Nagano: She’s from America

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I woke up in the morning on my fourth day and last full day in Nagano. I was both relieved and saddened that it had gone by so quickly. I wanted to make the best out of the last day that I had.

A big topic these days in Japan is the political elections. The topic came up the night before and during breakfast because it was being shown on TV. I can’t vote, so I wasn’t able to contribute a lot to the conversation. Yoshida-san is a very open man, but when I asked him about who he was voting for he told me that it was a secret.

After breakfast, we started working on something new: separating potatoes. It took about an hour or so to get them all done.

Because I mentioned music yesterday, I saw him bring his radio to the garden this time. We were listening to the Christmas music that was being played over and over while planting onions. I was listening to a Japanese version of Au Lang Syne while the snow blowed in my face.

The last event of the day was Onsen. I love Onsen, but unfortunately I don’t get out as much as I’d like to.

This one was huge, with multiple baths, with one of them being outside in the snow.

I am a very easy person to spot in these kinds of places. Dirty-blond, blue eyes, white. I just felt all these eyes on me and I didn’t like it. Being in the country, I am sure you don’t get many Western faces, but still.

After a while inside, I decided to check out the outside bath. It was cold for a second, but once I hopped in it was heaven. There were a few people in the bath, but a couple of them left just as soon as I got in and so remained one sweet-looking elderly lady.
I make conversation with strangers easily, so we started talking. She told me she was wondering I could speak Japanese or not, so when I said something she was surprised. She told me that she has lived in America before. I told her that I was born here and have never lived anywhere else. In the middle of the conversation, she called her granddaughter over and said, “Look! She’s from America. You’re studying English, right? Say ‘How are you’! Say your name! This is your chance to practice!”. Because of that she got really shy and wouldn’t look me in the eye. It was only when I started speaking Japanese to her was when she actually got curious. After the conversation, I wasn’t feeling good, and I left the bath. This kind of “speak to the foreigner” thing happens to me often, and most times I don’t mind. This time I minded.

As I was looking in the mirror, my face was bright red. I wanted to take my face off then and replace it with one that would fit in more. As I was blow-drying my hair, Yoshida-san’s words came to my head, You can not change anyone but yourself. I knew that I took it too seriously, but sometimes it is just difficult to look over your own problems.

Looking back, I feel better about it now, but this is what I jotted down while I was sitting there:

I really do have a complex. Oh, how I want to fit in so bad sometimes. Back home in Kansai I don’t feel the pressure as much because of the environment I am in, but yes I feel it here. I have been with them for four days and I just wish I could be someone else. Sometimes I just wish I could be someone else.

Now like I said above, it is the environment. I was not used to it, but I went through it. I now want to go back because all the good that I received overcame the negativity. There are just so many wonderful things that I would have never experienced had I been born Japanese. I am so grateful to be where I am and to be who I am. A girl with an American passport, who is from this funny country called Japan.

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That one fire burning

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Images pass by your eyes

It all seems like a dream

Fleeting hopes ad wishes

Till you fall asleep

Searching for meaning

And the gleaming light of day

With that one fire burning

To make all the fear go away

I see the ray of hope

That is peeking from your eyes

The one who doesn’t front

Who won’t believe the lies

The relationships you hold

Must be held and kept

Save the love and live

Please learn not to fret.

The Hidden Gems

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 I drew this sketch of an organic market that was going on in Nagoya. I was on my way home from farming and I wanted to add Nagoya to my list of places I’ve sketched in. The only problem is that there is absolutely nothing to draw there. The buildings are bland and grey. The streets don’t have any thing in particular that make them stand out. I could not find anything that I wanted to draw. When I decided to stop here, I had forgotten that this city is not known for being the most interesting place on earth. It was only when I happened to come across a little fair going on outside. I went through it and left without giving it too much thought, but after walking a ways I knew that I would not find anything better. I decided to sit down and draw the ginger shop. It took me about 40 minutes, and during that time I got approached by many lovely people. I exchanged addresses with one woman because she wanted a sketch. A few old men laughed and said my colors were beautiful. A woman also from the area asked if she could interview me for a local newspaper. I ended up having a great time in the few short hours I was there. I’ve decided that even though a city may seem dull, there are always hidden gems waiting.You just have to wait for them to appear.

