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Day 6: The First Weekend

Today’s entry is also going to be a bit like a journal entry, but there are some great pictures of my adventures in Japan, so even if you don’t want to read all the details you should scroll down and check them out!

I woke up feeling the uncertainties and disappointments of yesterday; ready to begin a new day, yet lacking the high hopes and spirits of the previous days.

I got ready and cautiously made my way downstairs, uncertain about communicating among other things. I shouldn’t have worried though, as obaachan did her best to make me feel at ease. I think that part of my problem is that so far (it having been less than a day and all) I still feel like a guest and she is treating me like a member of the household.

She made what she considers a simple breakfast, with a lettuce salad, eggs and ham, seaweed soup, rice, a variety of tofu, pickled vegetables and grapes.

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Everything was delicious but I struggled to finish everything! I am not used to eating this much for breakfast, and certainly not used to having no choice but to finish what is on my plate. Living with my parents or at my apartment in the US we would just stick it in the refrigerator for another day, but here obaachan made only enough for us for breakfast, intending on having no leftovers.

Obaachan praised my skill with chopsticks, though I had an extremely challenging time cutting the tofu into smaller pieces. She said I could just pick it up and bite it, but I want to be able to do it the correct way so I struggled through.

We sat and had breakfast for around 45 minutes, which I felt bad about because obaachan told me she usually eats quickly, in around 10-15 minutes. I can’t tell if this is one of those Japanese things where she is telling me that because she wants me to eat faster, or if she wants me to eat at my own pace and doesn’t want me to feel bad about it. She did say that I should do my laundry while we are eating and that it will be done around the time we finish, and that takes about 30 minutes.

After breakfast I took some pictures from my bedroom. It really is a cute area, and really has an old-time-Japanese feel to it. I hope that one of these days I will be able to slowly make my way to school while taking pictures of absolutely everything…however I am too embarrassed to do it while I am walking with obaachan! She is very tolerant of me taking pictures of everything I eat, but I think even she would think it was ridiculous if I took that many pictures! 😉

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Another wonderful thing is that I can actually see the IES building from one of the second story windows in the house! This may be a minor “win” but it really is great, because it means that if I ever get lost I can look and see which direction the IES building is in, and either find my way back to the building or reorient myself in order to go in the direction of obaasan’s house.

We then went on a quick tour of the neighborhood. Obaachan introduced me to one of her neighbors, we went to see a temple in the area, then the train station, and finally went to a shrine upon our return. It was very beautiful and almost completely blended into the houses around it from a distance. The shrine was old, but there was actually an incredibly old building that was inside another building—the newer building having been built around it with partially glass walls so the old building can still be seen from the outside.

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I went to meet a friend whose host family is close to mine, but the library at Kanda was closed because school still has not started yet… So I took some pictures around the campus because I was early (as always!).

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Thankfully we met up easily and decided to slowly made our way over to the main shopping district in Makuhari to find a café with internet. Not 10 minutes after wandering around one of the smaller malls, we ran into all the girls staying in the dorm—who were on their way to a large mall a few train stops away. We readily agreed and set off on an adventure.

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We were skeptical whether or not we were in the right place when we got to the train station, but we followed the mass of Nihonjin to the enterance of the mall. Wow. Seriously, coolest and biggest mall ever. It was like a mixture of the Mall of America on steroids and Harrods: huge and filled with expensive and fascinating things! Anyhow, it was super entertaining and we are definitely going back there. I would recommend it to anyone else who is going to be in the Chiba area.

If that description didn’t persuade you, here is a sample of the great English you can see there! 😉

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Being with a group of IES students was exactly what I needed today. I was able to vent my concerns, realize the positive experiences I am having, and have some fun completely unrelated to the issues I was having. I am so appreciative for the support I get from the other students, so if any of you are reading this, thank you, and if my family is reading this, don’t worry about me! 😉

Upon my return to Kaihin-Makuhari station I got up my confidence to ask the woman at the tourist center about where to find an Internet Café. I found one and battled my way through the first time registration and such of using the café entirely in Japanese. It was a bit of a struggle but it was a fantastic experience.

I found my way back home—happily on the first try!—and studied kanji until dinner time. I was worried about conversation, but for some reason it was much easier to talk with obaachan tonight. I think she realized I am not confident speaking but I like listening to her, and even after dinner she told me stories (with my occasional interjections) for about 2 hours. She also bought a small dessert to share with me as a belated birthday present!

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We talked a lot about the weather and natural disasters, transportation, dialects, and her job. Obaachan used to make thread from silk worms, dye it in extremely detailed patterns, and weave it into fabric to make kimonos. She showed me some of her work and told me that with this old fashioned way of making fabric it takes about 2 months to make one kimono! Now she doesn’t make fabric, but she does make things out of stained glass and told me that when I am not busy on Sundays she will teach me how to do it myself! ^_^

We ended the night watching a Japanese TV show together. It was so hilarious—both the program itself and obaachan’s reaction to it. The show featured Arashi, a very famous Japanese pop group, and apparently one of the members parents have a store in Makuhari and many people (and study abroad students!) go there on the off chance they might see him.

Many of the other students with host families are staying in this weekend; even if they are not doing things with their families they feel like they need to stay home. I felt like that would be too confining so even though I was nervous I mustered up the courage and asked obaachan if she would mind if I went into Tokyo with friends from IES. She immediately agreed and even said she would bring me to the station and helped me find the right time to go. I was worried that she would think I was avoiding her or would rather spend time with my friends, but I think she truly wants me to have a good experience here in Japan and wants me to make the most of it. She even offered to go to Osaka with me in the case that I would be going by myself! ☺

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about Shinjuku!

また明日!

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