Thursday, November 5, 2009
I used to feel that the world was incredibly unfair (in some ways, it probably is, but I'm not really sure how to measure that accurately), that I'd been given a bad hand, and when people hurt me and I got upset, they just didn't get it. All of that is true to a point . . . but, I also never knew when to let go and give up before I got too hurt, and if I only had . . . how much hurt and anger and darkness could have been avoided? How much lighter would my soul be now?
It's been a problem throughout my life that I think stems from the lack of control I had growing up to make my own choices. Some of the time that was just parents doing parenting, but other times it was just plain abusive. All I wanted in my life was to feel loved and to be free to make my own choices. That sounds simple, but it really isn't.
In a way, it became a desire to control the situation too much, even though I never thought of it like that. My intentions were always good, like, "If I stay by her side, she'll see that I'm her good friend someday," or, "I don't have to put up with these people breaking the law right in front of me; someone should stand up to them!" And finally, "The ethics in this workplace are such a mess! And people are doing horrible things. I should try to fight it!" The only ones I did right was, "This is a horrible place for me to live, so I'm going to get out of here," and "Wow, this professor is doing crazy stuff; I'm out of here!" The lesson that I didn't really learn was that I needed to run away, to let it go.
I didn't want to allow people to hurt me anymore, or to chase me away, though, so I was really stupid and bullheaded about it. What a waste of my life, though! I would have been happier if I had left! Stupid pride! Time and time again, trying to "hold on" and "stick through it" really weren't the best options for me. Okay, I grew up looking to big heroes, so I had this notion that I could help, that I could change things. Reality check: I can't change people! I knew that in my head, but thought if I gave it my all, I could still plant the seed of change perhaps. I thought if I did all the right things and worked hard, then I could set a good example, make a difference, show people that there's another way.
So, why does that make me a horrible person? Well, if you hang on to something, and hang on to it, and hang on to it, eventually you get really worn from hanging on. There starts to be strain, but it's so gradual and because you've never truly let go, you don't even notice what's happening to you. That's what happened to me at my last job. There was one day when I couldn't take, in my heart, how I was being treated anymore. I came in early, left late, and even came in on the weekends (without pay). I worked overtime and got no lunch at the time. Yet, my boss was purposefully sabotaging my work because, as she said back then, "I thought she didn't care enough." I wanted to quit so bad, but convinced myself that I had to stay, that I had no choice, because I was scared of losing the financial stability. And, when I went to HR, they sort of fixed it . . . but, this is where the corruption seeped in. I knew I couldn't trust my boss again. I would always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. How could I know she wasn't lying? I was going to be paranoid until my last day, and my reason for staying ultimately became not the finances, but trying to prove that I could survive her, that I could survive everyone else's drama, and basically fight back. :( That is so the wrong reason to stay someplace!
Over the years, I didn't even notice how angry I was becoming. I didn't even really know when I threatened to quit some months back. At that point, they knew I wasn't happy, obviously, and even after the problems were fixed, I think my performance was colored by the intense dissatisfaction of them knowing that I had even considered leaving. I knew my time was ticking down, but still tried to convince myself that I could hang on, that I would be okay . . . but in the end, it was horrible for me, and I lost my job on the 3rd. I don't regret being asked to leave because I was clearly unhappy (though, I am pretty shocked to find out what my current boss thought of me, because she never gave me any warning whatsoever . . . I've been concerned for a while that she lies or exaggerates things, though, so I should have known better; so much for trying to see the best in people, eh?), but I regret that I didn't quit sooner. I regret that I allowed myself to get so wrapped up in trying to fix something that clearly can't be fixed. Whenever I made suggestions, my words got twisted, so it truly was pointless. And, I regret that I spent so much time upset and unhappy when it could have been changed. I mean, now I have phone call after phone call of people who want to hire me, so clearly finances wouldn't have been a problem. And all of this corrupted me, left me angry, made it horrible for me at work and at home . . . I became a very, very ugly person!
I've never liked letting go. When I was little, I knew many people who died, most of them without me having a chance to say good-bye to them. There was even one very important person that I wish I could reconnect with, but probably will never be able to. When you're forced to let things go, to give up, it makes you that much more determined to never let go . . . Like I said, I just wanted to be loved (and to share my love). All good intentions, but not all good actions and results unfortunately. I've been gradually learning , but this was like the biggest bonk on the head ever, like, "STOP IT AND LEARN TO LET THINGS GO!" So, now I have. To the point where I've even asked Terinati to promise that if he sees me getting really upset about something, he'll let me know that he sees it and ask me to let it go. I never want to say to myself again, "If I'd just quit back then," or "If I'd just let her leave me behind," or "If I'd just cried, felt hurt for a while, and then moved on . . ." I've been so scared of taking that risk, that I would regret not holding on, that I'd be giving up when I shouldn't be, that I'd be a failure . . . But after seeing the damage it can do to my personality . . . Holy crap! I don't want to be a horrible person!
So, I apologize to anyone I let down or hurt along the way. It was never my intention. And to all those people who also posted their confessions online, thank you for letting me know I'm not completely alone in my remorse. I knew that I wasn't, but it's another thing to see the words written down. At any rate, now I have a new path open in front of me, and I'm excited (and scared) to go down it. However, this is the best opportunity I could ask for, and I think Fate is smiling at me and just trying to lead me (albeit a bit forcefully) in the right direction because I was too much of a coward to do it myself. From now on, I'm going to take more risks and be willing to let more things go. All holding on will do is hurt me, and make me hurt others. I have to believe that I can overcome that. So, a cheer to all of us who are making an effort to not be the horrible people we fear are inside each of us.
Friday, August 7, 2009
And, drama and justice are kind of what I feel like talking about. I often don't like talking about these things and try to keep my woes to myself because I feel like it is a horrible burden to lay on others. It is bad enough that Terinati often has to hear me out, very affectionately I may add, but I also generally don't like spreading negativity. It doesn't do anyone any good. There are only two reasons I talk about problems: 1.) to sort it out for myself so that I can come to terms with whatever the resolution will be, and 2.) to attempt resolution.
To me, a resolution should involve justice. It seems that many people have different ideas about what that is, and it's kind of scary to look at, especially when you're studying creepy behavior patterns in social psychology at the same time. To me, it's being fair and reasonable. You can't have a true resolution without it. If you solve a problem based on someone else's lies, it's bound to fall apart eventually, and if you solve a problem by not communicating, then assumptions are going to be made that are hurtful (intrapersonal conflict is the source of most problems, I think).
But what about the people working against justice? I'm not about to say how much I hate you or what horrible people you are, but . . . what I do feel is that I don't understand you. Why is it better to continue a fight, just because you've lost? Why is it better to fight at all? Why are there some of you who don't want to work things out? Why on earth would you not want to resolve things? Why be hurtful?
Actually, I know a lot of the reasons. I've been reading about them for months now in my classes. But, it's still hard for me to accept because I can't be that way, even with years of experience witnessing it firsthand. It occurred to me a few days ago that this has been a constant in my life, to be attacked in one way or another by someone, or a few people at once from different sides. Sometimes it's not an attack, but abandonment for reasons beyond understanding, but that can hurt just as badly. The only thing that has changed is me realizing that I didn't do anything to deserve it after all, nothing I do to change will change how the other parties feel about me because they've made up their minds and are ignoring the facts on top of refusing to communicate to find a solution, and that all I can do is be assertive when I need to be. I'm doing the best I can in life, and that's all I can do. (Do other people go through this? I haven't really met anyone who has, or has been open enough to talk about it.)
And yet, that kind of justice is unsatisfying. The hero in these stories (not just me; I've watched others suffer too) is often quiet when first attacked because they want to give a chance, or see that there is the potential for this person to not be the villain they seem to be. "Don't jump to conclusions, even when all of the facts line up!"
I actually had this problem with a video game I played with my friend Athena, once. Colonel's Bequest. Spoiler warning, in case you want to find this old game and play it 'cause you haven't already (and I think you should! Loved it!)!! Anyway, your best friend is Lillian, and the only reason you get tied up in the mess is because of her. Throughout the game, I thought of her like I would my real life best friend, someone I wanted to protect and felt sorry for . . . when suddenly Athena turns to me and says, "I think she's the killer." I was like, "What? No, that can't be. They're best friends!" Athena kind of went quiet, and I knew she was thinking, "Um, hello?" but she's nice and didn't tell me how dumb I was to my face because we're friends. I mean, people had been talking about Lillian being crazy, the shadow outline even looks like her outline (amongst other clues, like the pink feathers), and now she's sitting in a playhouse with a chalkboard that has a count that matches the number of people who died . . . Yep, totally innocent! :} Keep in mind, I was much younger then, and still very naive about many people! Sure enough, Lillian had been killing off everyone, up to the end when she was killed herself. I wasn't upset that Athena was right, but I still didn't want it to be true. I think all good people are that way sometimes (not to say Athena isn't a good person; she is, most definitely, but she was seeing the facts more clearly than me that day!), but I'm that way all of the time, so I hate seeking justice because then I have to see and often times portray someone in a bad light.
