Serendipity of everyday life

Hullo all,


I thought I’d take a picture of how the street where I work looks. This picture pretty accurately captures Nishiki, and my shop is just a few cross-streets away.

This week felt pretty busy, like it has been for a while now. It always seems like I’m rushing from place to place. But, to be honest, it feels good. I may not have mentioned this, but I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. Kyoto is known as “The Walking City.” You might have noticed from my last post, but in a lot of ways Kyoto is actually quite small and quite big. Just the right sizes for walking pretty much everywhere you need to (with a few subway/bus/train hops to get you in the right place).

I’ve been cutting things a little close recently, in the mornings especially, because it’s still pretty hard to get out of bed on account of how cold it is. The past month and a half or so I’ve been running to the train almost every morning. It started as a necessity, but now I actually like it. A nice little jog in the morning. And I’m actually running with a purpose; to get somewhere!

I might just start walking a bit more when I get back the the US (maybe even running). That would be hard, though. You can’t really beat a place called “The Walking City” for ease of pedestrian access. Even if it does sometimes get a little crowded in the small streets and marketplaces, like above.

I liked giving simple job highlights last post, so I think I’ll do that again. Memories from this week:

  • Having my picture taken with an American guy who bought saké off me. He said he wanted a picture with the “American Saké Pro” to show his buddies, to prove I existed. He even came back the next day to buy more.
  • My favorite and least favorite customers are the ones that, without even blinking, treat me like another Japanese shopkeep. I can usually keep up with the speed at which they talk, but combined with unpredictable accents, personal quirks, and ambient noise, I sometimes have to call in a coworker to talk with them instead. I hate to break the illusion of my proficiency, but sometimes it really is for the best. On the other hand, it always feels like a miracle when I can keep up with one of these people and even get them to buy a bottle or two. I feel like a rock that somehow skipped over to the other side of the river.
  • I ended up meeting a middle-school acquaintance of mine’s parents. They were so surprised it seemed like they took a picture almost on reflex. I wouldn’t have known there was a connection if I hadn’t idly asked where they were from, though.
  • Proudest moment(s): when a large tourist group comes by, invariably lead by a Japanese guide carrying a small flag or pole. It seems to take a bit of pressure off of them once they see that I’m a foreigner and also knowledgeable about saké. But the best part is when I also have to interact with Japanese customers while the tour group is still trying samples. The guide starts translating me! Into English! What a rush. Think about that. I’ve finally integrated enough that I too have to be translated and explained in order to understand me. I, too, have become a sometimes object of fascination.
  • When an older Japanese man came up to the stand and I offered him a sample. He looked a bit glum, but when he looked up and saw my face a huge smile spread across his face. He said in [loud] English: “How strange! You are the only person who is not Japanese here! Look at her, she’s Japanese!” He pointed to my older coworker, who chuckled worriedly. “Look at them, they’re Japanese!” He pointed to our other customers. He furrowed his brow now, still smiling: “Very strange! You’re very strange! You’re an exception!” Yes I am, nice older Japanese man. And so are you. It is funny, though, how older Japanese men all seem to speak English in this way. Very big smiles, very big voices, big facial expressions. I wonder if this is how Americans seem…


I decided to try and find my tea ceremony sensei’s tea implement shop the other day. It’s a shop that caters specifically to my school of tea, and the owner actually practices tea with me and sensei on occasion. I saved the wrapper from my fukusa because it had the address of the shop on it. So I thought. It instead had the address of the owner’s actual house. I didn’t feel like knocking on his door unannounced, so I walked back through Arashiyama to the train station. It was nice to be back again. I’d also never been to this part of Arashiyama before; only to the more popular train stop.

Next to the train stop I remembered that there was a verry big-looking shrine. I had to check out a shrine by myself as part of a homework assignment anyway, so I went through the torii gate.


There’s another, inner torii gate after you walk though the first big one.

It was a great chance find. Most shrines in Japan enshrine just a few kami: Tenjin, a god of knowledge and academics; Inari, a god of agriculture, industry and general good luck [of Fushimi Inari]; and Hachiman, a god of archery, war, and protector of the Minamoto clan. These are some of the most popular kami in Japan, and are mostly who I see enshrined in Kyoto–especially in the bigger shrines.

However, Matsuo Taisha enshrines three lesser-known deities, and is known especially for its connections to saké. As in, like, it’s the saké shrine. In fact, my saké company sells what it calls Arashiyama saké, mostly because the area is so well-known for sake brewing.

