{Shaun in Japan}

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Saturday, October 1, 2011, 10:39 PM

Posted by Shaun

It’s been a long week.

There was a period of time where I was very frustrated with my host family because  I felt like they were leaving me alone a lot, but after some more communication with my study abroad program and then with Missus, things are looking much brighter. If anyone reading this plans to do a study abroad, I highly recommend communicating with your program directors when you start to have any issues, before you build up too much resentment and frustration to fix the problem.

I feel like I’ve gotten much more comfortable with my host family in the last two days, and I don’t really know why that is. Maybe it’s because the dog is doing better now and because I have my own schedule so I’m not hanging around the house. I’ve also taken more of an initiative to talk in Japanese, even if it doesn’t make sense. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased with the results. I still haven’t talked much with my host siblings, but I’ve started to tell Missus some of the random stories I’m so famous for. I’m bad at telling stories in Japanese though. I always forget to put と言いました (to iimashita, so-and-so said) at the end of my sentences, so I wonder if it’s actually clear where the story stops and I move onto something else. In English, “my friend said” comes first, so it’s easy to forget to do something at the end.

I met Mister for the first time yesterday. He works for an insurance company in Kanazawa, so I think he’s only home once a month. I was afraid he’d be this cold, grumpy salary-man, but he’s really funny. He also likes to ask me all sorts of questions, which is great. Missus doesn’t ask a whole lot of questions, which originally made it feel like she didn’t care, but I’ve started to realize that’s just her style. She does want to learn about me and my family but she doesn’t do it in a first-meeting-question-dump. 

Let’s see if I can run through this week’s greatest hits before I want to fall asleep. This always takes me longer than I think!

Sunday I went to the Fukuro Matsuri (owl festival) in Ikebukuro with two of my friends. I don’t exactly understand the goings-on at Japanese festivals, but it was a really lively atmosphere. I got to see some interesting traditional music performances too, like taiko drumming. 

Monday was the start of classes. I’m taking Japanese 3, a Japanese class called Reading Modern Short Novels, Japanese Literature After 1945, and J-Pop Globalization. It’s going to be a challenge to stay awake in Japanese 3 because I always get so hungry in the middle of the 3 hour class. It’s going to be a challenge to stay on top of things in Reading Modern Short Novels because everything is Japanese. It’s gonna take a lot of out of class work to make sure I understand things. But I went to a Book Off and bought the novel for 350 yen. I’m excited. The last two classes are both lectures in English. I think I’ll like them, but it will take a while to get into the swing of things. The Waseda student who studied at Knox last year turned out to be in my Literature class, which was a pleasant surprise. So I have one official Japanese-speaking contact now! I should ask her for advice about what circle to join.

Wednesday was Sam’s birthday party, so I got to go to his and Okaasan’s house and hang out with their family. One of the grandkids has a birthday tomorrow, so I get to come over again. I’m excited. They’re a fun family. We made temaki-zushi (hand-rolled sushi, looks like an ice cream cone) for dinner, and Okaasan’s son (father of the grandkids, naturally) was really excited to teach me all about it. I’ve done it before (thanks Japanese Club temaki-zushi party) but he was so enthusiastic that I let him take over. I also told him about the anime and video games I like, and he knew most of them. He didn’t know Cowboy Bebop, which surprised me. Maybe it’s not as famous in Japan as it is in the US? Or maybe only with certain circles?

Thursday, because there were actually 3 birthdays in our group, we went out to shabu-shabu, Shabu-shabu is thin slices of beef that you cook at your table in a pot of boiling water. It’s named for the sound of the beef cooking. There’s also vegetables and tofu you can cook, but beef was the highlight. Two of the guys at my table were intent on eating all of the meat they could, and things got even more intense when we brought up the TV show Doctor Who. One of the guys hates one of my friend’s favorite characters (Donna), so she challenged him that if he finished all of the meat on the table, she’d relent and let him dislike that character. He couldn’t finish it, so I guess Donna’s honor is intact. Or something?

