Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lots of recent events! All of equal importance!

Hey guys! It’s been a while. I’m a liiiitle drunk right now so if things seem off, blame it on the al-al-al-al-alal-cohol. ‘kay? By the way, me posting drunk is not going to become a “thing,” it is just a coincidence.

Juuuuust a coincidence. Though typing is real hard right now I’ll do my best. (Editor's note: The editor is me. Editor;'s note: Actually did real good typing in the end, editor should get paid half as much as she is receiving now. Author's note: Confirmed, editor should receive no money as she is the same person as the author)

I haven’t posted in a while because a lot has been going on lately. There was Christmas, and now there’s so much preparation for New Years that I barely have a minute to myself, and have hardly seen the internet in the last week. Which makes me sad. I miss you all.

First things first. On Christmas, I switched host families, because the Yoshimura family could only support me for one semester. This is fairly common and I knew from the beginning that I would have to switch families, but nonetheless it was sad to have to say goodbye.

Cake made especially for Christmas at the Yoshimura house the day before I left, and me freaking excited to eat said cake.


But I do have some good news; my new host family is amazing.

For that last three days I’ve been adjusting to the new rules of the house, the new customs. Like how I have to keep my room clean, and wake up at nine (NINE? There’s an AM of those?!) everyday even though I have a holiday. The order of bathing is different (in Japan, you take a shower and clean yourself and wash your hair etc first, and then afterwards you lay in the bathtub solely for relaxing and warming purposes. I used to always bathe first, but now I bathe second or third. I think five months ago it would’ve been gross to see the occasional hair floating past, but now I’m like, “Eh, it’s clean,” so it’s definitely not a big deal to not be first in the tub anymore), and of course the family is different.

First of all, in my first host family, there wasn’t really a father presence. He was a dentist so he left for work before I got up, and he came home from work shortly before I would go to bed (by the way, going to a bar with coworkers is considered, "part of the job," which is why most Japanese fathers don't come home until after nine or ten on work nights). We only really ever saw each other Sunday nights. But now, especially because it’s a holiday (New Years) and everyone has off, I’ve been seeing my new host dad very often. He’s great, easy to joke with, and although he’s a bit strict at time and teaches me a lot of words I don’t know (which can be frustrating when I get the pronunciation wrong), he seems like a great host dad.

Also, I have a host mom and a host BABY SISTER. Emphasis on the BABY because she’s only 15 months old. Before I didn’t have any siblings in the house at all, so I knew from the beginning this would be an amazing experience.

She does cute things on her own naturally. It's a gift.

The host sister’s name is Yukie, and she is so far the most well behaved baby I know. Sure, she gets grumpy when she can’t eat or sleep, but so do I, so that’s fair. The minute she saw me, she smiled and clapped her hands and not long after called me, “Ne ne,” which is short for, “Oneesan,” or “big sister,” in Japanese. When I have free time (which lately I haven’t, I’ll get on that in a minute), I play with her as often as I can.

The first few days were difficult to adjust to with my host parents, and my host mom is an actual mom (that is, she has a baby), so she spends almost all of her time with Yukie. Usually she works at a hair salon, and my host dad works at the family business, but since she has Yukie, the baby, she spends all of her time at home as of late. That’s pretty typical in Japan, I think; It’s not uncommon for a woman to quit or take a break from her job to spend time with her child. The mother-child bond is VERY important in Japanese culture. The dad works, the mom stays home with the kid. It’s not a sexist thing; it’s just the way it is. Women that want to work, do, and they figure out a way around becoming a housewife/full-time mom. Women that can and want to, stay home with the kid.

Host mom and Yukie smiling as big as they can!

Anyway, it took a few days of adjusting but I think I’m finally getting into the swing of things with this new family (and the bath buttons. Bathrooms here often have an intercom system, so that when I was trying to heat up the somewhat cool water, I accidentally called attention to my host mom like four times. Oops. It would help if I actually read Japanese before pushing buttons).

