What I’ve Been Wearing/よく着てる洋服

I just had a little fun today dressing up and taking pictures in things I wear all the time. I used to be such a shopaholic, but I’m slowly learning the value of minimalism. Finding items you truly love and feel comfortable in is a beautiful thing, so why not wear them all the time?!

 

きょうよく着てる洋服を着て、写真撮ってみました。最近まで買い物大好きでしたけど、今はミニマリズムの価値を分かってます。大好きで毎日着たいものがあれば、毎日着ればいいんじゃないと思ってます。なので、最近の暇なときにこの洋服しか着てないです。

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Beret: Grapefruit Moon

Shirt and Dress: Zara

Boots: Gift from America (vegan leather)

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Dress: Zara (I like Zara, okay?)

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Being silly haha

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Sweater: vintage

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Pants: Cheap Monday

Jacket: vintage

Until next time またね!

Why am I still here?

I’ve been living in Japan for three and a half years now, and sometimes I catch myself thinking, Why am I still here? What am I looking for? What am I doing with my life? But I never have to think very long for my questions to be answered. Here are some of my current reasons for staying in Japan:

1. OMOTENASHI–Customer service

My mom always told me that I should never settle for anyone who doesn’t treat me like a princess. She was obviously talking about relationships, but it definitely applies to customer service as well. In America, they say “the customer is always right,” but in Japan, “the customer is god.”

I went to a department store last week a few minutes before they opened, and a staff member came out in her fancy uniform to unlock the doors and great everyone waiting. She said they’d be opening soon and apologized for making us wait. At exactly 10:00AM, she came back with three other fancily-dressed staff members, who all bowed deeply towards the crowd and energetically said “Good morning and welcome. Please come in!” They opened the doors so politely and personally greeted everyone entering. Then, as I passed each vendor in the basement to get to the vegan bento shop, I noticed literally everyone bowing and saying “Good morning and welcome!” This happens everywhere, but this was the first time I’d been to a department store right as they were opening. There weren’t many people buying things yet, so the staff had plenty of time to greet and bow. The amazing customer service and attention to detail was so much more visible because I was early.

Granted, this was a high end department store, but most places in Japan are like this. Makeup counter staff are super flattering and helpful, restaurant staff almost never get anything wrong, and even fast food workers are super nice. It may all be fake, but it works on me. I think clothing and beauty store staff have single-handed scooped me out of my shy, introverted past and brought me into this new world where I like talking to people. I’m treated like a princess all the time, and it’s really changed me. Bravo, Japan. BRAVO.

2. Health Consciousness

Minus Japan’s annoying disregard for the dangers of cigarette smoke (it is legal to smoke almost everywhere here for some VERY STRANGE AND ILLOGICAL REASON), Japan is a pretty healthy place. Kids learn nutrition from a young age, and their school lunches are carefully thought out and prepared fresh. Because of this, people recognize that certain foods shouldn’t be consumed all the time. It should be easy, but America still has a hard problem differentiating healthy from cancerous so apparently it isn’t. I will say that there is a lot of pressure here to be thin and thus many people take it too far and end up with eating disorders, but that happens literally everywhere. Overall, Japan has quite a few healthy restaurants and a generally good grasp on nutrition.

Also, veganism hasn’t really caught on where I live, so there aren’t a lot of vegan junk foods for me to be tempted by. I literally have to make my own food for almost every meal, and I eat pretty clean. It’s not hard for me to be healthy here at all. AND if you read my last post, you know that health care is super cheap as well. Win-win.

3. Safety

Bad things happen in Japan. I know this. Yet I feel very safe walking home at night from the station. With headphones in. Occasionally holding bags of groceries. I have had a few encounters with suspected stalkers, but the experience never lasts more than a few minutes. In America, walking around alone in the middle of the day could gain you a lot of unsolicited advances. Old guys in cars used to always try to pick me up when I was in college. Now I don’t have to worry about that nearly as much.

I know I should be careful, and I am, but I feel like Japan does have a more peaceful, safe atmosphere. There aren’t usually large men around the corner waiting to rob you at gunpoint. Even Osaka, Japan’s most dangerous city, feels much safer than the average American city. This has allowed me to feel more comfortable going places alone and just doing what I need to do to live.

4. Public Transportation/Proximity to City Center

I love driving and belting my favorite songs just as much as the next person. I don’t, however, love driving with a purpose. Having to drive to work or the doctor or the mall is stressful. What if there’s traffic and I’m late? Where do I park? Also, gas prices are ridiculous in Japan, and car maintenance is even worse. If I had a personal chauffeur I’d have no problem, but unfortunately I am neither rich nor important enough for one of those. I was made to live in a place with good public transportation. Japan is that place. Between trains, subways, buses, and taxis you can get anywhere you need to without having to drive yourself. It’s lifesaving.

Japan is also really small and densely populated, so everything is centrally located in cities. If you live even somewhat close to a city, you can get there pretty easily and find anything you may need. Texas is a vast land full of cows and long, winding highways. Everything good is a least two hours away. At this point in my life, I’d take Japan over that any day.

