Japan vs. Bulgaria

So I’m going to try and be less of a poo and update this blog more often.

October 3rd: Yukata and Japanese Dancing

The Yukata is a traditional kimono worn during the summer. The fabric is lighter, hence its seasonal use. Since I (at the time) didn’t have enough money to go and get professional photos of me in a kimono, I decided it would be super fun to dress up at school and do silly pictures in front of McDonald’s instead. My roommate Jenay was actually the person who let me know that there was a Yukata fitting on October 3rd, and I’m super glad that she let me know because the day turned out to be super fun!

That morning, I had breakfast with Shiroi-chan (Kaitlin) and decided that we would go to the fitting late. We figured that since the fitting was from 11-12, we’d have an hour to drop-in and get it done. We also figured that not many people signed up, so we’d still have a good selection of yukata from which we could choose (ohhh good grammar for once…).

(Unfortunately, I started writing this post in October, and now I no longer remember what I want to post. January 5, 2010 edit)

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January 6, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

さよなら日本!Sayonara Nihon!

After 4 months of being in Japan, I am home. I would say that I’m “finally” home, but that would make it sound like I wanted to leave Japan. In reality, I didn’t want to leave at all and even petitioned to extend my stay. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, I was not able to convince the administration of Kansai Gaidai to allow me to stay and I will be heading back to Madrid for the remainder of my undergraduate career.

As for the Japan experience, it was “apple and delightful and apple” as we in 3310 would put it. I can tell right now that I won’t be able to fully express in words how amazing the experience was, but I’ll do my best to describe what I can remember.

September:
The first month I was in Japan, I was setting by bearings. If anything, I felt like a lost freshman on a huge campus. At least for SLU Madrid, you can’t really get lost between classroom buildings since there are only 2. Kansai Gaidai, on the other hand, has a handful of big buildings. Luckily, the CIE is located on one side of campus and the rest of the campus is essentially for the Japanese students. The most prominent event I can remember in September was signing up for INFES. Kaitlin and I were on campus one Saturday to meet Kaitlin’s speaking partner. We ended up wandering over to the CIE where we were roped into signing up for something called INFES. We found out that INFES stood for “International Festival”. I remember going to the computer lab to wait for the meeting to start and when it did, everyone seemed to be a bit disorganized. Since it was the first meeting, no one really knew where to go and what to do. We international students stood around and waited for direction. Originally, I wanted to be part of the World Booth to talk about either the United States or Spain, but someone asked me if I could dance and I ended up being pushed to the Dance Booth. After all the ryuugakusee were herded to their groups, the leaders of INFES lead us to another classroom building and eventually a classroom filled with more Japanese students. In front of everyone, the MC introduced all the ryuugakusee one by one and we took our seats. During the meeting we played games and did a quiz and got to know our group members. After the classroom portion was done, we went outside and jump-roped for about 3 hours. I remember that most of the dance booth was made up of Bulgarian dance members. I later told one of the DB leaders that I wanted to watch Soran Bushi and Racenica to see which one I wanted to do. I wanted to do both Soran and Racenica, but someone told me I could only choose one. After Kasey (from Australia) encouraged me to join Racenica dance and after going to one rehearsal and loving both the dance and the people in the group, I decided to join Racenica.

I went to another rehearsal, and I remember that not knowing Japanese was a big setback, but since the dance played on a screen, I basically watched it until I learned it. Our rehearsals were once a week for about 2 hours. Everyone attended the rehearsals and came late if need be. Over the course of the semester, I gradually learned more Japanese and the group also became closer, so the language barrier became less of a problem. If anything, I learned more Japanese from being in that group. Had I not joined INFES, I wouldn’t have learned half the random things I know now.

October:
In October, I finally felt oriented. I had a set schedule and I felt like I had been at Kansai Gaidai forever.I don’t remember all that much from the month of October, other than the fact that every weekend I was out at karaoke. The system was pretty much consistent. Every Friday would be karaoke. Sometimes we would even go on Saturday as well. The beginning of the month sported club-going. Surprisingly (not), I actually only made it to two clubs. A week later was karaoke and whatever messes came in between that and another weekend of karaoke, which brings us to the end of the month.

October 31 is Nana’s birthday. We celebrated by making her a chocolate pancake cake covered in chocolate.

That night we went to a bar in Osaka. We being a bunch of people from Seminar House 3: 3310 awesome reps were Nana, Jenay, Ewa, and me; 3410 reps were Jesse (who didn’t really live in 3410, but basically did because he was there so often), Charlie (dressed as Elmo), Ange (dressed in a cute outfit, but I’m not sure as what…), Natalie (black dress), Olivia (dressed like Natalie), and another girl who’s name I can’t remember (sorry) but she dressed like a リラックマ (ri-rak-ku-ma: A mixture of the words “Relax” and the Japanese word for bear “kuma”); 3510 reps were Joe (dressed as an anime character), Mitch (dressed as a Care Bear in a blazer), and Andrew (dressed as some kind of weird mole).
 
(Olivia took this picture and I took it from my tagged photos on Facebook.)
I think the bar was called Moonwalk, and it was in some back alley somewhere near the club to which we were going. We waited for a really long time until we could finally get in, because being Halloween night, there was some sort of costume party going on, so the place had to be cleaned before we could enter. We finally got in and had a few drinks before less than half of the group headed to the club. The club we went to is called Joule. Before we went in, we had to pay, of course. People wearing costumes got in either for free or for 500 yen, I can’t remember. Then, foreigners got in for a discounted price. Jenay, Ewa, and I weren’t wearing costumes, so we got in for the discounted price. All who was left was Nana, the only Nihonjin in the group. Lucky for Nana, she looks like a foreigner, so she was able to get in with a discount (haha!)
So we get in the club and it’s packed of course. We found podiums to dance on, but then the body guards asked us to get off due to the fact that we weren’t dressed slutty enough. Go figure. Anyways, other than being sweaty, smelling like smoke, and not being able to dance to trans music, the night went really well. After we had our filling of um-chika-ah-chika music, we left and headed towards the golden gates of the 24H McDonald’s nearby. There, we met up with the rest of our exhausted and mildly inebriated group, rested, then made our way to the train station to get home.
The ride back seemed long when we weren’t on the train and short, but long at the same time when we were on it. The order of what I did on that excursion home: Me sitting on the train station floor (grody), getting on a train, me and Andrew being obnoxious and putting our feet up on the seats across from us in order to sleep, me sitting next to Andrew and eventually falling asleep on him, waking up, moving seats to where Jenay and Nana were sitting, being social until we got to the Makino stop. From there: We walked the 20 minute walk home. Jenay, Nana, and I linked arms for most of the way. Then, a sleep that, due to the fact that the sun rises at 5 a.m., probably wasn’t sufficient enough for recuperating after a night of clubbing.

