Temple at Nara

Yes, sorry, I’m a horrible person. Let’s talk about January.

As stated in the last Journal, I changed families again in the beginning.

The Tsuji family has been interesting. It has it’s ups and downs.

I feel like I’m being watched constantly- the my Host mom and older Host sis have no problem commenting on any habits I have that don’t match up with their ideals, be it hygiene or eating or whatnot- which I didn’t feel too bad about until my host mom brought up the subject of bathing- now, I bathe every other day here, which is about half as often as the Japanese, but one day after coming home from club on a normal bath day, I fell asleep accidentally ended up not bathing. The next day, my host mom brought up the subject and recited my hygenic activity for a the last week and asked if it would become a habit- older sis joined halfway. I was like, wait a second guys, why are you even paying that much attention?? THIS IS BORDERLINE CREEPY-

On the upside, this is the first Host Father I’ve had that I actually feel comfortable with. My first two just kind of weirded me out, to be honest, which probably has more to do with my sheltered childhood than with any actual creepiness, but I digress. It’s fun at mealtimes not to have to grit my teeth while suppressing the urge to throw up at the variety of sounds emitting from Host Dad.

Host dad is just kind of one of those incredibly chill ‘I live with 3 women, and believe me, nothing you do phases me’ kind of guys. With me that makes 4. Poor him.

This morning, I was running late and forgot my lunch on the way out the door, and he just coolly ‘Emiriii! Lunch!’ and brought it out with me- along with the snack/candy basket! “Okashhhh [candy/snack]’ he said, slurring the last s sound and grinning, like, no big deal, you’re already on your bike but here’s your lunchbox and I brought out the entire snack collection too’ no probo. It was really thoughtful and funny, I thought. Although it does show he’s picked up well on my like of candy, which could be a bad thing. Ahem.

Host mom is really a very strong person, and we butt heads sometimes but never seriously. It’s what you get when 2 outspoken stubborn people with different raisings get thrown in the same house. From the get go she just adopted the attitude YOU ARE MY EXCHANGE STUDENT AND THAT IS THAT okay LETS GO. But, she is, as mentioned earlier, really attentive and tends to worry.

Host mom and Host dad have a really great relationship too. After the kids leave the dinner table, they just sit there blabbing for ages and when I end up being the last of the 3 kids eating I always hurry because it vaguely feels like I’m interrupting something...

Ayume Tsuji, 17, has been interesting. I never know how to act, and I’ll leave it at that. I’ve been making more of an effort to put myself out there after my school counselor said that Ayume had said in passing that she didn’t know if I was happy or not in their home. It’s paying off, I think. Still. As were in the same class, everything I say and do around her is something I wouldn’t mind my entire class knowing, which can be taxing.

My second week, they took me to Nara! For those of you don’t know, Nara is city in the Nara Prefecture that is most famous a special park. Of course, there’s a Buddha big enough that I can slip through one of it’s nostrils [Tried AND tested] and a temple a few times older than Amerika, [you are probably still wondering about testing the nostril theory] but the main attraction is neither.

It is fat, overfed, cushy pestulant beasts that litter the sacred cobbling stones..

No, this isn’t India. It’s not cows. It’s… deer. Uh, yeah.

You might not know this. But Deer are scary. Especially when you’re holding a handful of deer biscuits and there are approximately 10 of them nipping at your heels. And coat. And bag. And hair, if it happens to be long enough to be in reach. But of course there’s no one like that in Japan, right? Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha….


But funnier than this, Ayume was absolutely terrified of the deer. Like, crying high pitched squeals fleeing in knee high, high-heeled boots kind of terrified. I’ll admit I found it hilarious…………

She didn’t really appreciate it when I snuck up behind her, and with a wave of a biscuit, summoned a herd of a deer for her…. What an ingrate. Maybe a cultural thing?
She did okay with the little ones though

Hey did you know this! The word Rickshaw, you know, that vehicle carried by a guy in front, common in india and what not? That’s! That’s actually a Japanese word! Jin (人)rik(力) Sha! (車) Meaning: Person-power-vehicle! Person powered vehicle! Yeah ! I got to ride in one, courtesy of host dad, and it was interesting. The guy powering it was really funny, and had fun showing off his uh, equally funny English skills while me and Ayume apologized for our weight and promised to diet in the future.

Sadly we did not hit any deer on our Jinrikusha adventure.

Badminton has continued! A fault due to some perverse sense of masochism rather than enjoyment, I think, but I’ve had my ups downs. And my flats. And the downs. And the vertical drops. And my Marianna trenches.

Do you sense a trend.

