This contains rants on:
Recycling in Japan —>Gift wars in Japan —> My ACL —> Glorious food —> Glorious cheap massage
—> Kobe Beef —>Bath time, yawl—>Meditation —> so much more…
Today was THE perfect day.
Wake up eatherquake
Woke up at 6:30 a.m. as I do everyday and not 5 minutes later there was an earthquake. It’s the second one in recent memory. A little bit larger than usual, either way, it got me up.
Then, what I’d consider a gift was brought unto my life:
Don’t think that’s cool? Well, you’re a jaded tornado of disappointment then! Recycle Day is a wondrous, mysterious, day for me, as I always forget when it is and it’s more difficult to try to re-look it up (thanks to not being able to read my Kanji.) So, I just walk out my door on a bright morning, such as today, and see those clear plastic bags with the green writing on them sitting outside like small reminders that some people do CARE about the earth.
(This is where those snarky, side-eyeing liberals remark that recycling only works when you do abrasive separation of the material.) Well that’s exactly what they do in Japan, and, although it’s sometimes god-awfully confusing. I LOVE IT. I feel good about it every time I put a piece trash into one of my 5 (or more!!!) bags to recycle things separately. I hope this is actually effective. If not, then it’s a damn righteous placebo.
Anyways, I recycled my shit and headed to school.
My commute is the same as it was in the states — about 25 minutes, BUT, here, I walk. There, I drove. What’s the major difference, besides being a bit pissier than normal when its raining hard? Well, I get a nice time to think to myself or listen to music (today was this…..) and walk a solid 3K.
Every day. Twice a day.
At school, it’s super chill because the students are on spring break.
(Shout OUT to the horrible-wonderful, James-Franco-graced 2013 film SPRING BREAKERS — the literal antithesis of my school/students.)
Alana (the other ALT at my school) and I gave gifts to a few teachers who are leaving the school. (FYI it’s the end of the school year in April in Japan.)
JAPAN: GIFT WARS
These small gifts, however, started a huge war. What kind of war you’re wondering in puzzlement? A gift war, silly American! Yes, one thing I super-duper enjoy about Japan is its oddly abrasive gift-giving culture. (Using that word “abrasive” again was a very careful selection, juxtaposing the in-your-faceness and kindness.)
Not only are you suppose to (and do they have entire stores devoted to) buy small gifts for people every time you basically go anywhere out of your town, when you give a gift to someone, I guess it is expected they will give one back. Thus, this triggers an endless cycle of giving gifts. I literally cannot keep up. However, I sincerely enjoy giving people little gifts anyways, so it’s pretty enjoyable.
The gift war also rears its sly head in the form of returning favors. The other day, we went out to lunch with our English Teachers and paid for their lunch. The very next day, one teacher comes in with made-in-japan traditional cloth wallets for each of us. Like, seriously, a day later. That means he either went and got them that night or (god help me) he took off in the morning to go buy them, as he is leaving the school in 2 days or something.
I have to laugh, because only in Japan are such nice things also such intense things. Intense: That’s the only word for it.
Anyways, I enjoyed a happy lunch of leftovers that just came together to make an awesome meal:
- udon noodles,
- seaweed salad,
- イカ (squid)
- and some sesame dressing.
One of my favorite things is to buy random stuff at the grocery store, and just mix it all together.
That Senbei, though
Next, Alana and I took a walk because it was a sunny lovely day. After, we hit up the weight room at the school. In fact, I hit it up about 2-3 times a week now-a-days. So lucky to have that available. I have to go into the P.E. teacher’s (if I say Gym teacher in Japan NO ONE has any idea what the hell I’m talking about) office to get the key for it. Today I brought them some of my favorite o-senbei (おせんべい traditional Japanese snacks, often similar to rice crackers, but much more involved than just rice crackers).
I actually didn’t even realize until I was reflecting upon this, that, that was part of the gift war I am now in with one of the P.E. teachers. He always gives me, what he calls, “Training meat,” before I work out. Which is hilarious because it’s like, a small chocolate or どら焼き (a pancake sandwich with sweet beans in the middle ― it’s actually really good) which is not meat, nor, I would guess, good for training. But HE’S A GYM TEACHER, what do I know. Anyways, they didn’t seem impressed, as perhaps, it was seen as my nice retaliation… Just a guess.