Picture into the living room from my bedroom across the hall. Funny story, I was going to post pictures of my new host family house and then my camera battery died. Whoops. So, you know, here's a photo. (Editor's note: Originally written as poto. Then phooto. So close.)

So, I’ll talk about what I’ve done lately!

On Christmas, I moved out of the Yoshimura residence and into the Yanase residence. Before unpacking my bags, we sat around and talked for about an hour and then we went over to my host father’s sister’s house. She has two kids; a daughter around 8 and a son around 6, and there was a Christmas tree and a lot of food and other relatives (host grandma and host grandpa, host uncle too), along with Christmas cake (!!!!) and a Wii (I played on the Wii with the youngest son for a while. I still got it!) and it was VERY Christmas-esque. I was glad. I had been worried that Christmas would pass uneventfully, but eating Christmas cake TWICE plus being in a family-environment was simply fantastic.

Amazing Christmas Cake with Hikaru, host-cousin, in the background.

On the 26th I didn’t do much of anything; I got up at nine (NINE, THOUGH) and ate breakfast, played with Yukie for an alarming four hours (without realizing it), helped host mom around the house with cleaning and dishes and such, nothing super eventful.

Great view of the city from the balcony, however. This was the morning it snowed (on the 29th of December. The snow was all gone within a few hours, however).

On the 27th, I went to the ward office to do official ward office things, like telling people I changed my address. Big stuff! Then I went to the grocery store with my host mom and I also went to Starbucks afterwards, because I wanted to use their wi-fi to get started on my new kindle (I WANT TO USE YOU, NEW KINDLE), because I need to use wi-fi but ONCE to be able to use it forever without wi-fi, but I couldn’t figure out the wi-fi system and it was all so very tiring. So I still can’t use my Kindle, is the short of it. I need to get that done so I can READ, DAMMIT.

Here's an unrelated picture taken near my old host family house, on the bike path that I took everyday, but on this particular occasion, took to get to the train station when I went to Ohsu Temple with the French and company.

On the 28th, yesterday, the cleaning began. New Years’ in Japan is equivalent to Christmas in America, only it’s BIGGR. The last days before the new year, lots of cleaning is done to enter the new year with a clean slate. There are certain customs, certain decorations, et cetera, that are placed, and everyone takes part. As previously mentioned host dad has off of work, because New Years’ is coming up. This goes for everyone. They usually have about a week off to prepare for the holiday (and they clean their workplace, too.)

Cleaning's getting started; host mom left, Valerie right.

And when I say “clean,” I mean CLEAN. From roof to floor. Wall to wall. NOTHING is left uncleaned. It’s like what America’s spring-cleaning is supposed to be, but times ten because everything is actually cleaned.

Me and Valerie ready for some cleaning! (Editor's note: Those things are just props, we used buckets and rags)

So Valerie, my French friend and also the exchange student that was staying with the Yanase family last semester, came over yesterday and we and my host mom cleaned while Yukie ran around being cute. I cleaned an entire table set (include Yukie’s chair, mind you), plus all the doors and doorframes in the house. Then we ate and hung out and I forget the rest but nothing eventful.

And TODAY, after waking up at 7:40 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) me, host mom, host dad, and Yukie went to meet Valerie at a café and we ate toast and drank coffee (I love you, coffee.) before heading over to host dad’s mom’s house, where Valerie and I got on our hands and knees and washed two flights of stairs, wall-to-wall, roof to floor, and then some. We ate some noodles and then went to a mall, WHERE I BOUGHT THE CUTEST SHOES EVERRRR, LET ME SHOW YOU:

If woman and shoes could marry, these would be the ones. That's why I'm posting this picture three times larger than it needs to be.