To be honest, I’m not that bad at badminton. But last November, about 3 weeks after I joined the club, I was forced to take time off because I did something weird to my ankles and I couldn’t even stand without hurting. Before that, I had almost made friends in the group- but when I returned it just was so, ugh, awkward ka naaa. And you know those people that tend to lead the group? Well, theres one, her name is… SUSAN and SUSAN is one of those fun people that was nice to me at first for obviously ‘foreign exchange students are cool!’ ! When I came back, her and her jerk friend MARY took a dislike to me, and it doesn’t help that SUSAN and MARY are the best among the girls. And MARY is practically openly hostile, but in the manner of ‘I’m better than you, you pose no threat so I don’t really bother making a big deal of you’ hostile. Which is fine with me.

Around the beginning of November, Arai-sensei let me do a practice game. This is pretty rare, usually I just referee. Well, he matched me up, surprisingly, with MARY. Considering it was my 4th game set ever, I wasn’t exactly shooting for a win, but that day I was on one of my slightly vertical bumps, and shook hands with her enthusiastically while laughing over my soon to be utter defeat.

Well. Turned out, not so utter- I lost, yes, but 13-15. Much to the surprise of everyone involved, especially myself. Considering my second ever game, I lost to the worst person 21-0, this wasn’t exactly something I was expecting. Obviously, I was pleased, but man, you should have seen MARY.

After our referee went running to record the results of our game, MARY sank into the fetal position on the gymfloor, and the repetitious ‘what happened? What did I do wrong? What do I do?’ was ALMOST cute until I realized that MARY had neither a sense of tact, nor perspective, as even though I lost the next game 6-15, the bleatings of ‘What went wrong??’ continued in consistency for about 15 until she ended up in tears, SUSAN and her other friends gathered around.

I was slightly appalled. After the first game, I had said ‘Hey, it’s not like you need to worry- everyone has those kind of games.’ But she didn’t meet my eyes after this. But seriously, I know I’m not the best- but to think her opinion of me was so low that two consecutive wins would spark 20 minute juvenile fit is downright insulting. I got pissed enough to say ‘Hey, would you just quite already? It’s not like that game even meant anything. Aren’t you being rude?”

I do like badminton, it’s just, the people and the regimen are so exhausting.

On the 24th, I sat in on a Skype Video conference with Rinako and three of her friends- Rinako, an exchange student to Sweden last year, skyped her Swedish school’s Japanese class and we had a conversation. It was interesting! I got to watch Swedish being thrown around, which was cool. And be in the presence of people whom I suddenly felt superior to, Japanese language skills wise. That’s rare here, wahahaha!!

Another thing worth mentioning is that something about my Japanese comprehension really jumped around the beginning of this month. I’m not kidding at all. I’ve read that language learning is more like a ladder than a ramp, with stretches of flat periods and then EPIPHANY moments, but I’d never really experienced one- and who knows for sure? But I’m not kidding that I understood a disproportionately larger portion more during the orientation yesterday than the orientation a month ago.

My brain is starting to be able to connect what I read with what I hear, I think. For those not in the know, I’m a bit of a Kanji nut and I memorize about 8 a day. Considering I’m nearing the end of the Kanji learned in the first 6 years of schooling- first 1006, to be exact, and the most common 1000 make up about 95% of printed Kanji, I can actually read the majority of Japanese. 


Don’t those little scratches just fill your heart with joy! They do to mine! I just go into happy place! I may have to learn Chinese next to keep the squiggle parade rolling!

But anyway, the gibberish syllables of Japanese words are much easier to remember when you have a meaning to associate with the gibberish, and some of them are really funny! For instance, worry uses the Kanji for ‘heart’ and ‘distribute’ 心配― because you’re giving your heart out to worry about the sake of others!

But it’s so hard to learn just orally- English we have Garden, and Vegetable- so when we want to say Vegetable garden we just say ‘Vegetable garden!’ In Japanese- Yasai野菜, vegetables, and sono 園, garden, give no hint to saien―菜園- vegetable garden. [The English equivalent of this method would be vegederp] So conversationally based, you wouldn’t be able to figure it out-this makes Japanese really hard to learn orally, I think. Many extremely complicated concepts that take English many words to express are made into 2 character words- but with Japanese’s lack of sounds and abundance of homonyms, it’s incredibly hard to remember words just from sound- I just plugged in ‘keishoo’ into my dictionary and there are 7 words- Alarm bell, inheritance, flesh wound, mild sickness, beauty spot, title, and shape!!

Because I can kinda read Kanji, and because the start of the year marks the start of the new trimester, I began participating in class. I still don’t fully understand all of the teachers rapid Japanese, but with textbook supplements I can basically understand.

My favorite teacher is my Home Room teacher and World History teacher, Ohyama Sensei!! He is so funny! I swear, I have never seen him smile- not one time. Although I might have seen a little one once… no, wait, that was probably just a lip twitch.

He’s handsome, always wears slick suits and glasses, and most of all, has just the clearest voice! Oh, man, someone catch me! Swoon! He’ll say things that get the whole class laughing but NEVER. WAVERS. Once, when the shortest girl in class forgot her hand warmer on the teachers desk, he held it up above her head and she was hopping around like an over excited rodent and the entire class was practically crying but POKER FACE man he would be great at poker you have no idea.