5. Fashion

America has its pockets of good fashion. The problem is that they’re all so far away from each other and only so many people even care about fashion, that it was never really that exciting for me. I had to rely mostly on fashion blogs and runway videos to get any kind of style inspiration. Now, I just have to walk outside. Japanese people just seem to care more in general about their outward appearances. That, or I just find standard Japanese style to be more appealing than its American counterpart. Either way, Japan is full of beautiful, fashionable eye candy. People-watching here is like watching NY Fashion Week and not a train wreck like it is in America. Seriously, even if Japan had Walmart, People of Walmart would not exist. I am so so grateful for that.

Recently I’ve been seeing more and more stylish old ladies wearing very odd but amazing clothes, and I can’t wait to grow up and be one of them. Maybe Japanese people have more money to spend on nice clothes because housing tends to be cheaper, or maybe the need to fit in just forces people to look nice because of peer pressure…either way, I enjoy going out and seeing what everyone else is wearing.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to be vain or judgmental; I simply really care about personal style and think fashion is the perfect way to tell people about yourself without having to say anything.

6. I’m having fun

Quite simply, I don’t feel the need to leave because I’m having so much fun. I love my job and getting to meet so many amazing bilingual children and their families. I love teaching English as a foreign language. I love teaching Japanese people about America and what I know about the rest of the world. I love being an outsider because there are so few expectations of me, and I like proving people wrong. I love learning and living the Japanese language. I love it all. Everyday is an adventure here even after three years, and I hope that feeling never stops. Then I’ll just have to move again.

 

In conclusion, there are a lot of really good reasons I choose to stay in Japan. I still don’t know how long I’ll be here, but for now I am enjoying life and finding happiness. That alone is reason enough to stay.

 

Check out my instagram for current pictures of my adventures (which admittedly haven’t been so amazing lately, but that’ll change soon)! See you soon.

I Moved! (and other updates)

Life has been a little crazy the past few months. In July, I was busy packing and preparing for my move to Fukuoka City. I found a job here and came towards the end of the month to set everything up and find an apartment. Then in August, my ALT job officially ended, and I spent a few days hanging out with friends before I left for Tokyo for job training.

I had tons of going away parties and cried so much. Kagoshima is a huge part of me, because I grew up down there. Many amazing and important experiences will keep me from ever forgetting that place. But life must go on! I went to Tokyo for three weeks for training and lived that entire time in a tiny hotel with no friends. I did meet some great people at training, and I hope we’ll see each other again, but being in Tokyo was not all fun for me. Everything is so close together, and there are so many people that sometimes I felt like I literally couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, all of that is over now, and I’ve officially moved to Fukuoka. Yay!

Last International Party

Last International Party

My fav kids haha

My fav kids haha

I love it here so far. My apartment is coming together nicely, I’m meeting people and having fun, and a lot of things are changing for the better. Since I don’t have to eat school lunch or go to work parties all the time anymore, I’ve decided to commit to being a vegan. So far it’s been a bit rough, because I didn’t have a refrigerator for a week and people keep bringing delicious foods to work. So for now I’m vowing to not eat any animal products at home, but being full-time vegan may take some time. I’m definitely trying though. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and now seems to be the perfect time to do it.

I don’t have much else to say right now. It will take me some time to get fully established, but once I do, I’ll be posting a lot more pictures and adventure stories! Thanks for sticking around!

my new home

my new home

beautiful Fukuoka

beautiful Fukuoka

School Lunch

I recently realized that I have yet to write about my schools’ lunch system, which is a shame because it’s actually pretty interesting.

In Japan, school lunch (or kyushoku) in elementary and junior high schools is very different from what most Americans are used to. There are no lunch ladies, no long lines in a cafeteria, no frozen mystery meat. Instead, lunches are usually made fresh daily at a lunch center in town and then trucked to the schools in the area. They come steaming hot about 20 or so minutes before lunch time, and the kids handle the rest. When the bell rings to signify lunch has started, a selected group of students from each homeroom puts on their hair nets, masks, and protective clothing and becomes the day’s “lunch ladies.” They head to the lunch room, pick up their utensils and various dishes, and go back to their class where their classmates are eagerly awaiting lunch.

There the kids divvy up the food for each class member and put it all on trays. The kids then eat at their desks in their own classrooms. It definitely saves on school space!

Most kids eat the provided lunch. The idea, I think, is to feed the kids carefully crafted lunches based on dietary needs of children while ensuring no one feels out of place. So no one brings a packed lunch. If someone is allergic to something in that day’s menu, the lunch center staff provides a personal alternative. All kids eat the same meal, together.

It seems a little weird maybe. They have no choice in what they eat or who they eat with. But this way, all of the kids are guaranteed a balanced meal that’s (usually) quite healthy. No one is left out in anyway.

The typical lunch consists of milk (which I never drink), rice or bread, a soup or similar dish, and a vegetable medley or salad. See, balanced. And often delicious. Most of the time there are amazing Japanese style salads with tons of veggies, but western foods also find their way in. Here are a few pictures I’ve snapped of my lunch.