So, I of course went to the main alter (shown above) and prayed a bit for the company and our saké. It’s a really beautiful shrine. Quiet, too. I didn’t have too much time to spend there, though, so I got my goshuincho stamp and went to leave. It turns out that this shrine was actually instrumental in shifting the ancient capital from Nagaokakyo (where I currently live with my homestay) to Kyoto. This also makes it really old. Older than Kyoto itself, really.

The other day, I was working with one of my older co-workers when she suddenly asked me which saké bottle I bought when I first chanced on the shop and introduced myself.

Fujin Raijin.”

“Ah. I knew it. It was a gift from the gods, wasn’t it? You coming here?”

Maybe it was. Maybe my trip to Matsuo Taisha was as well. It’s hard to tell sometimes, where divine intervention fits into life’s strange combination of hard work and chance. It seems to be easier to find in retrospect.

Regardless, life seems to find a way of collecting all that unpredictability into a couple of chance coincidences. It seems to be a bit reliable in that way.

Till next time,



Hi all,


Taken from Fushimi Inari.

The other day I realized that Kyoto is really big. Also that it’s really small. Almost everything I’ve done, everyone I’ve met, and everywhere I’ve gone in Japan has been in Kyoto. And you can see it all in this picture above.

A few take-aways from my first week on the job:


Vocab that I memorized in preparation for my job as a sake sales-clerk.

  • Interacting with people in another language is at the same time harder and easier than it is in your native language.
  • One way or another, 2osomethings are the same the whole world round. He may have spoken faster and used more slang, but my selling-partner I work with on all my shifts.
  • Saké. Some people like it. Some people hate it. Very few of the people who hate it have ever actually tasted it, as is apparent by their happy surprise when I finagle them into trying a sample or two. 
  • Proudest moment: somewhere in between getting a wine sommelier who literally turned his nose up at me to eventually buy the biggest bottle of our most expensive saké, having two self-described saké-hating Australians (one even refused to try samples at first) buy 6 bottles from us, or successfully interacting with a older, drunk man from Osaka. I even made a few jokes.
  • I’ve been asked for a picture three times now. I’ve probably had my picture taken far more than that, though. I’ll often look up and someone will have their phone out, taking a picture of me giving out samples.
  • “Wow. So, were you born in Japan?” “What? Oh, no I was born in Arizona. In America.”
  • I don’t think I’ll ever ever get over the double takes that people do when walking in the market and they see me.
  • I’ve come to really like saying “our saké,” and “well, we do things this way.”
  • I’ve counted three times where people never look at my face until halfway though a sip of saké, and then they almost spit it out. “What! I thought… Wow, you’re not Japanese. Hello.”
  • The best part of the job is that people interact with me without any reservations and look me straight in the eye when asking about saké. I guess specialization and professionalism out-trumps unfamiliarity and timidity any day. Except when it doesn’t. It only happened once, but I did have a younger Japanese woman take a sake bottle out of my hands when she thought I wasn’t pouring correctly. Learn something new every day.
  • Even two or so hours after I’m done working, my foreigner radar is still pinging. Because it’s my job to seek out foreigners and speak English to them (even thought about 50% of my talking is in Japanese), I can’t help but unconsciously pick them out in the crowds on the way home.

I actually ended up drinking with someone who bought saké from me. He’s a good friend now, although I’m not sure I’ll ever get a chance to meet him again. We went to my favorite jazz bar, where he told me about how he was studying computer science at a masters program in Korea.

The bartender almost knows me there now. His part-time helper definitely remembers me because of my Japanese, but she wasn’t working there that night. I suppose I left a different kind of impression on the other part-time bartender because I was curious about their saké. I thought I was making a fool of myself, but it turned out my questions were a little too specific and she had to go back to the bartender and ask him my questions on my behalf.

We had a good time and ended up going to a convenience store to try out different snacks later. I got back around 12am but it wasn’t until the morning when I realized that I had left both my scarf and hat back at the bar.

They say you leave things behind when you don’t want to leave. It also may have been because its been getting so warm. We’ll see I suppose.

I didn’t realize I would ever be in a situation like this, but this Saturday I ended up catching up on some reading while watching some pots boil on my kyudo sensei’s stove.