He likes to go on tangents during lectures, it’s fabulous! The problem is that I usually only remember the derailment moments and not the actual uh, lectures, but hey, if I ever find myself in a debate of the nutritional benefits of horse meat versus beef, or on the plumbing practices or lackthereof of renaissance Europeans- I’ll be set!

Now, being homeroom teacher, he comes at the start and end of school every day on top of normal classes, and then once on Wednesdays for LHR- longhomeroom. He uses these opportunities to prime us for life by giving us various bits of guidance and INSPIRING SPEECHES. I cannot actually tell if this is Mr. Ohyama being cheesy or just a Japanese thing, because my badminton coach tends to do it as well,[although I hear inspiring speeches is a pretty common affliction among the sportsy types] and not to mention every single Japanese assembly ever… Either way, inspiring speeches somehow become more digestible when given by a man who’s facial expression never changes….

I also picked up biology! Remember the kanji thing? Well, it’s a goddamn BLESSING in biology! In English, you have a crapton of sciency words that are about forty letters long and drop out of your head before you’re even done reading them- but in Japanese, they just stick a few kanji with appropriate meanings and BAM science term is born! Two or three characters long! Sweet stuff. Not gonna lie.


About a week after my last journal, perhaps around the 1oth sometime, I succeeded in losing my train pass. Trainpasses are issued once, and only once- you pay upfront and get to hop in off specific trains without issue. Anyway, my train pass for one month cost about 60 dollars, and that’s kind of a mega discount considering I take a train twice a day, every day, including weekends- 220 yen in the morning and 280 in the evening- 500 yen a day- that’s about 165 dollars a month without the pass. Want to do the math on how much losing it on the 10th would cost?

It was after badminton- it ended late, and then coach gave us and INSPIRING speech such to that I couldn’t leave, and when he was done, I was LATE LATE. Both the train and I arrived at the same time- and my damn key wouldn’t lock, and then I was running running towards that train but WHERE WAS THE DOOR ARRRRGHHH what do you mean only the furthest one to the front- MAASAAAKAAAA-

I was exhausted from a 1 hour commute, 6 hours of school, 3 hours of badminton, and a frenzied 15-20 minute bike ride when I discovered a severe lack of trainpass. Luckily, my Host sis had afterschool uh, school, that day, and was on the train- she pleaded my case to Conductor-san – the next morning, it was nowhere to be found and I got to pay the train fee [cry] As I was pedaling out full speed in typical Emily fashion and doing mental math on how much this little mistake was going to cost me, this sketchy really handsome guy comes from out of nowhere and rides up really, really close to me and says “EMIRI!”

He was wearing a uniform the same as my school and knew my name, [although just about all the male uniforms in Wakayama look the same]- so I adopted EMERGENCY EXCHANGE STUDENT TO ASIA SURVIVAL TECHNIQUE; although you have no clue who the person you’re talking to is, if they seem to know you, act as if this isn’t the first time you’ve met!

It turns out, though, it was- he was from another school. How he knew my name? He’d picked up my train pass- and my name was printed on it!

SUDDENLY BEING THE ONE OF THREE CAUCASIANS IN A CITY OF 300,000 TOTALLY HAS IT’S UPSIDES. I asked if he knew about me, and he said no, and then I was all OH LIKE DUH LOL because totally how many other foreigners ride this entire train line? Oh that’s right none.

Either way, I was really impressed that he went to all the trouble to catch up to me to return it, since I pedal out about a million miles per hour. Although later when I realized he was one of the three creepy guys who come to my station specially to smoke it was kind of.. strange, but he went really out of his way to return it which was really thoughtful, so you really can’t judge a person at all, I think!


JAPANESE PEOPLE ARE REALLY CONSIDERATE AND I KIND OF LOVE THE WHOLE LOT OF THEM. This is not a comparison to any other nation or anything. It’s just that. Japanese people.

Near the end of the month, I went with my Host fam to make Soba noodles! Unsurprising ly, we ended up in a room full of old people, haha! And listened to greetings for about 20 minutes, you’d thing we were annexing a small country or something. Near the end, I’d kind of zoned off somewhere, but I caught the words ‘International…’ and tuned in right in time for a very poor English greeting. Which was hilarious. How thoughtful.

Either way, I mucked around in a bowl for a while and screwed around with a long pole like rolling thing, succeeding in making a whole bunch of itty bitty, sporadically shapped two inch long noodles…. [no one said I was any good, you know.] and we boiled and ate them on the spot. Weren’t too bad. Then Soba-Sensei then showed us the proper way and I left with a vague feeling that something had been done backwards….

OH MAN THIS JOURNAL HAS NO RHYME NOR REASON AND IF YOU MANAGED TO GET THROUGH ALL MY ENGLISH STARVED BABBLING, THEN CONGRATULATIONS! This isn’t obviously everything that happened but it’s already like, 5 pages, so I’ll desist.

Month….5 and a quarter, over and out!