Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japan - by Sophie

This is an article Sophie wrote for the local Darkan newspaper The bleat. So many people have told me they enjoyed reading it, so I have posted it here for your reading pleasure. For background you will need to know that Sophie and I have recently spent 10 days in Japan, from 6-16th October.


I never really thought much of Japan before. I thought it was just another crowded Asian country. But attending the Bunbury-Setagaya Student Goodwill Visit 2010 changed all that. As the tour leader said it would be, it was an experience of lifetime. If I said the entire trip was fantastic, I’d be lying, but if I said none of it was either, that would also be lying. There were some times when I had to ask myself why I was there, but other times when I knew I’d been hooked (luckily there were more of the hooked times).

My favourite part was home stay (it was nice to have a break from the grumpy tour leaders). I was lucky enough to stay with the Miyatsu family – Mrs Tami Miyatsu, Mr Kazu Miyatsu, Miriu (12) and Erina (10). Their family home was nestled somewhere in Setagaya (a part of Tokyo) behind a little shop and was not at all Japanese. There were a few customs such as the removal of shoes at the front door and scrubbing yourself squeaky clean in the shower before soaking in the bath, but otherwise, their house was a little, modern, Ikea-ridden (Kazu worked for Ikea) townhouse, with a bright orange kitchen and a fridge that opened from both ways (you could open it from left or right!) Another thing that puzzled me was the shower. There was a special room just for the shower and bath that was sealed and water tight and the water from the hand-held shower just ran straight onto the floor!

I also admired the Japanese toilets and wherever we went I went to the toilet just for the sake of checking it out (though some where better than others). Most Japanese toilets were modern with buttons for bottom washes and bidets and flushes and seat warming. (I didn’t really work out all the buttons written in Japanese, but at home stay I did try the bidet. It unexpectedly started shooting water out and I got scared, jumped off the toilet and soaked my pyjama pants in the process, maybe next time I’ll be more experienced!) Other toilets were not at all nice; as they were just a hole in the ground (I’m glad we don’t have them in Australia!)

My favourite day of the whole trip was on home stay when we visited the hot springs. I didn’t expect the springs to be that hot, just a slight bit warm, but they were amazingly really hot, and some so hot that were like a sauna (yet Japanese people don’t seem to mind, even if it was too hot for me to even put my feet in). Luckily it was a springs in which you could wear bathers, but there was also one in which you couldn’t wear bathers, and it was a bit weird having these people stark naked just walking around. Another fun uniquely Japanese experience was taking photos in a photo booth where afterwards you could decorate them etc. So cute (or “kawaii” my new favourite Japanese word)!

So instead of boring you with more and more days of details of my stay in Japan, I’ll leave it at that and say... sayonara!

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