昔々と現在

11 Oct

Japan has an amazingly rich history, something the United States is still working on. When we think of huge anniversaries we think about the bicentennial; when Japan thinks of huge anniversaries, they get into the thousands. In this country you can go from traditional to modern in a moment, and so today I’m going to talk about my experiences navigating between the two.

On Friday, we headed to Namba for an Ikebana (traditional flower arrangement) exhibit. The flowers were beautiful. It was a big event, and some people were dressed up in formal, traditional clothing (including the cutest little boy!)

It was in the middle of a huge department store, where they sold beautiful sweets, books, expensive clothing, and brand name goods. Right outside the exhibit, I came across this (I think the image speaks for itself):

On Saturday, we went on a trip to Nara and visited Todaiji temple, the largest wooden building in the world with the largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. Its founding dates back to the year 728, and it is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Inside the grounds, they were setting up for an anniversary celebration, as you can see from the photo. I believe the emperor himself was coming to the event (if not, I’m not sure where he was going, because we definitely saw him driving past–no lie).

One of the more amusing parts of this visit was the huge column with a little hole in it. If you can get yourself through the column you’re supposed to have good luck, so naturally everyone gave it a try. It looks tiny but it can actually accommodate some impressively-sized people.

Outside of the temple there are tons of wild shika deer, allowed to hang around because they are messengers of the gods, according to Shinto beliefs. Obviously, the gods are hungry. These deer are nasty–if they think you have any biscuits (there are vendors everywhere selling them) they will start tugging and biting at everything–coats, purses, umbrellas, pants, you name it, until you give them what they want.

All in all, despite some torrential rain, the Nara trip was wonderful. I figured I would spend Sunday chilling out, but I was invited to go out to Umeda for wandering. We met at Todaiji’s modern equivalent (oh, blasphemy), Yodobashi Camera. This photo doesn’t quite do it justice–you need to understand that this building is 12 stories high (3 stories for parking at the top) and at least a city block around.

Once we met up with everyone we weren’t sure what to do, so we went hunting for a small Shinto shrine I had found. This shrine is literally surrounded by concrete, but inside the grounds it is quiet and peaceful, almost as if you’ve left the city.
Of course, when you exit you find yourself in a big alley of stores and restaurants, with lights everywhere. The next photo isn’t the exact place, but it’s a similar spot.
Before we made it to the shrine, though, we made a stop in a huge arcade and took purikura, which is a photo booth on crack. You pick some backgrounds and such, the machine takes photos and does some ridiculous aesthetic enhancement, and then you move to the other side of the machine where there is a huge touch screen. Then you go crazy with decorations, effects, and drawings. Finally, you print (see next photo).
After getting some ridiculously cheap gyunabe-don (pan-fried beef with noodles and tofu over a big bowl of rice) for 280 yen, we made our way to Namco Land, yet another arcade. There was a whole floor of crane games packed with character goods, as well as coin (gambling) games and a new rhythm game being projected on the wall so the entire place could watch you play. Pretty intense, right?
Today was also a day off. Although I figured I would sit around doing nothing, I decided to take a walk. I ended up walking from my town all the way over to the next station, Ibaraki–maybe two miles. It was sort of in between the examples I’ve given you: it wasn’t the bright lights of Yodobashi Camera and it wasn’t as old and traditional as Todaiji. It was concrete, plastic signs, dollar stores, family restaurants, overpasses, pet stores, homeless people, and everyday life.
I have never gone this route before, because it’s so far: normally the train is a much more convenient. But I saw so many beautiful sights. I also discovered a hidden Shinto shrine in a less-developed area. It was so peaceful! Of course, right after that, I went into the big mall at Ibaraki, which I believe is actually three malls connected together. After getting exceptionally lost and doing some hard core shopping, I took the train home.
Kinda feel like a time traveler :3

お腹、空いた!

28 Sep

Every once in a while, my appetite goes from me-sized voraciousness to Michael Phelps-sized voraciousness. Meaning, I want to eat everything ever all the time, even if I’m so full my stomach hurts. The last week or so has been one of those weeks, so today I’m going to talk about food.

First of all, getting fed in Japan is very easy. On top of the restaurants that are everywhere, you can walk into a 7/11, Lawson’s, Family Mart, et. al. and pick up pasta, bento (Japanese-style lunchboxes), onigiri (triangular balls of rice with stuff inside, wrapped in seaweed), noodles, sandwiches, and much more for less than 500 yen a piece. I’m sure there are a good bit of preservatives in there, but it’s real food, and it’s delicious. Especially the onigiri. Now that I’ve learned to like the seaweed, I’m officially in love with tuna-mayo onigiri. Another thing I picked up recently was “omu-raisu doria,” which is an omelette filled with rice and meat, with cheese on top and a red sauce on the side. Drool.

On top of ridiculously easy-to-obtain pre-cooked deliciousness, cooking at home has been really easy and fun this semester. This is partially thanks to CET’s “Room of Requirement.” (Take heed, future Osaka CET-ers!) The students from last semester bought cooking and living supplies, but when they left they left everything in Japan, so this room is full of tons of stuff–pots, pans, utensils, etc. Therefore, my kitchen is ridiculously well-stocked.

The other thing that makes it so easy has to do with the way you buy things here. In the States, we typically go to the grocery store about once a week, stock up, and don’t go back until the next week. In Japan there’s no space to stock up, so unless you have leftovers you’re probably going to go to the supermarket. Now, because of that (this is the magic thing!) you can buy foods–specifically, meat–in much smaller portions and therefore you can just make something on the spot.

So, I’ve had a ton of fun making delicious food for myself. Japanese-style cooking is overall pretty simple, so I’ve been able to try a lot of interesting things. So here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few of my favorite (and super-easy!) recipes so far.

First up is a little something called ochazuke. You take a bowl of rice, add toppings (you can buy packets in the grocery store: this one was seaweed as well as some other things. I also added some veggies), and then–here’s the kicker–pour hot green tea over it and eat. It makes this wonderful, hot, rice soup with a delicious-tasting broth.
Next is udon. You can buy these noodle pre-cooked at the supermarket for about 25 yen, and then all you have to do is throw them in hot water to warm them up and add broth and other ingredients. For this bowl, I added some fresh veggies and also some beef and vegetable teriyaki (ish) stir-fry from the night before. In Japan udon tends to be served without too many extra things, so I was happy to be able to change up the recipe a bit. (Ps. udon is so much more delicious than ramen)

Finally, we have tonight’s (and last night’s) dinner. Now, if you ask anyone who’s known me for a while, they would know that I have been a really picky eater since forever. But since I came to Japan, that’s all changed. There are too many interesting foods for me to be picky about them. I mean, there are still foods I think are disgusting (katsu-don with mayonnaise on top!), but I don’t just write off foods because I’ve never had them before.

In any case, this dish combines two things I have recently discovered to be delicious: kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and tofu. Best of all, all you have to do is cut up the tofu and throw it and the kimchi into a frying pan, stir-fry, and serve. It really spices up the tofu, which is super bland on its own. And then the rice is for consoling your aching taste buds after attacking them with kimchi. I also made it cute by adding cut carrots, because I am OCD like that.

And of course, the leftovers go in my bento for lunch the next day 🙂

Basically, I have a happy tummy.

他のテーマを選んだ方がいいと思います。

23 Sep

So, in the last week or so I got a big dose of cultural education, in a few different situations.

We started picking our topics for our semester-long project last week. After bouncing some ideas around in my head, I came up with a really good one. You see, there’s this new religion I studied in class freshman year called Oomotokyou, but since it was a history class I know very little about its current practices. It sounded like the best plan ever, but instead I ended up hitting a very very sensitive subject.

In Japan, there are two main religions: Shinto and Buddhism. However, between the late 1800s and the present, quite a few new religions have sprouted up, and quite a few of them were very unpleasant. For example, the new religion Aum Shinrikyou was behind the 1995 Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subways. Now, my teachers had never heard of Oomotokyou, but because of horrible incidents like these they became very very concerned. Of course, Oomotokyou is nothing like Aum; in fact, as I was browsing their website/mission statement/etc., it felt like the Japanese version of Quakerism (oh, and also the founder of Aikido was a follower back in the day).

Not only were my teachers concerned about my well-being and not-joining-a-cult status, but they were also worried about something that wouldn’t ever have crossed my mind: my connection to the college and my overseas program. If some kind of incident were to go down, it would impact OGU and CET’s reputation. It got to the point where they were checking with the overseas office to see if it was okay, and I ended up having to write a formal letter of request. Finally, my letter was sent to a higher-up at the school, where it was rejected–not on account of any of the above reasons, but because the school has a policy against public demonstration/presentation of any religious or political subject (at the end of the semester we would be doing a public presentation), on the offchance someone from the public might be offended.

But goodness, it’s different from school in the states. I feel like an american professor’s reaction would be, “Oh, okay. Well, be careful”

(By the way, I am still planning on doing some reasearch/visiting the religion on my personal time, so expect a report 🙂 )

Actually, our classes have been really rough on us lately. Basically, we’re having a clash of American versus Japanese educational systems.

For example, a typical class consists of our teacher reading to us and having us repeat, line by line, the reading for the chapter. When we’re done, we’re asked to take turns reading the same passage line by line again, and then asked some comprehension questions. Then we move on to a dialogue: rinse and repeat. In grammar class, we are taught quite a few grammar structures. Then we go back and read examples of said structures. For our kanji quiz, our teacher literally gives us the quiz ahead of time, so we know exactly what is on it and what to study. It’s driving us quite a bit of crazy, because we never get a chance to use what we’ve learned, to pull the concepts out of our brains. We just listen and repeat.

But see, that’s how our teachers learned English, and that’s how things are taught around here. We’ve been talking with the head teacher a lot about it, though, and we’re hoping we can work together with our teachers to make it work better for us. This is one of the benefits of a small program: the material is definitely tailored to our needs. But we really have to work at it.

(On a related note, I changed my topic to English education in Japan, so I’ll have more to say about this later 🙂 )

I also went to an Aikido club meeting last week. It was very challenging on a lot of different levels.

First of all, I had no idea what I was doing or what was going on. It wasn’t a regular class, because people were working on their own and preparing for their upcoming test. One of the club members walked me through some exercises, and then she introduced me to some other students. They looked kind of confused, and there was plenty of tittering and funny looks. Not that they were making fun of me; they just had no idea what to do with me. So they started by pulling me into what they were practicing, Ikkyou. They showed me and then asked me to do it, and I did. They all looked at me funny. “That’s Nikkyou,” one of them explained. Well, it was Ikkyou where I come from.

Anyway, we kept practicing, and they showed me how to do it the way they did in that particular club. Then one of them pulled at my gi and asked if I was wearing a t-shirt underneath. I said, oh no, I just wear a sports bra. They all kind of laughed and were like, but what if your gi flips up? Which is something I’ve never even thought or cared about (it’s never been a problem), but one of the girls lent me a shirt anyway. She also asked if I had water, which I hadn’t managed to get before arriving. I said no and she offered me some of her tea, but not before asking “can you drink tea?” (Yes I can!!!)

No one really spoke English, so there was a lot of confusion. When I said I didn’t understand something they’d repeat it again, the exact same way as the first time and at the same speed. Also, for some reason someone thought I was Russian.

I don’t mean to complain, because they were all really nice to me and included me even though no one was forcing them to. I think I will have fun with the club, but the first practice was really rough. They were just so bemused, and I was befuddled. Especially because I was trying to figure out what politeness level to use.

So, in conclusion, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Now that school is starting we’re falling into a schedule and touring around a lot less, so my posts will probably be fewer and more academic/less touristy. However, you can expect a couple posts a month, because I’m part of a correspondent program with CET.

Hope all is well for everyone!

お誕生日おめでとう!

15 Sep

Yesterday was my birthday. In Japan. And it was really amazing.

In the morning, classes started late, and after classes we went to the curry shop I love so much. While I was waiting for my meal, Karen and Toma came in with a cake from our nearby bakery, Gourmandefait. It was beautiful!

Needless to say, we massacred it after finishing our delicious delicious curry. When Godai-san found out it was my birthday, she gave us all a round of iced jasmine tea, on the house 🙂

Tummies full and happy, we all went our separate ways. I went home for a little while to rest, and then out on a solo adventure to Osaka. My Aunt Debi (shout-out!) sent me some money, so I had a shopping spree at the Loft, a zillion-story shopping mall. First on the list was a bento (Japanese lunch box). I have quite a few days where I only have about half an hour to eat, so going to a restaurant isn’t really possible. I’ve decided to try to make myself a bento on those days, so of course I needed some supplies.