Actually for those of you who noticed (nobody, I’m talking to myself), yes they DO look like Kairi’s shoes in Kingdom Hearts 2! (Editor's note: I think? Picture for reference) :


That was part of (read: 40%) the incentive to buy them! But actually I love them and they’re comfortable and they will go with anything (I wanted to get pink ones but nothing actually matches pink, beige was DEFINITELY the better option, right? Right, totally). The kids played in the playroom, afterwards kids, Valerie, host dad, and I got some Starbucks and then we got home to eat Kushikatsu, otherwise known as pork cutlet on a stick. LOOOOOOOOOVE PORK CUTLET.

And then I took pictures and now I’m here!

Will definitely keep you updated on the upcoming events to be had for New Years; I’m so excited to be participating in such an important Japanese event!

Thanks for reading, see you soon!

P.S., in getting the internet cord so that I could post this (because host dad “forgot” the password to the wi-fi, which I think is a conspiracy to make me leave my room), I woke up Yukie and officially feel like a terrible person. Buuuuut maybe it’ll encourage host mom to tell host dad to “remember” the damn password.

Ohhh, she’s screaming now. I suck.

P.S.S., we also had a goodbye party for people that left Japan at the end of first semester over a week ago, and went to a bar/pub over a month ago, here's the pictures because what?

 I started this when I challenged Valerie to an arm-wrestling match, all hell broke loose.
There are more, but I am le tired.

P.S.S.S., here's pictures from when I went to the Aquarium with Yoshimura-host mom like two months ago and never posted pictures about it, too much fun! By the way, the whole time we were looking at fish and squid and jellyfish and whatever, Keiko was like, "Oh, that looks good. Yeah, we eat that. Oh, we should have that for dinner tomorrow!" etc. It was basically like being in a walk-in menu.

Japan does pretty sunsets often.

Dolphin show:

This adorable guy above was staring at me for a solid minute before I finally took out my camera to take a picture, only it was still on video mode so it took a video, and then he finally looked away. 
Dolphins being dolphins.

Beluga above, at first really ugly, but they're smart! Like, dolphin-smart!

Dolphin show clip! Ohhh, ahhh.

The dolphin bowed with the trainers, which for some reason blew my mind.

This is a beluga. It is at first hideous but it grows on you.

TEENY-TINY seahorses

TEENY-TINY jellyfish.

An eel, just chillin'.



Pretty! I think this was where I let a tiny crab or crawfish or SOMETHING crawl on me, which involved me going, "OkayokayokayokayokayokayoOKAYOKAYOKAYI'MDONENOW." It tickled for the first half second, and then it creeped me out. The guy standing nearby laughed.

These pictures actually turned out really well.

Lol. That face.

So far, no dancing penguins. Happy Feet has misled me.

Just a really cute mailbox outside of the aquarium, holding my fin-hand.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Trip To Saijo - Day 1 (Wedding and Onsen!)

Well HELLO. If you haven't left my blog due to feeling neglected, then it is nice to see you again. If you will not return to read my Japan-things, then good riddance.


Okay so I went to a wedding!

And I have a lot of pictures.

So to start, I guess I'll explain what was going on. I went to a wedding in Saijo on the southern island of Japan, called Shikoku. Above is a map of Japan (duh). The blue area, where it says, "Aichi," is where I live in Nagoya. Tokyo is also on the map for reference. And then on the pink south island, where you see "Ehime," is the prefecture I went to this weekend.

And it was amaaaazing.

Ayaka was the bride. I met her nearly three years ago when students from Saijo came to Menomonee Falls via our 2-week exchange program, and they went to Chicago and New York etc etc but they stayed with families in Menomonee Falls for two weeks. I didn't host Ayaka, my friend did, but we talked in school and eventually became pretty decent friends, and when she left I cried. It's kind of weird how close you can get to be with someone in such little time.

After that, we e-mailed (mostly in English), but as I got better at Japanese I started to type in Japanese. At any rate, about a month ago she told me she was getting married and she wanted me to come, and I was like, CHYEAH.

