Summer: it brings the best and the worst out of everything

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Most of the time I post a blog it’s because I don’t want to study or do homework.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

But really, on a day like today, who really wants to be academically productive? Was just met with a decent rainstorm after a week of sunny weather, hung laundry outside to dry on my porch (window open, so I can smell that freshly cleaned fabric scent waft through my room when the wind blows), some lukewarm coffee that, while instant, ain’t half bad, got some brand new air fresheners to spice up my place…

Wait, those air fresheners have a dual purpose?! You don’t say!

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Yeah, that lovely, citrus scented air freshener that looks suspiciously like those air diffusers you can buy at Bath and Body Works actually repel bugs while making your room smell like a Tropicana orange farm.

Well ain’t that lovely? Make your room smell nice and keep the bugs out. Killing two birds with one stone (at the price of only 108 yen, woohoo)!

However, after some personal experiences and research, I’ve found that these dual purpose air freshener/bug repellents are pretty common in Japan. Maybe they are in America too, but I’ve never felt the need to purchase something like that back in the States.

I feel like I live a relatively bug-free life back home. We even have two stir-crazy dogs that want to go outside every freaking minute during the summer days [i.e. our backdoor is nearly always opening at one point] and I normally only see a few ants and maybe a dust spider every once in awhile.

We do take precautions, such as the easy, homemade pest repellent of mixing dish detergent with warm water and pouring on the outside of your home [windows, doors, etc.]. A few times we’ve pulled out the not-so-environmentally-friendly chemicals, but overall, we just don’t ever need to prepare our home for the insect apocalypse.

Like I said before, we had a week of sunshine and warm weather the past week. Perfect weather for jogging, walking, doing laundry [because in Japan the only way to dry your clothes is to hang them out to dry], the usual.

I made some new friends. At jogging club, at the ESS (English Speakers Society) club, with the other international students.

And bugs.

Yeah, I don’t want to see those latter friends on a regular basis.

I’ve been reading articles regarding the summer-bug infestations that normally scare foreigners in Japan. Mostly about mosquitoes  because Japanese summers are very humid, giving those blood sucking freaks the upper hand during June, July and August.

According to Gaijin Pot, Japan comes with guns-a-blazing when it comes to mosquitoes. There’s products you can buy that repel mosquitoes [蚊除け kayoke] or kill mosquitoes [蚊取り katori]. Some of them kind of scare me; like the mosquito coils [蚊取り線香 katorisenko] which is basically burning incense with insecticide in it.

The ‘go-green’ persona in me cringes.

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[Photo from Gaijin Pot]

At least they come in cute, piggy holders.

There’s a bunch of other things you can do to repel or kill mosquitoes in Japan and if you’re interested, you can read about them here, at Gaijin Pot.

It’s still too cold for mosquitoes and I think I’ll manage because I live in a particularly cold part of Japan [with the exception of Hokkaido, where they are probably laughing at the Midwestern States and how they reacted to the polar vortex]. By the time I leave, they’ll be just coming out.

However, I’ve still encountered other creatures.

This morning, for example, I got up early to do my morning jog. I usually leave my jogging shoes outside so they don’t stink up my shoe walkway.

I walk out to grab my shoes, lift them up and find TWO CRUNCHY SPIDERS. Just chilling. Underneath my Nikes.

So crunchy you could hear the crunch a mile away when you stepped on them.

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The evidence. I regret nothing.

I’ve seen a few dust spiders in my apartment. They’ve usually appeared a day or two before my usual cleaning/dusting day, so that’s understandable. No freak-out necessary.

But those suckers.

I get back from my jog and go about my normal routine. I run from my main apartment area to my kitchenette, where my coffee-water is boiling. Mix my inst-o coffee and come back to my room and find this fine fellow:

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[Photo from 4.bp.blogspot.com]

WHY HELLO THERE. I DO NOT BELIEVE I SAW YOU COME IN FINE SIR OR MADAM.

It was just a crane fly. I momentarily flipped a lid because I thought it was a huge a– spider. I shared the freak-out with my friends via Facebook chat:

Jocelyn Russell: F–ING HUGE BUG
                          F–ING KJHSDKJG KD
                          KILL IT
                          SOMEONE KILL KRGHA G
                          F—–

Tasia: OMG

Jocelyn Russell: Dead. By shoe. RIP

Tasia: I was just about to come over
          What kind was it??
          Good job, you’re a brave woman. 

I proceeded to share my spider experience as well, freaking everyone out to an even higher degree.

We decided a trip to the 100 yen store to purchase de-buggers after class was highly necessary.

We also decided to try my ‘soapy water around the doorways/windows’ trick.

Poor Tasia. She was met with some surprising guests [shared via Facebook Chat]:

Tasia: Dear effing eff god.
          I went to go pour soapy water around my door.

Jocelyn Russell: And?

TasiaAnd as I poured, it washed a F-ING GIANT SPIDER out of the crack.

Jocelyn Russell: F- THAT.

Kate: HAHAHAHA

TasiaI started flicking the soap bubbles
          Like, ‘BACK FOUL BEAST’

Jocelyn Russell: I’m literally dying of laughter right now.

We had a field day.

Before I continue, while it may seem like we spend all of our free time on Facebook Chat, that is not the case. This was a special moment where you just have to drop everything your doing and momentarily freak out with your friends.

Moving on.

There’s a lot of other bugs that we may or may not encounter while in Japan. Tofugu doesn’t waste one minute of sharing them:

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[Photo from Tofugu]

Cicadas, those mothers are apparently louder than an Ozzie Osbourne concert. And when they die in the fall, they just drop from the trees, like a bunch of ripe apples that didn’t get picked.

MY GOD. 

Stink bugs, cockroaches, centipedes, the usual. They’ll visit you too during the summer months of Japan. As for cockroaches, apparently they visit even the cleanest of houses.

Lucky for me, that link also provides the ultimate kill-all spray for cockroaches.

My sanity has been saved for now.

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[Photo from Tofugu]

NEVERMIND.

Huntsman Spider. The name itself will destroy everything in its path. It takes no prisoners.

Excepts for humans. They are absolutely harmless to humans.

They are excellent to have in your home! They kill all of the unwanted pests like mosquitoes and cockroaches. Centipedes too!

