Chance encounters and fuzzies

Hi all,

I’m currently on a four-day weekend! Many things have happened since Wednesday and many more things are going to happen in the next few days. However, in keeping with the last post, I’m just going to tell you about a few events that popped into my head as I wrote this.

A few days ago, I was sitting on a park bench on the Doshisha campus, waiting until my next class started. I admit was doing a bit of people watching. I love the fashion here. Even the older people have great fashion sense. I was watching one such older man out of the corner of my eye. He was slowly walking past me, but kept slowing down until he was right in front of me. He asked me in Japanese, “Do you speak Japanese?” I said, “A little.” Oh, alright. Do you speak English?” I said, “Yes, as a matter of fact I do [ok actually I just said yes].” Then he said in English, “Oh, good. I’m an autodiadact. I’m looking for a teacher.” Ah. Then he gestured if it would be alright to sit down next to me. “Sure.”

He pulled out a thick notepad full of notes in English and Japanese and told me that he was “teaching English to myself.” Right after he said that his brow furrowed and asked if that was a proper sentence. I told him of course it was, but he wanted to know if it sounded natural. “Maybe, ‘I’m teaching myself English’ is a bit more natural,” I told him. He made a note of it. Then he pulled out a book and prefaced it with, “I’ve been meaning to learn more about American Indians, because I feel bad that I know so little about them. I checked out this book from the library but I’m having trouble reading it. Perhaps you could help?” Sure. I took a look at the book. The title was The Bureau of Land Management Practices in the American Southwest Riparian Areas, 1951-1961. That was when I learned that Japanese word for convoluted: fukuzatsu. “This is definitely very fukuzatsu. Even for me. Don’t feel bad about it.” The book opened with a topographical description of a plot of land, and my new friend had even tried to draw out a map from it. “Yeaahhh… Fukuzatsu. I’d give up on this one. I have no idea what it’s talking about.” He thanked me and then pulled out the other book he’d been working on: a golf manual. Needless to say, the manual was also fukuzatsu and strangely [needlessly] metaphorical.

I recommended that he check out some American literature instead. “If you want to learn more about American Indians, you should check out this one author.” He thanked me and I wrote on his pad, “Sherman Alexie (author): Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (book)”.

I looked at my watch and told him I had to go to class. “Oh, please, go if you have to. I didn’t mean to keep you.” We exchanged names and email addresses and parted with smiles.

A few days later, he sent me an email. He thanked me for my help a few days prior and told me that he had bought the book on Amazon. He already had a question about a portion where Alexie was playing around with some language. I helped him out a bit and I was happy with how much I was able to explain in Japanese, switching into English when it was necessary.

I’ve never been in a tutoring relationship quite like this. I wonder how it’ll affect me by the time I return to Whitman to work at the COWS (Writing Center).

Hopefully more updates to come.

On Friday I went with my Visual Arts class to Todaiji temple in Nara, which houses the biggest bronze Buddha in the world (50 feet tall). There was a place where you could crawl through for good luck that was as wide as the Buddha’s nostril. Yes, it was that big. No, I didn’t do it.

It was a beautiful day for pictures.


The overlook above the temple.






Looking out from the overlook.


The steps up to the Todaiji overlook.


I’ve noticed that the affect I get from Buddhist things is different than other religions I’ve encountered. These huge statues and representations are more like “reminders” or “references” to the Buddha and Buddhism. They don’t seem like actual representations. Other religions I’ve encountered affect me differently. Not sure how else to phrase it.

Two Doshisha students helped me get insurance and claim my residence the other day. It was scary stuff since I had no idea what most people were saying. The guy who ended up helping us was pretty nice, though. He assumed that the students who escorted me there had written the kanji on my paperwork, and was impressed when it turned out I had done it. H also kept referring to my as “brother” to my “sisters,” which is just what you do in Japanese, but it made me feel fuzzy in an otherwise cold place. Later, my friends and he helped me remember a kanji when I had to fill out more paperwork. They explained it to me the way you would to a native speaker: “Oh, it’s just that plus the left side of sama.” It’s the little things. More fuzzies.

Today was amazing. Yesterday was my cleaning day, but today I had decided I was going to find an ATM. My best bet was a 7/11 because they accept all kinds of foreign cards, but my the way to getting lost I found an ATM in a convenient alleyway. I went in and humiliated myself in front of the obviously one-way mirror. After realizing I was going in precisely the opposite direction I was supposed to, I decided to head off to 7/11 in earnest. On the way there I passed a shrine that my host mom said was very famous (“Hmm that looks cool”).

After about 40 minutes of walking, I found the 7/11 and extracted almost exactly 50 times the amount of money I intended. Oh well, today had an ok exchange rate anyway.

On the way home I decided to stop by the shrine I had noticed on the way to the 7/11. Best decision ever. I did it everyone, I found a place that was definitely not intended for foreigners and/or tourists. I had unwittingly stepped into a massive free, local music festival. And it was only for today.

I didn’t see another foreigner the entire time I was there. It was kinda weird, and I loved it. But I also wondered, why is that? Awesome free music all over this shrine complex. There were at least 4 acts playing at any one time. I guess you either know about it or you don’t. It was so lucky that I happened upon it.

Awesome food and drink too.

OBSERVE MY BOUNTY Fried octopus balls, teriyaki chicken, and a beer.

Fried octopus balls, teriyaki chicken, and a beer.

After about an hour, I finally worked up the courage and the appetite to order some octopus balls. So worth it. I thought they’d go pretty well with a beer too, so I went to a separate booth and ordered one. The lady thought I said “teriyaki,” and her coworker tried to correct her. I realized right then that I was actually in the mood for teriyaki as well, so I told them that I would like teriyaki AND a beer. “AND?!” “Um yes, and.” This made the beer and teriyaki man very happy and I think I have a new best friend. Or at least he does.

I finished my food and drink and walked around a bit. I found a crane in a water lily pond and stopped to take a picture because they were both equally amazing. I made more friends with some old ladies as we all ooh’d and ahh’d together.

IMG_20150920_143126748_HDRI took the train home after realizing the shrine and the 7/11 were each just 2 minutes away from the train station.

The weather was perfect and I walked the rest of the way home when I reached my stop.

Coming up: going to Toji’s famous outdoor fleamarket tomorrow, exploring Osaka with friends on Tuesday, and returning to Osaka on Wednesday for a field-trip. I also have my first Tea Ceremony classes coming up on the 29th, and I’m trying to see if I can join the Kyudo club at Doshisha. I’ll keep you updated.



One thought on “Chance encounters and fuzzies

  1. What wonderful experiences. We love it all and feel we are learning about everything through your words. Keep it up.

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