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Category: Japan Days

JaDa – Day 18

I got pretty excited about this new route I discovered on Google Maps to get to Friend Mart. The highlight was that I could avoid the 100 steps. With a map screenshot (since WiFi is non existent outside the campus!), and the route engraved in my mind, I set out for a solitary walk. I had nothing specific to buy. It was just a walk I needed, and some time to myself. Exploring the place and the new route were cool add-ons! I was greatly disappointed when I learnt that the gate was closed and I couldn’t really explore the new found path. Google Maps aren’t so accurate after all; blame the locked gate! Nevertheless, I went by the regular route, anticipating new things. Walking by the pond, there were more people than ever in that scenic route. Ladies walking their dogs, kids playing, and some daring ones, leaning on to the pond, fishing, elderly on their evening strolls – the place finally looked like a residential area! That’s where I met this old man, who turned out to be an alumnus of the University. His enthusiasm on learning that I am from India and studying his University was real and moving. He kept talking in broken English, with a vigour that is seen only people from the older generation. The grace with which he walked with me and said goodbye at the supermarket is one of the many reasons that makes one look upto people in Japan, especially the elderly.

Another intriguing aspect about people here is about the kids here. The tiny little tots to school going teenagers are all known for their self sufficiency, here in Japan. But it amazes me to see kids play in the muddy mushy grass, go fishing without adult supervision, hop on to a bus all by themselves and a lot more. Its hard to catch such a glimpse back there from where I come to see kids relishing the nature without health and safety ‘concerns’! That’s new-gen parenting for you, where parents have no clue what to freak out about and what not. It was a heartwarming sight that kids here have the childhood that kids in India had two decades ago – the one with freedom to embrace nature at its best!

JaDa – Day 17

When everything goes wrong, you turn to food. Rather, I do. Nothing was so wrong today; just another dull day. Divya wasn’t around either. All the more reason to be bored and dull. And I walked to Shiru Cafe for an iced coffee. But what awaited me was the most amazing cake I have had here so far. Soft chocolaty layer, topped with almonds, one bit tasted like rich chocolate, another like premium plum, and yet another like some crazy soft cake! I have not enough words to describe my satisfaction biting into that chocolate delicacy!

All that said, I begin to doubt myself and wonder if I have lost my mind in all the lack of food options. Maybe this is all my desperation hyping it up. Or maybe, the muffin was just totally awesome!?

JaDa – Day 16

The drizzle that never stops is annoying. But very homely annoying. It reminds me of the incessant rains back home, that annoyed me while I went to school, college and later office. Rain was always a part and parcel of life. And when it continues here on the other part of the continent, I am home sick. I don’t miss amma and appa, or even Vidya much. I see them, talk to them, and almost feel like I am with them – thanks to the technology! What technology still hasn’t progressed on is the tiny little feelings like this. I miss the rain at home. I miss getting drenched in the downpour. I suddenly missed home horribly when Vidya said she came home fully drenched in the rain. It feels like it’s been ages since I have been home, or seen the rain there. I miss home.

Other than the rain, nothing stay in my memory. Ah well, the medical checkup! That part was fun, where I had to go for the blood test. Every instance of conversation with a Japanese person paves way for a blog in itself. Neither do I understand what I am saying, nor do they get me. But we still keep trying and get things done somehow! It was the same this time, when a lady there wanted me to write down my address on an envelope. I figured she was asking for the address only because she gave me an envelope. God knows what would have happened otherwise! Somehow passing through that, I had my blood sample taken and had a tiny bandage around the tiny prick. I was directed to a table and a chair by the same lady, where she placed an hour glass. The rest was understood, just by exchanging smiles. And I sat there, counting the sand grains dripping down, smiling to myself. I guess such small gestures are what set Japan apart. Blood test wasn’t a new thing for me. But this care was new. And it felt warm, especially when you aren’t home anymore.