I don’t even want to mention the Japanese Giant Hornet. You can research it yourself. In a nutshell: it’s deadly, painful and can be found in Japan. Just search Youtube. You’ll have no trouble finding some horrifying documentary on these suckers.

I’m just going to stop writing about them, in fear that they’ll come after me BECAUSE THEY CAN FLY FOR 50 MILES AND WILL COME FIND YOU.

Enough of the bugs. Let’s talk about summer.

I’ve been looking forward to summer since the polar vortex first made my car stop working.

Even Japanese summers, extremely hot and extremely humid, sounds excellent to me.

I’m not joking!

When it comes to bugs, Japan is prepared. I will have no trouble keeping those suckers in check. Most anti-bug products are really cheap/reasonable too!

Of course, I start researching summer life in Japan and come across even more negatives.

Bleh.

It for one, gets really hot, but thanks to the millions upon millions of vending machines, you’ll have no trouble [or excuse] staying hydrated.

People dress pretty conservatively when compared to the United States, so short-shorts and tank tops are generally frowned upon when in public [so I’ve been told]. However, I’ve seen movies and TV shows [Japanese] in which characters are wearing tank tops and the like, so I’m not too entirely sure how true this fashion idea is. I’m just going to have to see how it is really viewed in Tsuru-shi through trial and error.

And then there’s deodorant. I’ve already had problems with this.

As a pre-study abroad student, I was told to purchase most of my toiletry items when I go abroad. Unless there was something special I needed, I should just buy it abroad.

I was not told, however, that deodorant will be close to impossible to find in Japan.

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[Photo from Gaijin for Life]

When I ran out of the stuff I brought from home, I went to the drug store (the morning I was leaving for a trip no less) and found myself spending WAY more time at there then I was planning.

For about $8, I got a stick of deodorant that only lasted me 2 weeks.

2 weeks.

Okay, I am friends with MANY Japanese people. I even go jogging with some of them and I can say they don’t smell.

They don’t smell.

We’ll run for miles. We’ll walk places near and far. They don’t smell. And it’s not because they are wearing deodorant. They just don’t biologically need it.

Apparently this applies to some European people too!

I’m not kidding! 

And I don’t mean to come across as being judgmental or critical. I’m just stating the facts/my observations [in a relatively comical manner].

Japan does have a lot more spray deodorant than stick, so I’ve been using that instead [because it’s a whole hell lot cheaper]. Apparently, spray is used more for “smelling good” purposes instead of my purpose of “I don’t want to smell like my high school gym locker”.

I’ve heard this applies to S. Korea too, where the lovely bloggers from Eat Your Kimchi have shared that it is nearly impossible to find deodorant in Seoul [and unfortunately have to purchase it on the ‘black market’ at a really steep price].

That’s enough of that.

But seriously, summers in Japan seem like paradise to me.

The festivals, the food, the fireworks [not for me, but I can appreciate the love that people have for them], the BBQ [Japan can do it just as well as America].

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[Photo from JAPAN [dictionary] 日本]

I look forward to it!

Bugs and all.

Much love,

J

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August 6, 1945: At 8:15 am, peace was born in Hiroshima

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[I said in an earlier post that I would talk about my trip to the 原爆ドーム / A-bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This is that post. Mind you that I am no expert on the events that unfolded on August 6, 1945. Most of the facts I provide in this post can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Reader, which I purchased at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. You can purchase a copy here or at the museum. Any other facts I provide will be followed with their corresponding source.]

[This post covers a very sensitive topic, one that many people have a difficult time discussing. While I spend most of the post recalling my thoughts and feelings of the visit, hateful comments and statements of blame regarding WWII, the bombing and anything before/after/in between will not be tolerated. I have done my absolute best to avoid using such language in this post and would appreciate if the readers/commenters do the same.]

It was my third and final day in Hiroshima and my tutor [and her friend whose family kindly hosted us for the visit] saved the one place I most wanted to visit for last.

Prior to visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Peace Park, and Museum, we had explored nearly every corner of Hiroshima that is highly recommended by everyone who has ever set foot there.

We traveled out to Miyajima, an island about an hour outside of the Hiroshima city center and home to the world famous Itsukushima Shrine; the one with the big, red tori gate standing out on the shore.

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The shrine itself is a registered UNESCO World Heritage sight and one of a kind. I haven’t been to many Japanese shrines, but I can be almost certain that the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima sets itself apart from the rest as it sits atop the shores of the Seto Inland Sea.

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[Picture spam because I can]

The tide was low when we visited. When it’s completely dry, visitors are allowed to walk up to the tori gate.

We also had the privilege of taking a boat tour of the shrine at night, to see the famous “Light Up” of the Itsukushima Shrine.

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[Sorry guys, even with my semi-fancy camera, night pictures are just too difficult to take]

Behind the shrine [and stores selling delicious Hiroshima-style food] is Mt. Misen, which stands at about 535 meters above the sea. Visitors can take the ropeway halfway up the mountain and climb the rest from there. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the top from the halfway point.

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I was in no real rush to make it to the top.

Those who remember the topic of this post, I’ll have you know that this island was, for the most part, untouched by the atomic bomb.

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However, Miyajima played its part. Particularly in the re-build of Hiroshima and creation of the Peace Memorial Park.

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Especially at the Reika-do Eternal Fire Hall [which is located about 10 minutes from the summit of Mt. Misen], whose flame lit the eternal flame that burns at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The day after Miyajima consisted mostly of shopping and eating, which I’m not complaining about since I love both of those activities equally.

I’ll bring this blog back to the original subject.

Although it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I decided to become a peace & justice minor and began to focus on peace building issues seriously, I have always had this urge to visit Hiroshima. The bombing in 1945 always intrigued me, but was never covered much in high school history classes. It was always more of a,

“Well, this happened and the war the ended shortly after. Shall I mention that many people died?”

Okay, there was more than that, but you get the main idea. For the most part, I did my own, half-assed-because-I’m-a-high-schooler research on the atomic bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And then some more in college.

Particularly with some of my college’s children’s books that cover the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, almost entirely from the perspective of a child.

With some of the most graphic illustrations that you would never imagine seeing in a book meant for kids.

If that was not a punch to the gut, I didn’t know what was.

Until you make your own pilgrimage to Hiroshima.

I started my day at the Hiroshima Castle, the fortress that helped put Hiroshima on the map as a large Japanese city and ultimately led to its position as a strategic military port.