That was my October.

November:
The end of October marked the beginning of… DANCE! The first dance performance lined up was Bon Odori. Throughout the month of October, some Okaasans (mothers) and Obaachans (grandmothers) came to Kansai Gaidai every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.. For these two hours, we international students would be learning and practicing Bon Odori. The group started out small and eventually made its way to 8 girls and 2 boys. The girls did a dance with Sakura blossoms and the boys did a different form of Soran Bushi.

(We dressed in yukata, which is a summer kimono)
The dances went very well and I felt accomplished after doing them on stage. I was surprised at the turnout though! Not only did our roommates come, but also a crowd of ryuugakusei (international students). Karoline was nice enough to record the performance and the Okaasans and Obaachans were also nice enough to give us DVDs and handy-wipes (oh yes, we ryuugakusei are in need of handy-wipes!) Unfortunately, in the mess of laundry, paraphernalia, and luggage, I can’t find the DVD that the Obaa/chaans gave us, so the link I’ve provided (YAY! WATCH ME DANCE!) is actually Karoline’s video (Thanks Karo!). After a weekend of Bon Odori was a break followed by a week of dress rehearsals for nothing other than the International Festival. Since I was part of the Dance Booth, we had rehearsal every night. At these rehearsals, we practiced the dances in the order we were going to perform in, but it was also a bonding experience for the entire Booth. It was a lot of fun because after the rehearsal, a few of the ryuugakusei stayed after to learn and practice “Soulja Boy” and “High School Musical”. As I said in my previous post, INFESDB was the greatest event that I could have participated while I stayed at Kansai Gaidai.
At the end of October and beginning of November, I was lucky enough to catch what I thought was bronchitis. I actually wore a mask to the Bon Odori dress rehearsals.
It was a bit awkward at first, but in the end I actually felt more Japanese. I even felt a little bit less discriminated against (since Japanese people usually look down on Filipinos). I really enjoyed wearing the mask. So after a weekend of wearing the mask and two weeks of pumping Vitamin C into my system (no scurvy for me!), I thought I was ready for INFES weekend. During the week leading up to INFES, I skipped a few classes and rehearsals here and there due to a fever that I was able to subdue some days. When INFES actually arrived, I felt pretty good. I’m pretty sure my recovery was all due to adrenaline, constant dancing, and perpetual orange-eating. Though INFES weekend was amazing- filled with takusan (lots) of dancing and カラオケ (karaoke), come Monday, my body decided to negate all my efforts to recover and all my thoughts that I had recovered. I spent most of Monday in my room, in bed, watching “How I Met Your Mother”. The next day I skipped my morning class, but biked to school later to help Keiko with TOEFL (Keiko is shown here):
(This picture was taken when Andrew brought us little bags of candies. The flavors were Soda, Cola, and Apple. I ate Apple, Keiko had Cola, and Andrew ate Soda. In each pack there are about 5 candies. We decided that we wanted to race to see who can eat all of the 5 candies the fastest. Andrew won, then me, then Keiko. :] )
Biking to school was a bad idea because 1) I wore a mask, 2) I had a fever, 3) I couldn’t breathe. Therefore, after meeting Keiko, I ended up going home again and skipped my afternoon class. At home, I wrapped myself in the “carpet” blanket:
 
(Doesn’t it look like a carpet??)
(… I wrapped myself in the “carpet” blanket) and sat in the lounge. I was trying to pretend that I didn’t have a fever, but I probably looked like death, which is why all of my roommates urged me to go see Okaasan (the “mother” of Seminar House 3). After lots of encouragement as well as not being able to find my Tylenol, I went down to Okaasan so she could take my temperature. She ended up taking it and I had a fever of 37.4 degrees C (99.32 degrees F). Since the temperature was over 37 degrees C, 98.6 degrees F, Otousan (the “father” of Seminar House 3) called Kansai Gaidai so that one of the CIE workers could bring me to the hospital. The temperature ended up going up to 40.something degrees C which is about 104 degrees F by the time I got to the hospital. I felt coherent though and I remember being able to converse and understand what was going on (aside from the fact that a lot of Japanese was being thrown around). I’d have to say that my favorite part of the hospital experience was having a q-tip shoved up my nose in order to check if I had Swine Flu. Ok, in truth, I never want to have a q-tip rubbing up against my nasal glands ever again. 10 minutes after q-tip to nose lovin’, the doctor said that I had Influenza Type A, which cannot be identified as Swine Flu or not. After going to buy Tamiflu and something to suppress my fever, Kumiko-san (the CIE worker) drove to the school, then Top World (a grocery store near the school) to buy water, Seminar House 3 (so I could pack in about 15 minutes and let everyone know where I was going), then the quarantine house. I felt really bad when I went back to Seminar House 3 not only because I was running a temperature of 104F, but also because I couldn’t really let my roommates and Andrew know what was going on other than the fact that I was going to quarantine.
I eventually got to the quarantine apartment, which is located with faculty apartments behind Seminar House 4. It seemed like I was floating along, waiting for medicine to get my fever down. It wasn’t until about 2 hours later that I actually got to take the medicine. For two days I had a temperature of 38 point something.

Anyways, my first night there was full of delirious fever dreams and I woke up in a cold sweat. That day a CIE worker came in to check on me and told me that I was the second girl to stay in girl’s quarantine. She also said that it was possible for me to have a roommate, but I didn’t get my hopes up. While I pondered the fact that I could have a roommate, I got myself ready for a nap. Right when I was about to fall asleep, the doorbell rang, I answered it, and in front of me stood Terao-san (another CIE worker) motioning me to looking down the stairs and saying, “You have a guest!” Lo and behold! A masked, tired, and sickly nihonjin girl from Seminar House 4 was making her way up the stairs to be my quarantine roommate! Though we were both tired and sickly and felt like dying, the 5 days that we spent together were super 楽しかった (tanoshikatta = fun)!