Meanwhile, the villains in these tales tend to see perceived slights that never happen, and because this is the case there is little one can do to fight it; these nonexistant problems don't stop them from making the biggest deal out of nothing at all. How do you fight an imaginary monster that's attacking you? It certainly doesn't give you much to say about it. Imagine being summoned to your HR office and being accused of something that never even occurred to you could be done. The shock is genuine, but, for someone like me who is frequently speechless in front of people who aren't my friends (or online), it looks like the shock and guilt of someone who's been found out.
Thankfully, I've gone beyond this and manage to have a few words, even if they are stupid ones. :} I'm sure I'm not the only person who's been there, though I think most people handle it more gracefully than myself. But, as I walk out the door, or my boss walks away from me, or I finish reading the e-mail, or get off the phone . . . whatever the case may be, I'm left thinking, Why didn't this person just talk to me? This could have been worked out. I'm a sap; I want to get along with everyone. You know that cute little girl who even prison inmates want to be friends with in old 50's shows? A little carrier of joy and happiness, the one who the lion won't even eat because she's so precious? I think somewhere deep down, I want that to be me. :}
Unfortunately, it can't be worked out in those situations, and that will never be me because it doesn't matter what I see, but what others do. Some people won't let go until someone falls in the process. It's really tragic, but that's the way these stories go, isn't it? Either the hero has to win or they have to lose, and the villain will either be left still thinking they were treated unfairly or they'll feel luxurious and cocky in their victory. Where is the justice in either of those?
I don't think there is any. For the person who takes joy in taking someone else go down, I'll admit I'm repulsed by that. I've never felt that way. Thought someone probably deserved something, sure, but never felt happy about it. Even when the hero wins, it's bitter-sweet because something is lost at the same time; good heroes know this.
I don't think justice can exist. The very notion of it defies itself, at least in my imagination. Revenge seems very real, but I'm not partial to that, either. :} Justice through punishment is just another way of commiting revenge and making it sound pretty. Depending on your culture and such, maybe that's the right way for you. For me, I still dream of living in a happy neighborhood with a bunch of kind people, friends included, where we stand up for each other and help each other when needed and make each other smile every day. I fantasize about being able to talk to people as frankly as I do my husband and my best friend, without fear. If there's a problem, we can talk it out. I've been called an idealist, told that I'm naive, but what's so bad about that? Maybe my world wouldn't create justice for those who commit crimes and go out of their way to hurt others . . . but it would be happier, just the same. It's what many people hint at wanting. Things wouldn't have to be perfect; life is more interesting with obstacles to overcome, things to challenge us. But being hurt and hurting other people? That I can do without.
So, to the people who are waging war on me (and others like me), who I know don't even know me well enough to know that this blog exists . . . I refuse to play your game with you, as I have always. Sling your mud, hate and talk about me behind my back all you please, and for a change I'll see you for how you really are. But, I still don't want to be anything like you. I'll stand up for myself, but I'm not going to fight back like that. And, I feel sad and sorry for you for not seeing that it's wrong to hurt people, to take away their sunshine; cruel words can be just as bad as physical abuse, and having experienced both for decades at a time, I can honestly say that the words are worse. Life is too short for unhappiness, especially to be the one causing it.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I gained confidence. When you have to do everything for yourself, when you can't get any reflective feedback from anyone, you have to trust yourself. Well, I guess you don't have to, but the other option is too dismal for me to even consider. I learned long ago that if I sit afraid and waited, no one would save me. I'm the kind of princess who rescues herself; too impatient for princes. My prince may be too impatient for that kind of princess, too. ;)
When I came back, I was afraid of losing this great sense of self. I had always been afraid in the past of not being humble. Humility is one of those values that I learned about early in life, and while I had been pretty confident growing up about certain things, I was a pretty weak, scared individual deep inside. It's easy to doubt oneself, isn't it? I kept thinking, "If I'm doing the right things, then why does bad stuff keep happening to me?" Some of it was my fault (not letting go of friends who were horrible to me while ignoring the ones who needed me more; sorry about that! I was young and stupid!), and some of it was beyond my control. My negotiation and conflict course helped me to see that, and it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I can't blame myself for everything that goes wrong, and I am doing my best. But, I didn't know that for so long.
I was so afraid of being full of pride and becoming arrogant that the need to be humble became a sickening low self-esteem problem. I couldn't let myself feel good because if I did, I was being too arrogant. "No one is that good," I'd tell myself, or I'd explain that the situation made me great, not me myself. There is a fine line between humility and self-depreciation, and I didn't get that. Now I do.
And, thank goodness, too! I'm just getting into my second week of class and I dropped one of them yesterday. The me from a year ago would have been too scared to. I would have told myself that the professor must be right, because he's the professor. I would have taken the fact that he wasn't listening to me (or anyone else in the class) and made it out to be somehow my own fault. Even though there was tons of evidence that, despite great credentials and knowledge, he was a bad teacher, I would have talked myself out of standing up for myself. Finally, I would have told myself that no one would believe it was that bad, that they would tell me I'm being immature and complaining, that this is accepted behavior for a professional.
The me that just got back from Japan has realized her own self-worth. Not only did I stand up for myself in the class and to the Dean, but I posted in the discussion boards and stood up for the rest of the students, too. It was strangely fulfilling, to acknowledge that I'm smart (not a genius, but I know when I've done the work I was told to do and you change the rules halfway through the assignment; you can't make me believe that I'm ignorant after I read and reread the boards three or four times!), that my money toward the class has meaning to me, and that we all deserve better.
I didn't even realize how stressed out with the class I was until today. The immense relief of knowing that I wouldn't have to try and convince some guy out there that I was someone worthy is incredible. I had been so irritable, so unhappy! I feel glad for the students that I helped, and I feel sorry for the students who haven't realized that they deserve better. Sure, the teacher could have been worse, but that doesn't mean that we should deal with a mostly-bad situation anyway. And, the humility is still there. I admit that I don't know why he did what he did, what the circumstances were, and I even feel a little sorry for him. Perhaps he had been given the wrong impression about the course and how it was supposed to go. I really don't know. Feeling that little tinge of guilt/sorrow for him, even knowing that I did the right thing, is what reminds me that I haven't crossed the line into being arrogant. I know that I and my classmates were being hurt (all you had to do was read their many posts), so unfortunately his pride was his undoing.
I have to wonder . . . how many people suffer because of this? How many people have been abused and are afraid to stand up for themselves, not only because they think they may have done something to deserve it (the myth that there is a right answer to everything, so you must have just missed the que or done something wrong), but because they refuse to allow themselves to believe that they are good enough to get out of it? It's frightening! I want to run out into the street and shout, "Stop it! You don't have to put up with bad treatment!" . . . But, even when you try to support some people escaping bad treatment, you can't save them. In the end, we all have to save ourselves at least a little bit; no one else can save a person completely.
It also makes me think about rules in employment that make it difficult to fire someone when they're doing a horrible job and tormenting people while they're at it. Perhaps it isn't as bad as it seems and it's just that I've seen far too many HR departments who are scared of pulling the trigger too soon. Don't get me wrong; everyone deserves a fair chance. It's just . . . well, doesn't it seem like the good guys always give the bad guys way too many second chances to redeem themselves? Despite the prolonged torture and distrust it breeds?
Anyway, the last thing this made me think of is that illusion that I had when I was really young, one that seems common amongst many of my friends. I had this impression that the Adults knew everything. I thought, Someday, I'll be one of them, and I'll know everything, too! And then, as you get older, you start wondering what it will feel like to be "grown up," even though in a rebellious age, you may second-guess everything that they tell you. Those are just the bad Adults, right? ;) And yet, despite going through that, I still felt insecure around the Adults when I started working at every job that I've had. It didn't matter how I dazzled people with my computer know-how or the way I'd create new, innovative ways to solve problems; I felt insecure around them. It was as if I was waiting for someone to announce that I was one of them, an Adult. I think we're all waiting for that at some point in our lives, to be treated like an Adult so that we know that we are one.
