Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Adventure Continues~!

My Japan adventure may be over, but my life still goes on! I'm now a recent graduate and am headed off to the San Juan Islands (off the coast of Washington state) to work at a museum focusing on whales!

If you'd like to follow, here's the new blog:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dealing with Reentry Shock and All That Jazz

So yes, I have been somewhat silent lately, and I have a good reason.

I am re acclimating to American culture...slowly and badly.

It's not just one big thing, it's several small things piling up on top of each other.

It could be going from being able to go anywhere whenever I wanted, to being stuck on my farm with my family, who is lovely, but not in large amounts to someone who has just spent nine months in Japan (because their demeanor is the exact opposite of everything I've been culturally conditioned to behave like for my stay in Japan); it could be the severe whiplash and extreme digestion problems I'm still having due to the food (and maybe a little bit of lactose intolerance?). When I saw the "Asian Foods" section of my local grocery store, I cried. I still can't touch cup noodles here (despite it being one of my staples during winter break in Japan). The quality of packaged food was simple better in Japan and I can literally taste the differences.

My reentry shock could also be that I'm processing too much information--in Japan, a majority of what I read, heard, and saw were blocked out through what I call my "lazy filter"--if I couldn't understand it automatically, my attention slid away. Now, though, everything I hear, see, and read are all in my native language. I understand it. And the information overload is kinda driving me insane.

Now looking at differences between America and Japan is causing some cultural clashes as well.

Japan was really backward in gender roles and all that stuff, and while in Japan, I built up what and how I though America was superior to Japan in women's lib. Boy was I crushed when I cam back to America and took a new look. It was as if nothing was as I remembered it. America, while still better than Japan, really has a lot to do before it can match up to my standards. And imagine my surprise by the passion this mental inequality awoke in me. America's going to get better--and I'm going to help, one person at a time.

Another thing that's awoken a passion in me is the discrimination I received in Japan. I was a foreigner, and thus subhuman to most Japanese who didn't know me (and even some of the ones who did!). But when I brought this up with my Japanese host family, they pish-poshed me, saying that Japan didn't have discrimination (this was brought up during a conversation about discrimination in America, to which I responded, "It's kinda like the way they treat foreigners in Japan," to my host family's dismay). Coming back and taking another look, it's kinda horrifying to see how most every TV show is about some straight, white, cisgender person with backup or background characters being shallow stereotypes of minorities, with not much character development. After Japan, I feel I'm more sensitive to these types of matters and (despite fully knowing that others do not share my emotions or experiences), I still feel shocked (and a little hurt) when I point this stuff out to my friends and family and they just shrug it away as if it doesn't matter.

But I feel the crux of the matter to my reentry shock was that as soon as I came home (after my sleep escapade), I fell back into the regular routine I have been doing for the last four summers. Less than a week home, and I was already going back to work, to about the same job I was interning at last summer.

I'm not complaining about my job--it's really fun!--but I do feel almost as if my nine months in Japan was merely a dream and I've been just drudging along in America the entire time.

It's not a pretty feeling. It makes me feel all sick and twisted inside. It makes me feel as if I'm all alone.

Thank goodness for the invention of the internet and Skype then! I keep in contact with my friends, teachers, and host family and after talking to them, I do feel more connected.

I go back to college August 25, and I have to admit I'm looking forward to that. I will finally see all my friends and my beloved campus that I missed while in Japan. It will be my senior year and then I'll be...done.

It's a curious feeling to be almost at the end of one adventure and heading out towards a new one, but hey, I did it in Japan and I'll do it America.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rub a Dub Dub--The Japanese Bathtub

The next part of my belated installment!

The Japanese bathtub might be one of their greatest creations yet. Traditionally, the Japanese have been a very clean people, bathing every day even early in the 1600s. There were large communal baths and hot springs so everyone could keep clean. But wouldn’t so many people in the water make it dirty? You ask. And here is the brilliance of the Japanese—they wash themselves before entering the water—they luxuriate in the water’s heat from enjoyment alone! The same practice continues in the Japanese household. You undress, shower yourself off, and then enter the steaming tub where you soak until you feel refreshed and renewed. You can set how warm you want your water to be and the tub will regulate the temperature, reheating water and adding it to the tub. It is glorious.

The main setup of most Japanese bath places--yes, it is as cramped as it looks. Sorry for the blurryish picture!

I prefer 41 degrees Celsius. 
Look at how deep the tub is!

Plush the shower next to it allows and expects water to slosh down from the side of the tub when you enter. Sure, the same bathwater is used for the entire household, but it’s really not that bad because everyone is scrubbed down prior to entering (stop making that face, Mom!).
Before you get in, you shower.
I love Japanese bathtubs and will miss them sorely (no pun intended!) when I return to the US.

Monday, June 4, 2012


And now, a series of topics that I wrote, but was not able to post before returning home.

Okay, to be frank, the toilets in Japan are amazing. In public stalls you are give the utmost privacy and at home you’re likely to have a seat that will even wash and dry your butt for you. Plus they’re heated during the winter and that’s a luxury I wish could be carried over with me to America.

There are two types of toilets in Japan: Western style and Japanese style. Western style is most used in modern public buildings, but train stations and public parks seem to favor Japanese style. I’m not sure the hows or whys of this phenomenon, but it sure is interesting. Japanese toilets are squat toilets and basically holes in the floor.

