As promised, toilet talk!
Japanese toilets, a lot like many things in Japan are either very modern, or very not. Unlike toilets in the U.S., modern Japanese toilets (as was seen in my first post) have lots of buttons and options for sprays or bidet, and sounds or music to play for modesty while you go. Plus, a great many of them will talk to you. I still sit on pre-warmed seats and mistakenly think someone was just sitting there. On the other hand, traditional Japanese style toilets are namely a porcelain hole in the floor you have to squat over.
This is one of the images we all dread when we entering a public restroom. I’ve heard some Japanese actually prefer these toilets, but I haven’t talked to that subset yet. Regardless, a second difference that is hard to get used to is that bathrooms will, in houses and in the school gym, have separate shoes you wear that are only for the bathroom. After having used one of the Washiki-Japanese toilets, I completely understand why there would be toilet-only shoes.
Lastly, thanks to the influence of washiki, the toilets have floor to almost-ceiling doors! This is something the US actually gets made fun of for online (look it up!). The doors in the US are often short on the top and the bottom as well as that silly little gap that allows you to see into the darn stall. I do not miss those.
We also found a yummy place in Nanba-eki that was all-you-can-eat style Japanese food with a lot of vegetables and traditional foods! So yummy!
We talked about a lot of things and I was reminded of dating and one important difference. In Japan, there is this focus on the confession. Particularly with the guy confessing to the girl. You don’t date before that confession, at least not exclusively, and the time of confession may have been only shortly after you met in order to avoid the non-exclusive phase. “Hey, I like you!”, and then suddenly it’s a serious relationship. Frankly, I thought that was one of the silly TV exaggerations, but it turns out it’s not entirely false. Yet, in the US, you’re sort of expected to date before any kind of “confession” and certainly before saying “I love you”. Exclusivity may or may not need to be talked about, but no one would ever say they were in a relationship with someone they only met once or twice.
Granted, I’m generalizing, but it’s interesting the different approaches and thought it was interesting to think about. I think I’d be a bit terrified if I got a confession from someone I didn’t know. At the same time, there are so many different types of dating in the U.S. (even the word dating is controversial in meaning!) that it might be nice to know where you stand without having to have a “relationship talk”.
Oh, and don’t be fooled. Hookups happen all the same here. They just might be more socially acceptable in the US.
Field Trips! The part of the blog you were all waiting for! Were you?
Osaka University took all of us off to a pottery shop for a day of making pottery!
This little old man whipped out three, four, no five of those little pottery pieces in less than 5 minutes! You can see the 1st four on the little board in front of him and a couple of friends in the foreground. My teacher asked me what I had made and I said I didn’t know! It’s a little big to be a cup and a little…no. Maybe it’s just right for a rice bowl or soup bowl in Japan! My finished product is in a picture below with the picture of unbaked pottery of many of the students.
…so it’s a little awkward and crooked, I know. Afterwards, we went to a pottery museum and learned about the history of pottery in Japan. This is where I got the bamboo stuff I sent a few of you for Christmas! You’ll know what I mean when you get it. Whenever you get it….
There are a lot of little mascots for Japan’s tourist centers and such. I don’t know what this guy is for, but he’s awful cute!
In the background of the other photo you can see a little bit of Christmas. I know New Years is a bigger deal in Japan, but Christmas!!! My sister sent me a bunch of gifts and so now my room finally feels like Christmas. I’m not allowed to open them yet, but I know one of them is coffee. I can smell it!
Anyway, thank you for the gifts! I don’t really deserve so much, but thank you!
Japan Expo commemoration park– This is a park built on the 1970 World Expo held in Japan. What can I say? This place was gorgeous! A friend and I walked around for hours looking at the scenery and taking pictures. There was a lovely foot bath where we soaked our feet for 10min and looked outside.
Also, look at how adorable the warning signs are! Isn’t that just Japan?
Minoh Waterfalls -Minoh has a nice little hike up to a tall, but at the time weak, waterfall. It’s at half-full, see? Trickle, trickle.
However Japan has an entire culture and thus business around Fall leaf viewing or 紅葉. The nice thing is that you can really enjoy the scenery around you wherever you are. In this respect I don’t think Japan is inherently more beautiful than Seattle, but it is more appreciated and that has changed the degree to which it’s scenery has been beautified.
On the way there we mistakenly took a 400-meter detour up these rather steep stone steps, but were rewarded with a nice scenic view!
Japan has temples and shrines everywhere and some of them have fortunes you can buy. I got one of these fortunes that would later come true! Apparently if it’s bad (which mine was only one step above that) you’re supposed to hang it on a tree near the shrine/temple. After what happened later that week, I’m sure to remember!
One touristy thing about Maple leaf viewing in Minoh is that they sell friend Maple leaves. Literally, maple leaves dipped in sweet batter and deep fried! The leaves are crunchy enough to break apart and they don’t taste bitter at all. Actually quite yummy!
Of note is how small of a place Osaka is in regards to the Exchange students! I can hardly go anywhere without running into a fellow group. I ran into three separate groups on this day as well as the night before. All in all it is pretty fun, though.