After getting home, my friend who lives in Nagoya messaged me, You were in Nagoya? There’s nothing to do here.

My Little Eyes: No sleep for me

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            photo 2-15 So basically my first night at the YMCA was not great. My head was full and played past events over and over. It’s okay though. I’m sure tonight will be better. Little by little my shell is cracking and I am  starting to want to not leave Singapore. I feel like it would be such a blast to go around and travel more. Through meeting all of these people in these short past two weeks, I feel like I have a whole lot to take back with me to Japan. A lot of stories. Thats what it’s all about through right? I hope that I can continue to learn to think in many other ways. I can take the insomnia as all my thoughts processing- shaving away the negative thoughts and emotions until you are left with nothing but a delightful memory to look back on. Your thought life makes you or breaks you. Think right.

I drew this picture and wrote this post (不眠) because I was not able to sleep while I was in Singapore. I had done something very immature and stupid and I could not get it out of my head all night. It left me with an interesting sketch, but I would like to try very hard from now on to not let history repeat itself.

The Train Stories: The Lone Scientist

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photo 2-13I loved science. I wanted to go into a field I loved, but gave it up and decided to make the more conservative choice tp work in an office every day for the next 30 years. As I doze off, I dream of a time when becoming a scientist was a reality for me. It all seems like pieces of a film reel, showing me a past life of mine- one that I can not go back to . I simply obey the orders of each person around me while ignoring a cry deep within my soul. A cry thats screaming and gasping for air. The side of me that I buried myself.

Nagano: Catch a snowflake

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With the third day, came new challenges. I started to get used to life in the woods, but still felt uneasy. I hoped greatly to be accepted.

Please enjoy the following post. For the first of the series, click Here and for the second click Here.

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It was a relaxing Saturday morning. I felt calm and today I was not doing any work. It was the first morning that I didn’t feel any tension within myself. However, during breakfast my eye started to twitch. It twitched longer than it ever had before and I started to get annoyed and worried that it wouldn’t stop. I looked up the reasons for the vibrations, and among the many possibilities stress was one of them. Was I really that uptight?
Though after looking it up on google, it seemed to stop and it didn’t come back after that.

I was able to get away from the house a bit and took the camera that I borrowed from my sister and set off on a walk. It started to snow from the afternoon, and after an hour it began to pile up slightly and left a thin layer of white on everything around me. I wanted to be a little more professional and shoot photos with the Nikon that my sister let me take for my trip, but I ended up using my Itouch for the most part.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and I took the time to observe what was around me. I looked at the lining of the trees. I saw the water gushing in the river below me. I listened to the sound of the wind. I felt at home for the first time. I had no stress and no one to bother me. I was alone, with my only goal for the evening being to catch a snow flake on my tongue.

The couple that I was staying with surprised me and told me that there would be a local gathering with a potluck party. I was excited and very curious to see what kind of people would be living in this area.
Before we headed off, Yumi-san and I prepared the food for the event. I suggested the previous evening my speciality: 納豆コロッケ(Natto Croquette). It is always a fun party food because it leaves everyone guessing the ingredients.

When we got into the car for the party, my insecurities started to bubble up, and I began to worry about being rejected. Why must my mind always yo-yo back and forth between emotions?

The people were friendly, and were surprised to see me because Yoshida-san had not told them I would be coming. They were polite and asked me a few questions, then slowly went back to the people that they were most comfortable with.

The best part of the evening for me was playing with the children. I love kids because they have no concept of awkwardness. One in particular didn’t seem to be fazed by anything.

