January 19, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games
I’ve been distracted lately so until I checked Twitter, I failed to realize the January Blog Matsuri’s deadline was today. ありがとう, Twitter and Chrisgaunt. This month’s prompt: How I Resolve to Make the Most of My Stay in Japan. It’s a poignant topic for me right now as I begin the motions to move back West. How do I make what little time I have left count? And perhaps more importantly, have I really made the most of the past 2 years? Considering my favorite activities in life are eating, traveling and learning then I have no choice but to answer “NO” on all counts. This nabe – I could have eaten more of it. And these Japanese verbs; I really could have memorized them to perfection. Don’t even talk to me about domestic or international travel or my heart will break.
On the other hand, living abroad isn’t a vacation. You work. You run errands. You deal with personal issues. You feel lazy and decide not to head to a shrine on your free morning, regardless of the Facebook photo opportunities. You think: I live here. I have more time.
Well, time is running out for me, my friends. And in the midst of trying to make the most of the rest of my time in Japan, I’ve got to get rid of my stuff, plan to attend my cousin’s wedding in Guatemala at the end of April and prepare for the Next Big Thing, which in itself will be a several-step process. It’s going to be a mega-packed timetable, almost like a vacation in that sense. Fortunately, I’ve always excelled at the jam-packed schedule. Unfortunately, I’ve been distracted enough finding Salvation Armies and applying for jobs that I didn’t check the local events listings on time and missed Doyadoya – AGAIN. College boys wearing only loincloths and tabi socks, fighting over talismans dropped from the eaves of a temple? Obviously a must see. And yet, I was too busy picking through my ill-fitting Japanese clothes and eating Night Club Pringles potato chips. Gosh darnit.
To ease my disappointment, I offer a list of worthwhile things I’ve done while living in Japan:
- Osaka: all the highlights: Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple, Dotombori, the aquarium, Suntory museum, Umeda Sky Building, Tennoji Park, etc.
- Nara: my first day trip in Japan, undertaken with Bob and Sean one hungover National Foundation Day back in February of 2007. Todaiji Temple. Deer. I’ve since visited Nara again on several occasions: O-Bon illuminations, museum wanderings, and frigid rainy day temple hikes.
- Kobe: on various occasions, Chinese New Year, a sake brewery museum crawl (free shots of sake at each museum), Harborland.
- Hyogo prefecture: a hike through abandoned train tracks and tunnels.
- Kyoto: all the hits – Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Gion, etc – plus varied occasions of nightlife participation and shopping.
- Shirahama: puttering around a seaside town during a Golden Week that was too chilly to allow any swimming.
- Tokyo: Asakusa, the Imperial Palace, Korakuen Park, Ginza, dark noodle broth.
- Yoshino: It was a trip to see the spectacular cherry blossoms but, regrettably, they’d all fallen.
- Minoo Park: red-bottomed monkeys and mountains!
- Hiroshima and Miyajima: the Peace Museum, hiroshimayaki, and gazing at Itsukushima Shrine.
- Fukui: frolicking with children in the countryside at summer camp
- South Korea: Pusan and Daegu; hitting a foreigners-only casino, an amusement park, and eating 6 spicy meals a day with Pepper.
- Taiwan: eating dim sum, wandering through a night market and riding to the top of 101 Tower.
- Thailand: tuk tuks, lady boys, palaces, pad thai, tropical fish, elephants, and sea urchins. Poor Pepper.
- Bunraku theater in Osaka, August 2007
- Kabuki theater in Tokyo, August 2007
- AWESOME Sumo tournament in Osaka, March 2008
- A classical Japanese music concert (Bob), Fall 2008
- Philharmonic concerts (Bob), Spring and Summer 2008
- Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto, wearing a yukata. Summer, 2008
- Chinese New Year in Kobe. February 2008
- Nude soaks in public sento and onsen baths, including a divine afternoon at Arima in Hyogo prefecture. That’s right, Japanese ladies. Check out these lovely Hispanic-ish lady lumps. You see? You LIKE. February 2008
- Karaoke. Forever. Always.
- 1 shuuji (calligraphy) class. February 2008.
- 1 haiku writing class. February 2008.
- Pachinko. It’s the fastest way to waste 1000 yen … apart from buying one of the many blackhead clearing products sold in Loft. February 2007.
- Learned to prepare many Japanese recipes, including nikujaga, curry, age dofu, tako su, and Japanese pickles.
- Learned enough Japanese to take the Level 3 Japanese Language Proficiency Exam. If I pass, it would put me at about a 10 year old child’s level of speaking, reading and writing … correct me if I’m wrong. Considering I can read like a 10 year-old but speak like an 8 year old with a one-track mind, we’ll just have to see about “passing.”
- Rode the Shinkansen train. August 2007, December 2008, January 2008, and May 2008.
- Everything yaki (grilled): okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakitori, yakisoba, yakiniku.
- horumon: i.e., organ meats. You’d be surprised how tasty something can be when it’s barbecued. Nonetheless, I still have to psych myself up to eat intestines. I just tell myself it’s squid.
- horse – うま、うまよ！！Wakka wakka … I’m here all week, folks.
- nagashi soumen
- Fugu … a.k.a. slightly poisonous pufferfish
- nasshi pears
There’s more. I hope there’s more. Please let there be more. And no, I don’t think natto should be part of my remaining time in Japan, especially when Sean insists on waving a putrid-smelling carton of it under my nose while we watch TV. I have nothing against fermented soybeans, or fermented anything, for that matter: more kimchi, please. I do have something against things that smell like a carcass. It’s why I can eat tasty chicken hearts that smell like BBQ. Yum.
So what will I do with my remaining time in Japan? I hope I can do more of the above: travel, eat and learn. Sean and I caught a performance of an improv comedy troupe in Osaka last night. I’m working on another article for the local English-language magazine. I’m scouring the region’s event listings to see if I can catch more scantily clad boys. I’m having Good Japanese Days and have learned to avoid situations where my Japanese can’t help me, thus limiting situations where I look like an idiot. I’m looking into trips to snowy Hokkaido for National Foundation Day weekend. Beijing would have been preferable but 69,720 yen for a 2.5 hour flight? I don’t think so. Monkey onsen in Nagano. More strolls through Gion? Nagoya? Mie? Yokohama? Why would I want to go to Yokohama – haven’t I had enough curry? Think, Liv, think.
I will wear my yukata at least once more … even if I can’t fold it properly.
I will master the conjugation of い and な adjectives, as well as causative, passive, and causative-passive verbs – heck, all verbs – for once and for all.
I will make the children behave.
I will get my wild monkey fix.
I will make an effort to cook only Japanese foods … or as often as possible, since olive oil runs through my veins.
I will give up on wearing Japanese fashion.
I will visit a fish market in the early morning.
I will drink better quality green tea, and more of it.
I will travel to at least 2 South East Asian countries at the end of my contract.
I will get my hair Japanese straightened. Maybe. Probably not.
I might try natto.
Any and all further suggestions are welcome.