Wednesday, June 25, 2014

You know you're adjusting when...

Lately I've overcome another hurdle for living in a foreign country. Though even as recently as the beginning of this year it didn't seem possible, lately I've been doing stuff for myself without feeling like I have to ask other people for help first.

Case in point: On Saturday I had to go to two clinics to get an infecting piercing treated. When my ear started to swell up in earnest on Friday, I my first thought was, "Darn it! Now I'm gonna have to skip Japanese class and spend my Saturday morning waiting around at clinics. What a drag."

Only later did I realize that only five or six months ago I would have totally panicked and called several friends before making a decision. It didn't even bother me that I had no one to help me with Japanese. I just figured once the doctors looked at the ear it would be obvious what was wrong.

Actually, there's been a lot of stuff like that lately. It started back in March when I went to the hair salon Yuka recommended and made a reservation. Then there were things like going to Tokyo and Osaka. Now it seems I know enough clinics that I can have a resource when I get sick.

Lately I've been feeling pretty lonely. But they do say, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." (Or stranger?) The American dude in my Japanese class tonight was complaining that he didn't get any of the grammar so he'd have to ask his wife to explain later. I replied wistfully, 私は誰もいないなあ。。。自分で頑張ります!(Which I did have to translate, but was fun to say. haha)

Also, though last week he got one more point than me on a pronunciation test, today I kicked this smart-aleck American's butt in the grammar quiz. The only one to get every question right.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Things I Don't Get...

In Japanese class, we ended up getting into a long argument--half in Japanese and half in English--because the teacher brought up the question of being too direct and how that's not correct in Japanese. Immediately the other American goes off into a rant about how it's impossible to understand what people want and how you should just be positive instead.

I.E. the teacher explains a situation where your friend looks over at a ramen restaurant and says, "I'd really like to eat Ramen..."

Other American says: See! How on earth are you supposed to know what people want???? Why can't they just tell you directly?!

Me: Um, your friend is saying she wants to eat ramen. That means she wants to eat ramen. How is that not clear????

At the end of the class, the last question on our quiz was, "Which restaurant is better? A delicious but expensive restaurant, or an expensive but delicious restaurant?"

I managed to get the right answer, which was that the last adjective had the strongest emphasis. So I turned to the other American and said, "See?? Now you can understand. Japanese people don't say they hate a restaurant. They just say it's delicious BUT expensive. It's clear!" Meanwhile, the teacher started nodding, so I think I got it right. But the other American was unconvinced...

Saturday, June 7, 2014


This year one of my goals was to buy a yukata and wear it to a summer festival. If I'm being really honest, my goal was to wear the yukata and transform into a beautiful angel butterfly unstoppable explosion of kawaii. Which, as far as is humanly possible, I'm also fairly content with. In realistic terms this meant I was able to find a pattern that I didn't look too dorky wearing, and I was able to correctly assemble the yukata after watching tutorials on Youtube. But I'll tell it my way.

These are the things you will need to successfully wear a Yukata:

One yukata set (includes robe, obi, geta, and ties) (expensive) (colors MUST MATCH)
One special yukata purse in a color that matches everything else
(also expensive but at least I got a discount for buying the other set)
One hair accessory that also matches everything else
(Twenty bucks???? You've gotta be kidding me...Fine.)
An under robe...Nah, scratch that. No one will see it.
Nail polish that matches the straps on your geta
One folding fan (luckily I had one)
One handkerchief (which I keep forgetting anyway)
Small hair bands which match your hair color
Various bobby pins which match your hair color
Strong hairspray
Hair wax
Band-aids for your toes because the geta will kill you otherwise
Socks not necessary, luckily
"Natural" makeup (i.e. the stuff I already had)

Once these are in order, you will be ready to go!

I had decided in advance that I preferred a black background for the yukata, but as that's the more traditional style there were still a ton of patterns to choose from. For some reason, I didn't want to buy without getting a second opinion, so my bud Souichirou ended up being an audience to all my fluctuations. (Haha, sorry dude! It didn't take too long, really!)

I basically poked through two rows of yukata and picked out one bright pattern and one plainer one, both of which I tried on. Although Souichirou was in favor of the brighter one, I chose the plainer one, because if I'm not going to totally ignore people's advice, why bother getting a second opinion, amirite? But the more I look at the one I ended up buying, the more I like it, so overall it turned out to be a good choice. There are lots of nice prints out there, but I think my instincts were accurate.

Choosing the geta and obi weren't too hard, since purple was the obvious choice. Unfortunately the smallest geta size was 24-26 centimeters, when the last pair of shoes I bought was 22.5 centimeters. You'd think in Japan shoes would be small enough... Then the only thing left was to get a purse, and again there was one purple one that matched. I bought the hair clip later during the week.

On Tuesday I looked up Youtube and Wikihow for how to put on a Yukata. It took about an hour and three tries to get comfortable with it. The part that's hardest (and I couldn't have done without the video) was pulling the folds out after tying the robe around my waist. It's a weird process because you feel like you're ruining what you just made, but that's what really adjusts the length of the hem. In the end it was pretty cool to realize I could take this large piece of fabric and fold it to match my body.

At this point I also realized that the obi in my set is a cheat. The bow is a clip on, so you just have to wind the band and you're done. I guess tying the bow is pretty difficult. I am perfectly happy with this arrangement because it's one less thing to deal with. Only now I can tell who on the street has a real obi and who's faking it like me. Anytime the bow is too perfect and sticks up too much, it's definitely a clip-on.

On Thursday I did a practice run of everything including braiding my hair just to see how long it would take. Not too difficult.

In case anyone's wondering what I did in lieu of the under robe... (Not that anyone's wondering, of course.) In addition to usual undergarments I wore spats and an undershirt that's meant for ventilation. I didn't want to get to sweaty. So underneath all that in the photo, I sort of look like I'm ready to go to the gym.

It's Saturday today, and so far I've gone to the festival twice. On Friday I met my friend Kelly and we went to the shrine and did puri kura. Today I hung out with my friends Kanon and Yuta, and Kanon's other friend. It was pretty crowded, but I can't walk that fast anywhere, so in a way the crowds don't matter so much!

The most useful thing I learned was that you can adjust the hem of the Yukata to any length you want--about in the range from mid-calf to the top of your feet. On Friday I tried to copy the instruction manual exactly and I could barely walk, and I was deathly afraid that the whole thing would come untucked. Tonight I made the skirt just a few inches higher and that made a big difference. I could move more freely, and the skirt never felt like it was going to fall down.

Both my sharemate Yoko and my friend Kanon were surprised to hear I had put everything on myself. Yoko said, "Kanpeki!" (perfect) And Kanon said it looked like a Japanese person had done it. Now I have mastered a valuable life skill.

As I was walking to meet my friends tonight, two men in their 30s or 40s were looking at me at the intersection. When I noticed them, they gave me the thumbs-up. Luckily, all my feedback has been that positive.