The day after Eri arrived, Andrew ended up going to quarantine next door. Every night he would come over and have dinner with us. We’d joke, do homework, and listen to movies. Aside from the fact that we coughed every 5 minutes and had to blow our noses multiple times, we actually had a lot of fun. It was a great bonding experience. I’m really glad that Eri turned out to be as crazy or even crazier than me. It would have been really difficult to have a roommate that never talked to me. Instead, we made a couch out of futons, took funny pictures of each other, and made cards for our boyfriends. It was a weird kind of girls night(s) and forced bonding turned into a fun friendship!
Andrew and I met up with Eri and her boyfriend at MOS Burger before I left for Japan. I feel really bad that I can’t remember her boyfriend’s name, but anyways, he was super nice and funny. It was definitely fun even though I can’t speak Japanese very well and Eri’s boyfriend can’t speak English too well. Luckily, Eri had a good grasp of English and would translate to Japanese, and Andrew had a good grasp of Japanese to translate things into English.

At the end of November (during quarantine and beyond), I was struggling to keep my head above water because I was in the midst of petition to stay at Kansai Gaidai for another semester. After a long and emotionally degrading process, my efforts along with Andrew’s and my school’s were trumped by a factor beyond my control as well as the fact that I was never able to talk to Dean Yamamoto in the end.

Then, November ran into December and crunch-time began.

December:
Since the entire November I went out only once to カラオケ (karaoke), my flatmates and I decided that December was the time to pick up the slack. Just like late September and throughout October, we were back into the pattern of going to カラオケ every weekend. We also bought a Christmas tree and made the apartment look super Christmas-y. We took a roommate field trip out to Don Quijote (yep, that’s me referencing Wikipedia) and moseyed around the store to find Christmas trees among other things. After a little while, we checked out with our tree, made it outside, then tried to figure out how to bike with a big, inconveniently rectangular box. Maiko ended up taking the package and we made our way home. Once we arrived at the Seminar House, お母さん (Okaasan = mother) was already ready at the desk window to let us know that we have to unplug the tree at night to prevent fires. We also couldn’t put the tree near any furniture. ありがとうお母さん! We didn’t let her down! We decorated the tree with the decorations given to us in the box as well as origami that not only 3310 made, but also origami any visitor decided to make. For example, Hiroshi’s messed up, sad crane (笑★ ひろしちゃんがだいすき〜!^_^):

I think December was intense flatmate bonding time. After a week of getting back on track due to quarantine, I was ready to get back into the カラオケ/ roommate field trip swing.

Jenay, Shiroi-san, and I went to Hiroshima on early Saturday, December 12th. We took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima and the bus back. When we got to Hiroshima, we needed to find our hostel. After some amount of minutes I don’t know, we finally had to ask an officer where our hostel was and we eventually found it. The hostel’s name is: K’s House it’s a really good hostel, and I highly recommend it. K’s House was conveniently located near a trolley stop, so after dropping off our backpacks, Jenay, Shiroi, and I made our way to Miyajima, home to a floating temple:

(Picture from the ferry)
 
For me, the highlight of Miyajima was becoming the king of the deer. After lunch, we decided to get ice cream because ice cream is tasty in cold weather (what?). We walked a ways before we got to the temple, and on our way, we started to pick up deer. Not literally pick up, but they started following us because we had ice cream. Eventually, there were many deer around me trying to get my ice cream. One thing I didn’t know about deer: They like to stand up and reach for things with their mouths. And that’s exactly what they did. So as I pulled my arm back to avoid the deer at my front, a deer behind me took a nice lick at my ice cream. As a result, I chucked my ice cream to the ground with a hope that they would stop following me. Since the ice cream triggered something in their brains and I became associated with that good feeling, they still followed me even though I had only my edible jacket and purse on me.
(Thanks, Jenay, for the photo. At this point, Kaitlin was off somewhere down the island, completely deer free.)
 

After Miyajima, the group took the trolley back to the A-bomb site. Here we saw the building that was right underneath the A-bomb when it dropped:

While walking around the building, some Jehova’s witnesses found us and started asking us questions like, “Do you believe in God? Do you know what God’s name is?” to which we answered, “Uhhmmm… yes?… and God? In Japanese? Jehova?” (Respectively). It was great because none of us knew how to get out of the situation and the woman started to try and convert Kaitlin because Kaitlin claimed that she was Jewish. Fortunately, my phone vibrated and I politely excused myself, thinking the others would follow. Since they weren’t able to escape and were now being invited to the Jehova’s witnesses’ meeting that was being held close to where we were, I went back to the group, made some excuse that Andrew was waiting at the Peace Museum and that we had to go. Luckily, we were able to leave swiftly.
After that lovely encounter, we headed towards the Children’s Peace Memorial:
  (There were lots of art made out of paper cranes in order to commemorate Sadako Sasaki’s attempt to make 1,000 paper cranes before she died of the aftermath of radiation.)
It was really interesting seeing the memorial since only about a week before we went to Hiroshima, I had read about the story in order to write a post in my academic blog “Gomenasorry” (Check it out!) After the Children’s Peace Memorial, we headed to the Peace Museum.
The Peace Museum was really interesting. There were before and after shots of Hiroshima:
 
It was also interesting to read Japan’s perspective on the A-bomb. After getting my fill on Japan’s point-of-view, I made my way to another room that had what people looked like due to intense radiation. After that room was a room dedicated to the children that died due to radiation, including a tribute to Sadako Sadaki. Since the museum was about to close, we blew through the last part really quickly.
We exited the museum and decided that we were hungry. After dropping by a Lawson’s (or quite possibly a 711), we sat on a stone wall and at ice cream, sandwiches, and onigiri (in my case). I definitely miss inexpensive onigiri from Lawson’s and 711. We ate dinner and then made our way to our next adventure.
It was a lot of fun finding the Hiroshima Dreamination luminaria! We took some scandalous pictures under romantic light fixtures as well as lots of pictures of pretty lights!
Then we continued walking down, and found a little open-air mall where ice cream eating and a bit of shopping took place.
(Me, Jenay, Kaitlin)
(
(That’s a large!)
(We’ll make your ice cream with your heart. Ice cream of European Tradition. What? My heart? WHY?!)
After ice cream, shopping, and lights, we made our way back to the hostel. First we got a bit lost, but then we found our way back to K’s House. In general, it was a great day full of adventures. The next day we woke up early to make our way to the bus. The ride was about 6 hours (I think). I slept most of the way and it was a pretty smooth ride back to Hirakata-shi and eventually the Seminar House. 
The end of Hiroshima marked the beginning of finals, which we didn’t study for during our entire trip. Sunday was definitely a cram session for our first tests, which were the Japanese Reading/Writing and Speaking tests. Wednesday was my last day of finals, and Thursday I went into school to do an evaluation for International Entrepreneurship. 
Before Jenay left, we went to karaoke. We also went to Osaka to see the luminaria there. Oh and I completely forgot that the day I came back from Hiroshima, as in Sunday, as in the day before my Japanese final, I decided it would be great to go to Kobe to see the luminaria instead of study. I went with Karo and India. It was very pretty and lots of fun except for the fact that we had to walk around a zig-zag for an hour or more and then we got hungry to the point of crankiness. After we took たくさん (lots) of photos, we tried to find a place to eat. After many failed attempts at a tricky mall, we finally found somewhere to eat! YES!

