Samantha in Japan

That’s enough crying. Time to have some fun.

Posted on: February 12, 2009

              This entry was originally written a few days back, and I didn’t get the chance to post it until now due to my lack of internet access. But as I was reading this entry over, I decided to emit a big blob of emotional whininess. I was feeling like an absolute jerk and had been crying way too much because of the whole homestay situation. To sum the events of the last few days up, I talked to CIE, and I’ll be moving back into the dorms on Friday. Now that I’ve had to explain myself a million times over to CIE and other parties, I’m much more in control of my feelings. I can’t put it in any simpler terms—the homestay family just wasn’t the right choice for me. My host parents are very sweet, friendly people, and I’m sure that they’ve made (and hopefully will continue to make) very good host parents for other students. But just not for me. I was feeling stressed out by returning home, and that just isn’t the way I want to feel in my short stay here. I’ve felt incredibly relieved over the last two days, in particular, now that the decision has been made. I still feel like a huge jerk for putting my host family through this in the first place, but the decision has been made, and I know they’ll be fine. And I’ll be fine.

So there you go. No need to prolong my strife. That’s what happened in a nutshell.

So that’s enough dabbling in the emotional stuff. As I mentioned in my last post, my speaking partner took me to Kyoto, and took time to show me around, rather than rushing me through like the three clueless “tour guides” did a week and a half ago, haha. So here are the pictures from that—


              I met up with my speaking partner at the nearest train station, and we headed out to Kyoto. The main reason for the trip was to visit the Kiyomizu Temple. On the bus ride from the Kyoto station to the temple, I was approached by a tourist. I suddenly heard an, “Excuse me…” and looked up, because—well, that’s not Japanese! I saw this guy leaning over my seat, and he asked me if I was sightseeing. I told him that I was, but that I kind of had a guide, so I wasn’t with a group or anything. He then asked about what there was to see in Kyoto—that he just wanted to see something. I kind of laughed in my head at the bizarreness of the situation—this random guy is on a bus headed out into Kyoto, but he doesn’t know where he’s going or what he wants to see. I told him that I was going to the Kiyomizu Temple, and he asked for directions on how to get there. I just told him to listen to the announcements running on the bus and wait until he hears, “Kiyomizu.” Generally, that’s how I get around—I might not be able to read the kanji, but I can decipher spoken words! Anyway, my speaking partner and I got off the bus for Kiyomizu, and the random guy (and his girlfriend/wife/whatev) followed us off. It sounds sketchy when I write it down, but it was really funny when it happened. I was following my speaking partner, and the couple was following me—so when we had to take a sudden turn, there was an entire tail of a group following my speaking partner’s every move. Once the temple was in sight, they were able to find their own way, and my speaking partner and I took a little casual detour window-shopping on the way up. So, anyway—the picture is my attempt at emphasizing how HIGH UP this place was. We did a whooooole lot of walking to get up to the temple. And the picture above is actually at the base of the temple, looking up against this stone wall that the temple was positioned atop.

              Lots and lots of walking. But not back-breaking walking, fortunately. A nice, leisurely stroll. It wasn’t tiring at all.

              Oh, before I get too far from the story of the tourist guy, I just want to mention how amusing I find it that I get approached like that. Honestly. I’m not trying to be facetious. I love these little, awkward experiences, especially in Japan. Out of all the people on that cramped bus, I’m the one who gets approached by the random tourist, who speaks English (I’m pretty sure he was Australian), because I clearly am not Japanese. It’s different from when I was in Finland, because there, I have no clear physical signs indicating that I am not Finnish. So I’d get approached by random people even there, but they’d be speaking Finnish to me instead. Here, there’s no mistaking it—I don’t look like the majority of the people in this country, so I probably speak English. I don’t stand out as much as a person with blonde hair does, but I still look funny. So these things will happen. Oh, that, and little kids like to stare. Not all of them, of course, but sometimes I’ll be standing in line somewhere, and there will be a little kid that unashamedly keeps staring up at me. I think it’s kinda cute.

              Right, back to the Kiyomizu Temple.


              This view is looking down from the temple. It’s hard to emphasize the height through pictures, but this was a HUGE drop. If I dropped my camera right then, I’d definitely need a new camera. That poor thing would’ve been beyond repair.


              So after a lot of walking, we reached the entrance to the Kiyomizu Temple. Which, of course, featured some more stairs. Even more surprising was the girls dressed up like geisha—formal kimonos, HUGE shows—walking up and down these stairs, with the assistance of another person.

