Katherine (another LC student) and I went to take a bath on Friday night. We stripped down and headed into the shower room where we noticed that there was some sort of weird gel crap in the ofuro (Japanese style bath). Katherine and I spent about 2 minutes trying to decide if it was safe, and more importantly, if it was clean. In the end we decided we didn’t know what it was and the best thing to do was to stand around in our towels and wait for a Japanese girl to come into the bathroom and tell us what it was. So we’re hanging around and it’s not long before the first Japanese girl comes in. After several “sumimasens” and some “kitekudasais,” we got her to take a look at the crap in the tub. In our limited Japanese and her limited English, we managed to determine that it was safe to get into the tub. We were just going to hop in, when she runs out, grabs the rest of the girls archery team and proceeds to have a conversation about the best thing to do. Finally they decide to skim the crap off the top and empty the tub for us. We kept trying to tell them that it was okay, that we could clean it ourselves, but they did it all for us. Meanwhile, we’re standing around laughing in our towels. When we got here, the ISA department informed us that as gaijin, we would have special experiences that most Japanese people would never have and I feel like this was definitely one of them.
In other news, the kendo team is “kureiji” (crazy). This is how they described themselves. Apparently one of them saw Terry and James (two other family-less orphans) and bolted into a room and started to chatter at whoever was in there excitedly. Next thing we know, the entire kendo team rushes down the stairs and stands in a big group saying “hello” and thinking it was really funny when we said “hi” back. Then one of the guys told me that he was Japanese (in English) and I told him we were Americans (in Japanese) and then he told us that if they were too loud (which they were) that we should tell them (which we didn’t) also in Japanese. It was pretty hilarious. Then, when we went out to dinner we were standing outside a restaurant and we see this car stopped at a light. The passenger points at us and motions to the driver and the car rolls forward and everyone in it gawks at us for a moment and then we waved at each other. I’ve decided that Japanese people are fascinated by white people.
Right now I think this fascination is rather amusing, but I’m pretty sure it will get old. One of the first things I noticed about Japan is that there are only Japanese people in it. In America (at least the parts I’m familiar with), if we see a Japanese person we don’t think anything of it. Most times we’ll assume that they’re American and we’ll expect that they speak English. In Japan though, nobody expects us to speak Japanese. Every time I say two words in Japanese they freak out and tell me how good I am at it. It’s just this weird mentality that only Japanese people can speak the Japanese language and understand Japanese culture. For example, the kendo kids kept apologizing for drinking in the kitchen and explaining to us that it was part of Japanese culture. I wish I had the vocabulary to tell them that it’s American culture too and that college kids are pretty much the same everywhere. Before we came here, Bruce told us that things might be strange for us because we wouldn’t look like anyone else. I rolled my eyes and thought to myself that I didn’t look like anyone in America anyway so how different could it be? But it is a lot different. Because we’re so different from everything they know and so they stand around gawking at us. I guess I just wasn’t quite prepared for all that.