(The beginning of a pretty walk through lights!)
(おいしいそう!)
(Karo in Osaka)
(Osaka luminaria) 

Thursday night, therefore, became an all-night カラオケsession that I like to call karaoke’s last stand:
  
 
 
 
(Thank you India (shown here) for letting us steal your camera that night. Thanks for the all the pictures as well.)
 On the 18th, Jenay left. Before she left, we sold our bikes back. It’s really interesting to get the feeling of “coming-full-circle”. Jenay and I bought our bikes together, and in the end, we sold them back together. It was weird and sad seeing her leave. The room was also half-empty (literally) because before we leave the room, we have to move the futon and things out into the kitchen.
 
(My side was all that was left.)
She was the first of our apartment to go home. It was such a sad day, so that night, Karo, Shiroi and I decided to do something fun and went to Sweet’s Paradise:

 (Lots and lots of dessert! Dinner backwards! Dessert then spaghetti and pizza!)

Also during my last week, I had dinner with Sunny, Andrew, Genki, and Kana! 
We went to torikizoku (funny thing is, the link I provided is to another Kansai Gaidai student’s blog. I have no idea who it is, but hey thanks for explaining toriki!) Due to Genki loving cabbage, we ordered bowl after bowl until the waiters started to chuckle every time we ordered another. There was so much food and all we could do was stuff our faces and comment about how tasty everything was (おいしいそう!) So that was my last meeting with Kana and Genki (sad day), but at least I got to hang out with them! (ありがとう!みな、だいすきだよね〜!)
I also met Keiko really shortly for the last time! She was an amazing speaking partner to me and a greater friend! I remember when I first met her the second week of school. I was so nervous because I didn’t know any Japanese, I didn’t know how much English she knew, and I forgot what she looked like. When I finally let her know I wanted to meet, I found her in the CIE lounge, sitting with her back against the window. So I walked around, asked, “Keiko?” and to my surprise she was really excited to see me. We had our first lunch, of many more to come, together and talked in broken English and almost no Japanese. All I could do was ask her questions about the language and I realized later on in the semester that I actually learned a lot of grammar that Level 1’s don’t learn until about Level 3 or 4. She helped me a lot with my Japanese, and eventually I helped her with her English. 
One day she told me that she wanted to quit studying English, but decided to keep going because I was helping her. From there on, I was determined to help her raise her TOEFL score because she seemed so disappointed and put down. Every Tuesday we would have “Tanoshii TOEFL Tuesday” and would study TOEFL and take practice tests. On Fridays we would meet again. We called them “Fun Fridays” when we would listen to music and chit-chat about random things in life. I had so much fun with Keiko and I definitely hope to stay in touch with her! 
 


The Saturday before I left, I spent most of the day with the Racenica, Bulgarian dance, girls! It was our Christmas party and our last meeting!

(Kaori is up front, then from left to right: Fumi (not sure what she’s looking at…), Miyuki, Saori, Kasey, Bron, Akina, Me. Miyu is missing from the picture because she wasn’t able to make it.)
 

We spent the night talking, making origami, and eating Nabe (しゃぶしゃぶ aka shabu shabu). It was super tasty!


 
After dinner, most of the Nihonjin girls left to “go get sweets”. Lucky for them, we ryuugakusei are quite gullible, because what they were actually doing what printing a group picture to put on the surprise scrapbooks that they gave us! They also were getting a cake with candles prepared! Tricky! Kaori made the delicious and professional-looking cake! Very yummy!

(Miyuki took this picture! Thanks Miyuki!)
 

(Kaori made the cake! おいしかった!)
 


It was difficult to say bye to the Racenica ladies. Before we all separated, we went to do one last プリクラ (purikura). It was weird because we had our first Racenica bonding party in October and took a Halloween プリクラ and at our last party, we took Christmas プリクラ. I walked home with Kasey and Bron, which brought me back to the first time I walked Kasey back to Seminar House 4. I didn’t really know her back in September/October. It was Racenica that brought us together and we both agreed that joining Racenica was the best group to join for INFES. :]

When I got home, I spent most of my time packing. I didn’t want to hold up お母さん (Okaasan) on Sunday for my inspection, so I tried to pack everything Saturday night. 

(So clean!)


On Sunday, I had my inspection at around 5:40 p.m.. Hiroshi came up to my room to wait for お母さん to come up and look around. At the end of my inspection, right before I was getting ready to leave, Karo and Nana ran into the flat (they had been in Nara all day) just in time to say goodbye. And then, the crying started. First Maiko, then me, then everyone else I suppose. I’m not really sure. I wasn’t  leaving Japan until Monday, December 21st, but instead of waking up super early and making my way to the airport by myself, I was able to stay at Kaitlin’s host family’s house for the night. Another example of coming-full-circle was that our first night in Japan, Kaitlin and I shared a hotel room in the Kansai Airport. On Sunday night, I slept over her house and we shared a room at her host family’s house. 

Saying goodbye to everyone was so difficult and I definitely felt the heart tug when I saw everyone else being sad. Kaitlin’s host family was nice enough to come pick me up at Seminar House 3 as a soggy, runny mess. I couldn’t stay sad for too long because as soon as I arrived at Kaitlin’s house, her host little brother and sister were ready and enthusiastic to start to play. What an emotional trip. I definitely went from one side of the emotion scale to the other. After Mayumi (Kaitlin’s host mom) made me in Wii version, Kaitlin, Mao, Rui, and I played Wii Sports Resort while Mayumi made okonomiyaki for dinner. 