It was his birthday this Saturday. The same three person-or-so squad had gone to kyudo with sensei, practiced, and then helped clean up the dojo. After that we usually come back and have lunch with sensei and go home. But not Saturday. Sensei likes parties, and he had saved three sizable chunks of venison to put in a curry hot-pot for his birthday. We were going to continue birthday prep till about 5:30, but everyone else had gone out shopping. So it was up to me to make sure the pots didn’t boil over as we pre-cooked the venison for the hot-pots.

Everyone congratulated me on not letting my concentration slip after they returned, and we all went up to the third floor of sensei’s house to set up the big, low tables and chop all the vegetables. For some reason I find it really hard to talk to my fellow kyudo friends (sensei too, but that’s because I can hardly ever understand his slang). It’s just hard to get the words out in time, and correctly. Making food always seems like the best way to break down barriers like that, and that day was no exception.

By the time everyone else arrived, there were about 15 of us sitting on the ground around the big, conglomerate table. With two hot-pots full of venison-wiener-cabbage-pea curry and plenty of drinks, I can safely say it was a good party. Sensei could probably tell I was pretty tired from the day of kyudo and Japanese, and he clapped me on the back as he walked in: “Nice job watching the meat. This is all thanks to Jesse, you know!”

The pots were great but the real star of the show was this massive citrus fruit that sensei had been saving for about a month.


It’s called a banpeiyu, and yes, it’s bigger than your head.

“This is important stuff you know. Important part of communication. My friend lugged this all the way from Kyushu.” Sensei mimed lugging it under his arm to everyone’s laughter. I had told him previously that day that my major was communications (rhetoric is too much to explain for me even in English), so spent a large part of the day detailing the importance of communication to me, and what counted as communication.

When it debuted at the party everyone was overjoyed. It took quite a lot of effort to peel, though. Or even get started…

But it was worth it in the end. It had a really mild flavor and the effort that everyone went to to peel it brought us even closer.

At the party everything loosened up a bit and I was able to talk with my fellow kyudo students pretty freely (some of whom were about 40 years older than me). There was a great variety of drinks, but I of course found myself attracted to the saké. This interested everyone else, especially since I was the only one who drank any of it that night. I whipped out some of my vocab and actually succeeded in stunning a good portion of the room. Sensei got me talking about the differences between archery and kyudo, even though I did have to shout answers to him from across the room. I admitted that I really did want to buy a bow before I went home, to everyone’s great enjoyment. Still thinking about it.

One of my Japanese professors told me a while ago that no one’s ever completely fluent in the entirety of a language, but we can come close to complete fluency in certain situations and topics. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer for me to stumble into a situation where I happen to be more fluent.

I had to leave the party early to get home on time. I shut the door as everyone said their goodbye in unison. By the time I got to the first floor and was putting on my shoes, my ears were still ringing from the party. The relative silence and darkness of the first floor was quite a contrast. But as I was putting on my shoes, I heard someone shuffling. I looked up and saw sensei. “Hey. Oh, still putting on your shoes?” I laughed and said yes.

“Hey thanks again for the meat today. That’s an important part of communication, you know. Food. Gifts. Actions. Hey, do you have an umbrella?”

I’d gotten my shoes on and I was headed out the door.

“Yeah I’ve got one. Ok, I’m headed out.”

“Ok! Take care. It’s rainy out there so be careful.”

I stepped out into the rain and shut the door. That really got me. Sensei left his own ongoing party to come down and see me off, all the way down to the quiet of the first floor.

Even though I had a great time, it’s tiring to interact in Japanese like that all day. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you feel tired or lonely that other people are there too. And sometimes, the people you least expect to notice will know just what to do.

I had a really great, Japanese experience a few days ago. My commuter pass had fallen out of my pocket on Friday and I decided that it was best to get a new one as fast as I could. Sometimes it’s best to know when to call it quits and when to move on. I went to the station to report my case and apply for a new pass.

“Hi, I lost my commuter pass a few days ago and I was wondering if I could buy a new one.”

“Oh. It hasn’t been reported found or anything?”

Oh, no. Not that I know of.”

“Huh. That’s unusual.”

Unusual. That a pass wasn’t found a turned in in the space of a day. That sounded more unusual to me than the other option. But believe it or not, while I was filling out the application for another pass, I got a call from the AKP office saying that my pass had been found and returned to the AKP office.

As soon as I got off the phone, I tole the station-worker my news. She and a few other people in the office who overheard our conversation “yay’d,” congratulated me, and gave me a knowing smile.