Kinkakuji– More shrine visiting and some of the temples lit up their gardens, one of which we did visit. More interesting was the Ninja Cafe (actually restaurant) that we went to. Some of the interesting food dishes were crackers made in the shape of shuriken, an ice cream frog and my chocolate bonsai ice-cream-almost-cake.
Bridge to Heaven – Amanohashidate: So, I think Osaka University is trying to bribe us into saying good things about them when we go back home by spoiling us and sending us on really cool field trips. It’s working. We took a shuttle bus up to several tourist vistas and lastly to Amanohashidate-Bridge to heaven, where there is a small, sandbar that looks like a bridge with view points where you bend over to look out. Like so:
Dear family: remember this pose. You’ll see it again later! Afterwards we went to a Japanese Hotel which was….oh my. The food was supper yummy, they made veggies specially for the vegetarians and fed us too much!!!
The first photo is actually a breakfast photo and is less than half the hall. The rest of the dining room spreads out behind me. Following dinner was a a run of karaoke in the same hall at which point I went into the onsen. The onsen was a lot like a hot tub with an indoor and outdoor version. Except you’re all naked and squeaky clean from showering first. I went to the outdoor one which was…quite and experience. At some point, after some remark about the boys, one of the girls realized that their onsen was right across the fence and loudly said so, “Shh! The boys are right there, they can hear us!!!”. So I replied with “So what?” and then said, “Good evening!”and was answered with loud laughter from the men’s bath (I guess they really could head everything! oops). Things calmed down after that for a bit, but that evening did devolve into “someone’s peeping!” “eek eek!” screams and laughter. There may have been some throwing of cold water over of the fence in hopes to catch a pervert if there was one. I’m not sure if anyone was actually there, but there was a crack in the fence that from where I was I could see a bit of movement, but one of the heroic girls plugged with a washrag. After that I decided it was too rambunctious and that I was plenty toasty and left.
The next day we wandered around Izushi castle town, also famous for yummy soba. The streets were remnant of feudal Japan and I managed to take a lot of lovely photos. However, in the process of climbing back down an old wooden ladder to the upper level of one of the shrine’s gates I fell backwards and hit my head on the pavement. This post is about…oh 3-4weeks after the fact; I am okay, but there’s still the tiniest of bumps and it actually hurts still! Boo on that, I say. Boo.
Nagoya– I had a friend of mine come visit from the US! I got to meet some of his awesome friends and they held a Friendsgiving feast instead of the Thanksgiving I would have had back home. We stayed at a Guesthouse and while my friend slept off his cold I sat downstairs and chatted with other guests in Japanese and made a few new lovely friends. Later that evening we went to an awesome musical in English called “Dreamcatcher”, had a soup dinner and coffee sweets/desserts to finish off the evening. I felt a bit like I was back in America that evening.
Kobe Luminarie-Crowded! A light up festival for those who died in the great Hanshin earthquake and NOT part of the christmas festivals. Actually, the lights are HANDMADE and lit with bio-mass energy to remain energy efficient! It’s amazing enough to look at alone and the lights are slightly different each year.
However after we went to a restaurant where I discovered the joy of Umeshu! :3. Basically Japanese sweet plum wine! It’s not necessarily my favorite unless it’s rokku-umeshu, or umeshu poured over a giant ice cube. That, that is liquid joy. We also drank on the train a little bit as we came back since it’s not illegal in Japan. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s socially sanctioned, either. There are no pictures of me drunk on Umeshu, though a few friends did get a chuckle as I met them on the way back to our dorm.
Yassai hossai– I can’t say I understand everything about this festival There was a fair amount of chanting by the shrine priests, and it gets it’s name from the cheer “yassai, hossai” as they carry a man through the embers as symbolic of warming up one of the many gods in shinto folklore. I went with a friend (and met a few others there) and we tried to keep our hands warm while we waited for the ceremony to start.
Later, as the fire burned and fell apart the crown pushed back away from the heat. One older lady urged me forward so I could see better and told us a bit about the ceremony. Once the fire had calmed down they ran giant bamboo sticks to spread it out so the young men could run through and later individuals from the crowd. One of them being my brave friend, but sadly I didn’t run through. I don’t know why.
Arashiyama- Arashiyama is a lovely little mountain with a bamboo forest. Due to my foolishness I only got to explore some of the night scenery. One of the walkways at the rail station was light up by tubes that I’m told were made from old kimonos. There was also a beautiful night time light up of the bamboo and walkways.
As for my foolishness, I dropped my camera somewhere, dropped and found my gloves, after reporting my lost camera I accidentally brushed my coat on a heater in the tent and burnt a hole in it. I think I fell down, too! Oh well, at the end of it all, one of my friends felt so bad for me they gave me some sweet candies as a gift.
I can’t bring myself to open them yet. I know it was a small gesture, but I’m grateful. Thank you!
Harvest hill – I took a fun trip to a far off farm/tourist spot? They have animals to pet and a lot of work shops, but I caught a wrong train and a wrong bus on the way there, so I was a bit late for the animals. I still was able to walk around and see some of the cute displays and prayer candles. A lot of people (children) write their prayers or hopes on a candle and then light it. Afterwards was a nice little fireworks show and then I caught the train back home. We had a small beer and takoyaki (fried balls with octopus inside) party.
With this, I think I’m caught up with current events. Woo! Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
Next year: Let’s just take it as it comes, hmmm?