When dinner finally came around, it was super delicious! Mayumi’s cooking is fantastic! Eating dinner with the family made me temporarily forget that I was leaving. Watching the little kids eat and complain that they were full reminded me of myself. お父さん (Otoosan) was also a riot because he could eat so much! He ate all of his dinner, plus some of the kids’ dinner, then another half a okonomiyaki! He said that part of his stomach was for okonomiyaki, another part was for ケーキ (ke-ki = cake), another was for water. He’s such a silly guy. Spending time with Kaitlin’s host family made me realize that: Kids everywhere behave the same way; language barrier is a problem, but can be solved through body language and broken speech; had I been with a host family, my Japanese would have improved a lot or I would have been super confused all the time! 

After dinner and playing with the kids for what seemed like forever, Kaitlin and her host family had their moment of reminiscing. Everyone was crying, Mao especially. Mao (host sister) had a special attachment to Kaitlin, and it was really sweet seeing them interact. Rui, on the other hand was crying because he was sad, but then he cried just to cry. Seeing everyone sad reminded me that I was sad and after keeping back the waterworks, Kaitlin and I headed downstairs to her room to pack.

(Shiroi-san looking up some grammar in good ol’ Genki II)
Sunday night quickly turned into Monday morning, early morning. Kaitlin and I ate our breakfast of toast and our choice of spread (I chose peanut butter and strawberry jelly) and apple slices, thanked Mayumi for the cake she made for the bus ride to the airport, packed our things into the car, and made our way to the bus stop (which was very close to the place where Kaitlin and I performed Bon Odori only a month before). After a bit of a wait, and watching the sun slowly rise, we boarded the bus. What we did not know was that there were aisle seats attached to the regular seats. Kaitlin and I were ready to pop-a-squat in the middle of the aisle. It was a good thing, I sat down in the middle of the aisle before another ryuugakusei from Kansai Gaidai decided to tell me that there was a temporary aisle seat. Thanks. Really. Anyways, that was fun because it just shows that even though it was my last day in Japan, I still learned something new. 

Kaitlin and I made it to the Kansai International Airport and felt as though we were at the beginning of the year again, as we blindly navigated our way to our gates. It makes me smile to think that Kaitlin and I shared our plane ride into and out of Kansai together. 
 
(Flight to Tokyo)
When we arrived in Tokyo, we went through security. During the waiting time, we managed to listen in to a conversation between a very enthusiastic woman from California and a not-so-enthusiastic young man also from California. We also witnessed a couple try to cut the line. There was a woman and a man. The man was dressed in pin-striped dress pants, a white button-up shirt, and a black vest. He proclaimed that he was “going to Afghanistan”, to which the woman retorted “IN A SUIT?” After that Kaitlin and I proceeded to sarcastically play the game “And My Favorite Part of Right Now Is”. I’m so glad our personalities match or else things could have gotten really awkward really quickly. After passing through security, Kaitlin and I exchanged goodbyes really quickly and ran to our next flights. It was sad to say bye, but we knew that we would see each other again during this semester. (LONDON BABY YEAH!)
My flight from Tokyo to Detroit was pretty smooth. Thankfully, I fell asleep for most of the flight. When I got to Detroit, I had very little time between landing and my flight to Boston. After an airport worker didn’t let me use her cellphone (not her fault, it was running out of batteries), then calling me an inexperienced flier, I ran all the way to my gate to find out that my flight was delayed. I don’t even know how long I waited, but we eventually boarded, took off, flew, and landed. Finally, I was back in Boston, seeing my parents (and one of my aunt’s… weird…) at the same, familiar, Logan Airport baggage claim. About an hour later, I was back in my driveway, my house, and eventually my bed.
After taking about a week to write these posts, I feel very nostalgic. A part of me, ok, the majority of me wants to return to Japan. I’m happy, though, to return to Spain. They welcome me back and it will be good to be back in familiar territory. Had I stayed at Kansai Gaidai, I’m sure I would have been comfortable with being a second-semester student. There are many things I could have done while I was there, but the things that I did accomplish were definitely worth it. One day, I will return to Japan and visit the places I missed. Until now, I can only look back on these memories and reminisce about the wonderful times that I had with all of the people that I met.

December 24, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

First Impressions Are(n’t) Lasting Impressions

When I first described Japan, my account was about my disappointment in shrines. It was based on stereotypes that were in desperate need of being proven incorrect. Before, I walked the streets of a strange place. What has changed is not how the area looks, but how I look at the area. This strange place steadily became home to me as I biked its streets every day and Japan turned into something beautiful.

In the last post, I talked about Sadako Sasaki. Last weekend I was able to visit Hiroshima.

After being questioned by a Jehova’s witnesses, my friends and I were able to make it to the Peace Museum where we saw WWII from Japan’s point-of-view. Since we are all American, it was interesting to see how Japan saw the bombing of Hiroshima. Most of the time, the question that stood was: “Why Japan?” And by the end, I started to try to think of why such a place would be the target of such destruction. Even though the A-bomb grounded Hiroshima, Japan has prospered and there has been an upsurge of technology, culture, and life since then.

I have learned so many things about Japan and I no longer question Japan’s television, fashion, or way of making everything look super cute.

At first glance, Japan was a bit disappointing; filled with wires and views marred by antennas. Four months later, I have realized that the Japan that I had wanted of friendly people and beautiful landscapes was not as far away from me as I thought. Although antennas and rusty buildings sprout from the ground at steady intervals, I am able to look past that and finally see what Japan really is through experiencing the culture first hand.

December 14, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Akagami, Aogami, Origami (Red paper, Blue paper, Folding paper)

I realized only now that since I was in quarantine (for having an unidentifiable type of influenza) that I was not able to write my “free post” for this blog. Truthfully, being in quarantine actually gave me the idea for this post.

Paper cranes in Japan. They are everywhere, and essentially every Nihonjin knows how to make one. When I came to Japan, my paper-folding skills impressed many a person because I was able to fold paper into various objects and creatures, among which is the paper crane. I heard different stories about why the crane is so popular, but why Japan?

The most popular meaning of the paper crane relates to Sadako Sasaki, a young girl dying of leukemia supposedly caused by the bombing at Hiroshima. She attempted to make 1,000 paper cranes in order to make a wish, as the popular legend goes. As the stories have it, she was unable to make all the cranes, but her friend finished making them for her. It is said that if a person were to make one thousand paper cranes the gods would grant him/her a wish. This legend, of courses, precedes that of the very popular story of Sadako Sasaki.

People in Japan use paper cranes at any occasion. At the International Festival, there were small paper cranes lining doorways and there was also a giant paper crane made of paper with several flags on it. Originally, I thought it was for good luck, but I learned that the crane symbolizes peace. Japan is all about harmony, so it would make sense that at different events there would be cranes everywhere; to keep the peace.

