Yesterday was the two-week mark since I arrived in Tokyo, which means that I am already a quarter of the way through my stay this summer. I am going to miss it when I leave, and I will want to quickly return.Studying the language so far has been so rich and rewarding. There is such a wealth of things I don’t know how to express yet. While this is humbling and frustrating, it also tells me that I have an inexhaustible supply of learning experiences ahead of me.
I am also relishing in my cultural immersion. Whereas “culture shock” draws images of drenching someone like a bucket of ice water, my experience has been more like a hot bath; while I may sweat , it feels invigorating. Watching this vastly different set of norms buzz around me is a privilege.
Class has been manageable while challenging and fast-paced. Aside from studying, I have time to go out for a lunch date and some down time at night. Lunch is a great time to break bread (or udon) with our native-speaker “buddies,” who are kind and patient with our developing language skills. They also love to discuss our cultural differences; I’ve gotten very good at saying phrases like “compared with America…” and “I’ve never heard of that.”
Since my last post I’ve been mostly studying, but I did manage to do some more photo-worthy things.
Last Saturday, I went to a Karaoke parlor and sang my heart out with a few classmates and one buddy, Megumi. We then went once again to Akihabara, saw some more anime things, and Megumi helped me find books at a 3rd grade reading-level to buy used.
That night my a former exchange student of my host mother’s came to visit and spend the night before heading out to see my host sister compete in a wind-surfing race in Kamakura. Tom from England and I had a thoughtful conversation about language-learning and Japanese grammar, in English of course.
The trip to Kamakura was fantastic. Although the wind picked up too late for us to see the race start, we went to visit a couple of beautiful temples. We first went to see the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) statue, then on to another temple known for its flower gardens. From the hill outlook at the second temple, we could see all the little orange masts of my host sister’s windsurfing team out in Kamakura bay.
The following day after class, my classmates and I went to the “World Pokemon Center” in Ikebukuro, and I bought a cute Pikachu handkerchief. That night, Isabel and Natalie, the Singaporean exchange students from a couple weeks ago, came back from traveling and we had a ginormous
On Tuesday I had lunch with Megumi at a “Japanese Denny’s” called Jonathan’s, and on Wednesday I showed her around Meguro Gajoen Hotel. On Thursday I had lunch with another buddy, Ryouma, at an udon shop near the McDonald’s at which he has a part-time job. Outings like this help build confidence in my casual language skills.
Yesterday, after going to another Japanese Denny’s called Gasto’s and Shinjuku with some buddies, then Shibuya with Megumi, Mama-san gave me a driving tour of Tokyo Tower and a rich shopping/clubbing district called Ginza. It being a Friday night, we drove down a narrow and busy street hoping to catch a glimpse inside one of the clubs, looking for dolled up hostesses and the like. After returning home, host-sister came with her friends and we had a nice chat until the wee hours of the morning.
Today, I slept in and finished up some homework. I was feeling restless, so I went for a run, which gave me a chance to explore the neighborhood around my homestay. In the narrow residential streets I saw a wealth of gardens lush with summer grasses, polished gravestones, children playing in parks and lots of people going about their day. The route was never boring, with winding roads, river crossings and pedestrian overpasses. What a lively city.
Afterwards, Mama-san and I went out for Shabushabu, and it was incredibly delicious. I am going to be sad to leave these flavors behind when I go back to the US in but six weeks.
My time in Tokyo is still going swimmingly and passing by all to quickly. In two more weeks time I will be moving out of Mama-san’s house and into a single apartment. Although I’m not looking forward to leaving the house, the added independence will be good for me.
Thanks for reading. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.