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Japan Days 15-16: Typhoon and a Matsuri

Okay, typhoons are terrifying.

Obviously I always knew the dangers of natural disasters and such, but living in Minnesota the worst thing that really ever happens is a bad thunderstorm that lasts a few hours—maybe a tornado. Today however, I was awakened several times throughout the night from strong winds rattling the shutters and strong rains battering against the sides of the house. As soon as I woke up I had texts and calls from the directors of my study abroad program telling me that school was called off and several trains had stopped due to the incredibly high wind. As if that weren’t enough, I went downstairs for breakfast only to watch an hours worth of news coverage of the flooding in Kyoto and Osaka, torrential downpours throughout Japan, and rain with such strong wind that umbrellas were wrecked immediately upon walking outside in Tokyo.

So in other words, I was stuck. Stuck at home. Without internet. And classes hadn’t started yet so I had no homework, nothing to study.

At first it was nice, and I appreciated the rest from the hectic weekend, but after a few hours of back-to-back episodes of Grimm, I was ready to run away.

By the end of the day the cell of the typhoon had passed Chiba and it was calm enough to venture outside. I went with obaachan to the temple—where people were scrambling to prepare for the Matsuri that was supposed to be going on today and the following day.

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Upon realizing it was safe to venture outside, I quickly used school work as an excuse to flee the house for the nearest Starbucks for some quality internet time. It was surprisingly nice outside and the setting sun was actually quite gorgeous.

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On Tuesday, classes started. I was ready to start, but at the same time there was a small part of me that felt like I was loosing my freedom. I am happy to say though, that I adore my teachers and my class has a great group of people in it. I luckily placed in the highest level Japanese class, which will be great for intensive language learning. However, the four levels are very separated and even though they are at the same times, they are scattered about campus and people from the different classes don’t really get to see each other until lunchtime, and that is only if we happen to be in the same of one of four cafeterias on campus, not to mention the various other places people go to eat around or outside of campus!

By the end of the first day of class, we were all fairly exhausted. While many people went out or home to chill, I went with Brian, Mary and Zach (other IES students) back to obaachan’s house for a curry dinner before heading out to the Matsuri. Brian and Mary live relatively close to me, so we met up with their host mothers along the road home, and Zach is the other half of Team Minnesota—and often on the receiving end of my favorable and unfavorable rants about what it has been like living in a host family without internet! 😉

Anyhow, we all got to obaachan’s house and sat down for dinner together. This was quite the experience. Here we were, this ragtag group of older Japanese women and American university students, sitting cramped around a small table. To make matters more entertaining, the women were chatting/gossiping non-stop about the things Brian, Mary and I do that is amusing while the four of us exchanged half embarrassed, half amused glances, not entirely knowing how to respond. It was nice though, having people around who knew Japanese and for the first time being able to speak English in obaachan’s home.

After dinner we went around the block to the temple. I have been there a few times now, but this time it was full of people and decorations. I am now a pro at the methods of praying, and semi-confidently washed my hands before going up to the temple, tossing in my coins and praying.

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The four of us briefly split off to go down the street to see the dozens of tents set up selling food, toys and games, but not far down the road the path was blocked by a parade of people.

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We eventually headed back to meet up with the host moms, and went back to the temple in time to see the same people carrying the mini-temple—but this time they were not just walking around with it, they were jumping and for all intents and purposes gallivanting about. Although I have never experienced it personally, I think this is the Asian equivalent of the Running of the Bulls. Seriously, Brian and Mary and I definitely almost got run over, and several times ran away. Brian’s host mother ran and hid behind a sign—it was quite hilarious.

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It is hard to get our host moms to take pictures with us, but I did snap a few of us eating yakitori—grilled meat sticks—together.

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As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for further entries!

じゃ、また明日!

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