December 7, 2009. Uncategorized. 5 comments.

Who’s Got the Powahhh? (Pictures are being evil)

The Politics of Greetings

The scenario: One ryuugakusei (international student) and one Nihonjin (Japanese person) are meeting for the first time. What happens? Do they shake hands or bow? Over the course of Gaidai Sai (Kansai Gaidai’s International Festival), I was able to witness many people meeting each other for the first time. I was also able to witness how couples reacted with each other in public, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

As for the first questions, I wasn’t sure how the situation would play out. Instinctively the ryuugakusei went in for the handshake, and the younger generation responded with a meek handshake back, accompanied with a quick bow. It got me thinking about power distance between two people that know each other, two acquaintances, and two strangers. Power distance meaning social gap between people, i.e. boss vs. employee has a larger power distance than employee vs. employee. So the power distance between two strangers is uncertain. For a handshake, how do you determine the power distance? Does the handshake have to be long and strong or whoever puts his hand out first is the more dominant figure? For bows, I noticed it is much easier to identify the power distance. It depends on how deep the bow is and who continues to bow even after the other person stops bowing. Usually, I’ve observed, the person who continues to bow is one who considers himself “under” the other person.

Sometimes power distance is broken between strangers due to other variables such as signs or costumes.

These two are boyfriend and girlfriend. Should they hold hands in public? In this generation, are they equal or is the male still the dominant figure? Since they are my friends, I know that (from what can been seen when with them), they are equal or if anything, the female dominates the male in a playful manner. The whole aspect of power distance intrigues me here in Japan since people interact so differently here. The body language is so interesting to observe, especially between the three types of couples (two strangers, two acquaintances, two friends).

December 2, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

INFES 2009: AHAppy trip!

INFES 2009. What to say about almost an entire semester’s worth of preparation that all came to an end yesterday? It was an incredible experience to say the least.

One hot, summer day last September, Shiroi-chan and I were at school to meet Shiroi’s speaking partner. By chance we went to the CIE and found many KG students in black t-shirts with different colored fonts. Curious about what was going on, we asked someone and we found out that these students were preparing for the first meeting of INFES 2009. On a whim, Shiroi and I thought it would be interesting to see, so we signed up in the CIE office. Not half an hour later more international students arrived and soon we were all standing in front of the CIE office, confused about what booth we were to join. Since I had just signed up, I hadn’t picked a booth. All I remember is that someone came up to me and asked if I can dance, I said yes, and there I was, separated from my friends, who were doing Food Booth. Disappointed and confused as I was,  I decided I might as well get to know the 2 other foreigners who were in DB with me. One was a girl from Colombia, then other from Massachusetts, who funny enough knows Adele, my roommate from Spain (they did a course together in Argentina for a year). Crazy.

Next, we were told to enter one of the classroom buildings of KG, and stood outside a room where we were to be introduced one by one… in front of a crowd of Nihonjin. Our names were called and we were finally seated. I was sitting at a desk surrounded by Nihonjin girls. At this point I didn’t know sufficient Japanese beyond “What is your name?”, having only been 2 weeks or so into the school year, but the Nihonjin were more than sympathetic and we did our best to break down the language barrier. As I mentioned in a previous post, we ended up playing a quiz game and winning, then went outside to jump rope. It was excellent team bonding and even now I can vaguely remember thinking that most of the DB group was made of girls who danced Racenica, a dance from Bulgaria. Lucky me. Later on, I went to one of their practices and I was hooked. I did, however, also go to Soran Bushi and wanted to do that, but I received many a text message from the group leaders that I should stick to one. So I chose Racenica. I loved the girls who were in the group and figured I should give Kasey (my friend from Australia) some moral support.

Learning Racenica turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. I looked at the videos on YouTube and thought it looked pretty easy compared to Tap Dance, Belly Dance, and Soran Bushi. I actually thought Soran Bushi was easier when I went to their practice because at Racenica, I had to learn how to shift my weight really quickly. Every practice I was determined to learn it and yet I felt like I couldn’t hop like I was supposed to. But with lots of encouragement from the Nihonjin and of course Kasey, I practiced at home and eventually got the hang of it.

Practice was once a week. Every Tuesday from 5:30-7:00 p.m., we would meet in a room on the second floor of the CIE. At times I didn’t want to go, being tired or just not feeling like dancing, but then I would go to practice and I would love being there. It was a great relief at the end of the day to see my friends and be silly with them. Plus, they taught me all kinds of Japanese words and believe that had I not joined INFESDB, my Japanese would have surely been incredibly bad. They enjoyed teaching me though, and helping me improve. They praised me and encouraged me constantly when I started to doubt if I was improving. These are some things that I learned from them:
Gattenshochinosuke: A very formal way of saying “I see”
Katajikenai: A very traditional, samurai-like way of saying that you are grateful or indebted to someone, usually said as a joke nowadays.
(So essentially, I was being taught how to be a samurai… haha)
Some tongue twisters or Hayakuchi Kotoba:
Akapajama, aopajama, kapajama
– Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago
and then something about two chickens next to each other… I can only say it

Rehearsal week was last week. A week ago today (Monday, November 16th), the weekend seemed like a long way away and we were rehearsing together as an entire booth, uncoordinated and not ready to present to crowds of 100 people, 4 times over the course of the weekend. During what theatre people would call tech week, I was rather ill, and didn’t make it to some of the full run-thru rehearsals. It was all well and good because I practiced at home anyways and hoped for the best. Plus, I had to learn “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical online because I missed most of the practices.

On Thursday, Nihonjin students were setting up all the food booths around campus. Each club and circle had a booth and made some sort of tasty food, which they advertised like professionals- Getting up into people’s faces and trying their best to convince we money-holders to buy their goods. At the festival I ate:
– Tempura ice cream (fried ice cream)
– Yakisoba (a type of noodle)
– Some kind of unidentifiable egg thinger that was like a takoyaki, but more like a pancake…?
– Yakitori
– Takoyaki without the tako… it’s the dessert dough balls that I don’t know what they’re called
– Orange and chocolate crepe (on the paper cone that the crepe comes in, you have to write your name so that the people can identify you when your order comes up. Andrew put Takeshi on his like always, and because he ordered mine, he wrote Mary… haha Gotta love Genki workbook characters!)
… and other foods that I can’t identify, which were interesting-tasting to say the least.