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I should mention that this historic building may look old, but it was actually only built in the 1960s.

Because the original, the one built in 1591 and named a national treasure in 1931, was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb. For the most part, it was flattened by the blast; some of it burned.

We made our way all the way to the top, which was completely work the hike.

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You could see most of Hiroshima City from atop the castle.

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Even the budding sakura trees and the families picnicking under them for the afternoon.

If you squint hard enough, you can spot the top of the 原爆ドーム / A-bomb Dome among the green trees of the Peace Memorial Park.

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We climbed down, smelled the cherry blossoms and made our way to lunch. Climbing up and down castles ain’t easy my friends.

It’s not too far of a walk to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Park from the Hiroshima bus station.

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We got to the park in the afternoon, allowing the sun to catch the 原爆ドーム / A-bomb Dome just right as we entered the park.

Entering the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Peace Park can be compared to entering Central Park in New York City. A few feet in and you’re met with this silence that you would not expect to see in a large city.

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[Photo from the A-bomb Dome Visitors Site]

The history of the building would need it’s own post, so I’ll just give you the fly-by ver.

At the time of the bombing, this building was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and construction for it was finished in 1915 (Kosakai 2007). It’s name and purpose changed a number of times until 1933, when it began the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, housing important government offices and exhibits relating to the war (Kosaki 2007).

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It is thought that about 30 people were in this building the morning of August 6, 1945. However, we can not be entirely sure because everyone inside perished, since it was located 160 meters away from the hypocenter.

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[Photo from the A-bomb Dome Visitors Site]

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I don’t know about others who have visited the A-bomb Dome, but it was not easy for me. This place where I stood, once a bustling city center, would’ve been comparable to hell. A blast so strong that nearly all infrastructure would have no chance in being able to stand. Heat so incredibly hot [the ground beneath the hypocenter estimated to have been at least 6,000° C] that even jumping into the neighboring river would not save you, since the river became a boiling body of water (Kosaki 2007). Radiation so extremely alien to this planet, that anything that was not completely obliterated was twisted and reshaped into an unnatural form.

Families of victims were considered lucky if they had even the smallest of remains of their loved ones returned to them. Sometimes people would find an article of clothing, but not its owner.

In the museum, near the end, there was an ever-so small exhibit highlighting the personal hell that families of victims suffered through shortly after the bomb dropped. Mostly in diary form.

One that particularly touched me was a diary of a mother whose child never returned from school on August 6th. I apologize for not being able to find an internet copy of it.

She spoke of her dreams at night in which her child was walking home from the disaster area. Other times, she dreamt of her child scared, hurt and alone, somewhere in the still burning city center. She told her child that it was okay now and it was safe to come home.

That child never came home.

Watches that stopped at 8:15am- the time Little Boy exploded above Hiroshima. Articles of clothing that managed to be saved from both the flames and radiation. Body parts in abnormal states preserved to show the effects of radiation. Shadows of both things and people, burned into concrete and metal surfaces (Kosaki 2007). Explanation and documentation of the “black rain” that poured upon Hiroshima and the surrounding area, bringing about even more destruction. Children born after the bombing, either having suffered a premature birth [often dying shortly after] or growing up with physical deformities and [in some cases] severe mental disabilities.

The museum was a never ending haunt of what had happened that day.

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The letters exchanged in the planning and building of the atomic bomb by the Allied Powers was an especially difficult part.

In hindsight, everything hurts 100x more.

The counting of the dead was extremely hard and is still disputed to this day. There are numbers starting at 70,000 and going up to nearly 120,000 (Kosaki 2007). This is excluding military personal and those who were undocumented, like forced laborers [many from South Korea] and prisoners of war.

It can be estimated that over 300,000 people were exposed and effected by the atomic bomb (Kosaki 2007).

I know people will mention the fact that more people died and greater infrastructure was destroyed in the Tokyo Fire Bombings in March 1945 than who and what was swept away by both of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am not here to say one was worse than the other. Both atrocities were so high on the destructive scale.

However, I think we can all agree that our future as human beings drastically changed after August 6, 1945.

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Outside the museum, in the surrounding park, lie a number of memorials to various groups of people affected and victimized by the atomic bomb. 1/3 of the Hiroshima Peace Reader describes each and every monument.

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It does not, however, include the hundreds throughout Hiroshima.

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Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students: for the over 10,000 students of Hiroshima Prefecture who died when they were mobilized during WWII. It is estimated that nearly 7,000 of those students died on August 6, 1945 or shortly after (Kosaki 2007). Inside the tower are the names of the students who perished. On the rear of the tower are the names of all the Japanese schools that had students who died during the war.

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 [“This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”]

Children’s Peace Monument: built after the death of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who contracted leukemia at the age of 12 due to exposure from the atomic bomb [she was 2 years old at the time]. In hopes that folding a thousand paper cranes would grant her her wish of getting better, Sadako folded cranes until her death on October 25, 1955. Inspired by Sadako’s life, her classmates reached out to people from all around the world in hopes to erect a memorial in her honor- one that speaks their desire for world peace. It was finished in 1958 and houses paper cranes [senbazuru] donated from all around the world.

I could’ve spent a day and half looking for each monument at this park, but there was only so much time during my trip.

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At the center of the park and located behind the museum is the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.

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After the A-bomb Dome, this is one of those monuments you must see when you visit.

With the Flame of Peace and the A-bomb Dome as its backdrop, the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims holds [inside the coffin underneath the granite-like stone in the shape of an ancient house] all of the names of those killed by the atomic bombs. Due to the difficulty of identifying victims, names are still being added to this day (Kosaki 2007).

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[“Let all souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil”]

While we were taking it all in, a man kindly asked if I wanted a picture with the cenotaph. I declined and felt a little bad as he walked away; maybe since I was feeling emotional I came across as upset with his offer. I wasn’t upset.

However, I just didn’t really desire a picture of myself in front of this special monument. What would I do, smile?

Maybe I was too serious. I’m not entirely sure. The day was ending and everything was becoming a blur.

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The flame behind the cenotaph can be considered an eternal flame, but in its creators do not wish for it to burn forever. As long as nuclear weapons stay on this planet, this flame will burn (Kosaki 2007).

Let’s put this fire out.

This post is already long and thank you so much for sticking with it for this long. I’m almost done, I promise.

