down outside the tatami room where the ceremony is held, everything is fixed, including how to stand and walk and sit.
Maybe I’m a masochist, but I actually like it. I imagine that once you know all the rules, the steps become very soothing.
Today I went to a service in Osaka with a friend, which is surprising if you know me. I’m not a Christian. I don’t claim to be and I don’t want to be. But.
I think my inability to cut myself cleanly from Christianity is directly related to my upbringing, in that this is what I believed for years and years and years and even when I’m bitter and believe that I don’t believe I still can’t stop thinking about it, I have to justify why I chose to walk away. It’s like a bad breakup. And like a bad breakup, even if I’m happy to have stepped away from a suffocating relationship, even if I’m glad to have nothing anymore to do with it, part of me still regrets my decision because part of me is still in love with Jesus. Whatever else I may or may not have believed in, I believed in Jesus. I believed that he loved me and took care of me, like in that song everyone learned in kindergarten, Jesus loves the little children…
It’s hard to sit through songs about God’s love and healing, because once that door of faith shuts behind you all that isn’t yours anymore. You can’t believe and doubt at the same time; you have to pick.
He lifts the ladle out of the bucket of water and spills it over the smooth gray head of the gravestone, once, then twice. The water catches in a dipped hollow beneath the inscribed 家中山—written left to right— and he takes the time to polish the hollow with his hand, not just distractedly but deliberately cleansing it, making sure it is clean. His parents are not resting here but his grandmother is; her bones are interred here along with the rest of his ancestors. There is a process: there is incense to light, flowers to place on the left and the right, a prayer to say. What does one have to say to the dead? When he lifts the ladle again to bathe the gravestone I imagine that he might have helped bathe his grandmother like this as a boy, as a young man. He raises the water to the creased skin at the back of her neck, cleansing all the places that her own tired body can no longer reach.
1. So last night I found myself in Higashiyama (東山） a part of Kyoto I’d never been before, in order to meet a friend staying at the Tozankaku Hotel/ホテル東山閣. Let’s just say that I’d never asked so many directions in one hour in my life, possibly in my entire life combined. Let’s see: first there was the JR employee, then the Tozai line employee, then the woman running the kimono shop who actually googled the hotel’s map for me, and then numerous numerous numerous people on the street (including one guy in a taxi that I desperately knocked on for help): “Do you know where the Tozankaku Hotel is?” Once I got there I realized I’d gone by it twice without realizing it, once in a bus and the second time walking. Directions, not my forte.
By the time I got there an hour and a half late I’d never been so glad to see Courtney—a friend from Mount Holyoke— in my life. To tell the truth we’re actually mutual friends of a friend/senpai of ours, but I’d met Courtney before and liked her and also, I wanted to hear about Korea. She was surrounded by friends from her study abroad program, mostly Korean Americans.
It was really interesting to hear Korean spoken again, especially by young people (my parents don’t count). I always listen to it with that feeling of nostalgia and regret; nostalgia because it was my first language, regret because I’ve neglected it for so long. Even though I could understand everything they were saying, I was too shy or embarrassed to respond in Korean so I stuck to English. I didn’t want to risk finding out what a month in Japan did to my Korean, and anyway when I speak to my parents I’ve realized I insert some Japanese words in my sentences unconsciously.
When I’m Japanese people I expect to be a foreigner so I’m not bothered if I don’t fit in; when I’m with Koreans I expect to fit in a bit more, and not fitting in always manages to surprise me. Was I always this American and just never noticed, why don’t I have any 눈치 anymore sdfaskdlf.
It was also interesting to see that Courtney had picked up some Korean mannerisms and ways of expressing herself; whenever she made a particularly Korean sounding ahhh or woahh I looked over at her in amusement—that’s the kind of sound I’ve grown used to hearing from Korean women, not American girls.
P.S. Hearing more about how Korea is cheap and Japan is expensive hurts me inside. Where is all my money going in Japan?