About Me

maker, creative, living lightly, local, craft, minimalism, and taking joy in the small things

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Farewell Japan

I have arrived back in Australia now, actually I'm now back in Canberra, having spent a couple of weeks in Melbourne with my family. So I suppose I have had a good chance to reflect on my time in Japan.

To begin with I obviously learnt a lot. I had to learn a fair amount of spoken Japanese to get by everyday in my small town. I also had to learn how to use spare time. I don't think I have ever had that much spare time in my life, and I doubt it will occur again. I learnt how to hold my tongue, how to read people who say "yes" regardless of whether they mean yes, no or maybe. I learnt how to bow (and am having trouble stopping). I learnt how to choose my friends - wanting to avoid really sickly sweet girly girls. I learnt how to spend long periods of time without speaking English, or speaking at all early on in my year before I had learnt much Japanese. I learnt to rely heavily on the idea of 'it will all work out' and to trust people when they say they are going to do something to help - usually involving filling out forms for me in Japanese.

Of course, there are heaps of things that I am going to miss. I am going to miss the food, and the travel opportunities - a large part of that is that living in Japan can actually be cheap, cheaper than living in Australia! I am going to miss how safe Japan is, though I tried to avoid feeling too safe. There were other JETs who didn't lock their bikes, or their apartment front doors, but I tried to keep up all my good habits (coming from somewhere less safe than Japan). I loved my bike, and it's super useful basket. Also, I am definitely going to miss living on the beach, and the Japanese summer. I grew very used to the humidity, and in July just gone I was far more comfortable than I was in the August last year, when I had just arrived.

I am going to miss my friends, though I have great excuses to do some serious (english speaking) world travel. Carla and Melody, from Missouri, became my friends in winter, and probably saved me from being so down in winter. I really valued my Japanese friends who persevered with English for my benefit, rather than making me feel like they only wanted me around to practice their English. I loved having friends/pseudo-family who didn't speak English at all, and were patient enough to let me speak very slow Japanese. I found it far easier to understand them rather than reply, but it was great that they helped with my Japanese, without making me feel like an idiot!

I am not going to miss the Japanese winter, and their backwards ideas of heating. I did not enjoy winter, and being cold all the time probably made me feel unhappy to be in Japan. I am also not going to miss seeing the school kids and their crazy school hours. Really, I just feel sorry for them, not having a chance to have 'unplanned' time. I am also glad to blend in with people around me back in Australia. No matter how long a foreigner lives in Japan, how competent they become at the language, they will always stand out on looks alone. With only 12 foreigners in Hagi (population 50,000) I was always noticed. Whilst there were benefits, the disadvantages were pretty extreme (ending up on the cover of the local magazine was probably the worst moment).

I definitely want to return to Japan, for holidays, and probably to live. I really enjoyed holidaying in many big cities of Japan. My favourite was definitely Tokyo, but I would also love to live in Osaka, Hiroshima or Fukuoka. However, I think it's time to spend some time in Australia first!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Some TDL Love!

On our last night in Tokyo (for all 4 of us together) we went out to Tokyo Disneyland for the night. If you go out there after 6pm then it is only $30, as opposed to close to $60 for a full day pass. To be honest, I probably couldn't have lasted a whole day and night out there - too many screaming kids, though being Japanese kids they didn't really scream that much!

Basically we arrived at 6pm to make the most of our starlight pass, and rushed to a couple of rides after admiring the Disney Castle. Actually, TDL is an exact replica of the original Disney Land in America, so TDL is the 2nd happiest place on earth! We went on a Wild West rollercoaster, and then the Pirates of the Carribean ride - some of the animatronics were amazing!!!

After that the plan had been to find dinner - around 7.15pm by this time - but the queues for the parade were building up, so we grabbed a spot. Being Japanese, all the families had brought tarps to sit on. We, being foreign, had not, so a TDL staff member rushed over with maps of the park for us to sit on, rather than sitting on the clean ground. The best part about the parade was that everyone stayed seated! It meant that we could all see really easily, and that it didn't get too hot!

The parade is called 'Dream Lights' - all the floats are covered in thousands of LED lights so everything sparkles! The characters' costumes are also covered in the lights, as were the costumes of the dancers who were dancing in between each float. Where the character was played by a human being they spoke English - usually the actors are foreigners anyway - but the mechanical creatures that spoke talked in Japanese. It was so funny listening to Winnie the Pooh and Nemo speaking Japanese.

As the parade drew to a close we got up and RAN to the queue for Big Thunder Mountain - in the end we only had to wait 20 mins - we had checked out the ride before the parade and the queue was at least 80 minutes! After that ride we ran some more, pretty much across the park, to get to Space Mountain, where once again the queue was tiny - this time way less than 2o mins.

So in 4 hours we managed 4 rides and to see the parade, so I think we did pretty well in terms of getting value from the pass. Of course on the way out we had to do some shopping! The shops were so full that as people were taking things from the shelves there were staff members restocking the shelves! insanity! Katie and I bought Minnie Mouse ears!