Sunday the 12th Ayumi’s tea ceremony class was having a festival. So Masayuki, the girls and I went and were the guest of the ceremony (people could pay to experience the ceremony so we weren’t the only ones). It was shortened, only about 20 minutes when real ceremonies last for about 3 hours. It was fun but by the end I couldn’t feel my feet because I had to sit Japanese style with my legs folded directly under me. Ayumi tells me that the Japanese say sitting like that builds patience.
I can’t remember what happened that week but on the 19th our school had a Fall Festival. Steph, Matt and I manned a booth selling Mr. Donut (a really good, sugar-filled bakery) and coffee for our club. We never broke even but it was fun hanging out with them. Ayumi and the girls came and I was happy to be able to show them a little of my school. A lot of the clubs put on performances and it was really fun watching them and seeing what my fellow students could do. Steph and I decided that we’re going to perform a duet for the next festival.
Thanksgiving day was interesting. It happened to be the same day as Japanese Labor Day. In the afternoon I met up with Steph’s Manga class (Paul, my Art H teacher taught this too) at the Tokyo Anime Center. Steph and three other students did voiceovers for a clip from an anime show (Pokemon if you’ve heard of it). After that we had lunch at a maid café, a resturant where all the waitresses dress up as maids. The food was really good and we even saw a guy get slapped for $15. He lost a drinking contest with one of the waitresses and she slapped him (he was laughing and smiling afterward so I guess it was okay).
After stopping by school, I met with Steph and Matt at Sunshine City, a really big underground mall. We were going to buy food at the international food market for a Thanksgiving dinner. But since it was Japanese Labor Day, it was closed. So we ended up eating at KFC. It was a little sad but I’m really glad we were able to spend it together. After KFC we stopped by the world’s busiest Starbucks and sat around (when a table finally opened up) for 45 minutes just talking.
On the 26th Ayumi put on a tea ceremony for me and all the homestay students in the area. It was really nice to be able to see them again. Ayumi was nervous but I thought she did an amazing job. At the end she let us make our own tea. We had it at the Japanese garden and the view was gorgeous. Unfortunately we were unable to walk through the garden, but I enjoyed our time nonetheless.
The 27th was my last official day of school until finals. The next day Ayumi, the girls and I went to Ayumi’s friend’s house. I made another berry pie and attempted cinnamon rolls. Her friend made quiche and chicken. The pie ended up being runny and the dough for the rolls wasn’t given enough time to rise but everything was delicious regardless. Ayumi called it our early Christmas party for three.
On the 1st I had my first final for Gender in History. I feel pretty good about the essay I had to write. After that I had my Photography final which was basically a four hour critique (originally it was going to be three hours).
The 2nd and 3rd the Fukuoka’s and I went on a trip to a prefecture about 3 hours away. It was a beautiful city but very cold. When we arrived it was about 44 degrees Fahrenheit. We visited a castle which Ayumi told me is one of the only castles that still has its original architecture. The steps were massive, some as high as a foot. Everyone was required to remove their shoes and I was wearing slippers. They were entirely too large for my feet and kept slipping off as I climbed the stairs. But it was really neat being able to see a traditional Japanese castle.
We walked around after leaving the castle and then headed to our hotel. It was outside of the city a bit but was very well kept. We settled our stuff and Ayumi told me she and the girls were going to visit the onsen (Japanese hot spring) and then we would be served dinner. She asked if I wanted to join them. I was very surprised because I had not expected the hotel to have an onsen. I decided to take up her offer; it was really awkward at first but also very relaxing.
Our dinner was served to us by one of the hotel staff. She brought us each our dishes…there were a lot. I couldn’t finish it all but tried everything. After dinner we watched the ice skating competitions and then went to bed. Ayumi, the girls and I shared one room and Masayuki had his own. I ended up on a futon between Mai and Yui. I couldn’t fall asleep and so witnessed Yui as she shoved one of her legs under my futon and stretched the other foot into my face. It was very funny and took all I had not to laugh aloud.
The next morning we were brought to another room and were served a very large breakfast. Again I was unable to eat everything they served. We left the hotel and went to Narakawa, an old traditional Japanese town. It was just one long street with old buildings on both sides. The temperature was anywhere from 39 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say we were pretty cold but still spent a good amount of time exploring the shops and one of the museums. After Narakawa we went to Suwa lake and enjoyed the ashiyu, a hot spring for feet. The ashiyu was outside and while we dipped our feet we could look out and see the lake. When we got out I felt as though I was walking on a cushion of warm air.
We then headed to a beautiful outlet mall. The stores were outside and sat at the foot of the volcano Mt. Asama overlooking snowcapped mountains and the valley below. It was again really cold and the prices were outrageous. Not what I was expecting from an outlet mall but I should have guessed.
All in all the trip was very enjoyable. I’m very glad I was able to spend that time with my family.