Journal Entry #4 or, An Adventure of Sparkles and Joy
5/15, 13:28 Takarazuka Time, in a shopping mall attached to a train station.
Well, I didn’t write an entry on 5/14, but that was because the day was mostly spent in transit. The morning was a visit to the Meiji shrine (#1) and Harajuku, the fashion district known for its’ crazy clothes and variety of people. I’m a raver by nature and the variety of neon clothing in Harajuku was astounding. We bought crepes (which are apparently a big thing in Japan? #2) from a vendor and enjoyed a lot of people watching. The Meiji shrine was pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum, very quiet and composed. We saw a few weddings in progress, because it is the designated place for Shinto weddings. The part of the shrine that I enjoyed the most was this: (#3) a wall of prayers left by visitors. They ranged from hopes that travel would go well, to wishes for a new boyfriend, to Japan’s recovery from the tsunami. Most were in Japanese but there were more than a few in English, at least two in French, and a few in Thai. My favorite was this: (#4) “I wish for everyone to find their passion in life- to be the best they can be and share it with the world. Life is short. Life is unpredictable. There is no time to wait and let life happen to you. Love unconditionally. Live unconditionally. And remember to always smile (:”
5/15, 21:19 Otsu time, in my new hotel room.
Okay… I stopped writing this entry in Takarazuka to go see a magical musical. It was deliciously over-the-top, with colorful sparkly feathered outfits. See, Takarazuka is a theater where all roles, even the male ones, are played by female actresses/dancers (#5). It reminded me of my high school in the very best way. After the musical we took the train back to Otsu, with a slight mishap on the way- even though I somehow acquired pretty good navigational skills, we did get on the wrong line once. Luckily, we noticed this when just one stop out of our way, so we got back pretty quickly. Now I’m settled into my hotel room in Otsu, where we will be staying for the next two weeks. It’s lovely, and quite a bit bigger than the rooms in Tokyo and Kyoto. The view looks like this: (#6)
Culture comments… today, I got used to being the only white face in the crowd. Takarazuka is kind of a hidden treasure, and as so, not a very tourist-friendly city. It’s still very friendly and polite, just not as much English signage. Here’s something I wrote after our quick visit to Kyoto (Stephanie and I stayed there last night, I’m sorry this entry is a little disjointed:) “I step out of the hotel room and become mute. It feels like we are the only English-speaking people in Kyoto, Japan. If I bump into someone, I give a nod and a polite smile by way of apology. Doubtless they are thinking, ‘stupid foreigner.’ The few words of my pitiful Japanese vocabulary that are armed and ready to fire are the words for ‘excuse me’ and ‘I do not understand.’ But I do not use them, I do not need them. I realize ten minutes have passed without saying a word- when was the last time that happened? Surrounded by people, but neither understanding nor interacting? Alone in a crowd….”
I realize that sounds kind of depressing, but it’s true, and I liked it enough to post on here. As far as random little culture notes go, I feel like I’m getting the hang of things like placing the money on the counter for a purchase (instead of handing it to the cashier, some stores even have a little tray for money) and standing on the left side of the escalator. Despite one or two mishaps, I think I’ve gotten pretty handy at navigating the train system, but I suppose that will be determined later on in the game. Tomorrow is our first day of classes. I’m excited but unprepared, so I guess it’s time to do the reading….
(I didn’t talk about the train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto but here’s a picture: #7)

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