At end of Day 3 in Tokyo, I have to admit that, for the moment, I was running on fumes. After the day’s adventure in Meguro, both my eyelids and my tongue suddenly came to feel like lead, and my communication skills all but left me. This morning, however, I am excited for my first day of classes at SUN Academy
Probably thanks to the last lingering bit of Jet-lag, I woke up this morning shortly before 6 A.M. Waking up so early the last two days, I noticed that the sun was fully risen, as though the time zones are calibrated a little differently. Although, it could be that our American tradition of Daylight Saving is confusing me, somehow.
The house was still asleep, including my host sister was supposed to be leaving for Kamakura on a 6:30 A.M. train to go wind-surfing (she’s on her college’s team). I decided not to wake her, chuckling at the thought that she might be hung over. Left to my own devices for the time being, I decided to start on the mountain of homework that Sun Academy had so kindly presented to us at orientation.
I studied pretty much continuously until 10 A.M. I know that sounds severe, but it was pretty enjoyable, being able to study my favorite subject without having to worry about any other classes or appointments. I also noticed that, as is expected, being immersed enormously sped up my ability to pick up new words. I quit when I got to a point where I needed to buy a Japanese notebook, and added visiting a stationary store to my to-do list.
At that point, I could smell Mama-san making breakfast, so I alighted from my 3rd floor bedroom. The foods that I’ve had in the last few days have been exciting, but a simple sausage-egg-and-pickled vegetable sandwich awaited me. Mona had taken a 7:30 train, I was informed.
While I ate, a young woman I had never seen before came down the stairs, then said, in English, “Hi, I’m Isabel,” which was a pleasant surprise. Isabel was Mama-san’s homestay daughter last summer, now visiting from Singapore with her sister, Natalie. She is also a student at Yale-NUS in Singapore, so we have a couple of mutual friends. Small world, neh?Isabel and Natalie left to travel around Japan for two weeks, but I will see them again.
After they left, I managed to get myself to the stationary store with the help of the mall information desk, and bought a notebook with a bunny on the cover; in Japan, cute cartoon culture seems to be not only for kids.
When I returned, I found some small differences between the Japanese and American notebooks, so I asked my host mother for help. When I asked where to write my name in the notebook, Mama-san told me that I should find some Japanese words that will read “ku-re-i” (Clay), and have a meaning fit for a name. For “ku,” we decided on the symbol that means “to come,” since I came all the way from the U.S., and for “rei” we chose the word for giving respect (to any aikidouka, it is the “rei” that sensei shouts before we all bow). Another benefit of the name is that it can also be read as “kirei,” which means beautiful (“Are you beautiful?” “Yes, but my name is Clay”).
With my new name decided upon, Mama-san decided to introduce me to Japanese calligraphy or “shoudou,” literally “the way of writing.” We wrote my name ten times in dark black ink on white calligraphy paper with horse-hair brushes. The word of the hour was “yukkuri,” which means slowly, and in this case, carefully. As one could expect, Mama-san’s came out much better than mine, but she decided that I was good enough to move on.
Next we prepared some gifts for the ladies in my life, which I signed myself. They could be a lot better, but Mom, Annie, please accept:
The works were made by 93-year-old O-Baa-san, grandma, who lives on the first floor, and with whom I have yet to have a conversation. I’m told she makes one every day.
Next, we had some soba for lunch, and set out on our adventure for the day in surrounding Meguro. It was a cool, rainy day. We started the walk to the train station I had made a few times, and on the way we stopped at a Buddhist temple that I had never noticed. Mama-san showed me how to ring the bell and send out my prayer, and we continued. After getting to the station, Mama-san ushered me on to a free shuttle to Hotel Gajyoen.
On arrival, it seemed like another hotel, but once inside, it really seemed to be more of an art museum and garden. Being so beautiful, and it also being wedding season, the ground floor was filled with kimono-clad bridesmaids, and I also caught a glimpse of the bride in her red dress. It’s amazing how you can just walk into such an amazing place in Tokyo.
We decided to walk back to visit another beautiful temple, a bigger one this time. I find it incredible how temples can feel like a completely different, historically preserved place, but are filed away along the clustered Tokyo streets like any storefront.
The walk back home was up a steep hill, and it was at this point that I exhausted all my energy. We still had some errands to run, though. I let Mama-san know I didn’t feel much for talking, then we went to the 100-yen store for stationary and did some shopping in the supermarket below.
When we stopped at the station to buy my commuter rail pass, Mama-san helped me fill out the paperwork, and I could tell I was exhausted. When she read out her phone number for me to write down, my response time was that of dial-up internet. It was actually really frustrating, because I was tired of forgetting the words Mama-san had just taught me, I was tired of giving blank looks and apologies because of my lack of understanding, and I was tired of messing up.
When we got back to the house, Mama-san made some noodles for dinner, and Mona came and talked with her before leaving for the night. Today is her birthday, so she spent a night at her friend’s house is going to Disneyland today! I decided just to listen to the cadence and grammar structure of their conversation, not looking for meaning.
I still had some homework to finish up, and by the time that was done, Mama-san was asleep in her usual place, an a futon on the floor of the living room. I took a dip in the bath, and turned in for the night.
I woke up before my alarm again this morning, so hopefully I’ll get to sleep early tonight. Yesterday was tough, but that’s why I’m here, after all. I’m definitely on the edge of my learning curve, and hopefully I’m stronger for it. As the speaker at my high-school International Baccalaureate graduation said, I’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
At this point, there’s no way I can make judgement of my experience this summer as a whole, and I better be careful making judgments of my experience so far. If I am to quick to make up my mind about something that’s entirely new to me, it could hinder my perceptions later on. I want to keep an open mind and let the experience come to me as it is.
Thanks for reading. Yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu!