Monday - 10 Mar 2003
Day 55 (Monday)
I was sitting at the breakfast table yesterday when Ojii-chan walked in the door with some shopping bags. My host mother must have spotted the flash of yellow, too, because she questioned Ojii-chan about it. He pulls out this huge, I mean HUGE bunch of bananas and says, smiling, there was a sale. Then the host mother points to the fruit basket. Much to my shock, there was already a good sized bunch there.
Her bunch had 5 bananas. His bunch had 9 (who.s ever heard of a bunch with NINE bananas???).
*GRAND TOTAL: 14 bananas
I just about cried. Then the host mother says, "Do your best. Me and the kids don.t like bananas." Yeah, I.d love to be able to write more, but I have to go polish off a few hundred bananas now.
Day 56 (Tuesday)
I came home from school today and there were only 4 bananas left. Apparently Ojii-chan and host dad ate 9 in one day. Sometimes I worry about my host family...
I.m having a great time using the new handkerchief I bough at Uniqlo. Since bathrooms here have no towels or hand dryers, you.re pretty much on your own. I finally gave in and bought a cute handkerchief and have been overjoyed at the thought of using a public restroom ever since.
Day 57 (Wednesday)
Today at dinner my host father whips out these 2 tickets to a really expensive theatre performance. He gives them to me and says, "Here. These came free from work, but we can.t use them since we have small children." Big coincidence because I had actually been eyeing up the performance. The tickets are, like, $50 bucks each, so I was overjoyed. So, on Friday I.m going to see a performance of "kyogen." Kyogen used to be the humerous skit in between Noh scenes (Noh is traditional Japanese theatre, but it.s kind of heavy and slow, so it was nice to have some light quick stuff in between). I asked my friend Jessica, so we.re gonna meet at Kamimaezu Station on Friday to go. Yippee!
Day 58 (Thursday)
I got home from class early today. I had Ikebana and the sensee complimented my sweet-pea arrangement. Hehehe...I was all a flutter with my "No, don.t be silly" and "Really, well it might be nice, but this part here is a little off." Being complimented in Japanese is a tough business. The Ikebana sensei is so much fun. She says that she taught her husband the phrase "bite me." I.m so proud...my teachings live on!
When I got home my host mother was circling things to order from the Co-op (Yes! My host mother eats organic food, too! I love this family!) She pointed the bananas and was like, want me to get some more? I just looked at her and said, "You know, bananas are great, but I think I need a rest." It was simple.
You know, it.s strange, but the second I declined the bananas, I kind of felt empty. The thought of no bananas is kind of scary. I think I might miss them.
Day 59 (Friday)
Tonights the big kyogen show. Can.t wait to go! I.ll tell you what happens. Also, tomorrow my family is hosting a party. They said their goal is to get me drunk. Hmmm...we.ll see. Then, Sunday is my little sister.s 5th birthday party. I have to remember to get her a gift. That shouldn.t be too hard. Japan is full of cute stuff.
*Hey, I.ll fill in Monday and Tuesday after class today, so check back.
I.m back! So my 3 sensei.s say that I have improved so much. SO happy! Every week we have to write this journal entry about any subject we choose. So, last week I decided to write about my trip to Kyoto and how my teacher there helped me with my Japanese. Then I mentioned that I was having trouble with my Japanese. The teacher replied to my entry saying "Ganster-san, you.ve come so far! The sensei-tachi (tachi means multiple...kind of like "the teachers") are so proud of your quick progress. You.re a great student! Don.t stress!"
I thought that was a nice response. I have come a long way, but it.s nice to know that the teachers have noticed that I.m really trying.
Then yesterday, I went to office hours to work out some verb forms, and the sensei tells me how well I.m doing and how proud she is. Then today I had a conference about a paper I.d written. The last few minutes were just the sensei telling that I was a great student and she was proud of me.
So what have I learned? When you need support, just ask for it. The sensei-tachi could have been lying to to me, but I don.t care. Even a falsely-created sense of self-esteem is better than worrying all the time. I feel good.
Kanji test today. I finished in 3 minutes and sat staring out of the window while everyone else was still working when time was called 4 minutes later. Hahaha. You may beat me on grammar, but I own you in Kanji! Muwahahaaaaa (that.s supposed to be an evil laugh)
By the way, tomorrow is the second big Penis Festival. The last one was just local, but people come from all over Japan to pray for fertility at this one. Can.t wait. I missed the Woman.s Festival. I didn.t know until it was too late. You know, I never thought that study abroad would mean going to stuff like this... We.ll see what happens.
The walking penis shrine
Day 60 (Saturday) -- Part I
This morning was Honen Matsuri (i.e. the Naked Man Festival- Part II). I traveled with friends out past Inuyama (Dog Mountain) to Karata Jinja, a shrine out in the boonies. The trip took a little more than an hour and a half, so it wasn.t too bad.
This festival wasn.t as exciting as the first one. The energy was missing (not to mention the dancing thong-weearing men). I was kind of bothered by the fact that foreigners were everywhere. It was annoying to think that I was 1) at a tourist-y function and 2) that people could understand me. Grrr.
The whole festival consisted of a parade from one shrine to Karata Jinja and then a mochi-(rice cake) throwing contest. Foreigners, women, and children weren.t allowed to take part in the contest, so my friends and I left early.
The big procession was kind of exciting. Since Honen Matsuri is a fertility festival, there were penis charms everywhere. There were even selling penis cell phone charms. The parade was led by women in Japanese-style outfits carrying big wooden penises (penii? penes? penix? how do you pluralize that?). I got my picture taken with one of them. It.s good luck to rub the penis, so of course I did that.
Next, there were these guys carrying lucky trees who were passing out sake. Note: all of the men were 42 years old and the women were 19. Somebody told me it was good luck to have men and women of those ages, but I think that the only people trying to get lucky were the 42 year old guys.
Finally, this big shrine was carried on the shoulders of about 10 guys. Poking out the back and front was the BIG wooden penis. Just wow. Words cannot express. The guys who were carrying it started swinging the shrine in a circle really fast. It was great. The penis was 400kg (like a 1000 lbs.) and 2 meters long (6 ft.). Wonders never cease. We all touched the little statues for good luck, bought some festival food, and made for the train.
Mini-penis statuette...well, not so mini
Day 60 (Saturday) -- Part II
I got back from Honen Matsuri a little bit after 5pm. You know how every family has a sister family with kids the same age, with whom they do everything? Well my family is hooked up with the Sato family. My little brother loves their oldest daughter and the two youngest girls play together. At 6pm, they were supposed to come over for dinner. I was excited, but a litle bit scared. Conversation is kind of difficult, but the Satos are always bring me gifts, or writing me notes, or speaking to me in simple, happy Japanese.
They came over a few minutes to 6 and I was so nervous. I went upstairs to play Pokemon Mah Jong with the kids. Good times. We all won one hand and then I lost in overall points. When you.re playing with little kids, you never wanna win, so I was happy. Then it was dinner time. PANIC!
My seat was switched to between my h-dad and h-mom so that the Sato parents could have the seat of honor. I still got the special seat cusion...ha HA! The kids had their own little table. I was happy to be at the big-person table, but it.s always nice to have little kids at the table because you can pretend to be busy helping them when you don.t understand the conversation. I thought I would be OK as long as host-mom was there, but she wasn.t sitting down...she was still cooking when dinner began. To make matters worse, so was Sato-mom. NO! I was left to the men!
Conversation was kind of quiet for the first minute or two until I realized, hey...if I can make small talk in English, I can do it in Japanese. So, I started small-talking with Mr. Sato. Of course, the first thing out of my mouth was incorrect, but everyone laughed and the conversation started flowing freely. I was quite relieved.
Then Mrs. Sato sat down at the table. She started talking, too. I had calmed down a little bit. We all took turns pouring each other.s beers (That.s kind of a Japanese thing. You never want to pour your own drink and you always refill your neighbors. When you.re getting your refill, you should put both hands around the base of the glass. FYI).
Finally host-mother sits down and we all continue eating and talking. It was going surprisingly well. Then the Sato.s break out some wine that they brought. I was touched that they remembered that I prefered red wine to white. A few glasses later I was a little buzzed. I left my beer glass a third full to signal that I was slowing down, but it didn.t matter. We were on to the Chu-Hi. Chu-Hi is Japanese liquor, kind of like fruit flavored Zima. Yummy. So, we.re all having a great time. The kids are playing, my host-mom doesn.t drink (it makes her pass-out) and the Sato mother was only kind of buzzing, but my host-dad was snoring on the floor. Hehehe. Every time they offer to refil my drink, I.m like OK and they cheer. Cute.
Then, disaster strikes. We.re talking about hot guys and how my host-mom and I have the same taste when she decides to show me a picture of a hot guy she knows. She gets his photo on her cell-phone and he is, indeed, hot. Then she gets this funny look on her face and puts her ear to the phone. She starts stuttering and finally gets out a "moshi moshi" (hello?). Her cell phone accidentally dialed the guys number. She starts laughingly telling him what happened and then says, "Hey, let me put Binky (me) on the phone." I told her NO NO!!! BUt she handed it over grinning and laughing. Like nothing, the Japanese started coming out. I told him I liked his picture and that I thought we should meet (jokingly, of course) and he was like, "well, I.ll be over next week." Quite funny. I can.t believe host-mom put me on the phone like that.
The evening was a lot of fun. Since I drank a LOT of water before going to bed, I didn.t have a futsuka-yoi again (hang-over). Yea!
Day 61 (Sunday)
Today was Miku.s birthday. The host-sister turned 5 today. My throat kind of hurt, so I wasn.t too peppy, but I was "genki" (energy-filled) enough. I got her a Hello Kitty Necklace kit and birthday card and we all went out to kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi). It was fun. I had some tests to study for, so this was a pretty low-key day. My Japanese is flowing-like water.