I am …

Unsmart … because Coming of Age Day is not static. In 2008, it fell on January 15th – yesterday – which is why I had a day off from school. I have seen the honored 20 year-olds in their kimonos, pushing through subway gates, as I headed to the park for a lazy sunset walk. Alas, no pictures.

Unimpressed … by my students’ machinations and ways to put off doing work. “Yes,” I tell them for each “No!” they shriek. And “yes,” it is.

Apparently Unaffected by Gluten or Dairy … and as such I declare the trial over. I noticed a market improvement in my skin issues after using a product I picked up back home. I know for a fact it was the product, not the diet, because the day after I got back to Japan, on a whim, I read the label of the supposedly gluten-free buckwheat noodles I’ve been eating almost every day since my experiment started. Wheat flour was listed as the second ingredient. All of my experimental suffering and eschewing of delicious Japanese and American foods had been for naught – I’d actually been ingesting refined, enriched white flour nearly every day. Yet, my skin looks better and despite “cheating” in New York I never noticed any stomach discomfort or worsening of my appearance – apart from the sunken look of my face and waist due to accidental weight loss. So there you go – aided by the power of glycolic acid but unaffected by gluten or dairy. I have, however, been quite affected by my nutritional research and intend to continue on a low-gluten, low-dairy, low soy, high fiber and no junk food diet. Continuing with the heaps of fruits and vegetables I’ve been eating but incorporating whole grains several times a week and skim milk products in very small doses. Supplements, too. I am dazzled by my discoveries but depressed by how ubiquitous the very malnutritious enriched flour is in the Western – and now the Japanese – diet.

Eternally Spastic … as evidenced by my first foray to a public bath last week. It might have been ultimately relaxing, but my several breaches of conduct, I’m sure, gave the naked little old ladies plenty to tell their families about. In the Japanese public bath …

Do:

  • Be prepared to see an awful lot of unsightly body parts, casually strewn about like dirty floppy socks.
  • Leave your shoes in the lockers outside the dressing area and your clothes in the dressing area lockers.
  • Realize that being nude in the baths is simply the way – compare it to wearing a bathing suit in a public pool in the West. You wouldn’t do it any other way, would you? Just do it. No one cares. Once you finally wrest off your shirt – huffing and wheezing with terror – it all feels strangely normal anyway.
  • Bring your bath kit to the bath house in a furoshiki, but leave said furoshiki in the lockers. Bring the bath items into the bathing area in the plastic buckets provided.
  • Wash your body and your hair with the faucets before you enter the pools themselves.
  • Know enough Japanese to read the signs above the pools, or you risk electric shock in the electric current pool. Electric current pool – yes, I am serious.

Do Not:

  • Drip dye from your furoshiki onto the bathing area floor
  • Feel too proud that you are undoubtedly the fittest one there – after all, you are the only one under 70.
  • Stare at the others conspicuously, even if you are just trying to make sure you’re getting the protocol right.
  • Jump and yelp when you get shocked in the electric current pool
  • Tip toe from bath to bath, testing the water with your big toe
  • Attempt to make small talk.
  • Forget your towel

Back to me. I am also:
Cute … according to Kazuki, one of my 3 year-old students. “Ribu sensei kawaii!” he said thoughtfully to his mother. Though I am supposed to pretend I don’t understand, I couldn’t resist thanking the boy for his good taste.

Still rapt with childlike wonder … after a much overdue visit to the Osaka Aquarium. Steve and I had both wanted to suggest it when we made plans to catch up after Winter Break but Steve was sure I’d already been and I was sure he wouldn’t want to pay 3500 yen. No, I hadn’t been – and admission is 2000 yen, not 3500, as I’d thought.

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Penguins on parade.

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Why you don’t go to Osaka Aquarium on a Sunday afternoon.

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Steve Irwin-killing jerk.

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Snarky … these are biscuits, Mr. Sean O’Doyle:

And these are cookies:

Antsy … and thinking of changes. Another year. The first flew, as will the second, but am I only idling, as I did back home?

Unable to sleep.

Unwilling to blog.

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