I realized two things:
1.) Adults are not as smart as I thought. :} In fact, some of them are more immature than any of the children I grew up with! On a daily basis, I look at some of the people I work with or see in the news and go, "OMG, I don't get it! Why are you behaving that way?!" They're inefficient, lazy, and purposefully go out of their way to not learn anything. That's not to say that I don't know any other smart people, because I know plenty of folks who know things that I just can't get, but no one "Adult" knows it all. They're just like children, only bigger! I'll be learning until the day I die!! :} AHHH!
2.) No one is going to crown you an Adult and give you all the rights and priveledges that they seem to have. You have to take it, and then people think, "Oh, (your name here)
So, I've taken my title. I still think of myself as young and enjoy it, but to those who think they can trample all over me, I have my Adult badge on, and it scares more people than you'd think! I guess I'm talking about cheesy, self-empowerment here, but I think it's important that someone says it this way. Someone else may have already said it before and I just didn't get the memo, but this is huge to me. I think this is something my brother tried to teach me a long time ago, but it didn't sink in as well as I'd thought it had: Whatever it is that you're waiting to be, all you have to do is be it. Believe it, and do it.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The below was written from Canada while we were laid over yesterday.
Our final days in Japan were hard for me. Despite initially feeling anxious and concerned about how I would do in Japan at the beginning of the trip, by the end I was feeling very comfortable in Japan. And, even with reminding myself of the things our countries have in common and what's missing from Japan, I found it difficult to start our trip back.
Our hostess in Miyajima was very sweet, even when she had to prepare breakfast for us extremely early in the morning so that we could leave for Tokyo as soon as possible. She took a picture of us to remember us by; I think I will send her a post card once we return to the states to thank her for her hospitality. I don't think I've ever slept as well as I did on her futons, and it was fun to practice my Japanese with her.
As we rode the first train back to Hiroshima, I started to cry. I didn't mean to, and I knew it wouldn't help anything, but I definitely don't feel done with Japan yet. In fact, being there only inspired me more. And, from a honeymoon perspective, Terinati and I are even closer than before. We learned a lot about each other and I think we trust each other even more than we did before. We worked well as a team, getting each other around and listening to each other's needs. It started out rough, but only got better and better as things went along.
I pondered a lot of things on the trip back, like how I want to study even more Japanese when I return, the things I would miss, and all that we went through. By then, we had 302 photos to upload to Flickr and 2 small videos, along with many other souvenirs and inexpressible memories.
So, in that line of thought, some things I learned while I was in Japan!
New favorite foods: cinnamon and red bean ice cream, okonomiyaki, English-style in the pretty little teacups, tempura momiji, and many eggplant dishes, including spaghetti with eggplant and bacon.
Insightful thoughts: When I couldn't understand what people thought of us for sure, it became easier to be myself, and I was happier. I know I shouldn't care what other people think, but now I feel even less scared of the consequences. They maybe bad sometimes, but I do my best and I have someone who supports me. I am coming back to America looking at it and its people in an entirely different way. I think it's healthier.
Cleanliness: America is really gross. We could learn a lot from the Japanese. However, I'm glad to have the resources available to me to wash my hands again after using the restroom. :}
Green Tea and Kit Kats: If you love Green Tea, you can find anything Green Tea flavored in Japan, from ice cream to chocolates, even Kit Kats. In fact, Kit Kats come in a bizarre variety of flavors in Japan, including Soy Sauce, Apple Vinegar, Caramel, Vanilla Lemon, and Green Tea. Those are just the ones that I saw, and I suspect there are more. I didn't care for apple vinegar, but caramel and vanilla lemon were alright. I have a green tea variety in my bag to try later. But, again, if you love Green Tea, I don't think there's a tasty treat you can't find in Japan that comes in Green Tea flavor. It must be quite popular!
Video Games and Cutesy Things: Video games are, at least environmentally speaking, much like being in Japan, especially the RPGs. The music in the inns, particularly the old Final Fantasy stuff by Nobuo Uematsu, is just like what they play when they prepare breakfast in the morning, be it Japanese or English-style meals. Video games seem to come to life in Japan, with its incredible style, people, and atmosphere. Also, everywhere you go, you can find somewhere cute, even in places that seem extremely serious. I think this makes Japan a more happy place. Perhaps the U.S. could use more cuteness! Speaking of, why have I never seen Yoshikitty in America and just Hello Kitty?! Yoshi Kitty is so much COOLER! :}
Japanese Hotels: They provide you with just about everything. In every hotel, we were given toothbrushes and toothpaste, fresh every day. However, I found that I preferred my own toothpaste after a while because the hotel toothpastes just didn't cut it. There was also always towels, body soap, and shampoo. However, conditioner was sometimes combined with shampoo, and girls with hair like mine will need to bring their own conditioner. Also, every hotel we stayed at provided either a bathrobe or a yukata (the modern style, not the ones that take forever to put on), so there's a lot you can leave out of your luggage; traveling in Japan is convenient because the hotels are excellent in this way and a lot of traveling signs are printed in English.
There's so much more, but I've been awake for about 22 hours now (trying to kill jet lag before I get back to the states; we're laid over in Canada without internet as I write this up) and I just can't think of it all.
Anyway, when we got back to Tokyo after traveling nearly all day, it was raining pretty hard. It matched my mood, but was okay because I wanted to blog and upload photos from the previous days anyway. It was sad, though, having our final meals. The regular bed that night was not as comfy as the futon, and the cake just seemed bittersweet when I thought of returning to our apartment and our previous lives.
We made the most of the Shinjuku district, where we stayed our final night in Japan, even though it was pretty rowdy and relatively filthy compared to everywhere else we'd been in Japan thus far. We saw obvious hookers, love hotels, and other stuff inappropriate for minors very much in plain sight. I was kind of like, “Whoah!” but . . . it's not like everyone doesn't know that someone uses those services, so it wasn't really a big deal. It was just weird to see it. The night life in Shinjuku was mostly in rowdy, loud gaming centers that often were full of smokers. We did go in to one to use the restroom and saw the most AMAZING game player just doing his thing, blowing the game away . . . It was like guitar hero for your hands, but there were so many more buttons and the speed at which he played, perfectly, blew my mind. I wanted to give him applause, but really Terinati and I felt embarrassed for gawking when he had finished. His girlfriend seemed pretty proud, though!
One thing that saddened me was seeing homeless people in the street. They were just sleeping there, a few of them inside cardboard boxes, and some of them only with something to lay on to separate them from the street . . . and everyone just walked around them like they weren't there. 100% of the homeless people we saw there didn't even have a shirt to wear, and were older men. My heart felt for them, but at the same time I reminded myself that perhaps they had put themselves in that situation. Still, to pretend they weren't there was impossible for me. It was just too sad to see someone cramming themselves desperately into a large bundle of cardboard boxes to go to sleep at night. The stray cats there weren't pretty either; I'm guessing food on the street is slim pickings when it's a clean place like Japan.
We finally found a Mos Burgers, but it was pretty much the same as the Lotteria restaurant we'd found in Hiroshima. Still, I was pleased we had found one in Tokyo, just so that we could say that we had been there. :)
After stuffing ourselves, we went to bed. It was hard for me at first, because the night life went on long after we returned. It was also strange because we didn't find out until that night that all the news showing pictures of Michael Jackson were talking about the fact that he had died! Whoah! Had he been sick for a while? What happened? We still don't really know, as we probably won't be in the loop until we're home again, and it's just weird. I mean, I was only a kid when he was really big and the 3-D feature of Michael Jackson appeared in Disneyland in Los Angeles. He's not that old, is he? I guess, “was” he is more appropriate, but it still seems hard to believe. Weird!
For our trip back to the airport, we had reserved seats on a bus “limousine”. It was big for Japanese buses, but pretty average size for our buses in the states. It was a nice trip, and I spent so much time just admiring how beautiful the trees are, so green and lush, much like the rice fields we passed so often. It's like magic, how beautiful and vibrant they are; I've never seen anything that kind of lively green in America.
But then, it was over. We were in the airport terminal, spending the last of our yen on some Maneki Neko chop stick holders and music I heard playing and candies, and the rest we have now exchanged back to dollars. We really have to thank those who paid to dance with us at the wedding; your money paid for our meals and other expenses while in Japan that weren't initially covered. We wouldn't have had such a relaxing time if it weren't for you! We had been planning on having to really scrimp the whole time, but because of our loved friends and family, we were able to have a real honeymoon. Thank you so much!
