During my third week of work I bought myself a "New Nintendo 3DS" (because why not be like everyone else and play Pokemon on the morning train?), the Japanese version of Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, and had a welcome lunch at work.
On Saturday morning I got up way too early to go check out Tsukiji Fish Market. It was really cool, but most of the fresh market was closing by the time I arrived and I would not want to get up any earlier than I did to go. Maybe some-day if I stay closer to central Tokyo I will visit again.
Saturday afternoon, I met Yuta for Indian curry before heading to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. All-in-all a fun experience... including my first birthday present! He bought me a book with gorgeous photos of Kyoto that I wish I was capable of taking!
On Sunday I cleaned my room and cooked (basic shufu duties) and got my birthday package from the family!!! Yay for Skyline and holiday Reese's.
After introductions we all sat down together and listen to Haruna-san demonstrate a quick "how-to" in simple Japanese on making tea. Then after we all tried that tea we split into two groups. All of the guys went to one table to practice presenting in English and the three of us girls stayed where we were to practice in Japanese. With a lot of help and reassuring, I was able to "introduce" Japanese tea in Japanese!!!! Then they asked me to give my "native speaker's" presentation on it in English, so that is what most of these pictures are from.
Then we called a cab and I went with Haruna-san to her husband's share-house that he is working on in Sayama.
The main attraction in Kawagoe is Koedo Kawagoe, or Little Edo. The area is named this because it is still very traditional and similar to what Edo (the previous name of the city now known as Tokyo…) was like! Of course, I headed straight to that area! While there I did some shopping and got items for tea much cheaper than I can in Tokyo, candies, and took LOTS of pictures.
My two favorite parts were: 1) finding flowers in bloom to take photos of and 2) spending 300 yen on a turtle-shaped lollipop that was made right before me! Like HOW cool is that??? I wish I had taken a video or something to show you all, but I guess that’s an experience I am keeping to myself since I forgot. Sorry!
Part of the building we explored was what I believe the oldest part of the building and it smelled a lot like my great grandma’s house from when I was a kid. It was cool/weird/sad to reminisce about being at Grandma’s house while in a building on the other side of the world.
On our way to the open-air museum, an ojisan (older man) walked up to us and told us to make sure to see the plum blossoms because maybe by next week they wouldn’t be as beautiful as they were that weekend, so of course we went to check out the plum blossoms. And you can see below that I took lots of pictures!
A cool thing about these is that the trees were low enough that we could smell the blossoms. Half of them smelled like bananas and the other half smelled kind of sour. I wish I could bottle up that scent and share it with you! It was such a wonderful time! And I found out a day or two later that Tamura-senpai had been to that park just that morning; crazy!
At Tochoji (the temple) I was introduced to my great aunt’s two sisters and brother and a few of her nieces and nephews! Then they honored the family (?) by pouring water over the grave. I need to research this more, so please don’t take all of this to be fact! But this is what I got out of the experience:
- In Japan, everyone gets cremated. Therefore the whole family gets buried under the same tombstone
- Most tombstones reside in temples or on temple grounds
- My “uncle,” Homei, will be the last person to be buried in the gravesite I saw today because his three sisters married out of the family and he did not marry or have children
- Two or three times a year, the Japanese visit the grave of their ancestors to honor them
- March is one of those times and that is what I attended; at this visit, starting with Homei and then progressing down through the family, each member takes a scoop and pours water (both provided) over the top of the tombstone
- Also, incense is lighted for this
One of these days, I will research more into this to explain it all to people! It was very interesting and eye-opening and the next week at work I actually had to describe how in America each individual person is buried separately to one of my coworkers. It would be really interesting I think to compare the traditions between the two cultures.
After the temple, we went to Ginza for lunch (at a hotel, but free food is free food). I had a great time listening to the family talk and practicing my Japanese! Then at the end of lunch, we had dessert and I guess Chika’s birthday had happened recently because the staff brought her out a dessert. So OF COURSE then Miho asks me when my birthday is and I tell them it was last week, so I get sung to again and Chika pushes her dessert upon me to eat. (Maybe if I just tell people my birthday is the 10th of the month, I can get free dessert year-round!)