Our last stop was the museum and when we were done, we decided it was a good time to head home for the evening and enjoy one more night at the house with a traditional Japanese dinner and some drinks.

We walked through the park towards the station, taking it all in one last time.

I was feeling emotional, like I said before, and it was particularly strong after the museum.

However, the mood changed.

The sun was beginning to set at the park. People were getting off of work and school. Those with time to spare bought some snacks, met up with friends, and enjoyed the sanctuary that is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Folks relaxing on the benches or grass, underneath the newly bloomed cherry blossoms.

Smiles, laughter. Everyone sharing life with one another.

I began to smile. This city rose up, literally, from the ashes. Without hate or blame [which could very well be due to American occupation during the re-building stages, which called for no anti-American protests whatsoever], this city became a mecca of peace.

Each year, the mayor of Hiroshima drafts and presents the Hiroshima Declaration of Peace.

“Look squarely at the future of the human family without being trapped in the past, and make the decision to shift to a system of security based on trust and dialogue.”

Mayor Kazumi Matsui (2013); directed towards the policy-makers of the world

This place where, so many focus on the destruction of the past, is tirelessly paving the way towards a peaceful future.

Whether their methods are working or not, does not matter. They are at least trying.

Hiroshima will change you. The sights are phenomenal, the food is delicious and the people. They’ll change you too.

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The family I stayed with was so incredibly kind that it was extremely hard to leave. My last evening we shared some Japanese-style meatloaf [ハンバーグ] and beer. We spoke a little bit about August 6, 1945 [the cloud could be seen from the home I stayed at], but also about life in general. What home back in the States is like. Why it was funny that I had to duck everywhere in the house because the ceilings are too low (or I’m just too tall).

Back at the Peace Memorial Park, I got one last look at the A-bomb Dome. This time, with some cherry blossoms as well.

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Life can persevere. Life can be beautiful, even after facing indescribable destruction.

August 6, 1945:

At 8:15am, it seemed like the concept of world peace disappeared forever from the face of this earth.

Once the smoke cleared, the rain stopped and the plants began to grow again,

Peace was born once more.

Go in peace,

J

Thank you so much for reading. I spent quite the time on this post and would love to hear your thoughts.

You can find information about the Hiroshima Peace Reader below:

Kosaki Y. (2007). Hiroshima peace reader (A. Tashiro, M. Tashiro, R. Ramseyer & A.R. Ramseyer, Trans.). Hiroshima, Japan: Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. (Original work published 1980)

As I parted from Hiroshima, I left an ema at a local shrine. Feel free to read it below.

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It’s a Whole New World and I’m Just Here to Experience It [My first experience using a Japanese public bath]

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[I should just warn people that this post will be awkward. I apologize. For those who know me well (close friends, family), it shouldn’t be too bad. For those who have never met me, I don’t care. For those who are stuck in that awkward in-between, I’m sorry. You’re about to find out a lot more about me than you ever wished.]

I just returned from a week long trip that consisted of touring Hiroshima (which many will know as the city that suffered from the first atomic bomb used against humanity) and Kyoto, the old capital of Japan.

First was Hiroshima, which I was lucky enough to experience with one of my personal tutors and her close friend, whose hometown is rural Hiroshima.

We traveled via popular shinkasen, or bullet train.

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I’ll just say this: you may think walking to the bathroom in a plane that is experiencing some turbulence is difficult. You may bitch and moan about it as you fumble your way to the toilet door. However my friends, you have not experienced true difficulty until you try to walk to the bathroom on a shinkansen going about 200 miles an hour. Every turn is like a taking a huge lunge and before you know it, you’re almost face first in some poor sap’s bento box sitting in the seat next to you.

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I had no idea what I was getting into.

You may be thinking that I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. You’re wrong. I loved it. The shinkansen is beyond efficient. We were at stations for no longer than 7 minutes before barreling our way down the tracks towards our next destination. The staff is friendly (always bowing before exiting the car). The leg room is fit for a king. They even have an electronic sign that, when not listing off the next stop, gives you the world news.

Pretty darn cool, right?

It took about 4 and half hours to get from Tokyo to Hiroshima. We left at 1:00pm and arrived close to 5:00pm. We promptly met up with my tutors friend (Saeno) and boarded a bus bound for her hometown.

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[Rural Hiroshima is beautiful]

When we were picked up by Saeno’s father it was nearly dark out. We drove for about 15 minutes, along the way being told that we were meeting the rest of the family at a local restaurant.

I thought I understood everything for the most part. Until the heard the word bath (お風呂、ofuro) and became a little confused. I pushed it in the back of my head, assuming that because of my elementary Japanese, I just misunderstood the conversation.

We had some dinner, at a small family restaurant connected to what I thought at first was a hotel, but turned out to be–

I’ll save that discovery for later.

I managed to yet again, make a fool of myself with my haphazard Japanese while we conversed at dinner, probably turning 50 shades of red. Not off to the best start in my opinion.

The rest became a blur.

I was whisked away to the “hotel” part of the building, given a shoe locker, towels and a key to what seemed to be a locker.

My tutor and I rolled our baggage down a hallway and into a locker room. I looked at my key, number 67. I searched for my locker, still not really knowing what was going on. Until I took a look around.

“Hm, that person isn’t wearing any clothes. I take it that this is a public bath.”

You think Jocelyn?!

Here’s the deal with public baths. A long time ago, many Japanese homes did not have their own bath, so people had to travel to a public one in order to bathe. That’s since changed, almost all homes have their own shower/bathing area, but public baths still remain popular methods of bathing.

I never really understood why until I actually experienced one.

There’s a pretty strict set of rules you have to follow if you want to take a bath in a public bathing house in Japan. While no two public baths are the same (some consist of day-spas, hotels, fitness centers, etc.), you still can’t just waltz in and pretend to chill in the big jacuzzi like you would in America.

Make sure you don’t walk into the wrong bath. That’s awkward.

Get to your locker (you receive a key when you pay) and strip. Down to nothing. No, you can’t wear your towel around you to get into the bath. You’re going to have to be naked. Sure, cover yourself with your tiny towel (which is going to be used to wash yourself, not to dry yourself) if you must, but just face that fact that you’re going to be naked. In front of others.

This makes the first day of gym class in junior high seem like nothing right?