I know I'm only in Canada and there is still some traveling left to go, but I guess I feel that things are now over. Terinati is falling asleep at the table we're sitting at, and the line is getting long in the cafe where we sit, so I should finish here and make some space for other people. Only two more hours until we're on the next plane headed to America. I miss Japan, but Terinati has promised me that we will return there someday. I'm holding him to it! In the meantime, it's back to my ordinary life. I hope my blog has helped other potential travelers headed in that direction! . . . * sigh * I hate endings, but without them there are no new beginnings.
So, with that, I say a final sayonara (at least, for now), to Japan. I miss you!! :( . . . Sayonara.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27th, 2009. 7:28pm Japan Time.
This morning, it was so difficult to wake up. The futon, so cushy, so seductive, keeping me in bed until I knew if I waited any longer I would miss breakfast. It's a fasting day, but my days in Japan are growing fewer and fewer, so I want to experience more and more.
Today, we got up and had an excellent English breakfast on the first floor of our inn. Yum! The only thing I didn't partake of was the coffee, though I had my first taste ever. It's disgusting. :} I find it baffling that two of the biggest industries for drinks (so big that they are international), are for things that taste horrible (beer and coffee, though soda is understandable despite having obvious nutrient issues). Ah well! I guess it's just not for me. :}
So, we set out to explore Miyajima, which is awake very early in the morning. First, we returned to all of the closed shops and explored. Unfortunately for me, Miyajima is full of delicious foods. I had a taste of various things, but did my best not to partake too much (I don't want to make myself sick! . . . or fat :p ). Terinati really wanted some maple leaf shaped baked goods with filling (I think they're called momiji, but I could be wrong because I keep forgetting :} ). He tried some with red bean inside and with chocolate filling, and we ended up buying a box with chocolate filling. I'm sure they will be tastier than the sesame ice cream I tried yesterday (it's not horrible like it sounds, though!). Then, we found a most popular item, deep fried momiji! People lined up, had to take numbers! Terinati only purchased one, and I took one bite and regretted very much that it was fasting day. If it wasn't, I would have eaten five of them. :} In the end, I'm glad I tried it, though!
After touring around and buying a few souvenirs, including a miniature Otorii, we headed up to the cable car. The ride up was pretty cool, and despite the warnings of monkeys, we saw none, which is okay. :) But then we say the “hike” up to the topmost point, which has a lot of rewarding goods and such, but realized right away that this was an even worse hike than the last one we attempted. Neither of us even saw a path, so we decided to save our very sore feet (today, Terinati had started to really hurt, so it's a true testament to how much traveling by foot we've been doing; he's got the buffest legs I've ever seen!) and head back down. We saw the 5-story pagoda and the adjacent shrines.
Miyajima is so beautiful, so peaceful, and so wonderful. But, without the hike . . . we'd been just about everywhere there is to go! :} So, we hopped on the train and headed back to Hiroshima after checking our schedule for tomorrow and seeing what we would need to leave and such.
Back in Hiroshima, Terinati had a mission to find the okonomiyaki at Okonomiyaki Mura. We went back to the shopping areas, and I was happy to spot it for Terinati. We headed up the stairs to the third floor and sat down in a nearly empty restaurant at a table with a cooking surface; we were going to get one of those treats where the chefs cook right in front of us. Terinati only ordered one okonomiyaki, but because we were both there, they assumed we were going to split it and served it in half to both of us. =^><^= D'oh! But, I'm glad in the end, because despite its appearance, it is SOOOOO good! You must have okonomiyaki, and don't get it cold, in wrap, or anywhere where it is not cooked fresh and handed to you FRESH. There are many different kinds, so if you're not sure, like we were, just ask for the most basic kind. OMG, why aren't these in the US? Where is the Okonomiyaki and cinnamon/red bean ice cream?!
After that, we wandered around a bit more and discovered the Japanese version of Cold Stone: Marvelous Cream. To my sorrow, the banana tiramisu that they advertised on the English menu was no longer available, but I had to try something anyway, so I had a delicious strawberry-banana thing in a waffle cup. Now, feeling somewhat fat, I still admit that it was quite satisfying. :}
For a change of pace, and to make our 2-day Miyajima passes count, we decided to take the cable car back to Miyajima guchi instead of the JR Train. We figured it'd be less crowded, but we figured wrong. Once we were on it, and at each stop the cars only got more and more crammed full, it occurred to me that this result should have been obvious since the cable car would cost less to ride than the train, so the people who are trying to save money would all be on it. Furthermore, the car we had to take was the only one that went to several places, so most people wouldn't want to wait for another one. Still, it was a good experience, if a bit tiring from all of the standing. :)
By the time we got back, it was after 6pm, and everything in Japan seems to close up between 3pm and 6pm. Only a few places are open later, unless you're in Tokyo where there seems to be a little more of a night life. Actually, there are a lot of night owls in Kyoto, but many stores still close earlier in the day. Now, as I sit at our low table, Terinati has the broadway version of Lion King showing on TV . . . only it's in Japanese. :} It's kind of cool, though, because obviously we know the story already. Tomorrow, we are promised to have internet again, so hopefully I will finally be able to upload all of the photos and blogs! Not that anyone will probably want to read all of this in one go. :} But, maybe it will help someone else going to Japan. =^--^=
I wish we didn't have to leave, though I do miss Stardust and Tatsu terribly. Well, talk tomorrow!
Friday, June 26th, 2009. 9:43pm Japan Time.
Today, we packed our things and said good-bye to Kyoto. I had to keep reminding myself of how different it would be if I could understand what everyone is saying all of the time, and if I had a job and was coming home to school work like I soon will be. Even doing so, I couldn't help enjoying the fresh air as I showered with the window slightly open and thinking that I feel more like myself here than I do in America. Still, I would miss my friends if I stayed in Japan. I hope they're missing me, too!
We took the Japan Rail to Hiroshima today, and I feel lucky that we once again had brilliant sunshine to greet us there. Since it is their rainy reason, it seems that we have been really fortunate with outrunning the rain. :) At first, I was really excited to get to Hiroshima and see the history there, but as I saw our first memorial, the only standing remains of a building from the first a-bomb dropped in history, it quickly became very solemn. Even after talking to Terinati about it and understanding why it happened, and seeing how the local people here were clearly beyond hating America, if they ever did, I still felt the sorrow from that building, pain never to be forgotten. I'm glad that they decided to preserve it, because otherwise there would be nothing left to demonstrate the true horror of the a-bomb. Everything has been rebuilt, the park with all of its peace memorials is beautiful, so it would be easy to take it lightly without seeing it for yourself. Not even the mound where they buried the ashes of those who were killed that day bring it home as well as that structure did.
I tried hard not to cry, but then we saw a memorial for a girl who had leukemia from the radiation of the a-bomb, I lost it. She had been trying to create 1000 origami cranes before she died, because it is said that if you do so, you can have a wish granted. I think she only made it to 644 before she died, and then her loyal classmates took up the job of finishing the rest on her behalf. :( That sort of stuff always makes me cry. It's a reminder of how good the human spirit can be, even in the face of disaster. It only got harder from there, and I was glad to be wearing sunglasses.
But, Hiroshima isn't all about that, either. After visiting there and seeing the castle, we went through the many streets to shop. We were excited to find a gamers store that had many familiar favorites (the Zombies games, card games, D&D, Shadowrun, etc.), but not L5R. I was sad about that. :} After walking them for hours trying to find a place called Moss Burgers mentioned by Inside Japan Tours (they supposedly make Japanese-style burgers, and we were looking for the experience, but IJT said they were scattered around and we'd see one...), but we didn't see a single one, so we settled for a place called Straight Burgers. I have no idea what that means, but other than weird soda flavors and a different kind of taste to the meat, my meal tasted pretty typical of those kinds of things. Terinati's burger, however, had some weird sauce and a cooked egg in it. Like, the whole egg, not mashed up or anything. It was interesting at least.
Also, while having to use the restroom out in Hiroshima, I couldn't help but think that ever since that bathroom in Tokyo where there was no soap and no drier, most public bathrooms have been the same. And then it hit me! The Japanese don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom like we do! It's just like they don't say anything after someone sneezes! So, they probably have sinks for convenience, but not out of necessity like in America. What does it mean that a country so concerned with preventing illness that there hasn't been a single city I've been to yet without people wearing doctor's masks, doesn't wash its hands after using the restroom, something Americans think is a necessity to preventing the spread of disease? This begs the question . . . have any studies been done proving that it actually helps? I want to look into it more now, but it will have to wait until I have internet again . . . and free time.