I listened to the conversations around me and most of the topics were on gardening and rice fields. I turned to Yoshida-san and he was acting like leader as usual and began explaining things to everyone.
There was a hippie-ish man with a lisp in front of me taking notes on what everyone was saying. I learned later that he is planning on moving to 和合(Wagou) and wanted to learn as much as he could.

As the end of the party started to near, I had become good friends with all three of the children there, exchanging secret handshakes and fun party games. The adults were thanking each other by exchanging rice from their fields. I thought that was an interesting gesture, and was pleased to have gotten some myself, although I had no rice of my own to pass around.

Life is simple here, and in the beginning I told myself that I could never live in a place like this. I would never be able to get used to it. However, after seeing the tight bonds of the community and of the families, my perspective changed. I was starting so slowly see why they love Wagou so much and smiled at the idea of someday moving to the country myself.

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Nagano: Hums of the Homesick

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The second day of my trip to the more northern part of Japan: Nukuta, Nagano.

It was only my second morning and I was already battling feelings of home-sickness. If you want to see the first post in this series, check it out here: Click me!

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The next morning I didn’t wake up in my bed. There was a water bottle at my feet, and I heard shuffling and voices coming from the next room. I made sure that they didn’t know I was up. I would take my time.

As I emerged from my futon, I walked into the kitchen. There was no one there and I decided to take a peak outside to see the morning. It was simply beautiful. The fog started to settle on the trees, and the sun was reflecting off of the early dew. It was something that my camera tried hard to capture to no avail. Something like that must be seen with ones own eyes.

He came back home after a few minutes and prepared me some of his wife’s steamed bread. It was light and fluffy. I made a mental note that I would attempt it when I got back home. I noticed that he only called his wife Yumi-san. Because adding -san to the end of a name is a sign of respect used with people you are on polite terms with, I was very surprised that he used it with his wife. I don’t know many people who use it in Kansai to their spouses.

When the afternoon started to roll around, I somehow was getting restless. I had traveled to Singapore and Bali for two weeks earlier in the year, but this trip seemed even longer than the time I had spent outside of Japan. I wanted to go home and I didn’t know why. I decided to combat the feelings as best I can and tried to not show my uneasiness.

Another interesting thing about the both of them is that they did not compliment a lot. It can go to your head with out you realizing it back in Kansai because everyone is on the complimenting wagon. If you do the smallest thing, they say that is great, but this couple from Nukuta didn’t.

My job that day was to help with the garlic. He took me in the morning to see his greenhouse and at my feet he placed a big bag of garlic bulbs that we would work on together for the next three hours. I had no idea that it could be so much fun. I was with Yoshida-san for the whole day, and we talked and talked and talked while the garlic smell started to become imbedded in our fingertips.

We hide the things we want to show to people, and then slowly, we start to forget them ourselves.

When he would say things like the above, I would want to rush to my Itouch. I can say that it is true for me. Growing up here, I think that I suppressed a lot.  Now when I encounter a situation I am not comfortable with, I give myself a hard time about it and I don’t know why.

When you are out in the garden with yourself being the only one keeping you company, you think a lot. He told me in the evening that he was dwelling on a problem for three months before he discovered the answer within himself. Perhaps all of the questions that we ask, if we spend a little more time thinking the answers could be dug up.

I had my first bath at the 和合(Wagou) house the night before. I was actually thankful that it was separate from the main house because I could take my time. I welcomed taking a long bath that evening. When you have so much to do, it distracts you and you can not fully enjoy it. When I was there I had no people to see, and no plans to make.

I think the feelings of home-sickness arose because my body went into shock without me realizing it. Up until that point I was busy everyday, greeting hundreds of people at work. Now I was alone, with no company. I learned to appreciate the sound of the dripping from the faucet, the grumbling of the water heater, the sound of silence, and the smell of garlic that was coming from my hands.

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