Bring your shampoo, soap, face wash, razor and even toothbrush with you, along with your tiny towel. Most public baths have shampoo and soap (often times, really nice ones!) available in the actual bath. Before entering, make sure you stop at the sink and wash away any make-up.

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Often times, around the actual bath, there is a set of showers with mirrors, low to the ground. In the corner will be stools and bowls. Grab a stool and a bowl and mosey on over to a shower head. Sit down on the stool, set down your bathing supplies and get ready to scrub.

You really want to be clean before entering the bath. After being told what to do and some observation (WHICH IS NOT CONSIDERED PERVERTED OKAY), it’s common to shampoo first and then drench your towel with water and soap before actually scrubbing your skin.

I’ve been told that in some cases, it’s recommended that you scrub for 30 minutes. We didn’t do that. I don’t know if that’s a rule for fancier places (like onsen, in which the bath is heated by actual hot springs) or just a personal preference.

After you’re clean (and rinsed off- this is important), make sure to tie up your hair (if it’s long enough) and enter the bath.

It’s going to be hot.

The bath we went to had jets in it, allowing patrons to receive a bit of a water massage. While it was extremely hot at first, it felt extremely good.

After taking trains for nearly 6 hours to get to Hiroshima, this was beyond amazing. Now I began to understand why these places are so popular.

The entire time, I wasn’t sure when to strike up a conversation with my tutor. Sure, she told me what to do, but until we entered the bath, that was about it. When we finally settled, we started talking as if we were at a café, as if we were outside of class, as if we were clothed.

Not once did we talk about each other’s bodies. Oh, you’re breasts are cute~ Or, I like your figure!

Nor did we discuss anyone else’s physique while we relaxed in the bath. We didn’t talk about the awkwardness. We didn’t discuss about how I felt. Or why most Americans really don’t like the idea of public bathing.

For me, this was the first time being naked in front of people that were not my family (sorry I had to share that), but we didn’t converse about that matter. We were just a couple of friends taking a bath together.

After awhile, another woman in the bath pointed out an outdoor bath to us, inviting us to go out and try it. Not awkward at all, it was very kind of her to do that.

Outdoor baths are nice, since the air is cool and the water is warm. If you really want to enjoy the warmth, you jump out and sit at the provided bench for a few minutes before jumping back in.

Many baths have saunas, which are nothing like the one’s I’ve experienced in America. This was pretty small, just enough for two people. You don’t bring anything in with you. Just you in your birthday suit in a woody-smelling box, sweating it up.

Of course, I’m too much a baby to stay in longer enough to break a sweat. Those suckers are hot.

When you’re finally done, sometimes you rinse off before going back to the locker room and drying off (while a larger towel this time). Hair dryers are often provided.

Before I knew it, we were leaving the bath as quickly as we entered.

It was like the first time after you get a vaccination and you’re so proud that you survived. It’s like receiving a badge of honor. I just experienced a Japanese public bath! 

However, I find the idea of public bathing to be important. The second time I visited the bath (before I left Hiroshima), I saw some children there as well, with their mothers. I remember being their age and terrified of the idea of even taking off my gym shirt in front of others.

That’s not the case here.

Public bathing has taught people that we are human, this is who we are. Our bodies may be different shapes, sizes, colors and whatever else you can think of. However, we’re all the same. We’re human. We need to bathe. We deserve to relax in a warm bath, even in front of others. It’s our right.

I remember reading an excellent book Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window. The book itself is about the author’s (Tetsuko Kuroyanagi) experience at her grade school during WWII. The headmaster was a unique one at that, often times having children learn life lesson through methods found elsewhere than books and teaching materials.

One thing that the headmaster made sure that all of his pupils understood was that everyone is the same and deserves to be treated as so. He would have the students go for swims in the school pool naked, to emphasize this idea.

You see that in America and you can bet your bottom dollar that that headmaster would be canned.

However, there’s an important to be learned.

We are often taught to be ashamed of our bodies, of a part of our life that does so much for us. We are expected to be embarrassed when we have to undress in front of other. We assume that others are judging us.

This is wrong.

And it needs to change.

Maybe, sometime down the road, I’ll open up a Japanese-style public bath. In hopes that people will not only realize how comfortable those things make you feel, but to teach patrons that there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to hide.

What does that layer of clothing really do anyways?

My last day in Hiroshima was hard, I went to see the 原爆ドーム「Genbaku Dome」and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park/Museum. My thoughts on that experience will be saved for a later post, but to sum it up, that was a roller coaster of emotions.

To end it with a bath, even if it meant having it in front of others, was one of the best things in the world.

The public bath wasn’t too far from Saeno’s house, so when we were done, my tutor and I walked back.

Being in rural Hiroshima and being a clear night, you could see every star in the sky.

The smell of freshly shampooed hair mixed with the water sprayed on the rice fields. It was perfection.

Much love always,

J

I also had to (awkwardly) learn how to use these types of toilets:

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BAM. Study abroad experience at it’s best.

Photos of the bath and toilet can be found here and here.

A time to celebrate new beginnings [a gif compilation of my life the past 2 weeks]

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Like they always say, when one door closes, another one opens.

The other day, myself and 4 other fabulous students completed our 7 week intensive language course.

Tears may or may have not been shed by the others, but, speaking for myself, they often times came down like a never-ending waterfall.

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The beginning part of this Japanese studies program concluded with us giving a 5 minute speech about our impression of Tsuru, Tokyo, Japan, everything.

This would’ve been difficult to write in English, much less Japanese.

I was a little worried that I would mix up my sentences and end of saying something completely out in left field.

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But that didn’t happen. Everyone did wonderful. Whether it was mentioning how to they first became interested in studying abroad in Japan or how their first trip to Tokyo went, the speeches were well written and even better when presented. Until the very hours before presenting, we made it clear to each other that we had each other’s back.

Passive Agressive

Our nervous level was felt by everyone the 2 weeks leading up to the speech. Maybe that’s why they let us use our scripts when we presented.

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[Pretty much me the moment I stepped off the podium]

Regardless, it’s over. The part of the program that everyone said would make us cry like children- has just been completed.

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So happy I could do a jig.

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Or anything for that matter.

Like I referenced in an early blog post, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from these 7 weeks. A lot of Japanese of course, however, just a lot about…

Life.

