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Posts Tagged ‘izakaya’

Japan takes a rather unusual perspective on the world and its interesting to see the rest of the world through the eyes of Japanese people. For one, everything seems a million miles away. Events in America, Europe, Iraq all seem to occur in another parallel universe. Yet, even the American election and inauguration of Obama have had a huge impact over here.

At an izakaya (pub) last night I became aware of the full impact when talking to three Japanese about the inauguration. None of them spoke any English other than very basis words such as “hello” and “thank you” etc. But all three of them knew the words from his acceptance speech – “Yes We Can”.

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The last couple of weeks has been a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve had some real highs  – like seeing my Cousin Hazel in Kyoto with Toddles in tow; great fun now he is running around everywhere! And he has grown SO big since I saw him last! – but its brought about a lot of low points too. Saying good bye to a lot of people on my course I’ve made friends with over the last few months was sad enough, but a couple of my really good friends were leaving too which is a bit of a blow. Luckily we are living in the age of Skype! The other thing was that this year was my first ever Christmas away from home and while I was expecting it to be hard, it was even harder than I imagined. I kept myself as busy as possible to keep my mind off the fact that I wasn’t with family, firstly on Christmas eve by going to one of my good Japanese friends’ house.

Since I live in halls, I really appreciate getting this kind of home-stay experience! After paying respects to the family shrine we entered Haruna’s grandparents house – enormous and incredibly Japanese in every single way with tatami flooring, sliding doors, with an outer corridor surrounding the inner rooms. We had a real feast for lunch and although I though I had tried almost everything before they still found things to surprise me! Remarkably, they have a small amount of land and grow all their own rice, vegetables and fruit, as well as making their own plum-wine liqueur, pickles and other things! Naturally it was all delicious – there’s nothing like home cooked food!! I enjoyed talking to them – even if they spoke with a really thick dialect accent that made it hard to understand! Her grandma is an inspiration – at 70 she still does Japanese archery and competes at a national level – I saw the trophies! They were so kind and very generously gave me a whole bag of goodies to take home with me – home grown clementines, pickles, sweet potatoes and dried persimmons.

Afterwards we went on to her family home and I got to meet her mum and dad. We made nabe which is kind of like clear soup with meat and vegetables or whatever you have lying around – for that very reason its becoming a favourite of mine! I got to try out her koto which I suppose is a cross between a guitar and a piano – very strange – and heard all about her dad entering the famously hardcore Iron Man competition for a second time!

We then had drinks at My Bar and after a long long walk from Sakae all the way to Don Quixote in Kanayama/Nagoya Eki decided to crash out at a Manga Cafe till the first train home. Christmas day itself was also very very different to what I’m used to; replace the roast with raw octopus, soy beans and radish salad, the wine with beer, and instead of carols at church think of carols at karaoke and you’ve got a pretty good approximation! I actually had a pretty fun day in the end but I’m really glad its over now so I can enjoy the rest of my holiday.

Here are some pics…

I’m going off to Tokyo for New Years Eve and to see a bit more what I missed last time, like Akihabara, a bit more Harajuku and maybe we will try and catch a glimpse of the first sunrise of the new year from the vantage point of the Roppongi Hills Hotel…

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This first month has absolutely flown by, and I can hardly believe its October already! I’ve just got internet in my room which I’m so happy about (even if it isn’t wireless and has taken a month to arrive!) So I’ll be able to update more frequently from now on.

I just got back from a study trip to Kyoto which was one of the best things I’ve done so far in Japan. It was so nice to really get to know my classmates and spend time in such a beautiful city! First of all we went around the Ritsumeikan University Peace Museum. We could do the tour in Japanese or English so I decided I would go for the challenge! Luckily I was pleasantly surprised how much I could understand. My Japanese has already improved so much; a couple of months ago I would have only got the overall meaning, but I’m now at a stage where I really understand things like this in more detail. The lady who gave the tour was so passionate about war history of Japan that it was not only educational but really interesting.

After the tour we did a workshop to help us think about ways we can make our world more peaceful and at the end we had to create a “recipe for peace”!

We had a big party at an Izakaya (very traditional Japanese pub-restaurant, where one eats a large variety of small dishes whilst drinking heavily) and many shenanigans followed. Drinking in Japan is great fun, not only because Japanese people love the silliness of drinking, but also because of a wonderful thing called 飲み放題 which means you pay about £7 and you can drink as much as you want (or can) for 90 mins. And the next day, unlike in the UK, none of the Japanese discuss the embarrassing details of the night before!! Whilst this is kind of expensive for most of the Japanese girls, pink and merry after 1 drink, for the exchange students it was very good value for money! Even our teacher of older years downed a drink or two!

The next day we saw a few shemples (shrines and temples; 数きれない), had a fantastic lunch at a rather posh restaurant, did some shopping and generally mooched about in the rain.

For the first time since arriving in Japan, I felt a very strange mixture of emotions. Arriving at Kyoto station, all the memories of teaching near there flooded back! Visiting Keihan Sanjo tube and other places was also very nostalgic; I used to visit them once or twice a week for 3 months! Going back to Kyoto a second time, this time being able to read all the signs and understand the announcements etc was also a strange feeling, because last time couldn’t understand any of it!

I was also surprised because I could actually notice differences in the way people speak! I couldnt put my finger on what it was but the accent was somehow different, and they use different words too. We always learn about it in linguistics but I never thought I would be able to tell the difference.

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