LEG BE LIKE…
So training was rocked. Weights, abs and yoga.
(Side note: I tore my ACL over a year ago and the leg strength in my left leg has not been the same since. I am overjoyed to say that it’s gotten a lot better in the past 3 months that I have been weight lifting more regularly…Thank you God of Training Meat for that.)
Plan = stress = chill out
During the rest of the day, I planned trips to
(Kobe beef… ever hear of it?). Stressful but fun because I want it to be fun? That doesn’t make sense, right? I shouldn’t stress myself out so much.
I am super excited for the upcoming trip, which will commence on May 30. Of course, I will see some Tokyo action before that, hopefully meeting up with a few lovely people I know from different parts of my life. I hope to see Ms. Hayley (who also is working on a new fitness career — love her Instagram posts) before she departs from Japan.
Massage for $3.70 ― shut up
After school, I walk to the massage, chiro and acupuncture place where they know me by name. We speak a little Japanese, and a little English and joke around. Anyways, this shiatsu massage place is out-of-control on so many levels. Its owner is an avid marathon runner who has countless, and I mean countless (If I had to guess, it’d be like a solid 20) englarged (like 2-3 feet) photos of himself running marathons hanging on the walls.
Did I say photos? I basically mean the highly stylized glamour shots of marathon running.
- ones at night,
- ones in the day,
- ones on different terraines…
- at the end,
- and beginning of the race.
He also has had frosty tips for years, meaning he dies the top part of his hair ― wait ― bleaches, he bleaches it. It’s crazy, but in a weird way, it works.
Anyways, back to the point, this place, you guys, it’s sanbyaku nana-jyu-en EVERY TIME. That’s 370 yen. That’s roughly a little less than $3.70 for a massage.
How is it possible? It’s not so formal, you keep your clothes on and it is communal, compared to a typical massage in the USA. It allows you to go more often for health, not just for a “treat-yoself” day.
Honestly, it’s total insanity the way massages are regarded as a luxury in the USA. We treat our bodies like shit, but let’s save that for another post. Anyways, it felt so good. I try to go a few times a week.
After, I got fresh ham tenpura from a local meat shop, which was, of course, amazing. Then, had to stop at 7/11 to nab the last 2 canned coffees that come with the original Mario Brothers figurines. You know what. That completes my collection, hahaha. I’d say “it’s the little things,” but that’s F***ing huge.
Alone but not so lonely
Walking home. I stop at a senbei store to buy some small gifts. OK, I guess I am fully in this culture…(JK there’s so much I have no idea what’s going on.) The lady realizes they’re gifts and wraps them extra nicely, with ribbons. The gifts are so cheap, it’s an undeniably good purchase ― just 875 yen for 6 small cakes made from sweet potato and sweet bean.
I get home. Eat some pork. And, am like, OK, it’s bath time. My body, muscles and mind crave it after today.
Don’t know about Japanese baths? Here’s a quick whatsup about public ones ― they’re much deeper than ones in America. They allow you basically feel like you’re in a hot tub. (Every body loves hot tubs, let’s be honest.) You shower completely before you get into the bath tub ― the tub is next to the area you shower. Once clean, you soak in the bath. It’s amazing what it does to refresh your body, but today, I began to do some deep breathing and actually began to meditate. (This was at my bath in my apartment.)
Meditate ― 🙂
Oh, sweetness on earth. Meditation is one of those things that you cannot describe how it feels because there is no comparing it to any other feeling. it’s like love ― you aren’t sure what it’s like until it’s actually happening. BUT, once it’s happening, you’re like “god this is HAPPENING! THIS IS HAPPENING…… followed by thoughts of “I don’t want this to end!”
Meditation is always what happens for me when I’m able to take relaxation to the next level. When my body has exerted itself, then it’s more ready to fully relax, and my mind connects with it and just shuts off. (If you do any reading on mindfulness, you know that being completely aware is something that happens when you shut off those obnoxious little thoughts in your brain.) That’s what happened.
I am so grateful. Always grateful. Just euphoric, even for a few seconds. As I get older, mindfulness and taking care of myself starts to make more sense when you realize what the hell you’re doing on this earth.
That brings us to now.
Writing. Wrapping up any day with something creative is ideal so let’s leave it at this.