In Short…October 2013 Update

usj

Can’t believe I’ve avoided this blog for so long. A lot has happened but this post isn’t going to fill in all those blanks.

What I will fill you in on is, I’ve been enjoying my job more, recently. Also, seems like my speaking abilities in Japanese is improving. I say ‘seems’ because I can’t really tell. I still feel very uncomfortable speaking. Only my friend who I speak to on a regular can tell me. Truthfully, I hope.

My writing in Japanese is improving faster since I started doing a 30-day challenge on Lang-8.com. On that site I write ‘diary’ entries and native Japanese users correct my entries. I tried a 30-day challenge in August, where I had to video record my self speaking Japanese and post on Youtube. That lasted for 2 weeks. I honestly did try but things came up and I think I was growing mentally tired from life. Glad that’s over!

Since the change in my job I’ve had many ups and downs. Maybe more downs but lately I’ve been going up in hopes I don’t have a down moment anytime soon. In the meantime I’m going to try to continue to stay positive and brush away negativity from various sources. ‘THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!’ is what I just thought of. Reminds me of my soul searching days in college. But basically what I’m getting at is that, negativity is only holding me back from whatever greatness I’m reaching for.

On that note, I will end this blog post and will update a lot sooner than later this time around. Let’s just hope I don’t have a down moment because that will affect the frequency of my postings.

Falling Water, Owl Cafe, and Yukatas

IMG_4579

Yesterday was so unplanned but such a great experience that I must write about it. My Japanese friend invited me to go to Minoo, an area that isn’t quite far from where I live now. After 8 years of my friend moving to Osaka from Kochi, she never visited Minoo. I was a bit surprised because after me moving here 2 years ago, I visited in my first year. The place is known for it’s waterfall and maple leaves and maybe an owl cafe. Yes, you read it right, an owl cafe! After that I had a yukata night with more friends. ‘Twas a fun filled day and night. Pictures below:

IMG_4579If you are ever in Osaka I recommend walking through the Minoo mountain. It’s a nice relaxing hike with lots of greenery (also bugs). Let me not forget there are monkey too! First time I came here I didn’t see any but my friend’s sharp eyes saw one above us. She was slightly scared since it was coming down but not toward us, thankfully.

IMG_4584

Me in front of the waterfall that is about 2km hike away from the station. Funny coincidence is that me and my friend wore green and the place is filled with greenery, very fitting. I love the color green as well as loving nature. Too much concrete and such deprives my well being.

IMG_4590

Took a little dip in the river from the waterfall. The day was extremely hot and the water was so refreshing.

IMG_4593

Seemed like a lot of families also came to enjoy the cool air from the trees and the refreshing water.

IMG_4612

After the 4km hike (there and back) we went to フクロウカフェCrew near the Hankyu station. I’ve heard of cat cafes in Japan but never an owl cafe. I fell in love with this owl Nori-chan. She was pretty calm for most of the time but I did get hit in the head from her wings when she was trying to fly away. I was completely unafraid but I think she might’ve been uncomfortable just because she doesn’t know me. Also I kept poking her heehee.

IMG_4607Nori-chan sleeping. Sooooo cute! She had many expressions during her sleep. I like watching animals sleep.

IMG_4606

There were about 7 owls. This little guy was very cute too. Kept pecking at my finger. Again I kept poking him. Only playfully though teehee.

—-

After the long day in the sun, me and my friend went back home to get ready for our yukata night. Unfortunately, even though it was a Friday there were no festivals to go to with our yukata. Instead all 4 of us just walked around our neighborhood and bar hopped.

IMG_4626

Everyone kept telling me that yukata’s look nice on me. I must agree. I wouldn’t mind taking semi-professional pictures with them.

So that was my day/night that left me with a ‘drunken’ smile on my face. Honestly I’m happy my Japanese is improving a little more to join in the conversations with these lovely ladies. It’s cool that they invite me to hang out with them even though I’m not fluent in their language. The whole idea of being friends with someone who you can’t really fully communicate with still boggles my mind but even when I was in NY I had Japanese friends who barely spoke English and I had no problem inviting them out.

Japan and My Dreadlocks

L1007947

304561_918405865389_282448907_nIf anyone hasn’t already noticed…I have locs aka dreadlocks. Many people even in the US don’t fully understand the hairstyle but it’s what I have. They’re not extensions, they’re not fake, it’s all mine and I maintain them myself. Also, because I have them doesn’t mean I’m Jamaican and it doesn’t mean I don’t wash my hair ever. Okay now that we got that out of the way I’ll tell you a little bit about what I’ve experienced in Japan with my hair.