JaDa – Day 15

Finally, two weeks in Japan! One more week to the end of April and one third of the entire trip. Time is flying and I was kinda wondering if I am losing track of the research. My professor appears as a divine intervention at the right moment, and tells me he has some time to discuss, finally! Such small incidents reinstate a greater deal of confidence and faith in oneself. After a fifteen minute discussion, I felt way more directed and inspired to move forward from wherever I was. I came back to dorm sooner than usual; one because I was hungry, two because I felt I made huge progress for the day already! Things were all good until I licked off the last morsel of puliyodharai. The empty container in which amma packed the pulikachal was my nightmare coming true! What next? Will I die hungry in this strange land that doesn’t understand the concept of vegetarianism? My food dreams were crushed over and over, the more I looked at the erstwhile ‘pulikachal paathram’!

JaDa – Day 14

The trip postponed from yesterday was realised today, and it was a complete success. One of the main agendas of the day was to figure out where to get some worthy souvenirs to take home. In that respect, it was a success; also in terms of food, for Divya and Saikat. Reaching Kyoto city, our morning blues were wiped off by the crowd. After all the lamenting of not seeing enough people around, a Sunday morning in Kyoto station was more than what we anticipated. People filling up every nook and cranny of the station, we lost each other for a brief moment in the rush. The meticulous queues and discipline hold true only as long as you are not running late; even in Japan. The well-mannered crowd suddenly shed skin and ran around in frenzy. But as you move out of the station, the order and discipline falls back in place. We stood in a 30+ people long queue, to get into a bus to Shijo Kawaramachi; meticulously. A queue for a bus, really! Reaching the shopping street at Shijo-dori, we needed no map. We walked as the mind desired. Picking up random stuff, we immersed ourselves in the street shopping ‘exercise’. It was tiring and I didn’t want to shop anymore. But each store had something new to gain our attention, I gave in to my curiosity; shop after shop. Somewhere then, we entered Nishiki market. And it was a relief to me, as I had nothing to buy there. The famous food street of Kyoto wasn’t famous for their vegetarian delicacies, obviously.

As the two of them treated themselves almost at every shop to all the ‘crazy food’ possible, I remained awestruck. All that said, I found an amazing burnt caramel ice cream in a cone, delicious honey lime and a filling potato cheese ball for myself. That, and some dry fruits are pretty much the entire vegetarian option in the entire street! Strawberries and cotton candy are add-ons.

The most ‘adventurous’ we got in this otherwise normal trip was when Divya wanted to go to a particular shop for a particular thing! Trust me, it was shopping and it was boring. The only thing that kept me driving through the entire day was the curiosity to find something ‘Japanese cool’. Connecting to the ‘Kyoto free Wifi’ was also cool; the whole city had Internet! Navigating was not a problem, and we found the shop, bought the stuff and started back to the station. What else did I see? A ‘cat cafe’! A place where you sit and drink your coffee as cats ‘purrrr’ around! And people find it cool?!

It was a long day, and we had completely drained ourselves out already, by hardly 6 in the evening. We headed to the nearest bus stop. I have heard of ‘pushers’ in Japan, who stuff people into busy trains. Almost saw one at a bus back to Kyoto station from the busy streets of Shijo. He wasn’t pushing anyone, but was pretty much yelling at people to make some space for people boarding the bus. That’s the loudest I have heard a Japanese speak here. He reminded me of a typical bus conductor back in Kerala, yelling “Angottu keri nikkanam chetta. Football kalikkanulla sthalamundallo akathu!” (roughly translates to the same what I think the Japanese ‘pusher’ was trying to say). In no time, we boarded a train and reached Minami Kusatsu, and soon, i-house. With a long list of people for whom I wanted to buy something special, it was not even half the list and I was already bored of shopping! Is Amazon Japan a smart alternative? *deeply in thought*

JaDa – Day 13

A Saturday morning with a drowsy head is so bad! I didn’t go for a walk, I didn’t even get up on time. We had made plans to go out. Nothing felt good! But there’s always food to compensate! Made food, and more food, and succumbed to my cravings. Watching a movie, reading a book (first time after coming to Japan) and sipping on hot coffee, I missed people and the merriment. But again, such time and space are what makes you you! It was a quiet evening for some loud retrospection!