First I needed a bento. These things come in a million shapes and sizes. Some have only one compartment, others have a few, some have customizable layouts, some hold together by clips, some need a band around them, some have space for a cold pack, some for chopsticks. I settled on an adorable one with an elephant on it (who can resist elephants?), along with a matching chopsticks set and a cloth napkin. Oh, and a bag to carry it all in. I also bought some bento supplies, like little sauce bottles shaped like pigs and silicone cupcake-paper-like things for separating food. I kind of meant to buy some fake grass too (often used as a divider) but it somehow didn’t make it to the checkout counter. Needless to say, I went a little bit overboard. But that’s what birthdays are for, and now I’m set for lunches 🙂

I also bought a nice big shoulder bag with tons of engrish on it. Huzzah!

In any case, by this point Sean and Karen were on their way to meet me. After some confusion, we finally met and had delicious pizza at a restaurant near the station. So good!

We had to rush, though, because next on the list of awesome was to see Kari-Gurashi no Arietti, the newest Studio Ghibli movie. In theaters. Check one off the bucket list. This movie is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers and let me tell you, it was beautiful. The plot was very simple, but amazingly moving. The screenplay is Miyazaki but the director is someone else. But the art is, as always, just lovely. If it ever makes it to the states (fingers crossed) everyone needs to watch it. And luckily, the dialogue was simple enough that I understood most of it.

After the movie was over Karen and I spent some time trying to stop crying, and then we made our way to the Izakaya near Kishibe station so I could have my first drink as a legal drinker in Japan (the drinking age here is 20!) I had omeishuu (plum wine) and we shared some edamame (soy beans still in the pods). It was a lot of fun.

Checking my mail this morning I had tons of love from people all over the world. Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes! I felt super loved.

Basically, it was a wonderful birthday. Yatta~!

外人だ!

11 Sep

This post is all about being a gaijin (or gaikokujin, foreigner).

In the United States, if you see a person with a different colored hair or skin, you don’t bat an eye. Unless they open their mouths and come out with a really outlandish language or accent, they belong in your country.

In Japan, everyone can see on first glance that you are not one of them. And after that–well, there are plenty of glances.

There are the gawkers, who are just plain rude. A lot of these are children who haven’t learned manners yet, but there are a few people who just downright stare. It’s somewhat fun because if you meet their eyes they’ll often get really embarrassed and pretend they weren’t looking. Except for this one guy on the train who just stared back (yikes). People like these make you feel like there’s something wrong with you, and sometimes I feel kind of ashamed to be different from everyone else.

There are the ones who assume you don’t speak a word of Japanese, like the man I mentioned earlier, whose face changed to sheer panic when I opened the door, thinking he was going to have to dredge up stuff he learned in high school. It’s good if you’re able to show them you know something.

There are the ones who are super psyched to meet a foreigner, like the girl who asked me to correct her English paper in the middle of a store. I’ve only had one of these experiences, but they are fun because you can do them a favor, and do something they can’t.

There are the ones who are stunned that you can do anything at all (use chopsticks, use basic Japanese words). They hold you to a separate standard: “You speak Japanese so well!” (I’m about as good as your elementary school kid) “Oh, you are so good at using chopsticks!” (So is everyone else in this country).

There are also super sweet friendly people. There’s a drugstore near us that Karen and I visited together. We had a little conversation with the people working there, and the next time I came back without Karen, they asked after her. There’s also Godai-san from the curry shop down the street from school, who started telling us all about Kyoto and showing us some beautiful photos she had taken. I love the people who open up to differences and share something of themselves with you. But even with the nice people, you’re still defined by the fact that you’re not one of them.

I don’t mean to complain, just inform. I’ve been mostly enjoying being a gaijin in this country. It’s either opened things up for me or provided me with some good laughs. I’ve never been in the minority like this, so it’s a really interesting experience. But it’s definitely made me realize how accurate the idea of the “American melting pot” is.

I did read an article (Thanks, Uncle Charlie!) about a woman who had a different experience from mine, and much more negative. It’s a very good article and it’s given me a few good ideas for messing with the rude people. Definitely worth a read.

I think the reason it’s easier for me is that I have American and Japanese friends here to support me, a group to belong to in a country where I don’t. I’m really glad for that!

Anyhow, that’s all for today, kids! Hope everyone is well! ❤

チャライ。

6 Sep

Let me tell you about the best weekend ever.

