*names have been changed because I don’t know how comfortable my coworkers would be with me telling strangers on the internet about them
Surprise! a post. I should be writing a paper but I wrote this instead.
For the past eleven weeks I’ve been spending my Wednesdays at an anime art gallery for my anthropology class. My task was to come up with a research topic, observe people at the gallery, and then write a paper about my findings. Although the time I spent there was short, I really enjoyed working and talking with everyone. Everyone who works there is just as passionate about anime as I am, and it was fun to talk to Japanese fans who knew all the shows I was talking about.
My last day at field placement was bittersweet. Everyone but the main supervisor and one of my female coworkers was there. The gallery was between exhibits, so there were stretches of time where I had nothing to do–which is probably a good thing, since I had a monstrous paper due the next day, and I’d brought my laptop to work on it.
For the most part, the day was uneventful. I went to the convenience store on the first floor and got lunch as I had every Wednesday. This time I had a different cashier than usual, and she read off the total in English. Though I could see the total on the screen and/or understand numbers in Japanese, I appreciated her effort all the same.
After lunch, my coworker Kishitani and I helped ready boxes of frame mats and talked about all sorts of random things. He asked me if Obama was popular in America. I said it depends on where you go, then I told him about “Obamacha”, the nickname for green tea ice cream in Kamakura. Obamacha is so named because Obama supposedly ate green tea ice cream there once and loved it. (“Macha” is the Japanese word for green tea)
After we finished the mats I worked on my paper more. After a few hours, my coworker Hanamura came up and asked if I wanted anything from the cafe downstairs. “We’re all having a coffee break,” she told me, and asked if I liked orange, kiwi, or apple the best. I replied apple.
Hanamura and Kitamura went to get the drinks, and the rest of us all sat down at a table in the main room. Hanamura brought me a drink that tasted more like lime than anything, but I decided to give the cafe people an A for effort and drink it anyway. As we snacked and drank, Kishitani and Hanamura asked me many questions about America. They weren’t even deep questions; they were things like “What are Halloween parties like in America?” and “In America, do people wear caps and gowns when they graduate?”. But I think I prefer the silly questions to their serious alternatives any day of the week.
Eventually the subject turned to anime, and since all of us were fans, we all had something to say. Everyone asked about different series and wether or not they were popular in America. Kitamura introduced me to his anime wife, Yukiho. We also talked about Johnny’s idols and how I thought Uta no Prince-sama was exaggerating but it really wasn’t; real Japanese boybands are actually just as ridiculous as the ones in anime. After a while we got on the subject of Tanabata, a holiday which is coming up in Japan. I mentioned that I wanted to participate in a Tanabata festival, but worried that it might be too much of a kiddie thing. Hanamura stood up, got a piece of paper and scissors, and cut the paper into strips. She handed one to each of us, along with some markers, and said “Let’s do Tanabata right now! Everyone write down a wish!”
Kishitani wrote: “I want to go to Okinawa.”
Kitamura wrote: “I wish I could marry Yukiho.”
I would tell you what I wrote, but then it wouldn’t come true!
(Not that I don’t want Kishitani to go to Okinawa someday… But he *did* tell us what his was)
Then we took the slips of paper, punched holes in them, and hung them from the gallery walls.
After Tanabata, it was time to get back to work. Everyone went back to their places, and I put my nose back to the grindstone on my paper.
I worked right up until ten minutes before I was to leave. I grabbed my camera, gathered the presents I’d brought, and called everyone into the main room. I told everyone that I wanted to take a picture, and they agreed. We took two so that we could include whoever was taking the picture in at least one shot. Then I presented the gifts: the first volumes of Persona 4 and Gurren Lagann (two series that I really like) and an issue of Persona Magazine for the gallery’s manga library, a tiny figure, and some of the drawings that I’d doodled at the gallery. Everyone looked surprised and really happy that I’d brought goodbye presents. After that, it was time to leave. I went into the back offices to get my backpack, and one of the supervisors stopped me.
“Today’s your last day, isn’t it?”
“Here, take this with you.”
She handed me an anime figure. It had the gallery’s official seal in one corner; apparently it was leftover merchandise from an exhibit about figures. They know me all too well.
I said goodbye to everyone, trying hard not to cry.
“Come back and spend time with us again sometime!” said one of the designers.
And that was that. I left with the memory of their smiling faces and waving hands.
On the way to the station I noticed a man handing out small round things in sheer pouches. I went over to take one, and he asked, “Do you know what this is?” I shook my head, and he answered, “It’s ume, a Japanese apricot. It has a nice smell, so people like to put them in the bath.” He handed me an apricot and I thanked him before continuing on. I’m not sure why I liked that encounter so much and it has nothing to do with anything else in this post but I thought I’d include it anyway. And it’s a good thing I asked my host mom about the apricot before trying to eat it because apparently Japanese apricots contain a week poison when they’re eaten plain?
So yeah. Back to writing the paper that I took a break from to write this post.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Lauren Fellows is a Japanese major, geology minor studying at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She hails from Boulder, Colorado, and is glad to be going to school in a place with both mountains and a water feature (the weather, however, leaves something to be desired). Lauren is a huge dork who loves drawing, watching anime, writing stories, and taking pictures of toys when she isn’t spending long hours training to beat the Elite Four in the latest Pokémon game. She’s ventured to a few places outside the United States, most notably France and Israel, but this is her first time in Japan and she is SUPER EXCITED. While in Japan she plans to make friends from near and far, experience anime culture in its natural habitat, and explore an urban jungle unlike anywhere she's ever been before. The adventure of a lifetime is just over the horizon!</span></p>