Elle Chu Temple Japan

The Little Things

A month might seem long or short depending on how you’ve spent your time, but for this TUJ student (who’s here for an academic year), this first September flew by!! There’s a lot to be excited about and it can be kind of overwhelming to try and absorb all the new things that are happening around you. I found myself conflicted with wanting to immediately adopt some of the Japanese trends, but also extremely confused by all of its lavishness (in that everything seems to be taken care of with such thought)!!

Without knowing it, Japan has already changed me (it’s already stretched my attitudes so much, as seen in my two previous melodramatic posts). But externally, little parts of my life have changed so much. There is such a specific lifestyle required to survive here. The general quality of life is just so different from America (speaking as someone who’s only lived in Southern California and Boston), but the only way I can explain it is bit-by-bit. As a big picture, Japan is so impossibly scattered and beautiful that I have to divide it up into little pieces to feel like I’m properly explaining it!

As an independent housing student, I’m living with my grandmother about forty minutes away from campus. She wasn’t exactly equipped to house a grandchild in her little apartment, so we’ve had to make do with things we’ve found around the house–one of them being a fold-out mattress (she explains this to me as being closer to her because she had to do this in her younger days, too). It only takes a couple minutes to completely set up and pack up my bed, but the extra effort in making my bed definitely makes me more appreciative of and efficient with the time I have in the morning.

And with the rain constantly coming to get us any second, I’ve had to upgrade my measly Californian tools: a new Uniqlo (pocketable!!! which is so cool!!!) parka and an emergency travel umbrella (in the case the rain makes another sneak attack this week). But on the other hand, we also have to be prepared for heat! So I’ve started to carry around a towel-like handkerchief to absorb sweat from the body heat from the train and a little fan (only one of many that was handed out in the streets of Japan).

Just in case, I also carry around a “point-and-speak” Japanese translation book if I ever need to use some more advanced vocabulary (so far, I’ve only got very basic phrases). Apparently, this also makes Japanese locals feel better because there’s a point of reference in their conversation with a stranger. The little candy boxes are also good sources of energy when you’ve been walking around all day and losing energy! There are always cool new flavors at the train station vendors (like red bean and almond caramel)!

Apart from my new list of room/backpack essentials, there are moments throughout the day that make me surprised how differently Japanese people are living. For example, on my way home from the train station, I saw an elementary student walking with his mom with A CAGE OF BUGS IN HIS HAND. I couldn’t tell where all the concentrated noise was coming from at first, but when I saw where it was coming from, I was in awe. No kid in California would have gone out to do that for fun (none that I’ve seen at least). And this is all just from a month of being in Japan! I can’t wait to see what else there is to find out, once the holidays roll around!

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