{Shaun in Japan}

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First of all, because apparently I explained it somewhere else not here, my host mom wants to be called Missus, and her husband (who I haven’t met yet) is Mister. Their kids call them “Mama” and “Papa,” though.

Her sister is also hosting a student from Japan Study. His name is Sam. Missus’ sister wants me and Sam to call her “Okaasan,” which means “mother.” She lives close to Missus, so Sam and I use the same train station to get to school. We live on opposite sides of the station, though, so we’re actually in different towns.

Things are on an upswing with my host family, and as I have more and more of my own things to do, things will probably get even better.

Yesterday, I had Japanese class all day. My real classes don’t start until Monday, but Japan Study had 3 days of Japanese class that they scheduled for us with a local language school. The first day was really long because it was all reviewing different phrases and stuff, but the next two days had breaks in the middle where we were supposed to go out and accomplish different things and then present about them. Yesterday we were assigned to go out to lunch and ask the waiter/waitress for recommendations or ask about different food. It was sort of goofy because we’ve been eating out on our own for two weeks now, and we just now re-learned (in my case) restaurant vocabulary. We had a two hour break in the middle of class to do that, though, which was nice. My friends and I ate at the Indian curry place that’s right next to our classroom, so then we had a lot of free time to buy some Waseda souvenirs. Now I have a Waseda water bottle I can reuse instead of buying water bottles. Haha. It’s a souvenir and it’s functional! Just like everything I’ve bought so far, actually…

Mom, in case you’re curious, that purse you got at Wal-Mart is amazing. Really. Today I fit the 500ml Waseda water bottle, a small umbrella, my camera, my wallet, my coin purse, my Japanese fan even though it’s finally not sweltering outside, my hand towel, my passport, my tissues, and basically the entire world in it. It’s the best.

Anyway, yesterday I went to check and respond to email at the computer lab and then I headed back home. I got a little lost along the way because I took a wrong turn, but in the process I ended up finding a huge department store and another Moss Burger. Then I realized that there was a Uniqlo (clothing chain store, pronounced uni-ku-(r/l)o, so in Japanese it sounds like “unique clothes”) right across from my neighborhood. I got home at dinner time and ended up eating with both Missus and my host sister for the first time. We talked about… whether I liked blue, and Pokemon because I wore my Pikachu shirt yesterday. And we watched TV. It was funny though, because Missus said lots of Japanese people like Pokemon but, “Ippai sugiru” – there’s way too many. I’m playing Pokemon Black version right now but I don’t even know how many Pokemon there are now… More than five hundred? Anyway, it wasn’t as awkward as some of the other conversations have been, and then Sam and Okaasan came over and after a long struggle, Sam eventually figured out how to get me online. Thank goodness (In Japanese, that’s “yokatta ne!”よかったね)!

I was really worried about today because it was another free day, like Tuesday was, but Missus made time to spoil me for the day. She was busy in the morning, but I slept in (8:30 is sleeping in!), so I didn’t really notice. We went to Asakusa and Ueno today. Asakusa was really interesting. There’s lots of delicious-looking food stands, including chocolate-covered bananas on sticks and Japanese snow cones. There’s also a huge temple where Missus prayed for everyone in her family, and lots of stores where you can buy traditional Japanese sorts of things (fans, yukata, prayer beads, lucky cats…) She took me out for okonomiyaki, and we were the only people in the shop, so the waitress actually corrected my table manners.

Missus has been talking about how quiet I am compared to her last host student, so I finally explained that I’m not actually a quiet person, it’s just that I’m not good at Japanese and I don’t have a lot of vocabulary. Then she asked me what subject I was interested in and I ended up talking about my interest in pop culture and the localization of Japanese media products in the US (In Japanese, “pop culture” is literally “pop culture,” “ポップ文化 pop bunka”).

It was our first real back-and-forth conversation, and that was nice. She also advised me to join a club to practice my Japanese, which is advice I’m going to take. Tomorrow is the club recruitment, as well as the School of International Liberal Studies’ entrance ceremony, and the day I get my phone! Finally!
In Asakusa, we found a bag store where everything was 1050 yen, which is really cheap. I wanted to get a (more fashionable) backpack to put my school stuff in, but nothing looked big enough to fit my computer should I need to take it to school, so I couldn’t buy anything there. I also tried yaki-imo  (baked sweet potato) flavored ice cream, which was sort-of unremarkable… After that, we went to Ueno, and I ended up finding a backpack there that was big enough. It wasn’t as cheap but it seems really sturdy, so I’ll definitely use it at Knox too. And when I got home I tried putting my laptop in it and it wasn’t that heavy, which will be great for my long walk to the train station every morning. I’m still not sure how many books I’ll need for class. Hopefully I can avoid buying most of them. Some classes mentioned they’d have copies of their books in the SILS library. Study abroad is so expensive!!!

Anyway, today was really fun and I feel like Missus and I have started to bond more. She still thinks I’m really quiet though. I heard her talking on the phone and she called me “zutto otonashii,” which I looked up, and it means that I’m always “quiet, gentle, passive, mild,” according to my dictionary. But it has the kanji for “adult” in it, 大人しい, so it’s probably not the worst connotation in the world… It sounds like she was going to have some high school student(s) she knows come over and talk to me sometime when I’m free, which should be interesting if not totally terrifying.

When I’m at school tomorrow, I also need to go sign up at the intercultural center to do a language exchange. That way I’ll hopefully have a Japanese conversation buddy so I can get better at speaking. I’m not sure when I’ll have time for a part-time job… I’ll probably survive without one, but I’ve really got to budget my time. I should fill out the work permission form anyway, because apparently Japan Study sometimes hires people to do things and they can’t pay us without it…

I feel like I’m really an adult now and I have to manage my money and it’s so scary! Even though the only meal I have to buy myself is lunch, I have to pay for my cell phone and my health insurance every month… yikes…  On Sunday I’m going to go to the grocery store near my house and try to see what kinds of cheap things I can find. My first thought was peanut butter and jelly, since I’m eating more diverse food groups for breakfast and lunch, but that’s probably expensive in Japan! I’ll just have to see what I can find. I also need something to put it in… And I’ll buy some snacks in bulk too, since no matter when you feed me, I’m hungry after an hour.

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