So! After that, we headed back to the train station to take the train to Miyajima-guchi, where we took a ferry to our current location, Miyajima! The ferry ride was so beautiful! The water was sparkling as the sun was setting, and I took many pictures to try and capture the moment. Just into the island and off of the ferry was our stop, the Yamaichi Inn! Our hostess, who is also a lover of cats, speaks pretty good English and is very sweet and friendly. She prepared dinner for us, our only guests for tonight, and then we went out walking by the beach. We were very much not alone, as there were school children out, even at 8:30pm, led by whoever leads them (I would guess it's their teachers) to look at the torii gate in the water and such. There were also tour groups still running that late, even though almost all of the stores had closed by then! Nevertheless, it was a magical stroll, if only a little startling the first time we ran into a deer looking at us through the darkness. :}
Going back to the inn, it's quite amazing. This is the biggest space we've had yet, up on the third floor with two entrances, both a restroom and a restroom with a shower, a separate room for relaxing and drinking tea or watching TV, and then a separate bedroom. The space makes it feel luxurious, especially with all of the beautiful decorations and historical figures about. The inn looks equipped to handle very important business meetings, and it's literally right at the ferry, so it's great!
The only thing it needs? Internet. I'm really surprised how little internet availability there is if you want to utilize your own computer/laptop. But, there are only a few days left here (SADNESS!) before we head back to Tokyo and then home, so we'll see how it goes. For now, I'm exhausted and need some rest. Talk later!
Thursday, June 25th, 2009. 10:00pm Japan Time.
Today was another full day! It started out rough, as my feet have blisters on each toe (ow) and on the ankle of my left foot (ow ow), so walking seemed like a dismal venture to me. Nevertheless, I was not going to give up on making the most of our time here! :D
Before we headed out, we asked the hostess what was up with all of the water bottles, and she explained to us that it is in case of fire. Since most structures in Japan are made of wood and are built close together . . . well, you get the idea. I'm not sure why that one person had them all around their car . . . Scary implications there. ;) Today, after she explained it, we noticed that there are fire buckets (they are red and say something about fire in kanji on them) full of water too, so it does seem to be a matter of fire prevention. (Later on, she corrected herself and said that the bottles are to keep cats from peeing on things, a remedy I've heard of before... where are all of these cats? The buckets are for fires).
So, we took the Japan Rail out to Nara, a place rich with culture. Since we couldn't afford to take the bus or a taxi everywhere there is to go, we walked ( painful, but totally worth it!) to the deer park first. OMG . . . These “sacred” deer leave a little to be desired in the manners department. :} Graceful is not the word I would use; perhaps flexible, though! Their poop was everywhere, and we had a deer pee right in front of us. :} It was not a magical Bambi moment, but later on throughout the day there were some resting deer who were very nice, not like the one who assaulted an old woman for her bag of groceries as she walked by. The old woman did manage to snatch it back, though! We also saw an older man trying to sit and enjoy a peaceful meal in the park while three deer kept harassing him. The deer were much more aggressive than the monkeys we saw yesterday!
After that, we circled around to see Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world. It was AWESOME! I didn't think I'd be impressed by giant hunks of wood, but I was! After seeing many “No Smoking” signs around this magical place, I couldn't help but crack a joke about the size of their water bottles.
As we walked up to the temple, two school girls asked if they could guide us as part of their lessons to learn English. One of them seemed to know more English than the other, but it was fun having them guide us around. :) They were very sweet, and I was tempted to ask to be pen pals, but . . . since English was their assignment, I was pretty sure it'd be more fun for me than it would be for them. :/ Anyway, inside of the temple were equally amazingly large statues, and the information the girls provided to us about them were invaluable. I think one of my favorite parts was a hole at the base of a pillar, of which it is said that if you can fit through, then you will definitely go to Heaven. As the girls were explaining this to us, a mother was stuffing her young girl through the hole. :} It was pretty funny and cute, and yet I couldn't help thinking to myself that it was sad that no adults would fit through it. However, the significance of this did not pass me by.
Before we could leave, there was one more amazing thing. They were looking for donations to purchase tiles for doing further reconstruction . . . so, for $10.00 a large tile, you would get to write your name, where you are from, a wish, and donate that tile! I couldn't pass it up! If I had more time (by the time I have internet again, I know that I won't), I'd post a picture here, but you can see it on my Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/dreamsenshi . We purchased a tile together, on which I wrote our names, the date, my wish for us, and my little Doodle Kitty!! I'm so thrilled that my Doodle Kitty will be a part of Japan long after I've left!! :D :D :D Sugoi!! I wish I could see it in the final project, but it will have to do as a photo for now.
Among other souvenirs available in Nara, we noticed that chocolates shaped like the sacred deer poop was popular. So, all that stuff on Engrish.com ? It's for real! I remember feeling a little skeptical when I saw a picture on there before, but so far it really is like this in Japan. :} We bought some for Terinati's father for Father's Day (belated, obviously, since we were in Japan through it!).
After that, we were both tired and sore, so we managed to catch a bus back to the Japan Rail station in Nara, and headed back to Kyoto. On the trip back, we met a nice old man who is studying English (his English is already extremely good!) and he has been saving up to come to America to visit! So, we talked with him a while and he practiced a few phrases on us before his stop. His dream to see America was so vivid and sincere that even after he was gone I felt really touched. I hope his dream comes true!
On our way out of the Japan Rail station in Kyoto, we noticed a strange vending machine, one of a few, that serves entire meals. Not healthy meals, mind you, but french fries, or hot dogs; the kind of stuff you'd find in a TV dinner section. Even though it's a fasting day, we just HAD to know, so we purchased hot dogs for 350 yen. Two hot dogs for about $4! Complete with condiments and all! We had to stand and wait while the machine cooked them, and then out came a box inside which were the hot dogs, already fully dressed. They were probably the least tasty hot dogs I've ever had without actually being bad, and the food made McDonald's look good, but it is faster and cheaper, so I bet people in a hurry who are starving still use it.
After stopping back at the hotel and refreshing supplies, we managed to find out where a movie theater was. I'd been wanting to go to one yesterday, missing having that sort of activity, and curious about how the theaters are here. We asked the guys at the front counter, and they pointed out two theaters we could go to, both not close. So, we hopped on the rail again to Nijo, where we got off and went to the Toho theater, which is right off of the stop.
To my delight, some of the movies were in English with Japanese subtitles. I do want to learn more Japanese, but I wanted this to be relaxing and easy to understand for a break. The theater was incredibly clean; we started off by purchasing tickets for Terminator 4, since it was one of the few showing soon after we arrived. It was a little different than my experiences in America, because even though it is a smaller theater, they had assigned seating and Terinati had to choose where to put us. So, we took seats about in the middle of the theater.
Next, concessions! No candy to be found on display at all. You can purchase crepe sticks, but not candy. Also, regular popcorn, caramel popcorn, or a mix. Oo! We just got regular popcorn, since it's a fasting day and I already was feeling fat.
The seats were luxuriously spaced out so that no one's head could possibly get in your way, and you can recline and relax, too. The food comes on trays which you can set in your holder, having the ability to swivel back and forth between two people or just sit at a comfortable distance so that it is not in your lap. Awfully convenient for a place that doesn't serve much food! :)
Instead of the fun movie facts that we get in America, the pre-movie just had information about how to get discounts, such as seeing movies after 8pm would save you 600 yen each, and on Wednesday nights it's like a girls' night out, so girls only cost 1000 yen instead of the 1800 yen we paid. That's quite a difference! But, that just played over and over again. Then, when the previews started, it was strange because we saw some previews twice; one in English with subtitles, and then again in Japanese. Also, Sarah Brightman is in some Japanese movie that I couldn't tell what the title was?! Sarah Brightman, why were you holding out on me?! AWESOME! The strangest part of all was the drawn-out video-game-like instructions on what not to do in the theater. Since we couldn't understand what was being said, it appeared to be no cell phones, no talking, no recording movies illegally, and no shooting lasers. Oh, and no kicking the seats in front of you. It seems sad that these things need to be said, but considering how people are in America, I'm glad that someone finally said all of it . . . even if it was a little drawn out and strange. :} There were multiple messages about it!