First of all when I was in NY my friends were a mix (not only black people) so of course not everyone understood the hairstyle. Even black people like myself didn’t understand it. Certain family members too were a little unsure about it as well. Either way people seem to be curious if they have no idea. Japanese people seem to be even more curious. Actually I feel they are more openly curious when actually having a conversation with me. Once they feel comfortable talking to me, they ask. I can tell they are itching to touch too. Well I don’t even have to tell they usually say it.

Not many or better yet, rarely any Japanese have locs let alone real locs. If they have locs, they get extensions from shops that specializes in them. I’ve never been to these shops because I do my own hair and I actually heard that these shops wouldn’t even do my hair because it’s natural. It’s just because they don’t know how but I need not worry since I’ve been doing my own hair for over 4.5 years now. I did get them started by a loctician (dreadlock specialist) in North Carolina, though. When I told the lady who started them that I was moving back to NY, she taught me how to twist myself. Now it takes me about 1hour if I’m not distracted by the TV to twist my hair after washing.

Anyway, back to the point about Japanese and locs. Yes, it’s not a popular hairstyle and I think it’s more of a subculture thing. Businessmen/women won’t have and if they do I’ve never seen them. I can probably count on one hand how many…wait actually two hands of how many Japanese people (mainly men) have locs. One of my good friends who I first met through reggae night at a bar near my place has locs and his is ALL NATURAL! Granted, he started with extensions but grew them out till he could cut them off and still have long hair. There are probably more Japanese out there with locs but I haven’t seen them…yet.

I think all of the people I’ve seen in Japan with locs are those who like reggae/dancehall. Therefore I see them or meet them at those events. I do get asked a lot about who does my hair and when I say myself some ask if I can do theirs (if they have of course) or just only seem surprised. From the Japanese who have no clue about locs they are the ones that are itching to touch it. I usually don’t mind because I like to see their reaction and they are so clueless that it’s not the same as if an ignorant white person touched my hair in the US.

I have encountered one incident that bothered me the most out of all people who have ever touched my hair out of curiosity (America and Japan combined). Me and my Kiwi (New Zealander) friend were walking in Kyoto and a lady out of no where…and when I mean no where I mean it really seemed like she popped out of thin air, grabbed a handful of my hair in awe. No, she didn’t ask me. No, she didn’t even talk to me before doing so. And, no she didn’t speak English. At the time my Japanese was very low so I couldn’t understand a word she said but she seemed to be very excited. That’s nice but I wish she would have at least talked to me then asked before doing so. That’s a big no no. If she spoke English or if it was in the US I definitely would have said something that would tell her she should never do that again. Poor old lady, I hope she doesn’t go abroad and do stuff like that.

Black people’s hair seems to be a mystery to maaaaany people and this blog is not to solve them for you. I just wanted to share some anecdotes of what I experienced in Japan with my hair and to tell you who takes care of it which is me. It’s been about 5 years and 3 months since I started growing them and I’m so happy I did because I had a chemical straight perm for years. Found out that it was something very unhealthy to do so I stopped. Locs are easy for me to maintain therefore I continue to have them. Also glad I can do them myself because I get to save lots of money.

Although it seems rare if you are a fellow lochead and you want to move to Japan the only advice I have for you is to maintain it yourself and keep it neat. That’s all.

—–

Looks like I had a similar post on here about my locs but this one is more lengthy. Ooops!

To Conclude My ‘Travel Alone’ Trip

To conclude my trip which ended a few weeks ago I shall share pictures.

P1040200
Miyaji Island Tori
Just in time for the low tide and no rain
P1040177
Peaceful deer. Not suppose to feed them though
P1040234
After helping taking pics of a group of girls they helped me with this one
P1040305
Biggest rice spoon (杓文字) I’ve ever seen!
P1040311
Kintaikyo (bridge name) in Iwakuni
IMG_4247
Hakata Station
IMG_4306
Went to an island called Nokonoshima off of Fukuoka

P1040397

P1040396

P1040404

P1040419
Met Micaela ^_^
Popular YTer in Japan
P1040428
Roof of Hakata Station (it’s free!)

I ended up going to Miyajima and Iwakuni (to see a bridge) during the day then Hakata at night where I stayed with a friend. I was happy about that because I was able to use the money I would have used for a hostel for other things. At the end of the trip I ended up using all of the money I brought with me (¥50,000). Kind of wished I used less but because I decided to use the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokuyama to Hakata then Hakata to Osaka, I used it all up. In the end I really enjoyed my stay and glad I didn’t stop myself for experiencing life. Sorry for the delayed entry. Hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Share Travel Experiences or Go Alone?

