Of Course I'm Going To Heaven, I Floss Everyday!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I recently got in contact with the current president of the Japanese Friendship club at Largo High School. She had some interesting questions about Japan and I had some interesting answers for her as well. I thought it would make for a good post:

Have you gotten a chance to wear a kimono?

Yes, I've worn a kimono...well...a yukatta. Those are the summer ones and the’re hot as hell. Actually, I own one. My family hosted a college student when I was in 5th grade and she made a Yukatta and gave it to my mom. She didn't know what to do with it so I took it. I wore it at the o-bon festival this past summer. (O-bon - festival of lights. It's shown a lot in anime but it's actually not as popular as they make it out to be. But then again, all festivals look exactly the same. They are exactly the way they appear in anime except that most people don't wear Yukatta anymore. It's just too damn hot!) And it was hot too! In the summer here, I was sweating something awful! I enjoyed wearing the Yukatta and I'd do it again in a heart beat, but I'd put on more antiperspirant though...speaking of which, they don't do the antiperspirant thing. It's all deodorant.

Where have you been in Japan?

I've been to Tokyo a couple of times (never saw the same place twice), Kyoto, Nagoya, a bit around Kochi since I live here and....I transferred trains in Okayama once. (only saw the inside of the station ;))

Are the schools in Japan like in Manga?

The schools in Japan are just like the manga BUT (big BUT) first, and I shouldn't have to tell you, nothing magical nor remotely interesting happens in them. First, the schools all pretty much look the same. The classrooms look the same in every school all over Japan and that is reflected in manga and anime. Next, the students aren't allowed to wear jewelry, have funky hair, or wear anything really strange. So you're not going to see any of that. Third, the kids don't really have a life outside of school which is why there is so much anime and manga about it. They come to school around 8am. It's over at 4pm but most students stick around for clubs and sports. Most don't leave the school until after 6 or 7 at night. It's kinda depressing actually. Some go home and do cram school but no one does homework. If you're not in class studying or in cram school studying, you're not studying. Which is why they're always somewhere else other than at home. When they go home, it's to relax and not think about all the crap you have to do....kinda. That's it basically in a nut shell.

Can they buy bread? (common food in School based manga)

Bread? It's really funny that you ask that because I was wondering the same thing when I got here. Yes they have bread. You should know that from Anime and manga. It's mostly white though and a lot of gaijin have a problem finding wheat bread or anything that's not from bleached flower. They have all sorts of white bread rolls as well. Most HS students will eat curry bread or melon bread or jam bread. They have all sorts of breads. Some more tasty than others. Incidentally, there is a child's anime character made out of bread. Kinda like the ginger bread man. His name is AnPan Man and you should check it out. It's famous all over Japan but the artist came from Kochi. There's a children's museum here too for it. Read up on it just a little before you come here because if you don't, you won't notice that Anpanman is absolutely everywhere you look. It's the little things that I never noticed the first two times I came here with Largo.

Do they have a swimming pool? (also a common theme in school manga)

The school has a swimming pool. It's kinda nasty right now because it's winter and they aren't cleaning it. I wouldn't have even known it either if I hadn't looked out one of the windows of a particular classroom one day. It's in the back where I never have any reason to go so I never see it.

Do you walk to school?

I don't have a car so I ride my bike everywhere. I really like this but my thighs have gotten kinda fat because I'm gaining so much muscle. I'm a pretty thin person but I never exercised in America so the muscle is growing under the bit of fat I never knew I had. I take the train or bus whenever I want to go somewhere far away.

Do the students bow to you?

The kids bowing to me is a relative thing. If you come here you'll see that people are constantly bowing to each other. It's something I picked up the very first time I came here in Japan and was never able to shake after that. I kinda like it but sometimes if you get into a 'Thank you' fight with someone, you can get a little bit of a headache. A thank you fight is when someone thanks you and bows a little and you say thank you too and bow a little and it goes back and forth with little compliments for about a minute or so and since you're being so kind, you keep bowing a little so the back and forth motion becomes similar to head banging. Totally not used to it.

Anyway, at the beginning of every class, we can't do jack crap until one of the students says "shi sei!" for sit straight and "rei" for bow. I always bow to my students but it depends on the class if they bow back to me. These kids aren't as polite as they're made out to be. Teenagers are teenagers, regardless of country.

Is there a big teachers office thingy with all the teachers desks?

Yup. In Tosayamada, there are about 3 or 4 teachers offices that I've come across but I sit in the main one. You wouldn't know it but there is a hierarchy system that runs in the office. The most senior teacher gets the best seat and as teachers come and go, desks move around. Every time a student walks in they have to say "shitsureishimasu" which means I'm sorry for intruding...basically.

Are there ramen stands?

Ramen stands galore. But not just ramen, there's also Yakitori and most popular is takoyaki. I see them everywhere but the ramen places usually only come out at night and not in Tosayamada. I usually don't go to them because my last train from the city leaves at 10:30 and at that time the ramen shops are just opening! Though there are ramen shops that I go to. It's currently my new favorite food. It's way better than in America!

Do they show anime?

They show anime. However, the same anime that's popular in Japan in not popular here. Inuyasha is a bit old but Bleach and Nartuto are still going strong here. Everyone knows about Ranma, DBZ and Sailor Moon. Those are all still shown on TV regularly. But just know, that anime here is like watching regular tv at home. Asking someone if they like Bleach is like asking someone if they like the show Grey’s Anatomy. You'll get the same reaction. Where as in America if someone likes Bleach you know you automatically have a new best friend because you both like anime, it's just not the same here. Always remember, if someone came up to you and asked if you liked Lost then yes you have something in common but it's not a major hobby of yours to watch it like you would anime. Kids here are really nonchalant about it. But they like it all the same.

If you like any horror movies, the Japanese seem to really be into horror. Death Note recently came out in a live action movie. All the kids loved it. The ring is also a particular favorite.

Do you guys go on school trips?

They go on school trips but I know nothing about it. They don't take me (ToT) Though they do take little excursions every now and then depending on the school and depending on the class. For example, Odochi kids are constantly going up further into the mountains to work in a garden or bbq or do something! Or they go into the city to get on hands experience in the work force. They aren't an academic school so most of the kids aren't going to college. They're training them to go straight to work after HS. Tosayamada on the other hand doesn't go out nearly as much. In September they had a homeroom day where all the homerooms went out to do something fun for the day. Some went bowling but most went for bbq (yakiniku, fantastic stuff) in different locations. Some went to the "beach" others went to different parks and the place I went was way up in the mountains. It was beautiful. There was an onsen too which I also took full advantage of :)

What do you normally eat?

I usually eat whatever I can find. Granola bars for breakfast (because I don't feel like making miso or rice; too much work. I learned to stop eating breakfast a long time ago) bento for lunch (school provided) and whatever for dinner. Ramen, udon, spaghetti (japanese style) yakiniku (a bit pricey) or gyu don (beef rice. love that stuff) They have stuff like Omu rice (omelet rice) which is like rice cooked in ketchup and then covered with egg. And just fyi, the Japanese love mayonnaise and fried food. Don't be fooled, the stuff here isn't as healthy as they make it out to be. Oh, and corn. Mmmmm corn and mayo is a big favorite here found even on pizza! (Not bad but the mayo is a bit much at times...like on the teryaki burger at McDonalds. They smother that thing is Mayo, but you should try it. It’s good)

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