Finally, the movie was awesome, didn't even notice the subtitles. Got so drawn in, in fact, that for a while I thought I was back in America and almost cried. Yep, I like Japan that much. Although, I do remind myself from time to time that Japan would not be so relaxing if I lived and worked here like everyone else. One interesting difference; the lights don't come on until every last credit is finished with. Not a moment sooner. A few people still left during the credits, but almost all of us stayed through the whole thing. YAY! I didn't have to feel awkward for staying and watching for a change!
So, that was our day today, and tomorrow we move on to a new place. Hopefully, it will have internet! We'll see, though. I can't believe our journey is getting near to coming to a close! Every day gets more and more interesting. I hope tomorrow will have great things in store as well.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009. 9:21pm Japan Time.
Today was the best day ever!
First, it was the first day during the trip that I actually slept in past 7am. The sky was still pretty dark when I awoke, and I probably wouldn't have gotten up but the alarm clock that is in our room went off at 8am, startling me. :} No time for a shower before going to breakfast, I went out in my yukata with Terinati thinking that it shouldn't be too bad . . . only to find that we were eating amongst a bunch of other English-speaking foreigners and it felt incredibly awkward because none of them were wearing their yukata. :} I was also feeling queasy for some reason, but otherwise breakfast was tasty. I was surprised by how much more comfortable I felt around the local people compared to people I understood. I'm not really sure why that is; perhaps I am afraid they will judge our love of Japan and our attempts to really sink in to its culture.
The shower here is in the best condition of all of the showers we had so far. If only it was as big as the one at Toyoko, but a nice warm shower is great. All of the showers have been warm, but this one was REALLY warm. :} As usual, shower products were provided. I had to use my own conditioner, though, because the shampoo and conditioner were combined.
So, with that late start, we caught the Japan Rail to Arashiyama! I picked there mainly because there is a Monkey Park and I've been missing Stardust and Tatsu so much that any animal would do at this point. It turned out to be a greater find than I could have imagined. This part of Kyoto had more of the old-fashioned feel that I had associated with it before we arrived. The streets were quieter, with many adorable, tiny shops and stores along the way. One of my favorites just to look at had a small dog out front that was very friendly with customers.
As we walked along, we found an ice cream shop. Since Kyoto has been so hot, I had a real hankering for it, so we stopped and I decided to try cinnamon and red bean flavor. YUM!! What a brilliant thing to do! Why does this flavor not exist in the United States?! The only way it could be better is if it had cookie dough in it. :}
By then, we were near the Togetsukyo river, on the way to see the Monkey Park, when we ran into a nice man named Masanori. He asked us where we were from, and as it turned out, he'd spent a month in California himself, and his English was pretty good! He explained to us that he was one of many who pulled rickshaws and asked if we would be willing to pay 3000 yen for a ride (approximately $30 or so). The ride would end near the Monkey Park, so it seemed like a great idea! We said yes and he had a few pictures of us on the rickshaw taken along the way. :) It was so romantic and fun! To my surprise, sitting in the rickshaw was very cool and relaxing, and since Masanori knew a little English, he was able to point out famous places, including a famous tofu restaurant, a road that had been used in a Japanese movie, and the bridge we crossed to get to the Monkey Park. I think the best part of it is that I could tell he wouldn't be put off if we didn't want a ride, but he was just happy to be doing what he was doing and genually seemed to care about the history of Japan surrounding us, which I found endearing and special. =^--^= I hope you get to give many more rides, Masanori-san!
After that romantic adventure, we paid to enter the Monkey Park. There was a hot hike up to the resting area (clever clever, having tons of cold drinks and shade up there... :} ). What was startling and different than American zoos is that you walk amongst the monkeys. We weren't quite up to the resting area when we started seeing them, only ten feet away from us in the trees! In the resting house, you can feed the monkeys (100 yen for each bag of food, including chestnuts, apples, and peanuts) through the gated windows. At first, we were worried about feeding the “poor, little baby monkeys” . . . and then we saw them out-ninja the larger monkeys and realized that they could definitely take care of themselves. We were lucky enough to be there for monkey feeding time, when a man working there took out a large bucket of food and, while some crazy music was playing, tossed out food to all of the monkeys which had gathered around and were eagerly picking it off the ground. It was pretty fun to watch, and there was quite a view of the city behind them.
After sitting a while and enjoying their cuteness with some other foreigners, marveling at the fact that we were close enough to touch them (but not stupid enough to), we headed down to explore the area more.
At this point, I realized that I'm probably feeling queasy because I haven't had sufficient fiber intake since we arrived and was mourning the fact that the only strawberries and apples I've seen have been in candies or crepes, but not for regular eating. In fact, we purchased apple vinegar Kit-Kats . . . I still prefer the original, chocolate variation. :} Anyway, we finally found stores that sold both today, but strawberries are still hard to come by (the ones we found were the last ones left in the grocery store we were at, and it was questionable how good they were, but they still would cost nearly $6 for a small pack). There are at least more options in Kyoto than I've found elsewhere, so I was happy.
We've also been trying to find Pepsi White at the request of my friend, Kyriel, but so far we've only found Pepsi Shiso, which is flavored like the shiso leaf (it's in the mint family, I think, and at least has many mint-like qualities). I didn't drink any because I can't handle certain levels of caffeine, but Terinati tells me it's pretty disgusting. :} I bet it's popular out here in the same way that the “harbal” tea (gotta love Engrish!) we found at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is popular for its similarity to green tea.
Anyway, we headed back toward the inn, aiming to go to Gion in Kyoto for a Geisha walk at 4:30pm lead by Peter Macintosh. On the way, we were hungry for dinner, but I really needed something NOT Japanese. Japanese food is great, but every day having fish, rice, and miso, is enough to make a person go mad and probably was contributing to my sick stomach. So, as we walked up Kawabata dori, somewhere near where it crosses Gojo dori, I spotted the colors of the Italian flag and saw a cafe that simply advertised itself as “Coffee and Pizza.” Terinati questioned if I really wanted to go there, but in my experience it's always been the smaller, unknown restaurants that have something special to show you, much like the Green Age Inn, so I determined that yes, we were going.
It was on the first floor of three floors, and as we entered we found a very small and welcoming cafe. We sat down and were handed an English menu. There were many sandwiches, drinks, and spaghetti available, all with a little Japanese twist to keep them interesting, but I was craving the pizza, which included cheese, onion, green pepper, mushroom, and shrimp. I wasn't sure how shrimp would be on a pizza, but I'll try just about anything once, so we ordered it. Terinati got a delicious iced cocoa (SO tasty; I almost wish I had ordered it), and I ordered hot tea with milk, resolving the hankering for tea I've been having since we left the Green Age Inn; I'm going to have to get tea cups at home now and stock up the appropriate supplies, because I am officially hooked.
A few people entered while our host was preparing our meal, and it seemed like a friendly place, playing familiar Oldies tunes and having a very warm, happy feel to it. The pizza, which had a slightly buttery taste to it, was fantastic, shrimp and all. Bow down, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and even Mama Lucia's, because this little shop would make you all hang your head in shame. He may offer only one pizza, but if you get a chance to stop by this shop, DO IT! It was so delicious, so tasty . . . If I were here longer, I'd go there again and again. I told him what I thought of it, “Sugoi desu!” And, for that fantastic pizza, we paid less than we have in the past two years for pizza in the states. I enjoyed it so much that we took a picture of the cafe, which is available in the honeymoon pictures on flickr.com (http://www.flickr.com/dreamsenshi ).
After that, we headed down to meet Peter at Minamiza Theater, but he was not there. We waited fifteen minutes, but he must have had other commitments this evening. Darn! So, what to do with the afternoon? Wander around Gion! So, that'd what we did! We did see a few geisha earlier in the day, so it wasn't a total loss, and some of the kimonos being worn in Gion were just so beautiful! I wished to myself that I could be pretty in a kimono too, but I'm sure it would only look strange on me, a foreigner. Still, after seeing so much of Kyoto today, I was starting to feel relaxed and at home here.
Kyoto reminds me a lot of myself. It has many different faces, and depending on what you're in the mood for, you can find something to fit it perfectly, I think. Want a romantic castle? Done! Want to shop in the ritzy style? No problem! Want to go to a crazy arcade/club with blaring music? No problem! All of the different sides of me seem to find easy expression here, and I love how all of these things can be expressed at once without contradiction to the city's personality. Someone wearing a traditional, old-style kimono, looks perfectly natural next to the business woman on her cell phone on the bench. Bikes with pretty warning bells ride along silently and beautiful right next to creepy white trucks that occasionally come down the street, blaring something that we don't understand but makes us think incredibly of Cyberpunk or Big Brother. It's just an amazing place, and I really love it here. It is also impressive that there are so many people who speak English here, though I still really feel ashamed to not know more Japanese.