The festival started on Friday, November 20th, but only the Nihonjin portion, which was the food booths outside. The international festival started on Saturday, November 21st and ended on Sunday, November 22nd. On Friday, I walked around with Andrew and Genki. We walked around campus and saw the booths and went to the opening ceremony. At the ceremony a little kid marching band played. They took it super seriously and were super cute!! We also went to a A Capella show, which had Nihonjin members that Andrew and I met at the piano one day. Some of the groups were pretty good and sang English and Japanese songs.

A little later, went to go see Kana (Genki’s girlfriend) at her flamenco show in the afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised at how professional these dancers and singers were. The show was definitely a lot of fun and Kana was super cute in her flamenco outfit. We then went to the solar panel area on campus, right outside of McDonald’s to watch Genki’s friend DJ. As we sat and listened to the guy mix beats, he smoothly changed songs to one that we all knew: “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. Out of nowhere, a guy named Logan showed up and started dancing right behind our group. Of course we had to stand up and dance with him. So there we were, a group of international students and a couple of Nihonjin creating a dance party for all the other Nihonjin to watch. Just thinking about that moment brings a smile to my face. It was the best spontaneous dance party I’ve been in in a while.

After the dance party, Kana had to go back to flamenco, so it was just me, Andrew, and Genki again. We decided to go to one of the many live houses on campus to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To state it lightly, they weren’t really the best cover band ever. Not to mention the fact that the lead singer wasn’t a good singer and was reading the lyrics to each song (one of which he forgot the chorus…), and the guitarist (although very talented) forgot the guitar solo and the band prematurely ended “Under the Bridge”, started it back up eventually, and then ended it where it was supposed to end. Genki, Andrew and I gave them the benefit of the doubt and guessed that their real singer was probably sick… which is what we thought until the entire band forgot what came after the guitar solo in “Under the Bridge”. Luckily, Andrew had tickets to another live house and we went to go see a band that covered Lenny Kravitz songs. Compared to the “Red Hot Chili Peppers”, “Lenny Kravitz” was definitely at a higher caliber. The person who did their lights also didn’t seem like he was on crack and did a good job providing an entertaining light show.

After Lenny Kravitz, I had to head to INFESDB dress rehearsal, which was from 5:30 to around 7:30. After running through all the dances, we taught the group YMCA and Macarena and the Nihonjin taught us High School Musical. We all left rehearsal anticipating an interesting weekend.

Saturday morning came and we arrived at the school early to prepare for our 1:00 p.m. show. Saturday was definitely a lot of fun, but we weren’t able to go around the festival too much since our shows were so close together. Both shows ran pretty smoothly and the mistakes we made were only ones that we could learn from for our performances on Sunday.

On Sunday, the people trickled in between 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.. We were already sad about the end even though our day hadn’t begun yet. Before each show we had an “attraction”. The first attraction was High School Musical and the second was Soulja Boy. We also sampled a bit of our dances for the very thin crowd and went around yelling: “Mina-san, kite kudasai. Dansu Boosu! Mite kudasai! Ni ji han, san ni zero hachi!” [“Everyone, please come! Dance booth! Watch please! 2:30, 3208!”] We also let out a “Irashaimase, douzouuuu” [Welcome, come innnn] once in a while in the clerk-voice kind of speak. It was really fun because we tried to target mothers and grandmothers just walking around campus. After walking around in the really cold weather, we rushed back inside and did our last minute preparations for the show. Our performances on Sunday reflected 2 months of hard work and our last performance was packed wall-to-wall. It was nice because a lot of my friends showed up to see it. Andrew actually came for 3 out of the 4 performances, bringing different people every time. It was hilarious because all the Nihonjin kept pestering me with questions about him. And whenever he introduced himself, he went through this whole ordeal of saying his name was Takeshi and he was from Hokkaido. A few of my friends actually believed him, so it was more than funny when I broke the news to them later that he wasn’t really Japanese. 😀 I was also really happy that Keiko, who was originally my speaking partner- but I don’t like calling her that because she’s such a good friend of mine- was able to come.

So the Sunday performances ended and we were left to take down the decorations. It’s always incredibly sad that it takes such a short time to take everything down when it took so long to put them up. After we cleaned up our room, we went downstairs to the CIE lounge for the opening ceremony. The winners of the karaoke booth were announced, there were superlatives, and there was a slide show. There were a lot of pictures of dance booth. It was a lot of fun to reminisce about the 2 days that we had spent together. I noticed that at the closing ceremony, the group was a lot different than the original group that one day in September. There were a lot more foreigners in Dance Booth for one thing and some of the original foreigners and Nihonjin weren’t even there.

After the closing ceremony, I biked home with Hiromi and then we met up around 7 p.m. at the bus stop to go to Hirakata-shi. We also met Miyu at the bus stop and from Hirakata-shi we met the rest of the Dance Booth to go to a nomihodai (all your can drink, although since it as a school event all we drank was different kinds of juice hahaha…) restaurant. At this point I was super hungry and all I could say was tabetai [“I want to eat”] and I learned shini sou [“It seems like I’m going to die”] (haha I love Japanese). I also learned Itsumo watashi no jinsei ha onaka suita [“My entire life I’m hungry”…. or something like that…]. So we went to the place, I’m not sure what it’s called and ate lots and lots of food from salad to steak to yummy ice cream. Not to mention getting a lot of juice. That was pretty awesome. Since we couldn’t all fit at one long table, we had two other tables. So every few minutes you would see people get up from the long table and sit in the aisle or at one of the smaller tables with the other dance members. The conversation topics were everything from everything to everything and there was a mixture of Nihongo [Japanese] and English in the air.

As everyone was getting ready to leave, the group presented Saori, the group leader, with a huge card that everyone had signed over the last 2 days. Saori was also the leader of the Bulgarian dance group, and she’s another good friend of mine. She deserved a lot of praise because she worked so hard throughout the semester. After a short speech and lots of Arigatou gozaimashita [“Thank you very much”] and Otsukaresama deshita [“Thanks for all your hard work”], Hiromi, Miyu, Kaori and I left since we needed to catch one of the last buses back from Hirakata-shi.

It seems like so long ago that we were making decorations and posters, goofing around, and having a good time with each other. Now the weekend is over and a part of me wishes I could go back and do it again.

ありがとうございます。おつかれ。☆

November 23, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Bem-vindo Buddha

As I wandered around Hirakata-shi, a lost and hungry as a student fresh-off-the-airplane and dropped into a new realm known as Japan, I saw something in the distance that not only surprised me, but compelled me to move towards it to have a closer look. What were the objects in the distance, jutting out into the overcast skies? Nothing other than two crosses held high on the steeples of a Catholic Church.

