15 Dec

So I think this will be my last blog, as I am leaving less than a week from now.

Today I’m going to try to sum up my experience here by telling you what I will and won’t miss about Japan. I’ll definitely leave something out here, because I’m limiting myself to 30 points total.

Things I Will Miss

  1. Theme music in grocery stores (especially the song about how fruits and veggies are good for you in FriendMart) and convenience stores.
  2. Amazing sweets, snacks, and baked goods–America doesn’t do them half as well, and doesn’t sell them in as many places.
  3. Western-style (sort of British) cafes with cake sets and cute sandwiches. I am going to go into withdrawal if I don’t hit up a tea room when I get back to Delaware.
  4. Japan’s habit of taking something Western and doing something to it that makes all the westerners go like “what?” Example: omelettes filled with fried rice.
  5. Special offers where you collect proof of purchases and get some kind of product out of it/drinks and such with little collectible items attached.
  6. Hot drinks out of vending machines for cheap.
  7. People dressing in the most outlandish clothes ever. On a related note, male fashion sense in general.
  8. Character goods.
  9. Being able to ride a train everywhere for pretty cheap.
  10. Very small dogs in outfits of varying degrees of ridiculousness.
  11. The sensitivity to seasons, aka seasonal snack variants (winter pocky!) and decorations for EVERY holiday ever. Oh, and Christmas music, because it’s always a little weird.
  12. The consumer culture–I’ve found that I kind of identify with it, even though that may not be the best thing ever.
  13. TV, including but not limited to, Japanese sign language instruction, anime, the most crazy variety shows ever, and the fact that if you flip through the channels you are sure to find a few hosts sampling some kind of food and going “umai!” while the audience oohs and ahhs (by extension, the food culture here, which equals eat lots of yummy pretty things and getting really excited about it)
  14. Sleeping on a futon! There’s something nice about sleeping right on the floor that makes you feel safe. Also it makes me feel super cool to roll up my bed every morning.
  15. Linguistic things about the Japanese language: getting spoken to very politely by store clerks is one thing, but another is a few turns of phrases that are exceptionally indirect. Instead of “Okay, let’s do this,” it’s “Let’s do this and have fun.” Or instead of “Okay, do this,” it’s “Okay, try doing this.” And instead of “I’m going to…” it’s “I think I’m going to.” It doesn’t make as big a difference when I translate it into English, but in Japanese it adds quite a few syllables, and you can mix and match as you see fit. This is why a hugely long Japanese sentence can translate as a very short one in English. It seems cumbersome, but all of these turns of phrase are made to indicate a spirit of cooperation and shared experience, so it is actually kind of comforting (However, depending on how it’s said and by who I also find it exceptionally irritating)
  16. Microwavable rice packages–best invention ever.
  17. The closeness and accessibility of everything–supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, public transportation, and so on.
  18. The lady who runs a produce stand near my apartment and greets us every morning.
  19. The popularity of all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink in restaurants and bars. A fixed price and a time limit, and you can get whatever you want. It’s a great way to get people together and socialize 🙂 Also to stuff your face.
  20. The fact that there are a zillion amazing things to do and see within less than 20 bucks and 2 hours away.

Things I Won’t Miss

  1. Lint. It is everywhere! I don’t know if it’s just my apartment but it is driving me crazy.
  2. Line drying clothing… all of my shirts are stretched beyond belief. I can’t wait to be able to use a dryer again.
  3. Being in the minority–it really wears on you. Knowing that you will never ever belong here no matter what you do makes you want to just give up.
  4. Japanese teaching styles and styles of communicating. These two things made my classes this semester SO awful.
  5. My tiny kitchen! Yep, next semester I will gain a whole square foot of counter space. Woo!
  6. Not-well-advertised and strange business hours that change depending on the store. So frustrating! I never know when something will be open.
  7. The garbage system, which is complicated and way too much work. On top of that, the things that are most excessively produced (plastics and paper products) are not recycled. My inner hippie is so sad.
  8. Standing out on train platforms in the cold.
  9. Constantly fearing a sudden and painful death by bicycle collision.
  10. The lack of central heating in most buildings.

Overall, I have had an amazing time in Japan, but I am certainly ready to go home. I want some space to process what I’ve experienced, but even though there are a lot of things about this country that irk me, I’m sure that once I get over the excitement of being home I will be wishing I were back here.

I’ve learned quite a lot of things in these four months–how to cook, how to not be a picky eater, how to travel without freaking out, how to get over my insomnia, how to speak Japanese and read kanji (not just knowledge but developing an innate understanding of why things are what they are), what it’s like to be a minority, how to live alone, how to budget… a zillion things. I’m still growing, but I can say for sure that this trip has been a really important part of my life. Now I understand why people make such a big deal out of studying abroad: it really is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

So if any readers out there have not studied abroad yet, make sure you do. You certainly won’t regret it.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog! I really enjoyed writing it.

See you on the other side of the International Date Line!


6 Responses to “さよなら!”

  1. Asuson@lclark.edu December 15, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    🙂 Japan really is nifty in some ways and mindnumbingly bothersome in a lot of others isn’t it…

    Glad you had a good time – and study abroad really is a life changer, I agree, and I’m only halfway through 🙂

    さよなら! Samurai power!!!!

  2. Lysbet Murray December 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    There are no words. I’m so thankful you’ve been able to have this experience, Diane: you’ve made the most of it!

    • Russell Murray December 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

      I know it’s only been a couple of weeks since we were there with you, but we can’t wait to have you home. A lovely final blog.

  3. Carole Deily December 17, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us, Diane. You are so perceptive and have absorbed the culture and language like a sponge. I am proud of you, too. ‘Can’t wait to see what you will get up to next!
    Bon voyage et bienvenue aux Etats-Unis.

  4. MP from the dojo December 19, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Hi Diane,

    Eii toshi okumaki kudasai

    Have safe travels home. The Aikido Dojo had the last regularly scheduled class of the year, Osame Keiko, today the 18th of December. You and your friends and family are invited to Etsunen Keiko. This class starts around 11 pm New Years Eve and crosses in to the New Year. Otherwise the dojo will be on break until the 4th of January starting with the Evening class. Over the holiday Shihan asked us to think about how Aikido techniques contribute to World Peace.

    Go Ji Ai Kudasai

    • Diane December 19, 2010 at 10:36 am #

      Hi, MP! Thanks for the comment! I’m still in Japan so I couldn’t make it to the class today, but hopefully I will be able to visit during break!

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