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Connie: Yomiura + Nabe

October 12, 2010

I really meant to write about the festival in Yoshiura, but the longer I waited the less I knew what to write. It was a week ago now. Time’s really flying!

The festival in Yoshiura was 蟹祭り(Kani Matsuri), or literally “Crab Festival.” Of course my name is pronounced like Kani, so I had to take the opportunity to call it my festival.

Yoshiura is about an hour away from Saijo. I’m sure we looked like a bus full of tourists as we snapped pictures of the scenery—actually at one point I likened it to Pokemon Snap (remember that game?) because you had to be quick to get pictures before the scenery got left behind. This area of the country is full of mountains, and between Saijo and Yoshiura there is lots of farmland and Japanese-style buildings. We actually drove over a mountain and crossed a nice little river.

We were warned that once we got off the bus we’d get attacked by a gang of demons. Not really, of course. At the festival there are plenty of people dressed up as demons, and their job is to clear the way. You see, at the festival the main event is a giant portable shrine being carried up to an actual shrine. Seeing the steps to the shrine made it very impressive—I would never have been able to do it. I was surprised the men carrying it didn’t pass out. They were sweating a lot by the time they got it up. And then they had to parade it back down again.

The festival itself was amazing to watch and very different from anything in the United States. But there was another interesting part about going to Yoshiura. Around the university in Saijo, I think the people are generally used to seeing people from all over the place. In Yoshiura there were probably some people who had never seen foreigners. We got stared at a lot, and lots of people took pictures of us. It was kind of a strange experience. At one point we overheard some Japanese boys talking about us, but saying they were too shy to come up to us. I wish they hadn’t been. I might have said something but I hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation, so I hadn’t heard what transpired.

Having grown up in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine seeing someone of a different race for the first time. I wonder what it’s like.

The following Monday, classes started. I’m starting to get settled in. I’m taking almost all Japanese classes, except for a class called “What is Peace” and a Korean class. (I wanted to take a class in Japanese, and since I have some background in Korean and love languages, I thought it would be a good way to get immersed.)

After having settled in, some friends who studied at my school from last year invited me and the other girl from Minnesota to eat nabe with them. Nabe literally means pot, but in this context is something more like hot pot. It’s usually eaten during the winter time, but since most of these Japanese students were in Minnesota during the last winter, they didn’t get the chance to eat it. It was like making up for lost time, they said.

It was delicious, and I can definitely see where it would be great to eat in the winter. But what I really liked about it was the way you feel kind of close to the people you’re eating it with. It somehow creates a really cozy atmosphere.

It was good for all of us to catch up. We talked about both my hometown and Saijo. All of the Japanese students started talking in Japanese, and though perhaps I couldn’t understand all of it, it was good practice. According to these friends of mine they felt the same way I do now when they arrived in the U.S. That is, only able to pick out parts of conversations. By the end they said they were able to understand much better. Right now it’s hard to believe, but who knows what will happen in a year?

I’m running out of money. I need to stop spending so much money on eating out and things I don’t need. I still have a week until I receive my first scholarship money. I’m sure I can make it though.

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