So here's the awesome part - they paid for everything. My plane ticket both ways, my food, even my souvenirs (some of which I didn't even need, but gratefully accepted anyway). Her parents were amazing.


I love planes.

So then Ayaka's family picked me up, we all (her, her two brothers, her parents and I) got in the car, went to a convenience store (have I mentioned conbini in my blog yet? Conbini is short for convenience stores, and they are everywhere. And that's an under-exaggeration. EVERYWHERE. And they have everything! Mostly everything. And they are very, as the name suggests, convenient.) and then drove to her village about 35 minutes away.

I forget the name of the village, but I pretty much fell in love with it right away. It's VERY Japanese-esque. Narrow roads, old wooden houses, stone gates, open fields, MOUNTAINS. Loved it. 

Well, why don't I just show you?

Here's the neighborhood as Ayaka and I walked around:

If the pictures seem a little pinkish, that is because when I dropped my camera three months ago it also started to favor the color pink. I think my camera's a girl. Anyway I never noticed but a friend pointed it out today and I was like, "Huh, I guess it is a little pink." Oh well. Ignore it.

Right, so that's basically how I've always pictured Japanese neighborhoods and when I got to Nagoya to see the very urban setting I was a little surprised. But this, this is what I am talking about. I love it there.

So we should probably see Ayaka's house! To see what it's like inside a REAL Japanese country-style home, you're very lucky. LET'S GOOOO~!

Just past the front door

Into the living room!

The bathroom. Which is outside, in a separate room from the house. SO JAPANESE. Very, very old-style. You only hear or see about that kind of stuff if you're talking about the days when people wore Kimono regularly. Like, a long time ago. Hundreds of years of styles ago.

The porch outside where Ayaka's laundry hung (she had asked Daisuke [now husband] to bring them inside, but alas, they were still up when I left 30 hours later)

Classic set-up right here; futon on the floor, huge, warm comforters. Which is a very good thing, which I'll explain in a second. The bed was where Aya and I slept (score).

Japanese-style closet.

Bathroom with a urinal, lol Japan. They never have the classic, "toilet-seat" problem that couples seem to have so often in America.


Here's Aya and her mom at the table (where they eat) underneath a kotatsu. Kotatsu are amazing, wonderful creations. It's a heated blanket under the table that keeps you warm while you're eating.

And on that note, why I was so happy about the thick comforters and the kotatsu. Traditional houses are freaking COLD. Which is what happens when you build houses out of wood, I suppose. No insulation. NONE. It is your living room, a piece of wood, and the outdoors, and save protecting you from the wind, it is basically like living outside. If I wanted to do that, I would live in a tent with Brooke in the woods like she wants to do with her life. Not I. So there are many ways to get warm in Japan; space heaters, big comforters, and the very helpful kotatsu. Once you go under one of those, you don't come back out. Or at least you don't want to.

So after I reluctantly got out from under the kotatsu, Daisuke came home and me, him, and Aya went to get some ramen.

The view outside the restaurant. Field, mountains, tree, it's NAAATURE. Which normally I hate but I love to look at it and the car had a really good heater so.

So then we went to where the wedding would be held!

The happy couple.

 It was cloudy but the sun was trying to come out!

 The hall outside where the reception was held.

So then began the pampering session. After briefly trying on the kimono and having it been decided that it would fit, I was whisked away to the hair room where a wonderfully talented woman put my hair up into a beautiful bun and topped it with a classic hair piece (the kind that looks like a small comb but has a flower on the broadside, so that when you place it in your hair all you see is the flower). 

It was then at that point I started to feel like it was my wedding, because not long after I was back in the dressing room, and two women were required to put on the kimono for me. Because it is absolutely impossible to do it on your own. And also because I'm obviously a princess.

There were three layers, essentially. One was a thin, white layer I wore over my undergarments. Next was a pink slip that looked just like the kimono above in shape, but had no decoration. And lastly was the kimono itself.