So maybe I am starting to miss this place a bit already. The hardest part might not be leaving, but convincing myself to stay present till I leave.

“One stone, two birds.”

Hello everyone,


A good start to the week. Taken in the Arashiyama Monkey Park before my night of tasting sake.

I wanted to write this post last night, but I was a little too overwhelmed and I felt like I needed to process this week’s experiences (especially yesterday). It’s all good stuff. Just needed to find a way and some time to put it all into words… Well, it won’t only be words. With setsubun, a sake tasting with other foreigners, a chance adventure with a french ex-pat, and another adventure disguised initially as my first day on the job (I got the sake job!), this post is going to be full of media.

Without further to do, let’s start with the stories.

So, a few of you may know about setsubun. It’s the festival where you throw beans at oni (which are like ogres/demons) and yell “Oni out, good luck in!” Don’t worry, there will be related videos and pictures later about this part of it.


Makizushi for all the AKP students and Doshisha conversation volunteers.

What’s a little less known (in America, at least) is the tradition of eating an entire roll of uncut sushi for setsubun. Let me explain.

From what I’ve heard, this originated in the Kansai area (Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka) but only recently has it become a national tradition. Apparently at the encouragement of 7/11 and other convience stores that sell these uncut rolls of sushi.

There’re three rules:

  1. Everyone faces this year’s lucky direction (each year has one). This year’s was south-south-east.
  2. You eat the entire roll while thinking about a wish for the coming year.
  3. Don’t say anything. At all. Until you finish.

So, on Wednesday, AKP provided the rolls, and all the AKP students along with Doshisha volunteers ate in unison facing south-south-east. Nothing but munching sounds for about 2 minutes.

After eating our rolls and feeling a little bloated, a few of us went with a professor to a several local temples to experience the rest of setsubun.

The streets were filled with people, and everyone was in god spirits. A lot of the kids had oni masks on, and their respective brothers or sisters were throwing beans at them.

The first temple we went to was actually a bit of an oddity. Some mountain ascetics came and performed a slightly tweaked version of the setsubun story at a local Pure Land Buddhist temple (to better fit with the Pure Land teachings).


I was happy to see some archery, too. Priests shoot arrows in every cardinal direction during setsubun to scare away oni.

Each temple, depending on the sect of Buddhism or where the event is taking place, puts on a slightly different performance. Sometimes the oni are cast out and escape. Sometimes the oni are invited in.

The performance we saw showed the oni causing trouble and interrupting temple activities until they were subdued by the power of the Buddhist scripture. After that, the oni became servants to Amida Buddha and helped to bless people in the audience (we all got blessed with a sword by the head priest. Awesome).

The best part was by far the fire ceremony afterwords, though. It’s what we came to see. The video below shows the ascetics lighting the pyre…


…and the next video is a few minutes later. The video doesn’t do it justice, especially since I took it near the beginning of the ceremony. They tended the fire and splashed water in such a way that the column of smoke rotated around the pire and enveloped all of us at one time or another. I don’t know why, but the smoke didn’t hurt my eyes or hinder my breathing at all. I wonder if it was mostly steam from the fresh brush.

When you saw the smoke coming towards you, it looked like ocean waves. It rolled and and crested and twisted over itself as it came to meet you. And when you were enveloped, it felt like you were in a cloud. Really beautiful.

Finally to end the event the ascetics and priests brought out old scrolls and tapestries to burn on the pyre. Many people in the audience would then buy new, fresh scrolls from the temple later. Or they simply wanted to dispose of their objects in a meaningful way.

We went to a few other, more famous performances later in the day, but this one was awesome. Throughout the day we also got a lot of free food and drink from temples, shrines, and just people passing us by. My favorite was when we were pelted with candy or uncooked mochi by priests. Great way to get frustration out, and a great way to get free treats.


All the sake I tried on Thursday, with the sparkling wine poured at the very last.

I don’t know if you remember from my last post, but after being placed on the waiting list for a month, I was able to go to a sake-tasting held specially for foreigners. It was an experience.

First, if my friend Clara hadn’t decided to come along, I would have been the youngest person in the room. Maybe by 6-7 years. Clara and I were the first ones to arrive at the Takara Shuzo event space so we had the whole room to ourselves for a bit.


Seemed pretty legit.

