Last night my host mother asked me when I wanted to get up and have breakfast, so I told her that I normally wake around 7 on the weekend, which, what with this week and the jetlag, is true. Okaa-san was like, really? Even on the weekend? You don’t want to relax? A bit of back and forth went down, then I told her 9 is good. So guess who woke up at 8:50 with a stunning lack of time to get ready? Not this clown! No, I had the joy of waking up at 6:30, bright and early for day 1. Go Liz.
I spent my first hour of awake-ness trying to find Wi-Fi and drifting asleep waiting for it. Literally, an hour crawling around the room hoping 2 inches right of the bed picked up signal that wasn’t there 3 inches up and 2 to the left. Eventually I quit and just used my laptop, which has somehow been blessed with the one spot of Wi-Fi downstairs. Anyways, 7:30 come and I could give people a ring-a-ding-ding, so that was a plus. After a nice chat with Feff I went for the shower, and lemme tell you, bathing is very different here. I just took a shower, as I do back home, but even that was a fiasco because I couldn’t figure out how to get warm water. I turned all of the knobs people – all of them. And there were a lot. Ugh. It ended up being nice and refreshing amidst the super heat and humidity that is Kyoto in the summer. but it’s something that now, at 11 pm, I still haven’t asked. Woops-a-daisy! Over washoku, or Japanese-style breakfast, okaa-san showed me a bunch of pictures of her travels to almost everywhere (literally, she’s been so many places!) and her facebook for Chiro-chan, their adorable dog. As she scrolled she told me how this dog is Chiro’s boyfriend, this is just a friend, etcetera. So cute! Oh, and right now Chiro has a cone on her neck because she had surgery and her spleen is gone, so apparently here it’s called a Queen Elizabeth collar cause it looks like what the Queen wore. Adorable.
Right now (writing this at noon-ish, earlier than ^that) I’m at the gym with okaa-san, sitting on the side while she’s working out like a boss. It’s fantastic though because it’s on a rotation system, so there are a bunch of lovely little ladies who are all 60 or older working out to angry or sad 2000s American music that just became soft teen girl stuff. Now cue the Green Day. I’m loving it! Even found an English song I want to look up later (apparently it’s called Kick It Off, an ’08 punk rock release that you should give a listen to to get a bit of the vibe I was experiencing). That was followed by a bit more sightseeing, aka the hyaku-en shoppu (dollar store) and the conbini (convenience store) near the house, as well as a few good ramen shops that are just a block or two over from their house. Then we went home for a bit of relaxation before it was out and around again.
Next we went to see where my bus stop is, then we headed to what magically just happened to be a world heritage site, Shimogamo Jinja*. It was a beautiful shrine, and my first in Kyoto during the day with activity going on. When you walk in you cleanse your hands and mouth with water from a neat structure to the side, then you really enter the shrine through a ‘doorway’ (for lack of a better word) where you bow in entry. Then we were surrounded by Chinese zodiac shrines (i.e. dragon, horse, rat) where you go to your zodiac’s shrine and pray. I’m a nezumi (rat). After praying to the main shrine I did just that, and okaa-san tossed 5 yen into each shrine so I could pray there. You go up, bow twice, clap twice slightly slowly, pray, then clap once more before it’s all done. Very specific and a rather unique experience. Afterwards we went to the mamori (charm) stall and okaa-san told me to wait, then she came back with a nezumi omamori for me. So sweet! I am so stankin’ lucky.
Here are the pics okaa-san took of me + shrine stuff:
Then we went to the little Edo-style ‘restaurant’/stand also inside of the jinja (okaa-san said that back in the day, restaurants used to be outdoor-seating and the servers would bring out your order) where they had mochi, tea and shave ice. I got matcha koori (shave ice) with azuki (red beans), also served with hojicha, while okaa-san got kuromame (black bean) tea and aoi (hollyhock) mochi, both of which she let me try and both of which I really enjoyed 🙂 She also bought my koori, so again I praise whoever matched us for blessing me with a goddess for the next four months.
It was also super cool because during that downtime we talked about a lot of cool stuff, including how saru (monkeys) have a strong relationship with the shrine because back in the day they supposedly protected it from oni (demons) that tried to attack it. We also talked about how the shrine is environmental in being Shinto, valuing plants and more that derailed into preserving native plantlife, Japan’s energy situation, her hatred of nuclear energy and pollution as well as how she tries to combat it in her lifestyle. We also both are fans of the wetlands, another thing that came up in this little chat. Pretty loaded, I know.
Afterwards we walked over to Kamogawa River, which has a meeting point that’s supposed to be a pretty popular chill spot for students. It’s also where okaa-san found Miao, her once noraneko (stray cat) that is now a happy fat cat. Super pretty and even though I can’t swim there, it’s nice to know about.
After the river walk it was back home with us til dinner, when we went to a kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) place and I ate to my heart’s delight. Read all about it in the link, but basically I got to pull a bunch of stuff, including tako, hamachi, maguro, sake and more, from the line and managed to accumulate 10 plates of yummy. On top of that there was an interesting game on-screen (where a menu was) that auto-played a slot machine, and one time it won so now I have a cat magnet. Oh yeah.
Last but not least a trip to the supermarket, where okaa-san kept asking what I liked and we ended up getting a bunch of stuff I like and a bunch of stuff I’d like to try, including figs, chestnut cakes, a matcha-dango-azuki ice cream cup and others. This is the best host fam ever. Alright, I’m missing some pics and links because of the wifi, but I’ll try to fix it soon and I’m pooped, so oyasuminasai!
Also, fun fact from okaa-san: in Korea, each partner in the marriage usually keeps their own last name, but when a child is born it takes the husband’s last name. She learned that from one of her host students 😉
*jinja = shrine