Then there was the obi, the sash around my middle. That, too, had three layers or so, underneath all of which was basically like a padding that they put there, "Because you have breasts!" they exclaimed in Japanese, a product that results due to me not being Japanese. It's essentially to give you a bit of a straight figure, I think. You're not supposed to look like you have a chest or hips. That seems counter-intuitive as a male-attracting device, but it did the work because when I walked across the hall, a group of 7 guys around my age stared at me, (like watched-me-until-they-had-to-turn-around-stare) and I blushed and giggled like a kimono girl would and just in general felt really pretty.

And if you were wondering, yeah, the sash totally constricts breathing ability. Pretty much no big breaths were done after I put the kimono on, but it was so worth it. 

My host mom told me afterwards that the long sleeves I had were like boy-attracting devices. As you can see in the first picture, they're super long (that's an older styler; they have shorter lengths as well, and some that have no length at all and are simply long sleeves that are a bit broad at the wrist) and you're supposed to kind of flash the sleeves at boys to attract them. Like a bird flapping its wing, in a way. If only she had told me this before-hand, I could have 7 Japanese boyfriends as I type this. Unfortunate.

But as it happens, this was not my wedding, it was Ayaka's and Daisuke's. And so let's continue!

Here they are outside the chapel built specifically for marrying purposes. And no, they aren't Christian, hardly anyone in Japan is, which is what makes the marrying tradition so fascinating. As my religions teacher said, Japanese people are born Shinto (there are Shinto traditions that are carried out upon birth), marry as Christians (in a church, by a priest), and die as Buddhists (Buddhist-themed funerals are the largest in Japan. Fun fact, Japan has the most expensive funerals in the world! Who knew). That said, the following is literally just for show and has no religious affiliation at all.

Which is actually a really interesting thing to talk about because in actuality getting married has nothing to do with religion. Like, until about yesterday I combined the two in my head indiscriminately. But to be married has everything to do with the government and nothing to do with religious beliefs. I think a lot of eye-opening things about religion have happened in Japan, for me. 

Like how the world is actually filled with atheists and in some countries that's neither rare at all, nor is it something people look down upon or tell you you're going to Hell for. But that will probably be something I never talk about here, because although anyone I talk to in Japan and most of the exchange students understand where I'm coming from, my readers are primarily American and some Christian and I fear I'd end up insulting people with my opinion on religion. AND ALSO THIS BLOG IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN so. If you're ever interested in my eye-opening experience with religion, feel free to ask me privately any time. :)

So anyway, Japanese people aren't Christian but pretend because they like white dresses and the idea of a wedding in a church. I like that about them.

But what I haven't mentioned yet is that I was the flower girl. WHAAAAT. Which is why I was dressed up in the kimono in the first place, because I was IIIN the wedding. There was a photographer so many pictures were taken, and once Aya's family sends them to me, I will of course, share them here. 

I swear I was the most nervous of them all, though. It was freezing outside and I was convinced I was going to trip or walk too fast or mess up somehow. But it went smoothly. The doors where Aya, her father and I waited outside (the picture above) opened, I stepped forward and bowed, and then I walked slowly up to where the groom and priest waited, reaching into my basket and dropped flower petals along the way.

After, as I sat and tried to slow my heartbeat, the ceremony progressed. Most of the ceremony was in Japanese, including the, "Even in sickness," part.
But then:

Aww. (You probably appreciate the fancy vertical flair I do at the end where I turn the camera forgetting the image doesn't turn with it, pretty fancy stuff)

Now husband and wife.

I threw dry rice and confetti! Yeah, they do that here. 

Pretty lights and looking happy.

Aya changed out of her wedding dress and into a kimono. She looked gorgeous the whole night. And note, there are still two MORE dresses after this one.

