I just found a list of things I wanted to write that I made back in January.

Have I still not talked about New Years? This being Japan and all, I expected a really big festival, but it was a lot quieter than I thought. We just stayed in that night, and there was no sign of fireworks lighting up the sky. Of course I was still out in Koebarumachi at this point. There was a cool concert on TV, though, that I would love to get a tape of because it had just about everybody there. Ayu, Chemistry, Kick the Can Crew, that annoying super-pop girl, Morning Musume, the cool Enka guy, etc etc.

Actual New Years day was cool though. First I went with my host brother and sister (Takashi and Tomomi) to Amyu Plaza to get fukubukuro (happy bags). Just about ever store was selling them usually for 5000 ro 10000en and they’d be stuffer with clothes and stuff worth two or three times as much. I got a jacket along with some other junk. Afterwards the whole family went walking all around the city visiting shrines. The first and biggest was, of course, Suwa Jinja. There were absolutely tons of people around and more little shops set up like at okunchi. I did the ring-a-bell-clap-and-make-a-wish thing, except I didn’t understand that I was supposed to make a wish. There just happened to be a television crew nearby and they, of course, were quick to notice the only gaijin in the crowd of several thousand Japanese. They wanted to know wha tI wished for the coming year and I was like “what?”. It wasn’t until after the interviewer gave up on me that Tomomi said I should have wished to be able to speak Japanese. Thanks a lot! Way to keep quiet whem the cameras are on. Oh well.

The food that day (and the leftovers the next few days) were pretty wild. It wasn’t like we were eating really unusual foods, it was just far too Japanese. I guess I still haven’t gotten used to the really hardcore Japanese food like the traditional obentos and mochi-soup. The sashimi and sushi were good though! Plus the black beans and chestnut cream were good, mostly because they were wonderfully sweet.

Oh, before all this actual New Years stuff there were a couple parties (bounenkai). The first was the Kumazawa office party. We ate shabu-shabu (meat and veggies and noodles etc that you book in boiling water) along with plenty of sashimi. There was also plenty of drinking and, on top of that, games that I think were specifically designed to make you fall over. I won a lot of stuff (mostly because everybody won lots of stuff) and my first host mom gave me a lot of the cool stuff she won like Japanese dishes, etc. I dumped a lot of it off with my host family at the time, like towels and sheets and junk I don’t want, but kept enough that I’m very afraid of how much it’s going to cost to ship it all home. Those dishes are heavy!

There was also the Rotary bounenkai, which was more traditional food, drinking, and games designed to make you fall over (actually, maybe that was all the drinking… especially the University exchange student from… where was it? Pakistan? Bangladesh? Somewhere around there…) This time, through a series of rigger rock-papper-scissors games, I ended up winning a tiny funny little yellow bike, and a baseball cap. I love how losing when you’re an exchange student is the same thing as winning! So now I have this odd little bike that I have to think about getting home. Or maybe I can just leave it where it is at the Yoshida house. I don’t think I can actually ride it very well anyway, but it’d still be funny to have.

Speaking of stuff I’m going to send home, I went with my mom, grandmother, and one of their friends to this place on the other side of Inasa-yama to do pottery. Our teacher was insane! He was trying to tell me I had to jerk my back like so and move my hands like that and do it happily so that the cup can be happy too and then when other people see the cup they’ll think it’s a happy cup and therefore art and think it’s beautiful. After a morning of his crazy talk, I still don’t think I was able to make a happy cup, but I did make some funny looking things. They may be a bit depressed but I like them. Again, I just have to worry about getting them home. If I ever get my hands on them… I still haven’t seen the finished products.

Afterwards we went to lunch at Youmesaito (I think). I got an email about something from Kura around 1:00 (I forget about hat) so I asked him “aren’t you in school now?” and he writes back and says “yeah… history. But it’s pretty boring…” Ok, so there was no point to that story but iwas kinda funny at the time.

Other than that what went on back in January… Anita went home, which sucked! Most of us were able to go see her off at the airport. All her host families were there, and she had just come from meeting all her friends at school for the last time. It was like in a period of 15 minutes she had to say goodbye to a whole year. Was anybody surprised that she started to cry? And we stayed with her as long as we could, waiting until she was actually on the plane. That could very well be the last time I see her.

We still email quite a bit so it’s hard to realise that she’s not just a little way off in Isahaya anymore. I definitely can’t picture her away in Australia with all these Australians around. It’s like when Gonzo met all the other Gonzo things in Muppets from Space. It just didn’t seem right because there’s only one gonzo and he lives with other muppets who aren’t Gonzo. There’s only one Australian and she lives in Japan! One of the weirdest things about going back home will be discovering that there are tons of Canadians around and they all speak fluent English (until I move to Montreal, at least).

I’ll miss hearing cute slightly off English, especially Jose’s Japanglish-with-a-Spanish-accent (“But there’s no basho!”) and Kura saying “bye bye”.

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