              Most of the buildings around the temple shared this really vivid orange color. I love how temples can make any color look rich and traditional—even this neon orange.



              The photos above and below are more views of the ornate, crazy orange buildings around the temple area.



              I absolutely love the little details on these buildings, too—


              This next photo is of the highest building in Japan. All that walking paid off!


              Since the temple sits so high up on a hill, you can see the city of Kyoto everywhere!


              Another view of said vista—including the Kyoto Tower this time. The thing looks positively puny from all the way up there.


              And where there isn’t a view of the city, there’s a view of a whoooole lot of nature. I thought this scene was pretty cool—another temple off in the middle of a woodland.


              A cute little pond and garden in the middle of all the buildings—


              It seems obvious, but just in case… for the record, you do a lot of wishing and praying at temples. Toss a couple yen into a basket, put your hands together (like the guy in the middle in this next picture), and make a wish/prayer.


              Or there’s places like this, where you touch a statue for good luck.


              I’m not exactly sure what you do at this next place, but the story beside it described Okage-myojin, a god who is considered a “guardian deity, especially for the ladies.” The sign also described how women would nail a straw doll onto cedar trees as a curse to their enemies, and how even now, nail marks can be found on the backs of cedar trees from when that was practiced.


              This next one was the cutest. If you can’t see what the English text above the rock is, it says, “Love Stone.” It says that if you manage to walk safely from the stone in the picture to a stone on the other side of the walkway (it’s a straight line, not pictured above) with your eyes closed, you’ll have a wish granted. Someone actually attempted it while my speaking partner and I were looking on. It was so cute. He had one hand out in front of him with his eyes closed, and just kept saying, “sumimasen” (“excuse me”) as he walked forward. Mostly everyone leapt out of his way and looked on with smiles.


              My speaking partner and I both weren’t sure about what this was, exactly, but it looks like a bunch of (stone) dolls!


              This next one was a popular attraction. We lined up to drink this water. The gist of it is that drinking the water while praying will grant you a wish. My speaking partner was telling me that each little water stream represented luck in a different aspect of life. I found a little plaque in English while I was standing in line—it said that there are many local variations on the story—that each stream represents something distinct, but that the Kiyomizu Temple’s “official position” on it was that they all fulfill wishes. I lol’ed. Official position. It’s a temple! Anyway, I drank from the middle one, for the record.


              On the way down from the temple, this is another shot looking back up at how high this place is—


              And this one is probably my favorite of the bunch. We were walking along, just outside the main temple buildings, and my speaking partner leapt up on a little ledge alongside a tall fence, and he invited me up. When I got up there, I recognized the view instantly. This same view (minus the tree branch in the middle) has DEFINITELY been on postcards or posters or … circulated SOMEWHERE. I have definitely seen it before.


              One last photo, for giggles. This was taken outside of the temple, while we were browsing the little shops along the looooong road down the hill. Hello Kitty. Is. EVERYWHERE.



              All right, this post is getting too long as it is, so to wrap it up, I’ll end with a snippet of a conversation I had with my speaking partner today. We were looking at my Japanese homework, and I had to translate a sentence from English into Japanese. I was just checking if I knew the correct nouns in Japanese.

              Me: “Ahh, what’s wine?”

              My speaking partner: “Oh! Alcohol… you know, whiskey, beer…”

              Me: “[dying of laughter] Not like that! In Japanese!”

1 Response to "That’s enough crying. Time to have some fun."


I’m glad to hear that you will be moving back to the dorm on Thursday (actually you must be there already, since it is midnight now). The stories you have posted on this site are so interesting. Despite the small setback, it sounds like you are filling yourself with Japanese culture. I wish I was over there sightseeing with you.

Kelly and I went out to dinner at the RainDancer last Saturday with your Mom, Dad, and Arthur. We had a nice time.

The weather here is warming up just a we hit 49 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to have a lot of rain and wind, and perhaps the Mighty Mohawk might flood in some areas. I’m going to stay snug and warm here in Tribes Hill. Speaking of poor thing waking up to the cold and sleeping on a mat. I’ll bet you must miss your mattress.

Keep us posted on your adventures. It sounds like you are making the best of things despite the small setback. Whoever said it was going to be a bowl of cherries once you got there.

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  • Isa: No, there can't be two ninja dogs in Kyoto. But in April it was in Arashiyama!
  • Paula: Hey: I'm so glad you are swine flu-free. A little over-kill, don't you think? Anyway, I'm so glad you are enjoying your last few days there. Live it u
  • Paula: There's no place like home, there's no place like home!!! Can't wait to see you...we are counting the days.


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