And before this picture was taken, I gave the toast. The TOAST. In Japanese. What an experience. It was mostly me repeating the phrase in my head over and over until finally the announcer called my name and I got up from my table, shuffled (walking in a kimono is kind of impossible that way) my way to the stage where a microphone waited for me, and said:

だいすけさんとあやかさん:おめでとうございます! 末永くお幸せに。では、かんぱい!
Daisuke-san to Ayaka-san. Suenagaku Oshiawaseni. Dewa, kanpai!
Daisuke and Ayaka: Congratulations! May you be happy for a very long time to come. Well then, cheers!

And everyone raised their glasses and we drank and people clapped and I bowed like I had overcome a dragon. Which in fact I had, because I was worried about mis-pronouncing one of their names (I hang out with Ayame a lot and I was super worried about me just slipping and saying Ayame instead of Ayaka the whole trip), or accidentally saying something inappropriate, ("May you break up before children are involved,") but all went well and I was thanked afterwards for getting up and being brave and I felt good.

Here's dress number three as they cut the cake!

Freaking gorgeous, honestly. I'm just blown away at how amazing she looked. And that dress! Whaaat!

Now the important part: The food!
This was called a "salad," but it was mostly raw fish and squid, some vegetables and fruit and a dandelion (?) (Didn't eat that, though I know from The Hunger Games that I could) and an unidentified yogurt-thing that I thought was like liquified tofu but I forgot what it actually was. I thought it tasted all right but everyone Japanese hated it.

There was a plate of cooked fish before this, and then steak!

Drink number four. Was surprisingly not tipsy at all. And slightly disappointed. And then I had to go to the bathroom and I was like, "In a KIMONO, though?" It's a bit constricting and the layers and the IMPOSSIBILITIES. But as it happens you just separate the skirts one layer at a time and you can get it done.

You wanted to know that, right?

Right and then dessert!

Me with Aya's father. He was always fun to talk to, and both he and Aya's mom asked me a lot of things about myself and in general made me feel really comfortable. It was great joking and laughing with them, they seem like really great people and I hope I get to go back to Saijo before I go back to America.

Here I am with Ayaka's mother and grandfather. Her grandfather was so smiley! I didn't get to talk with him long but he was really nice. And of course Aya's mother was amazing and kind as well.

One of Aya's older brothers and me. He asked for a picture even though we hardly said a word to each other the entire stay. Lol, funny.

Dress number four and a funny story.

So throughout this whole thing, before the marriage and afterwards, I would ask Ayaka's parents once in a while, "Soo, how're you doing?" because, damn, her 19-year old daughter is getting married and it's the start of all kinds of lives being separated and stitched together and basically what I imagine as an emotional rollercoaster. 

So after the wedding I was like, "How're you doing?" to Ayaka's mom. Now, there's my mom, the woman who cried for over an hour (the amount of time it takes to get from Madison to Menomonee Falls) after she and my dad dropped me off for my first year in college, and also the same woman who cried for the entire car-ride home from Chicago when my parents dropped me off at the airport to come to Japan (that's closer to three hours). So if it were my mom I imagine we'll have to bring a kiddy pool to hold her tears on my wedding day. 

But Ayaka's mom was like, "Oh, I'm okay." And I was kind of surprised, like, "Really?" and she was like, "Yes, mothers are strong." And I was like, "Yeah, okay, robot," all accusing-like in my head because I have this ongoing theory that due to the lack of expression of emotion and love in Japan that I'm actually surrounded by robots and Japan hasn't seen the human race in over two hundred years.

Right, so anyway, when this picture was taken Ayaka had just finished her speech. It's a speech all new brides make at a Japanese wedding, where they thank their parents for raising them and allowing them to become the person they had, thanking them for everything they'd ever done, et cetera. Basically, it's the part where everyone cries.

So Ayaka's mom finally cried and I cried and everyone at the table cried and not even the strongest of men is strong enough for that kind of talk so Ayaka's father teared up too, and I was like, "I am so not doing something like this at my wedding." Think of the make-up. 

