Aug 21, 2014

MEMENTOS: The Goodbyes

A fancy sushi dinner (Nat's stellar recommendation) where you order by how many pieces you want. By far the best sushi I've ever had in my life. I may have griped about the food at times, but Nanao's fresh fish is second to none!

The Noto Writer's Group, Plotters & Scribblers, held it's last get together at an all-you-can-eat yakiniku before going out for purikura and karaoke. I'm going to miss meeting up on Wednesday nights with this talented group of ladies.

My last day at my favorite elementary school. We went crawfish hunting, played "London Bridge," and ate cucumber snacks together. During the last period they held a Goodbye Ceremony for me, and I choked up during my goodbye speech because I saw the other teachers crying. Then, at everyone's request, I sang Let It Go in English, finishing off with the line 少しも寒くないは. ALL THE FEELS.

Goodbye little pokéball, you served me well (even after I couldn't drive you anymore). Yousuke, you have such an adventurous spirit, I hope to meet you again around the world!

The infamous math teacher and I at Asahi JHS's Soubetsukai (goodbye party). This guy made my workdays so much better. We would swap a dictionary back and forth to communicate, and draw pictures on scrap paper that he would collect in his "important file." We shared so many laughs. As a goodbye present, he gave me a Baby-G watch. When I look at it, I remember those times.

Every single staff member at Asahi Junior High School had an impact on my life. I cannot express my thanks enough to them. They are great teachers, and extraordinary human beings to succeed in the high-stress environment of Japanese work culture. Sharing a final dinner party with them made it all too real: this was goodbye... until next time.


Aug 18, 2014

Final Festivals

This year's Festival of Fire & Violence (Noto-cho's Abare Matsuri) was even more awesome than last year for one very important reason: Olivia! After arriving last August, all she ever heard anyone talk about was how incredible Abare Matsuri is. She had to wait all the way until the next summer for it to come again! By that time, she had become a pillar in her community.

When it was time to carry the kiriko into the pillars of flames, she did it alongside her Judo coach, taiko teacher, and her adoring fans (which is all of Noto-cho). I suggest you read Olivia's account of the festival. After meeting up with the gang, we all headed to her adopted Noto-cho family's home to celebrate. It was a privilege to be welcomed into a Japanese home with such love and generosity.

My favorite quote from that night was when Olivia was explaining her actions: "I do what I want because I'm a grown-ass woman!" Words to live by.

Noto-cho's Abare Matsuri: The Festival of Fire & Violence

One week later, it was Nanao's turn to carry lanterns for Hoto Matsuri. At last year's festival, we had a team leader that kept us pumped up, and we had danced atop the hoto for every stop. This year we got off to a rough start, with the back corner of the hoto dragging. Only by making frequent stops were we able to accomplish our goal: cooling off Sanno Jinja's deity by taking him to the seaside.

Again this year, I was the only woman carrying the hoto. I saw my students several times throughout the night, looking on as I carried my weight alongside all the guys. I wanted to show them strength; that they can do anything! At the end of the night, one of the girl flute players from atop our hoto came down and carried for the final leg of the journey. I told her she was strong and she smiled. It lit up my heart.

Nanao's Hoto Matsuri


Aug 16, 2014

The Hunt for Godzilla

Godzilla is coming to Tokyo? Detroit News reporter and good friend Laurén is on the case! We spent several days looking for the titan of terror among the tourist hotspots of Tokyo.

We scoured the grounds of Meiji Jingu, the large shrine outside of Harajuku dedicated to Emperor Meiji. A crowd of Japanese people ran passed us - was it in fear of Godzilla? Was he on the horizon? No - there were several traditional Shinto weddings being performed on the shrine grounds, and everyone was rushing to get photos of the kimono-clad couples.

Animals can sense when the giant monster is near, so we headed to a cat café to investigate. The cats were lethargic and ignored us unless we fed them treats. We realized they weren't going to tell us anything; they may even be in cahoots with the monster.

Our search took us through the island of Odaiba, the parks of Shinjuku (everyday is maintenance day!), the Studio Ghibli Museum, the Shibuya Scramble, and even the Imperial Palace itself. Was it that we were too low on the ground to spot him? To get a better look, we roosted at a vantage point from the top of Roppongi Hills.

(upper left) Meiji Jingu; (upper middle) a cat café; (upper right) Studio Ghibli Museum;
(lower) the Imperial Palace.

View from Roppongi Hills after sunset, with Tokyo Tower lit up in front of us. No sign of Godzilla.

We settled in for the night at our ryokan, thinking perhaps Tokyo was safe, at least today, when --- dramatic music! Where was it coming from? Was Godzilla in our bathroom? Upon closer inspection, no, it was only the melodies of the futuristic Japanese toilet. All was well.

Until next time!


Aug 13, 2014

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-jig

Miss me?
Where have you been, Tricia?
I packed up my life, said goodbye to so many people that I love, and took a few final trips around Japan. Now I'm home in Michigan, alternating between being excited about the next chapter of my life, and being melancholy for Ishikawa.

What is the next chapter?
An around-the-world trip! My "world tour" starts in Fiji and I'll head west, chasing summer until I hit the UK. I've been saving for four years to make this trip possible. I'm in the States for just two months to plan the final details of the trip, including the specific route, preliminary budget, vaccinations, travel insurance, and airline tickets. I'll be updating my former packing list, too.

What are you going to do while traveling?
I want to learn something new in each country. I'm going to kick off my travels in Fiji by getting a PADI certification in scuba diving.

Why are you traveling the world?
To feel free, to find people like me, to experience the joys of the world firsthand, to accomplish all those things people regret never trying, to follow my dreams and my heart.

In the meantime, I have pictures and stories from my last month in Japan to share (coming up).


Jul 2, 2014

MEMENTOS: Flowers, Letters, and Horses

Notojima flowers, taken on a beautiful afternoon driving through the island.

Calligraphy at Nanao Art Museum

Letters to America: five of my students have paired up with pen pals in Nanao's sister city, Monterey, California. I am delighted they put so much enthusiasm into their letters, and hope these new friendships grow.

Horseback riding at Uchinada Beach. I only got to ride the horse "Pike Doll" for a half hour, but I got as far as moving up and down on my saddle to a trot. Not bad for a first time, right?

That's $35.49 USD. File under: things I won't miss.