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  • Day3

    Weekend in Japan! Time to...Hula?

    June 23, 2018 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    I didn't know what to expect from my first weekend in Japan, but I must say I was surprised. The first reason is that I apparently didn't understand Jun-Jun at all when she told me what we were doing Saturday. I thought she said we were going to her "cycling" club, and I can't say I was looking forward to that given my general aversion to exercise. However, it turns out she was saying "hobby" club (don't ask me how I heard "cycling", I don't know either). Jun-Jun's hobby is foreign language and travel, which is why she can speak a good amount of English despite not having to use it for a job. Her and several other people (mostly other older women) meet at a community center type building on Saturdays and I guess just share experiences about foreign travel and sing foreign songs or something? Look, I said I learned SOME Japanese - I had no idea what was going on most of the type.

    What I did understand was that there was a young woman there who had spent 10 months in a home-stay and attending an American high school in Montana of all places. She talked about her experiences and read a paper she had written for her English class there about Affirmative Action. Since it was in English, this was about the only part of the who meeting I understood. It was really interesting, if more than a little awkward for me, to hear her perspective. Perhaps unsurprisingly she took the position against affirmative action, and cited data and anecdotes about how the policy can discriminate against Asians. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a lot of the fine details about affirmative action, but when she asked me what I thought I tried my best to explain SOME of the reasoning behind the policy - mostly how there is a lot of child poverty in America and that African-Americans and Latinx people are often more strongly affected and how that can lead to worse performance on tests that determine college acceptance. Like I said, it was pretty awkward for me and I know I didn't have all the facts. The good news is that I'm pretty sure only the girl who studied abroad really had any idea what I said because I said a lot and it was all in English. After that the group started talking about various things in Japanese so I mostly just sat there and quietly ate snacks and hoping someone would tell me what they were saying. I did ask at one point in the conversation and apparently they were saying that young people in Japan aren't paying attention to what is going on in the world. While I kind of question the accuracy of that statement considering older people are genetically predisposed to complaining about "kids these days", I said that it felt like almost the opposite in America. After the 2016 election all the older people just seem to want to live in a bubble while the millennials are worried about the end of the world and global crises.

    Other than the young woman's paper (and the food), the one other nice thing about the hobby club was that Jun-Jun's daughter who lives in Saitama (she has two, but the other lives further away) came and brought her two little girls. One is three (Miko) and the other is one (Koto) and they are sooooooo cute. While everyone was talking I was mostly watching Miko draw on the whiteboard in the room and Koto stare at me because I guess I would look really weird to a Japanese baby.

    After the hobby club meeting we went to a convenience store to buy lunch - a very common occurrence in Japan. Japanese convenience stores sell a lot of read-to-eat foods like sandwiches, breads, and rice balls that are cheap, often somewhat healthy, and taste good. While Japan does have drive-thrus, I haven't really seen any and apparently they aren't as common here and there isn't enough space for them in the city anyway.

    The reason we got such a quick lunch was because we were heading to see a show. Jun-Jun goes to a hula class, and her teacher was going to be in a recital. A few people may think that having a hula class is a weird (I hear you making Pearl Harbor jokes) but in fact Hawaii is a very popular tourist destination and Japanese people make up about 17% of the state's population, not including those that are mixed-race. Now I've been to several dance recitals and most of the performers are usually small children, but this show was at least 75% older women! It is well known that Japan has an overwhelmingly large aging population and as I was watching the show I was able to appreciate what a great low-impact workout hula can be. Go for it ladies!

    We didn't stay for the whole show, which I was very grateful for. While I was enjoying it, I was also falling asleep during it. When we got home I took a much needed nap, then ate dinner and watched TV with Jun-Jun and Iijima-sensei until it seemed like a socially acceptable time to go back to sleep.
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