But it was touching and I was relieved to find out I wouldn't be sleeping in a neighborhood filled with robots.

So some more pictures!

Afterwards, because Ayaka and Daisuke hadn't eaten the whole night, we all changed our clothes and the groom and bride ate.

Right, so AFTERWARDS is something I have no pictures for because I went to an onsen; a Japanese hot spring/spa.

So here's the thing about Japan hot springs. It's basically like a public-bathing spot. Hot pools of water inside and outside a Japanese-style inn, basically awesome wooden hot tubs with spouts that pour water into the tubs that are surrounded by black stones you find at shrines. Because I read some manga and watched some anime when I was in middle-school, I thought that you have the option of wearing a towel around your body as you bathe, but guess what?

Everyone's naked. That's right, you go to a giant hot tub party with strangers and get naked and sit in hot water. But here's the thing; you go with your friends. And family. And you sit and chat and shoot the breeze while you sit in hot water, everyone naked. Like a nude hot tub party where everyone's the same gender. (If you're wondering, the reason everyone was wearing towels in the manga or anime I had read and seen was BECAUSE of the fact that they were manga, anime, and movies and that's how things are censored in a non-obvious way. Same goes for TV shows where people try out hot springs and such [which was how I found out about the nude-factor in the first place, when I was watching TV with my host mom])

Which, I can see how being naked among friends and strangers is not an appealing idea with my American brain, but actually that sounds great right now.

At first, as we stood in the locker room and Ayaka and her mother stripped down (Yeah, no. Yeah, though. People of all ages in Japanese hot springs), I stood tentatively in front of my locker, staring with a hard gaze at nothing. 

I had overcome my self-consciousness around the age of 17 where I decided to start pretending not to give a damn about what other people thought of me, so it wasn't really that, but it was just me hesitating. The way I did before I ate raw octopus and squid for the first time, the way I paused as I stared at the raw egg in my pasta or soup, the way I pause any time before trying something new in Japan.

But here's the thing: I always end up doing the thing I'm about to do. I had decided long before I came to Japan (pretty much the minute I got accepted last December) that no matter what I would try everything. EVERYTHING. And that method hasn't failed me so far, so after my pause of contemplation and tentative thought, the clothes came off and we went to the showers.

I didn't look at anyone, was the basic strategy. When I talked with Ayaka and her mom as we sat in the hot springs, I looked at their faces as I normally would during conversation, which turned out to be easier than expected. When we walked from tub to tub (there were varying temperatures and Aya and I wanted to try out the outside tubs as well), I knew I was probably being stared at (being naked probably only encourages that out of people) but as I was ignoring everyone, I can't say for sure. 

And anyway, I decided that acting all embarrassed and looking awkward and trying to cover myself up would be more embarrassing than pretending not to care, and eventually I did come to not care.

Can't emphasize that enough.

In the end it felt very freeing and it made me feel great for having participated in Japanese culture. And this is seriously TRUE Japanese culture because people going to hot springs together and talking has been something they've been doing for ages. Like, at least a thousand years, if I'm remembering correctly. A THOUSAND years?! That's my life span times 50! Who am I to judge such a historic culture, anyway? Japanese people would tell stories and have feasts in the hot springs, while soaking in hot water. 

And anyway, even when my eyes did inevitably scan the area, I was like, "Yep, we're all people." We all have bodies and this is our natural state, anyway. Baby, I was born this way, kind of talk. The fact that we wear clothes at all is super weird if you think about it hard enough. Like, we came out of our mother's vagina and the first thing that's done is that our bodies get wrapped up in a towel, and later in clothes? What the hell? If anything the most disgusting part of that is the birthing part, not the fact that we come out naked.

I've started to think about it too hard again and now I think we should all be naked. 

And that was just a single day! I stayed overnight and we had plenty of adventure the next day as well, so I will update that shortly! This post is long enough. Look forward to the next one and I'll see you then! (: