Well, here it is, a comprehensive list of all of the lessons Japan and in particular APU has as of now taught me. Some (not many) are serious, most were fun to learn, and all are things that made me scratch my head, laugh out loud, or boggle over. Enjoy~

1. Sometimes, it’s better not to ask.

Seriously, what were they thinking when they made this an official sign? These are dug into the pavement all around Taito-ku.

2. English grammar has more of what we call ‘guidelines’ rather than actual rules.

I have to wonder if Koreans and Chinese people, too, have to put up with grammar like this in Japan…

3. Just because something calls itself “American” does not make it American.

This was… disgusting, by the way. Dry cake, banana filling that was so sweet it made my teeth ache, and some sort of pebbles masquerading as chocolate chips on top of said banana filling.

4. Japan’s college students are worse at world geography than America’s… which I hadn’t previously thought possible…

I want to know what kind of atlas they were using for reference and why, suddenly, Africa is an island. 😛 Not to mention the fact that many countries (like Iceland and several parts of Indonesia) simply Were Not Included on the World Festival map.

5. The entire nation of Japan is pulling the most massive prank ever on the world and its name is natto cake.

Natto is, for those unaware, fermented soybeans (yes that’s the same thing as rotten). I just wish I could find a picture of the way it actually retains its stringiness even AFTER baking… but that might cause sickness in the masses, ne. xD

6. Fastest way to freak out domestic Japanese students (besides pretending that the Health Check is actually unimaginable torture)? Eat grapes… WITH THE SKIN STILL ON!

“K-kore… NANDE?!!! Majide!” (That’s… WHY! No way!) And you thought that only spoiled brats wanted the skin peeled off of grapes. No, apparently, in Japan, eating grapes with the skin on is equivalent to nomming tomatoes on your front porch in the early nineteenth century (don’t know the reference? Shaaame). We literally got looks like we might drop dead at any second.

7. Explosives are cool and we sell them in dollar stores, but open flames are not allowed anywhere within the city. So you’re in no danger, because no one will be able to LIGHT the explosives. See, see? It’s only logical!

I do not own the awesomeness that is Spock.

8. Apparently. Every single time a cloud passes over the fair city that is Beppu, a warning must be issued, and it sounds like this: “Attention. A Thunderstorm Warning. Has been. Issued. Please come inside of buildings. Immediately. Classes will operate as. Scheduled. Bus services will operate as. Scheduled.”

Of course it’s not mine. But, sadly, this is never what the weather was like when one of these warnings came on (though you’d certainly think it by the urgency of the warning). Half the time it was hardly even raining. I kept wondering to myself how I was supposed to get to my regularly scheduled classes while staying inside of buildings…

9. And speaking of warnings:

Every. Single. Night. EVERY NIGHT. At 9:50 PM exactly. Yeah. We got to a point where we’d be running around the kitchen yelling along with both the English AND Japanese versions of the announcement. Oh, and of course, the guy sounded so cheerful when he said “Punished” that it was just so creepy.

10. Soda can be so green that it looks like the toxic sludge from some bad cartoon. This is melon soda, and it is very popular.

This is not edited. Yes, it even TASTES that green.

11. Anything can be made adorable through the magic of cartoons. Even horrible and deadly STDs.

This is from a booklet we got at the “Student Health Assessment” lecture entitled “Safe Sex Guide” by one of Japan’s leading condom producers. I… have no words to describe it, still… it is just too awesome not to post again, here.

12. The bad habit of native speakers, that of talk-ing slow-ly and LOUD-LY and expecting to be understood, is not merely an American universal.

Sadly, this has happened to me so often. Me: “Wakarimasen…” (I don’t understand you.) Them: “DAH… RE… GA… IH… KEH… RU…” Me: “*mutters* Yeah, still don’t understand the words.” I will never again do this to anyone who doesn’t speak English. It’s infuriating.

13. Fun must be scheduled, recorded, and organized. If you don’t have fifteen sheets of paperwork by the end, you’re not having fun.

This is the preliminary paperwork for renting the kitchen for a span of two hours… 😛 No, but in all honesty, I have had this happen to me on multiple occasions. “Fill out this form, we’ll stamp it, give you THIS form, and you keep it. Then on the day of the event, exchange it for two more forms, write down the names and ID numbers of everyone who attends, and hand in the forms at the end. Oh, and make a copy for yourself.” How no one in Japan drowns in paperwork is a real mystery…

14. Ketchup makes anything edible~

 

I could not have survived Japan without Heinz. Thaaank you, imports. Don’t get me wrong; I love Japanese food and find most of it delicious just the way it is. But… some things… especially my floormates’ cooking… 😛

15. People on scooters are either insane, suicidal, or both.

I honestly would not have been surprised to have seen an APU student riding this down the mountain. They randomly added entire extensions to their scooters for bookbags; they had friends without helmets clutching their backs and not attached to the seat in any other way; they swerved in and out of traffic and around cars… as my karate sensei said, If I had some money for every time I saw a student pull some stupid stunt on a scooter, I would be very, very rich.

16. There are awesome people from all over this planet, just as there are morons and bigots from all over this planet. Me, personally? I found the awesome ones!

Picture Credits: Kurozone Photography, 2012.

Thank you, APU. I know that I’ve had my share of quarrels with your nonsensical policies, frustratingly stubborn adherence to the guidebook, and your long and boring orientations, but without you, I’d never have met all of these people and done so many incredible things. I know that I will keep the memories of the last four months in my heart forever, no matter how much time passes.

Thank you, also, to the nation of Japan. For being so awesome. For always giving the lost American directions, even going out of your way to make sure I got to the right place. For your never-ending patience with my stumbling, stuttering, stilted Japanese (getting better now, but at first… I’m sure you wanted to slam your head into a brick wall repeatedly when I spoke ve-ry …………slow-ly………….. and in sim-ple… … … phrase-es). And finally, for being delighted that I am fascinated with your culture. And a final thank you to my parents and to everyone who has supported me, for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I’ll end with a quote. Mom, you’ll know this one: “Never in my life did I think I would end up in such a beautiful place, doing so many incredible things… And it’s truly been my pleasure to meet you all.”

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