While wandering around, we found some gifts for friends and family (it's hard because we still don't have much money, and we can't carry anything really fragile back with us, so choices become limited), and then went to a bar where I had my very first long island iced tea. It was pretty good, and we also had this eggplant/onion dish that was mixed with vinegar, and fried cheese! Yum! The bar is Sugar Hill, and the food is DELICIOUS! As we sat there, we thought of Terinati's parents; it seemed like a place they'd definitely feel comfortable in.
After that, we wandered down the street and I talked about simple things I missed, like movie theaters (I haven't seen a movie theater like ours since we arrived), and CD shops, because I like to get music or a book on trips. Since I am not able to read fluently yet, only a few words here and there (though my ability to read has been useful on this trip!), getting a book isn't of interest to me, especially since I already have books I'm dying to learn to read at home. But, by luck, we found a CD shop on the way back to the hotel and stopped inside. Even more lucky, they had those little stands where you can listen to CDs.
Comparing Japanese music and English music side-by-side right there was embarrassing. Why is so much of our music these days complaining? Whining? All these lyrics about being dumped, being betrayed, and how we're going to do something bad-assed about it. :p Ugh, America. Grow up! Give me more passion, or more art, okay? Even without getting all of the lyrics of Japanese songs, they feel so happy, so genuine to listen to much of it, that I couldn't resist dancing in the store. I've discovered that I am now a “Greeeen” fan, and I purchased their latest CD after getting to listen to it. If I had a CD player attached to this laptop, I'd totally be listening to it right now, but alas, that is not the case and I will have to wait until we return to the states to enjoy my purchase again. Much better than listening to how some skank or homeboy in America is going to do something stupid in order to deal with whatever personal issues they are having. :} Okay, obviously not all of our music is like that, and I can't stereotype Japanese music either, but it really does seem like the most popular music in America is the most depressing lyrically. I just don't get it. It goes along the same train of thought I have about how much filthier our streets are than here (and yet most people in America seem to think other countries are all bound to be more filthy than there, not knowing how disgusting we really are), and how most people seem to not care about being polite. They remind me of the monkeys at the park today who would snatch the food out of your hands, even when no other monkeys were around, just because they were paranoid or something. The Japanese culture is more like the patient monkey who gently takes the food from your hand. It's so humiliating; I feel really ashamed of what they must think of us when they come to our country. :(
Anyway, it was fun, random walk home. The only question we have left is . . . what is with all of the water bottles left outside of people's houses, surrounding their cars and such?! Actually, it bothers Terinati more than it does me, but I'm curious too . . . What does it mean? :} Ah well. I've written a lot, and we must rest; tomorrow is another journey.
And, when oh when will I have internet again?! :} Ah well. Oyasumi nasai!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009. 4:15pm Japan Time.
This morning Terinati and I woke up realizing we hadn't slept as well as the night before. I fared better than him, as I struggled to wake him up, but apparently we had been really spoiled by the pre-sleep massage on the previous night, which made it feel like we were melting into cream puffs. Yum . . . Maybe it was just easier for me to get up because I had dreamt about roaches all night and was eager to get out of there. :}
We had breakfast, even though it was a fasting day, and my opinion of their food has entirely changed. Other than the first meal, everything was very tasty, so it was an isolated incident. Still, anyone who is afraid of trying new things, especially cooking something alive right in front of you or looking at food with eyeballs still intact, I don't recommend going to Ichinoyu Honkan.
In the end, if it weren't for the roaches, I'd totally go back there. But, even using the restroom was scary because I looked up and realized that the ceiling had been repaired more than once for holes . . . but only with rice paper. :| Look, people . . . roaches are serious business. Therefore, never again! * sigh * Sorry, guys, but your Kotobuki was one of your best rooms . . . and it's infested. Ick.
So, I was glad to leave, hoping and praying that I have no hitch-hikers with our luggage, and we took the JR to Kyoto! It was a long trip, and Terinati isn't feeling well. I was surprised when we arrived here, because Kyoto is pretty much what I expected Tokyo to be! It feels like a much larger city, with the station leading directly into a HUGE, trendy mall that sells things like Gucci and other expensive, foreign stuffs. The fresh market looked pretty exciting, but it's also on the expensive end of things. I thought it was fun to look through the shop, but window shopping on vacation isn't very satisfying in the end. :}
After that, we found our inn, the Ryokan Shimizu. While we were too early to check in, our hostess was more than happy to take our luggage. We went and explored the mall more thoroughly, visited Kyoto Tower (I was skeptical, because Kyoto isn't as pretty or old-fashioned as I'd imagined in my head, but it's cool to see everything from up there!), and then we wandered around a bit to go to places we saw at the tower. Unfortunately, the garden we wanted to walk through charged a fee for entry, so we skipped it and just came back and sat outside the inn until it was time to check in. :}
Something I've noticed is that either there is some cultural void or a nasty marketing scheme, but there are no benches ANYWHERE in Japan. I mean, except for like, gardens. It's no wonder the majority of the people in Japan are in good shape. They ride bikes, walk, and have nowhere to sit. The reason I suspect a marketing scheme is because Japan seems too accommodating to not provide seating every so often. Yet, in every city we've visited so far, there is no where to sit except for at bus stops or gardens. In fact, if it wasn't for that, we would not have gone into a restaurant in Tokyo before, but I was so tired that I was desperate enough to sit that I was willing to pay for food I didn't want just to be able to rest. HMM... :} We've managed to resist since then, but it is tiring when all you're doing is walking and traveling all the time.
Consequently, we're not doing anything interesting tonight. It's a fasting night, and we've been traveling for well over a week now and need a break!
I am so much more impressed with this ryokan than the last. I see an incredible difference on how well-maintained this building is in comparison to the last one. There are definitely no roaches here. No peeling paint, no poorly-patched holes, etc. It's ironic, because I don't mind a building being a little run-down. That was part of the charm of The Green Age Inn, which I miss. Mostly, I miss her delicious tea and sweet disposition. * sniffle * But, by this far into the trip, I'm just happy to have a stable place to rest!
Also, our hostess speaks English so fluently that there is no Engrish, and not really any accent either. She made sure we knew how to turn on the air conditioning and showed us where the English instructions are (THANK GOODNESS! No one had done this thus far, so we'd just been hitting random buttons; the Toyoko Asakusa Inn remote was pretty self-explanatory, though)! And, not only that, but once we were settled in, she sent a nice man with iced tea for us to drink! How thoughtful! Everywhere else only provided hot tea. Granted, everywhere else has been cool. Kyoto is humid and hot today, which is what I'd original been expecting in all of the other cities. This is the first time I completely left my jacket packed since we arrived in Japan! I hope the next few days are a little cooler, though, since we'll be heading out again.
One thing that I like about Japanese inns which are lacking in America . . . Specific requests of curfew for coming back to the inn (you have to, because you leave your key at the front desk when you leave and the inns aren't staffed 24 hours like ours are in America), and requests for people to be quiet after a specific time or you will be removed. Some American inns say that they will do this, but when it is noisy, which it almost always is (I have sensitive hearing, even when asleep, so that's something I was worried about in Japan before I came here . . . I assumed sleeping in inns here would be as bad as back home; glad to be wrong!), if you tell the person at the front desk they usually just ask the person to be more quiet and don't do anything else. Of course, that doesn't stop noisy people. And, it seems that most people who work in American hotels have the mind set of, “Well, they paid for their room, so they can do whatever they want in it.” But, I really think the Japanese have the right idea; after all, what happened to that constitutional right that not only says we should pursue happiness but that our pursuit should not disrupt the happiness of others? People in America always seem to forget that inconvenient, second part. :p Ugh. Sometimes . . . being an American makes me ashamed. :p Why are so many Americans such jerks?
Anyway, I'm going to sit now and enjoy my iced tea quietly in our nice room and see if I can't watch TV. Talk later! 4:41pm Japan Time.
Monday, June 22, 2009. 7:32am Japan Time.
This morning I woke up probably around 2am because the air conditioner was turned off and it was getting hot and moist from the onsen, even though it was outdoors and there is a room between where we sleep and it. :} By sheer luck, I got up and in almost complete darkness (I used the light from an adjacent room in order to allow Terinati to continue sleeping) managed to turn it on. After that, I fell asleep readily again and woke up deliriously comfortable on our futons, which are cushy and squishy beyond anything I've ever imagined sleeping on. I was prepared to sleep on something as hard as the tatami itself! Showed me!
