Category: Miscellaneous


Reflections

Today, it’s exactly one year since I got on a plane and traveled to the other side of the planet in order to study abroad for one semester. When I began this blog, I had no idea what I was doing; I’d never used WordPress or any other blogging software before. Though this is the final post of this blog, as it was never meant to be anything more than an account of my study abroad experience, I still am not sure if I’ve done right by it. I hope, in my own narcissistic way, that someone somewhere will get some useful information or advice about Japan, Beppu, APU, or anything else I covered over the last 40-odd posts.

After one year, what are my thoughts? I suppose that the most prevalent of all of them remains my disbelief at how quickly it went. I know that I lived each one of those days and that I really was in Japan, but looking back I honestly can say that it felt like far too short a time. Even though I managed to travel around the entirety of Kyushu and explore Honshu for a wonderful bonus month, there were still many things I had hoped to do.

In a way, it’s good, because it means that I have many reasons to return to Japan. And I will return. If anything, living in Japan for those months only reinforced my desire to someday live there permanently (with dual-citizenship; I’ll visit America and other countries too, of course). I learned much during my semester abroad, and I know that it changed me (hopefully for the better).

All I can say after one year is, if you ever get the chance to study abroad (anywhere, not just Japan), take it. You won’t regret it.

Also, to end this post and the blog, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who rated, commented, lurked, or shared on LostinBeppu. You all made blogging into my interactive diary, and gave me something to look forward to every time I opened my laptop. Thank you.

 

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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.”

When I woke up this morning the only thing I was concerned about was getting to my two midterms on time. The first one went off without a hitch, even though it was eight in the morning and everyone was kind of blearily wandering around the corridors mumbling “Who in the nine hells planned an exam at this hour??” (this is college–any hour before eleven is ungodly)

But I should have known better. Of course the entire nation of Japan would conspire to laugh hilariously at whatever plans I’d made to celebrate a non-national holiday. For you see, today was the group shopping trip to Hirose for the Fourth of July Party.

I say was. This is because there has been a LANDSLIDE over the ONLY road leading off this godforsaken mountain! This is because it’s typhoon season and it’s been raining nonstop for days. Because of this, classes were canceled from third period onwards (Many APU students live in Beppu and so wouldn’t be able to come up to the school).

So okay, there’s more than one road leading off the mountain–the other one is just much more wandering and kinda loops around Beppu rather than going straight into the city. Here’s the strange, kind of unbelievable thing: Oita Kotsu has apologized, easily SIX TIMES, for the inconvenience and is offering free bus passes to anyone needing to get back to Beppu today (though, only to limited stops, and of course the trip takes a LOT longer than it usually would). I mean, hullo? Act of God, anyone?

If you don’t live in Beppu you’re not supposed to use the bus. So I guess unless they get this landslide cleared up soon, I’m going to just have to go to Hirose tomorrow and hope I get back in time.

Laugh away, Japan. Laugh away. PATRIOTISM SHALL NOT BE THWARTED! xD

In any case, after hearing that news, I then proceeded to learn that my air conditioning is broken and that I still have to present on Thursday even though my class was canceled. -Sigh-

I was talking with a friend today about people’s amazing tendency to judge other people based solely on incorrect information… and it occurred to me that the average American and the average Japanese both have views of the other which are based in pure fiction. I’ve been asked what it’s like to eat hamburgers every day. Similarly, Americans have asked me questions about Japanese people that make me confused.

So, let’s list out some common myths about Japanese people and then debunk them:

1) Japanese people do not like sweet things and rich foods.

In fact, Japanese people love sweet foods; however, there’s a set idea of when these foods are good to eat. Usually Japanese people are very health-conscious, so “junk” foods are considered good occasional snacks. You’ll also find that their portion sizes are a lot smaller than what we serve in America. So they like sweet and rich just fine–but in moderation.

2) Japanese people are perverts.

I’ve heard this so many times… let’s see. Japanese people are no more or less perverse than any of us, they’ve just decided to market it. Rather successfully, too, despite the attempts of the government to censor sexual content (and we all know that just makes people get -creative-). Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, they openly accept it and manage to make money from it.

3) Japanese people are sexist.

Mostly, people think this because of Japan’s “gentlemen clubs,” where guys go to get flirted with by pretty waitresses. What they often don’t realize is that there are ALSO “lady clubs,” which are the exact opposite. In fact, there are many more types of clubs dedicated to giving women attention, with all sorts of themes. You’ll never see THIS on a Japanese clothes tag:

4) Japanese people are really, really good at math.

What list of myths would be complete without the “Asians = math geniuses” one? In fact, my roommate and most of my floormates HATE math and are not good at it. This myth stems from all of the Japanese students studying abroad who are in fact the best and brightest and therefore set a good paradigm that most Japanese students can’t be arsed to live up to:

5) In Japan, anime plays on TV all day long and you see cosplayers everywhere.

Wanna know how many episodes of anime I’ve seen since I got here? What about cosplayers? I’ll give you a hint; the number’s less than one. Japanese TV in fact hardly ever shows anime. They don’t have an anime channel unless you buy an extra packet of stations. And though I’ve seen two people with dyed hair, I haven’t seen a single cosplayer. Maybe in Tokyo you get this, I dunno, but not here. So, to repeat. This is not my class:

Annnd now for some about Americans:

1) Americans eat hamburgers every day.

Just thinking about trying to eat a hamburger every day even for a week makes my stomach churn. I tried explaining this to my floormates and they sort of eyed me disbelievingly. Apparently seeing me live off of broccoli, carrots, rice, and tofu hasn’t convinced them yet. -sigh- Damn Windows-sponsored Burger King commercials…

2) Each American has four significant others and is easy.

I’ve actually been asked how many boyfriends I have! When I answered “Imasen. (I don’t have any)” They looked stunned. “Did you break up before coming here?” “…No.” As per the usual, I blame television. Japan gets (and loves) all of our action movies, and those movies perpetuate this incredibly sexual and promiscuous belief. Of course, our celebrities may also be to blame:

3) Americans are all fundamentalist Christian and homophobic.

I can… sort of see where this one comes from… with the Tea Party on TV every day raving about some new nonexistent injustice or another, and our incredibly ridiculous aversion to anything “gay.” In Japan, masculinity is less defined along the lines of being “macho,” so most Japanese are either ambivalent or accepting of homosexuality. To be fair, homosexual marriage is still illegal in Japan as well, but at least you don’t see this at military funerals:

4) Americans all drive expensive sports cars.

Again, I blame television. All those action movies with the cool cars usually blowing up in impossible ways… it’s no wonder Japanese think that all Americans own four cars and at least one cherry-red convertible among those.

5) Americans don’t know anything about the world.

Oookay, this one may NOT be too much of a myth… but it’s less that we don’t know and more that we don’t CARE, per say. Apathy is a new sport among American youths–is it any surprise that the world sees us as ignorant? I mean, honestly, one of my classmates in history pointed to Britain and said it was Thailand… Luckily, not ALL of us think like this:

Any of these sounding familiar? My goal is to hopefully dispel some of these myths, as they’re just plain stereotyping. Maybe you’ll disagree with me, but in my opinion, stereotyping = bad.

All pictures belong to their respective owners… I mean no copyright infringement, I make no money off of this, and this is all for fun.