It started Friday. First we went to the center of Suita, the city my school is in. There were tons of really interesting shops! For example, one shop that sold only seaweed products. There were expensive cake shops and a 100 yen shop. And my favorite, a shop that sold takoyaki and dorayaki. Takoyaki is fried balls of octopus… not really up my alley. BUT! Dorayaki is the most amazing food known to mankind. And I’m pretty sure this shop makes the best dorayaki in Japan. Here we are, loving it.

It’s sort of like a pancake filled with something, normally bean paste. However, this shop had a creamy custardy filling, and I got one right off the griddle. It was heaven.

Anyway, we made our way back to school. Next on the agenda: karaoke. First of all, it cost about $7 a person for three whole hours–and we got free soda/slurpees (melon-flavor for the win!) Second of all, we found lots of good English, Japanese, and Chinese (thank you, Karen!) songs to sing along to, including our new favorite, Ken Hirai’s “Pop Star.” You need to watch this video to understand the awesomeness.

I left the sensory overload a little early and had a nice quiet dinner at home. I needed to rest up for our next adventure, Spa World! (CHAAAA!!!)

This is the best place on earth, truly. Also, there was a big promotional event that made admission cheaper than normal: we only paid about $13 a person for the entire day. And what a day it was. When you first get into SpaWorld, you’re given a plastic wristband. This is to monitor your purchases so you can lock up your wallet and walk around empty-handed. Then you take off your shoes and store them in lockers, then walk around barefoot wherever. We went straight to the changing rooms, where we received towels and cute pink cover-up dresses (the men got blue shirt and shorts sets) for wandering around if we didn’t want to change out of our bathing suits. We then proceeded to the pool, which was basically a circuit of moving water with some pools off to the side. The water moves with such strength that you just get in and it pulls your pleasantly along until you decide to get out or move to a still pool. There’s a waterfall you can go under, too. Of course, it was packed. But super fun anyway. There were also some super sick water slides that Chris and Sean rode (they were expensive to ride so I didn’t, but I hear they were awesome).

So after a dip in the pool we moved onto the onsen. Onsen are public baths. They’re separated by sex, because you aren’t allowed to wear a bathing suit. It’s very liberating and super relaxing, because the water is just about as hot as it can get without burning you. Spa World has a ton of themed baths. This month, men were in the asian baths and women in the western baths. Ours were absolutely beautiful. Some were inside, a couple were open-air. There was even a sauna and a cold pool. On top of that, there was a little café for cooling down, where you would buy a drink (buck naked), sit down at a table (still buck naked), and put your feet in the little stream under the table, which had little pebbles at the bottom so you could give yourself a foot massage while watching tv.

After that, we hit the sit-down showers, where you could dump water over your head, soap up with the complimentary soaps, and basically get all clean. Back in the changing room there were complimentary brushes and lotions, and you could sit at vanities and blow dry your hair, fix up your makeup, and just generally get back in the world. But then Karen and I were sleepy, so we figured we would find a bench and lay down. No need, however! Next to the changing rooms was a huge lounge, full of big, comfy, fully reclining chairs. There were also TVs, and the chairs had little speakers near your head so you could pick a channel and listen privately. Complimentary blankets were, of course, also available, and plenty of people were just out like a light from the heat of the baths.

After that, we sat down to dinner at the cafeteria, at low tables on tatami. Then we gathered our shoes and left, feeling awesome. If you’re ever in or near Osaka, Spa-World is a must. I think generally admission is closer to $33 a person, but it is still well worth the money spent. You have to be careful, though, because the food and goods inside are pretty expensive. But if you watch yourself and only spend money on necessities like food, you can have a great, relaxing experience for super cheap!

But that’s not all! Sunday, we went to Osaka proper to visit the Pokémon Center.

This place was amazing. Lots of wonderfully cute Pokémon goods, for kids and adults. I had the best time looking at everything. Like seriously, the best time. Sean dropped a ton of money here, and even got himself a Trainer hat. I got a folder and a horrendously cute sticker as well as some postcards and a cell phone charm.

I asked a nice man to take our picture.

Following that adventure, we got some burgers and went to the Loft, which is an awesome zillion-story shopping center. I found a few things I had been looking for, including a small Daruma doll. It was really cheap, but I misread the price–280 yen–in dollars and almost didn’t get it (not clever). Then we played DDR at a nearby arcade, ate some mochi, and called it a day.