The entrance fee was only 500 yen, but we realized that was because they wanted us to fill out a lot of questionnaires. It was fun stuff though. They were mostly wondering which menus out of three possible arrangements were the easiest to read, understand, etc…

As the adults creaked in they all mumbled and grumbled about having to do work and they whispered that they were just there to drink sake. It was mostly in jest, though.

After everyone arrived, about 20 foreigners in total an American who worked for Takara Shuzo and helped organize the event came out and gave a 15 minute presentation on sake preparation and grading. I found this intensely fascinating because of my previous interest in sake, but also because of my upcoming potential job working in a sake shop (more on that later). The adults were not quite as interested and their complaints started to sound a bit more earnest. The room was made up of British, American, French and other ex-pats, but no matter the nationality, things get tense with a room full of thirsty/hungry people.

The serious survey: the one about the sake itself.

The serious survey: the one about the sake itself.

Luckily his presentation seemed to end just in time and all of our samples were brought out. The same American representative walked us through each of the sake samples. I actually feel like I had a pretty grasp of what he was talking about, but I will admit that I think my scores started to slip near the end of the night. That was alright, though. The best part of the night was yet to come. I thought this was pretty smart, actually.

They brought out platters and platters of catered food and all the bottles that we tried and basically told us to sit back, relax and have a good time. They servers would occasionally come around and ask us about our favorites or what we thought of the earlier menus, but it really just seemed like an excuse to show us foreigners that we could have a great party based around sake. Pretty good way of gauging which was the most popular, too. The sparkling sake went by far the quickest. Eventually it just collapsed into a good-natured, rowdy party.

What’s bound to happen every time too many gaijin gather in one place. Yes, that’s a fiddle, and yes, he brought it with him.

It was interesting to see the Japanese ex-pat scene. I’m not sure if I liked it that much. Or at least, the faction of it that was represented by the prople present that night. A lot of the older people seemed jaded or bewildered or downright unpleasant. I remember one guy telling a server with a smile that their most expensive sake tasted “like rubbing alcohol”. The server looked either surprised or confused for reasons apparent, but this particular person decided that it was because the server didn’t understand him. “You know, rubbing alcohol,” and then he mimed rubbing something on his arm. The server said, “Oh, is that right? Interesting.” He responded with a disappointed (still with a smile), “Mmm, yeah.” His wife then informed me with a disappointed shake of her head that I shouldn’t be studying Japanese if I wanted to teach English in Japan. “They’ll just take advantage of you,” she said with a sad smile. “I’ve seen it happen.” Huh.

Most of the rest of them just complained about how hard Japanese was to learn. Which is true, but hey–it gets better the more you try.

But in the end everyone was reasonably courteous when they left. Especially because we left with sample bottles of that sparkling sake! Samples are the best.

Meeting a mutual friend from France renewed my faith in foreigners, luckily. It’s a bit of a complicated story but suffice it to say I ended up with a group of very rowdy Japanese people, a French ex-pat visiting from Singapore, and my host sister.

Let me tell you, my Japanese was stretched every which way that night. But the results were great. Because of my kyudo teacher and just living in Kyoto for about 6-7 months now, I’m pretty comfortable with roughish Kansai dialect. But wow, these 5 or so Japanese friends that my French friend had were really stretching my abilities. They were using all the words and phrases that we weren’t supposed to know about. Fun stuff. Of course if you’ve ever watched any anime or gangster movies/walked around industrial Kyoto at night, you’ll hear stuff like this. But still, I kept thinking, “So there actually are people like this out there.” And the best part was, once they realized I understood what was saying (I ended up translating a lot for my French friend even though his Japanese was alright), they started including me in all their conversations and rowdiness too.

Anyone that says Japanese people are quiet and reserved obviously hasn’t had a night out with friends.

After a lot to eat and after disturbing a large portion of the restaurant where we were eating, we decided to go to a nearby place called Sporcha and play around a bit. It’s a place where you can do many different sports and games like soccer, archery, boxing, bowling… It’s all in one massive building. We ended up doing soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, archery and various other sports later. Playing team sports was awesome. None of us were very good, but perhaps because of that it made me reminisce about P.E. Whenever I made a basket or messed up one of them would always yell, “Ah, come on Idaho!” I think we would all agree that soccer was the most fun. Why?  Because for no apparent reason we played soccer inside of massive inflatable balls. Things quickly devolved.