Like, accepting the fact that you’re going to fail every once in awhile. Learning to just spit it out instead of staying silent in fear of being wrong. Rolling with the punches that come along as you embark on a new journey (educational or otherwise).

Sometimes life comes at you face first.

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That’s how it was when I first came here. Japanese, everywhere, all the time. Customs that you read about dozens of times in books, being practiced everyday and you’re expected to follow them.

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You just want to have a panic attack alone in your apartment.

But sometimes you just have to,

Smile!

And say,

I got this

Even when you feel like you don’t.

I remember someone telling (mom, was it you?!) that it’s better to walk into a difficult situation with a positive attitude. That way, no matter what, it’ll be even just a little bit better than if you went in as Debbie Downer.

What can I say. Life’s a bitch sometimes.

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But when you keep fighting, it’s totally worth it.

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The day of our final speech was also the graduation day for hundreds of Tsuru University students; a few of them I consider to be close friends.

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It was beyond lively, nothing like I’ve ever seen in the United States. Student team and club members (who weren’t graduating) all decked out in their team/club uniforms and waiting outside of the auditorium. They made congratulatory signs and had champagne at the ready. When their graduating members finally made their way out, they threw them up in the air, regardless of whether or not their were wearing fancy kimono-like outfits, called hakama.

Why was it so lively? Maybe because this is the last chance for many of these individuals to really live it up before they enter the ever-exhuating, over-working life (there’s even a term in the dictionary that stems from this work culture, karoshiliterally working yourself to death) that comes with having a Japanese job?

Not entirely sure.

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I was perhaps too preoccupied with the thought that my friends who were graduating that day are friends that I met as early as my freshman year of college. Most came as ESL students with the intention to polish up their English.

But created some of the best friendships I could ever hope for in this life.

Many of them are the reason why I chose to study Japanese, to come to Japan.

I’ve traveled the country with some of these people. Presented projects with them. Had 1am heart-to-heart conversations with most.

And now they’re graduating!

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Onto the real world, with real-people jobs.

It was fitting that this ceremony took place after our final speeches. It reminded me that, when times are tough and you just want to give up…

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You have happy moments like this, when you remember why everything is so worth fighting for.

Spring break is now beginning and I’m off-

Hiroshima, Kyoto and then…

Can you guess? 😉

Look out for pictures and blog posts to find out where in the world I’ll be next.

Until then,

Much love always,

J

All of the gifs in the first half of the blog are not mine and were found via tumblr. Unfortunately, many of them were saved onto my computer a long time ago or were sent to me by a friend. So if you happen to see a gif that you created and you want credit for, please let me know!

Pictures, however, are taken by friends and yours truly.

When the snow falls, you grab the shovel [Remembering 3.11]

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I should probably begin this with a large apology for not posting for an entire month.

I made a brief post about the snow storm in Japan on my Tumblr, but in a nutshell, it was pretty bad. Classes were canceled for an entire week and most of the local businesses were closed down due to the very fact that most people could barely open their doors due to the heavy amount of snow.

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Those details will be mentioned later.

There’s a more important significance to this post.

It’s the evening before 3.11:

東北地方太平洋沖地震,

2011 Touhoku Earthquake and Tsunami,

Great East Japan Earthquake.

Whatever you want to call it, it was a complete and utter disaster. It was literally felt around the world.

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At 2:46pm, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 hit Japan, about 230 miles northwest of Tokyo. While the earthquake was recorded as the 4th largest in Japanese history, most of the damage was done by the nearly 30 ft. waves that crashed into the shores of the Japanese northwest prefectures. For those knowledgable on the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, it was the tsunami that caused the real damage.

As of last month, 15,884 people are confirmed to be dead and there are still volunteers searching for their loved ones.

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Hope never gives up.

Tomorrow Japan will be observing a moment of silence at 2:46pm and some prefectures will be hosting vigils to remember those lost.

I’ve spent the last few days occasionally reading articles relating to the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami. Mostly about protests that have been occurring throughout the country to keep nuclear power plants in Japan at a minimum. Politicians throughout the country (including Prime Minister Abe) have considered or even pushed for the reopening and creation of nuclear power plants in Japan.

Being a visitor of Japan, I don’t know where I exactly stand on the presence of nuclear power in Japan and I feel like my opinion might not be appropriate. However, as a visitor, I have been told many a time to try my best to conserve energy. Whether it’s turing off the heater before leaving or keeping as many lights off in the apartment as possible; it’s to conserve the energy and prove to government officials that the need for nuclear power plants is obsolete.

I think those well-articulated with Japanese affairs have heard this phrase before: A part of the Japanese lifestyle is to live a life of community.

Traphagan of the University of Texas at Austin agrees:

“Japan is a very community-oriented society,”

John Traphagan (2011)

You see it all the time. Most of our host families live with their extended family. The kids I see walking to school every morning wait for each other at predetermined stops along the street until they can all walk together.

When a disaster strikes in Japan, people get busy.

To this very day, now exactly 3 years later, volunteers are still coming from near and far to the 3.11 disaster area (and other prefectures hosting displaced persons) and doing what they can with what they have. Whether it is assist those who are still homeless or help rebuild what was almost entirely swallowed by the ocean, they come with their hands ready.

Some say that this strive for community hasn’t always been the Japanese ideal. Shoutarou Yachi, former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan believes that it is due mostly to the expansion of media and Internet access:

“People tended to think in terms of building more fulfilling lives for themselves rather than considering the impact of their actions on society as a whole. The influence of the Internet and mobile phones may have exacerbated this tendency.”

Yachi Shoutarou (2011)

After 3.11, he believed that changed; from the rural towns in northwest Japan, to the big cities southward:

The vectors that previously pointed inward have started to turn toward the outside world and society at large. Terms like danketsu (solidarity) and kessoku (cohesiveness), which had been fading from use, have begun to sound fresh again, and the word kizuna (bonds) is back in vogue”

Yachi Shoutarou (2011)

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Shoutarou sees this especially with the Japanese youth, who probably were the most inward of them all prior to 3.11.

This Japanese ideal of community probably helped make the 3.11 post-diaster efforts more manageable and the coping doable.

“In Japan, it is all about the collective, what you do as a group… in an emergency, that works better.”

Keiji Asakura (2011)

This ideal of community has been ingrained into some of the Japanese communities prior to the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami.