At dinnertime, Karen had a hankering for mashed potatoes, so we made a real Amurrrkin dinner of mashed potatoes, breaded chicken, and corn. In my tiny kitchen, no less. It was really exciting and pretty darn delicious. Hence the nom-face.

Today–Monday–was a pretty normal day. The other foreign students are starting to trickle in just in time for regular classes to start. In the afternoon, we received the cell phones we’re renting. They are super exciting. All Japanese cell phones have a sensor that allows you to send and receive contacts (like the bump app for the iPhone). It’s really fun to use these phones, cause we can do the cutest emoticons. Also it’s really nice to be able to communicate without schlepping around the apartment complex and banging on doors 🙂

And then this evening Karen and I made delicious delicious pasta.

Weekend and beyond well spent, I’d say.


びっくりドンキー!

3 Sep

When I got here, I was surprised by what things ended up being the most important, so today I’m going to explain what you need to get by in Japan (especially the summer).

1. A good wallet with a sizable change pocket. Japan uses coins up to 500 yen ($6 US), so you can expect to get a ton of it. You have to be clever about spending the change too, because it adds up! Also, get ready to be buying everything in cash, because that’s very common here. I’ve heard it’s very hard to find places that take credit cards, so it’s good to carry at least a hundred dollars’ equivalent to cover your expenses (apparently most people carry around really large sums of cash on a regular basis). You need to make sure to locate an ATM that does international transactions so you can get more; I use a 7/11 down the street (side note: in Japan there are 7/11s, Lawsons, AM-PMs, and Circle Ks, which I think is infinitely funny)

2. An ICOCA card. This little bugger costs about $6 US and then you load it up with some cash. Then you put it in one of the outer pockets of your wallet and when you want to get on a train you just hold your wallet over a sensor. It reads it and takes out however much money that ticket would cost. If you take the train a lot, this is a huge time-saver. I’ve also heard you can use it at convenience stores (konbini). You can also buy a monthly pass that allows you to travel between two stations of your choice for free, and the information is just added to your card.

3. A handkerchief. In the sweltering Japanese summer, this is a must for dealing with the sweat (mine is made of terry cloth so it’s super effective). On top of that, many Japanese bathrooms don’t supply paper towels, so it doubles as your own personal towel.

4. A fan. This is incredibly useful in the summer. Everyone uses them, too, so you won’t look weird 🙂

5. An umbrella. Because it’s so sunny and hot in the summer and because a lot of people in Japan don’t want to tan, umbrellas are very very common on sunny days. If you don’t like being attacked by angry hot sun rays, this will be very useful. On a related note, they make a lot of things here to block the sun. For example, long gloves or sleeves to put on when walking around, and big covers for your hands/arms that attach to your bicycle handles. These things are everywhere. Here’s a small sample of the goods available at our local supermarket.

6. A water bottle. Please stay hydrated in the summer. If you don’t you will literally die. There are plenty of vending machines where you can buy water, but it’s great to have a reusable bottle. You can drink the tap water here, so you can just hit up any nearby sink for water. If you’re doing a lot of walking, you should drink Pocari Sweat. It’s like Gatorade but it’s clear and tastes a ton better.

7. Mosquito bite medicine. There are some nasty mosquitoes out there, and this little roll-on stick makes them stop itching and heal a lot faster. Mine is Hello Kitty, because Hello Kitty is awesome.

8. Easy-on, easy-off walking shoes. If you’re going to be living somewhere you want to be able to avoid the hassle of tying/untying your shoes every time you go into or leave your home. Slip-on shoes are for the win.

9. A reusable, fold-up bag. They give you bags for everything here, and believe you me, you’ll be buying a lot of stuff. If you want to be eco-friendly, carry this thing around and don’t let them give you plastic bags! When I first got here, I thought it was okay to say baggu wa irimasen, but “baggu” is kind of weird. The best thing to say is “fukuro wa irimasen.” (Speaking of bags, when you go to the supermarket and buy something, they put it back in your basket along with a bag. Then you proceed to a bagging area where you can get things put together at your leisure without holding things up. Never seen it before, but it’s super interesting.)

10. A dictionary and notebook. A dictionary is just plain handy, and as for the notebook, you’ll want to write down the words you learn. My notebook is mostly vocabulary and the names of foods that are delicious (anpan–bread filled with bean paste–and torayaki–sort of a pancake filled with cream or bean paste)

❤ you all!