JaDa – Day 12

Ever since I have got here, a morning walk has been always on my mind. And it took 12 whole days to pull myself and go for a walk.  Whether or not I get healthy physically, it’s a soothing experience for the mind, to walk by the serene landscape in the chilly mornings. I plan to go for a walk every day, if only if I could be more stable with my sleeping patterns! Talking to mom in the morning is kinda helping to sort that out. I really wish this one habit stays with me, even beyond the Japan Days!

JaDa – Day 11

Soba Noodles is something Japan is famous for. But when Divya asked me to join her and her lab mates – Tadamori and Takato, I wasn’t very excited. One, it’s definitely not vegetarian, and I was too lazy to walk all the way. Yet, Divya bought me in enticing me with an awesome blog story. And trust me, that was completely worth it! With Tadamori and Takato, it was a fun trip to Soba House – a ten minutes walk from the campus. I went exclusively to explore the ambience at a Japanese restaurant, and see the Soba charm. Also was in my agenda to make fun of Divya using the chopsticks. Thanks to her, I got ample opportunities! Finally she gave up and asked for a fork and spoon. Don’t know what was more funny – she struggling with the fork or being a called ‘baby’ by Tadamori. Apparently, only Japanese babies use fork and spoon! It was my longest conversation with the natives, hence all the more exciting. I almost got the hang of dropping the prepositions while talking, and paced down myself significantly. In return, I got my name written in a chopstick set and Japanese numbers. All these days, Divya and me thought that price was not printed in packed food here. Today we realised that Arabic numerals are too mainstream for Japan, and hence they use their own numbers! We hoped to at least know the price without Google Translate until we dug the absolute truth out! To write 11 in Japanese numerals, knowing to write ‘1’ and another ‘1’ isn’t enough. It’s a whole different number! Each number isn’t made up of digits 0-9, but with an altogether different symbol. I am more thankful than ever to Google sensei and it’s Translate!

Around Soba house, we saw a 7 Eleven and a Star Bazar. Later in the evening, Divya and me again went to the place to buy some grocery. The thing about stores here is that it gives me a promise of survival every time. I saw more vegetables, more frozen vegetarian options, and even saw a cup noodles with just tomatoes and chillies! Department stores are my temples here. Every time I walk in, I am filled with inner peace and a hope of living through the next three months!

P. S. In Tadamori’s words, Google is sensei (teacher) since it teaches a lot!

JaDa – Day 10

For some days now, I have been tracking my ‘extensive exercise’ on RunKeeper. I was pretty sure I am exerting myself a lot and burning loads of calories. But when I turn to the app, it shows 0.58 km walked, 70 calories burnt at a pace of 20 min/km; and I am still panting for breath! What the fudge is that now! I’m surviving on minimal food, slogging like a dog (or, so I think) carrying myself up and down the hill, but it’s almost like none of it counts. I am still gonna be the same Humpty Dumpty forever! That doesn’t concern me as much my efforts going in vain; maybe I should just finish the packets of donuts now!

Things weren’t going great with people at lab. They are pretty friendly, but language was a huge barrier to cross. So I tried translating English to Japanese on Google and that worked like a charm! In less than a minute, I had a conversation started, wondered why they are not on Facebook, talked about LinkedIn, and befriended them on Line! And I thought not speaking Hindi was a huge setback! The one thing about this whole scene of international education is the small things like these. It gives you a greater perspective, and helps you to let go of the trivial things from the past.

JaDa – Day 9

Shiru Cafe has come in so useful now, not just because it’s free but also because that’s probably the only place where I can sit down and be sure of the food they serve. It’s just coffee and some confectionery/bakery. With amazing open air ambience! It takes you sufficiently away from the hustle (hardly any) of the campus, but still makes you feel connected to the place.

That was not all for the day. Ms. Kshipra from India had come down to the university as part of a cross-cultural seminar. It was nice to meet her, though it was brief and short. It was like someone from home finally came to check on you! I specifically loved the bit where she asked, ‘How are you holding up, vegetarian?’. For the one single conversation that we had back in India, that was too much detail to remember! Unexpected people make you feel good at unexpected times!