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Viewing Topic: Going to Japan! - Page 4
#30: 11-04-2015 @ 08:12:53 am
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MachVergil Photo.
  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Neither Kitty or I had heard that story before, but after sharing it with her we both think it's pretty cool!  There's quite a few 'seated Buddha inside a building' in Japan, but we both think there can't be one as famous as the one at Todai-ji just because it's not only the biggest (pretty sure) but also the oldest (pretty sure) in Japan, so chances are good that was what they were talking about.

Gods how tall would a 50 foot tall Buddha be when it stood up?  I hope there's an anime somewhere in which the Todai-ji Buddha turns out to be a giant robot and gets up to fight some sort of giant monster.

Anyway, I did want to talk a bit about the guest house before I stopped talking about Kyoto.

I don't stay in hostels. I kinda made it a personal rule of mine once to never do so.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still overall a 'people are good until life makes them evil' kinda person, but I find the very concept an invitation for terrible shit to happen to you.  Some how when Kitty was going over the trip details with me for our stay in Kyoto the part I remembered was "someplace we'd get to stay on tatami mats" which I was totally down with trying.   The part I missed entirely was that it would be a house in the middle of a Kyoto neighboorhood with two private rooms and two shared room with a bunch of bunk beds in it that a potential over 20 people would be sharing the same living space (2 shower/baths, 2 bathroom sinks, 1 urinal room, 2 toilets, 1 kitchen with common room, most except one of the toilets being downstairs while all the bedrooms were up).  Yeah we had paid extra for one of the private rooms with a lock so we could protect our stuff, but aside from the entire arrangement looked and sounded an awful lot like a hostel.

To say I was not pleased is putting it mildly.  Once were alone in our room I freaked out.  Part of me was angry that I'd been mislead as to what this place, but a much bigger part of me was terrified.  So far in the trip we'd stayed a Hotel in Tokyo.  I mean it was unremarkably just "a hotel room" I didn't feel any need to take pictures of it (aside from this one of the view outside the window)

And our hotel room in Tokyo still had a bathroom and shower, which was not the case with some of the other rooms on our floor.  Like this one which this photo is basically the whole room:

Anyway I basically had massive concerns regarding staying at this guest house:

  1. Once we were back in hotel room in Tokyo, I felt like the day was done and I could revert to English, relax, and just say what I'd been holding in all day.  Knowing we were now in a thin-walled house full of people, I got overwhelmed at the idea that I had to "stay on" until I fell asleep in this place.
  2. Not only do I now have to worry about keeping up appearances in front of the Japanese, I had all these othernon-American foriegners staying at the Guest House to keep up appearances in front of too.
  3. God damn it what do you mean we're staying in a hostel for 3 days?  What if I get in a fight with a fellow guest?  What if a fellow guest tries to hurt Kitty?  What if the guest house thinks we're lying about something?  What if I can't defend myself verbally because my Japanese isn't good or the other guest doesn't speak either English or Japanese well? What if something happens to our stuff? 

It was just too much.  Kitty did a great job of letting me have my little episode and then explaining to me how the whole situation wasn't as bad as I thought it was.  Our hosts seemed to speak pretty solid English and this was their job.  The owners of this house decided to offer it as a place to stay for visitors and clearly welcome foreigners (or else they wouldn't have advertised in English online).   As for the other guests, we did have our own room, with our own key, so it wasn't like we were leaving our stuff on a bunk bed all day and hoping no one took it.

And you know what?  She was right.  The guest house in Kyoto ended up being my second favorite place to stay in Japan.  A lot of cool stuff happened because we stayed there.

First of all I met Taka.  That's all he'd tell me his name was so I don't know what "Taka" is short for, his first or his last name.  Taka was a college student who was making money working at this guest house for the evening hours.  His English was beyond solid, and in general was very social and friendly.  We were talking about hotel stuff after we met him and he complimented Kitty on her Japanese but then said "But if you need, English is fine."   She and Taka then kept talking between the two languages, sort of testing each other and it was fun to take part in.

Now up until now I'd be extremely disappointed in my own Japanese speaking. My listening and reading were both in better shape than I thought they'd be (and I am sure Anime has a lot to do with that) but my ability to hear a statement, translate it, and then properly construct a response in Japanese was painfully slow and awkward and by the time we arrived Kyoto I was starting to give up on getting to speak outside of "Hey, how much is this? Thank you very much."

So I made a comment to Taka that Kitty's Japanese was way beyond my own.  His response, without skipping a beat was to look me in the eyes with a smile and say "oh yeah?  Let' hear it.  Let's hear your Nihon-go"

I froze.  I started trying to think what to say.  Kitty provided some prompts she knew we learned... you know introduction level stuff that's so drilled in I'll remember it on my deathbed I'm sure.  Taka broke it up by asking for more information.  He watched me struggle to respond and after a few sentences he interrupted me.

