Memories in Japan, in Japanese

Last September I came to Asia for the first time, and as a study abroad student I began to live in Kyoto. In the United States I took many classes related to Japan, but before I came I really didn’t have a true understanding of the country. But, after I came to Kyoto, I saw many things for the first time. Although I think such places as temples, shrines and castles are interesting, in fact my favorite place in Kyoto is probably the basement of Takashimaya Department Store. For Japanese, that fact may seem strange, but because America doesn’t have that type of store, and because Japanese department store basements have really delicious food, I think it is a great place.

I also went to Osaka. I was 2 hours in the aquarium. I watched the whale shark. The aquarium in Osaka was interesting. Especially jellyfish, octopus, and the big crabs I liked. When I went back to Germany, I thought some day I would be back. This year, I went back to Kyoto. It's amazing but this city didn't really change over the last 7 years. It is still the same. Temples or shrines or kimono shops are still existing today. The time here is standing still. 7 years ago, I also walked to Rakuhoku. These traditional, old wood houses are still there. I even found the old rice field again. Sometimes, I go to Gion district and stroll along the narrow streets. In the evening that place is interesting. At that time Gion has a special atmosphere. Everything looks misterious.

Kyoto is really extraordinary. Often I take a bike ride to the Imperial Palace and relax in the park. The park of the Imperial Palace is huge. Recently, I saw there an amusing monk. He was wearing the traditional Getas. It was funny. In Japan, Kyoto is the best but I dislike its weather. It is crazy. Every year in summer it is humid and hot, in autumn rainy, in winter very cold, and in spring earthquakes. Nevertheless, I like Kyoto. I really appreciate the Onsens and I am crazy about them. My skin gets crumple very fast. Therefore, I can just take a very short bath. The skin of Japanese people must be different because they can take a bath over hours without skin problems. Unbelievable! Japan is peculiar, anyway.

For example, why are these bottle of water standing at the sheet? Why do cars have white, yellow, dark green, black, and pink licence plates? Why is the gas/water meter always outside? Why do Japanese never ever wear sunglasses? Since 4 months I am studying hard Japanese. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji are not easy. Japanese and English are totally different languages. Somehow, Japanese is similar to Spanish. Many words are put together by particles. Therefore, many Japanese can speak very fast. Then I cannot understand anything. And because I have difficulties with Kanji, I can ever hardly understand the writing. I give my best but just slowly improve. It is a long way to perfection!

Chris, from Germany, attempted to express his thought of Kyoto city in his own Japanese, and finished it in triumph. For his another writing, see the Japanese version.

- BAHR, Chris
- proofread by FURUTA, Yuuki

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 The Japanese like the Bath?!

Soak in the bath

How do you spend your winter in Kyoto? Winter in Kyoto is frozen, with persistent cold days, because it is in a basin. For Japanese, this is the season that we really miss hot springs.

I went to Kurama-Onsen, which is located in Kyoto-city, in November, with my international student friend who is from the USA. Kurama is known as a good tourist attraction for its autumn leaves. Around this time, the autumn leaves are illuminated at night, and you can see a brilliant red and orange view. Kurama-onsen has a open-air bath - we say Roten-buro - surrounded by rich nature and you can enjoy all the views of each season while soaking in the bath. It was a very wonderful time. My friend really liked it. At the same time, she seems to have been surprised at our custom of taking baths with many naked people. It seems rare custom in the world that we mostly soak in the bath.

In Japan, we prefer airy houses due to humid weather. Therefore, in winter we soak in the bath to warm ourselves, in summer we take baths to wash our sweaty bodies. Also, because there are many volcanoes, there are many hot springs. We are also influenced by Buddhism, and it is said that washing dirt away in the bath means washing the worldly desires - we say Bonnou - in our hearts away. As a result of these, it is said that we like to take baths.

The remarkable Japanese unique custom is that we rest ourselves while soaking in the bath. Nowadays, "Bath" is a place where we reflect on the whole day and relax. Japanese have tons of stress, so bath time is important to take repose for us. I think some people might go to hot spring for time like that. Please feel comfortable and soak in the bath in this season.

You will absolutely warm up to the bone. ♨


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Obanzai : Side dish made in Kyoto, daily served in Japan at home

Some of my American friends mentioned that they didn't know what o-banzai was, so we went out to eat o-banzai together. I was interested in how they would react to eating o-banzai for the first time, but I mainly found myself surprised by the cultural differences between Japan and America.

Kinpiragobo:burdock and carrots fried with sugar and soy-sauce

What particularly startled me was that they weren't familiar with kombu. Kombu is a type of highly nutritious seaweed with few calories. Japanese people use it on a daily basis to create dashi (soup stock). I had thought a food as delicious and healthy as kombu must surely be famous throughout the world, so discovering this really made our cultural differences hit home for me. In addition to kombu, I also learned about other foods my friends were unfamiliar with. Here's a quick list.

Nishin-ni : Herring boiled in thick soy-sauce with sugar

Unfamiliar Food

Namafu (wheat starch), okara (soybean fiber), wakame (type of seaweed), nishin (Pacific herring), chikuwa (fish paste), kamaboko (fish paste sausage), and maitake (type of mushroom).

If you don't recognize some of these, please try eating them at least once! They are very delicious.

Obanzai Store

Rokkon Kiyamachi -

- TAKEDA, Kazuhiro

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 Cambodia Mine-Remove Campaign Report

The PMN2-type plastic landmine costs only three dollars. This is equivalent to 300 yen. I went to the International House in Osaka to attend the "One World Festival 2008." There were many stalls of international organizations from which their activities were introduced and explained. I listened to a speech by Cambodia mine removal and was informed that "one landmine costs 300 yen." After the speech, one high school student sitting next to me eagerly told the speaker, "100 yen can make 1 square metre of mine-free area." In hearing this, perhaps you can start to act for the removal of land mines in Cambodia.

- YATAGAWA, Tatsuya

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 Valentine's Day

February 14th is renowned as Valentine's Day both in Japan and overseas. However, that doesn't necessarily mean Valentine activities are limited only to February. In Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, March 14th is "White Day," a day when men who received chocolate on Valentine's Day offer a present in return. And in South Korea, April 14th is "Black Day," when singles put on black clothes and gather to eat noodles with black bean sauce.

Why don't you try telling your Japanese friends about your country's Valentine traditions? It could end up being an interesting opportunity to learn more about your respective cultures. And if you have the chance, be sure to experience a Japanese Valentine's Day and White Day as well. Maybe, the next time you hear the word "Valentine," you'll think of March 14th and black bean sauce instead of the usual love and chocolate. Whether with friends or other loved ones, take this year's Valentine season as a chance to make some wonderful new memories.

-PERRY, Sarah

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