IMG_4175

IMG_4186I always wondered which is better. Then again I should think more of what I prefer. I do prefer sharing experiences so when I tell a story the other person can fill in the gaps of whatever holes I made. Even if I don’t have anyone to do that with going alone isn’t half bad either. I just prefer sharing.

Although I came to Hiroshima alone, I spent the day with a new found friend to walk around Hiroshima. My idea about this trip was to go alone because going alone gives you the chance to go anywhere without asking if the person with you wants to go. Going alone means if you are tired you don’t have to ask to rest. Going alone also means you don’t have to wait around if you are ready to leave a certain place. Although that sounds nice I still like going with someone. So even though my intentions was to sightsee Hiroshima by myself I ended up going with this nice fellow from Britain I met at the hostel. By the way, I am in a dormitory style room in the hostel I’m staying and it’s mixed. It’s very nice and clean as well as pretty safe so I no worries on that part.

I knew meeting people would be inevitable when staying in a hostel. That’s actually what I wanted to experience and I’m glad I did. Good thing about this day in age is that there is the internet and SNS like Facebook to keep in touch. With hostels, you meet all kinds of people from all over and it’s a chance to exchange travel stories and stories from their hometown/country. It’s nice connecting with nice people. Granted there may be a chance you meet the opposite but I keep my mind open. Either I keep in touch or I never see them again and thats okay.

Anyway I enjoyed Hiroshima even with the very heavy and sad tone the Dome and the museum brought on. Actually after leaving the Peace Museum I felt sick to my stomach with humanity. Every day there is something sickening out there with people but to see a building full of terrible things that were done to a whole city of innocent people was a bit overwhelming for me. The whole science of the bomb also scared the heck out of me as well as how the radiation can affect the body. After resting and recouping myself from the heaviness, me and my hostel friend went to the rebuilt Hiroshima castle. It wasn’t really crowded and inside is a museum that shares about the lives of samurai in the castle grounds. Then after a long walk back to the hostel and a break I finally ate Hiroshimayaki aka Hiroshima’s okonomiyaki. It was huge and I only left a little behind but it was good. I do have to say though, I still love Osaka’s more but I think that’s because I’m slowly morphing into an 大阪人・Osaka-jin (Osakan).

Below are some pictures:

IMG_4172 IMG_4173

IMG_4175

IMG_4176

IMG_4182

IMG_4184

IMG_4185

Was amazed that all of these were cranes. Even the globe. Very touching.

IMG_4190

IMG_4193

IMG_4194

IMG_4195

IMG_4196

IMG_4198

IMG_4201So tomorrow I plan to go to Miyajishima and Iwakuni. After that I’m not sure where I’m spending the night. I will decide the day of. May go to Hakata and spend the rest of my trip there. We’ll see. I’m out!

Himeji Castle and ‘Friends’

P1040124

This morning…more like last night to the morning I somehow got nervous about my trip. Although that occurred, my mind was yelling at me to “JUST GO!”. First destination was Himeji Castle. The castle is under restoration but they did open a viewing area to see the city and also a glimpse of how they are doing the restoration. Also below the castle was already finished so I could enjoy that area too. After 2015 it’ll reopen so maybe after that I will visit again. Pictures below:

P1040076

P1040077

P1040078

P1040084

P1040091

P1040110

P1040081
P1040108

P1040114

P1040124

20130618-午前101300.jpg
Women’s quarters (not inside the castle)

20130618-午前101313.jpg

20130618-午前101326.jpg

20130618-午前101349.jpg

One thing that I realized is hard to avoid when traveling alone is random people saying something to me. I don’t mind greetings and pleasant conversations but there are some that give the typical, “you can speak Japanese very well!!” after I only say hi. One lady in particular said this:

Her: こんにちは!(Good afternoon!)
Me: こんにちは。(Good afternoon.)
Her: あら? 日本語上手!日本語話せますか?(Oh, your Japanese is good! You can speak Japanese?)
Me: 少しだけ (only a little) gesturing a little with my hands
Her: ああ!そうだ!挨拶しかできませんね!(aah I see! You can only do greetings right!?)
Me: あ、いいえ…(um, no…)
Her: BYE BYE!!!
Me: (-_-;) (whatever lady)

I’m sure this happens to MANY and i mean MANY expats who live here and know Japanese well. I still can’t say I can speak it well but I can understand a good bit. I can understand when someone belittling me too even if they don’t know that they are doing it. I also can understand the high school girls who say “I hate English” when they see me and all of sudden start talking about English class. What did I do to you? I’m just a person who speaks English and who also has the capability of knowing some Japanese. I can’t get mad at these people though, for their ignorance or lack of dealing with foreigners. They seemed to be programmed to think foreigners can’t learn Japanese. I’ve read it in many blogs and experienced it. All I can do is continue to enjoy my trip and not be bothered by them. If I do then my whole trip will be ruined for thinking about it. They don’t have that power over my mind.