Catholicism is not widely practiced in Japan. The main religions are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples can be found all over Japan, whereas Catholic Churches are sparse.


When I reached the church, I was a bit surprised to find the place empty. I kept thinking that a Catholic Church would spark a bit more interest to tourists, even though Hirakata-shi is small and has little to offer compared to Osaka or Kyoto. I suppose the church was left as it was, used only during services. There were no signs inside or outside that hinted at its history, although inside there were pamphlets in Japanese and Portuguese. But why Portuguese? It wasn’t that Hirakata-shi has a booming population of Portuguese speakers, but rather that Francis Xavier who was Portuguese, as well as a Jesuit missionary, landed in Japan in 1549. Where there is a church, there is Portuguese. That is all I could suppose since I couldn’t go church hunting for more evidence.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the occasional church and even more interesting to see a Japanese person wearing a cross around his/her neck for fashion purposes only. I guess I was a bit biased as I was more inclined to think that the Nihonjin wear religious pieces as a fashion statement as opposed to a gaikokujin wearing one because s/he believes in that religion. I know better now, even though sometimes I am still caught off guard when I see anything of the Christian influence.

November 16, 2009. Uncategorized. 6 comments.

Women in the Workforce

In a society accustomed to men in business suits enters: The woman. Neatly dressed in a business skirt and blazer, the Japanese woman now joins the realm of men. Traditionally, women were the homemakers; the business they ran (and still run today) was the home. A mother is like a well-oiled machine, continually providing a clean house, clean clothes, moral support, and dinner on the table at the end of the day.

On top of that, women are joining the workforce. Although most girls in university still have the dream of being flight attendants, more and more young ladies are looking for jobs in the political and business worlds- where the employees of such fields were predominantly men. But what has caused this change over the years? Are women’s decisions the only factors in the shift?

Though the Japanese workforce may not be completely run by males these days, it still seems as though Japanese men naturally tend to dominate. On the bus to Hirakata-shi, a man and woman boarded the bus together. In this case, the man actually led the woman on the bus. The man also was the first to sit down and the woman followed shortly behind. When we arrived in Hirakata-shi, he signaled that the woman should stand up, and for the stretch of the aisle, she was in the lead. However, once the bus stopped, the man sidestepped and stood in front of the woman and led her off the bus.

It made me think that even though this act might seem insignificant, it was still a small taste of the natural behavior of Japanese men to be more dominant even in general, every day situations.

Here are articles of Japan women in the workforce relating to flight attendants and closing the gender gap, respectively:
“Flight Attendants Have Arrived…”
“JAPAN: Dwindling Workforce…”

November 3, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Western Hand in Japanland

They used to say that mimicry is the deepest form of flattery. Today we call it “globalization”.

Globalization, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary online, is: “The action, process, or fact of making global; esp. (in later use) the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale, widely considered to be at the expense of national identity” (OED Online). According to this definition, globalization seems to only appear in the business world. I am a Business major and can heartily agree to globalization’s important role in business. However, I can more readily say that globalization happens in our lives every day, whether or not we are dealing with business.

A place where I could observe globalization at its finest is nowhere other than Kansai Gaidai. At Kansai Gaidai, people are from all over the world and come to not only study, but also experience Japanese culture.

In Visual Anthropology class, we watched a movie about globalization in Japan, specifically how American and European ways infiltrated the Japanese culture and how the Japanese reacted and adapted to them. I realized that everyday I see Asian girls with fair skin and light brown hair, as though mimicking the European and American look. Their style of clothing is also an interesting mixture of clothing worn in the 80’s and 90’s with a “cutesy” Japanese flare, of course.

It is interesting to see Japanese girls try so hard to interpret Western style and sing English songs when at the same time we foreigners are trying our luck with Japanese songs and even traditional Japanese culture. From Yukata-wearing to eating with chopsticks, as gaijin (foreigners) we try and accept different parts of Japanese culture.

Yukata

V.A. Yukata 2

From here, we can go home and globalize even more by teaching our friends and family how to use chopsticks, how to sing Japanese songs, or even how to speak Japanese. Globalization is not just in Japan, but as ryuugakusee (international students) in Japan at Kansai Gaidai, we are helping cultures mix, transform, and eventually spread across the world.

October 28, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Humaquarium

Over the three-day weekend, I was hoping to witness some sort of live sport action during the day adventures on which I went. Unfortunately, the closest thing to watching baseball that I witnessed was watching a middle-school-aged baseball team wearing their uniforms biking past me. Therefore, with sports out of the question, I am left to write about recreation and what better place to observe people and pass the time than in an aquarium.

Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium, better known to the Japanese as Kaiyukan, houses many creatures from ducks to dolphins. The entire aquarium is built around a central tank that has the famous whale shark amongst other sea creatures that until I saw them believed only to be figments of Hayao Miyazaki’s imagination (fish really are massive!) So as I walked down spiraling ramp and realized that are two floors of seeing the same fish, I’ve pretty much seen them all, I started looking around me. I was surprised to see so many Nihonjin (Japanese people) and very few to no Gaijin (foreigners) enjoying this tourist attraction.

Amongst the Nihonjin I saw many a H1N1 mask. I watched as people tried to push their way to the viewing glass, yet the mask-wearers stood patiently towards the back.

Masks

This situation was interesting to observe because of two reasons. Firstly, It made me wonder how many people actually had the virus and how many were just protecting themselves from it. There really was no way to differentiate between the two types of mask wearers and both were treated as if they were not there at all. It reminded me of how mask wearers on trains usually have an empty seat beside them. A thought popped into my head once that the people who are not sick should write “NOPE” or “NOT I” on their masks, but then I figured it would further make actual ill people more of social pariahs. Secondly, maybe the reason why the non-mask wearers pushes past and mask-wearer stays put is because that’s just how these certain people function. Maybe these specific mask-wearers are mild people who do not want to shove past in order to see, while the non-mask wearers are just the opposite type. I would have to view many more encounters between mask and non-mask wearers in order to fully grasp the social interaction between the two.

In any case, I realized that I was viewing the human species rather than the aquatic; therefore, returned to view the animals behind the glass as much as they viewed us.

Penguins

*Due to the fact that WordPress.com suspended my previous blog for spamming, I have taken all links out of this post. If you would like a link to the Kaiyukan website, please leave me a comment. Thank you.

October 26, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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