"Stop," he said in English.  "You're thinking too hard about speaking. Just speak."

"huh?" I asked.

"Don't worry about proper grammar or structure.  If you just speak as best you can, I will figure it out."  He points to one of his coworkers, "She'll figure it out."  Then he made a hand motion, as if he was speaking for everyone "We'll figure it out.  Relax and do the best you can."

I paused as I let that sink in.  I took his advice and took a deep breath.  He asked me a question.  I gave him a curt, one word answer.  He asked me another, like "why did you study Japanese?" and I answered something as broken as "When child, I liked Anime, I liked Video Games from Japan.  Nintendo is good."  He gave me a big smile and said in Japanese said "Yes!  See I understand!"

I can't tell you how good that felt.  This trip taught me finally, after all these years, why being a tourist is so weird and undesirable to me.  It's not that I don't like seeing cool things in new places, it's that it feels extremely weird to me if I then cannot meet the people who live in or near these places.  I was finally in Japan, and I wasn't making any new friends or talking to new people, I was just seeing their history and their culture like some sort of scout drone to be ignored as it takes in data and then leaves, or a customer to spend my money at their shop and then depart.

Taka was the first Japanese I met there (aside from Kitty's work colleges) who made me feel truly welcome in his country, and his advice on speaking ended up being critical.   For the rest of the trip after words I felt confident enough to attempt to speak when spoken to.  We got bread one morning at a cool shop and I asked the shop keeper if "Photos were okay" in what was probably the wrong form or tense or something and she just smiled at me and nodded "Hai, daijobou daiyo, onigaishimasu" or "Yes, it's alright, please go ahead!"

We thought it cool that we came from Virginia and here was an old American License plate from Virginia hanging in this bread shop in the middle of a shopping arcade in Kyoto.

For the record this is a shopping arcade.

(it is after dark when I took this photo so most shops were closed, but I want you to imagine that street full of bikes coming and going in both directions and store fronts open with shop keepers yelling "Irashaimase!" as you pass by on foot and that's what it was like only an hour before I shot that photo.

They also had Japanese dollar stores or "100 yen" stores

So anyway, Taka was a big part in making my trip to better.  He was happy to talk to me in either Japanese or English, whichever I was most comfortable with at the time.  He also tried to be cool and hang out with us guests when he wasn't busy, just being friendly in general. 

Taka wasn't the only cool part of the house though.  I ended up making a few quick friends among the guests as well.  Kitty and I were somehow the only Americans staying there.  There were a number of Chinese who really just kept to themselves.  We also met two girls from Denmark, a guy from the Netherlands, a lady from England, and eventually a man from Scotland.  For all of us, English was the language we all knew and felt comfortable enough in to discuss in.   When we were home after dinner and just hanging out, it was great talking to these European guests.  We heard cool stories from their other travels, and talked about where we were from as well.  It was also common for us to have this conversation, sitting on padded seats on the tatami on the floor, drinking booze and snacks that were brought to be shared.

Some cool conversations (and things) that happened:

  1. I got to explain to them why all the hubub about Primary Elections in the US is just hubub at the moment.
  2. We had a little debate about parliament vs American Democracy
  3. The Europeans were disappointed Japan wasn't more "weird."  It also became very apparent to me that Kitty and I were both ahead of most of the guests when it came to foreknowledge of Japanese history, language, and culture, so we helped them out with a few things, as did the hosts.
  4. We talked a bit about languages.
  5. The girl from Denmark complimented me on my accent.  "You have the perfect American accent.  You sound just like the men in the movies." She then remarked how frustrating it was for her that no matter how much she practices she still has her own accent, and she can hear it whenever she speaks.
  6. I got the girl from Denmark and the guy from the Netherlands to explain to me some of the linguistic differences between English and German.
  7. When the guy from Scotland showed up, he offered had brought Scotch with him.  I mean my first man from Scotland and the very first thing he does is offer me scotch.  How the hell do you say no to that?
  8. Taka sat and drank and talked with us after while too.  He did not like the scotch, but he did tell us about some Japanese craft brews.
  9. We then talked about alcohol in general for awhile.

So yeah the guest house ended up being a great time.  I still don't think I'm really into the idea of staying at hostels yet, but this particular one was great.  Would stay again.

And Taka's advice about language was again, critical.  It made me think of all the times in my own home country I've met, or even worked with, folks who had broken English accents and was able to communicate with them fine.  Hell I have relatives from Panama who come to visit sometimes whose own English isn't the best and I'm still able to communicate with them.  It was great advice and I'm glad I listened to it.

This post was edited by machvergil on November 4, 2015, 11:15 am

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