No sign of Mr. Roach or his friends when I went to shower, and breakfast was a bit better than dinner had been. There was no sushi with eyes (I like sushi, but I can't eat anything that is still looking at me), and there was a delicious soup with squash in it. YUM! Still, I needed a break from Japanese food at this point. I'm sick of miso soup and just can't have any more of it for the time being. It comes with nearly everything, so I needed something different for my pallet. I would be upset by this, but it's not that I don't like eating Japanese food; it's just like if I were at home because if I were, I'd be eating different kinds of foods every day. It was time for something new! Especially because not all of breakfast was that tasty either.
Today was a day I've been planning for since I learned we were coming to Hakone! We rode the bus out to Yunessun!! It is a water resort, mostly for several different types of onsen. We were there nearly five hours having a pretty good time! One of the things I found interesting about Yunessun before we even arrived there is that you can rent swimsuits. =^o0^= Most Americans would react the way I did initially: “What? Eww!” But, I have some food for thought on the topic.
First of all, many people are grossed out by the idea of stepping into a boiling bath, an onsen, that usually comes from a hot spring or some other source that probably kills of any living bacteria by its sheer heat alone, not to mention any other natural minerals or salts that may be included depending on the location. This reaction initially made sense to me because these onsen are, according to my reading, never emptied (unless there is a lot of debris that needs to be cleaned out, I'm guessing, from leaves or something; each one I've seen thus far has some sort of drain attached, though they have yet to be used). However, the premise of the onsen is that a person must thoroughly clean themselves before going in it. Most of my friends find this disgusting, and yet we'd readily step into a hot tub with other people we don't know in a random hotel who may or may not have bathed recently. :o
But someone may say, “In that situation, you're wearing a swimsuit!” And, that's where the rental swimsuits come in. Does it really make a difference? If you're getting into a vat of boiling water, does it matter if you're clothed or not or who is in there with you? And, does that thin extra skin prevent you from obtaining diseases passed around in a common-place swimming pool in America?! GAHH! No, it doesn't! I mean, it'll prevent dirt, sand, and other obvious things, but if you consider that there are over 20,000 STDs that go right through condoms (most people don't know this and I find it sad :/ ), then a swim suit can probably only do so much against the things that people are truly scared of.
So, after having thought this all out . . . an onsen seems insanely clean in comparison to swimming pools that we use without flinching. Heck, even the trains are cleaner here (we watched in awe two days ago before transferring onto our final train as several men and women dressed in blue and pink respectively went through and cleaned each train car before we were allowed on). The pain-staking care that the Japanese put into keeping everything clean for everyone . . . I bow down to it. To those who are afraid of onsen, I hope that this gives you some courage!
However, I had other problems. Even though I've lost tons of weight, I've never worn a bikini before and I'm always shy showing any skin in public, so this was hard for me at first. I did not allow it to mar my enjoyment of Yunessun, though! The onsen they have are incredible! We bathed in coffee, wine, green tea, sake, charcoal, and my new all-time favorite, chocolate. I could have possibly spent the whole day soaking in the chocolate! There are short slides, and the park seems geared toward kids in the actual pools for which there is swimming, but we still had a great time. :)
Yunessun was even more cool than I expected. To my pleasure, their mascots were a family of square-shaped cats! Adorable! We purchased a small tin of butter-crackers that had their likenesses on it so that we could remember them forever. On the first floor is a trick art museum that you have to pay to go in to, so we didn't go. But, from looking at the stuff they were selling outside of it, it featured the sorts of things like the picture of a woman who, if you look at it one way looks like an old woman, and another way looks like a young one.
The second floor was a small arcade. Most of the games didn't make sense to us, but it was really fun to look through all the things there anyway. :)
The third floor featured shopping and entrances to cafes and restaurants, as well as pamphlets in English on your way up to the fourth floor. There are two parts of Yunessun; one part where you can walk around naked, and another where you have to wear a swimsuit. We only used the swimsuit side.
The coolest thing about Yunessun was that not only do you get a locker big enough to hold things for an entire family (in America, the lockers for places like this are always small, so small that you carry only a wallet with you, and then you constantly go back and forth to get it to pay for things), but you get a wristband that you can wear in the water. The wrist band has the number of your locker, and when you wave it in front of the pad on your locker, it locks or unlocks it for you! But wait, there's more! Since carrying yen around with you would be inconvenient, the wrist band also acts as your tab for your stay at Yunessun! You don't even need to dress up to go to a restaurant for lunch! They scan your wristband, and off you go!
Also, I was happy to discover that you get a wrap as well as a towel so that you are not exposed until you are ready to get into an onsen or pool. It was all very convenient, clean, and fun. :) However, if you think that by staying on the swimsuit-only side that you won't have to get naked in front of people, you'll be wrong unless you wear your swimsuit under your clothes. In every water park I've been in within America, there was a changing room, or girls would change in the bathroom if they were really shy, and that's no problem. However, at Yunessun I was startled to find that there were only the locker room, a bathroom that has a sign specifically requesting that you don't change in there (which makes sense, considering how differently they treat their restrooms than we do in America), and a shower room where you also can't change. =^oo^= I wouldn't have been so nervous to change in front of women, but several women had brought their little boys into the locker room and didn't seem a bit concerned by the fact that they were literally staring at me! I felt like I was putting on a strip show for children, but no one seemed to mind and thankfully, I was in my bikini quickly enough.
The rest of the day we spent on the romance car, the Hakone cable car, and then the rope car. Unfortunately, it got too misty for us to see Mt. Fuji again! Curse you, mist! :} It was a fun ride anyhow, though. :)
On the way back to the hotel for dinner, I convinced Terinati to stop at a 7-11 for food just in case dinner was bad again so that we could just retire to the hotel room and eat. However, tonight's dinner was very delicious, if a bit startling. It was all seafood, and the kind I very much like! As with the last two meals here, one of the servers explained something on the table we had to cook to enjoy. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the clam wiggle a little in front of Terinati, but decided I must have imagined it. Then, while he was talking, my clam moved around tons. My eyes must have been HUGE, and I totally missed how to cook the poor thing, so it was good that Terinati was paying attention. Once the server was sure Terinati knew what to do, he lit up the fire beneath the clams and I watched with sorrow and apologies to the clams that they were being cooked alive in front of us. I think the server overheard me at one point, but I am not ashamed! :} I know food gets killed before I eat it, but watching something be cooked alive is different than killing something and then cooking it. However, perhaps that is how all clams must be cooked?
Despite feeling sorry for the clam and worrying that it would squirm again as I cut into it (it doesn't look that different when it's dead!!), it was very delicious! There was also fish and a divine stew . . . and miso, which I quickly passed up. So, to my delight, dinner was very good!
Then again, as I was sitting here, Terinati got up and had to spray a roach. :p He claimed that he had “gotten it” despite my reservations as he went to the sink room to get tissues or toilet paper to pick it up and dispose of it, and then came back to find that it was gone. Trying to make it an optimistic situation, he said that the roach, now covered in poison, would bring the poison back to its home. I am unconvinced that this is enough to eliminate a roach problem. :p It's even more disturbing to me because now it's not just in the rooms with water, but the very room adjacent to where we sleep. I don't care if they don't bite; I don't want to accidentally take a roach home with us in our luggage and have it infest our apartment. * shudder * Or anywhere else we stay in Japan. YUCK! I didn't even see any holes in here, so where did that thing come from? UGH! . . . Sadly, because of that, I don't think I can stay at this hotel again. I know it must be hard to get rid of roaches once you have them, especially when you run a business like this, but I feel like I shouldn't have to worry about roaches getting into my luggage, or my towel, or my clothes, or anywhere in my space while I'm paying this much money to be somewhere. :} I don't know what Japanese standards are in regard to this, but I have a hard time believing that if it were in someone's personal home, they wouldn't be worried about all of the problems that come with roaches. Sadly, I almost can't wait to leave this hotel just to get away from my concerns about how serious the roach problem is and the potential consequences. :/ I guess I just have to hope that was the last of the roach experiences. Mew? On a comforting note, I'm sure that Inside Japan Tours didn't know about it when they set up the place. We should probably let them know; I don't think the roaches are going away any time soon, considering the reaction to them. Spray is not sufficient for killing off such sturdy, crafty things!
. . . I miss my Stardust kitty, on so many levels!!
Anyway, I'm going to have some sweets before heading to bed, so I'll talk tomorrow! Hopefully I will have internet again at our next location, but we'll see what happens.