Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 1

So Jorie detailed the travel adventure from which I am still recovering. We’ve done a bunch of other things on our first day here at JCMU, so I’m going to talk about that. Before I do, I have to mention that it’s beautiful around here! I feel so disoriented- I usually know all the plants and animals around me in Michigan, but here, I don’t know any of them. It’s pretty amazing though!

First, we had orientation this morning, and we picked out bikes and helmets. Several students, including Jorie and I, aren’t planning on using the bikes for various reasons. The road is kind of dangerous, and I have physical limitations i.e. useless knees. But regardless, we were all assigned bikes, helmets, and bike locks if we should need them.

We then went on to participate in activities. We were treated to lunch by a group of kind ladies involved with the sister city program. They had udon noodles in broth, make-your-own-sushi with lettuce leaves and nori (we filled them with rice, cucumbers, sprouts, and onions) and a sort of mochi-pizza, which we didn’t try due to the cheese topping, but it sounds like it was good! Everything looked very nice. We were also given some ocha. I took an acid-reducing pill and had a little bit- it was tasty and I didn’t have any IC problems; shocking and also very good.

After lunch, we learned how to make etegami from artist and teacher Mayumi Kakimi. Kakimi-san has been to Marquette, MI before with the sister city program. I recall seeing her paintings in the public library, where I also recently bought one of her cards to send to a friend! I had no idea I would be meeting her! The painting process was neat. In art school, you are punished if you make mistakes. Etagemi encourages you to loosen up and fully experience what you’re painting- texture, smell, and of course the visual experience. It’s often based on seasonal things- for example, fall things like leaves, potatoes, and kaki, or spring blossoms and leaves. We first painted mint leaves.

We used a chopstick dipped in ink to paint. It gives a varied quality to the line. Seems kind of wabi-sabi to me- I love it. Then, once the paint is dry, watercolor-type paint is brushed on to reflect the color of the object and how you feel. Then, you add words- short poems or even a single word reflecting how you feel about this encounter with the object you’ve painted. I’ve been feeling very tired and off-balance all day, but when I smelled the mint leaf, I felt refreshed at that moment, so I wrote “refresh” in hiragana.

We painted other available items on the table after that, and then Jorie and I did additional paintings of animals because that’s how we roll. She of course made a Shika (deer) and I made a Tanuki (raccoon dog). I like Jorie's way more than mine :P

After etagami, we had a Japanese taichi lesson. I think some of us felt a little better after that, although it was a bit of a challenge when I was feeling off balance! It was neat to see the instructor performing the taichi- it looked very fluid.

After our activities, we had free time. Most of us went across the street to the convenience store to get some basic items. It was a challenge to find things, for sure. I wasn’t prepared for all the kanji on the package labels. I did manage to find body wash after much searching amongst shampoo! I also saw a hand sanitizer I simply could not leave without- it has this raccoon on the label.. and.. it’s just… amazing. Why can’t they make cute labels like this in America!? We need more cute… maybe there would be less angst.

Finding food has been tough, I must admit. We’ve already both decided to give in on dashi stock, as it’s an ingredient in just about any soup base (contains bonito, which is a flaky fish… substance… Wikipedia it, okay!?) but there’s also egg in a lot of dishes. The tough part is label-reading. Fortunately, I did take the time to learn the kanji for meat (niku) and egg (tamago). Other than that, it’s scrutinizing the pictures on labels and hoping for the best. We found some pre-made zaru soba with tofu, some kind of veggie instant noodle dish, an anko pancake, banana flavored soymilk, and mochi dango. We also found a $4 cat manga book. Can’t wait to go to the actual grocery store and get some noodles, miso, and veggies! Some of our meals will be group meals, others will be eating at restaurants, and some will be cooking in our apartments. I’ve memorized the phrase necessary to explain our diets- saishoku shugisha. It seems to be helpful so far!

I think most of our class has gone out exploring more this evening, but I’m simply not up to it. I am quite dizzy, a side effect of being on the planes, shinkansen (bullet train), and escalators/elevators. I’m hoping it will wear off soon, because today I took a spill on the stairs (while walking UP, mind you) and I don’t wish to do it again.

I think we’ll be going to sleep early tonight. Huuuuuuu…


  1. Etagemi looks like fun! Love what you and Jorie drew. The items you bought at the convenience store look interesting. Given, I'm not sure what half of them are. LOL

    Hope you feel better soon.

  2. Awesommmmme. Please don't forget to implore others to take photos with you two in them as well! I DEMAND VISUAL PROOF!