Making Okonomiyaki & Awkward Eye Contact With Window Men

Day off for Doshisha and day on for us. So sad. After morning nihongo I had my don don hanaso (rapid speaking) class, where we talked about food. Favorites, least favorites, both of those in Japan vs America. Basically all of it was interesting, but here’s a list of the things we as a group miss most from home:

  • peanut butter
  • mac and cheese
  • brownies
  • fried chicken
  • mashed potatoes
  • buffalo wings (this was all me)
  • cheese
  • fruits (I have fruit every morning, but apparently they’re expensive here)
  • soda (the vending machines are all juice, tea, fizzy water and coffee)
  • tacos/burritos/Mexican food
  • real pizza
  • hot dogs

So as I mentioned, today is a holiday for Doshisha students, and yet one of Lizzie’s partners for a group project was sweet enough to come in today and work on it with her. His name is Taichi; we’re in joint seminar together, and he always seems like a chill guy to hang with. Once Steph and I got out of don don we met up with them and, since he was free, we decided to grab lunch together. Yay new friends! We all went out to Yayoi-ken, a fast-food-ish restaurant where you pick your order from a machine by the door, pay and ticket collect, then sit down and wait for them to swap your ticket for a tray. They had this cool 16 grain, hella fancy rice that Taichi recommended and I got it since it was free. If you got regular rice there were unlimited refills though, so props to them.

We got to talking about Japan vs America, as always happens when you bring friends of different cultures, new or old, together. Which basically meant a lot of debriefing on our end about American rights, education systems, corporate monopolization (i.e. all school tests [SAT, ACT, GRE], the glasses industry [someone please explain why my glasses cost goddamn $400+, I mean jesus christ] and a bunch of other bs capitalism), student debt and the condescending attitudes of a lot of the older generation . . . essentially wrecking his view of the American dream. ‘Cause yeah, we’re a good country with a lot of progressive laws and views, but we’re also a huge 1st world shit-show and that’s about to be exacerbated over the next 4 years so . . . I’ll leave that there.

One really interesting point Taichi touched on is education quality in Japan, which far outranks the US according to a gameshow with world rankings that I watched the other night. Japanese public education has, for the past 10 years or so, been incorporating online programs into the curriculum. According to Taichi, students outside of hotspot cities like Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo typically have less resources and opportunities. Trickle down means that more rural or financially-stressed areas, such as Fukushima or Wakayama, are lagging behind in education and everything that comes with it. In turn, some big company with an education section/department/I don’t know what decided to produce and market online courses, which can be bought by schools and/or individual families. While there could obviously be issues with conformist education and strictly stifled creativity (something Tai Chi bemoaned during this conversation), it really does provide these lacking places, *cough* looking at you, the American South and middle of the country *cough* with education on par with what the more resource-heavy communities can provide. While I don’t know how widespread this is, how good, who exactly produces it and what their motives are, it seems far ahead of home in trying to spread a more equal education to those without the opportunity for well-supported schooling.

Unfortunately Taichi had to split after that, but Lizzie and I simmered in the restaurant for a bit longer before heading back to the classroom to try studying. Or at least, that was our intention before we went through the whole dang hallway to find that everything was locked. Dear god, I know that there’s technically no school today and that it’s a public campus, but it’s Japan. The biggest concern here is a stolen, I dunno, chair, not a school shooting. Leave me my study place guys. We ended up wandering up one floor, finding this lovely hallway with little study bars against the windows that were quiet and actually a great study place. Shame that we found it so late in the semester, but this is also not our usual building so oh well. All was quiet until I looked across the way to see a terrifying sight; window washers. Give me a moment.

Window washer guys have no safety precautions. No ropes, ladders, whatever one might use for safety – nada. These clowns just climbed out of the tall, maybe 2 meter windows (they’re 2 sideways-sliding panels) and started washing away. One hand on the top of the jutting fixture, their feet maybe halfway on the sill as the move side to side washing. Oh my god, I was just watching in shock and hoping no one would die. I’m sure they do this all the time and were more than fine, but damn, never have I seen that before. Lizzie, who’s scared of heights, couldn’t even watch and started muttering about safety regulations and how code-breaking this felt. It got even better when they came around to our windows and stood there for about 2 minutes just washing. I know it was fast and fine, but it was just so weird and the eye contact was barely had but I felt it. Face to face through the suds, I felt it. Then everyone finally got down from the sills of death and left, bless their unsafe living souls. Cut to class, cut to the bus, cut to home.

I unfortunately missed out on okaa-san’s eigo lesson today, seeing as my nap went over by an hour or so. I’m absolutely wiped from my workload this week, which is sucky. But I do believe that I’ll be back to sweet, normal sleeping soon which is a relief. The bright side of super-snoozling is that I woke up all comfy and cozy to the promise of making okonomiyaki. The griddle was on the table along with the batter, and we proceeded to make my one with otou-san instructing me along the way. You just pour a bit more than half the batter (mixed with shredded cabbage) onto the griddle, lay strips of meat atop it, then cover the rest with the leftover batter. At least, this is otou-san’s method – okaa-san was sure to point that out. Super yum, would make again, and followed by delicious anko mochi. Then Dark Shadows came on, which I hadn’t seen before, and since I love Eva Greene and Johnny Depp it was a good watch. I sit here now working on more projects, so alas, this is where I end things. Oyasuminasai.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Patricia nagy says:

    Hi Elizabeth if you like dark shadows the one from 45 years ago was better it was a soap opera that food looked pretty good the only good thing about conn was your father aunt Julie the kids uncle jack and family (and zo zo) the weather stunk!! Counting the hours till Thursday love grandma

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  2. Man a lot was going on in this post. Taichi sounds like an interesting guy, and yeah, it can suck to “ruin” someone’s image of the American Dream but them’s the breaks. At least there’s cheap peanut butter. And berries.
    I love the name of your speaking class- don don hanaso. 楽しそう!

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