The oni has struck! (or) Things I dislike about Japan

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Today was not a good day.  I woke up late this morning, feeling awful as well.  My head felt heavy, painful and full, and I sneezed a bunch of nasty looking stuff.  I’m guessing all that smoke from the club combined with the cold weather here has given me a horrible sinus infection.  My throat hurts as well. Note to self:  Find out how to say “I have sinusitis” in Japanese, so the drugstore people will understand me.

I hurried along, but took a bit too long in the ofuro (upon Okasan’s suggestion, I’m taking it in the evenings now- it makes me feel super sleepy and nice)  and was late leaving.  I had to run to the train station in the cold Osaka weather, making my athsma act up.  But- I made it to the train in good time, so I thought I was ok.

However, once I got to the bus station my luck changed.  As usual, I asked the bus driver if his bus heads to Kansai Gaidai.  YES.  He said.  Of course, he also said a bunch of other stuff i didn’t quite get, but I figured that it was OK.  I only understand 50-75% percent of any given conversation anyway, but it had worked well for me thus far so I wasn’t worried.  I had also made it to the bus station with 10 minutes to spare, so if the bus headed to KG one or two stops after it usually did I figured I would be ok.  Plus, there was a sticker of a witch that said what I was sure was express to KG, and the day before I had asked a bus driver who said all the buses headed there eventually.

I was quite wrong.

3o minutes and an infinite number of stops later, the bus driver signaled me off the bus.  This, he told me, was Kansai Gaidai.  But it looked nothing like the KG I knew.    This KG was in a hilly wooded area, unlike the flat Urban land my KG rested on. The mountains were on a different side as well.  In fact, it seemed like I was ON a mountain.  But the large sign in front of me said Kansai Gaidai, with a lot of little characters underneath.

Perhaps I’m at the back entrance, I thought.  Kansai Gaidai is bigger than I thought!

But once I reached the main gate, I was convinced this was not my school.  It looked nothing like it!  A nice older guard came up to me, and from what I gathered (again only 50%- he spoke in Kansai Dialect as well as a Japanese man-slur, I’m sure) I was in the HOTANI campus!  My KG is the Nakamiya campus!  He directed me to go up the escalator and to the right, where I found an office with a nice lady who spoke english.  She wrote me a pass for the shuttle bus that goes between the two schools, and took me to the cafeteria to wait until 9:55 when the bus left (I arrived at 9:20 ish).  I eventually got back to the right school, but entirely missed my Japanese speaking class.

I was tired and stressed and had lost my hat and gloves somewhere along the way, as well as tearing a large hole in the lining of my new coat.  All in all, a very bad morning.

Today is the spring festival, where people eat giant sushi and throw beans at oni (demons) or people in oni masks for good luck. The beans are supposed to chase the bad-luck oni away, but I never bought any beans- just picked up free oni masks from the supermarket as souvenirs for my family.   Perhaps the oni took their anger out on me?  Please leave me alone, oni!!!

Anyway, being in a bad mood on a bad day left me a lot of time to think about all the things I don’t like about Japan.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Not being able to understand/speak most of the time.

2. THE COLD.

3.  THE COLD.

4. IT’S REALLY REALLY COLD.

5.  Being taller than everyone else.  Actually, being bigger than everyone else too.  And looking different.  It’s kind of disconcerting knowing everyone’s staring at you.  I don’t feel like a celebrity, like many of my other friends probably feel.  They get stared at too, but at the same time people look at them and I can see curiosity and positive interest.  Drunk Japanese girls and boys all want to hang out with the blonde girls and the tall white boys.  When people look at me, I feel like I have a big zit on my forehead.  It’s a lot of sideways glances, and quickly looking away.  Or sometimes not.  And that’s really awkward.  I try to smile, but they don’t smile back.  I feel very self-conscious of how I sit, how much space I take up, how red my coat is (mostly people here wear more subtle colors, not bright loud ones like I’m fond of), how little Japanese I know.

6. It’s kind of expensive.  Not so much for regular people, I think.  You can get a humongous bowl of pretty tasty udon for about 2 bucks, and a nice lunch or dinner for 6.  But I have very little money, and no way of making more this semester.  I’m not allowed a job, so what I have is what I get.  And I have to buy books and a train pass and a bus pass, and fare for when I go to visit places like Kyoto or Nanba.  And pay fees, and that kind of thing.  I’m being frugal, but penny-pinching is stressful, and when I’m stressed I eat.  And shop.  But then I get stressed about doing these things so I don’t eat or buy anything-which makes me more stressed, so I want to eat and shop even more!  eeeeeeee!

7. The walking is hard on my back.  I have to lug a backpack full of books around all day.  It’s tiring.

8. Banking.  No one accepts check or debit or credit, and the only ATM that works is at school.

9. Getting lost.

10. Feeling home but not home at the same time.  Last week, I was talking to my parents and Hanako on Skype, and I mentioned how I felt like some part of me belonged.  How even when I was lost, I felt like I wasn’t.  I still feel that, definitely- but at the same time, I don’t so much.  I miss my family and home friends, and physical contact and pizza.  And though I feel like if someone asked me to up and move here and become a permanent citizen I would, I would never feel at home on the surface, though I feel at home deep down.  Because I’m not treated like I am.  In America, I feel home at the surface but not underneath.  Here it’s opposite.  I wonder if I’ll ever find some place where I feel at home all over.  I hope so.  I really do.

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2 responses »

  1. Store all these up as they will continue to make you a compassionate person. You are in my prayers! I can’t spell it correctly or write in in Japanese, but 頑張って (Good Luck?) gambatee nee!

  2. I have loved reading about your trip so far. What a fantastic opportunity…thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings about all of this. You’re a wonderful writer.

    With respect to today…yesterday now, to you…Hang in there kiddo! You know that if you give it some time, you’ll figure it out and everything will be fine. You aren’t alone, we all get a little lost at times.

    We miss you here on Forest View…Skype us sometime…Take care.

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