Sifting Through Moments and Dreams
Hello~! Hola~!こにちは～！I know it's been a while, but it took me some time to get my footing down, but now that I have, I can retell the many stories I have accrued while not exactly going to too many of the big name places just yet. Most of these will be little stories about the sort of people I've met while just walking around aimlessly, but also just things that genuinely stuck with me while taking my time to experience it all. Some may have immediately tried going to as many places as humanly possible, go to all of the highlights of Tokyo in order to breathe in those landmarks—which is totally fine! And yeah, a part of me wished to join in and get a group together to go sun around the famous parts of Tokyo, go to different places to eat food and drink tasty things, but knowing my own body...I really have to watch myself on wanting to do things like that so spontaneously, since I know my body will be paying for it tenfold the next day. I have to plan my trips with this in mind, but that doesn't mean I haven't been anywhere. I'll get to all the places I want to go, it'll just be at my own pace and that's no reason to feel frustrated or anything like that, it just is what it is. Well, enough of this stuff, I shall start off with the first of my adventures~!
浅草 (Asakusa) featuring: Sightseeing and Sumo!
Throughout the semester, there are IES Abroad-led field trips you can choose to participate in to various locations for this program—including this trip to 浅草(Asakusa)~! This trip kicked off with a scavenger hunt to sort of guide us on where to head to and what to take photos of, which certainly aided a bit towards the beginning when deciding what direction to begin heading. We had five entire hours to explore and lose ourselves before meeting back up later, so getting food was certainly on that agenda. By this time I hadn't really had much food that people had been recommending at this point because of my untimely food poisoning, and because I was being cautious about making sure I was healthy enough to fully enjoy the things I was eating. That being said, we went to KFC. Now this must feel a bit strange, heading across the world only to get a global fast food chain food when I am in a country of wonderful local and national cuisine, but my reasoning for this being a worthwhile trip actually took inspiration from going to a KFC in Jamaica, the only other country I have been to. The KFC there was spectacular, unlike anything I had in the United States, while also making me question what the American KFC chains had been doing. I had quite a similar experience here. The food was absolutely amazing, as I was also introduced to Japan's system of seasonal (or monthly) items for various chain stores—limited time items that had amazing marketing, becoming a part of what some people loved about certain seasons. Finishing the food rant, I had quickly learned just how bitter lemonade could be. Somewhere along the travels I got a very tasty mango smoothie and I had realized that five hours is plenty of time to walk around, since I was dirt tired by the end of it all.
After all of that, it was time for the main event of the day! We got to watch one day in a sumo tournament, in a completely packed-out venue. There were plenty of guests with towels or signs for their favored sumo wrestlers, along with a constant chatter and buzz in the air as people speculated who would win the next series of matches. It was the way that the crowd hushed just slightly when a match was about to face off, and occasionally someone would yell out the name of who they wanted to win, just like any sort of sporting event, I feel like. It was truly a certain static in the air that was just flowing through everyone and released the moment someone went down. The way the wrestlers threw down salt on the platform and prepared themselves before each bout was just intense, somehow, as a match was usually over in about ten seconds. If you looked away at the wrong time, one could be over, but the really good matches would sometimes last almost a minute—which may sound silly to some, but the act of pushing some one out of a ring quickly with such ferocity can really be over in the blink of an eye, as the techniques are lightning-quick sometimes. As an avid lover of any sort of sport, getting to see one in person is something I personally don't get to experience all that often, so to have this opportunity was certainly one I wasn't going to miss.
Bittersweet Tears at the End of Something Beautiful
Another highlight of my journey in Japan has certainly been the fact that I have been absolutely thankful for my host family every day I've been here, and that really isn't an understatement. They have provided me with opportunities that I would never have had to go experience with them, but also guided me along on some of the daily life adjustments while just caring about my general well-being. It has been entirely humbling, but also sort of gives me a small ball of hope in my soul that there really are some good people in the world. More than I originally thought. It's sort of eye opening in a strange way, because I feel as though people tend to have the opposite—realizing how horrible the wider world really is, but I feel tired of seeing all of the bad. I just wanna appreciate the smaller things in life in a time when it is easy to get overwhelmed with the world at your fingertips.
