- Felix's Thoughts -
After five months
Oh, when thinking about food, I will probably miss Japanese food very much, cause only sushi exists in Sweden and it is really tasty and different. I have eaten at a lot of Ramen restaurants. I can say that without any shame, even though it takes up a lot of the money I have. The best ramen is of course tam tam me ramen, followed by miso ramen. But it is not the food which is the best part of eating ramen, it is when you enter the shop and sit down. That is because of the atmosphere in the restaurant. It is then that, at least I look around and to my own realization think, I'm really in Japan. There is one bad part with almost all the restaurants in Japan. They are not made for my size. People of my size don't only have troubles there, we also have a hard time on buses and planes, and a lot more. But this is probably the worst thing yet, it is so hard to eat while not having room to sit, but I accept the challenge. I guess that it is a part of it. For those of you who do not know, you do not sit on chairs. You sit on a pillow, on what is kind of a floor with a low table in front of you.
Now, enough talk about the food. As Akita is in the north of Japan, it has a diverse set of seasons. I have now been through the winter the spring and almost all of the summer as well. Winter, was cold, but not as cold as Sweden. One thing that was really different was the huge amount of snow that existed. It was not just a meter at most it was an incredible amount. I also went up to an onsen in the mountains. Both the view over the mountains, and the onsen were beautiful. The onsen used mountain water in its baths. On the road there was a place where the snow was packed, several meters high.
Spring in Japan is a changing time in my opinion. First it has the cherry blossoms. They are really beautiful. I went to Hirosaki castle and watched the blossom. The amount of trees which existed in the park was overwhelming. I thought that there was going to be just a few of them, but there was so many of them. I also got a really positive feeling in me because everyone seemed to be really happy just having the pink colour flowing all around us. Then later on in spring it was time to plant the seeds. I got invited by the volunteer club in school to plant these with them, and I did. It was really weird. I suspected that it would be kind of boring just planting seeds, but since we were barefoot in the mud we were so energetic. Then when you put a lot of people in the same mud and throw some mud, it becomes really fun. They also gave everyone delicious food afterwards. The seeds have now grown big, really big and it is probably soon time to harvest.
Summer is hot. At first it was bearable. Since we do not live at sea, it is too hot! At least now when school has started and you sit there in 34 degrees just thinking about how much you really want to swim. Or just use ice as clothes. The good thing about summer is the festivals, and there are a lot of them. Even the small ones give just such a beautiful original feeling. The most amazing one I've been to is the Kanto festival. In Akita city, it was crazy how good the people there are. Basically, they carry these incredibly tall, heavy poles with lamps on them, using different body parts. Sometimes, they use their head or just their hand. But you can see how hard it is and how much they need to concentrate to have the pole just stand right up. All the different groups, which is made up of some poles and then a cart with a big drum on, made a really big impact on me. Cause when the poles are supposed to rise, all the drums start to play simultaneously. At first it was kind of slow, building the tension, then really fast. It really got me into it, and it was an amazing experience.
Another thing that actually is very different from Sweden is the use of fireworks. Fireworks in Sweden are only used on New Year's Eve, but in Japan you could almost call it the summer of endless fireworks. More often than not there are fireworks whether it is during a festival or just with friends. It is also different in the way that it is set up, here it is more of a show, it is a schedule of when and where and what fireworks are going to be used, making it more of an art contest. While in Sweden everyone just shoots it up whenever and there isn't a place where it is scheduled.
I have started to practice kendo, it is really fun, but it smells a bit. And when it is 30 degrees and you've gone at it for an hour, it smells even worse. But still it is fun. I got surprised by how little strength matters in kendo. I remember when I first really was supposed to just use my skills and fight my opponent, not in a tournament but as practice. And of course it was a person about 3 years younger than me. I though well I think my strength will just destroy this girl. But I was wrong, I got destroyed. My endurance was poor compared to hers and her speed and technique were better. For example when I went for a strike at her head she instantly attacked where I was weak, and that with a speed that was faster than mine. She also parried most of my attacks with easy and to the end I was too tired to do any good.
I am trying to learn shogi, it is really hard. Not hard because the game is too complicated, but it is hard because I really need to learn the Japanese kanji that is written on them. I like the tapping sound when people put it down on the board, which is a part of why I want to learn shogi.
Another thing that I really want to experience and learn in Japan is Japanese sen meditation. But I do not have any idea of where to learn it. I feel though that meditation is something that can be important for a person, and that can be needed. So I think that everyone probably should at least try it, just to feel if it's necessary or not.
Japanese as a language is really hard. First of all it is really different. The way you use many words and how you build sentences is different. However, it also makes it interesting, though many a times when I say longer sentences it just goes wrong and people don't know what I am saying. This also goes the other way around during English lessons and sometimes when people speak English to me they get the words in the wrong places. Hearing them say it is also fun. Actually Japanese pronouncing differs very much from Swedish as many of the letters are spoken completely differently. Kanji is also difficult. I actually can't understand how people can remember the thousands of kanji that exist. I have a big problem just remembering about a hundred kanji.
As a conclusion I write that the time here has by no means been easy or just fun all around. The fun part comes with a lot of effort and contribution. But in the end I feel like I just got here, which makes me very sad because it is soon ending.
Akita, the people and KJ
I can describe my impression of KJ and Akita both with one word and a hundred. The one word is "different". The hundred, I will tell you now.
When my departure to Japan drew near, I was not really sure about what I was supposed to expect from my year in Japan. I had heard that the school system and the food differed greatly. Though, that was not a full picture of Japan. Now nearly closing the gap to the second month of my stay, I must say that it has been different from my expectations. It is, as it looks, very similar to Sweden, but it is still quite different. I think Akita is beautiful. It has great big mountains surrounding the edges of the cities, as well as rivers flowing through the lands. Now with the ever evolving spring, the fields and the trees grow green by the day. I also went to Hirosaki Castle during golden week while the sakura (cherry blossoms) were blooming. It was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen.
The people are either very shy or very active. I can actually say that I can spend hours just walking around looking at people's reactions as they see me. I have been told that people react to me because they are not used to foriegners in Akita, especially in school uniforms. The funniest thing is the children. One time, I walked by a kid on the street and at first, he did not notice me, but when he did, his eyes went big and he just stood there and stared. It made my day. I had the assumption before I travelled that people would be very helpful and friendly. That was right and I can't emphasize enough about how thankful I am because of it.
School has been and probably will be the place where I will spend most of my daily life. Thus far, I do not understand much Japanese, but it flows quite well. It was really surprising to me that people knew this much English. I thought that I was not going to be able to communicate with people, but I was wrong. This made me very happy. Peopl are very nice and interesting. The teachers at the school have been very nice, helping me and showing me around. It surprised me though that the school is very strict. I think the rules here have its good and bad parts, but I can not wait to explore it all. I really like the school uniforms, becuase they take out the part of school where your appearance needs to fit. Which makes it a lot easier looking at your wardrobe in the morning. I also like that sports and other clubs are connected to the school. They are promoting people to go and do activities and meet people. There is bad parts of it as well though as it is kind of forcing you to join clubs, while you might want to do something else. Overall, I like it.
With this that I just wrote, I hope you have gotten a good insight on my perspective of Japan, and of KJ. I hope that you will find it useful.