Let’s Go Dancing


In order to venture out on my own for the first time today, I rehearsed some vocabulary for directions in the mirror. Bobbing on my knees, pointing to all sides and shouting “MASSUGU, HIDARI, MIGI!” (straight on, left, right!) was to avoid the tricky scenario of asking for directions without understanding the answer. A foreign country is overtly homely when many other English speakers accompany your everyday life. Having my neighbours and colleagues is brilliant when you’ve only got survival Japanese on your side, but it feels this initial dependence could easily become a regulated, unchallenged comfort. I came to Japan not just to live in Japan!!!!!SODESUNE!!!, but to experience an extreme challenge: to now and then put myself in uncomfortable situations, without the safety net of group outings, must be decidedly done. And shopping alone today certainly was a challenge! But the people of Koriyama are gracious and forgiving, and go out of their way to help. Through gestures and noises, myself and a pharmacist finally concluded that I wanted to buy mosquito bite cream. We laughed, and I bowed deeply in apology. I’m thankful for having friends so close by to laugh about that with, and hearing similar experiences; it helps create the confidence needed to go in the first place. I’d be a lot more lost without my JET crew: you guy’szz da serious bomb.

Here are some interesting facts of Japanese culture for you fine reading pleasure (you can learn a lot in one week, by doing everything wrong without knowing):

* don’t walk with your hands in your pockets, men especially. It looks as if you’re concealing something.
* do not walk whilst eating or drinking. It is rude. Instead, find somewhere to sit momentarily, and continue when done.
* avoid touching or blowing your nose too much in public. It’s rude. I read somewhere about an old belief that when you sneeze, the devil is in your nose. Not sure on that though.
* outside of Tokyo, foreigners carry celebrity status.
* whilst dining, don’t serve yourself food or drink, but serve others, and hope someone returns the favour.
* if you help yourself to food from a main plate on the table, but leave it once you’ve touched it with your chopsticks, you are being very rude, sir …
* … however, if you finish all of your food, you may lead your host to think they didn’t prepare enough.
* if you ride a bike after just one beer, and are caught by the police, you will be arrested; a foreigner caught will be deported with a blanket ban from ever again entering Japan. You will also be held equally responsible if you knowingly allow a friend to ride after they have consumed one beer.
* the request “without meat please”, when used in restaurants, does not include bacon, animal stock, or fish, because when written, these words do not contain the kanji meaning ‘meat’. Vegetarians, good luck.
*people are radically impressed with any broken Japanese you use, and immediately warm to you for your efforts.
* like this evening, if you are willing to engross yourself in anything Japanese – such as a city dance festival – you are very welcome. You also sweat a lot more than your co-dancers, and look like a red-faced prat, but that’s overlooked by your delighted or confused audience members.
*when attempting to dress yourself in yukata or kimono, every older Japanese woman in the room will try to help. Throughout the evening, various individuals will change the bow of your obi to make a style they prefer to the woman’s-who-just-previously-ambushed-you-in-the-restroom.
*just giving one smile can utterly alter a person’s caution towards you, and you will be greeted with a sudden bright “Konnichiwa!” or shy, smiling bow.

Koriyama is a pleasing, warm place with heart. There is much to discover as a group; but to be engrossed as an individual, one must acquire the language. A strong motivation!


One Response to “Let’s Go Dancing”

  1. John Marley Says:

    Enjoyed reading that Steph, I feel that you are enjoying it.

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