Traphagan has found that many Japanese towns have formal organizations that help assess and solve issues and even provide leadership when times get tough.

He also concluded that because of the strong sense of family ties held in Japanese families, the made the grieving experienced after the disaster a little bit easier:

” …there are parts of Japan where generations live together and the concept of family extends to relations that most Americans would consider distant. This family structure can offer a network of support in times of disaster.”

John Traphagan (2011)

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However, nothing in the entire world, not even a millennium of well-practiced cultural values, can prepare one for what happened March 11, 2011.

Like I said before, about a month ago, most of Japan got hit with a hefty snow storm, bringing about 35 inches of snow to Yamanashi Prefecture in less than 24 hours. I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life and go to school in Green Bay, WI and not even the snowy weather I’ve experienced there would’ve prepared me for this.

While Yamanashi Prefecture is not new to snow, it was taken aback by the amount that was dropped in February. Local townships were advising people to stay indoors and not attempt to drive. Those who did found themselves stuck on the roads and many chose to abandon their cars until they could be dug out of the snow a week later.

City halls became safe zones for those who lost power, needed food/water or required medical attention. Every few hours, announcements were read on the Tsuru-shi PA system, letting people know where they could go if they needed help.

And most likely asking those of able-body to help.

My friends and I trekked out to the store the day after the snow drop and saw an apocalyptic type of city. It was erringly quiet, despite the numerous amounts of people trying to shovel cars out of the street. Now and then a helicopter flew by.

We were inspired by what we saw and returned home to help our neighbors shovel the side street leading to their houses/our apartments. With some simple Japanese and borrowed shovels, we shoveled until dark with the expectation to do it again the next day. However, the weather became nice enough to the point where some of the snow began to melt.

Our university and many of the local schools were closed due to the snow, so students got busy with their after-school club groups and shoveled all day until it was too dark to see the snow. Business owners forewent the option of opening their doors and instead helped their neighbors out of the snow. Local businesses were opening up their bathrooms for the volunteers to use.

Everyone wanted to make sure everyone was okay.

In no way am I comparing this snow storm to the 3.11 disaster. 

I only wish to mention the fact that I was able to experience a fraction of this Japanese ideal of community I have heard so much about.

I really don’t have a good way of ending this. Tomorrow is going to be rough for many people. My thoughts and support go out to everyone. Tonight. Tomorrow. And every day after.

Those reading from St. Norbert College will understand when I say this,

Japan, I have been inspired by your own, special form of communio.

Whenever I can, from now on, I will get my hands dirty for the sake of the community.

がんばれ、日本!

Much love,

J

Credit for the information can be found at:

CNN, Aljazeera, JapanEcho, Chron, The Japan Times

Credit for the photos (with the exception of the first one) can be found (in order from 2nd to last);

here, here, here, here

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better”

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From Samuel Beckett.

Tennis fans may know this quote as one of Stan Wawrinka’s tattoos (on his left forearm). The man can pick out some good quotes.

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[Oh hey Norby. Care to join me in one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken?]

It’s over a week since I’ve arrived and today marks exactly 1 week since I’ve starting the intensive language program offered at Tsuru University.

I knew they’d be difficult but…

Feeling Stupid

[Sometimes just being in class makes me feel like this]

Those who’ve been abroad to a country where the language is so drastically different than their own (which would be like… any language) and they’re only a beginner have felt this strange frustration. It’s similar to the feeling of having something at the tip of your tongue but about 100 times more annoying.

Wait too long and the conversation has already moved on without you. It’s still the very beginning of the program and I’m still being met with extreme patience (which I’m extremely grateful for). However, I know that if I don’t begin to make strides of improvement, I might be left behind in the language learning classroom too.

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It can be hard to say this as an honors student, but it’s okay to fail. Actually, something’s wrong if you don’t fail. One of the other girls in my program brilliantly said that if you keep succeeding at a 100% rate, you are not properly challenging yourself, thus not truly improving.

Japanese can be hard at first, and if you start learning as a young adult, it makes it 10 times more difficult.

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[Wha…]

One thing I’ve learned so far is to seek the failure. Seek that moment when you’re messed up because you’ve attempted to move up a level- one that’s higher than what you know and outside of your comfort zone.

I used to be the student who hated to make a mistake in front of others. When I wasn’t sure of my answer, I most likely wouldn’t say anything. Being here, in this fast-paced, intensive program, I’ve changed in that regard. Even if it’s been only a week, we’ve covered material that some classes only cover in half of a college semester. It’s been only a week, but from an academic standpoint, it’s been awhile.

It’s good to fail. To make a mistake. To show that you haven’t completely mastered the material. That moment of failure turns into the most effective learning moment you’ll ever have. And then the next time you’re asked to prove your knowledge…

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You’ll be better. You’ll have failed better.

Short post. Tomorrow is a national holiday, Foundation Day actually and we get the day off. Tonight, we celebrate the departure of last semester’s exchange students at Tsuru University and end the evening at karaoke with our fabulous tutors.

I better prep my flawless, beautiful singer voice.

There may or may not be video documentation of this.

Much love always,

J

Credit for the gif: here

This Marriage Between Old and New

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I love traveling to cities. I grew up in suburbia. Ventured out to the rural, no man’s land. Took day trips to the city. While some feel suffocated or become overwhelmed when encountering the city life, it revives me. I love the feeling of visiting a big city. Even one as foreign as Tokyo.

For one, the transportation is excellent. Despite the mind-boggling maps at first glance.

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[What the–]

It’s simple. You normally purchase a Suica (or Pasmo, apparently they can be used interchangeably) card (for the large lines only, the smaller ones require their own tickets) which you load on your desired fare and “adjust” your card total when you arrive at your destination. You swipe in to ride and you swipe out to exit. Pretty simple.

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There’s an odd obsession that some people have with trains. Some may have heard the term otaku, which can be (very) loosely translated to “nerd”. The true definition of otaku can literally be saved for another post on another day, but one thing for sure, there are number of different types of otaku. One, that seems to have become an “affectionate term“, is the densha otaku (densha being Japanese for train).

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[Jocelyn has become a densha otaku!]