We ended up getting back home around 2 in the morning. I remember my hostsister saying in the car on the way back how surprised she was at how fast we all became friends. “We even seem like family, now.” Maybe I’ll do something like that again sometime. If anything, it certainly improved my Japanese.

If my night out with everyone tested my ability to be super friendly-slangy in Japanese, the next day certainly tested me in the opposite way. After coming back home around 2am, it was my first day on the job working for the sake brewery, starting around 11:30.

While I was out the night before, the owner/manager of the brewery emailed me and told me that instead of going to the shop in Nishiki market, she wanted me to come and meet her at the brewery itself. Mostly to show me around and to give me an idea who I would be working for. I started to realize then that I was part of a company; that I would be representing an entire many-hundred year old brewery when I was talking to customers in Nishiki.

The manager met me at the station, some 20 minutes west of Kyoto and surrounded by mountains. I noticed snow on some of these mountains as I rode the train through the countryside and through a few mountains themselves. From the station, she drove me to the brewery. I was using all my polite Japanese and my ears were straining to catch all of what she was saying, mostly because I’m not quite used to being referred to and spoken to in such a polite way. But luckily, I was able to carry on just enough small talk to get to the brewery.

At the brewery itself, the manager showed me around the entire facility. Not much has changed. Making sake is a very complicated process that a lot closer to brewing beer than it is to wine. There have been some improvements and automations, but the process and the functions of the machines are nearly unchanged. The whole place smelled great. Sort of like freshly kneaded dough. All throughout she introduced me to the workers. It was great to see their faces change from slight steely-confusion to utter gratitude when she told the, that I would be joining the company part-time.

She next showed me to her house on the property and served me tea and candies while she prepared a few other things. This was the real deal, and there was no backing out now. She came back after a few minutes to talk a bit of business and scheduling before taking me to another, separate room in the brewery to watch a video about the history and recent success of the brewery. While I watched the video at the round table, a few employees brought out, to my surprise, a plate of sushi, tea, and several bottles of sake with accompanying cups.

I ended up watching the video twice, but it was no matter. I interacted with a few other customers who came in and sat around the round table with me. Eventually the manager came to get me. I didn’t quite know what was going to happen next, but it turned out that she was going to give me a tour of all of their outlets across Kyoto, from Arashiyama to the Imperial Palace to Nishiki. But before I left, I of course received a bag of samples. Or at least I thought it was samples. It turned out to be three full bottles of sake, a large bag of sake rice sheets (it makes excellent soups), and various other, related sake products. There was even some facial cleanser and lotion that has been made from sake by-product for hundreds of years. She just kept putting things in…

Finally we left. The tour was relatively uneventful expect for when we got to Arashiyama and decided to buy me a grocery bag stuffed with various tofu products from Kyoto’s most famous tofu shop. “No, no, it’s fine,” she said when I asked her how much it was. “We help each other out a lot and I know her family well, so it wasn’t that much.”

When we arrived at the Nishiki storefront, I was laden down with gifts and expectations. I met everyone who I would be working with and we all seemed relieved when it turned out we could all communicate alright with each other. The manager left separately, but not before telling me that she would pay me working hours for that day.

My host family freaked out when I returned home. I guess I hadn’t realized just how much I had received till everyone kept pulling things out of the bags. She had even given me all the candy I hadn’t finished when she was talking with me about business over tea. The tofu especially caused a small uproar. “I’ve always heard of this shop but I’ve never tasted tofu from it!”

Hostmom taught me an important Japanese phrase: “One stone, two birds.” Which is of course nearly exactly the same in English, surprisingly. She reckoned by counting up on her fingers I was up to 4 or 5 birds with one stone at this point, though.

I’d heard that joining a company in Japan is like joining a family. I’m not sure why, but it often seems like I hear this in a negative way. About how much people work so that their job becomes their family. Brushing aside this vast generalization of Japanese business practice for the moment, I certainly feel like I’m part of something like a family now. I was welcomed into this elderly woman’s family business, her home, and all I sensed from her was gratitude. And yes, there is now definitely a sense of obligation to do my best for her business. But not to make money or repay any debts. It’s simply because I feel welcome and happy and cared for. When was the last time you heard of a company with benefits like that?

Today was actually my first day on the job, but that’ll have to wait for next week. I will say that it was good, though. Very, very good.

Next week also marks the middle of the spring term. I’m not necessarily sad about leaving yet, but I am starting to budget my time a bit. Not too much is planned for next week, but hey–neither was this week. We’ll see what happens.