Right, but anyway! My host family has a daughter whose school was having their School Cultural Festival, or 文化祭(Bunkasai), and I was invited to come! I, of course, wanted to support her school and her class's efforts, so together with the family I went to go and see what the whole hype was about. I had been watching her work on flyers over and over again for this event, and the whole thing looked so official—I was sold on wanting to go. The entire school essentially got transformed to accommodate all of the different families that were coming to also show their support, but also to allow for each classroom to turn into its own attraction put on by the students. Some did little question mazes where you'd go around the classroom looking for the answers scattered about, different plays going on at varying times and even recreations of games for everyone to play. Some of these rooms had lines outside of them from how popular they were, and honestly, it was worth it! The decorations outside of each room would draw you in, along with the plethora of students marketing for people to come check out their attraction. This also went for clubs as well, so the club rooms were open to show off their specialties.
We went to a bunch of different rooms doing a million interesting things, but the theatrical performances were the highlights for me. One was put on by a class, and it was wonderful how the classroom was transformed into the set of the play. The costuming was great and so were the lights, so for middle-school-aged kids, I feel like it was a wonderful job~! I was always a little proud of myself when I understood a joke or gathered a general understanding of the plot going on with my limited Japanese comprehension. The bigger performance was going on in a performance hall. I was told the play was an original written by one of the graduating students of the Drama Club at the school, and I felt it, too. The play was spectacular, but I feel like the rush of emotions truly hit me when the play ended—seeing the expressions on the students faces filled with tears and everything was just... I used to do theater for about six years, and seeing all of these emotions from the outside for the first time was something I hadn't experienced yet. All the passion they poured into making this production came out during bows, shaking in their voices, and I felt it, man. I really did.
Miscellaneous Stories and Final Thoughts for Now~
This is a final set of mini stories in rapid succession that sort of floated to the front of my mind while writing about some of my experiences I've had so far, so here goes~!
- I've realized very quickly that fruit is super delicious, but also super expensive, so keep an eye out for that if you ever plan a trip to Japan! Most fruits are seasonal, so if you are used to a supermarket having all the fruits you love all the time, you probably won't have that here. Savor every bite. And by expensive, I mean, it makes sense, considering that fruits have to be imported. For reference, grapes (which are bigger and come on a vine of about 25ish) are usually about 1000円 or upwards of 2000円 for some I've seen. Just keep that in mind when converting to your currency.
- Every type of bread here has been absolutely delicious~! チョコパン(Choco bread)、メロンパン(Melon bread)、シナモンロール(Cinnamon roll)—literally all of the bread has been amazing. It all smells amazing and tastes great, and man, does it make me forget what a calorie is sometimes. Actually, I haven't been paying attention to any calorie amounts lately, but I haven't felt the need to. I feel like I eat just enough, which is never too much!
- Playing Othello every day with some friends is honestly a great way to pass time in between classes, and I only learned this game after arriving here in Japan. I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time, but at a certain point I start seeing three or four moves ahead, and the gears start turning.
- I have learned how to play けん玉 (kendama), which I am still very proud about, since it is a staple childhood toy for Japan. It is a little holder that resembles the hilt of a sword and a ball on a string that you have to move and bounce from side to side on the hilt without it falling off. It takes skill and practice, but I am stubborn, so of course I kept at it until I was able to grasp it. It's all in the knees.
- Arcades are interesting in Japan because of the different floors actually showing off different games, so the first floor is all of the crane games and basic stuff... But the second floor has a bunch of more competitive games and fighting games around. It was wild to see, but I guess it makes sense seeing all of these really talented players gathering in these spots.
- I've been enjoying consuming every medium of sports known to man, just watching something while having dinner and cheering for teams since a lot of qualifications and world cups of sports are going on such as rugby, volleyball, basketball, and a lot more! When I'm not watching those, I've been watching mystery dramas~! Very entertaining.
All right, this is enough for now on everything that has been going on, but I shall give a sneak peek on what is in store! Next time, I'll have gone to some historical monuments, some otaku culture spaces/events, and plenty more traveling around~! Every day has been filled with experiences, so I'm glad to be sharing it in one form or another. Well, until next time~! Bye~! Adiós~!じゃね～！
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I am an extroverted, amicable and overall goofy nerd who loves throwing herself in the deep end and coming back to tell the tale of how I did it! I love anything about culture, history and languages. I try to write for your enjoyment~