These otaku love their trains. They’ve researched them to pieces, know them inside and out, and enjoy documenting their arrivals and departures. Some even make plans to attend a train’s “funeral“, or the last ride the train will have before it’s taken to the train graveyard. I’ve seen a few densha otaku braving the cold Yamanashi weather with their cameras. While some may roll their eyes at the thought of being so preoccupied with trains, Tofugu brings up an excellent point that these densha otaku are just appreciating the true wonder that is the Japanese train system. It’s complex, super efficient and probably beats out any other large city in how clean and beautiful they are (inside and out).

The ride to Tokyo (Harajuku) was wonderful. The first leg of the journey was traveling through the more rural parts surrounding Tokyo. The train was older, with the actual conductor announcing the current and future stops (instead of a prerecorded voice). Mountains were still surrounded us and occasionally you saw a graveyard snaking up the sides of one.

Switch to another train and all of a sudden you’re not in Kansas anymore. Large buildings replace the old houses. The train now has video screens at all of the doors. Switching between Japanese and English, it tell you what the next stop is, what side the doors will open, when you will arrive at the next stop, and what all following stops are for the rest of the trip. There’s (often times) one right next to it playing commercials.

It gets busier too. Granted, I wasn’t riding during rush hour times (going to work, returning from work); it was a Saturday though. Many were off of school or work and chose to enjoy the day in central Tokyo.

We got off at Harajuku, right before Shibuya (those might know Shibuya by the statue of Hachiko, the faithful dog who waited for his master even though he died before he could return home from work). It was busy, there were a lot of young people. Of course! Harajuku is one of the best shopping districts in Japan, if there weren’t young people flocking the streets, we’d have a problem.

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[Oh my gosh, so busy]

I didn’t buy anything. I think I was still in awe of it all. I was in friggin’ Harajuku. Like, the place Gwen Stefani sings about all the time. Didn’t she name her one of her clothing lines after this place?

You’d have a more girly-girl store right next to a dark, goth-like shop. Music coming from all corners. People with signs (and often times dressed in fashion you’d only expect in Harajuku), others calling out to the crowd to walk into their store. A few people trying to hand you flyers. Before I knew it, we were on the other side of Takeshita Street and looking at the more department store-type of shopping areas. We browsed, but nothing much more.

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Back allies are fun. Unless their dark and wet-looking. Then I don’t like them.

But the ones in Harajuku I do like.

Small little cafés line the streets, one on top of the other. We went to one with a theme of stationary. You sit down, order and then browse. I personally think all restaurants should be this way. It makes the wait for food so much better.

We even got to be kids again and draw on our placemats.

After eating and feeling reenergized (because Harajuku can tire you out at first glance) we shop-hopped. At one point waiting in line for about 30 minutes for a popular shop. While it was out of the ordinary to wait for a store, it might make some sense. Could it be because of the work ethic that the Japanese people have? Since it was Saturday, this was the only day many people could shop, making this place busy as heck? My friends kept telling me it was because it was a foreign store (it sold items from Copenhagen) and everyone loves going to places like that (the Garrett Popcorn store, the same as the one in Chicago, had a long line as well). It may seem odd at first glance, but it made things bit easier. No pushing, no trampling. No one dead. Maybe we can learn a thing or two about this system of waiting instead of nearly decapitating each other for material items.

Not too far from Harajuku station is the Meiji Shrine.

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[Holy moley, weird to see all of those trees so close to a city like that!]

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Established in 1920 a few years after the death of Emperor Meiji and his wife (Empress Shoken), people across Japan gathered a large number of trees, planted them in the surrounding area of the shrine and, behold! The Meiji Shrine came to be. [source]

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I wish I had the time (and energy) to research and write about Shinto (the ancient, Japanese religion) and what each part of shrines mean, but that would be like writing a dissertation. Maybe at the end of this program I’ll become a semi-pro, expert on Shinto shrines? Probably not, but hopefully I’ll learn as I go. But for now, I’ll just mention my observations.

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After passing under the tori gate and taking a few pictures of the kazaridaru, or sake offerings (see my Tumblr post here for some cool information on kazaridaru) we approached the main shrine area. Before entering, it’s customary to purify your hands and mouth with water.

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Now, I’ve heard about this before and was just a bit terrified. I knew there was a process but I didn’t remember how it went. Will I look like a silly foreigner (lies, I already did)? Will I upset someone?

Luckily, they had directions in English.

There was traditional Japanese wedding taking place that day! I didn’t get a good look at the main wedding party, but got a few glimpses of those glorious kimono we’ve all heard of before. Let me tell you, until you see a real one in person, you don’t understand how pretty they are.

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At the Meiji Shrine, my friends and I approached the offering hall to pray. Return of the nerves. I knew there was a process and there was something involving the throwing of money, but of course I didn’t remember.

Again, English directions.

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Here’s the deal, you throw 50 yen (the coin with a hole in the middle) into the large box-like structure with bars on the top, bow twice, say your prayer, clap twice and bow again. Not too complicated? I think I did it right. One of my friends of a picture of me doing it, I probably looked silly.

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On the way out, we passed people purchasing ema, or wooden tablet in which you write your wishes on. Click on ema above and you’ll be directed to my Tumblr and I’ll explain the significance of them at Japanese shrines.

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Right before we left, I made sure to purchase some charms, or omamori. Most of them help against ‘misfortunes’ and have different meanings depending on the one you purchase. We’ve got your basic good fortune (the red one I purchased for myself- I was told that it would cover me across the board), one for happiness (the yellow one in the photo) and others (for finding a partner, finding a job, passing classes/tests, having children/giving birth safely). I was told that they only last a year, so people often times return to shrines to purchase new ones. They make good key chain charms, backpack charms, etc. They also make excellent gifts.

The return home was tiring. So much seen, so much more ahead. Had good conversations with some old friends. Hope to do it again real soon.

As a parting note, I cannot seem to get over the fact of how much history is blended in within the metropolitan area of Tokyo. It makes Tokyo so much more amazing to me. On one side of the street you’ll have skyscrapers that seem to be miles high and on the opposite is a shrine, nearly 100 years old.

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You see it in the smaller towns too. Walking the streets of Tsuru-shi, you’ll pass by the popular convenience stores (konbini) and suddenly come across a tiny, old looking shrine, hidden in the trees. I don’t see much of that where I come from.

I loved Tokyo, can’t wait to go back. I do love my Tsuru-shi though. It’s already home.

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Much love always,

J

Train Map Photo: here

Meiji Shrine Overhead Photo: here