Yesterday, Missus invited me to accompany her to an English-teaching circle that she’s part of. The group meets once a month and teaches each other songs, dances, and activities that they can use to teach their English students. I got to sing “The green grass grows all around, all around” and “Bluebird, bluebird, through my window,” play “Double-double this-that,” and attempt to learn how to cha-cha with a group of middle-aged Japanese women. I’m not sure where the cha-cha figures into the English teaching. It was listed as “warming up” on the white-board, so maybe it was just a fun thing for the group to do. Anyway, I think Missus and I both enjoyed the opportunity to do something together, and it was fun to get a window into her life and interests.

Later that evening, Missus told me she was going out because she had some sort of night class, and she forgot to mention to me that one of her former students was coming over to meet me. She told me Mister was coming home at 9, so I thought I ought to shower before he got here. Well, the student showed up while I was finishing my shower and I expertly ignored the doorbell. She ended up having to wait outside until Missus called my cell phone and told me what was going on. So then we sat in the kitchen and tried to talk. I think her English level was higher than my Japanese level, but our confidence levels were about the same. We had two languages at our disposal, but coming up with things to talk to was really hard. Then Mister came home, and the student’s presences turned out to be a real asset. I got to see him joke with her, so I got to see how he treats a family friend before I had to really talk to him. Then I got to listen to them talk. After she left, Mister and I watched the end of Anaconda 2 with Japanese subtitles. Everyone thinks putting English audio and Japanese subtitles should be enjoyable or helpful for me, but I’d much rather have the Japanese audio if I can. The subtitles are way too fast and I don’t know the readings of the kanji without the audio.
Yeah, Anaconda 2, high quality cinema from America, delivered straight to your TV in Japan. They also have the Disney Channel in Japanese and English, which includes hits like Phineas and Ferb but also those stupid Disney sitcoms like Sunny with a Chance. I wonder how hard it is to make the laugh track appropriate in Japanese.

Today I helped out with the study abroad fair for Waseda students, so hopefully I convinced at least one person to come to Knox. Then when I got home, Missus and Mister took me out to dinner at an unagi (grilled eel) restaurant. I should have gotten more unagi and less side-dishes, I think. The menu was confusing. For dessert I tried anmitsu, which is a traditional Japanese desert, and I… didn’t really like it, unfortunately. It always looks like it should taste good, but it was mostly chewy and slippery tasteless things. The big chunk of anko sweet red beans, the bits of fruit, and the frozen yogurt on top were good, but the rest was really not great. Maybe I’ll try it again some other place and see if it’s different, but yeah. I don’t need slippery noodley things in my dessert.

Tomorrow is the Waseda International Festival dance trial, so I’m going to show up and see if I want to join an international dance circle. Bye, comfort zone. I’m leaving you at Takadanobaba station in the morning.

Things I’ve seen Japanese people do while ridings bikes: drink bottled tea, smoke a cigarette, make horrible squeaking noises with their breaks.
Things I’ve never seen Japanese people do while riding bikes: use the clearly-marked bike lane.

There are some other random one-topic blog posts I’ve been meaning to write, but I haven’t had time. Some of them are: bathroom fixtures, my experience at an earthquake safety center, convenience stores, and my commute. If there’s one of those you’d like to hear about sooner than others, please let me know and I’ll try to write it. I also promise that one of these days I will take some pictures of my room, my route to school, and my campus, so you can see what things are like.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Laurie says:

    I would like to hear about all topics of interest to you. I am interested in your photo tour as well when you have a chance. By the way, how often do you have international dance practice?


    I have also seen texting on a bike


    American B movies and like 80s movies seem to be really popular on TV here. It's interesting.

    I'm so glad you've settled in more! It sounds like you're having fun!
    Man, now I really want unadon. Unagi is like the one thing I haven't had here yet.

    Talk about whatever you want but CONBINI

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