Anyway, just wanted to share that. I’ve gotten so used to people in Osaka who don’t seem to be bothered by foreigners to people (in a touristy place mind you) who probably hardly see foreigners. It does motivate me to try even more with Japanese. Oh, one thing I did forget and was kind of funny to me. A man who was taking, what seemed like professional pictures said “Good afternoon madam!” to me as I was passing by. I giggled in my head because who says madam seriously as a native speaker!? Oh Japan. Love ya!

Next: HIROSHIMA!

Finally Finished

My coworker's son who I will teach English on the side.

It’s the morning of my first non-working Saturday and I’m not sad or excited about it. I’m treating this day like any other day. After yesterday, my last day teaching my 7 year old private lesson I almost cried. I had been teaching her for two years and she was sad that I was leaving. I had no idea she liked me THAT much. Her mom was telling me how she was crying the night before the lesson while doing her English homework and after she said that the kid started tearing up then full fledge tears. My heart got a twinge. I know it’s not known in Japan’s culture to hug but I hugged the little girl and kept telling her I’d visit which I sincerely promised. I’m still in Osaka so it’s very possible for me to. She is still going to take private lessons but with a different teacher who I think is also fun but I know she will still miss me. Therefore I’ll make an effort to visit when she has a lesson.

It’s funny how two years ago I had no clue how to deal with kids. I loved kids then but I was always super cautious. I always felt like I’d injure kids unintentionally but for the two years I’ve taught kids I’ve improved my ways in playing with them as well as teaching. Every time I heard a sound of a kid in the lobby I’d come quickly to the front to play with them. I always try to win the heart of a baby, especially here in Japan because I look so different. I want them to see early on that there are many kinds of people in this world. I’m a bit of a sap this morning but it’s all good in my world.

My coworker's son who I will teach English on the side.
My coworker’s son who I will teach English on the side.

By Local Train to Kyushuu

kyushu_post_pic9

I decided to travel a bit before I start working again in July. This week is my last week with my conversation school and I have mixed feelings. After my farewell party on Saturday I will have all day Sunday to pack and finalize all preparations. I decided about 2 weeks ago to travel from Osaka to Kyushuu.

I’m still thinking of where to stop at and stay overnight at but it’ll be 5 days of me and the train system. I don’t want to take a shinkansen (bullet train) going to Kyushuu. I thought maybe it’d be more fun to take local and semi express trains. Although that can all change on the day of. I’m not really planning much, just making a list of places and things to try/see.

I will be doing all this alone because I never traveled and went sightseeing alone. I usually go to a destination to meet with someone who knows the place and show me around. This time I want to go on an adventure and see more of Japan that I never saw since arriving March 2011.

I usually like to share experiences with people but I feel at this time in my life I should try to do more things alone. It may sound lonely but I have this desire to try more things on my own and enlighten myself. I don’t want to regret not trying.

So far on my list:
Himeji
Okayama
Hiroshima
Hakata
Shimabara
Mt. Aso

May not be able to go to all with the time I have but I’ll try.

Anyway I will update on here during my journey since I got pocket wifi.

 

New Chapter Starts Soon

Me smelling the incense
Me smelling the incense
Smelling the incense in Asakusa
Golden Week (May 6th)

It’s crazy how time moves sometimes. When you are just enjoying life it goes by super fast. Guess that’s what I’ve been doing. Also I’ve just been busy with the move and the changes with my job. I don’t start my new job till July but I just had a meeting with my new supervisors and I’m excited to start teaching in  new settings.

Basically my new job is still with the same company but in a different division. Right now until June 14th I am teaching English at a branch school. My new position is a contract teacher position where I go to different company’s facilities and basically teach businessmen and women there. So I get to travel around Osaka more. I also get chances where I can travel to other parts of Kansai or it’s surrounding areas and do special intensive days. A chance to bag in more money in less time than usual. This job is considered part time unless I ask them to give me more contracts.

As of now my intentions is to use this job to help keep my visa and as well as getting money to eat and live decently. I do want to try other things but for now I will focus on my Japanese studies and meeting new people. I like meeting new people in general. Not only for networking but just because it’s fun.

Anyway, this is a short update. Will post more especially after my contract with my branch school ends. I’ll get more free time to do internet stuff on a computer and I finally got pocket wifi. Loving it.

Oh yeah, I modeled for an artist the other week. I should write about that soon. ;-)