Japanese toilet

Public Restrooms:
If you’re lucky, you can encounter a really nice restroom with heated toilet seat, buttons, and all! There’s usually a button that makes the sound of flushing to hide the tinkling sound in the girls’ bathroom (labeled “to conserve water”) along with stall walls that go from floor to ceiling to give you privacy. That’s not always the case, though. Some restrooms I’ve been to have been absolutely hideous, making my skin crawl afterward. If you’re traveling in Japan, be certain to always keep a small towel and some hand sanitizer with you at all times—the Japanese may be neat freaks, but they’re not germaphobes, so it’s usually hit or miss if there’s soap by the sink.
Floor-to-ceiling coverage

The seat is heated during the winter

Conserve water!

Home Bathrooms:
The toilet itself is in a different room completely than the bathtub and sink due to (I believe) Shinto and Buddhist taboos on purity and uncleanliness. The rooms are rather small and you need a separate pair of slippers to enter.

The slippers are super important!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Plane Trip of HELL

Yeah, I don't usually swear, but my return ride home merits at least a couple of four-letter words.

It was pretty terrible.

In a drastic attempt to save us money, my dearest, darlingist mother booked me a ride on AirChina to get home. I had to take three planes (Osaka to Beijing, Beijing to L.A., L.A. to Chicago) to get home and then had the added bonus of a three hour car ride home. "It'll be fine," I thought. "You had an okay time getting over, right?"


I spent over 24 hours in airports, was battered by rising nausea every time the plane jostled even a little, ate some pretty disgusting food (though it was hot, I'll give them that (but only that--my rice on the Beijing to L.A. route was served in brick format!)), and basically survived only due to the Pepto Bismol I kept in my purse.

And for two of my three plane rides? My carry-on was restricted to 10 pounds. 10 POUNDS. Thanks to finagling, I managed to make my backpack 10 pounds and my purse....well, let's just go for plausible denial.

Actually, I'm probably over-exaggerating a little on how terrible it was...the ride from Osaka to Beijing was pretty nice...I sat next to a nice Japanese couple who were going to Germany. We chatted for a while (I surprised them by knowing Japanese!) and the husband made me a couple of origami cranes. The food was actually good on this trip--the lunch was in a little box that acted like a Japanese boxed lunch, complete with a little carrot shaped like a flower! Just a note, though, from Beijing to L.A., the food was absolutely awful with rice like a brick and something that vaguely tasted like chicken if maybe your closed your eyes and had your tongue amputated.

I almost got lost in the Beijing Airport and actually managed to briefly lose my boarding pass when I went through security. Thankfully, a very nice travel-lady helped me out and I was able to reclaim them! (Note: By this point, I was almost in tears.)

Then I got on the plane and almost immediately got airsick while we were still on the ground and late due to a 2 hour delay because of fog.

I slept when I wasn't feeling nauseous, but the less said about the 14 hour plane ride from Beijing to L.A., the better.

Touching down, I tore like a bat out of hell, because I only had an hour and a half to get through customs ("You said you visited a farm, would you walk over your mother's clean white carpet with those shoes" gut reaction (as well as blurted out): "No, she'd freak. I couldn't even walk on it with brand-new shoes. Nothing is clean enough for my mother." with an added on: "I threw them away in Japan, anyways..." -- luckily I got through.) only to get lost when I mixed up United Airlines and American Airlines on the shuttle (both of which had flights going to Chicago, so it was easy to mix up) and managed to make it to the terminal right as they were calling my rows to board. Whew!

By the time I finally made it to O'Hare, I was ready to drop dead due to air sickness, lack of sleep, and the general desire to stop moving.

And who do I see but my family...telling me to get into the car so I could be stuck in yet another moving thing for two to three hours. well as my little sister commenting on how short I'd gotten (she was wearing 3-inch platforms as she said this...)

So, I was not in a happy mood, but glad to be back with my family, I basically baulked at getting in the car, until they promised to stop at the first oasis on the road.

There were a few misconceptions in the car, I freaked out about how we were driving on the "wrong" side of the road, the usual...

Then we stopped at the oasis, and I freaked out a little when I saw signs using correct English...with dollar prices!

Eventually we got home, where I stayed up the whole night (hey, I slept a ton on the plane!) and into the morning until I promptly crashed in the middle of Mom's perennial buying at 11:30am.

I then slept for sixteen hours.

Now I think I'm back on the clock but I'm not to sure...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Day

It's my last night in Japan and it is with blurry eyes that I write this blog.

I did a ton of things today, I closed my bank account, met with my friends, discovered that I could not check in electronically for either of my two flights, played on the playground with the neighborhood kids, and had a farewell dinner with my family.

I started tearing up when I thanked them for their kindness in hosting me, my voice cracked, and then I was gone! Oh man, I will miss them all so much.

On the positive side, I taught Okaasan how to use Skype, so we can try that when I return to the United States.

There will be a series of introspective shorts on Japanese culture and reflections on Japan in the coming weeks, as I readjust to just about everything American and such.

The time I'm going to spend in airports and planes alone (not counting waiting for my 9:30am flight) equates to about 24 hours, so I'm sure I'll be surly and jetlagged when I come home (sorry Mom, Dad, and Em!) and won't want to write any blog entries.

Japan was amazing and I've made so many good friends here--I'll just have to travel around and meet up with them again, won't I?

Thank you Japan, it's been great and I'll be back!

Signing Off,


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nara with the (Extended) Family!

So, as my last "real" family activity with my dearest host family was going with Ojiisan and Obaasan (Okaasan's father and mother) to my favorite deer capital...a.k.a. Nara!

Okaasan had brought some "old" (and here I use quotation marks because "old" in Japan and "old" in America are two very different things!) cabbage and other veggie treats so that Hina could feed the deer. It was fun!

Deer in the street, eating yo' deer crackers

Hina gets close to a fawn!

Feeding a deer

Another girl feeding a deer

But no one's as cute as Hina-chan~!

GAH. In two days I'm leaving at 5:30am to catch a 6:10am bus to get to my 8:45am plane!