Rice with a kind of egg topping and soup, fried sweet potato sticks, and nori

Rice with a kind of egg topping and soup, fried sweet potato sticks, and nori

carb load day: bread, takoyaki, udon, mikan

carb load day: bread, takoyaki, udon, mikan

rice, miso soup, grilled fish and salad

rice, miso soup, grilled fish and salad

rice, seaweed salad, boiled assortment

rice, seaweed salad, boiled assortment

My area’s center takes suggestions from the students and tries to incorporate the kids’ favorite foods into the menu. Each meal has about 700-800 calories for junior high and always has a nice variety of vegetables which I appreciate. My favorite meal is probably curry, because Japanese curry is heavenly. Although, I do wish I didn’t have to eat kyushoku because it has way too much meat for my liking (side note: I’m pretty sure I’m going back to being a vegetarian once my contract’s up…meh).

Tokyo Disney Resort: The Happiest Place…in Asia? Part I

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my friend and I went to the Tokyo Disney Parks for a magically festive holidays! We’ve been talking about going for a while, so it only seemed right to go on two of the busiest and romantic days of the year! (That may sound sarcastic because it is, but it was amazing and beautiful and I wouldn’t change it for anything!)

Christmas Eve was Disney Sea, the park unique to Tokyo.

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Here are Rae and I entering the park!

funny faces for Christmas!

Many funny face selfies for your enjoyment

The first day I decided not to bring my DSLR so most of these pictures are selfies. I’m really sorry. The whole park was decorated for Christmas, and each area had its own Christmas tree!

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Disney Sea is also the place to meet all the characters. My favorite was Jeminy Cricket, but we saw quite a few other (lesser) characters as well.

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Then, of course, there was the food. Tokyo Disney has various popcorn flavors, meat bun type snacks, and the famous Little Green Man (little cream filled mochi-type dumplings). Everything was so good! Sea also serves alcohol, so it’s a little more adult-friendly.

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tiger tail chicken bun

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chocolate, strawberry, and custard

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delicious aliens

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mmm

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Mickey churros

We ate way too much.

Here are some other pictures (mostly of us acting like complete children).

Tips:

1. Ride the Toy Story Mania ride. Race to the Fast Pass ticket booth as soon as you enter the park (it’s to the left of the gates, near the American Waterfront) and get your Fast Pass!

2. Fast Passes are free. There are machines near each ride that give you passes with a return time on them. Return to the ride in the time given and pass the long lines!

3. Sea has fewer rides than Disneyland, but the atmosphere is really nice and seems more mature. There is a cocktail lounge in the ship, and it’s amazing.

4. Christmas time is busy at Disney, but the shows and decorations make up for it! Check it out if you’re in the area next year!

the final stretch

This may be news to some: I will not be staying another year in Shibushi.

That stings. Saying that–typing that–stings. I’ve really come to enjoy my little town, and I’ve definitely fallen in love with my hundreds of students. Thinking about telling them I’m leaving and ultimately saying goodbye makes my eyes literally sting. The tears are ready to pour. I’ve told everyone it was an easy decision, but that is a lie. In fact, I almost regret it already. Some JETs hate their jobs and can’t wait to leave, but the longer I stay here, the more I love it. I’ve watched some of my kids grow into little adults before me, and we’ve shared some amazing times. I love them all, really, because they’ve helped form who I am. I hope the teachers at my junior high allow me to give the students a proper goodbye at their closing ceremony. I wouldn’t be able to leave without it.

If you follow my blog, you know that a lot has happened to me here, and as a result, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve become an adult on Japanese soil. A part of me will always be here in Shibushi. But I know I can’t stay. I wish things had worked out has I hoped and I could stay forever, because I really do love this place…despite it’s flaws. But life seldom goes the way we plan. People enter and leave, seasons change, we grow and decide there may be better things waiting somewhere else. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but as they say “there comes a time to say goodbye.” This August will be that time. I will at least say goodbye to my schools, students, and coworkers.

I don’t know where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing, but I will certainly carry this experience in my heart forever. It’s time to make the best of these last six months.

Quick Update!

I have been all but missing this past month, and I am so sorry. My computer’s AC adapter broke, and it’s been more difficult than I thought to find a replacement because my computer was purchased in America. Anyway, I should be getting a replacement soon. I’ll back (and better than ever) once it arrives.

 

Really I’m writing this post to let you know that I’ve finally purchased my own domain and will be starting a new blog! This blog will still exist, and I will still write about Japan and culture and all that good stuff, but I want to try something different. Instead of cultural obervation posts, the new blog will focus more on things like personal style and discovery, inspired by Japan and its landscapes. A bit of a fashion blog, if you will, though I would say it will be more than that.

In the next couple of months, I will also be working to have all my blogs and projects under one domain name so that they are easier to access. As I said before, I currently do not have my own computer, so this may take time. Please stick around! I’ll be back before you know it!